Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110404

Financial Crisis
»€24bn Needed to Regain Confidence in Irish Banks
»Greece: Mount Athos Monks, We Don’t Want to Pay Taxes
»Greece Fears Fresh Austerity Measures
»S&P Downgrades Four Greece’s Largest Banks
»Time for a Haircut?
»A Visit to the Pennsylvania Fortress of “The World’s Most Dangerous Islamist” — Inside the Gulen Compound
»Feisal Rauf Whitewashes Reality of Sharia Law During College Panel on Religion
»Fiat 500 Debuts in USA
»It’s B-a-a-ck! Trans-Texas Corridor Rises From Dead
»Jewish Students Under Assault
»Muslims and Moral Handicaps
»Obama’s War in Libya Disturbs Americans
»Prosser vs. Kloppenburg: Wisconsin Supreme Court Battle Royale
»Socialist Sunday Schools
Europe and the EU
»Carla Postpones Album Release — Husband’s Career Comes First
»France: Monday Anti-Burqa Law to Go Into Effect
»Germany: Women’s Boxing Champ Shot by Stepfather
»Italy: Banks Ask Parmalat to Delay Shareholders’ Meeting
»Italy: Berlusconi: The Left Sows Hatred Against Me
»Netherlands: Families Eat Into Their Savings
»Netherlands: Catholic School Can Ban Muslim Headscarf, Rules Court
»New Furor Over France’s Muslims as Veil Ban Looms
»Poland: The Irreducible Autonomy of Silesia
»Police Told Not to Make Public Unveilings When French Burka Ban Enforced Next Week
»Romania: WikiLeaks Reveals National “Stupidity”
»UK Proposes Joint Anglo-French Nuclear Deterrent
»UK: ‘Cyber Sex Pervert’, 24, Walks Free After Judge Rules He Was Seduced by 13-Year-Old Girl
»UK: Bill for ‘Self-Indulgent’ EDL March Will Cost Taxpayers £1m, Says Jack Straw
»UK: Now Scots Are Promised Council Tax and Water Bill Freeze… Paid for by the English
»Football: Bosnia Suspended From FIFA and UEFA
»Population Census Revives Unsettled Scores
Mediterranean Union
»Tunisia: EU Ready to Double 2012-2013 Partnership Fund
North Africa
»Algeria: Municipal Guard Protest in Capital Blocked
»Libya Chaos ‘Allows Al-Qaida to Grab Surface-to-Air Missiles’
»NATO Bombs Risk Damaging Water Supplies to Libyan Cities
Israel and the Palestinians
»Arabs Prefer Life in Israel
»Caroline Glick: Richard Goldstone & Palestinian Statehood
»Facebook Intifada Campaign Exploits Fallen Soldiers’ Site
»Next Arab Facebook Campaign: Get Millions to Invade Israel
»West Bank: Director Arab-Jewish Theatre Killed
Middle East
»Frank Gaffney: Second Thoughts, From Goldstone to the ‘Arab Spring’
»Jordan: Failed Attack on Islamist Party Headquarters
»Syria: Press: Anti-Terror Law Ready by Friday
»The “Arab Spring” Between Authoritarianism and Islamism
»Yemen: Gulf Monarchies Offer Gov’t-Opposition Mediation
»As of 2012, Religion Will be Studied in All Russian Schools
South Asia
»Afghanistan: La Russa Says Withdrawal Realistic in 2014
»Afghanistan: Obama Envoy Claims Islam is Answer to Violence
»Bangladesh: General Strike Against New Pro-Women Policy
»India: Orissa: 12 Tribals Arrested for Converting to Christianity Without an Official Permit
»Indonesia: Bogor: “War” Against Yasmin Church as the Faithful Pray in Streets
»Kazakhstan: Presidential Election, Nazarbayev Wins With 95% of the Votes
»Pakistan: Shahbaz Bhatti’s Successor Pledges Fight Against Discrimination But is Silent Over Blasphemy Law
»Pastor Jones and a Dreaded Ghost
»Protests Against Women’s Policy Cripple Bangladesh
Far East
»About 45 Per Cent of Chinese Dairies Shut Down Following Melamine Scandals
»Berlin Condemns Arrest of Chinese Artist
»China: Mother Forced to Humiliate Herself in Publicity Stunt to Get Treatment for Her Daughter
»Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Plant Dumped Into Sea
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ivory Coast: UN Helicopters Attack Gbagbo’s Forces
»Berlusconi in Tunis to Stop Exodus, ‘But Local Govt Weak’
»Berlusconi in Tunis, Talks on Repatriations
»EU Must Show Solidarity With Tunisia, Commissioner Says
»Gaddafi’s Diaspora and the Libyans Overwhelming an Italian Island Who Are Threatening to Come Here
»Immigration Coalition Pressures President Obama
»Italy’s Mission to Stem the Migrant Flow
»Just Passing Through? North African Immigrants Look for Cracks in French-Italian Border
»Migrant Arrivals Continue as Berlusconi Travels to Tunisia to End Flow
»Refugees Set Italian Church on Fire
»UK: Migrant Crime Wave Revealed: Foreign Arrests Have Almost Doubled in Just Three Years
Culture Wars
»Swedish Church: Don’t Christen Asylum Seekers

Financial Crisis

€24bn Needed to Regain Confidence in Irish Banks

Fresh stress tests conducted on Irish banks have revealed a €24 billion capital shortfall, with Dublin rapidly announcing a restructuring plan that will likely see the country’s entire banking sector brought under government control. Announcing the results of the tests on Thursday, Irish central bank chief Patrick Honohan said: “This proves to have been one of the costliest banking crises in history.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Mount Athos Monks, We Don’t Want to Pay Taxes

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 1 — The Orthodox monasteries of Mount Athos, the ‘theocratic republic’ located in the northeast of Greece are in a dispute with the government in Athens, which wants to tax them under the fiscal reform that is trying to prevent the country’s economy from collapsing. In a letter to Greek Premier George Papandreou, the authorities that represent the 20 monasteries expressed that they are against the reform, according a report published in Kathimerini, which posted parts of the letter. The message cites an “incredible lack of respect towards Mount Athos, a community that is over 1,000 years old”. Granted with autonomy guaranteed by the Greek Constitution, the ‘republic’ of monasteries — where women are prohibited and which is ruled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul — Mount Athos particularly opposes a law passed in 2010 introducing a 20% tax on revenue from real estate, land and commercial spaces owned by the monks in all of Greece. In the letter, the groups defend their tax-exempt status, saying that the revenue from these properties are used to fund the monasteries, visited each year by thousands of male pilgrims.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece Fears Fresh Austerity Measures

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 4 — Greeks are set to endure a further bout of austerity measures after it emerged that figures sent by Athens to the European Commission on Friday indicate that the public deficit for 2010 was about 1% greater than previously thought. Sources told daily Kathimerini that the numbers conveyed by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) to Eurostat, the statistical arm of the Commission, show the deficit to be 10.6% of gross domestic product rather than 9.5%. The discrepancy in the deficit figure has been attributed to a number of things. Firstly, rather than having a 900-million-euro surplus, social security funds were found to be 500 million euros in debt. Another contributing factor was that the economy went through a deeper recession than initially forecast. The readjustment of the deficit figure could not have come at a worse time for Greece as representatives from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund are due in Athens on Monday. They are expected to demand immediate measures from the government to raise an extra 3 to 3.5 billion euros this year.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

S&P Downgrades Four Greece’s Largest Banks

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 1 — Standard & Poor’s on Thursday lowered its long-term credit rating of Greece’s four largest banks — National Bank, Eurobank, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank- to B+ and raised the its risk assessment for the country’s banking system. The credit rating firm said its decision on Greek banks followed a decision taken on Tuesday to lower the country’s sovereign credit rating to BB- from BB+. The risk for the Greek banking system was raised by two notches, to the level of Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Hungary. In an announcement, S&P said “it believed that Greece’s financial system faces a greater deterioration in the operating and economic environment ahead and an increased likelihood of a government debt restructuring.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Time for a Haircut?

IMF Pressures Greece to Restructure Debt

The International Monetary Fund has been pushing Athens behind the scenes to restructure its debt. The organization no longer believes that the current austerity measures and EU bailout will be enough to extract Greece from its fiscal mire.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


A Visit to the Pennsylvania Fortress of “The World’s Most Dangerous Islamist” — Inside the Gulen Compound

Fethullah Gulen, allegedly “the most dangerous Islamist on planet earth,” is alive, well, and living in Pennsylvania with over $25 billion in financial assets.

From Pennsylvania, he has toppled the secular government of Turkey, established over 3,000 schools throughout Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, created a new country called East Turkistan, and formed a movement that seeks to create a New Islamic World Order.

This reporter made a recent visit to Gulen’s 28-acre mountain complex at 1857 Mt. Eaton Road in Saylorsburg, PA — - the very heart of the Pocono Mountains.

The complex consists of a massive chalet that is surrounded by numerous out buildings, including recreational centers, dormitories, and cabins for visiting foreign dignitaries. The property also contains a large pond, a helicopter pad, and, reportedly, firing ranges.


The road leading into the complex is blocked by a metal gate and a sentry hut.

imageWithin the hut are high definition televisions that flash images from the security cameras that have been strategically placed throughout the complex. The post is manned day and night by Turkish guards, who speak little or no English.

Before the hut is a sign that reads “Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center.” No visitor in his or her right mind could believe that the tiny, one room building serves as a house of worship, let alone a place for a weekend retreat. The building contains only a metal desk, two straight chairs, the monitors, and the sentries who, upon the occasion of this reporter’s visit, offered no word of welcome but instead called upon other members of the complex to escort this reporter and his photographer sidekick from the premises.

The neighbors complained to this reporter of gunfire from fully automatic weapons coming from the complex and the presence of a surveillance helicopter that combs the property in search of unwanted intruders.

They maintain that an army of approximately 100 Turkish guards stand watch over the property in order to protect their reclusive leader.


Anyone doubting the incredible power wielded by Gulen need only take note of the achievements of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma, AKP)- — a party Gulen formed this party as soon as he arrived in Pennsylvania. By 2003, the AKP became the governing party in Turkey and a powerful force throughout the Muslim world. Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s first Islamist President, is a Gulen disciple, along with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, the head of Turkey’s Council of Higher Education.

Under the AKP, Turkey has become a militant Islamic state, transferring its alliance from Europe and the United States to Russia and Iran. It has moved toward friendship with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria and created a pervasive anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, and anti-America animus throughout the populace.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Feisal Rauf Whitewashes Reality of Sharia Law During College Panel on Religion

Both Christians and Muslims have suffered under Sharia law, but don’t tell that to Imam Feisal Rauf, who claimed during a Tuesday panel that “the fundamentals of Islamic law insist that there be freedom of religion.” Rauf and Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput disagreed over the role of Sharia in society during a panel discussion held Tuesday at George Washington University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

Rauf, who recently endured criticism over his advocacy for an Islamic cultural center close to Ground Zero in New York, ignored how Sharia is currently being practiced around the world, instead focusing on the idealized version of Sharia as defined by Sunni scholar Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi in the 14th century — preservation of religion, life, lineage, intellect, and property.

He even suggested adding a sixth principle saying, “All of law is to further the interests of human beings in this life and the next.” Not only are these principles in line with America’s constitutional protection of human rights, Rauf argued, but they “flow from the Jewish and Christian greatest commandments” — love God and love your neighbor.

This flies in the face of how Sharia has been practiced in the world. Even the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has noted that Christians and Sufi Muslims in Iran experience “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

“The primacy of Islam and Islamic laws and institutions adversely affects the rights and status of non-Muslims. Members of these groups are subject to legal and other forms of discrimination, particularly in education, government jobs and services, and the armed services,” said the commission’s annual report.

Archbishop Chaput addressed these ills: “Sharia law is not a solution. Christians living under Sharia uniformly experience it as offensive, discriminatory and a grave violation of their human dignity.”

If Rauf’s goal is to advance Sharia as peaceful, he’ll have to address its not-so-peaceful practice around the world.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Fiat 500 Debuts in USA

Thumbs up from dealers and press

(ANSA) — Milan, April 4 — Fiat’s remake of a tiny car with an oversized reputation — the 500 — has made a big impact on the streets of the USA.

Bellwethers of the market’s response — a key dealership in the Midwest and the New York Times — appear to have embraced it over the past few weeks.

In a land where big is usually better, where SUVs, minivans and trucks dominate, the retro-styled bite-sized car is grabbing attention.

One of Michigan’s main Fiat dealerships, located in a residential neighborhood north of Detroit called Bloomsfield Hills, reports sales far higher than expected, with 12 models sold, five awaiting delivery, and outstanding orders for another 16 in the space of a month.

“They don’t buy it only because it is stylish, elegant.

They buy it also because it makes them feel good. They find it fun, easy to drive, safe,” the dealership’s Bill Golling told ANSA.

“I think that for the American public the Fiat 500 is the real news for the small (car) segment. There is no typical client. Clients here have been of all ages, men and women, young and old. First of all they get curious because they find it small and ‘lovely’, and then they are surprised when they try it. When they get out of the car they all say the same thing, ‘It makes me feel good’,” Golling continued.

Golling himself was “enthusiastic” about the product, and added that clients were surprised by its roominess and performance, even in the snow and on wet roads.

“In addition, American clients are finding out for the first time how fun it is to use a stick shift. Here everyone is used to the automatic, but on a 500, it is much more fun to ‘play’ with the gearshift,” said Golling. He added, “It’s still early to say whether it will become a trend, but I am convinced that this way of driving will become more popular”.

The New York Times gave the 500 a major boost in March, dedicating three pages to it in the paper’s last insert devoted to cars.

Automotive editor Jerry Garrett juiced the buzz throughout March with headlines like, Fiat’s Petite Italian model Seeks Love in America” and Driving Fiat’s 500: A Spicy Mini-Meatball”.

Sales of the Fiat 500 began in 18 dealerships at the beginning of March, then 64, and at full sail will reach 130 dealerships across 37 states and Canada.

The car’s body is built in Toluca, Mexico, and given its motor in Michigan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

It’s B-a-a-ck! Trans-Texas Corridor Rises From Dead

Plans revived to build public-private partnership toll roads

Believe it or not, the Trans-Texas Corridor is back, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

Texas state Rep. Larry Phillips has introduced in the state Legislature H.B. 3789, a bill designed to allow public-private partnerships, better known as PPPs, to develop toll roads throughout Texas.

“The only thing missing is the name ‘Trans-Texas Corridor’ and the comprehensive development agreement, or CDA, that specifies the private partners involved in building the new generation of Texas toll roads,” Corsi wrote.

In all, some 26 bills have been introduced into the Texas Legislature that would sell a wide variety of public infrastructure, including highways, mass transit facilities, hospitals, schools, recreational facilities, public buildings, technology architecture and even parking lots to private corporations in some fashion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jewish Students Under Assault

By Yonason Rosenblum

Jewish college students find themselves increasingly under attack on campuses around the world. The seventh annual Israel Apartheid Week just took place on 55 campuses worldwide. Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney rightly described such events seeking to “promote Palestinian human rights” as “accompanied by anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and bullying.” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper lamented that the “anti-Israel mob” is frequently “allowed to prevail.” And opposition leader Michael Ignatieff described the anti-Israel events as a “cocktail of ignorance and intolerance.” At Ottawa’s Carlton University, a non-Jewish supporter of Israel and his Israeli roommate were surrounded and then chased by an Arabic-speaking mob, one of whose members swung a machete that missed the head of the non-Jew by inches.

The demonization of Israel to which young Jews are exposed begins long before university studies. The campuses are merely the venue for the most intense exposure. British journalist Melanie Phillips described on Israel TV this week the “demonization, dehumanization, and delegitimization” of Israeli Jews that has become the daily fare of the mainstream British media, and which she documents in nauseating detail in her new book, The World Turned Upside Down. Channel Four recently broadcast the four-part historical fiction, The Promise, whose theme was summed up thus by Richard Millett: “Rich European Jews came to Palestine after the Holocaust, stole the Palestinians’ land and murdered British soldiers.” Another Channel Four film portrayed Jewish soldiers killing Palestinian children for blood sport, a charge repeated in a recent BBC TV lecture by MP Richard Morpurgo.

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, explained on Jordanian TV already in 1990 how a powerful Arab lobby could conquer the campuses and media by allying the Palestinians with the American Left — ‘60s radicals now tenured professors, African-American student groups, and, above all, Jewish progressives. Vast sums of Arab oil money have been used to advance the process. Over the last ten years, $600 million in Arab money has flowed to American universities — most to the elite universities, where the next generation of American leaders are trained — to fund Middle East Studies programs, for which excoriation of Israel is always the soup du jour. The recent resignation of the head of the prestigious London School of Economics over the receipt of a very large donation from Libya, and the granting of a spurious PhD. to Muammar Gaddafi’s son Seif in return, is an example of the same Arab largesse with strings attached in England.

The Jewish progressives have certainly filled their assigned role. Thirty professors of Jewish studies recently signed a petition asking Orange County, California, prosecutors to drop charges against Arab students who conspired to prevent Israel’s ambassador to the United States Michael Oren from speaking at University of California at Irvine. The use of the criminal justice system to regulate student speech, the petition said, “is detrimental to the values exemplified by the academic and intellectual environment on our university campuses.” The Jewish professors did not explain what intellectual environment is fostered by forcibly preventing pro-Israel speakers from being heard.

Charles Jacobs and Avi Goldwasser, co-founders of the David Project to combat the anti-Israel tenor of American universities, describe the success of Zogby’s project: Radical professors express the dominant narrative that Israel is a racist, genocidal nation.

“Outside the classroom anti-Israel groups hold conferences, screen films and conduct theatrical demonstrations that portray Israel in the harshest terms,” they say. “Israel’s advocates are prevented from speaking; pro-Israel events are disrupted; Jewish students are intimidated verbally or even physically, and are excluded from pro-Palestinian events. Pathetic attempts by Jewish students to initiate dialogue Palestinian students are rejected. . . .” Political correctness, Jacobs and Goldwasser continue, dictates that the Israelis are, by definition, always guilty and the “darker skinned, impoverished Palestinians eternally innocent.”

EVEN THOSE of us who would never contemplate sending our children to university should be profoundly troubled by these trends. Jewish students invariably find themselves identified with Israel, and the effort to flee that association can also lead them to stop identifying as Jews. At this year’s AJOP (Association of Jewish Outreach Programs) convention, an entire session was devoted to the impact on campus kiruv when Israel is no longer a source of pride or identification for many, if not most, Jews. At least at the subconscious level, intermarriage can seem like the most effective way to avoid being labeled one of those “racist” Jews, who are concerned only about their own kind and sure that their lives are more valuable than everyone else’s.

The pressure to not identify as Jews becomes even greater when the demonization of Israel so readily slips into traditional anti-Jewish tropes. In a recent survey conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which is associated with Germany’s Social Democratic Party, nearly half of all Germans surveyed agreed that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians, and 35.6% agreed with the statement, “Considering Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews.” The comparable figure for the second question in England was 35.9% and in the Netherlands 41.1%.

Nor do academics even feel the need to hide their visceral distaste for Jews, not just Israelis. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz just returned from Norway, where none of the country’s three leading universities would agree to sponsor a lecture by him on Israel and International Law, offered free of charge. The same universities have hosted speeches by prominent academic proponents of BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) against Israel, such as Ilan Pappe. The framer of one Norwegian academic boycott petition began with an explicit reference to Jews’ — even secular Jews’ — “self-satisfied [and] self-centered tribal mentality.”

The impact of the attacks on Israel on young Jews is profound. David Berkley, president of the Manchester Zionist Central Council, recently discussed with The Jewish Chronicle’s Jonathan Kalmus the effect on Jewish youth of having grown up with “Israel the regional superpower, Israel the aggressor, the occupier and human rights abuser.” (It was not even entirely clear from the quote in The Jewish Chronicle whether Berkley, like many leaders of mainstream British Jewish organizations, himself agrees with that characterization.) David Tuck, a 17-year-old Manchester Grammar School student, told the Chronicle that while he had “always thought Israel has a right to exist” — apparently a major concession — “it is hard when there is so much anti-Israel news and a lot of people I go to school with are quite strongly anti-Israel.” Another student in Manchester’s Zionist King David school echoed that sentiment, and admitted that he and many of his friends brought up in left-leaning families hold critical views of Israel. Blogger Edgar Davidson confessed that his daughter, who attends an Orthodox Jewish school, tells him that when Israel comes up in the Jewish studies classes, students routinely express the opinion that Israel has no right to exist because the land was stolen from the Arabs…

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Muslims and Moral Handicaps

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants an investigation into Koran burning. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer suggested that this form of free speech could be banned. Senator Lindsey Graham is also looking for ways to limit free speech, saying, “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war”.

Free speech is more than a great idea, it’s a fundamental freedom untouchable by legislators. But all it takes is a few Muslim murders— and Reid, Breyer and Graham eagerly hold up their lighters to the Constitution. Free speech has been curtailed before in the United States during a time of war—but only free speech sympathetic to the enemy. During WW1 a suspected German propagandist filmmaker was jailed. But could anyone have imagined anti-German propagandists being jailed? The Wilson administration was behaving unconstitutionally, but not insanely.

Today we aren’t jailing filmmakers who traffic in anti-American propaganda in wartime. If we did that half of Hollywood would be behind bars. Instead Democratic and Republican Senators are discussing banning speech offensive to the enemy. Because even though they’re killing us already—we had better not provoke them or who knows how much worse it will become.


As Muslim terror has gotten worse, we have started treating the Muslim world like a ticking bomb—tiptoeing around them to avoid setting them off. Whatever they don’t like about us, we’re willing to change. The paradigm of the angry dog or the ticking bomb means that we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Whatever you do, the dog mauls you and the bomb blows up. But by pretending that you control the situation, you can feel better about your role in the outcome.

When a man teases a dog on the other side of a chain link fence—we blame the man for provoking the dog, not the dog for being provoked. Animals have less of everything that makes for accountability. And so don’t hold them accountable. Instead we divide them into categories of dangerous and harmless, and treat them accordingly.

Our response to Muslim violence in Afghanistan, supposedly touched off by a Koran burning in Florida, uses that same canine logic. The Muslims are dangerous and violent, so whoever provokes them is held accountable for what they do. Don’t tease a doberman on the other side of a chain link fence and don’t tease Muslims on the other side of the border or the world. That’s the takeaway from our elected and unelected officials.

But the Muslim rioters are not dogs, they are human beings whose moral responsibility is being denied by treating their violence as a reflexive act. Their violence is not unconscious or instinctual—it emerges out of a decision making process.


It is far more insulting to treat Muslims as if they have no ability to control themselves and have no responsibility for their actions—than it is to burn their Koran. That is an assessment that even many Muslims would agree with.


If a Christian had torched a mosque in response to the Muslim arson of churches in Africa—is there any liberal columnist or pundit who would have directed the lion’s share of the blame at the original Muslim arsonists? No. The mosque burning would be treated as an independent act with no linkage to the church arsons. That is the attitude of Western jurisprudence which does not allow one crime to justify another, let alone one provocation to justify a crime. Individuals are treated as responsible moral actors—not shooting balls in a pinball machine. Why then does this standard fly out the window when it comes to Muslims? Why does the press so easily sink into the rhetoric of ‘retaliation and ‘provocation’, treating Muslim terrorism as a reflex, rather than a chosen act.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s War in Libya Disturbs Americans

A former U.S. intelligence officer now serving as a director of corporate security for a multi-national corporation tells that he’s aware of the identity of some of the Libyan rebels fighting Col. Moamar Khadhafi’s military forces and they are not the freedom-loving patriots the Obama administration claims they are.

According to the intelligence source — who requested anonymity — the roads leading to the city of Tobuk from the cities of Benghazi and Darnah are saturated with Islamic terrorists, many of whom possess combat training and experience gained in terrorist training camps throughout the Middle East.

Some of the Libyan rebels have fought Americans in Iraq as part of the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization. A few were even used as suicide bombers to take out Iraqi police officer and other targets in Baghdad and other locations, said the intelligence source.

According to internal CIA and DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) reports, the city of Darnah serves as a suicide-bomber farm for much of the Middle East, but the area received minimal attention since Libyan dictator Col. Khadhafi was successful in controlling the country’s terrorist population which included a laissez faire policy as long as terrorists did not attack Libyans and Libyan targets.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Prosser vs. Kloppenburg: Wisconsin Supreme Court Battle Royale

Wisconsinites will go to the polls to determine the balance of the State Supreme Court and, ultimately, the fate of the Wisconsin taxpayer.

They don’t get much bigger. On April 5 — this Tuesday — Wisconsinites will go to the polls to determine the balance of the State Supreme Court and, ultimately, the fate of the Wisconsin taxpayer. Currently, the court breaks 4-3, conservative/liberal, but with the election of Joanne Kloppenburg, the challenger to incumbent Dave Prosser, this will change.

How? Well, according to Kloppenburg, “The events of the last few weeks have put into sharp relief how important the Supreme Court is as a check on overreach in other branches of government.”

And unions are excited. In fact, a letter sent out by the American Federation of Teachers states that: “a Kloppenburg victory will swing the balance to our side. A vote for Prosser is a vote for Walker. It’s time to ‘get even.’“

Indeed. Slandering Justice Prosser, running misleading ads, and pushing a martial political vendetta, unions are turning a sleepy election into Custer’s Last Stand.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Socialist Sunday Schools

In Kenneth Teitelbaum’s Schooling for “Good Rebels”: Socialist Education for Children in the United States, 1900-1920, he describes the formation of 1000 “Socialist Sunday Schools” (SSS) in 64 cities in the U.S. between 1900 and 1920. These SSS included children from 5 to 14 years of age, and usually met for about two hours on Sunday mornings.

The purpose of the SSS was “to contest more directly the overly individualistic, competitive, nationalistic, militaristic… themes prevalent in contemporary public schools and other social institutions,” and help in “supplanting capitalist social and economic relations with a more equitable and cooperative form,” namely Socialism. Interestingly, in the latter part of the 20th century, Outcome-Based Education (OBE) would emphasize the group over the individual, cooperative learning over competition, global perspectives increasingly and nationalism less, peacekeeping over militarism, and equity over superiority.

The strategy of the SSS followed that of revolutionary Antonio Gramsci, in that hegemony would be attained via the people’s consent rather than by force. The people would gradually adopt Socialism voluntarily via a “process” (like OBE), and the result would be a “Cooperative Commonwealth.” The SSS were allied with the Intercollegiate Socialist Society (ISS), which would be renamed the League for Industrial Democracy in 1921 and have “progressive” educator John Dewey as its president in 1940-41 (OBE is based on “progressive education” principles).

The ISS in the U.S. was related to the Fabian Socialists of Britain, and British influence upon the ISS was significant. The Fabians’ motto was “Educate, Agitate, Organize,” and these were the same principles followed by American radical Saul Alinsky, who is admired by Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.


As “progressive educators” seem to be moving us closer and closer toward a World Socialist Government today, it is noteworthy to look at the parallels between what is occurring in government schools at present (e.g., OBE, “School-To-Work” programs, etc.) and the SSS at the beginning of the century.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Carla Postpones Album Release — Husband’s Career Comes First

(AGI) Paris — France’s Premiere dame Carla Bruni has decided to postpone the release of her fourth album to the Summer of 2012.

The album was due to come out this Fall, but has now been postponed until after next year’s French presidential election.

Sources close to the former model explained that the French President’s wife wants to wait until after the elections in which her husband, Nicolas Sarkozy, will in all likelihood be running for re-election.

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

France: Monday Anti-Burqa Law to Go Into Effect

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 4 — On Monday the Anti-Burqa law will go into effect in France and police officers will be required to adhere to strict orders: according to the guide that has been distributed, signed by Interior Minister Claude Gueant — a 9-page document that specifies the details of the procedure to be applied when writing such incidents up — whoever wears any “garment that conceals the face” in public places, such as movie theatres, stations, restaurants, theatres, buses, hospitals, museums, libraries, stadiums and fitness centres, will be fined 150 euros.

Officers will not be allowed to require people to remove burqas or niqabs. They will be allowed to bring anyone who refuses to show their face for an identity check to the police station.

Meanwhile, tomorrow in a hotel in Paris a heated debate will begin on secularism and the role of Islam in society, initiated by President Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP Party. There is no shortage of controversy regarding the affair. Premier Francois Fillon has already announced that he will boycott the encounter, as will the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: Women’s Boxing Champ Shot by Stepfather

World champion German boxer Rola El-Halabi is unlikely ever to fight again after she was shot repeatedly by her stepfather in her dressing room before a bout on Friday night.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Italy: Banks Ask Parmalat to Delay Shareholders’ Meeting

Rome, 1 April (AKI) — Three Italian banks have asked Parmalat to delay its April shareholders meeting as the government has reached out to Italy’s businesses to create an investor group to form a counter bid for the dairy giant, Bloomberg News reported on Friday, citing two people familiar with the situation.

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government on Thursday asked Italian investors to challenge France’s Groupe Lactalis’ offer to increase its stake to 29 percent and take control of the company.

Lactalis bought shares from a group of investors who were pressuring Parmalat chief executive Enrico Bondi to use the company’s cash pile either to make acquisitions or pay out bigger dividends, Bloomberg reported.

Mediobanca and UniCredit want to limit their roles to financial adviser and are not interested in owning a Parmalat stake, according to the report.

The Parmalat board was due to meet on Friday to decide whether to postpone a key shareholder meeting slated for April 12-14 that would give Lactalis a majority of board seats guaranteeing the company operational control.

Intesa Sanpaolo owns 2.4 percent of Parmalat and has sent the Parmalat board a letter backing the creation of a possible alternative to Lactalis, Italian news reports said late on Thursday.

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

Italy: Berlusconi: The Left Sows Hatred Against Me

(AGI) Rome — Addressing a convention of ‘Rete Italia’ Berlusconi said, “The opposition is not interested in the common good.” The prime minister spoke about the migrant problem and especially Lampedusa. “The situation is difficult.

Another three hundred and forty six arrived last night. The thing that hurts us the most is that the opposition continues to sow hatred against me.” ..

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

Netherlands: Families Eat Into Their Savings

Dutch households may have had less disposable cash last year but they did manage to spend more by eating into their savings, according to new figures from the national statisics office CBS.

While spending power fell by an average 1.4%, actual spending rose 0.4% reducing the amount of money in savings accounts by €4.1bn, the CBS said.

The bulk of the increase in spending was accounted for by higher health insurance and other premiums.

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

Netherlands: Catholic School Can Ban Muslim Headscarf, Rules Court

A Catholic school in Volendam is within is rights to ban a 15-year-old girl from wearing an Islamic headscarf, a court in Haarlem ruled on Monday.

The court said the ban is in line with the school’s wish to preserve its Catholic character. The school is not limiting freedom of expression or discriminating against the girl on religious grounds, the court said.

The Don Bosco college in the former fishing village introduced the ban last September, several months after Imane Mahssan had requested permission to wear a headscarf and had begun doing so.

The equal opportunities commission earier ruled in the girl’s favour.

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

New Furor Over France’s Muslims as Veil Ban Looms

Karima has a plan. If police stop her for wearing a veil over her face, she’ll remove it — then put it back on once they’re out of sight. If that doesn’t work, she’ll stay home, or even leave France. For Muslim women who cover their faces with veils, it is the moment for making plans. Starting April 11, a new law banning garments that hide the face takes effect. Women who disobey it risk a fine, special classes and a police record.

The law comes as Muslims face what some see as a new jab at their religion: President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party is holding a debate Tuesday on the place of Islamic practices, and Islam itself, in strictly secular but traditionally Catholic France. The increasing focus on France’s Muslims — who number at least 5 million, the largest such population in western Europe — comes with presidential elections a year away and support for a far-right party growing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Poland: The Irreducible Autonomy of Silesia

Hospodárské noviny Prague

Silesians. They have their own language, a long history and they live in one of the richest regions of Poland. Today their calls for autonomy are echoing louder and louder. When they enjoyed unexpected success in regional elections last autumn for the first time in twenty years, Warsaw woke up to a problem in its territories along the Czech border.

Leoš Kyša

At the congress of the Movement for Silesian Autonomy, in Katowice, a triumphal mood reigns. Delegates, some hundred and thirty of them who arrived in early March, some in traditional Silesian garb, exchange friendly greetings and embraces with the crowd. Silesians make up a good tenth of the population of Poland, so it is understandable that the electoral success of the movement calling for autonomy has caused a political upheaval in Warsaw.

The congress is being held in a historic building which today houses the Lower Silesian Regional Assembly, or Sejmik. The monumental building, however, was built for the Government and Parliament of a Silesia that enjoyed autonomy between the two world wars. At that time, it was even eyeing independence. The autonomous Silesian government had its own treasury, levied its own taxes and fees and drew up some of its own laws. That’s just what Silesians are longing for again today.

“It’s odd that the Czechs couldn’t care less about what’s happening at their borders, and yet a good chunk of historical Silesia is within the Czech Republic and they’re also our important neighbour.” I’m told this by one of the delegates, who keenly appreciates that the Silesian eagle is on the Czech national emblem. He asks how our Czech Silesians were able to get it there. Explaining to him that the Czech Silesians, unlike their Polish counterparts, have no desire for emancipation, let alone strong autonomy, proves really difficult. It’s obvious that he has trouble grasping the idea, and the problem is not just the language barrier. Although, in truth, like many other delegates he speaks with a Silesian accent and uses many pure Silesian expressions. Even native Poles often have a problem understanding Silesians.

As if they never existed

In dealing with Polish Silesia, particularly the part that includes the industrialised and mineral-rich Lower Silesian Voivodeship, or province, Polish politicians have been asking for trouble for the last twenty years. “The politicians who drew up the new Poland after the fall of the communist dictatorship were, like the communists before them, convinced that a multiethnic country is less stable than a nationally homogenous state. That’s why they have been acting as if there’s no such thing as a Silesian,” explains Marek Plura, a member of the Polish Parliament from Premier Donald Tusk’s ruling party, Civic Platform.

“Ruch Autonomii Slaska (RAS, or the Silesian Autonomy Movement) is creating a lot of work for all Silesians. It has allowed us to say once again with pride that we are Silesians, and it has unleashed a debate about history and our language,” is how he explains the policy of engagement, which is indeed in favour of emancipation in Silesia, but at the same time opposes autonomy. The same attitude is also shared by another influential Polish politician who came to the congress, Tomasz Tomczykiewicz, Civic Platform’s parliamentary leader. It seems that both showed up for the event not just because they are Silesians, but also to take some wind out of the sails of the radical RAS. Proceedings at the Congress, however, quickly reveal that Silesians cannot be so easily tamed.

Young and educated

The leader of the Silesian autonomists is Jerzy Gorzelik (born 1971), who holds a doctorate in art history from the University of Silesia in Katowice. One of his great-grandfathers was among the rebels in the 1919-1921 uprising, when Silesians fought for independence from Germany. He certainly does not come across as a charismatic leader. A small, quiet man, he seems perfectly cut out for a career as a university teacher of art history — not as the leader of a breakaway movement.

“Autonomy is our fundamental platform and we won’t water it down,” he protests when I ask him if, now that his movement has participated in regional government, it’s not time to draw in the horns a little. According to this man, who refers to himself consistently as a Silesian, not a Pole, Silesia should achieve autonomy by 2020, and that autonomy should have the same outline as it did seventy years ago. “With Warsaw we want only shared defense, foreign policy, currency and national infrastructure. The rest, mainly finance, should be the responsibility of the autonomous government,” he says. He admits that Silesians want to manage the revenues from taxes on its territory because, among other things, it is one of the richest regions of Poland. The Silesians are the ones who subsidise the poor regions bordering the Ukrainian and who of course pump a lot of money into Poland’s bureaucratic machinery nation-wide.

“Let us be very clear: we will not renounce solidarity with other Polish regions. However, the transfer of money to them, as well as to the central treasury, must be transparent. As it is, our money is disappearing into a black hole.”

Only Gorzelik belongs to the original core of the RAS, which grew out of Silesian nationalism and the nostalgia of the older generation for the pre-war autonomy.

Thirty-two year old Piotr Dlugosz shares the same opinion. “We want autonomy not because we resent the rest of Poland, but because we believe it will better help us to defend our rights and handle public funds. Autonomy for us is not a journey into the past. On the contrary, it’s the future — a way to resolve the current political crisis in the European nation states,” insists the specialist in German culture from Opole, who believes that the modern movement for autonomy will gradually spread to the other countries of Europe.

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

Police Told Not to Make Public Unveilings When French Burka Ban Enforced Next Week

Police in France have been instructed to refrain from burka “hunts” or “public unveilings” of women wearing the full Islamic veil when a ban on the garment comes into force next week.

France will become the second country in Europe, after Belgium, to apply the ban, starting April 11.

But officers have been ordered to apply the legislation with tact and diplomacy so as not inflame tensions, interior ministry guidelines leaked to the French press yesterday reveal.

Under the new law, women who wear face-covering Muslim veils, including the niqab and burka, in “public places” in France face being fined £125 or ordered to follow citizenship classes, or both.

The ban encompasses “the street and areas open to the public, as well as cinemas, restaurants, stations, public transport or schools”. Veils must also be removed while driving, while crossing borders or taking part in official ceremonies to acquire French nationality.

Husbands and fathers who force such veils on women and girls risk a year of prison and a £25,000 fine, with both penalties doubled if the victim is a minor.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Romania: WikiLeaks Reveals National “Stupidity”

Revista 22, 1 April 2011

“Country shows its true colors in WikiLeaks!” headlines Revista 22, as revelations about the hidden side of American-Romanian relations reach Bucharest. What with “the saga of Mircea Geoana” — the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and current President of the Senate, who considers himself to be “the best politician” in the country and who “uses a Romanian business magnate’s private jet to travel to Moscow” — and the files implicating Adrian Nastase (PSD) in a corruption scandal, the “cablegate on the Dâmbovita” [the river running through Bucharest] “paints a savage portrait and leaves a bitter taste,” affirms the Bucharest weekly. “What a shower! What stupidity! What corruption! The real Romania is a state that has been divided up by a handful of oligarchs who control banking and the media, and politicians for whom the national interest is no more than a bargaining chip!”

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

UK Proposes Joint Anglo-French Nuclear Deterrent

(AGI) London — Armed forces minister, Nick Harvey, proposed a joint Anglo-French nuclear deterrent to a group of experts in Paris. The Guardian reports that the plan arose out of the need to reduce costs after David Cameron’s government decided to cut defence spending by 8 percent in the attempt to reduce the public deficit.

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

UK: ‘Cyber Sex Pervert’, 24, Walks Free After Judge Rules He Was Seduced by 13-Year-Old Girl

A judge has been criticised for allowing a child sex pervert to walk free from court after accepting that the defendant had been ‘seduced’ by a 13-year-old.

David Barnes, 24, engaged in ‘cyber-sex’ with a 13-year-old schoolgirl and downloaded hundreds of pornographic pictures and short films — one of which showed the rape of a handcuffed five-year-old girl.

But Judge Peter Fox QC said a short prison sentence would not prevent him from reoffending.

A national victims’ group hit out saying it was ‘intellectually, ethically, morally’ wrong to lay any blame on the 13-year-old girl and described the sentencing as ‘abhorrent’.

Judge Fox admitted people would be ‘puzzled to say the least’ at his decision.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Bill for ‘Self-Indulgent’ EDL March Will Cost Taxpayers £1m, Says Jack Straw

Tax payers will foot a massive £1million bill for policing an English Defence League demonstration in Lancashire on Saturday.

Former Home secretary Jack Straw, MP for Blackburn, blasted the extremist EDL for outrageous ‘self-indulgence’ in holding the protest.

The Lancashire Constabulary has drawn up plans to cut £42million over four years and will axe about 550 officers and 250 civilian staff from its 6,000-strong workforce.

It drafted in 1,900 officers on Saturday to cope with the mass demonstration in Blackburn, where a fifth of the population is Muslim.

It was the force’s biggest-ever policing operation.

Around 2,000 EDL supporters attended, as well as an estimated 500 opposition protesters. But despite widespread fears of violence there were just 12 arrests and the police operation was hailed as a success.

The only violence during the day was two large brawls, lasting up to 10 minutes, among the EDL protest.

Those arrested — the majority of whom were from the EDL side — were questioned for alleged offences including assault, drunk and disorderly, affray and public order.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Now Scots Are Promised Council Tax and Water Bill Freeze… Paid for by the English

Scottish voters have been promised a generous raft of handouts denied to their English neighbours across the border.

They include a two-year freeze on water bills — while in England water bills are set to rise by 4.6 per cent on average.

And while brutal cutbacks are being made in England, Scotland is safeguarding existing handouts.

Another promise being made by Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, is a two-year freeze on council tax bills, ahead of the Holyrood election on May 5.

Free National Health Service prescriptions were brought in last week for Scots, as opposed to a £7.40 charge in England.

Every resident in Scotland is estimated to receive £1,500 more in public money than those in England under the funding arrangement for Scotland known as the Barnett Formula, which was intended to be a short-term measure, but which has lasted some 30 years.

It will not be changed until 2016, when Scotland will be given increased tax-raising powers under the terms of the Scotland Bill, currently going through parliament.

Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative MP said: ‘Scotland should not expect England to be the cash cow for the rest of the UK. It’s an appalling mess and it has to be confronted.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Football: Bosnia Suspended From FIFA and UEFA

Sarajevo, 1 April — (AKI) — The World Football Federation FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA on Friday suspended Bosnia-Herzegovina from international competition for failing to comply with international rules.

The ruling takes immediate effect and means that no official or representative of the Bosnia Football association will be allowed to take part in any international match or event.

The top world and European football bodies earlier demanded that Bosnia’s national football association amend its statute and elect a single president with a four year term.

But the move was blocked at a meeting on 29 March by Bosnian Serbs, who insisted the association should continue to mirror the state presidency model in which representatives of Bosnia’s three ethnic groups — Muslims, Serbs and Croats — rotate every eight months.

FIFA and UEFA said in a joint statement they “deeply regretted this decision, which had to be taken.”

Officials from the two bodies will meet soon to discuss ways “to bring Bosnia back into the football family as soon as possible”, the statement said.

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

Population Census Revives Unsettled Scores

Belgrade, 1 April — (AKI) — A population census which started in several Balkan countries on Friday has rekindled old disputes and ethnic animosities left over from the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia.

The population census in Croatia, Montenegro and Kosovo has sparked often bitter controversy over minorities’ rights and ethnic cleansing during the 1990s wars, which reshaped the demography of the Balkans.

The central issue of the debate is the position of minority Serbs in Croatia, Montenegro and Kosovo who claim to be subject to pressure to assimilate and fear census manipulations.

Census will be conducted later this year in Serbia and Macedonia. No date for a census has been set in Bosnia whose Muslim majority opposes it, saying it would legalise ethnic cleansing by the Serbs.

Similarly, some 100,000 minority Serbs in Kosovo are boycotting the census, saying it would make ethnic cleansing by majority Albanians legal.

The Serbian government has advised Kosovo Serbs to boycott the census unless it is organised by the United Nations, fearing Kosovo’s authorities could manipulate the results.

The last census in the former Yugoslavia was held in 1991, but was boycotted by Kosovo Albanians.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia three years ago, move opposed by Serbs. Around 200,000 have fled Kosovo since NATO airstrikes in 1999 which drove out Serbian forces in June that year.

Similarly, some 250,000 Serbs have fled Croatia at the end of war in 1995 and now make up just 4.54 percent of the population.

But the fiercest debate has been taking place between Serbia and Montenegro.

Belgrade has encouraged Serbs in Montenegro to state their nationality, which Podgorica interpreted as “interference in Montenegro’s internal affairs”.

Montenegro authorities have carried out a major media campaign urging citizens to declare themselves Montenegrins.

Montenegro census will include all citizens living abroad, but not those living in Serbia who carry Serbian passports.

In the 2003 census, over 30 percent of Montenegro citizens declared themselves Serbs, slightly less than Montenegrins, who are of Slavic extraction.

The remainder of the population were Muslims and ethnic Albanians.

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

Mediterranean Union

Tunisia: EU Ready to Double 2012-2013 Partnership Fund

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 1 — If Tunisia confirms its commitment to ambitious reforms favouring the transition to a democratic regime, the European Union is ready to double its partnership funding over the two-year period between 2012 and 2013 to 320 million euros. This is according to the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fule, who was speaking at the end of his visit to Tunisia.

“It is too early to talk about future sums of money. These will depend on the concrete reforms for which Tunisia will request our support. But to give you an idea: we have planned to spend 160 million euros in Tunisia in 2012 and 2013. In the best case scenario, in line with the ambitious reforms launched by the government that the Tunisian people will choose, I can predict that this figure may be doubled. Further decisions could also be taken this year”.

In the short-term, the European Union has already allocated 17 million euros more in funding and part of this aid has already been mobilised. “All of this is just the beginning and we are ready to do more,” Fule said. The extra funds will be set aside in particular for disadvantaged regions in inland areas of the country, the Commissioner explained, as well as to support the electoral process, civil society and the media.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Municipal Guard Protest in Capital Blocked

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 4 — Yesterday, Algerian security forces prevented a protest by the municipal guard in front of the presidential palace in the centre of the capital to demand professional and social rights. About 3,000 guards from several provinces gathered in Martyrs Square because security forces had closed all roads leading to the presidential palace, reports Al Jazeera’s website. The closure of the roads followed an announcement made by the municipal guards indicating their intention to stage an all-out strike and saying that they would not leave until all of their requests were met. The municipal guard, a force that totals 100,000 overall, was formed in 1994 with the objective of offering support to the army and law enforcement officials in isolated areas in the fight against terrorism. The municipal guard had already protested on March 7 in front of Parliament, delivering Speaker of the House Abdulazia Ziyari a letter that was addressed to President Boutaflika containing their requests.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya Chaos ‘Allows Al-Qaida to Grab Surface-to-Air Missiles’

Claims that north African wing of terrorist group has smuggled arms from pillaged Libyan military barracks into Mali stronghold

Al-Qaida is exploiting the conflict in Libya to acquire weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, and smuggle them to a stronghold in northern Mali, a security official from neighbouring Algeria told Reuters.

The official said a convoy of eight Toyota pick-up trucks left eastern Libya, crossed into Chad and then Niger, and from there into northern Mali where in the past few days it delivered a cargo of weapons.

He said the weapons included Russian-made RPG-7 anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades, Kalashnikov heavy machine guns, Kalashnikov rifles, explosives and ammunition.

He also said he had information that al-Qaida’s north African wing, known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had acquired from Libya Russian-made, shoulder-fired, Strela surface-to-air missiles known by the Nato designation Sam-7.

“A convoy of eight Toyotas full of weapons travelled a few days ago through Chad and Niger and reached northern Mali,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The weapons included RPG-7s, FMPK (Kalashnikov heavy machine guns), Kalashnikovs, explosives and ammunition … and we know that this is not the first convoy and that it is still ongoing,” the official told Reuters.

“Several military barracks have been pillaged in this region (eastern Libya) with their arsenals and weapons stores and the elements of AQIM who were present could not have failed to profit from this opportunity. AQIM, which has maintained excellent relations with smugglers who used to cross Libya from all directions without the slightest difficulty, will probably give them the task of bringing it the weapons,” said the official.

The official claimed that al-Qaida was exploiting disarray among forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and had also infiltrated the anti-Gaddafi rebels in eastern Libya.

The rebels deny any ties to al-Qaida. US Admiral James Stavridis, Nato’s supreme allied commander for Europe, said last week intelligence showed only “flickers” of an al-Qaida presence in Libya, with no significant role in the Libyan uprising.

“AQIM … is taking advantage by acquiring the most sophisticated weapons such as Sam-7s (surface-to-air missiles), which are equivalent to Stingers,” he said, referring to a missile system used by the US military.

Algeria has been fighting a nearly two-decade insurgency by Islamist militants who in the past few years have been operating under the banner of al-Qaida. Algeria’s security forces also monitor al-Qaida’s activities outside its borders.

The security official said the western coalition that has intervened in Libya had to confront the possibility that if Gaddafi’s regime falls, al-Qaida could exploit the resulting chaos to extend its influence to the Mediterranean coast.

“If the Gaddafi regime goes, it is the whole of Libya — in terms of a country which has watertight borders and security and customs services which used to control these borders — which will disappear, at least for a good time, long enough for AQIM to re-deploy as far as the Libyan Mediterranean.

“In the case of Libya, the coalition forces must make an urgent choice. To allow chaos to settle in, which will necessitate … a ground intervention with the aim of limiting the unavoidable advance of AQIM towards the southern coast of the Mediterranean, or to preserve the Libyan regime, with or without Gaddafi, to restore the pre-uprising security situation,” the official told Reuters.

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

NATO Bombs Risk Damaging Water Supplies to Libyan Cities

(AGI) Tripoli — NATO bombing of Libya risks cutting off water supplies to coastal cities, including Benghazi and Sirte, the Libyan news agency Jana reports. Jana reports that the Libyan agricultural ministry warns that the “aqueduct” that collects water from under the Sahara and transports it to the coast is at great risks as NATO’s bombing missions occur near the aqueducts.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Arabs Prefer Life in Israel

Op-ed: While condemning Israel, Arabs prefer life in Jewish state over Palestinian residency

by Yoram Ettinger

The current seismic developments in Arab countries have removed the Middle East “screen saver,” exposing the real Mideast: top heavy on violence, fragmentation, volatility, hate-education and treachery, and low on predictability, certainty, credibility and democracy.

The collapse of Arab regimes reflects the collapse of superficial assumptions, which have underlined Western policy-making and public opinion molding. The upheaval in Arab societies highlights the dramatic gap between Israel’s democracy and its Arab neighbors.

In fact, recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Libya, Syria (and you ain’t seen nothing yet.) have enhanced the craving in the Arab Street for the liberties and benefits of Israel’s democracy.

For example, Israeli ID cards have been sought by senior PLO and Hamas officials and their relatives, such as the three sisters of Ismail Haniyeh, the top leader of Hamas. They married Israeli Arabs and migrated from Gaza to Tel Sheva in Israel’s Negev. Two are already widows, but prefer to remain in the Jewish State, and the son of the third sister serves in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Akrameh Sabri, the top Muslim religious leader in eastern Jerusalem, who delivers anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist sermons, retains his Israeli ID card as do Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO, Muhammad Abu-Tir of Hamas, Jibril Rajoub’s wife, etc.

Some 150,000 non-Israeli Arabs, mostly from Judea and Samaria, married Israeli Arabs and received Israeli ID cards between 1993 and 2003. In addition, scores of thousands of illegal Arab aliens prefer Israeli — over Palestinian — residence.

A significant wave of net-emigration — 30,000 Arabs from Judea, Samaria and Gaza annually — since 1950 was substantially reduced in 1968, as a result of access gained to Israel’s infrastructures of employment, medicine and education, and of Israeli construction of such infrastructures in these regions. The level of annual Arab emigration subsided during the peak years of Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel), since Arabs were heavily employed in constructing the absorption infrastructure.

Israeli Arabs vehemently oppose any settlement — such as an exchange of land between Israel and the Palestinian Authority — which would transform them into Palestinian subjects, denying them Israeli citizenship.

Jerusalem Arabs’ clear choice

A sizeable number of Jerusalem Arabs prefer to remain under Israel’s sovereignty, according to a January 12, 2011 public opinion poll conducted by The Palestinian Center for Public Opinion headed by Nabil Kukali of Beit Sakhur. The poll was commissioned and supervised by the Princeton-based Pechter Middle East Polls and the NY-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Since 1967, Jerusalem Arabs — within Israel’s municipal lines — have been permanent Israeli residents and Israeli ID card holders. Therefore, they freely work and travel throughout Israel and benefit from Israel’s healthcare programs, retirement plans, social security, unemployment, disability and child allowances, and they can vote in Jerusalem’s municipal election.

According to the January 2011 poll, which was conducted by Palestinians in Arab neighborhoods far from any Jewish presence, 40% of Jerusalem Arabs would relocate to an area inside Israel if their current neighborhood were to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. Only 27% would relocate to the Palestinian Authority if their neighborhood were to become an internationally recognized part of Israel.

Moreover, 39% assume that most people in their neighborhood prefer Israeli citizenship, and only 31% assume that most people in their neighborhood prefer Palestinian citizenship. While some 35% prefer to be Israeli citizens, only 30% prefer Palestinian citizenship.

One can assume that is the pollsters would have added the cultural “fear factor” — of Palestinian terrorist retribution — the number of Jerusalem Arabs preferring Israeli citizenship would have been higher.

What do the Arabs of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza know about Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Authority that Western policy-makers and public opinion molders do not know?! When will Western policy-makers and public opinion molders remove the Abbas “screen saver” and confront the real Abbas?!

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Richard Goldstone & Palestinian Statehood

Richard Goldstone’s repudiation of the eponymous blood libel he authored in 2009 provides a number of lessons about the nature of the political war against the Jewish state and how we must act if we are to defeat it. Learning these lessons is an urgent task as we approach the next phase of the war to delegitimize us.

By all accounts, that phase will culminate in September at the UN General Assembly’s annual conclave in New York. As America marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11 jihadist attacks, the Palestinian Authority’s well-publicized plan to achieve UN recognition of a Palestinian state in all of Judea, Samaria, Gaza and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem will reach its denouement.

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Facebook Intifada Campaign Exploits Fallen Soldiers’ Site

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

( The “Third Intifada” incitement campaign on Facebook now exploits the page for fallen soldiers, including a vow to “kill all Israelis” — despite Facebook’s official policy that forbids incitement to violence.

The anti-Israel messages are posted in Hebrew and English and call for a new intifada, or uprising, on May 15, the secular date of the re-establishment of the State of Israel.

A widespread public protest last week ostensibly forced Facebook to close a Third Intifada page, despite its original response that the references to the prior deadly intifada were simply an expression of culture. An American has filed a billion dollar lawsuit against Facebook for not moving quickly enough to close the page.

Despite the official closure, new intifada incitement pages have cropped up, including one that simply refers the reader to the original page.

The new page, originally intended to memorialize fallen soldiers, includes several postings from ‘Mahmud Abdallah,” who wrote, “I will kill all Israelis… there won’t be a country called Israel anymore… we will kill all Israelis and spill their blood on the land like the rivers in Iraq and Egypt…”

Ana Masry wrote, “We are going to take all of our land; we love death just like you love life.”

One Zionist response staged, “Don’t worry, dear Jews. We have HaShem [G-d], and we do not need to do anything. They [Arabs] will kill each other.”

Facebook has not taken any action to shut down the new incitement pages, though its official policy instructs its users, “You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user. You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, or pornographic [or] incites violence.”

The IDF last year warned of the electronic intifada by which “radical Islamic groups use online social networks such as Facebook to gain wide range support for their cause and terrorist action.”

One posting that was cited read, “So that the world know that the Jews are carrying out Nazi crimes against the Palestinian people, and they will drink from the same cup.”

The spreading of hate messages against Israel, the promise to “extract the roots of the Zionist entity,” and a call for violent disturbances on the Temple Mount were among several Facebook pages opened last year.

The IDF reported at the time that one group behind the electronic intifada is connected with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and added, “It is possible that operatives of Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations are also participating in it.”

The Iranian Intelligence Minister called for people to carry out a media uprising against Israel, using social networks on the Internet.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Next Arab Facebook Campaign: Get Millions to Invade Israel

by Chana Ya’ar

Palestinian Authority activists have recreated the Third Intifada page that was banned by Facebook on Tuesday in response to thousands of member requests.

An Israeli Cabinet minister, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and a massive Internet campaign were only some of the measures used to pressure the popular social networking site into removing the page, which promoted violence against Jews in Israel.

But the story doesn’t end there, because angry Palestinian Authority sponsors of the page ensured the fight would continue.

A Muslim page similarly entitled “Subscribe now to the Palestinian Intifada,” on its logo but which is innocuously entitled “Make the Prophet Number One on Facebook” on the heading is listed under Non-profit Organizations.

Easily the largest and most popular Muslim page on Facebook, it espouses peace and offers myriad beneficent comments about Allah and Islam’s founder, the Prophet Muhammed. But the Rassoul Allaah page also directs readers to directs readers to a wealth of links to other pages promoting the Third Intifada and a massive attempt to carry out the destruction of the State of Israel.

By Wednesday afternoon, the page had garnered more than three million — 3,293,252 — votes of support from Facebook members around the world.

Organizers have summoned millions of Arabs from across the Middle East to march into Israel and forcibly attempt to implement a de facto “Right of Return,” the Arab euphenism for the mass immigration of several million Arabs.

The date for this march has been set for May 15 — the anniversary of what the Arabs refer to as the “Nakba” or “Tragedy” — the date of the establishment of the State of Israel.

Although some of the pages promoting this campaign have warned its readers to maintain a peaceful demeanor, others do not bother with such niceties.

At least one is a complete re-creation of the original Third Palestinian Intifada page that was removed.

Third Palestinian Uprising — Persian Gulf

Within 24 hours, organizers created the same page under a new name: Third Palestinian uprising — the Persian Gulf answer join our mosque.

The page, written entirely in Arabic and listed under the Political Party category, was created at approximately 11:00 a.m. Jerusalem time.

“This page has been created after the Facebook page was closed after the uprising, the number of logged-in page to 350,000, at the request of Israel. Accordingly we set up a number of pages to spread news of the uprising. All pages have been created to spread news of the uprising in case the main page is closed once again…”

Under “Likes and Interests” on the page, organizers wrote, “One billion Muslims for the destruction of Israel. Billion Muslim to Exterminate Israel, a campaign one million pro-Aqsa Mosque, a campaign to write the date of the third Palestinian Intifada on the Egyptian currency… the historic march toward Palestine, 15.05.2011 — I am the first volunteer in the United Arab army in the event of a declaration of war on Israel and 5 more…”

Posted on the page are various messages, including the notice by the “Million campaign to advocate for the al Aqsa Mosque,” which tells readers, “Save al-Aqsa mosque from injustice, and aggression is our goal.”

Arab Revolt for Liberation of Palestine

Another notice was posted by the Arab Revolt for the Liberation of Palestine (listed under “Cause”).

It announced its “primary goal is to liberate our land, Arab Filistine (Palestine -ed.) and the defeat of the occupation in every inch of the land of Palestine, pure and simple. We call upon the Arab masses…

“This day will be a dawn of freedom for the liberated Arab peoples. Free Palestine and we will be released…” This page alone has garnered 27,379 “Likes.”

A number of other pages, all posted in Arabic, have also been created on the popular social networking site.

Two pages, Maseera 2011 and Palatora, are non-violent but nevertheless threatening to the Jewish State, supporting the call for a mass invasion by millions of Arabs. By noon Wednesday, Maseera 2011 had garnered 7,209 “Likes.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

West Bank: Director Arab-Jewish Theatre Killed

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, APRIL 4 — The well-known Israeli pro-Palestinian actor and activist Juliano Mer-Khamis, who has an Arab father and Jewish mother, was shot dead today in the area of the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, where he had been leading a theatre called Theatre of Freedom for years, local media report. According to the first reports, the car Mer-Khamis just had got in was hit by five bullets fired by at least two attackers, who have not been identified yet. Mer-Khamis, maker of the famous documentary ‘Arna’s Children’, founded the Jenin theatre together with the former local commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, at the time of the Second Intifada. The actor and activist had reportedly received threats from fundamentalist Islamic circles in the past months, from people who did not sympathise with his origins, nor his secular artistic activities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Frank Gaffney: Second Thoughts, From Goldstone to the ‘Arab Spring’

One might have been forgiven for thinking it was an April Fool’s joke. At the very least, the author of an oped published in the Washington Post last Friday — former South African Supreme Court Justice Richard Goldstone — sure looked foolish as he all but acknowledged being incredibly naïve and irresponsible when he authored a harshly critical report for the United Nations Human Rights Council after Israel’s 2008-2009 war with Hamas in Gaza.

It seems the lead author of the Goldstone Report has experienced a severe case of second thoughts or buyer’s remorse. Presumably, that is due at least in part to a belated appreciation of the immense damage caused by his misbegotten handiwork. As the jurist put it in his essay, “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” He is not the only one who is reconsidering — or should be — what they are about…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Failed Attack on Islamist Party Headquarters

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, APRIL 4 — Jordanian police foiled today a suicide attack against headquarters of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Islamist leaders and police sources.

The middle aged man entered the party headquarters saying he had an explosive built rapped around him and has bombs, before he was overpowered by bodyguards in the party, according to Ali Abul Sukkar, president of the IAF shura council.

He said the attacker entered the building looking for Hamzah Mansour, secretary general of the party, who is currently under police protection after receiving threats.

No one was hurt in the incident as the suspect is currently under police custody for interrogation. Islamist leaders blamed the government for this failed attack, saying its policy of provoking the public against the group is the reason.

“This is the fault of the government. It has been blaming us for what is happening in the country. They should protect the party Police officials cordoned the area to look for more evidence.

The government last week accused the Islamist movement of having a hidden agenda due to its demands for constitutional amendments that limit the king’s powers. Conservative powers in Jordan say they fear political reform would give power to the majority of the population, who are of Palestinian origin.

The kingdom has been gripped by a waive of protests in the past three months in demand for political and economic reform.

Last week, protests near a central square in Amman lead to the killing of one man and the injury of at least 100 in the most violent protest so far. The government has been blamed for sponsoring thugs and criminals to attack peaceful protesters and push them outside a central square, in which they were camping.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Press: Anti-Terror Law Ready by Friday

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 4 — The Syrian authorities are to complete the draft of a new “anti-terror” law, that will allow the state of emergency, which has been in force for almost half a century, to be repealed. The law will be ready by this coming Friday, when new anti-regime action planned over the internet is due to take place. Syria’s independent El Watan newspaper, which known for its closeness to government lines, quoted sources from the committee of experts, who report that “the draft of laws necessary for the repealing of the emergency law will be complete by Friday”.

In line with the current emergency law, the right to protest publically has been suppressed, while rigid monitoring of the press is in force and citizens can be stopped and subsequently arrested if they are suspected of carrying a threat to “the security of the nation”. The newspaper adds that the committee of experts has drawn inspiration for the new “anti-terror” law from the legislative models of the United States, France and Britain, “to ensure at the same time the dignity and the security of citizens”.

Meanwhile, the Syrian football season has been suspended indefinitely, following unprecedented protests against the regime, which has been in power for almost half a century. The news was announced on the website of the Syrian football federation (FSC).

FSC sources said on that “given the conditions in which Syria currently finds itself, it is natural for such a decision to be taken, especially if considered that gatherings of supporters can represent an ideal environment for troubled minds”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The “Arab Spring” Between Authoritarianism and Islamism

Hopes for a profound transformation of the Middle East begin to wane. The weakness of the young revolutionaries faced with the might of the army and Islamist parties who want to seize the fruits of change. Christians in Syria, forced to support the authoritarian regimes to save religious freedom. Democracy and secularism seems to be an impossible combination. The positive case of Lebanon.

Rome (AsiaNews) — In recent months, North Africa and the Middle East have been shaken by the winds of the so-called “Arab spring”. Especially in Egypt where there were demonstrations of national unity between Christians and Muslims, a desire see more democracy, more respect for human rights, more jobs.

Now, a few weeks since the fall of Mubarak, there appears to be a return to “normal” or perhaps a “normalization”: the referendum on new constitution has not changed much on paper, and the army has banned public demonstrations, the Muslim Brotherhood has become more assertive ….

Even in Tunisia there is the same difficulty in finding a way of government that is not marked by past corruption, and meanwhile a war is underway in Libya, which for the first time ambiguously involves the West. Here follows the thoughts of our expert on Islam.

Is there no future for this Arab spring?

In an attempt to answer these questions, I will mainly concentrate on the situation I am most familiar with, Egypt. On one hand, it is perfectly normal that after the past few months of upheaval people want to return to everyday normality: the reopening of schools so students do not loose an entire academic year, a return to work to spur an economy still in crisis. The attitude of the army is normal and it was predictable: We will support you — they say — but now the country cannot afford to fail from the economic point of view.

The referendum on the constitution was inevitable in its results. It should be noted that the referendum never intended to change Article 2, that of sharia as the foundation of Egyptian legislation, even if young people want it submitted to referendum in the near future.

But if today there were a referendum on this issue, only 30% of people would want it erased. Not because the remaining70% are Islamists, but because people are not aware of it, and conclude that, since Egypt is a country with a Muslim majority, it should be ruled by Islamic laws. It must be said that Egypt does not apply a strict sharia as is the case in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan. This issue therefore is felt only by those with a most acute sensitivity. In the Arab world secularism is discussed, but many do not even know what it is. The Christians feel the question deeply, but Muslims do not see any problem with it.

Young people who made the revolution are not organized

In Egypt, the only organized parties are those of Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood. They led the vote for the ten points of the referendum, the launch of a new constitution, they scheduled new elections for the month of September 2011. Unfortunately, for those young people who led the revolution, six months is too short a time to organize and still today have failed to appoint themselves a leader. This will penalize them in the elections. Besides, this is inevitable: the country can not remain too long without a new constitution and free elections. In general, therefore, I can say that I do not see any boycott of the revolution, but a simple attempt to channel it towards a return to normal.

Fear of Islamic involution however, is true. The Muslim Brotherhood are visibly churning out propaganda for the Islamization of society: putting pressure on girls without a veil, or scandalizing the population, painting El Baradei [presidential candidate in Egypt — ed] as a supporter of “atheist” and “immoral” secularism. According to an online video, if secularism arrived in Egypt, year by year, the country will be flooded by minkirts, drinking alcohol, drugs, marriage between homosexuals, etc. ..: all of which has nothing at all to do with secularism. This propaganda affects people. In comments on the video, which I consulted, only one comment says; but this is not secularism.

Unfortunately, the party that made the revolution does not know which way to go. They must find a leader capable of being a driving force, otherwise, yes, there is the risk of a setback. The future is unknown.

The Islamists want to seize the revolution

In Tunisia, things are better, from a certain point of view, but even there the Islamist party Ennahdha, founded by Rachid Ghannouchi and banned since 1991, was approved on 1 March 2011. With the party Ettahrir (unauthorized) they are trying to remove secularism. The first act they requested was to allow women with their face veiled on identity documents, which was previously prohibited. Yesterday, April 2, this “right” was voted.

Many Tunisians feel themselves to be”Muslims” and some young people reject “secularism”. The intellectuals are different: They want secularism. But most of them see this problem through the eyes of immigrants in France: living in a secular country limits Muslim festivities, bans on the veil, promiscuity is permitted…

Christians’ concern for the future: democracy and secularism

Concern for the future of Christians arises particularly in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, where there are local Christian communities. In other countries there are Christians, but they are foreigners and migrant workers.

In Egypt, the issue is very serious. When the referendum on Article 2 is held [the sharia as the foundation of all laws — ed], we will see if there is any progress. A few weeks ago I talked to Tarek Heggy [liberal Egyptian writer and entrepreneur-ed], and he told me that “it will take at least 10 years to delete this article.” And this will certainly be a disappointment for Christians.

In Syria, despite all the riots, perhaps nothing will change. It must be said that the Christian bishops do not want anything to change: the Assad regime (Alawite) ensures safety and secularism, since by his authoritarianism he outlaws radical Islam. Those opposed to Assad are not minorities or Christians, who fear the rise of a Sunni regime. Those fighting (and they are the majority), are the enemies of Assad, in short the Sunnis — who feel excluded from power — and the Muslim Brotherhood, who have been repressed for decades.

As Christians, we want freedom, democracy, justice, as well as secularism, religious neutrality that is, we want everyone to be regarded only as citizens, not as a Muslim, Christian or otherwise. Unfortunately, in the Middle East, having to rule over strong groups and fanatics, secularism can only be imposed by force. Thus it is for Assad, thus it was for the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, for Mubarak in Tunisia.

Where the system is weaker, it must necessarily make concessions to Islam. We are consequently caught between two opposites: democracy with secularism or Islam. We Christians want both, democracy and secularism, but in practice for now in the Middle East are unable to affirm them together. Therefore Christians, in the end prefer to have an authoritarian regime, but one that guarantees them at least a minimum of religious freedom.

This is the drama of the Middle East. In Europe, secularism and democracy went hand in hand, in the Middle East they are in opposition.

A positive example: Lebanon

Faced with this situation, it seems important to mention the only positive example, that of Lebanon, where there is both a democracy and secularism, respectful of religion, totally different from Western secularism. A few days ago (April 2) the Sunni Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani went to Bkerke — home of the Maronite Patriarch since 1823 — to meet the new Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rahi (see photo). The mufti proposed a large Islamic-Christian meeting to be held soon in Bkerke, “because Bkerke — he said — is the national and spiritual headquarters around which all the Lebanese, Christians and Muslims converge”. Because Lebanon is still without a government, the mufti thinks in this way they can strengthen the “spiritual and social communion to rebuild the social fabric”.

The only country where there is harmony between the two, is Lebanon. And though Christians have now fallen to about 35% of the total population, Muslims agree they keep their political presence at 50% of the seats. The reason: they realize that the Christian presence is beneficial to society, and therefore ask them not to emigrate to the West!

Among the countries where there is calm, there is Syria, where there is an authoritarian, but secular, rule and Jordan, where, thanks to the king, there is a certain balance. In Egypt there are many who want to live together and hold demonstrations with the cross and the Koran, but there are also those who stirred up by the imams can destroy the churches in the blink of an eye.

Final Reflection

The problem is that the Arab people are not ready for democracy. I fear they will have to go through civil wars or Islamic dictatorships (as in Iran) to realize that those are not the solutions. But there is some hope: those who in Egypt want a society inspired by Islam, however, refuse an image like that of Saudi Arabia or Iran.

So far, the only country where Christians and Muslims speak and interact as peers is Lebanon. Elsewhere the Muslim voices that defend democracy and neutrality in religion are still too few. Especially rare are the voices of imams who advocate the separation of mosque and politics, religion and state.

Finally, religious education in schools is still too tied to the culture of the past and the patterns of the first millennium. It lacks an openness to modernity associated with the re-interpretation of religious sources. A new hermeneutics of the founding texts is urgent. But are there the teachers? …

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

Yemen: Gulf Monarchies Offer Gov’t-Opposition Mediation

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, APRIL 4 — Over the night Arab monarchies from Gulf states which form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) offered to mediate between the Yemenite government and the opposition to resolve the political crisis in the country. The organisation, which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, expressed in a communique’ its “deep concern over the deterioration in the situation as concerns security and the divided state prevailing in the country.” The GCC then urged the parties involved “to act in the interests of the nation”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


As of 2012, Religion Will be Studied in All Russian Schools

After “successful” trial year, Ministry of Education and the Moscow Patriarchate announce the introduction of “Fundamentals of religious culture and ethics” across national territory.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — After a trial year, “Foundations of religious culture and ethics” will be taught in all Russian schools throughout the country next year, the Russian Ministry of Education announced at a press conference held on March 23 in Moscow with representatives of the four major religions. According to authorities and religious leaders, especially from the Russian Orthodox Church, the trial year was a “success”, but nobody was able to respond to journalists questions with exact figures on the course participants and the degree of satisfaction.

“A large number of students chose courses on religion — said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, chairman of the Department for the Church’s relations with society at the Patriarchate of Moscow — and this did not cause any inter-religious conflict, but instead we notice a change in the morale among the children who attend them”.

Banned during the Soviet era, religion made a comeback in schools in April 2010, but only in some regions, with an initiative strongly supported by the Patriarch of Moscow and blessed by the Kremlin, which aims to a cement national identity on shared values . Students of primary and secondary schools may choose to study between the history of one of the four traditional religions — Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism — or more general courses on “foundations of religious culture” or “fundamentals of public ethics” .. So far the lessons were held for only one semester of the school year, but the Orthodox Church has asked that in2012 they be extended over the year.

Elena Romanova who heads the Ministry of Education office for the teaching of religion, explained that the problems still remain, one regarding textbooks, they are “prepared with too much haste”, and teachers, who need a” further training”.

For the Moscow Patriarchate the matter is literally one of life or death. Chaplin explained the usefulness of religion courses in schools, the fact that if a real “moral revolution” does not take place in Russia, “the country will not survive for much longer”. “Moral education does not only instill information — he said — if a young person grows stronger from the moral point of view in an environment devoid of morals, there are chances that he or she can at least partially change things. Only in this way, generation after generation, will we overcome the morally abnormal mentality of our post-Soviet era society. “

The study of religion in schools raises many perplexities among minority faiths who believe the project a Kremlin attempt to affirm Orthodoxy as the key pillar of national identity.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: La Russa Says Withdrawal Realistic in 2014

(AGI) Herat — La Russa says it is realistic to think of withdrawing Italy’s troops from Afghanistan in 2014. The minister of defence was speaking from Herat, where he attended the handover between the Alpine troops of the Julia Brigade and the Folgore paratroops.

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

Afghanistan: Obama Envoy Claims Islam is Answer to Violence

Hussain to Afghans: Your faith ‘one of the strongest tools’ against terror

A month before swarms of violent Afghans beheaded United Nations workers in the name of Islam, President Obama’s top envoy to the Muslim world promoted Islam in a visit to Afghanistan, arguing it was one of the “strongest tools” against such violence.

In February, Rashad Hussain, U.S. special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, gave a talk in the Afghan capital of Kabul in which he called on locals to recommit themselves to their religion:

“I am of the opinion that one of the strongest tools that you can use to counter radicalization and violent extremism is Islam itself, because Islam rejects violent extremism,” Hussain told the gathering of Afghans, according to a transcript obtained by WND from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Bangladesh: General Strike Against New Pro-Women Policy

The Islamic Law Implementation Committee organises a ‘hardal’ against the National Women Development Policy 2011, deemed contrary to the Qur’an. About 120 people are arrested.

Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) — More than 120 people have been arrested this morning during a general strike (hartal) organised to protest against the government’s National Women Development Policy 2011; 103 were detained in the capital Dhaka, 15 in Faridpur and 3 in Naravangani. The Islamic Law Implementation Committee had called for the labour action, claiming the new policy violates the principles of the Qur’an.

In Dhaka, Mirpur, Kakrail, Malibagh and other cities, violent clashes with police took place. Some eyewitnesses said police used batons against pro-strike pickets to disperse strikers. A number of people, including police agents were injured.

The strike did not cause any major disruption in the cities. Most shops, factories and schools had already closed in anticipation of the strike, but buses, mini-buses and rickshaws continued to operate.

On 7 March, the Bangladeshi cabinet approved the National Women Development Policy 2011. It provides women with an equal share in property as well as greater opportunities in employment and business. This has led to protest.

Under Islamic law, women are entitled to only a quarter of what men inherit. If adopted, the new policy would give every offspring the same share of a father’s inheritance.

For the adversaries of the new policy, this is a complete violation of the Qur’an and unfair towards men. They claim that because men have to support their wives, women should less for their dowry.

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

India: Orissa: 12 Tribals Arrested for Converting to Christianity Without an Official Permit

They violated the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act. Police issued an arrest warrant against the Protestant clergymen who carried out the conversion. For Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), what happened is “scandalous and a travesty of the noble vision and ideals enshrined in Indian constitution.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — Police arrested 12 Tribals in Orissa’s Mayurbhanj District. They were illegally converted to Christianity by Samuel and Manuel Mohapatra, two pastors from Balasore, who are nowhere to be found. The converts violated the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, which bans any conversion that is done without a permit issued by the authorities. The action came after a complaint was filed with police against the two Protestant clergymen and 13 converts, one of whom was able to escape.

Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), slammed the arrests. In a statement, he called on Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to withdraw the accusations and put a stop to anti-Christian violence in the state.

“The Global Council of Indian Christians demands Orissa Chief Minister to order a probe against the lower level police officials involved in the intimidation of Christians from tribal background and pastors in Mayurbhanj. The GCIC condemns the arrest of Tribals and the intimidation of pastors in the District of Mayurbhanj,” Mr George’s statement said.

In his view, the state government should stop those who use the law to persecute the population and thwart the constitution, which is based on respect for justice and freedom.

“The attempts by lower level police and the Sangh Parivar are scandalous and a travesty of the noble vision and ideals enshrined in Indian constitution,” he said.

In recent years, the District of Mayurbhanj has been the scene of Hindu anti-Christian violence. On 22 January 1999, Rev Graham Stewart Staines, an Australian Anglican mission and his two sons, Philip and Timothy, were burnt to death as they slept in their station wagon in the village of Manoharpur. In the same year, Fr Arul Doss, a priest with the Church of Anandpur, was attacked by ten extremists who killed him with arrows, and then burnt his church.

Orissa is one of six Indian States, the others being Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, that have adopted anti-conversion legislation under pressure from Hindu extremists linked to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They want to stop proselytising and conversions done for money. However, to date neither claim has ever been proven.

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

Indonesia: Bogor: “War” Against Yasmin Church as the Faithful Pray in Streets

The city mayor tells Christians to accept the transfer of their church. The pro-Islamist party politician accuses Christians of seeking open confrontation. Church members counter that they have the backing of a Supreme Court sentence, and claim the right of freedom of religion. Moderate Muslim leader supports the Yasmin Church.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The legal and verbal confrontation between the municipal authorities of the West Java city of Bogor and the members of the Yasmin Church could become an open “war”. Bogor’s mayor, elected on the ticket of an Islamic party, has ordered Christians to accept the transfer of their church to another area of the city. Yasmin Church members have countered that the Supreme Court has backed their claims, and are opposed to moving their place of worship. As an act of protest, they held this Sunday’s services out in the street (pictured).

Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto, from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), wants the church moved to avoid a confrontation between local hard-line Islamists and Yasmin Church members.

In a recent press statement, he raised the ante, saying that Christians “must” either accept the move to another location, or reject the proposal. However, for him, it is clear that “they [the Christians] want a place of worship or will stage a war [against me].”

“Totally absurd” is how Christians have described Budiarto’s proposal because it does not take into account a sentence of the Supreme Court, which authorities Yasmin Church members to continue building their church.

The country’s top judges ruled against Mayor Budiarto in a decision that reiterated the principle that religious freedom applies to all. After issuing a building permit in 2006, the mayor had reversed his decision and told Christians they could not build their church.

Under Indonesian law, churches of all denominations (Catholic or Protestant) require a local building permit as well as 60 signatures from local residents before they can build a place of worship.

Despite meeting all the requirements, Christians are often faced with opposition from local Islamic fundamentalists and fanatics who put pressure on local government to stop construction and rescind building permits.

Yesterday, Bogor Christians celebrated Sunday Mass in the open and announced that they would fight for their rights.

A group of members of the Yasmin Church filed a complaint with police against Mayor Budiarto for his words about “war” against their church.

“We shall never stop fighting for religious freedom”, Bona Sigalingging ShH told AsiaNews. Rev Ujang Tanusaputra slams “bellicose statements” by hard-line Muslim groups, whilst Rev Nugroho has called on the government to “intervene” because the municipality violated the supremacy of the law.

The head of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest (and moderate) Muslim organisation, has expressed its support for Bogor Christians and their cause.

Kiai Hajj Hasyim Muzadi said he is prepared to put pressures on local authorities “to find a valid option to solve the problem rather than focus only on technical issues like the building permit.”

Indonesia’s parliament has also joined the fray, inviting Bogor municipal officials to Jakarta to discuss the matter at a hearing with lawmakers.

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

Kazakhstan: Presidential Election, Nazarbayev Wins With 95% of the Votes

Early polls show an overwhelming consensus for the outgoing Head of State. 90% of those eligible participated in the election, compared to 76% of the previous presidential election in 2007. The former Communist leader states “well-being” more important than “democracy.”

Astana (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The controversial Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev has won yesterday’s presidential election with 95% of the vote, according to early polls by two specialist companies. The Electoral Commission reports that about 90% of the over 9 million eligible voters took part, with a marked increase of 76.8% compared to the previous consultations. After expressing his preference, the outgoing president urged the people to remain “united” to “achieve our goals.”

70 year old Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has led the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan for over 20 years. Opponents say they did not have enough time to prepare for the elections, decided less than two months ago by the Head of State (see AsiaNews, 04/02/11 President Nazarbayev sets 3 April for his re-election ). With a constitutional change implemented in 2007, the former leader of the Communist Party has removed the term limit, ensuring re-election for life.

The current mandate was scheduled to end in 2012, but Nazarbayez called early elections to dispel doubts about the vote’s unconstitutionality. International analysts point out that the massive percentage registered by the outgoing president testifies to the weakness of the opposition, having failed to propose a candidate capable of countering the power of the former communist leader.

There were three challengers who participated in the vote yesterday in Kazakhstan: the exponent of the Green party Mels Yeleusizov, the candidate of the Patriotic Party, Gani Kasymov and Zhambyl Akhmetbekov of the Communist Party. Following the vote, President Nazarbayev — Nur Otan party leader — said that “well-being comes before democracy:” The task of modernizing the state and society — he said — is still huge, so the vote today will be a test of our union and the desire to achieve our goals. “

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

Pakistan: Shahbaz Bhatti’s Successor Pledges Fight Against Discrimination But is Silent Over Blasphemy Law

Khatu Mal Jeewan, a Hindu, is the new Minority Affairs minister, replacing Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic slain for his fight against the country’s ‘black law’. Speaking to AsiaNews, the new minister said he hoped for a joint action to ensure peace and freedom as well as “equal rights” for minorities. The death toll from yesterday’s Sufi shrine terrorist attack tops 49, with more than 100 wounded.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Khatu Mal Jeewan has become Pakistan’s new Minority Affairs minister. Speaking to AsiaNews, he followed tradition and said that he was grateful for his “new appointment”, pledging to “fight for the rights of his community”. He was also reassuring saying that “minorities would not be discriminated”. He replaces Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic politician slain by Islamic fundamentalists on 2 March for proposing changes to the country’s blasphemy law. For his part, the new minister did not mention the law that caused his predecessor’s death. In the meantime, the death toll from yesterday’s attack against the Syed Ahmad Sakhi Sarwar Sufi shrine has risen to 49 dead and more than 100 wounded.

Following Bhatti’s brutal murder, Pakistan’s ruling party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), had proposed that a Bhatti family member take his place. However, Pakistani law does not allow this, and so the PPP proposed three candidates: Khatu Mal Jeewan, Michael Javed and Khalid Gill.

Khatu Mal Jeewan, a Hindu senator, was the eventual choice. He hails from Janhero, a city in Umerkot District, in the southern province of Sindh. A graduate from the Dow Medical College in Karachi, he was a medical doctor before entering politics.

“I fought for the rights of my community,” he told AsiaNews, “and backed the former minister in fighting for minorities”, and “I shall speak out for the rights of Pakistan’s minorities” to prevent any kind of discrimination.”

Speaking about his region of origin, which has the highest concentration of Hindus in the country, he said that most of them “live on the edge of poverty” and are “victims of discrimination and inhumane acts.”

Still the new minister sounded positive, saying that he was hopeful that his cabinet colleagues and leaders of other minorities will join him to fulfil the dream of Pakistan’s founder, Ali Jinnah, in which “minorities will have equal rights and will be able to live according to their respective faith.”

The PPP won the elections in 2008, announcing changes to the blasphemy law. However, after the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, and repeated death threats against Muslim lawmakers, the government decided to shelve any proposed changes to the “black law”.

In the meantime, the death toll from yesterday’s terrorist bombs against the Syed Ahmad Sakhi Sarwar shrine in Punjab, where Sufi Muslim devotees gathered for an annual three-day festival, has risen to 49, with more than 100 wounded.

According to mainstream Sunnis, Sufism is an heretical form of Islam. Like Ahmadis, they are often victims of violence and attacks.

A Taliban fighter claimed responsibility for the attack, the third of its kind against a Sufi shrine since the start of the year. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan is thought to be behind the violence.

Sufism is an ancient doctrine practiced in Pakistan with many more devotees and followers than fundamentalist Islamist groups.

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

Pastor Jones and a Dreaded Ghost

By M K Bhadrakumar

Broadly speaking, successful United Nations diplomats rise up the greasy pole at headquarters in Turtle Bay either by playing safe and allowing the good life to remain unruffled or alternatively, living dangerously. Staffan de Mistura, the Swedish-Italian who represents the UN secretary general in Afghanistan, belongs to the second category. His previous assignments included Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Lebanon and Iraq.

De Mistura’s main qualification for the assignment in Kabul, however, was that he was very unlike the brilliant Norwegian diplomat whom he replaced, Kai Eide, who turned out to be “a disappointment” (to borrow the description from a New York editorial) as far as Washington was concerned.

De Mistura — appointed just over a year ago — lacked a stellar international stature, but Washington wanted him in Kabul, given his previous working experience with both General David Petraeus, US commander in Afghanistan, and Karl Eikenberry, American ambassador in Kabul.

The late US special representative for AfPak, Richard Holbrooke, confided with The Cable, “I [Holbrooke] had a very good talk with him [De Mistura], quite a long talk, we went over every aspect of the relationship. He wanted to discuss how he could relate to us … I assured him that the US government and the US Embassy look forward to working with him … De Mistura has the unanimous support of the US government.”

The above long-winded introduction becomes necessary for comprehending the alchemy of the explosive violence that shook the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-i-Sharif last Friday afternoon that led to the killing of five Nepalese guards and three UN employees at the UN compound.

Accounts vary as to what happened. Following the Friday Prayer, a crowd that was leaving the famous Blue Mosque found another set of religious leaders in a Toyota Corolla fitted out with loudspeakers urging people to join them at the burning of the effigy of a militant fundamentalist Christian pastor in the US by name of Terry Jones who oversaw the burning of a copy of the Koran at his church in Gainesville, Florida, on March 20.

The crowd then turned and started walking the one-kilometer journey toward the UN compound. The Gurkhas who provided security for the UN were somehow overwhelmed and killed while a larger group apparently broke into the compound. In the violence that followed, all Afghan national staff and the Russian head of the UN office were spared, while the crowd went for Westerners, namely, three workers from Norway, Romania and Sweden.

What stands out is that the victims were deliberately murdered rather than killed by an out-of-control mob. Meanwhile, agitation against Jones has spread to Kandahar and the violence in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar has somehow become coalesced, as if originating from one vast reservoir.

Afghan authorities and De Mistura have instinctively blamed the Taliban for the violence in Mazar-i-Sharif. The Taliban flatly rejected the imputation. Indeed, there are intriguing questions as to what really happened.

As the London Observer noted:…

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

Protests Against Women’s Policy Cripple Bangladesh

By Julhas Alam

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Police clashed with demonstrators and arrested dozens in Bangladesh as a hard-line Muslim group enforced a paralyzing general strike Monday protesting a new policy giving women equal inheritance rights.

The protesters, mostly students of Islamic schools, smashed vehicles and set fire to a fuel station and attacked a convoy of devotees on their way to an Islamic shrine in southeastern Bangladesh, according to police, news reports and witnesses. Police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse protesters in various parts of the country.

Dozens were injured in clashes across the country during the strike, media reports citing police said.

Nearly 150 people were arrested during the one-day strike that saw schools and businesses shut in the nation’s main cities and towns, the Daily Star newspaper and ETV station reporting, citing police and witnesses.

General strikes — calls for businesses to close shop to protest a cause — are fairly common in the South Asian country, and those who do not comply can face intimidation by hard-line activists.

Monday’s strike was organized by the Islamic Law Implementation Committee, a grouping of several religious groups and political parties. Its head, Fazlul Huq Amini, told a news conference later Monday that about 100 activists had been arrested in the capital, Dhaka.

While the strike was called to broadly seek the adoption of Islamic law in the Muslim-majority nation of 150 million people, its specific agenda was to oppose the government’s new policy on women’s inheritance rights.

Under the government’s new rules, every child inherits the same amount.

Amini accuses the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of violating the Quran, the Islamic holy book, by introducing the new inheritance policy.

Hasina, however, insists the new rules are in line with Islam and says the hard-line group is deliberately manipulating people’s religious feelings to destabilize the country.

Hasina’s government says it wants women to have greater rights in employment, inheritance and education.

Despite being governed mostly by secular laws, Bangladesh generally follows Islamic law in family-related matters, including marriage and inheritance.

The Quran’s elaborate rules on inheritance are complicated. However, while there are several exceptions, in most cases a daughter inherits half of what is received by a son.

In Dhaka, a city of 10 million people, thousands of security officials were deployed to patrol the streets during the strike, police said.

The security officials cordoned off the country’s main Baitul Mokarram mosque in downtown Dhaka and set up barbed wire fences near the mosque.

The strike came a day after a student was killed and 25 other protesters against the new inheritance policy were injured during a violent clash between hard-liners Muslims and police in western Bangladesh.

In Chittagong district, 135 miles (215 kilometers) southeast of Dhaka, protesters attacked a convoy of about 200 buses carrying devotees to an annual gathering at a local Islamic shrine, leaving about a dozen people injured, the Daily Star reported, citing its Chittagong bureau.

The Islamic Law Implementation Committee denounces people who visit shrines, saying Islam does not allow worshipping at shrines.

Also in Chittagong, firefighters rushed to a refueling station after it was set on fire by the protesters, the Daily Star said.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Far East

About 45 Per Cent of Chinese Dairies Shut Down Following Melamine Scandals

Controls show that many dairies fail to meet food safety standards. The authorities want to restore consumer confidence, but they have not yet set minimum standards. Many now say the goal is to close small dairies to benefit the big ones.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China has shut down 45 per cent of the country’s dairy factories because they do not meet minimum quality standards. This has come as the authorities try to restore public confidence in product safety following repeated scandals involving tainted food and poor quality controls.

Nearly half of China’s 1,176 dairies are being shut down after failing to obtain new licences, China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) announced. Only 643 companies have been able to obtain new licences; another 107 were told to stop production and improve quality controls before they could apply again. The other 426 have had their licence simply revoked. Of the 145 companies producing mild powder for babies, 114 had their licences renewed.

The Chinese government ordered new controls in September to restore consumer confidence in the country’s dairy industry, rocked since September 2008 by a series of scandals involving melamine-tainted baby formula made by some of the country’s largest dairy producer. Milk products with added melamine appear to be richer in proteins, but are in fact very toxic and can cause kidney problems. At least six infants have died as a result of tainted baby formula and another 300,000 became seriously ill.

Because of the various cases, food safety practices have come under attack. Since the start of the problem, incidents of this kind have continued, albeit on a smaller scale (see “China’s foremost dairy company accused of “recycling” melamine-tainted milk,” in AsiaNews, 2 September 2010; “Food safety hard to guarantee in China,” in AsiaNews, 13 July 2010; and “38 tonnes of melamine milk seized (again),” in AsiaNews, 9 July 2010).

At the same time though, children affected by toxic substances have not been adequately compensated and officials responsible for the problem have not been punished.

Controls currently underway have shown the gravity of the situation, given the high number of companies that have failed to meet the standards after years of controls.

Inspections have shown how big dairies subcontract part of the production to smaller firms that try to recycle expired powdered milk or cannot meet the same quality standards.

Now consumers want the government to release the names of the delinquent companies.

However, the new rules appear to favour big dairies. In Hebei, many of the 35 companies that saw their licence renewed are subsidiaries of large national brands like Yili, Mengniu and Sanyuan.

Many observers believe that new controls are designed to squeeze out the smaller dairies in favour of the big ones.

Hebei, a province with a strong dairy sector, was the home of Sanlu, the main culprit in the 2008 scandal.

Food safety is a widespread problem in China. In March, reports about pigs fed with illegal and toxic supplements raised additional concerns.

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

Berlin Condemns Arrest of Chinese Artist

Germany expressed its “great concern” on Monday about the detention of Ai Weiwei, a prominent Chinese artist and outspoken critic of the regime in Beijing who was planning to set up a studio in Berlin.

“I learned with great concern that Ai Weiwei was prevented from leaving Beijing on Sunday and has since been held,” said Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who has himself just returned from a visit to Beijing and Tokyo.

He said in a statement he had impressed upon Chinese leaders the importance

of freedom of opinion and human rights during his trip.

“I call for an urgent explanation from the Chinese government and expect Ai Weiwei to be released without delay,” added Westerwelle.

Ai’s wife said earlier on Monday that police in Beijing had refused to disclose why they detained the artist, who helped design the city’s famous “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium but has since irritated the authorities.

He was taken into custody on Sunday at Beijing’s international airport as he prepared to board a flight “abroad”, his wife said. Members of his staff said he was travelling to Hong Kong.

His disappearance drew immediate concern from human rights groups and came after scores of dissidents, activists and rights lawyers were rounded up in recent weeks amid fears authorities are increasingly cracking down on dissent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

China: Mother Forced to Humiliate Herself in Publicity Stunt to Get Treatment for Her Daughter

Xie Sanxiu, a migrant worker, has a 7-month daughter with cancer. She has no money to pay for medical treatment, as the state has not helped her. An online forum invents a story to move people, raising about 280,000 yuan for the child’s treatment. When the real story was made public, the forum manager lost his job, but people were more charitable with Xie.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Xie Sanxiu walked on her knees for a kilometre down Avenue Guangzhou, in Guangzhou, to raise money to cure her 7-month daughter. Her story was posted on an online forum and donations flowed in. Now, it appears that her “shuffle” was made after she was asked to do it by the same website that advertised her plight. The stunt has outraged many.

Xie said that her daughter Shanshan, who was born in August, has a retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer. An operation to treat the ailment would need 20,000 yuan. She posted her story on the popular website but was able to raise only 400 yuan.

Eventually, an Internet user calling himself “Son of the Guangzhou rich” offered her 20,000 yuan if she walked for a kilometre on her knees along a busy Guangzhou street.

Xie accepted and in the afternoon of 22 March, she completed her walk, holding her baby in her arms, not far from the offices of newspapers. Many photographs took pictures of her during her march.

However, the mysterious Internet user disappeared and Shi Jinquan, the website content manager of the forum, posted the story, provoking a deluge of angry messages against the deceitful “rich son of Guangzhou” as well as a wave of sympathy and donations in favour of Xie. Altogether, some 280,000 yuan were raised.

Now it turns out that Shi and the unknown rich man are one and the same, causing even more outrage. Shi has admitted that the whole thing was a publicity stunt.

An instant messaging conversation between Shi and Xie shows hat Shi told Xie to start the knee-walk from the office of the Nanfang Daily group and coached her in how to answer all sorts of questions.

Xie, who went from the status of victim to that of villain, told Guangzhou Daily that she was sorry for “hurting the media and society”, but insisted that her daughter does have an eye cancer.

“I am not educated and know nothing about publicity stunts,” Xie told the newspaper. “I’m not a great mother, as the media reported. I’m just a poor mother, a mother who told lies. I was just trying to save my daughter.”

She said she was grateful to all the people who wanted to help her child, but added that she did not expect Shi’s idea to have such a negative impact.

Although willing to return the money, she explained that she was a migrant worker from Jingzhou (Hubei) earning 2,000 yuan a month, and that she cannot pay for her daughter’s bill at the Children’s Hospital in Guangzhou and the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Hospital. Despite her pleas, the treatment was stopped.

She and her husband had asked for help from the Civil Affairs Department, but received only a paper that acknowledged they were below the poverty line.

In a TV interview, Shi also apologised, but insisted that all he did was to raise money to pay for the child’s medical treatment. Still, he was fired and has become the object of angry messages from Internet users.

“In my personal research of internet communications, anger can easily attract attention, and opinions spread on a very large scale. This was a last resort,” he said.

“We feel cheated even though it was well meant. Please do not challenge kind people’s moral bottom line,” one Internet user from Hebei wrote on

Another one from Guangzhou criticised Shi for “boosting his own publicity and damaging the social code by exploiting people’s kindness”.

People were more charitable towards Xie. For most, she is a poor mother who crawled on the street to save her child. For this, she deserves forgiveness.

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

Radioactive Water From Japanese Nuclear Plant Dumped Into Sea

The operator of the crippled Fukushima complex begins releasing 11,500 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific to make room in storage tanks for even more highly contaminated water. The government says the release does not pose an immediate threat to humans.

Reporting from Tokyo— The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant began releasing about 11,500 tons of radioactive water into the sea Monday evening so that it could make room in storage tanks for even more severely contaminated water.

Some 10,000 tons of the water being released into the ocean was being taken from a communal storage facility near the No. 4 reactor. Another 1,500 tons was being released from the vicinity of the No. 5 and 6 reactors — which have been less troubled than reactors Nos. 1 through 4. The amount of water being released is equivalent to more than four Olympic-size swimming pools.

Although the water being released had levels of radioactive iodine 131 more than 100 times the legal limit allowed for sea discharge, the government approved the release as an “emergency” measure so that water with 100,000 times more radiation than the water found in a normally functioning reactor can be removed from the basement of the turbine building at reactor No. 2 and stored somewhere on the site.

Even as the government asserted that the release of the radioactive water into the sea would not pose an immediate threat to humans, health ministry official Taku Ohara said the ministry was considering drawing up radioactivity food-safety standards for fish after high radiation levels were detected in a sand lance, a bottom-feeding fish, caught off the coast of Ibaraki prefecture.

Nuclear experts have assumed that radioactive iodine, which has a brief half-life, would become diluted in the ocean and decay too quickly to be detected in fish, but Monday’s finding has raised doubts about that, said Ohara.

According to the health ministry, the sand lance had 4,080 bequerels per kilogram of radioactive iodine. “We think the level found poses no immediate risk to people’s health but the point is moot anyway because all sand lance caught in Ibaraki were disposed of,” said Ohara. By comparison, the level of radioactive iodine in the fish was twice as high as the limit for vegetables. Currently there are no standards for radioactivity in meat, eggs, fish and grains.

After more than three weeks of cooling the disabled Fukushima reactors by spraying them with thousands of tons of water using fire trucks, concrete pumpers and helicopters, Tokyo Electric Power Co. faces a growing problem of what to do with the vast amounts of contaminated water.

Removing the water from turbine buildings and other structures is vital to allow workers to restore cooling functions to the facilities. But with limited facilities for storing the water, the utility and the government are now considering options including putting it into a “floating island” offshore. Also being discussed is the installation of an undersea barrier, usually used to contain old spills, that might slow the radioactive water’s move offshore.

Tepco reported no success Monday in its efforts to stop highly radioactive water from seeping from a pit near the No. 2 reactor into the ocean. The utility believed that the leak was coming from an 8-inch crack and attempted to seal it with a polymer, sawdust and shredded newspaper. When that failed, the utility dumped some white bath salts into a pipe near the pit to attempt to trace the flow of the water, but the colored water had yet to show up in the sea…

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ivory Coast: UN Helicopters Attack Gbagbo’s Forces

(AGI) Abidjan — UN helicopters have launched attacks on the forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbabo in a base in Abidjan. It was revealed by eyewitnesses. The United Nations had previously threatened air strikes on Gbagbo’s troops that are blamed for a series of attacks in which 11 blue helmets were wounded.

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


Berlusconi in Tunis to Stop Exodus, ‘But Local Govt Weak’

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 4 — The aim is to put an end to the exodus underway in Tunis and, possibly, to come to an agreement for the repatriation of most of the migrants. However, it would appear that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has his work cut out for him in Tunis. The day before he left for Tunisia, in his first post-Ben Ali visit to the country, Berlusconi stated, “I will go to Tunis to see whether the government, which is weak and has not been elected by voters, can or will have a police force able to stop more people leaving.” His remarks bear witness to his own doubts as to the transitional government’s ability to fulfill the commitments it has undertaken. And the succession of questions and answers on Saturday regarding official agreements between Tunisia and Italy confirmed those doubts. Therefore, the Prime Minister is launching an offensive on several levels, starting with the European one. During a phone call with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italy and France decided to hold a summit “as soon as possible”, in which attendees will include the two countries’ Foreign, Economy and Interior Ministers. Among other things, this will be an important summit in light of recent tensions between Paris and Rome regarding Libya. However, it will mostly focus on the issue of immigration, on which the two countries see eye to eye, following Prime Minister Fillon’s remarks, as regards the need to involve the EU.

The situation in southern Italy is Berlusconi’s primary concern at the moment: “In Lampedusa the situation is problematic”. The Italian Prime Minister noted that immigrants continue to land there and, despite the fact that they have begun to be sent home, there are still some 2,500 migrants on the island due to the conditions at sea. He reiterated, however, that solidarity is a duty. “Recent events prove the validity of our values: migrants come to Italy to seek freedom and justice”.

Political stances are intermingled with the more technical aspects of the matter at hand. If Tunis does not comply with the agreements forged with Rome, the Italian government has reiterated that Tunisia will have disregarded agreements which were “crystal clear”, part of a written exchange between the two countries’ foreign ministers following Franco Frattini and Roberto Maroni’s recent visit. Essentially, Italy claims that an agreement has already been reached and that it must be honored.

In particular, Tunisia should monitor its shores to avoid illegal departures, which are also banned under the country’s legislation. At the same time, the Italian government aims to enforce the deal on migrant repatriation. In exchange for that, it is willing to provide the equipment and resources necessary for coastal surveillance (to the tune of 73 million Euros), as well as financial aid (the Italian cooperation department has already allocated 150 million EUR to this purpose). The key issue remains that of communication, of relaying the message to the appropriate person.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi in Tunis, Talks on Repatriations

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 4 — “We are working towards the possibility of repatriation, the Tunis government and our own both have the desire to do it in civil fashion”. These are the comments of the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who has been speaking after a meeting with his Tunisian counterpart, Beji Kaid Essebsi, inside the Tunisian government building. “The Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, will leave a commission of technicians working here and will return tomorrow to check on the work carried out and to sign an agreement,” Berlusconi added, insisting that time was of the essence. There were 800 new arrivals in Lampedusa last night and “we must look for a solution”.

The Tunisian news agency TAP, meanwhile, reports that no agreement concerning immigration has been reached between Italy and Tunisia. One of the aspects that the commission from the Interior Ministry will have to deal with is coastal patrol. “Beginning now, there is a great and absolute desire to find a solution regarding the management of coastal control,” Berlusconi said during the press conference in Tunis. “We will provide our assistance in land and sea vehicles to ensure that controls are thorough and efficient. Our countries have relations of great friendship and this will continue to be the case”.

The Italian Prime Minister said that many of the Tunisians who had arrived in Lampedusa in recent weeks had expressed their desire to continue towards France, where they wish to join friends and family. Soon, he said, there will be a summit between Rome and Paris to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, the EU has announced that the potential granting of documents to allow migrants a temporary stay on European soil is dependent on national authorities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Must Show Solidarity With Tunisia, Commissioner Says

Tunisian authorities are willing to take back migrants who crossed the Mediterranean over to Italy, but EU states should also help with the relocation of African refugees from Libya, home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said after her visit to Tunis. Back from a three-day trip to Tunisia together with neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele, Malmstrom on Friday (1 April) tried to convince journalists that the visit was not only about telling the new government in Tunis to stem the flow of migrants and take back those who already reached Italian shores.

“Tunisia is the country where it all started [the Arab Spring]. It is fantastic to see the courage of the people, how they prepare for elections, reforms and a new democratic future for this country. And the EU stands ready to do everything to support Tunisia on this path,” Malmstrom said in her opening statement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi’s Diaspora and the Libyans Overwhelming an Italian Island Who Are Threatening to Come Here

Despite a massive police presence, and attempts to move thousands off the island to holding camps in Italy, the situation is potentially explosive. With teenage girls being pestered by gangs of immigrants for sex, the presence of so many young men has also led to sporadic outbreaks of violence on the few streets here.Drug use is also widespread.

Drug use is also widespread. Some of the immigrants — among them escapees from Tunisian jails — have smuggled in narcotics along with large sums of cash to fund their journey farther north into Europe.

But drugs or not, these men are hated by the 2,000 families who live here, and Berlusconi knows it. On Wednesday he promised to free Lampedusa of all the illegal visitors in less than 60 hours with an airlift and a fleet of ships to take them to the mainland, where their claims for asylum will be processed.

After that, a minority will be sent home, though many will be allowed to stay and eventually claim naturalisation. Others will head to France and try to board lorries bound for England.

But bad weather and a stiff wind have blighted the Prime Minister’s plan for the moment at least, with an airlift to remove 800 cancelled at the last second because the huge Army troop carriers could not land.

I watched as these immigrants, mainly men in their 20s and 30s, were herded back on buses at the airport by riot police, drafted in from Sicily and wearing medical masks over their faces, to await another night at the island’s one overcrowded immigration centre.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Immigration Coalition Pressures President Obama

A coalition of immigration activists and lawmakers has challenged Obama to use his executive powers to change U.S. immigration policy.

The campaign, called Change Takes Courage, will consist of events nationwide, including in Obama’s home state of Hawaii, in the coming months. It was launched a day after the president said he’ll push Congress to pass legislation that will grant citizenship to Latinos in college or the military, but quickly added that he’ll need “a little bit of help” from congressional Republicans.

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest insists Obama is committed to immigration reform. The president’s broader agenda, Earnest said, includes a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, enhanced border security and cracking down on employers who hire illegal workers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy’s Mission to Stem the Migrant Flow

Corriere della Sera, 4 April 2011

“With a healthy dose of hope and money (up to 300 million euros in aid),” the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Interior Minister Roberto Maroni arrived in Tunis on April 4 to present “Italy’s plan for the migrants”, headlines the Corriere della Sera. They will try to persuade the interim government to accept the return from Italy of hundreds of immigrants from Tunisia, the newspaper reports. Berlusconi hopes this way to ease tensions with his allies in the Northern League, who reject the idea of sending on to other EU countries the north Africans who have arrived illegally in recent weeks, a step that would amount to “amnesty.” In recent days thousands of migrants have been transferred from the island of Lampedusa to the mainland, but dozens of them have escaped from a detention centre in Puglia. Berlusconi has also agreed with Nicolas Sarkozy to hold a Franco-Italian summit on ??immigration, a “first stage of reconciliation” after the diplomatic cooling that followed France’s intervention in Libya, according to Corriere.

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

Just Passing Through? North African Immigrants Look for Cracks in French-Italian Border

Migrants fleeing Tunisia and Libya cross the dangerous Strait of Sicily to the island of Lampedusa and other landing spots in Italy. Eventually, many amass in Ventimiglia, an upscale Italian border town and resort in the north that is the gateway to France, and beyond.

“We are not interested in Italy. We’re just passing through. We want to go to France but they don’t want us there.”

There are tents in the station. Walls have become urinals. The parks are for siestas. Along the Roia River, which passes through the city, camps have sprung up. The newcomers are probably there illegally. They may be refugees. They’re certainly desperate. They are migrants.

If Lampedusa, an island south-west of Sicily that has become notorious as Europe’s first port of call for North African immigrants, is the neck of the bottle, then Ventimiglia is the base. Swirling here is an explosive mixture: lives wasted in transit — with just jeans, tennis shoes and a mobile phone as baggage — butting up against worried citizens, who stop Mayor Gaetano Scullino in the street to ask, “when will you take them away?”

Ventimiglia station is the third Italian leg of the journey for immigrants from Tunisia. After landing in Lampedusa, they are transferred to temporary centers on the mainland, in Bari, Foggia or Crotone. >From there it’s easy to escape and catch a train heading north, from one border to another. Italy is just somewhere they have to pass through. They dream of France, of embracing the relatives they are following there, and jobs on the Cote d’Azur.

But the 10 short kilometers to reach longed-for Menton, the first city in France, can seem longer than the nights of turbulent sailing in the Sicilian straights. For the migrants, the border between Italy and France is an impenetrable barrier.

The Alpine border police are a nightmare: they have intensified the checks at road blocks in the last few weeks, making quick judgments based on skin color. And on the trains there are merciless patrols. Anyone without papers is sent straight back to Ventimiglia. Police don’t bother to check their status or health. A fax to the Italian frontier police is enough. We take them back with no questions asked.

The Italian authorities, in contrast, carry out zero checks, and nobody asks for documents. The Centers for Identification and Explusion (CIE), which house political immigrants, are already overflowing. Why stop these immigrants if they don’t want to stay here anyway?

Ventimiglia has become a little Lampedusa of the North. Every day 50 migrants arrive from southern Italy. Some try to get over the French border. Few succeed. About 30 come back to Ventimiglia, camping out while they wait to try again. Every day the number increases. Now there are more than 100: all male, all under 30-years-old. Most are Tunisian, although Libyans are starting to appear too. In their pockets they have just enough money for trains and sandwiches.

So far the situation is relatively peaceful. The Ventimiglia residents, who were overwhelmed by Kurds in 1998, are uncomfortable, but they tolerate the problem — for now. “If the situation continues like this, it will explode,” warns a local bar patron.

At night, the migrants camp in the underpass of the station, where there is an electric socket for recharging cellphones. At the mayor’s request, the railway company is also leaving the waiting rooms and toilets open at night. By day, the migrants walk about the city, looking for the least risky way to get to France.

Samir is nearly 24-years-old. He came to Italy as a child. For a long time he worked in a travel agency. Recently, however, he followed a girlfriend to Nice, where he is now a carpenter. He shows his residency permit, with which he can regularly travel around Europe. Back in Italy just temporarily, he has spent the whole day wandering around Ventimiglia, watching.

“I came to pick up my brother. He’s 20. He made it to Lampedusa from Sfax [Tunisia] by paying 1,800 euros ($2.500). Then he was transferred to Puglia. He called me, and I said ‘I’m coming to get you in Ventimiglia.’ So here I am. Yesterday I took the train back and forth from Nice four times, to work out whether they were checking documents. We couldn’t do it in a car. If they stopped us they would arrest me.”

The people smugglers, out of business since the European Union lifted its borders in the mid-1990s, are back. They lure migrants at the station, showing them a car and offering to make their dreams come true at varying prices: 50 euros ($70) to Menton, 100 ($141) to Nice, or 150 ($212) to Marseille. Three passengers per car, leaving at nightfall. The police have already arrested 10 of them. Expert hikers offer themselves as guides to cross the border on foot, across the overhanging rocks, like in the old days.

Samir is wary of traps. “The train is better. At least there we will travel in different compartments and I don’t risk arrest.” At 18:17, there is a train for the French city of Grasse. It’s time. Samir calls his brother, waits in line, and hands over the ticket like a lottery receipt. He pops up the collar of his black jacket and hugs his brother before the two head toward different ends of the train.

It’s evening and migrants are laying out boxes at the station. The large piazza is deserted, though the police survey the situation discretely. New migrants get off the train from Rome and set up camp. A text message arrives. It’s Samir. “Adieu Italy!”

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

Migrant Arrivals Continue as Berlusconi Travels to Tunisia to End Flow

Rome, 4 April (AKI) — Hundreds of people continue to arrive on Italy’s Lampedusa island as Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi travels to Tunisia in an effort to reach an agreement which would stop the boats from making the trip.

Early Monday 210 people arrived by boat on Lampedusa, while Sunday saw the arrival of 600 people. Lampedusa is closer to Tunisa than Italy.

Italy has been transferring thousands of the migrants to Sicily and the Italian mainland to relieve Lampedusa, a fishing and tourist island of 5,000 people that has been transformed into a litter-strewn migrant encampment.

Berlusconi last week said Tunisa was not cooperating with Italy to stem the migrant flow. Last week Italy said it would give Tunisia 80 million euros worth of aid to solve the problem.

More than 20,000 primarily Tunisians have landed by boat on Lampedusa since a popular uprising in January overthrew that country’s authoritarian president. Berlusconi’s government calls the situation a “crisis.”

Italy claims that almost all the migrants are looking for economic opportunity and will be repatriated. Most have been moved to detention centres on the Italian mainland and Sicily.

The United Nations over the weekend said more than 400 African migrants seeking to travel to Italy on two vessels are feared drowned after going missing days ago in the Mediterranean.

The boats reportedly left the Libyan coast on 22 and 25 March, one carrying 335 Eritreans and the other 68 Eritreans and Ethiopians.

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

Refugees Set Italian Church on Fire

Tunisian refugees have set on fire a church at Lampedusa Island, Italy. No details of this incident have yet been revealed. For some days, the situation on the island has ben very tense. Local residents were unsatisfied by the torrent of Tunisian refugees, while the latter complained of poor accommodation conditions. The church was set on fire after the priest had accommodated 36 teenage refugees in the parish.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Migrant Crime Wave Revealed: Foreign Arrests Have Almost Doubled in Just Three Years

The number of foreigners arrested for committing crimes in Britain has almost doubled in the past three years, police revealed today.

Figures show that in 2010 more than 91,234 non-British nationals were held for crimes including murder, burglary and sexual offences.

By contrast, only 51,899 foreigners were arrested in 2008 — meaning there has been a worrying increase of 76 per cent over the past three years.

The increase comes after a period of soaring migration, notably from eastern Europe, the source of more than a million arrivals to Britain.

The worst affected of the 19 forces that published data — after a request was made using the Freedom of Information Act — were those which policed rural areas..

These communities are thought to have seen the biggest rises because they had few immigrants before the enlargement of the EU in 2004 and now are host to thousands of farm labourers.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary made 27 arrests in 2006 and 4,803 in 2010 — a staggering 17,689 per cent rise.

Durham Constabulary suffered a 629 per cent rise from 65 in 2006 to 474 in 2010 and Humberside Police recorded a 138 per cent increase, from 865 to 2,055…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Swedish Church: Don’t Christen Asylum Seekers

A Bishops’ letter being sent out to priests in Sweden is advising them to avoid christening asylum seekers that have converted to Christianity because it could be dangerous, reported news agency TT.

One of the reasons for the recommendation is because it can cause danger and increase risks if a person who has converted to Christianity is later sent back to their home country.

Another reason is that the motive for the christening can be questioned by some who suggest that asylum seekers convert to Christianity to increase their chances of staying in Sweden.

The issue is being addressed in a Bishops’ letter titled, “The Church’s handling in meetings with people from other religious traditions.”

“There are both pastoral and ethical reasons for the advice,” Helene Egnell of the Center for Religious Dialogue, told newspaper Kyrkans Tidning. “Asylum seekers are in a vulnerable and exposed situaion. A christening doesn’t have any affect on the asylum seeking process and brings instead big risk for persecution if someone is sent home.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]