Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110221

Financial Crisis
»Asia: Rising Food Prices Push Up Inflation Significantly
»Greece: Economy: Privatization Plans in the Offing
»Greece Faces European Court on Investment Rules
»Greece: Bank-Merger Proposal — Alpha Bank Refuses
»Italy’s Top Conceptual Artist Flips Off High Finance
»It’s All About the Socialist Unions, Not Jobs
»Libya: Slump for ENI and Impregilo -5%, Ansaldo -3%
»Markets: Europe Slides as Libya Burns, Milan Suffers Worst
»Chicago Mayor Race Showcases Growing Hispanic Power
»Cutting Through the Smoke in Wisconsin
»Huckabee Draws Heat for Anti-Islam Remarks
Europe and the EU
»Austrian Nazi Comedy at the Berlinale
»Austria Sends C-130 to Malta for Evacuation
»Austria: ‘Ruby’ At Heart of Berlusconi Case Due to Attend Vienna Opera Ball
»Croatia: EU Grants Funds for Island of Rab Tourist Airport
»Diplomats With Protesters in Malta, Protest in Rome
»France/Spain Electricity Tunnel Contract
»France and Spain Call to Shift EU Funds From East to South
»Germany: Hamburg Election Result is a ‘Political Tsunami’
»Has Britain Left Itself Defenceless if Gaddafi Goes?
»Italy: Venice Carnival Fetes 19th-Century Heroines
»Italy: Former Mayor of Bologna Sentenced on Embezzlement Charges
»Italy: How Silvio Berlusconi Has Managed to Hang on
»Italy: From Police Headquarters to Sex With Ruby: The 10 Lies of Berlusconi
»Italy: Five AMA Managers Investigated for Nepotism
»Italy: Foreign Man Shot: Arrested After Ramming Milan Airport Door
»Netherlands: 1,000 Potential Abusers on Church Abuse Commission List
»Netherlands: Lower House Opposed to Further Political Union in EU
»Netherlands: Halsema’s Handbag Snatched
»Netherlands: Christian Union Wants Constitutional Sharia Ban
»Poland: Why We Heart the Czechs
»Spain: Madrid Dressed Up in Red With Chinese Trade Hub
»Sweden:130 People Say They Killed Olof Palme: Police
»Terror Police ‘Target Irish Dissidents in UK’ Ahead of Royal Wedding and Obama State Visit
»UK: 7/7 Inquests: MI5 Missed Opportunity to Identify Terror Ringleader
»UK: Ahmer Rana Fraud: Schoolboy Posed as Homeless Orphan Facing Death if Deported
»UK: Council Facing £82m Cuts to Spend £1.4m Removing Cycle Path (Three Years After They Spent £800,000 Installing it)
»UK: Four Men Slashed Teacher’s Face and Left Him With Fractured Skull ‘For Teaching Other Religions to Muslim Girls’
»UK: More Jail for 3 Muslims Who Attacked Srebrenica War Criminal
»UK: Rapists and Killers Demand Right to Benefits
»UK: Schools Told to Go Easy on Disruptive Gypsy Children or Face Action Under the Equality Act
»UK: William and Kate Snub German Nobles on Wedding Invitations
»Albania: Killed Demonstrators, Guard Officer Arrested
»Albania’s Bitter Political Stand-Off Intensifies
»Serbia: Tadic Condemns Attacks on Journalists and Muslims
Mediterranean Union
»Medgaz to Become Active by End March
North Africa
»Algeria: Trade Surplus at 16.4 Bln Dollars in 2010
»Algeria: Police Disperse Students Violently, Injuries
»Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Faces Prospect of Democracy Amid Internal Discord
»Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Prepares to Establish Political Party
»Egypt Acquits Two Over 2010 Shooting of Christians
»Gaddafi on the Run: Dictator May Already Have Fled and be on His Way to Venezuela After Libyan Air Force Attacks Civilians
»Gaddafi’s Son ‘Will be in Turmoil’ Says LSE Professor Who Acted as Adviser
»Libya: EU: Sources, Italy Insists on Countrywide Integrity
»Libya: Greece Proposes ‘Democracy Centre’ For Arab Politicians
»Libya: Uprising Reaches Tripoli, Over 60 Dead Today
»Libya: Gaddafi’s Son in Defiant ‘Rivers of Blood’ Warning
»Libya: Frattini: Division Would be Dangerous
»Libya: Parliament on Fire in Tripoli
»Libya: BP Suspends Exploration Amid Popular Unrest
»Libya: State TV and People’s Committee Offices Destroyed
»Libya: Foreigners Flee, 2300 Tunisians Repatriate
»Libya: Gaddafi Still in Country, Not in Venezuela
»Libya: Obama Evaluates “Appropriate Action”
»Libya: EU: Difficult Mediation on Condemnation Text
»Libya: Witnesses: Thousands in Tripoli’s Green Square
»Libya: Maltese Military, Planes Fled From Benghazi Base
»Libya: Britons Stranded in Libya
»Libya: Eyewitness Account From the Streets of Tripoli
»Libya: Muammar Gaddafi’s Regime on the Brink of Collapse
»Libya: Muammar Gaddafi Fires on His Own People
»Libya Protests: Gaddafi May Have Fled to Venezuela After Air Force Attacks Civilians
»Libya: Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi’s Defiant Speech
»Morocco: Thousands in Streets for Reforms, Less King Power
»Morocco: 5 Burned to Death in Bank Attack
»Oil Shock Fears as Libya Erupts
»Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi: LSE-Educated Man the West Can No Longer Deal With
»The Arab Revolution: ‘Witnessing Gadhafi’s Overthrow Would be a Special Pleasure’
»The Revolution May be Televised — But Don’t Expect the Full Story
»Tunisia: Marzouki: Arab World Like a Forest of Dry Trees
»Tunisia: Curfew Lifted, State of Emergency Continues
»Tunisia: Uphill Transition, But Economy Still Holding
»Tunisia: Security: 1,729 Arrested in First 17 Days of Month
»Tunisia: Value of Ben Ali ‘Treasure’ Defined,
»Turkish Business in Libya Faces Security Threat
»Western Nationals, Companies Flee Libyan Unrest
Israel and the Palestinians
»The Great Myth of Palestinian Statehood
Middle East
»Could the Kingdom of Bahrain Become an Iranian Pearl Harbor?
»Democracy is Route to Peace in Middle East, Says David Cameron
»Diplomatic Coercion: Iran Parlays Two Hostages Into Propaganda Victory
»France: Export of Weapons to Libya and Bahrain Suspended
»Genesis of Shi’a Islam
»Supporting Egypt’s Opposition, But Iran’s Government
»Turkey-EU: Ankara: No Crisis But We Want Clarity
»Turkey Eyeing USD 1.5 Bln Worth of Exports in 2011
»Turkey’s Few Women’s Shelters Struggle to Meet Huge Need for Services
»Turkish PM Lashes Out at Opposition Parties, Media
»What Does the Arab World Do When Its Water Runs Out?
»Yemen: President Saleh Refuses to Leave Unless Voted Out
»Yemen Seizes Iranian Ship in Territorial Waters
South Asia
»American Held in Pakistan Shootings Worked With the C.I.a.
»Pakistan to Overtake Britain as World’s Fifth Largest Nuclear Power
»Uzbekistan Warns Over ‘Evil, Satanic’ Rock Music
Far East
»Legal Fears Keep Good Samaritans Off China’s Streets
Sub-Saharan Africa
»30 Killed in Stampede at Mali Stadium
»Somalia Suicide Attack Kills Six Police
Latin America
»Venezuela Government Denies Ghedaffi is Coming
»143 Rescued at Lampedusa on 2 Boats
»Italians Fear African Migration Surge
»Italy: Tunisian Migrants Clash With Police on Tiny Southern Island
»Tunisian Migrant Wave Resumes
»UK Census Expected to Cost Nearly £500m Due to Translation Fees
»UK: Foreign Squatters Given Legal Aid to Fight £1m House Eviction
»UK: Immigration Fears of Young: Three-Quarters Say it is a Problem
»UK: Schoolboy Who Posed as Homeless Orphan Facing Death if He Was Deported is Exposed as a Fraud
»UK: The Press Association: Labour ‘Let in 3 Million Migrants’
Culture Wars
»“The Islamization of Knowledge”
»Canada: Immigrants Involved in Multiple Marriage Watching Polygamy Test Case: Imam
»Europe’s Grave Failure

Financial Crisis

Asia: Rising Food Prices Push Up Inflation Significantly

A report by the World Bank’s Food Price Watch confirms rising prices, 15 per cent higher between October and January. For the poorest nations, this has had serious consequences and is causing social tensions and uprisings.

Milan (AsiaNews) — A recently released report by the World Bank’s Food Price Watch confirms that rising agricultural products are sharply pushing up global food prices in lower-income nations (see “World food price uncertainty presents social risks,” in AsiaNews, 4 February 2011), especially among the poorest (where the poverty line is defined as US$ 1.25 per person per day).

The WB’s global food price (GFP) index increased by 15 per cent between October 2010 and January 2011, 29 per cent above its level a year earlier. The global prices of wheat, maize, sugar and edible oils especially saw sharp increases. According to the WB estimates, an additional 44 million people fell into poverty.

For some Asian nations, the price of wheat rose considerably: Kyrgyzstan (54 per cent), Bangladesh (45 per cent), Tajikistan (37 per cent), Mongolia (33 per cent), Sri Lanka (31 per cent), Azerbaijan (24 per cent), Afghanistan (19 per cent), Sudan (16 per cent), and Pakistan (16 per cent).


Change in Price( per cent)

Calorie Share ( per cent)

World price (US$, HRW US Gulf Ports)


Kyrgyzstan (retail, Bishkek)



Bangladesh (retail, national average)



Tajikistan (retail, national average)



Mongolia (retail, Ulaanbaatar)



Sri Lanka (retail, Colombo)



Azerbaijan (retail, national average)



Afghanistan (retail, Kabul)



Sudan (wholesale, Khartoum)



Pakistan (retail, Lahore)



For other Asian nations, rising rice prices were more important.


Change in Price( per cent)

Calorie Share ( per cent)

World price (US$, 5 per cent Thai, Bangkok)


Vietnam (retail, Dong Thap)



Burundi (retail, Bujumbura)



Bangladesh (retail, Dhaka)



Pakistan (retail, Lahore)



Indonesia (retail, National average)



The WB report does not provide data about Asian nations that are above the poverty line. Its findings are based on sources from the Global Information and Early Warning and Information System (GIEWS) of the Food and Agricultural Organisation.

Rising agricultural prices (60 per cent on average) are not due to scarcity (grain production dropped only 2 per cent after three years of bumper crops). When the US Federal Reserve began its second round of quantitative easing (QE2), non-agricultural resources (cotton, tin, rubber, etc) jumped to historic heights. Other commodities like oil also saw huge increases (Brent reached US$ 104).

Large-scale monetary expansion is due to a major financial move by the Bush (with bipartisan congressional support) and the Obama administrations as part of the US government’s ‘economic stimulus’ plan. The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing plan also played an important role.

Such moves were undertaken to save US financial and banking institutions from failure following the sub-prime bubble. The derivative bubble (which represents 15 times the world GDP) has not yet burst.

According to the WB, rising food prices have created a range of “macro vulnerabilities”, technical jargon to say that higher food prices are the cause of social unrest and popular uprisings.

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

Greece: Economy: Privatization Plans in the Offing

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 18 — After the furor caused by news that Greece is upping targeted privatization revenues to 50 billion euros, the Finance Ministry is working on procedures for the asset selloff procedure so that the minister, Giorgos Papaconstantinou, can unveil in mid-March how Greece will go about achieving this target. Right now, as daily Kathimerini reveals, the ministry is moving ahead with the hiring of advisers for the privatization agenda. And, the names of the advisers that will weigh up the privatization of Athens’s old international airport at Elliniko are expected to be announced within the next few days by State Minister Haris Paboukis. The government’s joint ministerial privatization committee is scheduled to meet on Friday, along with the strategic investments committee, in order to decide on whether the Elliniko project will be included in the fast-track procedure.

Meanwhile, the group of advisers who will help the government decide on whether or not to extend the Athens International Airport concession agreement to Germany’s Hochtief has already been selected. A French bank and a Greek lender have been chosen and their task will be to measure the benefits arising from a possible extension of the concession agreement by 20 or 30 years. Such an agreement could earn Greece between 200 million to 300 million euros, according to some estimates.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece Faces European Court on Investment Rules

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 17 — Greece under scrutiny in Brussels because of investment restrictions that breach the rules on the free circulation of capital. In particular, the European Commission deemed unlawful two rules on authorisations that involve the so-called “strategic agencies” which impose limits on a person’s chances to gain stakes above a certain limit and to take certain decisions.

In effects, according to Greek law only the State can own more than 20% of these companies, except for cases approved by the inter-ministerial commission on privatisation. In addition some major company decisions and others concerning company management have to be authorised by the Ministry of Finance. Consequently in November 2008 Brussels delivered a “motivated opinion” to Athens, asking that applicable European regulations be implemented. Since that moment, the Greek authorities have neither abrogated nor amended the interested rules, leading to the European Commission’s decision to defer Greece tot eh European Court of Justice.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Bank-Merger Proposal — Alpha Bank Refuses

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 18 — Alpha Bank has today turned down an offer of a “friendly merger” made by Greek National Bank (BHG). The proposal, which would have seen the creation of the country’s largest private banking group, led to a surge on the Athens Stock Exchange today. According to the Board of Alpha a merger would not benefit its shareholders “in the present conditions”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy’s Top Conceptual Artist Flips Off High Finance

A giant marble middle finger by Italian art star Maurizio Cattelan is finding a home right in front of the Milan Stock Exchange. But some power brokers are not amused.

Giuseppe Vegas, the president of Italy’s securities market regulator Consob, just can’t bear the 11-meter Carrara marble sculpture that points towards the temple of Italian Finance, the Milan Stock Exchange. But art is regulated by very different forces.

The “digitus impudicus” (“indecent finger”) has a long history. It had a role in The Clouds by the Greek comic playwright Aristophanes; and Roman Emperor Caligula used it to humiliate his subjects. The artist of this marble middle finger, Maurizio Cattelan, called his sculpture L.O.V.E., as in Libertà (Freedom), Odio (Hate), Vendetta (Revenge), Eternità (Eternity).

On Valentine’s day, a group of artists adorned the sculpture with a giant engagement ring. For Vegas, it didn’t help. While known to have a sharp sense of irony, he reportedly cannot stand the idea that next May — when he will present Consob’s annual report for the first time — he will be photographed, along with Italy’s financial and entrepreneurial elite, government ministers, and the President of Republic, under that huge, defiant sculpture flipping the proverbial bird.

So to try to avoid being seen in front of a giant “F-you,” Vegas has taken action: he has threatened to relocate his annual report presentation if the Milan city government does not remove the marble finger from Piazza Affari, site of the Stock Exchange.

Over the past 10 years, Consob’s annual report has been presented in front of the building. But if the sculpture remains, Vegas has been considering a less embarrassing, and more evocative place: Palazzo delle Stelline (Palace of the Little Stars). It would be the perfect alternative for a man who so values sobriety and respect in public life. Indeed, at the beginning of the 17th century, Palazzo delle Stelline housed the Society of Obedience for nobles and cardinals, as well as rooms for “little stars” — orphan girls — that were called so after the former monastery of the Benedictine nuns of Santa Maria della Stella (St. Mary of the Star).

It seems the right place to gather bankers, and to speak about rules, ethics, duty, and responsibility. But it is hard to predict if Vegas’s determination will actually convince Milan’s mayor, Letizia Moratti, to take down the finger sculpture. Up until now, every criticism on the matter has been ignored. This past January 4, a poll conducted by the financial newspaper Milano Finanza revealed that many bankers oppose the presence of the sculpture. But on the same day, Milan’s town hall granted a third extension for the finger to stay in the square, making it all the more permanent.

The sculpture, valued at two million euros, was installed on September 24, 2010. It was only supposed to stay in Piazza Affari for a couple of weeks. Now, it is unlikely that the sculpture will be removed before the end of September. “It is not a finger anymore. It is an open hand to contemporary arts,” argues Massimiliano Finazzer Flory, Milan’s Councilor for Culture. He added, “The extension [of the finger’s stay] will strengthen the program of summer events.”

The management of the Milan Stock Exchange has not officially spoken about the big marble finger that looms outside their windows. Residents of Milan, not surprisingly, are split. The mayor finds herself in the middle, and may be resisting calls to dismantle the sculpture because of a public pledge from Cattelan, one of the world’s top-paid and most celebrated conceptual artists. After its stay at the Stock Market was initially extended, he had said, “I will give my sculpture as a gift to the city only if it will be respected. It should stay in Piazza Affari at least 20 years.”

Cattelan thinks that the Finger is where it should be, pointing at the right target, flipping off the headquarters of the stock exchange, Italy’s singular symbol of globalized finance. If the artist could decide, the sculpture would become the permanent, ironic icon of Piazza Affari, like the Bull on Wall Street. But he may first need the Ok from Vegas, Italy’s top financial market regulator. That too is a concept rich with irony.

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

It’s All About the Socialist Unions, Not Jobs

As usual, the American press is totally misrepresenting events in Wisconsin, Ohio and beyond, where state Governors are finally taking appropriate action to address their state budget disasters before state bankruptcy is their only option.

The goal of these governors is to stop the federal government from driving them into bankruptcy via federal mandates, including the insane federal demand that public sector unions be saved at the expense of state insolvency.

To set the record straight, Wisconsin and Ohio labor protests are NOT for the purpose of protecting jobs or even reasonable pay and benefits for public sector employees. The protests are focused solely on saving public sector unions, without which, there is no Democrat Party.

That explains why state and federal Democrats worked to rally and bus union thugs to Wisconsin as Democrat legislators fled from the state and their duties as legislators in an effort to shut down public schools and state business. Wisconsin business and education is being held hostage by 14 Democrats on the run in Illinois. — And that’s why collective bargaining and union thuggery must end for government jobs.


Private sector unions are almost gone in America, as union thugs forced U.S. manufacturing to move abroad in order to remain competitive in the retail market. As a result, over 60% of American union workers now hold government jobs or government contracts, ALL of them at direct expense to American taxpayers.

That’s why public sector unions are now the biggest political donors in America.

In fact, the single largest political donor in America today is the National Education Association. Right… the teachers union which is currently holding Wisconsin hostage. The NEA gave over $56 million in 2008 alone, 99% of it to Democrats at both the state and federal level. That’s why Democrats fled from Wisconsin. The NEA is their biggest political donor, without whom, they cannot survive.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Libya: Slump for ENI and Impregilo -5%, Ansaldo -3%

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, FEBRUARY 21 — The wave of sales that has hit ENI and Impregilo since the opening exchanges on the Milan Stock Exchange is continuing, amid further protests in Libya.

Shortly after 13:00, ENI had lost 5% of its share price, which stood at 17.45 euros, while the construction group’s share price fell 5.52% to 2.32 euros. The situation for Ansaldo STS (-3.24% to 10.45 euros) is slightly less dramatic, while Finmeccanica fell by 1.21% to 9.37 euros, though a les significant fall than for the FTSE MIB, which lost 2%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Markets: Europe Slides as Libya Burns, Milan Suffers Worst

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, FEBRUARY 21 — It has been a start of the week to forget on Europe’s stock exchanges which have all closed down and all showed worsening during the session as the crisis in Libya became more dramatic.

The worst sufferer was Milan, a market crowded with players having direct interests in Libya or strong shareholdings by Libyan funds, including such names as ENI, Impregilo and Unicredit. ENI saw its worst day of losses for the past nine months. The STXE 600 index, a snapshot of the main stocks listed on the European bourses, fell 1.33%, with the entire banking sector showing weakness. Apart from Milan, Madrid also suffered badly, losing more than two percentage points on the day.

The DJ stoxx for the credit sector closed 2.73% down with Greece’s Pireus and Eurobank closing with losses of 10.16% and 8.75% respectively. The insurance sector was also in trouble, (down 2.07%), as were energy stocks (down by an average 1.25%) with doubts about the reliability of fuel supplies from the Mediterranean outweighing the gains in the price of crude.

There was no assistance coming from Wall Street, which is closed for a holiday today. The US market may have highlighted some features for operators, such as how on difficult days like this the pharmaceutical and food stocks tend to hold their own, as did some telecoms (Deutsche Telekom was up 0.05%), showing a recipe for curbing losses.

Here are the closing figures from Europe’s main markets: — London -1.12% — Paris -1.44% — Frankfurt -1.41% — Madrid -2.33% — Milan -3.59% — Amsterdam -0.87% — Stockholm -0.29% — Zurich -0.50%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Chicago Mayor Race Showcases Growing Hispanic Power

Whether former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel wins the Chicago mayoral election on Tuesday or has to go to a run-off may hinge on the city’s growing Hispanic vote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cutting Through the Smoke in Wisconsin

The Heritage Foundation went out to the socialist protest in Madison, Wisconsin over the governor’s efforts to reinstitute fiscal responsibility to see what it was all about.


Some of the socialist protesters insist the governor is just making up the budget crisis, that this whole thing is a facade to kill the unions. Well, when the unions are at the heart of what is busting the budget by overpaying government workers, you’d better believe they should pony up when it comes time for belt-tightening.

Some interesting facts

  • Wisconsin’s budget deficit is $1.7 billion
  • It is projected to grow to $3.6 billion by 2013
  • Wisconsin public school teacher’s total annual compensation is about $78,000…for working half a year
  • Administrators make a far bigger haul than the teachers
  • Wisconsin public workers contribute less than 1% to their pensions
  • The taxpayers are on the hook for nearly 100% of the state government workers pensions
  • Gov. Walker’s proposal calls for government workers to pay 5.8% of pension plan, which is just a little below the national average
  • Wisconsin government workers pay 6% of their health care premiums
  • Gov. Walker’s proposal calls for them to pay 12%, still less than half the national average

State Senator Leah Vukmir is right: Wisconsin is now ground zero in the ongoing war in America between the producers and the takers. The takers have been taking for decades, to the point that our states and our nation are on the verge of actual, literal bankruptcy. The American people, the producing American people must shove these spoiled brats away from the trough and force them to grow up.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Huckabee Draws Heat for Anti-Islam Remarks

WASHINGTON (ABP) — Baptist preacher and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has landed in hot water for comments critical of Islam.

The former Arkansas governor and potential 2012 presidential hopeful criticized two Protestant churches that opened their doors to Muslims in an interview on Fox and Friends. The churches allowed Muslims to worship in their facilities when mosques in the area were too small or under construction.

“As much as I respect the autonomy of each local church, you just wonder, what are they thinking?” Huckabee said. “If the purpose of a church is to push forward the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then you have a Muslim group that says that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated, I have a hard time understanding that.”

“I mean if a church is nothing more than a facility and a meeting place free for any and all viewpoints, without regard to what it is, then should the church be rented out to show adult movies on the weekend?” the former pastor and past president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention wondered aloud. “I mean where does this end? How far does it go? I think the church facility, dedicated and paid for by people for the purpose of the gospel and the mission of the gospel ought to somehow be given at least a semblance of consistency with its intention.”

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Huckabee to apologize for “inaccurate and offensive” comments about Islam and to meet with Muslim leaders to discuss growing Islamophobia in American society.

“On this Presidents’ Day, we ask Mike Huckabee — a person who may again seek the highest office in the land — to live up to the principles of tolerance and interfaith respect that make our nation great,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We urge Mr. Huckabee to do some research and to apologize for his inaccurate and offensive remarks.”

Huckabee said he wasn’t equating Muslim worship with pornography. “I’m sure some bloggers will say that, and I will read 300 blog accounts that will say that by noon today, but I’m just saying that if you’re going to have a facility dedicated for a purpose — in this case the worship of Jesus Christ — is there a reason to say that the people who donated, who gave, who sacrificed to give that facility, really ever intended it to be a place where something that is the antithesis of the gospel of Christ would be presented?”

Huckabee said he realizes the church is the people and not the building, and he has no problem with churches that provide meeting places for civic functions. “We’re talking different when you have a faith that believes that all who don’t adhere to that specific faith are infidels,” he said.

Awad quoted the Quran to show that Muslims revere Jesus as one of God’s greatest messengers to humankind and respect Christians and Jews as people who received divine revelation.

“For Mr. Huckabee to falsely claim that Muslims regard all Christians as ‘infidels,’ a term used only by Hollywood ‘B’ movies directors, serves to divide our nation along religious lines,” Awad said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austrian Nazi Comedy at the Berlinale

Jewish Hero Plays a Dangerous Double Game

The Jewish hero dons an SS uniform to outwit the Nazis, get back a stolen drawing, save his mother’s life and gets the girl. The Austrian film ‘My Best Enemy’ is a World War II thriller that also plays for laughs. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke to director Wolfgang Murnberger about the risks of making a comedy about such a loaded subject.

“Clothes make the man,” the saying goes and in the film “My Best Enemy” the donning of an SS uniform becomes a crucial act, determining the fate of both of its protagonists. In the Austrian-made Nazi satire, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Jewish hero masquerades as an SS officer in a bid to outwit his oppressors and survive the Holocaust.

With films such as “Downfall” and “A Woman in Berlin,” German and Austrian filmmakers have shown in recent years their willingness to explore their troubled histories. Still, they have been hesitant to take a humorous approach to subjects as loaded as the Third Reich and the Holocaust. But films from abroad, such as Italy’s “Life is Beautiful” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” may have gradually chipped away at their reluctance.

“Slowly it is changing, so that when one makes a film about this period one does not have to only use realism and tragedy,” Wolfgang Murnberger, the Austrian director of “My Best Enemy,” told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “The guilt that the Germans and Austrians bear does not have to be at the forefront of the film.”

Written by a 77-year-old Holocaust Survivor

Murnberger admits, however, that it was a risk taking on a sensitive topic of the Holocaust and turning it into a comedy. He only felt comfortable doing so, he says, because the script was written by Paul Hengge, a 77-year-old Jewish Austrian writer and Holocaust survivor.

For Murnberger, the fact that the protagonist in the film is Jewish made the project particularly attractive…

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

Austria Sends C-130 to Malta for Evacuation

(AGI) Vienna- Austria is preparing the evacuation of its citizens from Libya and other Arab countries hit by the recent protests. The Ministry of Defence sent a C-130 to Malta, from where it is ready to take off as soon as it receives an evacuation order.

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

Austria: ‘Ruby’ At Heart of Berlusconi Case Due to Attend Vienna Opera Ball

Vienna, 21 Feb. (AKI) — A Moroccan woman at the centre of a sex scandal that risks ending billionaire Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s political career is due to attend the Vienna Opera Ball as the guest of shopping mall and construction businessman Richard Lugner, according to German news agency dpa.

Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed Rubacuori, or Ruby the Heart Stealer, would be paid to attend the Austrian annual society event.

Lugner, 78, for almost 20 years has invited a celebrity to visit his shopping mall followed by the ball. El Mahroug follows such stars as Sophia Loren, Elton John, and Paris Hilton.

El Mahroug “is a really smart girl,” Lugner told dpa. Asked why he had invited someone who’s only claim to fame is her alleged liaison with Berlusconi when she was still a minor, he said: “There are always people who want to find a fly in the ointment.”

Prosecutors say Berlusconi, 74, paid for sex with El Mahroug 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 the premier’s indictment.

Berlusconi’s trial is slated to begin in April. If convicted of the two crimes, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in jail.

The Vienna Opera Ball on its website bills itself as “the most highly anticipated annual society event of the year in all of Europe.”

It is held at the Vienna State Opera on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, which this year lands on 9 March.

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

Croatia: EU Grants Funds for Island of Rab Tourist Airport

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 17 — In the context of projects financed by the EU involving Croatia there is also one concerning the tourist airport in the Island of Rab, a tourist attraction in the north Adriatic.

The Italian Trade Commission reported that the loan amounts to 1.077 million euros and is part of the IPA-Adriatic cross border cooperation programme. The premises should cover approximately 200 hectares and include a future regional highway and a category terminal, in other words with a limited and seasonal capacity. The landing strip will measure 1.25km (but can be extended up to 1.7km) in length and 45 metres in width.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Diplomats With Protesters in Malta, Protest in Rome

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, FEBRUARY 21 — Diplomats accredited to the Libyan embassy in Malta this morning joined a protest outside the embassy in the town of Attard. At least five diplomats, including the first secretary and the head of security of the Libyan embassy in the country, left their offices and joined the protests, telling ANSA “We’ve had enough, we’ve had enough of this regime and our country is asking for freedom. Gaddafi must go”.

Outside the embassy, there are around sixty Libyans holding banners and placards demanding the resignation of Colonel Gaddafi. A significant police presence is following developments.

Dozens of protesters have also gathered outside the Libyan embassy in Rome, chanting “Berlusconi does nothing while the Libyan people are massacred”, and demanding that the Italian government “break its silence” amid the “massacre” ordered by the “dictator” Gaddafi.

“Italy and the EU know very well how things work in Libya. We are concerned at this silence. Berlusconi cannot just dismiss the issue with a “do not disturb” sign,” said the President of the Community of the Arab World in Italy, Foad Aodi.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France/Spain Electricity Tunnel Contract

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 17 — Inelfe, a company 50% owned by Red Electrica and 50% owned by Red de Transporte de Electricidad de Francia (Rte), awarded to the French/Spanish consortium comprising Eiffage and Spanish company Acs the contract to build a tunnel connecting electric power cables between Spain and France. The order is worth approximately 105 million euros. Inelfe reported the news today in a statement. The contract is equal to 15% of the loan allocated to the implementation of the power link, which should cost 700 million.

The consortium that was awarded the work contract includes Setec, Arcadis and Sener as well as Eiffage and Acs. The tunnel, 8.5 km in length and 3.5 metres in diameter, will carry power cables through the section that crosses the Pyrenees and will run parallel to the High Speed tunnel, also carried out by Eiffage and Acs. The entry and exit points of the two tunnels will be located in La Junquera, in Gerona, and in Montesquieu des Albéres, in France. This contract comes in the wake of the one awarded to Inelfe at the end of 2009, which assigned to Siemens the construction of two stations located in Baixas, in France, and in Santa Llogaia, in Gerona. The electric power link will raise the trading capacity between the two Countries from 1,400 to 2,800 megawatts, and will lower CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by 2.3 tonnes. Work is scheduled to start in 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France and Spain Call to Shift EU Funds From East to South

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — France and five other south-lying EU members have said the Union should give less money to its post-Soviet neighbours and more to Mediterranean rim countries in the context of the Arab uprisings. A letter to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton dated 16 February and signed by the foreign ministers of France, Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Slovenia says: “The profound popular movements calling for political, economic and social reforms in Tunisia and Egypt argue in favour of reinforcing the European Union’s actions in its southern neighbourhood.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Hamburg Election Result is a ‘Political Tsunami’

The center-left Social Democrats thrashed Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in Sunday’s state election in Hamburg. German commentators ponder the significance of the result for national politics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Has Britain Left Itself Defenceless if Gaddafi Goes?

William Hague says he has some information that Muammar Gaddafi may be on a plane heading to Venezuela to join his chum Hugo Chavez. And he says he isn’t referring to rumours in the media, so this must have a bit of weight. Since Saif Gaddafi turned up dressed for a funeral on Libyan TV and declared that things would stay as they are, the prospects for his dad looked distinctly shaky. The assumption must be that he is finished, and if he isn’t on his way out, he will be shortly. Which makes it a great moment for those who hoped that Yvonne Fletcher, the dead of Lockerbie, and all those victims of the IRA would be avenged one day. Seeing him escape justice to find refuge with another madman may not be justice, but the speed with which his regime has imploded must be of some satisfaction for those who have waited for so long to see his downfall.

The Foreign Secretary makes another telling point though: the turmoil in north Africa presents an immediate threat to the EU. There is the risk of a flood of immigrants trying to get in to Italy through Lampedusa. But there is also the danger of Islamists filling the vaccuum left by the collapse of secular dictatorships. Mr Hague talks of “instability and extremism on our frontiers” from a new Middle East. He’s right, but that begs the question about where Britain is left: we have just launched a radical progamme of defence cuts for which we have scrapped our aircraft carriers and much else on the assumption that there was no strategic threat on the horizon. Oops! Suddenly, a big chunk of real estate which we thought was on side, tame or harmless is a hotbed from which any manner of threat might emerge. What next?…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Italy: Venice Carnival Fetes 19th-Century Heroines

Homage to ‘Sissi’, mock battles among events

(ANSA) — Venice, February 18 — Venice’s annual carnival celebrations will kick off on a Bacchanalian note Saturday evening with a fountain filled with wine and a grand toast to Venice, event organizers announced. Venezia Marketing & Eventi unveiled the carnival schedule Thursday, which promises 19th-century fantasy and fantastic crowds starting February 19.

Artistic director Davide Rampallo is orchestrating scenery, costumes and events following a theme that dips revelers into the 1800s: ‘The City of Women’ and ‘Giving Sense to Sissi’.

Venice is seen by Venetians as having female sensuality, organisers said.

And for the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unity, the carnival will be dedicated to famous 19th-century heroines of the post romantic era, and feature mock battles re-enacting clashes between Austrian soldiers and Italian unification fighters.

‘Sissi’ refers to Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria and the spouse of Franz Joseph I. Venice and much of northern Italy were wrenched from the Austro-Hungarian Empire under her rein, during the unification of Italy. She was famed for her beauty, attention to personal style, and non-conformism, since she abhorred the strict protocols of the Hapsburg court. She is also a tragic figure whose life has inspired filmmakers and theatrical producers.

Redingotes, top hats, corsets and crinolines will be de rigueur at grand balls, historical re-enactments, theatre pieces, and other planned events. Waltzes and tangos will held every evening in Piazza San Marco. On Sunday, a water parade, which last year saw a brilliantly colored procession of 100 boats, will float down the Grand Canal to the Cannaregio district, where a feast of Venetian delicacies will be served on the banks of the canals, and a fountain will spout wine rather than water. Landladies in traditional costume will mingle with the crowd.

On Saturday, February 26, the Festa delle Marie will evoke a traditional homage that the Venetian Doge offered each year to twelve beautiful Venetian girls of humble origins. The Doge would bestow them with magnificent jewels as bridal dowry. Twelve selected girls will be paraded along the Riva degli Schiavoni. Toward the end of the carnival, one of the Marias will be crowned by a ‘Doge’. The winner will then also be celebrated on Mardi Gras, March 8, which also happens to be Woman’s Day in Italy.

The traditional Flight of the Angel will take place on Sunday, February 27, an event that dates back to the days of the Venetian Republic, when an unknown guest of Venice would fly down a rope from the San Marco bell tower to the middle of the square. The angel will offer homage to the Doge and be greeted by a crowd in period costumes. This year’s angel has not yet been announced, but last year it was the French-Italian heiress and model Bianca Brandolini d’Adda, following in the footsteps of US rapper Coolio and world fencing champion Frida Scarpa, among others.

Historical re-enactments of key moments of the 1800s will take place on the 26th, to coincide with the Festa delle Marie, the 27th, along with the Flight of the Angel, and on March 6th, the day of the crowning of the most graceful Maria.

Sunday, March 6, is also the day of the traditional masked costume contest. Famous guests and artists will host the event, showing off the best masks and costumes of the carnival. A special prize will be given this year for the best 19th-century mask.

Meanwhile the Grand Foyer of San Marco, a temporary stage in Piazza San Marco, will host major and minor spectacles, from the flight of the angel and crowning of the Maria to circus performances, live concerts, and grand balls.

A rich and colorful Children’s Carnival is also planned, for the second year in a row. From February 26 to March 8, the Giardini della Biennale will be transformed into ‘The Garden of the Flying Countries’, with exhibitions, shows, treasure hunts, concerts and live performances. Scenery will tread the threshold of fantasy and reality, where children can wander through an enchanted forest, across the dunes of an ochre desert, in a meadow of sounds, through a city of visions, and in abysses inhabited by fluorescent creatures.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Former Mayor of Bologna Sentenced on Embezzlement Charges

(AGI) Bologna — The former mayor of Bologna, Flavio Delbono, has been sentenced to 1 year, 7 months jail as part of the “Cinzia-gate” inquiry. The sentence comes at close of an enmbezzlement inquiry relating to Delbono’s years as vice-president of the Emilia Romagna region. Delbono was accused of having used public funds for private holiday purposes, as well as hindering the course of justice and conspiring to provide false testimony.

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

Italy: How Silvio Berlusconi Has Managed to Hang on

(AKI/Bloomberg) — By his own reckoning, since becoming Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi has endured 105 judicial probes and trials and 2,500 court hearings and spent more than 300 million euros in legal fees defending himself against allegations of tax fraud, bribery, corruption, and more. That’s 48,000 euros a day since he was first elected in 1994, when he parlayed his celebrity as a media baron and one of Italy’s richest men into a political career.

No conviction of Berlusconi has survived Italy’s tortuous appeals process, a fact the prime minister cites as evidence that his judicial tormentors are nothing more than closet communists who want to bring him down. His latest trial begins on 6 April. Prosecutors in Milan allege that the prime minister paid to have sex with a minor—a young Moroccan dancer whose stage name is Ruby Heartstealer—and that he abused the power of his office to cover his tracks. “I’m not the least bit worried,” Berlusconi said on 16 February.

Salacious details of Berlusconi’s off-duty life, like allegations of suggestive dances with young girls in the bunga-bunga room of his villa, have made Berlusconi the butt of jokes. From economist Nouriel Roubini’s Twitter page: “Berlusconi’s defense: I screwed all Italians for 15 years for free and no one complained; now that I screw one and pay her, they give me hell.” In demonstrations on 13 February hundreds of thousands of Italian women called for Berlusconi’s resignation and an end to the sexism they feel he has done so much to promote. Their slogan: “If not now, when?”

The answer may be: not just yet. Berlusconi’s People of Liberty Party and its allies cling to a tiny majority in Parliament. In a 8 February poll about possible early elections, 61 percent of respondents said Berlusconi should resign. Yet the survey showed that voters abandoning Berlusconi may shift to his coalition partner, not the opposition, so his alliance maintained a 3 percentage point lead over the biggest opposition bloc. The Democratic Party, the pillar of the opposition, is stuck in the political wilderness, with three leaders in three years.

With no compelling alternative, many Italians may vote for Berlusconi again if his legal troubles lead to elections before his term expires in 2013. He has a core following among voters who share his conviction that the Democratic Party is riddled with communists, or who admire him as Italy’s ultimate self-made man and model of virility.

Berlusconi also has a secret weapon: Giulio Tremonti, his finance minister. While Tremonti has not reversed the widening economic divide between Italy and its main European Union partners, he has averted the kind of catastrophe that dragged down Ireland and Greece. That’s an achievement, given that the International Monetary Fund last May described Italy’s economic performance as “dismal.” Among the failings cited were low productivity, a rigid labor market, and a bloated private sector. Italy’s gross domestic product grew an average of 1.5 percent a year from 1999 to 2007, compared with 2.2 percent for the EU. Last year growth was a meager 1.1 percent, following a 2009 contraction in GDP of 5 percent.

A tax lawyer by training, Tremonti has kept the public accounts in order. He has tempered Berlusconi’s populist instincts by playing bad cop to his boss’s good cop. That meant blocking the kind of stimulus spending that helped turn Spain’s 2007 budget surplus into a deficit of 9.3 percent of GDP by last year. “He is seen as the guarantor of fiscal discipline during a period when other governments were much more relaxed on the fiscal front,” says Chiara Corsa, an economist at UniCredit Bank in Milan. As a result, Italy’s budget shortfall was a manageable 5 percent of GDP last year.

Overall debt, though, remains almost 120 percent of GDP, vs. 76 percent for Germany. The yield premium that investors demand to hold Italian 10-year bonds over German debt has roughly doubled since early 2010. That is still less than half the gap between yields on German debt and the sky-high yields on Portuguese, Irish, and Greek bonds.

Tremonti, a northern Italian who first ran for Parliament as a Socialist and who regularly rails against the ills of globalization, is known for using creative methods to keep Italy’s deficit in check. He has fashioned a series of amnesties for tax dodgers that pardoned their transgressions for a fee that was lower than the maximum penalties. In the most recent amnesty, Italians paid the government 5 billion euros to have 100 billion euros of undeclared funds regularized.

Both Berlusconi and Tremonti have gotten an assist from high household savings, which helped ordinary Italians weather the depths of the recent recession fairly intact, despite an 8.6 percent jobless rate. Private debt in Italy is only 42 percent of GDP, vs. 118 percent for Ireland. Tremonti has told EU authorities they should take this low private debt level into account when figuring out how to improve Europe’s finances. EU authorities want mandatory debt reduction targets for the union’s most leveraged states. Tremonti argues that Europe’s debt crisis was caused by reckless banks and hedge funds, not public spending. “Public debt isn’t the cause of the crisis. It’s the medicine,” he says.

Tremonti, 63, could end up succeeding the 74-year-old Berlusconi if his boss’s position weakens dramatically and his party starts to disintegrate. For now, Berlusconi’s supporters are defending their man and accusing the judiciary of trying to override the will of voters, who re-elected Berlusconi by a landslide in 2008.

Berlusconi’s opponents, meanwhile, wonder if Italy can ever move beyond its fascination with the man. “We think the evil of Italy is Berlusconi,” says Luigi Zingales, professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a graduate of Milan’s Bocconi University. “I think the evil of Italy is a culture that makes Berlusconi a normal politician. That is much more difficult to change.”

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

Italy: From Police Headquarters to Sex With Ruby: The 10 Lies of Berlusconi

The lies in Silvio Berlusconi’s TV statement are ten in number. Below we demonstrate how the words of the Premier are falsifying variations. They form a fictitious representation for public opinion that appears largely bogus, including in light of what already has emerged from the documents in connection with the Milan investigation. The lies in the declarations of the Premier must deny how and why he managed to have weaselled out of Police Headquarters, removing from State custody, a minor accused of theft. A female minor with whom the head of government entertained, for at least three months, very intense relations: between the two there are 67 phone contacts in 77 days.

Unable to tell the truth about this relationship, the Premier is forced to lie again: he speaks of judicial persecution; he invents a violation of his privacy; he accuses the police of having mistreated his female friends: it is a self-defence that brooks no verification. “I don’t have to feel ashamed,” says Berlusconi. His ten lies ought to convince him not only to feel ashamed but also to assume the responsibility to make matters clear before the Bench and before the country.

Here, then, are the ten lies that, if necessary, we shall expand on over time.

1. “I haven’t threatened anyone”

The Premier says: “I’ll read to you the answers of the functionary at the Public Prosecutor’s Office where he describes my phone call: “The security officer said to me: ‘Dr, I’m putting you through to the Premier because there’s a problem. Immediately afterwards the Premier told me that there was a girl of North African origin who had been reported to him as Mubarak’s niece and that a member of the Regional Council, Mrs Minetti, would have taken responsibility for this girl. The phone call ended on that note.’ But does it seem to you that this can be considered a threatening phone call?”

Berlusconi knows he is lying because there was more than a single phone call with the Private Secretary. As stated in the invitation to appear before judicial authorities, the functionary received repeated “further calls from the Premier” (the Public Prosecutor’s Office has not divulged all Berlusconi’s telephone contacts or yet made public the exact number.) They must have been urgent and impending enough as to suggest to the Private Secretary to make 24 calls to the functionary on duty, to the direct superior of the same, and to the Chief of Police. The first call comes in at 00:02.21, with the last recorded at 6:47.14. It matters not a whit whether or not the Private Secretary perceived “a threat” in the words of the Premier. It is indisputable that the functionary busies about. The upshot is the placing of Ruby, in actual fact, in the custody of a prostitute, Michele Coincecao, which eventuality the competent Children’s Court, in the person of Anna Maria Fiorillo, had ruled out. This is the result of the pressure exerted by Berlusconi: the police disobey the magistrate’s orders.

2. “I didn’t have sex with Ruby”

The Premier says: “I’m accused of having had sexual relations with a girl under 18 years old, Ruby. This girl has declared to the lawyers and a thousand times to all the Italian and foreign newspapers that she never ever had sexual relations with me.”

It is helpful to remember how Ruby was “approached” by lawyers, by what lawyers and on what occasion. Going back to 6 October 2010, Ruby has to meet with her lawyer, not the one she has today (Massimo Di Noja), who would be appointed only on 29th October, but Luca Giuliante, also Lele Mora’s counsel for the defence. Ruby reached the law office accompanied by a friend, Luca Risso. Risso, via SMS, reports what happens to a female friend of his. Five messages are useful. 1. “I’m in the middle of an unbelievable interrogation…. I’ll tell you about it later, but it’s crazy!” 2. “It keeps getting worse, when I tell you about it later (if I’ll be able to…”). 3. The friend at the other end texts back: “Why are they questioning Ruby?” 4. Risso writes: “There’s Lele [Mora], the lawyer, Ruby, an emissary of His [sic]. A woman making a written record. I’m here because they think I know everything.” 5. “I’m still here. Now I’ve gone outside to stretch my legs. She’s up there, they’ve stopped a moment because we’re at the hard scenes with the Pr… with the person.”

From this information one infers a couple of scenes. Ruby was the protagonist of “hard scenes” with the Premier.Lele Mora, Berlusconi’s emissary, and attorney Giuliante “interrogate” her to learn what she has told the public prosecutors. It is a real debriefing that can enable them to know the accusations, to anticipate the moves of the public prosecutors and to rebut the girl’s recollections with the sworn statement that Berlusconi waves today. Uselessly, because it appears to be more the fruit of either moral violence or corruption, if one takes Ruby at her word when she tells her father: “I’m with the lawyer, Silvio has told him: tell her that I’ll pay her the price she wants. The important thing is that she keeps her mouth shut.” It is 26 October 2010.

3. “Even Ruby frees me from blame”…

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

Italy: Five AMA Managers Investigated for Nepotism

(AGI) Rome — AMA’s president Franco Panzironi and 4 other people are under investigation for abuse of power in an investigation addressing alleged nepotism. Abuse of power is the crime being considered by prosecutor Alberto Caperna and public prosecutor Corrado Fasanelli who have ordered a series of searches .

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

Italy: Foreign Man Shot: Arrested After Ramming Milan Airport Door

Police rule out terrorist motives

(ANSA) — Rome, February 21 — A foreign man was shot and arrested after ramming a door at Milan’s Malpensa airport with a stolen four-by-four and attacking a police officer armed with a knife amid scenes of panic on Monday.

The man, apparently a Tunisian married to an Italian, was shot in the foot by a colleague of the officer who was attacked and then detained. Terminal One of the airport has been evacuated and outgoing flights delayed. The police have ruled out terrorism as the motive for the incident and said the man seems to have simply been overcome by a fit of rage.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: 1,000 Potential Abusers on Church Abuse Commission List

A list of 1,000 potential abusers has been drawn up by the government committee investigating the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic church.

The list has been compiled on the basis of over 2,000 complaints from people who say they were abused by church officials since the 1950s.

Six names have been passed to the public prosecution department for further investigation. Many of the cases reported to the Deetman commission took place too long ago to be taken to court.

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

Netherlands: Lower House Opposed to Further Political Union in EU

THE HAGUE, 19/02/11 — The Lower House has called on the cabinet to oppose further political union in Europe. The government however disagrees with the call.

Countries should retain their national control over matters such as pensions, taxes and salaries, according to a majority in parliament. On Thursday night, the Lower House adopted a motion reducing the government’s room to manoeuvre in Europe.

The motion demands that the cabinet “strongly distances itself” from every movement towards a more political union. Before the vote, Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager had advised against adopting the motion.

Germany and France have recently put forward proposals intended to give Europe more influence on the economic policy of member states. Parties in the Lower House fear that the two countries only want to work towards a more political union, under the guise of European coordination.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Halsema’s Handbag Snatched

AMSTERDAM, 19/02/11 — Femke Halsema has been robbed of her handbag in front of her house by a young man on a motorbike.

The former leftwing Green (GroenLinks) leader, who formally said goodbye to the post at a party congress last week, confirmed on Twitter on Friday that her handbag went travelling. According to eyewitnesses, she ran after the perpetrator for a while.

The same evening, the handbag-snatcher was arrested by the police. He still had Halsema’s bank card in his possession, but her telephone was gone. “The suspect is known to us,” said the police, without giving further details.

Halsema’s purse was discovered in the vicinity of the street theft with the aid of a sniffer dog. A search of the suspect’s home yielded nothing. He is still in custody.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Christian Union Wants Constitutional Sharia Ban

Christian Union Senator Roel Kuiper wants to amend the Dutch constitution to include a ban on Sharia, Islamic law. Senator Kuiper made his statement in an interview with newspaper Trouw.

The Christian Union politician wants to ban Islamic law because it is “not rooted in principles which form part of Dutch culture. Our rights, the way we treat each other, our norms of good and evil have all been molded by Christianity.”

Mr Kuiper argues that Islamic law is still grounded in retaliation, while the laws of a democratic constitutional state are geared toward forgiveness, correction and reconciliation. “Our laws are not based on ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Our legal system applies the law, but knows reconciliation must follow.”

Senator Kuiper also wants to regulate the flow of money from Arab countries to Dutch mosques. The Christian Union politician says these measures are necessary “to take the Islam debate in the Netherlands a step forward”. Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders has enthusiastically welcomed Senator Kuiper’s proposal. “Sharia is based on the Qur’an. So this means an end to head scarves, halal food, the Qur’an etc.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Poland: Why We Heart the Czechs

9 February 2011 Gazeta Wyborcza Warsaw

Poles just want to be more like The Good Soldier Švejk. Sculpture in Sanok, Poland dedicated to the drunken hero of Czech literature

According to a recent survey, Poles are more fond of the Czechs than they are of any other nation. Polish author and Czechophile Mariusz Szczygiel wonders: could it be that the Poles see in their Czech neighbours qualities that they would like to have themselves?

Mariusz Szczygiel

Today I received a text message from my Czech friend Petr Vavrouška on the subject of the figures from the Polish Centre for Public Opinion Research (CBOS), which indicate that half of Poland’s citizens have a soft spot for the Czechs: “You have no one else left. You don’t like the Germans, the Russians or the Belarusians, and you’ve even fallen out with the Lithuanians. In terms of neighbours, you are reduced to the Czechs and the Slovaks.”

Being born a Czech atheist was a sin in itself

According to the CBOS survey, 51% of Poles have a special place in their hearts for the Czechs, as opposed to only 12% who admit to disliking the population on the other side of the southwestern border. The Slovaks were ranked second with 49% approval rating, and the big news is that the citizens of both of these countries are more popular than the Americans — who can still count on the affection of 43% of the Polish population.

To think that for years, I was convinced we did not like any of our neighbours, and that the mere fact of being born a Czech atheist was a sin itself. But now, I am glad to report that the tide has turned. I have no idea as to why so many Poles confess to a liking for the Czechs, but I know why I have a soft spot for my friend Petr Vavrouška. For the last two years, the Warsaw correspondent for Czech radio has lived in Poland with his wife Katka and their two children. When he recently filed a report on the beatification of Jean Paul II, the station asked him to re-record the piece because he had been a little over the top.

At issue was the very Polish manner he adopted in discussing “Jean-Paul II’s miracles.” He quite simply overlooked the fact that for a Czech audience, you have to talk about the “alleged” miracles of Pope Jean-Paul II. As the Czechs are wont to point out: we like them because they are not devout like us. When Petr speaks to priests, he often forgets himself and tends to call them “Mr” instead of the more traditional “Father” — and if they make a fuss, he feels obliged to point out that it is either “Mr” for gentlemen or “Mrs” for ladies.

We love them for the qualities that we lack

When comparing the election campaigns in the Czech Republic with those in Poland, he was fascinated by the fact that Polish politicians, regardless of their political colour, bang on about “patriotism” — a word which is completely absent from political debate in the Czech Republic. What he really wants to know is: “Why on earth are you Poles so afraid?” When asked about the difference between our two nations, he inevitably raises the question of “hysteria” on the issue of national identity — a syndrome that plagues the Poles but does not really affect the Czechs.

Petr believes that we would like to have a Czech sense of calm and balance. As he puts it himself, “hysteria and exasperation are just not our bag.” The Czech Republic has accepted its status as a small country, while Poland appears to be involved in an obsessional quest for someone to cut it down to size. Poles cannot decide whether Poland should be viewed as a small country or as a nation on an equal footing with Germany and France. As Petr explains, this is a question that is constantly eating away at us, which will probably never be definitively settled.

For what it is worth, here is my take on this survey: the 51% of Poles who have a soft spot for the Czechs, love them because they are everything that we are not, and because they act in a way that we have yet to emulate. We love them for the qualities that we lack, and would very much like to acquire.

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

Spain: Madrid Dressed Up in Red With Chinese Trade Hub

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 18 — Fuenlabrada, just outside Madrid, is getting dressed up in red, with the opening of Spain’s largest ever Chinese business hub, which was opened yesterday in a ceremony attended by the country’s Infrastructure Minister, José Blanco, and the Chinese ambassador, Zhu Bangzao.

The Plaza d’Oriente is spread over 40,000 square metres in the industrial area of Cobo Calleja, and has been financed by private investment of 43 million euros. In the first phase of the project, financed by 33-year old Li Tie and 41-year old Yong Ping, 8 buildings containing around 80 shops were built.

The second stage of construction will see a further investment of 21 million, which will take the number of shops and retail centres selling Chinese products up to 200.

Chinese entrepreneurship in Spain has soared in the last decade.

Figures from the Madrid Chamber of Commerce show that there are over 13,000 Chinese business-owners in the Spanish capital, providing work for over 27,000 of their compatriots. An estimated 50,000 Chinese live in the Madrid Community, many of them from the region of Quintiang, south of Shanghai.

The launch of the Chinese centre in Fuenlabrada dates back to 2002. Within three years, all of the shops in the industrial hub, numbering around 350, were managed by Chinese entrepreneurs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden:130 People Say They Killed Olof Palme: Police

With the 25th anniversary of the assassination of former Swedish prime minister Olof Palme a week away, Swedish police revealed on Monday that 130 people have confessed to the killing.

Media interest in the still-unsolved murder has reached record levels as the 25th anniversary of the assassination approaches.

While 130 people have confessed to the murder, all have been disregarded as suspects and police continue to look into the killing, which took place on February 28th, 1986.

So far, the preliminary investigation of the Palme murder takes up 225 metres of shelf space and counting.

While in principle the preliminary inquiry can continue indefinitely following the removal of the statute of limitation on the case, Kerstin Skarp, the sixth person to lead the inquiry, gave no indication that the crime would be solved anytime soon.

“When there is absolutely nothing to work with and we have reached a dead end, then it shall be closed. But we are not there yet,” she said at a Monday press conference organised by Sweden’s National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalen).

She added that the current search is not focussed on any particular person.

Stig Edqvist, head of the Palme Group and the fourth leader of the investigation, admitted that it is frustrating that there is still no suspect in the killing after 25 years.

“It obviously is tough to deal with from time to time,” he said.

Two to three new tips are submitted every day, Edqvist added. A large portion of them are ruled out as they relate to tips that have been previously investigated.

“However, if someone comes in with information about a named person or a weapon, we are obviously interested in it,” said Edqvist, who believes that a number of new tips would come in after Monday’s press conference.

The preliminary investigation was estimated to have cost half a billion kronor ($77.97 million) five years ago.

Nevertheless, investigators are still hoping to find the killer.

“We can say in all honesty that we do not have a hot lead that we are following right now, nor however, is there anything else that indicates the opposite,” said Skarp.

Palme was walking home from a cinema with his wife Lisbet in central Stockholm on Sveavägen close to midnight on February 28th, 1986 when he was fatally shot in the back at close range. A second shot wounded his wife, who later recovered.

Palme was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival at 1.06am local time the next day.

He served as Sweden’s prime minister on two separate occasions, from 1969 to 1976 and 1982 to 1986.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Terror Police ‘Target Irish Dissidents in UK’ Ahead of Royal Wedding and Obama State Visit

Anti-terror squads are examining the threat from an Irish republican cell operating in England, as Britain prepares to host a series of major events on the world stage.

Ahead of April’s Royal wedding, a planned state visit by US president Barack Obama in May and next year’s London Olympics, some southern-based counter-terrorism teams have been moved from concentrating on Islamic terrorism to being tasked with the Republican threat.

The Times reported that Cobra, the Government’s emergency committee, is now meeting three times a week, with some sessions chaired by the Prime Minister himself.

The biggest threat is thought to come from a group called Oglaigh na hEireann, in what could be the first Irish cell working in England for some ten years.

However, an attack is not believed to be imminent and the dissident threat not as dangerous as that from radicalised Muslims in Britain linked to Al Qaeda.

Some of these groups are thought to be planning a massacre based on the attacks which devastated Mumbai in 2008, when scores were killed in shootings and bombings across the city.

Irish terror groups were previously thought to have been too small and inexperienced to pose a threat on the mainland, but they are now regarded as a real concern for security at the Olympics.

A source told the Times: ‘As the Games get closer the appetite for risk will diminish.

‘The plan will be to disrupt and deter plots, making sure they don’t get off the ground, rather than letting them run to gather evidence and get convictions in court.’

In September, Home Secretary Theresa May disclosed the threat level to Britain from Irish-related terrorism had risen from moderate to substantial, meaning an attack is a ‘strong possibility’. The threat from international terrorism remained set at severe.

It followed a warning a warning from the head of MI5 that dissident Irish republicans could attempt to mount a new wave of terrorist attacks on the British mainland.

Jonathan Evans, the director-general of the Security Service, said there had been a ‘persistent rise’ in ‘activity and ambition’ by dissident groups in Northern Ireland over the past three years.

A report on the day of the publication of David Cameron’s National Security Strategy document — which said Britain is living through an ‘age of uncertainty’ — also warned of a reborn dissident threat from Irish Republicans.

The IRA splinter groups were ranked alongside Al Qaeda sympathisers as having the potential to carry out a major terrorist ‘spectacular’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: 7/7 Inquests: MI5 Missed Opportunity to Identify Terror Ringleader

Mohamed Sidique Khan was secretly photographed at Toddington Service station on the M1 more than a year before the attacks after he met with another terrorist who was under surveillance

He was followed on his return from the meeting in Crawley, West Sussex, along with fellow bomber Shezhad Tanweer and another associate. The photographs from the service station were taken at close range and in full colour, clearly showing Sidique Khan and Tanweer standing in front of a Burger King take-away and a fruit machine. But an MI5 desk officer cropped the photographs so that the background could not be identified and sent grainy black and white versions to a supergrass in America who would have been able to identify him because he spent time with him at a terror training camp in Afghanistan. This was so that MI5’s undercover techniques were not exposed, the inquest into the 52 deaths was told.

Hugo Keith QC told a senior member of MI5: “I am bound to observe, if you will forgive me, one of my children could have done a better job of cropping out that photograph.”

Tanweer was missing half his nose and face and Sidique Khan was so badly cropped that he was missing half his head and the majority of his body and picture was not sent to America.

The evidence was heard for the first time as the staff officer for MI5’s director general, Jonathan Evans, gave evidence for the first time into whether the attacks could have been prevented. The officer, referred to only as Witness G, was the first to give evidence in a British court without a screen to hide his identity. He told the inquest that there was no documentation to explain why the pictures had been so badly cropped, adding: “My judgment would be when a photograph is cropped in this way for whatever reason it is that by including the background we are giving away too much detail about the covert means behind the observation.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Ahmer Rana Fraud: Schoolboy Posed as Homeless Orphan Facing Death if Deported

When he arrived in the UK from Pakistan, the story of Ahmer Rana — 15, orphaned, homeless and in fear of his life — touched the hearts of those he met.

The teenager found himself with foster parents, a school place and a petition signed by 4,000 supporters — including his local MP — asking the Home Office not to deport him.

But he now has a lot of explaining to do to the people of his adopted home in Carmarthen, south-west Wales, after his story was exposed as a tissue of lies.

His name is actually Daniyal Shahzad, he is a year older than he claimed to be, and his parents, far from being killed, are both alive and well. The UK Border Agency uncovered the lies and has rejected his plea to stay in the Britain.

Mr Shahzad has admitted that he came to Britain to send cash home to his family.

He said: ‘I would like to say sorry to my friends in school who have supported me. I have let everyone down. I think I’m the same person that they know — I haven’t changed. I hope they’ll forgive me. If I could go back I would change everything. I would tell the truth.’

Mr Shahzad has been living in Wales since 2008, when he moved in with foster parents John and Lesley Hillard and began attending Queen Elizabeth High School.

He pretended his birthday was on Christmas Day and that he would be forced to leave last December when he turned 18. So two days before Christmas his supporters travelled to London to present a petition to the Home Office calling for him not to be deported.

Mr Shahzad claimed the whole saga began with ‘one small lie to the Home Office and snowballed out of control’ and that he had lived in fear of discovery. He said: ‘The true reason I came here was to earn money to send back to my family.

The Facebook page set up to petition for ‘Ahmer’ to remain in Britain attracted hundreds of supporters

Mr Shahzad added that he felt relieved that the truth was finally out but said he was ‘scared’ at facing his friends.

He still wants to stay in Britain — and hopes his supporters will help him still fight deportation.

His foster parents said they had been left ‘absolutely shocked’ by the revelations.

Mr Hillard said: ‘We are standing by him. He’s our foster son and that hasn’t changed. He’s still a smashing lad.’ Mrs Hillard said: ‘I’m disappointed that he hadn’t felt able to tell them the truth. While he’s under my roof I would walk on hot coals for him. My job is to look after him, care for him and support him.’

Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East, had given his backing to Mr Shahzad.

He said: ‘It would of course have been better for Ahmer to have been truthful from the start. But clearly he has been under tremendous pressure to provide for his family from an extremely young age which has undoubtedly put him in the position he is in.’

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘The UK Border Agency has fully considered Mr Rana’s case and in an appeal hearing where his evidence was tested, a judge upheld our decision that he does not need the UK’s protection.’

‘The judge found elements of Mr Rana’s case were inconsistent and that he failed to show that he faces persecution in Pakistan.’

Mr Shahzad is still in Wales, and is understood to be awaiting the outcome of a second appeal.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Council Facing £82m Cuts to Spend £1.4m Removing Cycle Path (Three Years After They Spent £800,000 Installing it)

A council facing £82million cuts plans to spend up to £1.4million scrapping a cycle path — just three years after it was installed at a cost of £800,000.

Critics accused Brighton & Hove City Council of scandalous waste as it prepares to axe 250 jobs.

They described as ‘utter madness’ the decision to spent almost twice as much ripping up the facility as it cost to build.

Tony Green, of cycling campaign group Bricycles, said: ‘When it put in the lane less than three years ago, the city council described this scheme as a state of the art cycling freeway, but now they think it is a blot on the landscape. The administration seems to have lost the plot.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Four Men Slashed Teacher’s Face and Left Him With Fractured Skull ‘For Teaching Other Religions to Muslim Girls’

Four men launched a horrific attack on a teacher in which they slashed his face and left him with a fractured skull because they did not approve of him teaching religion to Muslim girls.

Akmol Hussein, 26, Sheikh Rashid, 27, Azad Hussain, 25, and Simon Alam, 19, attacked Gary Smith with a Stanley knife, an iron rod and a block of cement.

Mr Smith, who is head of religious education at Central Foundation Girls’ School in Bow, east London, also suffered a fractured skull.

The four now face a jail sentence.

Detectives made secret recordings of the gang’s plot to attack Mr Smith prior to the brutal assault.

The covert audio probe captured the gang condemning Mr Smith for ‘teaching other religions to our sisters’, the court heard.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: More Jail for 3 Muslims Who Attacked Srebrenica War Criminal

LONDON — A British court on Monday handed additional jail terms to three Muslim prisoners for a revenge attack in an English prison on a Bosnian Serb war criminal over his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The three men, already serving life sentences for murder, slashed former general Radislav Krstic with knives or blades in his cell at the top-security prison in Wakefield, northern England. Krstic, 62, is serving a 35-year sentence for his role in war crimes including the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in just a few days in eastern Bosnia.

He was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague and is serving his sentence in Britain as London has treaty obligations to take some prisoners from the tribunal. At Monday’s hearing, a jury at the court in the northern English city of Leeds convicted Indrit Krasniqi, 23, Iliyas Khalid, 24, and Quam Ogumbiyi, 29, of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. They were cleared of the more serious charge of attempted murder. Judge Richard Henriques handed Krasniqi, an Albanian, a 12-year jail term; Khalid, a Briton, 10 years; and Nigerian Ogumbiyi six years. “You planned a revenge attack by way of retribution for war crimes carried out by Radislav Krstic in the 1990s,” the judge said. “All three of you are practising Muslims. I have no doubt what you intended was an act of revenge for those war crimes.” The additional sentences will run concurrently to the convicts’ existing life terms for murder, handed down in the past decade. While the additional jail terms will not automatically increase the amount of time the prisoners spend behind bars, the judge said their first parole applications would be turned down…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Rapists and Killers Demand Right to Benefits

Murderers and rapists locked up in psychiatric hospitals are challenging the British Government in a test case at the European Court of Human Rights which could see them win full State benefits.

Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper and Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer, could be in line for state benefits if other patients in secure hospitals win their case at Strasbourg

The case will intensify pressure on David Cameron, after the Prime Minister pledged to review Strasbourg’s influence on British law following the row over whether prisoners should have the vote.

The Sunday Telegraph can disclose the new case, involving four patients at secure mental hospitals and one former patient, is among a series of extraordinary claims being considered by Strasbourg, demonstrating the extent of the court’s influence over Britain.

Other new applications to the European Court, disclosed for the first time today, include a convicted terrorist claiming it was “inhuman and degrading” to increase his jail sentence and a paedophile claiming that his “right to a family life” was breached when the Prison Service banned visits from his infant son.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Schools Told to Go Easy on Disruptive Gypsy Children or Face Action Under the Equality Act

Schools have been told they have to make special allowances for misbehaving pupils from gypsy and traveller families

Teachers have been warned they could be taken to task under the Equality Act if they discipline or exclude such children from schools.

Cash-strapped schools are even told they should launch an ‘outreach’ programme with a dedicated member of staff to ‘build trust’ with traveller families.

Under Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance, teachers are told to be sympathetic to traveller parents because they struggle with ‘confidence’ issues and are put off attending school meetings to discuss their children’s behaviour.


Tory MP Priti Patel criticised the special treatment. She said: ‘I have concerns with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission dictating to headteachers how to run their schools and burdening them with more bureaucracy.

‘There are times when schools do need to exclude pupils to protect the rights of others to learn and headteachers should not be put off making these decisions by the patronising diktats of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.’

She added: ‘The Commission’s recommendation on travellers only serves to reinforce stereotypes as well as showing that political correctness and the human rights agenda are being skewered further against common sense.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: William and Kate Snub German Nobles on Wedding Invitations

Though many are closely connected to the British throne, most of Germany’s aristocratic houses have not been invited to the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The only blue-blooded Teutons likely to attend come from Hannover.

The young couple has invited some 1,900 guests to their nuptials at Westminster Abbey on April 29, and gossip is swirling about who may have been on the list. But German nobles have reportedly received conspicuously few of the coveted gilded envelopes.

President Christian Wulff is an expected guest as Germany’s head of state, but it seems the German relatives of the royal family have been left out.

“We did not receive an invitation,” said Otmar Fugmann, spokesman for the House of Saxe—Coburg and Gotha.

Head of the household Prince Andreas is the great grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert — who is the progenitor of the current royal family in the United Kingdom, though their name was changed to Windsor in 1917 due to anti-German sentiments.

Meanwhile relatives of the Windsors’ in northern Germany are also unlikely to attend the blessed event.

Princess Elisabeth of Schleswig-Holstein, who shares the same ancestors as William’s grandfather Prince Philip, has also said that her family received no invitation.

The only likely recipient of the fancy beige envelopes will be Ernst August, Prince of Hannover, who may be accompanied by his wife, Princess Caroline of Monaco. The House of Hannover has had a close kinship with Great Britain since 1714, when George I of Hannover took the throne in London.

But press representatives for the noble house did not confirm whether the couple would attend.

“His majesty, Crown Prince Ernst August von Hannover considers himself strictly a private person and does not wish to reveal his private appointments,” the agency said.

Still, despite the snub for German aristocrats, William and Kate are reportedly paying close attention to courtly protocol, inviting more than 40 members of foreign royal families when issuing their invitations.

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


Albania: Killed Demonstrators, Guard Officer Arrested

09 February , 17:35

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, FEBRUARY 9 — The Commander of the operational unit of Albania’s Republican Guard, Alfred Ahmetcenaj, has been arrested today in the murder inquiry into the deaths of four opposition demonstrators during violent clashes with the police in front of the country’s Government building on January 21. The arrest has been confirmed by Albania’s Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Ahmetcenaj was one of six high-ranking officers of the Republican Guard for whom the Prosecution issued arrest warrants on the day following the clashes, but which the police refused to execute. The six officers were nonetheless questioned and released with the exception of Ahmetcenaj, who is suspected of having given the order to use firearms.

Another officer of the Republican Guard, Agim Llupo, Ahmetcenaj’s deputy, was arrested yesterday on suspicion of the murder of Ziver Veizi, the demonstrator who was just a few metres from the gates of the Government building. A ballistic report has apparently confirmed that the bullet that killed Veizi came from the weapon registered with Llupo. The death of Ziver Veizi was recorded in a video in which some Republican Guards can be seen firing from the gardens of the Government building shortly after which the man slumps to the ground.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Albania’s Bitter Political Stand-Off Intensifies

EUOBSERVER / TIRANA — The bitter stand-off between Albania’s Socialist opposition leader, Edi Rama, and Prime Minister Sali Berisha of the Democratic Party continues to intensify, with another massive demonstration in Tirana — cast as an “anti-Mubarak-style” action — held on Friday (18 February).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Tadic Condemns Attacks on Journalists and Muslims

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 18 — The Serbian President, Boris Tadic, has strongly condemned recent verbal attacks on journalists and members of the Muslim community, saying that “Serbia has never been and never will be a country of chauvinism, ethnic intolerance and verbal hate”.

In a strongly-worded statement circulated by the Belgrade media, Tadic condemned the violent verbal attacks on Aida Corovic, a well-known sociologist in charge of an NGO in Novi Pazar, the main town in the Muslim majority region of Sandzak, and the threats received by journalists from the private television channel B92 who investigated presumed corruption within the management of the Kolubara mine.

In the statement, the President also censured the recent acts of vandalism carried out in the southern town of Nis, where a monument to the Roma musician, Saban Bajramovic was daubed with offensive graffiti.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Medgaz to Become Active by End March

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 18 — The new Medgaz gas pipeline supplying natural gas to Spain, which will link Spain’s Almeria to Beni-Saf in Algeria, will become operational by the end of March.

This is the promise that was made by Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Murad Medelci, during a press conference given jointly with his Spanish counterpart, Trinidad Jimenez, following a meeting between the two ministers in Madrid. Replying to a question about the projected timelines for the opening of Medgaz, Meldeci stated: “I hope that this will be possible between now and the end of March”. This new piece of infrastructure consolidates Algeria’s position as gas supplier to Spain. Algeria meets 45% of the country’s demand. Work started on the gas pipeline, which is 210 km in length and has a capacity of 8,000 cubic metres, in 2007 and the project has had a budget of 900 million euros. The Medgaz consortium, which will also manage the pipeline, comprises Algerian state concern Sonatrach (36%), Iberdrola and Cepsa (with 20% each), Endesa and France’s Gaz de France (with 12% apiece).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Trade Surplus at 16.4 Bln Dollars in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 24 — Algeria had a trade surplus in 2010 of 16.45 billion dollars compared to 5.90 billion in 2009, according to APS news agency, reporting data from the Algerian Customs National Centre for Informatics and Statistics (CNIS).

Exports totalled 56.66 billion dollars compared to 45.19 billion in 2008 (+25.38%), while imports were stabile at 40.21 billion dollars compared to 39.2 billion last year (+2.34%). The increase in the trade surplus, specified the same source, was mainly due to the price of hydrocarbons on the international market. Hydrocarbons account for 97.14% of Algeria’s exports.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Police Disperse Students Violently, Injuries

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 21 — Police in Algiers violently dispersed a student protest in front of the Ministry of Higher Education.

El Watan reports that several students were seriously injured and at least three were brought to the hospital for urgent treatment.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Faces Prospect of Democracy Amid Internal Discord

CAIRO — With President Hosni Mubarak gone, the Muslim Brotherhood is finding the prospect of democracy here a mixed blessing.

After decades of fighting for the right to participate openly in politics, Egypt’s largest opposition movement soon will face competition from emerging political factions, led by tech-savvy young Egyptians, as the country gears up for what could be its first fair election.

The Islamist group also is facing internal discord, with a handful of young members breaking away. Some say they disapprove of its rigid top-down leadership structure and its politics.

The organization, which has social and political wings, has the support of an estimated 20 percent of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population. Until now it has been the only counterweight to Mubarak’s ruling party.

“In light of the oppression of Mubarak, the group was cohesive, one body,” said Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, a former member and Egyptian journalist who writes about Islamic politics. “Now there is freedom. Many ideas will come to the surface and break some of that cohesion.”

Secular Egyptians and many in the West view the Brotherhood warily because it seeks to deepen the role of Islam in people’s lives. Deeply religious Egyptians, meanwhile, view it as too liberal.

The foray of the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups into mainstream politics, and the competition among them, is certain to stoke debate about the intersection between religion and governance in a country that has been ruled in a secular way for decades.

Since Mubarak’s ouster, the Brotherhood has offered few signs that it aspires to transform Egypt into a repressive Islamic state. The group bills itself as a moderate movement that seeks to broaden the appeal of Islam from the ground up. It also has long lobbied for a democratic system that ensures freedom of expression and term limits.

Brotherhood leaders say that they will not field a candidate for the presidency this year, and that they intend to compete for no more than a quarter of the seats in the next parliament.

“It’s not our aim to take power, it is just to participate,” said Abdel Moneim Abou el-Fotouh, a prominent member of the Brotherhood who is regarded as progressive.

Members and political analysts say the Brotherhood is deliberately keeping a low profile because its leaders are concerned that showing more ambition could backfire by stirring fear in the West and among secular Egyptians.

“You don’t know if what they say is what they want, and that’s the big concern,” a Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity to voice an emerging concern…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Prepares to Establish Political Party

The Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian opposition group that has been banned since 1954, is starting preparations to establish a political party under the name Freedom and Justice.

“Forming this party realizes the hopes and ambitions of the honorable Egyptian people for a better future,” the group said in a statement, citing Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie.

Specialized bodies in the group have been asked to prepare the final draft of the future party’s platform, Badie said. Membership will be open to “all Egyptians who accept the party’s platform and orientation,” he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it plans to establish itself as a formal party on Feb. 15. Officially outlawed, the organization has fielded candidates as independents in previous parliamentary elections.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt Acquits Two Over 2010 Shooting of Christians

Egyptian court acquitted two men charged with murder and possessing weapons in the case of the killing of six Christians and a Muslim police officer in a shooting in January 2010, the state news agency reported.

The emergency state security court also confirmed the death sentence on Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, 39, who was charged in January with the “premeditated murder” of the Christians and the police officer and with “intimidating citizens” in Nagaa Hamady in southern Egypt after mass on the eve of Coptic Christmas.

Kurashi Abu Haggag and Hindawi Muhammed Sayyid, who were charged with aiding in the murder and with possession of weapons, were acquitted on Sunday, the state MENA news agency said.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people.

Both Muslim and Christian leaders tend to emphasise sectarian harmony but communal tensions sometimes boil up into violence, often sparked by land disputes, cross-faith relationships or church construction permits.

Last year saw more than the usual share of strife. The Nagaa Hamady shooting was the first of the year and sparked protests by thousands of Christians. Protesters clashed with police and homes and shops were set on fire…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi on the Run: Dictator May Already Have Fled and be on His Way to Venezuela After Libyan Air Force Attacks Civilians

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has fled Libya and may be heading for Venezuela, William Hague said today.

The Foreign Secretary said he had seen ‘information’ that suggests Gaddafi is on his way to the South American country — as Libya was up in flames amid increasingly bloody battles between protesters and security forces.

Libyan fighter jets and helicopters reportedly fired on protesters in the capital Tripoli, with indiscriminate bombing runs leaving ‘many, many dead’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi’s Son ‘Will be in Turmoil’ Says LSE Professor Who Acted as Adviser

Professor David Held probably knows more about the beliefs of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, than anyone else in Britain.

For four years, Held was an informal academic adviser to Saif, who has warned in an address on state television that protesters in Tripoli will be eradicated if they continue their unrest.

“Watching Saif give that speech — looking so exhausted, nervous and, frankly, terrible — was the stuff of Shakespeare and of Freud: a young man torn by a struggle between loyalty to his father and his family, and the beliefs he had come to hold for reform, democracy and the rule of law,” said Held, author of books such as Restructuring Global Governance and Models of Democracy.

Held was not Saif’s tutor during his years at the LSE but the young man frequently sought out the professor for advice on his PhD, which called for greater democracy in global governance.

The discussions were passionate and often “very, very heated”, Held said. “When I first met Saif, he was struggling with himself and his place in the world, in the context of his family. By the end of his time at the LSE, he had discovered a deep commitment to liberal democratic reform of his country.

“The man giving that speech wasn’t the Saif I had got to know well over those years. The Saif I knew will be in turmoil over the beliefs he had to betray in order to demonstrate his support to his father.

“My support for Saif was always conditional on him resolving the dilemma that he faced in a progressive and democratic direction. The speech makes it abundantly clear that his commitment to transforming his country has been overwhelmed by the crisis he finds himself in.”

Held remembers Saif as man with a curiosity for knowledge and a huge appetite for reading and learning. “He always wanted to test arguments for his views, always wanted to engage in dialogue,” said Held.

But the professor was appalled by the contrast between the relaxed, charming student who took a masters in comparative politics at LSE and a PhD in philosophy and the man who scorned protesters on Monday, talking of “drunkards and thugs” driving tanks about the streets of Benghazi.

“I was appalled to see him on the television. That young man was not the person I knew: the funny, witty man who, while always guarded about his family, was always willing to talk frankly with me about the fundamental questions about his own country and the Middle East in general,” said Held.

“Saif arrived at the LSE very set in his opinions. I was of the view that here was a relatively unformed young man, struggling to make sense of his life as a member of the Gaddafi family and someone who was also increasingly aware that the democratic reform of his country was essential to its continued existence. Over a period of time, however, he showed every sign of being committed not just to opening up his country but reforming it on liberal democratic principles.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: EU: Sources, Italy Insists on Countrywide Integrity

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 21 — EU Foreign Ministers are drawing up a common draft on the events unfolding in Libya, bearing in mind the various sensitivities of EU member states. Italy in particular, say Foreign Ministry officials, is insisting that the draft should feature a reference to the need for Libya’s countrywide integrity to be maintained and defended.

Italy’s position “is more structured”, say the sources, compared to the hard line expressed by Great Britain and Germany, for example.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Greece Proposes ‘Democracy Centre’ For Arab Politicians

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 21 — Greece has put forward the creation of a “Centre for Democracy” in Athens, to help the training of new Arab politicians who are emerging in the wake of uprisings across North Africa.

The Foreign Minister, Dimitris Droutsas, who was speaking in an interview with CNN last night picked up by the ANA agency, says that the idea, which is thought to have been presented during last night’s meeting of European Foreign Ministers and aims to involve the EU, is the brainchild of the Greek Prime Minister, Giorgios Papandreou.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Uprising Reaches Tripoli, Over 60 Dead Today

(ANSAmed) — ROME — With Libya burning, the seventh day of anti-government protests have seen action in Tripoli for the first time. The headquarters of state television in the capital have been ransacked, while the central government office and other public buildings were set alight. Unconfirmed medical sources say that 61 people have died today alone, while Human Rights Watch estimates that 233 people have been killed since protests began.

These figures have been denied by Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al Islam, who admitted in a televised speech late last night that Libya’s tribal structure and oil wealth could see the country degenerate into civil war. The Libyan leader’s son said that a “plot” ordered by an unspecified “separatist movement” had taken hold in the country.

Muammar Gaddafi has not left the country, his son announced, a claim backed up today by other local sources. “He is leading the fight in Tripoli and we will win,” Saif Al Islam said. Regarding the protests, Gaddafi’s son admitted “mistakes” in the management of the crisis and said that in some cases, the reaction by security forces had been “excessive”.

Meanwhile, however, the wave of protests continues to spread, with the Chinese and Indian ambassadors to the country resigning, the former claiming that “Gaddafi may have fled abroad”, the latter announcing that he was standing down in protest against the violent repression of demonstrators.

While the EU weighs up the evacuation of European citizens from the country, with some companies (such as Finmeccanica), and in particular those in the oil sector, having already begun repatriation operations, there has been unanimous international condemnation of the events of the last few days. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has urged the authorities “not to resort to the use of violence and to respect fundamental liberties”, in a reference to Libya but also to other uprisings ripping through the Arab world.

The United States are assessing “all appropriate action” in answer to the violent repression of demonstrators.

The Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, has said that he is concerned at the situation in Libya and has called for an end to the violence and bloodshed. In a statement, Amr Moussa said that the demands for change, reform and development in Arab countries were both clear and legitimate.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi’s Son in Defiant ‘Rivers of Blood’ Warning

Tripoli, 21 Feb. (AKI) — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son warned Monday the country faced a bloody civil war if anti-government protesters refused to accept offers of reform. Amid reports of growing opposition to Gaddafi’s rule, in a televised speech, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said his father remained in charge with the army’s backing and would “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.”

Protests were reported to have spread from regional towns and cities to the capital, Tripoli, on Monday and gunfire to be heard ringing out as Saif Gaddafi’s lengthly speech aired.

At least 233 people have been killed in Libya since protests broke out on 15 February against the autocratic Gaddafi’s rule broke out , according to US-based group Human Rights Watch.

The protest followed similar uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt which have since mid-January ended the long rule of both countries’ veteran leaders. Unrest has also hit Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Jordan.

HWR urged governments to tell Libya to stop the unlawful killing of protesters amid accounts of authorities using live ammunition against them, reportedly backed by mercenaries.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said the death toll as lower than 233 and condemned the unprecedented uprising against his father’s 41-year rule as a foreign plot. But he admitted mistakes were made in the violent crackdown against protesters and urged citizens to build a “new Libya”.

“Libya is at a crossroads. If we do not agree today on reforms, we will not be mourning 84 people, but thousands of deaths, and rivers of blood will run through Libya,” he said, cited by satellite Arabic TV channel Al-Arabiya.

Hundreds of Libyans, some armed with knives and guns attacked a South Korean-run construction site in Tripoli late on Sunday, sparking a clash in which at least four foreigners were hurt, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

Three South Korean workers were wounded, one of them stabbed, and one or two Bangladeshi workers were hurt, the official said.

Anti-government strikes were on Monday reported to be taking place in Libya and government buildings were reported to be on fire.

Earlier reports said Gaddafi had fled Libya, prompting crowds to come out on to the streets of Tripoli to celebrate, but his son told state TV viewers that his father remained in Libya “leading the battle”.

Hours before Saif Gaddafi’s speech was broadcast, crowds in Tripoli could be heard chanting slogans calling for the toppling of the regime.

A US official said early on Monday that the United States was weighing “all appropriate actions” in response to Libya’s violent crackdown on protesters who say tear gas as well as live ammunition is being used against them.

US president Barack Obama was said to be being briefing regularly on fast-moving developments in Libya. Washington will seek “clarification” from senior Libyan officials as it presses for an end to violence against peaceful demonstrators, the official said.

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

Libya: Frattini: Division Would be Dangerous

(AGI) Brussels — For Foreign Minister Frattini, splitting Libya in 2 States “Cyrenaica and Libya” would be “a highly dangerous fact”. “We’re even more concerned — he said on arriving at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels — about the fact that assumptions are being raised of establishing Islamic Emirates East of Libya: this would create a highly dangerous situation just a few dozen kilometers from us”.

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

Libya: Parliament on Fire in Tripoli

(AGI) Tripoli — The building housing the General People’s Congress, that is the Libyan parliament, is in flames.

According to journalists at the scene: ‘lots of firemen are trying to put out” the blaze.

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

Libya: BP Suspends Exploration Amid Popular Unrest

Tripoli, 21 Feb. (AKI/Bloomberg) — BP suspended exploration work in the Libyan desert as shares of Eni dropped on concern that worsening violence in the North African country will disrupt oil and gas production.

BP, which has no producing assets in the country, is evacuating families and non-essential staff, spokesman David Nicholas said on Monday. Shares of Eni, the largest foreign producer in Libya, fell as much as 4.1 percent, the most since May.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi called on protesters against his father Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule to engage in dialogue or face a civil war that risks the country’s oil wealth, warning that “rivers of blood will flow” if demonstrations continue. Libya holds the largest crude oil reserves in Africa. Brent crude oil rose to $104.60 a barrel, the highest since 2008.

“The violence is unsettling and it’s definitely right to be cautious,” said Jason Kenney, head of oil and gas research at ING Wholesale Banking in Edinburgh. “It seems like Eni is most at risk. The gas coming into Europe is quite significant, so it’s a concern.”

Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corp., said he had no information about a disruption in production of crude. Al Jazeera reported earlier that Libya’s Nafoora oil field had stopped producing because of an employee strike.

Pipeline to Italy

Eni, which produced 244,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day in Libya in 2009, said operations in the country were proceeding as usual. The company also operates the Greenstream gas pipeline from Libya to Italy through the Mediterranean Sea.

OMV, Austria’s largest oil company, is withdrawing all non-essential staff from Libya. OMV produced 34,000 barrels a day in Libya in the first nine months of 2010, making this OMV’s third-biggest production country after Romania and Austria

Statoil, the Norwegian energy producer, has closed its offices in Tripoli, Libya, spokesman Baard Glad Pedersen said by telephone today. Statoil participates in land-based oil production and exploration activities in the Mabruk field, operated by Total, and in the Murzuk basin, operated by Repsol YPF.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it has temporarily evacuated the families of expat workers in Libya. “We continue to monitor the situation in the country very closely,” said Kirsten Smart, a spokeswoman for Shell, by e-mail.

Libya has become the focal point of regional protests ignited by the ouster of Tunisia’s president last month and energized by the fall of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak on 11 February. Violence has flared in Yemen, Djibouti and Bahrain as governments cracked down on calls for reform.

Thousands of people demonstrated yesterday in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city. They were met by gunfire from forces loyal to the 68-year-old Gaddafi, Human Rights Watch said, citing reports from witnesses.

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

Libya: State TV and People’s Committee Offices Destroyed

(AGI) Tripoli — Protesters in Tripoli sacked the state TV building and set fire to the People’s Committee offices representing Muammar Gaddafi’s government, eyewitnesses from the capital of Libya have reported.

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

Libya: Foreigners Flee, 2300 Tunisians Repatriate

(AGI) Brussels — Mass flight of foreigners from Libya as the Country burns with protest in a situation everybody considers serious. & 13; While the EU gets ready to evacuate EU citizens from Libya, and especially from Cyrenaica and the Eastern regions, at least 2300 Tunisians are already making their way back to their Country, 2000 during the night and 300 this morning, facilitated by the fact that borders have been abandoned even by the Police. The Tunisian Embassador in Tripoli, Salaheddine Jemmali, intervened this morning to reassure that Tunisian authorities are ready to welcome back Tunisian nationals, amounting to approximately 50,000 in all of Libya.

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

Libya: Gaddafi Still in Country, Not in Venezuela

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 21 — The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is still in the country and has not fled to Venezuela. This is according to Libyan sources, who spoke to the Al Arabiyya television network to deny reports that begun to emerge last night.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Obama Evaluates “Appropriate Action”

(AGI) Washington — Barack Obama is evaluating “appropriate action” vis-a-vis Libya. The announcement was made by a US Administration source that asked the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi to not resort to the use of force against anti-Government protesters. “We will ask the Libyan Government for clarifications. We will continue to raise the need to avoid resorting to violence against peaceful protesters and call for the respect of universal human rights”, the source explained.

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

Libya: EU: Difficult Mediation on Condemnation Text

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 21 — The 27 foreign ministers of the EU are still negotiating on the text condemning Libya’s actions that can be agreed upon by everyone. “It is not an easy mediation,” reported one European source.

On the one hand there are “very harsh” stances from countries like Germany and Great Britain (the only country in the EU that has recalled their ambassador in Libya as a sign of protest against the violence perpetrated against the protestors) and one the other hand there are “more nuanced” positions, like Italy’s.

Finland, Sweden and Denmark are among the countries that would like a clear position condemning Gaddafi’s regime, and they believe that the EU should not rule out sanctions against the Libyan leader.

Italy’s more prudent stance is fully supported by Malta, where fear of an uncontrolled wave of immigrants from Libya is just as intense. “We are extremely concerned: if this instability continues,” said Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio Borg, “there will be a sharp increase in immigration to our coasts.” Italy is being particularly insistent on the draft including a reference to the necessity of the territorial integrity of Libya being maintained and defended. For Italy, it is also extremely important to clarify that there is no interference from the EU nor is there a desire to impose any external model on the country. There is wide acceptance on this point. “France is not in a position of interference,” said French European Affairs Minister Laurent Wauquiez. “It is not up to us to decide the outcome of this crisis, but what is taking place is unacceptable,” he added.

The foreign ministers are also taking the threat posed to the EU into account if Libya were to end their cooperation on illegal immigration if the EU’s encouragement of the protestors does not end.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Witnesses: Thousands in Tripoli’s Green Square

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 21 — A witness has spoken of thousands of people gathering in Tripoli’s central Green Square: “Thousands of citizens are apparently filling Green Square, or Italy Square, as it used to be known,” a witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, said. The witness also confirmed that public buildings in the capital had been set on fire, including, the source said, the building that houses the country’s parliament, the General People’s Congress, when it sits in Tripoli.

According to a statement given to ANSA by a Libyan exile currently living in Paris, who also asked to be kept anonymous for fear of reprisals against their family, which is still in the country, four of Libya’s principal tribes — the backbone of the country’s social system — are about to join the revolt against Gaddafi, and are currently marching on Tripoli.

The source was not able to specify how many people were involved, nor when they are expected to arrive in the city, nor whether this would be in time to join the giant gathering which is filling Green Square, but such a defection of the tribes would come as a heavy blow to a regime that “has already been dumped by the army”.

The source continued: “The army is now practically no longer in existence: many sources have confirmed to me that the commander of the armed forces has refused to cooperate in repressing the uprising and has issued an order not to open fire”. And the South is by now practically “free and beyond Gaddafi’s control”.

According to Al Jazeera, the Tuareg, who number half a million in Libya, have accepted a “call to arms” by the Warfala tribe, which accounts for eight million of the country’s inhabitants. Further, one of the Warfala leaders is reported to have said that Gaddafi “is no longer a brother” and has to leave the country. The head of the Al-Zuwayya tribe of the eastern desert is said to have threatened to interrupt exports of crude if the authorities don’t stop their repressive tactics.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Maltese Military, Planes Fled From Benghazi Base

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, FEBRUARY 21 — Two Libyan fighter planes landed in Valletta this afternoon without permission from Maltese authorities. The two aircrafts had fled from a military base in Benghazi, the epicentre of the anti-Gaddafi revolt in eastern Libya, report Maltese military sources. The four Libyan pilots immediately surrendered to local authorities, according to the sources. Almost at the same time, two civilian helicopters landed in Valletta with seven passengers on board without passports. The individuals said that they are French citizens working for an oil company in Libya.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Britons Stranded in Libya

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Government continued to monitor the situation closely and urged all Britons to leave the country where safe to do so.

Officials from the Foreign Office meanwhile were locked in negotiations with their counterparts in Tripoli in a bid to open the airspace between the capital and the second city Benghazi, scene of the worst violence. Earlier, more than 40 British nationals who were stranded in Benghazi because of the no-fly zone were evacuated by land. With few commercial options available for those wishing to leave Libya, the chances of a Government-organised mass evacuation looked increasingly likely.

Portugal and Austria both sent military planes to Tripoli yesterday to remove its citizens.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are keeping the situation under constant review. If the situation on the ground determines that evacuation is necessary then we will of course do that but we never pre-empt these sort of things.”

One British construction worker, who arrived back in the UK from Tripoli said there had been a “very palpable air” that trouble was coming. Mike Bailey, who had an apartment about half a mile from Green Square in the Libyan capital, said he had been woken during the night by the sound of heavy gunfire.

He said: “We heard very heavy gunfire, small arms and heavy calibre stuff about 3am. It lasted for round about an hour. We then left the apartment about 5.30am to go to the airport.” Another Briton writing on a website said: “I’ve got a couple of friends stuck in Benghazi — they were working for the British Council there, and they’re now housebound in a flat with five other UK adults and three kids…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Eyewitness Account From the Streets of Tripoli

The sound was accompanied by the footfall of people running in panic. Many were soldiers or civil servants. Like Gaddafi, they are unlikely to know where they will end up.

This has been the situation since last Thursday’s Day of Rage. First the incidents were minor — young people throwing stones or shouting slogans. Then we heard the reports of chaos in the east — of Benghazi being bathed in bloodshed, of foreign mercenaries who only speak French arriving to kill Arabs.

Police stations and government buildings have been attacked for a number of days.

Security forces have replied in kind. They have been dressed in civilian clothes as they murder anybody who protests. Some of the worst killing was in Green Square, the centre of Tripoli, on Sunday night. Friends and other contacts have told me about bodies being piled up. There is a feeling of revolution, but also of massive fear. Gaddafi will stop at nothing to stay in power. His hard-line supporters are desperate and have called in support from other parts of Libya, and from abroad. The firing is indiscriminate — the killers do not care who dies. They just want to impose fear.

I’ve seen men discarding their uniforms — everybody from police and army to security guards and even post men. As fires burn, firemen throw their uniforms off and disappear. This is not a good time to be wearing a Gaddafi-style uniform in Libya. It has become a symbol of oppression. Green is also something which is disappearing from the city. Over the weekend there were small groups of people still singing and dancing in celebration of Gaddafi’s Green Revolution.

They wore green headdresses, and carried green flags. Now they are gone. Green, the national colour for more than 40 years, the colour of the Gaddafi revolution — it is disappearing…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Muammar Gaddafi’s Regime on the Brink of Collapse

Planes from the Libyan air force launched bombing raids on military bases and, it was claimed, rebel areas in a final, bloody attempt by the regime to reassert control.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said he had seen information to suggest Col. Gaddafi had fled Libya and was on his way to Venezuela last night, though that was denied by spokesmen for the South American country’s president, Hugo Chavez and the remnants of the Libyan regime. A source at Mitiga airport in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, said that he saw three planes, one with Col. Gaddafi on board, leaving early yesterday morning (mon).

Pro-democracy campaigners said they believed he was headed to the southern town of Sebha, where he grew up and which he turned into a desert stronghold, to make his last stand.

“Sebha is Gaddafi’s ancestral home, the place he was brought up and where the people will always be loyal to him,” said one. “If he is there, then there will be a bloodbath because his allies will fight to the last man to defend him. The Gaddafi regime has already pledged to fight to the last bullet to stay in power.” Reports from cities across Libya throughout the day suggested that a late-night speech on Sunday by Col. Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, threatening that the regime would “fight to the last bullet” had backfired badly.

Protesters flooded on to the streets of the capital Tripoli, which had previously been less badly affected by riots. Many were reported to have then been shot dead by security forces.

By Monday morning, the Hall of the People, symbol of the republic, and other buildings in the city were in flames, leading to Col. Gaddafi’s decision to use even greater force on his people. On Monday night, unconfirmed reports were emerging of mass and indiscriminate shootings, including of women and children unrelated to the protests, in a number of districts of Tripoli…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Muammar Gaddafi Fires on His Own People

Libyan Air Force jets bombed airfields and other military targets as he left the city, initially to Sebha, the town where he grew up, to prevent the weapons falling into rebel hands.

Among the targets was said to be the fortified encampment in the capital Tripoli where he lived.

Civilian areas were also said to have been hit. The regime had “declared war on its people,” its own deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Omar al-Dabashi, said in disgust.

“What we are witnessing today is unimaginable,” one resident, named as Adel Mohammed Saleh said. “Warplanes and helicopters are indiscriminately bombing one area after another. There are many, many dead.” “Our people are dying. It is the policy of scorched earth.” Others talked of mercenary forces opening fire at random on people in the capital, Tripoli.

Senior regime figures abandoned their former leader, including his public security minister, Abdul Fattah Younis al-Obeid, and his justice minister, Mustapha Abdeljalil.

But more significantly, large parts of the armed forces turned against him and joined the protesters, though fighting continued to the end. “Gaddafi is losing control of the military — he can no longer trust them,” said a pro-democracy campaigner in Tripoli. “We have spoken to campaigners in other parts of the country who have told us about the attacks on military planes. It is the end game for Gaddafi and he is reacting with death and destruction.”

As late as Sunday afternoon, it had seemed that fighting had been restricted to Bengazi and other eastern cities long regarded as more hostile to the Gaddafi regime, though there were sporadic reports of demonstrations closer to the capital.

But overnight on Sunday protests in Tripoli came under fire from security forces, many in plain clothes, with a number of deaths. By yesterday morning the Hall of the People, the parliament building that was the symbol of the Jamahiriya — or People’s Republic — was on fire, black smoke pouring out…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya Protests: Gaddafi May Have Fled to Venezuela After Air Force Attacks Civilians

Colonel Gaddafi appeared on Libyan TV to inisist he was still in country today as his bloody 41-year grip on power appeared to be nearing its end.

Tripoli is ablaze, there is anarchy on the streets and troops still loyal to the beleaguered dictator are reported to be shooting, bombing and strafing civilian demonstrators.

The navy is said to be shelling the city a alongside indiscriminate bombing runs by fighter jets as Gaddafi ordered a vicious assault against his own people.

But amid reports that he had fled to Venezuela, Gaddafi appeared on state TV to insist: ‘I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. I am in Green Square with the youths, do not believe those dogs.’

He gave the one-line statement in a bizarre TV interview while holding an umbrella and sitting in the front seat of a car.

Gadaffi spoke out after reports suggested a massacre had taken place in the city’s Green Square and left more than 60 dead, taking the death toll across the country to more than 450.

One protester told Al Jazeera:’What we are witnessing today is unimaginable. Warplanes and helicopters are indiscriminately bombing one area after another. There are many, many dead.

‘Our people are dying. It is the policy of scorched earth,’he said. ‘Anyone who moves, even if they are in their car they will hit you.’

Security forces appeared to be preparing a major assault in the capital tonight, as state TV said troops had ‘stormed the hideouts of the saboteurs’. Snipers took up positions on rooftops and jets swooped low over rooftops, apparently trying to stop more opposition activists joining those who are already overwhelming the city.

Protesters called for another demonstration in Tripoli’s central Green Square and in front of Gadhafi’s residence, but witnesses described a scene of intimidation, with helicopters hovering above the main seaside boulevard and pro-Gadhafi gunmen firing from moving cars and even shooting at the facades of homes to terrify the population.

Youths trying to gather in the streets were forced to scatter and run for cover by the gunfire, according to several witnesses who said people wept over the bodies of the dead left in the street.

The turmoil brought jitters to world markets. The oil price rose to a two-year high of $108 a barrel, with experts predicting a 5p rise in the price of a litre at the pumps within weeks.

There were reports that the Libyan ambassador to London and his staff had resigned and joined protesters as one activist raised a flag of the pre-Gaddafi Libya at the country’s British embassy today.

Senior clerics within Libya issued a fatwa against the Gaddafi regime. And two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta, where their crew sought political asylum.

Gaddafi himself was said to have left for his home town in the south of the country — or even the rogue South American state of Venezuela, according to British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The impact of the violent events was felt outside the Middle East, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also saying it was ‘time to stop the unacceptable bloodshed in Libya’.

David Cameron condemned of the brutal suppression, describing it as ‘completely appalling and unacceptable’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi’s Defiant Speech

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s defiant speech could have been a last-ditch attempt to put forward his own claims to leadership, which has been long-touted in the West.

But as a leading voice for reform in Libya, Saif al-Islam needed his father to remain in office to have any chance of putting his ideas into effect. With a PhD from the London School of Economics, he has been outspoken in backing more freedoms for his people. Since Col Gaddafi’s rapprochement with the West, Saif al-Islam became the public face of Libya to the outside world. His other sons are not so well known. Mohammed, the eldest son, is believed to have fallen into disfavour but remains head of the Libyan Olympic Committee.

Saadi played football professionally and was last heard of leading a brigade of troops in an attempt to retake Benghazi. Mutassim has followed his father most closely, joining the army, becoming a lieutenant-colonel, and then his father’s national security adviser. Hannibal was once fined in Paris for beating his then girlfriend, now wife.

Saif al-Arab was once accused of trying to smuggle an assault rifle and other weapons from Germany to Paris, though charges were dropped. Khamis leads a brigade in the armed forces, described in a leaked US cable as the best equipped in the army.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Thousands in Streets for Reforms, Less King Power

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Thousands of people have taken to the streets of over 20 Moroccan cities, demanding that King Mohammed VI renounce some of his powers, and urging him to dissolve the government and begin a series of political reforms aimed at greater democratisation for the country. The protests were organised by a group of young Moroccans inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, who have launched the “February 20” movement on Facebook to demand a new constitution bringing about greater social justice. In some cities, the protests were joined by young members of the outlawed Islamist movement, Justice and Charity, as well as by members of the opposition and Berber militants. The Interior Minister has said that the King is due to make a speech soon announcing new reforms. Meanwhile, the protesters have registered the support of the Mohammed VI’s cousin, Moulay Hicham El Aloui, a professor at Stanford University widely known as the “rebel prince”.

Yesterday’s protests were largely calm, though some clashes between demonstrators and police were registered in the north of the country. In the capital Rabat, police say that between 3,000 and 4,000 people took to the streets, many of them waving Tunisian and Egyptian flags. There were also thousands of protesters in Marrakech, Tangiers and Casablanca. In Marrakech, a group of between 150 and 200 people, who were not taking part in the protest, attacked shops and threw stones at a public building and a McDonalds outlet. The incident occurred after the roughly 1,500 protesters were dispersed. There were similar incidents in the northern city of Larache, with a group of young people attacking a customs office and a police station. Also in the north, clashes broke out today in Al Hoceima.

“The inhabitants of some villages around Al Hoceima threw stones at the police station and set five cars on fire” at the end of a protest that up until that point had passed off peacefully, one witness said. He added that the police had fired tear gas. Speaking yesterday, Prince Moulay Hicham El Aloui, the cousin of King Mohammed VI, gave his opinion on the protests. “Personally, I adhere to any initiative demanding the democratisation of our political system, as long as this occurs peacefully and with tolerance. In this case, the movement seems to respect this, so I support it,” said the man known as the “rebel prince” in an interview with France 24.

“On a legal and constitutional level, the monarchy is absolute, but this does not mean that the political system is closed or totalitarian. It is a flexible authoritarian system,” said the prince, who is a research fellow at Stanford University in the United States. The King’s cousin added that he hoped that the Moroccan monarchy, which he considers “legitimate and culturally rooted”, would evolve in the same way as constitutional monarchies following the Spanish or British model.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco: 5 Burned to Death in Bank Attack

(AGI) Rabat — 5 people died in an al-Hoceimas bank, Northern Morocco, after it was attacked and set alight by protestors on Sunday. Morocco’s Minister for the Interior, Taib Cherkaoui, said the protests affected the entire country, with 120 arrests and 128 injured altogether, including 115 officers. Rabat and Casablanca were the scenes of the largest demonstrations.

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

Oil Shock Fears as Libya Erupts

“This is potentially worse for oil than the Iran crisis in 1979,” said Paul Horsnell, head of oil research at Barclays Capital. “That was a revolution in one country, here there are so many countries at once. The world has only 4.5m barrels-per-day (bpd) of spare capacity, which is not comfortable.”

US oil contracts jumped $6 a barrel on Monday to over $95, chasing Brent crude, which traded as high as $108, as the global oil system is drawn into the vortex. While Egypt is a minor oil player, Libya’s Sirte Basin holds Africa’s largest reserves and supplies 1.4m bpd in exports, mostly to Italy, Germany and Spain.

BP, Statoil, Total and ENI have begun evacuating families and non-essential staff from Libya. BP chief Bob Dudley told Sky News that the company has only limited exploration in Libya but “remains committed to doing business” there.

Germans oil explorer Wintershall said it was winding down its Libyan operations, but Italy’s ENI has most to lose from its pipeline to Libya. ENI’s stock tumbled 5pc in Milan, leading a 3.6pc fall in the MIB index. Global oil inventories are higher than before the 2008 price spike, and OPEC can raise output if needed. It has refused to act so far despite pleas from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that the supply picture is already “alarming”.

A Saudi official said global oil ministers meeting tomorrow in Riyadh will examine market “volatility”, but dashed hopes of OPEC action, saying world markets are “sufficiently supplied”. Though Libya’s oil fields are big enough to influence global supply, producing 2.3pc of world output, investors have broader concerns. The lighting speed of events in a country that was stable just days ago has caused markets to doubt assurances about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. The Gulf region ships a third of global oil output. Credit default swaps on Saudi Arabia’s debt jumped to 140 basis points on Monday, while Bahrain rose to 305 despite an olive branch from the Sunni royal family to Shi’ite protestors. The island’s Grand Prix in March has been cancelled.

Fitch Ratings downgraded Libya on Monday on political risk although the 6m-strong country has foreign assets of $139bn (£85.7bn) or 190pc of GDP, no foreign debt, and a better balance sheet than Saudi Arabia. Michael Lewis, commodities chief at Deutsche Bank, said oil markets are bracing for trouble. December “call options” with a strike price of $120 on US crude have doubled suddenly, indicating fears of a nasty escalation. “Libya raises the stakes,” he said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi: LSE-Educated Man the West Can No Longer Deal With

With his flawless English, his expensive Italian suits and his place at the London School of Economics, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi appeared to be a man with whom the west could do business: a man who could smooth access to his country’s vast mineral resources while avoiding the need to deal with his famously capricious father.

As state security forces were reported to be firing relentlessly into crowds of civilian protesters on Monday, and with Gaddafi Jr appearing on television to threaten a civil war in which the regime “will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet”, many of his erstwhile associates were questioning their friendships with him.

The LSE has been quick to distance itself from Saif, issuing a statement in which it said the university had had a number of links with Libya, but that “in view of the highly distressing news from Libya over the weekend of 19-20 February, the school has reconsidered those links as a matter of urgency”.

Although the LSE had accepted £1.5m from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, an organisation headed by Saif — some of which was to finance “a virtual democracy centre” — the university stressed that it was to be paid over five years, and only £300,000 has been received to date. “In current difficult circumstances across the region, the school has decided to stop new activities under that programme,” the statement said. The LSE has also received scholarship funding in return for advice given to the Libyan Investment Authority in London. “No further receipts are anticipated,” the university said.

Professor David Held, an academic advisor to Saif Gaddafi during his four years at the LSE, said: “Watching Saif give that speech — looking so exhausted, nervous and, frankly, terrible — was the stuff of Shakespeare and of Freud: a young man torn by a struggle between loyalty to his father and his family, and the beliefs he had come to hold for reform, democracy and the rule of law. The man giving that speech wasn’t the Saif I had got to know well over those years.”

The university’s move to break its financial links to the regime in Tripoli did nothing to silence criticism, however. Raheem Kassam, director of the anti-radicalisation group Student Rights, said: “LSE has the most market-driven fund-raising model there is in the UK. Has that model reduced them into a simple gun for hire?”

An explanation for Gaddafi’s arrival at the LSE in 2002 may be found in one of the WikiLeaks cables, in which a US diplomat notes that “creating the appearance of useful employment for al-Qadhafi’s offspring has been an important objective for the regime”.

Shortly before he arrived, apparently with the blessing of the late Fred Halliday, professor of international relations, he startled some of the academic staff by insisting that it was his father, and not Anthony Giddens, emeritus professor at the university, who created the concept of the third way, then a pet philosophy of Tony Blair.

In the introduction to his doctoral dissertation on global governance, published in 2008, Gaddafi wrote: “I shall be primarily concerned with what I argue is the central failing of the current system of global governance in the new global environment: that it is highly undemocratic.”

The purpose of his dissertation, he added, was to analyse “how to create more just and democratic global governing institutions”, focusing on the importance of the role of “civil society”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Arab Revolution: ‘Witnessing Gadhafi’s Overthrow Would be a Special Pleasure’

The wave of rebellion in the Arab world keeps spreading, but brutal crackdowns in Libya and Bahrain show that pro-democracy demonstrators are by no means assured of success. German commentators argue that Moammar Gadhafi will be hard to topple and call on the EU to help prevent more violence.

Eastern Europe in 1989 — or Tiananmen Square? Observers are asking themselves which direction the ongoing wave of revolutions in the Arab world will ultimately take. Will protesters succeed in bringing about peaceful change, as happened during the end of communism in the Warsaw Pact states? Or will there be a brutal crackdown such as the Beijing leadership inflicted on pro-democracy protesters in 1989?

As the rebellious mood spreads to Libya and Bahrain, developments in those countries have shown that pro-democracy protestors are not guaranteed success — violent oppression by the regimes is also an all-too-real possibility.

In Libya at least 24 demonstrators have been killed in recent days, according to the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch. On Friday the human rights group, quoting eyewitnesses, announced that security forces had fired on protesters to disperse crowds on Wednesday and Thursday. Media restrictions in the country mean that the true extent of the protests and the government crackdown is hard to judge.

On Friday, soldiers were out on the streets of Benghazi, Libya’s second city, as thousands demonstrated against the killing of demonstrators by security forces. Pro-democracy activists had called a “day of rage” on Thursday, following the example of protesters in other Arab countries. So far protests have been mainly confined to the eastern cities of Benghazi and al-Bayda.

Moammar Gadhafi has ruled over Libya since 1969 and is the Arab world’s longest-serving leader. Observers believe that the autocratic colonel will be harder to topple than other Arab leaders, due to his recourse to Libya’s oil wealth. Indeed, the revolutionary leader has already tried to calm protests by doubling the salaries of civil servants.

Protests Reach First Gulf State

In Bahrain meanwhile funerals were held Friday for the victims of a government crackdown on Thursday which left four people dead. Thousands of people taking part in the funeral processions expressed their anger at the authorities and called for the island state’s ruling family to be toppled. Government supporters held their own counter-demonstration in the capital Manama on Friday.

On Thursday, authorities had cleared demonstrators from Manama’s Pearl Square, which had been the epicenter of pro-democracy protests. According to witnesses, riot police stormed the square early on Thursday morning and used hollow-point bullets, rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters.

The demonstrators mainly belong to the country’s Shiite majority and say they are repressed and excluded by the state’s Sunni elite. Bahrain, which is ruled by a royal family, is the first affluent Gulf state to be affected by the protests.

The protests in Bahrain and Libya were inspired by the recent toppling of Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. There has also been unrest in Yemen and Iran in recent days. The protests in the Arab world have been motivated by concerns about unemployment and rising living costs, as well as resentment against corruption and autocratic leaderships.

On Friday, commentators writing in Germany’s newspapers take a concerned look at the escalating violence…

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

The Revolution May be Televised — But Don’t Expect the Full Story

For the first time in a long while, not only is there news from the Arab world, there are arresting pictures as well. Revolutions make for exciting live broadcasting, and some of it has been riveting. At the zenith of the Cairo demonstrations, I sat glued to my television set, watching Hosni Mubarak address the Egyptian people. I could see him speak — there was simultaneous translation — and watch the crowd’s reaction at the same time. Mubarak was in the corner of the picture, but the rest of the screen was filled with chanting Egyptians. For a moment, it was possible to imagine that I was watching the revolution itself unfold in real time. It was almost as if I were there, too. But, of course, I wasn’t. I could only see what the cameras were showing, and much of what was important was invisible. I couldn’t see the military men in uniforms, negotiating behind the scenes. I don’t know what the envoys from the Obama administration were telling Mubarak and his aides. I couldn’t see Mubarak’s family, and didn’t know whether they were making frantic preparations to leave town or digging in their heels. I couldn’t see the businessmen moving their assets into foreign bank accounts, if that is indeed what they were doing, or the secret policemen burning their files.

Although I could see the happy crowds on the screen, I didn’t know much about was happening on the streets of Cairo either. A few days after the Egyptian revolution seemed to have triumphed — peacefully, or so it had seemed on the television — a truly ugly story emerged. Lara Logan, a prominent television reporter, was reported to be back at home in the US, traumatised after being attacked on February 11, the night of Mubarak’s resignation.

While the crowds in Cairo reportedly danced for joy, Logan, as we’ve now all read, was separated from her crew by an angry mob of some 200 men who beat her and may have raped her; they screamed she was a “Jew” and an “Israeli spy” — which is exactly how official Egyptian media had described all foreign journalists. For many, Logan’s story came as a shock. On the television, we saw the “pro-democracy” demonstrators, young and happy, male and female, celebrating the downfall of the dictator. Yet it seems that there were mobs of angry Egyptian men in the background, who were not at all happy about the dictator’s resignation, and not at all pleased to be making history on the CBS evening news. Nor was this the only piece of information missing. On TV, it certainly looked as if the power of the crowd had forced Mubarak to concede. But we still don’t know why he decided to board that helicopter and depart for Sharm el-Sheikh. Was there a coup within the army? Did the generals push him out because they prefer democracy, or because they want someone else to take power? This might not have been a revolution at all — or at least not the revolution we thought it was. It is possible that the army will now respond to what the televised crowd wanted, and will hold elections. It is also possible that the army used the protests as a convenient excuse to force Mubarak out of office, while preserving their own power…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Marzouki: Arab World Like a Forest of Dry Trees

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 11 — “The Arab world, victim of a perverse political system that turns around a single man, a single family, corruption, hiding behind a mock-up democracy, is a forest of dry trees, ready to be ignited by the slightest spark, and nobody will be spared in this great wave of freedom.

Monarchies will have to become parliamentary monarchies if they want to survive”. So said Moncef Marzouki, the historic opponent of Ben Ali, former chairman of the Tunisian human rights league and leader of the Congress for the Republic party, which he defines as “more or less left-wing”. Marzouki is prepared to stand for the presidency in the coming elections in Tunisia, where he has returned after living in exile in France for years. Apart from Egypt, Algeria is ready for an uprising as well, he said in a press conference in Paris before settling down in Tunis, where “there is still a long way to go”. Apart from the security question and the “cops” of Ben Ali who spread panic and chaos, the current government “is incompetent, the Prime Minister is illegitimate even though he has committed no crimes, because when you are there when crimes are committed like the dismantling of the economy, you are an accomplice”. Apart from a “deep confidence crisis”, there is great chaos on the level of the people, “freed from the heavy burden that has gagged them for more than 20 years, the Tunisians now want everything immediately, everybody claims something, but they must understand that this is not possible as long as there is no real and competent government”. But Marzouki has faith “in the miracle that has taken place in this God-forsaken land, because the people have matured, they are wiser now”. He was released from prison years ago after the intervention of Mandela and is not religious. He is close to the transnational radical party, he wants a constituent assembly, a mixed regime that balances powers between the leader of State and the Prime Minister, the government in particular, and guarantees the independence of justice. He promotes the formation of a sort of Justice and reconciliation body, as has been adopted in countries like South Africa, to deal with the past and the police in particular, guilty of torture. “I hope that people will talk about what they have done, but then it has to stop. We must move forward because otherwise we’ll never get out of it”.

Concluding, the candidate for the presidency of the new Tunisia said that valid systems must be created to avoid the corruption “of which no country is free”, like a High anti-corruption council.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Curfew Lifted, State of Emergency Continues

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 15 — The curfew in Tunisia, in force from midnight to 4 am, has been lifted. The state of emergency remains in place. Making the statement, the Interior Minister said that the state of emergency remains in force until further orders, so as to protect the safety of citizens and their possessions.

The state of emergency bans the assembly of groups of more than three people in outdoor public spaces and states that “the army and security forces can use their weapons against any suspicious person who fails to obey orders to stop or those who attempt to flee and who can no longer be stopped”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Uphill Transition, But Economy Still Holding

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 17 — More than a month after the exit of Ben Ali, the army’s armoured vehicles are still stationed in front of the Interior Ministry, where the new government is accused in more demonstrations of being too close to the old regime. But the demonstrations don’t last long and involve only a few hundred people. The news in Tunisia has shifted from the days of the impassioned revolution which has paved the way for other uprising in the Arab world, to the new wave of migration in the past weeks from the country’s southern coasts, to the crowds of people asking for work in front of post offices or municipal offices or, for example, outside the closed doors of the Africa Hotel. It was the headquarters of foreign journalists during the revolution, but the last Al Jazeera reporters had to leave the hotel due to a strike of its staff, the security staff guarding the entrance explain. The strike is one of the many that were called this week by workers, taking the UGTT union by surprise. The leaders of this union had preferred — under pressure of the protests — not to participate in the government of Premier Mohammed Gannouchi. Now the UGTT considers these strikes to be individual initiatives at ask for higher wages and better contracts, perhaps incited by people of the old regime, that risk to damage the country’s image and economy. Therefore the union confederation has chosen the road of the “social contract” with the government to guarantee the transition. Many, the UGTT reports, have started to understand that it is their duty to go back to work in this stage. Also the governor of the Central Bank, Mustafa Kamel Nabli, warns: “there are already some alarming signs and the impact of the economic drift will be felt in the coming six months in the absence of adequate measures”. Meanwhile, the PDP has its eyes on Europe asking for a different attitude than in the past.

“Europe and Italy have averted their eyes from the economic, social and regional disparity that has been created in the past 50 years”, said the party’s secretary-general Ellouze Mongi, and Berlusconi was a friend of Ben Ali. Now they must make the shift from an approach of “securing” to one that targets the country’s development. And our Italian friends should help the young Tunisians, allowing them to study and work legally in Italy through special agreements signed by the governments”.

As an alternative to illegal immigration, he continues, we need prospects for development in the period after the revolution. But the country’s new economic plan, Mongi adds, must go beyond a model that so far has been “based on exports of an industry with low added value like textile or electromechanics. We must aim for high-tech for our unemployed graduates, 40% of the total, and we need large-scale projects for the rest.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Security: 1,729 Arrested in First 17 Days of Month

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 21 — In the period February 1 -17, a total of 1,729 people were arrested in Tunisia on suspicion of having carried out criminal acts, reports the Interior Ministry. Only on Saturday the number of arrested stood at 196, fifteen of whom had escaped. Operations were conducted by the police, national guard and army units.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Value of Ben Ali ‘Treasure’ Defined,

(ANSAmed) — Calculations have taken place of the value of “treasure” discovered in the erstwhile President Ben Ali’s palace in Sidi Bou Said, which was shown on national television last Saturday.

As well as an impressive quantity of jewels, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, massive gold watches and more, a total of 22.5 million Tunisian dinars (around 11.6 million euros) were found in various safes and store rooms alongside foreign currency (euros, dollars, pounds, yen) worth around 9.6 million euros. 2.8 million dinars (around 1.5 million euros) were found previously in the Presidential palace in Carthage.

Reliable sources say that the foreign currency does not come from Tunisia’s Central Bank but was imported illegally.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkish Business in Libya Faces Security Threat

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, FEBRUARY 21 — Anti-regime protesters in Libya over the weekend attacked assets owned by Turkish companies operating in the country, burning warehouses, occupying facilities and stealing cars, according to data gathered by the daily Hurriyet. Some protesters occupied nearly finished residence projects in Derne and Beyda, two cities close to the country’s Egyptian border, claiming that they were using their housing rights granted by the President Muammar Gaddafi. The Turkish workers who were living at the construction site were evacuated and moved to safer quarters. Turkish companies handle most of the construction projects in Benghazi and Derne, where dozens of people have been killed by the Libyan military in the recent uprising. Some 14 Turkish companies are active in Derne and Benghazi. The number of Turkish people working in the region and their family members trapped there totals more than 5,000. Ali Davutoglu, Turkey’s consul general to Libya, called on the Turkish workers not to resist protestors and to leave the region if possible. Erdal Eren, chairman of Turkish Constructors Association, or TMB, confirmed that some Turkish constructors in the region had suffered damages. Eren told Hurriyet that he does not expect the turmoil in the country to last long. Turkish contractors have completed projects in Libya worth a total of $30 billion since 1973, he said. Turkish State Minister Zafer Caglayan will hold an emergency meeting Monday with high-profile Turkish business groups and a number of companies doing business in Libya to discuss the recent uprising in the North African country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Western Nationals, Companies Flee Libyan Unrest

LISBON — Thousands of Europeans fled the unrest in Libya on Monday as the United States ordered non-essential personnel to leave the oil-rich north African nation amid escalating violence. Portugal, Austria and The Netherlands sent military planes to Tripoli to evacuate their nationals and those of other EU states as companies with major interests in the country including British energy giant BP and Italy’s ENI and Finmeccanica were also set to repatriate their employees.

An Austrian foreign ministry spokesman said regular flights on Austrian Airlines from Tripoli to Vienna were fully booked, adding that the airline would use a larger plane Tuesday for the daily round-trip flight.

Russia was to begin evacuating its nationals on Tuesday, Moscow’s emergency situations ministry said.

The Russian community totals more than 500, a spokeswoman said. Earlier Monday, rail monopoly Russian Railways said that it would evacuate its employees working on a multi-billion euro high-speed railway.

Protesters Monday overran several Libyan cities while regime stalwarts began defecting as the pillars of Moamer Kadhafi’s 41-year-old hardline regime were targeted in the capital Tripoli amid reports he had fled the country.

Meanwhile the United States ordered all non-essential staff to leave Libya and warned US nationals to avoid travel to the country. Several cities including eastern Benghazi, the base of a protest movement inspired by uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia, have reportedly fallen to demonstrators following the defection of some army units.

Human Rights Watch said that at least 233 people had been killed since Thursday in the Libyan government’s crackdown on protests and fresh violence erupted after Kadhafi’s son warned the country faces civil war. Meanwhile a spokesman for BP, which has about 140 staff in Libya including about 40 expatriates, said: “We’re just monitoring the situation and making preparations to evacuate some of the families, and some non-essential staff in the next day or two.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

The Great Myth of Palestinian Statehood

Since Sept. 11, 2001, American neoconservatives have forcefully argued that the combination of economic stagnation, rapid demographic growth, lack of upward social mobility, and political repression in most Arab countries was a breeding ground for Islamic radicalism. Their “freedom agenda”—which George W. Bush embraced during his first term but largely relinquished after 2006—rejected the conventional wisdom that the Arab rage that brought down the Twin Towers was a child of Israel’s occupation; that the Islamist wave sweeping the Muslim world fed on the humiliation of the Palestinians; and that the growing radicalism infecting Muslim immigrant communities in the West was made in Israel.

This narrative informed the heretofore accepted view that the only alternatives to repression in the Middle East were civil war and failed states, or the rise of Islamic theocracies. That the status quo was unjust, that the regimes were corrupt, and that their rulers were cruel, were unpleasant but necessary facts of life.

The Arab world’s unpalatable regimes would nonetheless help the West midwife the solution to the region’s ills: a Palestinian state that, by restoring Palestinian justice and dignity, would miraculously neutralize extremism.

So when the European Union’s foreign-relations chief, Catherine Ashton, spoke in Cairo last year, she only mentioned freedom once—Palestinian freedom from Israel. This, even as the regimes hosting her at the Arab League’s headquarters were busy silencing and torturing their own citizenry.

Europe has always had a vast array of political tools and economic leverage to push its Arab allies to introduce reforms, liberalize their media, unblock civil society, improve governance, and tame corruption. But the Middle East’s tyrants warned every European visitor that doing so would open the floodgates to radical Islam. Algeria, with the bloodbath that followed the Islamists’ electoral victory in 1992 and the subsequent military takeover, gave credence to their arguments. Foreign ministry mandarins advised their bosses to believe the tyrants: Solve Palestine, they whispered, and everything else will follow.

And so they did, doggedly pursuing Palestinian-Israeli peace, and furiously blaming Israel at every twist and turn not just for the lack of peace but also for every other regional problem.

Now, the Arabs’ revolutionary awakening should force the standard bearers of Western conventional wisdom to finally abandon this mindset. Unfortunately, the lesson is still not sinking in. Speaking in Israel this month, former U.S. National U.S. Security Adviser General James L. Jones identified progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace as “the one thing that could have the local, regional and global impact that is now a matter of urgent necessity.” He added that “continued Arab-Israeli dispute strengthens and amplifies the appeal of [Iran’s] message to the oppressed and those who feel that they have no future.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also chimed in by dismissing Israel’s concerns about the stability of its peace treaty with Egypt in the wake of Hosni Mubarak’s ousting. Reminding the world of the old Camel Corps wisdom, he said “This should not be a time for belligerent language. It’s a time to inject greater urgency into the Middle East peace process.”

Lost in all this is the simple fact that the ordinary Arabs who rose against their regimes didn’t do so because they wanted to free Palestine, but because they wanted to free themselves. Western mandarins always assumed that Palestinian freedom was all that the Arab world needed, and in the process they resigned themselves to the region’s rampant corruption, repression, and persecution of women and minorities. Yet Mohammad Bouazizi didn’t set himself on fire in December, thereby triggering Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, to express solidarity with Palestinians. Instead, his suicide was a direct response to the economic and social strictures in his own country. Meanwhile, his countrymen’s spontaneous reaction to that desperate act stood in sharp contrast to the customary Arab displays of solidarity with Palestinians—usually staged, regime-backed affairs…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Could the Kingdom of Bahrain Become an Iranian Pearl Harbor?

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

The Islamic Republic of Iran has reiterated in the past that its military strategy is based on “asymmetric warfare” — Tehran will not confront the U.S. and its allies directly, given the superior military technology of the West, but rather through subversion and terrorism. Bahrain is, in fact, the ideal target for such an Iranian strategy. The actual stakes in the struggle for Bahrain are far greater than one would think, given its small physical size (760 sq. km.) and its tiny population (738,000).

When the U.S. entered the Second World War, Imperial Japan launched a sea-borne airstrike against the headquarters and ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Today, as is well known, the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet is in Bahrain. Iran does not need to employ its air force against the U.S. naval facility, but only to topple the pro-American regime of the al-Khalifa family and replace it with a new Bahraini regime backed by the Shi’a majority which seeks the immediate withdrawal of the fleet. In 2005, Shi’a demonstrators marched in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, showing their support for Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Three years later in 2008, Shi’a demonstrators waved Hizbullah flags in Manama and called for closing U.S. bases in Bahrain.

The recent events in Bahrain have underlined the very volatile situation in which the small kingdom has been managing its affairs for the last two decades.

Nothing could be as descriptive of its unique situation as the narrative of the American analyst whose paper was leaked to the public through WikiLeaks: “The Sunni ruling family of tiny, Shi’a-majority Bahrain have long recognized that they needed outsiders — first the British, then the United States — to protect them from predatory neighbors, Iran foremost among them. Both Shahs and Ayatollahs have asserted claims to sovereignty over Bahrain from time to time. While keeping close to their American protectors, Bahrain’s rulers seek to avoid provoking Iran unnecessarily, and keep lines of communication with Iranian leaders open.”

The Sunni al-Khalifa family took Bahrain in 1783 from another Arab clan that acknowledged Persian overlordship. In 1971 the British colonizers left Bahrain at a time when the last Shah of Iran asserted and then withdrew a claim of sovereignty over the tiny island. After the Islamic revolution, the Iranian regime claimed sovereignty over Bahrain from time to time. Tensions between Bahrain and Iran developed again in February 2009 when Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, an advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran had sovereignty over Bahrain. He called Bahrain Iran’s 14th province (Saddam Hussein called Kuwait Iraq’s 19th province during the 1991 Gulf War). Bahrain halted natural gas negotiations with Iran in protest of the comments and demanded an official apology. Former Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki visited Bahrain at the time and presented an official apology.

It should come as no surprise that Bahraini rulers view Iran with deep suspicion and support fully the U.S. efforts to pressure and contain Iran. According to another leaked WikiLeaks document of April 2008, on the eve of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Bahrain in 2008, the king reiterated that his number-one security concern was Iran. The king told the American who prepared Rice’s visit that the purpose of the meeting was to demonstrate that “we have an alliance that will not stand by and watch countries fall to Iran one by one.”

Bahraini officials often tell their American counterparts that some Shi’a oppositionists are backed by Iran. The king himself has claimed that members of the opposition have received training in Lebanon with Hizbullah officers (even though the Americans were unable to confirm this report). The last known and proved Iranian involvement in Bahrain occurred in the mid-1990s when followers of Ayatollah Shirazi, who had received money and weapons from Iran, were rounded up and convicted of sedition (and later pardoned, while some engage today in legal politics). The Bahraini government presented evidence in Washington that the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards was involved in a 1995 Shiite uprising.

Nevertheless, as neighbors, Iran and Bahrain have had a long relationship centered largely around bilateral trade, though basic tourism and necessary regional cooperation also play a part. Since the international community and the United States in particular began to condemn Iran for its nuclear program, Bahrain’s relations with the Islamic Republic have become increasingly strained. Bahraini officials have publicly stated that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program in violation of its Non-Proliferation Agreement obligation. Moreover, according to the WikiLeaks document referring to Bahrain, dated August 2008, roughly 30% of the Bahraini Shi’a follow clerics who look to more senior clerics in Iran for guidance. The majority look to Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq and a few to the late Muhammad Fadlallah and others in Lebanon. Bahrain’s most popular cleric is Sheikh Isa Qassim, who has occasionally endorsed the Iranian regime’s doctrine of “velayat-e-faqih” (guardianship of the jurist — the Supreme Leader). According to the same WikiLeaks report, a number of Bahrain’s middle-aged clerics studied in Qom during the years when Saddam Hussein obstructed study in Iraq.

In other words, Bahrain rulers are practically sitting on a barrel of explosives whose detonator lies in the hands of the leaders of Iran. Bahrain’s precarious regime lies on a very unstable social fabric:…

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

Democracy is Route to Peace in Middle East, Says David Cameron

With popular uprisings flaring in countries across the Middle East and North Africa, Mr Cameron will today insist that regional leaders must respond with “reform not repression.”

On Monday, the Prime Minister became the first Western leader to visit Egypt since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak. He urged Egypt’s interim military rulers to ensure a “genuine transition” to civilian rule and declared: “Greater openness can lead to greater stability.”

He also strongly condemned the Gaddafi regime’s violence against civilian protesters in Libya as “quite appalling”. Mr Cameron has asked his officials to investigate whether any British-made weapons have been used in the “vicious repression”. He also faced Labour criticism after it emerged he is being accompanied on his Middle East tour by executives from major British companies, including several defence manufacturers.

Mr Cameron flew on to Kuwait, where he will deliver a speech making a “liberal conservative” call for widespread political reform in the region.

Since democracy often goes hand-in-hand with open markets, more freedom in the Middle East could deliver commercial opportunities for Britain, the Prime Minister will argue on Tuesday.

Discussing the thinking behind the speech, Mr Cameron insisted that more democracy in the Middle East is in Britain’s best interests. “We’ve got a very important trading relationship that we want to expand and we’ve got a very important security relationship, not least in terms of combating extremist terror, that we need to sharpen,” he said. “A process of political and economic reform doesn’t run counter to those other two objectives. It goes with those objectives.” He told reporters in Cairo: “I believe in a liberal conservative approach rather than a neo-conservative approach. “Democracy is a process not just an event.

“We who want to see a more stable world, and stronger trading relationships, we should be arguing for the building blocks of democracy.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Diplomatic Coercion: Iran Parlays Two Hostages Into Propaganda Victory

The release of two German journalists arrested in Iran last October came at a price. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had to fly personally to Tehran and meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While Iranian media celebrates the end of the country’s international isolation, Berlin is focused on damage control.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Export of Weapons to Libya and Bahrain Suspended

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 18 — France has announced today that it has suspended its exports of weapons to Libya and Bahrain, where anti-regime protests have been growing, as have the numbers of casualties of police repression.

“Authorisation for the export of security materials destined for Bahrain and Libya were suspended yesterday,” Bernard Valero, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

“Events of the past days have led us to stress that the Bahrain authorities are expected to turn their undertakings into actions”.

The government in Paris yesterday condemned “the excessive use of force which has led to several deaths and many people wounded” and said that it was “especially concerned” about the course events were taking in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Genesis of Shi’a Islam

In order to understand the clerical rulers of Iran, we need to learn about the genesis of their religious faith, Shi’a Islam, and the pivotal place of the Mahdi. Examination of the vast Islamic literature shows that the present sect of Shi’a Islam has evolved from a mix of cultural, political, economic and religious influences. I shall outline, in a summary form, how the belief in the Mahdi, the revered Imam whose advent is expected by the Shi’a faithful, crystallized over time. The Mahdi is expected to appear and save the world when it has reached the depth of degradation and despair. Below is a brief chronological account of how Shiism and the belief in the Mahdi as its pivotal figure were formed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Supporting Egypt’s Opposition, But Iran’s Government

Turkish President Abdullah Gül recently paid a state visit to Iran after years. On the first day of the visit, Iranian opposition tried to hold a protest in the streets of Tehran, a protestor was killed. On Tuesday, 200 deputies in support of the regime called for the death of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

During a press briefing and at his meeting with the religious leader, Ali Khamanei, Gül underlined the importance of popular legitimacy of governments. This is the whole support Turkey could give to Iranian dissidents! In the meantime, news was that Gül wanted to meet with the Iranian opposition, but his Iranian counterpart Ahmadinejad prevented the meeting. The news was denied later on. I wish it hadn’t been. But when Egypt was the case, the government provided support — though late — to Egyptian protesters despite the demands of dissidents in both countries are very similar.

Demands of the Green Movement of Iran

Demands voiced in the Iranian Reform Movement’s manifesto signed by movement founder and scholar Abdolkarim Soroush, dissident cleric Mohsen Kadivar, former parliamentarian and Islamic Guidance Minister Ataollah Mohajerani, journalist Akbar Ganji and Abdolali Bazargan, an Islamic thinker and son of former prime minister Mehdi Bazargan and published on the movement’s website, Jaras (, read as follows:

1. Resignation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and holding a new presidential election under the supervision of neutral organs; abolish the vetting process of candidates by the Guardian Council and formation of an independent election commission that includes the representatives of the opposition and protestors, in order to draft the rules and regulations for holding free and fair elections.

2. Release of all the political prisoners, and investigating the torture and murder of the protestors over the past several months in open courts in the presence of a jury and the attorneys of their choice, and compensating those who have been hurt and their families.

3. Free means of mass communication, including the press, the Internet, radio and television; abolishing censorship and allowing banned publications, such as dailies to resume; expanding non-governmental TV and satellite channels; ending the filtering of the Internet and making it easily accessible to the public, and purging liars and provocateurs from national radio and television.

4. Recognizing the rights of all lawful political groups, university student and women movements, NGOs and civil organizations, and labor unions for lawful activities and the right to peaceful protest according to Article 27 of the constitution.

5. Independence of universities; running the universities democratically by the academics themselves; evacuating the military and paramilitary forces from the universities, and abolishing the illegal Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution that interferes in the affairs of the universities.

6. Putting on trial all those who have tortured and murdered people, and those who ordered past crimes, particularly over the past several months.

7. Independence of the judiciary by electing rather than appointing its head; abolishing illegal and special courts such as the Special Court for the Clergy; purging the judiciary from inequitable judges and banning judiciary officials from giving political speeches and carrying out orders of higher officials, i.e. the president and the Supreme Leader, instead of implementing laws fairly and neutrally.

8. Banning the military, police and security forces from intervening in politics, the economy and culture, and ordering them to act professionally.

9. Economic and political independence of the religious seminaries, and preventing politicizing the clerics to support the government, and banning the clerics to use Friday prayers sermons for issuing illegal and anti-religious preaches.

Demands of Egyptian opposition

1. Ending emergency law that suspends constitutional guarantees for human rights.

2. Releasing all political prisoners.

3. Dissolving both houses of parliament and forming an official committee comprising independent constitutional and legal experts to propose the required constitutional changes.

4. Shelving the current Constitution.

5. Forming a new government composed of independent and popular individuals and highly experienced executives /bureaucrats.

6. Forming a collective council for transition period.

7. Forming a working group to prepare a democratic constitutional draft to be put on a popular vote.

8. Abolishing all obstacles in front of formation of political parties that will to work in civilian, democratic and peaceful way.

9. Freedom of press.

10. Formation of labor unions and non-governmental organizations with no official permission required.

11. Abolishing all military courts and all past military court decisions regarding civilians.

Today’s million-dollar question is: “What is the regional model for Arab countries following their revolutions?” What people have in mind is of course Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and its transformation. But Turkey can make a difference in the neighborhood only by its democracy, not through its force or money.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his parliamentary group meeting last Tuesday empathized with the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. Perfect! Now in line are the peoples of Iran, Syria, Sudan, Algeria, Libya and Cyprus. Go for it!

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

Turkey-EU: Ankara: No Crisis But We Want Clarity

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 18 — Turkey has no plans to cause a crisis if no progress is made in the country’s EU accession talks in the coming years. But “the EU should be more open and transparent and talk in a clear way to Turkey” when faced with the slow speed of the process and the division between member States that are in favour or against Turkey joining the EU. So said today in Brussels Turkish Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Caglayan during a briefing organised by the think tank of the European policy centre.

“We will not cause a crisis”, said Caglayan. “We only say that the EU should treat Turkey like the other countries: this is a sincere and natural request”. Currently “17 chapters” of the 35 negotiation chapters in the EU accession process” are blocked”, the Minister continued. In the view of Caglayan, France and Germany are particularly damaging Turkey “due to their internal conflicts”. And there are more factors that undermine the credibility of Turkey’s European integration process, like the lack of liberalisation of Schengen visas, granted to other countries which are not even candidates to join the EU, with a consequent negative impact on Turkish entrepreneurs, or the quota system for trade in several products. But Ankara hasn’t changed its mind. “In spite of these double standards”, said Caglayan, “Turkey is determined to become a full member of the European Union”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Eyeing USD 1.5 Bln Worth of Exports in 2011

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 16 — Turkey’s thriving defense industry could export USD 1.5 billion in goods this year, an all-time high for the country which nearly doubles the USD 832 million in exports from 2009, daily Hurriyet reports.

“We are expecting larger payments accruing from previous contracts this year,” said one senior official from the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, or SSM. “Plus, there will be substantial receipts from contracts signed last year and to be signed this year.” Turkish defense industry exports stood at USD 200 million five years ago. Official and industry figures both point to a visible rise in international competitiveness for the sector. According to Turkey’s Association of Defense Industry Manufacturers, or SaSaD, local industries exported systems worth USD 669 million in 2009, up from USD 576 million in 2008. SSM’s official exports figure for 2009 was USD 832 million, but this figure included offsets for the country’s civilian aviation industry. SaSaD counts only defense exports.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey’s Few Women’s Shelters Struggle to Meet Huge Need for Services

It seems that not a day goes by without news about women battered by their husbands and lovers or about women who are killed in the middle of the street. Women’s shelters open doors to women and children who survive violence but there are only 65 women shelters in a country of 70 million — a number that doesn’t close enough to meeting the need

A lack of responsibility on the part of municipal authorities around Turkey is partly to blame for the low number of women’s shelters in the country, an official from a prominent women’s support group has said.

“Many municipalities see [constructing a shelter] as a favor, not an obligation, for they neither aim to fight against domestic violence nor fulfill the requirements of the state,” said Zelal Yalçin of the Mor Çati (Purple Roof) group. “As such, some municipalities see building women shelters as a public relations campaign and hold opening ceremonies.”

Mor Çati is an initiative from a group of pioneering feminists who brought the issue of domestic violence to the agenda and began to work for the creation of the first women’s shelter in Turkey in 1995.

There are women’s shelters in Istanbul in Küçükçekmece, Üsküdar, Pendik, Kadiköy and Bakirköy municipalities. Although every municipality with more than 50,000 people is required by law to open a shelter, many jurisdictions do not take the obligation seriously; for those that do not, there is no sanction for noncompliance.

Seven shelters from UN

There is slow but steady progress in terms of educating public service workers about domestic violence, according to United Nations Population Program Coordinator Meltem Agduk.

“I am one of those who see the full side of the glass. A friend of mine had once said ‘The Women’s Movement poured corn into a pan 30 years ago and now they are popping.’ It is indeed; especially in the last six or seven years awareness has increased enormously and women have started to speak up,” said Agduk.

Police forces have been more involved in the issue since 2006, receiving more training, said Agduk, adding that there were discussions to establish a domestic violence unit at the Police Department.

“But I have to underline that this is a mentality issue. We are trying to make changes by struggling against a patriarchal mindset,” she said. “And that could take some time, but I think Turkey is making speedier progress on the subject compared to other countries. By 2015, training sessions will be provided to 40,000 police officers, 75,000 health personnel, 100,000 religious clerics and all judges of the Family Court, as well as prosecutors. These are critical figures.”


Hürriyet ‘Hello, Violence in Family’ Line

* Daily Hürriyet’s “Hello Violence in Family Line,” which started Oct. 15, 2007, has received about 24,000 phone calls beginning operation. The calls are not limited to Turkey, as there are calls from even Germany, France, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, the United States, Syria, Switzerland, Iran, Tunisia, and Turkish Cyprus. A total of 6,442 callers were either the victim or relatives of the victims. One of every two victims complained about physical abuse.

Attackers call, too

* Not only the victims but a total of 121 attackers also called the hotline, 12 of whom said they resorted to violence but did not want to do so anymore. Three called to make insults while the rest called to ask for the locations of their wives who had sought shelter in the facilities.

797 emergency cases

* There have been a total of 797 emergency cases so far, mostly to which teams of officials were sent and shelters were provided for a considerable number of battered women. One of the calls was for a suicide case. The woman who was saved from four attempts of suicide was hospitalized with the assistance of the Province Health Directorate and the Social Services and Child Protection Agency, or SHÇEK.

There are currently only 65 women shelters in Turkey, but there would be roughly 1,400 if the law were properly implemented.

“The number of women shelters is not enough to meet the need. For instance, an average of 10 women call us each day, at least half of whom ask for shelter, almost all want to have more information and ask whether or not they can come anytime they want to,” said Yalçin.

For those working at the shelter in Küçükçekmece, one of the oldest in the country and dating from 1995, the learning curve for helping abused women was extremely steep.

“We didn’t know anything [at the beginning]; not how to treat a battered woman, or how we should take care of the children, or how a woman could hide from the violence of a husband… But we learned everything in time. And now we organize seminars and conferences for the new shelters,” said the manager Saniye, whose real name has to be concealed due to safety reasons.

Daycare center a necessity for shelters

Shelters provide a safe heaven not only for women but also children as most women come with their children.

It is very difficult to witness the suffering of the children who come here with their mothers, said Nergis, another official at the Küçükçekmece facility whose real name was also withheld for her safety.

“I heard children saying, ‘Mom, don’t open the curtain, daddy will come to find us.’ I saw children peeing their pants as they hear the word ‘daddy,’“ Nergis said.

It is meaningless to have a shelter unless there is a daycare center, she said. “Women come here with their children. A woman who cannot take care of her children can hardly stand on her feet. For that reason, we tell everyone that daycare centers are a priority for shelters.”

The mission of the shelters is not simply limited to providing a safe roof to battered women. Shelters remain in touch with women who are “discharged” from the facility, like patients from a hospital; they hire and furnish houses for women with the help of civil society organizations, municipalities and district governorships. They even beg, if necessary, to private teaching institutions to provide scholarships to the children of battered women and find jobs for them, according to information provided by shelter officials.

“It is a passion for us to visit them later, have a cup of coffee and see how happy these women are together with their children in their own houses. We helped 14 battered women acquire and furnish houses in 2010,” said another Küçükçekmece shelter official.

Studio houses for the victims

Provincial Health Directorates and the Social Services and Child Protection Agency, or SHÇEK, also run shelters for women and children in addition to municipalities and nongovernmental organizations.

Two-thirds of the shelters in Turkey are run by SHÇEK. “My door is open to any woman who saysi ‘I need a shelter, I am subjected to violence in family.’ I welcome any woman who applies to me. We have every kind of facility to welcome battered women. If one is in trouble, she should call me right away,” said SHÇEK director Ismail Baris.

Despite the optimistic statements, he doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge that Turkey lags 30 years behind Europe on the subject matter. “Right now, we are at a point where we should’ve been 15 years ago,” he said.

Help stations

Baris said there were approximately 150 locations in Turkey that women could contact when in danger.

“Each woman who calls these stations is accommodated. Of course we can not accommodate them all at the same place. Let’s say that if a woman applies to us in Istanbul, she can be protected in Kocaeli, or similarly to the one that applies from Kocaeli, she can be protected in Bursa,” he said.

Baris said they accommodated women in hotels or even rented houses, if necessary.

There are 40 Women’s Guest Houses affiliated with SHÇEK, Baris said, adding that 50 to 74 new guest houses were planned in the 2011 budget.

However, the figure is quite low given that there are 499 women’s shelters in Germany and 293 in Spain.

Baris said small studios could provide a quicker remedy. “I think the most idealistic way is the implementation of studio houses. These women do not return to their original families or to their husbands. We plan to assign studio houses to them until they find a job and manage to stand alone on their feet. They can stay in these houses for a few years. We reached an agreement with Housing Development Administration, or TOKI, to build studio houses for us.”

Meanwhile, he drew attention to another problem about shelters; the lack of social service officials:

“There are 13,000 social service officials in Israel, we have only 3,000. Think that there were only 33 PhD students from 1961 to 2000 in this area of study. Be my guest to calculate the population ratio. However, we are not running away from our responsibilities by citing the shortcomings. Our budget increased 30 times in three years. We do our job rather than complain,” said Baris.

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

Turkish PM Lashes Out at Opposition Parties, Media

Responding to criticism from opposition leaders, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan castigated the media once again, claiming that opposition parties are “hand in hand with media institutions” in building up an “empire of fear” before the June 12 general elections.

Erdogan was speaking at the opening ceremony of a shopping center in Istanbul on Sunday.

Taking the stage at the opening ceremony for the Olimpa shopping mall in the Basaksehir neighborhood, Erdogan said opposition parties have “launched a fear campaign” before the elections “as they do not have a clear plan for Turkey.”

Responding to opposition criticism of “an empire of fear” in the country regarding the recent arrests of some journalists, Erdogan said the economic prosperity and stability of the country “is disturbing some circles.”

“The vicious circle that allowed a small minority of people to enjoy the wealth of the nation was broken with the rule of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP,” which came to power eight years ago, Erdogan said. “As the nation prospers, these circles cannot digest the economic growth of the country.” In his 20-minute speech, the prime minister used the word “fear” 15 times.

Opposition’s promises

The Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, have launched a “fear campaign” against his government, Erdogan further said. “They cannot digest our success,” he said, adding that the AKP remains respectful of all kind of differences and lifestyles. “Those who cannot produce new projects are pumping fear against us,” he said.

Erdogan said Kemal Kiliçdaroglu “does not know math and arithmetic,” in response to the CHP leader’s promise to grant 7 billion Turkish Liras per year under an insurance program for poor families. Noting that Kiliçdaroglu’s promise involves granting between 600 and 1,250 liras to each poor family per month, Erdogan criticized him of “not knowing enough math and arithmetic.”

Confident of the general election’s outcome, Erdogan promised that he will resign if the AKP does not come first at the ballot. “If I am defeated in the elections, I am ready to go to Anatolia and start working with my people,” he said. “[Opposition leaders] cannot give the same promise as they take their power from their seats.” He called on opposition leaders to leave their posts if their parties did not win the election.

Speaking to the crowd, Erdogan also mocked Kemal Kiliçdaroglu’s use of the word “sea” when talking about Lake Van in the eastern province of Van on Sunday. Erdogan said, “When the lake turned into a sea, I do not know,” adding, “If you do not have the right guidance, then you might even assume the lake is a sea.”

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

What Does the Arab World Do When Its Water Runs Out?

Water usage in north Africa and the Middle East is unsustainable and shortages are likely to lead to further instability — unless governments take action to solve the impending crisis

Poverty, repression, decades of injustice and mass unemployment have all been cited as causes of the political convulsions in the Middle East and north Africa these last weeks. But a less recognised reason for the turmoil in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and now Iran has been rising food prices, directly linked to a growing regional water crisis.

The diverse states that make up the Arab world, stretching from the Atlantic coast to Iraq, have some of the world’s greatest oil reserves, but this disguises the fact that they mostly occupy hyper-arid places. Rivers are few, water demand is increasing as populations grow, underground reserves are shrinking and nearly all depend on imported staple foods that are now trading at record prices.

For a region that expects populations to double to more than 600 million within 40 years, and climate change to raise temperatures, these structural problems are political dynamite and already destabilising countries, say the World Bank, the UN and many independent studies.

In recent reports they separately warn that the riots and demonstrations after the three major food-price rises of the last five years in north Africa and the Middle East might be just a taste of greater troubles to come unless countries start to share their natural resources, and reduce their profligate energy and water use.

“In the future the main geopolitical resource in the Middle East will be water rather than oil. The situation is alarming,” said Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey last week, as she launched a Swiss and Swedish government-funded report for the EU.

The Blue Peace report examined long-term prospects for seven countries, including Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel. Five already suffer major structural shortages, it said, and the amount of water being taken from dwindling sources across the region cannot continue much longer.

“Unless there is a technological breakthrough or a miraculous discovery, the Middle East will not escape a serious [water] shortage,” said Sundeep Waslekar, a researcher from the Strategic Foresight Group who wrote the report.

Autocratic, oil-rich rulers have been able to control their people by controlling nature and have kept the lid on political turmoil at home by heavily subsidising “virtual” or “embedded” water in the form of staple grains imported from the US and elsewhere.

But, says Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East programme at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic Studies, existing political relationships are liable to break down when, as now, the price of food hits record levels and the demand for water and energy soars.

“Water is a fundamental part of the social contract in Middle Eastern countries. Along with subsidised food and fuel, governments provide cheap or even free water to ensure the consent of the governed. But when subsidised commodities have been cut, instability has often followed.

“Water’s own role in prompting unrest has so far been relatively limited, but that is unlikely to hold. Future water scarcity will be much more permanent than past shortages, and the techniques governments have used in responding to past disturbances may not be enough,” he says.

“The problem will only get worse. Arab countries depend on other countries for their food security — they’re as sensitive to floods in Australia and big freezes in Canada as on the yield in Algeria or Egypt itself,” says political analyst and Middle East author Vicken Cheterian.

“In 2008/9, Arab countries’ food imports cost $30bn. Then, rising prices caused waves of rioting and left the unemployed and impoverished millions in Arab countries even more exposed. The paradox of Arab economies is that they depend on oil prices, while increased energy prices make their food more expensive,” says Cheterian.

The region’s most food- and water-insecure country is Yemen, the poorest in the Arab world, which gets less than 200 cubic metres of water per person a year — well below the international water poverty line of 1,000m3 — and must import 80-90% o f its food…

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

Yemen: President Saleh Refuses to Leave Unless Voted Out

(ANSAmed) — SANAA, FEBRUARY 21 — Yemen’s president Abdallah Saleh has today said that he will not be leaving power “except through elections”, while street protests demanding he step down are growing. “I have been asked to leave but will not do so in any manner other than through elections,” said the president in a press conference.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen Seizes Iranian Ship in Territorial Waters

SANAA, Feb 21 (KUNA) — Coast guards and navy seized an Iranian ship with 13 Iranian sailors on board in Yemen’s territorial waters, the defense ministry said Monday.

Yemeni coast guards and navy noticed a foreign ship entering the territorial waters, thus calling it to stop and seizing it, the ministry said in a statement.

The crew of 13 Iranian sailors turned themselves in without any resistance, and they were interrogated, it added.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

South Asia

American Held in Pakistan Shootings Worked With the C.I.a.

The American arrested in Pakistan after shooting two men at a crowded traffic stop was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team of operatives conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials.

Working from a safe house in the eastern city of Lahore, the detained American contractor, Raymond A. Davis, a retired Special Forces soldier, carried out scouting and other reconnaissance missions for a Central Intelligence Agency task force of case officers and technical surveillance experts, the officials said.

[Return to headlines]

Pakistan to Overtake Britain as World’s Fifth Largest Nuclear Power

Pakistan is on the verge of overtaking Britain as the world’s fifth largest nuclear power at a time when the country faces an unprecedented threat from extremists.

American intelligence agencies believe that Pakistan now has more than 100 deployed nuclear weapons, an increase of nearly 40 per cent in two years.

It means that one of the countries considered the most unstable in the region is ahead of both Britain and, significantly arch-rival India, to own the fifth largest nuclear arsenal behind the United States, Russia, France and China.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Uzbekistan Warns Over ‘Evil, Satanic’ Rock Music

TASHKENT — Uzbekistan’s state television Monday issued an unequivocal denunciation of rock and rap as a Western liberal excess, saying the music is epitomised by sadism, drug addiction and immorality. In a TV documentary called “Melody and Calamity” Uzbekistan’s second main channel Youht TV raised alarm over “pernicious influence of Western rock and rap music approaching as dark clouds over the heads of Uzbek youth”.

Uzbekistan is Central Asia’s most populous country, where 90 percent of the 28 million inhabitants are Muslim.

The secular government, wary of both religious extremist ideology and “excesses of Western democracy”, has in recent months shown increasing impatience with cultural imports from abroad. The documentary, made in the style of a Soviet propaganda film, said “rock music originated from African hunting rituals” and “rap was originated by inmates in prisons, that’s why rap singers wear wide and long trousers”.

“This satanic music was created by evil forces to bring youth in Western countries to total moral degradation,” according to the documentary. Some of the Uzbek singers interviewed lambasted Western style pop and heavy music and said that the salvation from their hazardous effects was to be found in Uzbek classical music.

“If you check disks or flashcards in your home you may find some of the rock or rap songs performed by Uzbek singers as well… and be aware of the satanic effects of this evil music,” the narrator warned. The documentary also mentioned scientific research studying the effects of the music on human health, saying that if classical music was a cure from illnesses, rock and rap are the tickets to death. The film repeatedly showed footage of Western singers in concerts, an encroaching scorpion and ended with nuclear bomb blast in the background and asked if “we can take measures against the dark clouds”. The broadcast of the documentary comes after Uzbekistan withdrew approval for the broadcast of two Russian television channels, reportedly due to the high sexual content in some of their shows.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

Legal Fears Keep Good Samaritans Off China’s Streets

According to an online survey conducted by Chinese writer Zheng Yuanjie at the end of 2010, 60 percent of respondents said they would not help elderly people in distress because they were afraid of being held responsible. Some say the 2007 Peng Yu case in Nanjing is to blame. Peng, who claimed he volunteered to help an elder woman who had fallen over to the hospital, was believed by the woman to be the culprit who knocked her down. Peng was ordered by the local court to pay about 46,000 yuan in compensation. The reasoning is something like “If you are not the culprit, why did you bother to get her up and accompany her to hospital?”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

30 Killed in Stampede at Mali Stadium

The stampede occurred as the crowd swarmed to get close to imam Osman Madani Haidara as he delivered blessings on a Muslim holiday in the 25,000-seat Modibo Keita stadium in the capital Bamako. Twenty-seven of the victims were women who waited in the front of the crowd hoping to be touched by the religious leader and receive healing and protection, a source said. Another 70 people were injured. Civil protection services quickly arrived on the scene and were backed up by emergency services from Keita, 15 kilometres from the capital. The wounded were mostly taken to the Bamako’s main hospital.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Somalia Suicide Attack Kills Six Police

MOGADISHU — A suicide car bomb attack on a government security base in Mogadishu Monday killed at least six policemen and wounded scores of others, a police official told AFP.

“At least six police officers were killed. Many others were wounded, the toll could be higher but I don’t have more details,” said Abdirahman Issa, a senior police official in the Somali capital. He added a number of civilians in the area were also believed to have died in the explosion.

No group has claimed responsibility yet for the attack, which took place shortly after 8:30 am (0530 GMT), but recent such attacks have all been carried out by the Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab insurgent group. A local street vendor told AFP that two vehicles may have been involved in the attack, which was preceded by gunfire in the area and took place at a time when police officers generally line up to report for duty. According to Western security sources, the Shebab, who have over the past two years failed to break the transitional federal government’s (TFG) last defences in Mogadishu, held a top-level meeting on February 10.

Top Shebab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane “Abu Zubayr” and other commanders of the movement observed that their operations against the TFG and the African Union troops protecting it had achieved limited success in recent months.

They agreed to intensify their attacks in the coming weeks but complained of a shortage of suicide volunteers and said that those who had been used recently had not performed their task to expected results, the sources said.

Some were poorly trained, others balked at the last minute or escaped. The rare meeting is believed to have been also attended by senior leaders Mukhtar Robow and Fuad Shangole, as well as Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, whose Hezb al-Islam movement merged with the Shebab last year.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Venezuela Government Denies Ghedaffi is Coming

(AGI) Caracas — Sources inside the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez deny that Libyan Colonel Muammar Gheddafi is traveling to Venezuela. A short time ago British Foreign Minister William Hague reported from Brussels that the Libyan dictator had left his country and was traveling to South America.

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


143 Rescued at Lampedusa on 2 Boats

(AGI) Palermo — Another 143 immigrants on two boats were rescued at dawn by the Coast Guard near Lampedusa. A group of 89 people were on a 15-meter vessel. After their rescue, a second group of 43 was found on a 8-meter boat. Both vessels were escorted to the Lampedusa harbor. There, the foreigners, all adult males, stated to be Tunisian nationals.

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

Italy: Tunisian Migrants Clash With Police on Tiny Southern Island

Palermo, 21 Feb. (AKI) — A group of around 20 Tunisian migrants on Monday hurled stones at Italian police who intervened when a brawl broke out between them and other migrants at the southern island of Lampedusa’s overcrowded detention centre.

Police removed about 10 migrants from the detention centre after the scuffles between the Tunisians, who claimed migrants who arrived on Lampedusa overnight had tried to “queue-jump” and appropriate from migrants held at the centre for several weeks tickets allocated for transfers to detention centres on the Italian mainland.

A policeman was reportedly injured in one eye after a migrant allegedly attacked him with pepper spray.

The 10 migrants will be aboard the next flight transporting illegal immigrants from Lampedusa to other identification and detention centres, Adnkronos learned from an unnamed source.

Some 400 migrants were due to be transferred Monday from Lampedusa aboard four flights.

Some 50 riot police are now guarding the entrance to the detention centre.

“It’s a rapidly evolving situation, a pressure-cooker that could explode from one minute to the next,” the source told Adnkronos.

There are 1,350 Tunisian migrants being held in Lampedusa’s detention centre which is designed to accommodate 800 people.

Over 5,000 mainly Tunisian economic migrants have arrived aboard boats to Italy since the north African country’s ruler of 23 years, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country in mid-January amid a popular revolt.

Italy has warned of a “humanitarian emergency” and “an exodus of biblical proportions” in the Mediterranean. Ben Ali’s ousting was followed earlier this month by that of Egypt’s autocratic president Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the 80 million-strong nation for almost 30 years.

Italy has asked the European Union for 100 million euros to help secure its porous borders and on Monday representatives from the EU borders agency Frontex were due to visit Lampedusa’s detention centre for talks with officials.

There was a lull in the migrant landings last week after Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini signed an accord with the Tunisian government agreeing to cooperate on stemming the influx of migrants to Italy from North Africa.

But on Monday, the coastguard spotted a broken-down boat with about 15 migrants on board some 26 nautical miles off Lampedusa, whose passengers were said to be rowing towards the shore.

Thirty-two Tunisan migrants reached Lampedusa overnight while 53 landed there on Sunday aboard two boats.

Lampedusa’s mayor has banned the sale of alcohol to migrants, whose recent mass arrivals on the tiny island have strained its resources and relations with its 5,000 inhabitants.

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

Tunisian Migrant Wave Resumes

Four more boats hit Lampedusa as Frontex gears up

(ANSA) — Lampedusa, February 21 — A wave of migrant landings from Tunisia onto the southern Italian island of Lampedusa resumed Sunday and Monday amid fears that unrest in Libya might spur arrivals from a different front.

Some 130 migrants, mostly Tunisians, came ashore on the island, closer to Africa than Sicily, from two boats at dawn Monday, following 73 compatriots from another two boats Sunday.

A third, smaller boat believed to be carrying about 15 people has been sighted some 26 miles from shore.

There are about 1,300 migrants on the island and its 800-capacity holding centre is overflowing. Staff from Frontex, the European Union’s frontier control agency, began helping Italian efforts to stem the flow Monday as Foreign Minister Franco Frattini warned of “repercussions” from the unrest in Libya.

Italy had managed to cut its arrivals from Africa to almost zero thanks to a controversial ‘push-back’ policy agreed with Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

The renewed wave has prompted it to seek EU aid and it has stressed the importance of Europe framing a “long-term” strategy for migration, as well as implementing what Frattini has called a ‘Marshall Plan’ to boost North African economies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK Census Expected to Cost Nearly £500m Due to Translation Fees

Guidance on how to complete the 32-page form has been translated into 56 languages while advertisements are being broadcast on ethnic minority TV channels and leaflets distributed to shops, mosques, churches and temples.

It is a legal requirement for everyone to complete the census, which takes place once every 10 years, with the next national survey due to be conducted on 27 March. The results are used to help plan public services, including school places, hospitals, and transport. Persistent refusal to complete the form can lead to prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

But the Office for National Statistics, which organises the survey, admitted that while three million people failed to complete the 2001 census, only 38 were convicted.

Glen Watson, ONS census director, said the cost of the exercise was projected to reach £480 million this year, twice the total for the previous census in 2001.

This was largely because of inflation and the fact that there will be an estimated 3.5 million more people to count, largely as a result of immigration.

“There has been as much population growth in the UK in the last 10 years as there had been in the previous three decades,” he said. “It will have been the biggest 10-year growth that the country has ever seen. Two-thirds of that growth has come from migration, either as a direct result of migration or an indirect result of migration, with different fertility rates in migrant communities. “That presents something of a challenge for us,” he said. Britain’s “increasingly diverse” society means that census materials and leaflets will have to be provided in languages including Chinese, Polish, Sinhala, Pashto, Amharic, Yoruba, and Tigrinya. The ONS is hiring 30,000 staff to target groups such as immigrant communities and students in university towns which traditionally struggle to complete the census on time.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Foreign Squatters Given Legal Aid to Fight £1m House Eviction

Squatters who broke into and occupied a £1million house have been given hundreds of pounds of taxpayers’ money in legal aid to fight eviction.

The intruders from France, Spain and Poland have been living in the three-storey five-bedroom townhouse for a month.

Meanwhile owner John Hamilton-Brown has been forced to rent a two-bedroom flat for his family while he battles to get the gang out of the house.

Neighbours said the property had just been sold when the 12 squatters broke in during the early hours of the morning after a window was forced open.

Since then there has been more damage and endless parties — several of which have culminated in the police being called.

Yesterday, several of the squatters danced, waved flags, sang and played the guitar outside the property. They also bragged about how easy Britain’s laws were in allowing them to take over homes.

A French man who called himself Jean-Claude, said: ‘I came to England seven years ago because this is where the love is. We will speak to other people from all over the world to come here and live because it is so easy. Why can’t we live anywhere we want?’

A French girl with blonde dreadlocked hair added: ‘I love it here. We move around where we want and share our love. You should see the views in there — it’s amazing.’

Mr Hamilton-Brown, 36, applied to the county court last week to seek an interim possession order to enable him to claim the house back. He did not hire a solicitor because of the expense.

But when he arrived at Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court, in East London, he was amazed to find that two of the squatters had been granted legal aid and were represented by a duty solicitor.

Because they were EU citizens and unemployed, they qualified for free legal representation.

Mr Hamilton-Brown had already been to the court four times since his home was invaded on January 21. At Thursday’s hearing, he was not granted the interim order that would have let him remove the squatters within 24 hours because of a legal technicality.

He was granted a possession order — meaning he will now have to wait up to six weeks for a warrant that will allow bailiffs to remove them.

‘I was horrified they were given legal representation,’ Mr Hamilton-Brown said. ‘As I work and pay taxes, I’m at a disadvantage…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Immigration Fears of Young: Three-Quarters Say it is a Problem

Fears over immigration have increased among young people — amid dire jobs news for their age group.

More than 70 per cent of those in their late teens and early 20s now say immigration is a problem, according to pollsters Ipsos MORI.

That figure has risen by 10 per cent over the 12 months that saw unemployment among the young approach one million.

For the first time, people in the 16-24 age group are now more worried about migrant numbers than those in their 30s, the poll showed.

Last week it was revealed 965,000 young people are out of work and hundreds of thousands have never worked. One in five 16-24 year-olds is jobless and looking for work.

The poll found almost half of youngsters believe immigration into Britain will damage the economic recovery by taking jobs away from those already here.

Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos MORI, said: ‘The research shows strong support for tougher immigration policies, and high levels of concern.

‘Concern among young people about immigration has also increased and that could be attributed to the high levels of youth unemployment.’

Across the country, three quarters of Britons say immigration is a problem. Almost two thirds — 65 per cent — want tougher controls on those coming into the country.

More than half (57 per cent) support the Government’s immigration cap on non-EU migrant workers, and just 15 per cent are opposed.

Some 68 per cent of 25-39 year-olds said immigration was a big problem, compared to three quarters of those aged 40-64 and 86 per cent of those aged 65 and over.

The poll of more than 1,000 Britons revealed varying reasons for concerns. More than four out of ten people were worried about the burden on public services.

Nearly one in three highlighted job fears and a quarter pointed to a general failure in recent years to control migrant numbers.

Last week ministers laid out details of the new cap on non-EU workers, which comes into force from April 6. It will restrict to 21,700 the number allowed in each year.

Ministers hope the changes, with a clampdown on bogus students, will help cut net migration levels from more than 200,000-a-year now to ‘tens of thousands’ by 2015…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Schoolboy Who Posed as Homeless Orphan Facing Death if He Was Deported is Exposed as a Fraud

When he arrived in the UK from Pakistan, the story of Ahmer Rana — 15, orphaned, homeless and in fear of his life — touched the hearts of those he met.

The teenager found himself with foster parents, a school place and a petition signed by 4,000 supporters — including his local MP — asking the Home Office not to deport him.

But he now has a lot of explaining to do to the people of his adopted home in Carmarthen, south-west Wales, after his story was exposed as a tissue of lies.

His name is actually Daniyal Shahzad, he is a year older than he claimed to be, and his parents, far from being killed, are both alive and well. The UK Border Agency uncovered the lies and has rejected his plea to stay in the Britain.

Mr Shahzad has admitted that he came to Britain to send cash home to his family.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Press Association: Labour ‘Let in 3 Million Migrants’

More than three million migrants came to Britain under the previous Labour government, campaigners claim.

Migration Watch UK said official figures to be released on Thursday will show for the first time that net migration since Labour came to power in 1997 topped the three million mark.

Sir Andrew Green, the think-tank’s chairman, said: “The sheer scale of what has occurred is changing Britain fundamentally and irrevocably and in ways the majority of the population did not ask for, were not consulted about and did not wish to see.”

Describing immigration policy as “Labour’s great betrayal”, Sir Andrew said the introduction of 3.2 million people — three times the population of Birmingham — was increasing the pressure on “roads, railways, housing, infrastructure, the environment, schools, hospitals and the general quality of life”.

He added: “The present Government will have to stick to their guns if they are to clear up the shambles they inherited and get a grip of developments that could otherwise fundamentally change the whole nature of our society.”

Immigration minister Damian Green said: “Unlimited migration has placed unacceptable pressure on our public services over the years. “That is why we are currently carrying out major reform of the system to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. “We have already introduced an annual limit to the number of economic visas from outside the UK alongside new proposals to reform other routes of entry including student, marriage and settlement visas which have in the past been subject to widespread abuse.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

“The Islamization of Knowledge”

The Culture War continues, this time exacerbated by indigenous groups that share a “strategic vision” with anti-American elements overseas:

The great task … is to recast the whole legacy of human knowledge from the view point of Islam… To recast knowledge in the mold of Islam relates to the Islamic vision. It is necessary to Islamize knowledge, i.e. to redefine and re-order the data, to rethink the reasoning and relate the data, to reevaluate the conclusions, to re-project the goals and to do so in such a way as to make the disciplines enrich the vision and serve the cause of Islam. — Ismail al-Faruqi

Evidently some folks believe knowledge doesn’t exist to confirm truth but rather to promote an ideology:

Islamization of knowledge simply refers to an attempt through which those aspects of the body and purpose of knowledge and of the process and methodologies of discovering, validating, imparting and applying it, which oppose Islam, are identified and made subservient to the Islamic worldview.

“The Islamization of knowledge movement seeks to ensure that anything taught in the university classroom which ‘opposes Islam’ must be discarded.” After all, doesn’t Islam mean “submission [to the will of Allah]”?

As Laura Rubenfeld has noted on Pajamas Media, Mr. al-Faruqi, quoted above, has ties to a rather unsavory group:

The Islamization of knowledge is part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “strategic vision … under [which] a minority Muslim group infiltrates through legitimate legal processes a majority’s secular institutions, starting with its universities. Over time, ‘Islamized’ Muslim and non-Muslim graduates of universities enter the workforce, including a nation’s civil service sectors. From there, arguably, those ‘Islamized’ graduates are poised to subvert a host society’s law enforcement branches, intelligence community, military branches, and foreign services.”

When the [International Muslim Brotherhood] has determined that institutions in a host society have been weakened sufficiently “from below” through its “Islamization” reform program, it leaves its phase of “concealment” (kitman) and enters into direct action, which could be anything from a leadership coup in a mosque, to the takeover of a police station, to a government coup d’etat. — Dr. Terri K. Wonder [quoted in the text]

For more details, go to Rubenfeld’s article — “Caught in the Act? Akbar Ahmed, the ‘Islamization of Knowledge,’ and the Muslim Brotherhood” — here.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Canada: Immigrants Involved in Multiple Marriage Watching Polygamy Test Case: Imam

VANCOUVER — The women of the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., in their ankle-length skirts and long hair reminiscent of a different century, have become the face of polygamy for most Canadians. But members of that tiny sect of the Mormon church aren’t the only ones watching for the outcome of the landmark court case challenging Canada’s polygamy law. Leaders in the country’s Muslim community say the decision will have wide implications.

Aly Hindi, an outspoken imam at Salaheddin Islamic Centre in Scarborough, Ont., said there are more than 200 polygamous Muslim marriages in the Greater Toronto Area alone. The figure is impossible to verify as polygamy among Muslim and other immigrant groups in Canada is often shrouded in mystery.

Hindi believes banning polygamy is harmful to women. “If the three adults — the husband, the first wife and (the other) women — have consent, I don’t think the government should interfere in this,” Hindi said in a telephone interview.

By disallowing polygamy, the government is encouraging affairs, he told The Canadian Press.

“This is unjust law drawn by men who do not want to carry responsibility for the second woman,” Hindi said.

Hindi would not say how many polygamous marriages he has officiated at, but he did say that he has witnessed marriages where both women celebrated the relationship, contrary to popular views of polygamy. Advocates say polygamy is justified in the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad himself is often cited as an example of being able to marry more than one woman. According to Surat al Nisaa, the “Book of Women” in the Islamic holy book, it is permissible to marry up to four women. But Muslims are divided on the interpretation of that passage. Tunisia outlawed polygamy in 1956 and Moroccan legislation has made multiple marriages virtually non-existent in the kingdom. Alia Hogben, director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said the Qur’anic passage referring to multiple wives ought to be understood in the context that it was written.

“Marriage was the only way out for women to gain any kind of status … it was a form of protection. That section has nothing to do about men’s needs for multiple wives,” said Hogben.

She said it is a myth that women make a free choice to enter into polygamous relationships.

“I know of no woman who freely chooses to become a second or third wife,” said Hogben…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe’s Grave Failure

Multiculturalism in Western Europe has now definitively been declared a failure. That is what German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last October. Around that time the Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer remarked that his Christian Social Union party “supported the German leading culture and is against multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is dead.”

This month British Prime Minister David Cameron blamed multiculturalism for Islamic extremism. He was followed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said: “We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.” The latest attack on multiculturalism came last week from Dutch Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Christian Democrats, Maxime Verhagen. What the great majority of their country’s populations understood many years ago, has taken their leaders far too long to understand and thereafter to admit.

The fate of the few leading politicians who were ahead of their time may be worse. Former Dutch Liberal Party leader and Minister of Defense Frits Bolkestein was one of those. In 1991 he published in the daily De Volkskrant an article in which he stated his views on the comparison of cultures. Bolkestein summarized his views in an interview with me a few years ago: “The existing policy of ‘integration while maintaining cultural identity’ had to change to ‘integration into Dutch society even if that means adapting one’s culture.’ He added that where Islamic values of immigrants came into conflict with essential values of Dutch society, the latter should prevail.

To leave no doubt, Bolkestein remarked further that “judged by the standards of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the dominant civilization of Europe at present is superior to the Islamic civilization. All civilization is based on making judgments.” He gave as examples that the civilization of the ancient Romans was superior to the civilization of the Gauls in what is now France and that democratic postwar Germany had a superior culture to Communist East Germany.

Ten years later when Bolkestein was a European commissioner, his colleagues there also did not understand yet what he had written long before. Bolkestein twice tried to raise in the Commission the problem of the multicultural societies in Europe and the risks of unlimited Muslim immigration. His colleagues did not want to discuss the issue. Afterwards, Bolkestein said to another commissioner that he had the feeling that members of the commission “almost considered him a racist.” His colleague replied: “Drop the word almost.”

Can’t trust Europe on Mideast

For European Jews, little good has come out of the huge Muslim immigration. Or, to put it in a non-euphemistic way: The massive non-selective influx of immigrants from Muslim countries into Western Europe and the failure of integration of large numbers of them into European societies, is the most negative development for European Jewry in the past 50 years.

Many of these immigrants brought troubling anti-Semitic prejudices from their countries of origin and taught them to their children. In some cases, the anti-Semitism of these Muslims is far more violent than that of members of the autochthonous population. There is no doubt that the contribution of Muslims to anti-Semitic incidents in Western Europe is far above their share in the general population…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]