Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110313

Financial Crisis
»Spain: Moody’s Downgrades Debt, Negative Outlook
»An Islamist’s Crocodile Tears
»Bradley Manning Comment Costs State Department Spokesman His Job
»Democrats Scramble to Save Their #1 Donor — The Teachers
»Gas Price Too High? Thank the Greens, Dems, And Clinton
»Obama Unions a Microcosm of Liberalism: Parasites Devouring Their Host
Europe and the EU
»Berlusconi: I Am Heroic and Also a Bit Mad
»French Diplomacy Rekindles Bulgaria’s Pain Over Captive Nurses
»Italy: ‘Ndrangheta ‘Has Unlimited Financial Resources’
»Italy: Probe Mulled Into ‘Bid to Change Ruby’s Birth Certificate’
»Italy: Berlusconi: Avoid Dictatorship of Judges
»Swedish Elks Starve After Long Harsh Winter
»UK: Give Us a Vote on Our Future in Europe: Cross-Party Campaign Launched to Secure Historic Referendum
»UK: Ofsted Reveals England is the Only Nation in Europe Where Students Can Stop Studying History at 13
»UK: Poppy-Burning Muslim’s Father Served 14 ‘Proud’ Years in the Navy
North Africa
»Crisis in Libya Has Limited Impact on ENI
»Libyan Crisis: 400-Bln-Euro Desertec Plan at Risk
»Libya: Disappeared Shia Imam, Inquiry Accuses Gaddafi
»Libya: Al Qaeda Calls on Rebels to Strive Against Gaddafi
»Morocco: King Announces Important Democratic Reforms
»Morocco: Police and Protesters Clash in Casablanca
»Sarkozy’s Libya Move ‘Shows Testosterone Level, Not Logic’
»Tunisia: Ben Ali’s Security Chief Planned Coup, Press
»Tunisia: Political Parties, Unknown to 61% of Tunisians
»Tunisia: One of the New Parties Wants Caliphate and Sharia
»Tunisia: Muslim Women Want Photos With Veil on Documents
Israel and the Palestinians
»The New York Times Blames the ‘Settlers’
Middle East
»Libya: Chief of Italy’s ENI Warns Country Could Become a Failed State
»Saudi Arabia: Suicides Among Well-Off Adolescents Double
»Sultan of Oman to Cede Lawmaking Powers to Oman Council
Far East
»Experts Say Radioactive Releases From Japanese Plants Could Last Weeks or Months
»Hydrogen Explosion Occurs at Nuclear Power Plant 135 Miles North of Tokyo
»Japan: Man is Rescued Ten Miles Out to Sea After Clinging to Roof of His Obliterated House for Two Days
»Japan Fears Second Reactor Blast
»Nuclear Plant Designer Says Japanese Government Suppressing Scale of Crisis
Australia — Pacific
»Woman Pushing a Pram Robbed in NSW
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Sudan: South Accuses Khartoum of ‘Genocide Plan’
»Bosnia: 8:500 Foreigners Request Long-Term Residence
»Frattini: Italy Asks for Full EU Participation
»Italy Wins EU Support for North African Refugee Crisis
»Tunisia: Ras Jedir: Rising Number of Somali Refugees

Financial Crisis


For the most part, Americans take the incompetence, selfishness and greed, which characterize many of our current politicians, in stride. However, the Obama administration is not merely incompetent, selfish and greedy, they are actively committing high treason against the very people who elected them. This betrayal of the highest order could very well result in the destruction of America.

America is witnessing the most direct threat to its financial solvency and ultimately its national sovereignty in its 235 year history, World War II and the Great Depression notwithstanding.

If the international bankers have their way, the contrived multiple crises in the Middle East will serve to ultimately obliterate the U.S. dollar and pave the way for the ushering in of a one world currency which was “coincidentally” called for two weeks ago by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Obama administration is lining up to serve the malevolent needs of these international thugs.

After Tunisia fell, I predicted on The Common Sense Show talk show that this event would lead to a myriad of government destabilizations throughout the Middle East and ultimately the Muslim Brotherhood would be firmly entrenched as the dominant secular/religious leaders for the region and will spell the end of America.

The United States dollar is being used as the reserve currency for the sale of oil. This is also the primary reason that America’s debt ridden, fiat currency has not collapsed. America’s oil reserve currency status is the sole reason that Americans have comparatively cheap energy and why we pay less for gas and food than does the rest of the world.


All revolutions, save America’s 1776 version, have always ended with a counter-revolution in which a ruthless, well-organized and vocal minority seizes power. As was the case with the Bolsheviks, the radical and genocidal espousing Muslim Brotherhood are well on their way to consolidating power. If the Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to solidify its power in the Middle East, the United States dollar will cease being used as the reserve currency for oil and the lives American citizens will never be the same as we will not be able to afford to commute to work, skyrocketing shipping costs will hyper inflate the cost of food, cooling and/or heating one’s home will become problematic, pharmaceutical costs will skyrocket for the same reasons as food, public transportation will be unaffordable and the stock market will tumble in an unprecedented fashion.


Finally, to those who think that all is well, consider the following: Yuseff Al-Qardawi, the most influential cleric of the Muslim Brotherhood, has returned from exile to Egypt to lead the Cairo celebrations of the fall of Egyptian government. In Cairo’s Tahrir square, Al-Qardawi led a rally to celebrate the fall of the Egyptian government. Keep in mind that he has previously called for the extermination of all Jews. Yet, the establishment controlled media outlet, Reuters, issued a news release quoting Al-Qardawi as “inviting Christians to bow down with the Moslem brothers and give thanks to God…” This woulld be reassuring if it were true. Reuters is attempting to disguise the intent and motives of Al-Qardawi by falsely portraying him as a moderate. This establishment media fasade flies in the face of the actual truth as Al-Qardawi once said (1/30/2009) “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews, people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler…Allah willing; the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain: Moody’s Downgrades Debt, Negative Outlook

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Moody’s has downgraded Spain’s rating from Aa1 to Aa2 imposing a negative outlook on the country’s debt.

The agency motivates its downgrading in a note stating it is “sceptical” on the government’s ability of improving public finances and especially on Madrid’s real possibilities of keeping the accounts of the various regions under control in such a moderate economic growth context.

The downgrading had already been discussed back in December following Moody’s decision to take away Spain’s triple A. In detail, the note says, Moody’s holds that “any costs of a reorganisation of the banking system will go well over the current estimates of the Government bringing about a rise in interest rates on the public debt”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


An Islamist’s Crocodile Tears

We’ll never know if Congressman Keith Ellison (AKA Keith Hakim, AKA Keith X Ellison, AKA Keith Ellison-Muhammad, AKA BooHoo Kaboom) brought along an onion with him, a pinch of snuff or just thought of all the CAIR campaign contributions he risked losing if the hearings fulfilled their intended purpose, to be able to let loose the waterworks. However he did it, Ellison finally succeeded at one thing. Crying on cue.

The big boohoo let Ellison sell his sob story to a sympathetic public already primed by thousands of attack pieces run against King. A campaign conducted by a top Democratic public relations firm, which had done work for such clients as J-Street and the Carter Center. A campaign premised on the idea that it was wrong to ask questions about Islamic radicalization, but completely okay to accuse King of being an IRA terrorist.

But Ellison’s Legend of Mohammed Salman Hamdani ignored a simple piece of arithmetic. On September 11, 2001, twenty Muslims tried to murder Americans. One NYPD cadet who happened to be a Muslim died along with thousands of other non-Muslims. Those numbers alone justify King’s hearing. And a thousand like it.

Mohammed Salman Hamdani did not do what he did because he was a Muslim, instead he acted as a paramedic and an NYPD cadet. And that is to his credit. But the 19 hijackers did what they did because they were Muslim. Because they wanted to see Islam triumph over the Dar Al-Harb, to fulfill the dictate of the Koran; “He it is who has sent His Messenger (Mohammed) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) to make it victorious over all religions even though the infidels may resist.” Koran 61:9

The infidels resisted and thousands of Americans died, as millions other have died before them under the sword of the Jihad. Countless Christians, Jews, Hindus, Zoroastrians and Buddhists. There is a reason we call it Islamic terrorism, and it isn’t because we falsely attribute motives to the terrorists, but because Islam is the stated purpose and aim of the terrorists.

Before Congressman Keith X Hakim Muhammad Ellison decided to exploit 9/11 in order to stop an investigation into Islamist organizations, he was using that same day to suggest that the United States government was behind the attacks. In a throwback to his Nation of Islam days, Ellison in 2007 compared 9/11 to the Reichstag fire and compared Bush to Hitler.

After replying to an audience member question of, “Who benefited from 9/11” with “You and I both know”, Ellison went on to compare it to the Reichstag fire, a common analogy used by 9/11 Truthers, and closed with, “I’m not saying [September 11] was a [U.S.] plan, or anything like that because, you know, that’s how they put you in the nut-ball box — dismiss you.”


Contrary to the never-ending stream of lies in the media, King’s hearings were actually about investigating Muslim Brotherhood front groups which law enforcement officials have accused of radicalizing American Muslims and discouraging them from cooperating in terrorism investigations.

You could spend hours reading mainstream media stories about the hearings (all of them either focusing on hurt Muslim feelings or dread warnings about how singling out Muslims will actually cause terrorism) without hearing that simple truth.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Bradley Manning Comment Costs State Department Spokesman His Job

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley resigned over controversial comments he made about the treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Debate over the controversial treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning apparently has cost State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley his job.

Manning is the US Army private first class being held in solitary confinement at the US Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Crowley has been the assistant secretary for public affairs — the main briefer on behalf of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A retired Air Force colonel, he served on the National Security Council staff under former President Bill Clinton.

Crowley’s exodus — reported in several news sources Sunday — probably was inevitable.

Speaking at a seminar at M.I.T. last week, he described Manning’s treatment as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid,” although he added “nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place.”

Manning’s treatment since being arrested last May and charged with providing thousands of classified documents — many of them diplomatically embarrassing — has been the subject of considerable debate.

He’s being held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day in a windowless 6-by-12-foot cell, and for a time he was stripped naked at night — due to concerns about the possibility of suicide, according to defense officials.

Pentagon sources deny that Manning has been abused since being brought back from Iraq or that his confinement is anything other than standard operating procedure.

‘Aiding the enemy’ added to Manning charges

Twenty-two additional charges recently were filed against Manning, including “aiding the enemy” — a capital offense.

Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg has likened Manning’s treatment to torture.

Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity — that’s right out of the manual of the CIA for ‘enhanced interrogation’,” Ellsberg wrote on the website for the British newspaper the Guardian. “We’ve seen it applied in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. It’s what the CIA calls ‘no-touch torture’, and its purpose there, as in this case, is very clear: to demoralize someone to the point of offering a desired confession.”

Ellsberg sees the increasing pressure on Manning as part of the Obama administration’s effort to stifle dissent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We see a campaign here against whistleblowing that’s actually unprecedented in legal terms,” Ellsberg told Monitor Pentagon correspondent Anna Mulrine earlier this month.

Crowley’s leaving the State Department — which may have been in the works anyway due to his relationship with Secretary Clinton — no doubt was accelerated by his statement at M.I.T., which caused an awkward moment for President Obama.

Obama had to answer Crowley’s criticism

At his press conference Friday, Obama was asked about Crowley’s sharp criticism of Manning’s treatment.

“I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards,” he replied. “They assured me that they are.”

In other words, Obama — who campaigned against the mistreatment of Iraq War prisoners and who pledged to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay — was put in the position of having to take the Pentagon’s word for it, despite continuing criticism from domestic and international human rights organizations.

In his statement regarding his resignation, Crowley acknowledged that.

“My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership,” he wrote. “Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Spokesman for the Department of State.”

There’s been speculation that Crowley’s comment about Manning’s treatment may have been influenced by his own father’s time as a prisoner of war in World War II.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Democrats Scramble to Save Their #1 Donor — The Teachers

America’s BIGGEST political donor is not corporate America, bankers, Insurers or Wall Street. It is the National Education Association, which gave over $56 million in campaign donations in the election cycle 2008 alone, and American Federation of Teachers, which gave over $12 million in 2008. Combined, these two teachers unions gave over $68 million in 2008, ALL of it to Democrats.

Still trying to figure out why Democrats are desperate to save the public sector unions?

Democrats scramble to prop up public sector unions not on behalf of teachers or students, but rather on their own behalf, as the NEA is the single largest political donor in America today and they give almost 100% to DEMOCRATS! In short, without millions in campaign funding from the national teachers union, teachers would be better off, but Democrats would be in DEEP trouble!


Lately, there has been a lot of leftist press drivel about Republican supporters, the Koch brothers and Koch Industries, which has given some $11 million in campaign donations over the last ten years or so, 89% of it to Republicans. They aren’t even an ant in the sandbox of politics, compared to the NEA, which is more like the sand in the sandbox.

Koch Industries ranks #83 on the TOP 100 list of political donors. They are nothing compared to the NEA who gave more than $56 million in 2008 alone, essentially ALL of it to Democrats, and ranks #8 on the TOP 100 donor list.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Gas Price Too High? Thank the Greens, Dems, And Clinton

In December, 1996 Bill Clinton vetoed legislation that would have added more than a million barrels of domestic oil per day to help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. His reasoning at the time was that ANWR could not produce oil for ten years, a laughable excuse.

For years, responsible Congressmen fought to open ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge).

The real reason ANWR remains closed to needed domestic oil production is the relentless propaganda campaign waged by green organizations that preach the now-discredited gospel of global warming. These organizations contribute heavily to Democratic candidates, and, during the Clinton administration, occupied the White House and management positions of federal agencies. (See this report and especially endnote #30.)

The Bush administration tried again to expand domestic oil production. Congressional Democrats would not allow it. They filibustered Senator Ted Stevens’ bill to open ANWR in 2005, and in 2008 killed a bill to expand off-shore drilling. Had the greens, the Dems, and Clinton not conspired to prevent the expansion of domestic oil production nearly two decades ago, America could be nearly self-sufficient in energy production today.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Unions a Microcosm of Liberalism: Parasites Devouring Their Host

When Obama predictably stood up for Wisconsin unions, he didn’t create sympathy but merely cast a spotlight upon bygone methods and absurdly selfish goals. Unions typically represent the proposition that, regardless of the underlying economic state, their power and wealth is sacrosanct. Such obscene leftist power-brokering led to the demise of Detroit as the world’s automobile capital. It is time we defang and emasculate these anachronisms of Marxism. Foolhardy attempts by Barack to steer America back to the glory days of Norma Rae’s nest of socialist maggots is doomed to fail. Labor union cliches are so dated they are as embarrassing to hear recited as an ancient prayer from a long-dead cult.

But the real question is whether America can cast off Obama and his buddies’ repeated attacks against capitalism and democracy. They may now rejoice like grave robbers celebrating a zombie festival, but soon their day will pass. The pestilential and pernicious effects of unions cannot be ignored, but must be exposed and shouted down as much as the neighborhood molester. This is the subject of this essay.


We can’t understand the failure of unionism until we study Detroit losing its manufacturing base because of labor’s short-sightedness. Detroit collapsed because of the insane dictates of labor unions, who were never happy until they extracted the last penny from their capitalist bosses. But now the city has lost half its population from a high of 2 million, and the infrastructure is in tatters.

Commentator Steve Crowder made an eye-opening video describing how unions and leftism caused an unprecedented collapse of Detroit society and infrastructure.

Writes the National Review:

“The UAW refused to accept pay parity with non-union foreign automakers by the end of 2009. That pay scale—among the best hourly wages in America at $26-an-hour plus benefits, totaling $48-an-hour—was not good enough for the coddled union, who demanded that their current $73-an-hour contract package be paid until it expires in 2011.”

In a nutshell, Detroit is being reclaimed by nature, as folks farm inside the city limits, and deer and raccoons are regularly sighted. Detroit failed because of liberal policies, but the overall act of the unions blindly demanding more than the Big Three could afford in wages, medical care and pensions essentially bankrupted the city. The goose that laid the golden eggs was killed, and now Detroit, with over 80,000 empty houses, many selling for a single dollar, returns to its pre-civilized state. The unions that killed Detroit, and drove America’s auto industry into the arms of foreigners are the same leftist, Marxist-influenced unions which now threaten the rest of America’s economic vitality, as well.


Barack’s mantle of prophethood started to unravel when he dithered on the Gulf oil spill. His meandering response makes more sense when we realize his refusal to accept foreign aid occurred because he did not want to anger American unions was made public. Writes one journalist,

“The BP clean-up effort in the Gulf of Mexico is hampered by the Jones Act requiring all vessels working in U.S. waters to be American-built, and American-crewed…For Obama, politics always comes first: “The explanation of Obama’s reluctance to seek this remedy is his cozy relationship with labor unions. . . ‘The unions see it [not waiving the act] as…protecting jobs. They hate when the Jones Act gets waived.’ “


As was previously described in this publication, there exists a formula for using unions to mount a coup d’etat against our democratic republic— Syndicalism. This is defined by one source as, “Syndicalism is an economic philosophy that promotes the control of the economy by labor unions. “

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi: I Am Heroic and Also a Bit Mad

(AGI) Turin — Silvio Berlsusconi spoke by phone to a PDL convention in Turin in support of mayor candidate, Michele Coppola. He told his supporters: “I am brave, daring, maybe even a little heroic and crazy and I said that we’d propose this important reform now, and we did.” The prime minister added: “I’m involved in five trials of which one is a terrible civil case in which they are demanding a lot of money. Anyone with a wise head on their shoulders told me: ‘don’t present the justice reform now, otherwise who knows what they’ll do to you’. I believed that we finally have a majority capable of carrying out this reform and I said, it doesn’t bother me.” .

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

French Diplomacy Rekindles Bulgaria’s Pain Over Captive Nurses

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s push to recognise Libyan rebels has caused anger in Bulgaria, with Sofia alleging that key members of the Libyan National Transitional Council were closely linked to the torture of six Bulgarian nurses held captive in the north African country during the last decade.

“I explained [to EU leaders] that representatives of this council in Benghazi are the people who tortured the Bulgarian medics for eight years and that this cost us nearly $60 million,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov told journalists at a European Summit in Brussels on Friday (11 March).

Accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV-contaminated blood, the Bulgarian nurses were eventually released in 2007. As part of the deal, Bulgaria waved $60 million in debt owed by Tripoli.

No formal investigation has ever been conducted, but last month Libya’s former Justice Minister Mustafa Abudel-Jalil said the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was responsible for infecting the roughly 400 children.

Exactly which members of the transitional council Borisov was referring to remains unclear. The Bulgarian premier also likened the situation in Libya to the fall of Communism in his own country.

“You remember what happened in 1989-90, who took power in Bulgaria? The people from the [Communist] Politburo, the foreign minister and the military,” he said.

Reports suggest Romanian President Traian Basescu also echoed doubts over the rebels’ credentials during the EU leaders’ discussion, causing an angry outburst from Sarkozy and leading German Chancellor Angela Merkel to call for calm.

Both Romania and Bulgaria are known to be unhappy with French opposition to them joining the Schengen visa-free travel zone at the current juncture.

Since violence erupted in Libya in February, EU countries have agonised over whether to recognise rebels groups, predominately situated in the east of the country. On Friday leaders said they would treat members of the temporary council as “political interlocutors”.

France has gone further however, dispatching a diplomatic envoy to Benghazi on Thursday after French President Sarkozy met with two rebel representatives the same day.

Speaking to journalists after an extraordinary EU summit on the subject, Mr Sarkozy hit back at accusations his country was moving too fast.

“I don’t think there is any country that has gone from dictatorship to perfect democracy. We can’t say you’ve worked with Gaddafi therefore we won’t talk to you. They are now risking their lives, they have shouldered their responsibilities.”

Tensions over the kidnapped nurses are not new.

In 2007, former French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy flew to Libya to secure the release of the six nurses, but officials in Berlin and Brussels considered the move a PR stunt after weeks of careful negotiations. The event however was deemed a media coup for Nicolas Sarkozy.

           — Hat tip: Costin[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Ndrangheta ‘Has Unlimited Financial Resources’

40 mln euros in assets seized across Italy

(ANSA) — Rome, March 9 — The Calabrian mafia or ‘Ndrangheta is continuing to grow in Italy and abroad thanks to “unlimited” financial resources, according to an annual report from Italy’s anti-mafia directorate (DNA), issued Wednesday.

The growth of ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s richest mafia because of its domination of the European cocaine trade, has not been stemmed by a series of high-profile police operations, the report said.

Despite an “incisive and extraordinary activity” in fighting the Calabrian Mob, the report said, ‘Ndrangheta “is expanding more and more on the national and international levels, aiming to reaffirm its supremacy with unchanged arrogance, above all through its financial resources, which are now unlimited”.

Lombardy, the affluent region around Italy’s financial capital Milan, had been victim to a “full-fledged colonisation”, the DNA said.

The directorate also said ‘Ndrangheta was “further refining its criminal activity”.

Thanks to its financial clout, which has been estimated at more than 3% of Italy’s GDP, the Calabrian syndicate has for some years been ranked the most powerful of Italy’s four mafias, which include Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the Camorra in Naples, and the Sacra Corona Unita (United Holy Crown) in Puglia.

It has carried out many vendetta killings in recent years including the massacre of six men in Duisburg, Germany, in August 2007, a crime that gained splash headlines for a syndicate that had been hitherto little known to the international public.

A massive police operation in July caught ‘Ndrangheta’s No.1, the equivalent of Cosa Nostra’s ‘boss of bosses’, as well as its chief in Lombardy and revealed that the Calabrians, already known to be more closely knit and impenetrable than Cosa Nostra, also had a hierarchy similar to that of the Sicilian Mafia.

On Tuesday, in a follow-up to July’s operation, 35 ‘Ndrangheta members were arrested in Calabria, Germany, Canada and Australia.

The Italian government has made the fight against ‘Ndrangheta a priority and has set up its national mafia assets seizure agency in Reggio Calabria.

On Wednesday police seized some 40 million euros from ‘Ndrangheta in Rome and other Italian cities in one of the biggest assets seizure operations in recent years.

Some 200 members of the tax police fanned out across the country to take over the assets.

Before Wednesday’s operation, in just over a year, anti-mafia police took about 150 million euros from the Calabrian gangs.

‘Ndrangheta, whose name means ‘virtue’ or ‘heroism’ in a local form of ancient Greek, once dealt mainly in kidnappings and extortion and fed off the pickings of public tenders, living in the shadow of its Sicilian cousin.

But it has since expanded to northern Italy, northern Europe and other countries, where it invests its huge drugs profits.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Probe Mulled Into ‘Bid to Change Ruby’s Birth Certificate’

Berlusconi to sue daily over reported ‘emissaries’ to Morocco

(ANSA) — Milan, March 10 — Milan prosecutors are weighing whether to open a probe into a reported bid by unidentified Italians to change the birth certificate of a teen Moroccan belly dancer Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi allegedly paid for sex.

According to leftwing daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, three weeks after the case broke, on February 7, two “emissaries” visited the small town where the girl known as Ruby was born to try to bribe a local registry clerk to move back her date of birth by two years.

That would have meant she was not 17, but 19, when prosecutors claim she had sex with the premier.

Paying for sex with prostitutes is a crime in Italy only if they are under 18.

Berlusconi and Ruby deny having sex and she says money she received from him was a gift.

Prosecutors were reported to be set to decide Friday if the report warranted a criminal investigation.

Berlusconi’s lawyers issued a statement calling for the report of what would have been a “clumsy and vain attempt at falsification” to be cleared up.

“Anyone who knows Moroccan law knows that falsifying a certificate at a town council registry would be completely useless and laughable since copies are kept by several government authorities,” they said.

Berlusconi instructed his lawyers to draw up a suit aimed at establishing the truth of Il Fatto’s report.

“In any case,” the lawyers said, “it is an affair which surreptitiously attempts to gravely damage Premier Berlusconi who is totally exempt of any possible illicit conduct”.

The possibility that Ruby might be older than first thought was first raised by pro-Berlusconi newspapers.

On February 8 Il Giornale, a daily owned by Berlusconi’s brother, reported that the premier’s defence team was set to make a request to Morocco for her original birth certificate.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi: Avoid Dictatorship of Judges

(AGI) Rome — “The great Alexis de Tocqueville said: ‘Of all dictatorships, the worst is that of the judges.’ Thus, with this reform, we will be endeavouring to make sure that doesn’t happen and you need to help us get this message across to Italians everywhere.” This was Silvio Berluconi’s message to the Promotori della Liberta’ party.

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

Swedish Elks Starve After Long Harsh Winter

Five elk calves have been found starved to death in Värmland in central Sweden recently, with experts fearing that the drawn out harsh winter may claim further victims.

Per Persson, an 85-year-old hunter living in northern Vämland, told the local Nya Wermlands-Tidningen (NWT) daily that he has never seen anything like it as the elk, rendered ravenous by the long period of snow-cover, seek to find food.

“The elks eat everything they come across. They are even eating spruce, it has gone that far,” he said, confirming that five dead elk calves have been found in the area.

With the big thaw still a few weeks away, local authorities are warning that the food situation is set to remain parlous for the emaciated elks and more fatalities are to be expected.

“The reserves of fat that they have built up have run out now. The population is going to decline significantly,” Per Larsson, a county conservationist, told NWT.

Per Persson has called on forestry owners to leave woodland debris and offcuts by the side of roads to give the hungry elk a lifeline while the snow cover melts.

The country meanwhile is not planning to take any action despite the added risk of roads accidents involving elk as the animals move closer to built up areas in search of sustenance.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Give Us a Vote on Our Future in Europe: Cross-Party Campaign Launched to Secure Historic Referendum

A major political campaign will be launched today aimed at securing a historic referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU — or quit Brussels for good.

The cross-party ‘People’s Pledge’ campaign aims to pile pressure on party leaders and MPs to support a poll that would settle the divisive question of EU membership once and for all.

It hopes to emulate Barack Obama by harnessing the power of the internet to mobilise support in every constituency.

Polling for the campaign launch shows that 61 per cent would like a referendum on whether Britain should remain within the European Union, with just 25 per cent against. A majority of supporters of all three parties back the idea.

It means support for a referendum on the EU is more than double the level for the referendum on changing Britain’s voting system planned for May 5.

Voters will now be invited to sign up to the ‘People’s Pledge’, promising to only support candidates at the next election who vow to support a referendum.

The pledges will be registered by constituency on the campaign’s website — allowing MPs and rival candidates to see the level of support in their area. The aim is to focus initially on the 100 most marginal seats, where campaigners believe their number of supporters could quickly exceed the majorities of serving MPs.

Prominent Left-winger Mark Seddon, director of the campaign, said the initiative had the potential to tap into ‘huge latent demand’ for a referendum. He added: ‘Our message is simple — if you believe that the people, and not politicians, should decide the UK’s relationship with the EU, sign the People’s Pledge.

‘There is huge latent demand for this, as our polling shows. People are fed up with this denial of democracy in which they are given a referendum on whether there should be extra powers for Wales, but not on the issues they care about because they are deemed too hot to handle.

‘We want to put as much pressure on political parties as possible to agree to hold a referendum. They keep on making promises about referendums but they never deliver. If you are under 54 you have never had a chance to vote on this.’

In 1975, the public voted ‘Yes’ to the question of whether the UK should remain within the then European Community.

But campaigners say the EU has changed beyond all recognition since then — making an overwhelming case for a fresh vote on the issue. Since then five major EU treaties have been passed without a poll, handing Brussels power over huge swathes of British life.

Tony Blair’s controversial decision to give away part of Britain’s budget rebate means that our net annual contributions to Brussels have soared to £8.3billion a year, enough to pay for 275,000 nurses.

Yet EU enlargement has meant Britain’s influence over the future direction of the EU has declined over the period. The UK has just 9 per cent of the votes in the main EU decision-making bodies.

The UK is subject to more than 30,000 new laws, tying many businesses in a mass of red tape.

All three main parties have claimed to support a poll on Europe in the recent past, but none does so now. David Cameron rejected the idea of an ‘in-out’ referendum as recently as last week — and indicated he thought such a vote would lead to Britain leaving the EU. The People’s Pledge initiative has emerged from a Labour movement, but has quickly attracted support from members of other parties.

Keith Vaz, Labour’s former Europe minister, said he was backing the referendum call even though he supports membership. He said: ‘After 38 years of membership of the European Union it is time for the British people to decide where their future lies.’

Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, whose late father Sir James Goldsmith set up the Referendum Party to campaign on the same issue, said he was backing the initiative.

He added: ‘We need to see the maximum pressure applied to each and every MP.’

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan said the initiative had the potential to secure a referendum before the next election if enough people signed up. He added: ‘There has not been a referendum on Europe since 1975, yet the nature of the EU has changed out of all recognition since then.

‘It ticks every box for a referendum — it is the major constitutional issue, it divides the parties internally and it is an issue on which, until recently, all three parties were promising a referendum.’ Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, said although the EU did useful work on issues like the environment, it lacked democratic accountability.

She said: ‘I support a referendum not because I’m anti-EU — I’m not — but because I believe in democracy.’

Ministers have pledged to put in place a ‘referendum lock’, which will require Governments to hold a public vote before any new powers are transferred to Brussels.

But critics say the legislation is ‘toothless’ and warn that several new powers have been given to the EU since the election.

These include extending the EU arrest warrant, and giving Brussels powers to oversee Britain’s budget process.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Ofsted Reveals England is the Only Nation in Europe Where Students Can Stop Studying History at 13

England is the only nation in Europe where schoolchildren can stop studying history at the age of 13, inspectors warned today.

Many secondary schools are squeezing the curriculum so that teaching usually spread over three years has been condensed into two, to leave more time for pupils to take GCSEs, according to a new Ofsted report.

It found that in one in five secondary schools visited for the study, curriculum changes that allow pupils to give up history earlier, and a move towards ‘topics’ rather than subject teaching, have been associated with teaching and learning that is ‘no better than satisfactory’.

The report says: ‘In England, history is currently not compulsory for students beyond the age of 14 and those in schools offering a two-year Key Stage 3 (11-14-year-olds) course can stop studying history at the age of 13.

‘England is unique in Europe in this respect. In almost all the countries of the European Union, it is compulsory to study history in some form in school until at least the ages of 15 or 16.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Poppy-Burning Muslim’s Father Served 14 ‘Proud’ Years in the Navy

The father of a Muslim extremist who burned poppies on Remembrance Day served in the Royal Navy as a police officer for 14 years, relatives have claimed.

Mohammed Gouse Miah, 85, is said to be devastated by the actions of his estranged son Emdadur Choudhury, who was fined a paltry £50 by a judge for setting light to poppies and yelling ‘British soldiers burn in hell’ during the two-minute silence on November 11 last year.

Choudhury — who claims almost £800-a-month in State handouts — laughed off the fine, claiming he would pay more for a parking offence. Prime Minister David Cameron said Choudhury’s behaviour ‘has no place in a tolerant society’, while war veterans labelled it ‘disgusting’.

In contrast with Choudhury’s apparent hatred for British troops, Mr Miah is said to be ‘proud’ of his time in the British military, as a Naval police officer in Singapore in the Fifties.

A relative said: ‘He is very upset by it. He thinks what his son has done is crazy. He thinks his son has been brainwashed by extremists.’

Members of Choudhury’s family, who spoke anonymously, said Mr Miah has been a hard-working and law-abiding citizen all his life.

Mr Miah left his native region of Sylhet in what was then East Pakistan — now Bangladesh — and migrated to Singapore looking for work in 1950.

At the time, Singapore was a British colony with one of the biggest naval bases in the world. Mr Miah found work as a police officer and remained in his post until 1964, a year after the British granted power to the Singaporeans, said relatives. They added that Mr Miah was granted British citizenship in recognition of his service to the Navy.

When he came to England, he worked for London Underground and later for British Rail as a ticket collector. Mr Miah, who is now retired, lives with his wife Hamida in a council flat in Bethnal Green,East London.

Relatives said that Mr Miah, who has three sons and a daughter, became concerned about Choudhury after he was radicalised by extremists. Choudhury left home two years ago after arguments with his father and lives in a nearby council flat with his wife and two young children.

Relatives said that Choudhury, 26, is estranged from his extended family, whom he views as ‘kuffar’ (infidels) because they do not believe in his brand of radical Islam.

His cousin, Azad Choudhury, 54, said: ‘This poppy-burning incident has not only shamed his family, but has shamed the whole Bangladeshi community and all those from the Indian subcontinent. This sort of actions can lead to racists launching violent acts against Asians.’

Choudhury led a group of protesters calling themselves Muslims Against Crusades on November 11 near the Royal Albert Hall, close to the finishing line of a charity walk to commemorate service personnel.

During the silence, he was caught on camera unfurling large plastic poppies and dousing them in petrol before setting them alight. The group claimed they were protesting against the presence of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Miah refused to comment on his son or his time in the Navy. Choudhury could not be reached for comment.

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Crisis in Libya Has Limited Impact on ENI

(ANSAmed) — LONDON, MARCH 10 — The crisis in Libya has resulted in a “temporary” interruption of production of oil and gas by ENI but this should not have an impact in the long term, the head of the Italian fuels conglomerate said on Thursday.

Speaking at the presentation of ENI’s 2011-2014 business plan, CEO Paolo Scaroni said that should the crisis in the North African country continue for 100 days ENI would be producing 50,000 fewer barrels of crude oil a day.

According to Scaroni, ENI currently produces one third of its oil in Libya and he expected production to halt in the near future because of the situation there.

Nevertheless, “we will be able to quickly resume production once the conflict is over,” he added.

Should the conflict continue longer than expected, the CEO said, ENI may have to revise its forecast of boosting global production by 3% by 2014.

In his presentation, Scaroni said that over the next five years ENI would boost natural gas sales to Italy and key European markets by 5% and make investments totalling 53.3 billion euros.

He also said that for the year 2010 ENI would pay a dividend of one euro per share, half of which was already distributed in September, thanks to a consolidated net profit of 6.32 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libyan Crisis: 400-Bln-Euro Desertec Plan at Risk

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 7 — The Libyan crisis and more in general the North African one may result in “worrying repercussions on our national energy system and on development plans for European Union energy facilities,” according to the expert on smart grids, ANIE advisor and chairman of the Getra group (a company working in electric transformers sector) Marco Zigon. Zigon believes that the Mediterranean “is not only a sea seeing an exodus”. In particular, the risk concerns the development of the large renewable energy project Desertec, which calls for investment of about 400 billion euros by 2050. The North African crisis “risks having repercussions even on the Desertec, an initiative which calls for the building of a number of photovoltaic, wind, solar and thermodynamic electricity plants in North African and Middle Eastern countries, which,” notes Zigon, “are to generate 15% of Europe’s energy requirements.” “The electricity generated by these plants,” reported Zigon, “should be partially sold to African countries and partially transferred to EU countries through underwater electricity pipelines connecting North African coasts with Greek, Italian and Spanish ones.” According to the plan, “electricity plants will be connected to these electricity pipelines through a network of about 100 smart grids, each with a capacity of about 800 MW, which will allow for a connection between North African countries and the EU.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Disappeared Shia Imam, Inquiry Accuses Gaddafi

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is the main suspect in having ordered the disappearance 32 years ago of the Shia imam Mussa Sadr during his stop-over in Tripoli before heading for Italy, according to an essay by Fausto Biefeni Olevano.

“The Hidden Truth” (Arkadia Editore, 240 pages) is the result of detailed research conducted by the author, a freelance journalist with experience in Arab countries, into the traces left by Mussa Sadr — for years the spiritual and political head of Lebanon’s Shia community — and two of his collaborators, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances in August 1978. Libyan authorities have always denied any involvement, saying that Sadr and his two travel companions had arrived in Rome on an Alitalia flight from Tripoli. In Italy, the first two judicial proceedings had denied this version of events, which instead was backed by the third and last sentences issued by the Italian judiciary in 2005, according to which the presence of Sadr and his two collaborators onboard the AZ881 Tripoli-Rome flight could not be ruled out. “If any judge reads this book carefully,” said Biefeni Olevano to ANSA, “I imagine it would be difficult not to see at least the possibility of crimes having been committed, behaviours which were not exactly fitting to the circumstances, which trampled on the human rights of three individuals and their families, who have been waiting for the truth to come out for over thirty years.” “During my journalistic inquiry,” added the author of the piece of investigative journalism, “hidden truths emerged which involve Italy from an institutional point of view…Someone must explain what actually happened.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Al Qaeda Calls on Rebels to Strive Against Gaddafi

(AGI) Cairo — Al Qaeda has called on Libyan rebels to move forward against Gaddafi in a video posted on a jihadist website. In the video message Commander Abu Yahya al-Libi declared that rebels “must continue their revolution without hesitation or fear to sink Gaddafi into the abyss.” He stated, “The Libyan people have suffered at the hand of Gaddafi for over 40 years. The “Rais” has used the Libyans as guinea pigs for his violent, distructive and disgusting ideas.” .

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

Morocco: King Announces Important Democratic Reforms

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MARCH 10 — Last night King Mohammed VI of Morocco announced an important “comprehensive constitutional reform” that calls for “increased individual and collective liberties” in particular. In a speech to the nation, the monarch underlined his “firm commitment to provide a strong impulse to the current profound drive for reforms,” adding the constitutional reforms will be voted on in a “popular referendum,” whose date has not been specified. Mohammed VI explained the seven principles of his democratic reforms, including strengthening the status of the prime minister and “the desire to make the judicial system an independent power”.

According to the new Constitution, the premier will be appointed from the ranks “of the party that wins the elections” for the Chamber of Deputies and will no longer be appointed by the king. Furthermore, “as the head of an actual executive office,” the premier “will be fully responsible for the government, public administration and the application of the government’s programme”. “Strengthening the rule of law, expanding the range of individual and collective freedoms and strengthening the human rights system in all aspects” will all be part of the reform to the Constitution. The introduction of the regions into the kingdom will be part of the large-scale constitutional reform, said the king, “with the provinces of the Moroccan Sahara at the forefront,” the disputed region known as the Western Sahara by the Polisario Front, which has been fighting for its freedom for years. For the revision of the Constitution, Mohammed VI announced the formation of a commission, whose president will be Moroccan constitutionalist Abdelfit Menouni, who must present the proposals to the king by next June. The first Constitution of Morocco was decreed in 1962 and since then it has been amended on several occasions, the most recent of which was in 1996. The king’s speech to the nation has been his first since the protests on February 20 called by a group of young people on Facebook to call for “significant political reforms”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Police and Protesters Clash in Casablanca

(AGI) Casablanca — It is of dozens of protesters injured the provisional toll of the clashes which broke out in Casablanca between the police and one hundred protesters. Riot security forces sealed sealed off Mohammed V Square where the demonstration was scheduled to take place. The demonstration was organized by the activitsts from the Islamist Justice and Charity movement, which is banned but tolerated in Morocco.

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

Sarkozy’s Libya Move ‘Shows Testosterone Level, Not Logic’

French President Nicolas Sarkozy shakes hands with members of the Libyan rebel government outside the Elysee Palace.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy surprised and upset many on Thursday by unilaterally calling for “targeted air strikes” against the Gadhafi regime and recognizing the rebel Libyan government a day before EU members convened at a summit to hammer out a common approach to the crisis. German commentators are not impressed.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in the hot seat Friday after making a number of unilateral diplomatic moves Thursday related to the tumultuous situation in Libya. He called for “targeted air strikes” on assets of embattled Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and granted official recognition to the Interim Governing Council, an umbrella group of rebel forces based in the eastern city of Benghazi — a move he urged other EU countries to make as well.

In addition, he and British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a joint declaration to the European Council calling for plans to be formulated to assist Libyan rebels, which could include imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. “It is clear to us the (Libyan) regime has lost any legitimacy that it could have,” the statement said, according to Reuters. “To end the suffering of the Libyan people, Moammar Gadhafi and his clique must leave.”

The move came a day before EU leaders met in Brussels to discuss the worsening situation in Libya and how they can jointly respond to it. Before the meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that the EU was immediately breaking off all ties with Gadhafi. “Someone who wages war against his own people is no longer someone the EU can have as an interlocutor,” Merkel said, according to the German news agency DAPD. “We call on Gadhafi to step down immediately.”

Merkel added that the EU would make all efforts to impose financial, business and other sanctions on the Gadhafi regime. In reference to Sarkozy’s move, Merkel only said that European leaders “must think over each step carefully” and that she “would like to see the EU send out a uniform signal.”

A Shock to Many

Sarkozy’s move Thursday came as a shock, even to some in Sarkozy’s administration. In France, Le Figaro reports that newly appointed French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe only learned of the planned moves on Thursday, while the tabloid La Charente Libre accuses Sarkozy of having “donned his Super Rambo costume.” Among the European leaders critical of the move, Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said it had triggered “negative reactions,” and Luxembourg Prime Minster Jean-Claude Juncker delicately noted how such actions should not be taken “on the day before” EU leaders were scheduled to meet for a summit in Brussels.

In Germany, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle responded by saying that states, rather than governments, should be recognized and that Europe should not allow itself to get drawn into a civil war. At the same time, though, he did say that a no-fly zone remained an option and, commenting on Germany’s freezing of billions of euros in Libyan assets at German banks, he said that “there is no further cooperation with Gadhafi possible” and that “sanctions must be broadened.”

After a meeting of NATO members in Brussels Thursday, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière said he didn’t consider it particularly useful “to openly play around with options” and warned that “military actions must be thought through to the end.” During the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen noted how the alliance was discussing the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone and increasing its “situational awareness” by sending more ships to the region.

In the meantime, the United States cut off its remaining diplomatic ties with the Gadhafi regime Thursday and started round-the-clock surveillance of the air space over Libya. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will also meet with members of the Libyan opposition in the United States and during visits to Egypt and Tunisia next week…

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

Tunisia: Ben Ali’s Security Chief Planned Coup, Press

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 7 — Immediately after Ben Ali fled the country on January 14, commander of the Tunisian Presidential Guard Ali Seriati reportedly planned to take power through a coup d’etat and proclaim himself President of the Republic, according to the weekly paper Tunis Hebdo, which supported the widespread speculation within the country according to which the coup had been thwarted by the Defence Minister at that time, Ridha Grira.

Having learned of the plan, the latter ordered the immediate arrest of Seriati by the army, thereby thwarting the plan which would have led to bloodshed. According to the weekly, shortly before Ben Ali’s departure, Seriati had ordered army, navy and air force commanders to be put under house arrest, and the day before had ordered the Interior Minister to dismiss with immediate effect all policemen except those belonging to a few special forces units, as well as the seizure of weapons and ammunition held in police stations across the country. The Presidential Guard, an elite corps composed of 5,000 well-armed and trained men, was particularly feared and responded solely to Seriati’s orders.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Political Parties, Unknown to 61% of Tunisians

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 09 — A study that included 1,021 people of both sexes over the age of 18 conducted from February 28 to March 5 by Emrhod Consultin reports that 61.4% of Tunisians ignore political parties in the country.

The following rankings were given for the popularity of the different parties: Ennhadha was ranked first with 29%, followed by the PDP with 12.3% and Ettajdid with 7.5%. The survey also showed that the person who is considered to be the most capable of governing the country is former Prime Minister Mohamed Ghanouchi (9%), over current Prime Minister Caid Essbsi (6.1%) and Army Chief of Staff, General Rachid Ammar (4.2%). The study showed that 82% of Tunisians are confident about the future of the revolution.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: One of the New Parties Wants Caliphate and Sharia

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 10 — Hizb ut-Tahrir is one of the more than 30 parties that have been authorised to carry out political activities after the fall of the Ben Ali regime. Its clear objective is to institute a caliphate in Tunisia, as well as a system based on the sharia.

Today the party’s spokesman Ridha Belhaj, quoted by AFP, said that the party does not rule out “rebellion or civil disobedience”. But Belhaj continued by saying that in his view the use of violence “in political action is unacceptable”.

This view was confirmed today in a long interview with Le Quotidien by Foued Azzouz, who is seen as one of the leading figures in the party. Hizb ut-Tahrir Tunisia was founded in 1980 and its organisation is based on small groups, ‘halakat’ (circles), which focus on making propaganda for a party that is widely supported by workers and students. Its philosophy is based on the writings of Taqiuddin-Al-Nabhanu, a Palestinian man and graduate of the al Ahar University in Cairo, who founded the party in 1953 in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. His goal was to found the party in all Arab countries. According to Azzouz, “the State becomes a simple policeman that has to guarantee respect for the rules of the game in the new world order”. So, he adds, “the capitalist system cannot guarantee the wellbeing of the people”. The party therefore has one single enemy: “the capitalist system that governs the entire world”.

According to the party’s programme, the country must be led by the Ummah (Muslim nation) which selects the caliph through elections, though Islamic law remains supreme. “Islam is the solution” claims Hizb ut-Tahrir, reusing one of the slogans of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist Egypt movement.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Muslim Women Want Photos With Veil on Documents

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 11 — An appeal lodged by Mariem Rezgui at the tribunal of Tunis asks Tunisian Muslim women to be allowed, if they want to, to use photographs in which they wear a veil on all their administrative documents (identity card, passport, driving licence), and the annulment of the Internal Ministry disposition that bans this option. The disposition was accepted by the previous regime for security reasons. In the past days the interim government decided to annul another rule contained in this disposition, the regulation that forbids men to wear a long beard in photos used on official documents.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

The New York Times Blames the ‘Settlers’

…The Times continues its outrageous pattern of blaming Israel for the lack of peace in our region. The article was written originally by Al-AP.

Palestinian opposition to settlement construction on lands they want for a future state has brought negotiations to a virtual standstill over the past two years, with Palestinians refusing to negotiate directly with Israel as long as it persists.

In other words, there are no ‘negotiations’ because Israel insists on continuing to build ‘settlements.’ But for 16 years before Prime Minister Netanyahu took power, there were negotiations regardless of whether there was construction. And Israel never agreed at any time to stop construction. The first item of the road map was that the ‘Palestinians’ had to disband the terror organizations, something that we were bitterly reminded on Friday night has never happened although the Times will try to dispute that too further on…

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Libya: Chief of Italy’s ENI Warns Country Could Become a Failed State

Rome, 11 March (AKI/Bloomberg) — Libya could end up a failed state, the head of Italian energy giant Eni — the biggest foreign oil producer in the North African country — has warned.

“What would be the worst potential outcome is to have a kind of Somalia situation in Libya that has no government for a long period of time,” Chief Executive Officer Paolo Scaroni said in an interview with Bloomberg Television late on Thursday.

“But if this happens, this will not just be Eni’s problem. It will be a problem for Europe, for everybody.”

The uprising against the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has intensified, sending oil prices to a 30 month high. The division of the country into two wouldn’t “necessarily be bad for us,” Scaroni said, since a prolonged power vacuum would be the worst possible outcome.

As the biggest energy producer in Africa, Rome-based Eni has had plenty of experience in dealing with revolutions in the past, the CEO said.

“And normally contracts are respected, simply because everyone who is in power needs” the income generated by oil exports, he said.

Scaroni has said Eni will halt all remaining oil and gas output from Libya in the next few days.

Production has already been cut by two- thirds. The Italian company pumped 280,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day from Libya before the crisis.

Eni is targeting output growth in excess of 3 percent through 2014, led by projects in Iraq, Venezuela, Angola and Russia. That forecast depends on the suspension of Libyan production being temporary, Scaroni told analysts at the company’s strategic plan presentation in London on Thursday.

The company said that the impact of lower output in the north African nation has been more than offset by higher oil prices.

Facilities are on “hot standby” in Libya ready to restart quickly, it said in a presentation. None of the company’s oil infrastructure has been damaged by the violence. Eni is currently producing 10 million cubic meters of gas a day to supply the domestic market.

Speculation about a Libyan stake in Eni is a “legend,” Scaroni told a press conference.

“We found only one entity which owns 0.5 percent of the company, has Libya in its name but is based in Bahrain,” he said. The producer has since informed the market regulator about the shareholding.

Eni plans 53.3 billion euros (74 billion dollars) of investments in the next three years, most of which will be focused on upstream operations. The company said its overall production in 2014 will exceed 2.05 million barrels of oil equivalent a day.

It had previously targeted annual output growth of 2.5 percent from 2010 to 2013.

“Our confidence is underpinned by progress on giant projects in Venezuela, Russia, and Angola,” Scaroni said.

“We are now entering a very positive productive phase.”

The current dividend estimate is based on oil prices at 70 dollars a barrel, Scaroni said.

Eni would consider changing the base for the estimate if oil prices remain higher, the CEO said.

Eni will keep its 33 percent stake in Galp Energia SGPS unless it gets a premium to the share price performance of Portugal’s biggest oil company in the past three months, according to Scaroni.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4), Brazil’s state-controlled oil producer, last month ended talks with Eni to buy a 4.1 billion- euro stake in Galp.

Eni would also consider the sale of its stake in Snam Rete Gas SpA, the owner of Italy’s natural-gas grid, Scaroni said.

“If we had approval of the government and found a buyer willing to pay a premium on the market price we would consider the sale,” he said.

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

Saudi Arabia: Suicides Among Well-Off Adolescents Double

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 10 — Three suicides in a single day, in three different areas in Saudi Arabia. Three girls, all students, all well-to-do and without apparent motive took their lives in Abha, in Bisha and in Taif. This happened a few weeks ago. There was no direct link with the uprisings that are raging in the Arab world, or with the “day of anger” that will be held tomorrow in the kingdom by the Shiite minorities. The rising number of suicides among young people, adolescents and particularly unmarried women in the Saudi Sunni high-society worries the authorities and has alarmed the local media. These alarm bells of a social problem can no longer be ignored. Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister, quoted by Gedda Arab News, said that the number of suicides almost doubled over the past decade in the kingdom, from 400 cases in 1999 to 787 in 2010.

Considering the fact that in an ultra-conservative Islamic community suicide is still taboo, an act of shame that should be hidden inside the family walls, the numbers are probably higher.

The official figures are still high enough to ask questions about the phenomenon however. According to Arab News, the statistics could indicate that the Saudi authorities are more willing to face this issue. Some experts, interviewed by the newspaper, believe however that suicide has become an acceptable choice among young Saudis, adolescents in particular, as it is for their Japanese peers. A ‘legitimate answer’ to an increasingly difficult and complex life.

Based on a three-year survey carried out by the Saudi Committee for family protection, 80% of a total of 156 suicide attempts was made by girls. The causes were “domestic violence, partiality of parents towards their sons, forced weddings (which are rare however in the higher classes”, explains the commission’s chairman Samira Mashhor to newspaper Al-Watan.

A woman doctor at a hospital in Riyadh recently told Reuters that she treats around 11 cases per months of girls who tried to commit suicide. Many of them take sleeping pills or barbiturates, almost as if they don’t really want to take their lives but cry out for help. The doctor explains that it is the symptom of a widespread suffering due to the situation of women in a strict Muslim country. “Women become desperate when they see that their right to choose and to realize their own free will is denied”, the doctor, whose name is not mentioned, adds.

In her opinion, Saudi girls “have no communication channels with their parents and rarely find support for their emotional and social problems. Unfortunately”, she concludes, “listening to an adolescent and sympathising with her does not seem to be one of our society’s skills”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sultan of Oman to Cede Lawmaking Powers to Oman Council

(AGI) Muscat — Sultan Qabus ben Said of Oman will cede legislative powers to a consultative council to forestall the discontent present in some demonstrations. According to the Oman News Agency, the sultan has conferred “legislative powers and supervisory powers” to the Oman Council which until now only had consultative functions.

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

Far East

Experts Say Radioactive Releases From Japanese Plants Could Last Weeks or Months

As the scale of Japan’s nuclear crisis begins to come to light, experts in Japan and the United States say the country is now facing a cascade of accumulating problems that suggest that radioactive releases of steam from the crippled plants could go on for weeks or even months.

The emergency flooding of two stricken reactors with seawater and the resulting steam releases are a desperate step intended to avoid a much bigger problem: a full meltdown of the nuclear cores in two reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. So far, Japanese officials have said the melting of the nuclear cores in the two plants is assumed to be “partial,” and the amount of radioactivity measured outside the plants, though twice the level Japan considers safe, has been relatively modest.

[Return to headlines]

Hydrogen Explosion Occurs at Nuclear Power Plant 135 Miles North of Tokyo

A hydrogen explosion occurred at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 3 reactor at 11:01 a.m. local time today, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

Tokyo Electric spokesman Daisuke Hirose said smoke was seen rising from the reactor. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported earlier pressure at the reactor had fallen and Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the situation remains a concern.

The pressure declined after rising earlier today, Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general at the safety agency, said at a media briefing. The Fukushima Dai-Ichi station lies 220 kilometers (135 miles) north of the Japanese capital.

Asia’s largest utility is seeking to avoid a meltdown of at least two reactors at the nuclear power station by flooding them with water and boric acid to eliminate the potential for a catastrophic release of radiation into the atmosphere. The station lost power to keep the reactor core cool after the March 11 earthquake, the largest ever recorded in Japan.

[Return to headlines]

Japan: Man is Rescued Ten Miles Out to Sea After Clinging to Roof of His Obliterated House for Two Days

Today as the people of Japan came to terms with the devastating destruction and loss of life suffered after Friday’s megaquake a rare story of hope emerged.

Hiromitsu Shinkawa, 60, was today rescued after being pushed out to sea while he clung to the roof of his home after a tsunami engulfed Japan’s northeastern coast.

For two days, he tried to get the attention of helicopters and ships that passed by — to no avail.

Finally, today, a Japanese military vessel spotted the desperate man waving a red cloth.

He was about 10 miles offshore from the earthquake-ravaged city of Minamisoma, said Yoshiyuki Kotake, a Defence Ministry spokesman. Shinkawa told his rescuers that the tsunami hit as he and his wife returned home to gather some belongings after Friday’s quake

Shinkawa told his rescuers that the tsunami hit as he and his wife returned home to gather some belongings after Friday’s quake. His wife was swept away, Kotake said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Japan Fears Second Reactor Blast

There is a risk of a second explosion at the quake-hit Fukushima power station, Japanese officials have said.

However, chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said the facility could withstand the impact and the nuclear reactor itself would not be damaged.

Technicians are battling to cool reactor 3 following a blast at the building housing reactor 1 on Saturday.

Meanwhile, police have warned that the death toll in tsunami-hit Miyagi prefecture alone could exceed 10,000.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Nuclear Plant Designer Says Japanese Government Suppressing Scale of Crisis

A former nuclear power plant designer has said Japan is facing an extremely grave crisis and called on the government to release more information, which he said was being suppressed. Masashi Goto told a news conference in Tokyo that one of the reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant was “highly unstable”, and that if there was a meltdown the “consequences would be tremendous”. He said such an event might be very likely indeed. So far, the government has said a meltdown would not lead to a sizeable leak of radioactive materials.

Mr Goto said the reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant were suffering pressure build-ups way beyond that for which they were designed. There was a severe risk of an explosion, with radioactive material being strewn over a very wide area — beyond the 20km evacuation zone set up by the authorities — he added. Mr Goto calculated that because Reactor No 3 at Fukushima-Daiichi — where pressure is rising and there is a risk of an explosion — used a type of fuel known as Mox, a mixture of plutonium oxide and uranium oxide, the radioactive fallout from any meltdown might be twice as bad.

He described the worst-case scenario: “It is difficult to say, but that would be a core meltdown. If the rods fall and mix with water, the result would be an explosion of solid material like a volcano spreading radioactive material. Steam or a hydrogen explosion caused by the mix would spread radioactive waste more than 50km. Also, this would be multiplied. There are many reactors in the area so there would be many Chernobyls.”

He accused the government of deliberately withholding vital information that would allow outside experts help solve the problems. “For example, there has not been enough information about the hydrogen being vented. We don’t know how much was vented and how radioactive it was.” He also described the use of sea water to cool the cores of the reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi as highly unusual and dangerous.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Woman Pushing a Pram Robbed in NSW

Police are appealing for public assistance after a woman was assaulted during a robbery in Sydney’s south this afternoon.

About 5.15pm, the 31-year-old woman was pushing a child in a pram along Toronto Parade, Sutherland, when she was approached by two males.

One of the men demanded money and threatened her with a knife.

The woman handed over a small amount of cash before one of them hit her in the face. She suffered swelling as a result of the assault.

The men then ran from the scene along Toronto Parade, towards Jannali.

Both men have been described as being of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern appearance, about 20 years old, with a skinny build and short dark hair. The man who produced the knife also had his hair in a rat’s tail.

Anyone who can assist the investigation should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. All information is treated in strict confidence.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sudan: South Accuses Khartoum of ‘Genocide Plan’

(AGI) Juba — The government of Southern Sudan accused Khartoum of planning a genocide in the separatist region. Pagan Amum, general secretary of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, launched the accusation after yesterday revealing an attempt to overthrow the Juba government and announcing a halt to negotiations with Sudanese president, Omar Bashir, suspected of having organised the coup.

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


Bosnia: 8:500 Foreigners Request Long-Term Residence

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, MARCH 10 — In 2010 about 340.000 foreigners entered and stayed in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH) on various grounds, said director of the Foreigners’ Affairs Service of BH, Dragan Mektic at a press conference presenting the results of the Service in the past year, reports FENA news agency.

About 8.500 foreigners requested and most of them received a long-term stay permit in our country on various grounds. The service conducted over 6.000 inspections and in 1.350 cases issued a decision on cancellation of residence of alien residents in BH. In case of 354 persons the service determined control measures and 312 people were placed in the Immigration Center. “Based on readmission agreement, we accepted 53 foreigners from third countries, which means that BH is not used largely for transit of immigrant to Western Europe or other countries”, said Mektic, adding that five or six years ago, about thousand illegal immigrants were received by the immigration center a month on the basis of readmission in BH. Mektic said that now there is increased influx of immigrants from northern Africa who typically do not have any documents and added that only seven months ago, most migrant workers in BH were from neighboring countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Frattini: Italy Asks for Full EU Participation

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 10 — Italy, ahead of tomorrow’s special summit of EU heads of State and government leaders in Brussels, has noted the request for the “participation of all member States, not only countries on the coast”, in managing the increased flow of migrants in these weeks in the Mediterranean area. This was stressed by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in the press conference that followed the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the EU-27. Frattini pointed out that the “economic contribution” made by the EU to the countries on the southern coast should be “substantial”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Wins EU Support for North African Refugee Crisis

Europe demands Gaddafi abandon power ‘immediately’

(ANSA) — Brussels, March 11 — Italy appears to have succeeded in winning the European Union’s support for help in dealing with the refugee crisis caused by the recent upheavals in North Africa.

A draft for the final statement from Friday’s special EU summit on the crisis in Libya is reported to include in writing that “member states most directly involved with migration movements deserve our active support”.

Italy has been pushing hard for the EU to help it deal with a flood of refugees who have landed at its islands near North Africa in recent weeks.

Friday’s meeting also saw EU leaders agree to examine the possibility of drawing up a ‘Marshall Plan’ for the Mediterranean basin as a whole based on regional economic integration and political cooperation.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusocni has on several occasions urged such a plan, most recently last week at a European People’s Party summit in Helsinki.

The draft statement expected to be approved by the EU heads of state and government calls on the European Council and Commission to work together to draw up a “development plan capable of managing the influx of migrants and refugees” before the next scheduled EU summit in June.

In their final statement, EU leaders are reported to demand that Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi “abandon power immediately” and the use of force against civilians also cease “immediately”.

“We firmly condemn the violent repression by the regime of its own citizens and the violent and systematic abuse of human rights. The use of force, especially with military means, against civilians is unacceptable and must stop immediately,” the draft said.

According to EU leaders, “the security of the population must be guaranteed with all means necessary. Those responsible will answer for their actions with heavy consequences. We will work with the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union and other international partners to resolve this crisis,” the draft added.

In regard to France’s move to officially recognise a leading Libyan opposition group, EU leaders said that “we do not know whether there is a single opposition group in the country” and would first wait and see what the outcome is of Saturday’s meeting in Cairo of the Arab League.

“It is important to know what the members of the Arab League think of the opposition groups in Libya,” the draft statement said.

In regard to the North African country’s future, EU leaders said “Libya must move in a swift and orderly way towards becoming a democracy through broad-based dialogue. The EU is ready to engage in dialogue with the new Libyan authorities and help that nation set up a constitutional state and society based on the rule of law”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Ras Jedir: Rising Number of Somali Refugees

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 11 — Around 600 Somali refugees have arrived from Libya in the camp of Choucha, near Ras Jédir, and more are reportedly arriving. They want to be sent to countries that are willing to accept them and offer job opportunities or political asylum. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), many requests for political asylum have been made, by the Somalis, by people from Sudan, Iraq and Eritrea. Meanwhile the return of Bengalese citizens to their home country from the international airport of Djerba-Zarzis continues regularly, around a thousand people per day. Yesterday there was panic in the camp of Choucha when clouds of smoke invaded the camp. The smoke turned out to be coming from mattresses there were being burned by aid workers, because they thought them to be unserviceable.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]