Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110407

Financial Crisis
»‘A Grave Moment for Our Country’: Portugal Forced to Request EU Bailout
»ECB Raises Interest Rate to 1.25%, First Time Since Mid 2008
»Greece: Press: 2010 Budget Deficit to 10% GDP
»Greek Banks Strong Enough to Pass EU Stress Tests
»Moody’s: Italy Can Return to Primary Surplus
»Portugal Requests EU Aid; Spain, No Domino Effect
»Thanks for Raising My Taxes — What Else Can I Do for You?
»The Fed — Shut it Down
»The Return of the Great Depression?
»Cathleen P. Black is Out as New York City Schools Chancellor, City Official Says
»Culture Check 2011
»Diana West: Looking on the Bright Side
»Explosion Reported Outside Chabad House in Santa Monica
»Herman Cain Slams Ellison, Says He Supports Sharia Law
»Trump Hammers Away at Obama’s Citizenship Issue
Europe and the EU
»Can You Patent a Shape? 3D Printing on Collision Course With Intellectual Property Law
»Cyprus: Brussels Asks for Freedom to Buy Second House
»De Castro: EP Measures on Moroccan Tomato Imports
»EU Plans Tougher Radiation Limits for Japanese Food
»EU: Revise Ties With Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, Parliament Says
»EU’s Roma Blueprint ‘Disappointing’
»‘Gay Caveman’ Story Overblown, Archaeologists Say
»Greece and Portugal to EU Court Over Rivers
»Hungary: Roma Hunting Season Set to Continue
»Italy: Senators Aim to Legalise the Fascist Party
»Spain Risks EU Fines for Industry Emissions
»Sweden: Arrest Sparked Wave of Gothenburg Car Fires
»Sweden: Malmö Court Descends Into Mass Brawl
»Torture? Execution? German Justice Through the Eyes of a Somali Pirate
»UK: ‘Let’s Threaten Them With Prison’: MP Goes to War With Judges Who Hand Out Gagging Orders
»UK: 17-Year-Old Behind 100 Burglaries and £445,000 Spree is Jailed
»UK: How TV Islamic Extremist Who Hates Britain Enjoys £1,250-a-Month Benefits and Rent-Free Luxury Flat
»UK: Mental Health Plan Fails to Help Black People
»UK: Policing on the (Really) Cheap? ‘Vigilante’ Experiment Will See Volunteers Patrolling Streets
»UK: Police ‘Hid’ Abuse of 60 Girls by Asian Takeaway Workers Linked to Murder of 14-Year-Old
»Bosnia: Serb Leader Blames Former US Ambassador for “Ignoring Facts”
»Kosovo: Leading Political Parties Agree on Election of New President
North Africa
»EU: Plea to Gaddafi Supporters, Abandon Leader
»Filipino Nurses and Christian Witnesses for Gaddafi and Rebels, Says Mgr Martinelli
»Fundamentalists Apply Islamic Penalty Law on Christians in Egypt
»Libya: Protests Against Turkey and NATO in Darnah
»Libya: NATO Air Strikes on Tripoli, Misrata and Brega
»Libya: Press Reports of French Commando Missing in Desert
»Libya: Tripoli: NATO Air Strike Hits Oil Field
»Libya: ENI: Oil Production Down, Concerns About Gas in Winter
»Libya: NATO Boosts Airstrikes, Italy, US Discuss Arming Rebels
»NATO Fears War Without End in Libya
»Tunisia: Magistrates Call Off Today’s Strike
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: Rocket Hits Bus, Injured. Israel Responds, One Dead
»IAF Strikes Gaza as Hamas Announces Immediate Cease-Fire
»Muslim Student Attacks UN Rights Council for Anti-Israel Bias
»Poll: One-Third of Palestinians Support Itamar Attack
»World Bank: PNA Can Manage Independent State
»World’s Top Wine From Golan Heights
Middle East
»Bahrain: Clashes Move From Streets to Newsrooms
»Condemnation and Silence: The ‘Jasmine Revolution’ Seen From Tehran
»EU-Turkey: Bagis in Paris, We Are Key to Moderate Islam
»Saudi Arabia: Haia Officers Get Training to Combat Black Magic
»Syria: Gov’t-Run Daily Publishes Dissident’s Opinion
South Asia
»India: Deadly Superbug in New Delhi Water
»India Graduates Millions, But Too Few Are Fit to Hire
»Pakistan: Asia Bibi Gravely Ill, Fears for Her Life, After Three Months in Solitary Isolation
Far East
»Presenting the First Chinese Aircraft Carrier
Australia — Pacific
»Fresh Thinking Helps Blind Muslims Tackle Dog Taboo Julie Szego
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Hamas Targeted in Mysterious Airstrike
»Italy: Thousands of Migrants Granted Temporary Visas
»UN-Backed Forces Slaughter Christians in Ivory Coast
Latin America
»At Least 11 Dead in Massacre at Rio De Janeiro School
»Asylum: Single Entry Point is Tough to Get Open
»EU: Permit No Automatic Right to Travel
»France Sets Five Strict Rules for Entry
»France Plans to Stop Flows From Italy
»Half of the 2500 Immigrants in France Returned to Italy
»Immigrants Use Welfare System More Than Natives
»Italy Accord With Tunisia, Repatriation for New Immigrants
»Italy: Govt-Regions Accord on Accepting Migrants
»Italy Calls France ‘Hostile’ As Migrant Spat Escalates
»Italy: Maroni: 25,867 Arrivals Since Start of 2011
»Italy Asks EU for Temporary Protection
»Italy: Minister Attacks France’s ‘Hostile’ Attitude to Migrants Amid Spat
»Libya: UNICEF: 1,000 Children Among Refugees at Borders
»Libya: EU: Flood of Immigration if Violence Persists
»Maroni: Departures From Libya on the Rise
»Parliament Observes Minute of Silence for Drowned Refugees From Libya
»Silvio Berlusconi to Give Visas to North African Refugees So They Can Come to UK
Culture Wars
»Denmark: Military Recognised for Gender Diversity
»Germany: Catholics Quit Church in Droves Last Year
»A Clash of the Extremes: Pastor Terry Jones and the Claim to Absolute Truth
»Huge Private Rocket Could Send Astronauts to the Moon or Mars
»Neanderthals: Bad Luck and Its Part in Their Downfall
»U.S. Collider Offers Physicists a Glimpse of a Possible New Particle

Financial Crisis

‘A Grave Moment for Our Country’: Portugal Forced to Request EU Bailout

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates has been insisting for months that he would not ask the EU for help. But on Wednesday he announced he was doing just that, after bond yields reached an unsustainable level. The bailout could amount to as much as 80 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

ECB Raises Interest Rate to 1.25%, First Time Since Mid 2008

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 7 — The European Central Bank has decided to raise Eurozone interest rates by a quarter point to 1.25%, from the record low of 1%. It is the first rate raise issued by the board since mid-2008, and was expected by the market. The ECB also increased the marginal lending rate, from 1.75% to 2% and the deposit rate to 0.5%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Press: 2010 Budget Deficit to 10% GDP

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 7 — Greece’s budget deficit over 2010 is larger than previously estimated: 10% of GDP. The figure was announced by Reuters, which quotes well-informed sources. Earlier the country’s deficit was estimated at 8% of GDP.

Later the Greek government adjusted the figure to 9.4% and Greece’s financers, EU, ECB and IMF, to 9.6%. This new revision will make it more difficult for Greece to reach its targets set for 2011, analysts explain. The official Eurostat data will be released on April 26.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek Banks Strong Enough to Pass EU Stress Tests

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 7 — Most Greek banks have adequate capital to pass upcoming EU stress tests, daily Kathimerini reports quotuing Vassilis Rapanos, National Bank (NBG) chairman, as saying on Wednesday. “Greek banks, except ATEbank passed the stress test last year. All banks are now in better shape in terms of capital adequacy to face the new stress test that will take place soon, including ATEbank,” according to Rapanos.

ATEbank was the only Greek lender to fail EU-wide bank stress tests last year. It announced on Tuesday a 1.26 billion euro capital increase, offering its new shares at a 27.3% discount to Monday’s adjusted closing price. The bank said it would issue 1.17 billion new shares with a proposed subscription price of 1.07 euros each, and with pre-emption rights of 13 new shares for every one existing share. The Greek government, which owns 77% of the bank, has said it will take part in the capital increase, contributing 973.7 million euros, and will also buy any unsubscribed shares up to amount of 170.75 million euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Moody’s: Italy Can Return to Primary Surplus

(ANSAmed) — Milan, April 7 — Italy can return to generating a primary surplus in the next three or four years without “brutal” changes, Moody’s said Thursday.

“The government should be able to at least stabilize if not reduce public debt, even in a prudent scenario envisaging primary surpluses (which are) not very high (1-2%) and moderate economic growth (at most 3%),” analysts said.

Moody’s gave Italy’s sovereign debt a stable outlook with an Aa2 rating that does not foresee any risk of contagion from eurozone turbulence. Italy’s public debt, one of the largest in the world, reached 119% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 but unlike other weaker eurozone economies the country did not suffer a sovereign downgrade due to the 2007-2009 crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Portugal Requests EU Aid; Spain, No Domino Effect

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 7 — Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado “absolutely ruled out” that the economic crisis in Portugal will spread to Spain, following Lisbon’s difficult decision to ask Europe for help. In an interview with Spanish radio network ‘Cadena Ser’, cited by Bloomberg, Salgado explained that the markets are aware of the differences between the two countries and that Spain’s economy has “solid foundations and is more competitive” than Portugal’s economy. After resisting for months and three anti-deficit clampdowns that brought the country to its knees without calming the markets, the outgoing Portuguese government of socialist Premier José Socrates decided to ask for Europe’s help at what is probably the most critical time on the domestic front, with the electoral campaign for the early elections on June 5 practically set to begin. “The government has decided to send the European Commission a request for financial assistance,” announced Socrates last night after meeting with head of state Anibal Cavaco Silva. The outgoing premier, who will lead the socialists in the June elections — polls have him behind the head of PSD opposition party leader Passos Coelho — did not specify the form of external aid requested by Lisbon, and to which group the request was directed (EU or EU-IMF?). In recent days Portuguese banks have proposed that the country try to obtain a bridge loan of about 15 billion euros from Europe, allowing them to operate until a new government is formed at the end of June, which Cavaco Silva wants to be a broad coalition between the PSD, PS and the CDS, another centre-right party.

“This is the time for everyone to take responsibility for the country,” said Socrates, making a clear reference to the centre-right opposition, which must back the treaty with Brussels in the midst of the electoral campaign, and under constant attacks from PS officials. Again last night Socrates criticised the rejection of the most recent anti-deficit package, which led to the resignation of the government. “It was the worst signal that the country could have given to the markets, the wrong signal at the wrong time.” Parallel negotiations, with Brussels on the one hand and the opposition on the other, risk turning complicated. Last night PSD leader Passos Coelho said that he was notified of the government’s decision by the press. “Until a government has been formed with the sufficient strength and credibility to negotiate a more complete framework of aid over the medium to long term, the current government must be able to negotiate a minimum aid package, which will have the support of the PSD,” he guaranteed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Thanks for Raising My Taxes — What Else Can I Do for You?

When Wisconsin Democrats fled the state in order to avoid voting on splendiferous public sector union contracts, did they happen to notice that the rest of the country is in the midst of a massive recession?

For years, Democrats have been using taxpayer money so that their buddies in public sector unions never have to know when there’s a recession. People who are already suffering have to suffer more so that those who are doing pretty well don’t have to suffer at all.

The high salaries and magnificent benefits paid to government employees are used to fund the public sector unions, which then funnel a portion of that money back to the Democrats, who vote for the pay packages of government workers. The unions function as a pass-through from the taxpayers straight to Democrats running for re-election.

As a result, taxpayers are paying people to continually raise their taxes.

In 2010, three of the five top campaign contributors to the Democrats were public sector unions. Service Employees International was No. 2 at $11.6 million in campaign contributions to Democrats, the National Education Association was No. 3 at $8 million, and the American Federation of Teachers was No. 5 at $7 million. (To put that in perspective, that’s even more than the $1 million given to Obama in 2008 by his second-largest contributor, Goldman Sachs!)

Liberals don’t love big government because they think it’s efficient, compassionate, fair or even remotely useful. They support big government because they are guaranteed the support of nearly everyone who works for the government.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Fed — Shut it Down

There should be no debate over spending in DC at this point. Over the last seventy years, our federal government, behaving as an unconstitutional supreme central power, has spent the most productive and prosperous nation on earth into third world status.

Bickering over a few billion in planned deficit spending above $1.65 trillion in just the next year, when the nation is already more than $14 trillion in unsustainable debt threatening the very existence of our dollar — is the definition of insanity.

Democrats are forcing a so-called shutdown in their effort to keep spending money we don’t have.

Republicans are only calling for a symbolic level of spending cuts. Nobody in Washington DC seems serious about ending the fiscal insanity. Even the president’s bi-partisan debt panel is recommending deficit spending for at least another twenty-five years.

I say, shut it down! The federal government has done more to harm the union of states than they have ever done to improve freedom and liberty in America. We will be better off without a federal government, each state able to fund and govern itself better than the Fed ever will.


Democrats will try to make even a partial shutdown as painful as possible for the voter’s in this country who are trained government dependents. They are already out telling their voters to hold Republicans responsible for the big “shutdown” which will only impact government dependents. Since social spending now exceeds 60% of the entire federal budget, there is no way to rein in the federal government without reining in social spending.

Yes, it will be painful. But not as painful as driving the nation and every state into bankruptcy and then cutting off all aid to those truly in need.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Return of the Great Depression?

Sean was joined by author and columnist Vox Day in the show’s final hour to talk about his book, “The Return to the Great Depression.” You would think a book that tackles such a complicated issue as global economics would be a tough read, but it’s actually quite the contrary. Vox Day — one of the few economics writers to predict the current worldwide financial crisis — explains why it is likely to continue.

Day explained that the policies being pursued in Europe, Asia, and the United States are very similar to Japan’s failed policies of the past twenty years and, therefore, doomed to similar results. Day explained to Sean that he believes the world is in the early stages of a massive economic contraction. As suggested by the title of the book, Day believes the most probable outcome of our current economic problems is a Great Depression that will be larger in scale than that of the 1930s.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Cathleen P. Black is Out as New York City Schools Chancellor, City Official Says

Cathleen P. Black, a magazine executive with scant educational experience who was named as New York City schools chancellor last fall, is out, officials said on Thursday.

Ms. Black’s departure, which came on the heels of the departures of several high-ranking education officials, was nearly as surprising as her appointment — which stunned people in New York and beyond.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Check 2011

by Diana West

What happens when Everyguy Icon Bill O’Reilly pushes the calamitous absurdity that Pastor Terry Jones “has blood on his hands,” and Hezbollah puts a $2.4 million bounty on Jones’ head?

We don’t know.

We do know the epic scale of invective hurled at Jones the world over has helped turn this American citizen who has broken no law but Islam’s into a moving target. But it has also objectified a human being. When Jones is gratuitously disparaged as a “kook,” a “nut,” an “insane Christian” (as O’Reilly said), and much, much worse for his (perfectly logical) symbolic act of putting on trial and burning a copy of a book that codifies conquest and enslavement, supremacism and bigotry, Jones is making a statement. Just as Fitna made a statement. Just as the Pope’s Regensberg Address made a statement. Just as the publication — and particularly the re-publication — of the Danish Motoons made a statement. These statements vary but none of them violate legal, peaceful means of expression. None of them caused the murder and mayhem many Muslims engaged in in illegal and violent and Islamically sanctioned reaction. Geert Wilders is no more responsible for the murders of two Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan following the release of Fitna than the Pope is responsible for the murder of an elderly nun in Somalia following his Regensberg Address than Pastor Jones is responsible for the murders of UN personnel and others in Afghanistan following his Koran-burning act — heretofore unnoticed, by the way, until Hamid Karzai publicly denounced it and called for Jones’ arrest. (It would be most interesting to know the hidden chain of events that drew Karzai into this.)

But just as the nature of the Islamic world is revealed by its reaction to these peaceful if robust critiques, so, too, is the nature of the Western world revealed…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Looking on the Bright Side

The good thing about the war in Libya costing us “billions a week,” according to certified CPA and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), is that it makes the $50 million “donation” the United States has mde to the Afghan-Taliban “reconciliation” talks look like chump change.

Emphasis on “chump.”

While the government is shut down, can we impeach it?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Explosion Reported Outside Chabad House in Santa Monica

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

SANTA MONICA (KTLA) — About 100 people have been evacuated from the area surrounding a Jewish religious facility in Santa Monica after a possible explosion, authorities said.

It happened around 6:45 a.m., just north Chabad House Luvitch of Santa Monica, located in the 1400 block of 17th Street, near Broadway Street.

Police reportedly learned about the explosion when someone reported debris landing on a house nearby.

Police evacuated a four-block area around the facility.

The FBI, an LAPD bomb squad and the Santa Monica Police Department were all at the scene.

Bomb sniffing dogs were brought in to check the area as a precaution, police said.

Initial reports said the explosion may have been from a pipe bomb, but police have stopped short of calling the incident a bombing.

Later reports indicated there may have been an electrical or gas explosion.

Broadway Street was closed in the immediate area, and 17th Street was closed between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway.

[Return to headlines]

Herman Cain Slams Ellison, Says He Supports Sharia Law

Potential presidential contender Herman Cain told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that he wouldn’t allow Muslims to serve in his administration and that, because U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) took his oath of office on the Qur’an instead of the Bible, he supports Sharia law above the Constitution. Cain, a Republican, said that American law is based on the Bible.

“I want people in my administration that are committed to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States,” said Cain. “I don’t want any inkling of anybody in my administration who would put Sharia law over American law. I have not found a Muslim that has said that they will denounce Sharia law, you know, in order to support the Constitution of the United States.”

Cain, who was the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and former chair of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, formed an exploratory committee for the Republican nomination in 2012.

Ingraham asked Cain, “So Keith Ellison you think would be more in favor of Sharia law than the Declaration of Independence?”

Cain said, “Didn’t he take his oat on the Qur’an instead of the Bible? Am I wrong in that?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Trump Hammers Away at Obama’s Citizenship Issue

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump said Thursday he hopes questions surrounding Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship won’t be the defining issue if he’s chosen as the Republican candidate to challenge the president’s re-election.

Trump told NBC News in an interview that plans to decide by June whether to run. He said that if he’s nominated, “I’d like to beat him straight up,” not on the basis of the birth issue.

Trump said he didn’t introduce the citizenship issue, but was asked about it during an interview a month ago. Since then, he said he’s looked into it and believes “there is a big possibility” Obama may have violated the Constitution.


Of Obama, he said, “I want him to do well. … I love this country, but this country is going to hell. … The world laughs at us. They won’t be laughing if I’m elected president.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Can You Patent a Shape? 3D Printing on Collision Course With Intellectual Property Law

Earlier this year, designer Ulrich Schwanitz, a Dutch designer, made a real model of an “impossible” object—the Penrose triangle—using a 3D printer; he then started selling these models, through a company that printed them, for $70 apiece. When another designer figured out how to make a 3D blueprint for the shape, and put it up on Thingiverse, an open-source site for printable objects, Schwanitz lodged a copyright complaint against Thingiverse. Although Schwanitz soon rescinded the complaint, it was the first instance where 3D printing ran smack up against copyright law.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Brussels Asks for Freedom to Buy Second House

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 6 — The European Commission has asked Cyprus to respect European regulations that give EU citizens, as well as citizens of Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein, the right to buy a second house on the island, without restrictions. The measures imposed by Cyprus to limit this right are no longer in force since 2009, but they have not been replaced by new EU regulations. Brussels has therefore decided to send a reasoned opinion to Cyprus, the second stage of infringement proceedings. If the Cypriot authorities fail to take the necessary steps within two months, the EC could decide to submit the case to the European Court of Justice. Based on a clause in the 2003 accession treaty, Cyprus could continue the restrictive measures until May 1 2009, and had to adjust to European regulations on free movement of capital from that date on.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

De Castro: EP Measures on Moroccan Tomato Imports

(ANSAmed) — STRASBURG, APRIL 7 — “Today, European Parliament in Strasburg marked an important page in agricultural policy,” bringing the attention of Europe onto the damages suffered by EU producers due to irregular tomato imports, said the Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Paolo De Castro (S&D), speaking during the plenary session on the petition regarding EU tomato imports from Morocco. “The petition comes at a time when Parliament is discussing the new chapter on agriculture regarding the EU-Morocco Association Agreement,” said De Castro. Regarding this, he explained, “the European Anti-Fraud Office has confirmed that there have been irregularities in tomato imports with resulting damages for European producers. We are sympathetic to these concerns”, he added, “and this is why we have asked the EU Commission to urgently adopt the necessary measures to modify the system of entry prices for tomatoes and the recovery of unpaid customs duties”. Essentially, this is “an important step to protect a strategic sector for Mediterranean agriculture, while understanding that the current economic and political crisis in North Africa must stimulate us to reflect carefully and sympathetically on this agreement”, concluded De Castro.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Plans Tougher Radiation Limits for Japanese Food

The European Union is preparing to tighten radiation limits on Japanese food and animal feed imports, as low-level radioactive seawater used for cooling reactors at the crisis-stricken Fukushima plant is returned to the sea.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU: Revise Ties With Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, Parliament Says

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 7 — The European Union must suspend negotiations on an agreement with Syria until the “due democratic reforms” are carried out. This is stated by the members of the European Parliament in a resolution that was approved in Strasburg. In this resolution, they condemn the use of violence by a State against its own people.

The MPs ask the European Union and national governments to revise their bilateral ties with Bahrain and Yemen as well, using instruments like asset freezes or travel bans. The EP also asked for independent investigations into the attacks on demonstrators in the three countries. According to the European Parliament, the resignation of the Syrian government on March 29 “will not be enough to deal with the increasing frustration of the population”. The repression of opposition and human rights activists must be stopped and the state of emergency must be revoked. In the case of Bahrain, the resolution expresses “concerns about the presence of foreign military forces under the flag of the Gulf Cooperation Council”. The Council is invited to act as mediator for peaceful reforms and all parties are asked to start a constructive dialogue without preconditions. In Yemen, the EP believes that the EU and Gulf Cooperation Council should give specific financial and technical support as soon as President Saleh is ready to hand over power to a democratically instituted government.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU’s Roma Blueprint ‘Disappointing’

A freshly launched EU policy framework for national Roma strategies is “disappointing”, as it leaves it up to member states to deal with the discrimination of this minority — something governments like the one in Hungary are not really willing to follow up on, grassroots activists say.

As for the “alarming news” from Hungary, social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor, himself of Hungarian nationality, said during the same press briefing: “The rise of certain xenophobic and sometimes explicitly racist tendencies in recent years is a major concern and it undermines the social and political stability in certain neighbourhoods and regions.” “This has to be confronted. In a democratic system, which is based on human rights, there can be no tolerance for racism. We really have to have a campaign against xenophobia … and eliminate such danger that sometimes is life threatening,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Gay Caveman’ Story Overblown, Archaeologists Say

Archaeologists in Prague say they’ve uncovered a Stone-Age man buried in a position usually reserved for women — but media claims of a “gay caveman” may be exaggerated, according to some researchers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece and Portugal to EU Court Over Rivers

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 6 — The European Commission has decided to take Greece to the European Court of Justice for failing to respect European legislation on water and for not presenting plans for the management of its river basins on time.

According to Brussels, these plans are “crucial” to reach the goal of having good quality of European waters in 2015. Any delay in this area could mean that the target cannot be reached.

The framework directive on water requires member States to organise public consultations with interested parties on plans for river basins or drafts of these, which would have had to start in December 2008 at the latest according to the time schedule for the implementation of this directive. Greece has not organised any consultations yet and expects to publish its plans by March 2012. Portugal on the other hand should starts its consultations in 2011, but it is yet unclear when it will adopts the plans. Hence the decision of the European Commission, to speed up the implementation of this European regulation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hungary: Roma Hunting Season Set to Continue

Le Monde Paris

At a time when the EU has called on member states to make greater efforts to integrate Roma living on their territories, Viktor Orbán’s government, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, continues to turn a blind eye to the ongoing campaign to intimidate “Gypsy criminals” conducted by far-right Magyar groups.

Joëlle Stolz

At the end of March, paramilitary members of Hungary’s extreme-right Jobbik political party organised several weeks of village patrols to counter “Gypsy criminality” — a worrying demonstration of strength that failed to prompt a reaction from Viktor Orbán’s government. At the same time, the EU called on member states to take concrete action to improve conditions for the 10 to 12 million Roma living in Europe.

Apart from its medieval church, and its wine cellars nestling against the surrounding hillsides, there is not much to distinguish Gyöngyöspata — with its communist era village hall, Coop grocery, muddy Roma ghetto and well-weeded gardens where the first hyacinths are beginning to bloom — from so many other Hungarian villages.

However, last month the events that took place in the village, which is an hour’s drive northeast of Budapest and home to 2,850 inhabitants, may well have a significant bearing on the future of Europe. In an initiative organised by Jobbik (the political party that took 16.8% of the vote in 2010 general elections but whose popularity is now declining in the polls), the far right made Gyöngyöspata the site for a experimental programme to counter “Gypsy criminality,” which included more than two weeks of daytime and night-time patrols by militia-men, supported by local people who provided free food and accommodation.

On 6 March, Jobbik’s national leader, MP Gabor Vona, arrived to address a crowd of 1,500 paramilitaries, most of whom were kitted out in the black uniform of Szebb Jövoert (“For a more beautiful future”), an organisation that is covered by the legal umbrella of village self-defence militias. There were also a number of particularly aggressive looking individuals sporting combat fatigues and skinhead haircuts, who were armed with axes, whips and accompanied by pitbulls. When the patrols began, Roma families were too terrified to send their children to school.

In spite of the resemblance between Szebb Jövoert and the Hungarian Guard, a Jobbik-linked militia which organised similar campaigns to intimidate the Roma minority until it was banned by Hungary’s constitutional court in 2009, the police did not intervene. The government led by conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took no notice of the situation until 16 March, when the militias had already left the village.

On 15 March, which is a day of national celebration in Hungary, Mr Orbán gave a speech in Budapest in which he praised the Magyar people’s courageous resistance to the diktats of foreign powers, including the European Union, whose presidency Hungary took over in January of this year — but not a word about Gyöngyöspata.

On the same day, a handful of counter demonstrators led by Aladar Horvath, who heads a well-known Hungarian civic association for Roma rights and freedoms, arrived in Gyöngyöspata. Among them were Pastor Gabor Ivanyi and two MPs from the liberal Green LMP party, (which only obtained 314 votes in the constituency in 2010 general elections, even though there are 6,000 Roma voters in the area). “The overwhelming majority of our votes went to Fidesz” (Mr Orbán’s party, which now has a two-thirds majority in parliament), points out Janos Farkas, the leader of Gyöngyöspata’s 500-strong Roma community, “because he promised us jobs.”

A year later, the rate of unemployment in Hungary is as high as ever, while the government has axed family allowances and cut back on funding for “self-governing bodies” for minorities.

Ever since forests were re-privatised in 1992, the Roma have been deprived of the right to gather mushrooms and collect firewood. “In exchange we were promised work cleaning up the forests. Then the owners blocked that idea,” explains Mr Farkas. “But we have been living here for five centuries, our ancestors defended this country against the Turks, we are Hungarians first and Roma second!”

Crime is on the increase in the Hungarian countryside, where residents feel they have been neglected by the authorities. A number of murders have had a major impact on public opinion: they include the 2006 killing of a teacher in Olaszliszka (Northeastern Hunagary) who was lynched in front of his children, when he knocked down a 12-year-old Roma girl. Jobbik has a erected a monument to his memory. However, the 2009 series of Roma murders perpetrated by a group of neo-Nazis, who are now on trial in Budapest, has failed to move the country’s population.

In Gyöngyöspata, the conflict appears to have been prompted by the purchase by the Hungarian Red Cross of number of houses that it intended to use to re-house Roma families who had been left homeless by the floods in 2010. The plan to move Roma families into the centre of the village met with stiff resistence from locals who wrote to Gabor Vona, explains Oszkar Juhasz, the president of the local branch of Jobbik (which obtained 26% of the vote in the constituency in 2010).

Mr Juhasz is a wine-grower and a descendent of one of those low-ranking noble families which were barely better off than the serfs, but which believed themselves to be the lifeblood of Hungary. In the hall of his house, there is a map of country with its pre-1920 borders. For the extreme right, which is obsessed by the historic loss of two-thirds of Hungary’s national territory, the high Roma birth rate is a serious threat: “Since 1898, their numbers have increased by a factor of more than 100,” he says. “We are not racist, but more often than not the policy of Roma integration simply results in lower living standards for non-Roma.”

On Saturday 2 April, Oszkar Juhasz put on his black uniform to march in the streets of Hejöszalonta, a village in the Northeast of the country which has a population of 900, alongside other “Hungarian patriots.” In a press conference on the previous day, the leader of the Fidesz parliamentary faction, Janos Lazar, raised the question of liberalising gun control laws to facilitate self-defence — a measure that is one of Jobbik’s political demands.

From the EU side

Anti-discrimination road-map more pious than effective

“Roma integration in EU member states will be supervised by the European Commission,” explains Hospodárské noviny in its report on the EU policy framework for national Roma strategies presented by the Commissioner for Justice and Fundamental Rights, Viviane Reding, on 4 April. The Commission wants each of its member states to adopt a new integration strategy that will take into account the specific differences between Roma communities in individual countries. Mrs Reding also acknowledged that member states have been slow to make use of existing resources: only 100 million of the 260 million euros that have been earmarked for Roma integration projects have actually been spent. According to a study conducted in six European countries (Romania Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia) most of the EU’s 12 million Roma are victims of discrimination, which is particularly bad in Romania and Bulgaria. The study also notes that only 42 percent of Roma children finish primary school as opposed to a 97.5 percent average for European children. According to the Commission, Roma integration should first and foremost focus on education, but also on housing, health and employment, explains Hospodárské noviny. The newpaper also cites a study by the World Bank which remarks that “full integration could result in savings of 500 million euros a year for concerned countries, which would benefit from gains in productivity, increased tax revenues and a reduction in welfare spending.” However, Roma rights groups contacted by EUobserver, are not satisfied with the new policy framework. The Brussels based news website quotes a representative of the ERGO network who describes the document as as “disappointing,” because “ it leaves it up to member states to deal with the discrimination of this minority — something governments like the one in Hungary are not really willing to follow up on.”

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

Italy: Senators Aim to Legalise the Fascist Party

Rome, 6 April (AKI) — Five political allies of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi have proposed legislation to Italy’s senate that would overturn a 59-year-old law that makes it illegal to reform the Fascist party, founded by Benito Mussolini soon after World War I.

A senator from a rightist opposition party also signed his name to the proposed law submitted for review but was threatened with party expulsion by leader Gianfranco Fini — himself once a neo-Fascist — if he didn’t rescind his support for the initiative, according to Italian news reports.

The politicians submitted the law to a senate committee on 29 March, according to news reports.

“Its a worrisome proposal,” Roberto Pacifici, leader of the Jewish Community of Rome, said in newspaper Il Messaggero.

A 1952 law makes “apologising” for Fascism a crime in Italy, thus banning the Fascist party in the country where it was founded.

Neo-fascist parties have not hidden their sympathy for Mussolini’s political ideas, though they have conspicuously left the world “fascism” out when describing their goals.

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

Spain Risks EU Fines for Industry Emissions

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 6 — Spain could risk heavy fines if it continues to ignore EU regulations on permits for industrial installations.

Even though Madrid has already been sentenced on this matter by the European Court of Justice last November, more than 100 facilities are still working without the required authorisations provided by the EU rules to prevent industrial pollution that damages human health and the environment. Hence the ultimatum from Brussels, which in the absence of a satisfactory reply over the next two months will again bring Spain to the EU Court, with the risk of the related fines.

According to Community rules, industrial and agricultural activities with a very high pollution potential should be holding a specific authorisation. In effects the integrated pollution prevention and control directive provides that new permits should be issued to review all existing ones issued to all industrial facilities in operation before 30 October 1999.

The authorisations are granted only if certain environmental criteria are met first.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Arrest Sparked Wave of Gothenburg Car Fires

Police in Gothenburg revealed on Wednesday that the torching of several cars in the suburb of Backa over the past few nights was in touched off due to a police action.

More than twenty cars were set alight in recent nights, including a police car and a security guard’s car and police now believe the fires are connected to an arrest made on Sunday night.

The arrest came after a patrol car followed two suspects fleeing on a motorcycle.

The motorcycle and the car collided in a roundabout and the two suspects were injured.

When police apprehended one of the two, he allegedly said, “This is not the last you hear of this”.

“We believe that was what started it. But when we are catching criminals red-handed and it is seen as police aggression, that makes me worried,” said Lars Klevensparr, head of the police in the greater Gothenburg area, to news agency TT.

On Wednesday police in the area upgraded the incident to a more severe level, which enables them to call on all the resources to combat the problem.

“The cost doesn’t matter. We’ll deal with the bill afterwards,” said Klevensparr to TT.

According to the police those responsible for the car first are 20-30 youths between the ages of 18 to 30. Despite wearing hoods to disguise their faces, most are already known to the police.

According to local newspaper GÃteborgs Posten (GP), local residents are appealing to authorities to calm things down in the area, which they believe has become increasingly plagued by lawlessness over the last ten years.

“The police are too lenient. They should take a strong line against these youngsters. As it is, they are just laughing at the police,” one resident told GP.

In the last two to three years, things seem to have gone from bad to worse.

“To me it is completely incomprehensible that such a small group of 10-20 people are managing to terrorize a whole neighbourhood through their total lawlessness, “ another resident said.

Things were reportedly calm in Backa on Wednesday following a greater police presence in the area.

“We’ll be around here in Backa a lot more in the near future. We’re not just talking to the youngsters but everyone, young and old. We’re doing everything we can to keep the area calm,” said BjÃrn Mattson of the local police to GP.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Malmö Court Descends Into Mass Brawl

A mass brawl broke out in Malmö district court on Wednesday after friends of the victim in an school assault case took the law into their own hands. Around 20 friends of the victim of an alleged assault at a Malmö school turned up in court on Wednesday afternoon in a show of support. When the defendants entered the courtroom the situation soon became heated with shouts and calls filling the district courtroom. The situation deteriorated rapidly and a mass brawl broke out. “The security guards had to pull their batons and get stuck in in order to pull people apart,” said Mikael Johansson at Malmö police to the local Sydsvenskan daily. “Had the guards not been there it could have become really nasty,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Torture? Execution? German Justice Through the Eyes of a Somali Pirate

A courtroom in Hamburg is the scene of a head-on collision between two worlds as the German justice system tries 10 Somali pirates who hijacked a cargo ship. The pirates, some of whom are under 18, had no idea what a court or a trial was and were afraid they would be tortured — or executed by the judge.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Let’s Threaten Them With Prison’: MP Goes to War With Judges Who Hand Out Gagging Orders

An MP has called on Parliament to take action against the spread of a draconian new type of legal gag he calls the ‘hyper-injunction’.

Liberal Democrat John Hemming wants the Commons to launch an arcane process that could theoretically threaten legal action against judges who hand out these blanket secrecy orders.

They are part of a growing series of complicated gagging writs devised by the courts to prevent people from talking about cases in which they are involved — even to their local MP.

They also bar them from talking to others who may be interested in their case, such as journalists.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: 17-Year-Old Behind 100 Burglaries and £445,000 Spree is Jailed

A teenage burglar has been jailed today after admitting to a half-million-pound crime spree.

The 17-year-old left victims ‘emotional and hysterical’, after he carried out nearly 100 burglaries across Essex and stole several sports cars in a two-year spree worth £445,000.

The teenager, who cannot be named, pleaded guilty to three burglaries and two thefts but asked for 90 other offences to be taken into consideration.

The burglar was paid by a gang to steal keys to high-powered sports cars, including BMWs, worth tens of thousands of pounds.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard that the youngster, from Westclifff, Essex was part of a ‘sophisticated enterprise’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: How TV Islamic Extremist Who Hates Britain Enjoys £1,250-a-Month Benefits and Rent-Free Luxury Flat

A middle-class security guard who converted to Islam to preach hate towards Britain lives in a £1,000 tax-payer-funded luxury flat, it emerged today.

Rich Dart, 28, worked for the BBC before he became a Muslim and changed his name to Salahuddin to brand British troops ‘murderers’ and peddle Muslim extremism.

But he has been branded a ‘hypocrite’ after it emerged that he takes benefits off the same state he claims to despise.

The fanatic was pictured hanging out the washing on the balcony of a £300,000 two-bedroom apartment next to a picturesque canal in Bow, East London.

He claims £1,000 in housing benefit and receives £64-a-week in Jobseekers Allowance to maintain his lifestyle, according to the Sun.

The total figure amounts to £1,256-a-month but the borough is one of the most deprived in Britain, with soaring rates of child poverty.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Mental Health Plan Fails to Help Black People

A five-year race equality action plan has made little impact on the disproportionate number of black people admitted to mental hospitals and subjected to compulsory treatment, an official survey has shown. Black and mixed-race people remain far more likely than average to be admitted to psychiatric hospitals, to be detained under the Mental Health Act and to be confined in seclusion, according to the survey. The picture has “not altered materially” since 2005.

The findings will dismay campaigners who had hoped that the action plan, Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health, would bring a step-change in the treatment of people from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in the mental health system, following a high-profile inquiry into the death in hospital of David “Rocky” Bennett, a Rastafarian.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said it was “inexcusable” that so little progress had been made in ensuring uniform mental health care for all, irrespective of racial background. “It is unacceptable that people from some BME groups are six times as likely to be admitted to hospital,” Farmer said. “Such gross inequalities within the system cannot go on.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Policing on the (Really) Cheap? ‘Vigilante’ Experiment Will See Volunteers Patrolling Streets

Volunteer ‘vigilantes’ will don uniforms and patrol the streets as part of a national trial to help the police combat crime.

Members of the public will go on the beat in parts of Greater Manchester, wearing high-visibility jackets on the look-out for troublemakers.

The vigilantes won’t be expected to arrest anyone or tackle criminals, but will instead report back to their local officers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Police ‘Hid’ Abuse of 60 Girls by Asian Takeaway Workers Linked to Murder of 14-Year-Old

[WARNING: Disturbing Content.]

At least 60 schoolgirls were groomed for sex by workers at seedy takeaways linked to the murder of a 14-year-old girl.

Children as young as 11 were targeted by mainly Asian staff at fast food outlets in Blackpool. They were offered food, alcohol and cigarettes in return for sexual favours.

An unpublicised police report produced after 14-year-old Charlene Downes vanished in 2003 found the girls, most if not all white, had been victims of the ‘honey pot’ premises. There were claims last night that the report was suppressed for reasons of political correctness.

Four years later another girl, 15-year-old Paige Chivers, also went missing. Detectives believe she was killed like Charlene, whose body has never been found.

Two Middle Eastern restaurant owners were acquitted over Charlene’s murder in 2007 and the crime remains unsolved.

The pair still run a kebab shop in Blackpool which was also linked to Paige, and she too was identified as a victim of sexual exploitation. Last year police reported that the takeaway was attracting young girls who were being supplied with alcohol and cocaine.

The revelations about the scale of grooming centred around the downmarket cafes comes amid growing concern at disturbing cases involving mainly Asian gangs exploiting young white girls for sex in the Midlands and North of England.


It was reported yesterday that while most British sex offenders are lone white men, details of court cases in 13 towns showed that out of 56 men convicted of multiple offences of grooming girls for sex, 50 were Muslim, mostly of Pakistani heritage.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Serb Leader Blames Former US Ambassador for “Ignoring Facts”

Sarajevo, 7 April (AKI) — Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has accused former US ambassador to Bosnia Charles English of ignoring facts and presenting a distorted picture of the situation in Bosnia.

Commenting on English’s dispatches to Washington, released by WikiLeaks and published by Reuters on Wednesday, Dodik said foreign ambassadors in the region “conduct their own policies and in their dispatches use their own impressions, instead of facts”.

In a dozen cables to Washington released by WikiLeaks, English said Dodik was undermining Bosnia’s security and was bent on the secession of the Serb entity, Republika Srpska (RS).

Dodik “has increased the tempo of his efforts to roll back reforms and undermine the state,” an October 2009 the cable said. “His aim appears to be — at a minimum — to restore to the Republika Srpska the level of autonomy it enjoyed at the end of the 1992-95 war.”

According to the Dayton Peace Accord that ended the war in 1995, the two entities, the RS and a Muslim-Croat federation, were granted their own armies, police and customs and many other trappings of an independent state.

But the international community, whose High Representative has the final say in Bosnia, has gradually stripped entities of state powers. He has even the right to impose laws and sack elected officials.

“Dodik is becoming increasingly — and dangerously — defiant and vitriolic in the absence of a clear response from the High Representative,” English wrote in a cable from June 2009.

But Dodik told Serbian news agency Tanjug, WikiLeaks hasn’t revealed anything that wasn’t known to him before. He said foreign ambassadors have constantly interfered in Bosnia’s internal affairs and those who oppose it were treated as “bad boys”.

If you don’t fulfil their demands, “there is nothing easier than to brand you as a treat to peace and stability”, Dodik said. “Ambassadors should not run the country, they should act as they do in other countries, that’s all we want,” he added.

“It’s good that we got confirmation from WikiLeaks for the things we had known without reading the dispatches,” Dodik said. “If we decide to write about them, their behaviour, attitudes and habits, I’m afraid our writing will be more readable and they will look much ‘worse guys’ then we in their cables,” he concluded.

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

Kosovo: Leading Political Parties Agree on Election of New President

Pristina, 7 April (AKI) — Kosovo’s leading political parties have agreed on the election of a new president, ending the crisis created by the resignation of president Bedzet Pacoli last month, local media reported on Thursday.

A Swiss-based businessman, Pacoli was elected by a narrow majority in parliament on 22 February. But he resigned after a month in office following a constitutional court ruling that there were irregularities in the election procedures.

Prime minister Hashim Thaci and his coalition partner Pacoli agreed late on Tuesday with KoIsa Mustafa, the leader of main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo, to field Alisete Jahjaga as presidential candidate.

American-educated Jahjaga, a close associate of Thaci’s, is currently deputy director of Kosovo police. With the support of the three main parties, her election in parliament she is set to become the first woman president.

According to the agreement reached, Jahjaga,will serve until the constitution is amended to allow for the direct election of Kosovo’s president. The revisions to the constitution will be begin immediately and presidential elections should be held at the latest in 2013, the agreement stated.

American ambassador to Pristina Christopher Dell, who was instrumental in forging the agreement, praised Kosovo politicians for putting the “country’s interests above their own”.

Dell said Jahjaga enjoyed “great support” from US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

“Her election for president represents a new chapter in the history of Kosovo,” Dell told media.

The parliament is expected to vote in Jahjaga in the next few days.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 with the support of the US and western powers.

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

North Africa

EU: Plea to Gaddafi Supporters, Abandon Leader

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 7 — The European Union has made an appeal to Gaddafi’s collaborators to abandon the colonel and his repressive regime, just as some of his former ministers have already done, including his Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa.

The plea, report diplomatic sources, is contained in the draft of the conclusions of the EU foreign affairs council, which will be held on Tuesday in Luxembourg and which will mainly focus on the Libyan crisis. The member states of the EU are also discussing the possibility of inviting representatives of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) to the meeting on Tuesday, report diplomatic sources in Brussels, revealing that “some of the member states are resisting the idea” and that there is no definitive answer yet. “We are still working,” indicated the sources, “there might be a favourable development.” The sources have not indicated the countries that are against the idea.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Filipino Nurses and Christian Witnesses for Gaddafi and Rebels, Says Mgr Martinelli

Despite the war, more than 3,000 Filipino doctors and health care workers continue to work in the country’s various hospitals. The apostolic vicar of Tripoli stresses the solidity of the Catholic community in Libya. In the capital, about 200 Filipino sub-Saharan African Catholics attend weekend Masses.

Tripoli (AsiaNews) — In Tripoli and Libya’s main hospitals, some 3,000 Filipino health care workers, mostly women, continue to work despite the civil war underway. According to Mgr Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, their presence is an example of Christian witness for the local Catholic community and the Libyan population.

“Nurses and doctors continue to provide their services with passion and conscientiousness,” the vicar said, “giving their all to the Christian community in Libya”.

The prelate noted that Filipino nurses are employed in almost all of Libyan health facilities. Many of them are also in Benghazi, Misratah and Brega where fighting between troops loyal to colonel Gaddafi and rebels are still going on.

According to Filipino media, about 40 Filipino workers are being used as human shields by the colonel’s militias. “I don’t have sufficient information to confirm the news,” the prelate said. “It is hard to know what is going on in the warzones”.

Mgr Martinelli said that the situation in Tripoli stabilised following recent NATO air strikes. The Catholic community remains steadfast. At least 200 people, according to the bishop, mostly Filipino and sub-Saharan African migrants, take part in Masses celebrated in various languages on weekends.

“The presence at each celebration of all these faithful, who resist despite the war, expresses a desire to pray and be together, bearing witness to the importance of the Christian community.” (S.C.)

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

Fundamentalists Apply Islamic Penalty Law on Christians in Egypt

By Mary Abdelmassih

The horrifying incident in which Salafis or Islamic fundamentalists, have implemented for the first time in Egypt the Islamic penalty or Hudoud on a Christian Copt by cutting-off his ear for allegedly renting his flat to a Muslim prostitute, has sent shock waves throughout Egypt. The Salafis in the southern town of Qena, 490 KM from Cairo, took all the authorities of the State in their own hands; they arrested the victim, judged him and applied what they saw as the appropriate punishment on him. After that they called the police to take away the victim saying “We have applied the law of Allah, now come and apply your law.”

It turned out since that similar incident took place, which raised concern and alarm, not only among the Copts, but among the majority of Egyptians who are aware of the seriousness of these trends on the future of Egypt and the civil State.

Free Copts advocacy reported this week that according to Bishop Cherubim of Qena, three incidents took place in Qena alone during the last fortnight in which Salafis implemented Hudoud on Christians.

Bishop Cherubim said that besides applying the Hadd (plural Hudoud) on the Copt Ayman Mitri by cutting-off his ear, two other Copts were victims of Salafi Hudoud.

One of them was Ibrahim Fouad Botros who was killed after a dispute with a Muslim neighbor in the market because of the assault of a Salafi group on him, and the

Second victim was Matthias Talat Asham who was accused by the Salafis of having a love affair with a Muslim girl. “He was dealt a fatal blow by the Salafis and was

Thrown from his flat on the fourth floor where he fell to the street unconscious and died later at Qena General hospital,” said Bishop Cheroubim. He added that he has been serving in Qena for over twenty years and no such incidents ever took place there.

The ordeal of Mr. Ayman Anwar Mitri, an employee at a school in Qena, whose ear was cut-off by Salafis allegedly for renting his flat to two Muslim prostitutes started when he was called at dawn on March 20 by another tenant in the building called Khaled, advising him that the vacant flat where the Muslim women lived was on fire.

When he went to the burning flat, a group of Salafis in the street shouted insults at him. He went down to the street and explained to them that his flat was let through an estate agent and he knew nothing about the private life of his tenants who have meanwhile vacated the flat upon his request.

The Salafis asked him to go with them somewhere quiet to clear the misunderstanding between them, however, when they went to the flat of Mr. Mitri’s friend Khaled, a policeman, he found another twelve Salafis waiting for him there. They started beating him and saying “We will teach you a lesson, Christian” and “This serves your right for renting your property to prostitutes.”

The assailants asked him to call his ex-tenants so that they deliver them to their father. When they refused to take Mitri’s calls, the Salafis asked a female Muslim neighbor to set a trap for them to come under the pretext that some of their belongings left over in the flat had to be collected.

When one of the ex-tenants, Sabrin Saif Al-Nasr, came over, she was beaten and asked to say that she had an illicit affair with Mitri. “At first she refused, but with continuous beating, she finally agreed,” said Mitri. Sabrin later told the police she had to accuse the Copts because she was afraid of the Salafis.

Mitri’s ordeal included beating him to convert to Islam which he refused, wounding him in several bodily parts, before sitting him on a chair and one of the Salafis named elHusseiny cut his right ear off. “I felt so shocked that I do not even know what tool he used.” They also made a 10cm cut at the back of his neck, injured his other ear, his face, head and arms.

Mr. Mitri said the Salafis wanted to throw him off from the fifth floor, but Khaled objected, saying he would get into trouble for just being there, as he was a policeman.

The Salafis then called the police and told them “We have applied the law of Allah, now come and apply your law,” said Mitri in an interview for the Egyptian Human Rights Organization. The police came and Mitri was taken to hospital.

The way the army handled the incident infuriated many Copts and moderate Muslim alike, viewing the forced reconciliation they initiated as a crime against the victim and an encouragement to the assailants to repeat their deed since they came away from the incident scot- free. Moreover, Copts view the role of the army in this reconciliation as another proof that the army appeases the Muslims and sides with them against the Copts.

Pro-government newspapers published the story on the “reconciliation meeting” initiated by the army between the victim Mitri and the Salafi elHusseiny who cut-off his ear. The photo (attached) was touched-up to show Mitri’s mutilated ear as a normal one, with Colonel Ahmed Masood, vice military ruler of Qena in the middle. This humiliating “reconciliation meeting” was forced on Mitri “after Salafis threatened to kidnap the female children in our family, “said Mitri sobbing in an interview on Coptic TV channel CTV. According to the agreement, a copy of which was distributed by the Salafis all over Qena, Mitri relinquished all his legal rights.

Youssef Sidhom, editor-in-chief of the Coptic weekly “Watani” heavily criticized the army. In his article ‘The Salafis humble the State’ dated April 3, he wrote “Colonel Masoud said he was eager to attend the session to bridge the gap between the disputants’ viewpoints and fold the page on the incident, since the two parties wished that the minor incident should be granted no more weight than it warranted.”

Sidhom continues “What viewpoint is he talking about: That of the criminals who cut the victim’s ear and burned his home and car, or that of the victim who experienced such agony? Then he says the objective of the session was to “fold the page on the incident”. Such a declaration is, by all measures, calamitous. He claims the two parties wish that the minor incident should be granted no more weight than it warrants. Small incident! The words insult our intelligence, deny the truth, and deal a blow to the rule of law.”

Attorney Dr. Naguib Gobraeel. Head of the Egyptian Union Organization for Human Rights presented on March 31, a communication to the Attorney General, requesting him not to recognize or accept the reconciliation agreement between the offenders and the victim as this is a crime directed against the community.

Gobraeel added that leaving this crime unpunished and accepting the reconciliation agreement is recognition of the Salafi Hudoud, the end of the concept of citizenship, violation of the law and the Constitution. He said that it was necessary to bring the offender before the Supreme Military Court for being guilty not only of a felony of disfigurement, but also of thuggery and of terrorizing the innocent.

The public prosecutor has issued a warrant for the arrest of the Salafi perpetrators. However, no action was taken by the police and witnesses have reported that they walk freely in town without any hindrances.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Libya: Protests Against Turkey and NATO in Darnah

(ANSAmed) — DARNAH (LIBYA), APRIL 6 — Thousands of people staged a demonstration against Turkey this afternoon in Darnah, in the east of Libya. They also urged NATO to protect the city of Misrata, which is under siege of colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. Shouting slogans against the Turkish Premier, like “Erdogan must apologise” or “Turkey has betrayed the Libyan people”, the protesters gathered in Darnah’s main square in front of the old El Atik mosque. There was also a demonstration of women in the city, who held up banners with texts like “Down with Erdogan”, “Misurata needs help, where is the NATO”?” and “How much innocent blood does NATO need before it really intervenes?”. Yesterday Gaddafi sent an envoy to Ankara for talks and Turkey has proposed to mediate, trying to reach a ceasefire. Meanwhile Gaddafi’s troops have shelled an oil field in Ojla, south of Ajdabiya, the last stronghold of the rebels before Benghazi. The news was reported by a sources of the council of Tobruk, quoted by Al Jazeera. According to the Arab network, the rebels are reinforcing their defences around Ajdabiya, while on the western front the loyalist troops are once again bombarding the coast road that leads to the port of Misrata. They have also tried to attack the city’s warehouses and supplies. The Libyan rebels have sent reinforcements and supplies to Marsa el Brega, the frontline in the conflict with the forces of Muammar Gaddafi. This was also reported by Al Jazeera, which specifies that former officials who have joined the rebels are trying to keep untrained fighters from moving to the Ajdabiya front. The front has been moving backwards and forwards for days now from Brega to Ajdabiya to the north, and to the west to Ras Lanuf, and no party is able to get the upper hand. Five days after the shift from mission “Odyssey Dawn” to NATO mission “Operation Unified Protector”, the allied forces have reinforced the no-fly zone and are moving “with determination” to protect the Libyan civilian population, said rear admiral Russ Harding, vice commander of Operation Unified protector, today in the NATO seat in Bagnoli. More than a hundred air attack and support units and around 12 ships are available.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: NATO Air Strikes on Tripoli, Misrata and Brega

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 7 — NATO has resumed its air strikes on Libya, hitting pro-Gaddafi forces this morning in Misrata and Brega, where due to a mistake at least five people were killed including two rebels. Air strikes probably also hit Tripoli, where eyewitnesses have reported 2-3 explosions in the eastern outskirts of the city after warplane flew over the city. The air strike on the besieged city of Misrata occurred after shelling by pro-Gaddafi forces killed at least five people and wounded another 25, report rebel sources. In Brega, hospital sources reported that five people, including two rebels, died due to NATO friendly fire, while Al Jazeera, citing its sources, reports that rebels have regained ground around the city against pro-Gaddafi troops. Citing Algerian daily Al Khaber, today Al Jazeera reported a mysterious story regarding the alleged disappearance of a group of French special forces in the middle of the desert, despite the fact that UN Security Council Resolution 1973 used to approve coalition and NATO military operations, excludes the use of occupation forces. The news leaked when France asked Algeria to use its southern military bases for its helicopters in a search mission for the missing soldiers, reports Al Jazeera.

On the diplomatic front, while French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe’ announced that the next meeting of the contact group on Libya will be held on Wednesday April 13 in Doha, Qatar, another member of Gaddafi’s government has defected. Former Oil Minister Omar Fathi bin Shatwan arrived on Malta on Friday on a fishing boat, said the Maltese Foreign Ministry today.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Press Reports of French Commando Missing in Desert

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 7 — A French Special Forces unit on a mission in south-western Libya has reportedly gone missing in the Libyan desert, according to the Algerian newspaper Al Khaber, which quoted Algerian security sources. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya does not provide for the use of ground troops and so far all coalition countries and NATO have categorically excluded the deployment of soldiers on the ground. The news, which was also reported by Al Jazeera, leaked out when Algerian authorities refused to grant a request by France at the beginning of this week for the use of their southern bases and air space. According to Algerian security sources, France had intended to use its helicopters to carry out a search mission for its men. The same sources claim that the French Special Forces in the desert zone of Al Hamada Al Hamrah are involved in actions against “smugglers, terrorist and representatives of the Libyan regime”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Tripoli: NATO Air Strike Hits Oil Field

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, APRIL 7 — Yesterday evening Libya claimed that a British air strike had hit the Sarir oil field in southern Cyrenaica, one of the largest and most important in the country, and damaged the oil pipeline which connects it with the Mediterranean port of Hariga.

“British war planes,” Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told journalists, “attacked and carried out an air strike on the Sarir oil field, killing three guards and injuring several other workers.” “This is without any doubt an act of aggression,” said Kaim. “It is against international laws and is not foreseen within the UN Resolution” 1973, which imposed a no-fly zone on Libya.

Previously the rebels’ spokesman Hafiz Ghoga had said that forces answering to Muammar Gaddafi had used artillery yesterday and the day before to hit oil fields in Misla and the Waha zone, which were under rebel control and which had been forced to interrupt production. The Sarir oil field, discovered in 1961, is in the Sirte basin — as is the case with those in Misla and Waha — which accounts for about 80% of known oil reserves in Libya.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: ENI: Oil Production Down, Concerns About Gas in Winter

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 6 — Eni faces a “significant loss of production” in Libya, which “will have an impact on this year’s production”, said the group’s managing director Paolo Scaroni. Scaroni specified that no substantial investments had been scheduled in the North African country. “We are producing 50-60 thousand barrels per day instead of 280 thousand. It is a significant loss of production which we hope will only be temporary. It will have an impact on this year’s production”, he underlined. Scaroni added that the installations are “intact”. Focusing on gas, “we can live without Libyan gas, but the level of security of supply has diminished. There will be problems if next winter other problems will join the absence of Libyan gas, problems for Italy and perhaps also for Europe”. Eni, he announced, “will completely fill up its storage space and will try to increase imports of liquefied natural gas, though what has happened in Japan will reroute much gas to that country, causing lower availability”. The group is also renegotiating its gas contracts with Algeria and Russia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: NATO Boosts Airstrikes, Italy, US Discuss Arming Rebels

Tripoli, 7 April (AKI/Bloomberg) — Nato increased the number of warplanes over Libya as US and Italian officials in Washington privately discussed whether to provide some weapons sought by the rebels.

The military coalition’s jets planned to fly 198 missions over Libya yesterday, an increase from 155 on 5 April, Nato chief spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement. The “operational tempo has increased,” she said, a day after the top rebel commander criticized the alliance for not doing enough to stop artillery attacks that pushed rebels into retreat.

As a former US congressman arrived in Tripoli on an unofficial visit to press Muammar Gaddafi to step aside, secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini reached no conclusion about whether to arm the rebels, according to an official who wasn’t authorized to talk publicly about their Washington meeting. The rebels have asked for arms, and US officials have interpreted the resolution approved 17 March by the United Nations Security Council as exempting the rebels from the arms embargo imposed on Libya.

The US and its allies need to more aggressively target Gaddafi’s forces as part of an unspoken regime-change policy and to avoid an “unstable stalemate,” Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, wrote in a commentary on the policy center’s website.

“This means a more obvious ‘taking sides,’ it means killing Gaddafi forces the moment they move or concentrate, rather than waiting for them to attack, striking Gaddafi’s military and security facilities, and finding excuses to strike his compound,” he wrote.

Additional steps he recommends include covertly arming and advising rebel forces as well as sending Special Forces with laser illuminators to designate ground targets. In addition, he wrote, the alliance will need to tolerate “more civilian losses and collateral damage in the short run — knowing this is likely to reduce total civilian suffering in comparison with any stalemate, Gaddafi victory, or low-level struggle.”

The rebels were preparing to make their first international oil sale as the tanker Equator, which can carry 1 million barrels, departed the Marsa al Hariga terminal near the port of Tobruk in rebel-held eastern Libya, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Equator arrived 5 April and is now signaling Singapore as its destination, the data show. The cargo may bring more than 100 million dollars for the rebels. The rebels’ national council said 1 April that it had reached a deal to have Qatar help market Libyan oil, with proceeds going toward food, fuel, medicine and other items.

Attacks this week by Gaddafi supporters have stopped oil production from rebel-controlled oil fields, rebel spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga said, according to the Associated Press. Late Wednesday, a Libyan government official claimed that UK warplanes bombed one of those areas, the Sareer oil field, killing three guards, Al Arabiya said.

Along the coast, the rebels retreated 5 April under heavy fire from the oil port of Brega, about 241 kilometers south of Benghazi. Rebels and loyalists have been waging running battles on the road between the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte and the rebel-held city of Ajdabiyah in the past six weeks.

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

NATO Fears War Without End in Libya

The front in Libya is barely moving as the country remains split between rebels and Gadhafi’s troops. The rebels are complaining of not receiving enough air support, but NATO is hardly in a position to ramp it up after the withdrawal of US fighter jets. The resulting stalemate underscores the lack of a clear strategy for the allies in Libya.

American warplanes had hardly left the skies over Libya when the remonstrations began. “NATO has let us down,” said rebel military chief Abdul Fattah Younis. As the rebels retreated in the town of Brega in the face of a heavy onslaught by Gadhafi’s troops, there were no NATO planes in sight.

The withdrawal of the American planes, which flew more than half of the sorties in the first two weeks of the air strikes, has weakened NATO’s potential force. With the organization having taken control of the operation, American planes are now only in standby mode, leaving the much smaller air forces of France and the United Kingdom to take on most of the workload. Appeals from the NATO leadership to member countries to send more aircraft have so far been met with little success. Only the British have beefed up their presence, increasing the number of its Tornado contingent from eight to 12. The French, meanwhile, are having to split their military resouces between two fronts now, with the opening of the conflict in the Ivory Coast.

But the Libyan rebels are not alone in their complaints: Within NATO, there is also increasing frustration at the slow progress on the ground. The seemingly rudderless attacking and fleeing of the untrained fighters in the face of government soldiers is causing the Western allies to despair, albeit not in public, because it looks more and more likely that the undeclared aim of the international intervention — the removal of dictator Moammar Gadhafi — will probably never be achieved.

And this mutual disillusionment suggests that the second phase of the civil war is now beginning. The situation which critics had feared from the start has now seemingly occurred: a stalemate. The rebels are strong enough, with the support of NATO, to maintain their control of Benghazi, but are too weak to drive on in the direction of Tripoli. The front is moving a few miles back and forth, but the split between the Gadhafi-controlled west of the country and the rebel zone in the east seems to be solidifying.

“Sliding into a Prolonged Conflict”

“Libya appears to be sliding into a prolonged conflict with no light at the end of the tunnel,” Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics (LSE), wrote in a commentary posted on CNN’s website. The tenacious resistance of the Gadhafi regime is not surprising, he added, “given the tribal structure of Libyan society and Gadhafi’s manipulation and co-opting of tribal divisions and allies.”

NATO can always point to the fact that it is simply implementing the aims agreed upon by the United Nations — a no-fly zone and the protection of civilians. But in reality, it is hardly a secret that the true goals of the operation are more than that. Every day that Gadhafi remains in power, pressure is growing on Western politicians and military leaders. The question of how long the intervention will last is increasingly being asked out loud. The British Royal Air Force chief estimated this week that it would take six months. Politicians, on the other hand, have had the foresight not to mention any deadlines.

The discussion in the West has been running in circles for quite some time now, although the question of whether to arm the rebels has been answered: The first deliveries of light weapons from abroad have arrived, rebel leader Younis said. The British government has also sent communications equipment to enable rebel leaders to better command their fighters. The international community appears to have agreed, however, that heavy artillery and complex high-tech weapons should not be given to Gadhafi’s opponents.

As for the government, Gadhafi and his followers are being tackled with a further mixture of threats and promises. The dictator has been given the message that he would not be prevented from going into exile. At the same time, those around him are being encouraged to defect. And there does seem to be some movement: The flight of Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa last week was hailed as a breakthrough, while rumors that two of Gadhafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam and Al-Saadi, are planning a future without their father can be interpreted as a sign of nervousness.

On Wednesday evening it was revealed that Gadhafi had written a letter to US President Barack Obama asking him to end the air strikes. It met with little success: Hilary Clinton immediately rejected the appeal out of hand and countered by demanding that the dictator go into exile.

Military Escalation a Backwards Step

But what will happen if all this fails to change the status quo? How long can the no-fly zone be maintained? Could the West come to terms with a divided country? How serious is the West about its repeated assertion that a future for Libya which involves Gadhafi and his sons is unthinkable? A divided country is regarded as unacceptable in the long run, but a ground invasion involving Western troops to resolve this split has been ruled out by all sides. An occupation of Libya was explicitly prohibited by UN Security Council Resolution 1973, and no Western or Arabic government wants to be drawn so far into the war. Nor would it be advisable, LSE Professor Gerges wrote. A military escalation could only be a backwards step — one that would weaken the democratic movement in Libya.

No one has so far come up with an effective formula for ending the Libyan stalemate. The Western-Arab alliance is hoping steadfastedly for one of two outcomes: Either the rebels win the military conflict against all escalations, or Gadhafi voluntarily steps down. Either event would come as a surprise.

In the US, where skeptics have dominated the discussion from the start, there have already been demands for the operation, which seems to lack any strategy, to be ended immediately.

“Hoping to get lucky is no basis for US foreign policy,” Doug Bandow of the libertarian Cato Institute wrote on the Huffington Post website. “The administration should begin a speedy exit from Libya. Washington doesn’t need another disaster in the Middle East.”

That would mean a loss of face, which no Western government wants. The crucial question is: Who has more patience, NATO or Gadhafi?

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

Tunisia: Magistrates Call Off Today’s Strike

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 7 — The National Council of the Association of Tunisian Magistrates decided yesterday evening to call off the strike which had been scheduled for today.

The decision was made following a meeting that the council’s members had with the State Prosecutor General, who was acting on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

At the basis of the protest were a number of demands (especially as concerns anti-corruption measures within the judiciary) that Tunisian magistrates put forward and, after an initial refusal, the Justice Ministry is now assessing.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Rocket Hits Bus, Injured. Israel Responds, One Dead

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 7 — It may have been an anti-tank missile fired from the Gaza Strip that has hit an Israeli bus in the Saad a Nahal Oz kibbutz (Neghev), injuring at least three people, including a 13-year-old boy. So announced the military radio. According to the first reports, the bus is a regional public transport line. It was hit while approaching the kibbutz, near the border with the Gaza Strip. The missile reportedly went through the bus. The radio channel specifies that the vehicle was half empty.

The boy is seriously injured according to sources in Megen David, the Israeli Red Cross. He has been taken to hospital by helicopter. The driver was also injured, but not seriously. Israeli artillery has responded to the launch by firing on Gaza City, killing one person and injuring four, according to local Palestinian sources. The same sources specify that several canon salvos were fired from positions at the Israeli border and from tanks on the city, as well as on other sectors in the Gaza Strip. Today’s attacks took place after a few days of relative calm, following more rocket launches and mortar salvos from the Hamas-controlled enclave and successive Israeli retaliation. In the past days, after a raid in which two members of the military wing of Hamas were killed, Palestinian radical factions in the Gaza Strip publicly threatened to take revenge on Israel.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

IAF Strikes Gaza as Hamas Announces Immediate Cease-Fire

Hamas says fire into Israel halted at 11 p.m.; IAF hits total of 12 targets; Palestinians report 5 killed; terror group claims responsibility for firing anti-tank missile at childrens’ school bus.

The Israel Air Force struck three smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip late Thursday night after Hamas announced an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip in an effort to reign in growing escalations.

After consulting with various other Palestinian terrorist factions in Gaza and other international Arab officials, Hamas said that the cease-fire went into effect at 11 p.m. Thursday.

Hamas reportedly ordered all armed factions in Gaza to halt fire into Israel.

Earlier Thursday, the Hamas military wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for firing a Kornet anti-tank missile at a children’s schoolbus near Kibbutz Saad in the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council, which left a 16-year-old in critical condition and the driver in light condition.

The attack was “the first response to the continuing crimes of the occupation,” a Hamas statement said.

In response to the attack, the IDF spokesperson said that the air force had struck nine targets in the Gaza Strip and that artillery forces had struck the area from where the anti-tank missile was fired.

Five Palestinians were killed and 33 injured in the strikes, Palestinian medical sources reported.

Speaking at the IDF’s Southern Command earlier Thursday night, Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke about the school bus attack and called it a “very serious event that hit deep into Israeli territory from deep within the Gaza Strip. That is something that we cannot accept,” he added.

Commenting on IDF, IAF and artillery strikes on Gaza, the defense minister said: “The actions being taken right now are a response to [the attack] and they will continue as long as necessary in order to make clear that things like this cannot continue.”

The responses by the IDF are both purposeful and effective, Barak said, adding that, “We see Hamas as responsible for everything originating in Gaza, and we expect that Hamas will understand what is allowed, and of course, what is forbidden.”

[Return to headlines]

Muslim Student Attacks UN Rights Council for Anti-Israel Bias

Muslim student Amran Hussain, speaking on behalf of the European Union of Jewish Students, recently spoke out for Israel a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where he castigated the Council for anti-Israel bias.

“Why is Israel consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation on the grounds of human rights violations, yet the world turns a blind eye to the human rights situations in the Arab countries …or the Far East…or Africa?” he asked

Hussain told the Council he came to the session “to remind you of the moral obligation we all have here today to protect the only country in the world whose very existence is constantly under attack.

“The world was very quick to condemn Israel for defending itself from unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. I ask you, what about the human rights of Israeli Jews, Israeli Muslims [and] Israeli Christians living constantly in fear of attacks from Hamas.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Poll: One-Third of Palestinians Support Itamar Attack

Most Gazans seek widespread demonstrations against Hamas; Palestinians don’t think Mideast protests will bring statehood.

One-third of Palestinians support the attack in Itamar in March, in which an Israeli family of five was murdered while 63 percent opposed it, according to a Hebrew University poll released on Wednesday.

The survey was conducted by Prof. Yaacov Shamir of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University, and Prof. Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR).

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

World Bank: PNA Can Manage Independent State

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 7 — The management of public affairs in the territories controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Premier Salam Fayyad is improving. This announcement was made by the World Bank in a new encouraging report, in which is explained that the PNA is now able to govern a sovereign and independent State, if and when Palestine will manage to get one.

In the report, drafted on the occasion of a meeting of donor countries in Brussels and released in the past hours in Jerusalem, the progress made by the moderate Palestinian leadership on institutional and economic reforms, the improvements made in social, school and health services, the improved control of financial flows and limitations to corruption are acknowledged. The level that has been reached in these fields is comparable with other Middle East countries, despite the still insufficient growth prospects on local and regional level. “If the PNA continues its performance in improving institutions and public services”, the conclusions of the World Bank report read, “the Authority will be in a good position to constitute a State at any point in the near future”. This prospect, the Bank continues, could certainly include the West Bank, but also the Gaza Strip should this enclave — where Hamas Islamic fundamentalists seized power in 2007 — be reabsorbed in some way. The report also calls the economic growth outlook of the Territories “poor” as long as the “restrictions” imposed by Israel “on access to natural resources and the markets” remain in place. These restrictions slow the West Bank’s progress. Despite this fact, the area’s GDP climbed by up to 8.5% over the past years thanks to reforms, a partial relief of the limitations of the military occupation and international assistance. But most importantly, the document underlines, the restrictions have a negative impact on the high levels of unemployment and underemployment in the Gaza Strip.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

World’s Top Wine From Golan Heights

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 7 — A kosher wine produced in the disputed Golan Heights on the border between Israel and Syria is the top wine in the world according to the judges at the 45th Vinitaly International Wine Competition, which awarded the “world cup” of wine to Golan Heights Winery. Israel, the land of milk and honey, is now also the land of top notch wines. The biblical reference is no coincidence: sacred texts reveal the origins of winegrowing in the Promise Land. For example, the Bible talks about two explorers sent ahead by Moses when the group was nearing their coveted destination, and they returned with a giant bunch of grapes. Metaphorically speaking, Israel’s vineyards have extremely deep roots. But the success that Israel’s wines have been receiving in international competitions is much more recent. This is partially the result of the efforts of the American and French Jewish communities, which in recent years have worked extremely hard to introduce Israeli wines to the USA and France, which are currently the two main markets for Israel’s wineries. Cutting-edge winegrowing techniques and a proliferation of boutique vineyards with a limited and exclusive production have done the rest. The best grapes grow in the Golan Heights and the Judean and Galilean Hills. But there are also vineyards that are prospering in the desert thanks to innovative irrigation technology: a sector where Israel has significant experience, as it has always been threatened by drought. Today 5,000 hectares of vineyards have been planted, while only five years ago there were just 3,800. The culture of wine in the country is also growing thanks to the presence of experts who have been trained abroad. In this scenario, tour operators have also sensed an business opportunity. Many travel agencies are offering packages that include tastings at the most famous wineries in the country as well as lessons on production methods from ancient times. This trend has received growing popularity also on the Internet: a rapid look at Facebook reveals dozens of groups and pages dedicated to this phenomenon. Nonetheless, Israeli producers grumble about a scarce awareness internationally regarding the high quality of their wines. Israeli labels do not make it to supermarket shelves worldwide due several factors. National production is too limited to face the global market and high production costs result in prices that are not competitive. A bottle of Yarden or Carmel (commercial wines) costs 15-25 euros in Europe. Lowering prices, say experts, will be a crucial challenge for the future of the Israeli wine market and for the survival of many vineyards.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain: Clashes Move From Streets to Newsrooms

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, APRIL 7 — Clashes in Bahrain have moved from the streets to the newsrooms: while in recent hours two journalists from the major opposition daily, Al Wasat, have been expelled from the country, the website of Gulf Daily News and another four newspapers were attacked by “what appear to be Iranian” hackers, who replaced the main webpages with a map of the region where the body of water separating the monarchies of the Arabian peninsula from Iran have been changed to the Persian Gulf from the Arabian Gulf. The two expelled journalists, reports Gulf News, are Iraqis and have worked for Al Wasat since 2005. On Sunday Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) ordered the shutdown of the daily for publishing “events that never occurred” and for having “invented news about torture perpetrated by police”. The daily, which is one of the five newspapers in Arabic in the country, returned to newsstands the following day with a new editor in chief and managing editors. The hackers who attacked the publications of the Al-Hilal group, the most well-known of which is Gulf Daily News, called themselves the Delta Hacking Team and “appear to be Iranians”. The cyber-attack was thwarted, said officials in Bahrain, but the daily’s website is not yet fully functional.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Condemnation and Silence: The ‘Jasmine Revolution’ Seen From Tehran

Tehran’s support for uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East stems from domestic and regional political consideration. At the start, the popular movements were hailed as a part of an “Islamic reawakening”. Iran voices its anger at Saudi interference in Bahrain, but is silent over events in Syria and is confused over Libya. Meanwhile, Iranians are accused of stirring “sedition” in Kuwait. The funeral of Moussavi’s father is marred by violence.

Tehran (AsiaNews) — Iran is walking a tight rope. On the one hand, it has slammed Saudi Arabia for intervening in Bahrain; on the other, it has been completely silent over Syria, whilst taking a muddled position over Libya. After initially welcoming the wave of changes in the Middle East, Iran’s government and political leaders have become more cautious over the fate of the ‘Jasmine Revolutions’. Rather than ride the wave of Islamic populism, they are choosing the path of tradition. At home however, they are stifling every form of dissent.

Grand ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani recently wrote a letter to Saudi King Abdallah denouncing his country’s intervention in Bahrain. He called on the king to pull out its troops, which have violently crushed a local Shia uprising. He told him to apologise to the people of Bahrain; otherwise, he would soon be punished by God.

Yesterday, 200 Majlis deputies issued a similar statement, slamming Saudi Arabia for interfering in the internal affairs of Bahrain, urging the king to use his armed forces in the struggle against Israel.

Today, Bahrain Shias sent a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asking for his support and blessing. “We are in pain and have nothing but resistance and readiness for martyrdom to help us,” they said.

Iranians are scandalised by the fact most anti-government protests in the small Gulf kingdom are Shias like the people in power in Tehran.

At the start of the ‘jasmine’ uprising, the demonstrations were seen as part of an “Islamic awakening”. Now that Iranian interests are being affected, Islam is no longer seen as important, and the country’s strategic alliances have come into play.

The unrest in Syria, which is fuelled by the country’s Sunni majority, has found no space in Iranian media, which are controlled by the regime.

One of the few reports about demonstrations in Damascus and Deraa blamed “foreign forces”, thus echoing statements by President Bashar al-Assad. A hard-line website went even further, calling on the government to send “Hezbollah warriors, Iranian or not,” to Syria and Bahrain.

At the same time, Kuwait just uncovered and condemned an espionage ring involving Iranians. Together with other (Arab) Gulf States, it slammed Tehran’s attempt to undermine “security and stability” in the country by stirring “sectarian seditions”.

Iran’s position on the revolution in Libya is more muddled. On the one hand, Tehran backs the rebels; on the other, it has condemned the NATO action.

Paradoxically, Gaddafi was once one of Tehran’s best friends. However, after the latest revelations that Libyans were responsible for the death of Moussa Sadr, a Lebanese Shia cleric who disappeared in 1978, relations between Iran and the dictator in Tripoli have cooled considerably.

Still, the condemnation of NATO is an attempt to avoid creating a precedent because Iran has always opposed the intervention of foreign powers in the Middle East.

Domestically though, the crackdown against opponents to the ruling mullocracy continues. More liberal activists and public figures have been arrested in recent days, following the attack against the funeral of Mir Hossein Moussavi’s father, which ended in the detention of 20 people.

Moussavi was not allowed to attend the funeral.

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

EU-Turkey: Bagis in Paris, We Are Key to Moderate Islam

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 6 — Turkey’s entrance in the European Union would make it possible to promote ideas that reconcile Islam and democracy, at a time when several European countries are asking question about the integration of Muslims.

This remark was made in Paris by Turkey’s European Affairs Minister and chief negotiator for EU accession, Egemen Bagis.

“The question is, if we want to be influenced by the harmful message of Bin Laden or if we want to be influenced by the coexistence of Islam and democracy”, after Turkish model, Bagis said in answer to a question on the hostility of the French government towards Turkey joining the European Union. The arguments against Turkey’s accession have been for a long time that the country is “too poor, too large and too Muslim”, the Minister continued. Today, he added, the country’s fast growth rate guarantees that the first argument is no longer valid. The second argument is compensated by the fact the Turkey offers considerable economic potential.

Regarding the third argument, Bagis underlined, “we have never said that we are not Muslims. But Islam is a European reality”, with some countries with up to 10% of inhabitants from “Muslim culture”. Today the Minister meets several French leaders, including his counterpart Laurent Wauquiez.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Haia Officers Get Training to Combat Black Magic

JEDDAH: A total of 30 officials of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) have been trained on how to deal with cases of black magic.

The three-day training program was held in the Eastern Province city of Al-Ahsa.

The commission has achieved remarkable successes in combating black magic in various parts of the country. It has set up nine specialized centers in the main cities to deal with black magicians.

The majority of people arrested for practicing black magic in the Kingdom are Africans and Indonesians.

According to a report received by Arab News, a single specialized center had dealt with 586 cases involving black magic, showing the enormity of the problem.

About 50 cases were reported in Jeddah alone in the first half of 2009. Gurayat and Qunfuda also reported high rates of black magic cases during that year.

The Riyadh governorate last year launched a campaign against black magicians and those who illegally treat people by reading from the Qur’an.

Only qualified Saudis are allowed to practice Qur’anic treatment methods. Expatriates practicing such treatments would be caught and deported.

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

Syria: Gov’t-Run Daily Publishes Dissident’s Opinion

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 7 — For the first time in decades, the opinion of a Syrian dissident has been published in one of Damascus’ three government-run newspapers. Since midway through March, Syria has been shaken by unprecedented anti-regime protests and in the last week authorities have announced a series of concessions and reforms. Al Baath newspaper, run by the political party bearing the same name, which has been in power for nearly half a century and which is celebrating the 64th anniversary of its founding today, published an article today entitled: “Syria gears up to abolish state of emergency”, referring to the strongly urged repeal of the law that has been in effect since 1963 and which has been the basis of the Syrian government’s system of control and repression. The long article reports the opinion of Haytham al Maleh (80 years old), a legal expert who has been imprisoned on several occasions for the critical stances he has taken against the regime and for his defence of human rights. He was liberated just a month ago after he was granted amnesty by President Bashar al Assad. Maleh, who was granted amnesty together with other sick and elderly detainees (over 70 years old) convicted of common and non-political crimes, wrote in the government-run daily that “there was no need to form a commission to examine the repeal of the emergency law, because its enactment was never approved by Parliament as required (…). In order to repeal the state of emergency,” concluded Maleh, “an executive decree is all that is needed.” In recent days, officials in Damascus announced the formation of a committee of legal experts with the task of examining the procedures to lay the groundwork to repeal the law and introduce an “anti-terrorism” law.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Deadly Superbug in New Delhi Water

A DEADLY superbug has been found in about a quarter of water samples taken from drinking supplies and puddles on the streets of New Delhi, according to a new study.

Experts say it’s the latest proof that the new drug-resistant bacteria, known as NDM-1, named for New Delhi, is widely circulating in the environment — and could potentially spread to the rest of the world.

The superbug can only be treated with a couple of highly toxic and expensive antibiotics.

Since it was first identified in 2008, it has popped up in several countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada and Sweden.

Most of those infections were in people who had recently travelled to, or had medical procedures in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India Graduates Millions, But Too Few Are Fit to Hire

BANGALORE, India—Call-center company 24/7 Customer Pvt. Ltd. is desperate to find new recruits who can answer questions by phone and email. It wants to hire 3,000 people this year. Yet in this country of 1.2 billion people, that is beginning to look like an impossible goal.

So few of the high school and college graduates who come through the door can communicate effectively in English, and so many lack a grasp of educational basics such as reading comprehension, that the company can hire just three out of every 100 applicants.

India projects an image of a nation churning out hundreds of thousands of students every year who are well educated, a looming threat to the better-paid middle-class workers of the West. Their abilities in math have been cited by President Barack Obama as a reason why the U.S. is facing competitive challenges.

Yet 24/7 Customer’s experience tells a very different story. Its increasing difficulty finding competent employees in India has forced the company to expand its search to the Philippines and Nicaragua. Most of its 8,000 employees are now based outside of India.

In the nation that made offshoring a household word, 24/7 finds itself so short of talent that it is having to offshore.

“With India’s population size, it should be so much easier to find employees,” says S. Nagarajan, founder of the company. “Instead, we’re scouring every nook and cranny.”

India’s economic expansion was supposed to create opportunities for millions to rise out of poverty, get an education and land good jobs. But as India liberalized its economy starting in 1991 after decades of socialism, it failed to reform its heavily regulated education system.

Business executives say schools are hampered by overbearing bureaucracy and a focus on rote learning rather than critical thinking and comprehension. The government keeps tuition low, which makes schools accessible to more students, but also keeps teacher salaries and budgets low. What’s more, say educators and business leaders, the curriculum in most places is outdated and disconnected from the real world.

“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys,” says Vijay Thadani, chief executive of New Delhi-based NIIT Ltd. India, a recruitment firm that also runs job-training programs for college graduates lacking the skills to land good jobs.

Muddying the picture is that on the surface, India appears to have met the demand for more educated workers with a quantum leap in graduates. Engineering colleges in India now have seats for 1.5 million students, nearly four times the 390,000 available in 2000, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, a trade group.

But 75% of technical graduates and more than 85% of general graduates are unemployable by India’s high-growth global industries, including information technology and call centers, according to results from assessment tests administered by the group.

Another survey, conducted annually by Pratham, a nongovernmental organization that aims to improve education for the poor, looked at grade-school performance at 13,000 schools across India. It found that about half of the country’s fifth graders can’t read at a second-grade level.

At stake is India’s ability to sustain growth—its economy is projected to expand 9% this year—while maintaining its advantages as a low-cost place to do business.

The challenge is especially pressing given the country’s more youthful population than the U.S., Europe and China. More than half of India’s population is under the age of 25, and one million people a month are expected to seek to join the labor force here over the next decade, the Indian government estimates. The fear is that if these young people aren’t trained well enough to participate in the country’s glittering new economy, they pose a potential threat to India’s stability.

“Economic reforms are not about goofy rich guys buying Mercedes cars,” says Manish Sabharwal, managing director of Teamlease Services Ltd., an employee recruitment and training firm in Bangalore. “Twenty years of reforms are worth nothing if we can’t get our kids into jobs.”

Yet even as the government and business leaders acknowledge the labor shortage, educational reforms are a long way from becoming law. A bill that gives schools more autonomy to design their own curriculum, for example, is expected to be introduced in the cabinet in the next few weeks, and in parliament later this year.

“I was not prepared at all to get a job,” says Pradeep Singh, 23, who graduated last year from RKDF College of Engineering, one of the city of Bhopal’s oldest engineering schools. He has been on five job interviews—none of which led to work. To make himself more attractive to potential employers, he has enrolled in a five-month-long computer programming course run by NIIT.

Mr. Singh and several other engineering graduates said they learned quickly that they needn’t bother to go to some classes. “The faculty take it very casually, and the students take it very casually, like they’ve all agreed not to be bothered too much,” Mr. Singh says. He says he routinely missed a couple of days of classes a week, and it took just three or four days of cramming from the textbook at the end of the semester to pass the exams.

Others said cheating, often in collaboration with test graders, is rampant. Deepak Sharma, 26, failed several exams when he was enrolled at a top engineering college outside of Delhi, until he finally figured out the trick: Writing his mobile number on the exam paper.

That’s what he did for a theory-of-computation exam, and shortly after, he says the examiner called him and offered to pass him and his friends if they paid 10,000 rupees each, about $250. He and four friends pulled together the money, and they all passed the test.

“I feel almost 99% certain that if I didn’t pay the money, I would have failed the exam again,” says Mr. Sharma.

BC Nakra, Pro Vice Chancellor of ITM University, where Mr. Sharma studied, said in an interview that there is no cheating at his school, and that if anyone were spotted cheating in this way, he would be “behind bars.” He said he had read about a case or two in the newspaper, and in the “rarest of the rare cases, it might happen somewhere, and if you blow [it] out of all proportions, it effects the entire community.” The examiner couldn’t be located for comment.

Cheating aside, the Indian education system needs to change its entire orientation to focus on learning, says Saurabh Govil, senior vice president in human resources at Wipro Technologies. Wipro, India’s third largest software exporter by sales, says it has struggled to find skilled workers. The problem, says Mr. Govil, is immense: “How are you able to change the mind-set that knowledge is more than a stamp?”

At 24/7 Customer’s recruiting center on a recent afternoon, 40 people were filling out forms in an interior lobby filled with bucket seats. In a glass-walled conference room, a human-resources executive interviewed a group of seven applicants. Six were recent college graduates, and one said he was enrolled in a correspondence degree program.

One by one, they delivered biographical monologues in halting English. The interviewer interrupted one young man who spoke so fast, it was hard to tell what he was saying. The young man was instructed to compose himself and start from the beginning. He tried again, speaking just as fast, and was rejected after the first round.

Another applicant, Rajan Kumar, said he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering a couple of years ago. His hobby is watching cricket, he said, and his strength is punctuality. The interviewer, noting his engineering degree, asked why he isn’t trying to get a job in a technical field, to which he replied: “Right now, I’m here.” This explanation was judged inadequate, and Mr. Kumar was eliminated, too.

A 22-year-old man named Chaudhury Laxmikant Dash, who graduated last year, also with a bachelor’s in engineering, said he’s a game-show winner whose hobby is international travel. But when probed by the interviewer, he conceded, “Until now I have not traveled.” Still, he made it through the first-round interview, along with two others, a woman and a man who filled out his application with just one name, Robinson.

For their next challenge, they had to type 25 words a minute. The woman typed a page only to learn her pace was too slow at 18 words a minute. Mr. Dash, sweating and hunched over, couldn’t get his score high enough, despite two attempts.

Only Mr. Robinson moved on to the third part of the test, featuring a single paragraph about nuclear war followed by three multiple-choice questions. Mr. Robinson stared at the screen, immobilized. With his failure to pass the comprehension section, the last of the original group of applicants was eliminated.

The average graduate’s “ability to comprehend and converse is very low,” says Satya Sai Sylada, 24/7 Customer’s head of hiring for India. “That’s the biggest challenge we face.”

Indeed, demand for skilled labor continues to grow. Tata Consultancy Services, part of the Tata Group, expects to hire 65,000 people this year, up from 38,000 last year and 700 in 1986.

Trying to bridge the widening chasm between job requirements and the skills of graduates, Tata has extended its internal training program. It puts fresh graduates through 72 days of training, double the duration in 1986, says Tata chief executive N. Chandrasekaran. Tata has a special campus in south India where it trains 9,000 recruits at a time, and has plans to bump that up to 10,000.

Wipro runs an even longer, 90-day training program to address what Mr. Govil, the human-resources executive, calls the “inherent inadequacies” in Indian engineering education. The company can train 5,000 employees at once.

Both companies sent teams of employees to India’s approximately 3,000 engineering colleges to assess the quality of each before they decided where to focus their campus recruiting efforts. Tata says 300 of the schools made the cut; for Wipro, only 100 did.

Tata has also begun recruiting and training liberal-arts students with no engineering background but who want secure jobs. And Wipro has set up a foundation that spends $4 million annually to train teachers. Participants attend week-long workshops and then get follow-up online mentoring. Some say that where they used to spend a third of class time with their backs to students, drawing diagrams on the blackboard, they now engage students in discussion and use audiovisual props.

“Before, I didn’t take the students into consideration,” says Vishal Nitnaware, a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at SVPM College of Engineering in rural Maharashtra state. Now, he says, he tries to engage them, so they’re less nervous to speak up and participate in discussions…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Asia Bibi Gravely Ill, Fears for Her Life, After Three Months in Solitary Isolation

The Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy has been ill with chicken pox, probably because of the unhygienic conditions of the cell where she is kept. Christians concern for the growing violence against them. Bishop Rufin Anthony: “This Lent we pray for peace in Pakistan. A Pakistan where we can all live freely. “

Lahore (AsiaNews) — Asia Bibi is sick, in solitary confinement, and there are growing concerns for her life. The Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy on false evidence is sick with chicken pox, because of the appallingly unhygienic conditions she is being kept in. The complaint comes from Haroon Barket Masih, president of the Masih Foundation, who today issued a statement: “Asia Bibi was diagnosed with chicken pox, she has been kept in solitary confinement for more than three months. We have expressed concern about her health, because she spends24 hours a day locked in the cell. She needs medical care, hygienic and healthy conditions. She fell ill with chickenpox because of the dirty environment, and being unable to clean her room or bed sheets on which she sleeps. Despite her ill health she spends her time fasting and praying for everyone, she neglects her health and prays for everyone else. She is concerned about the current situation in Pakistan. We are trying to arrange a medical examination, and to ensure acceptable hygienic conditions. Until now she has had no medical care. “

Masih also declared: “Recently, Mothers Day was celebrated in Europe, we all celebrated Mother’s Day, people sent cards and postcards, but who remembered this sick woman praying and fasting in her cell? Did she not want to be with her children too? She is a mother. She prayed for her children. Please continue to pray for Asia Bibi who prays and fasts. “

But the situation for Christians in Pakistan seems to be worsening by the day. Perviaz Masih, a resident of Lala Musa, a small town 75 km from Lahore, was threatened for being Christian. Pervaiz Masih is the father of three children and works for Pakistan Railways in Lala Musa. It all started when the Koran was burned in Florida. Masih has defended his faith in a discussion at work. He said: “Christianity is a religion of peace, and we condemn this act.” But his colleagues were not convinced, and began to threaten him. Pervaiz Masih and his family fled the house on April 4 last and are in hiding since then. Extremist elements in society are becoming violent, and the situation in Pakistan grows worse day by day. The growing extremism in Pakistan is a concern not only for minorities but also for the government.

Bishop Anthony Rufin told AsiaNews: “I am saddened by the news about Asia Bibi, on her state of health and the state in which she lives. The Catholic Church prays for her salvation, and prays that she will be treated. It ‘s a difficult time for the minorities in Pakistan, incidents of violence are becoming more numerous, for how long will we live in fear? How many more Pervaiz Masih will have to live in hiding? We must work together for a campaign to promote harmony and tolerance. This Lent we pray for peace in Pakistan. A Pakistan where we can all live freely. “

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

Far East

Presenting the First Chinese Aircraft Carrier

After reverse engineering virtually every product known to man, the Chinese have now applied the same skill to the only component of thei military that was so far missing: an aircraft carrier. Earlier today, Xinhua revealed the first official pictures of what will soon be China’s first aircraft carrier, now expected to enter operation by the end of the year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Fresh Thinking Helps Blind Muslims Tackle Dog Taboo Julie Szego

FOR blind Muslims Neslihan Sari and Karima Shirzad, fulfilling their wish for a guide dog meant navigating a cultural minefield.

They longed for greater independence but felt trapped by the Islamic prohibition on pet dogs, described in the teachings as “unclean”. This led each on a critical journey through Koranic scripture — and into sometimes painful conflict with family members reluctant to welcome a dog into the fold.

“Having a dog was like a dream that was never going to come true,” said Afghan-born Ms Shirzad, who, like Ms Sari, owes her impairment to disease.

At first, her own fear of dogs held her back; later her family was the stumbling block.

“My parents were very supportive, but one of my siblings was at first not accepting … and said, ‘Why do you need a dog, everything will be unclean.’ … I got sick with anxiety and depression because [a dog] was my only hope and I felt like this was the end of me.”

The Islamic taboo surrounding dogs has been a source of consternation and controversy in recent times. In 2006, the Victorian Taxi Association appealed to the mufti of Melbourne to give religious approval for Muslim drivers to carry guide dogs, after a number of blind passengers lodged complaints of discrimination.

A year later, the Muslim Council of Britain said dogs could enter mosques. Meanwhile, a Muslim woman in Detroit reportedly opted for the alternative of a trained miniature horse.

Guide Dogs Victoria works to raise awareness in Muslim communities of both the legal rights of guide dog owners and the animals’ critical role in improving lives. A guide dogs seminar held in January for Victoria’s Board of Imams elicited an “overwhelmingly positive” response, according to Brisbane-based trainer Bashir Ebrahim, himself a Muslim.

“Like many things, it’s a complicated issue,” he said. “You’ll hear a diversity of views among Muslims … many interpretations of rulings are culturally rather than religiously based.”

After copious research, the Turkish-born Ms Sari came to the same conclusion.

“This prohibition has been grossly misinterpreted,” she said. “There are a few Koranic references [to dogs] and there are differences of opinion among jurists and stuff. I did research on the fatwas [and] on new religious judgments — all say a dog is permissible if kept for a purpose, like, say, hunting and I feel I’ve got that.

“Some people do say dogs have jinn or evil spirit receptors, but … I think dogs have been victims of myths and mediaeval prejudice.”

Ms Shirzad agrees, as does her grandfather in Iran who sought advice from religious authorities. “He said it [the dog] is OK because you need it, it’s like a prescription for you.”

Both women ultimately prevailed. Ms Sari’s mother gave her blessing after “a bit of tears and arguments” and after a trainer brought around two dogs that impressed as placid and obedient. And as Ms Shirzad’s suffering intensified, her sibling’s resolve melted.

Ms Sari has had Labrador Sarita since July last year, while Tashi is Ms Shirzad’s second guide dog. Still, both women prefer to restrict the dogs’ movement inside the home.

Says Ms Shirzad: “I live alone now, and after I moved in my father built Tashi a beautiful bedroom in a shed.”

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Hamas Targeted in Mysterious Airstrike

Iran caught red-handed transporting weapons to terror group

The target of a mysterious airstrike in Sudan was the Hamas terrorist organization’s weapons smuggling infrastructure, according to Middle East security sources with detailed knowledge of the attack.

According to the sources, an Iranian officer was killed in the strike Tuesday, which highlights the involvement of Iran in attempting to supply Hamas with weapons.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Thousands of Migrants Granted Temporary Visas

Rome, 7 April (AKI) — Italy passed a decree granting temporary visas to thousands of North African’s who over the past three months have arrived by boats that mainly set sail from Tunisia. They will be allowed leave Italy for other European destinations as most want to do, Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni said.

“Most have the desire to travel to other European countries and this will let them do that,” Maroni said on Thursday in an address to the Italian parliament in Rome.

Maroni said the nearly 26,000 arrivals between 1 January and 6 April were entitled to the visas, which will be valid for for a six-month stay, Italian news reports said.

But all those reaching Italy after that period will be sent home.

“Everyone will be repatriated following simplified procedures,” Maroni told parliament to applause.

Between the beginning of this year and Wednesday, 390 boats carrying 25,867 migrants arrived in Italy, Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni said on Thursday during an address to parliament.

Twenty-three thousand of these landed on the tiny island of Lampedusa which is close to Tunisia.

Other boats embarked from Libya, where Italy’s recent support of international airstrikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s military caused a bilateral accord to be suspended that had held migrant boats at bay.

Early on Wednesday, a Libyan boat approaching Lampedusa carrying a reported 300 migrants from Somalia, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Bangladesh and Sudan capsized. Around 250 people are feared dead.

Maroni also said Italy agreed to give Tunisia 10 boats and 100 off-road vehicles to patrol its shores and stop people smuggling boats from setting sail for Italian shores.

Prior to the recent bi-lateral agreement with Tunisia, “there were no border patrols,” Maroni said.

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

UN-Backed Forces Slaughter Christians in Ivory Coast

Backed by French and United Nations military forces, and approved by President Barack Obama, Muslim militias loyal to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara are on a rampage in the Ivory Coast that, according to news reports and officials, has left over a thousand Christians dead so far in an effort to oust current President Laurent Gbagbo.

Though conflicts have been a regular occurrence in recent decades, the current civil war engulfing the West-African former French colony stems from a contested presidential election held in November. The original vote count indicated a narrow victory for Ouattara, a U.S.-educated Muslim from the largely Islamic Northern part of the country who has worked at the International Monetary Fund and the Central Bank of West African States.

But after the nation’s Constitutional Council discovered evidence of alleged voting fraud and ballot stuffing, it nullified the results, re-counted the votes, and declared Gbagbo the winner. Gbagbo, who has ruled the Ivory Coast since 2000, is a leftist Catholic from the largely Christian Southern part of the country. He is claiming to be the legitimately elected President and is refusing to leave power.

The UN, Obama, and the French government, however, maintain that Gbagbo should step down and allow Ouattara to assume the presidency. And at least the French and the UN are using armed force to make sure that happens, providing military support to Islamic militias loyal to Ouattara while bombing the Ivory Coast’s soldiers and equipment from the air.

Reports of brutal massacres have been pouring out of the country, intensifying in recent days as the struggle becomes more violent. One of the most barbarous attacks left around 1,000 civilians dead in Duékoué at the hands of Ouattara supporters as they advanced on the capital. Even Ouattara’s international supporters blasted the slaughter.

The victims, members of a pro-Gbagbo Christian tribe, were reportedly fleeing their homes to a nearby Catholic mission. But according to news reports, they were mowed down or hacked to death with machetes shortly before arriving at the compound.

“I can’t go home, the rebels have guns. I don’t have a gun,” 25-year-old refugee Djeke Fulgence told the U.K. Guardian from a camp across the border, where he fled with his wife and children. “They kill people and rape women. They can kill children and then they take the small children to go and fight. It’s impossible. I can’t go back.”

Over 30,000 civilians are estimated to be taking refuge at the mission to escape the violence. But reports indicate that food and water supplies are running low. Meanwhile, up to a million refugees have reportedly fled their homes, with an estimated hundred thousand crossing the border into Liberia.

As both sides blame each other for human-rights abuses, even the UN has now jumped in and urged Ouattara’s forces to show “restraint” after reports of looting, abductions, and ill-treatment of civilians by his supporters went public. Talk of prosecuting those responsible for the atrocities at the International Criminal Court is already making headlines.

But as the UN helicopters were bombarding Gbagbo forces earlier this week, critics of the international body’s military support for Ouattara blasted the campaign. The Russian government, for example, said the UN and the French government had no right to intervene on one side in the dispute.

“The UN peacekeepers and supporting French forces in Ivory Coast have started military action taking the side of Ouattara, carrying out air strikes on the positions held by supporters of Gbagbo. We’re now looking into the legality of this situation because the peacekeepers were authorized to remain neutral — nothing more,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “An emergency briefing in the UN Security Council has been held upon our request, but we have not received any concrete answers. We will keep looking into the matter.”

In the United States, conservative critics of the international intervention have also attacked efforts to oust Gbagbo. World Net Daily described the situation as “the forced Islamist takeover of [the Ivory Coast] government.” It also noted that UN and U.S. government leaders were “ignoring the nation’s own procedures that determined Laurent Gbagbo, a Christian, legitimately was re-elected president.”

WND also compared the situation to another recent “Muslim-Christian battle” in Africa. In 2007, Obama backed Kenyan Muslim Raila Odinga, a socialist currently serving as Prime Minister following a power-sharing agreement. After Odinga lost the election and accused his opponent of rigging the vote, his Islamic supporters went on a rampage that included burning churches, hacking more than a thousand Christians to death with machetes, and eventually displacing an estimated 500,000 people. To placate the rioters, an agreement eventually allowed Odinga to serve as Prime Minster.

In another recent foreign dispute, Obama backed socialist Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya. The leftist Hugo Chavez ally was lawfully removed from office through established constitutional procedures for violating the law. But Obama demanded that he be reinstated.

In the Ivory Coast conflict, like in the Kenya dispute, Obama also expressed support for the Muslim candidate. And despite the Ivory Coast Constitutional Council’s ruling, which is supposed to be the final word on election results, Obama demanded that Gbagbo leave power.

“Tragically, the violence that we are seeing could have been averted had Laurent Gbagbo respected the results of last year’s presidential election,” Obama said on April 5, without mentioning the Constitutional Council’s ruling. “To end this violence and prevent more bloodshed, former President Gbagbo must stand down immediately, and direct those who are fighting on his behalf to lay down their arms.”

But despite the administration’s declared support for Ouattara, prominent U.S. lawmakers blasted the international intervention and criticized Obama’s choice of sides. In an interview with the U.S. government-funded Voice of America news service, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma said it was clear that Ouattara was chosen by the French government and that “quite frankly, they rigged the election.” Inhofe also said the original election results purportedly showing that Ouattara won were statistically impossible.

Citing the massacre in Duékoué, Sen. Inhofe called the situation “a reign of terror by Ouattara” that was being “supported by the French.” He also said the Obama administration “had it wrong” and that letters he had sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the matter were ignored.

Inhofe accused the UN of violating its charter, too. “They went in and immediately assumed that it was a legitimate election and, yet, we have all the evidence to the contrary,” he told VOA. “By the way, there are a lot of people in Africa who agree with me.”

News reports indicate that Gbagbo will probably be forced to surrender soon. By April 6 media accounts claimed he was holed up in a bunker as some government forces were starting to lay down their weapons. The French government said it was only a matter of time.

“This stubbornness is absurd. Gbagbo has no other solution anymore. Everybody has dropped him,” said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. “He is holed up in the bunker in his residence so we will continue with the United Nations, which is handling that, to put pressure on him so he accepts to acknowledge the reality: There is only one legal and legitimate president today, it is Alassane Ouattara and I hope that persuasion will win and that we will avoid having to resume the military operations.”

French forces were reportedly attacking the presidential palace as Ouattara’s militias were said to be in control most of the nation and its capital. Other reports indicated that Gbagbo was already negotiating the terms of his surrender after foreign military forces decimated his government’s ability to hold out any longer.

Analysts noted, however, that the underlying conflict would not end with Ouattara’s rise to power. Tensions have been running high in the Ivory Coast for years, especially after another civil war about a decade ago left the nation divided between Muslims to the North and Christians in the South.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Latin America

At Least 11 Dead in Massacre at Rio De Janeiro School

RIO DE JANEIRO—At least 11 people, mostly children, died Thursday and more that 15 were wounded when an armed man attacked a school in Realengo in the poor suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.

Police initially said that 13 people had died, but Rio de Janeiro’s Health Ministry later lowered the death toll.

According to a preliminary police report, the attacker—a 24-year-old former student at the school—was among the dead after shooting himself in the head. He attacked Tasso da Silveira school, where some 400 students ages 9-14 were in classes.

Police Col. Djalma Beltrami said the killer used two handguns and a lot of ammunition. The suspect left behind a letter, in which he anticipated committing suicide after the attack. Beltrami, however, gave no details of any possible motive.

Beltrami described the letter as “the words of a person who no longer believes in anything, full of sentences that made no sense and references to Islamic fundamentalism.”

Beltrami said the attacker was friendly as he went into the school, chatting with administrators and teachers and asking for permission to address the children. When he reached the third floor of the building, the suspect entered one of the classrooms and started to shoot at students, killing nine girls and one boy.

The attacker apparently committed suicide upon being chased by a police officer who had been called in by a student who managed to escape the building.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was “in shock” over the killings, government spokesperson Rodrigo Baena Soares said in Brasilia.

“He still had a lot of ammunition in his possession. Had it not been for the arrival of the police officer, the tragedy would have been even worse,” Beltrami said.

Roselane de Oliveira, a sister of the attacker, told Rio de Janeiro radio station Band News that the young man “was very strange.”

“He had no friends, and he spent all his time on the internet,” she said.

In recent months, she said, he appeared to have got closer to Islam.

Police stressed, however, that there was no concrete evidence that the attack had either a religious or a political motive.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Asylum: Single Entry Point is Tough to Get Open

Dagens Nyheter Stockholm

The EU intends to set up some common rules on asylum. The surge in the polls of xenophobic parties in several countries and the influx of migrants from north Africa, however, have combined to make the debate an explosive one.

On April 4, Swedish public radio announced that the Dutch want to tighten up entry conditions for asylum seekers in the European Union. The government in The Hague holds that any such refugee should be able to prove that he or she was unable to find safety in another area of his country of origin.

Such a proposition is absurd.

Most often, people fleeing persecution have in fact neither the time nor the opportunity to examine the situation across the whole of their home country before leaving. The requirement to produce evidence of such a search seems contrary to the fundamental principles of asylum law. That is why, therefore, the clear disavowal of this preposterous idea by Cecilia Malmström, EU home affairs commissioner, is to be welcomed.

The request by the Dutch shows that the atmosphere of the negotiations over the asylum policy of the European Union has become charged. Next year, the EU is to replace the current minimum requirements in force among its member countries by a common and binding body of legislation. That is the plan, in any event.

So far there has been relatively little discussion of the negotiations in the public debate. Behind the scenes, however, tempers are flaring.

The future shape of political asylum inspires conflicted and exacerbated emotions across all of Europe. In countries where xenophobic parties are able to impose their themes, the issue is an explosive one in the political debate.

No doubt, designing a common asylum policy has its risks. The danger is that countries that support a relaxation of the rules could be overshadowed by the hard-line supporters. However — and this is to be hoped — the reverse may also happen.

It would be good for several reasons if the EU member countries were to have common rules on asylum in place.

Member states have common borders with the rest of the world, and people allowed to stay in the EU enjoy freedom of movement. All bordering countries are therefore affected by the policies of the other member countries towards asylum and immigration. It would, therefore, be both logical and justified to have some common rules.

The question is how this is to be done. The risk is not only that members like the Netherlands wish to strengthen border barriers further by tightening up entry conditions for asylum seekers. Refugee camps overcrowded with migrants from north Africa are also proof that the EU still has some way to go in asylum policy.

The Tunisian authorities, for example, have put up a total of 220,000 refugees. However, many of them were in no need of protection, as they were in Libya to work and wanted to go home more than anything else. About 100,000 people have received aid — European aid in particular — to return to their home countries.

A few thousand refugees, though, remain stranded in refugee camps in Tunisia. Some are Somalis or Eritreans who risk being persecuted in their countries of origin and who should therefore enjoy the right of asylum.

On paper, the EU has already agreed to grant them protection. So far, though, only six member states, including Sweden, have volunteered to take in a few hundred of them. The reluctance of European countries to step forward with help also foreshadows the trouble brewing in the negotiations over asylum policy within the EU, where many countries prefer to look after only their own interests.


Italo-Tunisian deal on migrant repatriation goes ahead

It was a “toothless agreement” on migration that was signed in Tunis on April 5, writes Corriere della Sera: after the failure of the initial discussions the previous day, the interior ministers of Italy and Tunisia agreed that Tunisia will repatriate about 800 of its nationals recently landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The agreement, which is strictly verbal, does not fix the method or the time of the operation, writes Corriere. The number of returnees is far below that expected by Rome, which has thus been compelled to grant temporary six-month residence permits to Tunisian migrants on Italian soil for “humanitarian reasons”. The government intends in this way to empty the shelters, which are now overwhelmed, that are scattered throughout the centre and south of the country. Meanwhile a boat from Libya with 200 migrants on board has capsized off the coast of Lampedusa, and 150 of those on board are missing.

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

EU: Permit No Automatic Right to Travel

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 7 — The member States have the right, in general, to issue temporary permits to immigrants, as stated in the directive in question, “but giving out a permit does not implicate that these people have an automatic right to travel”, said EU Commission spokesman Marcin Grabiec in answer to a question whether the temporary permit announced by Italy for North African immigrants would allow them to move freely in the entire Schengen area. The possibility of accepting this permit as a pass for national territory and the Schengen area depends on the “type of permit that will be issued, and we don’t know that yet”, the spokesman continued. When the immigrants have a temporary permit, “they still must respect certain conditions”, he specified. The immigrations must have travel documents, they must demonstrate that they have means of subsistence and that they pose no risk to public order. “People who have a permit and respect these conditions”, Grabiec explained, “can travel in the EU member States for a 3-month period. Who does not respect these conditions, must be repatriated to the member State of origin”. That means, for example, that if the French authorities decide to repatriate immigrants arriving from Italy, they will be sent to Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France Sets Five Strict Rules for Entry

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 7 — This morning the French Ministry of the Interior issued a document to all of the prefects in the country, underlining five very strict rules for entry into France from “a third-party country” that is a member of the Schengen Area. The letter comes as a response to the decision made by the Italian authorities to grant temporary stay permits to Tunisian immigrants who have arrived on the island of Lampedusa. Yesterday a source close to Interior Minister Claude Gueant told Le that the government is working on a plan to respond to Italy’s measure and to avoid a wave of immigrants from coming into the country.

The document sent to the prefects today explains that immigrants from a Schengen country “can stay in France for no more than three months”, but must respect various conditions: they must have “either a valid stay permit issued by a Schengen country and their passport”, “or valid temporary authorisation of stay issued by a member-state, accompanied by a travel document issued by the same member-state”.

“In each of these scenarios, these stay permits and temporary stay authorisations are acceptable only if the state that issued them notifies the European Commission,” the document explained to the prefects. In addition to “a valid stay permit” and a “valid travel document recognised by France”, these individuals must “show that they have sufficient resources” and that “their presence does not represent a threat to public order in France”. The prefects were instructed to “verify that all five conditions have been met. In any other case, these individuals shall be sent back to the member-state from which they came”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France Plans to Stop Flows From Italy

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 7 — Irritated by Italian authorities’ decision to grant a temporary permit of stay to Tunisian migrants landing on Lampedusa, France is drawing up a battle plan to ward off the surge of migrants heading for its borders and claims that it has “the resources” to respond to the measure brought in by Italy. This was reported to the internet site Le by a source near French Interior Minister Claude Gueant in an article entitled ‘Gueant Launches Crusade Against Italy’.

“We are already working on the matter,” the source said.

“We have the resources to respond to this measure and we will bring in all necessary means.” Gueant has scheduled a meeting with Interior Minister Roberto Maroni for Friday in Rome to take stock of the situation before the summit on April in the Italian capital between Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

According to an article published yesterday in the newspaper Le Monde, France also wants to “assess whether the measure is in conformance with the Schengen code”, in reference to the temporary permit of stay. However, it seems that no particular problems will be found, since nothing prevents Rome authorities from issuing such a document. “It is of national competence,” the European Commission acknowledged yesterday in Brussels, noting Article 2 of the Schengen code, which provides for the possibility for a country to grant “temporary stay permits” making it possible to circulate within the Schengen zone.

“Before granting these documents,” reports Le Monde in quoting sources from Brussels, “Italy must in any case examine the situation of Tunisian migrants landing on its territory on a ‘case by case’ basis. The Italian government will have to make sure that none of them have been ‘noted’ in police reports or prohibited from entering the territory.” Moreover, “Tunisians granted these documents will have to have ‘travel documents’ with them and show that they have sufficient ‘resources’ at their disposal.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Half of the 2500 Immigrants in France Returned to Italy

(AGI) Paris — Half of the 2500 immigrants from Lampedusa arrested in France have been returned to Italy, while the rest have been detained by the French authorities. The news was reported by border police quoted by the daily newspaper, Le Figaro. “We will investigate in detail every individual situation, and not everyone will pass the test,” explained the same source, commenting on a new circular letter from the Interior Ministry establishing rigorous conditions for using in France the temporary residency permits issued by other Schengen area countries.

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

Immigrants Use Welfare System More Than Natives

A day after a “civil justice” group asked why Florida needed new immigration laws, a Washington think tank offered a dollars-and-cents answer.

The Center for Immigration Studies on Tuesday reported that U.S. immigrants — legal and illegal — use welfare programs at a higher rate than the native population.

While conventional wisdom contends that immigrants cross the border to work, 57 percent of households headed by immigrants collect at least one welfare check, compared to 39 percent for native households.

Researchers say those findings explain in part why Food Stamp recipients are at an all-time high of 44 million.

Not all immigrants behave the same, however. Households with children with the highest rates of welfare use are headed by migrants from the Dominican Republic (82 percent), Mexico and Guatemala (75 percent), and Ecuador (70 percent).

The lowest rates are found among immigrants from the United Kingdom (7 percent), India (19 percent) and Canada and Korea (25 percent),

Florida, home to some 1 million illegal immigrants, spends an estimated $5.5 billion providing social services to undocumented migrants each year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy Accord With Tunisia, Repatriation for New Immigrants

Tunisia refuses to take 20,000 already in Italy

(ANSA) — Milan, April 6 — Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni reached an accord with Tunisian officials to patrol its coasts and to accept swift repatriation of new arrivals on Lampedusa, the southern Italian island off the coast of Tunisia swamped in immigrant landings since the fall of Ben Ali’s regime.

Tunisian leaders however refused to accept the mass repatriation of 20,000 immigrants — currently kept in centers throughout southern Italy — that landed on Lampedusa in the last three months.

Italian officials had pushed hard for mass repatriation over nine hours of intense negotiations.

Rome sent Tunis a list several days ago of a thousand names of immigrants Italy was ready to deport by air and sea, with airplanes and ships ready to be deployed.

Maroni hoped Tunisia would agree to accept transfers of 100 people per day.

Tunisia’s transitional government rejected the proposal saying it was not yet robust enough to handle such a plan.

Tunisia did agree, however, to accept deportees who arrive on Lampedusa after the agreed-upon decree takes effect, and to simplify identification procedures.

In future, immigrants need only be recognized by Tunisian consular authorities, and will not need to be screened by fingerprinting.

The threat of swift deportation is expected to strongly deter new embarkations from Tunisia.

Italy will grant six-month visas to Tunisian immigrants already on its shores.

Italy will also donate six motorboats, four patrol boats, and 100 off-road vehicles to the Tunisian police force, to help re-launch regular patrols of the coast.

Maroni said he was “satisfied” by the agreement.

“In this way, a new phase of more intense cooperation between the two countries has opened. Now we must help them. If the commitments are we will have resolved the problem,” said Maroni.

His Tunisian counterpart in the negotiations was Habib Essid.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt-Regions Accord on Accepting Migrants

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 7 — Small settlements of immigrants distributed across Italy and not in tent cities, direct involvement by the Civil Protection along with regional governments and local authorities, and the granting of Article 20 (a temporary permit of stay: on which the government is expected to issue a decree today) are the key points of the agreement reached late yesterday evening in the government after lengthy negotiations and a process of ‘paring down’. It is overall a revision of the agreement already signed by the government and regional governments last Wednesday. Tensions were apparent between regional governments yesterday, with some governors complaining that the weight of immigration had unfairly fallen on the shoulders of only a few territories. The new text ensures that there will be “a new reception system spread out over the entire national territory” which will make it possible “to move beyond the current handling of irregular immigrations”. The government has committed itself also to setting in motion an initiative as concerns the European Union in order for migrants to circulate even in other European countries. Those opting for a temporary permit of stay will be assisted and “the government will act as guarantor to this end”, “adequate and ample” financing will be ensured and the plan for the taking in of refugees will be presented within the next ten days.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Calls France ‘Hostile’ As Migrant Spat Escalates

French intend to keep blocking Tunisians at border

(ANSA) — Rome, April 7 — Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni accused France of being “hostile” on Thursday as the French government said it would keep blocking North African migrants at its border even if Italy issued them with residence permits.

“France will not suffer the wave of migrants,” French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

“Having a residence permit from one of the member states is not enough. An identity document is also necessary and, above all, so is proof of (sufficient economic) resources.

“It is absolutely within France’s rights to send them back to Italy and that’s what it will do”.

The Italian government has repeatedly bemoaned a “flagrant” lack of cooperation from its European neighbours with its migrant crisis, singling out France for criticism for refusing to let any enter its territory.

France said it could do this despite the Schengen Agreement that abolished border controls in much of mainland Europe if they were undocumented non-EU citizens.

Italy hoped to get around this by issuing many of the almost 26,000 migrants to arrive this year with temporary permits, with a decree for this set to be approved Thursday.

But the French government countered the move with an interior ministry order telling border officials to make sure migrants from third countries complied with a series of conditions for entry in addition to the possession of residence permits.

These included a “valid travel document recognized by France” and proof of having “sufficient (economic) resources” and the officials also had to be satisfied “their presence does not represent a threat to public order”.

Maroni did not comment on the statements by Gueant, who he will meet on Friday, but had already opened fire on the French authorities earlier on Thursday.

“Paris has had a hostile attitude,” he told the Italian parliament.

“Free circulation in the Schengen area is guaranteed by the regulations and these must be respected”. Maroni also reiterated his claim that Europe has not done enough to help Italy.

“We can’t continue with a system in which countries on the coast are left alone to manage an issue as important as migration with individual countries on the southern side of the Mediterranean,” he said.

On Tuesday the Italian government reached an agreement with the Tunisian authorities for them to stiffen controls to stop the flow of migrants and repatriate new arrivals to Italy in exchange for aid and assistance.

Last week Italy won support in the spat with the French from European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who reprimanded France for turning back the migrants at its border.

But she rejected claims the EU had left Italy alone, saying it had “received a considerable amount” of European money and that more would be made available.

Searches continued on Thursday, meanwhile, near the southern Italian island of Lampedusa for around 250 people missing after a boat carrying migrants from conflict-hit Libya sank early on Wednesday, but hopes of finding any more survivors are dwindling.

An opposition MP held up a banner calling Maroni a “killer” following the incident, although his Italy of Values party subsequently apologized and the MP was banned from parliament for two days. photo: Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Maroni: 25,867 Arrivals Since Start of 2011

(AGI) Rome — Interior Minister Maroni said 25,867 immigrants reached the Italian coasts between the start of 2011 and yesterday. Reporting on the immigration emergency in the lower house, Maroni said that “390 boats arrived on the Pelagie islands carrying 23,352 people, including 21,519 who identified themselves as Tunisian nationals and said they had left from ports in that country which” as of last January “are no longer guarded by the local police”. “Ten boats carrying a total of 2,300 immigrants, most of them Eritrean or Somali nationals, who, therefore, should be considered as refugees, have arrived from Libya” he added.

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

Italy Asks EU for Temporary Protection

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 7 — Italy will ask the European Commission to activate the directive on the temporary protection of refugees. This was announced by Italy’s permanent EU representative, ambassador Ferdinando Nelli Feroci. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni will discuss the issue with his European counterparts during the EU Home Affairs Council in Luxemburg on Monday. The temporary protection mechanism can be applied to people who need international protection. It includes a redistribution programme of refugees to all countries that have declared to be available. Malta has also requested the activation of the temporary protection mechanism. It would be a “concrete” step forward, Nelli Feroci explained, in making the solidarity principle, which has been expressed several times on European level regarding countries that are most exposed to migration flows from North Africa, a reality. However, this mechanism will not be applied to so-called ‘economic migrants’. Ahead of next Monday’s EU Council, Italy has asked Brussels to allocate more financial resources to manage the emergency created by the arrival of large flows of migrants on Lampedusa.

In this context, the European Union has also been asked to allow more flexibility in the use of European funds, like the regional and the social funds, to cover the rising costs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Minister Attacks France’s ‘Hostile’ Attitude to Migrants Amid Spat

Rome, 7 April — (AKI) — Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni on Thursday deplored France’s “hostile attitude” towards migrants after the country issued a circular tightening the rules under which non-EU citizens can remain in France.

“Since the vast majority of the people who have arrived in Italy have said they wish to go to France, we believe that there must be a common initiative between Italy and France to manage the phenomenon,” Maroni told members of the Italian parliament.

“However, to date, Paris has adopted a hostile attitude,” Maroni added.

Maroni was briefing MPs on the government’s plan to issue would-be-immigrants with “humanitarian” temporary residence permits lasting six months which would allow the migrants to travel freely between European Union states.

But France has sought to prevent thousands of migrants entering its territory.

The chief of staff of Claude Gueant, France’s hardline new interior minister on Thursday “reminded” local authorities that a residence permit was not enough to be allowed to remain in France.

Under France’s interpretation of the EU free-movement rules, migrants must also have a valid passport and a separate authorisation to travel issued by the Italian authorities.

Thee migrants must be able to demonstrate they have enough money to sustain themselves, 62 euros a day, and that they don’t pose a threat to public order, according to a copy of a circular letter issued by the ministry on Wednesday which was leaked to French daily Le Figaro.

Gueant and Maroni were due to discuss the issue at a meeting on Friday in Rome.

The spat between Paris and Rome is part of a broader rift between southern Mediterranean coastal states, which want migration to be treated as a European issue — and others further north which are reluctant to take in the migrants.

Over 25,000 such migrants — including 21,000 Tunisians — reached Italian shores between 1 January and 6 April this year amid continuing unrest in the Arab region, according to Maroni.

The EU warned Italy on Thursday that holders of the temporary residency permits would not have an automatic right to travel within the bloc. A spokesman for EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, said it would depend on the type of permit issued and they would only be allowed to travel within the borderless Schengen Area for up to three months if they had valid travel documents.

The country in which illegal immigrants first arrive is responsible for their processing as asylum seekers or their deportation, under the EU rules that underpin the Schengen zone.

The ‘free movement’ Schengen zone covers 25 European countries including 22 EU members.

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

Libya: UNICEF: 1,000 Children Among Refugees at Borders

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 6 — More than 1,000 refugee children in the countries adjacent to Libya. The report was made by Unicef, which expressed “concern for the repeated clashed in Libya and their impact on the children”. Shahida Azfar, Unicef regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, issued a statement saying that “The current clashes in Libya are exposing the children to a high risk situation. Their right to education, play, health and even survival are in serious danger”. In effects the schools have been closed for more than six weeks.

The situation of the migrant workers remains uncertain. The number of workers and of their families who fled to neighbouring countries is increasing. At present there are 650 children in the transit camps, in southern Tunisia, and 450 on the Sallum border with Egypt. Only two weeks ago they were 120 on the Tunisian side of the border and 80 on the Egyptian side.

The statement added that Unicef is providing humanitarian assistance to the people suck at the border in terms of supplying water, health services, medical assistance, psycho-social support and child care. In the context of the United Nations Regional Flash Appeal, a few weeks ago Unicef issued an appeal to raise funds to the tune of 13 million dollars to meet the immediate needs of women and children. To date 2.6 million have been raised.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: EU: Flood of Immigration if Violence Persists

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 7 — If the violence in Libya continues, “we think that Europe will have to deal with a flood of migrants “from the Libyan coasts, “but we cannot speculate on the figures right now,” said EU Commissioner Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, responding to journalists asking to quantify the expected migration from Libya.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Maroni: Departures From Libya on the Rise

(AGI) Rome — Maroni said there are signs that an increasing number of immigrants are leaving the Libyan coasts heading for Italy. Reporting on the immigration emergency in the lower house, Maroni said “most of these immigrants come from Sub-Saharan countries”, and are fleeing war zones, which means they can “be considered displaced people or refugees”.

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

Parliament Observes Minute of Silence for Drowned Refugees From Libya

MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday observed a minute of silence for the up to 250 migrants feared dead after a boat coming from Libya sank off the Italian coast of Lampedusa. Deputies also called on member states to improve asylum conditions and activate a special refugee status for people fleeing the Libyan war.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Silvio Berlusconi to Give Visas to North African Refugees So They Can Come to UK

BRITAIN could be inundated with migrants fleeing north Africa after Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced plans to give refugees permits to live anywhere in the EU. The permits would officially give the deluge of refugees who have poured ashore in Italy only the right to travel within the ‘Schengen’ countries such as France, Germany and Holland. They, unlike Britain, do not have border controls.

But campaigners fear the move will make it easy for migrants from strife-torn Tunisia and Libya to cross into the UK. Ukip MEP Gerard Batten said: “The problem here is the European borderless state.

“Obviously these people are going to gravitate to those countries with the best welfare and housing like the UK. There is a human crisis, but this approach would make things permanent, rather than encourage people to return home when peace in Libya and the whole of north Africa finally returns.”

Alp Mehmet of campaign group MigrationWatch said: “Given that we are devoting huge resources to making these countries in north Africa and the Middle East better places to live, the last thing we want is for the people to come over here. There is no reason to waive border controls because of this. What Italy does is a matter for Italy but if it results in there being an open-door policy in Europe, that’s totally wrong.”

Mr Berlusconi revealed his plans to grant EU residency to the migrants after the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa found itself inundated with more than 20,000 north Africans, mostly Tunisians but some Libyans and others, who have arrived in packed boats since unrest began in January.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Denmark: Military Recognised for Gender Diversity

The nation’s armed forces have won this year’s Institute of Human Rights award for being the country’s most diverse workplace. The institute praised the military for increasing the number of female servicewomen by 40 percent in only three years and for creating a strong female network. The military was also recognised for its efforts to recruit ethnic minorities and for fighting harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Catholics Quit Church in Droves Last Year

The number of Catholics quitting the church jumped 40 percent last year to 180,000 in the wake of persistent child sex abuse scandals, a media report said Thursday.

It means that for the first time in Germany, more Catholics abandoned their church than Protestants.

A survey by magazine Christ & Welt, a lift-out carried by weekly Die Zeit, revealed that 180,000 Catholics left the church in 2010, which was a rise of 40 percent on the previous year.

That compared with 150,000 leaving the country’s Protestant Church (EKD).

Membership decline was concentrated in the first half of the year, when public anger over child abuse scandals was at its peak, the magazine reported.

Many Catholics had left as a “personal form of protest and expression of disgust,” Cologne vicar-general Dominik Schwaderlapp told Christ & Welt.

The magazine surveyed 27 Catholic dioceses, 24 of which provided definite figures or estimates.

Especially hard hit were the Bavarian dioceses of Augsburg, Bamberg, Eichstätt, Passau and Würzburg, where the number of people leaving the church climbed by as much as 70 percent on the previous year.

Augsburg was the diocese of controversial bishop Walter Mixa, who stepped down a year ago amid allegations that he beat children while he was head of the Schrobenhausen children’s home in Bavaria, as well as claims of sexual abuse and alcoholism.

This followed months of revelations about sexual and physical abuse within the church, starting in January 2010 when it emerged that priests at the elite Canisius College in Berlin committed dozens of assaults on pupils in the 1970s and 1980s.

More than 200 cases of such abuse at church institutions throughout the country emerged in the months that followed.

The dioceses of Trier and Rottenburg-Stuttgart, which are regarded as liberal within the church, also suffered more than 60 percent rises in the number of members quitting. The archdiocese of Cologne saw a 41 percent rise.

The Berlin and Hamburg archdiocese each suffered a relatively mild exodus, with the numbers leaving rising by less than 20 percent.

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


A Clash of the Extremes: Pastor Terry Jones and the Claim to Absolute Truth

Twenty people have died in the protests triggered by Pastor Terry Jones’ burning of the Koran in March and more violence is likely. But both his action, and the reaction in the Muslim world share the same problematic roots: Claims to absolute truth have little place in the modern world.

The Russian head of the United Nations mission in the northern Afghanistan city of Masar-i-Sharif had fled with three colleagues into a safe room when the mob stormed their building. But it wasn’t long before the assailants broke into the room.

“Are you Muslim?” one of the insurgents yelled. The Russian, who was familiar with the Koran, lied and said he was.

“What is the profession of faith?”

The Russian didn’t hesitate. “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

It was a lie that saved his life, according to the story told by one of the Russian’s UN colleagues. He got away with a severe beating. But the three UN workers he was with, a Norwegian, a Swede and a Romanian, were all killed. A report in the Wall Street Journal describes how a German barely escaped the massacre; four Nepali guards also fell victim.

One could certainly pose the question: What is worse, the deaths of people or the burning of a book, even if it is a holy book? The answer should be clear to a civilized person, whether Christian or Muslim. But this question is secondary. The root of the problem is the claim made by both radical Christians and radical Muslims: that their belief is the only absolute truth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Huge Private Rocket Could Send Astronauts to the Moon or Mars

A massive new private rocket envisioned by the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX could do more than just ferry big satellites and spacecraft into orbit. It could even help return astronauts to the moon, the rocket’s builder says. SpaceX announced plans to build the huge rocket, called the Falcon Heavy, yesterday (April 5). To make the new booster, SpaceX will upgrade its Falcon 9 rockets with twin strap-on boosters and other systems to make them capable of launching larger payloads into space than any other rocket operating today. But the Falcon Heavy’s increased power could also be put toward traveling beyond low-Earth orbit and out into the solar system, said SpaceX’s founder and CEO Elon Musk during a Tuesday press conference.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Neanderthals: Bad Luck and Its Part in Their Downfall

When two populations interbreed, one of them can go extinct simply due to the random mixing of their genes through sexual reproduction.

Neves and Serva modelled the populations that met in the Middle East. Using very few assumptions, they estimated the rate of interbreeding that would lead to the observed share of Neanderthal DNA. Their results suggest that the 1 to 4 per cent genetic mix could have come about with one interbreeding every 10 to 80 generations. The time taken to reach this mix would depend on the size of the populations. But regardless of populations, Neves and Serva’s model shows that low rates of interbreeding could theoretically have led to the extinction of Neanderthals through a genetic lottery. “The observed low fraction of Neanderthal DNA could easily have arisen quite naturally even if Neanderthals weren’t inferior,” says Neves.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

U.S. Collider Offers Physicists a Glimpse of a Possible New Particle

The soon-to-be-retired Tevatron collider has uncovered an unexplained signal that could be a previously unknown particle

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]