Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110226

Financial Crisis
»Ireland’s New Government on a Collision Course With EU
»Market Crash 2011: It Will Hit by Christmas
»Petrobras CFO: Oil Surge May Lose Steam
»Tunisia-Libya: Trade at 1 Mln Euros, Now Uncertainty
»Freak Storm Brings Snow to Los Angeles
»Gingrich Says Allen West Would be Considered as His Running Mate
»Most Americans Support Upcoming Congressional Probe of Muslims
»Networks Skip Democratic Congressman’s Call for Union Protesters to ‘Get a Little Bloody’
Europe and the EU
»EU: Italy Presents National Plan for Red Tuna
»France: Nice: A Year of Events to Celebrate Italian Unity
»Irish Reporter Tries to Arrest Israel’s Foreign Minister
»Italy: Ministry Sounds Alarm for Palm-Tree-Eating Red Weevil
»Italy: Iceman to Get New Face
»Italy: MP Ready to Report on Cash-to-Back-Govt Allegation
»Italy: Messineo: People Who Pay Protection Complicit With Mafia
»Italy: Rome: Three Somalians Arrested on Suspicion of Rape
»Italy: Snow in Sicily: Trouble on the Roads
»Italy: Opposition Politician Says He Was Offered €150,000 to Join Berlusconi
»Sea Highways for Nice and Genoa Development
»Spain: Juan Carlos: No Secrets on 1981 Attempted Coup
»UK: East London Mosque Keeps on Lying
»UK: London Protest Against Arab ‘Puppet’ Dictators
»UK: Searchlight Poll Finds Huge Support for Far Right ‘If They Gave Up Violence’
»Bosnia: EU Pressing for Government Formation and Reforms
North Africa
»Algeria: Accused Murderer of Matoub Lounes on Hunger Strike
»Comment About Turkey ‘Just a Proverb, ‘ Libyan Leader’s Son Says
»Gaddafi’s Empire Crumbles as His Inner Circle Abandon Him
»Liam Fox: Libya Will Send Strategic Shock Waves Through Arab World
»Liam Fox: Libya Crisis Shows Why We’re Right on Defence Reform
»Libya: Berlusconi: Danger of Fundamentalism Near Italy
»Libya: Gaddafi No Longer in Control, Says Berlusconi
»Libya: Seif Al-News of Victims “A Big Joke”
»Libya: UN Thanks Italian Government for Evacuating Staff
»Morocco: Italian Visitors Up 38% Over Past 2 Years
»Paris Investigating Mubarak and Gheddafi
»Revealed: UK’s Secret £10 Billion Talks With Libya
»The Chilling Transformation of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi
»What Every Good Cultural Relativist Knows About the Gang Assault on Lara Logan
Middle East
»Blood Feud Rocks Southeastern Turkish Village
»British Worry Me, Says Israeli PM Netanyahu
»Don’t Count on Democracy
»Expert Puts Turkey’s Rival Political Parties on the Couch
»France-Saudi Arabia Deal on Civilian Nuclear Energy
»Iran and Syria Reach Naval Cooperation Agreement
»Syria: Damascus to Celebrate Renovation Old Facades
»‘Trust Shooting’ Now Target of Turkish Military Investigation
Australia — Pacific
»Third of Christchurch Buildings ‘Could Face Demolition’
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Former Luxury Hotel in Mozambique Home to Thousands of Squatters
»South Africa: Only a Matter of Time Before the Bomb Explodes
»We Don’t Care About Revolution — We Just Want to Go to Europe: Chaos, Militant Islam and Thousands Fleeing Tunisia in the Aftermath of Uprising
Culture Wars
»NY Times Reporting Dotted With Warnings of ‘Far-Right, ‘ ‘Hard-Right’ Conservatives
»The Reality of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
»New Stretchable Solar Cells Will Power Artificial Electronic ‘Super Skin’

Financial Crisis

Ireland’s New Government on a Collision Course With EU

Exit polls and early tallies from Ireland’s general election heralded political annihilation for Fianna Fail (FF), the party which has ruled Ireland for more than 60 years of the Irish Republic’s eight decades of independence.

The unprecedented and historic defeat, Fianna Fail’s worst result in 85 years, makes the Irish government the first eurozone administration to be punished by voters in the aftermath of the EU’s debt crisis. Voter turn-out was exceptionally high at more than 70 per cent, indicating public anger at the government and the EU.

Late last year, Ireland was forced to accept a £72 billion EU-IMF bailout to cover huge public debts that were ran up to save failed Irish banks.

The bail-out was designed to prevent financial contagion that threatened the existence of the euro, but according to economic forecasts, the cost of servicing Irish bank debt and the EU-IMF bank loans will consume 85 per cent of Ireland’s income tax revenue by 2012, a burden that a majority of voters find intolerable.

Brian Cowen, the Irish Prime Minister and Fianna Fail leader, who stood down last month rather than face furious voters, was also pressured into implementing a savage £13billion austerity programme of tax rises and spending cuts drawn up by the EU.

The cost of the EU-IMF bailout in extra taxes for an average Irish family has been estimated at over £3,900 a year. Other deeply unpopular measures include controversial reductions to the minimum wage, unprecedented cuts to public services and 90,000 jobs losses in a country where unemployment is already running at almost 14 per cent. “When people are angry, when you’ve just cut their pay packets, you are not going to be top of the pops,” admitted Tony Killeen, Fianna Fail’s campaign director yesterday.

In Dublin, Fianna Fail won just eight per cent of the vote in an electoral decimation that called into question the future of previously unassailable politicians such Brian Lenihan, the Irish finance minister…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Market Crash 2011: It Will Hit by Christmas

by Paul B. Farrell

Politicians lie. Bankers lie. Yes, they’re liars. But they’re not bad, it’s in their genes, inherited. Their brains are wired that way, warn scientists. Like addicts, they can’t help themselves. They want to sell stuff, get rich.

We want to believe they’re telling us the truth. Silly, huh? Both trapped in this eternal “dance of death” controlled by programs hidden deep in our brains, telling us what to do, telling us to ignore facts to the contrary — till it’s too late, till a new crisis crushes all of us.

Psychology offers us a powerful lesson: Our collective brain is destined to trigger a crash before Christmas 2011. Why? We’re gullible, keep searching for a truth-teller in a world of liars. And they’re so clever, we let them manipulate us into acting against our best interests.

In fact, behavioral science tells us that bankers and politicians are lying to us 93% of the time. It’s 13 times more likely Wall Street is telling you a lie than the truth. That’s why they win. Why we lose. Because our brains are preprogrammed to cooperate in their con game. Yes, we believe most of their lies.

One of America’s leading behavioral finance gurus, University of Chicago Prof. Richard Thaler, explains: “Think of the human brain as a personal computer with a very slow processor and a memory system that is small and unreliable.” Thaler even admits: “The PC I carry between my ears has more disk failures than I care to think about.” Easy to manipulate.


“The speed with which you should pull back from the market as it advances into dangerously overpriced territory this year is more of an art than a science, but by October 1 you should probably be thinking much more conservatively.”

Translation: Get the heck out of Wall Street’s stock market casino soon, maybe as early as July 4th, and definitely get out by Christmas, because soon all the lies, lying and liars will stop working.

[Return to headlines]

Petrobras CFO: Oil Surge May Lose Steam

International oil prices could drop as far as $70 a barrel when the North African region and the Middle East see a calming of the civil unrest that has disrupted oil production in Libya, the chief financial officer of Brazilian oil giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA said Friday.

The front-month crude contract earlier this week breached the $100-a-barrel mark for the first time since late 2008 as oil output from Libya dropped amid violent anti-government protests and as investors worried about possible supply disruptions in other North African nations and the Middle East.

“I don’t see the case that is happening in North Africa as an extended situation,” said Petrobras’s Almir Barbassa in a telephone interview with MarketWatch following the release of the company’s report of a nearly 40% rise in fourth-quarter profit.


[Return to headlines]

Tunisia-Libya: Trade at 1 Mln Euros, Now Uncertainty

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 22 — The political upheaval in Tunisia and Libya could have a negative effect and even serious repercussions on trade relations between the two countries. Figures show that in 2009, there was over a million euros in exchange, especially in food, construction, chemical industries, electricals and mechanics and diverse industries. In the first eleven months of last year, the value of Tunisian exports to Libya exceeded 480 million euros, while imports reached more than 207 million euros.

Since July 2010, the two countries are exempt from customs duty in exchange of respectively produced goods, and a number of conventions have been stipulated to facilitate trade, but also to guarantee the freedom of investments, of the transit of goods and of residence. For a period, Libya even abolished entry tax, though this was reintroduced a few days ago.

There are also a number of dead letters between the two countries. The most important concern the creation of a Tunisian-Libyan bank, the transportation of gas between Libya and Gabe’s, in southern Tunisia, the use of the Tunisian dinar in Libya (without exchange) and others still.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Freak Storm Brings Snow to Los Angeles

Heavy snow has fallen along the Grapevine, and snowflakes have been spotted in the Santa Clarita Valley, La Cañada, Castaic, and in Burbank.

Hail was also spotted pelting the Burbank and Glendale areas around 11:30am Saturday, and Studio City around 2:00pm.

Between 1 and 2 inches of rain came down on the foothills and about half an inch dropped in the L.A. Basin before Southern California’s most recent storm moved out of the region, but frigid temperatures linger.

The Sepulveda Boulevard onramp to the 105 Freeway was closed as a result of the wet weather.

La Crescenta, Altadena, and other foothill communities can expect to see snow. The Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu, the Antelope Valley, even Porter Ranch located on the northern end of the San Fernando Valley, may see snow as well.

Los Angeles area snowfall is projected to be 1,500 feet, the weather service said — 500 feet higher than its previous forecast.

Rainfall increased late into Friday night and scattered showers continued in parts of Long Beach and the Orange County coast through Saturday morning.


A winter shelter program is available for those looking for a place to stay warm.


           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Gingrich Says Allen West Would be Considered as His Running Mate

Florida Republican Rep. Allen West may be the Republican candidate for vice president in 2012.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said at a Republican Palm Beach County fundraiser that if he won the Republican presidential nomination, he would strongly consider a Floridian as his running mate.

“Allen West would certainly be someone you’d look at,” Gingrich told NBC affiliate WPTV.

West responded, “We don’t know what the future holds, but I’m always willing to serve my country.”

“I have to pray about it and I have to clear it with my wife and two daughters,” he added. “I never thought that seven years ago when I retired here I’d be a United States Congressman.”

Elected in the November midterm election, West is one of two Republican African-Americans serving in Congress. He has rapidly emerged as a national conservative star.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Most Americans Support Upcoming Congressional Probe of Muslims

Americans haven’t heard much about congressional hearings on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims, but more than half think it’s a good idea, and nearly as many believe Muslims here haven’t done enough to fight extremists in their midst, according to a new poll.

At the same time, 62 percent say American Muslims are an important part of the religious community, and a clear majority—72 percent—say Congress should investigate religious extremism anywhere it exists, not just among Muslims, according to a PRRI/RNS religion news poll.

The poll, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, was released as House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., prepares to hold hearings on the threat of homegrown Islamic extremism during the week of March 7.

The poll examined attitudes toward both the hearings and American Muslims, analyzing the responses by gender, age, most trusted news source, and religious and political affiliation.

Overall, men, viewers who trust Fox News, white evangelicals and Republicans are more likely to think the hearings are a good idea and to believe Muslims want to establish Shariah law in the United States. The hearings find less support among Democrats (45 percent), people who trust CNN (45 percent) or public television (28 percent), and white mainline Protestants (50 percent).

Nearly half (49 percent) of Americans do not believe Muslims in the U.S. have been unfairly targeted by law enforcement; more than one-third (36 percent) believe Muslims have been targeted unfairly. One in five (22 percent) Americans believes U.S. Muslims want to establish Shariah law here.

[Return to headlines]

Networks Skip Democratic Congressman’s Call for Union Protesters to ‘Get a Little Bloody’

Wednesday’s nightly newscasts and Thursday’s morning shows completely ignored video of a Massachusetts congressman exhorting union protesters in Wisconsin to “get a little bloody” in the fight against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walke


Capuano eventually apologized for the remarks he made on Monday. His original statement: “I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an email to get you going. Every once in awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.” (NBC’s Nightly News, CBS’s Evening News and ABC’s World News also skipped the subject.)


Although not interested in Capuano, Early Show’s Dean Reynolds alerted viewers of controversial comments made by Jeffrey Cox, a deputy attorney general from a Republican-run state.

He explained, “Meanwhile, in nearby Indiana, which has its own budget showdown, a deputy attorney general tweeted that Wisconsin authorities should use live ammunition against the labor protesters. He said later he was being satirical. But he was fired anyway.”

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EU: Italy Presents National Plan for Red Tuna

(ANSA) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 18 — Today, at the very last minute, Italy and five other EU Countries (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta) presented to the EU Commission their national plans for the 2011 red tuna fishing season. Previously France, another EU country interested in this activity, had presented a plan deemed suitable by Brussels, while the plans of the other six Member States were deemed incomplete by the Community’s executive body. The final deadline for presentation expired today.

A statement by the EU Commission reported that “All the Member States presented the supplementary information. The Commission’s services can now move on to the preparation of the EU mission to the Compliance Committee” of the International commission for the safeguard of red tuna (Iccat) scheduled to take place in Barcelona from February 21 to 25..

Should the national plans, which concern resizing of the fleet, the quota monitoring system and plans to repopulate the species, not have been presented today, the EU would have ran the serious risk of losing fishing rights relative to the 2011 season. According to agreements achieved in the Iccat offices, the seven EU countries were assigned a total quota equal to 7,266 tonnes of red tuna (compared to 7,613 in 2010), 1,877 of which allocated to Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Nice: A Year of Events to Celebrate Italian Unity

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 22 — The city of Nice, which last year celebrated its re-annexation to France in 1860, is now preparing to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Unity of Italy with a busy schedule of events up to the end of 2011.

In truth celebrations already started on February 18 with the opening of the Nice Carnival, one of the largest in the world along with those of Venice and Rio, which this year is dedicated to the Mediterranean and whose guest of honour up to March 2 is Italy. The homage to Italy will continue with a totally Italian agenda for the city’s Opera house, an Italian movie festival in April, an exhibition between Nice and Turin in September, and a major meeting/event in December on famous Nice citizens of Italian origin and Italian citizens from Nice from 1860 to date.

The city also plans to ask for the participation of an Italian Army unit on occasion of the July 14 parade.

“In Nice we feel French and like Garibaldi’s people. It is one of our citizens that is being celebrated in the squares of Italy’s largest cities”, stated mayor Christian Estrosi, former minister of Industry close to president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Estrosi added that “Nice is the first Italian city of France”, pointing out that the city has 30,000 citizens of Italian origin and for years has entered into many partnerships with Italy, especially at the regional level with Piedmont and Liguria.

A relation that is not limited to the city of Nice, but rather concerns all of France, Italy’s partner Country and friend with which, Estrosi emphasised, “we have always met on positions similar to those of Brussels”, such as the idea of “producing in Europe”, of returning production to the territory while slowing down delocalisation in emerging countries, a notion shared and strenuously defended together with European Commissioner Antonio Tajani. Or also, “when I was a minister delegated to the Ministry of Interior Affairs”, on the Schengen policy and the issue of illegal immigration.

Immigration which, while thousands of refugees from Tunisia and other countries in revolt in the Mediterranean could end up knocking at Europe’s doors, now calls for “full solidarity” between Italy and France, especially in terms of trading information and policies to adopt with their countries of origin. Estrosi stated that “Lampedusa is a major concern.

France must help Italy and Italy must help France. I know that Berlusconi and Sarkozy are working together on this”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Irish Reporter Tries to Arrest Israel’s Foreign Minister

Foreign Minster Avigdor Lieberman was challenged by a reporter during his visit to the European Council, when the man told Lieberman that he was under citizens’ arrest and demanded that Lieberman accompany him to the nearest police station.

David Cronin, a freelance reporter and author of the book “Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation” was tackled by security officials only seconds after he began to address Lieberman and physically escorted from the room.

As Lieberman entered a press conference, Cronin stood up and declared, “Mr. Lieberman, this is a citizens’ arrest. You are charged with the crime of apartheid. Please come with me to the nearest police station.” As he was dragged away, he shouted, “Free Palestine! Free Palestine! Apartheid is a crime!”

This was not the first time that Cronin has tried to carry out a citizens’ arrest of a high-ranked public official. Last year he tried to single-handedly arrest former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for what he said were crimes against the people of Iraq.


[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ministry Sounds Alarm for Palm-Tree-Eating Red Weevil

Emergency measures unveiled to stop killer bug

(ANSA) — Rome, February 21 — A rusty colored beetle with a penchant for devouring male palm trees is rattling nerves and triggering alarm in Italy once more. After causing damage worth hundreds of thousands of euros in recent years, the pest’s return prompted Italy’s agricultural ministry to issue emergency measures, which took effect on Valentine’s Day.

The decree outlines mandatory procedures for battling the red palm weevil, and identifies geographical zones by their level of infestation. And while the ministry hopes to hinder the spread of the insects within Italian territory, it is also working to advance abatement methods.

The areas hardest hit are some of Italy’s most beautiful and beloved vacation spots: the coasts of Lazio, Liguria, Sicily, Campania and Puglia.

Two years ago, the red palm weevil attacked trees in Sabaudia, a coastal resort south of Rome which attracts celebrities like actor Raoul Bova and soccer star Francesco Totti, and in the nearby National Park of Circeo, causing hundreds of thousands of euros in damage. Experts reported around 30% of palms in Lazio were affected.

Sicily remained the worst-hit region in Italy, however. The weevil set up home in some 30,000 palms on the island, or roughly three times the number experts had first thought.

Experts say the beetle costs regions dear: a 20-metre palm is worth around 20,000 euros, while cutting down the tree incurs a fee of some 1,000 euros.

Experts warn that for every palm which shows symptoms of weevil infestation there are two others that have yet to show signs.

The weevil’s larvae excavate holes up to a metre long in the trunk of the palms, which kills the tree. This is because they bore towards the core of the tree destroying tissue needed to spread nourishment.

A major infestation can kill a large palm in 20-30 days, while a tree affected with fewer bugs can take up to eight months to die.

Researchers at Florence University are examining the DNA of weevils from various parts of the country to understand whether they all come from a single invasion and if there are differences in the regional groups.

They also hope to identify any chemical substances involved in the beetle’s life cycle, especially since males seem able to attract other weevils to a palm tree that is particularly suitable for depositing eggs.

Traps baited with pheromones have had some success in controlling the beetle elsewhere in the world, although insecticides are of limited use since the weevil spends almost its entire life safely inside the tree.

The red palm weevil originated in Asia and is believed to have reached the Mediterranean in the 1980s, after spreading into Africa. It was first identified in Spain in 1994 and turned up in France in 2006. The beetle arrived in Italy in 2004.

In 2007, forest rangers in Catania were forced to cut down a palm tree over 100 years old which had been destroyed by the voracious beetle.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Iceman to Get New Face

Revised weatherbeaten features to be unveiled March 1

(ANSA) — Rome, February 24 — Italy’s famed prehistoric ‘Iceman’ is set to get a new face after scientific studies showed the fierce warrior features of his lifelike replica are not correct.

“The face should be much older than that of a 40-year-old of today, and marked by the adversities of life in the high mountains with their hostile climate,” experts said ahead of the unveiling of the new model on March 1 in the lab where his frozen and mummified body is preserved.

Dutch twins Alfons and Adrie Kennis, two of the world’s top specialists in palaeontological reconstruction, have based the new face on the latest 3D computer modelling of the Iceman’s skull.

The technique, known as stereo-lithography, was first used in 1992 when it was tried out on the Iceman, or Oetzi as he is also known.

“The new appearance of the man who came out of the ice is fully supported by the results of numerous studies over the last few years,” officials at the Iceman lab in this northern Italian city said Thursday.

However, only the barest outline of the face has been released amid high secrecy surrounding its unveiling at the start of ‘Oetzi 2011’, a major show on the most recent findings about the Neolithic hunter.

“You’ll have to wait till March 1 to see what Oetzi really looked like,” the officials said.

The eyes of the world’s scientific community have been focused on the Iceman since he was found peeping out of a glacier in the Oetz mountain valley in 1991.

The body, which dates back to 3000 BC, has spawned a global cottage industry of studies.

There have been discoveries about what he ate, what illnesses he suffered from, whether he was a shepherd, herder or hunter, and exactly how he died.

A couple of years ago a Bristol University researcher, space technology professor Mark Hempsell, said he believed new evidence of an asteroid landing could be linked to the Iceman’s death.

A newly deciphered Assyrian tablet described the annihilation of communities near the Iceman’s death site about the time he died, Hempsell said.

Hempsell advanced a second theory: that the Iceman may have been a powerful man who was the victim of a ritual sacrifice made to appease the mighty forces who sent the asteroid.

Ritual sacrifice had long been one of the favourite theories about the Iceman’s death until a CAT scan in the late 1990s revealed an arrow wound in his body.

This led most experts to conclude he was shot during a fight with rival hunters.

Another study — fiercely contested by patriotic residents of this formerly Austrian region who see Oetzi as their forefather — reckons he was cast out from his community because a low sperm count rendered him childless.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: MP Ready to Report on Cash-to-Back-Govt Allegation

Centre-left Bucchino says offered 150,000 euro to switch sides

(ANSA) — Rome, February 25 — Opposition MP Gino Bucchino said Friday he was willing to speak to magistrates over his allegation he was offered 150,000 euros to switch sides and back Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right government.

Berlusconi, under intense pressure after being indicted last week for allegedly using an underage prostitute, has been trying to win over opposition lawmakers since last year’s split with House Speaker Gianfranco Fini left him with a slender majority in parliament. “I’m ready to speak to the magistrates if they deem this useful,” said Bucchino, a member of the centre-left Democratic Party, the biggest opposition group.

“The real risk is that of giving a degraded picture of parliament to the Italian people, with everything depending on one or two people switching from one side to another”.

Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party has denied the allegation and threatened to sue for defamation. The government has been faced with allegations of MP buying since it sneaked through a confidence vote in December.

Antonio di Pietro, a former graft-busting magistrate who leads the opposition Italy of Values (IdV) party, took his accusations to prosecutors after some of his party’s MPs changed sides before the confidence vote, prompting the opening of a probe.

Fini, who has seen several members of his breakaway Future and Freedom for Italy party return to the government ranks recently, has also publicly alleged the government is taking part in what has been dubbed a ‘transfer market’.

Bucchino told a press conference on Thursday evening that he had been made the cash offer by a man who claimed to be speaking on behalf of PdL heavyweight Denis Verdini.

Verdini said Friday that he had never heard of Bucchino and “I don’t know what this is about”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Messineo: People Who Pay Protection Complicit With Mafia

(AGI) Palermo — Prosecutor Messineo says there is “no moral excuse for businessmen who pay protection.” Palermo’s Chief Prosecutor, Francesco Messineo, was speaking at an anti-Mafia education conference organised by the Pio La Torre Centre and dedicated today to ‘The terroritoral expansion of the Mafia model and the perception of the phenomenon by businessmen and politicians’. Messineo continued: “Today the State does everything necessary to protect extorted businessmen and to compensate them, even financially. Those who continue to pay are complicit with the Mafia.”

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

Italy: Rome: Three Somalians Arrested on Suspicion of Rape

(AGI) Rome- Three Somalians were arrested in Rome, suspected of perpetrating last night’s rape near the former Somalian embassy. At the moment the three men are under custody in Rome’s police headquarters.

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

Italy: Snow in Sicily: Trouble on the Roads

(AGI) Palermo- Snow has fallen at intervals in areas of mid-eastern Sicily since this morning, causing trouble on major roads. Perilous conditions for traffic were first reported in the afternoon. Travel is only possible with chains on the 117 Nicosia (Enna)- Mistretta (Messina) highway, where it has now been snowing for hours. Police recommend gathering information between traveling on the major road, which might be closed in the upcoming hours. It is also snowing on the Tremontelli tract of the A19 Palermo-Catania freeway, as well as on highway 624 between Palermo and Sciacca, and in the Lercara Friddi area in which conditions have not yet worsened. Snow also made an appearance in Carini (Palermo), whilst traffic is unhindered in the Madonie mountains near Palermo. According to forecasts, snowfall will also occur during the night. . .

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

Italy: Opposition Politician Says He Was Offered €150,000 to Join Berlusconi

Rome, 25 Feb. (AKI) — An opposition member of the Italian parliament claims he was offered 150 thousand euros to switch to the prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling People of Freedom (PDL) majority.

Gino Bucchino, a Canadian doctor, on Thursday told reporters that he had been approached by a man representing the centre-right PDL national coordinator Denis Verdini

During a press conference at parliament in Rome, Bucchino, 63, said he received a telephone call asking for a meeting to discuss an “important project.” The following day Bucchino claims his interlocutor didn’t mince words: “This country is in trouble and like it or not it can move forward only under the guidance of Berlusconi…In exchange you’re re-election will be guaranteed,” adding that his 150,000 euros in “expenses” wil be reimbursed.

Since barely surviving a December no-confidence vote in the lower house of parliament, Berlusconi has been accused of paying his opponents to switch sides and bolster his majority. Rome prosecutors have opened a probe in into alleged vote-buying that allowed Berlusconi to win the no-confidence balloting by three votes.

He was since increased his majority as members of a breakaway party return to the premier’s fold.

Bucchino was among a group of Italians abroad elected to parliament in 2006.

The centre-right has denied accusations that opposition lawmakers have been paid and Verdini on Thursday put out a statement denies he knows who Bucchino is.

Berlusconi in April is due to go on trial in Milan for allegedly having sex with the then-17-year-old Moroccan dancer, Karima El Mahrough, and attempting to cover it up. He maintains his innocence and says he is the victim of persecution by the Italian judiciary.

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

Sea Highways for Nice and Genoa Development

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, FEBRUARY 23 — Turn Nice and Genoa into a “metropolitan pole” that will turn into a centre for cargo traffic in the Mediterranean, lightening the load on highways by building a high speed rail connection between the two cities and developing the Sea Highways starting from the port of Genoa. The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, thus illustrated to ANSAmed the Partnership Protocol between the two cities that was recently signed together with the mayor of Genoa, Marta Vincenzi.

A partnership between two pivotal cities of the western Mediterranean, similar and complementary, geographically and historically linked: it is not by chance that the protocol was signed in the context of the 150th anniversary of the Unity of Italy, which saw Nice’s Giuseppe Garibaldi as a major player.

The Protocol identified four areas of action: rail connections between Nice and Genoa, promotion of Sea Highways in the Mediterranean, digital innovation and cooperation and lobbying.

Estrosi explained that thanks to the high speed passenger and cargo railway that will connect the two cities in 2018 each will provide the other with its strengths: Genoa will provide its port, “the largest in the Mediterranean, with cargo traffic amounting to 52 million tonnes in 2010”, and Nice its airport, “which serves 10 to 15 million passengers per year” and will allow the port of Genoa to offer connections with more than 100 locations on the world level.

A high capacity connection point between the Italian and French high speed railway will be built in Ventimiglia, while the project is already moving ahead on the Genoa-Ventimiglia section thanks to the “substantial efforts” of the Italian authorities. Estrosi managed, in record time, to be included by the French government among the top infrastructural priorities concerning the extension of the high speed link from Nice to Ventimiglia, 30 km of railway.

The mayor proudly stated that “We will be 75 minutes away from Genoa”, and explained how his main priority is to lighten cargo traffic on highways to Genoa’s advantage, turning its port into the main stop in the western Mediterranean for the Sea Highways. “Too many trucks pass through the tunnels in the Monte Bianco, Frejus and the Ventimiglia border, approximately 4000, because the road is free. For Nice this represents a very high cost in environmental terms, with no economic returns”, according to Estrosi. Nice plans to help Genoa to achieve a major port policy, developing the Sea Highways towards eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal, Morocco. Estrosi explained that “The more profits Genoa makes with its container and merchant port, the less polluted Nice will become”. He is also working to set up in Ventimiglia a eurotax, which is also provided by a European Directive, to discourage highway traffic.

The development project of the two cities is strongly tied to the Mediterranean, and the cities intend to promote a major regional cooperation policy with the south involving the main municipalities of the two shores of the Mediterraneo. Estrosi claimed that “There are many projects that can be worked on: water desalinisation, waste treatment, infrastructures, renewable energy sources. In this delicate period, after the uprising that shook the region and created major uncertainty on the political level, the municipalities can play an essential role to support the development of these Countries”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Juan Carlos: No Secrets on 1981 Attempted Coup

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 23 — There is no mystery surrounding the attempted coup in Spain of February 23 1981, even though speculation over the episode continues to this day. Spain’s King Juan Carlos said as much today as he arrived at the Lower House for a lunch marking the 30th anniversary of the failed coup. “I think that we know everything that happened,” said the monarch, in answer to questions from journalists on potential grey areas in the reconstruction of the events that occurred that day.

The King foiled the attempt to change the course of what was then a young Spanish democracy, renewing allegiance to the Constitution in a televised address on the night of February 23.

Two hundred agents from the Civil Guard, led by Colonel Antonio Tejero, occupied the Parliament building, where the government, including the then Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez, the leaders of the main political parties and deputies were held hostage for 18 hours, while tanks rolled through the streets of Valencia under the orders of General Milans del Bosch.

Thirty years on, Juan Carlos says, Spaniards “are much better off” than they were at the time. “Last night I slept well, unlike that night,” added the head of state, who said that he was satisfied with country’s evolution over the last three decades.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: East London Mosque Keeps on Lying

The East London Mosque, that legendary home of tolerance and moderation, has condemned a series of posters which have appeared in its local area, Tower Hamlets, containing a Koranic invocation and declaring the borough a “gay-free zone.” Dilowar Khan, the mosque’s director, was quoted in a council press release saying: “We stand together with our fellow citizens against all forms of hatred, including homophobia. We are committed to building strong and cohesive communities in Tower Hamlets, and our strength is that we will not let incidents of hate divide us.” As so often, however, the East London Mosque speaks with forked tongue. Yesterday, it was due to demonstrate its deep commitment to “standing together against homophobia” by hosting a gala dinner with one Uthman Lateef, a homophobic preacher who has stated: “We don’t accept homosexuality… we hate it because Allah hates it.” Mr Lateef is one of at least half a dozen homophobic preachers hosted or promoted by the East London Mosque, three of whom have been officially invited to deliver the Friday sermon. In 2007, as my Dispatches programme on the East London Mosque disclosed, a “Spot The Fag” contest was staged at the mosque. In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in homophobic hate crimes in Tower Hamlets — something which simply cannot be unconnected to the fact that hatred of gay people is allowed to be openly and regularly expressed inside one of the area’s most prominent institutions.

The technique of saying one thing designed to appeal to white liberals, while in fact doing the exact opposite, has been brought to a fine pitch by Islamists generally, and the East London Mosque in particular. The mosque’s idea of “standing against hatred” involves hosting literally dozens of hate, extremist and terrorist preachers on its premises — most famously, the al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. It now claims to have banished hate preachers from its building — but, as this blog has documented, continues to welcome them almost every month. Why does the East London Mosque tell such obvious lies? Simply, because lies work. There is a part of liberal white society which would rather ignore or deny the problem of extremism, hatred and bigotry in some parts of some Muslim communities. The lies give them a form of permission to do so.

In that same council press release, the chairs of the Rainbow Hamlets LGBT Community Forum, a local gay group, condemned the anti-gay posters but added: “We also condemn those who use these incidents to create a moral panic and stoke up racist or Islamophobic sentiment. At present the people responsible cannot be accurately determined, but it is clear that whoever is responsible, they do not represent any of the local communities.”

This statement contains at least one palpable untruth, one questionable assumption, and one dubious elision. As any gay man in Tower Hamlets will tell you, and numerous victims of homophobic hate crime in the area have told me, “the people responsible” can be perfectly “accurately determined:” the hostility towards gay people in the borough comes largely from young Bangladeshis…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: London Protest Against Arab ‘Puppet’ Dictators

LONDON — Two hundred supporters of a hardline Islamic group demonstrated outside the Libyan embassy in London on Saturday, calling for an end to the rule of “puppet” dictators in the Arab world. Demonstrators from the Hizb-ut-Tahrir group lined the road near the embassy in central London to protest against the regime of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, waving placards calling for khilafah — the Islamic way of life.

Banners read: “End support for Arab puppet tyrants” and “Khilafah: The only way for stability in the Middle East”.

Other flags urged further uprisings, reading: “Bring down all the regimes”.

Nasim Ghani, 40, a Bangladeshi doctor living in east London, said: “We want to see the end of these regimes in the Muslim world. “We want to see real independence and the only way that will come is with a new Islamic system.”

Another protester, Muhydin Lazikani, 59, a Syrian journalist living in London, added: “The people of Libya deserve to be free. They fight hard, they live hard and they need freedom. They need an open society.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Searchlight Poll Finds Huge Support for Far Right ‘If They Gave Up Violence’

Huge numbers of Britons would support an anti-immigration English nationalist party if it were not associated with violence and fascist imagery, according to the largest survey into identity and extremism conducted in the UK.

A Populus poll found that 48% of the population would consider supporting a new anti-immigration party committed to challenging Islamic extremism, and would support policies to make it statutory for all public buildings to fly the flag of St George or the Union flag.

Anti-racism campaigners said the findings suggested that Britain’s mainstream parties were losing touch with public opinion on issues of identity and race.

The poll, commissioned by anti-fascist charity the Searchlight Educational Trust, suggests that the level of backing for a far-right party could one day equal or even outstrip that in countries such as France, the Netherlands and Austria, where such parties have traditionally received significant support.

France’s National Front party hopes to secure 20% in the first round of the presidential vote next year. The Dutch anti-Islam party led by Geert Wilders attracted 15.5% of the vote during last year’s parliamentary elections. Anti-fascist groups said that the poll’s findings challenged the belief that Britons were more tolerant than other Europeans. “This shows that this is not because British people are more moderate, but simply because their views have not found a political articulation,” said a report by the Searchlight Educational Trust that will be unveiled on Monday, outlining the findings.

According to the survey, 39% of Asian Britons, 34% of white Britons and 21% of black Britons wanted all immigration into the UK to be stopped permanently, or at least until the economy improved. And 43% of Asian Britons, 63% of white Britons and 17% of black Britons agreed with the statement that “immigration into Britain has been a bad thing for the country”. Just over half of respondents overall — 52% — agreed with the proposition that “Muslims create problems in the UK”.

Nick Lowles, from the anti-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate, said that the poll shattered many traditional liberal preconceptions. He said: “The harsh truth is that we are in danger of losing touch with the public on race, immigration and multiculturalism.”

Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP who fought a successful campaign against the British National Party in his Dagenham and Rainham constituency in east London, said that the findings pointed to a “very real threat of a new potent political constituency built around an assertive English nationalism”. The report identified a resurgence of English identity with 39% preferring to call themselves English rather than British. Just 5% labelled themselves European.

Earlier this month David Cameron delivered a controversial speech on the failings of “state multiculturalism”. The speech was seized on by the anti-Islamic English Defence League, which said that the prime minister was “coming round” to its way of thinking. BNP leader Nick Griffin also welcomed the speech as a sign that his party’s ideas were entering “the political mainstream”.

The poll also identified a majority keen to be allowed to openly criticise religion, with 60% believing they “should be allowed to say whatever they believe about religion”. By contrast, less than half — 42% — said “people should be allowed to say whatever they believe about race”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: EU Pressing for Government Formation and Reforms

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, FEBRUARY 25 — The European Union is pressing Bosnia and Herzegovina to form a central government able to carry out the necessary reforms to move the country towards the EU, almost five months after the elections. “The first step to take is to form the institutions, a government with a reform programme and with sufficient power to implement such programme”, Miroslav Lajcak said in Sarajevo.

Lajcak is High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the EU’s diplomatic service. The continuing conflicts between Bosnia’s three ethnic communities — Muslims, Serbs and Croats — is blocking an agreement on the formation of the government, extending the political deadlock in the Balkan country. Lajcak has had meetings with the main Bosnian leaders. Today U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who is also in Sarajevo, will join him.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Accused Murderer of Matoub Lounes on Hunger Strike

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 22 — One of the accused murderers of famous Berber singer, Matoub Lounes, killed in 1998 by a terrorist group, is on a hunger strike. Malik Medjnoun, who has been provisionally incarcerated since 1999, is protesting “because his trial has not even been set for the next session,” said his lawyers, cited by several Algerian dailies. “He has been provisionally incarcerated for 11 years,” said the same source. The violent Armed Islamic Group (GIA) claimed responsibility for the murder of the singer, the same group that carried out targeted operations in the 1990s to kill dozens of journalists, scholars and artists. There are still many doubts surrounding the death of the “rebel”, a troublesome figure who was constantly butting heads with those in power. The trial against Madjnoun, as well as Chenoui Mehieddine, both GIA members, has been buried for years. It was postponed on several occasions in the year 2000 and 2001, and most recently in 2008.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Comment About Turkey ‘Just a Proverb, ‘ Libyan Leader’s Son Says

The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s has clarified remarks about refusing to “leave the country to the Turks,” saying they were misunderstood and did not refer to present-day Turkey.

“‘We will not leave Libya to Turks and Italians’ is a very old saying in Libya. Two hundred years ago, we fought with Turks and 80 years ago with Italians. So, ‘not to leave Libya to Turks and Italians’ is like a proverb. It has nothing to do with Turkey or Italy directly,” Seif al-Islam Gadhafi told the private CNN Türk in an interview aired Friday.

Gadhafi, who was interviewed by news anchor Cüneyt Özdemir after the reporter was flown in to Libya on a private jet provided by a Turkish businessman, was asked if his family had a “plan B” in the face of growing unrest in Libya.

“We have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C; Plan A is to live and die in Libya, Plan B is to live and die in Libya, Plan C is to live and die in Libya,” Gadhafi said.

The leader’s son also vowed not to allow “a bunch of terrorists” to take control of the country.

Gadhafi said the situation in Libya was different than that of Egypt and Tunisia, where demonstrations were “peaceful.” In Libya’s case, the unrest was led by “terrorist groups,” he said.

Denying reports of sniper and air attacks on protesters in Libya, Gadhafi said only “ammunition depots” had been hit by Libyan war planes. He also denied reports that his father could set Libyan oil fields on fire.

The interview was aired with a voice-over Turkish translation.

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

Gaddafi’s Empire Crumbles as His Inner Circle Abandon Him

The most dramatic display of dissent came from two air force pilots who bailed out of their fighter bomber after being dispatched from Tripoli with “scorched earth” orders to attack oilfields in areas seized by the opposition.

The two officers parachuted safely out of their Russian-made Sukhoi Su-22 attack aircraft before it crashed into empty land near the city of Aidabiya, 100 miles south-west of Benghazi, on Wednesday. Illustrating just why Gaddafi had been so keen to bomb Libya’s energy facilities before they fell into enemy hands, rebels and defecting soldiers later announced they had taken control of the region’s oilfields and terminals.

Significantly, one of the pilots was later named by a pro-opposition newspaper as Ali Omar Gaddafi — a stark indication that even members of the besieged leader’s own tribe were turning against him. Their refusal to follow orders came two days after two other fighter pilots took off from Tripoli tasked with attacking unarmed protesters in Benghazi, but instead flew their jets to nearby Malta and claimed asylum.

Since the double defections, there appeared to have been no reports of air strikes on opposition-controlled areas — a sign, Western military analysts believe, that Col Gaddafi has lost confidence that he can rely on his pilots to carry out his desperate orders. Malta was not to prove a refuge for representatives of the regime, however. On Wednesday, the Mediterranean island’s authorities refused landing permission for an unidentified Libyan plane believed to be carrying Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha and her entourage, although the next day, she appeard on state television to deny the reports. Separately, Lebanon refused permission for a plane believed to be carrying Aline Skaff, the Beirut-born wife of Gaddafi’s son Hannibal, to land.

But another member of the clan — Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, a cousin of Gaddafi and a feared security official who was one of the tight knit inner circle that have surrounded him since the 1969 coup — was said to have escaped to Egypt. A statement issued on his behalf in Cairo said that he had left in protest over “grave violations to human rights”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Liam Fox: Libya Will Send Strategic Shock Waves Through Arab World

The Defence Secretary said the situation in Libya demonstrated that the Government was right to radically restructure the Armed Forces, making them more adaptable to new security threats.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Dr Fox warned that the implications of the turmoil in Libya and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East would be far-reaching and could resonate for many years. They also raised the question of how best British forces could respond to such incidents.

“The events over recent days may produce a strategic shock and change in how we view the world,” he said.

“The speed of events in North Africa has shown how quickly circumstances can change and how quickly the UK can be drawn in. “An island nation like Britain, with so many interests in so many parts of the world, including around 10 per cent of our citizens living abroad, is inevitably affected by global instability.” Dr Fox disclosed that as part of the defence reshaping, additional resources will include an expansion in Special Forces. He insisted that the forces would be capable of a “one-off intervention” once they have been restructured.

“If required we could field a force of 30,000, including maritime and air assets for a one-off intervention. Although I cannot go into detail, our internationally respected and battle-tested Special Forces will receive significantly enhanced capabilities.” It is understood that Dr Fox will step up the Strategic Defence and Security Review process in two weeks when an “implementation group” reports on restructuring to take place this summer. In a defiant message, he urged critics of the review to accept that “radical” change was more necessary than ever. He has already made clear that he is determined to press ahead with controversial cuts and reordering of equipment and priorities.

The Defence Secretary is said to be frustrated by internal Ministry of Defence resistance to changes which will see the Harrier jump jet and Nimrod reconnaissance planes scrapped, the Ark Royal decommissioned, 5,000 Navy personnel lost along with 7,000 army personnel and 25,000 MoD civilian staff…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Liam Fox: Libya Crisis Shows Why We’re Right on Defence Reform

The speed of events in North Africa has shown how quickly circumstances can change and how quickly the UK can be drawn in. At a time when endless negativity is rampant, it is easy to forget that Britain remains the world’s fifth biggest economy with the world’s fourth biggest defence budget.

As William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has said, Britain is “richly endowed with the attributes for success”. We are a powerful and leading voice inside the UN, Nato, EU, the Commonwealth, the G8 and G20. We are part of a complex, interdependent global economy that brings the unavoidable importation of strategic risk.

An island nation like Britain, with so many interests in so many parts of the world — 92 per cent of trade moving by sea, around 10 per cent of our citizens living abroad — is inevitably going to be affected by global instability.

In most circumstances we handle these changes in the global strategic picture along with our allies, but occasionally have to deal with problems on our own as we did in the Falklands and Sierra Leone. It is because we face such a wide range of security challenges that the Government has spent a great deal of effort on creating a multilayered approach to defence and diplomacy.

This presents challenges because we were hugely weakened by the economic incompetence of the last Labour government. Next year, as a result of Gordon Brown’s profligacy, we will be paying more in debt interest than we spend on the defence budget, the foreign office budget and the international aid budget put together. Put simply, the level of our debt is a national security liability.

It is against this very adverse financial position that we carried out our Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). The first task was to determine the direction for our national security. We could have chosen a fortress Britain policy, where we effectively reduced our global engagement and concentrated on protecting our borders. This would have ignored the reality of Britain’s global interests.

We could have assumed a much greater future involvement in asymmetric and non-state warfare similar to the type we face today in Afghanistan. But such a committed posture would have fallen into the trap of assuming that all future wars would look like the wars of today…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Libya: Berlusconi: Danger of Fundamentalism Near Italy

(AGI) Rome — At the PRI congress in Rome, Silvio Berlusconi warned of the danger of fundamentalist Islamic states near Italy. He explained: “Our future is full of serious unknowns: we could even end up with fundamentalist Islamic states not far from the Italian coast.” .

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

Libya: Gaddafi No Longer in Control, Says Berlusconi

(AGI) Rome- “It seems Gaddafi really no longer controls the situation: many exponents have left his government,” said Berlusconi. The Italian Prime Minister expressed his concern during a Italian Republican Party convention in Rome.

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

Libya: Seif Al-News of Victims “A Big Joke”

(AGI)Tripoli- Seif al-Islam branded the news of thousands of victims in Libya and government use of mercenaries as “a big joke”. “Soon you will discover that what you have heard about Libya is only a joke. A big joke,” Gaddafi’s son stated during a press conference at the Rixos al Nasr hotel in Tripoli, “here we laugh about the news speaking of hundreds or thousands of victims, bombings in Tripoli, Bengasi, Zawiya or any other place, and of mercenaries.”

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

Libya: UN Thanks Italian Government for Evacuating Staff

(AGI) New York — The UN has thanked the Italian government for evacuating 22 staff along with Italians on an air force flight.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry received a letter containing this message signed by United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security Gregory B. Starr.

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

Morocco: Italian Visitors Up 38% Over Past 2 Years

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 18 — Over the past two years, the number of tourists from Italy visiting Morocco has grown by 38 percent. The announcement has come from Abdelhameed Adu, the Director General of the National Tourism Office, speaking during the International Tourism Bourse being held in Milan.

With 210,000 visitors to Morocco each year, Italy currently ranks fourth as a country of origin. Morocco aims to make itself one of the five top non-European destinations for Italian tourists and is hoping to attract more tourists from Italy in the future, Mr Adu said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Paris Investigating Mubarak and Gheddafi

(AGI) Paris — The hunt for any treasures of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has started also in France. After Switzerland’s decision to freeze their assets, even the prosecutor in Paris opened an investigation to determine whether any of their properties are in France. The former Tunisian President Zine Abidine Ben Ali had the same treatment in the middle of January .

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

Revealed: UK’s Secret £10 Billion Talks With Libya

For the past 18 months a dedicated Foreign Office unit has been supporting lawyers fighting to win compensation for UK victims of IRA bombs built with Libyan-supplied explosives.

The team was in the advanced stages of discussing a “Victims’ Initiative” package with key members of Gaddafi’s regime. The possible agreement would have included payouts for the 150 families of those killed and injured bringing the claim, as well as a huge “cultural and social” investment focusing on reconciliation projects, much of it in Northern Ireland.

Insiders said that since the Coalition came to power last May, Government efforts to secure a deal had been stepped up, with David Cameron and William Hague taking a personal interest in the talks. Sources said the agreement would have seen Libya committing between £2 billion and £10 billion to the UK, as part of an effort to detoxify “Brand Libya”.

It is thought up to £1 billion might have been shared between the 150 claimants. They include victims injured by IRA bombs constructed from Semtex supplied by Libya, and relatives of those killed in the blasts. The rest of the money would have been spent supporting other victims of the IRA’s Libyan Semtex bombs who have not been involved in the legal action, as well as wider educational and medical schemes to help all communities affected by the Troubles.

These could include setting up £20 million project to provide professional help for bombing victims, or funding a new university in Northern Ireland with an African studies department. One insider said if the deal had gone ahead it could have “helped to cement a lasting peace in Northern Ireland”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Chilling Transformation of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi

Geneva places a high premium on guarding secrets, but rumours are a different currency. Amid momentous scenes being played out across the Middle East last week, sources in the Swiss financial centre were privately gossiping about a visit to Geneva earlier this year by Farhat Bengdara, the governor of the Central Bank of Libya.

According to one popular rumour, Bengdara had visited Geneva with a purpose. He was there to make changes to key Swiss accounts, into which flow hundreds of millions of dollars of Libyan oil money that are then allocated to the Libyan Investment Authority and the Libyan Central Bank.

Financiers in Geneva gossip that, as far back as 17 January, Bengdara established that four new names would be added as signatories on three crucial accounts controlling much of the money. The signatories were Colonel Muammar Gaddafi; his son Khamis, who heads Libya’s infamous martyrs’ battalion; the Libyan leader’s daughter Aisha; and his son Saif al-Islam.

Where Libya’s petro-dollars may have been channelled in the weeks since tensions first erupted across the Arab world is hard to say. But those who know him would be surprised if Saif did not hold the answers.

The westernised 38-year-old, who studied at the London School of Economics and enjoys close friendships with senior British politicians and financiers, has become the focal point of the conflict now threatening to rip Libya apart.

Whereas Gaddafi senior has always been seen in the west as a dictator — albeit one brought back into the fold — Saif, a trained architect who established a medical charity and was considered his father’s heir apparent, held out the promise of a new dawn.

As far back as 2002, Saif told an interviewer that Libya needed democracy. “It’s policy number one for us. First thing democracy, second thing democracy, third thing democracy,” Saif said, using a rhetorical technique he was to repeat last week to far more sinister effect.

With mercenaries flooding the streets of Libya’s major cities and horrifying stories of murder and mayhem emerging in piecemeal fashion via social networking sites, despite a government-enforced news blackout, such a promise now looks spent…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

What Every Good Cultural Relativist Knows About the Gang Assault on Lara Logan

On February 11th CBS foreign correspondent, Lara Logan, was publicly gang-raped and beaten for 20-30 minutes by Egyptian men in Tahrir Square who, all the while, cursed her as a “Jew.” CBS only revealed this four days later. Writing at the London Guardian, blogger Amanda Marcotte chose not to focus on this act of jihadic barbarism because she did not want anyone to draw negative conclusions about Islam, Muslims, Egyptians, or about the so-called Egyptian pro-democracy “revolution.” Instead, like many other commentators, Marcotte bemoaned the fact that “rightwingers” might now draw some politically incorrect conclusions. Marcotte writes:

“In this case, rightwingers who have an interest in stoking fear and loathing of Muslims worldwide pounced at the opportunity to smear all Egyptians with this crime.”

She dismisses the possibility that any “rightwingers” might have a genuine concern for the victim and condemns them all for using Logan’s public gang-rape and beating for “political score-keeping.” After all, every good multicultural relativist knows that all cultures, all countries, all religions are equal and therefore are pretty much the same—except for Western cultures which are somehow worse.

Thus, while Marcotte admits that Egypt is well known for its sexual harassment of women, she insists that women in the West, especially in the United States also endure street sexual harassment. Marcotte cites one study that shows that “up to 100% of women in the United States are sexually harassed” on the streets and claims that at similarly “jubilant” times, such as fraternity parties on the American college campus, women are also “sexually assaulted.”

I doubt that fraternity gang-rapists curse their victims as “Jews.” But forgive me: I am about to accuse Islam and Egypt of having an anti-Jewish bias. I also doubt that boozed up American fraternity gang-rapists claim that they are overthrowing a dictator and taking power for the people.

In any event, according to Marcotte, “rightwingers” are also delighted to focus on the vulnerability of female journalists because “rightwingers” want to keep women pregnant and barefoot and out of the job market, certainly far away from war zones.

Well, at least they don’t want them to wear burqas. Again, forgive me: I am suggesting that burqas are not a sign of freedom but that burqas and face veils do, increasingly, characterize Islamic gender apartheid in a jihadic era; and that they were all over Tahrir Square.

Ultimately, Marcotte believes that the real assault on Logan is a “rightwing” “assault on all women who have ambitions, or who are willing to be out in public while looking attractive. This response to Logan’s attack should make it clear that the US and Egypt differ on the issue of sexual violence perhaps only in degree but not in kind.”

On the same day, February 17, 2011, The Huffington Post published their politically correct article on the Logan Matter. Asra Nomani, the co-director of the (Daniel) Pearl Project at Georgetown University, accomplishes Marcotte’s goal more deftly…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Blood Feud Rocks Southeastern Turkish Village

An extended family has moved out of their village in the wake of a spiraling feud that claimed the lives of two men and caused significant property damage. Ahmet Aslan and his son Mehmet, from Mutluca vilage in southeastern Sanliurfa province, were killed in a feud that erupted over a disputed village headman election, Dogan news agency, or DHA, reported.

According to reports, relatives of the younger Aslan vowed at his funeral ceremony not to cry or allow others to see their grief, in a veiled message to the Koç family that the messy feud entangling both families would continue.

Following Mehmet Aslan’s death on Wednesday, his relatives reportedly set 13 houses belonging to members of the Koç family on fire and vandalized 14 more. Gendarmerie forces were mobilized to Mutluca on Thursday to quell the violence and avert further tragedy.

Mehmet Aslan’s funeral was held in the village of Boztepe, near Mutluca, on Thursday after the Adana Forensic Medicine Institute completed the autopsy.

The Koç and Aslan families’ argument allegedly sparked over elections for the village headman and an irrigation system for the village. Members of the Koç family ambushed the Aslan family as they traveled into the village on Jan. 5 and a fight broke out.

Ahmet Aslan, a father of 12 children, was killed during the incidents and 26 people were injured. The Jan. 5 fight between the families also damaged seven vehicles, including a police car.

The disagreement between the families festered over the next month, reports said. On Wednesday tensions boiled over at the spot of the initial confrontation one month earlier, and Mehmet Aslan was shot to death in the middle of the street. A passerby was also injured in the incident.

Abdülkadir Koç, who reportedly had been hiding at a relative’s house, was detained by police and taken to the local public security branch office. Following his testimony, he was taken to court Thursday. Police took extra security measures including using armored vehicles in case Aslan family members launched an attack targeting Koç. Police implemented stringent identity checks at the entrance of the courthouse.

Following Koç’s testimony to the prosecutor, he was taken to Sanliurfa prison on charges of intentional homicide.

18 houses torched, 20 houses damaged

After learning of his death, the relatives of Mehmet Aslan set 13 Koç family houses on fire using gasoline and vandalized 14 more. These were in addition to five houses set alight and six houses vandalized prior to the younger Aslan’s death.

Aslan family members allegedly broke doors and windows, damaging some furniture as well. Gendarmerie officials called to the scene took heightened security measures and barricaded the village’s access roads Thursday. Fire engines were called to combat the 14 burning houses and were allowed to enter the village.

Promise of revenge

The Aslan family held Mehmet Aslan’s funeral in Boztepe village, reportedly to reduce tensions. The family reportedly promised between them to take revenge on the Koç family during the ceremony.

According to DHA, the family members allegedly told each other not to cry or allow others to see their grief. A man who is close to the family said the decision gave the message that they will continue to fight the Koç family.

After the events of the past two months, the Koç family has had to leave their homeland in Mutluca posthaste.

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

British Worry Me, Says Israeli PM Netanyahu

“When I attended an engineering class at MIT [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology],” says Benjamin Netanyahu, “we were shown an enlarged photograph of a bridge. You could see microscopic cracks. The bridge had been built with imperfections. As it bore more weight, the cracks widened. Eventually, the structure collapsed.” The Israeli prime minister is responding to my obvious question: what is his reaction to the astonishing events across the Middle East this month? Everyone has an instant, personal reaction to what they have seen on television. He first came to political prominence because of his mastery of the medium. How does it feel to him? He says he felt “great hope” as the imperfect bridge buckles, “and great anxiety”: “Hope must defeat anxiety.”

It is “riveting when people defy the power of dictators”, and there is “no question what we want and what your readers want. There is a question whether what we’ll want is what we’ll get.” Mr Netanyahu cites the Russian Revolution and the Iranian Revolution as ones that went wrong, the collapse of the Soviet bloc as one which went right. He points out that the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon five years ago started well, but today the country is more or less controlled by Hizbollah. “I am watchful.” He glances at an Israeli Defence Forces map of the Middle East, which hangs on the wall of his office.

“I just telephoned John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister, to offer assistance in his country’s earthquake. Then I told him ‘there’s another earthquake [in which many have also died], seizing the entire area from Pakistan to Gibraltar. The only place it passes over is Israel’ .” By this he means that Israel already has the democratic values for which Arabs are struggling.

It is an unusual experience for Israel not to be at the centre of a storm in the Middle East. Mr Netanyahu’s line about this month of revolt is: “This is not about us.” As if fearing that this might appear complacent, he qualifies: “That’s not to say we won’t be put back in the centre of the picture.” “Bellicosity” against Israel could easily become, once again, the sole uniting force in a fractured Arab world. Something about the mood of Mr Netanyahu, now in his seventh decade, and two years into his second term in office (the first was from 1996-1999) is ruminative, almost professorial. There is little of the youthful point-scoring arrogance for which he used to be attacked. His talk is full of historical parallels and dates. I pursue his train of thought. If it is not about you, what is it about?…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Don’t Count on Democracy

Many festive words had been written and uttered this past month in respect to “democracy” and “popular uprisings.” We were told about the downfall of Middle Eastern tyrants as if this is the 1989 Eastern Europe. A more realistic view may seek new democracies yet discover anarchy, death, aggressive rulers and radical political Islam waiting to take over.

There is not even one beginning of democracy in any of the “revolutions” we are seeing around us.

People are talking about Facebook and Twitter, yet in practice we have violent tribes competing for oil, as is the case in Libya, vengeful sects like in Bahrain, hostile regions that seek to disengage in Yemen, as well as wounded military establishments and severe violence.

The current regimes are not giving up easily and are putting up a fight, also in Sudan, Kuwait, and of course in Iran. So we are indeed seeing social networks, but also brutality and terrible repression of human rights. It is in fact the old Middle East that is speaking up.

Some will say that the revolution won in Egypt, yet this is a superficial view of reality. Mubarak was forced to step down, yet the military establishment that has been ruling Egypt for dozens of years now continues to rule it — and has now taken front stage, rather than staying backstage as it did in the past.

What we had in Egypt was a military revolution that put an end to an uprising on the street. Not even one opposition figure had been brought into the government thus far. One wonders when Egyptian protestors will realize that for the time being they’ve been fooled. The army indeed promised elections in six months, but for now it has all the time in the world to fix the results. Moreover, no dates for the vote had been announced yet.

Tunisian seculars wake up

If there is one change in Egypt, it has to do with the blunt emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which mocks democracy. The Islamists are already feeling like the state’s future masters.

The provocative return of the Egyptian Khomeini, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, was meant to grant this revolution a face and an identity; an Islamist identity. Qaradawi was the one who issued the call for Israel’s destruction last week in his appearance before hundreds of thousands (and possibly millions) of Egyptians in Tahrir Square. He opposes the United States and the Shiites, and is of course in favor of a religious Islamic regime in Egypt. This is a grave blow to anyone who thought that Egypt is moving towards democracy; it is also a sign of things to come.

Just like in Iran in 1978, secular leftist protestors fought to topple the Shah and in favor of Khomeini’s return, yet once he arrived he simply pushed them out of the way. The same is happening in Tunisia. Last week, we saw seculars protesting there after they suddenly realized what they did: With their very own hands they are paving the way for the rise of radical Islam in the country. Preacher Rashid Ghannouchi, who rushed to return to Tunis just like the Egyptian Qaradawi, is organizing the previously banned Islamist party ahead of the “democratic elections.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Expert Puts Turkey’s Rival Political Parties on the Couch

An expert in political psychology has drawn the psychological profile of Turkey’s ruling and main opposition parties, while offering both some advice for improving how the public perceives them ahead of the general elections.

According to Professor Abdülkadir Çevik, founder of Turkey’s first academic center devoted to political psychology, the ruling party has successfully used the “psychology of victimization” as a political tool to gain votes, but its leader should focus more on promoting his vision for Turkey rather than fighting with critics.

The main opposition, meanwhile, needs to resolve its internal conflicts and present a unified front to the public, Çevik said. He added that the ongoing tension in the country due to the lack of communication and dialogue between the two key parties stems from intolerance to criticism.

“I believe the way the political leaders were psychologically raised in their families is crucial in this situation,” Çevik told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview.

“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a very charismatic leader possessing leadership qualities. He is very successful in communicating with the public and convincing people. But he has weaknesses,” Çevik said. “He should be tolerant of criticism. He gets angry when others don’t find him sincere when he believes he is being sincere and acting in a true manner.”

Though anger is part of Erdogan’s nature, if he becomes more tolerant of criticism, no one can hold him back, said Çevik, who is also the chairman of the Political Psychology Association established in 2006.

“Leaders should not always be critical but should give hope to people. They should have visions for the future. Erdogan, for instance, talks about his plans for 2023 to create an expectation about the future among the public,” he said. “The main opposition leader [Kemal Kiliçdaroglu] should do the same instead of engaging himself in constant criticism.”

‘CHP is scattered’

Kiliçdaroglu’s Republican People’s Party, or CHP, presents an instable and inconsistent image to the public because of the different voices coming from the party, Çevik said, adding that this harms public confidence in the main opposition.

“Our society is not accustomed to hearing different voices from one party. We come from imperialism and a patriarchal culture. The idiom ‘Whatever happens in a family remains within a family’ is valid for our society,” Çevik said.

“Different voices should thus first be discussed within the CHP itself and a compromise should be reached. Different voices create concern among the public. The CHP leader should bring the party together,” he added.

Çevik also suggested the CHP and other parties from that end of the political spectrum consider revamping some of their policies to better appeal to voters.

“If 60 percent of voters in a country are conservative, it should be admitted that the structure of the society is conservative. The leftist parties have thus far seen around 40 percent at the most. The votes of the right-leaning parties have always been more,” he said. “If the left parties want to increase their votes, they should undergo a change in line with the public demands.”

‘Psychology of victimization’

Professor Çevik’s newly established political-psychology center at Ankara University is Turkey’s only academic center dedicated to employing the discipline’s methodology to examine the relationship between politics and psychology, with a focus on analyzing and resolving conflicts among large ethnic, religious or political ideological groups, both domestically and internationally.

Though the discipline became familiar to the Turkish public only recently, when the government employed well-known political-psychology expert Vamik Volkan to help solve the Kurdish question, Çevik headed a similar center at the Prime Ministry between 1992 and 1997 to research the psychological factors behind the terror problem.

In addition to the terror problem, the center at Ankara University plans to analyze neighboring countries’ perceptions of Turkey with the aim of providing input to government studies on various topics.

In his comments on the psychological dynamics of Turkish politics and society, Çevik said the “psychology of victimization” played a major role in the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, winning power in 2002.

“The psychology of victimization gains votes for the political parties and the AKP currently makes use of it in the most successful way,” Çevik told the Daily News.

“Both Turkish society, which has itself faced many unjust treatments in its history, including military coups, and its members eventually identify their social and individual grievances in their own families with those of the political parties, coming to the conclusion that [one party is] ‘the party that thinks and feels like me,’“ he said.

“Turkish society can’t give up its habits. The uncertainty of the unknown discourages and frightens [it from voting for different parties.] Society didn’t know the AKP in 2002 but it came to power thanks to the psychology of victimization it demonstrated,” Çevik said.

“Prime Minister Erdogan did the same on the headscarf issue and during the referendum period, in which he recalled that he was jailed during the coup era and brought those who were executed during the coup era to the agenda [to garner votes from the coup victims].”

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

France-Saudi Arabia Deal on Civilian Nuclear Energy

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 22 — France and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement today in Riyadh in the civilian nuclear power field, which aims to help the country produce electricity and desalinate seawater, explained a joint statement from the French Embassy in Riyadh and the Saudi body for civilian nuclear power, King Abdallah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy. The Middle Eastern country, one of the main oil producers in the world, has been working for some time to diversify its energy supplies. In addition to their agreement with France, they have begun negotiations for a deal in the nuclear energy field with Russia, and have already signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran and Syria Reach Naval Cooperation Agreement

(AGI) Damascus — Iran and Syria have reached a training agreement after last Thursday’s docking of Iranian navy vessels in Syria. The news was reported by the Iranian national press.

The agreement strengthens ongoing ties between the two countries.

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

Syria: Damascus to Celebrate Renovation Old Facades

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 23 — Celebrations tomorrow for residents of Uqayba neighbourhood in Damascus this this week, for the renovation of Al Umawi alley’s facades. The EU delegation to Syria invites the public to attend the event to take place at 4pm local time near Hammam Ammuna, behind Al Dahdah cemetery in Uqayba neighbourhood, north of Bab Al ‘Amara.

According to the Enpi website (, the renovation work was the result of a participatory process with local residents of Uqayba. Ideas were collected during many meetings with community representatives. Two small projects were implemented with the collaboration of Damascus municipality, and the supervision of the directorate of the Old City. Electricity and telephones cables were changed to free up the beautiful traditional facades. The Cultural Participation for Heritage Regeneration project, funded by the EU and the Netherlands Royal Embassy in Damascus and implemented by IFPO’s Atelier du Vieux-Damas, in partnership with Art Renaissance Association, the Netherlands Institute for Academic Studies and the Danish Institute in Damascus, aims to encourage residents to take care of their local heritage.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Trust Shooting’ Now Target of Turkish Military Investigation

A Turkish officer shoots five times with his pistol at a target surrounded by more than 15 soldiers, hitting it four times.

Video footage of a Turkish officer shooting at a target surrounded by soldiers, posted online late Wednesday by various news organizations, has prompted an official investigation by the General Staff — and debate over the military’s mentality.

The officer shown in the video was subsequently said to have carried out similar target practice during his time serving in the Akçay 6th Motorized Domestic Security Infantry Brigade in the southeastern province of Sirnak.

The video, shot with a cell phone, shows more than 15 soldiers gathered around a shooting target, some sitting, some standing and two holding the target from either side. Capt. Metin Gürcan from the Special Forces first addresses the soldiers, saying: “If there is anyone without courage who would say ‘I cannot stand [here] sir,’ he leaves.”

None of the soldiers move. Gürcan then shoots at the target five times with his pistol, hitting it four times. Three of the shots are made between his legs with his back turned to the target. The soldiers are heard expressing worry while their superior is shooting backwards, but still nobody moves. The practice, described as a “trust shoot,” ends with no injuries.

Following the release of the video online, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül told the press Thursday that the chief of General Staff had started an investigation on the matter.

The General Staff released a statement shortly thereafter, stating that, “There is no such target training in the shooting directives of the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK].” It then added: “However, a shooting style called ‘trust shoot’ was practiced by TSK Special Forces personnel at a demonstration years ago that the mentioned personnel [Gürcan] also attended and [the demonstration] was broadcast on television channels.”

The statement ends with an announcement that an investigation into the captain’s behavior had been initiated.

An online search of the phrase “güven atisi” (trust shoot) turns up numerous photos and videos online showing Turkish military personnel engaged in such exercises.

The mentality and psychological factors that cause soldiers to act this way should be questioned, retired military judge Ümit Kardas told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday. Though he said he preferred not to comment on the matter before the investigation and any subsequent trial is concluded, he said questions such as “Why do such events occur within the Armed Forces so often?” and “Why was this order obeyed?” should be asked.

The video is reminiscent of an incident in 2009 when a soldier was “disciplined” by being forced to hold a hand grenade with its pin pulled out, Kardas said. Four privates died in the incident, for which Lt. Mehmet Tümer was found responsible and sentenced to nine years and two months in prison.

Retired Gen. Nejat Eslen told the Daily News that soldiers in the lower ranks have the right to disobey an “unlawful order” from a superior. If soldiers believe an order they received is unlawful, it is within their rights to ask for it in writing, disobey it and report it to the superior officer, Eslen said. “There cannot be such target practice,” he said, characterizing the “trust shoot” as incompatible with “logic, law and the traditions of the Armed Forces.”

News channel CNNTürk solicited opinions on the issue from various experts Thursday. Political Science Professor Dogu Ergil told the channel that eastern and southeastern Turkey had lived under emergency law for years and although that period is now over, its legacy of “trigger-happy” psychology and language remains.

The region had “a different law system” Ergil said. “The ones with the guns practiced politics too. They made their own rules. The way of the gun reigned supreme.”

Sinan Ogam, the president of the Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analyses, or TÜRKSAM, called Gürcan’s target practice “an extremely wrong act” and added that what is shown in the video cannot be called a demonstration shooting, as mentioned in the official statement.

He added, however, that “the straight shootings maybe understandable somehow,” saying the shots fired by the captain between his legs posed the actual danger.

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

Australia — Pacific

Third of Christchurch Buildings ‘Could Face Demolition’

A third of the buildings in central Christchurch may need to be demolished and rebuilt, authorities in New Zealand have warned, following an earthquake.

Hundreds of suburban homes damaged in Tuesday’s 6.3 magnitude tremor may also have to be pulled down, officials said.

Prime Minister John Key said the country may be facing its biggest ever tragedy, as the death toll rose to 144.

Rescue efforts are entering a fifth night, but only bodies are being found.

Hopes that the 200 people still missing will be found alive are fading, officials say. No survivors have been found in the rubble of Christchurch for more than 72 hours.

Mr Key said the disaster “may be New Zealand’s single most tragic event”, outstripping a 1931 quake which killed 256.

The prime minister has met relatives of the dead and missing, and announced that a two-minute silence would be held on Tuesday at 1251 local time (0051 GMT), a week after the quake struck.

He said friends and relatives of those unaccounted for were fearing the worst because “a significant period of time has elapsed”.

The BBC’s Phil Mercer says rescuers from 10 countries, including Britain, Japan and the United States, have been searching broken buildings and piles of debris, as aftershocks continue.

Emergency worker Phil Parker said teams of 8 to 12 people were still going into buildings, but said the work was tough and unpredictable.


For many residents, it is all too much, and there is an exodus from Christchurch, our correspondent says.

Officials believe up to 22 bodies may lie beneath the rubble of Christchurch Cathedral; as many as 120 are thought to have been killed inside the collapsed CTV office block, including Japanese, Chinese and Philippine nationals; many others are presumed dead inside the destroyed Pyne Gould Guinness building.

Relatives of missing foreign nationals have also been arriving from overseas.

Power has been restored to most of the city but water supply remains a problem, with residents being urged to boil water for drinking or cooking due to contamination fears.

The quake struck at a shallow depth of 5km (3.1 miles) early on Tuesday afternoon, when the South Island city was at its busiest.

[Clickable images at link]

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Former Luxury Hotel in Mozambique Home to Thousands of Squatters

Once one of the most luxurious hotels in southern Africa, the Grande Hotel, in Beira, Mozambique, was abandoned by its original owners five decades ago.

It’s now home to between 2,000 and 3,000 people who live in squalid conditions, without running water or electricity. Yet for these people the crumbling building is a self-contained community where they sleep, eat and work.


Officially opened in 1955, when Mozambique was still a Portuguese colony, the Grande closed its doors as a working hotel in the mid 60s.

By 1992, when the country’s 16-year civil war ended, the building was accommodating refugees from all over Mozambique.

There is little inside the hotel to hint at its former splendor. Glass has been taken from its windows and sold, while wood from the interior has been used to build fires,

Farisai Gamariel is an English teacher in Beira, but at weekends he works as a tour guide, showing cruise ship passengers around the city. One of the stops on his tour is the Grande Hotel.

“Tourists come from England, Germany, Austria,” he said. “They are quite curious to go and see what it’s like.

“Some actually refuse, they think it’s not a good place to go, they are scared. But it’s not really scary, it’s just like a community.”


Although there is no electricity, running water or sewage system, the residents are expert improvisers. Some access electricity by connecting to external cables, while one or two have solar panels, said Gamariel. The hotel’s outdoor swimming pool is now used to wash laundry, while the pool changing room is used as a mosque.

Despite the best efforts of its residents, it’s a difficult place to live.

Piles of rubbish fill the building with a pungent smell and attract rats, said Gamariel. Trees grow from the roof of the hotel, their roots penetrating the top floors, causing alarming cracks to develop in the walls. And while Gamariel said it was safe to visit during the day, he advised against going at night.


[Return to headlines]

South Africa: Only a Matter of Time Before the Bomb Explodes

I can predict when SA’s “Tunisia Day” will arrive. Tunisia Day is when the masses rise against the powers that be, as happened recently in Tunisia. The year will be 2020, give or take a couple of years. The year 2020 is when China estimates that its current minerals-intensive industrialisation phase will be concluded.

For SA, this will mean the African National Congress (ANC) government will have to cut back on social grants, which it uses to placate the black poor and to get their votes. China’s current industrialisation phase has forced up the prices of SA’s minerals, which has enabled the government to finance social welfare programmes.

The ANC inherited a flawed, complex society it barely understood; its tinkerings with it are turning it into an explosive cocktail. The ANC leaders are like a group of children playing with a hand grenade. One day one of them will figure out how to pull out the pin and everyone will be killed.

A famous African liberation movement, the National Liberation Front of Algeria, after tinkering for 30 years, pulled the grenade pin by cancelling an election in 1991 that was won by the opposition Islamic Salvation Front. In the civil war that ensued, 200000 people were killed.

The former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, once commented that whoever thought that the ANC could rule SA was living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Why was Thatcher right? In the 16 years of ANC rule, all the symptoms of a government out of its depth have grown worse.

  • Life expectancy has declined from 65 years to 53 years since the ANC came to power;
  • In 2007, SA became a net food importer for the first time in its history;
  • The elimination of agricultural subsidies by the government led to the loss of 600000 farm workers’ jobs and the eviction from the commercial farming sector of about 2,4-million people between 1997 and 2007; and
  • The ANC stopped controlling the borders, leading to a flood of poor people into SA, which has led to conflicts between SA’s poor and foreign African migrants.


           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


We Don’t Care About Revolution — We Just Want to Go to Europe: Chaos, Militant Islam and Thousands Fleeing Tunisia in the Aftermath of Uprising

Since Tunisians ousted dictator President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 after 23 years in power, the once-omnipotent police force has lost its grip on the throat of the people. As uncertainty reigns, the coastline has become porous. In recent weeks, 6,000 Tunisians have paid human traffickers smuggle them into Italy.

My guide says this building has been used recently. It’s a departure point for illegal migrants who pay an agent up to £1,500 for a place on a boat that will take them to Europe. Days before leaving, they arrive at safe houses such as this one and survive without water or sanitary facilities. Once the coast is clear, a fishing boat docks, loads its human cargo and sets off, under cover of darkness. Now, after massive pressure from the European Union, the Tunisian government is cracking down on the people-smuggling trade.

Inside the house, we see signs of life — embers of recent fires and discarded water bottles. Minutes later, a people-carrier with blacked-out windows drives up to the house and parks. No one gets out. The driver watches the building. Our guide tells us we must leave as traffickers are usually armed gangs. Another boat is likely to go tonight, he says.

Last month Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution ignited the tinderbox of Arab anger, leading to the toppling of brutal rulers. A new cry is being carried on the desert winds: it is freedom.

Tunisia’s ten million people are proud that a revolution that began with the self-immolation of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, a poor vegetable-seller standing up for his rights in Sidi Bouzid, has grown into a regional revolt. But for some, their battle cry is different: they want jobs and a better way of life.

Illegal migration is a part of the complex picture that is unfolding here. The media caravan has moved on to new flashpoints in other parts of the region as the most momentous political change since the 1989 collapse of the European communist bloc unfolds. But what happens after the revolution is won?

The answer lies in Tunisia, which was the first North African nation to overthrow its reviled leader. What has followed is uncertainty and a political vacuum as the country struggles to build a democratic framework. Protests grip the capital Tunis, strikes cripple the country, the old power is dead and new forces are rising — including the Islamists.

But while many Tunisians celebrate the downfall of Ben Ali, others are seeking to escape to the prosperity of Europe, raising the spectre of a migratory flood.

It is Saturday night and there is a sense of expectation in the capital as youth leaders of the revolution, the Facebook generation, meet on the steps of the municipal theatre, brandishing placards. Hundreds have gathered, students, the unemployed, young professionals and families.

There is a party atmosphere as they announce that the following day there will be the biggest protest since the fall of Ben Ali.

The meeting point for the show of force will be in the government quarter in Old Medina, and the protesters will be demanding the removal of interim Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi and the creation of a new, democratic constitution.

But one of the ‘Facebook generals’, Ramy Suhayer, a student of French civilisation, sets out their dilemma: ‘Ours is a revolution without leaders. It was organised on the internet. We have no policies, no manifesto. Our next move to is finish the revolution and demand the whole system is changed.’

Crowds climb on to government buildings, garlanding them with graffiti and flags that proclaim ‘Degage’ or ‘Get out’ as well as Western-inspired slogans such as ‘Yes we can too’. Children clamber on to tanks and pose with smiling soldiers, stuffing flowers into the barrel of their guns.

What began with the young, has been taken up by lawyers, opposition parties and union leaders. There are various political forces in Tunisia: the RCD, the former ruling party that is being consigned to the dustbin of political history; student protesters; the labour movement; and official opposition parties, including the Islamists.

The opposition is concerned that members of Ben Ali’s government will remain in the transitional government before new elections are called. They want the RCD banned. Mohammed, a retired civil servant, says: ‘It is just the head of the tree that’s gone. The rotten branches, the trunk, the roots are still there. The whole tree must be burned to the ground,’

The next day, last Sunday, 40,000 people descend on the government buildings. Tanks, armed soldiers, police and coils of barbed wire ring the perimeter, but the army is forced to pull back and allow the crowd to spill into the main square.

Two months ago, the state police instilled such fear in Tunisians that they were afraid to look a policeman in the eye, let alone overturn barriers. Today that fear has gone, as one journalist points out: ‘Once we were scared to even think. Now look at us.’

Crowds climb on to government buildings, garlanding them with graffiti and flags that proclaim ‘Degage’ or ‘Get out’ as well as Western-inspired slogans such as ‘Yes we can too’. Children clamber on to tanks and pose with smiling soldiers, stuffing flowers into the barrel of their guns.

Majed, a young engineer tells me: ‘Tell the world not to call this the Jasmine Revolution. It’s the Youth Revolution. There was no smell of jasmine in our country before January 14, I tell you.’

Yet the crowd today is young and old, rich and poor, from the holloweyed youths of the lost generation of unemployed to middle-class girls in Gucci shades. Muslim men in traditional dress pose alongside fashionable young women, heads uncovered.

I see one father with his son, aged five. As the police fire warning bullets into the blue sky, I ask him if he is afraid for his child. He unzips the boy’s jacket to expose his chest. ‘My son is ready to take a bullet to the heart for freedom,’ he says. The child’s face crumples.

Another boy aged 13 has come with his friend to take part. What do you want to see in Tunisia in ten years’ time, I ask? ‘I want to see flying cars,’ he laughs. ‘I also want a good job and to be rich.’

On the other side of town, I meet 36-year-old Muhammed. He also dreams of getting rich, but not in Tunisia. He is unemployed and does not care about the revolution.

‘The birth of democracy is going to be painful. We must dismantle the old system, have a new constitution, free elections . . . There can be no economic improvement until we have political change.’

‘A few days ago, I heard from a friend of a boat going from Zarzis to Italy. I paid $1,800. I got the call to get on the boat. We were intercepted in international waters and I was sent home. Others were arrested.’ What about the revolution? I ask him. ‘I don’t care about revolution. My dream is Italy. My brother’s there and he lives a good life. Tunisia will never give me what I want. All I’m waiting for is the phone call to go.’

European countries close to North Africa are alarmed that, as chaos spreads across the region, there will be more people like Muhammed coming to their borders. EU officials have been meeting the transitional government to form a strategy to prevent the thousands of Tunisian migrants becoming tens of thousands. The Italian government says 300,000 may try to reach Europe.

Opposition leaders warn of more pain before Tunisia’s revolution gives way to democracy. Union leader Nouredin Taboubi takes a break from the barricades to speak to me.

In his office, I point out that there seems to be no clear and unified plan of action for Tunisia’s future.

‘We can’t remove 23 years of history in one month,’ he says, as portraits of former union leaders gaze down on him. ‘The birth of democracy is going to be painful. We must dismantle the old system, have a new constitution, free elections .. . . There can be no economic improvement until we have political change.’

But some people can’t afford to wait for democracy and have already headed for Italy. Tunisia has an official unemployment level of 14 per cent — but the real figure is thought to be triple that in some poorer areas. The average salary is £2,200 per year.

The other key force that could decide the outcome of the new Tunisia is the Islamist movement. For 23 years, Tunisia might have beenruled by a despot, but it was renowned for being the most liberal of Muslim countries.

Ben Ali kept his Western allies happy by keeping a lid on Islamic extremism.. In return, the West turned a blind eye to his human rights abuses and iron rule.

One of the biggest opposition forces in Tunisia was the Ennahdha Islamic Party. Membership was banned and its leader, Rached Ghannouchi, fled to Britain 22 years ago. He returned in January — but with a death threat on his head. His party is now working towards the lifting of the membership ban imposed by the Interior Ministry — a place where members were once tortured..

When I met the party’s executive council, in its brand new offices in Tunis, one of the men lifted his shirt to show me a 12in scar that ran across his stomach. He told me he was beaten by the secret police, suffered internal bleeding and needed four operations. Now he is working for a man many see as a leader in waiting: Rached Ghannouchi.

Could democracy in Tunisia lead to an Islamist party taking power — and what would that mean? It feeds into the wider question worrying minds from Washington to London and from Jerusalem to Riyadh: what will follow the old Arab order that is being overturned? Will the revolutions translate into real democracy or just another form of autocracy?

In Gaza, democratic elections led to Hamas — the militant Palestinian organisation — taking power. There, democracy’s fruits left a bitter taste in the West’s mouth. Will Rached Ghannouchi and his kind mean a similar turn for politics in Tunisia?

Already there are troubling signs that more extremist Islamists are asserting their authority. A Polish priest had his throat slit in a suburb of Tunis. A Catholic bishop in Tunisia said he feared Islamic extremism was to blame. American news reports said the priest’s throat was cut, but the Vatican news agency said he was beheaded.

The day before I arrived in Tunis a mass protest took place against a brothel that has been in existence for decades. More than 1,000 Muslims gathered as a result of a Facebook notice and rallied outside the brothel, demanding its closure.

I met one protester the next day. Abou Rabab, a shopkeeper, whose business is near the brothel, told me: ‘We are a Muslim country and we do not accept this shame in our midst.’

He said Islam was a peaceful religion, but he warned that the Islamist campaign to clean up Tunisia would continue. ‘This time the whores had a verbal warning. Then it will be a written warning. Third time it will be the other thing.’

Islamist protests have already led to the closure of several brothels across the country.

Tunisia was the first North African nation to rise up. Next it could be the first to take its tentative steps towards true democracy and free elections in the region. What happens here, can happen elsewhere.

Political analysts warn that unleashing the genie of democracy in North Africa means there will be little control over the electoral outcome. The old order of dictatorship offered the West the comfort that Islamist extremism was kept in check. Now, as the West cheers on the Arab people’s quest for freedom, we are witnessing this generation’s version of the fall of the communist bloc.

But this time there is no certainty that Western political ideology will prevail.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

NY Times Reporting Dotted With Warnings of ‘Far-Right, ‘ ‘Hard-Right’ Conservatives

by Clay Waters

A couple of loaded ideological labels made it into Wednesday’s New York Times. On the first page of the National section, Sabrina Tavernise and A.G. Sulzberger (son of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.) collaborated on the latest news from Wisconsin: “Thousands March on Capitols as Union Turmoil Spreads.”

“But Republicans could also gain, said Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Taking a cost-cutting position against unions is part of the mantra for far-right groups like the Tea Party, and not necessarily unpopular.”

Four pages deeper was a hostile profile of Virginia’s crusading conservative attorney general Ken Cuccinelli by contributing reporter John Collins Rudolf, “A Climate Skeptic With a Bully Pulpit in Virginia Finds an Ear in Congress.”

“Mr. Cuccinelli’s conservative views make him no stranger to controversy. Before his election as attorney general in November 2009, he served nearly eight years in the State Senate, where he was known for his hard-right stances on illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, gun control and abortion and for clashing with moderates within his party.”

A Nexis search indicates Times reporters have used “hard-right” five times in the last two years to describe an American political figure or movement. Columnist Paul Krugman and Frank Rich have also used the term several times. By contrast, no Times reporter, columnist, or editorial writer has used the term “hard-left” to describe an American political figure or movement a single time in the last two years.

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The Reality of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

At considerable cost, Worldnetdaily has made their latest issue of Whistleblower Magazine available free on line. Read what some of our highest decorated soldiers and active duty have to say about sexual deviants openly serving.

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New Stretchable Solar Cells Will Power Artificial Electronic ‘Super Skin’

[Short term application: Ultimate Camouflage Suit. Long term: Autonomous Combat Robots — Z]

“Super skin” is what Stanford researcher Zhenan Bao wants to create. She’s already developed a flexible sensor that is so sensitive to pressure it can feel a fly touch down. Now she’s working to add the ability to detect chemicals and sense various kinds of biological molecules. She’s also making the skin self-powering, using polymer solar cells to generate electricity. And the new solar cells are not just flexible, but stretchable — they can be stretched up to 30 percent beyond their original length and snap back without any damage or loss of power.

Super skin, indeed.

“With artificial skin, we can basically incorporate any function we desire,” said Bao, a professor of chemical engineering. “That is why I call our skin ‘super skin.’ It is much more than what we think of as normal skin.”

The foundation for the artificial skin is a flexible organic transistor, made with flexible polymers and carbon-based materials.. To allow touch sensing, the transistor contains a thin, highly elastic rubber layer, molded into a grid of tiny inverted pyramids. When pressed, this layer changes thickness, which changes the current flow through the transistor. The sensors have from several hundred thousand to 25 million pyramids per square centimeter, corresponding to the desired level of sensitivity.

To sense a particular biological molecule, the surface of the transistor has to be coated with another molecule to which the first one will bind when it comes into contact. The coating layer only needs to be a nanometer or two thick.

“Depending on what kind of material we put on the sensors and how we modify the semiconducting material in the transistor, we can adjust the sensors to sense chemicals or biological material,” she said.

Bao’s team has successfully demonstrated the concept by detecting a certain kind of DNA. The researchers are now working on extending the technique to detect proteins, which could prove useful for medical diagnostics purposes.

“For any particular disease, there are usually one or more specific proteins associated with it — called biomarkers — that are akin to a ‘smoking gun,’ and detecting those protein biomarkers will allow us to diagnose the disease,” Bao said.

The same approach would allow the sensors to detect chemicals, she said. By adjusting aspects of the transistor structure, the super skin can detect chemical substances in either vapor or liquid environments.

Regardless of what the sensors are detecting, they have to transmit electronic signals to get their data to the processing center, whether it is a human brain or a computer.

Having the sensors run on the sun’s energy makes generating the needed power simpler than using batteries or hooking up to the electrical grid, allowing the sensors to be lighter and more mobile. And having solar cells that are stretchable opens up other applications.

A recent research paper by Bao, describing the stretchable solar cells, will appear in an upcoming issue of Advanced Materials. The paper details the ability of the cells to be stretched in one direction, but she said her group has since demonstrated that the cells can be designed to stretch along two axes.

The cells have a wavy microstructure that extends like an accordion when stretched. A liquid metal electrode conforms to the wavy surface of the device in both its relaxed and stretched states.

“One of the applications where stretchable solar cells would be useful is in fabrics for uniforms and other clothes,” said Darren Lipomi, a graduate student in chemical engineering in Bao’s lab and lead author of the paper.

“There are parts of the body, at the elbow for example, where movement stretches the skin and clothes,” he said. “A device that was only flexible, not stretchable, would crack if bonded to parts of machines or of the body that extend when moved.” Stretchability would be useful in bonding solar cells to curved surfaces without cracking or wrinkling, such as the exteriors of cars, lenses and architectural elements.

The solar cells continue to generate electricity while they are stretched out, producing a continuous flow of electricity for data transmission from the sensors.

Bao said she sees the super skin as much more than a super mimic of human skin; it could allow robots or other devices to perform functions beyond what human skin can do.

“You can imagine a robot hand that can be used to touch some liquid and detect certain markers or a certain protein that is associated with some kind of disease and the robot will be able to effectively say, ‘Oh, this person has that disease,’“ she said. “Or the robot might touch the sweat from somebody and be able to say, ‘Oh, this person is drunk.’“

Finally, Bao has figured out how to replace the materials used in earlier versions of the transistor with biodegradable materials. Now, not only will the super skin be more versatile and powerful, it will also be more eco-friendly.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]