Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110427

Financial Crisis
»CNN’s Fareed Zacharia: The Plutocrat’s Poodle
»Greek: Portuguese Deficits Overshoot Targets
»At Least 54 Dead in Storms Across South
»Judge Grants Injunction to End N.F.L. Lockout Pending Appeal
»More Refineries Lose Electricity in Texas City
»Sioux Falls: SD Christian Woman Threatened; Home, Car Vandalized
»Terry Jones to Appeal Ruling That Squelched Mosque Protest
»Violent Clash at Queens Sikh Temple (See the Video)
Europe and the EU
»A Green Future for Europe’s Biggest What Germany Must Learn From Chernobyl and Fukushima
»Europe’s Rising Islamophobia
»Eyjafjallajökull Study: Iceland Ash Did Pose Threat to Planes
»Germany: Sarrazin Pardon Sparks Fierce SPD Backlash
»Imam Training in Germany: Domesticating Islam?
»Italy: French Company Launches 3.4 Billion-Euro Bid for Parmalat
»Italy: Ruby’s Haste to Wed Her Boyfriend Riles Catholic Church
»Lega Nord Leader Bossi: “We Have Become a French Colony”
»Lemming Hordes Perish in Swedish Roadside ‘Massacre’
»‘Roma Need Better Legal Protection in Sweden’
»Terror Plot: How Al-Qaida Planned to Bomb Heathrow
»The Middle East is Ripe for a Scientific Revolution
»Two Men in Court After Old Firm Internet ‘Hate Raids’
»Two Thirds of Joggers May be Damaging Themselves
»UK: Can’t Read or Write English? You Could Still Serve on a Jury Under New Rules Designed to Help Immigrants
»UK: NHS Desk Worker Gets £37k Porsche Boxster Sports Car Funded by the Taxpayer
»WikiLeaks: Leaked Files Accuse BBC of Being Part of a ‘Possible Propaganda Media Network’
North Africa
»An Alliance Without a Strategy
»Egypt: Salafis in Alexandria Protest Murder of Convert to Islam
»Gadhafi: Al-Assad Cooperated With CIA, Says Agency’s Ex-Chief
»Italy Agrees to Targeted Attacks on Libya
»Italy: Maroni Criticizes PM’s Decisions on Libya
»The War in Libya, Another Vietnam
Israel and the Palestinians
»Dream of a Palestinian Tiger: Boom Times in the West Bank
»Fatah and Hamas Said to Reach Deal to End Schism
Middle East
»Iran: Tehran’s National Museum Severs Ties With the Louvre
»McCain Against Attack on Syria
»Saudi Proposal: King Suggested Chips Could be Implanted in Gitmo Inmates
»Syria: ‘800 People Arrested in Damascus Suburb of Duma’
»Syria on the Edge of the Abyss
»Syria: UN Doesn’t Agree on Statement Condemning Repression
»Hundreds Join Moscow Anti-Muslim Rally
»Ukraine Marks a Quarter Century Since Chernobyl
South Asia
»Indonesia: 19 Suspects ‘Planned Easter Serpong Church Bombing’
»NATO is Considering Longer Afghan Police Training, Says Dutch Cabinet
»Rogue Afghan Pilot Kills 9 Americans
»The Great Escape (Afghanistan Style): 500 Taliban Prisoners on Loose After Insurgents Dig 1,000 Ft Tunnel Into ‘High Security’ Jail
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Nigerian Rights Group Says 600 Killed in North’s Post-Election Violence
»Niger: Al-Qaeda ‘Issues Video of Four Abducted French Hostages’
Latin America
»Rising Price of Gold Fuels Destruction of the Amazon
»17 Tunisian Migrants Arrested After Brawl
»Berlusconi: Sarkozy Call for Changes to Schengen
»Berlusconi Reassures Vatican Over Treatment of Migrants
»Desperate Migrants Threaten EU’s Schengen Treaty
»France and Italy Propose Reform of EU Border Rules
»Italy: Tunisians Immigrants Responsible for Brawl Repatriated
Culture Wars
»Italy: Lesbian MP and Partner Insulted in Central Rome
»Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years
»Antimatter-Hunting Experiment Ready for Space Mission

Financial Crisis

CNN’s Fareed Zacharia: The Plutocrat’s Poodle

Fareed Zacharia’s demeanor engenders an aura of intellectual sophistication but his intentions are simply the maintenance of financial plutocracy. Don’t be duped by this low-level errand boy to financial power.

Zacharia recently wrote that the central problem of the economy is that, “Americans want low-taxes and lots of government services.”

This is one of the most insidious and dishonest lies Zakaria incessantly promotes. The bottom line is this : the current state of economic affairs is reflective of a growing and entrenched super-class which lives in an entirely different world than what we would consider the “middle and upper-middle” classes (doctors, engineers, mechanics, scientists, machinists, and other productive professionals).

Forget about the poor for a moment; the super-class is now parasitically sucking out money from the productive classes of society. The economic crisis in the world exists precisely because these oligarchs and plutocrats desire to keep their unsustainable wealth models which rely upon not paying the majority of capital for productive labor.

This is why Zakaria will boldly claim that Western engineers and professionals are “spoiled rotten” for wanting to own their own homes while the “real” cost of labor is akin to the slave-wages paid to Chinese employees of big multinationals.

These sycophants then have the audacity to pretend that they wish to “raise” the standards of third-world poverty stricken humans. This is doublespeak. What they really want is to lower the standard of the professional classes in the Western world, particularly in the United States.

Every single piece of verbal nonsense Zakaria spews is a promulgation of policy which benefits and sustains these finance oligarchs of the world at the expense of “Main Street” professionals and the educated and productive classes of society. He is a spokesperson for plutocracy.

[Return to headlines]

Greek: Portuguese Deficits Overshoot Targets

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Despite, or perhaps because, of draconian austerity measures being imposed in Europe’s periphery, budget deficit numbers in these countries are only worsening, new data has revealed. Greece and Portugal saw their budget deficits revised sharply above their promised targets, according to figures released by the EU’s official statistical agency, Eurostat, on Tuesday (26 April).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


At Least 54 Dead in Storms Across South

A deadly tornado stretching a mile wide tore through downtown Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Wednesday evening, destroying homes and buildings and bringing further damage to a region already battered by storms.

Across the state, at least 25 people were killed by storms on Wednesday alone, said Valerie Hayes, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. But that number did not include any deaths from Tuscaloosa, where 15 people were confirmed dead by the mayor’s office and 100 were said to be injured, The Tuscaloosa News reported. Earlier in the day, with the damage spreading and the death toll rising, Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency. And The Associated Press reported that across the South, storms Wednesday killed 11 people in Mississippi, two in Georgia and one in Tennessee.

[Return to headlines]

Judge Grants Injunction to End N.F.L. Lockout Pending Appeal

A federal judge gave professional football players a significant victory Monday, granting an injunction to stop the N.F.L.’s six-week lockout Monday. Judge Susan Richard Nelson of United States District Court did not stay her decision, sending the N.F.L scrambling to seek a stay from the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to prevent the league from having to open for business immediately.

If the stay is not granted, the N.F.L. will have to put rules in place allowing players to return to work and free agency to open within days, creating a flurry of activity similar to the normal operations of an off-season. Teams will be allowed to hold workouts with players, players will be permitted to meet with trainers to rehabilitate injuries and coaches to study game film.

[Return to headlines]

More Refineries Lose Electricity in Texas City

TEXAS CITY, Texas (AP) — Three refineries, including a BP unit where a 2005 explosion killed 15 people, and a Dow Chemical plant lost electricity in outages that led to shelter-in-place emergency alerts and the cancellation of public schools Tuesday in Texas City.

The source of the power outages was still being sought, emergency officials said.

A second shelter-in-place alert, advising residents to stay indoors, was issued around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday after a Valero refinery also lost power, Texas City Homeland Security coordinator Bruce Clawson said.

A BP refinery, site of the deadly March 2005 accident that also left 170 people hurt, and the Dow Chemical plant lost power around 11 p.m. Monday. The initial shelter-in-place order took effect after those two outages, but was lifted around 3 a.m. Tuesday, Clawson said.

Around 4:40 a.m. Tuesday, electricity was lost at the Valero and Marathon Oil refineries, which activated their flare systems, the Galveston County Daily News reported.

Marathon quickly brought its power situation under control, Clawson said.

BP spokesman Michael Marr said a fire broke out at the refinery shortly after the power went out but crews were able to put it out. There were no injuries at the refinery, Marr said.

The city and BP reported no emissions of hazardous materials in the area, said George Fuller, assistant emergency management coordinator for the city.

“There was constant monitoring going on at all times and it did not reveal anything, although there’s a strong smell of hydrocarbons in the air,” Clawson told The Associated Press.

At the BP plant, workers were seen going into the plant around sunrise Tuesday, reporting for their shifts.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sioux Falls: SD Christian Woman Threatened; Home, Car Vandalized

The woman and former Catholic nun questioned the need for four mosques in the small city of Sioux Falls plus invited the showing of Iranium to a city audience and then the intimidation began. From RedCounty (Hat tip: Richard Falknor, Blue Ridge Forum)

Lisa Marie Johnson is a very brave woman. Lisa is a former Catholic Nun living in South Dakota. Lisa was on the forefront of the American Laws for America Courts legislative battle in South Dakota. Lisa has been on the forefront of the effort to expose the bizarre situation of four (4) mosques in Sioux Fall, SD a city of a mere 120,000 people. Most of the Muslims in Sioux Fall are from Somalia.

Most recently Lisa organized a very successful screening of Iranium to a standing room only crowd of 300, with Frank Gaffney, Founder and President of the Center for Security Policy, South Dakota Sen. Dan Lederman, Tom Trento, President of The United West and Captain Joel Arends.

In fact, Lisa is on her way to Iraq, with Captain Arends, to film a documentary about the slaughter of Iraqi Catholics by shariah Muslims in Baghdad.

On several occasions, Lisa has been confronted by Muslims who do not like her. Not long ago, Lisa’s tires were slashed, yes, in the quiet mid-west town of Sioux Falls. The attacks against Lisa have been reported to local police and homeland security.


Both on Holy Thursday and Good Friday of the Easter weekend, Lisa’s home was stoned. Several rocks were thrown thru her front windows shattering the glass and landing on the stairwell to her bedroom. It appears that Lisa is being targeted and the attacks are becoming more frequent, bold and symbolic.

Is Sioux Falls a Tuula?

We have a Somali reader who calls herself Khadra who visits from time to time and over the last year or so she has been telling us about Tuulas —literally villages, or sections of cities where Somalis seek to create their own separate societies. Last summer I told you about Jamestown, ND and wondered whether it too was evolving a Tuula. Be sure to click on the links below as Khadra tells about a large Somali conference in Canada where the topic was discussed….

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Terry Jones to Appeal Ruling That Squelched Mosque Protest

The Rev. Terry Jones plans to file an appeal Tuesday in Wayne County Circuit Court over a Dearborn court’s decision against him last week that thwarted his plans to protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, an attorney said today.

“It was a clear violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, which is representing Jones.

Jones, who ordered the burning of a Quran last month, was to protest Friday outside the Dearborn mosque, but Wayne County prosecutors filed an unusual complaint against him, saying he would breach the peace if he rallied. A jury agreed with prosecutors and Jones was briefly jailed, then released after posting a $1 bond.

“This is America, not a banana republic,” Thompson told the Free Press today. “We still revere the Constitution…We have to protect Terry Jones and anyone else who has a right to free speech rather than throw them in jail.”

This is the latest effort by the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian group, to fight what it sees as the growth of radical Islam in the U.S. They’re also involved with legal efforts involving four Christian missionaries arrested in Dearborn last year and a dispute with the Detroit bus system over ads some say are anti-Islam. And they have filed suits in cases in California and Oklahoma involving situations where they say non-Muslims were compelled to be indoctrinated in Islam, Thompson said.

“A bedrock principle of a free society is that people should be able to express themselves freely without prior restraint,” Thompson said of the Jones case. Even if one might disagree with Jones’ Quran burning, unpopular speech is protected under the Constitution, he added.

Dearborn officials and Wayne County prosecutors have said that if Jones protested at the mosque, it would be a breach of the peace given death threats against Jones and the layout of the mosque entrance and adjacent property. They also argued that since the rally would have been on Good Friday, there would have been heavy traffic flow because of nearby churches and Friday Islamic prayers that would have caused problems.

Thompson said today that there was a rally Friday at the mosque and traffic did not appear to a problem.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]

Violent Clash at Queens Sikh Temple (See the Video)

Sword-wielding Sikhs attack praying rivals

A holy war erupted yesterday at a Sikh temple in Queens — where worshippers wielding swords and cricket bats interrupted a prayer session to attack their rivals in a vicious power struggle, police and witnesses said.

Rival factions at the Baba Makhan Shah Lobana Sikh Center in South Richmond Hill have been bickering for months over control, authorities and members said.

The dispute reached a bloody climax yesterday when the infighting turned violent, accompanied by screams, taunts and death threats.

The alleged attackers — armed with at least one sword about 40 inches long, and another sword, according to a witness — were part of the old guard that had been recently voted out of power but refused to accept the decision, even going to court to challenge the election.

“We just went to pray,” said M.K. Singh, who received stitches and staples to close a head wound. “We walked inside, and they started attacking.

“They cut me. They tried to cut my arm off, but the sword got caught on [something]. I’m very lucky.”

New temple President Gurmej Singh said he and his supporters had come to pray despite knowing there could be trouble.

Police had been deployed outside the two-story center in case anything happened, but the violence broke out inside.

The attackers brought the long sword and at least one other blade, as well as a hammer, mallet and cricket bats to the temple at 101st Avenue and 114th Street at around 11 a.m., witnesses and police said.

Three people were reported injured, including a cop who tried to intervene, police said.

A witness said at least seven others were hurt as victims fought back. None suffered life-threatening injuries.

Seven people were arrested, including Harinder Singh, 47, who was charged with assault after allegedly punching a man in the eye. Others were charged with unlawful assembly, resisting arrest, rioting, and disrupting a religious service.

At the 102nd Precinct, where the suspects were processed, cops struggled to keep the two sides apart.

“Something is behind this,” said Gurmej Singh, who accused the old regime of financial mismanagement. “It’s money.”

He said the perpetrators vowed to attack again next week.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Green Future for Europe’s Biggest What Germany Must Learn From Chernobyl and Fukushima

Germany must speed up its transition to renewable energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident, writes Norbert Röttgen, the German environment minister, in an opinion piece. He says Germany can lead the way with a successful shift into green power that will boost its economy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe’s Rising Islamophobia

Of all the specters haunting Europe, none are as potent — or potentially disruptive to democracy — as Islamophobia. Cultural racism is a complex phenomenon to decode, but it is the task of progressive forces to do it, notes Paul Hockenos.

Middle East Online

Berlin — With inspiring scenes of the Arab Spring on television for months, one might have expected images of democratic revolutions to punch a hole in the crude anti-Muslim stereotypes of Europe’s Islamophobes, those politicians and intellectuals who swear that Islam is totalitarian to its core. And if this alone didn’t dispel cliche’s of a monolithic, violent religion, then surely the vox pop of diaspora Egyptians, Tunisians and others on the nightly news — university students, women who head NGOs and children alongside their native French or German peers — would have demonstrated the diversity and integration of Muslim Europeans, something study after study documents.

To the contrary, in recent elections Islamophobes like France’s right-wing National Front and the anti-EU True Finn Party racked up their best numbers ever, the latest strides in a surging movement that is recasting the political landscape of Western Europe. These elements have every reason to thank mainstream politicians, who, in the hope of exploiting the phenomenon for their own gain, have paved the way for the far right. In April, for example, France’s ridiculous “burqa ban” went into effect with overwhelming popular support, while EU leaders pushed the panic button over Tunisian refugees landing in Italy and Malta, turning the image of peaceful revolutionaries across the Mediterranean into one of an impoverished mob besieging Fortress Europe.

What makes anti-Muslim racism so lethal is that unlike populisms of the past, Islamophobia has broad appeal across the political spectrum, from the far left to the far right and irrespective of class or educational level. Where it manifests itself in electoral parties, such as in France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and now even Sweden and Finland, its advocates fare much better than old-school far-right parties ever did, with their vulgar anti-Semitism and expansionist fantasies. There is nevertheless plenty of overlap with the extreme right, which inscribes anti-Islam thinking prominently in its manifestos and is thriving on the new discourse; never before have so many of its representatives been so close to the levers of power in so many Western European countries.

Islamophobia is solidly mainstream; there is no politically correct taboo against it, as there is with overt racism or other strains of xenophobia. In fact, some of Europe’s highest-profile Islamophobes justify their attacks on Islam and Europe’s Muslims in the name of women’s and gay rights. Conservative, liberal and even leftist parties tap into it, partly out of opportunism and partly out of conviction. Invoking secularism and Enlightenment values, some centrists and leftists propagate a cultural racism that instead of using skin color imputes immutable characteristics to cultures and assigns them a hierarchy, with Western civilization at the top. This is Islamophobia, which functions just as racism does, and serves the purposes of those who have long sought to stem immigration, keep Turkey out of the European Union and secure a white Christian Europe.

* * *

Not every European country has anti-Muslim parties as successful as two of Islamophobia’s poster boys, the Dutch Freedom Party and the Danish People’s Party, both of which put the clash of cultures and the Islamic menace at the center of their programs. Yet these cases are instructive, because they represent a new generation of the European right, and the conditions of their rise exist across Western Europe. Surveys and opinion polls, for example, indicate that anti-Muslim sentiment in Holland and Denmark is about the same as in most other Western European countries. In one recent study, between 34 and 37 percent of French, Dutch, Portuguese and Danes say they have a negative opinion of Muslims. In Germany the figure is 59 percent.

The Dutch Freedom Party is a one-man outfit led by 47-year-old Geert Wilders, immediately recognizable by his wavy mane of platinum-blond hair. Since October the party has been an unofficial partner in the center-right governing coalition (it has no cabinet seats, but it can dictate terms to a minority government that ultimately needs its votes). In the Netherlands, previously renowned for its tolerance, Wilders’s party more than doubled its numbers last year, to 16 percent of the electorate, on a platform to stop the “Islamization of the Netherlands.” The party pledged to halt immigration from “Muslim countries,” to tax women wearing headscarves and to ban the Koran as well as the construction of mosques. Wilders blames the easygoing model of Dutch multiculturalism for exposing the Netherlands to Islam, and thus for undermining the very tolerance it naïvely extended to Muslim peoples. Over the past two years he has consistently polled as one of the country’s most popular politicians, despite being put on trial on charges of inciting hatred against Muslims (the case is ongoing).

As for the Danish People’s Party, it has worked hand-in-hand with the country’s center-right government since 2001. The party — one leading MP likens the hijab to the swastika — took 15 percent of the vote in the 2009 European Parliament elections and is now Denmark’s third-biggest party. Its guiding light, Pia Kjaersgaard, originally belonged to one of Denmark’s establishment parties, as Wilders did in the Netherlands. Unlike the old right, with its blood-and-soil chauvinism and anti-Semitism, new rightists like Kjaersgaard couch their nationalism as a defense of Western civilization and even “Judeo-Christian values.” One of her quotes: “Not in their wildest imagination would anyone [in 1900] have imagined that large parts of Copenhagen and other Danish towns would be populated by people who are at a lower stage of civilization, with their own primitive and cruel customs like honor killings, forced marriages, halal slaughtering, and blood-feuds. This is exactly what is happening now…. [They] have come to a Denmark that left the dark ages hundreds of years ago.”

In both countries the governments have caved in to Islamophobes by dramatically tightening immigration requirements for non-Westerners. The once proudly open-minded Denmark now has the strictest such laws in Europe. “I’m certain that soon many other countries will copy us,” boasted the People’s Party after the November passage of a law it co-wrote. The opposition Social Democrats, though fiercely split on the issue, ended up backing the bill as well. Their rationale: to stop forced marriages and protect ethnic minority women from family pressure, as if immigration restrictions would accomplish either. All such talk from centrist parties does is perpetuate prejudices: in this case, that forced marriage is the rule in Muslim European families, which is simply not true…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Eyjafjallajökull Study: Iceland Ash Did Pose Threat to Planes

Since the eruption of an Icelandic volcano caused havoc with Europe’s air transport system just over a year ago, doubts have persisted over how dangerous the ash clouds really were. A new study has concluded that the ash released in the first part of the eruption did, in fact, represent a risk for planes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Sarrazin Pardon Sparks Fierce SPD Backlash

There was mounting resentment Tuesday among centre-left Social Democrats against the party’s decision not to expel Thilo Sarrazin over his incendiary statements on immigration.

Prominent Social Democratic Party (SPD) politicians across the country have begun to air their deep dissatisfaction over the party leadership’s decision, announced last Thursday, to abandon expulsion proceedings against the former Bundesbank board member and Berlin finance minister.

Sarrazin has carved out a new career for himself as an outspoken critic of Islam and immigration. He has warned both in a best-selling book and in regular commentary that Muslim immigrants are in danger of dragging Germany down.

“The solid relationship we have painstakingly built with the immigrant community is threatening to come apart,” the party’s chief in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Nils Schmid, told news magazine Der Spiegel on Tuesday.

“The meagre (party) statement is unsatisfactory. His biological claptrap was the basis of our accusation that he was behaving in a way that damaged the party. He has not distanced himself from that.”

SPD Berlin head Michael Müller told reporters he had hoped for a “clear and unambiguous judgement.”

Bundestag MP Ernst Dieter Rossmann warned in the Passauer Neue Presse that Sarrazin must not be allowed “the freedom to do whatever he wants.”

Sergey Lagodinsky, founder of the Working Group of Jewish Social Democrats, announced he was quitting the party in protest, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. In a letter to SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles he wrote that “as a Jewish person” he had seen the possibility “to revive the long tradition of Jews in Germany, together with other minorities and the majority in our country.”

This hope was however now dashed, he wrote.

Sarrazin himself described the decision as a “victory for common sense.” He had insisted he did not mean to breach any basic social democratic principles not discriminate against any migrant.

The leadership group will on Tuesday hold a special meeting to discuss the backlash.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Imam Training in Germany: Domesticating Islam?

Blatant interference in internal Islamic affairs: This year, German universities will begin training imams. Yet, should this be a task for the state? The move seems premature and, in the long term, is not viable, says the Islamic scholar Lukas Wick

This fall, courses will be offered to Muslim imams at three universities in Germany. This step was recommend by the German Science Council, welcomed by the press, and even met with the approval of German churches.

The aim of this measure is to integrate Islam into German and European society as well as to prevent the growth of extremism. Amidst all the enthusiasm, an important question has been neglected. Is it really the task of the state to train prayer leaders and religious officials in general?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: French Company Launches 3.4 Billion-Euro Bid for Parmalat

(AKI) — French dairy company Groupe Lactalis announced on Tuesday that it will bid for all of that stock it doesn’t own of Italy’s Parmalat.

Lactalis said it would offer 2.60 euros per share for the remaining 71 percent Parmalat stake, an offer the company said would be worth 3.375 billion euros.

Lactalis’ March announcement that it agreed to acquire an additional 15.3 percent of Parmalat to boost its stake in Italy’s largest dairy company to 29 percent prompted Italian politicians to pledge new rules similar to those used by France that allows the state to shield foreign investors from taking over companies considered strategic to the country.

Lactalis said it intends to keep Parma-based Parmalat’s headquarters in Italy and that it may transfer some of its processed-milk business in France and Spain to the Italian company.

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

Italy: Ruby’s Haste to Wed Her Boyfriend Riles Catholic Church

Genova, 27 April (AKI) — The teenage Moroccan teenage erotic dancer who Italy’s prime minister allegedly paid for sex has been pressuring local priests in the northern port city of Genoa to marry her and her fiance on the spot, riling top Catholic officials.

Genoa’s archbishop Angelo Bagnasco has reported sent an e-mail to all of Genoa’s parish priests, ordering them to respect the normal rules governing weddings.

“No shortcuts!” warned Bagnasco, who also heads the Italian Bishops’s conference.

Karima El-Mahroug, whose stage name is ‘Ruby The Heart-Stealer’, and her Genovese fiance and nightclub manager Luca Risso have been eager to tie the knot for some time and reports continue to circulate that she is pregnant.

Seventy-four-year-old Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is currently on trial in Milan for paying El-Mahroug for sex in 2010 when she was still 17 — a minor in terms of laws governing prostitution in Italy.

El-Mahroug, now 18, has been called as a witness at the trial, in which the media tycoon is accused of abusing his powers as premier by putting pressure on police to release her from custody on unrelated theft charges in an attempt to cover-up his liaison with her.

Both Berlusconi and El-Mahroug deny they had sex although they admit he gave the teenage runaway some gifts including a car and at least 7,000 euros in cash.

El Mahroug says the publicity surrounding her relationship with Berlusconi has robbed her of her privacy. In an interview with German tabloid Oesterreich in March, she said she intends to emigrate to Mexico with Risso, “have kids and be a housewife.”

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

Lega Nord Leader Bossi: “We Have Become a French Colony”

(AGI)Rome-Umberto Bossi, leader of right wing party Lega Nord, criticised Berlusconi’s approval of military intervention in Libya. “We have become a French colony,” Bossi said in a statement published on the daily newspaper “la Padania”. The Minister of Federal Reforms “strongly condemned Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s decision to give in to France’s requests regarding military intervention in Libya,” the article stated, with Bossi defining the consequences as “extremely serious” and adding: “we will be flooded by refugees”.

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

Lemming Hordes Perish in Swedish Roadside ‘Massacre’

Hordes of lemmings have been spotted leaving the safety of the mountains to make their way down to more inhabited areas, falling victim to traffic and being preyed upon by other animals.

“I must have seen a thousand just since Saturday. They are absolutely everywhere. They are swimming about in the lake close to our house, they jump on the ice floes, and they scurry around the outside of our house,” said holiday-maker Magnus Lundberg, to the local Östersundsposten (ÖP) daily.

Road users are reportedly struggling to avoid the advancing lemming hordes with many of the small furry animals ending up as road kill in what has been described as a real massacre on the roads.

However, Sweden’s pets and wild animals alike stand to gain as the lemming-strewn roads present a veritable feast for hungry predators.

Favourable weather has created the conditions for 2011 to become what Swedes call “a real lemming year”.

According to Birger Hörnfeldt, of the department of wildlife, fish and environmental studies at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå, these traditionally occur every 3-4 years.

But the last three decades have seen such unfavourable weather that the number of lemmings had diminished considerably.

If winters are too clement, the little rodents are forced up from under the snow-clad ground too soon and perish.

But the last two winters have been cold enough for lemmings to stay under their blanket of snow and subsequently the stock has grown.

“It started with a ‘rodent-boom’ in the autumn and then we had a very cold winter. The reason we see them now is that we have just had a heat wave. That forces them out,” Hörnfeldt told ÖP.

Lemmings have traditionally been believed to undertake the occasional mass exodus, sometimes to meet their death by following each other off a cliff.

However, today this kind of migration behaviour is believed by experts to be a myth based on lies or at least highly exaggerated.

According to Bengt Landström of the mountain unit at the County Administrative Board in Norrbotten, this may well be a record year for lemmings, but he does not believe in a bona fide ‘lemming exodus’, where the lemmings blindly follow one another to their death.

“No, that kind of lemming migration is just a fairy tale, a tall story,” he told local paper Piteå Tidningen.

Unfortunately, exodus or no exodus, the move from the mountaintops often means that the little rodents go to their death.

If they are not hit by cars wild or domestic animals are very keen to get their paws on them.

“Our dogs are eating the lemmings while we are out walking. It is not much we can do about it. The dogs just bite down on them, throw them up in the air and then swallow them almost whole. They probably devour between five and ten a day,” Magnus Lundberg told ÖP.

The animals are often seen as aggressive little creatures but Birger Hörnfeldt sees no reason for the public to fear lemmings, should one sneak up on them unawares.

“If they seem ill-tempered it is only defensive behaviour, they’ll probably not do much more than hiss,” Hörnfeldt told ÖP.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Roma Need Better Legal Protection in Sweden’

The daily discrimination faced by Sweden’s Roma population violates Swedish law, according to a new report by the country’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen — DO), which argues for tougher legislation to protect the Roma’s rights.

“Local actors, such as state agencies and municipalities, need to take responsibility for seeing that Roma aren’t subject to discrimination,” ombudsman investigator Heidi Pikkarainen told the Svenska Dadbladet (SvD) newspaper.

As one of Sweden’s five national minorities, the Roma are supposed to be guaranteed the right to deal with local authorities in their own language.

Between 2004 and 2010, the ombudsman received 230 complaints alleging discrimination against Sweden’s Roma.

But prior to 2009, Swedish anti-discrimination laws didn’t encompass the way public sector employees treated members of the public, making it was impossible for the ombudsman to investigate allegations that Roma had been discriminated against in their dealings with the Swedish legal system.

According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet — Brå), Sweden’s Roma faced the most difficulty in their dealings with the country’s legal system in 2008 because of prevailing views that Roma are criminals, SvD reports.

Despite the new legislation, the ombudsman continues to find it difficult to prove the Roma are discriminated against by public bodies.

Ombudsman investigator Pikkarainen believes that laws preventing discrimination in the legal system need to be reviewed and updated.

“It’s extremely serious if someone is subject to discrimination in a legal proceeding because it’s such a central part everyone’s equal rights,” she told the newspaper.

In addition to strengthening laws, Pikkarainen believes that more Roma discrimination cases need to be heard by the Swedish courts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Terror Plot: How Al-Qaida Planned to Bomb Heathrow

Minutes of the secret interrogations of Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged masterminds of the Sept. 11 attacks, show the men continued to energetically forge new attack plans even after they struck New York and Washington. Guantanamo documents obtained through WikiLeaks outline a plot to strike London’s Heathrow Airport.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Middle East is Ripe for a Scientific Revolution

by Ahmed Zewail

SCIENTIFIC research in the Arabian, Persian and Turkish Middle East lags behind that of the west. Of course, there are individual scientists who produce world-class research and there are institutions and nations which make significant contributions in certain fields. Publication and citation indicators show some encouraging trends. But naturally one asks: “Why have Arab, Persian and Turkish scientists as a group underperformed compared with their colleagues in the west or with those rising in the east?” It is simplistic to say that there is a single cause, such as a (false) dichotomy between faith and reason. Muslims are no different from anyone else; there is no ethnic or geographic monopoly on intelligence. Muslims in Spain, north Africa and Arabia were at the peak of a sophisticated civilisation when Christian Europe was in the Dark Ages.

I think the answer lies in the recent history of the Arab, Persian and Turkish world. Consider what happened in the past century. First there was colonisation by western empires, which installed class and caste systems from outside. The result was huge populations of illiterate peasants. Illiteracy reached nearly 50 per cent, and among women it was as high as 80 per cent in many countries.

[Fjordman’s comment: Notice how this man claims that the West is the cause of their backwardness.]

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Two Men in Court After Old Firm Internet ‘Hate Raids’

Two men arrested in police raids on Saturday in a crackdown on alleged sectarian internet campaigns have appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

[This news article concerns catholic and protestant sectarianism in Scotland what is of interest is the charge. — 4s]

Stephen Birrell, 27, was arrested at a house in the city’s east end.

He was charged with a breach of the peace aggravated by religious prejudice by sending messages of an offensive nature to a social network site.

David Craig, 23, who was arrested in a raid on a house in Paisley, was also charged with breach of the peace.

They made no plea or declaration and both men were given bail.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Two Thirds of Joggers May be Damaging Themselves

Up to two thirds of casual joggers may actually be risking their health by overstraining themselves and ignoring body stress and pain, a study commissioned by German health insurer AOK has found.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Can’t Read or Write English? You Could Still Serve on a Jury Under New Rules Designed to Help Immigrants

Jurors who cannot read English are being invited to decide the outcome of criminal trials.

Inability to understand the written language is no bar to serving on a jury, officials said.

Even those who cannot easily understand the spoken word could be asked to sit in judgment on those accused of crime.

The opening of juries to people with limited English was confirmed by the new agency set up to run the court system, HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

The 200,000 people a year called for jury service are now all summoned with letters printed in seven languages as well as English to ‘encourage’ non-English speakers, it said.

The agency, part of Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke’s Ministry of Justice, said the ‘language addendum’ sent out with each jury summons ‘is aimed at people who cannot read English very well but can speak English so would be able to serve on a jury’.

Criminologists and MPs said yesterday that they were worried about inclusion of those with poor English on juries.

Douglas Carswell, Tory MP for Clacton, said: ‘The jury system is founded on the idea that we are all tried by our peers. If your peers cannot speak English, or read or write it properly, how can you have confidence you will get justice?’

He added: ‘Ministers in successive governments have stated that they are going to curb the effects of multiculturalism, but the bureaucrats keep on putting forms and documents into dozens of languages.’

Dr David Green, of the Civitas think-tank, said: ‘If you can’t even read the letter summoning you for jury service, you are not fit to be a juror.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Desk Worker Gets £37k Porsche Boxster Sports Car Funded by the Taxpayer

Dozens of NHS desk workers are driving top-of-the-range rental cars that are funded by the taxpayer, it emerged today.

Strategic Health Authorities around the country have spent a staggering £1,000,000 every year since 2007 on the luxury cars.

They included a Jaguar XF, Mercedes CLS, Audi A5 Coupe and BMW 330 for staff who needed the vehicles to get around.

Shockingly, one ‘pen pusher’ was allowed to hire a £37,000 Porshe Boxster — costing taxpayers thousands of pounds.

The details emerged as the NHS faces biting cuts around the country, with many patients complaining of appalling care.

[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: Leaked Files Accuse BBC of Being Part of a ‘Possible Propaganda Media Network’

The BBC is accused of being part of a “possible propaganda media network” for Al Qaeda, according to the leaked US files on the Guantanamo detainees.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

An Alliance Without a Strategy

The current mission in Libya is an illustration of greater problems within the NATO alliance — the member states are no longer able to agree on a common strategy. The alliance has failed in its ability to redefine its mission in a post-Soviet world. NATO lacks ideas and unity, and Germany shares responsibility for this failure.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Salafis in Alexandria Protest Murder of Convert to Islam

Thousands of Salafis in Alexandria on Sunday protested against the killing of a Christian woman named Salwa Adel who converted to Islam eight years ago and married a Muslim called Khaled Ibrahim.

Local news reports on Saturday said her three brothers killed her on Friday night.

About four thousand Salafis gathered before the Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria’s Al-Raml district and marched towards the Northern District Military Command Headquarters.

Prominent Salafi Sheikh Ahmed al-Mahalawy after the noon prayer called on Muslims and Christians to unite as they had during the 25 January revolution. He appealed to the protesters to avoid any clashes.

“We respect the military council and the government, and we must give them enough time to sort things out,” he said, adding that the previous regime had a policy of appeasing the Christians.

The protesters also demanded the release of women they believed were detained in churches for having converted to Islam, including Kamilia Shehata, the wife of a priest.

Also participating in the march were members of the Coalition Supporting New Muslims, a coalition that comprises members of the Salafi movement and the Muslim Brotherhood group.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Gadhafi: Al-Assad Cooperated With CIA, Says Agency’s Ex-Chief

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi looks on during a meeting with African leaders in Tripoli on April 10 that sought to find a road map to a cease-fire in Libya. AP photo.

The former chief of the CIA on Tuesday praised Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s past cooperation and said his downfall could complicate U.S. interests in the short term.

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who led the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009 under President George W. Bush, said that restive Syria also helped U.S. intelligence but only in selective areas.

Speaking at a conference of the Marine Corps University, Hayden said the CIA had worked well with Gadhafi and Moussa Koussa, the foreign minister who defected last month as Libyan forces moved against rebels.

“Whatever you think of Gadhafi and Moussa Koussa… they were good and they were good counter-terrorism partners,” Hayden told the conference near Washington.

Hayden said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was “pretty good” at fighting Sunni Muslim militants but supported Shiite radicals. Al-Assad belongs to the Alawite sect, which is despised by Sunni extremists such as members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

“In both cases, you have real near-term turbulence that could — that will — make the closer fight in the immediate time-frame much more difficult,” Hayden said.

But the ex-CIA chief also said the wave of unrest across the Arab world could prove beneficial to the United States in the long run by changing the dynamics of the region.

The uprisings “will make the ground far less fertile for the type of extremism that al-Qaeda proselytizes, but it’s a long time between here and there,” Hayden said.

Gadhafi, a longtime international pariah due to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and other attacks blamed on Libyan spies, started to reconcile with the United States in 2003 and found common interests in fighting al-Qaeda.

But Western powers, led by France and Britain, launched air strikes on Gadhafi’s forces last month due to fears of mass civilian casualties as they mobilized against rebel strongholds.

Syria meanwhile bolstered troops around the flashpoint town of Daraa on Tuesday, triggering calls for a foreign intervention. A Syrian rights group said the crackdown has killed 400 people since mid-March.

Hayden also voiced concern about Yemen, a frontline in the U.S.-backed campaign against al-Qaeda. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key U.S. partner who has been in power for 30 years, has agreed to a plan to step down.

“I would never claim that President Saleh was, kind of, an easy fit as a partner with regard to anything. But I don’t know what’s on the next page,” Hayden said. “Now you’ve got the Yemeni government at best distracted and perhaps worse.”

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

Italy Agrees to Targeted Attacks on Libya

Berlusconi accepts NATO invitation. Frattini says parliamentary vote unnecessary while Calderoli and Giovanardi oppose air attacks

MILAN — Silvio Berlusconi has given the thumbs-up to attacks on Libya by Italian aircraft, a note from the Prime Minister’s Office has revealed. The prime minister made the announcement in the course of a telephone conversation with the United States president, Barack Obama, who expressed “great appreciation” following Italy’s decision to authorize “air-to-ground strikes on Libyan regime targets”. The two leaders agreed that “additional pressure is necessary to strengthen the civilian protection mission” in Libya.

ITALY’S POSITION — Nevertheless, this represents a shift in Italy’s position. At the meeting of the Council of Ministers on 15 April, Silvio Berlusconi tended to rule out any Italian involvement in the bombardment of Libya. As the defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, explained, however, over the past few days the government has become more inclined to change the nature of the mission “because the situation in Misrata has become appalling”. Following the Berlin summit and a series of other meetings, said Mr La Russa, “Mr Berlusconi set in motion a review that led to the decision communicated to President Obama”. Mr La Russa also said that the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, had been notified before the official communication was released.

TARGETED OBJECTIVES — This development means that Italy has responded to NATO’s appeal to the allies. Rome has said yes to “targeted actions against specific selected military objectives to protect the Libyan civilian population, within the limits of the UN security council resolutions and in absolute coherence with action authorised by Parliament”. The foreign minister and defence minister are ready to report to the joint foreign affairs-defence committees, the official note went on. Mr La Russa also pointed out that “there will not be any indiscriminate bombing, but precision missions against specific objectives”, noting that the purpose is “to prevent any risk of striking the civilian population. Before, we played in one position in the team and now we’re playing in another. There are no more, or fewer, risks, either for the troops or the country”. The foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said that Italy’s decision was “the natural continuation of a mission that has not changed” and is the government’s response to a specific request from rebels in Benghazi. A spokesperson for NATO welcomed the Italian decision to take a further step.

REACTIONS — The note from the Prime Minister’s Office provoked contrasting reactions from politicians. “They’ll never get my vote”, said the Northern League’s Roberto Calderoli, minister for legislative simplification, stressing however that there would be no government crisis over the issue. “I remain opposed to any intervention in Libya. We have already done enough making available the bases, logistical support and anti-radar patrols. Personally, I would not even have agreed to this without concrete assistance from the allies with refusing entry to illegal migrants and sharing the burden of refugees”. Mr Calderoli’s Northern League colleague Roberto Castelli took the same view. Mr Calderoli also said he would re-table at the Council of Ministers the issue of intensifying Italian intervention in Libya. Junior minister for the Prime Minister’s Office Carlo Giovanardi sympathised. In an interview with La Stampa newspaper, he said: “The intervention in Libya is utterly wrong. The premises are, and remain, totally baseless. According to this absurd logic, we have more reason to bomb Syria, where Assad is massacring demonstrators and represents a much smaller proportion of the population than Gheddafi”. “Calderoli’s statement effectively creates a government crisis” opined Italo Bocchino, vice president of Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI), but his group leader, Benedetto Della Vedova, said that “FLI will, as it already has done in the past, take a responsible stance in the interest of Italy”. “Yet again, the government has lied to Italians”, said Massimo Donadi, Italy of Values (IDV) group leader in the Chamber of Deputies. “They said they would never carry out bombing missions and they’ve changed their mind”. For Anna Finocchiaro, the Democratic Party (PD) group leader in the Senate, “our benchmark continues to be the UN resolution. If the limits of the resolution remain in place, the PD will not withhold assent. What we regard as serious are the irresponsible splits that continue to manifest themselves within the government as the Northern League continues to distance itself from Berlusconi’s decisions”. The vicar apostolic of Libya, Mgr Martinelli, said Italy’s move was a “ruinous decision”. “Prudence, dialogue and an exchange of views are needed before decisions are taken. Let’s not split over this”, warned Luciano Sardelli, from the Responsible Ones group, while his colleague Elio Belcastro offered “convinced support to the government”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Maroni Criticizes PM’s Decisions on Libya

(AGI) Milan — There is tension between the PDL and the Northern League with Roberto Maroni stating that Italian participation in air raids announced on Monday is a “mistake”. “Our position on Libya is and remains the one dictated by Umberto Bossi in the newspaper La Padania, all the rest is a variation on the same theme,” said Interior Minister talking to AGI at the Northern League’s headquarters in Via Bellerio .

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

The War in Libya, Another Vietnam

The military escalation appears to be going beyond the initial UN mandate. Appeals by the Pope and the bishop of Tripoli to give diplomacy rather than weapons a chance have been ignored. The war between Libyan rebels and Italy (in the early part of the 20th century) lasted about 20 years. The military intervention marks the end of the Peace of Westphalia as well as Western democracy.

Milan (AsiaNews) — The ghost of another Vietnam is haunting the Mediterranean. What a month ago was still called a “humanitarian action” to save Libyans from Gaddafi’s violence has become a war. Despite appeals by Benedict XVI (on Easter Sunday for instance) in favour of diplomacy against the use of weapons, Italy has opted for escalation, agreeing to bomb “targets in Libya”. A few days ago, the United States approved the use of drones against military objectives (the same drones that kill civilians in Pakistan).

The turning point came on 20 April, when the Defence ministers of Great Britain and Italy decided to send ten military instructors each to train rebels Libya. They would join those already officially deployed in the North African country by France after Paris recognised in March the Benghazi-based Libyan National Council, the political body representing Libyan rebels, as the sole governing authority of Libya. Italian and British instructors will thus link up with French and UK Special Forces already unofficially in the country.

The decision was taken the day before, 19 April, when Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa was summoned to Washington for talks with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. The decision represents a turning point in the war in Libya. It comes ahead of Eufor Libya, officially an operation that would see land troops deployed to Libya to establish a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the city of Misrata, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said. The European action is on stand-by, waiting for a formal request from the United Nations or the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), he added.

The Libyan conflict is still presented as a humanitarian action even though it is not clear how humanitarian it actually is. So far, no evidence of a humanitarian crisis has presented despite the initial propaganda campaign launched by some media and TV networks. Indeed, in the first weeks of the war, some reports claimed that up to 10,000 people had been killed. Al-Jazeera (the Qatar-based Islamic satellite network) said that Libyan planes had bombed civilians protesting against the government. This report, which later turned out to be false, gave the UN Security Council the pretext to pass Resolution 1973, which was adopted without China or Russia exercising their veto power. Based on the resolution, the United Nations authorised member nations to institute a Libyan no-fly zone to stop planes loyal to the Tripoli government from taking off to crush the uprising.

The BBC, once highly regarded as an independence voice, adapted to the needs of war propaganda. In order to justify the use of ground troops, it claimed that troops loyal to Gaddafi used cluster bombs against civilians in Misrata, a heinous action against the population. Even though such action does not constitute a “war crime” because it was not used against enemy territory, it was powerful enough to give credence to the “humanitarian” arguments for military action.

The government in Tripoli easily dismissed the claim. A Libyan official said that not only they are not criminals who use cluster bombs against civilians, but they are certainly not that stupid. Cluster bombs leave traces for days and months, something which the BBC did not show. It would also be stupid to give those bombing Libya such a propaganda tool.

Likewise, the situation in Misrata appears different from what is shown in many media. The city’s hospitals report that the number of women with war-related injuries constitutes only 3 per cent of the total, which suggests that most of those wounded are armed fighters, not civilians.

As for the United Nations, its turnaround verges on hypocrisy. Until a few months ago, it viewed Gaddafi’s Libya as one of the best nations in Africa in terms of wealth distribution, education, and health care.

What justifies a military humanitarian intervention? We may never find out, as we did not in the case of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, ostensibly the official motive for the invasion of Iraq.

Of course, Gaddafi is not blameless or beyond criticism. However, what started in Libya was not a peaceful mass protest, but an armed uprising or an attempted secession that no state can allow if it wants to preserve its national independence and sovereignty. Cracking down on military sedition or secession entails the use of force. Gaddafi may not be Abraham Lincoln, but the United States did fight a civil war, not over slavery since some northern states still allowed slavery but over the secession of southern (Confederate) states (not all of them slave-owning).

In Gaddafi’s case, when clashes had just started and it was not yet clear what was happening, an international warrant for his arrest had already been issued for “crimes against humanity”. NATO announced that Gaddafi had to go, which is the goal of the war. Where he would go, no one knows. Perhaps, those who had instigated and pushed for an insurrection hoped it would be over quickly with Gaddafi’s departure or capture. This did not happen. What was supposed to be a quick victory has instead turned into a civil war, caused, funded and armed by outside forces…

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Dream of a Palestinian Tiger: Boom Times in the West Bank

With five-star hotels, booming high-tech companies and a modern, new city under construction near Ramallah, the West Bank is preparing for the future. Local entrepreneurs speculate that if the Palestinians ever gain independence, their’s could become one of the leading countries in the region.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fatah and Hamas Said to Reach Deal to End Schism

Fatah and Hamas, the rival Palestinian movements, reached understandings on Wednesday to end the years-long internal Palestinian schism, according to Egyptian and Palestinian officials.

Citing an Egyptian official, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that delegations led by Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah and Moussa Abu Marzouk of Hamas had agreed in Cairo on issues including the formation of a temporary unity government and the holding of Palestinian elections.

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Tehran’s National Museum Severs Ties With the Louvre

Tehran, 27 April — (AKI) — The National Museum of Iran will no longer cooperate with the Louvre Museum of France, it said in a statement said on Wednesday cited by official Iranian news agency Irna.

“The cultural agreement on cooperation between the two sides expires at the end of June, 2011 and the Iranian side will no longer cooperate with the Louvre Museum of France,” read the statement.

It said the move followed a decision by French authorities not to send for exhibition in Tehran several items from the Louvres’ collections the although Tehran has twice loaned items to Paris for exhibits as agreed under a 2004 accord.

The statement said that a cultural agreement has been signed between the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization and the Louvre Museum on October 31, 2004, under which Paris should loan items to Tehran for exhibitions.

As long ago as January, the Iranian culture body’s chief, Hamid Baghai, warned that the Louvre cultural ties with France would be cut if the Paris museum failed to set up an exhibition of Persian artefacts in Iran as agreed.

Baghai gave the Louvre until the end of March to inform Tehran which items they intended to loan the national museum, and it is not the first time he has taken on a world-renowned museum.

In February 2010, Baghai said Tehran had severed ties with the British Museum in London in protest at repeated delays in lending Iran the world-famous Cyrus Cylinder, a 2,600-year old clay artefact bearing a cuneiform inscription.

The cylinder has been described as the first human rights charter, as it advocates the return of deported peoples to their homelands and freedom of expression throughout the Persian empire.

The British Museum loaned Iran the Cyrus Cylinder in September 2010, bringing to an end the row over the ancient terracotta treasure (photo) in which Tehran threatened to end all cultural cooperation with Britain.

Museums in Europe, the United States and Russia hold many Persian artefacts dating back thousands of years.

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

McCain Against Attack on Syria

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Monday that he doesn’t think it would be appropriate for the U.S. or NATO to intervene militarily in Syria the way they had in Libya.

“I don’t see a scenario right now or anytime in the near future where the injection of U.S. or NATO military action would in any way beneficially help the situation, I’m sorry to say,” McCain said on NBC’s “Today” show.

McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been an advocate for U.S. intervention in Libya.

Like Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Syrian authorities have used violence against anti-government protesters. Gadhafi’s use of violence prompted the U.S. to join a NATO effort to prevent bloodshed in Libya, an intervention President Obama justified on humanitarian grounds, but which the White House has said shouldn’t be seen as precedent for any future action.

Obama issued a statement on Friday condemning the Syrian government’s latest action.

“We strongly oppose the Syrian governmentâ€(tm)s treatment of its citizens and we continue to oppose its continued destabilizing behavior more generally, including support for terrorism and terrorist groups,” he said. “The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Syria and around the world.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Saudi Proposal: King Suggested Chips Could be Implanted in Gitmo Inmates

WikiLeaks documents on Guantanamo and earlier diplomatic cables reveal the arbitrary treatment of prisoners at the infamous camp. They also underscore America’s fears of not being able to properly monitor prisoners after their release. One cable obtained by SPIEGEL describes a bizarre suggestion by the Saudi king to implant electronic chips to monitor released inmates.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: ‘800 People Arrested in Damascus Suburb of Duma’

Rome, 27 April (AKI) — Around 800 people have been arrested in the Damascus suburb of Duma since anti-government protests erupted last month, human rights activitsts and social networks said, citing local sources.

The local football pitch in Duma as been turned into an open-air detention centre, according to the sources, and elite army units have moved into the area according to the BBC.

In Damascus, which is under military lockdown, schools have been closed and phone lines and internet connections cut off.

France, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain have summoned Syrian ambassadors to condemn Damascus’ recent violent crackdown on anti-government protesters, France has said.

Earlier, UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned Syria for using tanks and live ammunition against anti-government demonstrators and called for an independent inquiry into the deadly violence.

The latest Syrian crackdown on demonstrations, mostly in the southern region of Daraa, in the past five days has brought the nationwide death toll since mid-March to at least 400, according to Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the death-toll at 453.

More than 1,000 people have been detained across the country since the most recent demonstrations began on 22 April, bringing the total number of detentions since the unrest started to at least 2,000, according to Mahmoud Merhi, who heads the Arab Organization for Human Rights.

The government of president Bashar al-Assad disputes the Western view that the demonstrations in the police-controlled state have been non-violent.

EU envoys are also due to meet in Brussels on Friday to discuss imposing sanctions on Syria.

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

Syria on the Edge of the Abyss

Assad’s Regime Escalates Crackdown on Protesters

Syrian President Bashar Assad missed the opportunity to legitimize his rule with genuine reforms and is now fighting for survival. The authorities’ crackdown on protests entered a new, even more brutal level on Monday as tanks rolled into Daraa. The whole region is looking on with concern as the country slides into chaos.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: UN Doesn’t Agree on Statement Condemning Repression

(AGI) New York — The 15 members of the UN Security Council failed to agree on a statement condemning the bloody repression set in place for six weeks in Syria from the regime of Bashar el Assad. Repression that has so far caused at least 430 confirmed dead .

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


Hundreds Join Moscow Anti-Muslim Rally

MOSCOW — Hundreds of Russian nationalists staged a racism-tinged rally in central Moscow on Saturday to demand an end to social payments for Muslim republics of the volatile North Caucasus region.

The sanctioned gathering came amid spiking social tensions and lingering security fears from a January suicide bombing at the main Moscow airport that killed 37 people and was claimed by the nation’s most feared Islamist warlord.

“We are tired of seeing the Caucasus youth creating mayhem on our streets and at our schools and universities and then going unpunished,” rally co-organiser Alexander Khromov told the Interfax news agency.

The event was officially titled “Stop Feeding the Caucasus!” and included leaders from far-right organisations that rights groups link to deadly attacks on migrants from Russia’s Caucasus and the Central Asian republics.

Recent polls have shown a rise in Russian xenophobia and a sense of voter frustration over the influx of mostly Muslim newcomers to cities that are already creaking under the strain of heavy crime and poorly-funded services.

Both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — a former president who launched Russia’s last war in the Caucasus in 1999 — have condemned the racist violence that now periodically erupts on the streets.

Medvedev has called it a matter of national security while Putin met a top minister on Saturday to discuss a new social development programme for Russia’s impoverished south.

But Moscow officials have sanctioned such events in the past and the city’s mayor last month accused migrants of being responsible for half of the capital’s crimes.

He has also instructed companies to give preferential treatment to locals during hiring and unleashed a campaign to shut down street stalls and open air markets that are often operated by temporary and illegal workers.

The mayor’s office sanctioned Saturday’s event after forbidding similar gatherings in defence of human rights — a move that sparked a rare round of criticism from pro-Kremlin lawmakers.

“We have to try to stand up to such attempts to break up the country,” ruling party lawmaker Pavel Zyryanov told Moscow Echo radio.

Saturday’s demonstrators were comprised mostly of Russian youth wearing bomber jackets and hoods.

Several covered their faces with bandannas to hide their identities from the police while many more raised their right arms in Nazi-style salutes while chanting slogans in praise of ethnic Russians.

“We are not xenophobes. We are not Nazis. We are demanding equality for Russian regions,” said rally co-organiser Anton Nosov of the little-known Russia Civic Union group.

Another speaker told the crowd of about 500 that “we spend too much money and too much blood” on the Caucasus.

The hour-long event was watched closely by dozens of policemen who closed off all roads leading to the rally square. No violence was reported.

The city authorities’ decision to allow the event drew rare criticism from the Public Chamber — an advisory council set up by the Kremlin to debate various social issues.

The council issued an official statement on Friday conceding that the payments made by Moscow to the restless Caucasus region were “not small”.

But it called the rally a “provocation” and accused its organisers “of thinking only about their political gains and forgetting about the interests of Russia.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Ukraine Marks a Quarter Century Since Chernobyl

It has been 25 years since reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in the early morning hours of April 26, 1986. On Tuesday, Ukraine marked the disaster with religious services and memorial gatherings. A day earlier, thousands protested in Germany against nuclear energy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: 19 Suspects ‘Planned Easter Serpong Church Bombing’

(AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesia’s national anti-terrorism agency chief Ansyaad Mbai says all 19 suspects arrested over a planned Easter bombing of the Christ Cathedral outside the capital, Jakarta, were involved in the plot.

“All those arrested are suspects connected to the book bombs, and planned to blow up the church,” he said after a security meeting at the Presidential Palace on Thursday.

The suspects had placed a series of explosives near the church in in Serpong, Tangerang, he said. The devices, some disguised as books, had been rigged to go off just as services at the 3,000-seat Roman Catholic church were taking place for Good Friday.

National police chief Timur Pradopo said the police had identified 19 suspects related to the bombs.

Among these were suspected actors involved in the placement of explosives under a gas pipeline in Serpong, not far from the cathedral.

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

NATO is Considering Longer Afghan Police Training, Says Dutch Cabinet

Nato is considering adopting the Dutch approach to training police officers in Afghanistan and will experiment with an eight-week course in early 2012, Nos television reports.

The Netherlands is due to send police trainers to the northern province of Kunduz in May that year.

However, parliament only voted in favour of Dutch participation in the training mission on the condition courses were extended from six to eight weeks.

Last month it emerged no agreement with Nato had been reached on making the training courses longer, putting support for the mission in doubt.

Now the cabinet has told parliament in a briefing that if the experiment is successful, Nato will adopt the Dutch idea and extend the training course, Nos says.

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

Rogue Afghan Pilot Kills 9 Americans

KABUL, Afghanistan — Eight American troops and a U.S. contractor died Wednesday after an Afghan military pilot opened fire during a meeting at Kabul airport — the deadliest episode to date of an Afghan turning against his coalition partners, officials said.

The Afghan officer, who was a veteran military pilot, fired on the Americans after an argument, the Afghan Defense Ministry said.

The shooting occurred in an operations room of the Afghan Air Corps at Kabul airport.

[Return to headlines]

The Great Escape (Afghanistan Style): 500 Taliban Prisoners on Loose After Insurgents Dig 1,000 Ft Tunnel Into ‘High Security’ Jail

The Taliban has staged a jail-break from a high security prison in Afghanistan, freeing 541 prisoners through a network of tunnels that took five months to dig.

In scenes reminiscent of war film The Great Escape, insurgents constructed a 1,050-foot (320m) route into Sarposa Prison, in Kandahar.

Diggers finally broke through into the site last night and hundreds of prisoners, including around 100 Taliban commanders — streamed through the tunnel to freedom over four-and-a-half hours.

They were met by a fleet of cars which whisked them away to freedom. The breakout was completed at around 3.30am.

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigerian Rights Group Says 600 Killed in North’s Post-Election Violence

At least 600 people were killed in violence between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups in Nigeria, triggered by opposition protests against President Goodluck Jonathan’s victory in the April 16 election, a local civic group said.

Most of the victims, 516 people, were killed in Kaduna state, Shehu Sani, executive director of the Kaduna-based Civil Rights Congress, said in a telephone interview from the city today, citing reports from members. “We keep discovering more details of massacres that have been carried out in the hinterland.”

The mainly Muslim supporters of Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler in Africa’s top oil producer and candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, attacked backers of Jonathan, the election winner, of the People’s Democratic Party, and clashed with Christians in the Kaduna city, the state capital. The violence spread to seven other towns and cities in the mainly Muslim region.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with 150 million residents, is roughly split between a mostly Muslim north and a largely Christian south, a divide reflected in voting for the election. Buhari won all of the country’s 12 northern states while Jonathan took 23 of 24 in the mainly Christian central and southern states.

Legislative Election

Jonathan, a Christian from the oil-rich Niger River delta region, defeated Buhari by 57 percent to 31 percent, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission. Buhari’s party rejected the outcome, saying it was marred by fraud.

Most local and international observers, while noting incidents of underage voting and suspicious turnout figures, called the vote credible. The last elections, in 2007, were described by international and local monitors as flawed because of intimidation of voters and ballot fraud.

Ahead of state governorship and legislative elections tomorrow, troops have been deployed across the north to quell the violence and in some southern cities to forestall reprisal attacks against Muslims, the military said. A night-time curfew is in place in some cities.

Three explosions in the northern city of Maiduguri late yesterday killed three people and injured 14, Mai Mamman, a police spokesman in the city said. Authorities in Nigeria’s north have blamed a group known as Boko Haram, which draws inspiration from Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, for a spate of bomb attacks and killings targeting government officials since last year.

More than 14,000 people died in ethnic and religious clashes in Nigeria between 1999 and 2009, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Niger: Al-Qaeda ‘Issues Video of Four Abducted French Hostages’

Paris, 27 April (AKI) — Al-Qaeda’s North African branch has puportedly released a video of four French hostages kidnapped in Niger last year, in which they urge France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy to withdraw his country’s troops from Afghanistan.

On its website, terrorist tracking group SITE Intelligence reported the three-minute video, in which the four male hostages can be seen sitting on the ground, apparently with their armed captors standing behind them.

The video is still being authenticated, France’s former interior minister Brice Hortefeux said in an interview on LCI Television.

The video was recorded on 11, 12 and 13 April, the hostages said.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates across the Sahara, kidnapped seven people near a uranium mine in Niger on 16 September 2010.

In February, the group released a French woman as well as a citizen of Togo and one from Madagascar.

Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dol and Marc Furrer are still being held.

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

Latin America

Rising Price of Gold Fuels Destruction of the Amazon

The price of gold has gone up 360 percent in the last 10 years, an increase of around 18 percent per year. As the price increases, more trees are cut down to make room for the mines. Mercury used by the growing number of miners to extract the gold will vaporize into the air and find its way into the water supply and food chain, poisoning people and the environment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


17 Tunisian Migrants Arrested After Brawl

(AGI) Genoa — Seventeen Tunisians involved in a brawl in Genoa at a community centre near the harbour have now been taken to a police centre to be identified and possibly charged. One of those wounded had been hist with a broken bottle. Police from the General Prevention Offices are attempting to reconstruct events and clarify any eventual responsibilities of all those involved. Investigations are led by the prosecutor in Genoa, Giovanni Arena.

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

Berlusconi: Sarkozy Call for Changes to Schengen

Rome, 26 April (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and French president Nicolas Sarkozy together called for a revision of the Schengen treaty which removes border controls among the 25 European members.

“We both believe that in exceptional circumstances there should be variations to the Schengen treaty on which we have decided to work together,” Berlusconi said, echoing comments by Sarkozy at a joint news conference after a summit in Rome.

Berlusconi and Sarkozy said they have signed a letter to be sent to European Commission, the EU’s executive body to propose changes to the treaty allowing individual states to temporarily suspend the free movement of people under certain circumstances.

Italy’s decision to grant around 20,000 Tunisian migrants temporary visas allowing them to travel within the Schengen area sparked an outcry from Paris that its southern neighbour was not respecting the spirit of the agreement.

France last week temporarily halted trains carrying migrants over the boarder from Italy to France.

Tens-of-thousands of mostly Tunisians arrived on the southern Italy island of Lampedusa since January when an uprising toppled that country’s authoritarian government. Migrants boats have also set sail from Libya.

“We want the Schengen treaty to live, but to live it has to be changed,” Sarkozy said.

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

Berlusconi Reassures Vatican Over Treatment of Migrants

Rome, 22 April (AKI) — In a message on Friday, Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi assured the Vatican that his country is doing its utmost to help the tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived from turmoil-hit North Africa this year.

“This Easter, Italy is helping thousands of people fleeing from the countries of North Africa,” wrote Berlusconi in an Easter greetings letter sent to Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone

“Out of respect for the dignity and value of the human being — upheld, as His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has noted, by the United Nations Charter — we are doing our best to respond generously to so much human suffering.”

In the letter, Berlusconi asked Bertone to give the pope “the warmest and most heartfelt greetings on behalf of the Italian government and from me personally.”

Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his concern over the plight of the migrants heading for Italy, especially after an incident earlier this month in which a boat carrying 300 people from North Africa to Italy capsized in rough seas.

Only about 50 people were rescued some 40 miles off the Italian coast, with the rest unaccounted for and presumed dead.

The pontiff promised continuing prayers for all people “who lose their lives in the terrible journey to flee the poverty, injustice and violence afflicting them.”

Amnesty has urged the Italian government not to deport migrants without giving them the chance to be assessed for political asylum or other forms of protection, required under international law.

Italy’s treatment of migrants drew criticism from the Vatican when thousands of migrants were turned back in the Mediterranean by coastal patrols under a controversial bilateral ‘friendship’ treaty with Libya signed in 2008.

When Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s forces began attacking civilians in Febuary, Italy suspended the treaty, under which it agreed to pay five billion dollars to compensate Libya for its colonial rule from 1911-1943.

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

Desperate Migrants Threaten EU’s Schengen Treaty

After battling to maintain a united front through the euro crisis, Europe faces a new threat of its unity unravelling as thousands of desperate migrants test the EU’s ground-breaking Schengen treaty.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France and Italy Propose Reform of EU Border Rules

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday (26 April) called for changes to be made to an EU agreement on passport-free travel following weeks of tension over migrants from north Africa. At a summit in Rome, both leaders said the 1995 Schengen Agreement needs to be revised and that deportation agreements had to be made urgently with African countries so that migrants could be sent home.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Tunisians Immigrants Responsible for Brawl Repatriated

(AGI) Genoa — The 11 Tunisian arrested after starting a brawl at the temporary holding facilities in Genoa have been expelled. A further 5 have been tried and sentenced and are already serving jail time. Those expelled were shuttled to Milan by bus and are to board flights back home to Tunis.

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

Culture Wars

Italy: Lesbian MP and Partner Insulted in Central Rome

Rome, 21 April (AKI) — A gay centre-left member of the Italian parliament and her partner were insulted Thursday as they strolled hand in hand through an upmarket shopping street in central Rome. The incident drew condemnation from politicians and rights groups.

“A man of around 35 years old started shouting: ‘f**king lesbians, they should have sent you to the ovens’!” Paola Concia told Adnkronos.

Concia said that of all the many passers-by on the via Campo Marzio near the Italian parliament, only one woman and a conservative politician, Antonino Lo Presti, came to her and her partner’s defence.

Some people even took the ‘homophobic’ man’s side, she said, adding that it was not the first time she had been publicly insulted.

“But this time it was more violently aggressive — I could sense this man’s contempt. Why should I accept such insults?” said Concia, who introduced an anti-homophobia bill in the Italian parliament that failed to become law.

Italy’s gay rights association Archigay swiftly condemned the incident.

“This is an outrage against the Italian parliament and the battle for equality and justice for gays, lesbians and transsexuals in Italy,” the groups said in a statement.

Politicians across the political spectrum also deplored the insults to Concia.

“I express expressed solidarity with the victim of a vile and vulgar intolerance that must be unreservedly condemned,” said Italian senate speaker Renato Schifani.

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

Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years

The shift to the sub-literate or anti-literate has evolved from the 1960s revolutionary project to dismantle Western civilization through the institutions, primarily educational. The change has taken place incrementally, from the rather tentative early addition of multicultural literature to the established canon; to the mandating that class, race, and gender be studied in composition; to the deconstruction of “Eurocentric” discourse in search of codes that maintain imperialism. Such discourse imposed Western standards through the very elements most would view as laudable: the search for truth in a logical, fair, honest, and ethical manner, the standard codified by Aristotle. Since most scholarship in the field concerns the invention of increasingly convoluted conspiracies of “white privilege,” discovered through increasingly primitive forms of communication (with scholars now even focusing on animal communication) there is not much to learn. People at the meeting already know what they are going to hear: all of them are oppressed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Antimatter-Hunting Experiment Ready for Space Mission

A cutting-edge experiment hunting for antimatter galaxies and signs of dark matter that was very nearly cancelled is finally poised to voyage into orbit aboard the next-to-last space shuttle mission. The ambitious Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is a more than 15,000-pound (6,900-kilogram) device searching for cosmic- rays — high-energy charged particles from outer space. The nearly $2 billion experiment will ride up to the International Space Station on the shuttle Endeavour on Friday (April 29). The instrument will employ a nearly 4,200-pound (1,900 kg) permanent magnet to generate a strong, uniform magnetic field more than 3,000 times more intense than Earth’s. This deflects cosmic rays so that a battery of detectors can analyze their properties, such as charge and velocity, and beam their findings to Earth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]