Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110215

Financial Crisis
»Bankrupting America
»EU Ministers to Double Lending Power of Bail-Out Fund
»Food Prices at Dangerous Levels, Says World Bank
»From Prison, Bernard L. Madoff Says Banks ‘Had to Know’ About Fraud
»George Soros and His Progressive War on America
»Greece: More Strikes in Public Transport Sector
»Greece: ‘Crisis’ Over ‘Troika’ Statements Ended
»Greece: Government and ‘Troika’ Attacked
»Greece: Strong Demand in Bond Auction for 390 Mln
»Italy: Record Deficit in 2010, -27.3 Bln
»Ministers Agree 500-Billion-Euro Permanent Rescue Fund
»Netherlands in Lobbying Tour for Lower EU Contribution
»Portugal: Young Generation Robbed of Its Future
»Strike Paralyses Portugal Metro
»Syria: Inflation on the Rise, 6.32% in 2010
»Tunisia: Concerns Over Leather-Footwear Sector
»Tunisia: Industrialists, Safety is Fundamental
»UK: Top Council Pay Packets Must be Voted on, Pickles Says
»Yemen: Islamic Bonds Issued for the First Time
»Yemen: Government Begins Fight Against State Corruption
»Critics Slam U.S. Government, Media for ‘Weak’ Response to Anti-Christian Attacks
»Dorothy Rabinowitz: Major Hasan, ‘Star Officer’
»President Obama White House Media Operation: ‘State Run Media 2.0’?
»Republicans Rebuke Effort to Defund Health Care Law
»Roommate of Stingaree Cab Driver Says He Feared for His Life
»West Meets With Head of Anti-Muslim Group Act! For America
Europe and the EU
»Bardot Slams Swedish Wolf Hunt
»Belgium: Romanian Doctors in Legal Grey Zone
»Dutch Muslims Looking for a Good Orthodox School
»Finland: True Finns’ Soini to be Taken Into Big Parties’ Election Debates
»Foreigners May Soon Join Germany’s Military
»Islam’s Spiritual ‘Dear Abby’: The Voice of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
»Italy: Berlusconi Says Women Protests ‘Biased’, Refuses to Quit
»Italy: Berlusconi to Stand Trial for Sex With an Underage Prostitute and Abuse of Office
»Italy: Fiat Will Have Italian Heart, But With Bases Abroad
»Netherlands: Wilders Court Case Restarts From Scratch
»Poland/Germany: Bundestag Reopens World War 2 Wounds
»Pope Benedict to Clamp Down on “Creative” Liturgy
»Portugal Criticises EU Action, Too Slow
»Rubygate — PM to Face Trial on Sixth of April
»Turkey: Appeasement in Our Time
»UK: ‘Muslim Preacher’, 59, Arrested Over Alleged Assault on Children at Mosque Featured in Channel 4 Documentary
»UK: 7/7 Inquest: Bombers Girlfriend Tells of Hotel Tryst Days Before Terror Attacks
»UK: Boss Forced to Pay Worker Thief £13k ‘For Humiliating Him’
»UK: BA Man Rajib Karim Denies Job Was Part of Terror Plan
»UK: Cameron’s Anger at Cable Over Failure to Halt EU Worker Rules
»UK: Euro Judges ‘Will Not Have Final Say’ On Prisoner Vote, Vows Attorney General (As He Hints of Withdrawal From European Court)
»UK: I’ll Sue Cops for Telling My Neighbours I’m a Drug Dealer… It’s Against My Human Rights’
»UK: Islamic Group Appeals Olympic Site Mosque
»UK: Islamic School Students ‘Won’t Miss Out’ on Schooling Despite Closure
»UK: LSE Cancels Event With German Critics of Radical Islam
»UK: MPs Reject 40% Threshold Plan for the AV Referendum
»UK: RAF to Axe Almost Half of Trainee Pilots
»UK: Why Liberals Secretly Love the English Defence League
»Women Rise Up Against Berlusconi
North Africa
»Algeria: ‘10,000’ Tunisians Have Crossed Over Border Since Ben Ali’s Fall
»CBS Correspondent Lara Logan Reveals She Was Victim of Sex Attack While Covering Egypt Protests
»Egypt Calls for Aid as Instability Lingers
»Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Plans Political Party
»Egypt: Banned Salafite Group Holds First Meeting in 20 Years
»Egypt: Horrible… CBS News’ Lara Logan Hospitalized; Was Sexually Assaulted & Beaten by Peaceful Egyptian Protesters
»Egypt: George Soros, Google Tagged for Starting Islamic Uprisings
»Egypt: Obama Sees ‘Right Signals’ From Military
»Egypt: Islamist Judge to Head New Constitution Committee
»Egypt: High Court Grants Custody to Christian Mother, But Rules Children Are Muslims
»EU Foreign Policy Chief Ashton on Egypt: “Everyone, Including the Muslim Brotherhood, Must be Involved”
»Muslim Brotherhood’s Party Platform Indefinitely on Hold
»Troubling Indications Emerging Out of Egypt
»Tunisia: Dispensary Burned Down in Nabeul Region
»Tunisia: ‘Finally Free to Tan’, Campaign to Relaunch Tourism
»Tunisia: Country Facing Rampant Crime
»Tunisia: Salafites Demonstrate Before Tunis Synagogue
»Update on Reports of Divisions Within the Muslim Brotherhood
»What is the Real Meaning of Egypt’s Revolution?
»What Next for Egypt? Analysis From Islam Critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali [Audio]
»WikiLeaks: Egypt’s New Man at the Top ‘Was Against Reform’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Controversy in Israel Over Burqa-Wearing Ultra-Orthodox Jews
»PNA: Press: Fayyad Government Resigns
»PNA: Fayyad to Form New Gov’t, Hamas Critical
Middle East
»A Virtual Revolution in Saudi Arabia
»Bahrain: Protests in Shiite Villages, 3 Dead, 20 Injured
»Bahrain: Protesters Threaten Egypt-Style Permanent Demonstration
»Bahrain: Demonstrators Killed in Clashes With Police
»French PM Calls for Dialogue at Gulf’s Sorbonne
»Ice Queens of the Arab World
»Iran Protests ‘Going Nowhere’, Says Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
»Iran Protest: MPs Demand Opposition’s Execution After Tehran Pro-Democracy Rally
»Iran: Politicians in Parliament Call for Death of Opposition
»Iraqi Defector ‘Curveball’ Admits WMD Lies
»Jordan: Justice Minister at Demonstration Before Ministry
»Lebanese Sunnis Play the Confessional Card Against Hizbollah
»Now It’s Bahrain’s Turn as Protesters Pour on to the Streets Demanding Political Reform and Greater Freedoms
»Oda TV Raid Renews Fears of Media Witch Hunt in Turkey
»Reasons for Optimism in the Middle East
»Spanish Diplomat Held for Four Hours in Tehran
»First Ever Russian Orthodox Youth Day in Europe
»Russia to Launch Muslim Television Channel
»7 Insurgents, 3 Police Killed in Shootout in Russia’s Volatile Caucasus Region
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Misunderstanding Over Dutch Mission
»Indonesia: Two Suspects in Ahmadiyah Attack Remain at Large
»Indonesian Blasphemy Law Sparks Muslim Violence in Java
»Malaysia Valentine’s Day Raids Lead to Mass Arrests
»Pakistan: Davis ‘Is a Diplomat and Can’t be Arrested’
Far East
»Spy Story Raises Tensions Between Taipei and Beijing
Australia — Pacific
»Abbott Backs Anti-Muslim Petition MP
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Clashes Erupt on Muslim Holiday in Central Nigeria
»Nigeria’s Taliban-Inspired Uprising in North Sparks Christian-Musim Divide
»Zimbabwe: China’s “Friendly”, Rip-Off, Economic Colonialism
»Council of Europe Says Italy Must Not Expel Migrants
»Destination Lampedusa: European Leaders Struggle With Wave of Tunisian Migrants
»‘Europe Must Tackle Migration’
»Frattini: Italy Ready to Assist Tunisia
»Germany: Politicians Bicker Over Tunisian Refugees
»Illegals Cost Taxpayers $113 Billion a Year: Why Does No One Care?
»Italy: Polemics With EU. Berlusconi, Maroni in Sicily
»Italy: Arab Revolution Lands at Lampedusa
»Italy: Egyptians Reach Sicily as ‘Biblical Exodus’ Continues
»Italy and Malta Want Special Summits on Africa Crisis
»Italy Asks for 100m Euros to Tackle ‘Biblical Exodus’ of Tunisians Heading to Europe
»Netherlands: Immigrant Women Miss Out on Jobs Through Poor Health
»Sri Lanka: Religious Sisters: Government Ineffective on Violence Against Migrant Women
»Switzerland and Nigeria to Cooperate on Migration
»Tunisia: Press Against Maroni’s Proposal
»Tunisia: Illegal Immigrant Departures From Zarrat Stopped
»Tunisia: Illegal Immigration Attempts Foiled
»UK: High Earners Exempted From Immigration Cap
Culture Wars
»Freedom: Secularism’s Gift to the World — Tom Flynn
»Greece: Gender Equality Still an Issue in the Workplace
»Spain’s Strict Law on Smoking Targets Musical Hair
»UK: Islamists Spark Anger After Calling for Gay-Free Zone in East London
»UK: Ten-Year-Old Accused of Racism for Calling White Classmate ‘Chocolate Brownie’

Financial Crisis

Bankrupting America

My friend, Ziad K. Abdelnour, president and CEO of Blackhawk Partners, Inc., a venture capital firm, recently had one of his excellent commentaries posted on the website of the Financial Policy Council.

The collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac led to their being put in a conservatorship. If you owned stock in either of these “government-sponsored entitles” its worth dropped to pennies while, noted Abdelnour, all Americans “became the underwriters of $5 trillion in mortgage backed securities.”

“In September of 2008, we witnessed one of the most brazen and daring crimes ever to take place,” wrote Abdelnour. “It was pulled off, for the most part, in broad daylight and in full view of the whole world. In the space of a few days, this nation was the victim of an orchestrated theft of nearly six trillion dollars.

September 2008 was when then-Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, former chairman of Goldman Sachs, told Americans that he had just asked Congress to give him a blank check to spend billions of public funds to bail out Wall Street and avoid a financial collapse.

Among the financial firms bailed out was Goldman Sachs that ended up with “at least $53 billion dollars from the U.S. government via the AIG bailout, Paulson’s ‘Troubled Assets Relief Program’, and Timothy Geithner’s later FDIC bailout called the ‘Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program.’“ Geithner is the present Secretary of the Treasury.

Throughout Abdelnour’s commentary, the same names keep showing up, Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner, Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve.


The nation’s Gross Domestic Product, the value of what we produce annually, is around $14 trillion. Obama’s budget would increase the debt to $15 trillion. His budget has so few cuts in it you need a magnifying glass to find them.

Meanwhile, the Republicans in the House, where all spending bills must originate, are fussing and feuding over whether to cut $50 billion or $100 billion from the budget. Someone needs to tell them that the U.S. is broke. We are rapidly on our way to becoming Greece, Italy, Ireland, or Zimbabwe.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

EU Ministers to Double Lending Power of Bail-Out Fund

Eurozone finance ministers have backed a doubling of the full lending capacity of a future EU bail-out fund. As of 2013, the European Stability Mechanism, a permanent rescue mechanism to replace the bloc’s current bail-out arrangement, will have an effective lending capacity of €500 billion, Luxembourgish Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the chief of the group of EU member states that use the single currency, said late on Monday (14 February) night. Speaking to reporters, he said he was convinced the sum should be substantial enough to soothe markets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Food Prices at Dangerous Levels, Says World Bank

The World Bank says food prices are at “dangerous levels” and have pushed 44 million more people into poverty since last June.

According to the latest edition of its Food Price Watch, prices rose by 15% in the four months between October 2010 and January this year.

Food price inflation is felt disproportionately by the poor, who spend over half their income on food.

The Bank called on this week’s G20 meeting to address the problem.

The World Bank’s president, Robert Zoellick, said in a statement: “Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world.”

He also said that rising food prices were an aggravating factor of the unrest in the Middle East, although not its primary cause.

Rapid food price inflation in 2008 sparked riots in a number of countries. At that time, the World Bank estimated 125 million people were in extreme poverty.

The World Bank says prices are not quite back at those levels — just 3% below — although they are 27% higher than a year ago.

A separate report earlier this month from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said that world food prices had hit a record high in January…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

From Prison, Bernard L. Madoff Says Banks ‘Had to Know’ About Fraud

Bernard L. Madoff said he never thought that the collapse of his Ponzi scheme would bring down the sort of destruction on his family that has occurred.

In his first interview for publication since his arrest in December 2008, Mr. Madoff — looking noticeably thinner and rumpled in khaki prison garb — continued to maintain that family members knew nothing about his crimes.

But he asserted during a private two-hour interview in a visitor room, and in earlier e-mail exchanges, that unidentified banks and hedge funds were somehow “complicit” in his elaborate fraud, an about-face from earlier claims that he was the only person who knew.

[Return to headlines]

George Soros and His Progressive War on America

Almost unknown until recently, multi-billionaire George Soros has been quietly bringing down governments around the world. He has now turned his attention to the United States and unleashed a firestorm of activity intent on destroying the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. dollar.

David Kupelian, managing editor of and editor of Whistleblower magazine calls Soros a “God-hating atheist, a self-hating Jew, a capitalism-hating socialist, and an America-hating globalist.”[1] That is just the start. He supports euthanasia, legalizing drugs, socialism, gay rights and global governance. He opposes free enterprise, Israel (even though he is a Jew) and U.S. sovereignty.[2] He wants to devalue the U.S. dollar, telling the Financial Times in October 2009 that “an orderly decline of the dollar is actually desirable,” even though Americans would suffer if it were to happen.[3]

Soros wants to replace the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency and replace it with “a new currency system.”[4] If that were to happen it would have a catastrophic effect on the U.S. There is a huge demand for dollars in the world because the dollar is the world’s reserve currency. Every nation must use dollars to buy oil and other commodities in international trade.[5] This keeps the demand for dollars high.

There have been efforts to dump the dollar as the reserve currency in the past. In the most recent effort, Gulf Arab states, along with China, Russia, Japan and France announced plans on October 5, 2009 to do this by 2018.[6] That effort seems to have been stalled for now. If the dollar ever loses its reserve currency status, there would suddenly be a huge surplus of dollars flooding back to the U.S. causing high inflation, even hyperinflation.[7] Americans would have to carry their money in wheelbarrows as happened in the Weimar Republic after WWI.

Can Soros do this? At a net worth estimated at $11 billion, he is worth more than the Gross Domestic Product of three-quarters of all the nations in the world. He brought down the Russian government in the late 1990s.[8] He is famously known as “the man who broke the Bank of England” by shorting the British pound on October, 1992.[9] The international banking community now calls it Black Wednesday. Soros brags about making a billion or more dollars by crashing of the Bank of England,[10] and says it is “fun” to bring down entire nations he labels “repressive” based on his Marxist ideology.” The innocent casualties of his subversive activities are “unintended” but a necessary cost of doing good (as he defines it).


Now known as the Cloward-Piven Strategy, the strategy took off like wildfire among the progressive liberals. Using Alinsky as their inspiration, the Cloward-Piven strategy “seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.”[28] The strategy calls for creating a massive movement to force the rest of society to do what they demand. Although this strategy has been used for decades in the United States, it is the exact strategy being used by the myriads of Soros-funded NGOs.

Impossible, you say? Just how do you think the U.S. has accumulated a $14 trillion debt? In their relentless quest to solve the unending evils they see in America, radical NGOs, many funded by Soros, have passed a myriad of expensive social legislation that the United States cannot afford.When there was no longer any tax money to fund the bloated programs, the U.S. began to borrow money to fund them. We now have a $1.5 trillion budget deficit in 2011 to add to our $14 trillion debt. At this rate it will be $19.6 trillion by 2015.[29] This is not free money. In 2010 the interest payment alone on the debt was $414 billion, second only to Social Security and National Defense.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greece: More Strikes in Public Transport Sector

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 14 — The inhabitants of Athens and other large cities in Greece are facing another week of inconveniences due to strikes in the public transport sector.

Workers have decided to continue their protest against the government measures to reform the sector.

Today a 4-hour strike has been scheduled, tomorrow, the day on which the bill could be passed, all public transport is paralysed. After that the protest will not stop, unions warn, because “they will continue after the law is passed by the Parliament”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: ‘Crisis’ Over ‘Troika’ Statements Ended

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 14 — The “diplomatic crisis” between the Greek government and the “troika” caused by the statements made by the representatives of EU, IMF and ECB by the end of their mission to Greece seems to have come to an end. The representatives had said that the Greek government should sell real estate, shares and other State property for a total of 50 billion euros by 2015 to reduce its debt.

After the telephone call made by Prime Minister George Papandreou to the President of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, to the chairman of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet and to IMF chairman Dominique Strass Kahn, apologies were made.

However, the conflict between government and opposition parties on the question continues. Nea Dimocratia, the main opposition party, accuses the government of hypocrisy. A spokesman explained the decision to carry out a privatisation programme was taken a long time ago and was mentioned in September 2010 by Papandreou. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the small left-wing party Syriza, accused the government of taking the decision to sell off the country’s wealth together with the troika.

And certain reactions are also heard from within the Pasok party. “The government, and the Finance Minister in particular, must tell us what they have signed”, a statement reads. The statement was issued by the “Initiative of the Left”, the left-wing faction of the government party, which invites Papandreou to consider his responsibilities. Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou has responded that “the government doesn’t sell off anything, we only want to make the most of the country’s real estate”.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Government and ‘Troika’ Attacked

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 14 — The President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Athens, Constantinos Michalos, says that Greece “is going down a wrong and dangerous road”. Michalos was reacting to the comments of representatives of the FMI, the EU and the ECB on Greek debt and the Greek government’s stance regarding the issue.

“It is not only the ‘troika’ that is responsible for the situation of the country, but also those who accept mistaken proposals from institutions that are unfamiliar with Greece and have not seen the reports of important government consultants such as the Chambers of Commerce”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Strong Demand in Bond Auction for 390 Mln

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 15 — Strong demand and lower interest rates were seen today in Greece’s bond auction: Athens sold 390 million euros of 3-month bonds with the average interest rate in decline to 3.85% compared to 4.1% in January’s auction. Demand was 5.08 times greater than the bonds on offer.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Record Deficit in 2010, -27.3 Bln

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 15 — Italy’s trade balance was deep in negative territory in 2010. The year ended with a trade deficit of 27.3 billion euros, the highest figure ever recorded in nominal terms at current prices.

This year’s figure is far worse than last year’s deficit of 5.9 billion euros recorded in 2009, reports national statistics office ISTAT, which specified that in the month of December alone the deficit was 2.7 billion euros, compared to 138 million in December 2009.

Energy imports weighed heavily on Italy’s trade deficit. The trade balance was positive when excluding crude oil and natural gas imports, with a 25.1 billion euros surplus.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ministers Agree 500-Billion-Euro Permanent Rescue Fund

Euro-zone finance ministers have agreed to effectively double the volume of the euro rescue fund from 2013 when it becomes a permanent mechanism. The fund will have an effective lending capacity of 500 billion euros, said Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands in Lobbying Tour for Lower EU Contribution

THE HAGUE, 15/02/11 — Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager is to tour around EU counterparts specially to lobby for a lower contribution to the EU budget by the Netherlands.

In the previous multi-year budget, the Netherlands was awarded a 1 billion euro discount. The cabinet wants this cut continued in the next budget, plus an extra reduction.

Premier Mark Rutte recently brought up the topic during his visit to his UK counterpart David Cameron. The premier will continue to do so in talks with other countries.

But De Jager is making a special trip of it. “I will make a visit to capitals of a number of European countries to make the Dutch position clear; why we consider we should pay less to Europe,” he said yesterday on BNR Nieuwsradio.

The intention is that the Dutch lobby will get to work this spring, sources in The Hague said. It is unclear how many countries he will visit, but it is certain that he will go to Hungary, which currently holds the presidency of the EU, as well as to Germany, France ‘and other big countries”, according to a source.

The European Commission is to put forward proposals for the 2013-2020 budget in June. Without its discount, the Netherlands would contribute 3.4 billion euros more to the EU than it received, the government auditors announced last week.

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

Portugal: Young Generation Robbed of Its Future

So that one section of the population can benefit from long-standing social entitlements, another — that is to say the young people who are our children — is deprived of all its rights.

José Manuel Fernandes

When the IMF intervened for the second time in Portugal, I was 26 years old. Looking back on that grim period when black flags hung over the gates of factories in suburban Lisbon and workers wondered in dismay at the months of back pay they were owed, I remember having lunch with an incorrigible optimist at the café Martinho de Arcada [in Lisbon], who made one simple remark I will never forget: “Have you noticed that, in spite of all our current problems, we are still better off than our parents generation? Remember how it was when we were little…”

He was right, and what is more, our parents’ standard of living was clearly better than the one their parents had. However, when I consider the outlook for my children and the generation to come, it is obvious that this trajectory of improvement has come to a halt. And it has come to a halt because we have ruined everything — or at least because we have contributed to a situation where no further progress is possible.

You might argue that those who are little older than I am — the true heirs of the baby-boomer generation of the 1960s who have held most of the power over the last three decades — are even more responsible for this state of affairs, but either way it doesn’t make much difference. What is certain is that the future we are about to entrust to the young people of this country, who already have to contend with conditions that are in many ways unbearable, leaves a lot to be desired.

“I am from the unpaid generation”

Initially, they were nicknamed the “500-euros generation,” because, although they were highly qualified, most of them were unable to find jobs that paid more than the minimum wage. But today this epithet no longer applies, because the situation is even worse. One in four young job seekers is simply unable to find work (a figure rises to one in three for higher education graduates). And notwithstanding the fact that they have completed their university studies and have degrees to show for it, a sizeable proportion of those who are employed work as taxi drivers, or in lowly paid jobs in call centres and supermarkets.

In many cases they do not even receive proper wages, but are paid with recibos verdes [the ‘green receipts’ originally designed for the remuneration of self-employed workers that have come to symbolise insecure employment in Portugal], which will soon be heavily taxed by the government. In view of this situation, most of them are forced to live at home with their parents, and are unable to settle down or take on adult responsibilities.

Thirty years ago, when he portrayed my generation in the song A rapariguinha do shopping [The girl in the shopping centre], Rui Veloso highlighted the superficiality of humble folk who would stop at nothing to get ahead in the rat race: “Neat and sassy / On the up escalator / With her sewing magazine / Her shining eyes / Fragrant underarms / Bright red lips / Perfect hair / Heavy eye-shadow and eye-liner…” Now when groups like Deolinda get the crowd jumping in the concert halls of Lisbon and Porto, the anthems are on a completely different register: “I am from the unpaid generation / I don’t care about working conditions / It may sound stupid / But in a world that’s gone from bad to worse / An internship is better… better than a curse.” They are right: an internship is better than nothing, as is a job where you are only paid in luncheon vouchers. And failing that, you can always fall back on yet another post-doc scholarship, even though you know that a masters and doctorate is unlikely to improve your prospects in the working world.

If they want jobs, they will just have to wait

Not to put too fine a point on it, the young people of this generation have been robbed — and we are to blame. In the fervour that followed the Carnation Revolution [which put an end to the dictatorship in 1974], the euphoria prompted by our accession to the EU [in 1986] and the suicidal consumer frenzy buoyed by low interest rates that came hot on the heels of the adoption of the single currency, one single generation disposed of the wealth of two generations to come. As it stands, public and private debt in this country has reached a level that is greater than three years of GDP, and this is the legacy that our young people will now inherit.

We want it all: job security with good salaries, regular pay-rises, shorter working hours and early retirement; first and second homes plasma TVs, and cars and mobile phone for everyone in the family. We believe that all of this is possible, and when someone has the temerity to suggest that this is not the case, we cling to our privileges like shipworms. In demanding the impossible, and with no willingness to accept the slightest compromise, we bang on about our “social entitlements” and our rights as established by the Carnation Revolution.

But look at the country that we are now handing over to the younger generation. In this land of decaying city centres, if they want homes they will have to buy them because three decades have gone by without any progress on rent laws. If they want jobs, they will just have to wait, no matter how qualified they are. There is simply no way to budge their elders who will hold on to their jobs for life. No matter how well they perform in university, they will not be able to obtain jobs their either.

There are so many applicants for the few research jobs that are advertised that even an immediate application has virtually no chance of success. Prospects are no better elsewhere in the education system where a falling birth rate has led to a decline in the number of students. For those that dreamed of legal careers, this option has now been blocked by a freeze ordained by the Portuguese Order of Lawyers. So what is left? Nothing only Friday nights and the wan reflection that tomorrow is another day.

Time for the “anything goes” generation to hand over power

Just look at how we have pillaged the pension system that was supposed to sustain their retirement: under the terms of the 2007 Vieira da Silva reform, the best today’s young people can hope for is a pension worth only half of what their elders now receive. They may not have noticed, but it is worth wondering: what will become of the “live-at-home with mum and dad” generation in 30 or 40 years time?

Perhaps they are aware that their generation can no longer expect to benefit from a major improvement in living standards of the kind that their parents enjoyed. And doubtless this is why they give little credence to well-worn political rhetoric, or hollow promises of improvement in the economy.

But in view of their situation, the young people of this generation would do well to campaign for major change that will transform conditions in this country. Portugal can no longer continue as a country defined by factional interests, and long-standing privilege. It must open up to its young people, and offer them the just rewards of ambition, determination and imagination. It is time for the “anything goes” generation to hand over power, because there is no greater foolishness than the stupidity that resists inevitable change, and this is something the young have well understood…

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

Strike Paralyses Portugal Metro

Lisbon’s metro was totally shut down during morning rush-hour on Monday by the first in a series of strikes by transport workers to protest pay cuts being imposed by the cash-strapped government. The four-and-a-half hour shutdown, which began at 6:30am, will be followed by similar stoppages later in the week on rail, ferry and bus services both in the capital and other major cities including Porto, Braga and Coimbra. The wideranging cuts in public sector pay by Socialist Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ government have met fierce opposition from trade unions who organised Portugal’s first general strike in more than two decades last November.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: Inflation on the Rise, 6.32% in 2010

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, FEBRUARY 15 — In 2010 the inflation rate in Syria increased to 6.32%. According to reports from the Syrian Central Bank, food prices increased by 11.4% and encouraged the boost in inflation. Clothing prices also increased (+3.27%), reports the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Damascus, while energy, electricity, water and housing costs (all grouped into a single category) increased by 1.2%. According to the Syrian government, increasing food prices were caused by the drought that has affected crop harvest in Syria in recent years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Concerns Over Leather-Footwear Sector

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 10 — The Tunisian leather and footwear sector, like other sectors, is seriously weighed down by the wave of strikes.

This remark was made by the vice president of the national leather and footwear federation, Akrem Belhaj.He underlined that the current situation will certainly have negative consequences for the near future, and added that some foreign companies active in the sector have decided to abandon Tunisia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Industrialists, Safety is Fundamental

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 11 — The wave of wildcat strikes sweeping through Tunisia could soon turn into a veritable tsunami. This is a summary of the concern expressed once again by Hichem Eloumi, the chair of the national federation of electrical and electronic industries, which is part of the Tunisian Union for Industry, Trade and Craft (UTICA).

Eloumi said that foreign investors are living in fear as a result of the safety concerns and social protests that are still dominating the country. If the situation does not rapidly improve, the situation could lead them not only to reassess their investment plans and reduce their activity, but also to decide to move elsewhere. As a result, it is absolutely fundamental, Eloumi said, “to regain a climate of serenity conducive to the development of various economic activities and to calmly put the finishing touches on social talks”.

Eloumi pointed out that talks are scheduled in March between UTICA and Tunisia’s leading trade union UGTT. Damage to companies operating in the sector, especially in electrical appliances, is estimated to have reached 29 million euros. There are 400 companies in Tunisia’s mechanical electrical industry sector, 60% of which are entirely dedicated to export with mixed or foreign capital. The highest concentration of companies is to be found in inland regions (Béja, Siliana, Le Kef, Gafsa, Kairouan), with the sector providing 70,000 jobs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Top Council Pay Packets Must be Voted on, Pickles Says

Local authorities planning to pay employees more than £100,000 will have to seek the approval of councillors in a vote, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said.

Mr Pickles said this would ensure pay packets were “democracy proofed”.

The Communities Secretary intends to amend the Localism Bill which is being discussed in the Commons.

It comes as research showed 43% of council chiefs got paid more than £150,000 last year.

Mr Pickles said councils needed to be sure “they didn’t sully their reputation by taking decisions behind closed doors” and “reward chief executives when they should be focusing resources on protecting frontline services”.

He added: “The changes we are introducing will mean that local government jobs will now have to be ‘democracy proofed’ before mega-salaries are paid out.

“I think the democratically elected leaders of any council should make sure they have their say on pay and that £100,000 is the place to start that.”

Transparency agenda

He went on to say the Localism Bill was “one of the most radical pieces of legislation to be debated in this chamber for decades”.

“It is a triumph for democracy over bureaucracy that will fundamentally shake up the balance of power in this country.”

As a result of the new measures, councils will have to prepare and publish a statement setting out the authority’s policy on the remuneration arrangements of its chief officers.

Big bonuses and above-inflation annual pay rises could also have to be included…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Islamic Bonds Issued for the First Time

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 14 — With a total value of 4 billion Yemeni riyals (the equivalent of 18.5 million dollars), the Yemeni Central Bank has for the first time issued Islamic bonds to finance three road projects. So reports Al Hayat newspaper, which says that the rate of interest of the bonds is between 17 and 21%.

Numan Assiheby, the country’s Finance Minister, says that the government will use these bonds in the future to cover part of the budget deficit.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Government Begins Fight Against State Corruption

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 14 — The Yemeni government has begun its collaboration with a specialised agency to fight corruption in all state systems. The country’s President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has asked the agency to begin checks on former ministers and state office chiefs, Al Hayat reports.

A report by the anti-corruption body says that 34 investigations into cases of financial damage, with a total of 88 million dollars, are currently ongoing.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Critics Slam U.S. Government, Media for ‘Weak’ Response to Anti-Christian Attacks

At least 65 Christians have been killed in attacks across the Muslim world in recent months, sparking sharp criticism from human rights groups that charge the U.S. government and media aren’t doing nearly enough to speak out against the violence.

A shooting in Egypt last month that killed a Christian man and injured five Christian women was just the latest in the series of attacks, several of which occurred around the holiday season: A New Year’s bombing at a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt, killed 23 people and injured more than 100; Christmas Eve blasts in Nigeria killed at least 32 — just part of a night of terror across the country that saw three other churches attacked and six worshipers killed; six perished in a Christmas Day Catholic Church bombing on the island of Jolo, in the Philippines; and a string of New Year’s Eve bombings in Iraq left two dead and at least 13 wounded.

The spate of attacks has some saying that not enough is being done. “The lack of a policy response beyond sending condolences each time a church or Christians are targeted in some horrific act of violence like in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria etc. is absolutely bewildering,” Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told “This should be seen as not only a humanitarian issue, but a security issue.”

Even the condolence statements have come up short, said Shea. When the Obama administration first noted an Oct. 31 church bombing in Iraq, for example, it sent “a general condolence to Iraqis that didn’t even mention the word Christian or churches — even though it was a packed Sunday worship service for Christians that was blown up.”

That bombing, claimed by an Al Qaeda-linked organization, left 58 people dead and at least 78 wounded. It was the worst attack ever against Iraq’s Christian minority.

Critics have also charged the U.S. media hasn’t done enough to publicize the plight of persecuted Christians.

CBS and ABC aired nothing on the Nigerian attacks, PBS had one “NewsHour” report, while NBC gave the story three briefs mentions on the morning of Dec. 27, according to L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center.

“CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric instead found the protests against a new Islamic Center set to be built near Ground Zero to be more newsworthy, labeling the “seething hatred” against Muslims in America as one of the “most disturbing stories to surface this year” on her New Year’s Eve Internet show.

That night, 11 bombs exploded near Christian homes in Baghdad, killing two people and wounding at least 13. And just minutes into the new year, the bombers in Alexandria struck. “ABC aired nothing. CBS and NBC each aired one brief anchor read,” according to Bozell. Not everyone agreed with Bozell. “Christians get massive, massive media coverage, way out of proportion to their importance,” said media analyst T.J. Walker. “This is another case of an interest group developing the media strategy of ‘working the refs’ … No matter how fair or generous your media coverage is, complain bitterly that you are being treated unfairly in the hopes of making reporters give you even more positive coverage just to avoid the headache of dealing with nonsense virulent criticism.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Dorothy Rabinowitz: Major Hasan, ‘Star Officer’

In a month of momentous change, it was easy to overlook the significance of another revolutionary event. Who would have believed that in the space of a few weeks the leaders of the three major European powers would publicly denounce multiculturalism and declare, in so many words, that it was a proven disaster and a threat to society?

One after another they announced their findings-Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Great Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, and France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy. Multicultural values had not only led to segregated communities: They had, Mr. Cameron noted, imposed policies of blind toleration that had helped nurture radical Islam’s terrorist cells.

There can be no underestimating the in-so-many-words aspect of these renunciations. This was multiculturalism they were talking about-the unofficial established religion of the universities, the faith whose requirements have shaped every aspect of cultural, economic and political life in Western democracies for the last 50 years. Still, they were out there-words coolly specific, their target clear.

They came at a fitting moment, just as Americans had been handed a report providing the fullest disclosures so far about the multiculturalist zeal that had driven Army and medical school superiors to smooth Nidal Malik Hasan’s rocky way through training, promote him, and, despite blatant evidence of his unfitness, raise not a single concern. Maj. Hasan, U.S. Army psychiatrist, would be assigned to Fort Hood where, in November 2009, he opened fire, killing 12 fellow soldiers and a civilian employee, and wounding 32 others.

In this report, titled “A Ticking Time Bomb” and put out by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, there is a detail as dazzling in its bleak way as all the glowing misrepresentations of Dr. Hasan’s skills and character, which his superiors poured into their evaluations of him. It concerns the Department of Defense’s official report on the Foot Hood killings-a study whose recital of fact made no mention of Hasan’s well-documented jihadist sympathies. Subsequent DoD memoranda portray the bloodbath- which began with Hasan shouting “Allahu Akbar!”-as a kind of undefined extremism, something on the order, perhaps, of work-place violence.

This avoidance of specifics was apparently contagious-or, more precisely, policy. In November 2010, each branch of the military issued a final report on the Fort Hood shooting. Not one mentioned the perpetrator’s ties to radical Islam. Even today, “A Ticking Time Bomb,” co-authored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) and Susan Collins (R., Maine), reminds us that DoD still hasn’t specifically named the threat represented by the Fort Hood attack-a signal to the entire Defense bureaucracy that the subject is taboo.

For the superiors in charge of Hasan’s training at Walter Reed and his two years at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the taboo was of a more complicated order-one that required elaborately inventive analyses through which Hasan’s stated beliefs, ominous pronouncements, and evident unconcern with standards of behavior required of an officer could all be represented as singular virtues, proof of his exceptional value to the Army. It could not have been easy. Still, they managed.

They did so despite Hasan’s astounding trail of performances, each more telling than the next. To fulfill Walter Reed’s academic requirement for a presentation on a psychiatric theme, Hasan proffered a draft consisting almost entirely of wisdom from the Quran arguing for the painful punishment and liquidation of non-Muslims. Hasan evidently viewed the Quranic verses as a sufficient presentation-a view his superior didn’t share, given its lack of any mention of a psychiatric theme. When that guide warned him the presentation was “not scholarly” and might prevent his graduation, Hasan revised. The finished product was not much different. Still, Hasan was allowed to graduate.

He went on to his medical fellowship, where he soon delivered another class lecture, this one on the Islamist theme that the West, in particular the U.S military, had mounted a war on Islam. The presentation brimmed with views sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, the motives of the 9/11 perpetrators, and suicide bombers. It so infuriated his classmates that their outraged eruptions caused the instructor to end the presentation.

There would be more of the same to come. One classmate witness told investigators that Hasan sought every possible opportunity to share his radical Islamist sympathies. His highest obligation, he told classmates, wasn’t to the Constitution, which he had sworn to protect and defend, but to his religion.

His Islamist sympathies would attract the interest of the FBI, which soon picked up on this U.S Army major’s contacts with a terrorist suspect, unnamed in the Senate report. The agency would, however, have no continuing great interest in Hasan. Among other reasons, its agents had seen the impressive evaluation reports characterizing Hasan as an authority on Islam-one whose work even had “extraordinary potential to inform national policy and military strategy,” as one of his superiors put it in his officer evaluation report.

The same Hasan who set off silent alarms in his supervisors-the Psychiatric Residency Program Director at Walter Reed was one of them- would garner only plaudits in the official written evaluations at the time. He was commended in these as a “star officer,” one focused on “illuminating the role of culture and Islamic faith within the Global War on Terrorism.” One supervisor testified, “His unique interests have captured the interest and attention of peers and mentors alike.” No single word of criticism or doubt about Hasan ever made its way into any of his evaluations…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

President Obama White House Media Operation: ‘State Run Media 2.0’?

As the 2012 presidential campaign kicks into gear, President Obama’s White House media operation is demonstrating an unprecedented ability to broadcast its message through social media and the Internet, at times doing an end-run around the traditional press.

The White House Press Office now not only produces a website, blog, YouTube channel, Flickr photo stream, and Facebook and Twitter profiles, but also a mix of daily video programming, including live coverage of the president’s appearances and news-like shows that highlight his accomplishments.

“Advise the Adviser: Your Direct Line to the White House,” the administration’s latest online program launched last week, encourages viewers to offer “advice, opinions and feedback on important issues” and promises a response from a senior administration official in return.

“We’re striving to not just have a passive website where people can read about what’s happening but create a method of interaction and feedback,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

CLICK HERE for the latest political news and analysis from George Stephanopoulos.

It joins “Open for Questions,” a periodic series of live moderated video chats with officials, “West Wing Week,” a magazine-style show featuring the president behind the scenes, and other live-streaming events, including an annotated version of the State of the Union address, all intended to more directly disseminate the administration’s message.

But while these innovative communications tools ostensibly offer greater transparency and openness, critics say they have come at a troublesome expense: less accountability of the administration by the independent, mainstream press.

Over the past few months, as White House cameras have been granted free reign behind the scenes, officials have blocked broadcast news outlets from events traditionally open to coverage and limited opportunities to publicly question the president himself.

Obama’s recent signing of the historic New START treaty with Russia and his post-State of the Union cabinet meeting, for example, were both closed to reporters in a break with tradition. And during a recent question and answer session with the president and visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the White House imposed an unusual limit of just one question each from the U.S. and Canadian press corps…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Republicans Rebuke Effort to Defund Health Care Law

On Tuesday, the House plans to debate a bill to fund the government through September. Republicans aim to use the measure to pare at least $100 billion in spending out of this year’s budget.

There is no provision more onerous to conservatives than the health law. So if the GOP is set to cut spending, why not shave the money set aside to implement the health law, too?

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) planned to do just that, which would in turn cripple all government operations devoted to executing the health law. In other words, if there’s no money, the government can’t carry out the policy.

And that’s when King ran into a buzz saw run by Virginia Foxx and the rest of the Republicans on the House Rules Committee.

All of those Republicans want to upend the health care law just as much as King does. But not at the expense of corrupting House rules that govern how to handle the spending measure on the floor.

House rules prohibit lawmakers from “legislating” on a spending bill, such as curbing funds for health care. And in order for King to get his way, the Rules Committee would have to “protect” King’s amendment and give it “special treatment” when GOP leaders summoned the spending resolution to the floor Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Roommate of Stingaree Cab Driver Says He Feared for His Life

SAN DIEGO — Dan Rose says he has been living with Sam Hassan Daly for the last two months. Rose says, “he’s a pretty solitary man kind of a recluse I guess you would call it.”

Rose says things have gotten progressively worse since he moved in. “It’s been a very uncomfortable situation living here the last couple months.”

A photo shows Daly’s cab parked in the garage before Saturday morning’s crash. A crash and confrontation that injured 35 people in the Gaslamp district in front of Stingaree nightclub.

Rose said he feared the 52-year-old Egyptian born cab driver. “Just very irrational behavior, um I don’t know if it was necessarily a terroristic type thing or maybe he’s just imbalanced.”

Rose said Daly called him names and confronted him for bringing a date home. The confrontation scared him so much, he began to carry a knife with him in the house. Rose says, “the reaction he had towards me kind of made me a little scared so I carry one with me even in my home when I’d go to the bathroom.”

Rose says Daly gave him his move out notice last Friday. That the home is in foreclosure and Daly was leaving the country and heading back to Egypt.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

West Meets With Head of Anti-Muslim Group Act! For America

U.S. Rep. Allen West, R- Fort Lauderdale, never one to shy away from controversy, appears to be coordinating with a highly controversial anti-Muslim group, judging by a recent article posted online by West himself. The piece, which West wrote for the conservative blog Red County, detailed what he calls “the most eventful weeks of [his] life.” From visiting a Fort Lauderdale elementary school to visiting with constituuents to discuss a renewed focus and political strategy to “move forward in 2011,” West had a seemingly busy week. But perhaps the most interesting portion of West’s week was a meeting in Washington, D.C., with a notoriously controversial figure:

First on my agenda once I got back in the office, was a meeting with the incredible Brigitte Gabriel, President and CEO of ACT! for America. This woman is fully charged and focused and determined to secure the safety of her country. #

Touted on ACT!’s website as “one of the leading terrorism experts in the world,” Gabriel has long made headlines for her outspoken views on Islam. The New York Times Magazine caught heat for calling her a “radical islamaphobe” in the preface to an interview, but Gabriel’s views are unarguably extreme. She was once quoted by the Australian Jewish News as saying that “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.” During a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity, Gabriel addressed rumors of Presiden’t Obama’s Muslim background, saying that she could not “speak to what God he prays to in his private space,” but that “all the signs show that he has a very soft spot for the Islamic world.” Gabriel is no stranger to Florida politics, either. In August 2010, she was one of several keynote speakers (others included Marco Rubio) at an Emerald Coast Tea Party rally. # ACT! made a splash in Jacksonville in the summer of 2010 after its members verbally renounced the appointment of Muslim Professor Dr. Parvez Ahmed, to the Human Rights Commission. Shortly after the group penned a 20-page report accusing him of having ties to Islamic-extremist groups, an area mosque was pipe-bombed. Though no one was hurt, and no suspects were ever identified, many thought that the timing was more than mere coincidence…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bardot Slams Swedish Wolf Hunt

French movie star and animals right campaigner Brigitte Bardot has written to the Swedish government to register her protest against the ongoing wolf hunt.

“How it is possible to act in such a retrograde fashion in a country like Sweden?” the 76-year-old French icon asked in a letter to environment minister Andreas Carlgren.

In her letter, Bardot asked Carlgren to cull the ongoing hunt.

“Minister, I am begging you, spare those poor creatures by stopping the hunt and letting the already fragile (wolf) population strengthen itself” she wrote.

The Local reported in January that the European Commission had launched legal action against Sweden for allowing hunters to shoot 20 wolves this year even though the species is threatened with extinction.

As of Wednesday, all wolves but one had been shot in this year’s month-long hunting period, which ends Tuesday.

Sweden argues the hunt, which was reopened re-opened last year after a 46-year hiatus, allows it to strengthen the gene pool of its largely inbred wolf population.

The Scandinavian country wants to keep its wolf population at 210, and says it plans to import wolves from Finland and Russia to replace the culled ones.

The hunt is highly controversial in Sweden. On Sunday, protestors marched through central Stockholm carrying 20 coffins to symbolise the number of wolves in this year’s hunt.

Bardot shot to international fame in 1956 with her controversial role as a demon-driven temptress in the movie “And God Created Woman,” becoming an icon of the burgeoning sexual liberation era.

But stardom proved too much to handle and she abandoned her movie career in 1973, aged just 39, retiring to the French Riviera resort of Saint Tropez.

Since then she has swapped the role of sex symbol for that of campaigner, selling off everything she owned to fund her animal rights foundation.

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

Belgium: Romanian Doctors in Legal Grey Zone

De Standaard, 14 February 2011

“Romanian doctors arrive en masse in Belgium,” headlines De Standaard. The daily reports on newly published figures which show that 35% of doctors presenting foreign diplomas for registration in Belgium — 184 MDs in 2009 — are from Romania. The influx has been prompted by poor working conditions in their country of origin and chronic understaffing issues in Belgian hospitals. According to Marc Moens, of the Federation of Belgian Medical Trade Unions, the vast majority of Romanian doctors are “working in a legal grey area,” because most of them do not have a social security number. Between 2000 and 2009, only four of them were officially registered. “The fact that no one knows where they are working, what they are doing, or how much they are paid has left the door open to all kinds of abuses,” remarks the union representative, deploring a situation in which doctors from other EU countries “are free to work in Belgium” while the number of Belgian doctors is subject to a strict legal quota.

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

Dutch Muslims Looking for a Good Orthodox School

The schooling of a group of Muslim pupils in Amsterdam has become the prize in a hard-fought battle. Hundreds of Amsterdam school kids may end up staying at home next year. Not because there’s no place for them, but because their parents have no faith in the city’s non-Islamic schools.

Education Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt recently announced that the ICA, an Islamic secondary school in Amsterdam, would have to close its doors. The school was attracting too few pupils and the inspectorate ruled that its teaching was substandard. In such cases pupils are usually sent to another school, sad that their old school had to close but ready for a new start nonetheless. However, many of the ICA’s pupils are orthodox Muslims and don’t feel welcome at Amsterdam’s other schools. And there is no other Islamic secondary school in the city.

Making a fuss

The father of one pupil says “I’d like nothing better than to send our children to a regular school. But that’s not possible because a school that genuinely accepts our children the way they are just doesn’t exist. Other schools make a big fuss about all kinds of things. You have schools that place restrictions on how you dress. You have schools that put pressure on the children to go on school trips abroad.”

Parents and pupils have come up with an idea so that the children can continue to be taught in an Islamic setting. They have decided to embrace teaching at home. It’s an option open to them under Dutch law if there is no school in the area that reflects their spiritual views. Parents do not have to apply for permission to do this; they simply have to report the fact to the authorities.

The parents and pupils plan to tackle the matter professionally: this will be home education in name only. They hope to bring around 100 pupils together in a community centre and prepare them for state exams under the tutelage of capable teachers. But it is debatable whether this counts as teaching at home. D66 Democrat MP Boris van der Ham believes it doesn’t. He says the parents are taking advantage of a legal loophole, and are actually setting up a new school without having to meet the quality criteria that would otherwise apply.

Admission to society

Amsterdam’s Executive Councillor for Education, Lodewijk Asscher, thinks the plan is a bad idea. The Labour politician describes a good education as “a ticket that gives you admission to society”. He says “We are talking about 100 children, 100 young people who will soon be expected to make a contribution to this city and this country. They have a right to a good school diploma, they have a right to education, they have a right to meet other people, to become part of society. If you keep them at home with their parents teaching them, you’re denying them that right.”

A growing group of young Muslims believe that religion and education are inseparable. One girl who used to go to the ICA tells Mr Asscher “If you really cared about us, you’d respect us. You’d respect what’s best for us. Why won’t you let us make our own choices?”

Lodewijk Asscher argues that a good education should win out over an orthodox education. And he’s prepared to go to court to prove his point.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Finland: True Finns’ Soini to be Taken Into Big Parties’ Election Debates

MEP Timo Soini, the chairman of the True Finns party, will be included in the televised election debates for the larger parties in advance of the April Parliamentary elections. Atte Jääskeläinen, the editor-in-chief of news operations at the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE), said that the decision to include the True Finns alongside the big political beasts of the National Coalition Party, Centre Party, and Social Democrats was taken in response to the party’s rising numbers in opinion polls. Jääskeläinen says that YLE made the decision already in January. The YLE debate will be held at Tampere City Hall on March 31st.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Foreigners May Soon Join Germany’s Military

Germany’s military is in a pinch: As conscription comes to an end, it must find a way to fill its ranks. That’s why the Ministry of Defense is considering allowing foreign nationals to become German soldiers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Islam’s Spiritual ‘Dear Abby’: The Voice of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

He is a hypermarket of dogma, dispensing advice on subjects ranging from mother’s milk to suicide bombing. But few have as much influence on Sunni Muslims as the Muslim televangelist Youssef al-Qaradawi. He says what the Muslim Brotherhood in Egpyt thinks — and he provides clues to how they might act.

This man is a word machine, a one-man talk show that leaves no subject unexamined. Youssef al-Qaradawi has to talk: about former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, about mothers’ milk banks, and about the right of Palestinian women to blow themselves up.

He is a driven man. There are so many decisions to be made in this godforsaken modern age, and yet there is only one mufti, only one Islamic scholar like Qaradawi, who knew the Koran by heart by the time he was 10, only one man who can help the faithful understand the world.

Qaradawi is the father figure of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s best-organized opposition group. The Brotherhood is sure to play a part in deciding what path Egypt will now take.

The Islamist group asked Qaradawi to be their leader in 2002, but he turned them down. Such a position would have been too limiting. He has a different mission. He feels compelled to talk.

The Al-Jazeera television network has been broadcasting Qaradawi’s program “Shariah and Life” every Sunday for the past 15 years. Some 60 million Muslims watch him as he talks imploringly about the genocide in Gaza or the unique dangers of female masturbation (“the hymen is very sensitive and could tear”).

‘Every Last One of Them’

Qaradawi advocates establishing a “United Muslim Nations” as a contemporary form of the caliphate and the only alternative to the hegemony of the West. He hates Israel and would love to take up arms himself. In one of his sermons, he asked God “to kill the Jewish Zionists, every last one of them.”

In January 2009, he said: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler.”

Will this man encourage his brothers in Cairo to uphold the peace treaty with Israel, should the Muslim Brotherhood become part of a government now that Mubarak has resigned?

The 84-year-old is the president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars and the European Council for Fatwa and Research. He has written more than 120 books and penned countless doctrines, which he distributes internationally via his website

He is a blend of pope and service hotline, a spiritual “Dear Abby” for all instances of doubt in Muslim life.

Should a mothers’ milk bank be established? Especially since the Koran forbids marriage between two people who were nursed by the same woman? “Yes,” says Qaradawi, pointing out that the Koran’s prohibition of incest applies only to the mother’s breast, not its contents.

Hypermarket of Dogmas

He talks about everything, which makes him exhibit A for anyone seeking to demonize Islam. A justification for every stupidity can be found in Qaradawi’s words, as long as one searches long enough. On the other hand, Muslims refer to the search for the appropriate dogma as “fatwa shopping.” To them, Qaradawi is a hypermarket of dogmas.

During a visit to London, then Mayor Ken Livingstone asked the sheikh how he felt about the rights of homosexuals. “He told me that he was against attacks on homosexuals,” Livingstone recalls. But the mufti isn’t opposed to 100 lashes for gays and lesbians if that is the punishment imposed by a Sharia judge, at least according to statements he has made on his program.

It is the responsibility of any scholar to lead the faithful, and only the scholar can interpret the scriptures correctly. This is Qaradawi’s mission.

He attended Al-Azhar University in Cairo, where he met Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Banna offered an Islamic alternative to the alleged ills of modern life: corruption and gambling, insolent women and provocative writings, alcohol and the neglect of the poorest members of society. In a word: godlessness.

Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser imprisoned the sheikh three times because of his Islamist activities. In 1961, Qaradawi went into exile in Qatar, where he still lives today. With the protection of the Emir of Qatar, Qaradawi was able to build his fatwa empire, a realm of schools and various forms of media. “We too are modern,” he said in a SPIEGEL interview, “and we too benefit from the great inventions of the West, from the revolution of the information age.”

Equal Rights

The title of a study recently published about Qaradawi in Denmark refers to him as the first “global mufti.” Qaradawi specialist Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen believes that the TV imam was behind the protests following the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper — unrest which led to the Danish embassy in Beirut being set on fire. The sheikh has been barred from entering the United States since 1999.

The imam has also developed a reputation for himself as a moderate. Many see him as a symbol of an enlightened Islam. When speaking to the Western media, in particular, Qaradawi likes to point to Muslims’ tolerance of non-Muslims and condemns the attacks of al-Qaida.

He also speaks out against the systematic castigation of wives. He calls the practice unwise, saying: “Blows are not effective with every woman, but they are helpful with some.” In other cases, the sheikh insists on equal rights. For example, he says, a woman does not have to ask her husband’s permission to blow herself up in an Israeli café.

Compared with this guardian of the faith, Pope Benedict XVI is positively enlightened.

Otherwise, however, the two elderly men have a few things in common. Qaradawi and the pope were born within the same six months from each other, both in rural areas, one in Lower Egypt and the other in Upper Bavaria. Both feel that the Western world is godforsaken. Both have written enough to fill an entire theological library. And both are determined not to be what they are perceived to be: stern teachers. Qaradawi says that he merely wants to offer “alleviation” in a world of confusion. Benedict XVI says more or less the same thing.

Both Devout and Modern

But many feel that the TV imam is more dangerous than those like the Taliban who teach the Koran to the letter. Qaradawi does not demand anything impossible from his contemporaries. Instead, he stresses that his followers can be devout and modern at the same time.

Critics see Qaradawi’s caution as nothing but a ruse. In the German blog “Die Achse des Guten” (“The Axis of Good”), Christoph Spielberger writes about the “Islamic principle of Taqiyya, or misrepresentation to achieve a higher goal.” According to Islamic tradition, concealing one’s faith is permissible, but only in the face of a massive threat.

The TV imam’s followers in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood share his intangibility. For some, they are the dyed-in-the-wool Islamists, while others see them as champions of democracy on the Nile.

“There is no question that true democracy must gain the upper hand,” Mohammed Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, wrote recently. “The Brotherhood adheres to its roots in Islamic thought. It refuses to accept any attempt to impose any ideological line on the Egyptian people.”

This sounds good. But as an underground organization, the Muslim Brothers had no opportunity to try out their religious principles on everyday political life, and on tolerance and the balance of interests. They experienced the meaning of human rights firsthand during the years of repression. It changed them.

“Caution is the watchword,” writes Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, referring to the tactics of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Ramadan, its leaders know that “now is not the time to expose itself.”

Now everyone wants to know who the Muslim Brothers really are. The question is as pointless as asking whether Yusuf al-Qaradawi is moderate or not. He is both himself and the opposite of himself, depending on one’s perspective — and the circumstances.

But what is acceptable in quantum physics can be extremely dangerous in the business of politics.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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

Italy: Berlusconi Says Women Protests ‘Biased’, Refuses to Quit

Over one million tell premier to resign over Ruby scandal

(ANSA) — Rome, February 14 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday said he had no intention of heeding calls to quit from Italian women who staged protests throughout Italy Sunday to express indignation at his latest sex scandal.

The 74-year-old said he would stay at the helm of government because he had not “betrayed the voters’ mandate” and described Milan prosecutors’ allegations he used an underage prostitute called Ruby as “shameful.

“It seemed to me to be a pretext to support a judicial theory that has nothing to do with reality,” Berlusconi told one of his Mediaset TV channels via telephone after over a million people attended the nationwide protests, according to organizers.

“It was a biased, partisan protest against my person by a Left that uses any means to knock me down”. A preliminary judge is expected to announce her decision Tuesday on a prosecutors’ request Berlusconi be sent to trial for sex with Moroccan belly dancer Ruby when she was 17 and abusing his power in getting her out of police custody following an unrelated theft accusation.

Berlusconi denies ever paying for sex with Ruby, who is now 18 and whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, or any of the other women who attended parties at his home last year.

However, Sunday’s protesters, women of all ages, many accompanied by men, took to the streets in indignation, saying the scandal shows he has little respect for female dignity.

Organizers said leaked wiretaps revealed a “system of political selection based on an exchange of sex and power” because they suggested the media magnate surrounded himself with starlets and other women hoping to use their looks to gain positions in politics or at his TV empire.

Berlusconi denies not respecting the opposite sex and says all the women he has given political or media roles to were appointed on merit.

“All the women who have met me know how much consideration and respect I have in my relations with them,” he said Monday.

However, the biggest opposition party, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), said he should not shrug off Sunday’s protest so lightly.

“Yesterday an important part of the Italian people was in the streets,” said PD Senate Whip Anna Finocchiaro.

“Finally a sense of strong indignation is growing in a civil, peaceful and informed way at a government and a premier that are dishonoring Italy and isolating it in the world, as they are incapable of steering the country out of the crisis.

“Berlusconi should listen to those people and resign for the good of the country”. Berlusconi, whose cabinet features a former show girl, Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna, also has plenty of women supporters though, many of whom took part in protests supporting him last week. If the preliminary judge grants the prosecutors’ request, a trial on the Ruby case would start around Easter, legal experts say.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi to Stand Trial for Sex With an Underage Prostitute and Abuse of Office

Milan, 15 Feb. (AKI) — An Italian judge has sent Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for trial in April for paying for sex with an underage erotic dancer and for abuse of of office over the case.

The trial will begin on 6 April at court in the northern Italian city of Milan judge Cristina Di Censo ruled on Monday. A panel of three women judges will preside over the trial, the court said.

Di Censo accepted prosecutors’ arguments that there was “clear and evident” proof to send Berlusconi for an immediate, fast-track trial.

“We didn’t expect any other outcome,” commented Berlusconi’s lawyers Piero Longo and Niccolo Ghedini, on learning of di Censo’s decision.

The 74-year-old premier last week responded furiously to the request to di Censo to send him to trial, saying it was “disgusting”. He threatening to “sue” the Italian state and vowed to hold “subversive” Italian prosecutors responsible for their “unfounded” and “shameful” claims.

Prosecutors allege Berlusconi paid for sex with teenage Moroccan nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed Ruby, on several occasions when she was 17 years old. He also abused his office by pressuring police in Milan to release her on theft charges in order to cover up their relationship, according to prosecutors.

El Mahroug, who is now 18, denies she had sex with Berlusconi, but admits receiving 7,000 euros, an Audi car, jewellery and other gifts from him.

Berlusconi denies paying Ruby or any other woman for sex, and claims he merely tried to help the vulnerable teenage runaway.

Prostitution is not a crime in Italy, but paying for sex with a juvenile is and carries a jail term of up to three years. Abuse of office is punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

Berlusconi last month refused to be questioned by Milan prosecutors who are spearheading a widening prostitution probe. But the prosecutors have submitted 782 pages of wiretap transcripts and other documents backing their claims that Berlusconi paid El Mahroug and “numerous” other young women for sex.

Berlusconi, who is already facing three trials, denies all wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a conspiracy of leftfwing magistrates.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Italians mobilised by women campaigners gathered in piazzas across the country in the biggest protests to date against Berlusconi. Protests demanding respect for women were also held in other capitals around the world.

Berlusconi described the protests as “biased”, “against me personally” and “part of a left wing that will use any method to defeat me.”

His ruling People of Freedom party still holds a narrow lead in opinion polls.

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

Italy: Fiat Will Have Italian Heart, But With Bases Abroad

CEO Marchionne tells parliament no decision on headquarters

(ANSA) — Rome, February 15 — Fiat’s heart will stay in Italy, but the carmaker will also have bases outside the country in the future and no decision has yet been made on its definitive legal headquarters, CEO Sergio Marchionne said on Tuesday.

“While our heart is in Italy and will stay here, our base will be in many different places,” Marchionne told a parliamentary hearing he had been summoned to after suggesting the company’s headquarters could be moved to the United States following a merger with Chrysler.

“There will be operative bases in different places.

There’s absolutely nothing strange about this.

“It’s not a question of reneging our roots. On the contrary, it’s about protecting them, about guaranteeing that the past has a future…

“We have ambitious projects that start from Italy and are inspired by a global effort”. The government has backed Marchionne in his controversial recent drive to introduce revolutionary production deals at Fiat’s Italian plants, outside the country’s long-established system of nationally negotiated collective contracts.

But the CEO of the nation’s biggest private employer sparked alarm and outrage 10 days ago when he mooted the idea of a shift of headquarters and was called to talks with Premier Silvio Berlusconi and other ministers at the weekend.

At that meeting and on Tuesday Marchionne said Fiat remained committed to its Fabbrica Italia plan to invest 20 billion euros into its Italian facilities to raise annual production in the country from 650,000 to 1.4 million autos by 2014.

The delicate question of the headquarters remains open though and Marchionne said last week it would not be addressed until 2014.

“The decision on the legal headquarters has not yet been taken,” said Italian-Canadian executive Marchionne, dressed up for the occasion in a suit and tie rather than his usual casual pullover.

He stressed the union with Chrysler was crucial for Fiat, and not just the other way round, after 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.

“It is not only true that Fiat saved Chrysler, the opposite is true too,” he said before telling reporters that he did not expect a merger to take place before 2014.

Marchionne added that he was willing to up salaries at Italian plants to German levels and introduce profit-sharing schemes if the productivity increases he wants are achieved.

He repeated that the approval of factory-specific agreements like the ones recently struck with moderate unions for Fiat’s Mirafiori plant in Turin and its Pomigliano d’Arco plant, near Naples are necessary for this and the whole Fabbrica Italia plan.

Fiat 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. However, the FIOM, the engineering workers’ arm of Italy’s biggest and most left-wing union CGIL, has staunchly opposed them, saying they breach constitutionally guaranteed labour rights.

It added last week that it fears the carmaker is looking for an excuse to move much of its production outside the country. Marchionne denied this on Tuesday.

“The fact that I’m here in parliament shows that we respect this country and its institutions and have confidence in the future of the company and Italy,” he said.

“No one can look Fiat in the eye and accuse us of wanting to abandon the country or live off (aid from) the state”.

Marchionne’s comments received a mixed reaction from the centre-left opposition, with some MPs saying Fiat’s position had been clarified, while others agreed with FIOM’s assertion that there was still a lack of transparency regarding Fabbrica Italia.

On Wednesday a deal is expected to be signed for the transformation of the Termini Imerese plant in Sicily, where Fiat will cease production at the end of the year, into an industrial complex featuring, among other things, facilities for solar energy generation and medical-goods production, TV and film studios and a small luxury carmaker.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Wilders Court Case Restarts From Scratch

The entire court case against MP Geert Wilders will be retried. His lawyer Bram Moszkowicz yesterday obtained the right to conduct his entire defence anew, including challenging the validity of the Public Prosecutor (OM) case. The lawyer wants to ensure via the challenge — a request to declare the OM’s case inadmissible — that the OM loses its right to prosecute. If this is successful the case will have to be dropped. Moszkowicz will among other things argue that it is not possible to prosecute Wilders because he is an MP.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Poland/Germany: Bundestag Reopens World War 2 Wounds

Gazeta Wyborcza, 15 February 2011

“Historians lambast the Bundestag,” headlines Gazeta Wyborcza, referring to the open letter signed by 68 historians from all over the world protesting the recent resolution passed by the Bundestag, the lower chamber of the German parliament, on Germans expelled after World War II from Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Among other things the resolution establishes an Expellees’ Day and recognises their 1950 Charter as a milestone in Germany’s reconciliation with its neighbours. Only, as Wyborcza notes, the Charter does not use the word “reconciliation” once and among its signatories are numerous former members of the Nazi party and the SS. “This resolution sends a false message from the point of view of both history and politics,” reads the letter (most of its signatories being German). The Warsaw daily stresses that the letter is a token of German society’s refusal to accept “historical manipulations” by politicians or attempts to “disavow Germany’s responsibility for starting the war, or to fail to mention its victims”. It also notes that true reconciliation began in 1965 with the Polish bishops’ letter to their German brothers including the historic words “We forgive and ask for forgiveness”.

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

Pope Benedict to Clamp Down on “Creative” Liturgy

No more hand clapping or showman priests in papal document reportedly aimed at cracking down on abuses of traditional Catholic mass.

Enough ‘do-it-yourself’ Eucharistic prayers, lay people preaching sermons, gospel-style songs of worship, rainbow peace flags adorning the altar. Away with informal baptism or communion services where the new arrivals receive the rites seated around a table, or in the mold of a “World Cup mass” in Amsterdam last year where a priest fielded goals his parishioners kicked up the church aisle.

Pope Benedict XVI is due to sign a motu proprio, a document that comes at the pope’s own initiative, which heralds a crackdown on what he sees as liturgical abuses. This document will also change the way in which the Church handles issues related to matrimonial issues such as the 500 cases each year of marriages not consummated sexually though the rite is celebrated in church.

The pontiff wants to set in motion a “new liturgical movement, or rather “reform of the reform”, an antidote to anarchy.

For the pope, the mass is not a show but rather a ceremony which should be celebrated with dignity and decorum. So enough of homilies clashing with the day’s Gospel readings, extravagant interpretations of the official liturgy, hand clapping, “creative” showman-priests who reinvent rites on the spot, traditional responsorial psalms being substituted by meditative chants, loud, modern music and the arbitrary use of vestments, sacred vases and inappropriate or ridiculous furnishings.

Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, head of the Vatican’s Congregation of Divine Worship, which handles affairs related to liturgical practice, has been charged with enforcing “liturgy discipline” and clamping down on improvisation, superficiality, carelessness, and permissiveness in the sacraments.

One recent practice that has triggered a debate within the Church is that of replacing the Eucharistic host with an actual piece of bread and passing around the chalice during the sacrament of Holy Communion, in a literal reenactment of Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with the apostles.

In the 2005 Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Anthony Sablam Apuron, president of the Bishops Conference of the Pacific, asked permission to expand the practice of taking Communion while seated. “What sort of a banquet does one go to which requires you to stand rather than sit?” he said at the time.

Polish Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski thinks “the bread should look like food,” and “the chalice should be extended to be drunk from.” In the Colombo Archdiocese in Sri Lanka, groups of believers practice rites outside those traditionally mandated by the liturgy, including the singing of gospel songs to express their beliefs.

Last summer ahead of the World Cup soccer final between the Netherlands and Spain, Father Paul Vlaar celebrated an ‘Orange Mass’ in his church just outside of Amsterdam. His goal was to pray to God for a Netherlands victory. Everything in the church was orange — the Dutch national color — including a makeshift goalpost in front of the altar. Before Communion, church parishioners kicked penalties through the goal post, with the priest acting as a goalkeeper. In the event of Holland’s victory, the priest had promised to share the traditional Dutch pastry tompoezen, also orange. But, alas, Holland lost to Spain.

But in the same parish there are other, even more significant violations of Vatican rules: lay people are invited to preach sermons and gay weddings are blessed by the priest.

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

Portugal Criticises EU Action, Too Slow

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 15 — Portugal’s Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos today criticised the slow pace at which Europe, in his view, is responding to the sovereign debt crisis. He made his remark on the occasion of the Ecofin meeting. “We are facing a process that, in my view, is proceeding more slowly than necessary”, said dos Santos, underlining that “the slow pace and the wavering have a negative impact on the eurozone and on the euro’s stability, and therefore on all countries in the eurozone”. The Portuguese Minister stressed that “Portugal is doing what it can for the stabilisation of the euro”. It is hoped that in March “the European leaders will be able to take important decisions which give a clear signal to the markets once and for all”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Rubygate — PM to Face Trial on Sixth of April

Investigating magistrate’s decision: immediate trial for abuse of power and under-age prostitution

MILAN — The sixth of April is the date for the trial of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges of abuse of power and under-age prostitution. The decision was taken by Milan investigating magistrate Cristina Di Censo, who ordered an immediate trial for Mr Berlusconi. The prime minister will appear before a panel of three women magistrates from the fourth criminal section, Carmen D’Elia, Orsolina De Cristofaro and Giulia Turri. “We expected no less”, was the first comment from Pietro Longo, one of the premier’s defence lawyers. With reference to the fact that the panel of judges will be made up entirely of women, Mr Longo said: “They are all women in the Mills trial. That’s fine, women are welcome and sometimes pleasant, too”. The investigating magistrate’s decision on the request put forward by assistant chief public prosecutors Ilda Boccassini and Pietro Forno, and public prosecutor Antonio Sangermano, was greeted with satisfaction in the public prosecutor’s office. “Now we can go to the hearing”, was all that a smiling Milan chief public prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati had to say.

NO COMMENT FROM PM — As soon as press agencies released news of the decision to try the Italian prime minister by the fast-track procedure, international news sites flashed the story round the world. In Italy, the reaction from politicians was swift. The People of Freedom (PDL) immediately referred to “time-bomb justice” while the Democratic Party (PD) called for the prime minister to present himself for trial. There was no comment from Silvio Berlusconi himself. The PM was visiting the town of Mineo and left Sicily without releasing a statement. After leaving the Residence degli Aranci, where he had been inspecting facilities that will be able to accommodate some of the thousands of immigrants who have landed on Sicily in recent hours, the prime minister skipped the scheduled media briefing at the prefecture in Catania and returned directly to Rome on urgent business.

GROUNDS — In setting the sixth of April as the date for the first hearing, the investigating magistrate did more than merely grant the request by the Milan public prosecutor’s office. She also offered a statement of grounds and is reported to have examined all the most delicate aspects of the issue, beginning with the question of jurisdiction, which she confirmed as belonging to the court of Milan. In her statement of grounds, the investigating magistrate tackled the issues of the manifest nature of the evidence and the connection between the charges laid against Mr Berlusconi.

INTERIOR MINISTRY AND KARIMA “AGGRIEVED PARTIES” — The investigating magistrate’s ruling makes it clear that “Ruby Heartbreak” and the ministry of the interior are aggrieved parties in these proceedings. Karima El Mahroug, aka Ruby, is an aggrieved party in proceedings on charges of under-age prostitution brought against Mr Berlusconi. The prime minister is alleged to have committed sexual acts with her in exchange for money or other benefits between February and May last year, when she was not yet 18 years of age. The interior ministry is an aggrieved party in the abuse of power (extortion) with which the prime minister is charged in connection with the telephone call he made in the night of 27-28 May last year to the Milan police headquarters to obtain the “release” of Ruby, who had been taken into police custody following accusations of theft. Also among the aggrieved parties are three officers from Milan police headquarters, the head of secretariat Pietro Ostuni and officers Giorgia Iafrate and Ivo Morelli, whom the prosecution alleges were the victims of pressure from the prime minister. Theoretically, the Prime Minister’s Office could also appear as co-plaintiff on behalf of the ministry of the interior, which in turn is the aggrieved party in the episode of abuse of power alleged against Mr Berlusconi.

MEDIASET DOWN — Announcement of an immediate trial for Silvio Berlusconi had repercussions on the stock exchange. Shares in Mediaset lost ground. The television group’s share price fell back 1.7% to €4.765, weakening further by the middle of the day.

English translation by Giles Watson

15 febbraio 2011

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

Turkey: Appeasement in Our Time

In the days since popular uprisings began in Tunisia, spread to Egypt and now — with two dictators toppled — knock at the door of authoritarians throughout the Middle East, a curious thing has happened among Western pundits.

Policy experts in Brussels, think tankers in Washington and scribes throughout the world’s media have all discovered the “Turkish model.” Alas, goes the theme, if the Arabs can just learn to be like the Turks: Muslim, Western-oriented and fully embracing Western standards of democracy — or at least trying.

We hope this same class of self-styled promoters of Turkish pluralism and tolerance are watching the unfolding of the latest assault on freedom of the press in Turkey: A raid on a web portal by the prosecutor in the much-discussed Ergenekon case, a supposed investigation into an alleged conspiracy to topple the government.

Fair enough. Conspiracies to topple governments are nasty things and perpetrators should be tried and if convicted punished. At the end of the day, there may be fire beneath all the smoke that has drifted across the Turkish political and judicial landscape in the more than three years of this endless probe. But under the color of bold allegations, this tribunal has often appeared much more the vicious witch hunt, an expedition to silence critics of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. The midnight arrest of an octogenarian secularist columnist. The detention of a woman ravaged by cancer, whose crime was to found Turkey’s largest charity for the education of women and to discourage use of the headscarf. Detentions with indictment or trial lasting in some cases more than a year. Travesties to justice have been many.

And then late Monday, a raid on a web portal known as “Oda TV,” a news website ironically established after the Ergenekon investigation even began. Yes, the site is controversial. Yes, it has published damning documents detailing the government’s dealings with the CIA. Yes, it has drawn links between the Ergenekon investigation and U.S. police training. Its governmental criticism has been fierce. This happens in a democracy. The United States’ Obama would surely like the right-wing “Drudge Report” to disappear from the Internet. France’s Sarkozy surely hates reading the investigative and satirical “le Canard enchaine.” But neither would ponder dispatch of a raid and investigators pawing through the founders’ homes. But here, such fear tactics are almost routine.

It will be tempting for the European Union, NATO allies and the Obama administration to wink at these blemishes. A bit of Chamberlain-style appeasement today promises dividends in the region down the road tomorrow. This will particularly be the case if promotion of the “Turkish model” takes on the policy imperative that so many are seeking. Some “model” indeed.

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

UK: ‘Muslim Preacher’, 59, Arrested Over Alleged Assault on Children at Mosque Featured in Channel 4 Documentary

Police have arrested a man over alleged assaults on children at a mosque which were broadcast on Channel 4, it emerged today.

The Dispatches documentary, Lessons in Hatred and Violence, which aired last night, filmed what appeared to be a preacher hitting and kicking children during Koran lessons at a school in the Markazi Jamia mosque at Keighley, West Yorkshire.

Today West Yorkshire Police confirmed they had arrested a 59-year-old man in connection with the incident after viewing the secretly filmed footage.

It comes after another school featured in the documentary announced yesterday that it would close amid safety fears.

Teachers at the Darul Uloom Islamic High School, in Small Heath, Birmingham, have held meetings with police chiefs and fear that youngsters could be targeted by far-Right activists.

There, the documentary showed an apparent preacher, making offensive remarks about Hindus and ranting: ‘Disbelievers are the worst creatures’.

The school say the person featured making the remarks was a 17-year-old pupil who has since been expelled.

In Keighley, footage filmed by a volunteer, shows children as young as six sitting on the floor of a large room in the mosque, one of the biggest in the country.

The boys are hunched over wooden benches, rocking backwards and forwards as they rote-learn the Koran in Arabic.

A man with a long white beard dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez — tunic and trousers — sits at the head of the class.

Periodically he gets up and walks behind the boys.

As he passes, the children appear to cower and watch him nervously.

He then seems to raise his hand and slaps a young boy hard on the head. Moments later he appears to strike another. And then the film seems to show him kicking a third child.

The Dispatches team claim that in just two days of filming in December 2010, the camera recorded the teacher hitting children as young as six or seven at least ten times, in less than three hours of lessons.

In another incident an older boy, left in charge of a class while a teacher is out at prayer, picks up a bench and threatens to hit a younger boy with it.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘We have recently become aware of a number of incidents of alleged assault at a mosque and just before the weekend were able to view edited footage of the alleged incident.

‘A 59-year-old man has been arrested and released on police bail pending further inquiries.

‘West Yorkshire Police are receiving full co-operation from the Keighley Muslim Association.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: 7/7 Inquest: Bombers Girlfriend Tells of Hotel Tryst Days Before Terror Attacks

One of the 7/7 suicide bombers spent a night in a hotel with his secret girlfriend just days before carrying out the terror attacks.

The woman, identified as witness A, broke down in tears as she described how she believed Shehzad Tanweer had been in love with her.

They kept their relationship hidden from friends and family for more than three years, the July 7 inquest heard.

Hugo Keith QC, counsel to the hearing, asked her: ‘Did he give you any indication of his feelings for you?’

Tanweer, 22, and witness A spent the night of July 1 together in a hotel, just six days before the atrocities paralysed London.

But the woman told the London hearing she had no idea Tanweer had become radicalised or was planning to carry out the attacks in the coming days.

Instead he told her he was going to spend the following week on holiday in Scotland and had plans to see her on his return.

Mr Keith, said: ‘You spent the night together on July 1 2005 because you went to a hotel. Is that right?’

She replied ‘yes.’

The couple were ‘close but not intimate’ during their time in the hotel, she added.

Mr Keith continued: ‘In your witness statement you said he told you he was about to go away from a week. Where?’

She replied: ‘Scotland.’

He added: ‘Who with?’ to which she replied: ‘I assumed with family.’

Asked what mood Tanweer had been in, she replied: ‘Fine.’

The court heard that the woman and Tanweer had started secretly seeing each other shortly before 2002.

She described him as a sports fan who was not particularly religious but did observe Ramadan.

They lost touch but Tanweer reignited the relationship at the beginning of 2005 — sending her an unexpected text message explaining he was planning to move to Dubai with his family.

The couple kept in touch and met up again secretly in June 2005.

Witness A said on that occasion they had discussed spending their future together.

She explained: ‘We felt our relationship had got stronger.’

Mr Keith asked: ‘Did you discuss what the future would hold for him?’

Witness A then broke down in tears.

Earlier the inquest heard July 7 suicide bomber Hasib Hussain warned his landlord not to enter his flat because he was possessed by an evil spirit.

Businessman Wajid Hussain was renting out a small flat in Chapeltown, Leeds, to Hussain, 18, in the months before the 2005 terror attacks in London.

The letting had been organised by the ringleader of the bombings, Mohammed Sidique Khan, who told Mr Hussain that Hasib was a student at Leeds Metropolitan University.

A few weeks after Hasib moved in Mr Hussain had tried to visit the flat to tell his tenant, who identified himself as ‘Imran’ about an electricity fault.

But he couldn’t unlock the door as Hussain had blocked the keyhole.

When Mr Hussain later confronted him, Hasib warned that his ‘djinn’ may make him violent.

Mr Hussain told the July 7 inquest in London: ‘A short time later I spoke to Hasib Hussain about the problem with the electricity.

‘He said he had a djinn inside him that affected his behaviour.

‘He said if I came into the room the djinn might attack me.’

The hearing heard that Mr Hussain had again tried to search the premises following the terror attacks as he suspected that Hasib may be involved.

He broke into the flat on July 12 as his tenant had changed the locks.

Inside he found the premises were empty but littered with rubbish including plastic bags and the packing for a gas mask…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Boss Forced to Pay Worker Thief £13k ‘For Humiliating Him’

A boss who frogmarched a thieving employee to a police station after discovering he had stolen £845 from the company has been forced to pay the crook £13,000 for ‘humiliating him’.

Mark Gilbert, 40, was paraded through the streets of Witham in Essex, after his boss Simon Cremer discovered the father-of-three had written out a cheque for £845 to himself.

He was forced to wear a sign around his neck saying: ‘THIEF. I Stole £845. Am on my way to the police station’. while furious Mr Cremer accompanied him to be quizzed by detectives.

However, in a shocking twist, Gilbert was let off with a police caution — a slap on the wrist — while Mr Cremer was hauled before the courts accused of false imprisonment.

The distraught employer was facing a possible lengthy jail sentence until the case eventually collapsed.

But then Gilbert launched a civil claim for compensation and Mr Cremer’s nightmare continued.

Now the employer has been forced to hand his thieving former employer £5,000 in compensation for the ‘humiliation’ he suffered.

Mr Cremer, 47, also has to pay £8,000 in legal fees following the theft in Witham, Essex.

He said: ‘I think it’s absolutely disgusting that he was even able to sue me after he had stolen from me to be honest. I don’t want to give him a penny after what he did, so it really sticks in my throat.

‘He stole from me yet he is the one who is walking away with the money. It makes me so angry.’

Thief Gilbert started legal action in an effort to claim for two years lost earnings and the ‘distress’ he suffered in October 2008.

The floor-fitter claimed he had suffered trauma and distress and needed psychological help after the incident.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: BA Man Rajib Karim Denies Job Was Part of Terror Plan

A British Airways worker from Newcastle accused of terrorism offences has denied he got a job with the airline so that he could plan a terror attack.

Rajib Karim, 31, told Woolwich Crown Court: “Islam teaches that you can’t target civilians.”

The Bangladeshi national denies four counts of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts.

He has pleaded guilty to offering himself for insurgent operations overseas and to terrorist fundraising.

The prosecution claims that Mr Karim is “committed to an extreme jihadist and religious cause” and was “determined to seek martyrdom.”

Mr Karim told the court that he was from a well-to-do family in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.

He and his younger brother, Tehzeeb, who were privately schooled, became supporters of the proscribed organisation Jammat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) which fought to set up an Islamic state in the country.

They “started to think about jihad” after using online forums, he said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Cameron’s Anger at Cable Over Failure to Halt EU Worker Rules

David Cameron is embroiled in another Cabinet row over European demands for expensive employment rights for millions of workers.

The Prime Minister is understood to be furious that Business Secretary Vince Cable has failed to find a way to halt a tide of legislation from Brussels that will hit struggling businesses.

Several Tory Cabinet ministers, including Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, are understood to have objected to revised legal rights for more than a million agency workers, required by the EU.

They are due to come into force in October and will cost businesses £1.5billion a year, according to a report today by the British Chambers of Commerce.

Sources said it was not ‘100 per cent a done deal’ but it now looked all but impossible to delay implementation of the regulations. ‘The Prime Minister is incredibly frustrated that officials have not been able to find a way round this,’ said one.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Euro Judges ‘Will Not Have Final Say’ On Prisoner Vote, Vows Attorney General (As He Hints of Withdrawal From European Court)

European judges will not have the final say on whether prisoners should be given the vote, the Attorney General said last night.

In a sign of the Government’s growing anger over prisoner voting, Dominic Grieve hinted that Britain could seek to limit the power of the European Court of Human Rights over the issue — and even withdraw from its jurisdiction altogether.

Last week MPs voted overwhelmingly to reject a ruling by the Strasbourg court that would end Britain’s historic ban on prisoners being allowed to vote — despite warnings it could leave taxpayers facing a compensation bill of more than £100million.

Speaking at an event in London organised by the think-tank Politeia yesterday, Mr Grieve acknowledged ministers faced a ‘conundrum’ over the issue.

But he insisted that the Strasbourg court would not automatically have the last word on the matter.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has claimed Britain has no choice but to allow some prisoners the vote because it is bound by the judgments of the court.

But Mr Grieve said the court’s authority in the UK existed only because of past Parliamentary decisions, which could be reversed.

Critics have claimed that it would be impossible to pull out of the Strasbourg court’s jurisdiction without also leaving the EU. But Mr Grieve suggested that it could be achieved without serious consequences for Britain.

He added: ‘The European Court of Human Rights doesn’t have the last word. It only has the last word so far as Parliament has decided that it should.

‘We let it happen originally back in 1950. We could, if we wanted to, undo that — I think we should always bear that in mind — and actually undo it without some of the consequences we have over the EU.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: I’ll Sue Cops for Telling My Neighbours I’m a Drug Dealer… It’s Against My Human Rights’

A DRUG dealer is to sue cops for “humiliating” him by telling neighbours he had been jailed.

Police put Luke Walsh-Pinnock’s mugshot on a “name and shame” leaflet sent to 1,500 homes.

But the 22-year-old lag claims that breached his human rights and plans to seek damages. Cops spread the news to Walsh-Pinnock’s neighbours in Kilburn, West London, that he had been sentenced to four years for dealing Class A drugs — cocaine and heroin.

Their leaflet added: “Individuals dealing drugs will be arrested and prosecuted, the above (Walsh-Pinnock) is a prime example of police intention.”

Now his parents have complained about his “degrading” treatment.

A pal of his mum Linda Walsh whinged: “Luke’s been humiliated in his local community, which is against his human rights. We’ll take this to court.

“He’s a good boy who is kind to his family.”

Chief Superintendent Matthew Gardner, commander of Brent Police, said: “We constantly target offenders and put them before the courts but often local people don’t know what has been done.

“It is important that they are aware when criminals are put away and will no longer be blighting their communities.”

Officers raided a flat in Kilburn last August and caught Walsh-Pinnock red-handed cutting up around half a kilo of heroin. They seized a safe which contained a large quantity of cocaine and some heroin.

Walsh-Pinnock and pal James Goldsmith, 35, were convicted of possession with intent to supply at Wood Green Crown Court. Goldsmith got three years.

Scotland Yard confirmed: “We’ve received a complaint from a member of the public regarding the leaflets.”

Walsh-Pinnock will be quizzed this week in relation to an alleged serious offence from last year.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamic Group Appeals Olympic Site Mosque

An Islamic group has said Muslim youths risk “being manipulated by others and straying from the right path” if it is forced to close its mosque near the Olympic site.

A planning inquiry at Newham town hall in east London heard the buildings at Abbey Mills, south of the Olympic stadium in Stratford, provided an “essential role in the lives of the community that uses it”.

Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary movement with 80 million followers worldwide and six centres in the UK, is trying to overturn an enforcement notice on its mosque, called the Riverine Centre, after temporary planning permission expired in 2006. The inquiry also heard that the group missed a crucial deadline to submit a plan for a permanent structure.

Proposals for a 12,000-capacity place of worship, boys’ boarding school and community centre led to more than 48,000 people petitioning the government to block the development, dubbed the “megamosque”. To date, Tablighi Jamaat has not formally submitted plans for such a building but it has pledged to do so within a year.

Newham council has said it wants to shut the mosque down over concerns about traffic levels, land contamination and visual impact. But one of the mosque trustees told the inquiry there was a significant threat to the “basic need” for Muslims to have a place to pray and that worshippers would test the capacity of other mosques in the area. Solad Mohammed said: “We would be letting down a generation of parents who rely on the centre to provide a centralised focus for younger members of their family. Young people would be at risk of becoming marginalised and lost from the mainstream of the community.”

Under cross-examination from Douglas Edwards QC, on behalf of Newham Council, Mr Mohammed admitted that mosque trustees knew there was no planning permission on the 18-acre site when they purchased it for £1.4m in 1996. He also accepted that Tablighi Jamaat began using the buildings as a mosque without acquiring planning permission and continued to use them even when temporary permission expired.

Opponents claim Tablighi Jamaat is guilty of segregation, separatism and that its strict interpretation of Islam can lead to radicalisation. The inquiry continues.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamic School Students ‘Won’t Miss Out’ on Schooling Despite Closure

PUPILS at a Birmingham Islamic school at the centre of a documentary row will not miss out on their education, despite the school shutting its doors until March.

Darul Islamic High School in Small Heath will be closed from today until next month amid safety fears over an investigation which filmed a hate-filled speech to pupils. The Dispatches documentary, Lessons in Hatred and Violence, which aired on Channel 4 last night, showed a preacher making remarks about Hindus and ranting: “Disbelievers are the worst creatures”.

But teachers at the school insisted it was an “isolated incident” involving a 17-year-old senior student talking to pupils and said the teenager was expelled last August.

Teacher Sayed Islam said the half-term break was moved forward by a week after meetings with police.

Mr Islam said: “We have brought half term forward but cancelled a week of leave in June.”

A spokesman for Channel 4 defended the programme, saying the comments made in the film “speak for themselves”.

The spokesman said: “Our investigation exposed numerous adults in positions of authority at the school on many different occasions teaching pupils as young as 11 years of age contempt for other religions and wider society.

“These include speakers, teachers, senior teachers and visiting ‘Maulanas’. The school continues to fail to respond to address these issues.

“The programme clearly raises concerns about those in positions of responsibility in these schools — not the pupils who attend.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: LSE Cancels Event With German Critics of Radical Islam

Henryk Broder: ‘You in England have long since begun to do away with yourselves;’ school faced opposition from German students.

A panel discussion addressing the integration of Muslims in Europe, scheduled to be held at the London School of Economics on Monday, was canceled after the school said it could not provide adequate security for planned student protests.

A group of mainly German LSE students and academics opposed the decision by the school’s German Society to invite two sharp critics of political Islam and Germany’s integration policies: Thilo Sarrazin, a former member of the executive board of the Deutsche Bundesbank and a former head of finance for the State of Berlin, and Henryk M. Broder, a well-known German-Jewish journalist.

The protesters circulated a petition headlined “Integration instead of clash of the cultures.”

A spokesman for the university told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that as it could not guarantee protests being peaceful and that extra security would be needed to stop largescale disruption, hence the event was moved off campus.

The German Society, one of the largest and most active such groups at LSE and one of the largest German student groups outside Germany, hosted the event, “Europe’s Future: The Decline of the West.”

Sarrazin authored last year’s best-selling Germany Abolishes Itself, which dissected flawed integration policies in the Federal Republic.

Broder said at the event: “You in England have long since begun to do away with yourselves. Your top bishop has already called for the introduction of Shari’a law.”

Sarrazin has referred to Muslims as “dunces” and said that Jews all “share a certain gene.”

After an outcry by students, the university canceled the event and informed the German Society that it could not host it on campus.

Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chairman of the UK’s Zionist Federation, told the Post on Tuesday that by canceling Sarrazin’s talk while allowing speakers such as Al-Quds Al-Arabi editor Abdel Bari Atwan to go ahead — with anti- Semitic content — “LSE is being craven and utterly hypocritical.”

The Gaza-born Atwan spoke at LSE last year.

Speaking about Iran’s nuclear capability on Lebanese television in 2007, he said: “If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight.”

In 2006, Atwan was quoted by the BBC as saying that the events of September 11, 2001, “will be remembered as the end of the US empire.”

Responding to the criticism from protesters about the alleged anti-Semitic statement from Sarrazin, Hoffman said the statement that Jews share a particular gene was not wholly accurate.

“One, because it is possible to convert to Judaism and because not all Jews share a particular gene. But certainly some do. That was shown by, for example, peer-group reviewed DNA research by Dr. Karl Skorecki which showed that the same array of chromosomal markers was found in 97 of 106 Kohens tested.

Sarrazin’s statement may have been inaccurate, but it certainly was not anti-Semitic. Anyone who says it was is plain wrong.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: MPs Reject 40% Threshold Plan for the AV Referendum

MPs have overturned a proposal to make a referendum on the Westminster voting system non-binding unless 40% of the electorate take part in the poll.

Peers backed the measure earlier this month but the Commons rejected the proposal by a majority of 70.

Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper said there was a “compelling” case for voters to make the final decision.

MPs rejected a number of other Lords amendments as they sought to pass a bill needed to enable the referendum.

Ministers said they had listened to concerns from MPs and peers over the bill and “engaged constructively” over the most contentious issues but Labour said the bill was being “bulldozed” through Parliament.

Parliamentary battle

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill has to be approved by Parliament by Wednesday so that it can become law in time to hold the referendum on the Westminster voting system on 5 May as intended by the government.

Aside from enabling the referendum on whether to switch from first-past-the-post to the Alternative Vote, the bill will cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and change parliamentary boundaries so that constituency electorates are broadly the same.

Mr Harper said the 40% threshold plan for the referendum would “encourage people to stay at home” and flew in the face of the principle that people “should get what they vote for”.

Labour supported the amendment, put forward in the Upper Chamber by Lord Rooker, but the measure was comfortably defeated in a Commons vote. Peers will decide on Wednesday whether to try and reinstate the clause — putting it at odds with the Commons.

MPs also voted to overturn another proposal backed by peers which would have allowed the Boundary Commission to allow constituencies to deviate by up to 7.5% from the proposed standard 76,000 size in exceptional circumstances — as opposed to the 5% supported by the government.

But the government did make a concession to protect the Isle of Wight from some of the boundary changes designed to ensure parliamentary constituencies have roughly the same number of voters…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: RAF to Axe Almost Half of Trainee Pilots

The RAF is to almost halve the number of trainee pilots and freeze recruitment because of the defence cuts, the Ministry of Defence has said.

It confirmed 175 of the 400 trainees would be cut from its sites at Cranwell in Lincolnshire, Shawbury in Shropshire and Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire.

The BBC learned on Monday that up to 50 students flying multi-engine aircraft at Cranwell would face redundancy.

The MoD said the job losses would have no impact on operations.

In a statement it said: “Due to the reduction of the RAF’s aircraft fleet the number of student pilots in the Flying Training Pipeline will be reduced by up to 175.

“There will be some redundancies but we will, where possible, consider alternative roles for these trainees.

“We can confirm that there will be no RAF intake of new student pilots in the financial year 2011/12.”


News that 175 of the UK’s 400 trainees — some 43% — were to lose their jobs, followed a visit to RAF Cranwell on Tuesday by Air Vice Marshall Mark Green.

On Monday the MoD said last year’s strategic defence and security review (SDSR) had already outlined cost-cutting measures in the forces.

Some 42,000 defence jobs are to be cut by 2015 — including 25,000 civilian staff at the MoD, 7,000 in the Army and 5,000 each at the Navy and RAF…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Liberals Secretly Love the English Defence League

“Thank God for the English Defence League.” You can almost hear those words rippling through the liberal commentariat. Because with the National Front having disappeared from public life, and the British National Party doing its very best to rebrand itself as respectable, liberals were running out of fat, white, thick, tattooed, ugly thugs to wring their manicured hands over. Then the EDL came along, and it was as if every liberal’s dream had come true at once: here, at last, was a gruff, boisterous movement of working-class whiteys who could be held up as a sign that Britain is going to hell in a handcart and that only Trevor Phillips and his ilk can stop it.

I’m implacably opposed to the EDL. My attitude towards immigration is probably enough to make many Telegraph readers wince (it can be summed up in two words: “open door”). However, I’m also made deeply uncomfortable by the speed and gritty determination with which groups like the EDL are transformed into whipping boys for the liberal elite, held up as evidence that there are vast swathes of Britain (whisper it: Bermondsey) where people have outdated views and use un-PC lingo and never read the Guardian. Fretting over the EDL, a very small political movement, is becoming a coded way of fretting over those insufficiently educated, insufficiently cosmopolitan lower orders. So on the achingly right-on Channel 4 show 10 O’Clock Live — a kind of Newsnight without laughs — the presenters contrasted the EDL’s claims that it has a sophisticated position on the problems of extreme Islam with a photograph of an “average EDL supporter”: a leering man with massive moobs and Union Jack tattoos. Rough translation: the outlook of these kinds of people is laughably illegitimate and deserving of ridicule only.

When David Cameron made his recent speech on the failings of multiculturalism many concerned politicos and commentators accused him of “writing propaganda for the EDL” and of having a “chilling and poisonous” impact in those parts of Britain where the EDL has support. This was seen by some as an unfair slur on Cameron — but in truth it was an all-out attack on working-class bits of Britain, on inner-city estates and poor boroughs, where commentators assume that people are so fickle and fantastically impressionable that one speech by Cameron is enough to turn them into Muslim-hunting maniacs. Politicians are implored to keep their speeches polite and uncontroversial — that is, to censor themselves — in order not to antagonise the savages. And of course, today’s fear of the EDL goes hand in hand with fear of the tabloids and their “toxic” influence on their dumb readers. So in the Guardian Charlie Brooker worries about the fact that the Daily Star seems to be siding with the EDL, arguing that its coverage of Muslim issues has left its readers “gripped with anti-Muslim fervour”. Well, as we know, these consumers of red-top rubbish, these non-latte-drinking classes, are incapable of deciphering right from wrong. Unlike us broadsheet readers, they are devoid of free will and intellect, of the capacity to make moral choices; they simply hear words and act on them, like dogs.

Far more worrying than the Daily Star’s supposed flirtation with the EDL is the liberal commentariat’s reliance on the EDL as proof that modern British values are under a threat from a homegrown, violence-prone, tattoo-sporting underclass. The EDL is utterly wrong to argue that there is a massive cultural divide between ordinary Brits and Muslims. Yet liberal observers would have us believe that the real cultural divide, a gaping moral chasm no less, exists between the educated and the uneducated, the PC and the un-PC, the consumers of proper politics and the consumers and actors-upon tabloid trash. Is that fantasy politics really any better than the EDL’s?


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Women Rise Up Against Berlusconi

‘Italy is Not a Brothel’

By Fiona Ehlers in Rome

Women, once the most loyal fans of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, are rising up against him. Tens of thousands demonstrated over the weekend against his sex scandals. But their anger won’t be enough to bring down the controversial leader.

Some 220 years ago, Johann Wolfgang Goethe was having the time of his life. He traveled to Rome incognito and savored earth’s delights to the full, literary historians say, enjoying wine, women and lively discourse. It may be that he had sex for the first time in the eternal city.

If he had been on Piazza del Popolo square, less than a hundred meters from his house in the Via del Corso 18, on Sunday afternoon, he wouldn’t have believed his eyes. Once again, the Italians were debating the grand issues of sex, the might of men and morals, but this time they were speechless.

Tens of thousands of women stood in the early spring sunshine and observed a minute’s silence for the dignity of their sex. Then someone shouted from a stage: “Se non ora, quando?” If not now, when? It was the motto of the afternoon. The demonstrators punched the air and shouted “Now! Down with Berlusconi, it’s enough.” Then they played Patti Smith’s song “Power to the People,” waved their banners and danced.

At least 30,000 people gathered on the Piazza del Popolo. It was one of the biggest women’s demonstrations in years. Similar protests took place at the same time in 230 Italian cities, in front of Milan’s Duomo cathedral, in Venice, Florence, on village squares in the south. The organizers said more than 1 million Italians took to the streets. There were even demonstrations abroad, in Tokyo, Brussels, London and Paris. The pent-up anger is palpable. Women — once the most loyal supporters of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — are screaming “Ora basta!” They’ve had enough.

Sick of Being the Butt of Male Jokes

They are rising up against what they regard as a hopelessly outdated, 1950s portrayal of women in the media and in politics these days: that women are pretty and docile and that there place is in the home, in charge of “la famiglia.” They want their dignity back and believe Berlusconi has crossed a line. They are demonstrating because their prime minister threw “bunga bunga” sex parties, is alleged to have had an affair with an underage Moroccan women named Ruby and because the whole world is laughing at a pitiful Italy that can’t get to grips with its problems — runaway public debt, youth unemployment, the influx of migrants. “Italy is not a brothel!” they are shouting. “More bread, less games!” It sounds as if women are really going on the barricades, but will it do any good?

“I’m not here to criticize porno parties,” says one former member of Berlusconi’s party. “I criticize the political class that turns such parties into systems of rule. We want to be protagonists, not the butt of male jokes the premier tells in his villa.” The female leader of the biggest trade union group says: “We are extras in an endless soap opera.” A nun who looks after African prostitutes in Turin says women have become a commodity, to be used and discarded.

The demonstrators then read out statistics that show Italy as a developing country in terms of female emancipation. Ninety-percent of Italian women have a university degree, but fewer than half have a job. “We work harder than the men, we are paid less and have fewer political positions than anywhere else in Europe,” says one speaker.

The Same Old Madhouse

They complain about discrimination in the workplace, and about getting fired when they’re pregnant. “One of Angela Merkel’s first acts in office was to increase the number of kindergarten places,” says one activist. “And what has Berlusconi done? He advises our daughters to get themselves a rich husband. What kind of country are we living in?”

The demonstrations are good news. But they don’t change the fact that Berlusconi is far from fighting his last battle, contrary to claims in the Anglo-Saxon media. Silvio Berlusconi isn’t finished — that too became evident this weekend. Even before the demonstrations took place, he was ridiculing them and railing against his supposedly puritanical, humorless critics.

There were pro-Berlusconi demonstrations, too, of course. And Berlusconi naturally portrayed himself as the victim of a judicial system that, he said, was resorting to the same methods as the Stasi snoops in communist East Germany. Now he is even planning to take the case before the European Court of Human Rights because his right to privacy has been breached, says his foreign minister. It’s the same old madhouse. But is this a revolution?

The protest march by Italian women was an attempt to restore a little decency and sobriety, it’s part of fight against superficiality, egoism and the aggressive mood in the country. It is bitterly necessary. But it would be ridiculous to compare the protests to the Egyptian revolution, as some banners in Rome suggested. One read: “First Mubarak, now Silvio!”

The fact that Berlusconi got Ruby out of police detention by claiming she was Hosni Mubarak’s niece could land him in court for abuse of power and is the only link to Egypt. Berlusconi, after all, was democratically elected, for the third time in 16 years. He won’t be toppled by demonstrations or by judges who now plan to put him on trial. He will only be defeated at the ballot box — if the Italians actually want to get rid of him.

But at this point, what alternative is there to him? Even the protests against Silvio Berlusconi are completely fixated on him personally — as usual, everything just revolves around him. No one seems to be looking further ahead — that’s the bad news from Italy. When will the paralyzed opposition finally be able to field a counter-Berlusconi capable of ending his rule?

Whenever that does happen — in an early election in May if the vote is brought forward, or in two years at the end of his term — the Italians, and not just the Italians, have had enough of him.

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

North Africa

Algeria: ‘10,000’ Tunisians Have Crossed Over Border Since Ben Ali’s Fall

Algiers, 15 Feb. (AKI) — Ten thousand Tunisians have crossed over into neighbouring Algeria since protests prompted long-time president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee the north African country, according to Algerian newspaper En-Nahar.

A flood of Tunisians have arrived along the border with Algeria waving Algerian flags and asking permission to stay in the country, the Tuesday report said.

One border alone crossing has recorded 6,000 crossings since Ben Ali’s fall on 14 January.

Entire Tunisian families have arrived declaring the fraternal link between the two countries, according to En-Nahar.

Thousands of Tunisians have also arrived by boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa prompted Italy to declare a humanitarian state of emergency and ask the European Union for 100 million euros in aid to bring the situation under control.

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

CBS Correspondent Lara Logan Reveals She Was Victim of Sex Attack While Covering Egypt Protests

CBS correspondent Lara Logan was seriously assaulted while covering the Egyptian protests and is still recovering in hospital, it emerged today.

The newscaster was the victim of a ‘sustained sexual assault’ and had to be saved by a group of women and 20 soldiers, CBS said.

The mother-of-one had been reporting in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on February 11 — the day President Mubarak stepped down — when she was separated from her crew and surrounded by a mob of 200 people.

CBS issued a statement today, saying: ‘On the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a ‘60 Minutes’ story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration.

‘It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy. In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew.

‘She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.

‘She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.’

They added: ‘There will be no further comment from CBS News and Correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.’

South Africa-born Logan is married with a two-year-old son.

The 39-year-old is an experienced war reporter and was the only journalist from a U.S. network in Baghdad when American troops invaded the city, and reported live from Firdos Square as the statue of Saddam Hussein was brought down.

The chief foreign correspondent had also reported extensively from the frontlines of Afghanistan.

Logan, who had previously worked for Britain’s morning news programme GMTV, is one of at least 140 correspondents who have been injured or killed since January 30 while covering the unrest in Egypt, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Prior to Mubarak stepping down, the Egyptian military had been rounding up members of the press for their own safety after several were stabbed, punched, kicked, marched back to their hotel by gunpoint or hijacked in their cars.

Pro-Mubarak supporters had blamed the press for encouraging the uprising and publishing pro-democracy views.

CNN’s star reporter Anderson Cooper was pulled out of Egypt ten days ago after he was physically assaulted.

Cooper described how he was ‘roughed up by thugs’ and hit in the back of the head in the pro-Mubarak crowd, calling it ‘pandemonium’ and ‘out of control’.

ABC’s Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour were also physically attacked.

Miss Couric was said to have been manhandled in the city while Miss Amanpour’s car was surrounded by rioters shouting they hated America, though she escaped unhurt.

A Greek photographer was stabbed in the leg, while the BBC’s Jerome Boehm was also targeted by thugs.

Reuters said one of its television crews were beaten up close to Tahrir Square while filming a piece about shops and banks being forced to shut during the clashes…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Egypt Calls for Aid as Instability Lingers

Egypt on Tuesday called for international support to speed its recovery after its military rulers urged an end to labor strikes that have erupted since the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak.

The worker protests that had gripped the country abated on Tuesday as it observed a religious holiday, but they threatened to flare again as Egyptians used their newly-won freedom to press for higher wages and better conditions.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the economy had been “severely affected by the political crisis that has shaken the country” and called for international aid after phoning his U.S., British and Saudi counterparts.

Gheit’s remarks came as EU finance ministers were to meet to discuss requests from Cairo to freeze the assets of members of Mubarak’s toppled regime following widespread allegations of corruption during his 30-year reign.

Egypt has launched graft investigations and slapped travel bans on several former ministers, including sacked Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and the hated former head of the feared police, interior minister Habib al-Adly.

The military junta which assumed power following Mubarak’s resignation on Friday has largely dissolved his regime and promised democratic elections in six months while in the meantime urging calm on Egypt’s streets.

“Honorable citizens can see that protests at this critical time will have a negative effect in harming the security of the country,” the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announced Monday, though it stopped short of an outright ban.

The 18-day popular uprising that toppled Mubarak had splintered into pay strikes by workers in the banking, transport, health care, oil, tourism and textiles sectors, as well as state-owned media and government bodies.

The strikes — many of which were aimed at removing corrupt union leaders tied to Mubarak — came to a halt the following day as Egypt marked the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, a Muslim holiday.

The strikes have prompted the stock exchange to once again postpone reopening until next week, further clouding the economic outlook after the uprising dealt a major blow to tourism and other vital industries.

At the height of the revolt Egypt was hemorrhaging more than $300 million a day, according to a report earlier this month from Credit Agricole, which lowered a growth forecast for 2011 from 5.3 percent to 3.7 percent.

The military council has dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution that underpinned Mubarak’s autocratic rule and strongly favored his National Democratic Party, or NDP. The dissolved parliament was seen as illegitimate after elections last year, marred by allegations of fraud, gave the NDP an overwhelming majority.

The protesters also called for the lifting of a 20-year-old emergency law that allowed Mubarak’s regime to detain suspects indefinitely without formal charges, a call backed by the United States.

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

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Plans Political Party

[11:37:47 AM | Edited 11:38:16 AM] KGS59: CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s long banned Muslim Brotherhood said Tuesday it intends to form a political party once democracy is established, as the country’s new military rulers launched a panel of experts to amend the country’s constitution enough to allow democratic elections later this year. The panel is to draw up changes at a breakneck pace — within 10 days — to end the monopoly that ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party once held, which it ensured through widespread election rigging. The initial changes may not be enough for many in Egypt calling for the current constitution, now suspended by the military, to be thrown out completely and rewritten to ensure no one can once again establish autocratic rule. Two members on the panel said the next elected government could further change the document if it choses. The military’s choices for the panel’s makeup were a sign of the new political legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist group that was the most bitter rival of Mubarak’s regime. Among the panel’s members is Sobhi Saleh, a former lawmaker from the Brotherhood seen as part of its reformist wing.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Banned Salafite Group Holds First Meeting in 20 Years

Cairo, 15 Feb. (AKI) — In the wake of authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak’s recent ousting after nearly 30 years in power, the banned Egyptian salafite group Jamaa Islamiya has held its first public meeting for decades, the group said on its website.

“Those attending the meeting discussed the latest developments in Egypt and praised Egypt’s youth for its role in ending the rule of Hosni Mubarak,” said the website message. The group said it met late on Monday in the city of Asyut.

Mubarak stood down last Friday after 18 days of mass protests in Egypt inspired by the so-called ‘Jasmine’ revolution in Tunisia which last month unseated long-time president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Egypt is now being governed by a military council which has dissolved the parliament and suspended the constitution ahead of multi-party elections due to be held in September.

The military said on Tuesday a committee led by a retired judge had been tasked with reforming the constitution within 10 days. The amended constitution will be put to a popular referendum, the army said.

Jamaa Islamiya paid tribute to supporters who died in clashes between pro-democracy protester and security forces since 25 January in which around 300 people were killed, according the United Nations and rights groups.

Jamaa Islamiya was committed to ending Mubarak’s rule and wants a republic that enshrines Islamic values. Its current leader, Omar Abd al-Rahman was jailed over the assassination of Egypt’s previous president, Anwar Sadat, in 1981.

The movement is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union. In 2003, it renounced the armed struggle. In exchange, the Mubarak government obtained the release of over 1,000 militants from Egyptian jails.

Egyptian Jamaa Islamiya is said to be divided between the organisation in Egypt, that endorsed political methods rather then violence and activists abroad.

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

Egypt: Horrible… CBS News’ Lara Logan Hospitalized; Was Sexually Assaulted & Beaten by Peaceful Egyptian Protesters

CBS News says Lara Logan, shown covering the reaction in Cairo’s Tahrir Square the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, was attacked Friday and suffered a brutal beating and sexual assault before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. ( CBS correspondent Lara Logan was hospitalized after a brutal rape and beating in Egypt last week.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: George Soros, Google Tagged for Starting Islamic Uprisings

An astute blogger has been putting the pieces together.

T. Monroe-Hamilton of The Noisy Room writes, “Google exec Wael Ghonim utilized Facebook to bring thousands into the streets and set himself up as a political martyr if need be. Youth groups along with Ghonim support ElBaradei and, by default, the Muslim Brotherhood. And who is financing such groups? Well, our old friend George Soros of course. He and ElBaradei both sit on the International Crises Group board of trustees.”

Call it Revolution 2.0. It’s what Google’s Wael Ghonim has named it, claiming their on-line tech-savvy ability to foment demonstrations was what ultimately toppled the Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak.

Cairo native and Google marketing exec Wael Ghonim helped organize Revolution 2.0, the anti-Mubarak protests, through “We are All Khaled Said”, the Facebook page that drew more than 70,000 friends.

Monroe-Hamilton observes, “The Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions did not just spontaneously erupt. No …they are well planned, drawn out, militant efforts to bring about revolutionary change on a global scale. This will be done using the Internet and the young, who will be manipulated into revolt, with either legitimate causes, manufactured wrongs or a combination of both. Enter The Alliance for Youth Movements (AYM).”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Obama Sees ‘Right Signals’ From Military

US President Barack Obama says he has seen “the right signals” in Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak’s downfall.

He cited meetings between the military council and opposition groups, and the reaffirmation of peace with Israel.

He said it was “ironic” that the Iranian authorities had celebrated the ousting of Mr Mubarak but cracked down on protests in Tehran.

And he said the US would “lend moral support” to Iranians and Arabs “seeking a better life for themselves”.

But he added that the US “cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside of Iran”.

Mr Obama was speaking at a White House news conference.

“We’re concerned about stability throughout the region,” Mr Obama said. “If you’re governing these countries, you’ve got to get out ahead of change, you can’t be behind the curve.

“We have sent a strong message to our allies in the region, saying: ‘Let’s look at Egypt’s example, as opposed to Iran’s example.’“

He added: “What has been true in Egypt should be true in Iran, which is that people should be able to express their opinions and their grievances and seek a more responsive government.

“What’s been different is the Iranian government’s response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people.

“I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Islamist Judge to Head New Constitution Committee

Tarek al-Bishry, the chairman of the constitutional panel, is a respected judge who criticised former president Hosni Mubarak and is regarded as moderate in his views. But he has been associated with Al-Wasat, an offshoot of the Brotherhood.

He has selected a committee made up mainly of judges and politicians, including a judge who is a Coptic Christian, but also a former Muslim Brotherhood MP. There are no women.

Wael Abbas, the best-known human rights blogger in Egypt, who was sentenced to prison by the Mubarak regime last year, said it was a “worrying” choice.

“There is no such thing as a moderate Islamist,” he said. “We want a secular state that respects all religions and which belongs to all religions.”

Mr Mubarak banned the Muslim Brotherhood and often warned that his regime was a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism, a claim repeatedly attacked by protesters on Tahrir Square in the days leading up to his removal from office.

The Brotherhood has said it does not intend to put forward a candidate at presidential elections, and does not want to institute Islamic rule, as in Iran. But it yesterday said it was in the process of forming a political party to represent its views in parliament. In another sign of increased freedoms for Islamists, the Gama’a Islamiya, the radical group responsible for a wave of terror attacks in the 1990s, held a public meeting in a town in southern Egypt on Monday night, according to a local newspaper, Al-Masry al-Youm. When the Supreme Military Council was formed to take over Mr Mubarak’s duties last week, the role of Lt Gen Sami Enan, the chief of staff, was immediately welcomed by the Muslim Brotherhood — as well as by the United States, which said it regarded him as very “professional”. But the make-up of the new committee, and the fact it has been given just ten days to come up with a new constitution, has dashed hopes that it will remove Article 2, which makes Islam the state religion and says Shariah is the main source of law.

“Al-Bishry is a figure who is accepted by all Egyptians,” said Aboul Ella al-Madi, leader of Al-Wasat. “He has criticised the Coptic Church but he has also criticised the Muslim Brotherhood and the former regime. “The military council consulted widely before appointing him, and he had consensus support.”

But Bishop Markos, a member of the Coptic Church’s Holy Syndicate, said no one from the Military Council had been in touch since it came to power.

He said: “We do not know the result of this but we hope the committee will be wise enough to take into account the rights of all Egyptians.” Mr Abbas said protesters had wanted to see an end to Article 2 of the Constitution and that it was now clear the constitution would only be amended, not totally reformed.

“Islamists being on the committee is not going to help that,” he said. “We want equality for all Egyptians, including Christians, Jews, Bahais, and those who consider themselves atheists.

“The army seems to have made some sort of deal with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: High Court Grants Custody to Christian Mother, But Rules Children Are Muslims

1.(U) On June 15, the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest appeals court, granted Kamilia Lotfy custody of her 14 year-old twin sons Andrew and Mario Ramsis, overruling a September 2008 Alexandria Appeals Court decision that gave custody to the boys’ father following his conversion from Christianity to Islam. Ms. Lotfy remains Christian. The appeals court had ruled that upon reaching the age of seven a child must be transferred to the custody of a Muslim father. The Court of Cassation ruling affirmed for the first time the right of a non-Muslim mother to retain custody of her child until the age of 15, even when the father converts to Islam. However, the Court of Cassation upheld its precedent in previous cases that when one parent converts to Islam, the state automatically considers his or her children under the age of 15 to be Muslim.

2.(U) On June 21, The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) released a statement welcoming the court’s decision to grant custody to Ms. Lotfy, but criticizing the ruling for falling “short of striking down the discriminatory policy of forcibly changing the religious affiliation of Christian children in official documents when their father converts to Islam.” The statement noted that the court “accepted the Public Prosecutor’s argument that family courts may not rely solely on the mother’s Christian faith to deprive her of custody over her children following her ex-husband’s conversion to Islam.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

EU Foreign Policy Chief Ashton on Egypt: “Everyone, Including the Muslim Brotherhood, Must be Involved”

Catherine Ashton, 54, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, discusses the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the need for elections within a matter of weeks and how Europe’s own experience following the Cold War could help.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood’s Party Platform Indefinitely on Hold

1.(U) In comments published in the February 13 edition of “Al Masry Al Yom,” Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leader Mehdi Akef stated that the MB has “indefinitely postponed” finalizing its draft party platform “until injustice and tyranny end in Egypt.” Akef commented, “When we have democracy and freedom, when we have respect for the law, when the term ‘banned’ that the regime uses to describe the (MB) group is canceled, when respect is the basis of dealing with each other and when the Constitution is the general principle of the state, then we will think about declaring the party platform.” He continued, “The (MB) group as whole is stronger than the party that you are talking about. And we cooperate with all parties and call on them to always unite in the face of the tyranny and despotism of the regime that wants to monopolize power.”

2.(C) Long criticized for its ambiguous stands on key issues such as religious freedom and women’s rights, the process of developing a political charter was an attempt by the MB to present detailed policy prescriptions, rather than just amorphous slogans such as “Islam is the Solution.” The MB’s draft platform was “released” in September 2007 to a range of non-MB intellectuals and academics for comment, and was heavily criticized for (1) the recommended creation of an elected “Senior Religious Scholars Group”, which both the parliament and the president would have to consult before passing legislation, and which would have the right to veto laws that do not conform with shari’a (Islamic law), and (2) the stipulation specifically barring women and Copts from becoming president (reftels). Following the public outcry from leading activists, as well as unusual public criticism from within the MB itself, MB Deputy Supreme Guide Mohamed Habib announced he would chair an internal MB committee that would review the platform, consider making changes, and produce a final version (ref A). Akef’s February 13 comments indicate that review process has now ground to a halt. 3.(C) According to our contacts, the MB’s inability to produce a consolidated final platform indicates continuing deep tensions between the moderate and conservative wings of the Islamist organization. By putting the platform on hold, the MB’s leadership is likely trying to calm the philosophical internecine battling over the substance of the charter, and avoid a damaging potential public split between the two factions. In addition, in the face of the government’s continuing campaign of harassment and detentions of MB members, the MB’s leadership may have decided that announcing a platform — sure to be viewed as a provocative move by the GOE — would only worsen things for the MB, and has thus opted to wait to unveil the platform at a more optimal time. A divied organization operating in an uncertain and hotile political environment, the MB’s political evlution appears for the moment to be stalled. SCBEY…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Troubling Indications Emerging Out of Egypt

From the outset of the escalating crisis in Egypt, we’ve seen indications President Barack Obama and his cohorts have been working behind the scenes to destabilize the country, in the hope of transforming the 30-year ally of the U.S. into a radical Islamist regime — and with it, other Middle Eastern allies of America as well.

The “sham democracy movement” being publicly pushed by the president and his fellow leftists in the Middle East is actually “a naked betrayal of our Middle Eastern allies, and by extension, our own country,” writes Jim Simpson at American Thinker.

The fact that the Obama administration favors a role for the extremist Muslim Brotherhood in running the post-Mubarak country is telling. The Muslim Brotherhood, created in 1928, is “behind practically every Muslim terrorist organization ever formed,” in Simpson’s words — and as such is likely to seize control of Egypt if given even limited opportunity.

“Obama uniformly sides with our enemies,” Simpson says, “but rarely, if ever, with our friends and allies. His administration is packed with far-left radicals and vicious anti-Semites. And therein lies the rub, because what we are witnessing in reality is this President’s un-American, anti-American, treasonous ideology in full play” over the last two weeks.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Dispensary Burned Down in Nabeul Region

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 14 — A fire early this morning destroy the medical dispensary of Bouargoub, a small town near Nabeul (in the Gulf of Hammamet).

At the same time, a mobile phone shop in the area was looted.

The authorities are recommending, despite the presence of troops in the area, that citizens remain on the alert.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: ‘Finally Free to Tan’, Campaign to Relaunch Tourism

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 14 — ‘Finally free to tan’ is one of the slogans of an advertising campaign launched a month after President Ben Ali fled Tunisia. The country has launched the scheme in an attempt to relaunch tourism, which was significantly affected by the “jasmine revolution”.

The campaign is beginning in France today, which by a quirk of fate, is also Valentine’s Day. The Tunisian Tourism Minister, Mehdi Houas, said on the French radio station RTL that “we invite our French friends to come and declare their love for Tunisia”. The logo of the campaign is “I love Tunisia”.

On Saturday, France revoked its travel restrictions for Tunisian coastal resorts, which include Monastir, Hammamet and Sousse, and for the island of Djerba. The restrictions were announced in the middle of January and led to the early return of around 9,000 French holiday-makers and the suspension of departures towards Tunisia. This was a significant blow for French operators, who take 1.4 million people to Tunisia every year, but especially for the North African country itself, where tourism is the main source of income and represents 6.5% of GDP, employing 350,000 of the country’s 10 million inhabitants.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Country Facing Rampant Crime

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 14 — There had been rumours, claimed to be leaked from ministers, that the curfew in Tunisia would be lifted last Thursday or, at the latest, at the weekend.

In the end, this did not occur: the curfew remains in force, and crime is rampant.

So much that the press is today showing its great concern at the escalation of the situation, with the police almost completely absent and the army’s 45,000 men (with further call-ups beginning today) committed to defending the country’s nerve centres. Thefts, fires and destruction are the order of the day, with some people bitterly saying that “things were better when things were worse”.

Of course, this is not the case, but it is true that women are being discouraged from using their purses even in the centre of Tunis, while wearing watches, bracelets or rings is also best avoided, as they could easily be stolen in broad daylight. Taxi-drivers look potential customers up and down before deciding whether or not to take them (and if they do, locking the back doors from inside is advised). This is because taxi-drivers have also been (and still are) the targets of robberies, with one making two complaints in a single day. The atmosphere is very tense, with many shops, even on the central Avenue Bourguiba in the heart of Tunis, never shutting any later than 6:00pm.

But alarms are not only being raised by people on the street.

Newspapers are also extremely concerned at the situation, which seems to be getting worse. The French-language paper, La Presse, the most widely-read in the country, titles “Danger and deceit on the streets. Do not stop under any circumstances!!!”. The warning, first delivered by a blogger, is aimed especially at female drivers and is based on a number of witness reports. Reports suggest that, in isolated and rural areas in particular, groups of criminals are placing dolls on car-seats on the side of roads. The good intentions of those who stop leave them at the mercy of gangs, and at risk of violence or robbery, or even death. La Presse also advises drivers not to stop if they find eggs thrown at their windscreens at nights. They are advised to drive on without using their windscreen wipers, because egg mixed with water forms a coating of liquid that restricts visibility. Instead, drivers should continue and contact the police. Police numbers, however, have been dramatically reduced and are almost non-existent outside the centre of Tunis. The tension of the situation does not seem to be alleviated by the passing days.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Salafites Demonstrate Before Tunis Synagogue

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 15 — A group of young Salafites linked to “Hezeb Tahir” (“Liberation party”) demonstrated in front of the synagogue of Tunis, in the centre of the capital.

Calling slogans against the “murderous and criminal” Jews, they walked down Avenue de la Liberté before reaching the place of worship.

The demonstration has been harshly criticised by the chairman of the organising committee of the Ennhada movement, Ali Araiedh. He announced in a statement quoted by the newspaper in the French language Le Temps that “we reject these acts of intolerance towards religious minorities”, and underlined that “we are for a Tunisia that respects all religions. Religious minorities, which have to live in peace in our country, are welcome”.

Therefore, the chairman added, “we reject these acts of intolerance towards religious minorities carried out in the name of Islam”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Update on Reports of Divisions Within the Muslim Brotherhood

1.(C) Key Issues: — The media continues to report on “clashes” among Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders about “moderate” MB member Dr. Essam El Eryan’s possible appointment to the MB’s Guidance Bureau. — MB Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef has denied reports he resigned because of internal resistance to Eryan. Guidance Bureau member and Independent MP Saad Katatni confirmed deliberations on Eryan continue. — Contacts inside and outside the MB tell us that the divide within the MB is being played out in procedural terms but that the underlying conflict centers on the MB’s approach to external engagement such as participation in elections. 2.(C) Comment: The ongoing internal discussion about Eryan signals conservative worries about the direction of MB leadership and the possibility of future compromises on core issues. They are also an indicator of Supreme Guide Akef’s preference for a politically active MB. GoE pressure on the MB will likely deepen the rift between those who see the MB’s future tied to pragmatic engagement and those who prefer principled isolation. End Comment.

3.(C) The Egyptian media, both independent and government-owned, have reported extensively over the last week on continued clashes within the MB’s Guidance Bureau over the naming of Essam El Eryan to the Bureau following the death of one of its members (reftel). On October 18, several papers reported that MB Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef had resigned in protest after an internal decision to block Eryan’s membership and suggested that he had “lost control” of the group. In a statement to Ikhwanweb that same day, Akef denied the reports of his resignation and criticized the recent increase in arrests of MB members. (Note: Ikhwanweb is an English-language MB-affiliated website founded by MB leader Khariat El Shatter who is currently serving a 7-year prison sentence. End Note.)

4. (S/NF) On October 20, Dr. Saad Katatni, MB Guidance Bureau Member and MB parliamentary bloc leader told PolOff that Akef had not tendered his resignation and that he remains in charge of MB internal affairs. Katatni also confirmed that internal discussions about changes to the Guidance Bureau, including the candidacy of Essam El Eryan, continue. He underscored that reports of internal disputes are exaggerated, but said there are differences of opinion on “administrative issues.” 5. (S/NF) Christian intellectual Rafik Habib, who maintains close contact with the MB and Supreme Guide Akef, (Note: Habib works with the organization his father helped to found, the Coptic Christian Organization for Social Services (CEOSS). CEOSS is a community development organization that also works to promote inter-faith dialogue. Habib also participated in the founding of the Islamist-leaning Al Wasat party along with former MB Abu El Ela Madi (although he is now no longer a member). Al Wasat remains unlicensed. End Note.) told PolOff Akef supports Eryan’s inclusion in the Guidance Bureau. Habib said failing to add Eryan will widen the gap between MB leadership and a large portion of its young supporters. Within the Bureau, Akef is being confronted by what Habib calls the MB “right wing” which believes that the kind of flexibility and political engagement advocated by Eryan and Aboul Meneim Al Fotouh will lead to “unacceptable compromises” of the MB’s core principles. Habib calls the “left wing” of the MB (Eryan, Fotouh, and to some extent the Deputy Guide Mohammed Habib) pragmatic but cautioned that they should not be viewed as “moderates.” Their goals are the same as “conservative” MB’s; a religious state where Sharia is applied to all aspects of life. Pressure from the GoE, including the recent spate of arrests, has intensified that internal debate. Conservative members like Mohammed Ezzat are advocating for a period of isolation, including limited participation in the elections. More politically engaged members like MP Katatni, in contrast, have said the MB will participate in these elections (reftel)…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

What is the Real Meaning of Egypt’s Revolution?

By Barry Rubin

“The People Toppled the Government,” is al-Ahram’s headline, and the general interpretation of the Egyptian revolution around the world. That’s true but only partly true. Mubarak’s pedestal was shaken by the people but he was pushed off it by the army and the establishment.

Let’s remember something that nobody wants to hear right now. The revolution in Egypt succeeded because the army didn’t want President Husni Mubarak any more. When people say things like: The army wouldn’t shoot down its own people. Why? It has done so before.

In normal times the army would have been content to let Mubarak rule until he died, despite being very unhappy with his behavior. He had been declining as a leader due to his age; had refused to name a vice-president, step down, or prepare seriously for succession; and he was trying to foist his son, Gamal, on them who was not a military man and was inadequate for the job.

When the demonstrations began and built up the army had a choice: do nothing or fight for Mubarak. Those with grievances—and everyone in Egypt has lots of grievances—seeing that nobody would stop them, poured into the streets. Hence, a people’s revolution. Something similar happened in Tunisia, though the civil society base for democracy—and chances for success—are far higher there.

Now, what happens in Algeria or Syria, for example? These other countries do not face this special situation like that in Egypt and the security forces do not hesitate to break up demonstrations. People do not want to be killed or beaten, so they don’t come into the streets.

Is that a jaundiced or cynical view? No, that’s how politics in authoritarian states works.

From this, we can draw conclusions:

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

What Next for Egypt? Analysis From Islam Critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali [Audio]

Born in Somalia, the former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a prominent critic of Islam.

She has described the religion as ‘like a ‘mental cage’, inhibiting freedom of thought and action across the Arab world.

But events in Egypt and Tunisia have shown the watching world a Middle East in which old and young, religious and secular, Muslim and Christian, have united to press for genuine political change.

So what does Ms Ali — currently a fellow at the Washington-based conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute — make of recent events?…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: Egypt’s New Man at the Top ‘Was Against Reform’

Field Marshal Mohamad Tantawi, the head of the Higher Military Council that took control of Egypt last week, was also against economic reforms because they create “social instability”. The briefings, in cables handed to the WikiLeaks website, raise questions about the field marshal’s suitability for overseeing transition to a democratically elected government. Today The Daily Telegraph publishes on its website hundreds of leaked cables written by US diplomats in the American embassy in Cairo and sent to Washington. One, sent from Cairo to Washington in March 2008 ahead of an official visit, reports how the 76-year-old field marshal was against change.

The cable states: “Tantawi has opposed both economic and political reforms that he perceives as eroding central government power. He is supremely concerned with national unity, and has opposed policy initiatives he views as encouraging political or religious cleavages within Egyptian society.”

Field Marshal Tantawi’s role as effective interim head of state was confirmed at the weekend after President Hosni Mubarak fled from Cairo to the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The communiqué also told of his opposition to economic reforms which had been pushed by President Mubarak.

The cable said: “Tantawi believes that Egypt’s economic reform plan fosters social instability by lessening GOE [government of Egypt] controls over prices and production.” He also rejected any deals regarding military equipment in return for concessions on human rights policy, the communiqué said.

Officials suggested that his age made him more conservative-minded, describing him as “aged and change-resistant”. The cable continued: “He and Mubarak are focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time. They simply do not have the energy, inclination or world view to do anything differently.” Other cables show the extent to which the Egyptian armed forces have spread their influence through the country.

They claimed this power was exercised through the use of vetoes on commercial contracts due to “security concerns”. One communiqué, sent in September 2008, said: “Contacts told us that military-owned companies, often run by retired generals, are particularly active in the water, olive oil, cement, construction, hotel and gasoline industries.” It was also suggested that “large amounts of land in the Nile Delta and on the Red Sea coast” were owned by the armed forces and seen as a “fringe benefit” in exchange for ensuring stability and security.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Controversy in Israel Over Burqa-Wearing Ultra-Orthodox Jews

The movement was born six years ago to fight immodesty in Israeli. There are now hundreds of “haredi” who cover themselves from head to toe. At first, conservative rabbis were in favour, now they emit warnings, especially for young girls.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The movement was born six years ago, and now involves hundreds of women throughout Israel. They are the “Taliban Haredi” ultra-religious women who have decided to completely cover their bodies from head to toe, and like Muslim women wear the burqa. About six years ago a group of “haredi” women (literally: those who tremble at the word of God “) decided to start a battle against immodesty of Israeli women in their fashion choices, by covering themselves completely.

The aim was not to expose any part of their body to the sight of men, so as to encourage them to avoid sin. As explained by one of them: “I follow these rules of modesty to save men from themselves. A man who sees a woman’s body parts is sexually aroused, and this might cause him to commit sin. Even if he doesn’t actually sin physically, his impure thoughts are sin in themselves.”

This initiative was received positively by many haredi circles and was even accompanied by an enthusiastic letter of support signed by Badatz rabbis, the ultra-Orthodox court of justice, and “Eda Haredit” leader Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss.

Now their growing number — about 600, with a constant stream of new recruits — is beginning to create problems. Also because some of these women do not uncover themselves even at home and are forcing their daughters to follow them in this fashion. So much so that the protests and warnings are multiplying: “You do not have to dress in strange ways, including veils, especially if your husband is against it, and also because it is against the Halacha (the law of conduct). And above all this fashion should not be applied in the case of young girls,” write some rabbis.

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

PNA: Press: Fayyad Government Resigns

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, FEBRUARY 14 — Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad has called a special government meeting today in Ramallah to announce the cabinet’s resignation. The Palestinian press reports that President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) will probably ask Fayyad to form a new government.

This development follows the announcements by the PNA of presidential, local and parliamentary elections in the coming months. Still it will be difficult to hold these election due to the opposition expressed by Hamas.

Last Saturday chief negotiator Saeb Erekat resigned over sensationalist revelations made by Al Jazeera regarding the way he has negotiated with Israel. Yesterday Erekat explained that he has resigned because the concerning documents were stolen “from his desk”. He accused Al Jazeera of serious violations of journalism ethics.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

PNA: Fayyad to Form New Gov’t, Hamas Critical

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, FEBRUARY 14 — The Palestinian cabinet resigned on Monday and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will select new ministers at the request of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), reports official Palestinian press agency Wafa. Hamas immediately criticised the decision. “The previous government of Fayyad was illegal and the new government will also be illegal,” said Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhum.

Wafa also added that in the coming days Fayyad will meet with all of the political forces in the Palestinian Territories, except for Hamas. According to Wafa, there is reason to believe that Fayad’s next government will give al-Fatah a stronger presence. “There will be new faces this time,” predicted the news agency, which indicated that the idea of a government reshuffle was already being considered by President Mahmoud Abbas for several months. Several local analysts connected this development to the protests that are sweeping through several countries in the Middle East and to an attempt by the PNA to best satisfy the desires of the people, even by calling elections in the Palestinian Territories. According to al-Fatah official, Nabil Shaath, there is also hope of relaunching dialogue between his party and Hamas. But until now Hamas has dug in their heels. “The reshuffle of the Fayad government is just a show,” said Fawzi Barfum today. “Those who join it are taking sides against freedom.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Virtual Revolution in Saudi Arabia

By Phyllis Chesler and Nathan Bloom

Yes, today there are protests in the streets of Iran, Egypt (again), Bahrain, Yemen, and Algeria. In the last few weeks, there were also street uprisings in Tunisia and Jordan. Iranian riot police are tear-gassing their own people in Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. Egyptians are now demanding that Mubarak’s military give them jobs and money.

As I have noted before, the Egyptian women in the streets of Cairo were wearing severe hijab; some were wearing face veils. The men and women carried signs against Israel and America. But I saw no signs demanding women’s rights.

Thus, the real Arab and Muslim “revolution” is a virtual one. It has only just now appeared on the internet, more specifically, on Facebook, and was recently launched by Saudi Arabian women, some who still live in the Kingdom and others who live in exile, either elsewhere in the Middle East or in the West. The site is mainly in Arabic with some English.

One fan posts, in English: “Girls, after Egypt and Tunisia we can demand our rights.”

Another fan writes, also in English: “We all should take an action and stop being treated as slaves. We are free to choose our lives. My son was murdered because his father abused him so badly… I will never let this go… I will fight to death for my son’s right and all the abused children in my country Saudi Arabia. Where is the Saudi Human Rights? Why there is no justice in Saudi? Where does our money go?”

A third woman says, in English: “The root of it all is the male guardianship system, if we can get rid of that, we’re half way there. AUTONOMY over our own lives is key. The right to gain access to financial and medical services without having to attain permission first.”

I wrote about this new website yesterday, mainly to applaud the bravery of these women who know full well what can happen to them for demanding their rights. My understanding is that while the site is based outside of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi authorities cannot take it down, they can punish some of the individuals associated with it.

May this not happen.


[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: Protests in Shiite Villages, 3 Dead, 20 Injured

(ANSAmed) — MANAMA (BAHRAIN), FEBRUARY 15 — Three have died and at least 20 have been wounded in clashes between protestors and law enforcement officials between yesterday and today in Bahrain during anti-government demonstrations in the Shiite villages around Manama.

The first casualty took place yesterday when a 22-year-old man died in the village of Daih when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protestors who were calling for reforms.

Another protestor died this morning after suffering injuries yesterday when police dispersed a protest in the Shiite village of Diya, east of Manama. According to a statement from the Interior Ministry, the man died “as a result of his wounds” and an investigation will be conducted to learn if law enforcement officials had “unjustifiably used weapons”.

A third man died today when security forces dispersed a Shiite protest in front of a hospital in the centre of Manama. The demonstrations were organised over the Internet in the wake of the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The protestors are calling for reforms and more democracy. The Shiite majority of the population has been demanding greater participation in the government from the Sunni ruling dynasty in Bahrain for some time now. Spanning an area of less than 750 square kilometres, Bahrain, which is an archipelago of about 30 islands, is the smallest nation in the Arab world, with less than one and a half million inhabitants.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: Protesters Threaten Egypt-Style Permanent Demonstration

As calls for democracy continued to spill across the Middle East from Tunisia and Egypt, the King of Bahrain was forced to make a rare implicit apology for the behaviour of his security forces. Two young protesters have been killed by police in the last two days — the second yesterday outside the hospital where 10,000 people gathered as the body of the first was being taken away for his funeral. “We extend our condolences to the parents of the dear sons who died yesterday and today,” King Hamad said in a broadcast address. He promised an investigation headed by the deputy prime minister and said democratic reforms would continue.

But his words failed to assuage the protesters, who gathered on Pearl Square, a vast traffic concourse in the capital, Manama, renaming it “Bahrain’s Tahrir Square” after the epicentre of protests in Egypt. Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Centre for Human Rights, said the demonstrators were demanding the replacement of the prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, an uncle of the king who has held the post for 40 years, with an elected politician. They also wanted a new constitution, improved living conditions, and an end to human rights violations.

“The leaders of these protests are the youth — they are not connected to any political parties,” he said. “We will press on until the government makes concessions.”

Bahrain has introduced elections in the last 15 years but Shia parties have never gained an absolute majority in the lower house despite making up the large majority of the population. In any case, power lies with the government, appointed by the royal family, which is Sunni. The United States will be watching events nervously — Bahrain is a key ally and home to the US Fifth Fleet. On the other hand, US and other western diplomats say there is little to support claims by the royal family that opposition is stirred up by Iran’s Shia Islamic Republic. In Iran itself, the authorities hit back yesterday at opposition leaders who backed Monday’s protests in Tehran and other major cities which were broken up by police with two deaths.

The government claimed that the deaths were caused by the protesters, which was strongly denied by opposition websites. But members of the country’s parliament held an extraordinary demonstration of their own inside the chamber, demanding the execution of Mirhossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two defeated candidates in 2009’s disputed presidential election.

“The parliament condemns the Zionists, American, antirevolutionary and antinational action of the misled seditionists,” Ali Larijani, the conservative parliamentary speaker said as MPs shook their fists in unison and chanted ‘Death to Moussavi and Karroubi’. “How did these gentlemen fall into the orchestrated trap of America?” he said.

In Washington, President Barack Obama urged Middle Eastern regimes facing protests to refrain from using “violence and coercion”. At a news conference, he referred obliquely to events in both Bahrain and Iran, condemning the latter directly for its treatment of the protesters.

“We have sent a strong message to our allies to look at Egypt’s example rather than Iran’s example,” he said. “You can’t maintain power through coercion. At some level in any society there has to be consent.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: Demonstrators Killed in Clashes With Police

The Islamic National Accord Association which has 18 seats in the 40-member house has “suspended its membership in the Bahraini parliament” according to MP Khalil al-Marzooq. The decision was taken because of “the deterioration in security and the negative and brutal way in which (the authorities) dealt with the protesters, killing two of them,” he said.

Fadel Salman Matrouk was shot dead in front of a hospital on Tuesday where mourners gathered for the funeral of Msheymah Ali who died of his wounds after police dispersed a protest in a village east of Manama on Monday, he said.

The Bahrain interior ministry said that “some of the people participating in the funeral on Tuesday clashed with forces from a security patrol,” leading to Matrouk’s death. “An investigation is under way to determine the circumstances surrounding the case,” it said.

The interior ministry also announced the death of a protester late on Monday “due to his wounds” and opened an inquiry into whether police resorted to “unjustified use of arms” in dispersing the protest in Diya village.

News of the two deaths prompted activists, who posted pictures of both men on a Facebook page, to call for a huge turnout at their funerals and to step up anti-government protests.

Protests were held on Monday in a string of Shiite-majority villages to the west, east and north of the capital as well as in the historic Balad al-Qadim quarter of Manama city centre.

Turnout at the rallies ranged from between a few dozen to hundreds of people, they said.

Security forces were deployed in force along the main routes into Manama in a bid to head off rallies called on the internet, mirroring similar online initiatives around the Arab world.

The Facebook page which called for a February 14 uprising, inspired by the protests which ousted the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, had attracted more than 22,000 “likes” by Tuesday. A message on the page read: “This is your chance to open the way for political and social reforms in line with changes taking place in the Middle East. On February 14, we will chant together: ‘The people want reform of the regime.’“…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

French PM Calls for Dialogue at Gulf’s Sorbonne

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Sunday inaugurated a campus at the Abu Dhabi branch of the famed Sorbonne with a call for dialogue and an appeal against the idea of a clash of civilisations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ice Queens of the Arab World

It started with Leila Trabelsi, the wife of President Ben Ali — the Arab world’s answer to Imelda Marcos, the Lady Macbeth of Tunisia, who allegedly made off with copious amounts of gold after the uprising that ousted her husband.

Attention then shifted to Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt’s ex-first lady, who shares her husband’s estimated $70bn fortune.

In the wake of King Abdullah’s dismissal of the government in Jordan this month, the latest Arab Wag in the spotlight is Queen Rania. Last week she was the subject of an unprecedented attack by a group of Jordanian tribal figures complaining about the ruling family and widespread corruption. According to the statement, the queen and “her sycophants and the power centres that surround her” are dividing Jordanians and “stealing from the country and the people”.

As the wave of dissent sweeping the region puts Arab presidents and monarchs under the spotlight, their wives are also being scrutinised for their lavish lifestyles and “interference” in politics.

Queen Rania in particular, a regular “frow” (front row) fixture at fashion shows in Paris and Milan and Giorgio Armani’s “muse” is well known for her fashion credentials and her Tatler-like lifestyle. Feted in the west, Rania is queen of one of the poorest countries in the region.

Most first ladies in the Arab countries are western educated (Suzanne Mubarak is half British) and thus are more comfortable in western circles of diplomacy and royalty. While they may be beautiful, articulate and impeccably styled ambassadors, on their home turf they often appear out of touch with the concerns of citizens.

In the oil-rich Gulf states, due to generally high living standards, the indulgences of first ladies (often more than one per monarch) do not particularly grate. In addition, the conservative monarchies of the Gulf are generally more low profile and it is inconceivable that any of the Saudi king’s wives would tweet a picture of herself watching football in Barcelona.

When Gulf Wags do make a rare outing, they are mostly noted for their style. Sheikha Moza of Qatar caused a frenzy last year with her icicle-heeled Chanel boots on a state visit to the UK.

The latest royal spouse to make an outing is Princess Amira, wife of the unconventional Saudi multi-billionaire, Prince Waleed bin Talal. Rarely seen in the obligatory Saudi abaya, she recently accompanied her husband to the opening of the refurbished Savoy Hotel in London. She has commented that she is “ready to drive” in Saudi Arabia and is often photographed meeting her husband’s charity causes in the kingdom in jeans and T-shirts.

While there is nothing uncommon about the wives of political leaders coming under scrutiny for their appearance (Michelle Obama’s choices of dress and designer are in the headlines almost as often as her husband’s policy making), Arab first ladies are even more celebrated in the west for their exotic take on western styles…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iran Protests ‘Going Nowhere’, Says Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the opposition protests seen in Iranian cities on Monday are “going nowhere” and vowed to punish their organisers.

Mr Ahmadinejad told state television that “enemies” were trying to “tarnish the Iranian nation’s brilliance”.

Two people were killed and several wounded in clashes between protesters and security forces in central Tehran, officials said.

US President Barack Obama sharply criticised the authorities’ response.

“I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Mr Obama said the US could not dictate what went on inside Iran, but hoped people would have the “courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedom and a more representative government”.


Not long afterwards, Iran’s president dismissed the protests in Tehran and other major cities, saying they had wanted to undermine a rally held last Friday to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

“It is clear the Iranian nation has enemies because it is a nation that wants to shine, conquer peaks and change [its international] relations,” he said.

He added: “Of course, there is a lot of hostility against the government. But they knew that they would get nowhere.”

Mr Ahmadinejad said the organisers of the protests wanted “just wanted to tarnish the Iranian nation’s brilliance”.

“It is a shining sun. They threw some dust towards the sun… but the dust will return to their eyes.”

On Monday, thousands gathered at Tehran’s Azadi Square in solidarity with the uprisings in Tunisia in Egypt — their first major show of dissent since December 2009, when eight people were killed. Many chanted “Death to dictators”.

The BBC’s Mohsen Asgari, who was at the rally, says it was not long before riot police fired tear gas, while men on motorbikes charged the crowd with batons…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iran Protest: MPs Demand Opposition’s Execution After Tehran Pro-Democracy Rally

Hard-line Iranian MPs have demanded opposition leaders be executed after anti-government demonstrations left one person dead and dozens injured.

Tens of thousands of people turned out yesterday in solidarity with Egypt’s revolt in the first major show of strength from Iran’s beleaguered opposition in more than a year.

At an open session of parliament today, pro-government MPs chanted ‘death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami,’ referring to opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, and former reformist president Mohammad Khatami.

The Iranian government, meanwhile, revealed there had been 1,500 arrests during yesterday’s street riots — and they made every single one public, including Mousavi’s.

President Barack Obama today slammed Iran for its harsh treatment of anti-government protesters and called on governments throughout the Middle East to avoid crackdowns on pro-democracy supporters. ‘The world is changing,’ Obama said in a message directed at autocratic rulers across the region. ‘You have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity… You’ve got to get out ahead of change; you can’t be behind the curve.’ Obama was asked at a White House news conference about the mood of change sweeping the Middle East in sympathy with the opposition victory in Egypt.

‘It’s ironic that the Iranian regime is pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt,’ Obama said. ‘They acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt’ by using force against demonstrators. Obama said that with advances in freedom of communication through smart phones and Twitter, it is more true than ever that governments must recognise that they must act with the consent of the people. ‘Governments in that region are starting to understand this,’ Obama said, ‘and my hope is that they can operate in a way that is responsive to this hunger for change, but always do so in a way that doesn’t lead to violence.’

Obama said, ‘America cannot dictate what happens.’ But he added that the U.S. hope and expectation ‘is that we’re going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedom and a more representative government.’

Clashes between Iranian police and protesters wracked central Tehran yesterday, resulting in the death of a 26-year-old student, who is believed to have been shot.

Protesters were beaten and tear gas was used to disperse the crowds as the hardline regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to prevent marches in support of Egypt’s pro-democracy movement becoming demonstrations against the government.

Demonstrators in central Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Square and in Imam Hossein Square set bins alight in a bid to protect themselves from the stinging white clouds of tear gas as they chanted ‘death to the dictator’.

Dozens were arrested amid widespread condemnation of police tactics by human rights groups and western politicians, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Eyewitnesses said at least three protesters had been injured by bullets and taken to hospital in central Tehran, with dozens of others hospitalised because of severe wounds from being beaten.

Security forces on motorcycles could also be seen chasing protesters through the streets, according to eyewitnesses.

The opposition called for yesterday’s demonstration in solidarity with Egypt’s popular revolt that a few days earlier forced the president there to resign after nearly 30 years in office.

Today, more than 220 Iranian MPs said in a statement that Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami should be held responsible for the unrest.

‘We believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment’ for the opposition leaders, the statement said.

Hard-liners have long sought to put high-ranking opposition figures on trial, but the calls for the death penalty signalled an escalation in their demands.

Authorities appeared to be moving quickly in a bid to stifle the opposition before it gains momentum, issuing promises of swift action against leaders and activists, the official IRNA news agency reported.

‘The judiciary will quickly and resolutely deal with major elements and those who violated public order and peace,’ a spokesman for Iran’s judiciary and state prosecutor said.

The pro-government Fars agency reported athat a bystander was shot dead at the hands of protesters.

Fars, which is linked to the Revolutionary Guard, called them ‘hypocrites, monarchists, ruffians and seditionists,’ and ridiculed them for not chanting any slogans about Egypt as they had originally promised.

Opposition website reported that similar rallies took place in the central city of Isfahan and Shiraz in the south. Security forces used force to disperse them as well.

Foreign media are banned from covering street protests in Iran.

Following the announcements by the opposition that they would attempt to hold a rally, Iran’s security forces cut phone lines and blockaded the home of an opposition leader in attempts to stop him attending the planned rally.

Police and militiamen poured onto the streets of Tehran to challenge the marches, which officials worry could turn into demonstrations against Iran’s ruling system.

The violence yesterday was not confined to the streets of Iran. Protests engulfed the Middle East on a ‘Day of Rage’ — prompted by the successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt — which saw violence also break out in Bahrain and Yemen.

In Bahrain, police broke up protests, which were arranged via Facebook, with rubber bullets. The mainly Shia population in the oil-rich country have been venting grievances at what they consider to be discrimination by the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family.

In the Yemeni capital Sanaa there were street battles on a fourth consecutive day of protests.

Elsewhere, governments made concessions in an attempt to hold onto power. Algeria’s foreign minister said the country’s 19-year state of emergency will end in days, while the whole of the Palestinian cabinet resigned.

Speaking about the trouble in Iran, William Hague urged the country’s leader to show ‘restraint’, reminding President Ahmadinejad of his championing of the right to free expression.

‘President Ahmadinejad last Friday told the Egyptian people that they had the right to express their own views about their country,’ he said in a statement.

‘I call on the Iranian authorities to allow their own people the same right and to ensure that the security authorities exercise restraint.’

Hillary Clinton expressed support for the tens of thousands of protesters in Iran’s capital, saying they ‘deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and are part of their own birthright.’

She said she and others in Barack Obama’s administration ‘very clearly and directly support the aspirations of the people who are in the streets’ of Tehran.

She spoke of the ‘hypocrisy’ of the Iranian government that hailed the protests in Egypt but has tried to suppress opposition at home.

She said there ‘needs to be a commitment to open up the political system, to hear the voices of the opposition and civil society.’

Iran’s Foreign Ministry rejected her remarks, and accused the US of ‘meddling’ in Iranian affairs…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iran: Politicians in Parliament Call for Death of Opposition

Tehran, 15 Feb. (AKI) — Several members of Iran’s parliament said leaders of their country’s opposition should be put to death as protesters took to the streets following demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled the rule of those country’s authoritarian leaders.

The deputies shouted, “Death to Moussavi, Karroubi and Khatami,” also condemning former President Mohammad Khatami, another opposition leader, the official news agency IRNA said.

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was place under house arrest on Monday, according to his official website. Police took similar a precaution against fellow political dissident Mehdi Karroubi to ensure that he couldn’t participate in rallies in Tehran and other cities.

One protester was died during clashes in Tehran during Monday’s demonstration, according to Ahmad Reza Radan, deputy police chief of Iran. Radan blamed “terrorist” rioters for the violence which injured nine police.

“One person was martyred by Monafeghin in the shooting at Monday’s events,” Radan was quoted as saying by Fars news agency on Tuesday, referring to the outlawed People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI).

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

Iraqi Defector ‘Curveball’ Admits WMD Lies

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who fled Iraq in 1995, confessed that he made up the stories of mobile bio-weapons trucks and clandestine factories in Iraq in an attempt to bring down Saddam Hussein’s regime. The defector told The Guardian that he watched in horror as his claims were lapped up by the Bush administration and used to justify the invasion of the country in 2003.

“Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right,” Mr al-Janabi said. “They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime.

“I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.” He claimed that American officials suggested that his co-operation would make it easier for his Moroccan-born wife and child to join him in Germany.

Mr al-Janabi initially spoke to the German secret service, the BND, but the information was passed to the CIA and was eventually included in a notorious 2003 speech at the United Nations by Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State.

He said that when he complained to his German handlers that they had violated an agreement not to pass his information to a third country, he was silenced and placed in lockdown for around 90 days. Mr al-Janabi, who had previously maintained his claims were true, made his admissions in a series of interviews in Germany, where he has been granted asylum.

He said he had told a German official, who he identified as Dr Paul, about mobile bio-weapons trucks in 2000.

The BND identified him as a Baghdad-trained chemical engineer and approached him in March that year looking for information about Saddam’s regime.

“I had a problem with the Saddam regime,” he said. “I wanted to get rid of him and now I had this chance.”

Mr al-Janabi portrayed the BND as gullible and so eager to elicit details from him that they gave him a Perry’s Chemical Engineering Handbook to help communicate.

“They were asking me about pumps for filtration, how to make detergent after the reaction,” he said. “Any engineer who studied in this field can explain or answer any question they asked.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Justice Minister at Demonstration Before Ministry

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 15 — It was a big surprise when Jordan’s Justice Minister Husain Majli participated in yesterday’s sit-in, organised before his Ministry. The goal of the protest was to ask for the release of soldier Al Ghadamsa, who killed seven Israeli female soldiers 14 years ago and was given a life sentence. Majli, who was secretary-general of the bar council at the time of the trial, was the soldier’s defending lawyer. He told the people who were protesting at the Ministry that his position has not changed from the time when he assisted Al Ghadamsa.

“If a Jew killed an Arab, his country”, said Majili, “would dedicate a statue to him”. The Minister continued by saying that he will do all he can, both within and outside the government framework, to have the soldier released. The Jordan soldier is suffering from heart problems and needs urgent surgery. Only the King, according to the Minister, can grant a special pardon that allows Al Deghamsa to leave prison. Israel said that it is shocked by the statements of the Jordanian Minister, adding that it hopes the soldier will serve his entire sentence in prison. The Israeli girls who were killed were adolescents (and not female soldiers, as the Jordanian newspaper reports).

They were making a trip to an islet in Jordan. The soldier, corporal Ahmed Al Ghadamsa, was convicted in 1997. The murder of the Jewish girls — a few years after the signing of peace agreements with Jordan — caused deep emotions in Israel. King Hussein felt the need to visit Israel to meet the relatives of the victims. These relatives, after hearing the statements of the Jordanian Minister, who took office last week, said today that they were “shocked”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanese Sunnis Play the Confessional Card Against Hizbollah

The Rafik Hariri assassination remains the crux of the matter, as the international tribunal appears poised to indict Hizbollah members. The new, slender, pro-Syrian, Hizbollah-led majority will face a strong Sunni front, led by the outgoing prime minister’s Future Movement.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — The fall of the government and the change of the majority are a virtual “coup d’état”, members of the old majority say unanimously. They denounce a ‘pronunciamento’ in which the threat to have Hizbollah use force played a crucial role. With Walid Jumblatt’s shifting his support to the alliance between the Hizbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement (the latter led by Michel Aoun), the change occurred in a week. All it took was for a few Hizbollah men to show up early in the morning in Beirut and in the Druze mountain, for the Druze leader to throw his support to the self-styled “pro-resistance and pro-Syria” camp. Just a week before, Jumblatt had said that he could never renege on his alliance with Saad Hariri’s Future Movement.

What Hizbollah militiamen wanted to do remains unclear. They were not armed, except for walkie-talkie. However, their brief show of force was enough to frighten parents who had sent their children to school. Many schools quickly closed their doors.

Informed sources say that the Hizbollah men planned to swarm local government buildings and launch a civil disobedience movement from inside courthouses and police buildings. Those black-dressed militiamen who arrived around 5.30 am were just the vanguard of a large contingent from the Islamist party, sources say.

Nagib Mikait, the rich businessman who was picked to form the new government, has the job cut out for him. An independent Sunni who is well liked by Syria, he has to consult all factions in parliament since the latter has to the power to vote in the new government.

At the same time, he has to deal with the international community, which is leaning heavily on him, starting with US Ambassador Maura Connelly, to ensure that Lebanon respects its international obligations, as well as with “his” community.

Yesterday in fact, the main leaders of the Sunni community, including outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, met. As Prime Minister-designate, Nagib Mikati attended the event as well. During the meeting, he was warned against abandoning the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is trying to find out who killed Rafik Hariri in 2005.

A statement issued at the end of the assembly warned that if the STL was abandoned, whether explicitly or not, most Sunnis would “feel oppressed or vanquished”, and would seen the decision as a denial of justice.

In fact, the new majority wants to get rid of the international tribunal, and for good reasons. Sources suggest that some Hizbollah officials were directly involved in the plot.

The communiqué, which spoke plainly and carried threats against the Shia community in between the lines, marks a turning point for it embodies the views of a large segment of the Sunni community.

Faced with Hizbollah’s weapons and its failure to respect democratic rules, the Sunni community appears to have opted for its one weapon, its ‘Asabiyya’ or group solidarity.

Will the prime minister-designate be able to meet the challenge and form a government with essentially parties from the pro-Syrian camp? And if he does, how long will it be before the antithetical visions of the two camps explode?

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

Now It’s Bahrain’s Turn as Protesters Pour on to the Streets Demanding Political Reform and Greater Freedoms

Thousands of protesters poured into a main square in Bahrain’s capital today in an Egypt-style rebellion that sharply escalated pressure on authorities as the Arab push for change gripped the Gulf for the first time.

Security forces clashed with demonstrators who have been calling for political reforms and greater freedoms over two days, leading to the deaths of two protesters and the main opposition group vowing to freeze its work in parliament in protest.

In a clear sign of concern over the widening crisis, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa made a rare national TV address, offering condolences for the deaths, pledging an investigation into the killings and promising to push ahead with reforms, which include loosening state controls on the media and internet.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Oda TV Raid Renews Fears of Media Witch Hunt in Turkey

Press organizations and journalists have reacted harshly against a police raid on the headquarters of Oda TV, a website that is known for being a fierce critic of government policies.

The website’s office in Istanbul and the home of Soner Yalçin, a well-known journalist who runs the site, was searched for nearly half a day on Monday by security forces. Yalcin and three other journalists are currently in custody on suspicions of alleged links to the Ergenekon gang.

Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, journalists said the move is “an effort to intimidate” and apply political pressure against government critics.

“Oda TV’s line is obvious. It is a staunch critic of the government. The operations [against it] are ideological and a reflection of political pressure against [government] dissidents,” Ahmet Abakay, president of the Contemporary Journalists Association, or ÇGD, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“This new wave of arrests is … a threat not only to Oda TV but to all media members and will likely result in self-censorship [of future criticism of the government],” Abakay said.

The police raid of the news website, a fierce critic of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, further fueled debate on freedom of the press in Turkey amid the ongoing detention of journalists Mustafa Balbay and Tuncay Özkan, both critics of the government who have been accused of having links with the alleged Ergenekon gang. Their detention is being interpreted by many circles as the political suppression of dissidents by the AKP.

On Monday, police raided the Istanbul headquarters of the web portal, the house of Soner Yalçin, a daily Hürriyet columnist and the founder of Oda TV, and the homes of the website’s editors, also taking them into custody based on suspected links to the same gang.

According to Oda TV, the move came hours after the web portal posted a video claiming that police investigating the Ergenekon case are trained by Americans and that the ammunition found in Ankara’s Zir Valley during the investigation was planted by police. ÇGD President Abakay likewise attributed political motives to the timing of the raids, saying they came after the government launched a series of initiatives to reshape and politicize the judiciary.

The operations reflect political pressure against media, said Press Council Chairman Orhan Birgit. The council wrote on its website that the move appeared to be an extension of the existing intolerance toward critical broadcasts and created an impression that the operations took place against the activities of a media organization that often opposes the government.

Nazli Ilicak, a columnist for pro-government daily Sabah, described the move as “impertinence” in her column Monday. “While there is a widespread belief that the ruling party is threatening its opponents using the Ergenekon case, the raid of Oda TV is a wrong implementation,” Ilicak wrote.

“Oda TV is a dissident Internet site that belongs to Soner Yalçin. Let’s assume that it has or had links with the Ergenekon gang. The Ergenekon probe started in 2007. Do those who conducted the raid think that Ergenekon documents have been stored at Oda TV since 2007?” she asked.

The Ergenekon case started in June 2007 with the discovery of 27 hand grenades in a shanty house belonging to a retired noncommissioned officer. The finding has led to scores of arrests and put nearly 200 journalists, writers, military personnel, gang leaders, scholars, businessmen and politicians in detention. In the later stages of the investigation, those in custody have been accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup, initially by spreading chaos and mayhem.

‘Move a violation of press freedom’

The raids violated the freedom of the press, said Ercan Ipekçi, president of the Turkish Journalists Union, or TGS. “I have difficulty understanding the reason behind the operation. It is the duty of journalists to disclose the truth to the public and Oda TV’s activities are no more than that,” Ipekçi said.

“Freedom of the press is safeguarded by the Constitution and the European Court of Human Rights. But the move contradicts with what both have said about freedom of the press,” he added. “What journalists do is create discussion and offer readers a different point of view on topics. They lack the power to influence the judiciary with their pens; it is those who hold the sources of public opinion that have the power to affect the judiciary with their statements.”

Cüneyt Özdemir, a columnist for daily Radikal and a former partner of Yalçin in his old TV business, also criticized the raid on Oda TV. “If [authorities] arrest Soner Yalçin or others and raid their homes and offices just because [they are] uncomfortable with their journalism, or if one stays silent about all these raids because one is scared to death, then shame on all of us,” Özdemir wrote Tuesday.

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

Reasons for Optimism in the Middle East

by Martin Bright

I began the week in Israel, where I watched Tzipi Livni make an extraordinary pitch for the premiership by representing herself as the candidate of moderation and peace. I ended it in Place de la Republique in Paris where secular Algerians had gathered to show solidarity with their countrymen demonstrating against “le pouvoir” in Algiers. Their slogan, “Laicité, Egalité, Liberté”, is refreshing.

Am I wrong to feel quietly optimistic on both fronts? As we reported in the Jewish Chronicle this week, Tzipi Livni also made a significant overture to the diaspora Jewish community by saying she welcomed a wider discussion about the future direction of Israel from outside the country itself. This is a hugely important statement at a time when Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself paralysed by his coalition partners and isolated from the international community. Foreign Office ministers have become increasingly infuriated by the Israeli government over recent weeks as William Hague’s interview with The Times showed.

There is understandable nervousness in Israel about the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. But Netanyahu’s apparent support for Mubarak left him at odds with other world leaders. He also rather undermined Israeli rhetoric about being the only democratic state in the Middle East by failing to back the democrats next door. It is very unlikely that there will be a resumption of talks while Netanyahu’s government remains in place, but there is at least now the hope of progress with Livni if it falls.

I can’t be the only journalist to be envious of my colleagues covering the events in Egypt this weekend. I was lucky enough to travel across Eastern Europe in 1989 and there isn’t much more exciting than watching a people emerging from under the yoke of an authoritarian regime. I have followed north African affairs since I lived in Paris in the early 1990s and I only hope the wave of liberation soon breaks over the rest of the Maghreb. I felt a little of the excitement of this movement in Paris this weekend and can only hope the same secular, democratic forces that dominated the Tunisian and Egyptian demonstration will also lead the Algerian resistance.

[JP note: Incoherent nonsense by a journalist who should know better.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Spanish Diplomat Held for Four Hours in Tehran

Spain has protested to Tehran over a “very serious” incident in which Iranian authorities detained a Spanish diplomat for four hours, the Spanish foreign ministry said Tuesday.

Spanish media said the diplomat was detained by police outside the Spanish embassy in Tehran near where an anti-government demonstration was taking place. Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of the Iranian capital on Monday in support of Arab uprisings that quickly turned into anti-government demonstrations. Iranian police said one person was killed and nine policemen injured during the protest.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


First Ever Russian Orthodox Youth Day in Europe

The event that brings together Christians abroad to be held in Paris, now the Moscow Patriarchate’s reference point on the Old Continent.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The Russian Orthodox Youth Congress will be held abroad this year for the first time in Europe. The Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate has said that the event is scheduled from 1 to 8 July in Paris.

The meeting will bring together over 100 delegates who will receive the blessing of Patriarch Kirill and the primate of the Russian Church Abroad, the Metropolitan of America and eastern New York, Hilarion.

In his letter to Hilarion, the Patriarch of Moscow called it “encouraging that the long tradition of these meetings, which bring together young Christians, vital lymph of the Russian Orthodox Church has found continuation and development in the heart of Europe.”

The Congress to be held in Paris is in its 18th edition and will differ from the previous as it is the first to take place after the restoration (in 2006) of the schism between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church abroad. The other youth forums, which began in 1973, took place in the United States, Canada, Australia and Latin America.

With Youth Day, Paris is now a candidate to become the Orthodox reference point on the Old Continent. A great cultural and spiritual centre of the Moscow Patriarchate, including a cathedral, a seminary, a library, living spaces and facilities is due to be built not far from the Eiffel Tower and Élysée Palace, in the French capital. The land was purchased by the Russian state after long negotiations with the French.

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

Russia to Launch Muslim Television Channel

Russia will launch its first Muslim television channel in April, offering “spiritual and moral education,” a spokeswoman for the Council of Muftis of Russia told AFP on Tuesday.

The channel, currently being tested, will “have a civilising aim and will contribute first of all to spiritual and moral education,” said a spokeswoman for the council of Islamic leaders, Gulnur Gaziyeva. The council, which represents Islam at an official level in Russia, is hiring presenters and deciding on content for the channel, some of which will be secular, Gaziyeva said.

The channel will be largely financed by private sponsors, Gaziyeva said, without specifying whether it will be available on free-to-view television,

According to the last published census results, Russia in 2002 had around 14.5 million Muslim residents, then making up 10 percent of the population, but mainstream television barely targets this audience. In a token gesture, the state Rossiya channel airs a 10-minute weekly show called “Muslims.” Financed by the Russian government, it focuses on apolitical discussions of Muslim traditions and culture. Russia already has several Russian Orthodox channels, including Spas, or Saved, which was created in 2005 to “reinforce spiritual values” and broadcasts via satellite to Russia and former Soviet countries, according to its website.

President Dmitry Medvedev last week at a meeting with Russian Orthodox leaders stressed the need for dialogue between faiths to prevent the growth of nationalism and inter-ethnic conflicts…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


7 Insurgents, 3 Police Killed in Shootout in Russia’s Volatile Caucasus Region

Seven suspected Islamic rebels and three policemen have been killed Tuesday in Russia’s unstable Caucasus region, officials said. A clash erupted after police and the military found a group of armed men at an abandoned farm on the border between the provinces of Karachayeva-Cherkessia and Stavropol in the western part of the Caucasus, regional police spokesman Sergei Kulik said. The suspects were behind the attack on a police car earlier this month, when three officers were killed, Kulik said.

Violence attributed to separatists seeking an Islamic state in the Caucasus is less frequent in Karachayeva-Cherkessia than in the other Caucasus provinces of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, where police and suspected insurgents are killed almost daily. Also Tuesday, police acting on a tip killed two suspected suicide bombers who had refused to surrender in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, said provincial police spokesman Magomed Deniyev. Explosives and detonators were found on the would-be bombers, he said.

Meanwhile, one of the 27 men wounded in Monday night’s double suicide attack on a village in the eastern Caucasus province of Dagestan died in hospital, raising the death toll to three, police spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov said Tuesday.

The attack on the village of Gubden known as a stronghold of radical Islamists killed a soldier and a police officer. It started when a female suicide bomber blew herself up as she tried to enter the Gubden police station. Several hours later, another bomber rammed his explosives-laden car near a police post.

The female bomber was identified Tuesday as Mariya Khorosheva, an ethnic Russian who had converted to Islam, Russia’s top investigative agency said. She was also allegedly involved in what the authorities believe was an attempt to launch a suicide attack on Red Square on New Year’s eve in late December, the agency said. Her partner, also an ethnic Russian convert to Islam, is believed to be one of the leaders of an Islamist cell in southern Russia.

The attack on Gubden was masterminded by Ibragimkhalil Daudov, an Islamist on the run whose wife killed herself in a rented Moscow apartment in late December while assembling an explosive for the thwarted New Year’s eve attack, RIA Novosti news agency reported…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Misunderstanding Over Dutch Mission

De Volkskrant, 15 February 2011

“We want to fight the Taliban say Kunduz police,” reports Volkskrant. According to the Dutch daily, Afghan police are “very puzzled by the Dutch mission.” At the end of January, when the Netherlands’ opposition gave a green light for a new mission to safeguard security and facilitate reconstruction in Afghanistan, the GreenLeft party insisted that the contract with the Afghans should stipulate that the Dutch mission was for “civil police training and not for combat instruction.” Expressing his surprise to Volkskrant, a spokesman for the Afghan police remarks “we don’t need police to patrol the streets and arrest small-time thieves. There is a war on here.” He further adds that the Afghan army “is in need of assistance” from the country’s police who “will have to fight.”

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

Indonesia: Two Suspects in Ahmadiyah Attack Remain at Large

Jakarta, 15 Feb. (AKI/Jakarata Post) — Two of the eight suspects in the deadly attack on Ahmadiyah followers in Cikeusik, Banten, remain at large, police said.

National Police deputy spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar said on Tuesday that the two suspects evaded arrest when police came to their homes.

“Both of them were not at home when police came to arrest them,” Boy said.

Boy said the suspects had left their homes as they did not want to be detained.

“Police have named them as suspects in the violence,” Boy said.

“Our detectives are now tracking them down. They are on our most wanted list,” he said.

The police have named eight suspects in the violence that killed three Ahmadis in Cikeusik. So far, the police have detained four of them.

The Ahmadiyah followers in Indonesia have been experiencing a series of prosecutions in the country. The latest incident took place earlier this month, when a mob of more than 1,500 people attacked an Ahmadi congregation.

Ahmadiyah is an offshoot of Islam founded in India during the late 19th century.

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

Indonesian Blasphemy Law Sparks Muslim Violence in Java

Indonesia has been shocked this month by two outbreaks of religious violence on the island of Java, involving Muslim fundamentalists who attacked members of the Muslim Ahmadiyya sect and, in a separate incident, three Christian churches.

On 8 February an angry mob condemned a court in Temanggung for its “lenient” sentence against a Christian convicted of blasphemy. Antonius Banwengan, 58, was arrested last year for handing out a Christian book and leaflets poking fun at some of the most sacred Islamic symbols. The five-year prison sentence for blasphemy, the maximum allowed under Indonesian law for this type of offence, was not enough for the crowd. “Kill him,” chanted more than 1,000 demonstrators who attacked the building and police, threatening the judges and prosecutor, the accused and his counsel.

Muslims account for 80% of the country’s total population of 230 million but the Indonesian constitution guarantees freedom of religion. However, human rights organisations stress that violence against religious minorities has been on the rise.

The riots in Temanggung came two days after another outbreak of violence, also in Java. On 6 February about 1,000 extremists armed with stones and machetes attacked members of the Ahmadiyya community, a Muslim sect founded in India in the 19th century that does not recognise Mohammed as the last prophet and is considered heretical by orthodox Muslims…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Malaysia Valentine’s Day Raids Lead to Mass Arrests

Islamic morality police in Malaysia have arrested more than 80 Muslims in an operation to stop them celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Officers raided budget hotels in the central state of Selangor and capital, Kuala Lumpur, detaining unmarried Muslim couples who were sharing rooms.

The religious authorities in Malaysia say Valentine’s Day is synonymous with immoral activities.

Those arrested could be jailed for up to two years if convicted.

The anti-Valentine’s Day campaign by the country’s Islamic authorities goes back to a fatwa issued in 2005.

‘Not suitable’

On Monday evening, religious enforcement officers launched co-ordinated raids, targeting budget hotels and public parks in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

In Selangor alone, officials said 80 people were detained for khalwat or close proximity — an Islamic law that prevents unmarried Muslims from being alone with someone of the opposite sex.

In the capital, officials detained 16 mainly teenage Muslims, who had paid about 50 ringgit (£9) for a hotel room for two hours, according to a report from the AFP news agency.

The raids stem from a campaign launched last week by the religious authorities, called Mind the Valentine’s Day Trap.

The government-run Department of Islamic Development said Valentine’s Day was “synonymous with vice activities” and that it contravened Islamic teachings.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had labelled Monday’s celebration as “not suitable” for Muslims…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Davis ‘Is a Diplomat and Can’t be Arrested’

Islamabad, 15 Feb. (AKI/Dawn) — Pakistan People’s Party’s Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab said on Monday that US national Raymond Davis had a diplomatic visa and he could neither be arrested nor kept in custody under the Vienna Convention.

“He (Davis) is a technical member of the US embassy’s diplomatic staff and according to Pakistani laws, any diplomat and technical or administrative staff cannot be arrested or taken into custody,” she told reporters at the Karachi Press Club.

But when she was about to board her car she received a phone call and immediately ‘clarified’ that whatever she had said about the status of Davis was her personal opinion and not the policy of the party.

The PPP leader came to the club with a copy of Pakistan Law Digest (PLD) in her hand. When asked about it, she said she came prepared for questions she knew would be asked on the issue of Raymond Davis and his diplomatic status.

She said that Article 29 of the PLD 1972 stated that no diplomat could be arrested or taken into custody and under Article 37-II, technical and administration staff of an embassy also enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

“We are law-abiding people and we have to prove things practically. The issue of Davis is of extremely sensitive nature, but we have to keep in mind the law of the land.”

Ms Wahab said that being a signatory to the Vienna Convention, Pakistan was committed to abiding by the international laws which provided immunity to diplomatic and technical staff of an embassy.

Besides, she said, the US was the largest market of Pakistani products and exports to that country stood at $4 billion. Over one million Pakistanis who lived in America sent remittances to support the country’s economy, she added.

Ms Wahab said the Davis issue had to be taken up carefully in view of the nature of Pakistan-US relations. Answering a question about Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s exclusion from the federal cabinet, she said the former foreign minister had violated the party’s policy and rules.

About Mr Qureshi’s relations with former president Pervez Musharraf and his role in arranging talks between the general and Benazir Bhutto, she said Mr Qureshi had no role in the talks. Besides, she said, those talks had failed.

When asked about the appointment of Hina Rabbani Khar as minister of state for foreign affairs, Mr Wahab said that for a government what mattered was policy, and not individuals, adding that the former minister of state for finance had been given the new responsibility in line with the party’s policy.

AFP adds: President Asif Ali Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar dismissed Ms Wahab’s statement, saying that it was her personal view.

“This is neither the policy of the party nor the government,” Mr Babar said.

He said the government and the PPP had “made it very clear that Raymond Davis’ case is before court and the court will decide the issue”.

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

Far East

Spy Story Raises Tensions Between Taipei and Beijing

An anonymous source says at least ten Chinese moles have penetrated Taiwan’s top echelons. General Lo’s arrest undermines closer ties across the Taiwan Strait.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Taiwan’s spy story could undercut closer ties between Taipei and Beijing. A retired Taiwanese agent said that at least ten moles from the mainland have penetrated Taiwan’s national security apparatus. This has soured relations between Beijing and Taipei, already weakened by the arrest on 9 February of a Taiwanese general, accused of espionage on behalf of the mainland.

“Some of the suspected Chinese agents have not yet been arrested as the authorities are short of solid evidence against them, even though they have been closely monitored for some time,” the retired agent told the China Times.

Others have been left to believe that they are safe “for strategic reasons”, he said, implying that they could be compromised by Taiwan’s security.

Still, this did not stop Army Major General Lo Hsien-che, who was recruited by Beijing whilst stationed in Thailand between 2002 and 2005, the Defence Ministry said.

At the time of his arrest, the 51-year-old was head of the army’s Telecommunications and Electronic Information Department. Officials at the Defence Ministry said that Lo’s action might be the worst case of espionage in favour of China in decades. Many in the Ministry are concerned about what secrets the general might have passed onto the mainland.

The case has come at a time of improving Sino-Taiwanese relations. Governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have signed important agreements on economic cooperation and trade was growing.

Taiwan has been de facto independent since 1949, when Mao’s armies defeated nationalist forces. However, mainland China continues to view the island as a rebel province that must be brought back into the national fold.

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

Australia — Pacific

Abbott Backs Anti-Muslim Petition MP

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has backed ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries, who tabled a petition calling for a moratorium on Muslim immigration.

The petition, signed by three people in Sydney, calls for a review of immigration policy be undertaken to ensure priority is given to Christians.

Senator Humphries says he disagrees with the petition but he tabled it because he believes every citizen has a right to put their views to the Parliament.

Mr Abbott says he also disagrees with the petition, but people have a right to put their views.

“I’m not proposing that, he’s not proposing that, no-one is proposing that,” he said.

“People have a right to petition their Parliament even on subjects that their MPs don’t agree with, even on subjects where the Parliament is unlikely to act.”

Senator Humphries says he will meet local Muslims to allay their concerns.

“Many Muslims are my friends and I hope they’ll remain my friends,” he said.

“But I hope they’ll also understand that as a member of the Federal Parliament, I have an obligation to fulfil or place before the Parliament points of view of citizens if they’re on matters that affect the powers and the role of the Federal Parliament,” he said.

A leading member of the Muslim community has questioned Senator Humphries’s decision to table the petition.

Australian Federation of Islamic Council president Ikebal Patel says if Senator Humphries does not agree with the views expressed then he should not have tabled the petition.

“You either put it in and back it or you take Senator Kate Lundy’s view that… she chose not to put it forward because it was an abhorrent position,” he said.

During an interview on 2UE this afternoon LNP Senator Barnaby Joyce was asked if he would support a ban or a moratorium on Muslim immigration for 10 years.

“I would be very circumspect to do that,” he said. “I would be more likely to call for a ban on immigration altogether than start picking and choosing who you’re going to have and who you’re not going to have.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Clashes Erupt on Muslim Holiday in Central Nigeria

The deadly stabbing of a police officer sparked clashes in tense central Nigeria on Tuesday as Muslims commemorated the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, with witnesses reporting several others killed. According to one witness, the violence in the city of Jos included a gang setting up a roadblock in one neighbourhood, leading to three deaths, while another said four people were killed and their bodies set ablaze in the Gada-Biu area.

Another witness reported four more deaths, while tyres, cars and motorcycles were said to have been burned as well. Police confirmed only the death of the officer in the city, which has been hit by repeated clashes between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups. The violence has intensified ahead of April elections. Abdulrahman Akano, police commissioner of Plateau state, where Jos is the capital, said “one anti-bomb squad mobile policeman was stabbed to death” by local youths.

An annual parade by Muslim students had already been cancelled in the divided city out of fears of violence.

Muslims who commemorated the holiday at the central mosque rushed outside when they heard soldiers shooting into the air, fearing the mosque was coming under attack, an AFP correspondent witnessed. Details of the killing of the police officer were unclear. A witness said the police officer argued with a butcher at a market and was stabbed to death.

“As this happened, there was confusion and a fight started and people were running in different directions, and before you know it, four people were on the ground dead,” said the witness, who did not want to be named…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Nigeria’s Taliban-Inspired Uprising in North Sparks Christian-Musim Divide

A mounting campaign of violence in northern Nigeria by Islamic militants inspired by Afghanistan’s Taliban movement is deepening religious tensions in Africa’s top oil producer before elections in April.

A group known as Boko Haram, or “Western education is a sin,” has carried out a series of attacks, including multiple bomb blasts on Christmas Eve in the Plateau state capital, Jos, that killed 80 people, in its bid to establish Islamic rule in northern Nigeria. Since then, more than 200 people have died in sectarian violence in Plateau state alone, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The violence in the north, coupled with a festering insurgency in the oil-rich Niger River delta, threatens to erode stability in Africa’s third-biggest economy as President Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian, seeks to extend his term in office. Nigeria’s first international bonds fell to a record low yesterday.

“Boko Haram’s strategic focus is to attack institutions of the state to discredit it,” Jude Uzonwanne, Nigeria strategist for Monitor Group, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based investment advisory company, said in a telephone interview on Feb. 10. “They’re likely to intensify the attacks as the elections come closer and it becomes a guessing game how it will end.”

Gunmen on motorbikes on Jan. 28 assassinated Modu Gubio, a candidate for governor in northeastern Borno state, and five others, including a brother of the sitting governor in the capital, Maiduguri. The attack was claimed by Boko Haram in posters put up around the city.

Population Pressure

Increasing population growth and the southward drive of the Sahara desert have pushed Muslim farming and herding communities up against non-Muslims, sparking heightened competition for land and resources. That has fueled conflict along religious lines, said Peter Egom, an analyst at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos, the commercial capital.

“These people are now using violence on a religious platform to address their social and economic exclusion,” he said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Zimbabwe: China’s “Friendly”, Rip-Off, Economic Colonialism

The Chinese foreign minister is visiting Zimbabwe, to “consolidate the friendship between the two peoples”. Experts accuse Beijing instead of plundering the country, supporting the dictatorial Mugabe government and financing operations in exchange for diamonds, platinum, farmland.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s two day visit to Zimbabwe begins today. The African nation is suffering under economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation of the western states for the dictatorial government of Robert Mugabe. Beijing is seeking to secure the exploitation of rich platinum deposits, overcoming the strong opposition of local politicians who believe China wants to swindle the country.

Yang is expected to meet President Mugabe and important politicians. But Beijing has not revealed the official program, speaking in general terms of a “further consolidation of ties and friendship between the two peoples.”

Recently, however, a major controversy has erupted over the Chinese proposal to secure for the price of 3 billion US dollars, the exploitation of the platinum deposits in Chegutu (as well as rights to a diamond mine and tax exemptions), extended over an area of 110 square kilometres and worth at least 40 billion. The media speak of a “rip-off”, reporting that Zimbabwean Minister for Finance, Tendai Biti, has accused Beijing of trying to “grab” mineral resources, taking advantage of the country’s bankruptcy and need of money to revitalize the economy. The Minister has not confirmed or denied the reports, except to say that “there is an ongoing negotiation.”

China has supported Zimbabwe since it first fought against Britain for independence, when Beijing provided arms and soldiers trained in guerrilla warfare. Recently, China vetoed proposed United Nations Security Council sanctions against the dictatorial Mugabe government, which has brought the country to famine. For years, Zimbabwe has had terrible inflation, which is now under control (a photo a few years ago when 3 eggs cost 100 billion local dollars). Chinese firms are involved in major projects in Zimbabwe, such as building infrastructure, government buildings and a large sports stadium. The China Development Bank is considering investing 10 billion in the fields of mining, agriculture and infrastructure.

Local experts blame China’s colonialist mentality, helping the government but without caring about the needs of the population. Beijing has secured major mineral resources (diamonds, gold, coal and chrome), as well as the exploitation of large agricultural and industrial areas and is progressively taking over economic control of the country. In exchange for loans, China achieved major mining rights or land-and tax exemptions for its companies. The funds are then, often, used for infrastructure built by Chinese firms with Chinese staff. The Chinese traders have migrated and invaded the country with cheap Chinese products, which strangle local production. In 2010 China exported goods there to the tune of 159 million dollars.

Takavafira Zhou, political scientist at Masvingo State University, talks about “Chinese imperialism. Chinese entrepreneurs are killing local businesses, unfortunately, with the blessing of Zanu-PF (Mugabe’s party).

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


Council of Europe Says Italy Must Not Expel Migrants

Europe’s top rights body said Italy must not expel thousands of illegal migrants who arrived in recent days, mainly from Tunisia, but should take responsibility for them. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on Italy to involve UN and other aid agencies in dealing with the migrants, about 5,000 of whom have arrived on its small island of Lampedusa in the past week. “Notwithstanding the need for action, there must be no mass expulsion,” assembly president Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a statement, adding that “those in need of protection must receive it”. “It is necessary to understand why these persons are leaving and to tackle the causes, including the criminal networks which are exploiting the uncertainties in Tunisia,” he said. The migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean from Tunisia are seeking employment in Europe, with their own country unstable a month after the fall of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Cavusoglu said it was also “absolutely necessary that Europe share the responsibility for these people”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Destination Lampedusa: European Leaders Struggle With Wave of Tunisian Migrants

The arrival of more than 5,000 Tunisians on Italian shores has overwhelmed the nation, which is calling for help from the EU. In Germany, most of the political parties support taking in refugees, but Chancellor Angela Merkel said the focus should be on making it attractive for them to stay home.

The arrival of thousands of Tunisian refugees on the shores of the Italian island of Lampedusa this week has alarmed Italian authorities and sparked an anguished debate in Germany and the rest of the EU over how to respond.

More than 5,000 Tunisian immigrants, the majority of them young men, have arrived in Italy in the past five days, just one month after protests brought down Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The new wave of immigrants, which has overwhelmed the island, prompted Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni to call for a special meeting of the EU on immigration strategy. Italy, facing a growing domestic crisis over the future of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and mounting public debt, wants EU help in fighting the flood of refugees to the tiny island, home to about 6,000 people who rely mostly on fishing and tourism for a living.

With shrubby cliffs rising dramatically out of the deep blue Mediterranean on parts of the island, and white sandy beaches on the other side, Lampedusa was once a landing place for the ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs. Now, the once sleepy island, which belongs to Italy but is closest to Tunisia, only some 130 kilometers (80.7 miles) away, has become a major entry point for African immigrants coming to the EU.

Respectful and Friendly Refugees

The mayor of Lampedusa, Bernardino Rubeis, told the Associated Press that the doors to the local detention center for migrants had to remain open because there were not enough police officers to guard it, and added that the immigrants, many wearing jeans and hooded sweatshirts, were mostly respectful and friendly.

Meanwhile, the refugee issue appeared to be spreading Tuesday, with the Associated Press reporting that a boat carrying 32 people believed to be Egyptian was intercepted by Italian authorities off the coast of Sicily overnight.

At least four people have drowned in the passage from Tunisia to Lampedusa this week, according to the UNHCR. Tunisia has steadfastly refused Italy’s offer to send police officers to Tunisia to help stem the tide of migrants, but reportedly agreed Tuesday to cooperate with the EU by increasing patrols in the country’s ports.

The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, visited Tunisia Monday and released a statement outlining an aid package for the country and the EU’s short-term and long-term engagement there — including talks with the European Investment Bank to raise €1 billion for Tunisia this year — but avoided any discussion of immigration.

‘Joint Responsibility’

German policy makers argued this week about what to do with the refugees and how many of them Germany should take in. Speaking before reporters on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “Naturally, not all people in Tunisia who do not want to stay there can come to Europe… Our goal is to solve the problems in the home country to give the people there prospects and give them a chance to live in their own home country.”

Alexander Alvaro, a member of the European Parliament for Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, said Germany should offer to take refugees and spoke of a “joint responsibility” of the Europeans.

Cem Özdemir, head of the opposition Greens party, said :”The North should not leave the South alone with this.” A representative of the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) in the German parliament, or Bundestag, Sebastian Edathy, spoke of a need for a European quota system, in which recognized refugees would be distributed among the 27 EU countries based on a scale determined by the country’s population and record of taking in refugees.

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

‘Europe Must Tackle Migration’

The mass influx of migrants to Italy’s Lampedusa island following the popular uprising in Tunisia is fast becoming a problem for all of Europe. German editorialists argue Tuesday that the EU is now paying the price for years of silence and tacit support for North Africa’s despots.

The arrival of thousands of Tunisian migrantson the Italian island of Lampedusa in recent days following economic turmoil in the wake of the revolution last month that saw President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali step down has triggered European fears of a new, uncontrolled wave of illegal immigration from North Africa.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government, which virtually halted seaborne migrant arrivals by striking a “push-back” agreement with Libya in 2009, has blamed Tunisian authorities and offered to send Italian police to Tunisia to intercept migrants before they manage to set sail. Tunisia has rejected the offer.

On Tuesday, the Italian government formally requested €100 million ($135 million) in aid from the European Union to help cope with what it has called a humanitarian crisis on the Mediterranean island.

German media commentators say it’s a pan-European problem and must be countered by meaningful economic development aid for African nations, to curb youth unemployment and give people opportunities for a prosperous life in their own countries.

Editorialists at Germany’s leading newspapers warn, however, that none of these steps will alleviate the problems in the short term. The crisis, they say, highlights the West’s hypocrisy in welcoming the downfall of Tunisian leader Ben Ali. In truth, he served Western interests by ensuring stability and keeping a lid on migration…

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

Frattini: Italy Ready to Assist Tunisia

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, FEBRUARY 14 — Italy has prepared land-based and sea-based “instruments” to assist Tunisia in patrolling its coast and stem the recent extraordinary wave of migration towards Lampedusa.

This statement was made by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini yesterday evening to journalists on the eve of his visit to Tunis. In today’s visit, the Minister will meet Prime Minister Mohammed Gannouchi.

“I believe that Tunisia and Italy”, Frattini explained after arriving last night in Damascus”, “have a common interest to slow this flow. Italy has much to offer to Tunisia”, starting with “logistic assistance in the form of police equipment, including important instrument for use on land and at sea while patrolling the Tunisian coast”.

The Italian Minister added that in today’s visit “I would like the Tunisian Prime Minister to confirm his willingness, which I believe exists, to work together with Italy. This cooperation has always been there to stem the flow of illegal migration, which has grown from zero to several thousands of illegal immigrants in a matter of a few hours”.

“There is an unprecedented traffic in human beings, a horrible business at the expense of desperate people, people who pay 1,000 dollars each to embark on a boat headed for Lampedusa.

I believe that Tunisia and Italy have a common interest to slow this traffic”, the Minister concluded.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Politicians Bicker Over Tunisian Refugees

With a flood of Tunisian refugees descending on the Italian island Lampedusa, German politicians bickered on Tuesday over whether the country was prepared to accept some of them.

Italy has asked European Union members for aid in handling a flood of refugees from unstable Tunisia, but the request has been met with mixed reactions in Germany.

While members of the leading centre-right coalition have rejected the idea, opposition politicians have signalled they would be open to receiving the refugees.

Hans-Peter Uhl, conservative parliamentary spokesman for interior policy, told daily Passauer Neue Presse that EU member states who allow refugees to pass through should be fined.

The EU’s border protection agency Frontex should also increase personnel to stop them, he added.

“If a member state closes its eyes and allows masses of refugees to travel into other countries, there must be sanctions, up to the point of shutting them out of the Schengen Area,” he said.

Meanwhile Green party co-leader Cem Özdemir told daily Rheinische Post that the EU must distribute the number of refugees fairly across member states.

“The north can’t leave the south alone on this,” he said.

Centre-left Social Democratic interior policy expert Sebastian Edathy told daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that the EU desperately needs a quota rule to spread the burden of the refugees across the continent.

“In light of the dramatically sinking number of asylum seekers in Germany, taking on a contingent of eligible asylum seekers from Africa would certainly not exceed the country’s ability to integrate them,” he told the paper.

But EU parliamentarian for the conservative Bavarian party the CSU, Manfred Weber, called for a “more active cooperation” with North African countries to prevent people from coming to Europe.

“The mass of people surely doesn’t want to leave their homeland,” he told news agency DAPD.

Instead the EU must provide financial support to the democratic movements to ensure their success, he added. If people there understand that a new political system will improve their lives, the number of refugees will sink, he said.

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

Illegals Cost Taxpayers $113 Billion a Year: Why Does No One Care?

While Obama foolishly proposes to tax America to ruin, Republican gladiators in the U.S. House, led by the ever-weepy John Boehner, scramble frantically to find 35-60 billion dollars to fulfill campaign pledges to cut spending.

Given the chaotic state of the nation’s finances, one would think one of the newly ordained Tea Party warriors would take note of the fact that America shells out more than $100 billion per year (after taxes) to support illegal aliens.

Invading criminals who should not even be here cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion a year! HELLO!

Details concerning this outrage can be found here, which is summarized, in part, herewith:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Polemics With EU. Berlusconi, Maroni in Sicily

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Following the landings of non-EU citizens on the Sicilian coasts over recent days, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has clashed with the European Union. The Interior Ministry has called for an urgent meeting of the Council of Europe, but the EU Commissioner for Internal Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, has replied that the EU is ready to help, although such an offer had been turned down by the Italian government on Saturday. Maroni has replied in turn: “That is not true: we are awaiting a reply to our requests”.

“Tomorrow Premier Berlusconi and I will go to Sicily together, to the Catania area, to inspect a facility that could be used to house the Tunisian migrants that have been arriving in Lampedusa over recent days”, Maroni added. In the meantime, Italy sent a letter to the European Commission asking for 100 million euros to be set aside to tackle this urgent immigrant problem and that the European border agency, Frontex, be assigned a new role. Nonetheless, in a report on its website, Frontex has stated that it has not received any formal request for assistance from the Italian government, but that General Headquarters in Warsaw are ready to respond if necessary. Frontex said it was preparing an appropriate operative response should a request for assistance be forthcoming. The note added that the agency was aware of the situation of migrant flows to Lampedusa and was monitoring the situation very closely, through its Frontex Operational Office (FOO) in Piraeus (Greece). It also noted that two members of Forex staff had been seconded by FOO to Lampedusa to keep up links with the local authorities and to monitor the situation on the ground. The Agency also stated that its heads were in close contact with high levels of the European Commission

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Arab Revolution Lands at Lampedusa

With the collapse of the Ben Ali regime, thousands of Tunisians have caught the boat to Europe. Their landing on the nearby Italian island of Lampedusa and the chaos this has caused foreshadows what could happen on the southern shores of the EU if the migration controls worked out with North African countries were to vanish, worries an alarmed La Stampa columnist.

Federico Geremicca

One should be clear: the situation can be looked at from various points of view. And if viewed from here — from the island of Lampedusa — the simplest view is, as always, the most spectacular. Here we are witnessing a drama with flesh-and-blood actors that is a prophecy of the statistics on the migration flows of the future: the invasion of wealthy Europe by the Islamic world and the people of the Maghreb.

In Lampedusa it has already begun. Arriving from the Southwest — that is, from the uprising in Tunisia — in three days more than 3,000 men have landed on the island, which has little more than 5,000 inhabitants. Other boats have also now set off from the Tunisian port of Zarzis and, with seas staying resolutely calm, in a few more days the migrants will outnumber the island’s residents. What is playing out here is a sort of dress rehearsal on a reduced scale of what might come along in the very near future. A dress rehearsal staged in the Italian theatre, but soon to move on to the rest of Europe.

Osama bin Laden infiltrators may be among the migrants

The government has declared a humanitarian emergency. Using ferries and leased aircraft (at 30,000 euros a flight), it’s trying to transfer elsewhere at least some of these men fleeing civil unrest who have reached the island. The effort is great, but it will be difficult to sustain if the landings keep up at this pace. The mayor of Lampedusa, Bernardino De Rubeis, who has not slept for three days and is trying to reforge his reputation [following an indictment in 2009 for corruption] in the heat of the action, says: “You can see we’re doing what we can. Lampedusa isn’t shirking its responsibilities. The back-seat drivers are having a field day, but I keep asking myself: so where the hell is Europe?”

On the night of February 11 to 12, another 600 North Africans landed, and most of them had to be put up in all kinds of public buildings. According to Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, Osama bin Laden infiltrators may be among the migrants. A serious risk. But he doesn’t grasp why, here and now, there are only seven or eight Carabinieri (a branch of the Italian police) to deal with the hundreds of men gathered on the wharf. A few others are busy transferring them elsewhere or hurrying off to various emergencies — helped, fortunately, by a squad of generous volunteers.

The news from the other shore of the Mediterranean gives little cause for optimism. In Tunisia the regime has fallen, as it has in Egypt, Algeria is in revolt and even our “friend” Gaddafi is tossing and turning a little more in his sleep in his tent. A crisis is blowing up, and what the winds it will bring is uncertain and wholly unpredictable. The events across the Mediterranean are looking more and more like the unstoppable game of dominoes twenty years ago in Europe that toppled one socialist regime after the other. The idea that some tyrants of the Maghreb were bulwarks preventing surges towards wealthy Europe has collapsed, torn down by angry crowds and civil strife. Lampedusa is a stone’s throw from the country in revolt, and the island is paying the price. But to imagine that the problem can begin to be resolved here on this island is a terrible illusion.

Bakers working tirelessly to feed thousands of unexpected guests

Tarek, a Tunisian with Jimi Hendrix hair, has lived for years in Italy and is helping the Carabinieri in the near-impossible task of identifying the new arrivals. He works for a humanitarian agency and hasn’t slept for two nights. He explains the situation clearly: “Almost none of those I have interviewed want to stay here in Italy. Most say they want to go to France or Germany. They began their odyssey in Lampedusa because it’s the nearest European landfall, but for them, there’s no question of staying.”

The island of Lampedusa, meanwhile, is standing on its own two feet and doing everything it can within the limits of its resources. All the minibuses serving public transit on the island have been requisitioned by the mayor and are evacuating Tunisians from the docks and taking them around to all possible accommodations that can be drummed up. The big cranes and trucks used for hauling fishing boats on the island are being used now to lift the decrepit old tubs confiscated from the Tunisians out of the water and load them onto trucks, which are carrying them off to the landfill under open skies in the centre of the island. Bakers are working tirelessly to feed the thousands of unexpected guests. And, in another sign of generosity, free cigarettes are being handed out.

To think that the island before this invasion was in revolt! Fishermen on strike and hotels on a war footing. Indeed, diesel for fishing boats here costs twice what it does in the rest of Italy…

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

Italy: Egyptians Reach Sicily as ‘Biblical Exodus’ Continues

Rome, 15 Feb. (AKI) — A boat transporting about 50 Egyptians reached Sicily late Monday amid a torrent of illegal immigrants who have left their homes in northern Africa following popular uprisings that toppled decades-old dictatorships.

A wooden fishing boat carrying the illegal immigrants near the southern city of Ragusa was intercepted by Italian police, while almost 5,300 Tunisians have landed on the tiny island of Lampedusa since since 15 January, the day after that country’s long-time president Zine al-Abidine Ben fled following weeks of protests against his rule.

No new arrivals to Lampedusa were reported late Monday as scores of Italian boats patrol the coast of the island that is closer to Tunisia than Italy.

Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni has warned of an unprecedented influx of 80,000 immigrants reaching Italian shores that represent a threat to the security of all Europe. He said the “biblical exodus” could give an opportunity for terrorist militants to infiltrate the masses of people looking for a source of income in Europe and asked the European Union for 100 million euros in aid to shore up security.

Desperate Tunisian migrants are gathering in the country’s ports and are understood to be paying people smugglers up to 1,400 euros each for their passage across the Mediterranean to Italy aboard rickety boats. Those who reached Lampedusa said they they were desperate for work, and were fleeing violence and disorder. Some said they feared persecution after Ben Ali’s overthrow.

Twenty-nine people lost their lives late Sunday when the boat they were travelling in was rammed by a Tunisian patrol boat near the city of Gabes, in Tunisia’s southeast, according to a report by an Arab-language internet site. Eighty-six people survived the incident, according to the site.

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

Italy and Malta Want Special Summits on Africa Crisis

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Italy and Malta are pressing for special summits to deal with the “epic emergency” resulting from the upheaval in north Africa.

While the focus for the two states on the ramparts of Fortress Europe is to be a feared wave of irregular migration caused by the the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, the stability of the region as a whole must also be talked about, the two EU countries are saying.

On Friday (11 February), Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League, sent a letter to the Hungarian rotating presidency of the EU requesting that Budapest put the topic of migration via the Maghreb on the table of the next meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers, scheduled for 24-25 February.

It is understood that as of Monday, the Italian government wants instead an extraordinary summit of EU premiers and presidents in the coming days to tackle the wider issues.

The demand from Rome echoes a call by the Italian delegation of conservative MEPs in the European Parliament on Monday lest southern EU states “be left alone to deal with this urgency.”

“It is absolutely essential to convene an extraordinary EU Council … in the next few days to deal with an epic emergency comparable in intensity and scale to the fall of the Soviet Bloc in 1989”, said Mario Mauro MEP, the head of the Italian delegation in the chamber, in a letter to EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy.”What is happening in the Maghreb countries has to fully put into question the weakness of the EU Mediterranean Strategy,” he continued.

Hungarian sources told EUobserver that Budapest “will do all it can to accommodate the Italians,” but the timing is tight, and it is far from certain whether other EU member states will view the situation the same way as Rome.

Meanwhile, Malta is busy making emergency preparations in concert with the Libyan government to turn a previously scheduled Mediterranean security meeting into a head-of-state-level summit on the north African situation. The group normally meets at minister-level. If it takes place, the summit would be the first top-level so-called Five Plus Five summit since 2003.

The Five Plus Five is a security club bringing together Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and Tunisia. It is entirely separate of the EU.

Malta’s prime minister, Lawrence Gonzi, and foreign minister, Tonio Borg, took a surprise trip to Tripoli last Wednesday amid fears that anti-government protests in Libya, its long-time anti-immigration ally, could threaten its border security.

According to Mr Borg, the pair were in Libya to discuss “stability in the region” and the Five Plus Five summit with Libyan hardman Moammar Gaddafi.

Upon his return from Tripoli, Mr Borg hit out at the EU, according to the Times of Malta, warning the bloc to “desist from adopting a condescending attitude towards Arab states” and plans to “mould their government[s] into Western templates”.

A Maltese diplomat confirmed to EUobserver that Valetta is pushing forward with the Five Plus Five discussions but that the topic is “sensitive”.

“The fact that the summit will take place at a moment when political turmoil in north African countries has changed the political landscape and has ushered in a prospect of a democratic process has made this summit more relevant than before,” added the diplomat. “The main concern of a number of countries about the upheavals that we have witnessed is that extremist groups might hijack the change promoted by secular and democratic forces.”

The summit is to be preceded by a meeting of Five Plus Five foreign ministers in April in Naples.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy Asks for 100m Euros to Tackle ‘Biblical Exodus’ of Tunisians Heading to Europe

Italy has asked the EU for about 100million euros to tackle Tunisian migrants following a ‘biblical exodus’ — and now the rest of Europe is on alert for an influx from the North African country.

Talks are currently under way with the European border agency Frontex to launch a mission to beef up border controls off the Tunisian coast.

The problem is a result of the clashes between police and protesters in Tunisia that forced its president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to flee to Saudi Arabia on January 14, and inspired the uprisings in Egypt and beyond.

Some 2,000 of the 5,337 Tunisians who arrived in recent days remained on Lampedusa, a tiny island with a permanent population of about 6,000 that is closer to Africa than the Italian mainland, awaiting transfer to immigrant holding centres elsewhere in Italy.

Interior minister Roberto Maroni said he feared the number of North Africans heading to Europe could jump to as many as 80,000.

Overnight, Italian authorities intercepted a boat of 32 people believed to be from Egypt off the coast of Ragusa on Sicily, indicating that the exodus was not confined to Tunisia alone.

‘The institutional earthquake that took place in Egypt could provoke significant immigration flows,’ Maroni warned today.

‘Europe cannot remain indifferent: it must take a strong and decisive political decision.’

He said Italy alone needed some 100million (£85million) from EU funds to confront the emergency over the next three months.

Italy has arrested 26 people who operated the boats and seized 41 vessels.

Identity checks have found some of the arrivals were criminals who escaped from Tunisian jails in the chaos, Maroni said.

He spoke at a news conference in the Sicilian city of Catania, where he and Premier Silvio Berlusconi toured a NATO military residence with a capacity of 7,000 people that the government is considering turning into a ‘village’ for possible asylum-seekers.

Lampedusa Mayor Bernardino Rubeis has said that the Tunisians have mostly been respectful and that the situation is under control.

‘There is no security emergency because they are free to walk around the island, but they are respecting our territory, not creating any trouble,’ he said.

On Tuesday, many of new arrivals awaited ferries to take them from Lampedusa to immigrant holding centres elsewhere in Sicily or on the Italian mainland.

Djerba is an island located off the coast of Tunisia.

He spoke as he and others picked through the wreckage of their fishing boats that have been hauled out of the harbour and piled in a sort of boat cemetery near a soccer field.

Among the debris in the boats are blankets, gloves and cell phone battery chargers.

No boats arrived overnight on Lampedusa, primarily because of poor weather.

But Maroni, who has said the exodus was of ‘biblical’ proportions, said he had no illusions that the onslaught was over.

‘So far, the (Tunisian) border controls have stopped four boats and turned them back, but 47 more escaped the controls,’ Maroni said.

He said he planned to meet with his counterparts in France, Spain, Malta, Greece and Cyprus in the coming days to decide on further immediate measures to take.

EU Commission spokesman Michele Cercone said the EU had received a letter from Italy listing its needs and that the EU was looking to give Italy aid through its refugee and border fund.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Immigrant Women Miss Out on Jobs Through Poor Health

The health of Turkish-Dutch women is much poorer than that of other immigrant women which is why fewer of them have a job, according to research published on Tuesday by the government’s social policy unit SCP.

Just half of Turkish-Dutch women are in paid employment, compared with 72% of Dutch women, the report says. Among Moroccan-Dutch women the figure is 45%.

Both groups have a high number who experience poor health: 16% and 9% respectively. In addition, poor education, lack of support from their families and limited confidence in their chance of finding a job all play a part.

Ethnic minorities often suffer from health problems, many of them long-term such as migraine, back pain and depression, says the SCP.

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

Sri Lanka: Religious Sisters: Government Ineffective on Violence Against Migrant Women

Age raised from 18 to 21 years. But some religious are convinced that the law is useless in the face of over 4 thousand complaints of abuse, violence and torture recorded in 2009 alone by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.

Colombo (AsiaNews) — The government of Sri Lanka has raised its age limit from 18 to 21 years in response to the numerous cases of violence, abuse and torture on migrant women, often minors. Some Sisters are involved in this critical field and say the law is unnecessary. They are convinced that government must change the mechanism that regulates migration, increasing controls and giving more guarantees. The proposal on increasing the age limit was made by Dilan Perera, Minister of Promotion of Foreign Labour and Welfare. The debate on under age migrant workers became more heated when in June 2007 Rizana Nafeek was sentenced to death for the alleged murder of a newborn child of the family for who she had worked as a maid since the age of 17.

According to data compiled by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment approximately 50% of migrants are women, who work as domestic workers. Most of the complaints of abuse come from Saudi Arabia. In 2009 alone, the office received 5,796 complaints, of which almost 40% from the Kingdom. Of the total number 4,564 were women, around 18 or slightly older. At least 1.8 million Sri Lankans work abroad. It is estimated that the revenue from foreign migrants reached four billion dollars in 2010, compared to 3.3 billion in 2009.

Sister Noel Christine, of the Sisters of Charity, is the coordinator of the Shramabhimani Kendraya organization. The nun believes the law proposed by the government will be “ineffective” migrant women of all ages suffer abuse and violence: “Last week a 35 year old came back after just one month from Saudi Arabia, where she worked as a waitress. The doctors had to carry out an emergency operation after discovering that wires had been inserted into her body. “

Sister Christine says more control by the authorities is needed, as in the case of Rizana, who managed to get into Saudi Arabia on a false document issued by a government office. According to the religious the government “sends” the women to work in other countries “to support the revenue of foreign remittances in Sri Lanka and alleviate the economic and social crisis of the state”.

According to Sister Janet, national coordinator of the Catholic National Commission (CNC) for migrants, tourists, prisoners and healthcare workers, the problem is that “there is no adequate system for looking work abroad. Most complaints involve unpaid wages, working too many hours, no rest, confinement to the workplace, physical and sexual violence”. “We should make women capable of working in different fields — continues Sister Janet — and find employment opportunities locally.”

Sister Ushani Perera, sister of the Cross of Chavade and coordinator of the Women Desk of Caritas Sri Lanka, calls for “effective control of responsible agencies, including the use of foreign agencies that help people to prepare essential documents”.

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

Switzerland and Nigeria to Cooperate on Migration

Switzerland and Nigeria have signed a wide-ranging deal on migration, the first of its kind between the Swiss government and an African state.

The “migration partnership” signed on Monday between Sommaruga and Ajumogobia governs a range of areas of cooperation including legal migration and joint programmes on training and further education, return assistance, readmission and reintegration assistance, and the prevention of illegal migration. In a statement, the justice ministry said the “agreement reflects a comprehensive and global approach to dealing with matters of migration, acknowledging all of its attendant problems and opportunities”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Press Against Maroni’s Proposal

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 14 — “Minister Roberto Maroni has missed an opportunity to stay silent”, writes the weekly Tunis Hebdo today, referring to Italian Interior Minister’s idea of “sending ‘carabinieri’ to our (Tunisia, editor’s note) territory to fight against this invasion to the country of Berlusconi”.

“Once again”, the weekly writes, “Europe shows its inadequacy when facing a ‘danger’ from the south. Maroni, like French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, has failed to see further than the end of his nose”. Europe, the article concludes, still hasn’t recognised “its own mistakes”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Illegal Immigrant Departures From Zarrat Stopped

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 14 — During the weekend, the Army, in collaboration with the National Guard and fishermen from Zarrat (in southern Tunisia, in the Gabe’s region), stopped several attempted departures of illegal immigrants headed to Italy. So reported Tap news agency, which specified that there is now constant surveillance along the entire coast and at the ports of Gabe’s and Zarrat. Previously, reports Tap, “dozens of young people in Zarrat and nearby towns managed to make it to the Italian coast”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Illegal Immigration Attempts Foiled

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 15 — A boat with 31 people on board was stopped by Tunisian naval forces in the Gulf of Gabes.

In Sfax, the Army and National guard arrested 31 young men who were trying to leave the country illegally, thanks to the collaboration of personnel of the transport company of the Sfax-Kerkennah ferry. A similar episode took place previously and involved about 20 people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: High Earners Exempted From Immigration Cap

Bankers, lawyers and other high-earning migrants coming to Britain to work in jobs carrying salaries of £150,000 a year or more are to be exempt from the annual limit on immigration.

Scientific researchers are also to be given a “significant advantage” when the permanent immigration cap promised by the Conservatives during the election campaign comes into effect in April.

But, despite claims to being more “business-friendly”, the final version of the immigration cap detailed on Wednesday shows that it is still designed to close the door on up to 6,300 skilled workers from outside Europe compared with two years ago.

The immigration minister, Damian Green, said that a total of 20,700 visas will be available to skilled workers and a further 1,000 visas under a new “exceptional talent” route to be introduced from 6 April.

Employers will have to apply for a UK Border Agency certificate of sponsorship for each specific job they want to fill from abroad instead of the annual allocation given to businesses at present.

The annual limit of 20,700 sponsorship certificates will be divided into 12 monthly allocations. The system will be frontloaded with 4,200 visas available in April to meet the likely demand, followed by a limit of 1,500 places each month.

Green said that if the monthly allocation was oversubscribed visa applicants would be ranked using a points system designed to favour jobs on the shortage occupation list, scientific researchers and those with a higher salary.

All applicants will need to be applying for a graduate-level job, speak an intermediate level of English and meet specific salary and employment requirements.

These changes may have a particularly sharp impact on the flow of chefs for the British curry industry, who have previously been covered by the shortage occupation list but are excluded from the new graduate occupation list.

Migrants who come to work for British branches of multinational companies, mainly Indian IT firms, have also been excluded from the annual limit following pressure from Vince Cable, the business secretary. More than 30,000 came under this route in 2010. But the new proposals claw back some of this ground by placing new restrictions ensuring that junior staff who earn less than £40,000 a year are only allowed to stay for 12 months, with a five-year limit on those in jobs earning more than this.

The introduction of the temporary immigration cap last July was ruled unlawful by the high court because the government “bypassed parliament” in introducing the necessary changes to the immigration rules. The Home Office said today’s publication was a statement of intent setting out the criteria to be followed by detailed rule changes to be put before parliament next month…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Freedom: Secularism’s Gift to the World — Tom Flynn

Much as I may be setting myself up for later disappointment (I felt euphoric after Obama said he’d close Guantanamo too), I feel hugely encouraged by the popular revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and [insert the name of your favorite Arab country here]. For decades there seemed to be only two live possibilities in the Arab world: secular authoritarianism or some flavor of Islamic radicalism. Or in the case of Turkey, a prolonged slide from possibility number one to possibility number two. Of course America has repeatedly found itself siding with authoritarian despots because they were secular. Tunisia and Egypt mark the emergence of a third way that for too long seemed out of reach in that corner of the world: an impulse toward reform that’s secular and free.

That combination should surprise no one. Secularism has its roots at least in part in the Western Enlightenment, which is where most of our concepts about freedom got their start. Almost without exception, these evolved in opposition to the dominant religion of their day, which was Christianity.

Of course, Christianity shares with the other Abrahamic religions its concept of a god patterned on ancient kings and of a spiritual realm organized on the plan of royal courts. Human beings stand to Yahweh, God, or Allah as peasants before a king. Everyone knows that in Arabic Islam means “submission,” but traditional Christianity and Judaism are little different in their picture of a deity before whom men and women have no rights save those the occupant of the throne of heaven condescends to grant them. (Actually, that’s a pretty fair summary of the Christian concept of grace.)

The simple fact is that across the Christian and Muslim worlds, almost every concept we associate with freedom arose in reaction to Abrahamic religion, beginning with the once-radical notion that kings might, just might, not rule by the will of God. Ever since, the ideas that fueled the development of freedom have come from what we would now identify as the secularist camp. That’s not to deny the possibility of back-fertilization; sometimes religions can genuinely absorb secular ideals of freedom (witness liberation theology in the Catholic Church in the 1960s and 1970s). But secularism, not faith, has been the historic crucible of freedom.

Of course that doesn’t mean that every secularist is a freedom fighter. Mubarak is only the latest counter-example. But while not every secularist fights for freedom, I would argue that if you find a freedom fighter, scratch deep enough and you’re almost bound to find a secularist.

Freedom may be the biggest idea secularism ever gave the world…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Greece: Gender Equality Still an Issue in the Workplace

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 14 — There are still significant obstacles to promoting equal treatment of men and women in the workplace, both in the public and private sectors, according to the Greek ombudsman’s special report on gender equality in the workplace just released. The report, as daily Kathimerini reports, focused chiefly on gender equality issues relating to parental child-rearing leave in the public sector. This was chosen because of the large number of complaints received by the ombudsman and because the issue is receiving a lot of attention in Europe. The report called for a codification of the various systems regulating parental child-rearing leave, especially in services where it remained discriminatory toward men, to create a uniform system.

It also noted a sharp increase in complaints of discriminatory treatment in the private sector relating to pregnancy and maternity leave, which rose from 15% to 27%. The report said that cooperation between the ombudsman’s office and labour inspectors had improved significantly, leading to a correction of the discriminatory behaviour, including reversal of dismissals and the imposition of fines on offending employers.

The ombudsman said implementation of a 2006 law on gender equality in employment was still lagging, with gender mainstreaming in public policy still in its infancy and neither public administration management nor civil courts fully acquainted with it.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain’s Strict Law on Smoking Targets Musical Hair

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 14 — A universal symbol of social freedoms and of the hippy culture of the sixties, the “Hair, Love & Rock”, which is currently running at Barcelona’s Apollo Theatre has fallen foul the strict anti-smoking law in force in Spain since January. Following a complaint by a member of the audience, Barcelona’s Agency for Public Health has sent an ultimatum to those running the show: if they continue to allow actors to smoke on stage during performances they are heading for heavy fines under the anti-smoking regulations. Explanations by Production Direct Roger Juliá, that the smoke produced on the stage comes from a mixture of herbs including basil, and that it is necessary for the effect of certain scenes, have cut little ice. But how can you have a musical about the ‘joint’-fuelled hippy revolution without the emblematic smell of burning herbs? The Public Health Agency is not interested in entering into any discussions and is sticking to the letter of the anti-smoking regulations to justify its decision. The rules prohibit a ban on smoke “in theatre halls, cinemas and other public shows conducted indoors”.

The Production Director has called the agency’s request “ridiculous … extravagant” and its ultimatum “deplorable”.

“If we carry on like this we’ll be watching films where the cigarette has been removed from Humphrey Bogart’s mouth”.

The new stringent anti-smoking regulations, which came into force on January 2, prohibit smoking in any closed space including bars and restaurants but also in open spaces such as public parks intended for children. The regulations led to a fine of 150,000 euros being imposed last week on the manager of a bar in Andalusia who refused to impose the ban on his premises.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamists Spark Anger After Calling for Gay-Free Zone in East London

Islamists in East London have sparked anger after flyposting stickers which called for a gay-free zone.

The stickers were distributed around the Whitechapel, Shoreditch and Poplar areas over the weekend. Specifically, they were targeted at schools and pubs, including the gay-friendly George and Dragon.

The professionally produced, anonymous stickers say: “Arise and Warn. Gay free zone. Verily Allah is severe in punishment.”

The ‘Gay free zone’ slogan is within a diagonal bar across a rainbow flag.

Equality campaigner Peter Tatchell — who has been attacked by Muslim groups three times in the capital — condemned the behaviour.

He said: “These stickers are part of a trend by Islamists and fundamentalists to target LGBT people. It is happening at universities and in communities. The main victims of this hate-mongering are LGBT Muslims.

“A venue attached to the East London mosque hosted a speaker who invited his audience to: ‘Spot the fag.’ There have been a series of homophobic threats and assaults by Asian youths on LGBT people in the East End over recent years.

“I’ve been attacked by Muslim youths three times in and around Brick Lane. In all three attacks, the assailants shouted religious slogans. My LGBT Muslim friends who live in the area are nervous and anxious. They fear attack and dare not reveal their sexuality.

“Only last week there were reports of threats being sent by Islamists to gay students at South Bank University. LGBT History Month posters have been defaced by extremist Muslim students. Several universities have hosted hate preachers who endorse the killing of LGBT people.

“I appeal to Muslim religious and political leaders in East London to speak out against homophobia. We need a clear statement from the leader of Tower Hamlets council and from the senior imam at the East London Mosque. They should publicly condemn homophobia and call for tolerance within the Muslim community.

“Both homophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry are wrong. Our communities know the pain of prejudice. LGBT and Muslim people should stand together, united against hate,” he added.

The reader who alerted us to the story confirmed that Tower Hamlets council, which is headed by a Muslim, have removed all of the stickers are working with the police to identify the perpetrators.

It comes just a week after a number of Islamic men were arrested for distributing leaflets which suggested gay people should suffer the death penalty…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Ten-Year-Old Accused of Racism for Calling White Classmate ‘Chocolate Brownie’

A schoolboy has been reprimanded for alleged racism after he called a white pupil named Brown a ‘chocolate brownie’.

Harrison Wiener, 10, made the comment after being teased about his own surname at Thorp Primary School in Royton, Oldham.

Harrison’s mother is now furious after her son was disciplined by teachers and ordered to apologise.

Harrison had been called ‘sausage boy’ by a classmate making fun of his Austrian-derived surname, which is also an American word used for hot dog sausages.

‘Harrison was told the word brownie is a racist word. But it’s the name of a cake you can buy in any coffee shop’

The child is said to have retorted ‘Shut up, chocolate brownie’ only to be punished for making an apparent racist remark.

Mother-of-two Clare Wiener has been told the incident is to be ‘noted’ in her son’s file and reported to the Lancashire school’s local education authority.

‘Harrison has been left really upset by this and made to feel like he’s done something terrible,’ she told The Sun.

‘It’s crazy. One boy taunted him by making his surname sound like a snack — and he responded by making the other boy’s surname sound like a cake.

‘How can calling a white boy named Brown a chocolate brownie be racist?

‘Harrison was told the word brownie is a racist word. But it’s the name of a cake you can buy in any coffee shop.’

Ms Wiener’s local MP, former Labour minister Michael Meacher has now written to the school demanding an explanation for the matter.

Thorp Primary School’s headmaster, Stuart Bennett, said it would be ‘inappropriate to comment about individual cases’.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

Coincidence, my as-.....

[...] By coincidence, an Egyptian military delegation arrived in Washington last Tuesday for meetings that began on Wednesday, for the annual U.S. Egypt Military Cooperation Committee.

Egypt's Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Enan, led the 25-person Egyptian delegation. The senior U.S. official at the meetings was Alexander Vershbow, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

The formal meetings on Wednesday and Thursday didn't include discussion of the street protests. But "it wasn't ignored," said Marine Gen. James Cartwright. U.S. officials didn't offer guidance on how the Egyptian military should handle the crisis, and Egyptian officers didn't show their hand, either.

And on the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian event?