Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110331

Financial Crisis
»Greek Private Building Activity Down 23.7% in 2010
»The Unbelievable Truth About Ireland and Its Banks
»Camp Pendleton on Alert After Middle Eastern Men Attempt Illegal Entry
»Colorado Springs Man’s Claim to Have Obama Records Starts Buzz
»Here Comes the Odometer Tax
»Measure to Stop Sharia Law Called Divisive
»Obama Declares Half of American Workers Disabled
»Obama’s Ineligibility for Dummies
»The Big BPA Lie
»Trump: World Has a ‘Muslim Problem’
»U.S. Muslims Shouldn’t Talk With FBI Unless They Have a Lawyer, Activist Tells Senators
»UCI Facilitates Secret Meeting With Hamas for Their Students
»Video: Ron Reagan: Father ‘A Fetish Object for the Far Right’
Europe and the EU
»Dutch F-16s Will Not Take Part in Ground Attacks
»Greece: EU Court: 3 Mln Euro Fine for Delay Crime Victim Rule
»Italy: George Clooney to Testify in Berlusconi’s Defence During Sex Trial
»Italy: New Law Made to Measure for Berlusconi
»No More ‘Guido Who?’: Westerwelle’s Libyan Stance Irks Washington
»Spain: Felipe Hopes to See Progress With UK on Gibraltar
»Spain: Mediterranean Savings Bank Towards Nationalisation
»Sweden Targets Religious Prejudice
»Switzerland: Letter Bomb Attack on Nuclear Federation
»UK: Asian Youths Sent on £2,000 Jaunt to Blackpool to Avoid Clashes at Right-Wing March Jailed for Car Park Fight
»UK: Gaddafi Defector Must Face War Crimes Trial Over Lockerbie, Insist MPs — But Has He Already Done a Deal With the Government?
»UK: How a Foreign Doctor Worked in 14 Different Hospitals Despite Not Even Knowing How to Perform Cpr
North Africa
»At Least 40 Civilians Dead in Tripoli Strikes: Vatican Official
»British Bombers Based in Apulia Attack Tanks in Misrata
»Erdogan Judges Arming Libyan Insurgents “Inappropriate”
»Libya: Bishop in Tripoli, At Least 40 Killed in Air Strikes
»Libya: Former Minister, Days Regime Counted After Kussa Leaves
»Libya: Rebel Representative in Rome on Monday, Frattini
»Libya: Rasmussen Rules Out NATO Arms for Rebels
»Libya: CIA & MI6 Agents Shadowing Rebels
»Libya: US Raids Have Cost 550mln So Far- 40 Mln from Now on
»Libya Conflict: Reactions Around the World
»Libya: Civilian Casualties in Tripoli, NATO Investigation
»Libyan Rebels Retreat
»Tunisia: Interior Minister, Mosques Only Places of Worship
»U.S. Officials: Opposition Warn Libya Could Get Bloodier
Middle East
»Bahrain: Opposition to Iran and S. Arabia, Do Not Interfere
»Iraq: Al-Qaeda Official Arrested Following Tikrit Massacre
»Jordan: Protest for Release of Journalists Held in Syria
»Syria: Amnesty Slams President’s Failure to End State of Emergency
»Syria: Assad Not Open to Reforms, Clashes in Latakia
South Asia
»Indonesia: East Java Council Wants Islamic Headscarf for Schoolgirls
»Pakistani Minister Calls on Interpol and the Pope to Condemn Florida Koran Burning
»‘You Never See Dark-Skinned Girls in TV Ads’: India’s Top Models on How the Country’s Fashion Industry Still Champions Fair Skin
Far East
»Hong Kong Radiation Exceeds Tokyo Even After Japan Crisis
»Japan Seeks French, U.S. Expertise
»1,500 Illegal Imigrants ‘Evicted’ From Lampedusa
»1700 Tunisians Head to Manduria From Lampedusa
»At Least 423,000 Flee Libya With 20,000 More Every Day
»Berlusconi Promises to Empty and Re-Launch Lampedusa
»Berlusconi Pledges to Clear Lampedusa in Two or Three Days
»Berlusconi Claims Escaped Tunisian Prisoners Have Arrived by Boat
»EU to Help Tunisian Refugees, Malmstrom
»Forced Repatriations Option for Tunisians, Says Italy
»Italy: Unrest at Turin Detention Centre Last Night
»Italy: Interior Minister to Send Immigrants to Northern Regions
»Italy Threatens Forced Repatriation on Flood of North African Migrants if European Allies Don’t Take ‘Fair Share’
»Obama Punts as Utah Grants Amnesty to Illegals
»Repatriate Tunisians Arriving in Italy, Frattini
»Tunisian Association Critical of Italy
Culture Wars
»Montenegro: LGBT Activists Announce First Pride Parade
»Netherlands: Gays Want ‘Real’ Equal Rights
»UK: Anger as Schools Ban Gideon Bibles to Avoid Upsetting Other Faiths
»Voluntary Female Quotas Do Not Work, Norway Says
»Dark Matter Could be the Life of the Party for Starless Planets

Financial Crisis

Greek Private Building Activity Down 23.7% in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 31 — Greece’ s building activity in the private sector dropped 8.6% in December 2010, for a decline of 23.7% in the year, daily Kathimerini reports quoting data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority. Market sources said a recession in the building sector resulted to slower economic growth and employment in the country. The statistics service said the size of private building activity totaled 5,106 building permits, up 2.8% in December compared with the same month in 2009. In the January-December period, building activity in the private sector fell 10.9% (measured on building permits) and by 23.7% in volume, compared with the same period in 2009.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Unbelievable Truth About Ireland and Its Banks

Ireland’s central bank and new government will confirm on Thursday that the hole in the country’s banks is even wider, deeper and darker than seemed to be the case last November, when those bust banks forced the country to go with a begging bowl to the eurozone’s rescue funds and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 67.5bn euros (£59bn) of rescue loans.

Regulators at the Irish central bank have conducted a review of how much extra capital — as a buffer against future losses — is required by Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Bank, EBS and Irish Life and Permanent.

Unless something unexpected happens in the next 24 hours, the total amount of additional capital that will need to be injected into these banks will be a bit less than 35bn euros — including 8bn euros that was supposed to be injected into them at the end of February, but was postponed because of Ireland’s political turmoil.

Anyway, let’s assume that the total amount extra that these banks need is circa 30bn euros. That would take the total quantity of state investment in Ireland banks to a breathtaking 75bn euros (actually a tiny bit more than that).

That is an almost unbelievably large number. When I think about it, I have a small panic attack — because it represents 45% of Ireland’s GDP and 55% of its GNP.

(Irish GNP is usually thought to be a better measure of Ireland’s useful economic output, because the GDP figure contains a sizeable chunk of profits exported abroad by all those multinationals that settled in Ireland for the exceptionally low tax rate).

Or to put it another way, if Britain’s banks had gone bust to the same extent, British taxpayers would have invested something like £700bn in them — or more than 10 times what we actually invested in Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley.

Nor is that the end of the exposure of the eurozone and the Irish state to these stunningly failed banks.

No financial institution or bank will lend to them. Ireland’s banks can’t borrow from anyone except the Irish people (who, poor souls, have nowhere much else to put their deposits). But even if they wanted to, Irish households could not possibly put money into the banks fast enough to allow those banks to repay all the institutions — such as German banks — which lent far too much to Ireland’s banks in the boom years.

So when these wholesale lenders to Ireland’s banks have been demanding their money back (as they have been in a run that has been huge and inexorable), the money has come from the European Central Bank and the Central Bank of Ireland — or, indirectly, from the taxpayers of Ireland and the eurozone.

To prevent Irish banks toppling over one after another, the European Central Bank has lent 117bn euros to them and the Central Bank of Ireland has lent them a further 71bn euros. So that’s 188bn euros of loans from the eurozone’s taxpayers to Ireland’s banks — which makes the 67.5bn euros lent directly by the eurozone and IMF to the Irish government look like peanuts.

And a further 20bn euros of bank bonds — another form of bank debt — is still guaranteed by the Irish state through the Eligible Guarantee Scheme.

So that is 208bn euros of taxpayer loans to Ireland’s banks — equivalent to a remarkable 154% of GDP.

To ask the inevitable dumb question, what on earth went so spectacularly wrong?

First, in the frenzied party years before 2008, the banks borrowed too much from other institutions — especially from German banks — and lent far too much to housebuyers and property speculators.

However, to date Ireland’s banks have only properly owned up to the losses on the property developments.

On Thursday for the first time they’ll be forced to admit that they also face colossal losses on residential mortgages. In February, for example, official Central Bank figures showed that 5.7% of Irish mortgage accounts were more than 90 days in arrears — which means Ireland banks then were owed 8.6bn euros in unpaid interest and principal.

It is pretty extraordinary that it has taken so long for the banks to be forced to recognise their mortgage losses — since house prices have more-or-less halved over the past few years, the economy was in deep recession after the 2008 crash and has subsequently been pretty stagnant, and unemployment has been rising.

Does the phrase “better late than never” apply in this case? Possibly not.

Second, the Irish government probably chose the worst of all strategies for propping up the banks.

By guaranteeing all their liabilities in the autumn of 2008, they turned the bloated liabilities of the swollen banks into public sector debt.

And because the Irish government didn’t secure a bottomless borrowing facility from the European Central Bank, it then became impossible to force losses on any of the banks’ creditors, even those which lent most recklessly: Ireland did not have the financial resources to pay back all those wholesale lenders that would inevitably have demanded their money back the moment any of them were instructed to swallow a loss.

So some of the guilty parties, namely the wholesale creditors of Ireland’s banks — including banks and investors in Germany, France, Spain and the UK — have got away without taking their share of losses. All those losses have fallen on Ireland’s citizens, who are not blameless for the mess (they didn’t have to borrow too much) but aren’t the only ones at fault.

And for the Irish people, there is a second source of possible injustice. The money they’ve been lent by the IMF and eurozone carries an interest rate of 5.8% on average — which is significantly greater than Ireland’s economy and tax revenues can grow right now, and therefore forces Ireland into a potentially never-ending vicious cycle of public spending cuts and low growth.

What’s more, the banks may also be trapped in a cycle of forced asset sales and losses, because they are paying out an estimated 2.5bn euros a year for the emergency loans from the ECB and Irish central bank, to finance mortgages and other loans which are falling in value and are not yielding interest.

Perhaps worse still, the 188bn euros of central bank loans could be withdrawn more or less at the ECB’s pleasure. So Ireland’s banks will continue to feel under relentless pressure to dump assets at punitive fire-sale prices, unless and until the ECB can be prevailed upon to deliver what its officials say it is cooking up, which is a new, longer stable lending facility for banks — such as the Irish ones — that need to reconstructed.

What will be the end of this sorry saga?

By default, it now looks as though almost the entire Irish banking sector will be nationalised.

Allied Irish is already in state hands. Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide have been crunched together and are being wound up by the state. It will be tough for Bank of Ireland and Irish Life and Permanent to avoid being taken over by taxpayers too.

It will therefore be fascinating to hear what the Irish premier and finance minister lay out as their vision for the future of Ireland’s banks. That will be presented at 4.45pm on Thursday, 15 minutes after the Central Bank of Ireland announces the precise, hideous amount of extra capital the banks will be forced to raise.

It will be another momentous day for Ireland and for the Eurozone. But whether it will be a day that sets both on the road to financial recovery, or nudges them nearer catastrophe, cannot yet be assessed.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Camp Pendleton on Alert After Middle Eastern Men Attempt Illegal Entry

Was this a man-caused disaster dry run? Camp Pendleton in California is reportedly on high alert after three Middle Eastern men tried to repeatedly enter the base last weekend on multiple occasions in multiple vehicles. The Blaze reported:

According to a Be On the Lookout (BOLO) alert issued to high-ranking Camp Pendleton officials, someone reported hearing hateful comments and terrorist threats from three men at a gas station in Oceanside Saturday.

Investigators at Camp Pendleton said the men asked the attendant for directions on how to get to Camp Pendleton before they left the gas station.

According to the alert, shortly after midnight Sunday, a rented silver Toyota Corolla driven by Naeem attempted to enter Camp Pendleton through the main gate. As it was being searched, Petrossian and Avanosian drove up in a black Mercedes, but were told to wait. Instead, they continued past the gate and onto the base. Following a short pursuit, the Mercedes was stopped and searched.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Colorado Springs Man’s Claim to Have Obama Records Starts Buzz

A Colorado Springs “birther,” retired Air Force Col. Gregory Hollister, has Internet blogs abuzz with what may be an illegal foray into an online Social Security data base and how he obtained a copy of President Barack Obama’s draft registration from 1980.

“Col. Greg Hollister, USAF (Ret.) contacted the Selective Service, falsely impersonated President Obama, improperly registered his own address as President Obama’s address, and by this false impersonation and identity theft he managed to obtain a duplicate registration acknowledgement card with President Obama’s Selective Service information on it,” a blogger posted on last week. “This may violate several federal criminal statutes, and apparently caused the federal record of President Obama’s address with the Selective Service to be altered to show that he lives in Colorado Springs, CO.”

Hollister said Tuesday a private investigator, Susan Daniels of Ohio, gave him what is purported to be the president’s Social Security number. He then accessed the Social Security Number Verification Service to find out to whom it was issued and to access Selective Service documents.

The site allows registered users to verify names and Social Security numbers for employment purposes and warns that using it under false pretenses is a violation of federal law.

“According to the Social Security Administration, that number was never issued,” said Hollister, who challenged whether the president is an American citizen in a lawsuit the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Jan. 18 without requiring a response from the White House. However, that’s the Social Security number that appears on the Selective Service documents Hollister obtained.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Here Comes the Odometer Tax

The odometer tax would add yet another layer of taxation to the gasoline tax, the annual license plate fee, the county road and bridge fee, the federal tax on tires, and the cost of your annual state inspection sticker.

Many state governments are considering an odometer tax, also known as a “Vehicle-miles traveled” (VMT) tax, whereby motorists would be taxed based on the number of miles driven. [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12] Most likely disguised or justified as an effort to “save the earth” from global warming, [13] this would be just another tax, as if there weren’t enough taxes already.

This new tax would be objectionable even if the money went to a worthwhile project, such as road and bridge repair. But unfortunately Uncle Sam—or the states with VMT—will probably spend the money on pork barrel projects,[14] or give it to someone who is too lazy to work.[15]

Life with the odometer tax would be less than carefree, and for some, no fun at all. It would be like taking a taxi wherever you go—you would pay by the mile to drive your own car! The odometer tax would add yet another layer of taxation to the gasoline tax, the annual license plate fee, the county road and bridge fee, the federal tax on tires, and the cost of your annual state inspection sticker—all of which you pay with the money from your paycheck, from which income taxes have already been extracted. We’re taxed enough already, don’t you think? Where have I heard that before?[16,17]

The VMT system would affect big-city apartment dwellers a lot less than the residents of rural areas west of the Mississippi and east of California. College students and residents of housing projects typically don’t own automobiles—they ride bicycles or take the bus. That’s why the VMT system is most likely to be adopted first in California or New York, like so many other bad ideas over the years, and then slowly spread to other states. It’s always the “blue state” governments that come up with more and more ways to raise taxes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Measure to Stop Sharia Law Called Divisive

House Bill: Gatto Worried About “Cultures That Are Vastly Different From European Immigrants.”

Anchorage Daily News

JUNEAU — Palmer Republican Rep. Carl Gatto has set off a political firestorm with a bill aimed at stopping what he deems as the potential of Islamic religious law — Sharia — trumping the U.S. Constitution in Alaska courts.

Gatto said he has strong support of Mat-Su area tea party groups and has received nearly 500 emails and phone calls from places like New Zealand, Poland and Israel in support of his bill. It’s part of a push nationally by conservative state legislators, with similar measures introduced in more than a dozen states.

A Muslim group in Anchorage says Gatto is spreading an anti-Islam message and the Alaska Civil Liberties Union argues the bill could have unintended legal consequences. The Alaska Department of Law, meanwhile, testified it’s hard to see the bill having any real effect as U.S. law already reigns supreme in Alaska’s courts.

Gatto said he grew up in New York City, where his Italian neighborhood clung to technically illegal customs like giving a child whiskey to help with illness. But the world of other immigrants is different, he argued.

“I’m more concerned about cultures that are vastly different from European immigrants, who come here and prefer to maintain their specific laws from their previous countries, which are in violent conflict with American law,” Gatto said. “That’s the issue that I am worried about.”

Gatto’s proposal, House Bill 88, says Alaska courts can’t apply foreign law if it would violate an individual’s rights guaranteed by the Constitutions of the United States or the state of Alaska. Gatto doesn’t have examples of Alaska courts imposing Islamic Sharia law but said his bill is determined to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

A member of the Islamic Community Center of Alaska sent an email addressed to Gatto saying 4,000 to 6,000 Muslims live peacefully in Alaska and asking him to “please do not ignite hate and misunderstanding.” Another Muslim from Anchorage, Lamin Jobarteh, said Muslims follow U.S. law. There is no Sharia law in Alaska, he said.

“There is nothing like that. We have a harmonious relationship with everybody here,” said Jobarteh, who said he’s originally from Gambia and has lived in Anchorage for the past 17 years.

It’s become an issue throughout the nation. Oklahoma voters in November approved a ban against state judges considering Islamic law in making their court decisions. The ban is tied up in court.

The sponsor of the Oklahoma ban pointed to a family court judge in New Jersey citing a man’s Islamic faith in denying a restraining order to a woman who said she had been raped by her husband. The ruling was overturned by a higher court.

A model for the anti-Sharia bills around the country came from an Arizona attorney named David Yerushalmi. The Anti- Defamation League has called him a bigot for past writings such as, in an article commenting on murders of blacks by blacks in New York, said it appeared to be a “relatively murderous race killing itself” and that “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization.”

Yerushalmi said in an emailed response this week that his words have been twisted, that he doesn’t countenance racism and that “Sharia is an objective and knowable legal system that is offensive to our constitutional liberties.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Gatto to drop his invitation for Stop Islamization of America Executive Director Pamela Geller to testify at a Wednesday hearing on his bill, saying she leads a hate group.

Gatto shrugged off the request. “Anybody can make a statement that if they are opposed to your point of view they’re a hate group,” he said.

A New York Times profile of Geller that ran last fall described the growing influence of her website, Atlas Shrugs, and her posting of doctored photos of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in a Nazi helmet and suggestion that the State Department was run by “Islamic Supremacists.”

Geller testified Wednesday by telephone to the Alaska House Judiciary Committee, which Gatto chairs.

“How can anyone oppose a law that seeks to prevent foreign laws from undermining fundamental Constitutional liberties?” Geller said.

Geller maintained “surveys in the Muslim world” show most Muslims want a unified caliphate with a “strict al-Qaida-like Sharia.” She spoke of Muslim polygamy, jihad in support of Sharia, and said Muslims have demanded special accommodation in U.S. schools, workplaces and government.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Lindsey Holmes objected.

“I’m getting very uncomfortable with what I see is some fairly negative testimony against a large segment of society. I think we’re getting off into some pretty dangerous, divisive territory,” Holmes said,

Geller responded that “I don’t think I did anything offensive, I merely stated the facts.”

Activist and former Muslim Nonie Darwish testified in support of the bill, talking about oppression of women in her home country of Egypt. Sam Obeidi, an Anchorage businessman, told the committee that American Muslims respect the U.S Constitution, and that Sharia was being mischaracterized.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Max Gruenberg said the bill as written wouldn’t apply to criminal law, and asked a lawyer for the state whether she could see a scenario where the bill would make any difference in how the laws are being applied in Alaska.

“I’ve had difficulty figuring out how it could ever be applied,” said Assistant Attorney General Mary Ellen Beardsley.

Anchorage Rep. Holmes and ACLU of Alaska director Jeffrey Mittman said the bill could cause unintended problems with international contracts that are drawn up between individuals and corporations.

Gatto’s own Italian-American forebears faced discrimination in this country from those who came before. According to numerous historical accounts, Italians, arriving in waves from the 1880s to the First World War, were at times seen as vastly different from the Northern Europeans who settled earlier.

Among the prejudices were the connection of ordinary Italians to the Mafia, leading to a notorious lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in Louisiana in 1891. Congress passed several bills in the era designed to stem immigration from southern and eastern Europe, culminating in the quotas of the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. During World War II, fears that some Italian immigrants would support Mussolini led to the internment of several hundred, while 10,000 were ordered to leave sensitive military areas of the West Coast.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Obama Declares Half of American Workers Disabled

Millions of Americans may be disabled and not even know it, according to some legal experts.

That’s because sweeping new regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offer new guidelines on the issue of how to define “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ADA, originally passed in 1990 and updated by Congress in 2008, originally defined disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.”

When a worker satisfies the definition, employers must provide reasonable accommodations. For years, employers and employees have clashed over who truly qualifies for the sometimes-costly modifications to workplace duties and schedules. Attorney Condon McGlothlen says the new regulations could have a profound impact on that debate.

“Before, perhaps 40 million people were covered by the ADA. That number will increase significantly,” McGlothlen told Fox News. “Some people might even say that a majority of Americans are covered as disabled under the law.”

EEOC Commissioner Chai Felblum said the agency worked hard to find compromise between the business and disability communities, and she’s optimistic the new regulations provide the right balance. “These are workable guidelines that will help people with disabilities, and it will be workable for employers,” Feldblum said.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Ineligibility for Dummies

On August 28, 2008, Representative Nancy Pelosi, then Chair of the Democratic National Convention signed an official Certification of Nomination verifying that Barack Obama was legally qualified to serve as President of the United States under the provisions of the United States Constitution.

I would like to know what Constitutional criteria were used by Rep. Pelosi to make that determination and what evidence she provided to support her contention.

The issue of Barack Obama’s eligibility must be resolved now before the 2012 election. It is incumbent on those, who authorize his place on the ballot to cite the legal bases for making such a claim.

Let me begin by asserting that the Certification of Live Birth, which mysteriously appeared without verification by the State of Hawaii and may be a forgery, or newspaper clippings, are not adequate proof of eligibility.

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states:

“No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.”

Traditionally, “natural born” refers to ancestry describing a child born in the United States (or areas such as US military bases), whose parents are US citizens at the time of birth.

I hasten to add, however, that nowhere in the Constitution or in its Amendments is the term “natural born” defined.

Nevertheless, there is a legal paper trail supporting that description. Much of what I write below is taken from a superb report by Leo Donofrio found here (link).

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Big BPA Lie

Anyone who wants to learn the truth about BPA is advised to visit, the website of Steve Milloy who has gained a solid reputation for debunking so-called “science based” fear campaigns. His data on BPA reveals that “there is no scientific evidence that BPA:

  • Has ever harmed anyone despite 50 years of use;
  • Acts as an endocrine disruptor; and
  • Has any health effects at low doses;

Furthermore, the data debunks some of the most off-cited and false claims about BPA.

  • BPA is not carcinogenic or mutagenic;
  • BPA does not adversely affect reproduction or development at any realistic dose;
  • BPA is efficiently “metabolized” and rapidly excreted after oral exposure

So where does the worldwide anti-BPA public relations campaign originate?

The answer to that has to be by inference, but many trace it to Fenton Communications whose founder, David Fenton, has left-wing associations and affiliations dating all the way back to the domestic terror group, the Weatherman, for whom he was a photographer.

In a lengthy profile on, one learns that in 1982, he established Fenton Communications, specializing in advancing the agendas of “left-wing groups.” “One of Fenton’s most widely publicized achievements was his 1989 attack against the producers of Alar, a preservative (used on apples) that he erroneously characterized as carcinogenic.” The cost to American apple growers and distributors was catastrophic. It was deceptive.

The anti-BPA scare campaign is patterned on the anti-Alar campaign and a further link is found in the fact that two of Fenton’s longtime clients, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group are leaders in the anti-BPA campaign. Moreover, BornFree, a company that specializes in products that do not contain BPA, is also a Fenton client.

Suffice to say Fenton Communications is opposed to anything that has to do with plastic, no matter how useful and safe the product may be. BPA has been in use for over fifty years to line the insides of metal and plastic food containers, protecting against spoilage. More than 6,000 studies have been made over the years and none have demonstrated any hazard.


The problem for everyone, everywhere in the world, occurs when governments or entities such as the European Union ban the use of BPA despite overwhelming evidence of its safe use. That puts everyone at risk for the food-related illnesses that occur when containers no longer have the protection that BPA provides.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Trump: World Has a ‘Muslim Problem’

Potential 2012 GOP presidential contender Donald Trump says there “absolutely” is a Muslim problem in the world, and he “couldn’t believe” a mosque is being built near the site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Trump also told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly Wednesday night it is important President Barack Obama produce his birth certificate, and put the issue to rest.

In the first part of an interview, the continuation of which will be aired Thursday night, Trump touched on a wide range of social and fiscal issues, including his opposition to gay marriage; his pro-life stance; his opinion that U.S. borders should be militarized to deter illegal immigration; his views on union activity; and the need to be able to shop for healthcare.

O’Reilly asked Trump whether there is a Muslim problem in the world.

“Absolutely, absolutely — I don’t notice Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center,” Trump said. “I came out very strongly against the mosque being built virtually across the street.

“The fact is, it was so insensitive when they announced the mosque in that location,” he said. “Don’t forget, that’s my territory — Manhattan. When they announced the mosque in that location, I couldn’t believe it.”

Trump said although there is a world Muslim problem, it does not reflect on all Muslims.

“And that’s the sad part about life, because you have fabulous Muslims — I know many Muslims, and they are fabulous people, they’re smart, they’re industrious,” he said. “Unfortunately, at this moment in time, there is a Muslim problem in the world.”

Turning to the issue of Obama’s birth, Trump said at first he hadn’t contested the president was born in Hawaii, but circumstances made him think twice. He also said it is wrong to demonize people who question the need for Obama to produce proof.

“People have birth certificates . . . now, he may have one, but there is something on that birth certificate — maybe religion, maybe it says he’s a Muslim — or he may not have one,” Trump said. “But I will tell you this: If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

On the issue of health insurance, when asked whether he thought people who can’t afford healthcare should have access to it, Trump said there is “a moral obligation to help people,” but he believes people who can pay should be able to go out and price healthcare privately.

“When I buy health insurance, I can’t go across state lines to buy it,” Trump said. “And I can make a better deal in New Jersey than I can in New York. We should be able to go out and price it privately. I don’t want to be stuck with one or two companies in New York. If I want to buy healthcare for my people, I should be able to bid it out.”

Turning to the economy, O’Reilly noted that part of the reason America has just gone through a recession is because of Wall Street actions, and he asked Trump whether he would crack down on brokers.

“I would not do that — you’re making it so tough for our companies, our ‘Wall Street people,’ to compete with the rest of the world,” Trump said. “Because you have guys in London, guys in Switzerland, guys in Hong Kong, that are giving very, very good deals — and they don’t have the kind of regulation we have here. I’m not a big regulation person.”

When asked about unions, and moves across the country to curb benefits, Trump said it is not a one-size-fits-all situation.

“I have a great relationship with unions — I understand what’s happening, let’s say, in Wisconsin,” Trump said, adding that Gov. Scott Walker might be right in dealings with his unions, but “I think it doesn’t necessarily apply to all states.”

“I’ve had great relationships over the years with unions, we’ve had collective bargaining . . . I’ve dealt with unions, because as you know, New York is largely unions,” he said. “I have great friends that are in unions, and heads of unions, so I haven’t had the same difficulty and problem. But I think you have to do what is right for your area.”

On illegal immigration, Trump said: “You either have a country or you don’t; you either have a line and a boundary, or you don’t.”

“Something has to be done,” he continued. “You put soldiers on that line,” adding there is no choice. “They’re coming over, and they’re climbing over a fence, and there’s nobody within 10 miles — and they’re selling drugs all over the place, they’re killing people all over the place — and we’re not doing anything about it.”

Trump said, however, it is hard to generalize about the illegal immigrants who are already in the country.

“You’re going to have to look at the individual people, see how they’ve done, see how productive they’ve been, see what they’re references are — and then make a decision,” he said. “You have some great, productive people — and then you have some total disasters that probably should be in prison.”

Trump then turned to social issues.

On abortion: “As you know, I am pro-life,” Trump said. “I used to not be pro-life; I’ve become pro-life,” adding he has not yet decided whether, if he was president, he would ban abortion. “I’m forming an opinion — I’m forming a really strong opinion, I’ll let you know in about three or four weeks.”

On gay marriage: “I’m against it,” Trump said. “I just don’t feel good about it — I don’t feel right about it .. . . and I take a lot of heat, because I come from New York.”

“I say that we have other problems — we have other problems in this country,” he continued. “I don’t think a president should be elected on gay marriage, or not gay marriage.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

U.S. Muslims Shouldn’t Talk With FBI Unless They Have a Lawyer, Activist Tells Senators

A Muslim civil rights activist told Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that she stands by the advice posted on her Web site that tells Muslims not to speak with the FBI or other law enforcement personnel unless a lawyer is present.

Kyl said he was “stunned” that Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, would “issue those kind of instructions,” given the connection between many domestic terror attacks and radical Islam and the importance of cooperation from American Muslims to help thwart those attacks.

“I would think that Muslim Americans would feel a special obligation to help intelligence agencies root this out,” Kyl said Tuesday at a hearing on the civil rights of American Muslims held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.

On the home page of the Muslim Advocates Web site under the heading “URGENT COMMUNITY ALERT: Seek Legal Advice Before Talking to FBI,” the warning reads:

“The FBI is contacting Pakistani, South-Asian and other Muslim Americans to solicit information and advice about addressing violent extremism. Muslim Advocates strongly urges individuals not to speak with law enforcement officials without the presence or advice of an attorney.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UCI Facilitates Secret Meeting With Hamas for Their Students

By Roger L Simon

Some people wonder why Jews are so often destructive of their own interests; some of the answer to this dilemma may be in the education of their children.

No greater laboratory for this study exists than Orange County’s University of California at Irvine. For years a graduate center of European cultural relativist thought — Jacques Derrida [1] taught there — UCI became a natural incubator for extremist ideologies, because, as the relativists decreed, all philosophies and cultures were equal, even those that violently oppressed women and homosexuals and did not, ironically, tolerate free speech.

This led inexorably to a boisterous attempt by their Muslim Students Association to shout down the Israeli Ambassador when he attempted to speak on campus, numerous attempts to delegitimize and boycott Israel, and scurrilous public racist attacks on Jewish students. All this became so excessive that it made national news and the dithering university administration had to act — at least in a palliative manner.

But that was on the surface and therefore subject to scrutiny and debate. Unfortunately, in the background, something far more troubling was occurring under the benign name of the Olive Tree Initiative, an idea of Jimmy Carter’s adopted by the university.

The original intent of the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) seemed innocent enough — sending Jewish, Christian, and Muslim students to Israel/Palestine to meet and greet their contemporaries and to be educated by “neutral speakers.”

But was OTI really an “olive branch” or was it taken over by something else more devious? And just who are those neutral parties?

Perhaps in an effort to be thought of as “fair” or “good,” the organizers of this endeavor made alliances with groups that can only be described as totalitarian.

One of those is the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) — an organization whose name and behavior reeks of the communist fronts of the 1930s. This was the group that — in the name of peace and justice — encouraged Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and Tristan Anderson to go to Gaza to be killed or injured in violent demonstrations. An Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs [2] report implicates ISM in the Mike’s Place terror attack of 2003. More recently they were spokespeople in the “Free Gaza Flotilla” of May 2010. (Lee Kaplan explains their etiology here [3].)

Not surprisingly then, many of the supposedly neutral speakers brought to address the students on their overseas trips turned out to be not so neutral after all. One of them was Aziz Duwaik of Hamas, who met with the students in secret inside the West Bank, far from the supposedly-impartial forum of the college campus where such meetings might be deemed appropriate.

And here the story turns back to UCI and the education of our children at one of our country’s most esteemed public universities.

From a October 2009 letter [4] — just released via a FOIA — from Jewish Federation of Orange County leaders to UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake, M. D.

We were further distressed to learn that, ostensibly, the students were asked to keep this meeting a secret. We have been informed, by OTI student participants, that they were instructed by [name redacted] ‘not to tell anyone about’ the meeting with Duwaik. According to the information we received, the students were given two reasons to keep the meeting under wraps: (1) to avoid being detained upon reentering Israel from the West Bank or being held at the airport before leaving the country: (2) to avoid confrontation with anyone who would have disagreed with this meeting had they known about it advance — namely, Orange County Jewish community and leadership, and UCI administration. Yet we know the decision to meet with Duwaik was not made in a vacuum. One UCI faculty member and two UCI doctoral candidates were in charge of arrangements on the ground. [Name redacted] was well aware of Jewish Federation’s ‘red lines’ — what could and could not be done on an OTI trip. Taking UCI to meet a Hamas leader crossed those red lines, and the University and Jewish Federation in a precarious situation. We are deply troubled that this incident could, potentially, derail the substantial progress we have made together in building multicultural bridges at UCI.

No kidding… And no surprise it took a FOIA to get this letter released to the public. (There’s plenty more at the link [4] — including reference to a MSA fundraiser for George Galloway on the campus in May 2009 — and I encourage you to read it.)

But the question arises what was the Jewish Federation and its Rose Project doing writing the chancellor of UCI about this? Well, sad to say. the Jewish Federation of Orange County was one of the sponsors of these trips. Hillel of OC was also involved. The Ha’Emet [5] (“The Truth”) website has plenty more about this, as well as a petition you might want to sign.

Meanwhile, federal anti-Semitism complaints have been filed against two UC campuses — Berkeley and Santa Cruz. Is UCI next?

Jerry Brown, are you listening?

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Video: Ron Reagan: Father ‘A Fetish Object for the Far Right’

Ron Reagan, the son of the late US president, Ronald Reagan, spoke to Matt Frei about his views on the “American Dream”.

He said he did not believe in it as wholeheartedly as his father, and called it an “overused cliche”.

Can you define the American Dream in 140 characters or less? Send BBC_WNA a tweet and include #americandream — we’ll publish the best at the end of this week.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Dutch F-16s Will Not Take Part in Ground Attacks

Dutch F-16 fighter jets taking part in the Nato mission in Libya will not take part in ground bombing and will only be used to support the no-fly zone, the government told parliament in a written statement.

The statement by foreign minister Uri Rosenthal and defence minister Hans Hillen said that although the Netherlands is not against ground attacks to protect civilians, they see no military reason for Dutch planes to be involved, reports the Dutch press.

The ministers say there are enough French and American planes to do the job.

The F-16s, which are flying along the Libyan coast, will help enforce the no-fly zone and the weapons embargo, reports Trouw.

The Dutch have 200 military personnel, six F-16s, a tanker aircraft and a minesweeper taking part in the Nato mission, which is planned to last for three months. Should Nato decide to prolong the engagement, the government will consider staying and inform parliament.

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

Greece: EU Court: 3 Mln Euro Fine for Delay Crime Victim Rule

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 31 — The European Court of Justice has sentenced Greece to a 3 million euro fine for waiting too long before implementing the EU directive that makes it easier for crime victims in the EU from another member another member State to get compensation. This regulation guarantees freedom of movement of individuals, protecting European citizens on the same level as residents in the country where the crime was committed.

Greece had already been sentenced in 2007, because the deadline for the implementation of the directive in question expired in July 2005. In October 2009, the European Commission found that Greece still had not followed up on the sentence and turned to the European Court once again, asking for a series of sanctions. On December 18 2009 Greece implemented the regulation but the Court in Luxemburg considered the 29 month delay to adjust national legislation “substantial”, leading to today’s verdict which takes the member State’s financial situation into account.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: George Clooney to Testify in Berlusconi’s Defence During Sex Trial

Milan, 29 March (AKI) — Hollywood film star George Clooney is on the list of witnesses for the defence in Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Milan trial for allegedly paying to have sex with a minor and then trying to cover it up.

Clooney spends much of the year with his Italian showgirl girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis at his villa on Lake Como near Milan in northwest Italy. Canalis is also a defence witness.

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 be a witness for both the prosecution and defence. The prosecution witness list consists 132 people.

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]

Italy: New Law Made to Measure for Berlusconi

La Repubblica, 31 March 2011

“Revolt breaks out over the short statute of limitations,” headlines La Repubblica, following heated debate in the Chamber of Deputies over legislation to shorten the statute of limitations (and therefore the length of trials), but which risks annulling thousands of cases still pending — including the one that would see Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on trial for corruption. Outside the Chamber, several hundred demonstrators protested against the government, throwing coins and insults at passing ministers. “This is the intolerable price that Berlusconi wants to charge the Italians,” writes the Roman opposition daily. “To ensure their impunity, they must renounce justice.” At the same time, the newspaper reports, Berlusconi was visiting the island of Lampedusa, which is going through a humanitarian crisis brought on by the arrival by ship of thousands of refugees from North Africa. He promised the exasperated inhabitants that the migrants would be taken off the island — and announced that he had bought a villa on the island as a show of solidarity, and to boost tourism.

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

No More ‘Guido Who?’: Westerwelle’s Libyan Stance Irks Washington

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has not impressed Washington recently.

They used to call him “Guido Who?,” but now the German foreign minister is finally known by name in Washington — and that is not necessarily good news for Guido Westerwelle. His stance on Libya has confused and angered US politicians, and Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be able to put up with it for long.

Finally, Guido Westerwelle has name recognition in the United States capital, despite the election failures of his business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) at home and calls for his resignation. For a long time, he was known in Washington as “Guido Who?” At most, the foreign minister’s English — which could do with some improvement — brought a passing interest, along with his oddly persistent calls for the withdrawal of American nuclear weapons from German soil.

Since then, however, he has gained greater recognition. Thanks to the German abstention on the vote for Libyan military action in the United Nations Security Council, for which he was responsible, the backlash against Westerwelle has started in the ivory towers on the Potomac.

“The Libya intervention is multilateralism at its best and for a compelling humanitarian reason,” says Stephen Szabo, director of the Transatlantic Academy in Washington. “What else could Berlin want? Westerwelle’s behavior appears to me to be a ‘without me’ approach. Germany is now the most important country in Europe, yet it wants to act like Switzerland.”

But it’s not just about the abstention. With his stance, Westerwelle appears to also want to introduce a new foreign policy doctrine: When in doubt, don’t just go with the West anymore. Germany would, in the future, be able to choose its partners worldwide under these new parameters, it seems. Sometimes traditional allies like the United Kingdom, France, or the US; at other times new powers like Brazil or India.

“It also raises serious doubts about the credibility of (Berlin’s) leaders,” Szabo adds. “Westerwelle will get most of the blame.” As Berlin-based US journalist Steve Kettmann puts it in an editorial on the Huffington Post website, “it has been as if Germany has no Foreign Minister.”

Charles Kupchan from Georgetown University, who was the director for European Affairs on the National Security Council under Bill Clinton, was similarly critical: “Washington has been impressed with French and British leadership on the issue, while Germany has certainly isolated itself within the trans-Atlantic community by abstaining on the UN vote. Germany did not just sit out the Libyan operation — as other NATO members have chosen to do. Rather, Berlin has made amply clear its discomfort with the decision in favor of intervention.”

And Jackson Janes, head of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, says: “Whatever mix of resources and policies Europe chooses to apply to its challenges, Germany is going to play a central role. Today, Berlin is clearly struggling with how to define that role.”

It’s not only the experts who are disappointed, but also those who put policy into practice. Richard Burt, American ambassador to West Germany under President Ronald Reagan, understands the German objections to the war in Libya, which is also very controversial in the US. “There is no automatism that allies need to support us when we are doing stupid things.” But Westerwelle’s comments about the search for new partners were unnecessary, Burt says. He has heard that Westerwelle likes to be compared to foreign policy legend Hans-Dietrich Genscher, also of the FDP. Burt, one of the most veteran when it comes to trans-Atlantic affairs in Washington, laughs: “I know Hans-Dietrich Genscher. A Genscher he ain’t.”

The chancellor, however, cannot afford to be blasé about American frustration with her foreign minister. The new debates are likely to hamper German ambitions, such as applying for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. In addition, Washington considers Berlin’s abstention as the definitive German position — and thus also blames Merkel…

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

Spain: Felipe Hopes to See Progress With UK on Gibraltar

(ANSAmed) -MADRID, MARCH 31 — Felipe of Bourbon, Prince of Asturias, said that he hopes “progress will be made towards a solution of the historic bilateral conflict” on Gibraltar. He made his remark during yesterday’s gala dinner in the Royal Palace for the official visit to Spain of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Gibraltar has often caused diplomatic tensions between Spain and the UK, particularly on the occasion of the visit by the son of Elisabeth II to the Rock during his honeymoon with his previous wife, Diana. Spain claims sovereignty over the UK-controlled territory which has a particular status in the EU, since the city, the castle and the port of Gibraltar were handed over to the British Crown with the 1713 Utrecht Treaty, but not the isthmus, the territorial waters and airspace. Today, on the second day of the visit which will end tomorrow in Seville, Prince Charles was received in the Prime Minister’s office by Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Climate change, commercial relations between Spain the the UK and inter-religious dialogue were on the agenda of this meeting.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Mediterranean Savings Bank Towards Nationalisation

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 31 — The Mediterranean savings bank CAM will ask the State bank restructuring fund (FROB) for help, according to a statement made yesterday by the national securities commission.

The decision, which is the equivalent of the savings bank’s temporary nationalisation, was made after no agreement was reached with Cajasur, Caja Cantabria and Caja Extremadura on a possible merger with CAM. After learning about the failure yesterday, the Bank of Spain urged CAM to present and alternative plan immediately. In case of a successful merger, the savings bank would have formed Spain’s third-largest financial institute together with Cajasur, Caja Cantabria and Caja, with assets close to 130 billion euros. But now the bank’s high default rate and its solvency far below the levels required by the government decree make the institute’s future uncertain.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden Targets Religious Prejudice

Sweden’s government has announced plans to chart the extent of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the country, as it attempts to counteract the spread of intolerance towards minorities.

Ullenhag met with representatives from the Swedish Muslim community in January in an attempt to develop a strategy for combating Islamophobia in the wake of a suicide bombing that terrified Christmas shoppers and left the attacker dead. Ullenhag admitted to having been deeply concerned about a potential anti-Muslim backlash in the weeks after Taimour Abdulwahab blew himself up in central Stockholm. “I think we’ve managed to handle the debate the right way,” said Ullenhag.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Letter Bomb Attack on Nuclear Federation

(AGI) Zurich — Police report that a letter bomb exploded in the offices of the Swiss nuclear industry federation in Olten. Two people were injured.

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

UK: Asian Youths Sent on £2,000 Jaunt to Blackpool to Avoid Clashes at Right-Wing March Jailed for Car Park Fight

Five teenagers found guilty for their part in brawl that left a man unconscious

A group of Asian youths taken on a day-trip to Blackpool to avoid becoming embroiled violence at an EDL march ended up knocking a man unconscious in a car park brawl.

Five teenagers have been found guilty of their part in the incident in which a father-of-two was punched to the ground.

The five were part of a group of youths who were taken to on the trip on July 17 last year, the day of an English Defence League march in Dudley in the West Midlands.

The day-trip cost the public purse £2,113 and saw the group from the Tipton and Oldbury areas of the West Midands accompanied by a police officer and officials from the council.

The clash happened after the youths got off their coach and began chanting racist comments at Derek Brownhill, who had just got off a coach parked nearby.

The chants were heard by Mr Brownhill’s pregnant partner and two young daughters, as well as a group of elderly people, the court was told.

In the ensuing confrontation Mr Brownhill was punched and hit with such force by Riad Hussain, 19, that both feet left the ground.

Wolverhampton Crown Court was told the blows left unconscious and with bruising and swelling to his face and head.

The group then punched Hussain, from Oldbury, in the face to give him a bruise so they could try to claim that his actions were in self defence.

Prosecutor David Swinnerton told the court that the teenagers — Hussain, Wasim Telhat, 18, Raja Rashid, 18, and two 17-year-olds — were part of a large group of Asian youths taken to Blackpool by coach on July 17 last year to avoid potential trouble.

At the time of the violence, two of the gang were on bail for a hammer attack in Tipton, West Midlands, that took place three months before the Blackpool incident.

On Tuesday Rashid was jailed for a total of 21 months and one 17-year-old for a total of 16 months for their part in the assault. Hussain was jailed for ten months.

Telhat was given a community supervision order and 50 hours of unpaid work while another 17-year-old received a 12-month rehabilitation order.

Judge Amjad Nawaz told them: ‘There is nothing more disturbing than to have to sentence a dock full of young people just past their childhood years having engaged in offences of such severity that custodial sentences are inevitable.’

Mr Swinnerton said the trip was organised by Sandwell Borough Council ‘for the purpose of distracting them from anti-social behaviour on the day of the EDL march in Dudley’.

The council said the trip to Blackpool had been organised with the support of police to help reduce tensions and deter teenagers who may have been at risk of getting involved in demonstrations in Dudley on the day.

The cost of the trip was met by the Government’s Youth Justice Board.

‘I would not say the trip had failed. Its purpose was to keep them away from the march.

‘If they got involved in something else in Blackpool, that’s another matter.’

Derrick Campbell,

It said although it had no plans to do anything similar in the future, it would have to consider removing young people from situations in an attempt to prevent them from getting into trouble.

Councillor Derek Rowley, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for safer neighbourhoods, said: ‘Clearly, this was a very unfortunate incident which we totally condemn.

‘We have a duty to foster good community relations and we will continue to work with local people and all our partner organisations towards that aim.’

Derrick Campbell, boss of Race Equality Sandwell, told the Sun: ‘I would not say the trip had failed. Its purpose was to keep them away from the march.

‘If they got involved in something else in Blackpool, that’s another matter.’

In total, 19 youngsters went on the trip. Eight were aged 16 or over and 11 were under 16.

In addition, there were five youth workers and one police officer, who went on a voluntary basis.

Chief Superintendent Mark Robinson, commander for Sandwell Police, said: ‘A decision was taken by Safer Sandwell Partnership to take a number of youths away from the area, who had been identified as having the potential to get involved in any disorder that could occur as a result of the demonstrations.

‘Whilst we feel that the decision to try and prevent any potential violence among local youths was the right one, clearly the events that followed were hugely disappointing.’

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: Gaddafi Defector Must Face War Crimes Trial Over Lockerbie, Insist MPs — But Has He Already Done a Deal With the Government?

The former Libyan foreign minister who defected to Britain should face justice over the Lockerbie bombing, MPs said today.

Musa Kusa is said to have been the brains behind the 1988 terror blast on Pan Am flight 103 and is today being questioned in a ‘secure location’ in the UK after defecting following pressure from MI6.

Scottish prosecutors today told the Foreign Office they want to question Kusa over the attack.

His arrival in the UK was welcomed with jubilation by relatives of those killed at Lockerbie, who said he could finally reveal ‘how Libya carried out the attack and why’.

Families of the victims may even finally discover if Gaddafi himself ordered the bombing.

One MP raised the prospect of a trial for ‘war crimes’ if he is found to have been mastermind of the attack that killed 270 victims.

But despite government insistence that Kusa had not been granted immunity from prosecution in British or international courts, there were concerns about what kind of deal might be being struck behind closed doors.

Foreign Secretary William Hague today admitted that he had been in contact with Kusa for days before he fled Libya, and had held several telephone conversations with him.

Libyan rebels have also called for Kusa to be handed to them.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon compared Kusa’s arrival to that of Hitler’s lieutenant Rudolf Hess in the Second World War.

He said: ‘The one good thing about him coming here is that it shows the Gaddafi regime is weakening significantly.

‘But I believe that this man really should be put in front of a British or international court for war crimes, if it is true that he was behind the Lockerbie bombing.

‘Anyone who was involved in any kind of crime in Libya — including Gaddafi himself — should not be allowed to go into exile but should be put on trial in an international court for war crimes.”

Mr Kusa’s decision to abandon Gaddafi to his fate is a diplomatic coup for David Cameron, who has urged Gaddafi’s henchmen to jump ship.

But his arrival has been fueled speculation that it may result in a ‘morally dubious’ deal.

Libyan exile groups branded Mr Kusa ‘the envoy of death’ for his role in the 1980s directing terrorist atrocities across Europe and organising the murder of exiled opponents of the Gaddafi regime.

In 1980, he was expelled as Libya’s envoy in London for publicly backing the murder of overseas dissidents and threatening to back the Provisional IRA unless they were handed over.

As the former head of his country’s intelligence agency, he is thought to hold key information on the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.

He was later labelled ‘the father of Lockerbie’ for masterminding the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity.

Only former Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has faced justice over the attack. He was released back to Libya from a Scottish jail in 2009 amid claims he had months to live — but he is still alive.

Mr Kusa is believed to have played a key role in securing Megrahi’s release.

Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the attack, today said he would be ‘appalled’ if police were not already questioning him over the attack.

He said: ‘Kusa was at the centre of Gaddafi’s inner circle. This is a guy who knows everything.

‘I think this is a fantastic day for those who seek the truth about Lockerbie.

‘He was clearly running things. If Libya was involved in Lockerbie, he can tell us how they carried out the atrocity and why. I would be appalled if by now the Scottish police are not in England interviewing Mr Kusa. It is a great day for us.’

Conservative MP Julian Lewis said that any deal offered to Mr Kusa would take the authorities into ‘morally dubious’ territory.

She said:’Whatever outcome we get is bound to be extremely morally dubious because when you do a deal of any sort with a person with blood on their hands, rather than punishing them, it leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth and it is bound to outrage the relatives of their victims.’

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer told the BBC that the authorities’ first priority must be to question Mr Kusa ‘very carefully’ for the wealth of military and diplomatic intelligence he possesses, as well as his understanding of the ‘heartbeat of the Gaddafi regime’…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: How a Foreign Doctor Worked in 14 Different Hospitals Despite Not Even Knowing How to Perform Cpr

A foreign doctor who didn’t even know how to carry out mouth-to-mouth resuscitation worked in 14 British hospitals.

Dr Lucius Okere was allowed to work as a locum for ten months even though he didn’t understand the meaning of basic medical terms such as “crash call” — thinking it meant car crash.

He also slapped patients to see if they were conscious and didn’t properly wash his hands.

Incredibly, not one of the 14 hospital trusts which employed the Dr Okere checked his ability to speak English or his competence.

The Nigerian-born doctor, who qualified in Bologna, Italy, was finally struck off by the General Medical Council in January after staff at one of the hospitals reported serious concerns.

During the GMC hearing he was described as a “dangerous and frightening doctor”, “everybody’s nightmare” and a “disaster waiting to happen.”

This is the latest case to highlight how patients are routinely being put at risk at the hands of EU doctors who are allowed to work in hospitals and surgeries without formal checks on their language and competence.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

At Least 40 Civilians Dead in Tripoli Strikes: Vatican Official

At least 40 civilians have been killed in air strikes by Western forces on Tripoli, the top Vatican official in the Libyan capital told a Catholic news agency on Thursday, quoting witnesses.

“The so-called humanitarian raids have killed dozens of civilian victims in some neighborhoods of Tripoli,” said Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli.

“I have collected several witness accounts from reliable people. In particular, in the Buslim neighborhood, due to the bombardments, a civilian building collapsed, causing the death of 40 people,” he told Fides, the news agency of the Vatican missionary arm.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

British Bombers Based in Apulia Attack Tanks in Misrata

(AGI) London — The British Ministry of Defense has reported that RAF Tornados based in southern Italy have attacked Gaddafi troops near Misrata, the main insurgent stronghold in Tripolitania. The fighter jets left Gioa del Colle and used Paveway IV and Brimstone missile to destroy tanks and APCs used by Gaddafi’s troops, as well as anti-aircraft guns .

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

Erdogan Judges Arming Libyan Insurgents “Inappropriate”

(AGI) London -Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described as “inappropriate” the idea of supplying Libyan insurgents with weapons, already excluded by NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “That would create a different situation in Libya and we do not believe that would be appropriate,” said Erdogan at a joint press conference held with British Prime MInister David Cameron .

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

Libya: Bishop in Tripoli, At Least 40 Killed in Air Strikes

(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31 — At least 40 people have been killed in air strikes on Tripoli, according to vicar apostolic in Tripoli, Mons. Martinelli. “The so-called humanitarian strikes”, Martinelli told agency Fides, “have killed dozens of civilians in some quarters in Tripoli. I have heard several declarations from well-informed people. In particular, in the Buslim quarter a civilian residence collapsed when hit by bombs, causing the death of 40 people. Despite the fact that the strikes seem fairly precise, it is also true that when military targets are hit inside a civilian quarter, the people also feel the impact”, Mons. Martinelli added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Former Minister, Days Regime Counted After Kussa Leaves

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 31 — The days of the Libyan regime “are counted” since the defection of Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa. This statement was made today on French television channel France 24 by former Libyan Immigration Minister Ali Errishi.

“This is the end”, Errishi continued. “I have always said that (the Libyan leaders) are all held hostage in Tripoli. It is incredible to see that Kussa has managed to escape”. “Gaddafi is alone with his sons now”, said the former Minister, explaining that Kussa “is one of Gaddafi’s most-trusted advisors. This is the end of the regime. The brutal reign is about to come to an end”. Mussa Kussa arrived last night in London, where he announced his defection and his intention to abandon Muammar Gaddafi. Now the former Libyan Foreign Minister, a key figure in the Libyan regime, is staying on a secure location in the UK. He is being interrogated, UK Foreign Minister William Hague said today. Hague underlined that Kussa has come to the UK of his own free will. “His resignation shows that the regime of Muammar Gaddafi is fragmented. Gaddafi is probably wondering who will leave after him”, he said. The British Foreign Minister guaranteed that Kussa “has not been offered any safe-conduct pass”. Kussa “will not be offered immunity, not from British nor international justice”, Hague said from the Foreign Office.

Today the British media announced Kussa’s defection and link it to the Lockerbie drama in 1988, the murder of British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher in front of the Libyan embassy in London and the release of the man responsible for the attack on the Pam Am Jumbo, Abdelbaset al Megrahi. “The brains behind Lockerbie defects to the UK”, the Daily Mail writes today on its front page.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Rebel Representative in Rome on Monday, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 31 — On Monday the foreign policy representative of the Libyan National Transitional Council will be in Rome for talks with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, the latter has announced.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Rasmussen Rules Out NATO Arms for Rebels

(AGI) Stockholm — The secretary general of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, ruled out the Alliance arming the Libyan rebels.

Citing UN resolution 1973 at the end of a meeting in Stockholm with Swedish prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, he explained: “Since Nato is involved and I speak in the name of Nato, we will concentrate on strengthening the arms embargo and the purpose of the embargo is to stop the flow of arms into the country.” .

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

Libya: CIA & MI6 Agents Shadowing Rebels

(AGI) New York — CIA agents have been operating in Libya for several weeks, contacting rebels and gathering intelligence.

Following ABC’s announcement that Barack Obama issued a presidential decree authorizing secret U.S. operations in the country to support ongoing projects, the ‘New York Times’ followed up with this clarification. The NYT claims that, in addition to the CIA, dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya to gather data on Gaddafi’s forces’ status and on targets for airstrikes.

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

Libya: US Raids Have Cost 550mln So Far- 40 Mln from Now on

(AGI) Washington — US raids on Libya, which began on March 19, have cost “about 550 million dollars” so far. Once NATO takes the reins, the USA will continue to spend some 40 mln USD per month, according to Norm Dicks, senior Democrat on the House defense appropriations subcommittee, who was speaking at a meeting between Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Home Secretary Hillary Clinton.

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

Libya Conflict: Reactions Around the World

The UN security council may have sanctioned air strikes, but they are viewed with ambivalence in most countries

United States

The conflict in Libya has fractured the United States. The air strikes have seen an outpouring of criticism against Barack Obama from his Republican critics. Opponents of the Iraq war may raise an eyebrow, but Republican leaders have criticised Obama for not clearly stating a mission goal and for risking getting US troops involved in a protracted conflict in a Muslim country. “Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: what does success in Libya look like?” said the Republican House leader, John Boehner.

But Republicans have been joined by some Democrats, especially on the left of the party. They are worried about the effect of another military intervention on an already stretched army and a stuttering economy. They also say Obama’s actions in ordering the strikes without consulting Congress remind them too much of President George W Bush. Dennis Kucinich, a liberal Ohio congressman, is organising moves with some Republicans to try to cut federal funding for the conflict. “There is no question the president exceeded his constitutionally authorised authority,” he told Fox News.

Other concerns have been raised over the prospect of arming the Libyan rebels and fears over who makes up the Libyan opposition. The result has been a public left divided and confused. Some 47% of Americans said the US was doing the wrong thing by fighting in Libya, according to a Quinninpiac poll. But at the same time 65% said they supported the use of military force to protect civilians. Paul Harris New York


Moscow’s reaction to Operation Odyssey Dawn has exposed a split in Russia’s ruling elite. While the Kremlin abstained in the UN security council vote, Vladimir Putin, the prime minster, took a hawkish stance last week, saying the resolution was “defective and flawed” and resembled “a medieval call for the Crusades”.

The same day, Dmitry Medvedev, who as president is responsible for setting the country’s foreign policy, appeared to slap down his political ally when he said it was “inadmissible to use expressions like the Crusades that, in essence, can lead to a clash of civilisations”.

Russia’s former ambassador to Tripoli has since stirred up the argument, saying the failure to protect billions of dollars of Russian business contracts in Libya “can be considered a betrayal of Russia’s interests”.

Both Russia’s parliament and the defence minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, have called for a ceasefire. For its part, the foreign ministry has kept faith with Medvedev’s line: insisting that protecting civilian lives should be Nato’s “overriding priority” while stressing that Gaddafi’s future is an issue for Libyans alone.

Meanwhile, a survey of Russians by the VTsIOM polling agency published last week found that 62% of respondents were against foreign intervention in Libya.

Dmitry Babich, an analyst with the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency, summed up a common view when he wrote that “liberal-optimists” in the west were obsessed with toppling tyrants while giving little thought to the consequences. Tom Parfitt Moscow


China abstained in the security council vote despite its doctrinal opposition to interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman citing “the concerns and stances of Arab countries and the African Union”.

But Beijing voiced “regret” at the strikes as soon as they began and within two days had strengthened its criticism, expressing deep concern.

“The original intent of the resolution was to protect the security of the Libyan people. We oppose the wanton use of armed force causing even more civilian casualties and an even bigger humanitarian disaster,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

State media have attacked the western allies for hypocrisy and accused them of acting from self-interest, particularly as the debate about the resolution’s scope has developed.

An editorial in the Global Times, a popular nationalist tabloid, complained this week: “Although Libya had announced a ceasefire and was willing to talk to the opposition forces, western countries still carried on the air raids, after making the UN pass their smartly designed no-fly zone resolution … Although it is under the name of ‘protecting human rights and civilians’, it is for their own economic and political interest.”

The People’s Daily, the official Communist party newspaper, said in another commentary: “The air raids clearly go against the original goal of protecting civilians in Libya. There has been a long history of western countries having double standards.” Tania Branigan Beijing


The country — its people and its government — view events in Libya with alarm. If the Middle Eastern status quo pre-Tunisia was not ideal, it was stable and clear. Now there has been rapid change which has left everyone feeling insecure.

Haaretz noted in its editorial on Wednesday that military intervention may transform the Facebook revolution into the Tomahawk revolution and undermine the legitimacy of civilian movements elsewhere in the Middle East.

Many see the western intervention as further evidence of international hypocrisy, which would condemn Israel for airstrikes on an Arab country but not Nato. Other commentators see the intervention as a further example of western naivete and argue that Arabs are incapable of being democratic so western intervention can only bring about a different kind of autocratic regime.

The Israeli government is more concerned about the indirect consequences of the intervention in Libya. First, officials say they believe they will come under increased diplomatic pressure to move forward with the Palestinian peace process as European counties try to demonstrate their actions in Libya are not anti-Arab or anti-Muslim.

Second, Israel is concerned that a Libya-style popular uprising does not occur in Syria and Jordan. It is symbolic of Israel’s confusion that it is fearful of the fall of its enemy, Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria and sponsor of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Shlomo Bron, a defence analyst at Tel Aviv University, said: “We have not had any special problems with Gaddafi and so it does not matter who comes after him. Israel is more concerned with the countries with whom it shares a border or those who have a strategic capacity to harm Israel such as Iran.” Conal Urquhart Jerusalem


Tehran has condemned the US-led military intervention in Libya despite supporting the revolt against Gaddafi…

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

Libya: Civilian Casualties in Tripoli, NATO Investigation

(ANSAmed) — BRUXELLES, MARCH 31 — Nato will open an investigation to ascertain his potential responsibility for the death of at least 40 civilians in Tripoli allegedly caused by the international coalition’s air raids.

On the first day of Nato’s full command of all military operations in Libya (the handover to “Unified Protector” was finalised at 8am this morning), the nightmare of ‘collateral damage’, in other words the innocent casualties of military targets, is casting its shadow on the Nato mission. The vicar apostolic of Tripoli, mons. Giovanni Martinelli, reported that the coalition raids “caused dozens of casualties among the civilian population” in certain areas of Tripoli. Charles Bouchard, the 55-year-old Canadian general in charge of all military operations from the Naples Nato headquarters, stated during his meeting with the press on the first day with full powers that “We are aware of the news reports and we are taking them into serious consideration. We will open an investigation into the chain of command to see whether there is any proof. We will do what we can to determine if something happened”. Asked for further details, Bouchard stated that “We will investigate to see whether Nato forces were involved or not”.

According to mons. Martinelli the raids hit in particular a civilian residence in Tripoli’s Buslim neighbourhood and, albeit indirectly, also a few hospitals outside the capital city. The bombing allegedly occurred when operations were being led by the coalition of the willing, under the leadership of USA, France and Great Britain. Not being able to rule out a potential involvement, Bouchard pointed out that Nato gained “control of all military operations in Libya only this morning at 08:00”, with the objective of protecting all civilians from any attacks and threatened attacks, and that the mission “has very strict rules of engagement”. At present Unified Protector can rely on more than 100 fighter and support aircraft and more than a dozen naval units and submarines. The Nato member States that provide military resources are at least 20.

“But all the 28 allies contribute in a different way to the mission, which is also joined by non-Nato countries, while others showed interest”, stated Giampaolo Di Paola, president of the Nato military committee. The mandate for the mission is ‘strictly’ defined by UN resolution 1973, and this means that “the Alliance will not arm the rebels”, stated the admiral.

Nato will fully enforce the weapons embargo, therefore blocking all ships loaded with weapons or mercenaries moving towards Libya, including those run by member States.

Even the protection and defence of civilians will be carried out in a neutral fashion. Di Paola guaranteed that “We will take care of all the civilians”. In theory Nato could attack the rebels should they pose a hazard for the people. “But it is a fact that up to now the attacks on civilians are being carried out by Gaddafi’s regime”, stated the high ranking officer.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libyan Rebels Retreat

The second Libyan rebel advance didn’t last very long. Sparked by the withdrawal of Qaddafi’s forces from Ajdabiya last weekend under devastating allied air strikes, and spurred on by the belief that they would somehow sweep westward to Qaddafi’s stronghold of Sirt, and on to Tripoli, the rebels chased their retreating foes on Monday to within fifty miles of Sirt. Then they were stopped in their tracks, hard, and began falling back again, as they had done so many times before.

By Tuesday morning, the rebels had backed up to the eastern outskirts of Bin Jawad. It was like “Groundhog Day”; a month ago, I had been in exactly the same spot, watching the rebels do exactly the same thing. After a lull in the pounding from Qaddafi’s artillery, the rebels shouted exultantly and surged forward into Bin Jawad.


By Wednesday morning, Ras Lanuf had fallen. By Wednesday afternoon, Brega had, too, and in the evening, those civilians still in recently freed Ajdabiya had evacuated the city for Benghazi.

That evening, I spoke to the aide of a senior rebel military officer, who said that the situation for the rebels was urgent. The repeated exoduses from the cities along the coast made it difficult for them to distinguish friend from foe; it was possible that Qaddafi had infiltrators in their ranks. And this time around, Qaddafi’s forces were moving fast in their advance in civilian-looking Technicals, much like their own, but much better armed than they were—and better equipped than ever to deceive NATO’s warplanes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Interior Minister, Mosques Only Places of Worship

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 30 — Tunisia’s Ministry for Religious Affairs has signalled its intent by warning imams not to use places of worship for political propaganda, inviting them to respect ethics as they preach.

The Ministry today asked for the neutrality of mosques to be guaranteed, so that places of worship are not exploited for political gain and that there is no party propaganda or incitement to hatred.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

U.S. Officials: Opposition Warn Libya Could Get Bloodier

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) — From the halls of Congress to the shell-pocked streets of Libyan cities, intertwined themes rang clear Thursday: Leader Moammar Gadhafi is determined to prevail, and the opposition needs more training and allied air strikes to have a chance.

“Gadhafi will “kill as many (people) as he must to crush the rebellion,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told the House Armed Services Committee.

The rebels, who were regrouping after several setbacks, pinned their hopes on more coalition air power, which will likely increase as weather improves.

“We want more to bring a speedy end to this,” Col. Ahmed Omar Bani, an opposition spokesman, told CNN. “A strike is not a strike unless it kills,” he said.

Libyan foreign minister flees country CIA operatives have been in Libya working with rebel leaders to try to reverse gains by loyalist forces, a U.S. intelligence source said.

The United States, insisting it is now fulfilling more of a support role in the coalition, shifted in that direction as NATO took sole command of air operations in Libya.

The ferocity of this month’s fighting and Gadhafi’s advantage in firepower was clearly evident in Misrata, which has seen snipers, significant casualties and destruction.

A witness told CNN Thursday there “is utter madness” and Gadhafi’s men are going door-to-door evicting and terrorizing people.

“I am afraid it will be one big massacre here in Misrata” if the international forces “do not do more,” he said. CNN did not identify the witness for security reasons.

Saddoun El-Misurati, a spokesman for the Libyan opposition in Misrata, described intense fighting and casualties in the city.

“We managed to get two shipments, so far, of badly needed medical supplies to the hospitals. But obviously we still need more supplies in dealing with the day-to-day casualties and the situation on the ground,” he said.

Gadhafi’s military capabilities had been steadily eroded since the onset of U.N.-sanctioned air strikes, U.S. officials have said.

But the dictator’s forces outnumber the rebels by about 10-to-1 in terms of armor and other ground forces, Mullen noted.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, also speaking before the House committee, warned that the Libyan rebels still need significant training and assistance.

“It’s pretty much a pickup ballgame” right now, he said.

U.S. and British officials say no decision has been made about whether to arm the opposition.

Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s “The Situation Room” she opposes doing that. The Democratic senator cited failures of such a move in other conflicts.

Bani — asked whether he is open to the idea of ground forces from outside Libya joining the rebels’ effort — responded that “all options are open to us.”

“It has been very hard the past few days because the freedom forces have been facing heavy tanks and artillery weapons with very light weapons,” the spokesman said.

While some members of the Libyan military reportedly defected to join the opposition, the rebels include many volunteers who have not been trained.

Over the weekend, CNN reported that rebels had taken al-Brega, Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, and reached a town just east of Sirte. But in the past three days, opposition fighters have been pushed back eastward.

CNN’s Ben Wedeman, reporting Thursday from near al-Brega, said the rebels, armed with light mortars and machine guns, have displayed no strategy in their running battles with loyalist troops.

Gates reiterated the Obama administration’s promise that no U.S. ground forces will be used in Libya, telling committee members that the rebels had indicated they didn’t want such an intervention.

But the United States does have CIA personnel on the ground.

A U.S. intelligence source said the CIA is operating in the country to help increase U.S. “military and political understanding” of the situation.

A former counterterrorism official with knowledge of U.S. Libya policy said there is a presidential finding authorizing the CIA to conduct operations in support of U.S. policy in Libya, including assessing the opposition and determining their needs.

Specific activities by CIA officers will be determined by conditions on the ground and would need further approval from the White House, the source said.

A former senior intelligence official said officers “might be advising [rebels] on how to target the adversary, how to use the weapons they have, reconnaissance and counter-surveillance.”

Presidential findings are a type of secret order authorizing some covert intelligence operations.

The CIA has had a presence in Libya for some time, a U.S. official told CNN earlier this month. “The intelligence community is aggressively pursuing information on the ground,” the official said. The CIA sent additional personnel to Libya to augment officers on the ground after the anti-government protests erupted, the official said, without giving details.

CIA officers assisted with the rescue of one of two U.S. airmen whose fighter jet crashed in Libya on March 21, a knowledgeable U.S. source said.

NATO emphasized Thursday that the U.N. resolution authorizing action in Libya precludes “occupation forces.”

NATO Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, indicated that the presence of foreign intelligence personnel does not violate U.N. Security Council 1973, which authorized action in Libya.

Rebel forces have been demanding an end to Gadhafi’s nearly 42 years of rule in Libya. They have faced sustained attacks by a regime fighting to stay in power and portraying the opposition as terrorists backed by al Qaeda.

Rebel forces have lost Bin Jawad and the key oil town of Ras Lanuf and are backed up to the al-Brega area, Bani said Wednesday.

Ajdabiya, which is east of al-Brega, will be prepared as a “defense point” if the withdrawal continues farther east, he said.

Amid the setbacks faced by rebels, a significant crack in Gadhafi’s armor surfaced when Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa fled to London on Wednesday and told the government there that he has resigned, the British Foreign Office said.

Koussa — a former head of Libyan intelligence — was a stalwart defender of the government as recently as a month ago. But in recent weeks his demeanor had visibly changed. At one recent media briefing, he kept his head down as he read a statement and left early.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Koussa had not been offered any immunity.

Koussa’s defection provides evidence “that Gadhafi’s regime … is fragmented, under pressure and crumbling from within,” said Hague, adding that Koussa is voluntarily speaking with officials in the United Kingdom.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said Thursday that Koussa did not tell the government he planned to resign before he flew to Britain. Ibrahim said Koussa asked for sick leave and the government gave him permission to leave the country and receive intensive medical care.

The government had another setback Thursday, with news that an official who was picked as Libyan ambassador to the United Nations has defected.

A relative and an opposition leader said Thursday that former Foreign Minister Ali Abdussalam Treki was in Cairo.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain: Opposition to Iran and S. Arabia, Do Not Interfere

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 31 — “We ask Saudi Arabia and Iran to stop their interference with Bahrain’s internal affairs”, said Ali Salman, secretary-general of the Al Wifaq movement, one of the country’s largest opposition movements. The news was reported by Al Jazeera. In a meeting with other opposition leaders, Salman said: “we don’t want Bahrain to become a battleground between Saudi Arabia and Iran”. Therefore, Salman specified, we ask Saudi Arabia to withdraw its troops from Bahrain and at the same time we ask Iran to stop interfering with our country’s internal affairs.

After accepting the resignation of 11 of the 18 Al Wifaq MPs, Salman underlined that his movement will not participate in any local election to fill the empty seats. Salman also confirmed that the opposition has no intention of “clashing with the security forces”, only of mourning the victims at the moment.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Al-Qaeda Official Arrested Following Tikrit Massacre

(AGI)Baghdad- An Al-Qaeda top official in Iraq was arrested near Mosul, along with 3 other terrorists, claims ‘Al Sumaria’ agency. The independent news agency cited Iraqi security forces in its report. & 13; The arrests have come on the heels of Tuesday’s attacks in Tikrit, in which almost 60 people were killed, including members of the local Council, a Reuters journalist and an Al Arabiya journalist.

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

Jordan: Protest for Release of Journalists Held in Syria

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 31 — Dozens of journalists and human rights activists demonstrate in Amman calling for the release of a Jordanian Reuters journalist arrested in Syria two days ago.

Protesters called on Syrian authorities to release the 52 year old senior correspondent and to allow journalists free access to news sources.

“We call on Syria to free our colleague and respect human rights accords as it has been declaring. We also call on Jordanian authorities to make the necessary procedures to secure his release,” said Hikmat Momani, deputy president of Jordan press association.

Khalidi was sent to Syria a few days ago to replace another Reuters correspondent expelled from Syria for reporting on troubles in the southern city of Dara.

Jordanian officials said they are in contact with Syrian authorities over the matter, amid lack of information on charges filed against Khalidi.

Several journalists have been arrested or deported in Syria since popular uprising started two weeks ago.

Other Arab countries including Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and other troubled states have blocked journalists from entering their territories or targeted them while on duty.

Jordan’s association for defending journalists expressed concern to the health of Khalidi and held Syria responsible for his health.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Amnesty Slams President’s Failure to End State of Emergency

London, 30 March — (AKI) — Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad has missed a crucial opportunity to lift the country’s repressive state of emergency law in a key speech on Wednesday, Amnesty International said. Assad’s speech came amid ongoing anti-government protests in which at least 60 people have died.

Instead of ending Syria’s 50-year-old emergency law, as had widely been expected, in his speech to the parliament, Assad blamed the uprising on a ‘foreign plot’.

“By pinning the blame for ongoing unrest on a foreign ‘conspiracy’, al-Assad is snubbing the many Syrians who are bravely calling for reform,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“It is also a dangerous diversion. He should be addressing the real problem — which is that his security forces have been firing live ammunition on protesters, killing dozens over the last month.”

In his speech, Assad said the state of emergency, political parties and other issues were awaiting public debate before being referred to “the relevant institutions”.

The state of emergency law gives security forces have sweeping powers of arrest and detention

“Although President al-Assad did acknowledge the need for reform, his failure to address head-on the lifting of the state of emergency smacks of procrastination,” said Philip Luther.

“He could declare this tomorrow if he wanted.”

“He should have immediately ordered his security forces to stop using unwarranted force and announced steps towards implementing key human rights reforms.”

Luther said Amnesty was “disturbed” by reports that security forces could already be shooting on demonstrators in the city of Latakia who held protests over al-Assad’s speech.

At least 60 people have been killed in protests in the southern city of Deraa in the last two weeks.

The turmoil started after the arrest of several teenagers who scrawled anti-government graffiti on a wall in the southern city of Deraa, which quickly spread to other provinces.

On Tuesday, the country’s cabinet resigned and huge crowds took to the streets to show support for al-Assad.

A new cabinet — which will have the role of implementing the expected reforms — is expected to be named by the end of the week.

The unrest has become the biggest threat to the rule of al-Assad, aged 45, who succeeded his father Hafez on his death in 2000.

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

Syria: Assad Not Open to Reforms, Clashes in Latakia

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 31 — Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, also known as the “reformer”, yesterday disappointed the expectations of many of his fellow citizens — as well as those of the US — who had been hoping to hear the eagerly-awaited announcement of a setting in motion of much-called for “political reforms”, first and foremost among them the lifting of the state of emergency in place in Syria for 48 years, a record in the Arab world. Instead, he told protestors that “if there must be a battle, then a battle there will be”.

Shortly after his speech, which began much later than had been expected, hundreds of people filled the streets in the southern town of Daraa as well as in the port of Latakia, north-west of Damascus, to protest against the words of the leader, to whom they addressed the same words as those used for weeks against the ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and the much-contested Yemenite Head of State Ali Abdallah Saleh: “Erhal! Erhal!” (“Leave!Leave!”).

According to activists and eyewitness accounts, an unidentified number of people were injured in the latest clashes in Latakia, hit by shots from firearms by government security forces.

In his first public appearance on live TV since unprecedented protests broke out two weeks ago against the regime, the leader who has been in his position for almost 11 years once again called the protests a “plot” drawn up by foreign elements who “are working incessantly and in an organised manner to undermine our country’s stability”. Al Assad dismissed any question of a lifting of the state of emergency, on which the regime’s stability and that of the entire system of control and repression is based, holding that “there are other priorities” and that “before dealing with the emergency law we need to solve the problems of parents who do not have enough money for the medical treatment of their children.” From Washington, the State Department called Assad’s speech “not up to” the expectations of Syrians, calling it “without any substance” and condemned “the violence against the protestors”.

The Syrian president also said he was sorry for the “victims” who had fallen in Daraa, Sanamayn, Latakia, Damascus and Homs, but made explicit reference only to those in Daraa and the “agents in Latakia”. He reiterated that “the orders were clear: no protestors must be injured”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: East Java Council Wants Islamic Headscarf for Schoolgirls

Bangkalan, 31 March — (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Bangkalan Legislative Council in East Java has urged all schools in the regency to oblige their female students to wear Islamic head scarves when they are in school.

“We ask all principals in all schools in Bangkalan, be it junior high or high schools, to oblige their female students to wear headscarves,” councillor Sudarmo said, quoted by Indonesia’s Antara news agency.

Sudarmo said Bangkalan regency was a “Santri City”. “Santri” is a term for an Islamic student that implies piousness. He said Bangkalan residents were religious and the city had many Islamic boarding schools.

He said the council had passed a bylaw with that specific mandate a year ago, but many students were not wearing head scarves, commonly called the jilbab in Indonesia.

“We want all female students here to wear headscarves,” he said.

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

Pakistani Minister Calls on Interpol and the Pope to Condemn Florida Koran Burning

Rehman Malik wrote letters to Benedict XVI and the international agency, calling for the condemnation of the act and an exemplary punishment. The Senate approves a resolution calling for the U.S. to take action against the evangelical preacher. Pakistani Christians emphasize their belonging to the country and denounce the “insane” gesture, the cause of a new wave of persecutions.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — The Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik — on the recommendation of President Asi Ali Zardari — has sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and the Secretary General of Interpol Ronald Nobel, in which calls on them to condemn the burning of the Koran and take action against the instigator, the American pastor Terry Jones. The Senate in Islamabad has also intervened on the episode, unanimously passing a resolution urging the U.S. to bring the controversial preacher to justice.

The mad act of Pastor Wayne Sapp, who last March 20 in Florida burned a Koran under the supervision of the evangelical preacher Terry Jones, has sparked controversy and violence. The initiative has been repeatedly strongly condemned by Christian leaders in Pakistan and India, defined as “an insane and disrespectful act” by a U.S. citizen that has nothing to do with the Christians of Pakistan. However, the burning of the Koran has sparked the reaction of Islamic fundamentalists who, in the space of a few days, have attacked three churches and killed two people, fueling the climate of fear and distrust within the Christian community.

The letter addressed to the head of Interpol, explains Rehman Malik, demands that the matter be treated as a case of “violent crime” and that urgent measures be taken for the future, to ensure such episodes are not repeated. The resolution adopted unanimously by the Senate, as well as requiring urgent action against the pastor Terry Jones, calls on all Muslim countries to express their indignation against the United States and the United Nations to register a “shameful act” towards Islam.

The interior minister also condemns attacks on churches and the burning of some copies of the Bible, the work of Islamic fundamentalists. Malik explains that he has instructed security forces to investigate the matter and take “appropriate measures” to “safeguard the rights of minorities, their properties and sacred places.”

In recent days, the Christian community has repeatedly emphasised that there are no ties between the United States, Pastor Terry Jones and Pakistani Christians, who “were born and belong only to the motherland.” Bishop Anthony Rufin of Islamabad / Rawalpindi, has repeatedly reiterated that “we should not be equated to the Americans.” Fr. Anwar Patras, a Catholic priest, has added that the Christian community, first of all, belongs to Pakistan: “We were born in this land and we will be buried here, we have no connection with Pastor Terry Jones and his sick ideas.”

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

‘You Never See Dark-Skinned Girls in TV Ads’: India’s Top Models on How the Country’s Fashion Industry Still Champions Fair Skin

Two top Indian models have spoken out against what they believe is racism against darker-skinned women in the country’s fashion industry.

Dipannita Sharma and Carol Gracias say they are losing out on top jobs because an increasing amount of Indian designers are casting lighter-skinned models.

Ms Sharma said that the whole country was so ‘obsessed’ with fair skin, that a shift in attitude would take years.

The 35-year-old, who is also a television star, told The Telegraph: ‘It’s not just the fashion industry, India per se is obsessed with white skin.

‘We will take another hundred years to completely get over it.’

She continued: ‘The industry doesn’t openly agree that preferring foreign models over Indian models just for the skin tone is racism. It has some kind of fairness obsession.’

‘One could have understood, if it was about getting supermodels of international fame or to work in India but that’s not happening, it’s just they want fairer skin on the Indian ramps.’

Ms Gracias echoed her fellow model in an interview with the Hindustan Times.

She revealed that she makes just $1,000 per runway show compared to top international models like Kate Moss and Adriana Lima, who can command between $20,000 and $150,000.

She explained: ‘The major reason for this wide gap is that Indian models are not valued so much when it comes to commercial projects.’

‘You never see a dark-skinned girl on TV ads and that’s where the lucrative work is.’

‘Everyone uses fair-skinned girls, people use skin-lighteners like Fair and Lovely. I don’t — maybe I would have been fair and lovely by now.’

Pranab Awasti, of Delhi’s Glitz Modelling agency, attributed the controversial issue to the country’s 200-year history under British colonial rule.

He told the Hindustan Times: ‘Indians in general have that inferiority complex, we have had a hangover about fair skin, since the British left India.

‘The idea of fairness is an Indian concept and it needs to change. It is an inherent thing in Indians to see white as beautiful and black as ugly… we have this concept in our minds that only fair-skinned people can be models.’

Others argue in an industry that worships size-zero, skin colour is not an issue and most local models are simply too curvy to make the cut.

Runway choreographer Tanya Lefebvre said: ‘The girls are not tall enough and have varying body shapes.’

Skin lightening controversy is not new for the Indian fashion industry.

Editors of Elle India were accused digitally lightening the skin colour of Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for the magazine’s December 2010 issue, reigniting the decades-long debate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Hong Kong Radiation Exceeds Tokyo Even After Japan Crisis

Typical radiation levels in Hong Kong exceed those in Tokyo even as workers struggle to contain a crippled nuclear plant in northern Japan, indicating concerns about spreading contamination may be overblown.

The radiation level in central Tokyo reached a high of 0.109 microsieverts per hour in Shinjuku Ward yesterday, data from the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health show. That compares with 0.14 microsieverts in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Observatory said on its website. An x-ray typically has 50 microsieverts of radiation.

Many countries have naturally occurring radiation levels that exceed Tokyo’s, said Bob Bury, former clinical lead for the U.K.’s Royal College of Radiologists. A 30-fold surge in such contamination in Tokyo prompted thousands of expatriates to leave Japan after the March 11 tsunami knocked out power at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, triggering the crisis. Radiation in Tokyo is barely above levels in London and New York even now, analysts said.

“The situation in Japan looks set to follow the pattern of Chernobyl, where fear of radiation did far more damage than the radiation itself,” Bury said in an e-mail referring to the 1986 accident in the former Soviet Union, the world’s worst nuclear disaster. “Whatever the radiation in Tokyo at the moment, you can be fairly sure it is lower than natural background levels in many parts of the world.”

[Return to headlines]

Japan Seeks French, U.S. Expertise

Experts trying to stop radiation leaks

TOKYO — Japan is increasingly turning to other countries for help as it struggles to stabilize its tsunami-stricken nuclear plant and stop radiation leaks that are complicating efforts to recover the bodies of some of the thousands swept away by the towering wave.

French, American and international experts — even a robot — are either in Japan or on their way, and French President Nicholas Sarkozy visited Tokyo on Thursday to meet with the prime minister and show solidarity.

Workers are racing to find the source of contaminated water that has been pooling in the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The leaks have often forced workers to flee the plant, preventing them from restarting important cooling systems.

“The amount of water is enormous, and we need any wisdom available,” said nuclear safety agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama.

Experts from French nuclear giant Areva, which supplied fuel to the plant, are helping figure out how to dispose of the contaminated water that has begun leaking into the ground and the sea.

“We are not a supplier only for happy days,” CEO Anne Lauvergeon told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday. “We are effectively also there when things become difficult.”

Officials from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, said they welcome the help.

“U.S. nuclear plants aren’t by the ocean, unlike Japanese ones, so we think the French may be able to help us more than the Americans,” said TEPCO manager Teruaki Kobayashi.

TEPCO officials also said they expect to use a remote-controlled robot sent by the U.S. within a few days to evaluate areas with high radiation. They are also setting up a panel of Japanese and American nuclear experts and U.S. military personnel to address the crisis.

A TEPCO spokesman said Thursday that radioactive contamination in groundwater nearly 50 feet under one of six reactors had been measured at 10,000 times the government standard for water at the plant. It was the first time the utility has released statistics for groundwater near the plant.

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1,500 Illegal Imigrants ‘Evicted’ From Lampedusa

Siracusa, 31 March — (AKI) — Some 1,500 migrants were removed from Lampedusa early on Thursday aboard an Italian navy vessel, bringing down the number of illegal immigrants on the tiny southern Italian fishing island to 4,500.

Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday vowed Lampedusa would be “freed” of the thousands of migrants who had arrived there from North Africa since January “within 48-60 hours”.

Ships from the Italian navy will transfer the migrants to various identification centres on the Italian mainland, where their claims for asylum and other forms of protection will be assessed. Most are likely to be repatriated.

At the time of Berlusconi’s visit to Lampedusa on Wednesday there were around 6,300 migrants crowded on the island — more than its resident population of some 5,000 people.

Berlusconi also promised tax breaks and government funds to help the island — which lives off fishing and tourism — recover from the migrant influx.

Authorities on Lampedusa have said they are unable to feed and house so many migrants and that their sanitary conditions were “desperate”. Angry islanders have held protests at the migrant ‘invasion’.

About 20,000 migrants — mostly Tunisians — have crossed the Mediterranean to Lampedusa since the revolt broke out in Tunisia in January and spread to other countries in North Africa, loosening frontier checks that had blocked the way into Europe.

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

1700 Tunisians Head to Manduria From Lampedusa

(AGI) Lampedusa — So far 1700 Tunisians have left Lampedusa.

Most of them left on the “Excelsior” ship, which belongs to Italian company Grandi Navi Veloci. This morning, more migrants were taken from the reception centre in Lampedusa to a refugee camp in Manduria.

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

At Least 423,000 Flee Libya With 20,000 More Every Day

(AGI) Brussels — At least 423,000 refugees have fled Libya since the beginning of the crisis and the number continue to rise by 20,000 every day. Figures were provided in Brussels by the UNHCFR, but details of destinations refer to previous data when the number of refugees was 396,000. Of these, 200,000 left for Tunisia, 160,000 for Egypt, 18,000 went to Niger, 5,000 to had and 3,000 to the Sudan. A further 2,000 have arrived in Lampedusa and Malta. The ACNUR and the OIM have already taken charge of 74,000 of these refugees within the framework of repatriation to third countries.

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

Berlusconi Promises to Empty and Re-Launch Lampedusa

Five ships come amid food shortage and angry islanders

(ANSA) — Milan, March 30 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi flew to Lampedusa Wednesday to appease angry residents, promising measures to rehabilitate the island and to prevent further immigrant landings.

The tiny island community has been overwhelmed in recent days by frequent immigrant boat landings — mainly from Tunisia — that has crammed more than 6,000 immigrants on its shores, causing dense overcrowding, severe food shortage among new arrivals, high tension, and local protests.

“In 48 to 60 hours, Lampedusa will be inhabited only by Lampedusans,” declared Berlusconi amidst the applause of islanders. Two of five ships sent to empty Lampedusa of its human tide arrived Wednesday morning. Another three were expected later in the day, offering a total capacity of 10,000 persons.

Berlusconi also promised to prevent new landings.

“We have obtained (permission) to monitor the ports and the coasts to prevent new landings. “We have even implemented entrepreneurial measures. “I will tell you a colorful one: we have bought fishing boats so that they cannot be used for (immigrant) crossings. “We have obtained commitment for the acceptance of all the Tunisians that we manage to bring back”.

On Monday, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni threatened forced repatriations should diplomatic efforts with Tunisian authorities fail. Tuesday the leader of the right wing Northern League Umberto Bossi used a vulgar phrase in Lombard dialect meaning, approximately, “Throw them out”. The European Union’s commissioner of internal affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, responded, “People who need protection and ask for asylum cannot be pushed back”.

Berlusconi in his speech to Lampedusans also promised recompense to them for their ordeal, giving tax breaks and exemption from mandatory pension payments. He pledged to appeal to the European Union to turn the island into a special “bureaucracy-free” zone. In addition, he said the government was seeking discounted diesel fuel for Lampedusan fishermen from the state-controlled petroleum giant ENI. Berlusconi also said he would take action for Lampedusa’s image among tourists.

“We have already commissioned RAI and Mediaset to do reports to attract Italians to Lampedusa, which has always been a paradise and will return to be so,” he said. Mediaset and RAI are Italy’s two main television networks.

Mediaset is majority-owned by the premier while RAI is state-owned.

Berlusconi also said he had personally bought a house on the island. “I went on the Internet and I bought a house at Cala Francese. It is called Le Due Palme. I, too, will become a Lampedusan”.

The villa was up for sale on the Web for 150 million euros.

Berlusconi even said the government would nominate Lampusa for the Nobel peace prize.

His speech came after reports of a 2,000-meal shortfall among the over 6,000 immigrants packed in and around an immigrant center built as a temporary first stop with a maximum capacity of 850. Despite tent cities hastily erected to give temporary shelter to the flood in recent days of mostly Tunisians, the UNHCR reported last week that many remained exposed to the elements.

Lampedusa residents grew increasingly hostile. A group of residents occupied the town hall after others had blocked military access road to the port Monday, overturning dumpsters and filling containers with water, stones and other debris. Several fishermen also sought to obstruct authorities, towing a string of boats confiscated from immigrants in an attempt to block the water entrance to the port.

Four commercial passenger ships and the military ship San Marco — with a total capacity for roughly 10,000 people — have been organized by the Italian government to empty the island, and transport the immigrants to temporary detention centers throughout Italy. Regular detention centers have reached near saturation, Italian authorities said last week.

A ship will be permanently stationed in Lampedusa to regularly evacuate it throughout the coming months, announced Cabinet Undersecretary Gianfranco Micciche’, who noted that favorable weather in the spring and summer encourages immigrant sea crossings.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi Pledges to Clear Lampedusa in Two or Three Days

Premier promises tax-free zone and Nobel candidature. “I have bought a villa and want to open a casino”

MILAN — It was Silvio Berlusconi’s big day on Lampedusa. The Italian premier landed on the island to make a series of pledges to residents reeling under the ceaseless wave of recent migrant landings. The first and most significant promise concerns immigrants: “Within the next 48-60 hours, there will only be Lampedusans on the island”. This means that the almost 6,000 North Africans who have arrived in the recent past will go. “We have organised six vessels to clear Lampedusa and we are negotiating a seventh”, the PM assured listeners. The migrants will be “taken to Italy, not just Sicily but other regions as well. We will also empty the reception centre and there will always be a ship on hand to transfer new arrivals”.

THE PLEDGES — The premier’s promises were not restricted to the landings chaos. Truth to tell, what unfolded on the quay at Lampedusa was something of a show. Wearing a dark shirt and no tie, mike in hand and one arm raised, Silvio Berlusconi rattled off announcements: a Nobel Peace Prize candidature for the island; a tax, national insurance and bank moratorium to turn Lampedusa into a tax-free zone; a tourism plan including a RAI and Mediaset programme presenting the island in enthusiastic terms; and even a golf course and casino. “And I’m going to be a Lampedusan”, the prime minister stressed. “I went on the Internet and bought a home at Cala Francese. It’s called Le Due Palme [The Two Palm Trees — Trans.]” (click to see the villa: text in Italian).

TOURISM — “I don’t think a treasure like Lampedusa should be left in this condition”. Mr Berlusconi is considering a series of proposals: “Starting with green areas, the palm groves that need to be recovered”. He also has a golf course in mind — “I believe it is indispensable” — and a casino is in the pipeline. “That’s right”, he replied to a journalist who wondered whether he had heard the PM correctly. “I believe it is useful for developing tourism on the island”. The model he referred to explicitly was Portofino. One of the tools that will be used is taxation: “We are looking into suspending the tax burden on the island for at least a year”.

VISIT COINCIDES WITH SHORT TRIAL — The first question asked by journalists regarded the “short trial” measure to curtail time-bars, which was being debated on Wednesday morning in the Chamber of Deputies. The law would block many of the trials in which Mr Berlusconi is still involved. “It’s not in order to talk here about any issues other than the Lampedusa crisis”, replied the premier. “In any case it’s not a short trial; it’s a European trial, a trial with a decent time horizon, as Europe demands of us”.

ESCAPED TUNISIANS — The prime minister also cleared up long-standing rumours that escaped prisoners from Tunisian jails were on the island. Word was going round that the prisoners had taken advantage of the revolution to flee to Italy on the refugee boats that have been criss-crossing the Mediterranean in recent weeks: “In all, 13,600 Tunisians escaped and some of them are here on Lampedusa. But Tunisia has confirmed that no more will be leaving”, added the prime minister. “Migrants landing on the quay at Lampedusa harbour will be put straight back onto ships heading for Tunisia or other centres”.

HAIL OF CRITICISM — Mr Berlusconi’s remarks on the island attracted a hail of criticism as opposition parties protested. “I’m fed up with these performances”, grumbled Pier Luigi Bersani. “The miracle continues”. The Democratic Party (PD) complained in general about “silenced protests” and what amounted to a “regime-sponsored demonstration”. There were also comments about “Silvio La Qualunque” [a reference to the recent film Qualunquemente, starring Antonio Albanese — Trans]. Italy of Value’s (IDV) Felice Belisario sneered: “Berlusconi on Lampedusa is less convincing than a street trader hawking stolen pans” while the Christian Democrat UDC said the PM’s visit to Lampedusa was “yet another commercial”.

REPATRIATIONS AND COASTAL PATROLS — Returning to the subject of immigrants, Mr Berlusconi said he was certain that repatriation was the best way to halt the emergency. “Sending them back where they came from would be a clear signal saying ‘there’s no point in us paying and facing danger if they’re only going to take us back where we came from’. We have obtained assurances from the new government in Tunis that it will accept all returning Tunisians” who arrived in Italy illegally, Mr Berlusconi pointed out. On the subject of controlling the coastline, the PM said he had taken steps to monitor harbours so as to prevent new landings. He admitted taking “some pretty colourful” measures to block arrivals. “Here’s one”, he said. “We have purchased fishing boats so that they cannot be used for crossings. When I leave politics, I’ll be able to use them to set up a wet fish business”.

“I HAVE A PLAN” — However, what Mr Berlusconi was keen to underline above all in his dialogue with Lampedusans was that things had changed because he personally had taken charge of managing the emergency. Speaking without notes just after landing, he said: “Your prime minister has the quirky habit of solving problems. Until yesterday, I had no clear solution, which is why you hadn’t seen me. Then I drafted a plan. It went into action at midnight yesterday. I and Giulio Tremonti found the finance for a solution so here I am today to tell you about it”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Berlusconi Claims Escaped Tunisian Prisoners Have Arrived by Boat

Rome, 31 March (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday accused Tunisia of failing to help stem a flow of illegal immigrants leaving the North African country, allowing escaped prisoners along with thousands of others to reach southern Italy’s shores.

Addressing a Rome political conference by telephone, Berlusconi said 25 thousand people have arrived on the island of Lampedusa in south Italy since a popular uprising prompted Tunisia’s authoritarian president to resign in January.

“Tunisia is not collaborating,” Berlusconi said.

Berlusconi said that 10,000 people escaped from Tunisia’s prisons amid national protests against Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

“We suspect, and in some cases are certain, that they have arrived here,” Berlusconi added.

“We are talking about 5,000 undesirable Tunisian citizens,” he said, without quoting any official source for the information.

Members of the Italian government had already raised the possibility that the migrant boats could be used as a Trojan Horse by Islamic terrorists to enter Europe.

Critics have accused Rome of alarmism and insensitivity toward the plight of North Africans. Supporters of the Italian government say the Tunisians are seeking economic opportunity, not political asylum.

Berlusconi’s government has called the arrival of mostly Tunisian migrants a crisis and called on the European Union to relieve Italy by providing funds and taking some of the illegal immigrants off its hands.

Berlusconi visited the tiny southern island of Lampedusa on Wednesday and promised tax breaks to its residents. The locals have accused the central government of abandoning to the thousands of unauthorised visitors who long ago filled Lampedusas’ sole detention centre far beyond capacity and have been sleeping outdoors.

At the time of Berlusconi’s visit there were around 6,300 migrants crowded on the island — more than its resident population of some 5,000 people.

Around 2,500 people have since been transferred to other sites in Italy, according to SkyNews24.

Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni said the immigrant boats will continue to arrive until Tunisia moves to apprehend the vessels.

It will be resolved “only if and when Tunisia blocks its shores and takes back the illegal immigrants,” he said on Thursday.

In the past six weeks, over 19,000 Tunisian migrants have reached Italian shores, have been identified and should be deported, Maroni said.

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

EU to Help Tunisian Refugees, Malmstrom

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 31 — The European Union would like to help the refugees in a concrete manner, claims EU commissioner for Internal Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom, in Tunisia since yesterday. Her statements were reported in local media sources today. She added that Europe could take in those who cannot return to their countries due to political or war-related reasons.

Malmstrom also said that talks would be set in motion with the Tunisia’s new Interior Minister, Habib Essid, who was sworn in on Monday, on the way to repatriate Tunisian migrants who have arrived on Lampedusa, and referred — within this context — to the possibility of granting incentives to encourage them to go back to their home countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Forced Repatriations Option for Tunisians, Says Italy

FM Frattini again blasts Europe, France for lacking solidarity

(ANSA) — Rome, March 31 — Thousands of Tunisian migrants who have landed in Italy following unrest in North Africa may be forcibly repatriated unless the burden of hosting them is shared with other European nations, the Italian government said Thursday.

“They must be repatriated or distributed around other European countries,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in a telephone interview with a TV show following the arrival of around 20,000 mostly Tunisians this year.

He added that the hypothesis of “forced repatriation is an extreme measure but it cannot be excluded”. The minister then repeated his criticism of the “flagrant” lack of solidarity Italy’s European neighbours had displayed in failing to help with the migrant crisis in a significant way, “starting with France” after it blocked thousands of Tunisian migrants at the French-Italian border.

On Thursday Italy continued efforts to ship migrants from inundated Lampedusa and start spreading them around other parts of the country to end a humanitarian and sanitary crisis on the southern island and avert the risk of epidemics. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi promised to clear the tiny island, nearer to Tunisia than Sicilia, of some 7,000 migrants within two to three days during a visit on Wednesday.

He also promised tax breaks and compensation for the islanders, who number around 5,000, and vowed to nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize, claiming to feel a ‘Lampedusan’, having just bought a villa there. The island’s mayor said the number of migrants there had fallen to 3,731 on Thursday.

The relocation plan has not pleased everyone though.

Interior Ministry Undersecretary Alfredo Mantovano tended his resignation Wednesday evening in protest at the number of migrants being moved near his home in the southern town of Manduria and several protests were staged in the areas of migrant camps in other parts of Italy. Frattini, meanwhile, added that an agreement struck last week with the Tunisian government to stop the wave of migrants from there in exchange for Italian resources, training and credit was starting to bear fruit.

He said Tunisia had stopped 20 boats heading for Italy carrying some 1,200 people in the last 48 hours after agreeing to intensify controls of its sea borders.

The Tunisian authorities said 12 people died Monday night when a boat sank near its coast, while a group of migrants saved at sea near Lampedusa said seven people travelling with them, including a child, had drowned, although the Italian authorities said the reports were unconfirmed.

Frattini also announced Thursday that he will meet representatives of the Transitional National Council, the authority of the Libyan rebels who are trying to end Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year rule, on Monday.

He denied claims Italy had been slow in nurturing relations with the Benghazi-based rebels, saying there had been “intense contact” via the Italian consulate in Benghazi and that he had spoken with Transitional National Council chief Mahmoud Jebril several times on the phone.

France was the first state to recognize the rebels and the United States has been talking to them for some time.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Unrest at Turin Detention Centre Last Night

(AGI) Turin — Immigrants hurled plastic bottles, shouted and caused damage at the Turin detention centre last night. At around twenty past midnight, immigrants being held at the centre mounted a loud and unruly protest, during the course of which bottles were hurled at staff and one of the housing units was damaged as well as a bathroom door. Things got back to normal around 2.30. The Police are currently ascertaining who was to blame for the unrest and the ensuring damage.

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

Italy: Interior Minister to Send Immigrants to Northern Regions

(AGI) Rome — Maroni has said all regions, except for Abruzzo, including those governed by the Northern League, must host immigrants. After a Cabinet meeting held today, Roberto Maroni said, “Should Tunisia take back three, four or five thousand Tunisians, we will not have a problem. Should this not happen, the plan is ready and no one can avoid helping in managing this emergency, including regions in the north and those governed by the Northern league.”

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

Italy Threatens Forced Repatriation on Flood of North African Migrants if European Allies Don’t Take ‘Fair Share’

Beleaguered Italy has threatened to forcibly return thousands of Tunisian illegal immigrants unless other European countries accept them as the situation reaches breaking point.

In recent weeks more than 18,000 immigrants have arrived on the tiny rocky outcrop of Lampedusa, which is closer to north Africa than mainland Italy, pushing resources to the limit.

In a bid to resolve the crisis many have been moved by ship to centres on the mainland but there the migrants, who are economic rather than refugees, climb over flimsy fences and escape.

Today Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini hinted patience was wearing thin and launched a stinging attack on Europe and France in particular.

He he said: ‘They must be repatriated or distributed around other European countries.

‘There has been a flagrant lack of solidarity from Italy’s European neighbours, who have failed to help starting with France.’


During the last few days hundreds of Tunisians have been gathering at Ventimiglia, a town on the border with France and which is the ultimate destination for many of them but they have been refused entry.

Relations between Rome and Paris have been fraught since the start of the allied no fly zone as Italy had wanted NATO to take immediate command while France had initially opposed the idea and dragged out the discussions.

Italy also felt excluded from the negotiations over Libya’s future after it emerged that America, Britain, Germany and France had discussed plans in a video conference without being invited.

Minister Frattini added the possibility of ‘forced repatriation is an extreme measure but it cannot be excluded’ — a solution being urged by fellow ruling right wing coalition anti-immigrant Northern League.

The party’s leader, firebrand Umberto Bossi, who once suggested the navy should shell boats carrying immigrants simply said: ‘They should all f*** off home.’

Today Italy continued with efforts to ship 6,000 illegal immigrants from Lampedusa onto the mainland and 2,000 were taken off using navy and commercial vessels.

Earlier this week a flamboyant Berlusconi had worked a cheering crowd on Lampedusa by telling them he would clear the island within ‘60 hours’ and that he had even bought a home there to show solidarity.

Berlusconi had also given assurances that Tunisia had said it would stop boats leaving its shores but today he revealed that the north African country had not stuck to its agreement.

He said: ‘The Tunisians assured us that they would stop the boats but this has not happened.

‘They promised economic incentives to its citizens to kick start the economy and this has not happened.

‘The Tunisian government must accept the repatriation of its people, at least 5,000 of them because we know this number have escaped from jail there and we will not have them.’

Lampedusa has just one accommodation centre that can hold 850 people and so many of the illegal immigrants have been sleeping rough on the beach or in the surrounding countryside.

Food and water are said to be running low and health officials from Rome who have been dispatched to the island say there is a real risk of an epidemic as sanitation has virtually broken down.

Human rights group Amnesty International has added its voice to local concern, saying that migrants had been left to fend for themselves in ‘appalling’ conditions.

Those that have been taken off the island have been housed in tented cities on disused military bases at Manduria near Taranto while others are being set up across Italy — even in leafy Tuscany, a favourite spot for British holidaymakers.

Officials have earmarked a former airbase at Coltano near Pisa as a potential site for up to 1,000 illegal immigrants to be housed in tents but the mayor has insisted that he and locals will ‘block operations.’

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Obama Punts as Utah Grants Amnesty to Illegals

Last April, when Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation authorizing Arizona to enforce federal immigration laws, President Obama stepped before the television cameras in the Rose Garden and threatened to take action to prevent the law from taking effect. Within weeks, his Justice Department filed suit against Arizona on the grounds that S.B. 1070 pre-empted the federal government’s exclusive authority over immigration policy.

In contrast to Arizona’s effort to enforce immigration laws passed by Congress, the Utah legislature enacted legislation in March that creates a completely separate immigration policy for Utah. One of the bills signed by Gov. Gary Herbert would grant two-year work permits to illegal aliens who reside in Utah, provided they have no criminal records. Because federal law expressly forbids illegal aliens from working anywhere in the United States — including Utah — the law gives the governor until 2013 to negotiate a waiver with the federal government. Even if a waiver is not issued, Utah would begin issuing work permits to illegal aliens beginning in 2013.

The 1986 federal law prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens does not include provisions for waivers — a point that was noted by Utah’s own legislative attorneys. Thus, the executive branch has no authority to negotiate, much less issue, a waiver that would allow Utah to turn illegal aliens into legal guest workers. To do so would require the Obama administration to invalidate unilaterally a federal statute.

A second piece of legislation signed by Mr. Herbert grants Utahans the right to sponsor up to two foreign individuals, or one entire family, to live in Utah. Utahans, like other Americans, already enjoy the right to sponsor immigrants to the United States provided that they fall within the parameters and quotas established under federal law. Thus, any immigrant intending to settle in Utah must first be granted a visa by the federal government, as states lack any legal authority to admit immigrants.

To date, the only reaction from the Department of Justice to Utah’s blatant usurpation of the federal government’s exclusive authority over the power to regulate immigration has been a vague statement that they are “monitoring” the situation. That tepid response speaks volumes about the administration’s willingness to subvert the Constitution to achieve political ends.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Repatriate Tunisians Arriving in Italy, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 31 — The migrants who have arrived in Italy “must be repatriated to Tunisia or distributed among other European countries,” said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on the eve of a cabinet meeting on the emergency situation as concerns immigration.

The head of Italy’s foreign office underscored the “scandalous” nature of the lack of solidarity shown by European countries, including those to which many Tunisians would like to go. A lack of solidarity shown by, “to begin with France,” a country to which the minister yesterday accused of rejecting Tunisians and sending them back to Italy at the Ventimiglia border crossing.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisian Association Critical of Italy

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 30 — The Tunisian association for citizenship on both sides of the Mediterranean has strongly criticised the Italian government for its tackling of illegal immigration. During a press conference held in Tunis today, there was particular condemnation of comments made about Tunisia by Italy’s Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, which the association believes is indicative of racism reminiscent of a bygone age.

Tunisia, the association claims, is “a sovereign country that is involved in a difficult and revolutionary democratic process”. In this context, it continues, “the Tunisian people, civil society and official Tunisian institutions could not possibly accept that financial support from partner countries might be conditioned by diktats from a bygone age, encouraging Tunisia to act against international laws that guarantee the rights of people in general and migrants in particular”.

The Federation, therefore, requests “the immediate transfer of migrants on the island of Lampedusa to places where decent reception conditions can be ensured and where their situation can be dealt with in the respect of existing laws”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Montenegro: LGBT Activists Announce First Pride Parade

(ANSAmed) — PODGORICA, MARCH 29 — LGBT Forum Progress, the first non-governmental organization for the promotion of rights of people with different sexual orientation in Montenegro, announced the possible holding of a Pride Parade in Podgorica and has nominated Montenegrin Minister of Human and Minority Rights Ferhat Dinosa for president of the parade’s organization committee, reports local media.

The NGO announced that Dinosa was forwarded the nomination on March 21 and that he is expected to declare whether he accepts the nomination or whether another person from the government should be nominated.

The Pride Parade’s aim is to ensure that all human rights, including the rights of people with different sexual orientations, are also marked and celebrated in Montenegro. The police have also been informed of plans for the parade and have been asked to conduct a security assessment of the event.

Montenegrin Minister for Human and Minority Rights Ferhat Dinosa earlier announced that he was against the holding of a Pride Parade because he did not consider it to be the “right way” for people with different sexual orientation to gain their rights.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Gays Want ‘Real’ Equal Rights

Homosexuals in the Netherlands may be able to marry, they still do not enjoy all the rights of heterosexual couples, gay organisation COC chairman Vera Bergkamp writes in a letter to prime minister Mark Rutte and parliament and reported in the Dutch press.

There are still too many councils where civil servants refuse to conduct gay marriages, according to Bergkamp. ‘It’s unthinkable that anyone refusing to marry Jews or people of colour would be protected,’ she writes.

The COC wants the government to introduce a bill that would put an end to this practice.


The COC also wants the government to give gay couples the same rights when one of them has a child as heterosexual couples. ‘At the moment, the other mother has to adopt the child, a long, emotional and expensive process,’ she writes.

But a heterosexual couple who have a baby using a sperm donor do not have to go through the same process, she points out.

The third area where the COC wants equality is on family reunions. The government is planning to restrict reunions to couples who were married abroad. But most countries do not allow gay couples to marry, meaning they will miss out, Bergkamp says.

The Netherlands legalised gay marriage on April 1, 2001. Since then, nearly 15,000 couples have married.

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

UK: Anger as Schools Ban Gideon Bibles to Avoid Upsetting Other Faiths

Schools have banned Christians from handing out Bibles to avoid angering other faiths.

The Gideons have become famed for handing out signature red Bibles to young children during school assemblies.

But they have been told to stay away from some classes because it may spark complaints from different faiths.

Abbot Beyne School and Paget High School near Burton On Trent in Staffordshire have made the controversial ban.

Maggie Tate, deputy head teacher of Abbot Beyne, said: ‘The reason we stopped the Gideons coming in is that we are a comprehensive multi-faith school. We felt it was inappropriate to allow one faith group to distribute material in school.’

She said all pupils at Abbot Beyne, Winshill were given moral-themed assemblies and that the school had the highest proportion of pupils in Staffordshire sitting GCSEs in religious education.

Headteacher at Paget High School in Branston, Don Smith, also cited multiculturalism as the reason behind the decision to abolish the tradition.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Voluntary Female Quotas Do Not Work, Norway Says

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Voluntary quotas for women on the boards of publicly listed companies, as proposed by the EU commission, do not work, with legally-binding ones needed, a Norwegian official has said on the basis of the Nordic country’s leading experience in the area.

“In Norway, we were not able to make a difference with the voluntary approach,” public administration minister Rigmor Aasrud told EUobserver in an interview.

She recalled that Norway’s Conservative government in 2003 told companies they would pass a quota law in two years unless they boosted the number of women by themselves.

“But it wasn’t a real success, the voluntary system didn’t function. We increased from five to six percent, it wasn’t really visible. So they passed the law and companies were given two years to implement a 40 percent quota in the boards. From 2007 to 2009, they increased from six to 39.6 percent. That was very successful,” she explained.

According to the Norwegian law, publicly listed companies can be dissolved if they fail to reach the 40 percent quota. No company has been dissolved so far.

Companies first opposed and campaigned against the law. But once legislation was passed, many began to offer training courses, where CEOs of volunteer firms could chose up to three qualified executive women to complete competence training and networking opportunities. By the end of 2007, almost 600 women had completed the specialised training, half of which have since become members of Norwegian boards.

In Europe, EU commission figures show that only 12 percent of board members in the bloc’s largest companies are women and in 97 percent of cases the board is chaired by a man. So far, the share of female board members has increased by just over half a percentage point per year over the last seven years.

“At this rate, unless action is taken, it will take another 50 years before there is a reasonable balance (40 percent of each sex) on company boards,” the EU commission said in its recent press statement.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding earlier this month challenged all EU publicly listed companies to sign up to a voluntary pledge to increase the presence of women on their boards to 30 percent by 2015 and 40 percent by 2020. If no action is taken within a year, she suggested, the commission may come up with binding rules.

In Norway, the voluntary system did not work because “male members of the selecting committees always found people from their own networks, usually men as well,” Aasrud said.

While admitting that the quotas represent a form of positive discrimination, she insisted that the women chosen are “well educated” and have “different experiences and younger than their male colleagues.”

Similarly to EU statistics showing that 60 percent of university graduates are women, in Norway, three out of five students completing their studies are female.

“In general, the experience in Norway has been good for the companies, more creativity, more innovation, more diversity than before,” Aasrud noted.

One way to ensure the success of quotas, however, is to improve daycare and social assistance for both parents, so that the mother does not have to sacrifice her career in order to take care of the child, the Norwegian politician added.

“I think it’s important to combine quota rules with good social security systems. We have a system giving the father the possibility to stay at home for 10 weeks. Two of our male ministers have taken paternity leave in recent months,” she said.

“It is rather common in Norway that both men and women stay home with the children. That has been important for giving women career opportunities, because employers are familiar with both women and men taking parental leave.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Dark Matter Could be the Life of the Party for Starless Planets

Dark matter could make planets that would otherwise be hostile to life habitable, a new study suggests. It suggests that in areas rich in dark matter, particles of the stuff could collect inside free-floating planets that have no star to warm them, heating them enough to maintain liquid water on their surfaces.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]