Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110326

Financial Crisis
»Spain: North and South Emerge From Crisis at Different Rates
»Census: Hispanization of America Increases, Now 50 Mln
Europe and the EU
»150th Anniversary: Just What is Italy?
»Germany: Police Seize Boy in Mafia Fancy Dress Costume
»Montepulciano Enchants Art, Wine, And Food Lovers
»Spain: Congress to Debate Abolition of Insult to King Crime
»Spain: Franco Crimes: Garzon at EU Human Rights Court
»UK: A ‘Yes’ To Voting Reform Could be Death for Mr Cameron
»Wilders: Democratic Conclusion Difficult With Islam
North Africa
»250 UK Special Forces Soldiers in Libya
»‘Al-Qaeda Snatched Missiles’ In Libya
»Berlusconi Hails Libya Mission Control Switch to NATO
»Libya: NATO: No-Fly Zone Planned for 90 Days
»Libya: Large Majority of Germans Backs Merkel Abstention
»Libya Air Raids ‘A Failure’ Says Russia’s Chief of Staff
»Libya: Rebels Thank Sarkozy, ‘But Now Quit the Country’
»Libyan Rebel Commander Admits His Fighters Have Al-Qaeda Links
»Muslims Attack Christian in Egypt, Cut Off His Ear
»‘Responsibility to Protect’ — The End of National Sovereignty as We Know it?
Israel and the Palestinians
»Two US-Trained Palestinian Officers Arrested in Bloody Slaughter of Jewish Family
Middle East
»Jordan: Demonstrations Take Turning Point
»Manuscript Raid in Turkey Draws International Criticism
»Syria: On Facebook a Call to Rebellion Across Syria
South Asia
»Indonesia: Schwarzenegger Due to Take Part in Climate Forum
»Islamic Militants Blow Up Two Girls’ Schools in Pakistan
Sub-Saharan Africa
»South Africa is Joining the BRICs Without Much Straw
»Italy: Migrant Repatriations Conditional to EU Funding, Rome Says
»Maroni and Frattini in Tunis to Slow Arrivals

Financial Crisis

Spain: North and South Emerge From Crisis at Different Rates

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 25 — The crisis has split Spain in two, with the north and south emerging from the economic downturn at completely different paces. The former has practically emerged from the tunnel of the recession, while the latter is having difficulty latching onto the economic recovery.

Navarra, Castile and Leon and the Basque Country are the northern regions which posted a GDP increase of almost 1% in 2010 to put the recession behind them, while Spain’s overall GDP was -0.1% last year according to data published by the national statistics office, cited today by the media. In order to put the recession behind them, the three communities relied on exports from factories for self-propelled machinery and metallurgic industries. On the other hand are the southern regions of Andalusia, the Canary Islands and Castile-La Mancha, which posted a GDP decline of between 0.9% and 0.8%. The first two regions in particular suffered the most from unemployment, with rates soaring to 28% compared to the 20% average nationwide. Estremadura is among the most ‘economically depressed’ regions that is recovering the most rapidly, with a slight GDP decline of 0.1% in 2010. While Madrid is the region where per capita wealth decline the most, with a GDP decline of 0.6%. Catalonia and Madrid are the two major economies in Spain that are indicative of the overall development of the GDP across the country: in 2010 both regions continued to show signs of stagnation. Catalonia’s growth in particular amounted to a timid 0.1% after a significant recovery, as the GDP decline in the region in 2009 was -4.2%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Census: Hispanization of America Increases, Now 50 Mln

(AGI) Washington-In the US, the process of hispanization is increasing; now out of 300 million Americans, hispanics are 50 million. This is the provisional outcome of the Census Bureau, based on 2010 data of 48 States over 50. Still to be processed Nwe York and Maine, besides the District of Columbia. In the US,Hispanics are the highest minority group and they are on the rise.

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

Europe and the EU

150th Anniversary: Just What is Italy?

One and a half centuries after unification, Italy is still a divided country. Its neighbours may well view it as a single entity, however, historian Gian Enrico Rusconi argues that this perception is based on a poor understanding of the centrifugal forces at work in the country.

How did Europeans respond to the unification of Italy 150 years ago? With astonishment, disbelief and admiration. In their eyes, Italy had succeeded in an almost impossible feat, and it had done so in a remarkable manner. And today? Europeans continue to respond to Italy with astonishment and disbelief, but their perceptions are tempered by a cynical mistrust. It is as though they no longer recognise the country.

The unification of Italy was a decisive moment in European history, and Europe was not only the stage for this event, but also played a part in the drama. Italy created itself through the political and military struggle to become a fully fledged European nation. Thereafter, it became a model for another European people engaged in a quest for national unity, the Germans.

Shifting alliances with its European neighbours

In 1866, when Prussia set its sights on the grand goal of nationhood, Otto von Bismarck did not apply the strategy employed by the father of Italian unity, Count Cavour, but he nonetheless wanted Italian support to combat the mutual enemy, Austria — a common interest that subsequently gave rise to the myth of “the natural alliance” between Italian Piedmont and Germanic Prussia. For better and for worse, this was the moment that established the basis for the future convergence between the two countries, which was to have such grave consequences.

In the light of its geopolitical position, Italy has had to exercise adroit and opportunistic diplomacy in its shifting alliances with its European neighbours. When war broke out in 1914, Italy, which was officially an ally of the Central European powers, announced it would be neutral before joining the Franco-British side a year later — a move that was naturally viewed as a betrayal by Austria and Germany.

As a result, for the first time European countries were clearly divided into two groups in their judgement of Italy. But in the light of European reconciliation that followed World War 2, it is perhaps in poor taste to remind ourselves of this period. Suffice it to say, that it nonetheless illustrates an issue that continues to baffle other Europeans: the fact that we are still hotly debating whether we should continue to be a unified nation, and what Italian unity should entail.

Anti-national sentiment

What our neighbours do not understand is how we can say that we do not feel Italian. For them, notwithstanding any regional differences, the Italian character of the entire peninsula is a self-evident fact. This is not a matter of denying existence of customs, traditions, cuisine and phony piety that are perceived as Italian, but rather of acknowledging the absence of a sense of collective belonging to a state.

Unfortunately, for many Europeans this shortcoming is only a venial sin, and on this basis they fail to recognise the highly charged anti-national sentiment in the federalism proposed by the Northern League. Germans, who have benefited from the long-standing existence of an efficient and well-oiled federal state, are simply unable to look on federalism as anti-national. But that is the reality in Italy. And it is yet another reason why we have such difficulty understanding one another.

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

Germany: Police Seize Boy in Mafia Fancy Dress Costume

An 18-year-old student dressed in a “mafia outfit” with a realistic toy gun stuck in his waistband triggered a federal police response near the Bremen train station, officials said Friday.

The young man was on his way to the station with three friends and was dressed in a white, gangster-style suit. Under the jacket, a silver pistol was clearly visible in his belt, the Bremen police said in a statement.

When the group of teens emerged from a drug store, they found themselves face to face with six federal police officers.

“The 18-year-old was immediately taken hold of and disarmed,” the police said in a statement. “The mutual tension was quickly resolved as it became clear that it was just a toy pistol. The young man was visibly frightened. An unlit cigar he was holding crumbled in his hand.”

The students had come from a mafia dress-up party at school.

The young man received a lecture about the danger of creating a panic by having a realistic-looking gun visible in public. However, the officers waived any administrative offences notice under the weapons laws.

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

Montepulciano Enchants Art, Wine, And Food Lovers

Ancient Tuscan town seduces Hollywood with cinematic landscape

(ANSA) — Montepulciano, March 24 — Perched on a limestone ridge, overlooking cypress-dotted countryside in deep, southern Tuscany, stands the ancient walled city of Montepulciano. Sometimes referred to as “little Florence” for its dense mix of fine Renaissance architecture, churches, and art, Montepulciano is also the center of production for the least known — but no less exquisite — of Tuscany’s “big three” vintages. Montelpulciano’s Vino Nobile, with its spicy aroma and balanced acidity, earned its name as a wine preferred by nobles and other distinguished figures. For wine specialists, it ranks favorably with Tuscany’s world-famous Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico. Montepulciano’s wine-making roots reach back to Etruscan times, but today most of the vineyards lining the countryside grow a Sangiovese strain of grape called Prugnolo, so called for its prune-like shape, color and aroma. Visitors can sample wine and drink in the landscape on vineyard tours organized in town. Alternatively, one can tour the historic center’s dense, underground labyrinth of rock-carved cantinas, where wine still reposes in oak barrels. Other delicacies also tantalize, like extra-virgin olive oil served on toasted Tuscan bread, artisanal pecorino cheese, local plum jam, coarse ‘pici’ pasta, pork, lentils and honey.

It wasn’t gastronomy, but cinematic, dreamy scenery that drew film directors to Montepulciano in recent years. The English Patient (1996) was filmed here with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, as was A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream (1999) with Rupert Everett, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline. The Italian scenes of The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) were also shot here. Montepulciano’s narrow streets climb through fortified walls built under Medici rule in the early 1500s. Its cobblestone piazzas, medieval historic center and a constellation of Renaissance buildings are all easily reached by foot, like the Medici Fortress of Sangallo, the 14th-century Porta di Gracciano, and the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi with its Tuscan Gothic façade. The church houses a precious Madonna with Child painted by Duccio di Buoninsegna, a 13th-century Sienese artist who was one of the most influential of his time. Ambling just outside town, the circular walls of the 16th- century Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Biagio, offers a masterpiece of late Renaissance architecture in white travertine stone.

Until March 31, art museums Pinacoteca Cruciani and the Logge della Mercanzia are featuring a Tuscan art movement that presaged the French Impressionists. The Macchiaioli movement undusted the figurative language of Italian art academies in the 19th century.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Congress to Debate Abolition of Insult to King Crime

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 23 — Decriminalisation of the offence ‘insult to the king’ is the request included in a bill presented to the Congress of deputies by Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Isquierda Unida and Iniciativa para Catalunya Verd.

Yesterday the conference of group leaders approved the passage through parliament of the legislative proposal that contemplates an amendment of the Criminal Code to abolish the crime of insult against the crown.

The initiative was presented after that in recent days the Strasbourg Human Rights Tribunal raised the issue of whether insults should be viewed as a crime, condemning the Spanish State to indemnify for damaged the former leader of outlawed Batasuna, Arnaldo Otegi, sentenced in Spain to spend a year in jail for having called Juan Carlos the “chief of the torturers”. The Strasbourg Tribunal claimed that such a statement is part of the right of freedom of expression of the leader of the Basque patriotic and pro-independence left. The bill could be debated in the Chambers before this summer.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Franco Crimes: Garzon at EU Human Rights Court

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 25 — The Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon, who has been committed for trial by the Audiencia Nacional for opening an investigation into the presumed mass crimes committed under the rule of Franco, has appeared before the European Court to complain of a violation of the principle of judicial independence. The news comes courtesy of the international legal chambers assisting the judge.

The Audiencia Nacional has accused Garzon of abuse of office and of “pronouncing unfair verdicts”, his lawyers point out in a statement. The main accusation levelled at the magistrate is that he opened an investigation into crimes against humanity committed during the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) and under the rule of Franco. Before closing the investigation and entrusting it to national courts representative of where the crimes were committed, Garzon decided that Spanish that granted an amnesty on the crimes committed under Franco — in particular the 1977 Amnesty Law — and that allowed the prescription of crimes could not prevent investigations into the serious crimes against humanity in question, in so far as these were imprescriptible.

Judge Garzon maintains that the proceedings taken out against him violate some of the duties assumed by Spain upon the country’s signature of the European agreement on human rights.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: A ‘Yes’ To Voting Reform Could be Death for Mr Cameron

The looming referendum on changing the voting system hasn’t exactly captured the public imagination. It might as well not be happening.

The few voters who are aware of the referendum could be forgiven for thinking that the issue is the preserve of political anoraks and over-excited TV pundits who wave their arms about wildly, pointing to swingometers on election night.

But while the referendum campaign may appear to be a boring non-event, the potential consequences of the result on May 5 are simply enormous. At stake is nothing less than David Cameron’s premiership, and the future of the electoral system under which Britain has, for generations, enjoyed long periods of relatively stable single-party government.

In just six weeks’ time, voters will be offered the historic choice between sticking with the ‘first-past-the-post’ system for Westminster elections or switching to something called the Alternative Vote (AV) strongly backed by the Lib Dems.

The traditional system that Britain has always used is straightforward. The candidate with the most votes wins. He or she becomes the MP. The party with more than half the seats in the new Parliament then forms a government.

However, AV would allow voters to rank the candidates in their order of preference. When it comes to the count, any candidate with more than 50 per cent of the first preference vote would be elected.

But if none reaches that figure, the votes from the candidate who came last would then be reallocated to other candidates until a winner eventually emerges with more than 50 per cent of the vote. The process is so complicated that even those who claim to understand it struggle to provide a decent explanation.

The result of a move to an AV system would be more seats for smaller parties such as the Lib Dems. As a consequence, opponents argue that it would be less likely that one of the two bigger parties (the Tories or Labour) could form a government on their own. The result? Many more coalition administrations — and governments who run the country based on policies which huge swathes of voters are not in favour of.


The truth is that ‘No’ campaigners need the turnout to be as high as possible, while the ‘Yes’ team is praying for fewer people to vote.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wilders: Democratic Conclusion Difficult With Islam

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 25 — “So long as the values of Islam are the dominant values in the Arab world, there cannot be democracy in the region because Islam is a totalitarian ideology. This is the situation despite the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Geert Wilders, the President of Dutch conservative anti-Islamic party, PVV (Party for Freedom) at a meeting organised today in Rome by the Magna Carta Foundation. “I look at what can happen and what we can obtain from the liberation of these Arab countries with doubt,” continued one of the most controversial politicians today on the international panorama, with his anti-Islamic views. “My party voted against the involvement of the Netherlands in Libya, but despite this I believe that it is positive that the Western powers were able to prevent a genocide.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

250 UK Special Forces Soldiers in Libya

In total it is understood that just under 250 UK special forces soldiers and their support have been in Libya since before the launch of air strikes to enforce the no-fly zone against Gaddafi’s forces.

The troops in Libya were drawn from a squadron of SAS and SBS personnel, some who have been in the country for a month and are being re-supplied with water, food and ammunition via airdrops from Cyprus.

Those numbers were further boosted by nearly 100 this week when paratroopers from the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) were sent to Libya as coalition commanders prepare to increase the tempo of operations.

A further 800 Royal Marines are on five days’ notice to deploy to the Mediterranean to support humanitarian relief and aid operations.

The beefing up of the Special Forces contingent comes as commanders switch attacks against command and control centres to low-level attacks against Gaddafi’s tanks.

[Return to headlines]

‘Al-Qaeda Snatched Missiles’ In Libya

AL-QAEDA’S offshoot in North Africa has snatched surface-to-air missiles from an arsenal in Libya during the civil strife there, Chad’s President says.

Idriss Deby Itno did not say how many surface-to-air missiles were stolen, but told the African weekly Jeune Afrique that he was “100 per cent sure” of his assertion.

“The Islamists of al-Qaeda took advantage of the pillaging of arsenals in the rebel zone to acquire arms, including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries in Tenere,” a desert region of the Sahara that stretches from northeast Niger to western Chad, Deby said in the interview.

“This is very serious. AQIM is becoming a genuine army, the best equipped in the region,” he said.

His claim was echoed by officials in other countries in the region who said that they were worried that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) might have acquired “heavy weapons”, thanks to the insurrection.

[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi Hails Libya Mission Control Switch to NATO

‘Decision expected to be formalised Sunday’

(ANSA) — Rome, March 25 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday hailed the upcoming switch of control of all military operations over Libya to NATO.

Asked if he was happy with the decision, which is expected to be formalised Sunday, he replied “yes, absolutely yes”. NATO sources said Friday: “There will no longer be a coalition of the willing and a NATO one, but only an international coalition led by NATO”.

NATO is already commanding a naval blockade to ensure an arms embargo on Libya and on Thursday it was decided to also give it control of no-fly operations.

As for full command and control, a source said Friday: “We are actively considering a wider role and the decision will be finalised in the next few days”.

Italy had threatened to resume control of its seven air bases unless NATO took command.

Britain also pressed for the move over opposition led by France and Turkey who argued NATO, already engaged in Afghanistan, might raise hackles in the Arab world.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: NATO: No-Fly Zone Planned for 90 Days

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 25 — The NATO mission to maintain the No-Fly Zone in Libya has been planned for a 90-day period. A NATO source explains however that this period can be extended or shortened, depending on the needs. The mission will be fully operational within 48 hours, the source added, explaining that command of the No-Fly Zone operation will held by Joint Force Command in Naples, using the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) in Poggiorenatico (Ferrara).

The NATO spokesman added, referring to the command of the international military intervention: “We are actively considering a broader role and the decision will be taken in the coming days”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Large Majority of Germans Backs Merkel Abstention

(AGI) Berlin — The majority of Germans backs the Merkel-Westerwelle abstention from the Security Council no-fly zone decision. An EMNID poll carried out for the weekly ‘Focus’ showed that 56% of Germans are in agreement with the government’s decision, while only just above third (36%) believe it to be a mistake.

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

Libya Air Raids ‘A Failure’ Says Russia’s Chief of Staff

(AGI) Moscow — According to Russian Chief of Staff Nikolai Makarov coalition air raids over Libya are “a failure”. The general went on to express personal assessments that “if the goal is to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, there is going to have to be ground intervention at some stage.” Makarov went on to suggest that the latter option “cannot be ruled out.” As for a Russian contribution to upholding the no-fly zone, Makarov clarified “it was never an option.” .

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

Libya: Rebels Thank Sarkozy, ‘But Now Quit the Country’

(AGI) Paris — The insurgents have thanked Nicolas Sarkozy for his armed intervention in Libya, saying “foreign forces” must go. This is the substance of a letter from the head of the Transitional Council in Benghazi, Mahmoud Jibril, to the French President, which said “In the middle of the night, your planes destroyed tanks that were set to crush Benghazi. The Libyan people see you as liberators. Its recognition will be eternal.” Mr Jibril added, however, “we do not want outside forces. We won the first battle thanks to you, but will win the next battle through our own means.” .

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

Libyan Rebel Commander Admits His Fighters Have Al-Qaeda Links

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited “around 25” men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are “today are on the front lines in Adjabiya”.

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”.

His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, “including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries”.

Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against “the foreign invasion” in Afghanistan, before being “captured in 2002 in Peshwar, in Pakistan”. He was later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008.


[ED NOTE: Where do captured jihadists go? Back to killing, every one… When will it ever end?]

[Return to headlines]

Muslims Attack Christian in Egypt, Cut Off His Ear

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — A group of Muslims attacked Ayman Anwar Mitri, a 45 year old Christian Coptic man in the Upper Egyptian town of Qena, cutting off his ear. The Muslims claimed they were applying Sharia law because Mr. Mitri allegedly had an illicit affair with a Muslim woman. The Muslims called the police and told them “We have applied the law of Allah, now come and apply your law,” according to Mr. Mitri in an interview for the Egyptian Human Rights Organization.

Mr. Mitri, a low grade administrator at a secondary school, from elHasweya, in Qena, 492 KM from Cairo, had rented his flat to two Muslim sisters, Abeer and Sabrin Saif Al-Nasr, through an agent. After nine months he learned the sisters had been indicted for prostitution, so he asked them to leave and they did.

On Sunday, March 20 Mr. Mitri was informed by a friend via a phone call at 4 AM that the flat where the Muslim sisters lived was on fire; he went to the flat. While waiting in the torched flat a Muslim named Alaa el Sunni came and berated him for renting his flat to prostitutes. “I tried to calm him down,” said Mr. Mitri, “and told him I knew nothing about the two women since they came through an agent.” Alaa suggested they would go somewhere quiet to clear the misunderstanding. They went to the flat of Mr. Mitri’s friend Khaled, a policeman, where 12 Muslims were waiting for him. They started beating him and saying “We will teach you a lesson, Christian” and “This serves your right for renting your property to prostitutes.”

Believing this was the end of the episode, they asked him to call the Muslim woman, so that they would send her to her father. When the woman refused to come, they asked a female Muslim neighbor to call her, saying that her belongings are with her. The woman, Sabrin, came and was told to say that she had a relationship with Mr. Mitri. “At first the woman refused, but after being beaten, she agreed,” said Mr. Mitri.

Remembering his ordeal, he said that they sat him on a chair and a Muslim named elHusseiny cut his right ear off. “I felt so shocked that I do not even know what tool he used.” They also made a a 10cm cut at the back of his neck, cut his other ear, his face and his arm (video showing wounds Mr. Mitri said they wanted to throw him off the fifth floor but Khaled objected, saying he would get into trouble for just being there, since he is a policeman.

Mr. Mitri said that the Muslims tried to convert him to Islam, but he refused. The Muslims then called the police and told them to come and get the Copt saying “We have applied the law of Allah, now come and apply your civil law.”

The police came and rescued Mitri and Sabrin, who told the police the Muslims forced her to lie about the illicit relationship between her and Mitri. A police report was issued, but no arrests were made.

“I feel humiliated and broken,” said Mr. Mitri. “I have lost the income from the torched flat, my car, and have become disfigured. Who is going to restore my honor?”

His wife said in an interview that she is ashamed to go to work and feels very unsafe. She is afraid to let the children go to school and is hoping to leave the area.

At first Mr. Mitri said he wanted full compensation for his losses and even wanted revenge by cutting off the ear of the Muslim who cut his ear off.. However, it was reported that a “reconciliation” meeting was made in the presence of Colonel Ahmed Masood, Vice military ruler of Qena, whereby Ayman Mitri and the Muslims came to an “agreement.” Mr. Mitri had to withdraw the police report he filed against the Muslims.

Mr. Mitri appeared on the Coptic TV channel CTV, where he was asked about the reason he agreed to reconcile and forfeit his rights. Mitri said while sobbing “I was threatened, they threatened to kidnap the female children in our family.”

Anba Kirollos, Bishop of Nag Hammadi, called on the armed forces to intervene and put an end to this “thuggery in the name of religion” so that this “infection” does not spread to other areas. He said if thuggery is put above the law the dignity and prestige of the State would be lost.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

‘Responsibility to Protect’ — The End of National Sovereignty as We Know it?

Why Did U.S. President Barack Obama order a military attack on Libya? Why did he seek the permission of the United Nations Security Council, but not that of the U.S. Congress — as he is constitutionally obliged to do?

Glenn Beck has explained President Obama’s decision to attack Libya in terms of the United Nations’ “Responsibility to Protect Doctrine”

Mr Beck is right.

According to Radio Free Europe Those who justify the Libyan intervention on humanitarian grounds draw much of their logic from a concept which has dramatically gained ground over recent decades. The concept is known as “R2P,” shorthand for the world’s “Responsibility to Protect” civilians. But what does this catchy little phrase mean? Where did it come from? What are its implications?

The United Nations reported in July 2009; The Obama administration is supporting moves to implement an U.N. doctrine calling for collective military action to halt genocide. In a week-long debate on implementing the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine, the U.S. joined a majority of U.N. countries, including Russia and China, in supporting implementation of the policy. The doctrine itself was approved in 2005 by more than 150 states including the U.S. The doctrine specifies that diplomatic options such as internal conflict resolution, sanctions, and prosecution by the International Criminal Court, should be used first. If they don’t work, then a multi-national force approved by the Security Council would be deployed. In other words, if the United Nations does not approve of a certain government’s behavior, and that government’s leaders will not respond to sanctions and the threat of prosecution, they will be attackeded militarily.

The U.S. organization supporting this concept, named unsurprisingly Responsibility to Protect is affiliated to a financial planning firm, General Welfare Group LLC, based in Oak Brook Illinois.

According to the Responsibility to Protect website The doctrine of the responsibility to protect was first elaborated in 2001 by a group of prominent international human rights leaders comprising the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Under their mandate, the Commission sought to undertake the two-fold challenge of reconciling the international community’s responsibility to address massive violations of humanitarian norms and ensuring respect for the sovereign rights of nation states.

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Two US-Trained Palestinian Officers Arrested in Bloody Slaughter of Jewish Family

Palestinian terrorists stabbed five family members to death in the settlement of Itamar early Saturday morning; three children, including a baby girl, were among the victims. The killers slashed the baby’s throat. Later that day Palestinians handed out candy to celebrate the mass murder.

This past week two Palestinian officers were charged with planning the attack.

The Idaho Press reported:

Palestinian cousins Ahmed Awad, an officer in Abbas’ Preventative Security Services in the northern West Bank city of Nablis, and Iyad Awad, an officer in Abbas’ General Intelligence services in Ramallah, have been charged with planning the attack. Informed security sources said the two did not personally carry out the murders but assisted in the planning and logistics, including aiding in the escape. The actual killers were sleeper cells from Hamas. These men were armed, trained and funded by the U.S.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Jordan: Demonstrations Take Turning Point

(By Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 25 — Dozens of activists camping near a central square in Amman were hurt during clashes with pro-regime loyalists near a central square in Amman.

Nearly 300 protesters erected their tents in the busy area of Amman, emulating activists in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and other parts of the region who sought to exert relentless pressure on authorities.

The crowd was joined by activists from different parts of the kingdom, including rural areas in the north.

“I have been walking since 48 hours to reach here. I come from the far north, and I am here to raise my voice and say, no to corruption, yes to reform,” shouted Abdullah Zubi, a former soldier, who says he is currently out of job.

“This is our country and we need to feel safe and secure in it,” Zubi told ANSA during the protest.

The group started an open ended camping in the busy party of Amman, calling for sweeping reforms that include trimming powers of king Abdullah.

The group, which calls itself March 24, urged king Abdullah to curb influence of powerful security apparatus on affairs of the state and called for forming a national unity government to end political corruption.

Protesters accused police of collaborating with thugs, who tossed stones at them while they were shouting: “peaceful protest.” The gathering is a turning point in weeks of demonstrations in Jordan, which so far has been limited to Friday protests, organized by the Islamist movement and small opposition groups.

According to activists, the time is ripe to see genuine reform in the kingdom that could pave the way for genuine reforms. Additionally, a group of Islamist and leftist activists gathered after Friday prayer near the Israeli embassy, calling for an end to the peace treaty with Israel and start of a new era of reform.

Activists said they are not seeking to topple the king, but stressed the importance of starting reform.

“We are telling the government to move fast before it is too late. Reform should be implemented without wasting more time,” said Ali Abdul Sukkar, chief of the shurah council at the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Unlike other countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, protesters in Jordan are not seeking to remove the pro-west monarch, but they push for reform measures that could see him lose some of his powers including the ability to hire and fire governments.

The government recently formed a national dialogue committee comprising some representatives of the civil society, political parties and figures close to the regime to iron out a reform strategy. But it was boycotted by the Islamist movement, Jordan’s main opposition group on grounds that the committee’s mandate did not include constitutional amendments.

Jordan has been gripped by protests unseen in recent years, but are considered benign compared to that in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen, where demands focused on toppling the leadership.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Manuscript Raid in Turkey Draws International Criticism

International and domestic press organizations condemned Friday recent police raids in Turkey targeting the manuscripts of an unpublished book, incidents that Turkish organizations described as “censorship.”

“Preventing a published book from being distributed is one thing, but forbidding the very possession of a draft book that has not been published sets a very dangerous precedent,” Johann Bihr from Reporters Without Borders told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

A week after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the issue of press freedom in Turkey was being blown out of proportion, Istanbul police raided a printing house and a daily newspaper in search of an unpublished book, confiscating print copies and destroying all digital traces of the manuscript.

The book in question is by jailed journalist Ahmet Sik and deals with the alleged organization founded within the Turkish police by the Fethullah Gülen Islamic community.

Reporters Without Borders is “really astonished” by the police confiscation of Sik’s manuscript, Bihr said.

“Whatever its content, Sik’s draft book represents a piece of work by a writer and journalist, not a weapon or drugs. Seizing all private copies of it and threatening those who don’t hand it over with prosecution is in complete contradiction with the principle of freedom of expression,” he said.

“Reporters Without Borders is really worried by these searches and the associated threats, which unfortunately take the Turkish judiciary one more step away from European and international standards,” Bihr added.

The International Press Institute also expressed concern about the “very alarming developments” surrounding press freedom.

“We are very disappointed in the situation. There are few other countries in the world, if any, where so many journalists are in prison. And we have not seen any evidence as to why they were arrested,” IPI press freedom adviser Steven Ellis told the Daily News.

Sik’s arrest has been criticized in legal circles since the evidence against him was not revealed to his lawyers. The manuscript raids created suspicion that Sik was arrested for his book, and not as a part of the ongoing Ergenekon case into an alleged coup plot, which Sik tried to expose as a journalist.

The manuscript raids “are a clear and outrageous violation of press freedom and the protection of sources, which is a cardinal part of journalism,” Renate Schroeder, European director of the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists, told the Daily News.

“We are very concerned. We had a meeting in Turkey last year with the Turkish Union of Journalists and it seems as though the situation is getting worse,” Schroeder said. “We are bringing these issues to the agenda of the European Parliament and Commission… such an incident is unheard of in Europe, and Turkey is a part of Europe.”

The Turkish Freedom for Journalists Platform, or GÖP, which is comprised of 92 national and local professional groups, also protested the manuscript raids.

“While the government claims that Ahmet Sik and [fellow arrested reporter] Nedim Sener were arrested for their activities as journalists, the fact that they were questioned about their books by the prosecutor’s office proves otherwise,” the GÖP said in a press release.

“Destroying the manuscript of a book that has not even been published yet is censorship,” the group said in its statement. “For the first time in the history of humanity, police are on a digital hunt for books. They are after thoughts.”

While Erdogan claimed earlier this month that press freedom in Turkey had “reached very advanced standards in the last eight years,” Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 138th out of 178 nations in its “World Press Freedom Index.”

Police, judiciary target Turkish journalists with raids and sentences

Multiple police raids and court decisions targeted the press Thursday in Turkey, where Istanbul police searched a publishing house and a newspaper for digital copies of an unpublished book by arrested Ergenekon suspect Ahmet Sik.

Copies of the manuscript were deleted from the hard drives of computers at the offices of the Ithaki Publishing House and daily Radikal based on a court order.

The subject of the unpublished book, “Imamin Ordusu” (The Army of the Imam), is the organization the religious community led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen allegedly formed within the Turkish police.

Also in Istanbul, the 10th Court for Serious crimes sentenced Ibrahim Çesmecioglu, the chief executive officer of daily BirGün, and reporter Hakan Tahmaz for an interview they published in 2008 in the paper. The interview with Murat Karayilan, a leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, based in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq, was ruled to have “featured [a terrorist] organization’s statements.”

Çesmecioglu was sentenced to a fine of 17,000 Turkish Liras and Tahmaz was sentenced to 10 months in prison although the execution of both sentences has been delayed.

In Izmir, police raided the offices of Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, detaining four people and searching the premises for “forbidden publications,” confiscating some magazines. Those detained were released after being questioned.

The sentencing last year of two chief editors of the publication to record prison terms of 138 years and 166 years for “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” drew widespread international criticism.

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

Syria: On Facebook a Call to Rebellion Across Syria

The appeal was issued today after the violent repression of demonstrations in Deraa, claiming the lives of 25 people. In Damascus, dozens of arrests during a demonstration in support of the martyrs. Protests also in Homs, in the west.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Young Syrians have launched a call for a popular uprising across the country on Facebook, after recent clashes in Deraa, Damascus and major cities that killed 25 people. “ Today Saturday … popular uprisings in all Syrian governorates,” says the message. The announcement by President Assad on the introduction of democratic reforms, the possible cancellation of the state of emergency, anti-corruption measures, freeing of dissidents and increased salaries for civil servants, does not seem to have placated the popular protest against the authoritarian regime in power for almost 50 years.

Yesterday, thousands of people gathered in the Deraa, scene of the most massive anti-government protests, where at the end of Friday prayers they chanted slogans for freedom and revenge for the martyrs, burned a statue of former President Hafez al -Assad. In Sammina, close to Deraa police fired on a group of protesters who tried to join the protests, killing nearly 20 people. According to doctors over 40 people were killed in the past week. The violent repression of demonstrations has also triggered riots in Damascus, where over 200 people tried to reach the center of the city, but were soon stopped and arrested by the authorities. Protests also erupted in Homs, in the west.

To prevent further riots and boost popular support for the regime, state television continued to broadcast propaganda films. While in Damascus, thousands of people marched through the streets, shouting their support for President Bashar al-Assad.

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

South Asia

Indonesia: Schwarzenegger Due to Take Part in Climate Forum

Jakarta, 25 March (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled to visit Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, to attend the Governors Climate Forum, which will be held in September.

The forum is a meeting of governors from around the world set to discuss climate issues. Palangkaraya will serve as host this year.

Central Kalimantan Governor Teras Narang said that Schwarzenegger will act as a speaker in the forum.

“Arnold, who is an environmental activist with great compassion for our climate issues, is scheduled to come as a speaker,” he said on Friday, as reported by

Schwarzenegger, who was once a Hollywood action star, helped initiate the forum.

Central Kalimantan has been chosen as the host because it has shown progress in dealing with environmental issues over the last five years.

Governors from around 30 countries, including the United States, Brazil and Malaysia are scheduled to attend the forum.

Teras added that the governors invited were those who have shown commitment to climate change and concern for reducing carbon emissions.

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

Islamic Militants Blow Up Two Girls’ Schools in Pakistan

Unidentified insurgents destroyed two schools for girls in Pakistan’s Khyber Agency, RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal reports.

The attacks bring the number of schools bombed in the Khyber Agency to at least 38 since a bombing campaign against schools in the region started in 2009 following a government military operation against militant groups.

The Khyber Agency holds a key route for NATO supply convoys going to Afghanistan.

Administration officials said the two schools in the Sultankhel village in the Landi Kotal subdistrict of the tribal agency were destroyed by planted bombs.

Hasham Khan Afridi, the official responsible for education in the Khyber Agency, said around 1,200 girls studied in the two schools. He said parents in many areas have stopped sending their children to school for fear of attacks on the buildings.

Most of the schools destroyed in the bomb attacks are for girls, hundreds of whom are unable to continue their education without the schools.

Islamic militants — who believe women should not be educated — have so far destroyed more than 700 schools in the Swat, Buner, Dir, and Peshawar districts and the tribal agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa is Joining the BRICs Without Much Straw

“WE SAY no to the killing of civilians!” Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, thundered on March 21st. “No to the foreign occupation of Libya or any other sovereign state!” The crowd, mainly supporters of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), roared back its approval. Theirs, after all, was the country of human rights, a beacon to the world, as their first black president, Nelson Mandela, had proclaimed. Just four days earlier, however, South Africa had voted for the UN Security Council resolution calling for “all necessary measures” to be taken to protect Libyan civilians under threat, including the imposition of a no-fly zone. Did Mr Zuma believe this could be done without recourse to force? He is not that naive.

These days South Africa’s foreign policy swings back and forth. Under Thabo Mbeki, Mr Zuma’s globe-trotting predecessor, it seemed to have an overarching aim, at least on paper: the promotion of an “African renaissance”, even if that meant ignoring the human-rights violations of some of South Africa’s allies. But now, as Mr Zuma flits ever more energetically around the world, charming everyone as he always does, it is hard to find a pattern to his policies. “None of it makes any real sense,” says Tom Wheeler, a former South African ambassador and now a research fellow with the South African Institute of International Affairs: “There’s no substance, no coherence.”

In fact, South Africa often appears to be pursuing two contradictory sets of values. At one moment, Mr Zuma is upholding the principles of national sovereignty and non-interference dear to despots around the world. At the next, he insists that his “primary objective” is to contribute to the ideals of democracy, human rights and justice. The result is a mishmash of unpredictable responses to apparently similar situations in different countries.

In the face of the recent uprising in Egypt, for example, Mr Zuma joined the international chorus demanding the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, the president. But in the face of dreadful factional violence and impending civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa sat on the fence for months, refusing to accept Alassane Ouattara’s internationally recognised victory in November’s presidential elections until earlier this month, when it endorsed the call of the peace and security committee of the African Union (AU) for the defeated incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, to step down. In Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, right on South Africa’s doorstep, Mr Zuma remains obdurately silent over the violation of civil rights and the suppression of pro-democracy protests, yet recently recalled his ambassador to Israel after Israeli commandos stopped a flotilla of pro-Palestinian campaigners from reaching Gaza, killing nine Turks on board.

The same contradiction is seen in South Africa’s handling of Myanmar and Zimbabwe. In Myanmar Mr Zuma did not hesitate to condemn November’s rigged elections and call for the release of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Yet he refrains from peeping a word of public criticism of Zimbabwe’s ageing dictator, Robert Mugabe, despite a string of rigged and robbed elections, killings, torture and other state-sponsored violence. Last October South Africa appeared to change its studied neutrality on Iran’s nuclear plans, voting for UN sanctions on Iran, only to claim that it had actually intended to vote against the measure. And when the jailed Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the Nobel peace prize in December, South Africa was one of the few countries to refuse to congratulate him.

Next month South Africa is due to be formally inducted into membership of the BRICs, a club of regional power brokers embracing Brazil, Russia, India and China, which have recently shown a desire to use their combined size and economic might—together they account for 40% of the world’s population—to counter the West’s global dominion. They also want to reform such institutions as the UN Security Council and the World Bank.

Will South Africa—its GDP, population and land mass all dwarfed by the BRIC giants—find itself obliged to align its foreign policy more with its new peers, notably Russia and China? Perhaps not, judging by its recent vote in favour of the Libyan no-fly zone. The other BRICS (with a capital S), as the enlarged group will be known, all abstained. Perhaps, after Mr Zuma’s latest exclamation, South Africa will again claim it had really meant to vote against the resolution.

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


Italy: Migrant Repatriations Conditional to EU Funding, Rome Says

(AGI) Rome — The interior and foreign ministries today clarified Italy’s stance on migrants’ “assisted repatriations”.

In a joint communique’ issued today, the ministries sought to address “press speculation” concerning repatriation initiatives “co-financed by the European Union and managed via the International Organisation for Migrations.” The communique’ also clarified, “given the “scale of the unfolding [migration] phenomenon,” that the assisted repatriation initiatives “will only be set in motion […] provided they are fully funded by the European Union.” .

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

Maroni and Frattini in Tunis to Slow Arrivals

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 25 — Italy’s Interior and Foreign Ministers, Roberto Maroni and Franco Frattini, have arrived in Tunis for a series of talks with institutions, in an aim to slow the number of Tunisians arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Around 15,000 have arrived in the first three months of the year.

Frattini and Maroni will meet the Tunisian Prime Minister, Beji Caid Essebsi, and other ministers. The aim is to return to Italy with an agreement that would see police controls at maritime borders — which are currently almost non-existent — stepped up and the beginning of repatriation procedures for migrants who have already landed in Italy. The two ministers are ready to propose economic aid, manpower and infrastructure (motor-boats, equipment, radars etc) as well as an appropriate quota of legal arrivals.

However, it will not be easy to obtain binding commitments from the Tunisian authorities. The current government is only a transitional one, ahead of elections due to be held in July.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]