Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110329

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Trade Deficit Down 33.3% in January, ELSTAT
»Ireland Wants Bank Bondholders to Share the Pain
»Portugal: Standard & Poor Lower Bonds to Junk Level
»Spain: Government to Nationalise Four Savings Banks
»Detroit Religious Leaders to Pastor Terry Jones: Stay Home
»‘Islamophobia’ Hearings Shaped by Radical Palestinian
»Terrorists Might be Among Us
»The Collapse of Detroit
»The Oath of Office: The Check on Usurpations by Congress, The Executive Branch, & Federal Judges
»Wafa Educates Bill on the “Rape Factor” In Islam
»We Are All Badgers Now
»Student Files ‘Hostile Environment’ Complaint Against York
Europe and the EU
»Annual Euro-Pact Summits Will See Refuseniks Asked to Leave the Room
»Confusion Reigns Over MEP Cash-for-Amendments Probe
»EU Plans to Ban All Petrol and Diesel Cars From Cities to Force Drivers to Go ‘Green’
»France: Socialists and National Front Winners in Local Elections
»Globalist Bid to Ban Cars is Part of “Planned-opolis” Agenda
»Greece: Night of Guerrilla Against Dump in Keratea
»Italy: Govt ‘Set to Ban Talk Shows Ahead of Local Elections’
»Italy: Fake Earthquake Victims on TV Show Spark Anger
»Italy: Ruby Among 132 Witnesses Called by Prosecutors
»Italy: Berlusconi Due to Face 132 Prosecution Witnesses in Milan Sex Trial
»Memorial Madness: Poles Invoke Chuck Norris to Defy Kaczynski Remembrance
»Sweden Replies to EU Wolf Hunt Reprimand
»UK: Euro Court Rulings ARE the Law, Says Our Top Judge
»UK: Heroin Dealers to Escape Jail: New Sentencing Proposals Mean Pushers Would Go Free
»UK: Was This Boy the Torso in the Thames? Five-Year-Old ‘Victim of Voodoo Ritual’ Named by Former Suspect
»UNHCR: Serbia Main Source of Asylum-Seekers in 2010
Mediterranean Union
»Uprisings: EU: Rapid Progress Needed for Med Partnership
North Africa
»Libya: Final Rush: Rebels Fill Petrol Tanks
»Libya: Gaddafi Hometown Readies for Battle as Obama Defends Move
»Libya: Thousands Demonstrate to Reopen Trapani Airport
»Libya: African Union Out of London Summit
»Libya: Spain Backs Frattini, Gaddafi Exile Possible
»Libya: US Forces Attack Patrol Boat and 2 Other Boats
»Libya: Gaddafi: ‘Stop Barbaric Offence, You Are Like Hitler’
»Libya: Force Does Not Bring Democracy, Serbian Ambassador
»Libya is Another Case of Selective Vigilantism by the West
»Libya Strikes Showcase French Warplane
»Libya: Fuel and Food Running Out in Tripoli
»Libya: Zimbabwe to Nicaragua, Place of Exile for Gaddafi
»Libyan Woman Sued by Men She Alleges Raped Her, Official Says
»London: Weapons Until Gaddafi Obliges, Clinton
»Muslims in Egypt Demand Release of Alleged Convert to Islam
»The Vatican Joins in the Babel of Libya. With Silence
»US NATO Commander Says “Traces of Al-Qaeda” In Libyan Opposition
Israel and the Palestinians
»Stakelbeck Exclusive: Israeli Vice PM Moshe Yaalon Sits Down With CBN News
Middle East
»Bomb Explodes at Lebanese Church, No Injuries
»Food and Syria’s Failure
»Not Dark Yet in Daraa, Heart of the Syrian Uprising
»Oman: Army Disperses Sohar Rebel Sit-in, Arrests Made
»Syria: Religious Summit Against Sectarian Violence
»Syria: Thousands Demonstrating for “Loyalty to Nation”
»Syria: Three Americans Arrested in Damascus
»Turkey’s Photo of the Year: Bleeding IDF Soldier
»Uprisings: Iran’s Balancing Act Between Gaddafi & Assad
»Water Crisis Floats Syrian Unrest
»Why I Fear the West Can’t Influence the Powder Keg That is the Arab World
»Yemen: Death Toll From Weapons Factory Blast Climbs to 150
»16 Die in Anti-Terrorism Operation in Ingusetia
South Asia
»Pakistan: Third Church Attacked as Pakistani Extremists Declare War Over Florida Koran Burning
»Top Indonesian Terrorist Umar Patek Captured in Pakistan
Far East
»Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei to Work From Berlin
»Tokyo’s Fatalism: Courage in the Face of Disaster
Australia — Pacific
»Australian Government’s Computers Hacked Including PM’s — Chinese Intelligence Suspected
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Godaddy CEO Bags Elephant to Aid African Villagers; Animal Rights Groups Go Nuts
»Gunfire Sparks Stampede at Nigerian Rally, Killing 4: Police
Latin America
»Hugo Chavez: Journalism Award-Winner in Argentina
»1,000 Migrants Come, Lampedusa Evacuation Set to Accelerate
»240 Rescued Off Coast of Sicily
»Germany: Friedrich: Muslims Must Help Catch Extremists
»Italy: Forced Repatriation if Tunisia Opts Out
»Italy: Tent City in Trapani for North African Migrants
»Italy: Mass Refusal of Entry Mooted
»Migrants: In Lampedusa 6,200 Have Landed
»Migrants Keep Coming: Food Lacking for 2,000
»Obama Boasts of Consulting Immigration Radical
»WHO: No Epidemic Risk on Lampedusa
Culture Wars
»Italy: Church Responding to Growing Demand for Exorcists
»Netherlands: Gay Marriage Not Popular

Financial Crisis

Greece: Trade Deficit Down 33.3% in January, ELSTAT

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 29 — Greece’s trade balance deficit posted a further decline of 33.3 percent n January this year, ANA reports quoting provisional figures released by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). The decline in the deficit was attributed to a continuing increase in the value of exports and a decline in the value of exports. According to a provisional report on the country’s commercial transactions, the deficit of the trade balance, excluding oil products, in January 2011 recorded a drop of 33.3%. More specifically, it decreased from 1859.1 million euros in January 2010 to 1240.5 million euros in January 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ireland Wants Bank Bondholders to Share the Pain

DUBLIN (Reuters) — Ireland’s government wants to impose losses on some senior bondholders in Irish lenders to reduce the burden on taxpayers from a prolonged banking crisis, a senior minister said on Sunday.

Dublin wants to impose losses on banks’ senior unsecured bonds not covered by a state guarantee, which currently amount to over 16 billion euros, as part of a new deal with the European Union, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“A sustainable and comprehensive solution for Irish banking that involves recapitalization but also involves an element of burden-sharing … That is certainly the outcome that the government is looking for,” Simon Coveney, minister for agriculture, told state broadcaster RTE.

Under an EU-IMF bailout agreed late last year Ireland can impose losses on banks’ junior debt, but the ECB is opposed to treating senior bondholders, which are ranked on a par with depositors, in the same fashion for fear of a contagion risk.

Ireland’s new government, elected in February, has said the state cannot afford the current EU-IMF bailout deal and European finance ministers will decide on what sort of concessions they can offer Dublin in coming weeks.

They are awaiting the results of fresh stress tests on Ireland’s banks, expected to show a capital hole of around 25 billion euros, on March 31 before deciding on any new deal.

Coveney said investors are already pricing in the possibility of a restructuring of senior bank debt given that it is trading at a discount in the secondary market.

“Markets are already ahead of us on this one. There is an acceptance that there is a possibility if not a likelihood that bondholders in Irish banks may have to share some of the pain,” he said…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Portugal: Standard & Poor Lower Bonds to Junk Level

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 29 — Today Standard & Poor’s (S&P) decided to further lower Portugal’s credit rating from BBB to BBB-, basically lowering Portuguese bonds to junk or speculation level. The outlook remains negative, so there may be further downgrading. S&P also downgraded Greece’s credit rating from BB+ to BB-, again with negative outlook. This is the second blow dealt to Portugal by the rating agency, which on March 25 had already downgraded the credit rating from A- to BBB.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Government to Nationalise Four Savings Banks

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 29 — ‘The government will nationalise four groups of savings banks’, newspaper El Mundo reports today. Yesterday the 12 financial institutes that do not comply to the new solvency requirements established by the regulator communicated their recapitalisation plans to the Bank of Spain. The central authority changed the injection of public funds from the bank restructuring fund (FROB) from maximum of 15.152 billion to a minimum of 6.353 billion euros. The three savings banks CatalunyaCaixa, NovaCaixa Galicia and Banco Base, according to sources quoted by the newspaper, have chosen to receive public capital; the fourth, Unimm, sees this as a secondary option.

FROB will buy shares of the savings banks that have asked for assistance. In any case, the sums for the recapitalisation of financial institutes are much lower than the variable sums, between 27 and 120 billion euros, that were indicated by risk assessment agencies or by international investment banks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Detroit Religious Leaders to Pastor Terry Jones: Stay Home

DETROIT (WJBK) — “Everything he’s doing here is a violation of the Gospel,” said Pastor Ed Rowe with Central United Methodist Church.

Metro Detroit religious leaders are standing in solidarity, sending letters and sending a message to the controversial pastor from Florida. They say stay home.

“We do not agree with Terry Jones. We do not agree with his philosophy, and we want to continue to keep this region as unified as we possibly can,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II with King Solomon Baptist Church.

“We need more progress than anything right now. What we don’t need is any incendiary acts that would push us back,” said the Rev. Maurice Rudds with Greater Mount Tabor Baptist Church.

“Too many barriers have already been tore down, and so we say today to all that might hear my voice, we love Muslims, we love Jews, we love all God-fearing people,” said the Rev. Charles Williams, Senior with King Solomon Baptist Church.

What they don’t love is the visit Pastor Terry Jones is planning — a protest outside the Islamic Center of America on April 22.

Jones is coming at the invitation of the Order of the Dragon, some newly-formed, obscure group of about five people from up north — hardly a ringing endorsement for Jones’ services.

“Shame on that militia group here in Michigan who was trying to import Mr. Jones, who’s a very controversial figure, to try to stir up trouble in their own state,” said Dawud Walid with CAIR Michigan.

Still, the Muslim community will welcome Jones if he comes in peace.

“If Pastor Jones is willing to come and dialogue and have a peaceful talk, we would be more than happy to host him,” said Imam Steve Elturk with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan.

Otherwise, stay home and allow metro Detroit’s varied faiths to continue to flourish.

“We need to stand together as communities of faith,” said the Rev. Bill Wylie Kellerman with St. Peter Episcopal Church.

The religious leaders say that they are not planning to counter protest. Instead, they’re planning a prayer service for April 22.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

‘Islamophobia’ Hearings Shaped by Radical Palestinian

Aide to Sen. Durbin organized anti-Israel rallies, tied to Hamas-front CAIR

A Palestinian activist tied to a Hamas front group helped shape the Senate hearing under way today to spotlight alleged “anti-Muslim bigotry” in America, WND has learned.

In fact, the radical activist is a top aide to the senator chairing the hearing, Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Durbin aide Reema B. Dodin — who’s in regular contact with the terror-tied Council on American-Islamic Relations — is a Palestinian-rights activist who organized anti-Israel rallies as a campus radical at the University of California at Berkeley.

Commenting on the 9/11 attacks as a leader of the radical Muslim Students Association — which was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members — Dodin explained away the suicide attacks as a tragic but inevitable response to U.S. support for Israel, which she says is “angering” Muslims the world over.

“No one wants to stop and think that these young men, in the prime of their lives, choose to do this to themselves. Why?” she asked in an interview with a campus magazine. “Because now you have three generations of Palestinians born under occupation.”

“Maybe if you start to look at Palestinians as human beings,” she added, “you will stop the suicide bombers.”

Dodin, 30, went on to justify violent jihad.


Terror expert Steve Emerson suggested Dodin, who he says sends out emails reflecting the Egypt-based “Muslim Brotherhood’s views in the U.S.,” is acting as an agent of influence for the Brotherhood’s operations inside America and should be fired from her congressional post.

“This is a woman who should not be working as a staff member,” he said in an interview yesterday with SecureFreedom radio in Washington.

“Certainly her activism on the staff while she’s working for Sen. Durbin is tolerated by him,” Emerson added. “And if it isn’t tolerated by him, she should be fired.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Terrorists Might be Among Us

They could be the people on the bus seat across the aisle, or the neighbors: members of East African groups that a recently released government memorandum says are “ready to die for the cause.”

The FBI and Homeland Security Department don’t know where they all are. And it’s unclear if they know how many arrived.

But in a rare admission, a Justice Department memo and other documents obtained by the San Antonio Express-News say federal authorities know terror suspects are in this country and know who allegedly helped bring them here through Mexico and Texas: a Somali man in custody near San Antonio.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Collapse of Detroit

De-industrialization, racism, stagnation — is the Motor City our future?

By Scott Martelle

Imagine for a moment that every single person living in the city of San Jose, plus another 150,000 or so, just up and left. Vanished. Poof. Gone. Leaving their homes, business buildings and factories behind.

That is, in effect, what has happened to the city of Detroit, according to 2010 U.S. Census data released this week. The city that boasted 1.8 million residents in 1950, and was the nation’s economic engine for most of the 20th century, now is home to 714,000 people, a population loss of some 1.1 million — with a 25% drop in the last decade alone.

It’s an unprecedented collapse of a major American city. It’s not as if the population was dropping nationwide; it’s going up. Just not in Detroit. It’s closest “outmigration” rival is Chicago, a five-hour drive to the west, which has lost about 964,000 people since 1950 but still holds about 2.7 million people, down 25% from its peak of 3.62 million in 1950.

In Detroit, the loss amounts to a staggering 60% of the city’s peak population. It is now smaller than Charlotte, N.C., and Fort Worth. More people have left Detroit than live in San Francisco; more people have left in the last decade than live in St. Petersburg, Fla.

There are all sorts of implications here, both for Detroit and for the nation. The 2010 census counts for Detroit (and Chicago) were much lower than local officials, and earlier census estimates, had predicted. That raises the question of whether there were problems with the count last year or in 2000, setting false benchmarks. Detroit officials say they plan to challenge the numbers, and Mayor David Bing announced he wants to find 40,000 Detroiters who were missed to try to push the count above the 750,000 mark, a key threshold for formulas used in distributing federal urban aid.

But there are two larger issues that have broader national implications. The first is, when we look at Detroit, are we confronted with the remnants of the nation’s industrial past or a harbinger of its urban future?

The second is, what are we going to do about it? And no, that’s not Detroit’s problem alone. If a similar collapse happened to San Francisco or San Diego or Denver or Dallas, there would be national cries for intervention. Detroit we treat like a crash on the freeway: something to gawk at, then forget while we blame auto executives — the driver — for their follies and ignore the injured passengers.

Detroit has played a significant role in my life. I worked there for a decade, nearly a third of my career as a journalist. My two sons were born there. I endured 18 months on a picket line during the newspaper strike that began in July 1995. And I keep getting drawn back. I was there most recently in January for three weeks researching a book I’m writing on the history of Detroit, trying to explain to outsiders how it got to be in the mess it’s in.

The collapse of Detroit has roots in intentional de-industrialization by the Big Three automakers, which in the 1950s began aggressively spider-webbing operations across the nation to produce cars closer to regional markets, and to reduce labor costs by investing in less labor-friendly places than union-heavy Detroit. Their flight was augmented by government policies that, in the 1970s and 1980s particularly, forced municipalities and states to compete with each other for jobs by offering corporate tax breaks and other inducements to keep or draw business investments, a bit of whipsawing that helped companies profit at the expense of communities.

Racism plays a significant role too. Detroit’s white flight exploded in the 1950s and ‘60s, after courts struck down local and federal policies that had allowed segregated housing. That was followed by middle-class flight on the part of blacks and whites as crime endemic to high-poverty, high-unemployment neighborhoods began spreading. It’s significant to note that Detroit’s inner-ring suburbs have been picking up African American populations as young Detroit families seek safety, stability and more reliable schools. As they run out of the city, its vast socioeconomic problems become even more distilled, more pronounced.

Detroit stands as the reverse image of what we think a modern American city should be. Where most have a few “bad” neighborhoods, Detroit has a few “good” neighborhoods, and they are eroding quickly with the middle-class exodus. Working-age Detroiters face chronic unemployment in a dying industrial economy. The city has been buffeted by generations of racial friction and let down by governmental institutions that have failed at basic tasks, from education to crime prevention.

One in three Detroiters, triple the national rate, lived below the federal poverty line in 2007 — before the economic crisis and auto industry bankruptcies and bailouts — making Detroit the poorest of the nation’s big cities. Detroit’s per capita 2009 income was estimated at $15,310, compared with a national rate of $27,041 (Los Angeles’ was $27,070). And that was when the population was estimated to be more than 900,000 people.

To tweak the adage about how it takes a village to raise a child, it will take a nation to save a city. So, as a nation, and as a mature society, what are we going to do about Detroit?

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

The Oath of Office: The Check on Usurpations by Congress, The Executive Branch, & Federal Judges

The Truth is that a President, the States, local governments, and individual citizens, together with the courts, all have the Right & Duty to overrule — to spurn & cast out — unconstitutional laws made by Congress. For it is a fundamental [though long suppressed] Principle of our Founding that an unconstitutional “law” is no “law” at all — it is a “mere usurpation, and deserves to be treated as such”.

Our Framers placed “Oaths of Office” in the Constitution. When honored, these Oaths function as “checks” on the powers of the federal government and protect us from usurpations. Each Branch of the federal government has “the check of the Oath” on the other two branches.

The States, whose officials also take the Oath of Office, have the same check on all three branches of the federal government.

And WE THE PEOPLE, the “original fountain of all legitimate authority” (Federalist No. 22, last para), have the Right to overrule violations of the Constitution by elected & appointed officials.

WE THE PEOPLE forgot our Founding Principles. Conservative lawyers, politicians, judges, “intellectuals”, and radio & TV pundits don’t know them. The lawyers uncritically accepted what they were told in law school, and the non-lawyers accept what other people say. No one learns The Constitution — no one thinks independently — like Dufflepuds, they chant the prevailing dogma. As a result, our Country spirals downward at an ever quickening pace.

But if you read on, you will learn seven of our Founding Principles:


3. When is a “Law” Not a Law?

When it’s a usurpation! I.e., when Congress makes any “law” which the Constitution does not authorize it to make. Our Framers understood that civil governments seek to expand their powers; but when our federal government does so, its acts are VOID. In Federalist No. 33 (last para), Hamilton says a law made by Congress which is not authorized by the Constitution,

…would not be the supreme law of the land, but a usurpation of power not granted by the Constitution… [boldface mine]

In Federalist No. 78 (10th para), he says:

…every act of a delegated authority, contrary to … the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act … contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm … that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid. [emphasis mine]

Do you see? If Congress makes a law which is not authorized by the Constitution, then it is no “law” at all. It is a “mere usurpation” — it is “void” and “not valid”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wafa Educates Bill on the “Rape Factor” In Islam

Last night for a few brief shining television moments (captured here), Wafa Sultan, courageous author of the indispensable jeremiad “A God Who Hates,” strove gamely to educate Bill O’Reilly—often seemingly impenetrable by facts regarding Sharia—about how Islamic Law, patterned on the “perfect example” of Islam’s prophet Muhammad, sanctions rape.

The news “hook” for Wafa’s unfortunately rare appearance was the recent alleged rape of a Libyan woman, Iman Al-Obeidi by Qadaffi’s minions.

As a working physician in her native Syria, Wafa noted that she was familiar with “many such crimes” committed with the sanction of Sharia—Islamic Law…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

We Are All Badgers Now

Public sector unions support big-government Democrats (and a few like-minded Republicans). The unions get their money to support these politicians from — in most cases — compulsory dues. This means that a pro-Second Amendment member of a government sector union has no say when his dues are used to support anti-gun politicians.

These politicians, in turn, make sure that compulsory public sector unionism flourishes so they can continue to rake in millions of dollars into their campaign coffers. So the incestuous relationship continues.

But you and I as taxpayers get taken to the cleaners in the process. States will be looking for bailouts to fund their government sector (underfunded) pensions for their workers. Why are they underfunded? Because the politicians that depend on them for their campaign slush funds would never think of asking them to pay for their own pensions. Not even close.

In Wisconsin the government union members have only had to pay about one third of what their fellow citizens in the private sector pay for their pension funding. The money left over for the government unions is then available for financing socialist politicians who keep this whole Ponzi scheme going.

But in Wisconsin, it is worse still. The state teachers union (WEAC) has a health insurance plan that provides the same benefits as private sector plans that cost only 80 percent of WEAC’s plan. Where does the extra 20 percent skim go? Why, to fund big government politicians, of course, not to pensions or health benefits.

And it is not just the teachers union that produces the 20 percent skim. All government sector unions in Wisconsin have stipulated that WEAC be the sole supplier of health insurance for their members.

That’s why the battle to stop this extortion in Wisconsin was so important. Their new law now prevents public sector employees from being forced to pay union dues, which is exactly what Indiana did six years ago. When Governor Mitch Daniels eliminated their extortion requirement by Executive Order, membership in government sector unions fell 90 percent over six years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Student Files ‘Hostile Environment’ Complaint Against York

(JTA) — A York University student filed a complaint with Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal alleging that the university tolerated an environment hostile to Jews.

Sammy Katz claims that he and other students were subjected to physical and verbal abuse at a pro-Israel event on the university’s Toronto campus in February 2010.

York subsequently released video of the event suggesting that the pro- and anti-Israel students at the fracas were evenly matched and there was little or no physical confrontation.

In the complaint, released March 24 by Katz’s lawyers, the student claims he was subsequently vindicated in his claims and that York had “spun its own inaccurate version of the episode.”

Canadian universities in recent years have seen a flurry of tensions between pro- and anti-Israel groups.

A year ago, York expelled a student who allegedly advocated genocide against the Jews. Last week, McGill University in Montreal launched an investigation of a student who allegedly tweeted a threat to shoot participants at a pro-Israel event.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Annual Euro-Pact Summits Will See Refuseniks Asked to Leave the Room

Every year in the spring, governments that have signed on to the ‘euro-plus pact’ will hold a summit to take stock of its implementation, give management to new European economic governance and to deliver the ‘peer pressure’ needed to bring into line those countries that have not achieved the correct amount of ambition.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Confusion Reigns Over MEP Cash-for-Amendments Probe

The European Parliament is continuing to deny EU anti-fraud investigators access to its buildings, while the office of a fourth MEP implicated in the ongoing cash-for-amendments scandal remained open on Monday (28 March). As different authorities fight over who should lead the corruption probe, alarm has grown that incriminating data needed for a conviction could be destroyed amidst the confusion.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Plans to Ban All Petrol and Diesel Cars From Cities to Force Drivers to Go ‘Green’

The vast majority of British motorists will be outlaws in their own land under controversial new EU plans to ban petrol and diesel powered cars from cities.

But critics said the latest Brussels blueprint to force people into ‘green’ cars, slash dependence on oil and tackle climate change, was bamboozling drivers and taking the European Union into “the realms of fantasy”.

The European Commission says its plan to drive out ‘conventionally fuelled’ petrol and diesel cars within 40 years and replace them with ‘clean’ alternatives such as electric or hydrogen powered vehicles is necessary to save the planet.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

France: Socialists and National Front Winners in Local Elections

The French Socialist Party and the far-right National Front have come out the clear winners in the second round of France’s local elections, exposing weaknesses in Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party. A French pollster explains the implications.

France’s opposition Socialist Party (PS) has scored a clear victory in local “cantonal” elections, winning 49.9% of the vote.

The second-round elections, to choose departmental councils (France has 101 departments), saw French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP come out with 35.9%.

In third place, the far-right National Front (FN) took home 11%. The FN’s score is significant as it only had candidates in a minority of departments, and in some of those it scooped more than one third of the vote.

Eric Bonnet, chief analyst at French pollster BVA, explains the implications of a result which will worry Sarkozy ahead of next year’s presidential and legislative elections.

FRANCE 24: Recent polls put the FN’s Marine Le Pen (pictured) ahead of Sarkozy in the first round of a presidential election. This time FN got 11% (against 35.9% for the UMP). Did the FN do well of badly in this latest vote?

Eric Bonnet: It’s important to remember that this was a second round vote and the FN was not represented in all departments. But where they were represented, they got up to 40% of the vote. This is very significant.

Compared with the previous cantonal elections, the FN has gained by about 8%, while the ruling UMP has lost by about the same amount. The FN has very clearly come out in a much stronger position.

There are three reasons for this.

Firstly, people are concerned about the economy. And the more voters are unhappy about the economic situation, the more likely they are to want to punish the politicians. Voters often see that the most effective way of doing this is to choose a party which outside the established political order, hence voting for the FN.

Secondly, many French right wingers are disappointed with Sarkozy’s performance in office. These voters are unlikely to vote PS, so they either abstain or vote FN.

Thirdly, the FN is starting to be recognised as a normal, viable political party. It seems a lot less less frightening prospect to many voters. Much of this is could be down to Sarkozy implementing right wing policies [such as banning the “burqa” in public places and clamping down on illegal Gypsy camps] in an attempt to attract voters away from the FN. Doing this has made these very policies seem less extreme.

Add to this the fact that the FN has a new leader in Marine Le Pen, who is projecting a much softer image of her party than her father Jean-Marie ever did. People who may otherwise have baulked at voting FN often now don’t think it’s such a bad or dangerous thing to do.

FRANCE 24: French political parties are often punished in local elections. How badly has Sarkozy and his UMP party been bashed?

EB: Punishment votes like this do happen regularly in French regional elections — but the sanction against Sarkozy in this vote has been particularly strong. BVA has been polling and analysing French elections for 30 years and we have never seen anything like it.

It does not mean that Sarkozy cannot rebound. If he is able to reduce unemployment, if he can make a success of the G20 leadership and if everything turns out well in Libya for example, he could still win.

It’s important to put this into the context of the weakness of the main opposition PS, who are divided and don’t yet have a presidential candidate.

FRANCE 24: You say the Socialists are weak. Why is this, considering their success in these latest regional elections?

EB: The Socialists came out very well in these elections, but it is does not mean that they will be successful in next year’s presidential elections. From 2002 to 2007 they were equally strong locally, but they lost to Sarkozy in 2007.

In terms of the PS’s presidential prospects, there are two major areas of weakness…

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

Globalist Bid to Ban Cars is Part of “Planned-opolis” Agenda

The controversy generated by the European Commission’s announcement that it intends to ban all cars from city centers by 2050 only scratches the surface of the true tyranny that the globalists have in store for us as part of their “planned-opolis” agenda, which represents a chilling hybrid of communist and fascist control measures that will completely subjugate the population and eviscerate all traces of freedom, mobility and independence.

“Cars will be banned from London and all other cities across Europe under a draconian EU masterplan to cut CO2 emissions by 60 per cent over the next 40 years,” reports the London Telegraph.

Reaction to the proposal was furious, with the Association of British Drivers labeling the plan “crazy,” warning it would plunge Europe into a “new dark age”. BDA spokesman Hugh Bladon suggested its architect, Siim Kallas — Vice-President of the European Commission, should go and find himself “a space in the local mental asylum”.

UK Transport Minister Norman Baker was also forced to address the controversy, saying the EU should not be meddling in individual cities’ transport policies.

“We will not be banning cars from city centres anymore than we will be having rectangular bananas,” he said.

However, the fact that the globalists plan to ban cars as part of their effort to destroy the living standards of westerners under the contrived pretext of halting global warming is not even the half of it.

As we highlighted in January, funded by monolithic corporations and large banks, including the likes of Bank of America, Time Warner and Royal Dutch Shell, the Forum for the Future NGO released a video bragging of how the elite not only plan to ban private car ownership for all but the most wealthy, they also seek to imprison malcontents who don’t conform to the new eco-fascist system within squalid ghettos while those who do submit have every aspect of the lives controlled by super computers and a nanny state on steroids.

After we published two articles exposing the group’s hideous agenda, the Forum for the Future organization pulled the video from You Tube, presumably wary that one of the slaves had caught on (“we’ve got one that can see!”), but a mirror version was later re-uploaded by a concerned reader.

Watch the clip below.

[Return to headlines]

Greece: Night of Guerrilla Against Dump in Keratea

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 29 — Another night of tensions and incidents between police and inhabitants in Keratea, a working-class neighbourhood in the south-east of Athens. The inhabitants are opposing the creation of a large rubbish tip in the area. The incidents started when a group of residents set fire to a bulldozer which was trying to clear the road to Lavorio from the barricades that had been put up by local residents in an attempt to block traffic. Keratea, together with Grammatiko’, both near Athens, have been selected to host waste tips that should serve the capital and the whole Attica region after several waste disposal crises in the past. The citizens of Keratea are against the construction of the new large rubbish tip. They claim that normal procedures have not been followed, and that the dump would be constructed near an archaeological site. The government is pushing for a rapid execution of the projects, also to secure the provided European funds. After a judge temporarily halted works until a verdict was reached, the Greek State Council decided on January 10 to give green light to the construction of the Keratea dump. Today the newspaper To Vima writes that the Greek police are studying a plan to deal with the “Keratea crisis”, considered by many to be one of the most serious problems the authorities were faced with in the past years. According to the newspaper, police sources say that the violence will increase and that a “painful” attack by some illegal armed organisation on the police or on machinery in the area where the rubbish tip is planned to be built cannot be ruled out.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt ‘Set to Ban Talk Shows Ahead of Local Elections’

Move would repeat last year’s ‘censorship’ of ‘hostile’ hosts

(ANSA) — Rome, March 28 — The government is shaping to ban political talk shows on state broadcaster RAI ahead of local elections in May, political sources said Monday.

If applied, the amendment to broadcasting rules for the elections would be a re-run of a controversial move ahead of a regional vote in March last year.

The government says the ban is needed to comply with equal-time norms mandated by media watchdog Agcom and enacted by RAI’s own parliamentary watchdog. The centre-left opposition, TV journalists and campaigners for freedom of information have signalled they will try to fight the order, as they did in vain last year, saying the government aims to muzzle allegedly hostile shows. The RAI watchdog’s political make-up reflects the parliamentary balance of power held by Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, his key ally, the regionalist Northern League, and a new self-styled ‘Responsible’ group of migrants from other parties.

Italian newspapers have suggested Berlusconi, whose approval ratings have sagged because of judicial woes lately, is keen to avoid coverage of his four trials — especially one getting under way April 6 in which he is accused of using an underaged prostitute.

On May 15-16 Italy will see the first round of voting in 11 provinces and 1,311 municipalities.

Major towns will include Milan, Naples, Turin, Bologna, Trieste, Ravenna, Cagliari, Rimini, Salerno, Latina, Novara, Arezzo, Barletta and Catanzaro; the provinces are Reggio Calabria, Ravenna, Trieste, Gorizia, Mantua, Pavia, Macerata, Campobasso, Vercelli, Lucca and Treviso; while the government of the southern region of Molise is also up for renewal. Referendums on a return to nuclear power, water privatisation and a now-lifted judicial shield for Berlusconi were expected to be held on the same dates, but instead were scheduled for June 12. RAI President Paolo Garimberti, a left-leaning journalist, and watchdog chair Sergio Zavoli, one of Italy’s most respected liberal journalists, have indicated they will again come out against the mooted ban. Last year’s ban deprived RAI viewers of top-rating current affairs shows in the run-up to the March 28-29 vote in 13 of Italy’s 20 regions.

Opponents of the ban argued it also damaged RAI economically, in favour of the Berlusconi-owned TV network Mediaset, its main competitor.

RAI Director-General Mauro Masi rejected this contention, saying the corporation wasn’t “losing a euro because advertisers are making it up in other spots at other times”.

The small La 7 and satellite channel Sky, Italy’s other TV players, continued their political talk shows last year but Berlusconi’s three channels, which dominate the private TV market, did not.

Last year’s ban was particularly contentious as it came in the wake of allegations that Berlusconi in 2009 tried to exert pressure on Agcom and RAI to have shows with a perceived leftwing bias reined in or pulled.

Berlusconi is under investigation in the southern city of Trani on suspicion of possible abuse of office along with Agcom member Giancarlo Innocenzi and Carlo Ferri, a member of Italy’s self-governing body, the Supreme Council of Magistrates, who was allegedly asked for a legal opinion on shutting down shows.

Also under investigation, on suspicion of telling Berlusconi about the probe, is the head of RAI’s flagship news programme TG1, Augusto Minzolini, who has drawn fire over a series of allegedly pro-government ‘editorials’ and alleged censorship of anti-government news.

After the ban, the left-leaning talk-show host who was allegedly Berlusconi’s prime target, Michele Santoro, fronted an online show, also covered by Sky and a RAI satellite news channel, about freedom of information on March 25 from a theatre in Bologna.

Santoro, who was blacklisted for four years after Berlusconi accused him of making “criminal use of the airwaves” during the 2001 general election, received a record number of hits for the event, which was widely reported in the print media.

Berlusconi has made angry late-night phone calls to Santoro and to the host of another show set to be banned, Giovanni Floris. The premier has consistently denied trying to censor political coverage and debate.

The media mogul-turned politician last year claimed that judicial cases against him were whipped up “like clockwork” at election time and “blown up by obliging dailies”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fake Earthquake Victims on TV Show Spark Anger

Poser credits Berlusconi with L’Aquila rebound

(ANSA) — Milan, March 28 — The TV appearance of a woman who praised Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi while posing as a divorcee and earthquake victim from Abruzzo has sparked fury in L’Aquila. An overweight brunette with heavy eye make-up thanked Berlusconi during a broadcast of courtroom reality show Forum, on Mediaset’s flagship Channel 5, for his effective reconstruction of the Abruzzo capital.

An earthquake registering 6.3 on the Richter scale shook L’Aquila in April 2009, killing 308, wounding 1,600, and leaving 65,000 homeless. The woman was pretending to be an aggrieved ex-wife seeking higher alimony from her former husband on the show that simulates family court, in an episode that aired Friday.

The woman said, “all commercial activities have reopened” in L’Aquila, and the city is “under full reconstruction and is returning to how it was before”. She also claimed, “Only 300-400 people remain (homeless).

They are in hotels because they find it convenient. They eat and drink and don’t pay anything. Even I want to go there”.

The woman claimed to have lost her wedding-boutique business in the earthquake and to be seeking help from her ex-husband to start over again. The dispute was revealed to be staged, and the couple non- existent, however.

Internet social networks were abuzz with the indignation of L’Aquila residents over the weekend.

L’Aquila’s Social Policy Councillor Stefania Pezzopane denounced the transmission Monday, saying, “Two years from the earthquake, State television — given that it is part of the prime minister’s property — allows itself to transmit a spot against L’Aquila through a devastating representation of a tragedy.” Mediaset’s Channel 5 is not a state channel, as it is commercial and privately owned, unlike the public RAI network. Mediaset, however, is majority-owned by Berlusconi.

“The protagonists were not from L’Aquila and their story never existed,” Pezzopane continued. “It is above all unacceptable that, beginning from an untrue story, they wanted to make a ‘spot’ that falsifies the situation of the population. “There is only one way to pay back L’Aquila (residents).

“(Host) Rita Dalla Chiesa should come to L’Aquila and see how the people live in those houses and hotels, and see also how people are dying, how they get sick and how they resist despite everything”, Pezzopane continued.

Forum has been fronted by Rita Dalla Chiesa almost continuously since 1988.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ruby Among 132 Witnesses Called by Prosecutors

PM trial on ‘underage prostitute, abuse of power’ starts April 6

(ANSA) — Milan, March 29 — Prosecutors in an upcoming trial of Premier Silvio Berlusconi for the alleged use of an underage prostitute called Ruby on Tuesday presented a list of 132 witnesses they mean to call, including her and 32 alleged adult prostitutes who attended purported sex parties.

Among the other witnesses are three persons who are set to be indicted for procuring prostitutes in a separate trial: Berlusconi’s former dental hygienist, ex-showgirl and now Lombardy regional councillor Nicole Minetti; Emilio Fede, a veteran news anchor at one of Berlusconi’s TV channels and a close personal friend of the premier’s; and a showbiz talent scout and self-styled ‘VIP impresario’, Lele Mora.

Also cited as witnesses were police officers and ex-Milan police chief Vincenzo Indolfi in connection with the second charge against Berlusconi, allegedly abusing his position to get Ruby released from custody after she was arrested on an unrelated allegation of theft on the night of May 27-28 last year.

Use of an underage prostitute carries a maximum jail term of three years while abuse of office spells a term of up to 12 years. Also on the prosecutors’ list were the Moroccan parents of Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug but who is widely known by her stage name of Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby Heartstealer).

The defence was set to present its own list which is also expected to include the 32 young women, as well as Ruby and several prominent people who attended Berlusconi’s parties. The trial, which opens on Wednesday April 6, centres on the prosecutors’ contention that Berlusconi had sex with Ruby 13 times.

Berlusconi, 74, and Ruby, now 18, have both denied having sex and she says thousands of euros received from him were gifts.

The prime minister has ridiculed the idea of him having sex with 33 young women in three months and has said he has a girlfriend who would have “scratched his eyes out” if he had behaved as prosecutors claim. Berlusconi says the Ruby trial and three other ongoing bribery and fraud trials are evidence of a plot to bring him down.

The premier has vowed to defend himself by attending trials on one day a week, Monday.

On Monday he went to a preliminary hearing in one of the fraud trials after denouncing prosecutors’ alleged attempt to “eliminate” him.

The case first came to light when the premier phoned a Milan police station after Ruby was detained on the theft allegation in May and enquired about the then 17-year-old, saying she was, as she had told him, the niece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

He has said he did so to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Ruby was eventually released into the custody of Minetti. She was supposed to stay with the Lombardy councillor or go to a juvenile shelter but instead was handed over to a Brazilian prostitute, prosecutors say.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Due to Face 132 Prosecution Witnesses in Milan Sex Trial

Milan, 29 March (AKI) — Prosecutors will present 132 witnesses for the Milan trial in which Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is accused of paying to have sex with a minor and then trying to cover it up.

Moroccan Karima El Mahroug, a belly-dancer commonly known by her stage name “Ruby the Heart Stealer” who denies having sex with the billionaire premier, will take the witness stand for both prosecution and defence.

Also on the witness list deposited by prosecutors to the court on Sunday are 32 women of legal age who prosecutors say attended sex-filled parties hosted by Berlusconi at his sprawling estate in Arcore, a suburb of Milan.

The legal age of consent is 14 years old in Italy where it is not illegal to pay for sex. But the transaction becomes a crime when the person paid is under 18 years old.

Berlusconi ‘s trial is due to kick off on 6 April. Milan prosecutors say he paid El Mahroug for sex when she was a minor and abused his powers of office to pressure police to release her from custody on unrelated theft charges to conceal their relationship. Prosecutors says she was 17 when Berlusconi paid her to have sex. Berlusconi denies any wrongdoing and says he is being persecuted by left wing magistrates.

El Mahroug says she is not a prostitute.

If convicted of the two crimes, Berlusconi, 74, could be sentenced to up to 15 years in jail.

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

Memorial Madness: Poles Invoke Chuck Norris to Defy Kaczynski Remembrance

Some Poles are tired of never-ending gestures of remembrance for Lech Kaczynski, the president who died in a plane crash last year. Protesters suspect his brother Jaroslaw is exploiting the tragedy for political gain, and have started to mock his monthly wreath-laying by simultaneously celebrating the birthdays of US action movie stars.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden Replies to EU Wolf Hunt Reprimand

Sweden’s environment minister has responded to European Commission criticism for allowing a recent cull of the country’s wolf population, saying that the hunt was needed to boost acceptance of the animal.

In January, the European Commission decided to open a formal infringement procedure action against Sweden for allowing the hunt of a protected species.

It could lead to a case before the European Court of Justice, which can impose hefty fines on EU states that violate the union’s rules.

“The aim of the government’s wolf policy is for wolves to achieve the favourable conservation status that they currently lack,” Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said.

“This requires strong and controversial measures, and the different aspects of wolf policy cannot be considered in isolation, as the Commission tends to do,” he added.

The Swedish parliament decided in 2009 to keep wolf numbers at 210 animals, spread out in 20 packs, with 20 new pups per year.

Sweden argues that the hunt, which was reopened last year after a 46-year hiatus, is a way of strengthening the gene pool of its largely inbred wolf population, insisting that it will import wolves from Finland and Russia to replace the killed animals.

The hunt also enjoys support in rural Sweden, where the small wolf stock has grown over the past three decades and sheep and reindeer have increasingly come under attack.

Carlgren said Monday: “The wolf policy must enjoy support from those affected and be decided on in Sweden.”

Many environmental groups in Sweden have urged a halt to the hunt.

The Swedish division of environmental group WWF said: “The government’s answer is vague and does not answer the European Commission’s tough questions.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Euro Court Rulings ARE the Law, Says Our Top Judge

Rulings by the European human rights court are the law of the land in Britain, England’s most senior judge declared yesterday.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said that the Human Rights Act meant British judges must follow the decisions set down in Strasbourg, ‘no more and no less’.

His intervention came at a time of high tension between Westminster and the court in Strasbourg over the right of prisoners to vote.

Last month MPs voted overwhelmingly to reject the demand by European human rights judges that prisoners should have the vote, insisting that it is a matter for Parliament.

But Lord Judge’s opinion will pile pressure on David Cameron to find a compromise.

Lord Judge said in a lecture in Jerusalem yesterday that people were free to attack human rights law in print.

But he said judges have no choice but to follow the instructions of European courts because Labour’s 1998 Human Rights Act made European human rights rules part of British law.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Heroin Dealers to Escape Jail: New Sentencing Proposals Mean Pushers Would Go Free

Drug dealers could in future escape jail even if they sell up to £2,000 worth of heroin.

New guidelines would allow courts to give community penalties to those playing a ‘subordinate’ role in a criminal gang.

The ‘lower level’ offenders — such as drug runners — could keep their liberty even if arrested over the sale of up to 50 grams of heroin or cocaine or up to 100 tablets of ecstasy.

Under the Sentencing Council’s proposals, these quantities would be seen as small. However, 50g is enough for 1,000 hits of heroin or 1,000 lines of cocaine.

Critics of the plans say the wrong message is being sent to criminals.

‘Anyone involved in the drug trade should face a custodial sentence and they should know they face a custodial sentence,’ said Tory MP James Clappison.

‘The idea you can supply 99 people with ecstasy and be described in any way as a minor participant is boggling. Nobody is going to put their hands up in court and say “I’m Mr Big”.’

Jail sentences will be reduced for dealers who say they are sorry or otherwise show remorse, the guidelines suggest.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Was This Boy the Torso in the Thames? Five-Year-Old ‘Victim of Voodoo Ritual’ Named by Former Suspect


This is the little boy whose headless and limbless body was found floating in the Thames ten years ago, it was claimed last night.

The five-year-old’s identity has remained a mystery after he was smuggled into Britain and murdered in a voodoo-style ritual killing.

He was drugged with a ‘black-magic’ potion and sacrificed before being thrown into the Thames, where his torso washed up next to the Globe Theatre in September 2001.


Detailed analysis of a substance in the boy’s stomach was identified as a ‘black magic’ potion.

Sinister: Extracts of carabar bean would have left the child paralysed but conscious when his throat was cut

It included tiny clay pellets containing small particles of pure gold, an indication that Adam was the victim of a Muti ritual killing.

Muti murders, common in sub-Saharan Africa, are carried out in the belief that the body parts of children are sacred. Bodies are often disposed of in flowing water.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UNHCR: Serbia Main Source of Asylum-Seekers in 2010

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 29 — Serbia, including Kosovo, became the main country of origin of asylum-seekers in industrialized countries, according to the 2010 statistical overview of asylum applications lodged in Europe and selected non-European countries, released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Serbia was responsible for 28,900 applications, an increase of 54% compared to the previous year (18,800 claims), when the country ranked sixth.

“Interestingly, the number of asylum applications in 2010 was comparable to 2001, soon after the Kosovo crisis”, the report said. The last time Serbia was at the top of the list was in 2005 when close to 25,000 Serb citizens sought asylum. This increase is widely attributed to the European Union’s introduction as of December 2009 of visa-free entry for holders of Serbian passports, the report points out.

“The share of asylum-seekers from Serbia in the total number of asylum claims has remained stable (4% to 5%) between 2006 and 2009. However, in 2010, asylum-seekers from Serbia constituted 8% of all asylum applications lodged in the 44 industrialized countries”, it said.

About four-fifths of the countries reporting monthly asylum statistics to UNHCR distinguish applicants originating from Kosovo in their data. The available evidence shows that in these countries, on average, 45% of applicants from Serbia come from Kosovo. This compares to roughly 74% the year earlier, report said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Uprisings: EU: Rapid Progress Needed for Med Partnership

The summit of EU heads of state and government called for progress to be made in the development of a new partnership with Southern Mediterranean neighbours, according to the conclusion of the summit in Brussels, which outlined the relevant guidelines. “Work should be carried out quickly,” explained the concluding document, “in order to develop a new partnership with the region,” based on greater economic integration, greater access to the market and closer political cooperation, with a varied approach based on the performance of the different countries, starting with the respect for democracy and human rights.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: Final Rush: Rebels Fill Petrol Tanks

(ANSAmed) — BEN JAWAD (LIBYA), MARCH 28 — “My friends have planted the flag of a free Libya in Sirte. Tomorrow I will be there too,” says Mohammad with conviction, as he attempts to fill the tank of his car, which is loaded with weapons and supplies. He is queuing along with hundreds of other fighters from the “revolution army”, at the service station in the refinery of Ras Lanuf, 200 kilometres away from Gaddafi’s home town, and from the reality, which is that Sirte, birthplace of the Libyan leader, is still firmly in the hands of the regime.

Last night, and again this morning, the city was shaken by violent explosions, but in the almost deserted streets, there seems to be no sign of the rebels and even less of their black-red-and-green flags from the pre-Gaddafi era, according to a number of sources on the ground. After a rapid advance, the rebel push was halted in the last few hours around a hundred kilometres on from Ben Jawad, where there was a surreal atmosphere this morning. Amid the echo of faraway explosions, a few dozen volunteers are “guarding” the post, which is battered by a hot wind full of sand. They are awaiting “the order to advance”, as Kemal, an apparently well-informed boy from Benghazi, says excitedly. In his words, they are determined to “advance until the end”.

“We are fighting around fifty kilometres from Sirte. Gaddafi’s soldiers have heavy weaponry and are controlling the entry points to the city,” he said. “But few of them are left. All of the inhabitants there are on our side, they are just waiting for the chance to join us. I manage to talk to them with a satellite phone”. “Now is not our time,” he says, “we have to wait. Here we only have light weapons. But we are ready for the second and decisive attack”. His words are drowned out by the arrival of a jeep carrying the “mess”.

The box is loaded with cases of water, biscuits and a large saucepan full of soup that looks to be made of beans. Some people surround the jeep, in an attempt to take some of the food. But many remain prostrate facing Mecca. It is time for midday prayers and, these days, few people seem to want to neglect them. The provisions arriving in Ben Jawad also include cans and even bottles full of petrol. The last petrol station for hundreds of kilometres is in Ras Lanuf. The front line is 120 kilometres further up the road, inside Libya’s most important refinery, where rebels are rammed into disorderly queues that sometimes result in brawls breaking out, though these are calmed by a machine-gun bursts fired into the air, close to large cisterns and fuel deposits.

The coalition air strikes have paved the way for rebels to advance towards the west of the country, but they have not yet resolved their logistical problems. These problems are becoming increasingly complicated as their advance continues. Their communication lines are “disintegrating”, as previously occurred in mid-March, when their push stopped at Ras Lanuf, before their retreat to Benghazi began. Now the tide has again turned, but the logistical problems remain the same.

The towns that they have taken, from Ajdabiya towards the West, are mainly deserted, without electricity and water. Ras Lanuf, the last town of significant importance, is practically a ghost town. There are only a few journalists inside a looted hotel. Most of the “revolutionaries” have gone on past Ben Jawad, or have returned to Benghazi, 370 kilometres further back, to stock up on weapons and food supplies. The few people who have stayed put are also preparing to advance. “First Sirte, then Misurata and Tripoli,” says Walid, who is little more than a child and claims to be part of the “security service” in a devastated hotel. “I want to go to Gaddafi’s house and take him in person,” he adds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Hometown Readies for Battle as Obama Defends Move

Tripoli, 29 March (AKI/Bloomberg) — Libyan government troops dug in with tanks to block the advancing rebels at Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown, as president Barack Obama defended his decision to involve US forces in the war.

Military intervention “stopped Gaddafi’s deadly advance” and helped prevent a massacre of civilians that would have “stained the conscience of the world,” Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington late Monday.

The rebels’ drive toward Sirte extends their offensive along Libya’s coast, where over the weekend they recaptured the oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanuf, helped by the US-led aerial bombardment of government positions. Rebel forces yesterday were less than 125 kilometers from the city, a Gaddafi stronghold, and their military leader Abdel Fattah Younes predicted “we will take it.”

That may set the stage for an escalation in the fighting, already the most violent yet seen in more than two months of popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. Libya’s opposition estimates that as many as 12,000 people have died. Foreign ministers from more than 30 countries were due to meet in London Tuesday to coordinate support for a post-Qaddafi Libya.

Obama said that as of tomorrow, Nato will be taking over military control of the Libya mission from the US — an action that comes amid spreading unrest throughout the Middle East, with deadly clashes between protesters and regime supporters in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Jordan, following the ouster of oppressive regimes by popular movements in Egypt and Tunisia.

Western political leaders are also calling on Gaddafi to depart. In his speech, Obama said there was “no question that Libya — and the world — would be better off with Gaddafi out of power,” while adding that “broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” UK prime minister David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy said in a joint statement yesterday that Gaddafi should quit now.

Dialogue Offer

In Tripoli, deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said at a televised news conference that the Gaddafi government is ready to receive international cease-fire monitors and to begin a national dialogue on political change — an offer rebels have rejected in the past because it doesn’t involve Gaddafi giving up power first.

Kaim said Libya accepts United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for an immediate cease-fire and end of attacks on civilians, respect for human rights, unimpeded humanitarian aid and a political solution that meets the “legitimate demands of the Libyan people.”

Libyan rebels won’t offer Gaddafi any guarantees that may allow him to depart Libya, and want him to stand trial, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, a spokesman for the rebels’ interim council, said Monday.

‘Fighting or Fleeing’

As the rebels gain territory, “the issue of what happens if and when the rebels reach Tripoli is beginning to loom large, with Gaddafi appearing to have few options beyond fighting or fleeing,” David Hartwell, an analyst in London with IHS Global Insight, wrote in a research note.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Syria deployed tanks around Daraa, where the shooting of protesters last week sparked nationwide unrest, according to Al Arabiya television. President Bashar Al-Assad’s government denied reports that its security forces fired on demonstrators.

Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh described his country as a “time bomb” that could disintegrate into civil war, the state run Seba news agency reported yesterday. The shooting of dozens of demonstrators last week prompted a wave of resignations by generals, ministers and lawmakers who joined the opposition.

In Egypt, the army council that has been in charge of the country since the fall of Hosni Mubarak last month announced yesterday that parliamentary elections will be held in September. The council will remain in power until a presidential election, which hasn’t yet been scheduled.

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

Libya: Thousands Demonstrate to Reopen Trapani Airport

(AGI) Trapani — At the cry “Tripoli is not at war, reopen Birgi civilian airport” inhabitants demonstrated starting from Marsala. The protest was organized by a spontaneously created provincial committee made up by tourism industry operators and airport staff. There are also politicians, local administrators, Chamber of Commerce representatives and shop and business owners (Confcommercio) all protesting to ask to reopen the civilian airport, Vincenzo Florio, closed on March 21 to enable operations of the 37th Wing of the Italian air force.

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

Libya: African Union Out of London Summit

(AGI) London — The African Union has unexpectedly pulled out of the Contact Group for Libya summit in London. The list of participants sent out by the Foreign Office does not, in fact, include any representatives from the pan-African group. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Edmeleddin Ihsanoglu, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Head of EU Diplomacy, Catherine Ashton, the UN Special Envoy to Libya, Abdelilah Mohamed Al Khatib, and the Arab League Ambassador, Hesham Youssef, but not its Secretary General, Amr Moussa.

Representatives from 36 countries will also be present: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, USA.

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

Libya: Spain Backs Frattini, Gaddafi Exile Possible

(AGI) London — Spain backs Franco Frattini in his conviction that the solution to the Libyan crisis lies in exile for Gaddafi. The Spanish Foreign Minister, Trinidad Jimenez, said in an interview with the El Pais newspaper that from a legal point of view, the exile of the Libyan leader remained a possibility because “there is no formal accusation or arrest warrant out against Gaddafi. Therefore, legally-speaking (the exile option) would still be possible.” .

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

Libya: US Forces Attack Patrol Boat and 2 Other Boats

(AGI) Rome — American forces attacked three Libyan government boats, including a patrol boat firing on civilians in Misurata.

The US 6th Fleet reported the attack. Following last night’s attack, the motor patrol boat Vittoria surrendered, while one of the smaller boats was destroyed and the other abandoned.

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

Libya: Gaddafi: ‘Stop Barbaric Offence, You Are Like Hitler’

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, MARCH 29 — End the “barbaric offensive” in Libya that is similar to “Hitler’s offence in Europe”: this is the message sent by Muammar Gaddafi to the contact group that will meet today in London.

“Stop your barbaric and unjust offensive against Libya”, the Libyan leader claims in his message that was published by State news agency JANA.

“Leave Libya in the hands of the Libyans, you are slaughtering a peaceful people and destroying a developing country”, the colonel added.

“Let the African Union manage the crisis, Libya will accept any decision the Union will take”, Muammar Gaddafi continued. Around 40 countries are expected in London today for the first meeting of the ‘contact group’ on Libya. This group has the task of “directing the international operation”, commanded by the NATO, on a political level, and to prepare for the “period after Gaddafi”. The summit is expected to start at 3 pm and to continue for three hours. A press conference has been scheduled after the meeting.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Force Does Not Bring Democracy, Serbian Ambassador

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 29 — “The Western powers should have exhausted all diplomatic avenues before deciding to intervene with force in Libya. Bombs do not bring democracy,” said the Serbian Ambassador to Italy, Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, regarding military operations in Libya recently transferred to NATO command, which began 12 years after the NATO mission against Serbia under the rule of Milosevic. “It certainly wasn’t NATO’s bombs that brought democracy to Serbia,” said the diplomat. Rather, that use of force at the time only reinforced Slobodan Milosevic’s power.” Those air strikes, said Raskovic-Ivic, “delayed the fall by at least a year”. Democracy in Serbia, she continued, “arrived when the time was right”. The time will be right for the people in the Arab world too. “Whosoever,” she underlined, “says that Islam is incompatible with democracy is wrong. Rather, the two are strongly related.” History, she said, “will show us that what inspired countries like France are pure economic interests, not their conscience”. Proof of this,” she concluded, “is the fact that the French authorities continue to refuse entry to Tunisia immigrants at the border between Ventimiglia and Menton”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya is Another Case of Selective Vigilantism by the West

Bombing Tripoli while shoring up other despots in the Arab world shows the UN-backed strikes to oust Gaddafi are purely cynical

Tariq Ali

The US-Nato intervention in Libya, with United Nations security council cover, is part of an orchestrated response to show support for the movement against one dictator in particular and by so doing to bring the Arab rebellions to an end by asserting western control, confiscating their impetus and spontaneity and trying to restore the status quo ante.

It is absurd to think that the reasons for bombing Tripoli or for the turkey shoot outside Benghazi are designed to protect civilians. This particular argument is designed to win support from the citizens of Euro-America and part of the Arab world. “Look at us,” say Obama/Clinton and the EU satraps, “we’re doing good. We’re on the side of the people.” The sheer cynicism is breathtaking. We’re expected to believe that the leaders with bloody hands in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are defending the people in Libya. The debased British and French media are capable of swallowing anything, but the fact that decent liberals still fall for this rubbish is depressing. Civil society is easily moved by some images and Gaddafi’s brutality in sending his air force to bomb his people was the pretext that Washington utilised to bomb another Arab capital. Meanwhile, Obama’s allies in the Arab world were hard at work promoting democracy.

The Saudis entered Bahrain where the population is being tyrannised and large-scale arrests are taking place. Not much of this is being reported on al-Jazeera. I wonder why? The station seems to have been curbed somewhat and brought into line with the politics of its funders.

All this with active US support. The despot in Yemen, loathed by a majority of his people continues to kill them every day. Not even an arms embargo, let alone a “no-fly zone” has been imposed on him. Libya is yet another case of selective vigilantism by the US and its attack dogs in the west.

They can rely on the French as well. Sarkozy was desperate to do something. Unable to save his friend Ben Ali in Tunisia, he’s decided to help get rid of Gaddafi. The British always oblige and in this case, having shored up the Libyan regime for the last two decades, they’re making sure they’re on the right side so as not to miss out on the division of the spoils. What might they get?

The divisions on this entire operation within the American politico-military elite have meant there is no clear goal. Obama and his European satraps talk of regime change. The generals resist and say that isn’t part of their picture. The US state department is busy preparing a new government composed of English-speaking Libyan collaborators. We will now never know how long Gaddafi’s crumbling and weakened army would have held together in the face of strong opposition. The reason he lost support within his armed forces was precisely because he ordered them to shoot their own people. Now he speaks of imperialism’s desire to topple him and take the oil and even many who despise him can see that it’s true. A new Karzai is on the way.

The frontiers of the squalid protectorate that the west is going to create are being decided in Washington. Even those Libyans who, out of desperation, are backing Nato’s bomber jets, might — like their Iraqi equivalents — regret their choice.

All this might trigger a third phase at some stage: a growing nationalist anger that spills over into Saudi Arabia and here, have no doubt, Washington will do everything necessary to keep the Saudi royal family in power. Lose Saudi Arabia and they will lose the Gulf states. The assault on Libya, greatly helped by Gaddafi’s imbecility on every front, was designed to wrest the initiative back from the streets by appearing as the defenders of civil rights. The Bahrainis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Saudi Arabians, Yemenis will not be convinced, and even in Euro-America more are opposed to this latest adventure than support it. The struggles are by no means over.

Obama talks of a merciless Gaddafi, but the west’s own mercy never drops like gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It only blesses the power that dispenses, the mightiest of the mightiest.

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

Libya Strikes Showcase French Warplane

Many commentators believe the Libya air strikes are a pre-election advert for President Nicolas Sarkozy. Some believe they are also an advert for France’s badly-selling Rafale jet fighter.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Libya: Fuel and Food Running Out in Tripoli

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 29 — Fuel and food have been running out in Tripoli over the last few days. This is according to the website of the pan-Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera, which says that dozens of motorists have begun queuing in petrol stations, despite the fact that Libya is one of the world’s most oil-rich countries.

The site reports that fuel is beginning to run out even in the few service stations still operating. One petrol station’s electronic board had the words “no fuel today, only God knows when it will return”.

As well as fuel, residents of Tripoli have begun to feel the effects of a lack of food, with prices increasing by 50%. The food crisis has also reached bakeries, where long queues are forming.

The electricity cut in western areas of the capital is also aggravating the situation for Tripoli’s inhabitants. A number of Egyptians working in the agricultural sector have left the country, causing a dearth of fruit and vegetables.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Zimbabwe to Nicaragua, Place of Exile for Gaddafi

(ANSA) — ROMA, MARCH 28 — Isolated by the West, not by the whole world. Where will Muammar Gaddafi go in exile? Today many in the London Conference, such as USA, Great Britain, Spain and Italy, are hoping for the colonel to exit the scene in an agreed manner, even if the idea is little liked by the rais and even less by the Libyan Provisional National Council.

Gaddafi still has many ‘friends’ around the world, in Africa and even in South and Central America there are various leaders that supported the Colonel’s battle and harshly criticised the military intervention in Libya. Thousands of kilometres to the south, Zimbabwe. Led by controversial president Robert Mugabe, is allegedly ready to welcome the rais. Libya’s historical ally, Mugabe would be prepared to thus repay the economic support provided by the Colonel to the former British Rhodesia. Then again, the African head of State, “persona non grata” in both USA and Europe, condemned the attack on Libya and defined the Western States as ‘vampires’, only interested in Libya’s oil. Similar critiques were also provided by the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, an old ally of the Colonel who supported his coup d’état in 1986. Over the years the relation has worsened, even though Uganda, along with South Africa, Mali, Mauritania and Congo, is part of the committee of the African Union that was meant to mediate between loyalists and rebels but was anticipated by the western raids. The other potential African ‘destinations’ are Chad and Sudan, from where, according to some, many of the mercenaries hired by the rais for the counter-revolution come from. On the other side of the ocean Sandinista Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, has been on Gaddafi’s side since the 1980s and in recent days, according to a report by ‘Time’ magazine, he claimed to be “in phone contact” with the Libyan leader and that he “offered the solidarity of the Nicaraguan people”. More discrete is the position of his Venezuelan friend Hugo Chavez, who has already denied offering exile to one of his sons, as claimed in recent weeks by a local governor. But the stance of the pro-Bolivar leader on the attack on Libya is clear. USA and Europe “took the decision of ousting Gaddafi, to take advantage of the popular uprisings to annihilate and even kill him, and to gain control of the oil over a sea of blood”, as stated by Chavez on March 20. Just outside Europe there is another of Gaddafi’s historical allies, Alexandr Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, a recent target of EU imposed sanctions. And it is in the former soviet republic that only two years ago Khamis, the son of the rais in command of the 32nd brigade, carried out military training.

Sub-Sahara Africa, the Caribbean and Belarus, these are the potential escape routes for the leader of the Great Jamahiriya that is increasingly encircled by the West.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libyan Woman Sued by Men She Alleges Raped Her, Official Says

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

A Libyan lawyer who claimed she was raped by troops loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi is being sued by the four men under investigation, Libya’s main government spokesman said Tuesday.

Moussa Ibrahim told NBC News that the men were filing a defamation case against Iman al-Obeidi, who made headlines when she went to a Tripoli hotel used by Western journalists to tell them about the alleged attack.

She was bundled away by government minders despite efforts by journalists to protect her.


Ibrahim said the four men had been arrested in connection with the allegations.

“I heard that the attorney-general brought her in for questioning because she is now not just the accuser, she is the accused. There is a case against her,” Ibrahim told journalists earlier, Sky News reported.

He claimed al-Obeidi had “not come up with anything substantial.”

“She says four people kidnapped and raped her, one of them is the son of someone in the state. That is hardly political, the son of someone in the state is a human being,” Ibrahim said, according to Sky.

“Now the four guys are having a case filed against her because instead of going to a police station and filing a case against them she went to the media and exposed their names,” he added. “Now their honor is tainted, their families black-named and this in the Islamic law is a very grave offense.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

London: Weapons Until Gaddafi Obliges, Clinton

(ANSAmed) — LONDON, MARCH 29 — Military action in Libya will continue until the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, obliges with the UN resolution. This is according to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who has been speaking at the London conference.

The international community must increase the pressure on Gaddafi and widen his isolation, Clinton said, until political and diplomatic pressure convinces Gaddafi that he must leave office.

The meeting of the Contact Group on Libya has brought Foreign Ministers from 37 countries to London, as well as the foreign representatives of 4 international organisations (EU, Arab League, UN and NATO, though the African Union is not present).

There is a lot of focus on the post-Gaddafi era and the drafting of a shared strategy for a political solution that might “bring about conditions in which the Libyan people can choose their future, backed by the international community”, the Foreign Office says, underlining the fundamental importance of humanitarian aid and reasserting the aims of the UN resolution as the protection of Libyan civilians.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslims in Egypt Demand Release of Alleged Convert to Islam

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Hundreds of Muslims staged a protest in front of the State Council this morning, during the hearing of the case filed by a number of Muslim clerics with the administrative judiciary court, contesting the validity of the detention of Camelia Shehata and Wafaa Constantine in the churches of Pope Shenouda III.

After a three-months pause Muslims resumed their demonstrations today against the Egyptian Coptic Church, demanding the release of Camelia Shehata, a the priest’s wife, and “her sisters in faith,” whom they allege converted to Islam and are imprisoned by the Church and tortured to give up Islam (AINA 9-18-2010).

Pope Shenouda III told Al Ahram newspaper at the beginning of this crisis in August 2010 that Camelia is a Christian and no one has the right to know her whereabouts or ask where she is. Camelia later appeared on a video taken by the independent newspaper ElYoum7 and confirmed she is a Christian, never converted to Islam, and is staying of her free will in a place belonging to the church (video of Camelia with English subtitles).

Demonstrators held photos of Camelia and chanted slogans demanding her release, saying she was being held in one of the monasteries after she converted to Islam. They also distributed a statement entitled “from Camelia Shehata to Muslims,” urging Muslims to defend her and set her free.

A number of Muslim leaders announced during their sit-in today the establishment of the “Coalition for the Support New Muslims”, a coalition between several Muslims and Muslim Brotherhood leaders, in addition to the Islamic Group.

Representatives of the coalition distributed a statement that their goals were to set free new Muslims, held captives within the Church, which they claim total nearly 70 women and men. Included in this list are Wafaa Constantine, Mary Abdullah Zaki, Camelia Shehata, Marianne Makram, Teresa Ibrahim, Abeer Ibrahim and Elia Nabil Ayad.

They also demanded to hold accountable anyone involved in the kidnapping, detention or torture of any Muslim convert, and to provide legal protection and human rights for anyone who wants to convert to Islam.

Today’s demonstration was covered by the media due to the propaganda that preceded the event. Muslims announced on the web that any woman seen without Hijab or not covering her head on Tuesday March, 29, would be killed, which frightened many Christian women. This prompted the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization (EUHRO) to file a complaint against the Muslims with the office of the Head of the Military Council, accusing them of terrorizing Christian women (video of demonstration).

Dr. Mohamad Moneer Megahed, head of the organization “Egyptians Against Discrimination” condemned this threat and called on Coptic women to go out in the streets in defiance.

The Media heavily criticized this threat both on TV and in newspapers, with Amr Adib, a prominent show master on Orbit Channel calling it “political suicide” on the part of the Muslims. Yesterday evening the Muslims denying making this threat, although it was published on their Facebook page and was distributed in the streets.

Islamic thinker Dr. Salim Al-Awa said yesterday on the popular TV program “90 Minutes” that Camellia Shehata is not a Muslim, never converted to Islam and is still a Christian. Al-Awa said: “I said on more than one TV channel that the issue of Camellia is a personal issue with her husband.”

Dr. Hossam elBokhary, Coordinator of the Coalition told the independent newspaper ElYoum7 that the goal of the coalition is managing the crisis of those women who are detained by the Church, because of its seriousness saying, “We must block the way for any act of chaos which exploits the issue of Camelia as happened in the events of the bombing of the Church in Iraq and the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria.

In an interview with Coptic activist Mariam Ragy of Free Christian Voice, a Muslim demonstrator said that the reason for this protest was the follow-up of the Camelia case “according to the law”. He said that Muslims have nothing against the Christians, but with those who are forcibly confining any Christian female who converts to Islam to revert her back by force to Christianity. “We have proof which we will put in front of Court” he said.

Another demonstrator introduced himself as doctor Mohamad and said “The matter is simple, we want Pope Shenouda to bring Camelia out in a non-biased place, if she is not a Muslim he can take her back.” He said that they have a rule in Sharia Law that says that as long as there is a Muslim “captive,” then all Muslim have a duty to save that person. “All demonstrators believe that Camelia is a captive.” He said that the matter would end as soon as Camelia comes out in a non-biased place and say that she is not under any pressure, and then whatever she says, the matter will be closed.

Dr. Georget Kellini, former member of the People’s Assembly and the semi-governmental Egyptian Human Rights Organization proposed as a solution for the Camelia crisis, that Al-Azhar Grand Imam and Pope Shenouda III agree on the formation of a reliable tripartite committee to includes a member of Al-Azhar, an independent member that has the support and trust and a member of the media. This committee to meet with Wafaa Constantine and Camelia Shehata separately and without interference, listen to them and write down everything. This information would be presented to the public and as such their exact position will become clear to all and whether any one of them is subjected to any pressure, or is kept against her free will. Kellini added that no one had the right to compel a person to appear before the media against their wish.

Muslims have organized since the outbreak of the “Camelia Episode” seventeen demonstrations demanding the return of Camelia and threatening the Pope and the Church. The last of these demonstrations was held in Alexandria, just a few hours before the bombing of the “Two Saints” Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve 2010, in which they threatened to turn matters for the church into “Blood in Blood.”

The return of Camelia from the prisons of the Coptic Church was also the reason Al-Qaida gave for the massacre 58 Assyrians at “Our Lady of Deliverance” Church in Baghdad on October 31, 2010.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

The Vatican Joins in the Babel of Libya. With Silence

A silence that is passive acceptance of the air raids against Gaddafi. Decided on for “humanitarian” reasons? The bishop of Tripoli doesn’t believe it: “This war resolves nothing”

ROME, March 24, 2011 — Just when Paris is hosting the solemn opening of the “court of the gentiles” conceived by Pope Benedict for a peaceful global dialogue between men of faith and men far from God, also from Paris and from French president Nicolas Sarkozy — as from other Western capitals in a loose coalition — has come the most disastrous political and military Babel ever seen in this century, on an international scale.

A Babel that is being unleashed upon Libya. Which is split between Gaddafi and the rebels. But under attack by states that are in turn divided by interests and rivalries. Devoid of unified command. Devoid of common objectives and a minimum of overall perspective.

A Babel whose developments are all turning out for the worst. Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, a professor at the Catholic University of Milan and one of the most insightful experts on international politics, on Tuesday, March 22 filled an entire page of “Avvenire,” the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, with analysis of all the possible outcomes of the Libyan adventure. Among the “thousand unknowns” examined, not even one of them is reassuring.

But in this Babelic confusion there is one more element. The silence of the authorities of the Catholic Church.

A silence that contrasts with the thundering judgments that the same Church authorities, at the various levels, issue every time weapons are taken up between states and within states. Every time a massacre is committed.

Of course, in order to protect those who remain exposed to fresh aggression, the Church makes wide recourse to the virtue of prudence. Political realism is not foreign to it. Its faithful are present on all the continents, and in some places face deadly dangers.

But although it is cautious, the Church’s judgment is usually clear. Not equivocal. And yet not dogmatic. John Paul II did everything he could to oppose the second Gulf War, in Iraq, but he never condemned theologically and morally those Catholics who maintained that it was just.

This time, instead, all judgment is silenced.

At the Angelus on Sunday, March 20, Benedict XVI invoked protection and assistance for the defenseless citizens, and prayed that “a horizon of peace and harmony may rise as soon as possible over Libya and over the entire north African region.” But he did not express any position on the war, not even a veiled one.

Because this — a “no comment” on the military actions undertaken in Libya by some Western governments — seems to be the stance adopted by the Vatican secretariat of state. “L’Osservatore Romano,” which as an institution expresses this stance, ran the full-page headline, while the missile and aerial attacks were still in full swing: “A horizon of peace for Libya.” Right under this was a photo of the pope with a dove, and a reference to his prayer and humanitarian appeal.

“Humanitarian interference” is the only reason to which the authorities of the Church have appealed in recent decades to justify armed intervention in a particular country.

John Paul II invoked it in defense of Bosnia, and then of Kosovo, when the Western powers were reluctant to intervene. And he made it known — unheeded — that he would also have wanted it for Rwanda, when it was on the brink of genocide.

Similarly, Benedict XVI has assigned to states and to the international community the “responsibility to protect” peoples from aggression, in the speech he gave in New York, at the United Nations, on April 18, 2008.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian episcopal conference, reiterated the same principle when he said, a few days later: “The Gospel points out to us the duty of intervening to save those who are in difficulty.”

But can this principle be applied to the case of Libya? To hear the most authoritative of the Catholic witnesses on the ground, the apostolic vicar of Tripoli, Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, no. “It is not bombs that can bring us peace,” he said in a March 22 interview on Vatican Radio.

And in an interview the next day in “Il Foglio,” Bishop Martinelli expressed in even more drastic words his complete opposition to the Western air raids: “Those who say that the military intervention in Libya is for humanitarian ends make me laugh.”

In effect, rather than the extermination of an unarmed and innocent population by the Gaddafi regime, what is taking place in Libya turns out to be a real and proper civil war, with the rebels also armed. A civil war that the military intervention of a few Western states seems far from resolving fruitfully…

English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

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

US NATO Commander Says “Traces of Al-Qaeda” In Libyan Opposition

U.S. NATO Commander says intelligence shows that traces of Al Qaeda are known to be involved with the Libyan opposition.

Adm. James Stavridis says that intelligence has shown “flickers” of potential Al Qaeda in opposition groups but that there is still no detailed picture of rebel groups.

Yeah, we know.

The Islamists announced it themselves in the Telegraph. Late last week we found out that the rebels we are assisting in Libya were linked to Al-Qaeda.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Stakelbeck Exclusive: Israeli Vice PM Moshe Yaalon Sits Down With CBN News

I recently sat down with Israel’s Vice Prime Minister, Moshe Yaalon, for a wide ranging interview on the latest events in Israel and the greater Middle East.

Some highlights from my chat with MInister Yaalon, who is the second-highest ranking member of the Israeli government:

  • Yaalon said that the Israeli government believes that “behind the scenes,” Iran is involved in the recent rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, and that Iran has given the green light to its terrorist proxies like Hamas to intensify attacks against Israel.
  • On Iran’s ultimate goal: “[Israel is] only the minor Satan. America is the great Satan. What is America? It is the West, led by the United States. Their aim is to wipe Israel off the face of the map on their way to defeating America.”
  • On the radical Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt: “I can’t speak about moderate Muslim Brotherhood elements. No way.”
  • On the international push, led by the Palestinian Authority, to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state: “ To force such a move on Israel will be a disaster not just for the state of Israel, but for the West as well.”
  • On how anti-Semitic incitement in the Palestinian Authority’s media and educational systems helped lead to the killing of five members of an Israeli family by Palestinian terrorists earlier this month. “If this young generation is educated to deny any linkage between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, and you don’t have the right to have a Jewish state, this is the outcome…and so they are responsible for this attack as well. They can’t deny responsibility.”

To watch more, click here.

And to see my entire 30 minute interview with Minister Yaalon, check out the April 5th epsiode of the Stakelbeck on Terror show.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bomb Explodes at Lebanese Church, No Injuries

Device consisting of two kilos of TNT goes off at side entrance of St. Mary’s Church in Zahle. MP: Incident aimed at sowing unrest

A bomb exploded overnight at the entrance of a church in the eastern Lebanese city of Zahle, causing no injuries, a church official said Sunday.

The bomb, which consisted of about two kilograms (4.4 pounds) of TNT, was placed at the side entrance of St. Mary’s Church, a Syriac Orthodox church, Monsignor Youstinios Boulos Safar told AFP.

The device went off at 4:15 am (0115 GMT), blowing out a side door of the church and damaging benches inside as well as the altar, Safar said.

Seven cars parked nearby were also damaged. No one claimed responsibility.

“I denounce this type of attack and urge people to remain calm,” said Safar, who hails from neighboring Syria and is bishop of Zahle, a mainly Christian town about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the capital Beirut.

He said he planned to hold Sunday mass at the church despite the attack.

The church is located in the industrial part of Zahle, where seven Estonians were kidnapped earlier this week by armed men. Officials have launched a large manhunt but have so far been unable to locate the missing men.

Joseph Maalouf, an MP from Zahle, said Sunday’s incident as well as the kidnappings were clearly aimed at sowing unrest in the region.

“This is part of efforts to undermine civil peace and security, especially as Lebanon has been without a government for more than two months,” Maalouf told AFP.

“Security forces must quickly stop these kinds of attacks and reveal any information they have on these incidents,” he added.

Lebanon has been without a government since January, when the powerful Shiite militant group Hezbollah toppled premier Saad Hariri over his refusal to cut ties with a UN court probing the 2005 assassination of his father Rafiq Hariri.

Billionaire businessman Najib Mikati was appointed with the blessing of Hezbollah to form a new government but he has yet to do so amid wrangling for cabinet posts among the various political parties.

[Return to headlines]

Food and Syria’s Failure

By Spengler

“In the south it all started after a group of school students started to write some sort of proclamations and complaints, protesting against growing food prices,” Middle East analyst Vladimir Ahmedov told The Voice of Russia March 24.

Arab-language Syrian press reports and blog posts indicate that the administration of President Basher al-Assad tried to prevent a rise in food prices, but provoked instead a wave of hoarding that has pushed the price of staples like oil and rice “above the purchasing power of consumers”, as the online daily al-Tashreen reported from Damascus March 27.

As I wrote in Food and failed Arab states (Asia Times Online February 2, 2011), the newly prosperous consumers of Asia have priced food grains out of the reach of the destitute Arab poor. This is a tsunami which no government in the region can resist. Of all the prospectively failed states in the region, Syria seemed the least vulnerable, with a determined and vicious regime prepared to inflict unspeakable brutality on its opponents, and its inability to contain unrest is a frightening gauge of the magnitude of the shock.

The Arab bazaar speculates in foodstuffs as aggressively as hedge funds, and the Syrian government’s attempt last month to keep food prices down prompted local merchants to hoard commodities with a long shelf life. Fruit and vegetable prices, by contrast, remain low, because the bazaar does not hoard perishables. The fact that prices rose after the government announced high-profile measures to prevent such a rise exposed the fecklessness of the Assad regime.

In response to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, President Assad reduced taxes on oil and sugar, and cut import tariffs on basic foodstuffs. This action had unintended consequences. A blogger on the Syrian website reports, “I spent fifteen days on formalities to reduce customs duties on some basic food items, but I have not seen a glimmer of hope on the horizon. This was supposed to reduce the prices of the targeted goods. On the contrary, a liter of oil that sold for 65 Syrian pounds [US$1.38] now sells for 85 pounds.” That’s an increase of 30% over the month. Other bloggers report that the prices of basic foodstuffs have risen by 25% to 30%.

What happened is seen frequently in Third World command economies: local importers bribe customs officials to control the flow of goods, and then hoard them. “The only beneficiaries of the price-reduction decrees,” the blogger concluded, “are the traders.”

What are essentially dictatorships like Syria rule through corruption. It is not an incidental fact of life, but the primary means of maintaining loyalty to the regime. Under normal circumstances such regimes can last indefinitely. Under severe external stress, the web of corrupt power relations decays into a scramble for individual advantage. The doubling of world food prices over the past year has overwhelmed the Assad family’s ability to manage through the usual mechanisms. The Syrians sense the weakness of the regime, which rests on the narrow base of the Alawi religious minority…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Not Dark Yet in Daraa, Heart of the Syrian Uprising

In the town where Syria’s popular revolt began a week ago, and where dozens or more were reportedly shot dead by government troops, there is no sign protesters are ready to surrender.

The capital, Damascus, may be staunchly behind Syrian President Bashar Assad, as his supporters show by staging demonstrations and driving their flag-draped cars every night. But here in Daraa, the small town where it all began, challenging the established power is no longer taboo, though as dangerous as ever.

“Let everybody know in Italy, in the rest of the world: Tell them that we only want freedom,” says 32-year-old Ziad, sipping tea in his family’s restaurant in downtown Daraa. “We’ve been silent for 41 years.”

The capital of the rural Hawran region, Daraa lies just 10 miles from the Jordanian border and about a 30-minute drive from the Golan Heights. Its rolling landscape is dotted with flocks of sheep, olive trees and peasants laboring away, red keffiyehs on their heads to protect them from the sun.

“I’ve spent all my life under Assad,” says Abdullah, 54, a father of eight and owner of a small bazaar along the shara Hanunu, the road the rebels want to rename shara Mhamoud Jawabra in memory of the first protester killed by police.

“Like everyone else, I’ve waited for something to change, but time has just flown away,” he says. “Then with the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, our kids mustered up the courage and then it got to us old people, too.”

“Here in Daraa 250 people have been killed in a week,” he adds, though precise death counts have not been confirmed. “But we are past our fear now — and there’s no going back.”

The atmosphere in Daraa is thick with tension. The Internet and cell phones do not work, reporters have been moved away and cameras forbidden, but as one gets into town using the local bus there are no checkpoints. Yet soldiers are present, spotted behind the windows of the SUVs, sporting pro-Assad stickers, that they drive around the dusty and deserted boulevards at the town’s entrance.

“They don’t really hang out in the center of town, they come and go. This morning they fired shots again,” says Samar, as he pulled down the shutters of his bakery and quickly collected the bread left on the outside counter. “The revolution is coming.”

Within a minute, the road fills up with protesters — quickly swelling from dozens to some 500 — shouting “Hurryia!” (“Freedom!”). There are young men and not-so young men, adolescents and only two young women, unlike in Tunis or Cairo where female protesters were common. Nobody has weapons and only a few speak a bit of English. They are proud of it, because they say it disproves the government’s claim of a foreign influence over their protest.

“When we attacked the palace of justice, it was because we got shot at. They started shooting at us right away, since the first demonstration,” said Ahmad, a taxi driver. Nearby, an Assad poster saying “I believe in Syria” has been ripped, a mild first gesture prior to the toppling of the statue featuring his father, the late president Hafez al Assad.

Economic demands

This is where Syria’s rage exploded, amid these Soviet-like buildings with none of the refined elegance of Damascus’ architecture. Here, veiled women are busy hanging out clothes for drying, including their husbands’ jallabias, the traditional long tunics that you rarely see men wear in the capital…

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

Oman: Army Disperses Sohar Rebel Sit-in, Arrests Made

(AGI) Mascate — Security forces have dispersed a small sit-in by demonstrators who had gathered for over a month in Sohar.

The industrial city in the north of Oman had previously been the epicentre of protests in the sultanate. The operation was launched at dawn and, according to State agency ONA, soldiers have arrested an unknown number of people, accused of road-blocking and aggressive behaviour towards the security forces.

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

Syria: Religious Summit Against Sectarian Violence

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN MARCH 28 — Sunni and Alawi religious leaders have held meetings in Latakia, Syria, aimed at curbing the outbreak of violence in the country, says opposition leader, Aref Dalila.

And it was in Latakia, yesterday, that President Bashar Al-Assad deployed the army for the first time since the outbreak of protests in the city. The main port area of the city was today described as a “ghost town”, following a weekend of violence.

“The situation appears calm today,” Dalila said, “following interventions from civil and religious figures. I have been informed that the buses are running and that normal activity has restarted in Latakia’s university district”.

Syria’s ruling class is dominated by elements of the Alawi minority, which is one of the many Shiite Islamic sects, creating resentment among the country’s Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of the population.

“In these circumstances,” Dalila explained, “it is easy to play the sectarian card. I hope that the regime will choose to come out of this crisis, sparing Syria further massacres”.

Speaking of the atmosphere in Latakia today, a resident remarked: “the city is calm today, but the shops remain closed and many employees have not gone to work, and most of the schools are shut as well”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Thousands Demonstrating for “Loyalty to Nation”

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 29 — On the day of “Loyalty to the nation”, thousands of people are moving to Damascus on a large square in the eastern part of the city in support of President Bashar al Assad, after his regime, in charge for almost half a century now, was rocked for two weeks by unprecedented protests.

According to Syrian State television, thousands of people are gathering in Omayyadi Square, the location of the high monument in concrete and coloured glass dedicated to the Arab dynasty with the same name. The square also houses the national library, the Opera house and the building of State television.

The Syrian State-controlled media report that schools and universities in the entire country are closed today to allow “student movements” and “families” to express “their support to the nation and the President”. All public servants are free today as well to guarantee a broader “popular participation” in what has been named the “Day of loyalty to the nation”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Three Americans Arrested in Damascus

(AGI) Washington — Three US citizens were arrested in Damascus recently and are still held in custody. US State Department Mark Toner reported so. They were not granted consular assistance.

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

Turkey’s Photo of the Year: Bleeding IDF Soldier

Picture of bleeding Navy commando assaulted aboard Marmara wins Turkish photojournalism award; news website uses difficult image to create puzzle for readers

Photojournalism award, Turkish-style: The picture of a bleeding IDF soldier aboard the Marmara won Turkey’s 2010 Photo of the Year Award in the News category; the contest was held by the Turkish photojournalism association.

Nine people were killed onboard the Gaza-bound Turkish ship after IDF troops who raided it encountered violent resistance by “peace activists” armed with an assortment of weapons.

One of Turkey’s largest websites, Milliyet, used the difficult image to create a puzzle for its readers.

The photograph shows a beaten up IDF soldier with his face and head bloodied while three Marmara passengers grab him and twisting his arm. The picture was shot by a Turkish photographer who hid copies in a hidden pocket and managed to smuggle them out of Israel.

Turkish media outlets did not blur the blood stains or the Israeli soldier’s face…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Uprisings: Iran’s Balancing Act Between Gaddafi & Assad

(ANSAmed) — TEHERAN — An Islamic, anti-Western “revolution” along the lines of the one in Teheran in 1979: this is the gloss that Iran continues to give in official reporting of the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, with the exception, however, of Syria, an historic ally of the Islamic Republic in the region.

It is a line that would appear to be forcing the Iranian government into a certain amount of ambiguity such as when, while launching an attack Gaddafi, it came down against the West’s military intervention, or while remaining silent over the protests against the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al Assad. There is also an internal contradiction with the repression of the opposition demonstrations in Iran, after they attempted last month to return to the streets in order to express support for the uprisings taking place in Arab countries.

Into this scenario come the growing tensions with the Gulf Arab states, which are accusing Iran of fomenting popular revolts among the Shiite-majority population of Bahrain.

“The oppressive governments,”Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said in reference to the Western intervention in Libya, “are bombing innocent civilians and destroying the infrastructure of other countries in order to dominate them”.

In the meantime, however, through its ‘National Council for Human Rights’, Teheran is condemning what it calls “the brutal and inhuman actions of the Libyan government against its own people” and state television is triumphantly announcing that “the countdown for the fall of the dictator,” i.e. Muammar Gaddafi, has started.

While Iranian television is giving constant coverage of what it is calling “revolutions” in the region, it limits itself to a few brief mentions of the protests in Syria, sticking to the official version coming out of Damascus and stressing that what is happening there is being “generated from abroad”. This comes as no surprise when one considers the vital importance of the ties between Iran and the Syrian regime, which have united in an anti-Israeli axis lending support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

But even closer to Iran geographically is the crisis in Bahrain, an island off the southern coast of the Gulf which is host to the US navy’s fifth fleet and where the population is 70 per cent Shiite. The Arab monarchs of the Gulf, Sunnis, are more or less openly accusing the Islamic Republic, a Shiite stronghold in the region, of supporting the opposition there and the crisis has already seen the reciprocal expulsion of two diplomats by Bahrain and by Iran. For its part, Teheran has strongly condemned the intervention of the troops of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to which Saudi Arabia, Iran’s great rival in the region, belongs.

This is “a tragic event,”the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Larijani, said, adding that the intervention of Arab soldiers “will make the situation in the region more complex and the crisis difficult to resolve”.

Qatar, which has good relations with Iran, has cooled tempers a little, denying reports on an online Kuwaiti newspaper, Al Aan, that the Qatari authorities had seized two Iranian ships loaded with weapons off their coast close to Bahrain.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Water Crisis Floats Syrian Unrest

By Victor Kotsev

TEL AVIV — A month after Vogue magazine called Syria’s first lady Asma Assad “a rose in the desert” in a puff piece that portrayed the Assads as obsessively concerned with both family democracy and the “active citizenship” of Syrian youth, [1] the Syrian regime was busy shooting active citizens. The danger to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule is arguably smaller than that in Egypt or Libya — not least because the United States, represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, promised solemnly not to interfere.

Yet, the wave of uprisings in the Arab world clearly did not bypass “the safest country in the Middle East” (to borrow another expression from the Vogue story). The mixture of reasons is roughly the same as elsewhere (poverty and political oppression), but there is a peculiar twist that bodes much worse to come in the long run — Syria faces an unprecedented water crisis, compounded by poor agricultural infrastructure and management. There is a twist also to the geopolitical ramifications of what is happening — if it develops much further, the unrest could theoretically destabilize the entire region in a more profound way than any other regional crisis.

Amnesty International claims that at least 55 demonstrators were killed in the city of Daraa through Friday (other reports claim more than 60) , and refers to “unconfirmed reports” of 37 deaths throughout the country over the weekend. Available information is patchy and it is likely that more deaths will come to light.

Meanwhile, Assad sent in the army to another city that has witnessed protests — Latakia — and announced plans for seemingly broad reforms such as lifting a four-decade emergency rule and political liberalization. The protesters rejected the announcement, and the president, who has so far remained silent during the crisis, is expected to deliver an “important” address any time now.

The regime has attempted to blame the United States and Israel for organizing the unrest, but this argument is unlikely to persuade anybody except Assad’s ardent supporters. It is hard to avoid the fact that the region of Daraa, where the current round of protests started, is one of the poorest in Syria. According to a recent Jerusalem Post report, “The city is home to thousands of displaced people from eastern Syria, where up to a million people have left their homes because of a water crisis over the past six years.”

Indeed, several analysts have picked up on the economic roots of the crisis. Shortly before the unrest, American-based Syrian dissident Farid Ghadry offered a unique perspective that drew parallels to the situation in Egypt and simultaneously challenged Vogue’s depiction of the work of Syria’s first lady: The coming Syrian revolution will be led by two million young Syrian women unable to find economically independent husbands and forced to embrace celibacy (Ansa’a) because of rampant unemployment and economic deprivation … They will be an essential component in the coming revolution and this is why Asma al-Assad chairs a women’s organization in Syria whose real purpose is to gauge their anger.

More recently, Asia Times Online’s David Goldman tied the crisis to a spike in food prices in an insightful article titled Food and Syria’s failure (Asia Times Online, March 28, 2011):…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Why I Fear the West Can’t Influence the Powder Keg That is the Arab World

Britain, France and America now have a commitment in Libya for which no one can foretell the ending. The wider Arab world is in a ferment which causes every monarch and tyrant in the region to tremble.

Western leaders ritually applaud the stirrings of revolt in Syria and Yemen. But they are struggling to define new policies in the face of events whose significance remains shrouded in uncertainty.

Two years ago at an Islamic conference, I heard a Jordanian minister deliver an impressively forceful warning to his Western listeners.

He said: ‘We are sitting on a powder keg. In every Muslim society, a huge new young generation is rising, which is prey to deep frustrations: social, economic, political — and sexual. What will happen when these explode, none of us can guess.’

Today, the upheaval he anticipated has begun, powerfully influenced by the twin forces of the internet and the independent Qatar-based 24/7 broadcaster Al Jazeera, which has shown people rising up against their oppressive regimes in Arab North Africa.

It seems likely to bring lasting change to the Muslim world, though the process will be protracted, and resistance from some rulers stubborn.

Whether the West can usefully influence it is a much harder question.

Most Muslim societies are failures, not merely politically, but also economically and industrially. The oppression of women is just one manifestation of a culture that stifles modernity.

The only Middle Eastern export the world wants is its oil. Those Muslim countries that lack black gold invent and produce almost nothing else of value, and most are wretchedly poor.

Indeed, many Arabs exist in a miasma of victimhood. They think themselves exploited by the West, and cherish extraordinary fantasies: that America and its allies are engaged in a struggle to destroy Islam; that the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. were a CIA plot to discredit Muslims.

Above all, of course, Israel is the focus of rage — compounded by the West’s support for that country.

Anti-semitism is as commonplace and respectable in Egypt and Iran as it was in Nazi Germany — witness the appalling tirades that appear in the Egyptian press and on its television channels. Iran’s president is openly committed to Israel’s destruction.

Even those of us who deplore Israeli expansionism and oppression of the Palestinians despair at Muslim willingness to make the Jewish state the focus of its passions.

Every sensible person in the West knows that Israel has absolutely no responsibility for the core problems of the Islamic world.

Many Arabs recognise, consciously or unconsciously, that their countries command Western attention only because of their oil — and power therefore to do us harm.

The problem is that all these factors come together to impact on our lives almost every day.

Every Western society now spends billions of pounds on defence in order to protect its citizens against the threat of terrorism, while a huge and cumbersome security machinery has been established as a necessity to protect air travellers.

Much of the Muslim world is characterised by an intemperate rage which threatens to cause Pakistan, with its population of 180?million, to implode.

Frustration and fear are constants in other Muslim countries. Three years ago, my wife and I visited Syria as tourists.

Parts of the country are stunningly beautiful, and the people we met were delightful. But our guide said in an unguarded moment: ‘All of us in this country are always afraid.’

If the odious Assad tyranny in Syria is overthrown as a result of the current street protests, the world will rightly applaud.

But it is hard to be optimistic that what follows will be either free or democratic. It seems so difficult to achieve stability or even basic human rights in most Muslim societies.

Almost 40 years ago, I made a series of films for BBC TV in Yemen, then one of the most primitive societies on earth — and today, by all accounts, not much more advanced.

We interviewed a government minister, to whom I suggested that the task of running his country must sometimes seem almost hopeless.

He responded by lapsing into an emotional and moving frankness: ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘You are right. There are days when I sit in this office and wonder whether I or anyone else can make this country work.’

Washington is today more alarmed by events in Yemen than by those in Libya. That wild, mountainous, anarchic tribal society has become the principal haven of Al Qaeda, and threatens to degenerate into another Somalia (which has been riven by civil war for years and is rated as the most corrupt nation on Earth).

It borders Saudi Arabia, and thus threatens the stability of the most vital oil state of all.

Failure is what often makes countries dangerous, because their peoples are angry and have nothing to lose. This is particularly true of many Muslim societies.

Conversely, that is the reason I am cautiously hopeful about China, because its economic success is likely to make it behave rationally, and to recognise its own interest in co-existing with the rest of us.

Over the past two decades, we have witnessed the flowering of an Asian genius, extending to India, which threatens our own competitive position in the world but which we must admire and applaud.

In the Middle East, we should all hope for the evolution of a Muslim genius. Only if the Arab nations become materially and culturally successful can they discover the self-respect which is indispensable both to their happiness and to global stability.

In the short term, it is impossible to be optimistic about this. Sustained turmoil seems almost inevitable, and Western caution vital in the face of it. So strong is Muslim paranoia about our ill intentions towards Islam that we must do nothing that feeds it.

David Cameron’s intentions in leading a charge against Colonel Gaddafi are honourable and humane. But it will be extraordinarily difficult to help Libya towards a better future amid the chaos of emotions and loyalties prevailing throughout the region.

We should notice that Al Qaeda welcomes the Western military intervention, because its leaders believe this will soon prove a stimulus to anti-Western passions.

It is a serious impediment to Western policy, that we know almost nothing about the insurgents we are trying to assist to victory. We have no notion what sort of regime might follow that of Gaddafi.

To remain mere spectators while a substantial part of the Middle East struggles over its destiny, and while innocent people suffer, flies in the face of many Western leaders’ strongest instincts.

But our power to influence events is small. The consequences of Muslim rage could be grave.

We know what we want to happen: that freedom, democracy and prosperity should flourish throughout the Arab world. But there is dismayingly little that we can do to advance these fine things, as I fear we shall discover in the boundless Libyan sands.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Death Toll From Weapons Factory Blast Climbs to 150

Jaar, 29 March (AKI) — The death toll from the explosion at a weapons factory in Yemen climbed to 150, Arab-language satellite news channel al-Arabiya reported on Tuesday.

The explosion occurred Monday near the city of Jaar in Yemen’s south when fire at an adjacent warehouse containing munitions exploded.

The factory manufactures ammunition and Kalashnikov automatic rifles. Militants not linked to Al-Qaeda reportedly seized the factory on Sunday.

Yemen is facing anti-government protests a successionist rebellion in the south and a militant Islamist insurgency believed to driven by Al-Qaeda in its south.

Evidence is emerging that the country is becoming an Al-Qaeda stronghold.

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


16 Die in Anti-Terrorism Operation in Ingusetia

(AGI) Moscow — Russia conducted an anti-terrorism operation in Ingusetia on the first anniversary of the Moscow metro attack.

Sixteen terrorists died in a battle, which smashed an extremist cell loyal to Caucasian guerilla leader Doku Umarov. It is unclear whether Umarov himself was killed. Citing federal security sources, Kommersant and Rossiskaja Gazeta report that the operation took place in Sunzhenskom, not far from the borders of Chechnya and North Ossetia.

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

South Asia

Pakistan: Third Church Attacked as Pakistani Extremists Declare War Over Florida Koran Burning

Yesterday afternoon, an armed group attacked the Catholic Church of St. Thomas in the military district of Wah, 45 km from Islamabad. The fundamentalists hurled stones and tried to burn the building. Bishop of the capital, we are Pakistani Christians, we have no ties with the United States. Young Christians: no hope for the future.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — An armed group of seven people attacked the Catholic Church of St. Thomas in the military district of Wah, about 45 km from Islamabad. The attack took place at 6.30 pm yesterday, while the security guard was absent. The extremists hurled stones, damaged the building and tried to set fire to it, but they did not shoot. Yesterday’s was the third attack against a church in Pakistan less than a week. The escalation of violence is a result of the mad act — repeatedly condemned by Christians in Pakistan and India — of pastor Wayne Sapp, who last March 20, in Florida burned a copy of the Koran under the supervision of the evangelical preacher Terry Jones.

The caretaker of the church of St. Thomas confirmed that the attack occurred yesterday, at about 6.30 pm, taking advantage of the absence of the security guard. A group of six or seven armed men broke through a small door and started throwing stones at the windows, smashing the small lamps and tried to break the door. The caretaker called the priest and the police, he is currently still in shock and does not intend to make statements.

The extremists were armed, but did not open fire. Unable to break down the door, they tried to set it on fire. The parish priest, Fr Yousaf, rushed to the scene of the attack and tried to reassure the small Christian community. “It’s a reaction — the priest told AsiaNews — to the desecration of the Koran in Florida, although the Catholic community has condemned the act. We pointed out clearly that we have no link with the Americans. At the time of the attack there were no guards, the police are present only on Sundays. “

Pastor Tariq Emmanuel, who lives near the church, added that the assailants did not open fire “because it is a high security area” and the military would have reacted immediately in the event of gunfire. “The forces of order — he adds — have asked to install closed circuit security cameras and private guards of the Christian faith”, the only available. Christians now “no longer believe the promises of protection” of the police, especially after the murder of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

Msgr. Anthony Rufin, Bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi, strongly condemns the latest attack on the Christian community of Pakistan and once again distances the church from the burning of the Koran in the United States. “We have already explained — says the prelate — we are Pakistani Christians, not Americans. We have repeatedly reiterated that we should not be equated to the Americans. “ He adds that the police “have started to investigate”, but in the past the parish “had not received threats of any kind. “

The bishop of Islamabad points the finger at what he calls the “most troubling” part of the story. “The church of St. Thomas — he points out — is located near a high security zone, which is the only ammunition dump located in Pakistan, and as a result reinforced area. In addition, there are 4 barriers at the entrances of the military district of Wah, which means the assailants did not come from outside. “ The prelate calls to take urgent action and anticipates the intention to arrange a meeting with Christian leaders, from the Anglican Church and other Protestant denominations to examine the current situation “of minorities. The young Pakistani Christians, in fact, do not see any reason for hope in the future.

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

Top Indonesian Terrorist Umar Patek Captured in Pakistan

Jemaah Islamiyah commander Umar Patek is one of the main suspects in the 2002 Bali bombings that left 202 people dead. reported:

Intelligence sources say top Indonesian terror suspect Umar Patek has been arrested in Pakistan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei to Work From Berlin

Ai Weiwei, perhaps China’s best-known artist, plans on moving to Berlin to escape growing repression in his home country, a media report said Tuesday.

The artist, architect and activist, who helped conceive Beijing’s iconic “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium, has been among the sharpest critics of China’s regime, making him a target for authorities. Chinese police beat him so severely in 2009 that he later had emergency brain surgery during a stay in Munich to relieve a haematoma on the side of his skull.

But now preparations are underway for what daily Berliner Zeitung called a “partial move” with his team to the German capital’s Schöneweide district, where he has purchased a studio.

“I want to be in the position to do my daily work, art and exhibitions from Berlin too,” Ai told the paper. “The preparations have been going on for three months, but because creating the necessary infrastructure isn’t that easy in Germany, we still need some time before we can get started.”

But the 53-year-old said he did not view the move as a flight because he would still maintain a studio in Beijing. Still, his work as an online activist for young Chinese has meant increasing pressure on Ai and his employees.

Widely considered one of China’s most influential contemporary artists, Ai has compiled the names of more than 5,000 school children killed in the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008 in his own investigation of alleged building corruption.

The situation culminated in house arrest in November 2010 and his subsequent search for alternative situations, the paper said.

In January, Chinese authorities razed his newly constructed studio in Shanghai. In February they hindered the first large exhibition of his work in the country.

The decision was “not a voluntary choice,” he said. “I am simply at a loss as to how I can go on working here.”

Ai has long travelled between China and Europe for his work, and lived in New York City in the 1980s.

“Due to the current situation, I should probably increase my presence in Europe,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tokyo’s Fatalism: Courage in the Face of Disaster

Many foreigners have fled Tokyo. But the Japanese are facing the ongoing threat posed by the Fukushima nuclear power plant with a mixture of concern and equanimity. Their faith in the country’s ability to overcome is unfazed.

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The Shinkansen looks like a glowing, wingless dragon on rails as it pulls away from platform 25 in the Osaka train station on this early morning just after sunrise. Train attendants in starched uniforms and white gloves offer the bullet train passengers refreshments.

But the train is far from full. It is headed north — to Tokyo.

The previous day, the Japanese capital was shaken by yet more aftershocks. Reports of drinking water contaminated with radiation — to the point that tap water can no longer be used to prepare infant formula — also unsettled the population. More than two weeks after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the resulting tsunami struck the northeastern coast of the island of Honshu, more than 27,000 people have been reported dead or missing. The crippled reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant continue to spew steam and smoke.

Bad news, in other words, for the taciturn, dark-suited passengers as they rocket up the coast at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour (188 mph) to their jobs in Tokyo. Out the window, the last few houses on the outskirts of Osaka, population 2.7 million, slip by. These days, those who have a choice stay in the city.

Osaka, on Japan’s Pacific coast, is in high demand these days — not unlike a seat in a plane’s emergency exit row. You’re on board, but ready to bail out at any time. The city is some 600 kilometers (375 miles) from the ongoing nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, and has an international airport and frequent high-speed trains on offer.

The First to Leave

Foreigners, heeding entreaties and warnings from home, were among the first to leave Tokyo. The embassies of Germany, Austria and Switzerland temporarily moved to Osaka, as did employees of several international companies. Since then, they have been watching Japanese television from a safe distance — the images of stalwart earthquake victims surrounded by mountains of debris, or of smiling mothers using bottled water to prepare infant formula. From Osaka, they are scenes from a nightmare in a different world.

The passengers peruse the morning newspapers as the train shoots past the old imperial city of Kyoto. The news isn’t good: radioactive contamination in the ocean; problems with the electricity supply resulting from 20 percent of Japan’s nuclear electricity production being out of commission; and the troubles of Japanese companies. Toyota alone has reduced production by 10,000 cars a day.

There is, however, a message between the lines. Those who run away from such problems, those who seek to wait them out in Osaka, must be a gaijin — a non-Japanese or outsider. Someone who doesn’t understand that now, more than ever, every cog in the wheel counts. Someone who shirks his responsibility while a hero like fireman Nakamura Junichiro risks his life to cool down the reactors in Fukushima.

The Shinkansen reaches the Tokyo train station at 9:43 a.m. sharp. The pulse of the capital is beating regularly but more slowly than normal. The streets are not as crowded as usual, and ticket machines at some metro stations are out of service, as part of a general effort to conserve electricity. In the bars of the Shinjuku business district, office workers stare at television screens showing hourly updates from the disaster region. Normally, reports on the imminent cherry blossom season would dominate the airwaves at this time of year.

There is not a single person protesting on the streets in the entire city.

Little Evidence of Panic

This is striking given that the Japanese are fully aware that Fukushima could ultimately turn into another Chernobyl. But the warnings become louder the further one travels from the disaster zone: in far-away Europe or the United States. In Greater Tokyo, home to 35 million people, as in the rest of the country, there is little evidence of panic.

The possibility of nuclear disaster was never truly an issue in Japan. Memories of earthquakes and wars, tsunamis and typhoons, on the other hand, are passed down from generation to generation. It is almost as if the constant cycle of destruction and rebuilding were part of the national mythology. Much of Tokyo was destroyed in a 1923 earthquake and again during US air raids in 1945. In the same year, American atomic bombs destroyed most of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But after each tragedy, including the 1995 Kobe earthquake that claimed 6,400 lives, Japan has rebuilt anew.

The destructive forces of nature, writes Asia expert Ian Buruma, are “to a certain extent part of Japanese culture.” This creates fertile ground for a Japanese fatalism that has developed throughout history and culminates in the expression “shikata ga nai,” meaning “it can’t be helped.” A further product is the widespread belief that nothing beautiful on Earth is permanent and that the Japanese people must close ranks in times of national disaster.

Japan’s political leaders serve as the physical embodiment of this disposition when they appear before the cameras in perfectly clean, always freshly pressed blue overalls, dressed up as the foremen of the nation — even as they serve up only fragments of the truth to their people. They are the mirror images of a successful system that seems to have outlived itself long ago…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australian Government’s Computers Hacked Including PM’s — Chinese Intelligence Suspected

Chinese hackers are suspected of having penetrated the parliamentary computers of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and up to nine other senior ministers. Thousands of emails are believed to have been accessed in the cyber attacks.

The Epoch Times reported:

Chinese hackers are suspected of having penetrated the defenses of the parliamentary computers of at least 10 federal ministers in Australia and exfiltrated thousands of emails.

News of the major security breach emerged at around midnight local time on March 28, but attacks took place over a more than a month, government officials told The Daily Telegraph.

Four separate sources in the government told the Telegraph that they understood Chinese intelligence agencies were involved. It was U.S. intelligence that tipped off the Australians, who have now launched an investigation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Godaddy CEO Bags Elephant to Aid African Villagers; Animal Rights Groups Go Nuts

The social network web site Twitter is all abuzz because of a trip CEO Bob Parsons went on and a video he posted online showing him hunting and killing an elephant.

Typically, animal rights groups are protesting. What is most important to know is the African villagers (you know, the HUMAN BEINGS) are having huge problems with these elephants destroying crops and causing starvation. But to be on the left these days, means that elephant lives are more important than African villagers’ lives.

He met Tuesday with his ally President Cristina Fernandez, who is trying to transform Argentina’s communications industry through a law that would break up media monopolies and force cable TV providers to include channels run by unions, Indians and activist groups.

The two presidents also plan to sign commercial accords dealing with food, transport and energy, and to visit a state-run factory where Argentina will build ships for Venezuela’s oil indust

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Gunfire Sparks Stampede at Nigerian Rally, Killing 4: Police

KANO, Nigeria (AFP) — Suspected Islamist sect members on Tuesday opened fire outside of a political rally in northern Nigeria, sparking panic and a stampede that killed at least four people, police said.

The incident, days ahead of general elections, occurred after police earlier Tuesday discovered two homemade bombs in a car carrying three suspected Islamists believed to be heading for the same rally in the city of Maiduguri.

“Three suspected members of Boko Haram fired several shots from their AK-47 rifles from outside the venue, which caused panic and a stampede among party supporters attending the rally,” said assistant police commissioner Zakari Adamu.

“This resulted in the deaths of four people. The attackers slipped away before they could be arrested.”

Thousands of people were attending the rally for the All Nigerian Peoples Party, the ruling party in Borno state, where Maiduguri is the capital. No one was believed hit by the gunfire.

In the earlier incident when police discovered the bombs, the three suspected sect members ran. Authorities opened fire, killing one and wounding another, but the third escaped.

“From all indications the suspected Boko Haram members wanted to detonate the bombs at the campaign rally,” Adamu said.

The sect known as Boko Haram has been blamed for a series of attacks in Maiduguri and other parts of northern Nigeria in recent months. It launched an uprising in 2009 that ended with a brutal military assault which left hundreds dead.

Tuesday’s incidents come days before general elections, which will be spread over three weekends starting April 2, heightening fears of political violence in the volatile city.

On Sunday suspected sect gunmen killed the ANPP’s youth leader in the city shortly after he attended a political meeting.

In January the ANPP governorship candidate was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen along with six others in an attack claimed by Boko Haram.

Last October the ANPP national vice chairman for northeastern Nigeria was killed by unknown gunmen at his home in the city.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Hugo Chavez: Journalism Award-Winner in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Hugo Chavez is getting a journalism award in Argentina.

The Venezuelan leader regularly clashes with critical media, but the University of La Plata is giving him its Rodolfo Walsh Prize on Tuesday for what it describes as his work giving people without a voice access to the airwaves and newspapers.

Chavez’s government has bankrolled the growth of the Telesur network, providing a state-funded alternative to privately financed broadcast stations across Latin America.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


1,000 Migrants Come, Lampedusa Evacuation Set to Accelerate

Asylum seekers to be taken to 13 sites around Italy

(ANSA) — Lampedusa, March 29 — A boat from North Africa brought 454 more migrants to the packed island of Lampedusa overnight while a further 500 migrants landed in Sicily, local sources said Tuesday. Protests against the migrant invasion and health risks continued on Lampedusa Tuesday with demonstrators staging a sit-in in council offices.

A first ferryload of 827 migrants from Lampedusa arrived at Manduria near Taranto, Puglia, Tuesday while six ships are being readied to evacuate the remainder from the bulging island Wednesday.

The asylum-seekers, mostly Tunisian economic migrants but in the last few days also East African refugees from Libya, will be taken to 13 sites set up by the defence ministry in several Italian regions. A cabinet meeting is set for Wednesday to examine the situation and Italy’s recent offer to Tunisia of men and boats to control ports, 150 million euros to relaunch the economy and $2,500 for every Tunisian who decides to go back to his homeland.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

240 Rescued Off Coast of Sicily

(AGI) Palermo- A barge with 240 immigrants on board has been hooked to Coast Guard vessels around 30 miles from Lampedusa, Sicily. Ten minors are on board as well as various women, two of whom are pregnant. Their arrival is foreseen during the night due to rough seas. The last group to arrive comprised 47 immigrants traveling on a small trawler who managed to breach the blockade organised by local fishermen with a dozen or so boats. In the last 24 hours around 2,500 immigrants have disembarked at Lampedusa.

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

Germany: Friedrich: Muslims Must Help Catch Extremists

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Tuesday Muslims should help root out Islamists in their community, announcing a new initiative targeting extremists like the one responsible for a recent deadly attack on US soldiers in Frankfurt.

The conservative minister, presenting his plans to Muslim groups at the government’s so-called Islam Conference in Berlin, said he planned to promote closer cooperation between security officials and the Muslim community.

After the recent murder of two US airmen at the Frankfurt Airport by an allegedly freshly radicalized Islamist, Friedrich said more should be done to understand the hidden world of jihadists. On Tuesday he said the government and Muslims should work together to fight violent extremism.

But Muslim leaders and members of the socialist Left party accused Friedrich of misusing the Islam Conference, which was initiated in 2006 as an attempt to open a healthier dialogue with some four million Muslims living in Germany to improve their integration into society.

Sevim Dagdelen, immigration policy spokesperson for The Left, said it was discriminatory to “make a security conference out of an Islam conference.” Such an approach is more likely to breed exclusion than integration, she added.

Leader of the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD), Aiman Mazyek, called the gathering a “security and debate conference in disguise,” according to daily Rheinische Post. His organization walked away from the conference some months ago, and so far there has been no “substantial results that would advance the equality of Muslims here,” he said.

Leading the conference for the first time, the new interior minister struck a somewhat conciliatory after reigniting a bitter debate over Islam right after taking office early this month. At the time he said the religion did not “belong” in the country, which prompted calls for him to give up responsibility for the government’s dialogue with Germany’s Muslim community.

But on Tuesday he acknowledged that Islam does indeed belong in Germany, evem though he told public broadcaster ARD that he continued to think that “the spiritual, religious and cultural identity of our country is defined by Western Christianity.”

General Secretary for the DITIB Turkish association, Ihsan Ünlü, told news agency DAPD that Friedrich’s remarks were unfortunate and “not very beneficial to the conference.”

Meanwhile Ehrhart Körting, interior minister for the city-state of Berlin, also criticized Friedrich, saying he “hadn’t exactly acted felicitously,” and had counteracted the goal of the conference.

But deputy head of Germany’s AABF association for Turks from the Alevi community, Ali Ertan Toprak, called for critics to calm down and not “overvalue” the new minister’s comments before giving both him and the conference a chance.

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

Italy: Forced Repatriation if Tunisia Opts Out

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MARCH 28 — The Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, has said that he will propose forced repatriations at Wednesday’s Council of Ministers if Tunisia fails to respect its commitment to blocking departures of migrants from its coasts.

Following on from last Friday’s meeting and the subsequent agreements reached in Tunisia, Maroni said in an interview with Radio Padania Libera this morning that “nothing has happened” and that “boats are continuing to arrive at Lampedusa”. As a result, if the situation continues, the Minister says that he is ready to put forward forced repatriations, which he defined “a strong move”.

“We have already laid out the necessary instruments to go ahead with these forced repatriations following the Council of Ministers,” Maroni said. If the Tunisian authorities apply the agreements, then this is positive. Otherwise, we must defend ourselves”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Tent City in Trapani for North African Migrants

(AGI) Trapani — Authorities are installing a tent city for migrants at the old airport of Chinisia, a few kilometers from Trapani air base. Ninety tents with a capacity of six to seven each, will hold approximately 600 people are being assembled.

The citizens of Trapani are not happy with the operation, which comes on top of the closure of their airport to civilian traffic because of the no-fly operations over Libya.

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

Italy: Mass Refusal of Entry Mooted

Alternative plan if landings continue. Thirteen sites for immigrants identified

ROME — Locations in which to set up temporary migrant reception centres have been identified all over Italy. The thirteen sites made available by the ministry of defence will be managed directly by the interior ministry. However, it will only be known after tomorrow’s Council of Ministers meeting whether the centres will take Tunisians removed from Lampedusa. This is because the government’s other option is mass refusal of entry and, unless landings are blocked by tomorrow, the Italian navy’s vessel San Marco and those of the Grimaldi fleet could set sail for Tunis.

There are many details to be hammered out over the next few hours, including how to overcome legal difficulties, especially those relating to international law. But the worst-case risk is that the foreign nationals might refuse to leave the island. The plan drawn up with prefect Giuseppe Caruso, the special commissioner for the immigration emergency, envisages that foreign nationals who landed on Lampedusa without a permit should be taken elsewhere. Sites identified include Taranto, Caltanissetta, Pisa and Potenza. But the policy already presented by interior minister Roberto Maroni to the prime minister and other members of the government also envisages the use of force, should the Tunisian authorities renege on last Friday’s pledge to intensify controls on the coastline to halt immigrant sailings.

Mr Maroni said two days ago: “We shall proceed with forcible repatriations”. He then had the second plan drafted, working on the assumption that migrants were still in a border area where they would be subject to identification procedures and could therefore be refused entry. It is a warning to Tunisia, but also a challenge to the European Union, which has failed to respond to Italy’s appeals. As in the case of refusals of entry agreed with Libya, the initiative could provoke further, very serious, international rows, particularly since the decision would be taken without the consent of the country of origin. The first hurdle to be tackled is command of the vessels. The ships are civilian-owned and it would therefore be difficult to force them to sail into international, let alone Tunisian, waters. The question of who will be escorting them also has to be settled. Equally complicated is the public order issue, which will involve the police, Carabinieri and financial police officers who already have the job of keeping the situation on Lampedusa under control. Reinforcements for these contingents have already been arranged in view of the dispersal of migrants but security services at the temporary identification and deportation centres (CIE) will also be beefed up. Unlike refugees, non-EU illegals are not free to move around and may be held for up to eighteen months. The situation is serious and has already provoked reactions from police trade unions…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Migrants: In Lampedusa 6,200 Have Landed

(AGI) Agrigento — There are 6,200 migrants in Lampedusa to date; 1,500 are still in the first hospitality center at Imbriacola. Loran Base hosts about 450; 420 in premises made available by the Church, and the remaining 4000 in the harbor area. Today three flights confirmed to transfer about 350 people to other welcome facilities. Tension rises in Lampedusa.

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

Migrants Keep Coming: Food Lacking for 2,000

Situation on Lampedusa ‘unacceptable’ says Napolitano

(ANSA) — Lampedusa, March 29 — A boat from North Africa brought 454 more migrants to the packed island of Lampedusa overnight while a further 500 migrants landed in Sicily, local sources said Tuesday.

Protests against the migrant invasion and health risks continued on Lampedusa Tuesday with demonstrators staging a sit-in in council offices.

A first ferryload of 827 migrants from Lampedusa arrived at Manduria near Taranto, Puglia, Tuesday while six ships are being readied to evacuate the remainder from the bulging island Wednesday.

The asylum-seekers, mostly Tunisian economic migrants but in the last few days also East African refugees from Libya, will be taken to 13 sites set up by the defence ministry in several Italian regions.

A cabinet meeting is set for Wednesday to examine the situation and Italy’s recent offer to Tunisia of men and boats to control ports, 150 million euros to relaunch the economy and $2,500 for every Tunisian who decides to go back to his homeland.

The government is split between those advocating cash incentives for Tunisians to return home and those who say they should be flown back without negotiations.

“Turf them out,” said Umberto Bossi, head of the anti-immigration Northern League, using an expletive.


Food is lacking for 2,000 migrants on Lampedusa as the humanitarian crisis worsens, officials said.

They said they had enough to feed 4,200 but there were now 6,200 on the island, outnumbering the 5,000 islanders.

The situation on Lampedusa is “unacceptable,” Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said.

The president, who is visiting New York, said the European Union should do more to help Italy while Italian regions should show “solidarity” by welcoming the migrants.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Boasts of Consulting Immigration Radical

Union boss admitted amnesty meant to ensure ‘progressive rule’

President Obama once boasted of consulting a radical on immigration issues who later admitted that granting citizenship to millions of illegal aliens would expand the “progressive” electorate and help ensure a “progressive” governing coalition for the long term.

A widely circulated video clip of Obama making a campaign stop at an event for the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, shows the then-candidate telling the nation’s second-largest union, “Your agenda has been my agenda in the Senate.”

While the video received play during the 2008 presidential election campaign, there is one section that may warrant renewed scrutiny in light of a separate, second video that recently surfaced involving the individual being referenced by Obama.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

WHO: No Epidemic Risk on Lampedusa

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 28 — “There are, at present, not specific risks of epidemics on Lampedusa, nor have any particular infections been reported”. This assurance has come from Santino Severoni, special representative of the Regional Director for WHO Europe in Italy, reporting on the influx of migrants to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

Severoni is one of the inspectors, which include two from the WHO and three from Italy’s Ministry of Health, charged with assessing the sanitary and health-care situation on the island, where almost 6,000 migrants are now present.

In two days’ time, six ships, one with a total capacity for more than 10,000 people, will be in Lampedusa to transfer all of the migrants still present on the island. The move was announced by Italy’s extraordinary commissioner for the humanitarian emergency, the Prefect of Palermo, Giuseppe Caruso. At the same time, the government will be providing for tent villages across the country, and refurbishing some military barracks in order to house the migrants.

But in the meantime, there are continued protests among the Italian population at the presence of migrants on the island, which has insufficient facilities to house them. Even the Bishops of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) have stressed how, confronted with the arrival of “many refugees”, the inhabitants of Lampedusa “do not need to feel alone”: for which reason, the CEI has called on the government to make “an extra effort to relieve the island and its inhabitants”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Church Responding to Growing Demand for Exorcists

Internet helping Satanism spread, warns Vatican expert

(ANSA) — Rome, March 29 — The Catholic clergy is responding to a rising demand for exorcists as Satanism and the occult gain adepts, a top Church expert told ANSA with a course on the subject taking place this week at a Vatican university.

“There is a revival,” Don Gabriele Nanni, a former exorcist who is one of the speakers at the course at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum university, told ANSA.

“I note greater interest and openness to it from many young priests,” added Nanni, who is now consultor to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

“It seems the period in the (1960s and 70s) when the devil was seen more as a metaphor of evil than a perverse and perverting presence has passed”.

The Catholic Church says Devil worship groups and occult practices are now so common that the services of exorcists are being sought more and more frequently, while stressing that very few of the people said to be possessed by Satan actually were.

In theory, all priests can perform an exorcism, a rite involving a series of gestures and prayers to invoke the power of God and stop the ‘demon’ influencing its possessed victim.

In 2008, however, a leading Vatican official, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti of the Apostolic Penitentiary, told parish priests to call a specialist exorcist when faced with a member of their flock who is possessed.

“The devil’s ordinary business is the incessant temptation to evil,” explained Nanni.

“The extraordinary activity is when the demon in spirit attaches himself to a person in a much closer way and penetrates them through their body acquiring a power and determination that is much more effective than ordinary temptation”. An exorcist should intervene, Nanni said, when “the moral certainty has been reached that the person is possessed” shown by phenomena “of a certain importance, such as changes in the body or in the voice”. Other signs that experts look out for are an ability to speak languages that the possessed person does not know and an awareness of hidden or distant objects.

Satanism — in which followers hold pagan and occult rites to worship the Devil — is different to a person being possessed directly by the Devil’s influence, but the Vatican believes there is a strong link between the two.

Apart from offering a ‘doorway’ to the Devil, Catholic authorities note that Satanism and related trends generally promote anti-social or criminal behaviour.

They say there are many examples of this, including three ritual murders carried out between 1990 and 2004 by the Beasts of Satan cult that shocked the Italian public. “The number of cases of total possession are more limited, but we must be on guard because occult and Satanist practices are spreading a great deal, in part with the help of the Internet and new technologies that make it easier to access these rituals,” said Nanni.

“That’s why many people come under attack from the Devil, even if they are not totally possessed”.

This week’s course, the sixth held by Regina Apostolorum university, looks at the ministry of exorcism from legal, psychological and sociological angles as well as the religious one.

It is not restricted to Church members but open to anyone with a proven interest in fighting devil worship, including doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers and youth workers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Gay Marriage Not Popular

THE HAGUE, 29/03/11 — Dutch gay men and lesbians are much less keen on marriage than heterosexuals, according to an evaluation released yesterday by the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) on gay marriage since it was introduced 10 years ago.

Between 1 April 2001 and 1 January 2011, a total of 14,813 same-sex couples applied for gay marriages in the Netherlands. This included slightly more unions between two women (7,522) than between two men (7,291). In the same period, no less than some 51 times more heterosexuals — 761,010 — exchanged wedding rings.

Some 1,300 gay marriages took place per year, not even 2 percent of all marriages in the Netherlands. According to the CBS, there are currently some 55,000 long-term relationships between same-sex couples in the Netherlands, of which around 20 percent are marriages.

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