Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110317

Financial Crisis
»North Dakota Economy Booms, Population Soars
»A European’s Warning to America
»FBI Chief Confirms Ties Cut With U.S. Muslim Group
»Major Earthquake in North America Imminent?
»NPR Exec.: Attacks on NPR “Unfair”
»Scholar Sheds Light on Christian Persecution
»School in Philadelphia Teaches Brotherly ‘Jihad’
»Tokyo Passengers Trigger U.S. Airport Detectors, N.Y. Post Says
»Man Feels Recovery Program Violated His Religious Beliefs
Europe and the EU
»150 Year-Old Italian Unity Struggle Becomes Video Game
»‘47% of Germans Think Israel Exterminating Palestinians’
»Italy: Prosecutors Say Berlusconi Had Sex With Ruby 13 Times
»‘No German Soldiers in Libya, ‘ Westerwelle Says
»UK: Ed Miliband Faces Calls to Sack Shadow Minister Who Claimed Tories ‘Don’t Want Muslims in Central London’
»UK: Grooming of Girls by Pakistani Gangs Fuelled by Unhappy Arranged Marriages to Cousins Claims Muslim Peerby Abul Taher
»UK: Schoolboy Hitman, 15, ‘Was Paid £200 to Gun Down Mother in Contract Killing Over Custody of Her Son’
»UK: The Proof Exam Results Have Been Inflated: OECD Warns UK Schools Are Out of Step
»UK: Thousands of Violent Criminals to be Spared Jail Under New Rules… Saving at Least £10m on the Prison Bill
»Serbia: 800:000 Workers Engaged in Black Labor
Mediterranean Union
»Morocco: EU: 55 Mln to Help Open Up Poor and Isolated Areas
North Africa
»Egypt: Israeli Spy Ring Uncovered by Egyptian Authorities
»Italy: ENI Has Stopped Pumping Libyan Oil, CEO Says
»Libya: Frattini: International Isolation in Store for Gaddafi
»Libya to Honor Contracts With ENI
»Libya: Egypt Won’t Take Part in Military Intervention
»Tunisia: Army Breaks Up Farmers Protest
»U.N. Security Council Approves No-Flight Zone in Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
»Middle East: The Muslim Terrorist War Against Israeli Families
»U.S. Funds to Pay Hamas Salaries?
Middle East
»Athletics: Gulf: 350 Athletes With Veils in Medal Hunt
»Bahrein: Cameron Phones King, Reforms Not Repression
»Bahrein: Clampdown on Opposition, 6 Leaders Arrested
»Iranian Film: Invade Israel to Usher in Muslim ‘Messiah’
»Syria: Democracy Protests in Damascus and Aleppo, The First in Decades
»Turkish ‘Civil Society’ Far Behind European Average, Says CHP
Far East
»Japan: ‘Please Continue to Live Well’: Fukushima Fifty ‘On Suicide Mission’ To Battle N-Plant Meltdown Send Haunting Messages to Families… As Radioactive Steam Pours From Wrecked Reactor
»More Smoke Rises From Japan’s Crippled Nuke-Plant
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Burundi Sends 1000 “Green Berets” To Somalia
»Australia: Ten Years on: Never Worked, on a Pension, Imported Drugs, Needs Interpreter
»Netherlands: Positive Response to Dutch EU Immigration Law Plans, Says Minister
»S. Craxi: EU Must Prepare for Exodus From Libya
»UK: Eight in Ten New Jobs Have Gone to Foreign Workers During Past Year
»Violence Escalates on Christmas Island
Culture Wars
»Are Children ‘Infected’ By Judeo-Christian Values?
»Diana West: Frantz Fanon TV
»Italy: Top Court Upholds Sacking of Anti-Cross Judge
»NH Justices Claim Religion No Part of Ruling on Christian Teaching

Financial Crisis

North Dakota Economy Booms, Population Soars

North Dakota, the state with the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, capped a decade of economic prosperity with dramatic population growth in its biggest cities.

Fargo added nearly 15,000 residents to hit a record population of 105,549, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday. Its fast-growing neighbor of West Fargo added an additional 11,000 residents to reach a population of 25,830.

Fargo has seen steady growth over the decade — the housing boom missed it — to reach a size that surprised city officials.

“Above 100,000? Wow. That puts us into a different category of city. That’s great,” says Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker. The city is now home to about one of every six North Dakota residents.

Fargo’s growth is especially striking considering North Dakota’s population is only 672,591, the nation’s third smallest. The state’s total population grew 4.7% from 2000 to 2010, below the national average of 9.7%, but robust for a region that has suffered for decades from a depopulation of the Great Plains.

North Dakota residents continued the long-standing trend of leaving rural counties for the bigger towns of Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Minot. Also, the state’s population continues to get older. The number of children declined for the second straight decade, says Brookings Institution demographer William Frey.

North Dakota is one of the nation’s least diverse states. Hispanic, black and Asian residents each make up 2% or less of its population. American Indians are the largest minority group, equal to 5.4% of the population.

The superstar of North Dakota is its economy. The state’s unemployment rate hasn’t touched 5% since 1987. The state’s per capita income rose over the decade from 38th in the nation to 17th, the biggest advance of any state.

“We’ve had an absolutely stellar few years,” says University of North Dakota economist David Flynn. “In all honesty, when you look ahead, we should continue to do well for quite a while.”…

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]


A European’s Warning to America

By Daniel Hannan

The perils of following us toward greater regulation, higher taxes and centralized power.

On a U.S. talk-radio show recently, I was asked what I thought about the notion that Barack Obama had been born in Kenya. “Pah!” I replied. “Your president was plainly born in Brussels.”

American conservatives have struggled to press the president’s policies into a meaningful narrative. Is he a socialist? No, at least not in the sense of wanting the state to own key industries. Is he a straightforward New Deal big spender, in the model of FDR and LBJ? Not exactly.

My guess is that, if anything, Obama would verbalize his ideology using the same vocabulary that Eurocrats do. He would say he wants a fairer America, a more tolerant America, a less arrogant America, a more engaged America. When you prize away the cliché, what these phrases amount to are higher taxes, less patriotism, a bigger role for state bureaucracies, and a transfer of sovereignty to global institutions.

He is not pursuing a set of random initiatives but a program of comprehensive Europeanization: European health care, European welfare, European carbon taxes, European day care, European college education, even a European foreign policy, based on engagement with supranational technocracies, nuclear disarmament and a reluctance to deploy forces overseas.

No previous president has offered such uncritical support for European integration. On his very first trip to Europe as president, Mr. Obama declared, “In my view, there is no Old Europe or New Europe. There is a united Europe.”

View Full Image

Barbara Kelley

I don’t doubt the sincerity of those Americans who want to copy the European model. A few may be snobs who wear their euro-enthusiasm as a badge of sophistication. But most genuinely believe that making their country less American and more like the rest of the world would make it more comfortable and peaceable.

All right, growth would be slower, but the quality of life might improve. All right, taxes would be higher, but workers need no longer fear sickness or unemployment. All right, the U.S. would no longer be the world’s superpower, but perhaps that would make it more popular. Is a European future truly so terrible?

Yes. I have been an elected member of the European Parliament for 11 years. I have seen firsthand what the European political model means.

[Return to headlines]

FBI Chief Confirms Ties Cut With U.S. Muslim Group

Agency bans outreach due to terrorist links

In stunning testimony on Capitol Hill, the head of the FBI explained his agency has cut off ties to the most influential Muslim organization in America due to concerns over its leaders’ association with terrorism.

Since the Justice Department linked the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations to a 2008 terror-finance case, the FBI has refused to work directly with the group’s national office or any of its 30-plus chapters across the country.

Wednesday’s hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee marked the first time FBI Director Robert Mueller has narrowed down the cause of concern to CAIR’s “national leadership.”

“We have no formal relationship with CAIR because of concerns with regard to the national leadership,” Mueller testified.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Major Earthquake in North America Imminent?

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Boy oh, boy, just what Japan does not need. An imminent earthquake warning just issued for several regions of the country. On edge there, on edge here, because it really didn’t start with Japan. Take a look at what experts are increasingly calling the so-called ring of fire that is encircling the entire Pacific Ocean. You remember Chile’s massive earthquake about a year ago. Then we had that big one in New Zealand just last month. Then of course Japan.

If this clockwise trend continues, my next guest says North America looks to be on tap next. Don’t laugh. Geologist Jim Berkland is worried. When he worries, you should worry too. Jim accurately predicted, get this, the 1989 so-called World Series earthquake four days before it shook the San Francisco Bay Area. And Jim says this month is of particular concern. Why, Jim?

JIM BERKLAND, GEOLOGIST: The month of October, March, and April are the three most devastating earthquakes in terms of damage in the San Francisco Bay Area in history. And we are having on the 19th of this month not only the full moon, but within an hour the closest approach of the moon to the earth until the year 2016. The next day is the equinoctial tides. So you’re bringing together three of the maximum tide raising forces. We know about the ocean tides. But there is also an Earth tide. And there is a tide in the ground water. All of these help to release sudden, built up strain, and cause earthquakes.

CAVUTO: But that would seem to imply that we could be looking at a very imminent event in the United States within the next week or two? Is that right?

BERKLAND: Yes. My — what I call a seismic window, this top seismic window in years is developing between the 19th and 26th of this month. And this was 7.0 monster and it says geologist had warned about it. And a week earlier, the they were talking about the tides, not to worry about the really tides coming up. I think there is worry here too.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

NPR Exec.: Attacks on NPR “Unfair”

Shortly before the House passed a bill which would bar all funding to NPR and other distributors of public radio, Mike Risken, NPR’s VP of Policy and Representation spoke with CBS News senior political producer Rob Hendin and weighed in on the vote taking place.

“We have great concerns about its implications for the entire public radio system hundreds of stations, dozens of producers and the communities that rely on them each and every day,” he said on Washington Unplugged. “It is a direct and calculated effort to weaken public radio that if enacted would choke our stations ability to serve their local audiences.”

“We do think those attacks are unfair,” he added when asked about the criticism NPR has received in Congress.

When asked what the mood was like at NPR in the wake of a string of controversies that propelled Republicans to move ahead with a vote, Risken told Hendin, “We have extraordinary confidence in the abilities of our journalists to do their job. We are deeply proud of the work they do and we are doing everything we can to ensure that they can continue to do their work and an environment free of influence of any kind.”

Risken also responded to charges that NPR is politically biased. “We believe strongly in the character and integrity of our journalistic and programming products. And we believe the American public does as well,” he said.

It is believed that the bill will not pass the Senate and the White House has already come out strongly against it.

“We’re going to get on with what we do regardless of what the outcome is but we are grateful for people on, politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle who have spoken up on behalf of public radio programming journalism,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Scholar Sheds Light on Christian Persecution

With the only Christian in Pakistan’s government murdered outside his mother’s home, Coptic Christian churches being burnt in Egypt, and Iraq’s Christian population reduced by about half of its 1.4 million total of 25 years ago, the future for many Christians in the Muslim world looks at best uncertain.

Dr. Walid Phares wants the Chicago area to be aware of the ongoing persecution and Saturday stressed the unknowns of the political situation in many countries in the region. He is particularly anxious about what type of government might replace any overturned regimes.

“Are they really going to be democratic?” Phares asked. “Will they give rights to minorities … will they be better or worse?”

Phares was the keynote speaker at “The Persecuted Church: Christian Believers in Peril in the Middle East.”

The daylong conference was sponsored by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, and held at the Double Tree Guest Suites in Downers Grove.

Phares, born in Beirut, is an attorney and Ph.D. holder who teaches at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., has authored several books on the Middle East, and serves as an adviser to both the Homeland Security Administration and the U.S. House Anti-Terrorism Caucus.

Phares called for a concerted effort to bring awareness to Americans of the plight of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, joking that he would call it, “The Chicago Initiative.”

Phares outlined the modern history of the region, asking why so many other regions had agitated for freedom in the last generation — he noted democracy movements in Europe, Latin America and South Africa — while so many Middle Eastern people still lacked basic freedoms. “It has to do with policy,” he said, stressing that decision makers were often subject to bad advice, advice informed by substandard education about the Middle East in American universities.

Phares noted that money donated to American universities from Middle Eastern sources, particularly from Iran and Saudi Arabia, misinformed education about the region, saying the money came “with strings attached.”

He also faulted the American media for failure to report on the plight of Christians and other minorities in the region, saying media tended to view any conflict in the area through the lens of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

While he listed several areas where Christians suffered persecution in the region, he singled out Iraq, noting that as a country that has direct U.S. influence, we had “an obligation to help provide protection for Iraqi Christians … they are in direct and clear danger of destruction.”

The event began at 9 a.m. with individual testimonies from witnesses to the persecution of Christians in the region.

Particularly vivid were the accounts of attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, including the recent arson to St. George Church and the destruction of homes in the Christian community. “We are definitely disappointed and disheartened,” said Dr. Refaat Abdel-Malek, a prominent member of the Chicago Coptic Christian community. He stressed that the Egyptian police “sort of disappeared all of a sudden” when the attacks occurred. “That all happened with the army in front of the church watching,” Abdel-Malek said.

Kamal Ibrahim, also a Coptic activist, framed the problem as one of the governing philosophy of Egypt. “We need to think of their constitution,” he said, noting that there has been no mention of the section of the Egyptian constitution that mandates the primacy of Islam. “We need to look at a new constitution.”

Speaking of the young people of Egypt and the way they stood up to the Mubarak regime, Ibrahim did offer a glimmer of hope. “That was so powerful and I’m proud of them,” he said.

Juliana Taimoorazy is an Assyrian Christian who immigrated to the United States from Iraq. She noted that persecution of Assyrian Christians had been a regular feature of the region since the rise of Islam and had become worse since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

She pointed out that the United States government had “yet to establish a policy” to protect the Iraqi Christians.

Taimoorazy bristled at the notion that Assyrian Christians were minorities in Iraq, saying, “We are the indigenous people of that country.”

Kitty Weiner represented Congressman Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, and pointed out the diversity of the audience of almost 400 people. “Look at all the different cultures that are in this room,” she said.

After lunch, a panel discussion included several Christian leaders. Some of them were more optimistic than others about the prospects for Christians to live peacefully in their ancestral homelands.

Dr. Carl Moeller of Open Doors USA noted that a recent PEW Research poll showed strong majorities of the Egyptian people favored death penalties for apostasy from Islam and stoning for adulterous women. “If we have democracy, what kind of government will be produced?” he asked.

But Todd Nettleton, media director for The Voice of Martyrs, detected a ray of hope. “Democracy can lead to more Islam but Islam may lead to Christianity,” he said.

As evidence he noted that, even with Islam seemingly on the rise in many of the regions undergoing unrest, interest about Christianity is also peaking among young people in the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

School in Philadelphia Teaches Brotherly ‘Jihad’

You won’t believe instruction at U.S. campus tied to Osama

The school originally was founded as the International Muslim Brotherhood, which boasted of educational input from a radical cleric who was an associate of Osama bin Laden.

The institute’s website promotes jihad “in the context of self-defense or guarding the sacred, holy lands of Islam.”

The school is allied with a Muslim student association known for hosting anti-American extremists.

No, the school is not in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. It’s based in Philadelphia.


The school was founded by Quba Inc., which originally was known as a group calling itself the International Muslim Brotherhood, or IMB, an organization seeking to spread Islam across the U.S.

The IMB was founded in 1949 by Imam Nasir Ahmed, an African-American from Philadelphia. It works to build a network of Islamic social communities across the eastern U.S., with Muslim villages established in New Jersey, Ohio, New York, and Florida.

Quba also initiated other IMB expansions, including a funeral home, publishing company, Islamic arbitration center, and a community development corporation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tokyo Passengers Trigger U.S. Airport Detectors, N.Y. Post Says

Radiation detectors at Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports were triggered when passengers from flights that started in Tokyo passed through customs, the New York Post reported.

Tests at Dallas-Fort Worth indicated low radiation levels in travelers’ luggage and in the aircraft’s cabin filtration system; no passengers were quarantined, the newspaper said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Man Feels Recovery Program Violated His Religious Beliefs

A Muslim believes his human rights were violated when staff at the New Life Mission told him he had to end an alcohol session in Christian prayer.

Adding to Jamal Al-jannati’s outrage is he was told he had to stand and end the Narcotics Anonymous/Alcoholic Anonymous session in a prayer circle and could not kneel and pray according to his spiritual beliefs.

“I think they were trying to convert me,” Al-jannati, 50, said Wednesday.

However, staff at The New Life Mission was simply following the guidelines of the AA/NA program, which requires each session to begin and end in prayer, said executive director Kelly Row.

Row said it doesn’t matter if participants pray to Allah or Jesus Christ, but they do have to pray.

“You don’t have to believe in what we believe in,” he said. “It’s the God of your understanding.”

But Al-jannati said Aberra Asress, program director of the men’s recovering program, told him he wouldn’t have to take part in the prayer because he is Muslim.

Recently released from Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, Al-jannati went to the mission on Monday to enroll in the AA/NA program.

He expressed his concerns about the short prayer at the beginning of each session and the serenity prayer circle at the end, saying neither takes into account his spiritual beliefs, he said.

Asress told him he didn’t have to take part in the prayers, said Al-jannati. He sat quietly through the opening prayer but, when the time came to stand for the serenity prayer, he was told he had to join in.

When Al-jannati asked if he could kneel in prayer, he was told he couldn’t. If he wasn’t willing to stand in the circle, he would have to leave, he said.

“We agreed. There was an agreement,” said Al-jannati, adding he was lied to.

Row maintains Al-jannati wasn’t lied to, saying people can pray to whatever faith they want.

But he wouldn’t be allowed to kneel in prayer, as the program requires participants to stand in a circle, he said.

“He can do it on his own after the circle is done. But with the circle, they read the serenity prayer,” said Row.

Al-jannati has found another program to attend with the Interior Health Authority, saying he just wants to stay sober and find a place to live.

“I am trying to be good,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Blazing Cat Fur[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

150 Year-Old Italian Unity Struggle Becomes Video Game

First release expected on March 17 anniversary

(ANSA) — Milan, March 16 — A videogame simulating the 19th-century struggle for Italian unity will be released online Thursday. The launch of “Gioventu’ Ribelle” — “Rebel Youth” — is timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Italian unity March 17. The game offers a mix of fact and historical fiction. In a typical mission, a player is assigned the role of an anonymous officer of the Risorgimento riflemen. General Raffaele Cadorna, the Piedmontese count and a key military leader in the fight for Italian unity, orders the player to deliver an ultimatum to Pope Pius IX, demanding surrender of the Papal States on the eve of an attack on Rome. Italy’s Youth Ministry spearheaded the initiative both to celebrate the young heroes of the Risorgimento and to tell their story to young people on their own terms. “The history of the Risorgimento was written by brave 20-year-old guys who built what we have today with their own lives,” Youth Minister Giorgia Meloni said at the game’s presentation in the Maxxi contemporary art museum in Rome. The game is intended to transmit this message to young people, and to teach them that by “investing in generosity and solidarity” we can change the course of future generations.

Meloni defended the choice of the videogame as medium saying, “We often make the error of having a repressive approach with (popular) devices and we do not ask how to use them to our favor”. She added that videogames represent 53% of Italy’s entertainment industry, outpacing cinema and DVDs. “Rebel Youth” was created at no public expense by AssoKnolidge-Confindustria. The first level of the game can be downloaded for free at the website starting Thursday, March 17. Two additional levels, dealing with the siege of Gaeta and the Roman Republic, will be made available between May and June, to coincide with other unity celebrations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘47% of Germans Think Israel Exterminating Palestinians’

Study shows a strong presence of “anti-Semitism that is linked with Israel and is hidden behind criticism of Israel” in Europe.

BERLIN — A think-tank affiliated with Germany’s Social Democratic Party issued a new report last week that revealed high levels of anti-Semitism in Germany, Poland and Hungary, as well as varying manifestations of racism, homophobia and prejudice in eight European countries.

Dr. Beate Küpper, a researcher from the University of Bielefeld who co-authored the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s study along with her colleagues Andreas Zick and Andreas Hoevermann, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the study showed a strong presence of “anti-Semitism that is linked with Israel and is hidden behind criticism of Israel, and is not neutral.”…

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

Italy: Prosecutors Say Berlusconi Had Sex With Ruby 13 Times

Milan, 16 March (AKI) — Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi paid to have sex with an under-age Moroccan 13 times at his sprawling villa in a Milan suburb, according to prosecutors who have formally closed an probe of three people close to Berlusconi. They are accused of arranging for prostitutes to have sex with the 74-year-old billionaire politician.

Milan prosecutors have closed their investigation and are seeking a trial for Nicole Minetti, a councillor in the northern Lombardy region; Emilio Fede, an news anchor for a television channel owned by Berlusconi; and Lele Mora, a powerful Italian talent agent. All are accused of procuring the sexual services of Karima El Mahroug and 32 other women. All three deny any wrongdoing.

In an eight-page document the prosecutors accuse the suspects of exploiting an under age prostitute between September 2009, when El Mahroug — whose nickname is Ruby the Heart Stealer — was 16, and May 2010.

The legal age of consent in Italy is 14 but it is a crime to use the services of a prostitute younger than 18 years of age.

Berlusconi in April will go on trial for having sex with a minor and abusing the power of his office to cover up the alleged crime. He denies committing any crime. El Mahroug says she has never had sex with Berlusconi or worked as a prostitute.

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

‘No German Soldiers in Libya, ‘ Westerwelle Says

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Thursday strengthened his rejection of a possible no-fly zone over Libya, saying it was tantamount to military intervention, and adding that no Bundeswehr soldiers would take part.

The United Nations Security Council, on which Germany currently holds a seat, is set to vote on Thursday whether to implement a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent leader Muammar Qaddafi from continuing his brutal suppression of pro-democracy rebels.

On Wednesday night, Britain and France reportedly finished a proposal for the measure, which Westerwelle maintained that Germany would vote against.

“A no-fly zone is also a military intervention,” he told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, explaining that it would also be an attack on Libyan ground troops.

“I don’t want German troops entangled in a war in Libya,” he said.

Germany should learn from its recent history that military intervention is “no solution,” he said, also questioning whether such a measure would be effective.

Responsibility for the situation in the increasingly unstable country lies with the Arab League, though Germany would continue to exert political pressure on the Qaddafi regime through tough sanctions, he said.

On Wednesday Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke out strongly against the no-fly zone proposal.

With fighting on several fronts and casualties rising, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hoped the UN Security Council will vote on new measures against Libya that might include the no-fly zone.

Qaddafi’s forces are pressing rebels in the west and threaten their eastern bastion of Benghazi, as UN chief Ban Ki-moon continues to call for an immediate ceasefire.

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

UK: Ed Miliband Faces Calls to Sack Shadow Minister Who Claimed Tories ‘Don’t Want Muslims in Central London’

Baroness Warsi brands front-bencher’s comments ‘deeply offensive’

A Labour shadow minister is under fire today after allegedly saying the Conservatives don’t want Muslims in central London.

Karen Buck made the bizarre attack at a public meeting where she also said that the Tories are ‘deeply hostile’ about poor people having children.

The Shadow Work and Pensions Minister angered Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi who said that Ed Miliband, the Labour party leader, should remove her from the front bench because her comments were ‘deeply offensive’.

According to the Independent she was speaking at the meeting in Islington where she said: ‘[The government] do not want lower-income women, families, children and, above all, let us be very clear — because we also know where the impact is hitting — they don’t want black women, they don’t want ethnic minority women living in central London. They just don’t.

‘They want people to be moving out of anywhere that is a more prosperous area into the fringes of London and into places like Barking and Newham. I have nothing against Barking and Newham. The problem is they are already full of people who are quite poor.’

Her comments were made last Saturday in front of local MPs when she took a swipe at the Government saying its plans to cut housing benefits were politically motivated.

She also said that Conservatives believe that families should not have children if they earn less than £40,000 a year.

From next month housing benefit is set to be capped at £400 a week for large homes and £290 for two-bed flats meaning that poor families will not be able to afford inner-city rent.

Research from the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning suggests that more than more than a quarter of a million of people will struggle to pay their rent and half of them will lose their homes.

With the highest average rents in the country London will be hardest hit as 82,000 households are put at risk.

London Mayor has also criticised the move — last October he irritated ministers by saying there would be a “Kosovo-style ethnic cleansing” of the capital.

It is also believed that the Labour leadership will be embarrassed by her remarks as it tries to control what spokesmen for the party say.

A warning was issued by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls saying that public statements should be signed off in advance.

Baroness Warsi said: ‘Reactionary politics is alive and well in the Labour party. For Karen Buck to use race, religion and class for political point-scoring is deeply offensive and irresponsible.’

The Independent last night added that she stood by her comments.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Grooming of Girls by Pakistani Gangs Fuelled by Unhappy Arranged Marriages to Cousins Claims Muslim Peerby Abul Taher

A senior Muslim politician has blamed unhappy arranged marriages to cousins for leading some Pakistani men to prey on vulnerable young white girls to fulfil their sexual needs.

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Britain’s first Muslim peer, is the first politician to make a link between first-cousin marriages and sex crimes by Pakistani men.

He has spoken out after a spate of high-profile court cases where groups of Pakistani men have been sentenced for grooming white girls as young as 12 in Derby, Blackburn and Lord Ahmed’s home town of Rotherham.

Lord Ahmed, who wants an end to cousin marriages, said: ‘They are forced into marriages and they are not happy. They are married to girls from overseas who they don’t have anything in common with, and they have children and a family.

‘But they are looking for fun in their sexual activities and seek out vulnerable girls.’

He said Pakistani men resort to abusing young white girls because they do not want meaningful relationships with adult white women.

‘An adult woman — if you are having an affair — would want your time, money and for you to break up your marriage,’ the peer added.

His comments come weeks after former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw provoked national outrage by saying that some Pakistani men look at white girls as ‘easy meat’ for sexual abuse.

Labour peer Lord Ahmed said: ‘I get a lot of criticism from Pakistani people who ask, “How can you say this about Pakistani men?” But they must wake up and realise there is a problem.

‘I am deeply worried about this as it has happened in my own backyard, and in Rochdale and Bradford.

‘This didn’t happen in my or my father’s generation. This is happening among young Pakistanis. While I respect individual choice, I think the community needs to look at marriages in the UK rather than cousin marriages or economic marriages from abroad.’

Studies have shown that 55 per cent of British Pakistanis marry their first cousins, usually from abroad. In Bradford, the figure is as high as 75 per cent.

Although marriages between first cousins is lawful in Britain, it is frowned upon by many who see it as a form of incest. In America, the practice is illegal in 30 states.

First-cousin marriages among other British Muslim groups such as Bangladeshis or Indians are less prevalent.

Earlier this month, two ringleaders of a Pakistani gang in Derby were given indeterminate jail terms for grooming 26 white girls aged between 12 and 18 after plying them with alcohol and drugs.

Mohammed Liaqat, 28, and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed for a minimum of 11 and eight years respectively for charges which included rape.

Both had wives through arranged marriages and had young children with them. In Rotherham, a gang of five Pakistani men were jailed in November for grooming white girls as young as 12.

Since 1997, 56 people with an average age of 28 have been convicted of offences related to on-street grooming of girls aged 11 to 16. Of these, three were white and the rest Pakistani, of whom 50 were Muslim, with the majority British Pakistani.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We should not jump to form conclusions about national patterns of offending without further analysis.’

Health experts have previously warned British Pakistanis to reduce the number of cousin marriages as it is leading to a high number of genetic birth defects in the community.

Lord Ahmed was briefly expelled from Labour after he served 16 days in prison in 2009 for sending text messages at the wheel before a fatal crash.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Schoolboy Hitman, 15, ‘Was Paid £200 to Gun Down Mother in Contract Killing Over Custody of Her Son’

A 15-year-old hitman shot a young mother in a contract killing over the custody of her nine-year-old son, a court has heard.

Gulistan Subasi, 26, was gunned down on her own mother’s doorstep at a flat in Hackney, East London, in March last year, jurors were told.

She was said to have been murdered because ex-partner Serdar Ozbek feared she would take their child out of the country, the Old Bailey heard.

Ozbek allegedly set up the killing in a ‘swift and murderous’ response to a series of phone calls with her.

Victor Temple QC, prosecuting, said: ‘The prospect of losing custody, compounded by a loss of face, caused Serdar Ozbek to take an extreme but far from unknown course — namely to contract out the murder of Gulistan.’

Since he wanted to ‘keep his hands clean’, the person ‘chosen to pull the trigger’ had to be someone with no links to Ozbek’s family or the Turkish community, said Mr Temple.

A number of others took part in the conspiracy, to recruit the killer and carry out reconnaissance, the court heard.

Ozbek, 28, of Wood Green, North London, denies murder together with the alleged gunman, now 16, who cannot be named.

Izak Billy, 21, of Willesden, Paul Nicolaou, 28, of Tottenham, Leigh Bryan, 25, of Hornsey, and another 16-year-old youth also deny the charge.

The alleged gunman later told a friend he had been recruited by Billy to carry out the shooting.

Mr Temple said: ‘Quite unexpectedly, possibly a boast or possibly to relieve himself of a burden, [the 15 year-old] said he had been paid by Izak Billy to carry out the shooting.

‘The weapon that he used was a shotgun, that he knocked at the door and shot whoever answered it.’

The teenager also gave a number of telling details such as the fact there was a fence or a gate on the door.

At first he claimed he had shot a man, in another conversation he admitted he had shot a Turkish girl, the court heard.

‘The Crown suggest he had been deliberately misled by those who instructed him. The target was always meant to be Gulistan,’ said Mr Temple.

The teenager also claimed that Billy had been paid ‘thousands of pounds’.

‘He went on to claim that he had received a mere £200 to carry out this killing,’ said Mr Temple.

Mr Temple said Miss Subasi was ‘attractive’ and ‘independent’ but at times her behaviour and choice of company could be ‘questionable’.

She had run away from home to live with Ozbek and they had a son together, but they later split up and she left Britain for Turkey, leaving the child with her own mother. The boy then went to live with his father.

Miss Subasi, who would return from time to time to see her son, arrived in London in March last year for a brief visit. She was due to marry in Turkey in May.

There were then a series of phone calls between her and Ozbek, who was himself in Turkey at the time.

‘The subject matter was the catalyst for the swift and murderous response by Serdar Ozbek.’

Ozbek then began ‘setting in motion the necessary arrangements to carry out a contract killing’, jurors were told.

Relations between he and his former partner had become ‘volatile and acrimonious’, said Mr Temple.

‘It was clear Serdar Ozbek could not impose his will upon Gulistan,’ he added.

There was the ‘distinct possibility’ that she would trying or had already taken steps to take away their son to Turkey, the court heard.

Earlier jurors heard how Gulistan was found lying in the doorway to the flat with a large gunshot wound, described as being the size of a tennis ball, just above her right breast.

Police arrived at the scene to find her being cradled by her mother. All attempts to revive her failed and she was declared dead shortly after 9pm.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: The Proof Exam Results Have Been Inflated: OECD Warns UK Schools Are Out of Step

Exam grades have been artificially inflated and billions of pounds in increased spending on education wasted, according to a damning international report.

It is further confirmation of what many have long suspected: that relentlessly improving GCSE and A-level results have hidden a true picture of failure in our schools.

The report, from the highly respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, concludes that pupils’ actual performance remains ‘static’ and ‘uneven’.

The share of A-levels awarded at grade A has risen continually over the past 18 years and trebled since 1980, it says, but independent surveys of students’ cognitive skills ‘do not support this development’.

Most damagingly, the report concludes that despite Labour’s doubling of spending on education since 2000, children’s success remains ‘strongly related to parents’ income and background’.

The education budget soared from £35.8billion to £71billion under Labour.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Thousands of Violent Criminals to be Spared Jail Under New Rules… Saving at Least £10m on the Prison Bill

Thousands of violent criminals will be spared prison under new sentencing rules handed down to the courts on Wednesday.

Among them will be thugs who assault police officers and attackers guilty of one of the most serious violent offences — grievous bodily harm.

Under the guidelines set by the Sentencing Council, which is led by senior judges, many violent offenders will get fines or community punishments instead of prison sentences.

Documents published with the new rules on assault offences, to come into effect in June, estimate that each year as many as 4,620 offenders who would currently go to jail will get fines or community sentences instead.

The Council was set up last year to take over the role of laying down sentencing rules for judges and magistrates.

Its new rules on assault offences, which will go into operation in June, will send fewer criminals to jail and save the Treasury money.

The new rules produced fierce protests from critics of the government’s policy of sending fewer criminals to jail.

Criminologist Dr David Green of the think tank Civitas said: ‘If you want to reduce violence, this is going in precisely the wrong direction. It is asking for trouble.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Serbia: 800:000 Workers Engaged in Black Labor

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 15 — Even though there are no precise numbers referring to black labor in Serbia, it is estimated that approximately 800,000 workers get their salaries under the table, reports daily Vecernje Novosti. These are the findings obtained by trade unions, but these are also the statistics relating to unemployment in Serbia. The labor Inspectorate confirmed that black labor is still very present in Serbia. The Inspectorate found 5,228 workers receiving pays under the table, of which 3,925 returned to work legally after receiving a warning.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Morocco: EU: 55 Mln to Help Open Up Poor and Isolated Areas

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 15 — The EU and Morocco have signed a financing agreement worth 55 million euros in support to the Moroccan government’s policy of opening up isolated areas, aiming to enable isolated populations to have better access to roads, and therefore to social and economic activities.

According to the Enpi website (, the programme would have beneficial effects on people, among which the increase of the number of girls attending school in rural areas, and the reduction of regional disparities through a new national programme aiming at providing the poorest and most isolated municipalities with a comprehensive package of basic services. It will also strengthen decentralization by including the management and maintenance of municipal roads in the Local Development Plans (PCD). The objective is also to reach a national index of accessibility to rural roads of 80% in 2012, instead of about 68% in late 2009.

“This support programme to open up isolated populations — said Eneko Landaburu, head of Eu delegation to Morocco — reinforces other EU support programmes in terms of road infrastructure such as the Mediterranean bypass and the development of the northern provinces. Beyond the expansion of road network, this programme is innovative because it will help to have a sustainable road infrastructure through a new maintenance policy, will reduce regional disparities and will consolidate the decentralization process”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Israeli Spy Ring Uncovered by Egyptian Authorities

Egyptian authorities have uncovered an espionage network working for Israel and are searching for an Egyptian and two Israelis believed to be involved in spying on the country’s armed forces, local media reported on Wednesday.

Prosecutors interrogated a suspect involved in the network, who is now in police custody pending investigation, the daily Al-Masry al- Youm reported on its website.

Other local media reported that the alleged spy ring was gathering information about the Egyptian army, who has been in control of the country following Former President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster earlier this year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: ENI Has Stopped Pumping Libyan Oil, CEO Says

Rome, 16 March (AKI) — Eni, Italy’s biggest energy company, has brought its Libyan oil production to a halt as forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi battle rebels who seek to end the North African country’s 41-year dictatorship, Eni chief executive officer Paolo Scaroni said.

Scaroni, who spoke on the margins of a parliamentary hearing in Rome, said his company is still pumping some natural gas.

“For the moment, the only activity that we are conducting regards the production of gas for the production of electricity,” he said.

Italy depends on Libya for around 25 percent of its petroleum and 12 percent of its gas. Prior to the Libyan crisis Eni was producing around 280,000 barrels of Libyan oil per day, out of the country’s total daily output of around 1.6 million barrels.

Italy is Libya’s biggest trading partner.

Scaroni said he was confident that contracts will guarantee continuity in Eni’s activities in Libya no matter the outcome of violence that the International Red Cross has referred to as civil war.

“Whatever the political system will be, the NOC (Libya’s National Oil Corporation) has contracts and ties with us, so I don’t see any reason why the ties have to be compromised,” he said.

In an interview with Italian newspaper Il Giornale published Tuesday, Gaddafi insists that European sanctions have “put in danger and damaged a series of important security agreements.”

Gaddafi said he would consider new contracts for oil and gas exploration with companies from Italy and other European counties, but only when Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and other leaders have been swept from power.

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

Libya: Frattini: International Isolation in Store for Gaddafi

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 16 — The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is likely to remain in power and is therefore heading towards “the prospect of international political and economic isolation”, according to Italy’s Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, who has been speaking to the Commission for Foreign Affairs in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

The Foreign Minister shares the views of some parliamentarians, who have signalled the “giving up” by the international community over Gaddafi’s removal from power.

“More than simple giving up, it is an acknowledgement of something that Italian caution had always signalled, even when it was not fashionable”.

“War cannot be made. I believe that the international must not take military action, and neither can it or does it want to,” Frattini continued, ruling out Italian participation in a “coalition of the willing” in a context in which “Europe is divided, the G8 is divided, NATO is divided”.

“When the Arab League and the African Union are talking about barring any intervention on Libyan soil from the ground, it is clear that the no fly zone, which is not decisive, remains the most advanced prospect, even though there is no agreement yet on the issue,” Frattini said.

Regarding the prospect of an economic “embargo” on Libya if Muammar Gaddafi were to remain in power, Frattini underlined that a “cautious Italy has performed its duty better than anyone else: we have turned off the oil taps, I don’t know if others have done the same”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya to Honor Contracts With ENI

ENI’s CEO calls for halt to EU sanctions

(ANSA) — Milan, March 17 — Libya’s oil minister Shukri Ghanem on Thursday confirmed Libya would honor its contracts with Italian fuels giant ENI. Ghanem is also the head of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), ENI’s main interlocutor in the country.

The news came as Muammar Gaddafi pushed to regain complete control of the country and appeared set to resume oil production. ENI is the largest foreign player in Libya with billions of Euros invested there. Italy bought 500,000 barrels a day or roughly 20% of its oil supply before fighting broke out and production shut down.

“We have an excellent relationship with ENI, a company that has worked here since the 1950s and is among the most important that operate in Libya,” said Ghanem. “We play a fundamental role for Italy’s energy security, a country to which we export a million cubic meters of gas. With respect to which, we confirm all of our contracts with ENI, and we hope that they do the same”.

Ghanem added that Libya would also honor its contracts with all other foreign energy firms as well. France’s Total, Austria’s OMV, Norway’s Statoil, and a number of US firms have been active in Libya, but have expressed commitment to observe economic sanctions currently in force.

Ghanem also expressed bitterness over the lack of foreign help to “quell the fires in some of the country’s plants during the unrest — installations that, had they exploded, would have caused a natural catastrophe in the entire Mediterranean”.

ENI CEO Paolo Scaroni, for his part, has reported uncompromised ties in Libya and called for Europe to abandon its sanctions.

“Whatever happens, imposing sanctions is shooting ourselves in the foot because by not taking gas, we are not ensuring our energy security,” Scaroni said Wednesday.

In an Italian parliament briefing Wednesday, Scaroni reported solid relations in Libya, saying, “ENI does not deal with the Libyan government, but with the national company with which one makes contracts”.

Speaking to the House budget committee, Scaroni said ENI continues to produce gas for the country’s own use, supplying three local electrical plants. He warned politicians to be “aware” that if it is decided European sanctions extend to this activity, “the lights will go out over a good part of Libya”.

ENI’s Greenstream pipeline to Italy remains shut, however.

Scaroni told the committee, “It is difficult to say when it will start up again,” because, “one wants to be sure not to engage in an activity that could be subject to sanctions”.

Scaroni said oil production was still at a halt, in part due to “shipping problems”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Egypt Won’t Take Part in Military Intervention

(AGI) Cairo — Egypt has announced that it would not take part in any military intervention in Libya. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry made it clear that Egypt would not take part in any military intervention in Libya, if the UN Security Council gave the green light for military action. Egypt’s announcement came after Hillary Clinton said talks are underway concerning the possible direct involvement of Arab states.

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

Tunisia: Army Breaks Up Farmers Protest

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 16 — Yesterday the army intervened in Sidi Bouzid (the city where the people’s protest began which brought down Ben Ali’s regime) by shooting into the air in order to break up a protest by farmers from the zone, who had arranged to meet in front of the offices of the Regional Agriculture Union in order to demand the resignation of the latter’s president, Hedi Badri.

Tap reports that farmers claim Badri has used his position to further his own interests. Badri was forced to leave his offices under army escort.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

U.N. Security Council Approves No-Flight Zone in Libya

The United Nations Security Council approved a measure on Thursday authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians from harm at the hands of forces loyal to Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi.

The measure allows not only a no-flight zone but effectively any measures short of a ground invasion to halt attacks that might result in civilian fatalities. It comes as Colonel Qaddafi warned residents of Benghazi, Libya, the rebel capital, that an attack was imminent and promised lenient treatment for those who offered no resistance.

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Middle East: The Muslim Terrorist War Against Israeli Families

[Comments: WARNING: Graphic and disturbing content.]

The terrorist atrocities of these Fatah terrorist groups were backed at the highest level of the Palestinian Authority.

The brutal murders of the Fogel family, including the beheading of a 3 month old baby, stabbed a 3 year old twice in the heart, murdered both their parents, along with an 11 year old brother who was staying up late reading in bed, have shocked the world. But the Muslim terrorist tactic of massacring families is not a new one. It has been a signature move of the PLO in its various phases, especially the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

Many of us would like to think that men who murder children are an aberration even in a terrorist movement. That perhaps the terrorists who murdered the Fogel family did not deliberately target children. It would be nice to think that we live in a world where such acts are an aberration rather than a tactic. Sadly that isn’t so. We live next door to evil. And it is vital that we see that and not look away.

Almost 10 years ago to the date, Mahmoud Mahmed Mahmoud Amrou set up a sniper rifle and took aim at a mother and father walking with a stroller. In the stroller was their baby daughter. She was 10 months old. Mahmoud had three targets in front of him. The parents were the easiest targets. Instead Mahmoud took aim and shot a 10 month old little girl in the head.

Consider the head of an adult and a child. Which is easier to hit from a distance? Her parents were young. Her father capable of military service. Her mother could still have more children. Even from the tactical standpoint of a terrorist, they were better targets. But Shalhevet Pass, the 10 month old baby girl was the one he shot in the head. Her father suffered leg injuries because the bullets were aimed at the level of the stroller.

Mahmoud Amrou was no random serial killer. He was a member of the Tanzim militia, a terrorist arm of the Palestinian Authority which crosses over extensively with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. He confessed that the attack had been ordered by Tanzim and Al-Aqsa commander Marwan Zaloum. The terrorist atrocities of these Fatah terrorist groups were backed at the highest level of the Palestinian Authority. And when Palestinian Authority leader Abbas was campaigning in 2002 in Hebron, he called out, “Mercy on the souls of all the martyrs. Mercy on the soul of Marwan Zaloum.”

But the backing for it goes even higher than that. The Clinton and Bush Administrations both held meetings with Tanzim leaders. When Tanzim and Al-Aqsa leader Marwan Barghouti was arrested, Condoleezza Rice herself called for him to be freed. Newspaper articles presented Barghouti as a “moderate” and the only hope for the peace process.

The murder of Shalhevet Pass, a 10 month old baby in a stroller, had not just been a random killing. It was another act of terror from the Palestinian Authority’s own terrorist organization, many of whose members had been armed and trained by Western security forces. It was part of a strategy targeting Israeli families and their children which goes back for over 50 years of atrocities.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Funds to Pay Hamas Salaries?

Palestinian Authority makes quiet attempt to romance terror group

The Palestinian Authority has quietly offered to place tens of thousands of Hamas security forces on its payroll if Hamas joins in a unity government, according to information obtained by WND.

The PA is funded in large part by the U.S. and Europe.

Earlier this month, WND reported the PA has been engaged in an intense effort to convince the Hamas terrorist organization to join it in a new unity government.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Athletics: Gulf: 350 Athletes With Veils in Medal Hunt

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 7 — At least 350 veil-wearing female athletes are in search of glory and medals as the second Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Games begin today in Abu Dhabi with a shooting event.

Female athletes from the oil block, consisting of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Oman, will complete in athletics events, equestrianism, volleyball, taekwondo, bowling and shooting. A notable absentee from the event will be Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest economy, the country with the largest population and the kingdom with the strictest rules on behaviour and activities that women are allowed to carry out.

Despite the fact that almost all the rights enjoyed by men, from political participation to choice of employment, are also allowed for women in other Gulf countries, women in Saudi Arabia are denied basic rights such as voting and driving. The right to take part in sporting events remains taboo in the country, and physical education is banned in all-girls’ schools.

A number of fatwas proclaim the impropriety and “danger” of sporting disciplines for women, even though the exact nature of the danger is not rendered explicit.

A football match consisting entirely of women — players, referee coaches, isolated spectators and a specially rented pitch far from prying eyes — played last year between a university team and a female college in Riyadh caused uproar and scandal. Despite the obstacles, both inside and outside official circles, the world of female support in Saudi Arabia remains a healthy one. Sport among their counterparts elsewhere in the region, however, is growing “freely”. The male sport par excellence, football, is taking hold everywhere. In 2010, the Women’s Football Cup Arabia was held in Bahrain ahead of the Women’s World Cup, which is being held in Germany later this year. In the United Arab Emirates, a women’s league could begin as early as next year.

One Emirati woman, of royal blood, is already an Olympic star in the field of martial arts, specifically taekwondo. Sheikha Maitha is the daughter of Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammad Al Makhtoum.

As well as encouraging and training their female athletes, the various federations across the region are also thinking ahead to future officials. Female officials, naturally. For this reason, during the GCC Games, which end on March 9, special seminars will be on offer to athletes, training them to become the sporting officials of tomorrow.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bahrein: Cameron Phones King, Reforms Not Repression

(AGI) London — British Premier, David Cameron, has reprimanded the King of Bahrein. During a telephone call yesterday evening, Mr Cameron called on the King to respond to the protests unsettling the country “with reforms and not repression.” The news was announced by a Downing Street spokesman, who said that Mr Cameron had spoken to King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa about his concern over the deterioration of the situation in Bahrein, and urged him to pursue dialogue.

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

Bahrein: Clampdown on Opposition, 6 Leaders Arrested

(AGI) Manama — In Bahrein, six opposition leaders were arrested during the night by the regime’s security forces. The news was reported by the Wefaq Party, the major political movement of the Shiite opposition. Among the men arrested were the leader of the Haq Party, Hassan Mushaima, and of the Wafa Party, Abdel Wahhab Hussein. The order of arrest also included Ibrahim Sharif, the head of the left-wing secular party Waad. “They broke into our courtyard and pointed a gun against Ibrahim”, said Farida Ismail, wife of the Waad leader.

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

Iranian Film: Invade Israel to Usher in Muslim ‘Messiah’

A documentary that ties the current events in the Middle East to the soon coming of the Islamic messiah figure known as the Mahdi has just been released in Iran. The video contains one of the most overt calls to war yet seen in the Iranian media, perhaps pointing to the anxiety and desperation of the present regime in the midst of the many regional uprisings, including one in its own country.

The documentary claims to have been made by the Iranian Muslim scholars (ulema) who presently control the country, including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The film intermixes various Islamic sacred traditions (hadith) with a hodgepodge of chanting, passages from the Quran and graphic imagery portraying the Islamic world as collectively yearning for the coming of the Mahdi to deliver them from the “oppression” of the United States and Israel.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Syria: Democracy Protests in Damascus and Aleppo, The First in Decades

Hundreds of people gathered through a Facebook appeal, marched against the regime. At least six arrests and clashes with pro-government demonstrators. A video of the event shows a rare example of dissent in the country.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Ripples of the “jasmine revolution” have also reached Syria. On March 14 and 16 demonstrations against the regime of Bashar al-Assad were held in Damascus and Aleppo. A video shows about two hundred demonstrators gathered after noon prayers in the central district of the Hamidiya, near the Umayyad Mosque, the largest mosque in the city, the former Christian cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Demonstrators march in time clapping and chanting slogans such as, “God, Syria, freedom: that’s enough,” and “peaceful, peaceful”. This slogan is a song that has rung out repeatedly in recent weeks during protests that have rocked the Islamic world from Morocco to Yemen. A voice in the background says: “ This is the first obvious uprising against the Syrian regime … Alawite or Sunni, all kinds of Syrians, we want to bring down the regime”.

Syrian security in plain clothes, intervened almost immediately, dispersing the demonstration. At least 35 people were arrested among protesters outside the Ministry of Interior, demanding the release of anti-regime activists detained without trial. Among them a child of 10, university professor Tayeb Tizini and well-known human rights activist, Suhair Atassi, who was grabbed by the hair and dragged away.

Soon after there was a counter-demonstration in favour of the regime. The pro-democracy seems demonstration to have been organized by a group created on Facebook, which is called “ The Syrian revolution against [President] Bashar al-Assad 2011”.

Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father as president in 2000. He had said a few weeks ago there was the possibility that the “jasmine revolt” would also involve the country, which has been ruled by the Baath Party since 1963.

The regime is considered one of the most repressive in the Middle East. The political opposition has virtually no room to manoeuvre, the media are tightly controlled, and the “Mukhabarat”, security services are ever-present in society. Currently, 13 political prisoners have been on hunger strike against the oppressive regime in force in the country.

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

Turkish ‘Civil Society’ Far Behind European Average, Says CHP

A report outlining the current state of Turkish civil society has indicated that it is far behind the European average both in terms of numbers and diversity, leaving one of the essential pillars of the democracy weak.

The total number of civil society institutions in Turkey is only 153,800. In the United Kingdom, which has fewer people than Turkey, there are 873,000 organizations along with 800,000 in France, the civil society report prepared by the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, read. The report was unveiled by party leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu on Monday.

According to the report, the 153,800 institutions include 86,272 associations, 4,494 foundations, 96 trade unions, 54 public workers’ unions, 4,794 chambers and 58,090 cooperatives. However, the report suggested that the number of association has increased 41 percent in the last decade, showing a positive trend.

Another striking figure shows that only 10 percent of the 74 million Turkish citizens are registered in an association. Among the 7.3 million members, only one-fifth of them are female, the report found, depicting deep gender inequality in civil society.

The fields of activity of the civil society in Turkey are basically concentrated on several issues. With nearly 15,000 institutions each, religious services, sports and mutual aid societies rank at the top of the list, followed by those on development, professional solidarity and others.

Civil society poor in east

One of the most important findings of the report is that there is a very wide inequality in the distribution of the institutions throughout the country. Fully 35.4 percent of the institutions are located in the Marmara region of Turkey, while 18 percent are in Central Anatolia. The report shows that East Anatolia hosts only 5 percent of these institutions, while Southeast Anatolia has only 4.5 percent. Some 75 percent of all civil society institutions are situated in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Another area Turkey lags behind the world average is the percentage of volunteers. Though the report does not give a statistic on Turkey, it notes that 52 percent of Norwegian adults are registered as a volunteer, while the same entry is 30 percent in the U.K. and 28 percent in Sweden.

Challenges facing the rise of civil society

The report also detailed the challenges facing the development of the civil society in Turkey. One of the fundamental challenges, the report said, was the general understanding of “strong state, weak society.”

“The signs of this understanding can be frequently witnessed both in the regulations and the implementation,” it said, adding that the ruling party’s oppressive acts toward civil society had become another additional challenge to civil society.

The financial problems of these institutions and the lack of cooperation and coordination between them constitute practical problems for the activities of civil society in Turkey, the report said.

CHP’s remedies

Outlining the hurdles before the development of civil society, the CHP’s report also suggested ways to address them. The first step to be taken by the party is to try to change the image of the civil society.

“The state should see the civil society as equal partners. A culture of joint, institutionalized and sustainable work should be developed between the state and civil society. Joint platforms that would bring state and civil society together should be increased. That would also help in breaking the prejudices of both sides toward each other,” read the report.

To increase the role of the civil society during the legislation process, the main opposition plans to let relevant organizations be engaged in the decision-making process.

“With the establishment of democratic participation mechanisms, the implementation of democracy will be taken from beyond merely having people vote from election to election,” the report said.

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

Far East

Japan: ‘Please Continue to Live Well’: Fukushima Fifty ‘On Suicide Mission’ To Battle N-Plant Meltdown Send Haunting Messages to Families… As Radioactive Steam Pours From Wrecked Reactor

Japan was today rallying behind the anonymous nuclear emergency workers at the stricken Fukushima power plant — as heartbreaking details of their plight emerged.

The 180 workers face soaring radiation levels as they make ever more desperate attempts to stop overheating reactors and spent fuel rods leaking more radiation into the atmosphere.

Some experts have speculated that they may be engaged in a suicide mission — or at least could suffer serious health problems for the rest of their lives — as helicopters and police riot control trucks are used to dump water on the reactors and exposed nuclear fuel storage pools.

National television has interviewed relatives of the workers, who the plant operators insist on keeping anonymous, with one woman saying her father had accepted his fate ‘like a death sentence’.

A woman said her husband continued to work while fully aware he was being bombarded with radiation. He sent her an email saying: ‘Please continue to live well, I cannot be home for a while.’ The workers are known as the Fukushima Fifty because they rotate into contaminated areas in teams of that number.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

More Smoke Rises From Japan’s Crippled Nuke-Plant

YAMAGATA, Japan (AP) — Smoke billowed from a building at Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant Friday as emergency crews worked to reconnect electricity to cooling systems and spray more water on the overheating reactors at the tsunami-ravaged facility.

Four of the troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi plant’s six reactors have seen fires, explosions or partial meltdowns in the week since the tsunami. While the reactor cores where energy is generated are a concern, Japanese and U.S. officials believe a critical danger are the pools used to store spent nuclear fuel: fuel rods in one pool were believed to be at least partially exposed and in danger of leaking radiation.

Friday’s smoke came from Unit 2, and its cause was not known, the nuclear safety agency said. An explosion had hit the building on Tuesday, possibly damaging a crucial cooling chamber that sits below the reactor core.

More urgent, Japan’s chief government spokesman said, was the adjacent Unit 3. Fuel rods there may have been partially exposed, and without enough water, the rods may heat further and possibly spew radiation. Frantic efforts were made Thursday to douse the unit with water, using helicopters and firetrucks, and authorities prepared to repeat the effort Friday.

“Dealing with Unit 3 is our utmost priority,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

In the week since the massive earthquake and tsunami, Japan’s government and the utility that runs Fukushima have struggled to contain the plant’s cascading troubles.

Edano said Friday that Tokyo is asking the U.S. government for help and the two are discussing the specifics. “We are coordinating with the U.S. government as to what the U.S. can provide and what people really need,” Edano said.

The U.S. and Japan, close allies, have offered differing assessments over the dangers at Fukushima in recent days. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jazcko said in Washington Thursday that it could take days and “possibly weeks” to get the complex under control. He defended the U.S. decision to recommend a 50-mile (80-kilometer) evacuation zone for its citizens, wider than the 30-mile (50-kilometer) band Japan has ordered.

Crucial to the effort to regain control over the Fukushima plant is laying a new power line to the plant, allowing operators to restore cooling systems to the reactors. The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., missed a deadline late Thursday but said Friday workers hoped to complete the effort, first reconnecting Unit 1.

Also Friday, the Group of Seven major industrialized countries agreed to support Japan — whose infrastructure and industries were badly battered by the disasters — by intervening in currency markets. The group did not say what it would do but the efforts would likely focus on weakening the Japanese yen, which has risen this week. A strong yen could make Japanese exports less competitive, crimping any recovery.

The quake and unfolding nuclear crisis have led to power shortages in Japan, forced auto and other factories to close, sending shockwaves through global manufacturing and trade, and triggered a plunge in Japanese stock prices.

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Burundi Sends 1000 “Green Berets” To Somalia

(AGI) Bujumbura — Burundi sent 1000 more “green berets” to Somalia; now the mission consists of 4,400 officers. These militaries operate under the African Union (Amison) insignia.

In the African country torn by a 20-year civil war, the temporary federal government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed controls over part of Mogadishu. The Amison mission made up by African Union troops coming from Uganda and Burundi, is now in an area where Islamist groups control most of the central and southern regions. With the last arrival of peacekeepers in Burundi, the Amison contingent reached 8000 troops.

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


Australia: Ten Years on: Never Worked, on a Pension, Imported Drugs, Needs Interpreter

A JUDGE has castigated a man for involving his wife in importing opium to Melbourne and told him to apologise to her as she wept beside him in a County Court dock yesterday.

Judge Liz Gaynor ensured an Arabic interpreter translated clearly for Reza Alkhafaji as she criticised him for causing Somayeh Bildash’s court appearance….

A psychologist reported that she came from an extremely poor family in Iran, had no family in Melbourne and that the ‘‘traditional’’ marriage meant she had to obey her husband…

Alkhafaji’s lawyer, Christopher Farrington, said he was a qualified hairdresser who arrived illegally in Australia 10 years ago as a refugee, but had never worked and survived on a disability support pension.

           — Hat tip: Anne-Kit[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Positive Response to Dutch EU Immigration Law Plans, Says Minister

Dutch efforts to change EU rules in order to tighten up immigration, have been ‘positively received’ by ‘a number’ of EU states, according to a briefing sent to MPs by immigration minister Gerd Leers.

Plans outlined in the government’s coalition agreement — which was drawn up together with the anti-Islam PVV — will require changes to at least five EU directives.

The Netherlands has now come up with a position document outlining a number of concrete proposals to change EU law.

The aim is to solve the ‘problems surrounding integration and the concentration of migrants in big cities,’ Leers said.

Free movement

However, according to the Volkskrant, the minister has admitted proposed changes to the European directive on freedom of movement is likely to be difficult to change because it lies at the core of the EU philosophy.

European directives can be amended by under qualified majority voting rules.


Opposition MPs have been sceptical about the chances of success since the new government took office.

They see the changes as a gesture to the PVV, which has said a 50% reduction in non-western immigration is key to its support of the minority government.

Many of the measures proposed by the Netherlands are aimed at stopping non-EU nationals using other European countries as a spring board to enter the Netherlands.

For an English, French or German translation of the position paper, click here and scroll down.

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

S. Craxi: EU Must Prepare for Exodus From Libya

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA, MARCH 16 — “Europe must prepare for the emergency of an exodus from Libya”. This is according to the Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Stefania Craxi, who arrived in Lampedusa this morning to visit the immigrant centre on the island. “It is obvious that this influx on the Italian coasts, particularly in Lampedusa, is a clear sign of the possibility of significant migrant flows in Europe,” Craxi said.

“Faced with such a situation, Europe must equip itself in the short and medium-term by strengthening the Frontex mission and reviving bilateral agreements with countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. For the long-term, an EU policy will be needed. I would like to thank the Italian coastal guard for not leaving anyone out at sea,” Craxi continued.

Asked about a potentially “biblical” exodus from Libya, the Undersecretary replied: “We have no news of an exodus from Libya, but if the situation continues to deteriorate, it is possible that there will be a significant flow of immigrants on the shores of southern Europe”. Craxi also explained that a meeting would be held this evening over a possible tent village to tackle the overcrowding at Lampedusa’s welcome centre.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Eight in Ten New Jobs Have Gone to Foreign Workers During Past Year

More than 80 per cent of the jobs created last year were taken by people who were not born in this country, official figures revealed yesterday.

In 2010, employment rose by 210,000 compared with the previous year, but 173,000 jobs went to those born in countries from Poland to Pakistan.

Only 39,000 of the new jobs — less than one in five of the total — were taken by people born in Britain.

Sir Andrew Green, from the think-tank MigrationWatch, said: ‘These numbers point out the importance of controlling foreign immigration and of driving up the skills of British workers and the incentives for them to take the jobs.’

Overall, the employment figures painted a bleak picture of a jobs market struggling to recover from a deep recession and facing a faltering recovery.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Violence Escalates on Christmas Island

Huge sections of Christmas Island’s main detention centre burnt to the ground last night as rioting asylum seekers hurled Molotov cocktails in a three-hour battle with police.

Police fired dozens of tear gas canisters at more than 100 rioters in a pitched battle during which a number of asylum seekers escaped.

Police retreated after fighting for an hour and fired teargas over the fence in an attempt to regain control of the sprawling centre.

At least nine fires were lit by several distinct groups who threw Molotov cocktails at the centre’s buildings.

A wheelie bin was set alight and pushed into an ablutions block and seven canvas tents were set ablaze. Flames shot 10m into the air.

Groups of asylum seekers ran through the camp chanting slogans.

An official from private security firm Serco urged them to go back to their cells.

“Violence and vandalism have no place in Australian society,” the spokesman repeated over the public address system.

Early this morning, crack police were set to break up the main group of offenders.

Land close to the detention centre had also caught fire.

The renewed violence came as the full extent of a riot on Wednesday night became clear yesterday, with confirmation that a mob of 250 men threatened security guards with sticks and rocks and backed down only after police blasted canisters of tear gas at them.

Immigration officials struggled to explain how detainees have been able to make a mockery of security at the North West Point centre, which houses single men deemed too risky to keep in medium-security units.

Detainees broke through fences yesterday and walked in and out of the high-security compound as they pleased.

While the breakout was a high-profile example of how little control the Federal Government has at the detention centre, it is understood detainees have been walking out of the centre through breached sections of the fence frequently since the weekend.

Security staff from private company Serco have been trying to coax the men back into the camp through negotiation rather than force, fearing a show of strength might escalate tensions.

“We continue to address maintenance of the fence as a high priority,” a Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesman ?said.

“Non-compliant behaviour such as the movement of detainees in and out of the compound is being carefully monitored.

“Steps are being taken to return people inside the compound as soon as possible.”

It emerged yesterday that during Wednesday night’s riot detainees armed themselves with improvised weapons and were menacing security guards and police.

Australian Federal Police operational response group officers warned the mob repeatedly to back down but the asylum seekers refused.

Several cans of tear gas, which attacks the eyes and skin, were fired into the group before the men dispersed amid the burning wheelie bins which had been set ablaze as part of the protest.

A meeting of Christmas Island residents earlier in the day attacked the Federal Government for its handling of the situation.

In a separate “peaceful protest” yesterday, about 100 detainees at the Curtin detention centre near Derby gathered at the common area of the camp to protest against their treatment.

On Wednesday night, a big group of asylum seekers broke out of a Darwin detention centre in protest at conditions.

Last night, a 20-year-old Afghan asylum seeker was found dead at an immigration detention centre in Queensland.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Are Children ‘Infected’ By Judeo-Christian Values?

(counsel in the Johns case)

In an important case in the United Kingdom, the High Court held this week that Christian views on sexual morality could be “inimical” to a child’s welfare.

Mr. and Mrs. Johns wanted to foster a child as young as five as respite carers for parents who were having difficulty. Some 15 years earlier they had successfully fostered, but work commitments meant that they were unable to devote sufficient time to children. When they retired, they applied to be registered as foster carers again.

Early on in the assessment process, their Christian faith was identified (they are Pentecostals). It was felt their views on sexual ethics conflicted with the duty to promote and value diversity. Of course, the Johns said they would love and care for the child but they couldn’t promote the homosexual lifestyle. They were rather bewildered by the process, as they wanted to foster a five-year-old. Mr. Johns fatally said he would “gently turn them round,” and so the seeds for a major legal case were sown.

Derby City Council refused to register them as foster carers, with the Johns asserting that they were being denied because they were Christians.

The state-sponsored Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened and argued that it was the duty of the state to protect vulnerable children from becoming “infected” with Judeo-Christian values of sexual morality.

The rest is history, and in a startling judgment, the High Court held last Monday that the United Kingdom is a secular state and that Christianity as part of the law is “mere rhetoric.” For Americans to note, the United Kingdom is formally a Christian state with the Queen as the head of the Church of England.

The court made a series of statements to the effect that rights of sexual orientation trump religious freedom, that a local authority can require positive attitudes to be demonstrated towards homosexuality, that the Johns’ traditional Christian views could conflict with the “duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked after children,” and finally that Article 9 (Europe’s pale reflection of the First Amendment) does not protect beliefs contrary to the interests of the child…

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Frantz Fanon TV

“When the native hears a speech about Western culture, he pulls out his knife,” wrote Frantz Fanon, the seminal theorist of anti-Western Third Worldism and, not incidentally, college touchstone of President Obama. By now, Fanon has been completely internalized by … Western culture.

That’s the conclusion I draw on reading this news report on the “suspension” and pending “investigation” of the producer and co-creator of a TV detective show with the termerity to be set in an English village peopled by indigenous “white” English people (still just hanging on by a thread at 92 percent of the British population). Suspension? Investigation? This so far beyond Orwell that no one even notices.

From the AP:

“LONDON (AP) — The English county of Midsomer is rural, picturesque, astonishingly murder-prone and completely white.”

Already a psychotically cockeyed way to frame the fictional output of a milennia-old civilization. How about: The Yorkshire moors of Wuthering Heights are rural, wind-swept, tragically star-crossed and completely white. Or: The London workhouse of Oliver Twist is urban, unspeakably inhumane and completely white. …

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Italy: Top Court Upholds Sacking of Anti-Cross Judge

Crucifix only religious symbol allowed, Cassation Court adds

(ANSA) — Rome, March 14 — Italy’s highest court of appeal, the Cassation Court, on Monday confirmed the sacking of a judge who gained headlines for refusing to hear cases with a crucifix in the courtroom.

Luigi Tosti, 62, appealed to the Cassation Court after the Italian judiciary’s self-governing body, the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM), struck him from their ranks in May 2010.

The CSM said in its ruling that Tosti, a Jew, was guilty of refusing to do his job in the Marche town of Camerino from May 2005 to January 2006, when he withdrew from 15 hearings to contest the presence of the cross displayed in the courtroom.

In its ruling Monday, the Cassation Court said the CSM was wholly “correct” and rejected Tosti’s argument that the presence of crosses was a threat to freedom of religion and conscience.

Tosti has already said he intends to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“I am ready to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if I don’t get justice from the Cassation Court.

One cannot be forced to submit to a demonstration of faith like the display of the crucifix,” he said last month after the Cassation Court prosecutor urged the court to find against him.

“I was hired to serve a secular court, not an ecclesiastic one. Should my appeal fail, my battle for secularity and freedom will continue in the appropriate courts”.

The European Court of Human Rights issued a landmark, but non-binding, ruling against crosses in Italian classrooms in 2009.

Tosti once said his case was “identical” to that raised by the Finnish-born mother of two in northern Italy who secured the ruling against crosses in Italian classrooms, which sparked a storm in this heavily Catholic country.

The Italian government is appealing the European court’s ruling against crucifixes.

Tosti holds that crosses should not be present in courts because of the separation of Church and State.

Members of the libertarian Radical Party demonstrated in his support ahead of the CSM ruling last year.

Tosti had been subjected to disciplinary measures including losing his pay even prior to the CSM ruling, but continued his campaign undeterred.

In May 2007 he got a seven-month jail sentence but the Cassation Court quashed it in February 2009.

Judge Tosti first made headlines in April 2004 when he threatened to place symbols of his own Jewish faith, like the menorah candle-holder, in his Camerino court.

He insisted that defendants have the constitutional right to refuse to be tried under the symbol of the cross.

On Monday the Cassation Court also laid down that exhibiting religious symbols other than crosses was not possible under existing law.

Displaying such objects would cause too many ethical and religious headaches, it said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

NH Justices Claim Religion No Part of Ruling on Christian Teaching

Affirm decision ordering child into public school because of ‘vigorous’ defense of faith

The New Hampshire Supreme Court today affirmed a decision ordering a young girl into a public school system because her “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view,” but the justices denied their ruling had anything to do with religion.

“While the case has religious overtones, it is not about religion,” claimed the opinion authored by Associate Justice Robert Lynn and joined by Chief Justice Linda Dalianis and Associate Justices James Duggan, Gary Hicks and Carol Conboy.

“We affirm the [lower court’s] decision on the narrow basis that it represents a sustainable exercise of the trial court’s discretion to determine the educational placement that is in daughter’s best interests,” the justices wrote.

Lawyers with the Alliance Defense Fund, who had argued in the case that the clear religious bias against Christianity expressed by a guardian ad litem and adopted by the court was reason to reverse the decision, said the justices ignored the evidence.

“Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children,” said allied attorney John Anthony Simmons in a statement released by the organization. “Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views.

“That’s precisely what the lower court admitted it was doing,” Simmons said. “The lower court held the Christian faith of this mother and daughter against them. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ignored this issue and wrote this off as a ‘parent versus parent’ issue without recognizing the very real underlying threat to religious liberty.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]