Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110430

Financial Crisis
»EU: Merkel Set to Lend Support to Italy’s Draghi as Next ECB Head
»Germany: the Bittersweet Wars: Battle Pits Cocoa Speculators Against Chocolate Makers
»Poland: Lost Generation Prepares for Exile
»Angry ‘Raza Studies’ Mob Shuts Down Tucson School Board Meeting (w/video)
»Obama Working “Under the Radar” To Sneak Attack Second Amendment
»Rep. Hinchey Visits Local Mosque
Europe and the EU
»Al-Qaeda Plotting Attack on German Crowds
»Austria: Lovers Tie the Knot in the Nude
»France Begins Expelling Tunisian Migrants
»Germany: Arrest of Terror Suspects: CIA Part of Investigation of ‘Düsseldorf Cell’
»Germany: Al-Qaida Suspects Were ‘Testing Shrapnel Bomb’
»Ireland: Clonskeagh Mosque Rejects US Claims
»Italian Boom in Mediterranean Cruises
»Italy: Lega Leader Conditions His Support to Premier on 6 Points
»Moroccan Female Killed by Single Bullet in Southern Italy
»Netherlands: Ethnic Minority Students Find it Harder to Get Internships
»Sweden: Man Shot: Killed in Broad Daylight in Gothenburg
»‘The EU Are Trying to Wipe Us Off the Map’: Brussels Merges England and France in New Arc Manche Region… With Its Own Flag
»UK: A Princely Marriage
»UK: A Very Royal Wedding, Complete With a Love-Storming of the Palace
»UK: Grandfather Beaten to the Ground by Youths as He Walked Home in Leicester
»UK: Have-a-Go Hero Told He Might be Charged After Tackling Yob
»UK: Royal Wedding: An Occasion of High Majesty Tempered by Delightful Sense of Informality
»UK: Royal Wedding: A Touch of Class and a Cavalcade of English Life
»UK: Rumpled Crotch Syndrome and the Big Trousers Society
»UK: Royal Wedding: Kiss Me Kate, But Make it Snappy, The Grandparents Are Watching
»UK: The Perfect Day
»UK: Why I Loved the Royal Wedding
»Croatia: Helsinki Committee Contests Prosecutor’s Data on War Crimes
North Africa
»Gaddafi Accuses Italy of Re-Engaging in Colonialist Crimes
»Libya: NATO Intercepts Boats Laying Mines Outside Misurata
»Muslims Protest at Church in Cairo
»Qaddafi’s Son is Killed in NATO Strike
»Tunisia: Car Registrations Down 50% From 2010
»Vicar of Tripoli Says Bombs and Air Strikes Are Immoral
Israel and the Palestinians
»Hamas-Fatah Deal, Egypt Lifts Gaza Blockade
Middle East
»Syria: Uprising: ‘Friday of Rage’ And of Blood
»Turkey: Otokar Seeks to Export New Armored Vehicle
»Witnesses Report Artillery Fire Outside Sirya’s Deraa
»Imam’s Call to Add Crescent Moon Symbol to Russian Emblem Met With Alarm
South Asia
»India: Orissa: Fundamentalists Attack Hindu for Friendship With Christians
»800 More Migrants Reach Lampedusa
»Greek, Malta FMs Discuss Libya, Illegal Immigration
»Ireland:10 Asylum Seekers Sent to Greece Despite UN Appeal
»Italy: 2,500 Refugees to be Distributed Regionally From Monday
»Queue Here for Britain: Meet the Thousands of Young Men Fleeing North Africa — With the UK (And Its Benefits) In Their Sights
»UK Will be Like Paradise…You Get Rich on Benefits Without Working
Culture Wars
»Superman Renounces U.S. Citizenship

Financial Crisis

EU: Merkel Set to Lend Support to Italy’s Draghi as Next ECB Head

Berlin, 29 April (AKI) — Germany is set to give its support for Italian central bank governor Mario Draghi to become the next European Central Bank president, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s endorsement would seal Draghi’s nomination as the European Union’s top monetary policy maker. Earlier this week French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Spanish finance minister Elena Salgado signalled support for Draghi.

Draghi emerged as the front-runner after Germany’s Axel Weber withdrew from the race in February.

Draghi, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained economist, has worked at the World Bank and investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Merkel sees no viable alternative to Draghi, but has not come public with her opinion because she is concerned about a possible negative reaction in Germany’s media and parliament to an Italian ECB head, the Journal said.

Sarkozy and Italian prime minister this week sealed a deal for the French to support Draghi’s nomination in exchange for Italy its current member of the ECB executive board, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, to make way for a new French member., the report said.

Draghi would replace current ECB head Jean-Claude Trichet whose mandate will expire in the fall.

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

Germany: the Bittersweet Wars: Battle Pits Cocoa Speculators Against Chocolate Makers

Food commodities — from wheat to rice to soybeans — have become objects of speculation. While cocoa speculators are threatening the survival of some of Germany’s oldest chocolate makers, entrepreneurs in Ghana are trying to give farmers a larger share of the profits.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Poland: Lost Generation Prepares for Exile

How many will leave the country? As Germany and Austria open their borders to workers from several Central and Eastern European countries, Polish authorities fear a new exodus of labour.

Renata Kim

Close to 400,000 Poles are already working in Germany, some of them legally and others in the black economy. Tens of thousands have also found jobs in Austria. The Ministry for Labour and Social Policy has announced its official forecasts: starting on May 1, with the full opening of the labour markets in these two countries, a further 400,000 Poles are expected to seek work abroad [the newly opened labour markets will now be accessible to workers from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia]. Those who choose to emigrate will not do so in a single immediate wave, instead the movement will likely be spread over the next four years.

According to data from the Polish Federation of Private Employers, Lewiatan, Polish workers are in high demand in both countries. The Germans need 30,000 IT specialists, a similar number of engineers, and around 50,000 people to care for the elderly, explains Lewiatan expert Monika Zakrzewska, who points out that doctors, construction workers, electricians, locksmiths, mechanics, confectioners, opticians, and hairdressers will all easily find jobs.

Over the last two months, in the voïvodies [provinces] of western Poland, German employers have been organising job fairs and publishing internet advertisements.

Like the experts at Lewiatan, the ministry for labour is intent on calming fears of a mass exodus similar to the one that took place in 2004, following Poland’s accession to the European Union. Unemployment is no longer as high, the most courageous and dynamic workers have already left the country, and relatively few Poles have a good command of German. Moreover, the specialists that are sought after by the Germans already have jobs in Poland so they do not need to leave, points out Monika Zakrzewska.

However, experts can sometimes be very wrong. In the run-up to accession, it was estimated that 40,000 Polish workers would emigrate to the UK. the real figure turned out to be ten times higher than expected.

An economist and demographer working at Warsaw’s Centre for International Relations, Professor Krystyna Iglicka, believes that this time around the number of people who want to leave Poland could exceed official forecasts. The signs are there to be seen: the Germans are intent on attracting the Poles with enticing job offers, and the residents of ‘Poland B’, which includes the country’s poorest regions, are eager to find work.

Poland can no longer sit idly by, while large numbers of its citizens settle for a life in exile. Over the last few years, the country has been marked by the biggest wave of emigration in its history: 800,000 Poles went abroad in the 19th century and one million left in the 1980s, but in the wake of accession to the EU, nearly two million Poles moved away from the country. Many sought a new life in England, where, according to figures from the National Statistics Office, 550,000 are currently working. Another 140,000 found jobs in Ireland, 90,000 in Italy, 80,000 in Spain, 50,000 in France, and 70,000 left the EU.

In times past, emigrants only had a basic education, but those who left in 2004 were typically young graduates. Starting out in jobs as dishwashers or house cleaners, most were simply hoping to earn a little money before returning home. But more often than not, what began as a short stay quickly turned into a longer period of exile that in many cases became permanent.

“This is a lost generation for us. Not because these young people are lacking in drive or talent, but because Poland loses theme definitively,” remarks Professor Iglicka. In her most recent report on emigration since 2004, she notes that Polish women who settle in the UK have a much higher fertility rate than those who opt to stay at home: 2.48 children per woman, which is far higher than the 1.84 rate for British women, or the rates for women in Indian or Bangladeshi immigrant communities. The explanation for this phenomenon is quite simple: giving birth and bringing up children is much easier in Great Britain, which has the advantage of better quality social security and health-care systems than the ones in Poland.

Worse still, those who decide to go home to Poland usually regret their choice when they find that no one is waiting for them with open arms. There are no jobs for them when they leave the country, and that remains the case when they return. At the same time, their experience of working abroad is hardly attractive to Polish employers, who are unimpressed by CVs that have remained unchanged for years (they can hardly claim credit for having worked as dishwashers or babysitters).

In many cases, the expectation that they will be able to return with an excellent command of English also turns out to be unfounded, because Poles living abroad tend to socialise with their compatriots and they rarely have time for language courses.

For those who come back, it is also important to have no illusions on the issue of salary: having earned an average of 9,000 zlotys [2,284 euros] abroad, on their return they are often offered as little as 1,500 [380.65 euros], notes Professor Krystyna Iglicka.

Very often they are disappointed and decide to leave again — perhaps in part because emigration has changed them. As sociologists have pointed out, people who have grown used to other cultures, to different colours and the sounds of different streets where multilingualism and multiculturalism are the norm, are likely to feel lost and even suffocated in Poland.

“We are not creating good living and working conditions for young people,” warns Professor Iglicka. “On the contrary, we are pushing them towards the door. Authorities in this country have grown used to emigration, which they see as a means for reducing unemployment. Their point of view is: if there is no work for young people, they can always leave! If and when they decide to come home, they will be the responsibility of future governments, who will also have to cope with the issue of emigration and the demographic problems it engenders. In the meantime, the current administration can rest easy.”

According to the Deloitte consultancy, 60 % of Polish students are prepared to leave Poland. They are convinced that they have no prospects in a country where the rate of unemployment among graduates from major universities stands at 24 percent.

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


Angry ‘Raza Studies’ Mob Shuts Down Tucson School Board Meeting (w/video)

A mob of both students and adults angry over the impending vote by the Tucson school board to make Raza studies or Mexican-American studies an elective, rather than forcing children to take the race-based curriculum rushed into the meeting room, chaining themselves to chairs.

Police simply stood by and watched as the loud mob took-over the room and refused to leave.

Raza studies (race studies) have been taught in the TUSD for about a dozen years.

One of the textbooks they use is titled “Occupied America,” which was written by Rodolfo Acuña and includes a speech given by activist and university professor Jose Angel Gutierrez in which he says: “We have got to eliminate the gringo, and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to the worst, we have got to kill him,” (pg. 323).


The book also talks about the need for Mexico to re-take seven states in the Southwestern United States.

The following rather shocking quotes are taken directly from Occupied America (pg. 167):

“Supporters would execute all white males over age 16,” (also known as the Plan of San Diego).

“The Southwest would become a Chicano nation.”

Obviously, teaching children such ethno-centric values and even over-taking a portion of this country, through violence if necessary can only lead to those students’ further isolation and distrust of anyone who looks or sounds different from them…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Obama Working “Under the Radar” To Sneak Attack Second Amendment

According to a little noticed quote in the Washington Post earlier this month which has attracted virtually no media attention, President Obama told gun control advocate Sarah Brady that his administration is working “under the radar” to sneak attack the second amendment rights of American citizens.

During a March 30 meeting between Jim and Sarah Brady and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, at which Obama “dropped in,” the president reportedly told Brady, “I just want you to know that we are working on it (gun control)….We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar.”

The quote appeared in an April 11 Washington Post story about Obama’s gun control czar Steve Croley.

“What is truly startling about this story is the way it has been totally ignored by the rest of the media,” writes Jeff Knox….”Even the folks at the Brady bunch are not spreading the news about the stunning reassurances from the president. There is nothing on their website discussing or even mentioning Obama’s chat with Jim and Sarah.”

The Obama administration has repeatedly invoked rhetoric about the flow of guns being smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico as a talking point with which to chill gun rights of American citizens.

Just months into his term in the Oval Office, Obama told Mexican President Felipe Calderon that the U.S. was to blame for much of Mexico’s drug violence because of firearms that were purchased in America.

However, it was recently revealed that the U.S. government itself was responsible for smuggling guns over the border which ended up directly in the hands of Mexican drug lords. Under operation “Fast and Furious,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives “Sanctioned the purchase of weapons in U.S. gun shops and tracked the smuggling route to the Mexican border. Reportedly, more than 2,500 firearms were sold to straw buyers who then handed off the weapons to gunrunners under the nose of ATF.”

The ATF claimed the program was an effort to identify criminals by seeing where the guns ended up, but once across the border, “the agency seemed to lose track of the weapons,” reports Laura Carlsen. The firearms ended up in the hands of Mexico’s ruthless crime gangs and have been used to kill U.S. border agents and other innocent people.

When confronted on the issue, Obama simply denied all knowledge of the program.

In addition, as we reported earlier this week, Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the “logistical coordinator” for a top Mexican drug-trafficking gang, Sinaloa, that was responsible for purchasing the CIA torture jet that crashed with four tons on cocaine on board back in 2007, also obtained guns from the U.S. that were later used to kill people in Mexico City. Niebla recently told the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago that he has been working for the U.S. government since January 2004.

Despite these revelations, the Obama administration is still pushing ahead with a proposal to force gun dealers in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California to report the sales of two or more semi-automatic rifles to the same person at one time or during any five business days directly to the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

[Return to headlines]

Rep. Hinchey Visits Local Mosque

CITY OF NEWBURGH [New York State, U.S.] — Rep. Maurice Hinchey told Muslims in Newburgh that the congressional hearings on radical Islam were wrong.

Hinchey, D-Hurley, spoke to a group of nearly 100 men following Friday prayers at Masjid Al-Ikhlas.

Dr. Riaz Chaudhry introduced the congressman as “a friend, a friend of this community and, above all, a friend of humanity.”

Hinchey told the group he openly disagreed with Republican Rep. Peter King’s decision to hold hearings in March that promised to examine the extent of radicalization of Islam in the U.S., and the Muslim community’s response.

“I assume he thought that this hearing would have some political advantage,” Hinchey said. King, a congressman from Long Island, has repeatedly said the hearings were an attempt to understand and deal with a very real threat.

Dr. Quasar Choudhury said Friday that the hearings were designed to tap into political fears. He said it’s true that a few people have done bad things in twisted understanding of Islam, but he doubted that King really thought all Muslims were dangerous.

“I don’t believe he is a bad man,” Choudhury said. “I think he wants to take advantage of a political situation.”

Hinchey praised the diversity of the United States’ many religions, and told the men at the mosque he appreciated the contributions they had made since coming to this country.

A large portion of Muslims who attend the mosque have immigrated to the United States, but Imam Salahuddin Muhammad reminded the Hinchey that many had grown up right here, with the same dreams for their futures and their families as anyone else. “We want what everybody else wants,” Muhammad said.

He led the men in a prayer for Hinchey, who recently announced he has been diagnosed with colon cancer and will undergo treatments.

“We want to just ask as we’re here today that the almighty creator guides him, and heals him,” Salahuddin said.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Al-Qaeda Plotting Attack on German Crowds

(AGI) Berlin — The three fundamentalist Moroccans arrested yesterday in Germany were plotting an Al-Qaeda attack somewhere crowded. The Federal Deputy Procurator and Head of the German Anti-Terrorist Squad reported the news at a press conference.

The ‘Die Welt’ newspaper has revealed that the terrorists were targeting a regional train in one of Germany’s main cities, although precisely where had not yet been decided.

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

Austria: Lovers Tie the Knot in the Nude

An Upper Austrian couple have made headlines by getting married naked.

Melanie, 26, and Rene, 31, from Leonding near Linz decided to tie the knot at Mühldorf Castle in the nude earlier this month.

The canny pair — who met three years ago — decided to cooperate with KroneHit to save expenses. The radio station sponsored them after being given the exclusive rights to cover the extraordinary wedding procedure.

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

France Begins Expelling Tunisian Migrants

France has begun deporting Tunisian immigrants, four days after asking for revisions to Europe’s open-borders treaty to confront a flood of refugees fleeing unrest in North Africa.

“Tunisians have started being sent back to their home country,” the Interior Ministry’s press office said on Friday. “Others have been sent back to Italy in conformity with an agreement reached with Italy. We don’t have any figures to provide.”

French police have conducted round-ups of Tunisians the past three nights in Paris and Marseille where they have congregated. At a park on the edge of Paris where about 400 Tunisians were camped out, police showed up after dark last night to conduct identity checks. They filled five vans with young men, but wouldn’t speak to reporters on the scene.

“Tunisians have opened their borders to 250,000 refugees fleeing from Libya,” said Samia Maktouf, a Tunisian-born business lawyer who does pro-bono work for undocumented workers. “Here we are talking about at most 20,000 people, and the government is using it to create unjustified fears.”

More than 25,000 immigrants have arrived in Italy from North Africa this year, mostly from Tunisia and Libya, where popular unrest led to the ouster of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and threatens the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Most of the Tunisians want to go France, where a large Tunisian community already lives, while most of those coming from Libya have been immigrants from Somalia and Eritrea.

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

Germany: Arrest of Terror Suspects: CIA Part of Investigation of ‘Düsseldorf Cell’

Security officials in Germany arrested three suspects who may be linked to al-Qaida on Friday. The men could be the first group connected to the international terrorist group to be uncovered in the country since Mohammed Atta’s Hamburg-based 9/11 terror cell. One of the men is believed to have had regular contact with al-Qaida.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Al-Qaida Suspects Were ‘Testing Shrapnel Bomb’

German authorities say the three suspected al-Qaida terrorists arrested on Friday were experimenting with building a shrapnel bomb designed to hurt as many people as possible in an attack.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday morning, Rainer Griesbaum, deputy federal prosecutor, said although the group had been planning to set the bomb off in a big group of people, no specific target had been chosen.

They were, “still in the experimental phase,” he said.

Griesbaum said one of the three men arrested — named only as Abdeladim K. — had received the order to plan an attack in Germany from an important member of al-Qaida last year.

The 29-year-old from Morocco is said to have been in regular contact with the al-Qaida man, who is in the Afghan-Pakistan border region.

Griesbaum identified the other two men arrested as 31-year-old Jamil S., a German-Moroccan, and 19-year-old Amid C., a German-Iranian.

He said it would seem possible that they were considering attacking some big event in the Düsseldorf area, such as the Eurovision Song Contest, which is to be held there on May 14.

Jörg Ziercke, president of the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA), said the ringleader had been in Germany since last November — illegally — in order to prepare the attack.

He had connections to Austria, Morocco and Kosovo, said Ziercke.

Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that not only the German secret service but also the CIA and the Moroccan authorities had been involved in the three-month operation codenamed Komet, which resulted in Friday’s arrests.

The BKA had planted a Trojan virus on the computer of one of those arrested, enabling them to listen to his phone calls and watch his emails. The arrests were ordered after investigators heard the three men planning a test, shortly after having bought a variety of chemicals which could be used in a bomb.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Clonskeagh Mosque Rejects US Claims

IRELAND’S LARGEST Sunni mosque has tried to counter the perception, outlined in a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, that it is dominated by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI), in Clonskeagh, Dublin, features heavily in a July 2006 memo written by then US ambassador James Kenny to then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and copied to other US embassies in Europe and the Middle East.

The cable details the embassy’s impressions of the dynamics shaping Islam in Ireland. It pays particular attention to the Clonskeagh centre, including its role as headquarters of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, a body headed by the controversial Muslim Brotherhood-linked cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Mr Kenny concludes the council is “little more than a paper tiger”.

The memo also includes the views of critics within Ireland’s Muslim population who allege senior figures at the Clonskeagh centre are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential transnational Islamist movement.

“We welcome everybody to come and perform the acts of worship without allowing them to use the mosque for promoting certain agendas,” the centre said yesterday.

“This applies to even our employees, who might have a certain way of thinking or adopt a certain school of thought, but they are not allowed to use the ICCI or its facilities to promote their own personal views or agenda. ICCI management takes full responsibility for the services it provides and the activities it organises, not for how the worshippers think or what affiliations they have.”

The centre also argued that it calls for “integration and peaceful coexistence of Muslims and non-Muslims”.

The US cable had claimed that “only a few voices calling for integration can be heard” within Ireland’s Muslim population. The loudest, it said, were “Shaheed Satardien, Allama Zille Umar Qadri and Mian Ghulam Bari and his son Mazhar Bari”.

Mr Qadri said yesterday the cable reflected “90 per cent of the reality of the situation” in 2006. He said much had changed since then, with more co-ordination between institutions and individuals and a greater emphasis on the need for integration.

The cable said “one of the most pro-democracy and pro-USG policy Islamic voices in Ireland” was that of Ali al-Saleh, imam at the Shia mosque in Milltown, Dublin. It claimed the embassy had been helping him to gain a higher profile, including in the media.

Reached by phone in Iran, where he is travelling on pilgrimage, Dr al-Saleh said he did not take issue with the cable’s portrayal of him.

“It was the truth at the time. The Shias were supportive of the role the US played in getting rid of Saddam Hussein. We were pro-US in terms of their role in promoting democracy in the region. This is a matter of principle.”

Dr Saleh confirmed he had received assistance from the US embassy in writing what the cable described as a “positive Op-Ed” (opinion piece) on the third anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The piece, which Dr Saleh says he initiated, was published in The Irish Times in March 2006.

Yahya al-Hussein, imam at Dublins South Circular Road mosque — which the memo alleged was viewed as an “extremist” mosque — could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Bari family, described as the “sponsors” of Blackpitts mosque in Dublin — which the cable claimed was a “suspected . . . gathering place for some radical elements” — could not be reached either.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Italian Boom in Mediterranean Cruises

Spain and France also ‘popular’ choices

(ANSA) — Rome, April 29 — With the arrival of spring, a growing number of Italians are taking to the water and booking Mediterranean cruises.

According to the tourism panel of GfK Retail and Technology Italy there is a boom in bookings.

Of the Italian tourists who travelled in April, one in four — 26% — chose a Mediterranean cruise to take advantage of reasonably priced packages. The average cost of a Mediterranean cruise is only 750 euros — far lower than in previous years. But Italian tourists were not only choosing cruises for their April vacations.

Spain and France were also among the most popular destinations selected by Italians.

There was a 7% increase in the number of Italian visitors to Spain compared to the same period in 2010 even though tariffs have risen to the levels they were two years ago.

The average cost for those travelling to Spain rose to almost 700 euros, compared to more than 550 euros last year.

The number of Italians visiting Great Britain also rose in April compared to the same period a year ago, possibly due to the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton celebrated at Westminster Abbey on Friday.

Italy’s market-leading cruise operators, MSC and Costa, are expecting plenty of holidaymakers to take the opportunity to explore the region in comfort and style, despite the economic climate.

“The great discovery that the Mediterranean is an extraordinary destination for a cruise is no longer restricted to the traditional clientele of people from northern Europe, or those from across the Atlantic,” MSC Cruises General Manager Domenico Pellegrino told ANSA.

“The Latin people who look out on to the sea have also found this new way of experiencing this extraordinary area”.

MSC says its packages are designed to showcase the region’s rich past, enabling history lovers to roam sites such as the majestic Ephesus ruins in Turkey, discover the imposing Athenian Acropolis and enjoy historic locations like the Colossus of Rhodes and the Colosseum of Rome.

An eight-day cruise on its Fantasia liner which is among its many spring options takes passengers to see the Provence landscapes that inspired Cezanne following a stop at Marseille, itself an exciting melting pot of European culture.

Travellers can also visit Barcelona to marvel at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and feast on paella and sangria and then relax during a stop on Malta with a package that can cost as little as 580 euros. Costa Cruises, which expects to take nine million passengers around the Mediterranean this year, a third more than in 2010, also has holidaymakers spoilt for choice with its spring cruises.

These include its Scents of the Mediterranean itinerary on its Costa Serena and gives passengers the chance to visit France, the Balearic Islands and other parts of Spain from 520 euros.

It offers itineraries to visit the ancient delights of Greece and its islands from 470 euros per person on its Costa Victoria ship, while it is possible to see Turkey on the Costa Romantica for as little as 490 euros.

Costa has been forced to substitute its destinations in Tunisia, Egypt and Israel because of the political upheaval in the region.

Naturally both MSC and Costa provide holidaymakers with a variety of cruises exploring Italy, with Naples, Palermo, Cagliari, Catania and Venice popular stop-off points.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Lega Leader Conditions His Support to Premier on 6 Points

(AGI) Rome — Lega leader Bossi spelled out the points on which his party’s support to Italy’s mission in Libya rest. Lega official daily ‘La Padania’ published the integral motion which will be presented on Tuesday to the House of Deputies.

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

Moroccan Female Killed by Single Bullet in Southern Italy

(AGI) Barletta- A 40-year-old Moroccan woman was killed at her cousin’s house by a single bullet to the head. She had only been in Italy for a few months and was staying in the ground-floor flat not far from downtown Canosa. According to the victim’s companion, who gave a statement to the police, he struggled with the person who fired the shot; the incident occurred during the night. The investigation is being run by the substitute for Trani Public Prosecutor Giuseppe Maralfa.

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

Netherlands: Ethnic Minority Students Find it Harder to Get Internships

Half of ethnic minority students looking for a work experience placement suspect their origins affect their chances and one in five has direct experience of racism, according to an annual survey on internships.

Some students even change their names in application letters in order to improve their chances, the survey shows.

Nevertheless, some 65% of ethnic minority students with an internship are offered other opportunities within the same company, compared with 56% of the ethnic Dutch.

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

Sweden: Man Shot: Killed in Broad Daylight in Gothenburg

A man was shot and killed Saturday morning in broad daylight on a street in Gothenburg.

Newspaper Göteborgs-Posten reported that a masked man, dressed in black, shot another man five times just after 9am on a residential street in central Gothenburg.

The man released two more shots, before jumping on a moped and escaping. A witness told Göteborgs-Posten that he saw the man drop the gun not far from the scene of the crime.

Newspaper Aftonbladet reported that the moped the man was driving was later found. It had been burned. Aftonbladet says the police are tight-lipped about the incident.

The man who was shot has been identified. His relatives have been notified.

“We fled longer back into our apartment and then I went out and looked out the window,” one witness told Aftonbladet.

“His face and chest was bloody and there was a lot of blood on the pavement.”

Newspaper Expressen reports that the man’s partner witnessed the shooting and called the ambulance.

This is the second time in less than two weeks that shots rang out in Gothenburg on an open street and in broad daylight. Police say there is no connection between the two shootings.

The search for the suspect continues.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘The EU Are Trying to Wipe Us Off the Map’: Brussels Merges England and France in New Arc Manche Region… With Its Own Flag

Eric Pickles last night accused the European Union of trying to ‘wipe England off the map’ by developing a new cross-Channel region, complete with its own ‘flag’.

The Cabinet Minister condemned the EU for ploughing millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into the ‘Arc Manche’, the name given by Brussels to an ambitious attempt to merge Northern France and Southern England.

Mr Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, says he is incensed to have discovered that Eurocrats are planning to roll out a new Arc Manche ‘transnational emblem’ across England.

The logo is described by its designers as a ‘series of concentric circles symbolising the flow of projects . . . and bridges between territories’.

It includes the word Interreg, a contraction of inter-regional — the name of a £1billion-a-year EU initiative to reduce the influence of national borders and increase cooperation between countries. The design will be emblazoned on EU ‘vanity projects’ in the cross-Channel area, including:

* A £7.6million network of ‘cross-Channel’ cycle lanes.

* A £5.5million scheme to pay for circus clowns to perform throughout the Arc Manche region.

* A £2million programme of cross-Channel ‘contemporary art’ tours.

Mr Pickles said he had inherited the plans from the Labour Government.

‘Labour has been conspiring with European bureaucrats to wipe England off the map,’ Mr Pickles said.

‘Massive amounts of taxpayers’ money is being wasted on vanity projects. I intend to fight these plans, stop this waste and protect England’s national and local identities from EU empire-building.’

His outburst comes just days after the EU demanded an extra £682million a year from British taxpayers, taking the UK’s annual contribution to the EU budget to more than £10billion — the equivalent of £400 for every household.

Downing Street called the request ‘ludicrous’ and accused EU officials of having lost touch with reality.

Under the cycle lanes project, which will be completed in 2013, a series of paths will run to Channel ports on the French side and then start again on the UK side.

It is described in project documents as an ‘ambitious and large-scale trans-Channel programme’ which will necessitate ‘harmonising road markings and signage’.

[Return to headlines]

UK: A Princely Marriage

There are some things that Britain does better than any country in the world, and we saw one of them today. Two particulars will have jumped out at the tens of millions watching the Royal Wedding from overseas: the sheer splendour of our monarchy, and the depth of its popular support. HD television made the beauty of today’s ceremony all the more breathtaking. If this were a movie, it would win an Oscar for best cinematography. The shots from the roof of Westminster Abbey were jaw-dropping, the camera angles throughout were perfect. But no less awesome was the sight of the thousands thronging the streets, or watching in Hyde Park. I suspect The Guardian will tomorrow be publishing pages of these stunning images: of a Prince saluting servicemen he passes; of his younger brother who seems to always look as if he’s just back from an eventful night out; of a bride of remarkable poise, who had her washing-the-windows wave honed to perfection; and, most of all, the masses outside — black, white, Asian — reminding us that the royal family is a great unifying force in British life. For me, the most striking image of the day was the row of policemen leading celebrating, obedient crowds to the gates of Buckingham Palace. The Arab royals and their proxies who were at the ceremony can only dream of such a strong, powerful and direct connection with the public. The same is true for the politicians, none of whom would be capable of drawing a fraction of these numbers.

The Met Office predicted rain, and were again proven wrong. The sun is shining down gloriously on London as I write. A nearby street party is playing What’s Love Got To Do With It? A question that may well be asked on many a royal wedding — but today you get the feeling that love had rather a lot to do with it. Prince William has found the perfect Princess, and so has Britain. The monarchy enriches Britain, and today I suspect many republics are suffering severe case of royalty-envy. “A princely marriage is the brilliant edition of a universal fact, and, as such, it rivets mankind,” wrote Bagehot — quoted by Andrew Roberts in the latest, double edition of The Spectator. Open the world’s newspapers tomorrow morning, and you’ll find that mankind has been duly riveted. Logically, it should not be so. Support for the monarchy in Britain defies political gravity. And today, we have seen why.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: A Very Royal Wedding, Complete With a Love-Storming of the Palace

Forget republicanism — the closest Britain got to a revolution is people pushing down barricades and rushing to the palace

Whether it was history repeating itself as history, or farce repeating itself as farce, depends entirely on your point of view. The marriage of His Royal Highness Prince William to Catherine Middleton was washed down by that cocktail of fevered excitement and irate lack of interest that constitutes public opinion these days — so consider it a day when the country split into two, with each side accusing the other of madness. Much like a standard marital row, in fact. But along with binge-drinking and misplaced self-regard, royal occasions are something at which Britain is undeniably world class, and anyone still poised for a republic is advised to put down their knitting needles.

As the cameras trained on the Queen’s rather shabby net curtains, awaiting the couple’s balcony kiss, one costumed wellwisher told the BBC the crowds had initially been held back. “But in the end,” she explained, “the people just pushed the barricades down and rushed towards the palace.” And that’s as close to the French Revolution as we’re going to get — a sort of love-storming of the Bastille.

It all read like a recipe for the perfect British day: worries about the weather, lots of mentions of Princess Di, and a chance to talk about the class system. Even the Germans obliged by having a pop at us, with Der Spiegel’s London correspondent wondering “why this eccentric nation continues to worship the Windsors”. The answer, perhaps, is because there is no quality more English than the country’s ability to suspend its disbelief again and again — be it in the buildup to a World Cup quarter-final, or when faced with the latest iteration of the House of Windsor story. People know that most of the royal family’s recent marriages have been fairytales. Grimm.

But something allows the excitement to rebuild, and anyone who begrudged the gazillions who camped out to spend their day cheering and waving flags had a sobering televisual alternative: ITV2’s back-to-back screening of The Only Way is Essex. As for the marriage ceremony, it was watched by luminaries from the Beckhams to the Bercows to the alleged former head of the Bahraini torture service. To the left, the king of this; to the right, the queen of that. The last time Carole Middleton had to proceed down an aisle this intimidating she was pushing a trolley and uttering the dreaded words “I’m afraid we’ve run out of the chicken.”

But for all the confected snobbery about Kate’s origins, and her black sheep uncle Gary, the bourgeois preoccupations of the buildup could never have withstood the big guns of the occasion. In truth, there is scarcely a piece of British heritage so vulgar or outrageous that it cannot be somehow softened and folded into this most oddly enduring of myths.

During his apprenticeship on Savile Row, the late Alexander McQueen famously sewed “I AM A

“ into the lining of a suit jacket being made for Prince Charles. Yet today, the newest member of the House of Windsor was dressed by the house of McQueen, itself renewed dazzlingly by the succession of Sarah Burton.

At Westminster Abbey itself, two establishments fought for prominence. The Beckhams — who you’ll recall sat on thrones at their own wedding — queued like hoi polloi to get in, while megastar Elton John travelled in steerage at the back of the nave, miles behind various ancient but unidentifiable aristos who haven’t been playing with a full order of service since the old king was on the throne. The telly cameras immediately overrode their protocol function, and were far more interested in cutting to the celebs than any of the more recherché foreign dignitaries.

Thus it was possible to see that neither the Queen nor Victoria Beckham knows the words to Jerusalem off by heart, with both filmed relying intently on their order of service.

Incidentally, we must doff our plastic coronets to the choice of William Blake’s brilliantly mad and mystical hymn of nostalgia for something that never really existed, but which does bring the neck hairs to attention on the big occasion. The only reading was from Romans. “Bless those who persecute you,” intoned Kate’s brother James, pausing to allow the reference to the press to sink in. “Bless and do not curse them..”

Most overused phrase of the day? “A very modern love story”, followed by telly commentators’ dreary emphasis on the fact that William and Kate were “very down-to-earth people”, as though all the nation wanted out of a monarchy were a former accessories buyer for Jigsaw and a groom spawned in the hellfires of the House of Windsor, but now merely keen to make his name as a mid-ranking air-sea rescue operative.

The day frequently couldn’t make its mind up. On the one hand, loyal subjects were supposed to be impressed that minor royals had foregone horsedrawn carriages and were being shuttled in minibuses. On the other, they were expected to develop a sudden yet obsessive interest in state arcana — the provenance of gold altar plates, the engraving of a ceremonial bridle, the fact that the Green Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace opens into the White Drawing Room. We’re all supposed to be semioticians now, so do feel encouraged to speculate on what Prince Harry calling himself “best man” as opposed to the more traditional “supporter” means for modern Britain, or what Samantha Cameron’s failure to wear a hat means for your local Sure Start centre.

As for what’s next, you need hardly ask. ITV’s coverage of the wedding kicked off at 0600 hours, and it took all the way until 06.16 before sofa-based royal expert Eve Pollard had declared firmly: “We want an Olympics baby.” So there you have it. Royal uterus watch begins today.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Grandfather Beaten to the Ground by Youths as He Walked Home in Leicester

A grandfather was beaten to the ground by a group of young men who had asked him for a cigarette.

Tom Carnegie, 74, was attacked by four or five men in Belgrave, Leicester, on Good Friday as he walked home from visiting his son.

Recovering at home yesterday, the retired hosiery worker and merchant seaman said: “I don’t know why they did it. This is not the world I grew up in.

“It was a lovely evening and I’d been to see my son and his girlfriend.

“I left them, as I always do, at about 11pm. Everything seemed fine.

“On the way home, I saw this group and just assumed they were locals. They asked me for a cigarette and I said, ‘of course’, because I’m a bit of a softie.

“I don’t really remember what happened next, but they just started hitting me.

“I tried to cover my face and head with my arms, but they got some blows in. I’ve got bruises all over.

“While I was down they went into my pocket and took my cigarette case and my wallet.

The attackers were Asian, aged about 20 and all about 5ft 10in. They were all wearing black.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Have-a-Go Hero Told He Might be Charged After Tackling Yob

John Harvey bravely intervened after a gang of 12 yobs started vandalising a cricket club where he works in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and grabbed the main culprit.

The groundsman at Linden Park Cricket Club called police as he held the teenager telling cops he had caught the yob in the act and they should send an officer to arrest the teen.

But as the 47-year-old was desperately trying to keep hold of the teen as the other yobs — armed with sticks surrounded him — the police operator warned him he could be charged with assault.

Mr Harvey said: “I expected to be thoroughly supported by the police as a civilian and not rebuked.

“I was expecting a response car immediately. I had restrained someone in the act of vandalism and she said ‘I must warn you, you are leaving yourself open to an assault charge’.”

He added: “I told her ‘You’d better be quick, there are 12 of them. I might be one of your statistics’.

“She was reading screen prompts and insisting I gave my name and address and I said ‘With 12 kids in front of me?’

“That sort of thing has to be put by the wayside. I could have been in the morgue by now.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Royal Wedding: An Occasion of High Majesty Tempered by Delightful Sense of Informality

At 11.28am in a splendid and joyous display of pageantry, grandeur and high spectacle not seen in Britain for a generation, Prince William and Catherine Middleton were married before a congregation of 1,900 people in Westminster Abbey and the rapt gaze of a global television audience.

For all who witnessed it there was the inescapable sense that here was a matchless act of high theatre, resonant with history, tradition and the inescapable feeling of the institution of the monarchy being reshaped before our eyes. Catherine Middleton was the first untitled woman to marry a prince in close proximity to the throne in more than 350 years, since Anne Hyde wed the Duke of York, later James II, in 1660. In an illustration of unparalleled social mobility, having walked up the aisle as Kate, a history of arts graduate from Berkshire, whose ancestors include, on her mother’s side Durham miners and on her father’s, five generations of stolid middle-class solicitors, the new bride walked down it the Duchess of Cambridge, and the future Queen Catherine, the sixth to bear that title.

We were told that this would be a relatively modest royal wedding. Relatively. An occasion geared to the imperative to strike a balance between a consideration for the austerity of the times, and yet the need to mount a spectacle that would do justice to both the occasion and the expectations of those watching. The cost, including policing and security is expected to have exceeded £20 million. The benefit to the spirit of the nation, in an age of increasing cynicism, when Britain’s sense of national self-hood has never been more fragile, is incalculable. For here was a vivid testament to the strange hold which the monarchy continues to exercise over the British people — and over the world. But if this was an occasion of high majesty, it was tempered by a delightful sense of informality.

Decked in spring flowers, the nave transformed into a rustic bower (a master-touch of planning), the Abbey was en fete. The mood among those first to arrive was convivial and relaxed. Reluctant to take their seats until it was absolutely necessary, people moved around the Abbey as if it at a particularly agreeable garden party, greeting friends, admiring each other’s outfits, making no attempt tio conceal the inordinate pleasure that all felt to be present at the social event of the century.

In the south transept — Poet’s Corner — where I took my seat, the arrival of the foreign ambassadors and high commissioners, many in national costume, brought a cloudburst of exoticsm and colour — the silk turbanned Ambassador of Oman; the High Commissioner of Ghana, wrapped in a multi-coloured kente, the High Commissioner of New Zealand with a traditional Maori cloak tied over his shoulders.

‘A princely marriage’, as Walter Bagehot observed, ‘is the brilliant edition of a universal fact and, as such, it rivets mankind’. Bagehot was writing about the marriage of the future King Edward VII, then the Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, a union which presaged a period of dwindling popularity for the monarchy, and a growing Republican sentiment in Britain. This marriage too, it seems, signals a period of change — but of renewal, the sense that this is the most significant event for the Royal Family since the death of William’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, whose presence has been tangible at every step of this union, from the sapphire and diamond engagement ring that Miss Middleton William gave to Kate in November, to the choice of Westminster Abbey where Diana’s funeral service was held, to the choice of the first hymn, Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer, which was sung at both the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997 and the memorial service to mark the 10th anniversary of her death.

Sitting in the Abbey it was impossible not to reflect on the impact that the ill-starred union of Prince Charles and Princess Diana had made on the institution of the monarchy, and the weight of expectation that now rests upon this marriage, and on Catherine Middleton in particular. The fact that Prince William should have chosen to marry through genuine love and affection rather than by royal arrangement, surely presages a different future for the monarchy, less hidebound by tradition, a king with the common touch, true to the memory of his mother, in fact.

Any marriage is a leavening process, bringing together people who would never ordinarily inhabit the same place, or social sphere. But never before can such a diverse cross-section of congregants have taken their places at a royal wedding. More than 1,000 of those attending were family or friends of the Prince or Miss Middleton. There were more than 50 members of the Royal family, and more than 40 members of foreign royal families, from Denmark to Tonga. (Occasions such as this provide the dwindling number of royals around the world the chance to look longingly at the hypnotising power that royalty may still exert.) Seated in the Quire, along with the choir of Westminster Abbey and the choir of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, was an array of politicians, dignitaries and heads of state. David and Samantha Cameron and Nick and Miriam Clegg, any disagreements over the over the matter of AV temporarily set aside, huddled companionably together in a pew.

There was the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks; the Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala, acting head monk of the London Buddhist Vihara;and the President of the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe. There was Seyi Obakin, the chief executive of Centrepoint, with whom Prince William slept rough in London to highlight the issue of homelessness, along with a further 80 guests with whom the Prince has worked through his charities. There was David and Victoria Beckham, Rowan Atkinson, and Sir Elton John. There was even a delegation from Mustique, the Carribean island where the Prince and Miss Middleton have twice holidayed together, including the tennis coach, the yoga instructor and the flamboyant Basil Charles, owner of Basil’s Bar. The high-born, the new money, the celebrities — all reduced to a motley democracy, spectactors as the central characters took their places on the stage.

In keeping with the flawless exactitude which has characterised every step of the planning for the marriage, Prince William, a nervous smile on his face, had arrived at 10.15, resplendent in his uniform of Colonel of the Irish Guards — his senior honorary appointment in the Army — the tunic in Guards’ Red, worn with the vivid blue Garter Sash with the Wings of the Royal Air Force, the Garter Star and the Golden Jubilee Medal.

‘He’s looking a bit stiff’, murmured the Italian ambassador to the Ambassador from Paraguay. ‘Bridegroom’s nerves’. Beside him, Prince Harry, dressed in a Blues and Royals officer’s uniform in Dismounted Review Order, looked more nervous still, his hair dishevelled, as if he’d been burning the midnight oil writing the best man’s speech. As the two princes walked up the aisle, conversation in the Abbey quietened to a hushed silence, William pausing to exchange a few words with friends, Harry to shake hands with Earl Spencer, before they passed into St Edmund’s Chapel, to await the arrival of the bride.

And so they came, those in the Abbey forewarned of each imminent arrival by stragetically placed screens. As the bride’s mother Carole Middleton, accompanied by her son James, walked to her seat, her elegant pale blue Catherine Walker dress drawing admiring comments from women around, it was possible to also watch the rather odd spectacle of members of the Royal family, in a gesture towards economy, decanting from a fleet of silver minibuses in front of the Great West Door before processing to their seats.

The sense of bearing witness to a ritual steeped in history was becoming over-powering. Where I sat, an elderly Gentleman-at-Arms, magnificently accoutred in a scarlet tunic, his gold helmet extravagantly plumed in swan feathers carrying a ceremonial battle-axe, marched past, proudly erect in bearing, his spurs clanking on the paving stones, to take up his post at the door, as others of Honourable Corps took their places in front of the Quire. He seemed somehow to embody a pageantry that was at the same time magnificent and vaguely preposterous; irrational, and profoundly moving.

From outside the Abbey one could hear the cheers of the crowd, joined now by the joyful pealing of bells. A trumpet fanfare seemed to shake the vaulted ceiling of the Abbey, announcing the arrival of the Queen. She paused at the door, peering with what looked like amusement and curiosity at the sight of the avenue of trees lining the Nave, before processing to her seat to the stirring strains of Charles Parry’s March from The Birds.

Such majesty, and now, as there must be at any wedding, such innocent sweetness. As the pages and bridesmaids arrived, gathering inside the West Door to await the bride, the entire diplomatic corps beside me strained for a better view of the television screen, melting into a collective coo as one of the young bridesmaids, Eliza Lopes, appeared to yawn.

And, at last, the bride. If Miss Middleton needed any reminding about the place in history that she was about to walk into, and the sacrifices she must be expected to make, the walk down the aisle would have served to remind her. Stepping from the Rolls Royce, her father beside her, her sister Pippa arranging the train, she passed through the Great West Door, under the frieze of the ten 20th century Christian martyrs, and the statues representing Truth, Justice, Mercy and Peace. Inside the Abbey it was as if the very air grew thin, as 1,900 people drew breath. She walked on her father’s arm, her dress exquisite, to the soaring, exultant strains of Charles Parry’s Coronation anthem I Was Glad, past the grave stone of the Unknown Warrior — the only gravestone in the Abbey that nobody may walk upon — to pass through the long avenue of trees towards the sacrarium.

Smiling, she appeared nervous yet also strangely self-assured, as if, indeed, this was the moment she had been preparing for all her life. Her father beside her, proud and dignified, but showing signs of being overcome by the majesty of the occasion. As father and bride to be processed down the aisle, it was hard not to be reminded of an earlier wedding 30 years ago, when a 20-year-old Lady Diana Spencer had taken a similar walk into the bosom of the royal family, and to recall the turbulent years of upheaval and transformation that had proceeded from that event. If that was a marriage that was supposed to be the fairytale of popular imagination, and which had ended in recrimination and tragedy, this surely was a moment of joyful catharsis and resolution, of lessons learned, a moment to both consider the past and to put it to rest — even as Prince William now stood, his back to the advancing bride, on the very spot at the foot of the step leading to the High Altar where the coffin of his mother had rested on the catafalque at her funeral service in 1997. Beside him a smiling Prince Harry whispered to his brother, ‘You wait until you see her.’ As she came to his side he turned. He looked a man completely smitten. ‘You look stunning,’ he said, ‘just beautiful.’ He turned to Michael Middleton and joked. ‘We’re supposed to have just a small family affair.’

Together, the couple mounted the few steps to the sacrarium, that raised area before the High Altar with its gold screens, tapestries and glittering Abbey plate. It was at this same spot that the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, married Philip Mountbatten in 1947. As each pledged their vows, the words ‘I will’ were greeted by the sound of huge cheers from outside, filling the Abbey. Beside me there was a moment consternation from the High Commissioner of Swaziland, a radiant woman in pink silk, as William appeared to struggle to get the wedding ring over the knuckle of his bride’s finger.

As the congregation sang ‘Love divine, all loves excelling’, the bride looked almost eerily serene, while in his seat her father Michael struggled visibly to keep his emotions in check.

‘Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire’, said the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, in his address, talking of marriage as a means of transformation, ‘as husband and wife make one another their work of art.’ But seated in the Abbey, it felt as if they had already set the world on fire, and too as if we had witnessed another work of art — a spectacle of such majesty, solemnity and joyful, sublime romance — an act of national communion — that nobody who was there will ever forget. Put more simply, everyone loves a wedding.

Beside me, the High Commissioner of Swaziland, was brushing a tear from her eye. ‘It’s been so wonderful.. she said. ‘We all love them so much.’ It was, and in the fervent mood of happiness and high sentiment eddying to the highest rafters of the Abbey, we did. The verger who performed two perfect cartwheels down the red carpet after the congregation had left the Abbey was simply reflecting what everyone felt.

It is what we do best.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Royal Wedding: A Touch of Class and a Cavalcade of English Life

For the armchair viewer, the day offered superb cameos and a sparkling star turn

If you had to pick a moment from the thousand moments, it would be her smiling face behind the mist of the veil with the tiara and earrings glinting through. It took Catherine Elizabeth Middleton three and a half minutes to walk down the aisle to marry her Prince. Three and a half minutes plus 10 years. Well, I think we can all agree it was worth the wait.

They may have called her a commoner, but she outclassed every one of them.. Lovely as a poem, the bride conquered any doubting hearts when we realised that she has not yet perfected the royal screw-top hand movement. She still waves like a human — eager, excited, happy. Catherine was not alone in her thrill; there were two billion people who felt roughly the same way.

It could not have been a more perfect day. At 7.45am, the TV cameras were already out in force and the sky over London was pewter with the threat of rain. Two great British loves had come together in glorious union: a slap-up royal wedding and dodgy weather. Forget Carole Middleton, for viewers up with the lark the nation’s most important Carol was the BBC’s weathergirl. With her customary gale-force good humour, Carol Kirkwood explained to Fearne Cotton that there was an easterly wind, which was making it cold, but there was still hope that the showers could be kept away from the Abbey for the Big Moment. Down in Whitehall, Suzanna Reid was taking the temperature: “It was feeling a little damper earlier, but it seems to have lifted. No umbrellas!” Frankly, a passing typhoon could not have dampened the spirits of the throng in Hyde Park who cheered for England every time they saw themselves on the giant screen.

“Extraordinary atmosphere, extraordinary people, all ages and sizes,” confirmed Chris Hollins, doing a sterling Butlins-redcoat job with the happy campers in The Mall. ITV stole a march on the Beeb by bagging the best interviewees. It found a woman who had camped out in the exact spot for Charles and Diana’s wedding. What were the differences on this historic occasion? “The big improvement is the loos,” she beamed. “We’ve nearly got ensuites. Last wedding, we had to go down in the Tube and queue for two hours.” At last, the secret weapon in the modernisation programme: the Royal flush.

Everyone was agreed on the two things they were most looking forward to: The Dress and The Kiss. The Dress, Huw Edwards made clear, was the best-kept secret since the Enigma code. Huw, looking queasy in a pink tie, was in anchor position for the BBC, while Philip Schofield and Julie Etchingham did the honours for ITV. None brought Dimblebyesque gravitas to the occasion. Schofield, in particular, exudes a larky, daytime-TV bonhomie, which made me want to stuff his mouth with Union flag bunting. “VIPs we’re looking out for are Elton John and his partner David Furnish,” said Huw, correctly genuflecting before the new aristocracy. I found myself pining for Tom Fleming. It’s almost 12 months since the death of Fleming, for 44 years the Royal-Shakespeare-Company-trained voice of state occasions. Mellifluous, sonorous and stupefyingly knowledgeable, Fleming always sounded as though, should the need arise, he could step forward and play any of the parts himself. Especially the bishops. Huw knew his stuff, but it sounded as if it came from a cue card, not the heart: it takes genius to spin fact into golden oratory.

Thank goodness historian Simon Schama was in the BBC studio. This was an awesome occasion and he found some awe. “People on high talk about learning to be British again, well, there it is,” said Schama, gesturing to the rapturous throng outside Buckingham Palace. The Royal family, he said, are the vessel of national memory. What we were witnessing was the instinctive outpouring of millions of people. A fresh, new generation. “This is the way we renew ourselves.” Down at the Abbey, Fiona Bruce had got hold of Kate’s former headmaster at Marlborough, who shared the delicious fact that our future Queen got a Gold Duke of Edinburgh award. And now she had the grandson to match. Attagirl! “Was she ever naughty?” asked Bruce. “If she was, she obeyed the Eleventh Commandment and was never found out,” said the head.

Finally, at 9.15, there was the first sighting of royalty. “I’m told the Beckhams have just arrived,” squawked Huw. With slicked-back Twenties gigolo hair, David was beaming from ear to ear. Victoria, in Addams-family midnight, looked like she might smile, but decided against it at the last moment. They joined the melee, as we were treated to the great sight of the English upper classes trying not to look as though they were rushing to nab the best seat. Had anyone paid for speedy boarding?

Our own Celia Walden and the milliner Stephen Jones were on ITV’s panel, which scored top marks for guest recognition and wit. “Earl Spencer is accompanied by his, er, new fiancée,” said Mary Nightingale. “They’re always quite new,” said Celia wonderfully. “Don’t worry if you miss one, another will be along in a minute,” added Stephen. The camera could not take its eye off the Earl’s three refulgently beautiful, jailbait daughters: Trouble, Trouble and More Trouble.

A cavalcade of English life passed by. Stout matriarchs in family pearls and thoroughbred girls with coltish legs and hats like frisbees. The Duchess of Kent was iridescently lovely in pink. The Princess Royal scored another wedding triumph, dressed as an explosion in a picnic basket. Minor royals, and even some quite senior ones, were delivered unceremoniously in grey minibuses, which Huw insisted on calling mini-coaches. They looked like those prison vans people bang on when there are paedophiles inside. Breaking with convention, Samantha Cameron, divine in mermaid-green, chose not to wear a hat. Miriam Clegg made up for it by wearing two: a tarantula stapled to a mantilla. There is only one word for Mrs Clegg’s outfit. Caramba!

Once inside, all the silliness and jostling fell away. You heard the great hoarse echo of the Abbey clearing its throat for the big occasion. The first trumpet blast of Hubert Parry’s And I Was Glad brought up goosebumps in places you didn’t know you had places. I loved the way Prince Harry turned to sneak a look down the aisle as the bride and her father made their way to the altar, then joshed his brother with a “Don’t look now, but there’s this hot girl coming” grin. The Harry who once seemed like he might be a liability, yesterday seemed like the most relaxed Royal in history. Bets were being placed in our house as to the odds of him getting off with the Maid of Honour, an impeccable Pippa Middleton.

What else? Ah, yes, The Dress. “A fashion statement,” said one stylish commentator. To the rest of us, merely modest, beautiful and a knockout like its wearer. Kate betraying her nerves by moistening her lips. The Diana-look William gave her when she reached him — eyelids lowered in shyness and delight. “You look beautiful.” She did. The batsqueak of worry the ring wouldn’t fit on her finger. The tears in your eyes at how fabulous it all was. The sense that, yes, here was the genius of our country, showing how it should be done.

A decade ago, when a friend at St Andrews told Kate she was lucky to be going out with William, she replied: “He’s the lucky one to have me.” This was the day, we knew they were lucky to have each other. And we were there to watch.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Rumpled Crotch Syndrome and the Big Trousers Society

Politicians at the royal wedding were united by a single joyous thought: ‘I’m here and Blair isn’t!’

Politicians usually hate being upstaged by royals and celebs. But yesterday the few who were invited were as one in a single, joyous thought: “I’m here, and Blair isn’t!” As one MP said on Thursday night: “If Blair is being kept out because he went over the top at Diana’s funeral, what on earth is Elton John doing there?”

David Cameron, having abandoned his idea of coming in a lounge suit (what he needs to realise is that the British will forgive a toff when he acts like a toff; what we can’t stand is a toff pretending to be one of the lads) was in morning dress with a pale lilac weskit. Sadly, however, his trousers were too big; he was suffering from RCS, rumpled crotch syndrome, which afflicted the previous Tory prime minister. The prime minister was interviewed by the BBC in Downing Street, the wisteria flapping behind him a reminder of that other grand old British tradition — the MPs’ expenses scandal. “We British are quite reserved,” he said of us all, “but when we go for it, we really go for it.” He revealed that his personal gift was photos of Anglesey, the ultimate coffee table tome. And you won’t find that on a Peter Jones list.

Boris Johnson was quintessence of Boris. He began with a shout-out to “Pam, of Moss Bros in Fenchurch Street”, who’d fitted his morning suit. He’d arranged a gift for the couple, a tandem bicycle. We’re always warned against the cycling monarchs of Scandinavia; now we are to have a future king on a Boris tandem. What a strange vision: the couple arriving at a hospital opening looking like the Goodies.

John Major scurried in. His trousers looked fine. He had been invited, as had Lady Thatcher, who has good days and bad days, but who can’t risk appearing in public on a bad day. Ffion, William Hague’s wife, was in a wheelchair after a walking accident, but had contrived sedentary chic, matching her grey plaster to her grey jacket. Ed Miliband was one of the very few Labour politicians present, no doubt picking up tips for his own wedding later this year. One hint might be: “Don’t invite Ken Clarke.”

The Lord High Chancellor of England had the misfortune to be sitting behind the choir, so his face — looking much as if he had been at a stag party — cropped up behind angelic little boys. As often, he looked as if he would rather be in a pub with a pie and a pint. The Speaker, John Bercow, came with his wife Sally, possibly reflecting how much less grand the abbey is than his own lovely official home. And the home secretary arrived with her husband. It is the first time that the person ultimately responsible for security on such a day was hidden under a hat that looked as if a pink leopard had been in a fight with a pink vulture.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Royal Wedding: Kiss Me Kate, But Make it Snappy, The Grandparents Are Watching

And so, there it was. At 1.26pm, ninety-six long seconds after they walked out of the Centre Room and on to the balcony of Buckingham Palace, William and Kate kissed.

It was not quite the passionate embrace that the country had hoped for, and it was never going to give Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler a run for their money. But then again, would you want your lips to linger for longer than a couple of seconds in front of your grandparents, your in-laws, and two billion plus people you have never met before? “Oh wow,” said William, Kate, and the very crowd they were gasping at, packed into an area just over half a mile long. The couple walked onto the balcony with a curious cautiousness possibly born out of a train that was almost three metres long. William asked his new wife if she wanted to hold his hand. She did, but was soon to learn one of her first lessons in life as a Royal: it is very difficult to hold hands and wave at the same time.

In fact, as Kate and William smiled broadly and flapped their arms about at the assembled crowds, it became clear that waving is difficult full stop. While the Queen has the practice down to a fine art, the new royal couple looked a little like children playing at being Duke and Duchess. And they were all the more endearing for it. They both knew that their first role as man and wife was to lock lips in public, that this was the real moment they passed from being Wills and Kate to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. That was why so many people had lined the Mall and camped out on the pavements between St James and Green Park. The service around the corner was lovely, beautiful, a great chance to have a look at the hats and the towering heels that a pregnant Posh Spice was wearing, but it wasn’t the important bit.

No. That accolade would go to the kiss, a relatively recent royal tradition that was begun by a painfully strained Charles and Di in 1981, continuing with the pantomime performance of Prince Andrew and Fergie five years later. With all that before them, it is a wonder that William and Kate came out on to the balcony at all — though at least they did not have to go to the lengths of their royal relatives in the 15th Century, who were virtually made to consummate their marriages in front of witnesses in the bedchamber.

The build-up to the kiss was almost as excruciating as the wait for the marriage itself. Once the wedding party had returned for the reception the roads around the Queen Victoria Memorial had to be cleared — even royal horses produce manure you know. Only then would the crowds — who had been held behind barriers since Wednesday evening — be able to flood down The Mall and in front of Buckingham Palace, where they could watch the most famous couple in the world smooch their way into public life.

It was an extraordinary sight, hundreds of thousands of people pouring around the memorial. They followed the police horses slowly and sensibly: a civilised form of kettling. Only the odd person broke into a run. Everyone was so well behaved that the gates of Buckingham Palace remained open throughout. “This would never happen in America,” remarked a woman who had flown in from Los Angeles. “People would be trampling each other to get to the front.”

It is curious to see a crowd so large and hear so little. The loudest thing was a pair of geese flying out of St James’ Park. Even when the newly-weds came on to the balcony at 1.25pm on the dot, the sound that came out wasn’t so much noise as a loud sigh of contented approval, and that seemed fitting for a couple who have been keen to show how terribly normal they are. How funny that in the most surreal of situations, surrounded by pomp and circumstance, they should finally pull looking ‘normal’ off.

Their kisses, when they came, may have been brief — but they were real. William did not have to be prompted by his brother, as Charles had all those years ago, and Kate did not have to stretch her neck out to get close to her new husband’s lips as her late mother-in-law did. Their faces slotted together with perfect ease; they laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. “Shall we do another kiss?” said the Duke to his Duchess. “Come on!” She giggled, and soul met soul on lovers’ lips.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: The Perfect Day

IT had to be a traditional wedding. But William and Kate did it their own way.

On a day laden with history, the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge proved very modern Royals. Kate’s dress was stunning but not an over-the-top monstrosity. William’s vintage car stunt copied the antics of bridegrooms everywhere. At the altar and on the way to the reception, the couple snatched moments to chat — just as all newlyweds do. This naturalness is a big reason why the nation has taken Kate and Wills so much to heart. Gorgeous Kate couldn’t stop smiling. The new princess’s radiant happiness will be a treasured memory of this amazing day. William and Kate’s balcony kisses told us all we need to know. This is a couple whose love runs deep. They also bring out the best in each other.

Both seem more confident, more at ease with themselves. You could say that about Britain, too.

Yesterday was surely the day we rediscovered our sense of national identity.. With a million on the streets of London, and most of the rest of us glued to the TV, the nation’s affection for the monarchy could not have been better demonstrated. As William Shawcross writes in The Sun, we may not be able to win world cups. But when it comes to brilliantly-organised pageantry, Britain is unbeatable. This is what we do best. We should be proud. Britain showed the world yesterday that it is in good heart, capable, and open for business.

Our new, modern Duke and Duchess have a big part to play in our revival. The Sun warmly congratulates them.

And we thank them for a day we’ll always remember.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Why I Loved the Royal Wedding

There are probably at least a dozen ways to have a pop at yesterday’s big event — but I am not even going to try. For sometimes, just sometimes, it’s worth giving in to a communal sense of joy even when it can’t quite be justified by our critical faculties or political commitments. I put up the bunting, festooned the house with balloons, invited a random collection of friends for champagne and Battenberg cake. I suppose there was a certain irony at the beginning. And all with the excuse that I was doing it all for the kids. But neither was really true. I just loved it. The dress, the service, the procession, the sermon, the uniforms, the two people in love. I even felt the slightest tear. Is this sort of sentimentality really the worst crime in the cultural handbook?

I don’t want to pick it all apart, I want to join in, to be a part of the crowd and the cheers. Yes, and God save the Queen. Out on the street there was a palpable sense of togetherness — the normal rules that keep us within our individual bubbles having been temporarily suspended. People were wearing wedding dresses on the London underground. Odder still, strangers were talking to each other.

If there is a weakness of the contemporary left it is that it too often fails to appreciate the power of this collective unconscious: of story and history and ritual and, yes, religion too. It has adopted such a rationalistic conception of reason that it still has not freed itself from the assumption that all will be well only when all cultural forces have been broken down to their basic parts and then reassembled according to some grand rational plan. This means that things like royal weddings don’t find a significant role in the progressive vision of society — and this is a permanent weakness of leftwing politics. For in truth, the things that bind us together often cannot find a deeper rational justification.

The night before I got married, I was challenged by my brother to list the reasons for and against. We went for a curry and on the back of a napkin I tried to make a rational analysis, reasons for on one side, against on the other (Darwin, I later discovered, did something much the same). But it was a stupid exercise, because no equation of reasons could even begin to describe the situation. How is love to be reduced to a series of propositions? In truth, what binds people together — as a couple or as a society — always exceeds the reach of a purely rational analysis.

This is something the Tories have largely understood. They have long subscribed to the philosophy that it doesn’t matter if something fails in theory as long as it works in practice. Thus they remain entirely unbothered by the lack of a coherent philosophical justification of how the state and the church and the monarchy currently relate to each other. Conservatives intuitively appreciate that the relationship between these institutions tells a story about who we are as a nation that places our existence on a broader canvas than mere citizenship ever could. They make us a part of something bigger, they offer an emotional stake in public life and they give us something in common above the struggle of self-interest.

One of our wedding party guests is a GP in Stockwell. And a republican to boot. Earlier in the week a Kosovan woman came to see him with her children, all waving union flags. “It’s the wedding,” she explained, “they are so happy.” Some readers will now be reaching for their sick bag. But unless the left genuinely makes its peace with all of this, it will continue to struggle for popular appeal.

Dr Giles Fraser is canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Croatia: Helsinki Committee Contests Prosecutor’s Data on War Crimes

Zagreb, 28 April (AKI) — A leading Croatian human rights organisation on Thursday disputed the state prosecutor’s claim that thousands of people had been prosecuted for war crimes committed during the military operation to quash a Serb rebellion in the mid-1990s.

The Helsinki Committee said no members of Croatia’s security forces had been convicted of war crimes against Serbs during the “Storm” operation of August 1995 to quell a rebellion against Croatia’s secession from the former Yugoslavia.

“According to our data, no members of the Croatian army or police, nor anyone else, has been sentenced for war crimes against Serbs, civilians or soldiers, for crimes committed in “Storm,” said the committee in a statement published by Croatian media on Thursday.

The rights organisation rejected Croatia’s state prosecutor’s claim on that 3,728 people had been indicted for crimes committed in the “Storm” operation and 2,380 jailed were “deliberately distorted” and aimed to deceive the population.

Most criminal acts were committed against property, but there were also cases of murder and war crimes, the prosecutor said in a statement on Wednesday. Among the perpetrators were 439 members of Croatia’s armed forces, the statement said.

The prosecutor’s figures concentrated on minor crimes such as arson and looting, while wartime atrocities had gone unpunished, said the rights group.

In addition, most of those prosecuted for war crimes were Serbs, it said.

According to the Helsinki Committee, 677 Serb civilians were killed in the “Storm” operation and 563 are still listed as missing. In addition, some 200,000 Serbs had fled to Serbia and their property in many cases was looted, burned and destroyed.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on 15 April sentenced two Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, to 24 and 18 years in jail respectively, for their role in “Storm”.

The Hague tribunal said Gotovina and Markac were part of a “joint criminal enterprise”, headed by late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, aimed at ethnic cleansing against the country’s Serb minority.

The verdict send shockwaves around Croatia and sparked bitter controversy.

Prime minister Jadranka Kosor has said she will wage a “diplomatic offensive” to change the verdict on appeal.

But HC official Zarko Puhovski told Zagreb daily Vjesnik Kosor should face the reality and concentrate on prosecuting war crimes instead.

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

North Africa

Gaddafi Accuses Italy of Re-Engaging in Colonialist Crimes

(AGI) Tripoli — Colonel Gaddafi accuses Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian parliament of taking part in colonialist crimes. In a speech delivered today to mark the 96th anniversary of battle for Ghardabiya, Gaddafi said “by sending bombers over the city, today as in the past, “Italy insists on repeating the crimes of 1911, in keeping with the same colonialist policy. This is the violent face of Italy. My friend Berlusconi and the Italian parliament — provided one exists — are committing a crime.”

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

Libya: NATO Intercepts Boats Laying Mines Outside Misurata

Nato warships have intercepted several boats laying anti-shipping mines outside the harbour of the Libyan city of Misurata, according to a senior military officer.

Misurata has been under siege by forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi for several weeks and though rebels have managed to expel regime forces from the city itself, the enclave is isolated and remains dependent for much of its food and supplies on the sea link with the rebel capital Benghazi.

It appeared to be the first time sea mines have been used in the Libyan conflict.

“We have just seen Gaddafi forces floating anti-ship mines outside Misurata harbour today,” said British Brig. Rob Weighill, director of Nato operations in Libya.

“It again shows his complete disregard for international law and his willingness to attack humanitarian delivery efforts.

He added that Nato crews were disposing of the mines.

It has been a month since Nato assumed control of the US-led military operation in Libya.

Since then, alliance warplanes have conducted a total of 4,242 sorties and 1,766 strike sorties. In addition, a total of 19 Nato ships are patrolling the central Mediterranean.

Forces loyal to Gaddafi yesterday meanwhile for the first time crossed into neighbouring Tunisia and fought a gun battle with Tunisian troops in a frontier town as Libya’s conflict spilt beyond its borders.

Pro-Gaddafi forces shelled the town of Dehiba, damaging buildings and injuring at least one resident, and a group of them drove into the town in a truck, according to witnesses.

The Libyan government troops were pursuing anti-Gaddafi rebels from the restive Western Mountains region of Libya who fled into Tunisia in the past few days after Gaddafi forces overran the border post the rebels had earlier seized.

In response Tunisia summoned Libya’s ambassador to protest against the incursions.

“We summoned the Libyan envoy and gave him a strong protest … because we won’t tolerate any repetition of such violations … Tunisian soil is a red line and no one is allowed to breach it,” said Radhouane Nouicer, the deputy foreign minister.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Muslims Protest at Church in Cairo

by Mary Abdelmassih

AINA) — Thousands of Muslim demonstrators gathered in front St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, vowing not to leave until they know the whereabouts of Coptic women, especially Camilia Shehata (AINA 7-23-2010)) who allegedly converted to Islam but are held against their will by the Coptic Orthodox Church in monasteries and churches. The sit-in was called for by the newly-founded Coalition for the Support of New Muslims.

At the time of the Muslim demonstrations, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was not present in his residence within the grounds of the Cathedral. The head of security at the Cathedral closed the gates and it was reported that Christians have been asked not to come to the Cathedral to avoid altercations with the protesting Muslims.

The Cathedral was cordoned off by the military police and security forces. Cairo saw today three separate protests staged by Salafis against Pope Shenouda and the church, marching afterwards to the Coptic Cathedral in Abbasiya. The first demonstration was in front of El-Fatah mosque in Ramsis Square, the second in front of Al-Nour mosque Abbasiya Square, and the third came out of the Sharia Association mosque in Ramsis.

The protesters demanded the resolution of the “ten demands”, which they called for last Sunday, during their protest in front of the el-Kayed Ibrahim mosque in Alexandria, mainly the “trial of Pope Shenouda”, “ the release of Camelia Shehata and Wafaa Constantine” and “inspection of monasteries and churches to look for Muslim women held by the church.”

The Muslims chanted “Islamic, Islamic, against your will, Islamic” in front of the Cathedral and “They abducted Wafaa Constantine, By Allah we will not be silent” and “With our souls and blood, we will defend Islam.” They held banners and photos of the alleged Muslim converts who were allegedly abducted by the church, as well as banners calling for an Islamic State (video of demonstration).

At the time of their afternoon prayers, thousands of Muslims prayed with the organizers, who asked the demonstrators to turn their backs to the Cathedral.

Islamic lawyer Mamdouh Ismail gave a speech in which he called for the realization of human rights and the rule of law, pointing out that this sit-in is not directed against the cathedral as a house of worship for Christians, whom he described as partners in the homeland. He also asked the Christians “to participate in the demonstrations demanding the appearance of Camelia.” In the same context, Khalid Al Harbi, director of the “Islamic Observatory against Proselytizing,” said “we will not go and we will not plead with anyone, but we will take our rights with our own hands.”

A difference of opinion emerged between the organizers of the protest about when to end the protest. Renowned Muslim Salafi leaders Dr. Yasser Borhamy, from Alexandria, sent a message to the protesters asking them to disperse, saying the reason behind the protest was to deliver a message and so that no sectarian strife should occur because of the Salafis, while others like Abu Yehia, who claims he was with Camelia when she converted to Islam, wanted to break into the Cathedral.

Dr. Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Union of human rights organization, told Voice of the Free Copts that although demonstrations are legal, the Salafi demonstrations aim at incitement to sectarian strife in Egypt. “They call for the release of Camilia Shehata, who said she was a Christian and will live and die as a Christian,” he said (video of Camilia). “Also, the authority who can say if she converted to Islam is Al-Azhar and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar confirmed two weeks ago that Camilia never set foot there. Do they want a confrontation with the Copts? Do they want bloodshed just because these people are making illegal demands?”

Gabriel said that the Supreme Council of the armed forces should put an end to these demands and the insults to Pope Shenouda and the church as they did last week and on April 25 in Alexandria. He pointed out the disgrace of Egypt being designated a “country of particular concern” by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. He added that the armed forces have to protect the Copts from the Muslims, otherwise he will go to the International institutions to do so.

Egypt receives $300 million from the U.S. every year to improve on human rights, “So where is this money?” Says Gabriel. “Do we take it to put it in our pockets? Where is this improvement?” He said that a Coptic conference will be held on May 8, to discuss the dire situation of the Copts after the January 25 Revolution.

Islamic lawyer Ismail said after the sit-in was called off , that he has reached an agreement with the army to solve the issue of Camellia Shehata by bringing her out on one of the satellite channels to declare whether she converted to Islam or not , and in exchange the Salafis are to suspend until such time all their demonstrations and sit-ins.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Qaddafi’s Son is Killed in NATO Strike

A NATO airstrike Saturday night killed the youngest son of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Saif al-Arab, and three grandchildren, a Libyan government spokesman said.

Mussa Ibrahim said that the son was a civilian and a student who had studied in Germany. He was 29 years old.

[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Car Registrations Down 50% From 2010

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 20 — Tunisia recorded a 50% decline in car sales in the first quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2010. In the first three months of this year a total of 6481 cars were registered, against 13571 in the previous year. Analysts expect to see a slight improvement in April with the country’s return to normality, after the ‘revolution’.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Vicar of Tripoli Says Bombs and Air Strikes Are Immoral

(AGI) Vatican City — The Vicar of Tripoli says “no matter how accurate they are, bombs kill civilians. They are immoral.” Monsignor Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, was speaking during an interview with the Vatican Fides Agency. He went on to say, on the subject of attacks on Colonel Gaddafi’s residence, that he “wondered if it was in fact moral to kill a Head of State. What right do we have to do so?” .

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas-Fatah Deal, Egypt Lifts Gaza Blockade

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, APRIL 29 — The day after the unexpected announcement of a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah — which will officially be signed in Cairo next Wednesday — Egypt has hinted that it reached diplomatic victory by playing a “winning card”, namely the gradual lifting of the Gaza blockade and the forthcoming reopening of the border crossing at Rafah, between the Gaza Strip and Sinai. Even before it left Gaza a few days ago, the Hamas delegation had announced that the reopening of the border was imminent. The party may have been informed prior to the announcement that its flexibility would be rewarded. Israel, meanwhile, is now examining the repercussions of this latest development, which it has called “worrying”.

Last year, in order to stem the flow of arms being smuggled out of the Sinai and into Gaza, Egypt erected a (partially underground) steel barrier along the border with the Gaza Strip and stepped up its border control. But a wind of change is beginning to arrive from Cairo, with the new Foreign minister, Nabil El Arabi, speaking two weeks ago of a possible visit to Gaza “out of solidarity”.

Israel’s concern has been heightened by the news in recent days of further sabotage to the southern Sinai pipeline, which carried huge amounts of natural gas towards Israel. With the Cairo press dead against the supply, the tap could even be switched off.

In this context comes the change of tack by the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who after expressing his great disappointment in the US President Barack Obama in a candid interview with Newsweek, is now preparing to receive a warm welcome in Cairo next Wednesday, where he will meet the political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal. This is “a fatal error”, according to the Israeli President, Shimon Peres. According to Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, “the new PNA will have the face of Mahmoud Abbas, but the hands of Hamas,” of an organisation that positions itself at the forefront of an Islamic wave which now has regional stature, and is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

In a meeting in Ramallah yesterday with Israeli pacifists, Mahmoud Abbas repeated that the management of any future talks with Israel — if and when these resume — would remain firmly in his hands. New details on the agreement between Hamas and Fatah, published in today’s edition of the Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, appear to confirm this, at least in part.

The new PNA government will be made up of experts who, the agreements say, will focus on internal issues. These include the organisation of new general and presidential elections within a year, restructuring the activities of ministries after an enforced four-year separation of the West Bank and Gaza and new regulations for charity activity after the PNA closed institutions in the West Bank linked to Hamas.

Reading between the lines, however, it appears that the key aspects of the conflict between Hamas and Fatah have not yet been resolved. The “reform of the PLO”, which is to be dealt with by a joint committee from both sides, could still put the agreement at risk. Through Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas today announced that the PLO would have to cancel its recognition of Israel made in the Oslo agreements of 1993. The “Supreme committee for security” will also have to unite “in a single professional security force both the “Dayton Forces” (thousands of PNA agents stationed the West Bank after being trained by the US) and the Izz-ad-Din Al Qassam Brigades, the Hamas mini-army that possesses long-range guide missiles and is led in Gaza by the charismatic Ahmed Jaabri. Jaabri has often shown a degree of independence from the political leaders of Hamas.

The deal between Hamas ad Fatah, therefore, is currently above all a statement of intent. A significant dose of creativity will be required on both sides if the agreements are to be carried out.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Syria: Uprising: ‘Friday of Rage’ And of Blood

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 29 — If the Syrian regime thought that the reforms implemented or promised and the brutal repression of protests that have so far left hundreds dead would dissuade Syrians from again taking to the streets on Friday, they were clearly mistaken. Tens of thousands marched through the streets all around the country, once again chanting: “The people want to overthrow the regime”. But once again, some of them paid the ultimate price. Opponents of the regime say that security forces killed 9 people in Homs, while the Interior Minister said that three policemen were shot dead. Witnesses also reported that at least 15 people were killed by shots fired by security forces attempting to disperse a crowd of thousands of protesters in Deraa, the city of 120,000 people that has become the epicentre and the symbol of the uprising. The army, meanwhile, says that four of its soldiers were killed and two kidnapped by “a terrorist group” in the same city.

Once again, Deraa, which has been under siege since Monday by the Syrian army’s Fourth Division, which is commanded by President Assad’s brother, was at the centre of Friday’s protests. In calling for Syrians to take part in a new “Friday of Rage”, activists had announced the action “in solidarity with Deraa”, where everything began on March 15, and where water, electricity and communications have been cut for days, while 83 bodies are reported to have been taken to the morgue since Monday, many of them women and children, according to Tamer Al Jahamani, a leading lawyer in the city.

“President Bashar wants to do in Deraa what his father Hafez did in Hama,” many people said, remembering the repression with tanks and even aircraft during the 1982 uprising led by the Muslim Brotherhood, which a number of sources say left over 10,000 people dead. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is outlawed in Syria, on Friday returned to the fore, releasing a statement in which it appealed to the Syrian people: “Do not let the regime besiege your compatriots, demand freedom and dignity with a single voice, do not let the tyrant drive you into slavery. God is great”.

In the dozens of videos circulated via the internet by Syrian “pro-democracy activists”, there is no sign of any Islamist slogans, but there is a great deal of highly significant footage. Many people are seen with photos or statues of President Bashar Al Assad or his father Hafez, which are attacked and kicked by protesters, in an echo of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in 2003. There are many reports, many of them released on Twitter, saying talk of “regime snipers positioned on rooftops” or of children taking part in the protests being “killed by soldiers”, whose first names and surnames are listed. The veracity of these reports is difficult to ascertain. It is also said that protests “are taking place in 50 cities and villages”. Other more authoritative sources talk of at least 34 areas, including Homs, Hama, Latakia, Banias and many others, even Damascus. But the regime says that this is an “unprecedented media campaign of instigation against Syria, which aims to cast doubt over the government’s intentions and to turn the situation on its head, encouraging violent acts and spreading trouble to as many cities as possible,” says the Foreign Minister, Walid Muallim. “In such a situation, it is natural for the government to have adopted the measures necessary to preserve the security of citizens,” Muallim commented, adding that the government had been “forced to use its own energy to answer calls by citizens to save them and to re-establish order in the country”.

On Friday, 250 Syrians from villages near the border with Turkey attempted to leave the affected areas and to enter Turkish territory, but Ankara’s security forces turned back the group, which included women and children.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Otokar Seeks to Export New Armored Vehicle

Otokar, a top Turkish armored vehicle maker, plans to export a large number of eight-wheeled armored vehicles it has just developed, said a top company executive on Friday.

“The Turkish Armed Forces needs no such vehicles in the very short term. On the other hand, many militaries in the world are in need of such vehicles, so we are in this business,” said Serdar Görgüç, the Otokar general manager. He was speaking at an event to mark the unveiling of Otokar’s new product, the Arma 8x8, in Adapazari, western Turkey.

Otokar will display the Arma 8x8 at the IDEF 2011, a defense fair in Istanbul to be held May 10-13.

“In the next 10 years there will be a huge market in the world for 8x8 vehicles, and we are seeking cost-effective and good solutions to all requirements,” Görgüç said. “All countries not producing 8x8 vehicles are our potential customers.” The company is in touch with several potential customers.

The Arma 8x8 will be competing with rivals for contracts in at least two countries in the next two months. Otokar said Thursday it had signed a contract with Turkish security officials worth 56 million Turkish Liras for the sale of armored personnel carriers and upgrades for them.

Görgüç said the contract includes the procurement and upgrade of nearly 400 Cobra light armored vehicles, Otokar’s signature product.

The company also signed contracts worth $9.3 million for exports of several vehicle types earlier this year and in December another contract worth more than $10 million for the first exports of its Arma 6x6 vehicles to an unnamed country.

Otokar, owned by Turkey’s top business conglomerate Koç Holding, produces a family of seven armored vehicles. It’s sales, civilian and military, reached 517 million liras (approximately $340 million) in 2010.

The Arma is an amphibious tactical wheeled armored vehicle. It has a high degree of ballistic and mine protection, thanks to its high steel hull.

Otokar is the Turkish prime contractor for a multi-billion-dollar program for the design, development and manufacturing of Turkey’s first domestically produced main battle tank, the Altay.

Under a $500 million contract, Otokar and its partners have been tasked to deliver four prototypes for the new generation tank by 2015. In agreement with South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem, Otokar is obtaining technology transfer from the company that produced South Korea’s K1 and K2 main battle tanks. After 2015, serial production of the Altay is expected to start.

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

Witnesses Report Artillery Fire Outside Sirya’s Deraa

(AGI) Amman — Witnesses report hearing shell rounds being fired from positions outside the old city of Deraa. The shelling is reported to have coincided with the some 15 armoured vehicles’ entering the city. The artillery positions are said to be located on the road granting access to the city’s old quarters, close to the Jordanian border.

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


Imam’s Call to Add Crescent Moon Symbol to Russian Emblem Met With Alarm

Was it a call to bring the revolts and violence of the “Arab Spring” now sweeping the Middle East to Russia?

That is the question that swirled throughout Moscow when a top imam called for the addition of the Islamic crescent moon symbol to the Russian emblem.

The surprise call by Talgat Tadzhuddin during an interview with a leading Russian newspaper was met with alarm because the imam heads the Central Spiritual Association of Muslims of Russia, a major regional Islamic association.

As quickly as the word of the proposal became public it ignited a wave of condemnation.

“According to this logic,” Georgiy Vilinbakhov, head of Russia’s Heraldry Service argued, “we must change the name of Russia, put a green stripe on or flag and move the capital city from Moscow to somewhere on the border between Europe and Asia.”

The fears of renewed tension between the state and the Islamist were exacerbated because Moscow had just seen serious clashes between Islamic and Russian youths.

Moreover, Russia has been involved in a number of disputes along its southern tier that pit predominately Muslim populations seeking autonomy and Islamic governance against Russian troops.

In Chechnya, for example, Russia has fought two brutal wars and been the subject of major terror attacks by Islamic separatists from the region. The two most significant were the 2004 attack on a school in Beslan that left more than 300 dead and the 2002 siege at a Nord Ost theater by 50 Chechen soldiers that left at least 170 dead.

Both attacks left relations with Russia’s Islamic community in a fragile state.

In his interview, Tadzhuddin said, “We are asking for one of the heads (of the Russian state emblem, a double-headed eagle) to be topped with a crescent moon and the other to be topped with a Russian Orthodox cross. All the crowns on the coat of arms — two on the heads of eagles and one above the middle — are topped by crosses. But Russia has 20 million Muslims. That is 18 percent of the population.”

Tadzhuddin also said that he had presented a sketch of the proposed change to both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin has not commented on the issue.

In the days since the proposal was made public there have been no public protests or support for the changes anywhere in Russia. And other major Muslim groups inside Russia quickly rejected the proposed changes to the emblem, which was adopted in 1472 under the reign of Ivan III after his marriage to a Byzantine princess. It was replaced when communists took over in 1917 and reestablished in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Muhammedgali Khuzin, head of the executive committee of the Russian Association of Islamic Consensus, a much larger Muslim organization, said the proposal would hurt cultural harmony, unleash xenophobia and be generally counterproductive.

He also intimated that any changes to the Russian emblem were bound to create conflict.

The Russian Orthodox Church also rejected the idea, but suggested that flags of predominately Muslim areas might choose to add the crescent to their regional flags.

Experts in the U.S. and in Russia agree that there is little likelihood that the proposal was meant to spread conflict.

Eric McGlinchey, an expert on Central Asia and professor at George Mason University, said that the fact that Tadzhuddin was able to meet with Putin and Medvedev made it unlikely that there was more to the proposal than “an effort to recognize cultural diversity in Russia.”

“The Central Spiritual Association of Muslims of Russia has a long history of being close to the state. It was closely affiliated with he old Soviet regime and, while not exactly a state organ, it has close ties to the government,” he said. “It is not a call for revolt.”

“I don’t think that Putin and Medvedev would meet with someone who was likely to call for Islamic turmoil in their borders,” he added.

Peter Byrne, a journalist who has worked extensively throughout Russia, said simply, “It is not an issue here.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Orissa: Fundamentalists Attack Hindu for Friendship With Christians

In the village of Bodimunda, Kandhamal, the fundamentalists social and economic boycott of Christians. They want police reports relating to the pogroms of 2008to withdrawn. A Hindu friend of Christians and his family held under siege overnight in their home, later looted and destroyed.

Kandhamal (AsiaNews) — New episodes of intolerance in Kandhamal, the scene of repeated anti-Christian violence by Hindu fundamentalists (23/03/2011 Orissa: another Christian killed in Kandhamal). This time the victim is a Hindu attacked because of his good relations with Christians in the village of Bodimunda. Hindu fundamentalists in Bodimunda are implementing a social and economic boycott of Christians, which will last until they withdraw police complaints of violence committed by radicals in 2008.

On April 12, Mr Kesab Digal, 60, of Bodimunda village, a Hindu by faith but a sympathiser of Christians, was at Soroda, Ganjam distict in Orissa, with his son-in-law during Kandhamal pogrom,came to his village along with his daughters and grand children to attend the ‘meru jatra’, a local festival. But his nephew, his brother’s son, and his other friends, Hindu radicals attacked him and his brother, accusing them of supporting and helping Christians and forced them to take refuge in the house, then locked them inside, preventing them from leaving. They shot fireworks and firecrackers at the house. The policeman asked for reinforcements from the village, a dozen agents arrived later, but have not been able to end the siege of the radical Hindu mob.

Kesab Digal and other family members remained locked in the house all night, until 6 am the next morning when a magistrate came, with other agents, and the head of the village, the sarpanch. Kesab and his family were accompanied to the Tikabali police station, however in the meantime, fundamentalists looted and destroyed the house. Kesab complained, and he returned to Soroda. To date, however, none of the leaders of the siege and looting have been arrested.

The Committee of the victims of Bodimunda asked the sarpanch to arrange a meeting to discuss the lack of harmony in the village. The meeting was held in Bodimunda April 14. The sarpanch has requested that the past be forgotten, and that the attacks against Christians cease. Radicals present at the meeting said that the social and economic boycott of Christians will continue until all complaints about the 2008 pogroms are not be withdrawn.

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


800 More Migrants Reach Lampedusa

(AGI) Palermo- Another two barges brimming with immigrants reached Lampedusa last night and this morning. Almost 2,000 foreigners have landed on the island in the last 24 hours. One of the two vessels, which was carrying 360 people, reached Isola dei Conigli beach, while the other, carrying 500 passengers, was rescued about a dozen miles off the coast. Both the barges came from Libya.

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

Greek, Malta FMs Discuss Libya, Illegal Immigration

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 28 — Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Wednesday emphasised that respect for UN resolutions and their implementation is “self-evident”, when asked about any deadline concerning NATO operations in Libya. Droutsas, speaking during a press conference with his counterpart and Maltese government vice-president Tonio Borg, reminded of a decision by the Greek government to provide operational support to NATO, without, however, an active participation in military operations. He also noted that Athens from the beginning underlined the need to find a political solution, given the inability to find a solution only via military means. On his part, as Athens news agency reports, the Maltese foreign minister said his island nation will fulfill all of the UN and EU resolutions for the implementation of sanctions against the Libyan regime. He added that Valletta is in favour of military-run humanitarian aid operations, such as the evacuation of foreign combatants from the desert, etc. Conversely, Borg reminded that Malta has not allocated its airport for bombing runs. “The major and most difficult issue is where exactly the boundary of actions allowed by the UNSC resolution is,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ireland:10 Asylum Seekers Sent to Greece Despite UN Appeal

IRELAND TRANSFERRED 10 asylum seekers to Greece since 2008 despite a call by the UN refugee agency to stop the practice due to concerns that refugees’ human rights may be abused.

Two Iraqis, six Afghans and two Albanians were transferred to Greece under EU rules specifying that asylum seekers should have their applications for international protection considered in the first EU member state they enter.

The transfers were made under the “Dublin II Regulation”, adopted in 2003, in spite of advice to all EU states in April 2008 by the UNHCR to “refrain from returning asylum seekers to Greece”. The agency warned that asylum seekers who were sent back to Greece “may find themselves excluded from the asylum process” and have no access to welfare payments or housing.

Several states, including Finland, Norway and the Netherlands, temporarily suspended transfers in 2008 following the UNHCR advice. Several other EU states such as Sweden and Britain suspended all transfers last year.

The Government moved to suspend transfers to Greece this month following a landmark judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in January, which found Belgium violated an Afghan man’s human rights by sending him back to Greece in 2009.

When the Afghan asylum seeker was returned to Greece, he was locked up in a small space with 20 detainees. Access to toilet facilities was restricted, detainees were not allowed outside, were given very little to eat, and had to sleep on dirty mattresses or on the bare floor. Three days later he was released with no means of subsistence and lived on the streets of Athens. He was rearrested trying to leave Greece and alleges he was beaten by police, said the ruling.

The court found the Belgian authorities knowingly exposed him to detention and living conditions that amounted to degrading treatment, giving rise to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a statement yesterday the Department of Justice said in light of the judgment, “in terms of the day-to-day operation of the Dublin regulation, there appears to be no reality to transfers to Greece for the time being”.

Unlike some other EU states, including Britain, Ireland has not committed to adjudicating on the applications of asylum seekers who arrive here after first entering the EU through Greece.

The department said it would deal with applications on hand or before the High Court on a “pragmatic basis” in consultation with the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

At least 37 Greek transfer cases are pending in the High Court, which has referred the issue to the European Court of Justice.

The Irish Refugee Council criticised the decision to send people back to Greece.”The use of the Dublin II Regulation by Ireland . . . is an indication that Ireland has placed refugees at risk against the intentions of the [Refugee] Convention,” Sue Conlan, council chief executive, said yesterday.

Amnesty International said conditions for refugees in Greece were deplorable.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italy: 2,500 Refugees to be Distributed Regionally From Monday

(AGI) Rome- From Monday about 2,500 CARA (Asylum Seeker Reception Centre) residents will be transferred equally among the regions. Franco Gabrielli, delegate commissioner for the humanitarian emergency, communicated the details of the Civil Protection plan to all the regions. Abruzzo is excluded from this.

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

Queue Here for Britain: Meet the Thousands of Young Men Fleeing North Africa — With the UK (And Its Benefits) In Their Sights

A big smile spreads over the Tunisian’s handsome face as he stands among the shoppers outside the magnificent old railway station in the chic city of Nice on the French Riviera.

He’s one of the lucky ones who made it here, dodging the French police and their batons by hiding on a night train to cross the border from the Italian coastal town of Ventimiglia.

Karim Messaoudi is 26. He wants to go and live in Birmingham, where he has relatives and friends. Any day now, he will start his next journey by train up towards the northern coast of France.

Once in Calais, just 21 miles from the white cliffs of Dover, he will take his chance where he can find it. ‘I may have to smuggle myself on a ferry to your country. But I will do that,’ he says in near-perfect English.

‘I need a new life. I was a tourist guide in Tunisia, but now there are no jobs because there are fewer holiday-makers after our uprising. I plan a good future in England.’

Karim, who speaks four languages, including German, may have a chance of that.

He is just one of many thousands of migrants from North Africa who have fled the current turmoil of their own countries by sailing in ramshackle boats to the island of Lampedusa, off the southern tip of Italy.

A flood of nearly 26,000 Tunisians (and hundreds of Libyans) began to arrive on the Italian island two months ago. It was quickly overrun, and in recent weeks Silvio Berlusconi’s government has shipped most of the migrants to mainland Italy, where they have been given six-month residency visas.

Crucially, under the so-called Schengen agreement signed by five of the then ten members of the old EEC in 1985, this means that they can travel freely just about anywhere within mainland Europe, apart from the UK and Ireland.

Thus thousands of the Tunisians have made their way to the Italian seaside town of Ventimiglia, hoping to move on to France, and some — illegally — from there to Britain.

Tunisia was once ruled by the French and therefore the migrants speak the language and hope to get work there.

But such has been the volume of new arrivals on their south-eastern border in recent days that the French authorities — once self-righteous champions of open borders — have been doing all they can to refuse them entry, temporary visas or not.

So the men hang around the parks and river banks in their hundreds during the day. At night, they sleep in places such as an old shed adjoining the railway station or in the storm drains under the pavements.

They beg for money from tourists, occasionally get drunk in the cafes, and wash their T-shirts in the streets’ drinking fountains.

Almost all are young men under 30, who admit they are economic migrants — not political refugees fleeing oppression.

Ventimiglia’s mayor, Gaetono Scullino, fears his town is becoming overwhelmed and asks despairingly: ‘Do you think just one European country, Italy, can resolve these kinds of immigration problems? The Tunisians are just the start. ‘There are 520,000 Libyans waiting on the Libyan border with Tunisia because of the war there. There are another 720,000 Egyptians at their border hoping to get to Tunisia, too.’

The onward journey of those hundreds waiting in Ventimiglia hoping to travel to France has been blocked, as a simmering diplomatic row has blown up between Paris and Rome over the mass migration from Africa into Europe.

Italy said it couldn’t cope with so many migrants. And, of course, France says the same. Both countries say they need concerted action from all the other EU nations to tackle the problem.

So, after years of heralding the benefits of the Schengen border treaty (which was originally signed to facilitate trade and business), the two countries have suddenly woken up to the dangers — which were sufficiently clear to Britain that this country refused to sign up 26 years ago.

The EU Commission has now been asked by the French and Italians to reform the agreement.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says: ‘Schengen needs a review, so it is suitable for the modern world.’

One suggestion is that — as far as it is ever possible — a much tighter security cordon should be thrown around mainland Europe, allowing those inside to move about freely, but preventing newcomers from entering. France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy who formerly championed a border-free Europe, has changed his tune in recent weeks and now agrees with the need for changes. This week the mayor of Nice — now home to 6,000 Tunisian migrants — was witheringly sarcastic about the way Italy had issued so many visas to North Africans: ‘It is easy for Italy to be generous with other people’s territory.

‘By giving out these passes, Italy has made an incredible offer of hope to the North African migrants.’

In many cases, it is a false hope because of the way the French have cracked down on the Italian border, or have harried those who have made their way into the country.

Finding no welcome there, many migrants are turning their thoughts to Britain, where they believe they will be entitled to the benefits of the UK’s generous welfare state.

Already, 1,000 North Africans have made it to Paris and set up camps near the Gare du Nord station, where trains leave hourly for the Channel ports.

At the Paris camp this week, 32-year-old Murad Broug, a hotel worker from the Libyan-Tunisian border, told the Mail how many of his friends had already left for England.

‘They went north to the Channel coast and were hoping to sneak onto the train there,’ he said.

‘We’ve heard it is better in England. We have nothing here — no jobs, no accommodation. We’re not welcome in France.’

Last week, French police launched a crackdown on the Paris camp. During dawn raids they took away 100 migrants, insisting that their visas were not in order. They were arrested and will be asked to leave French soil.

Yesterday, the authorities in Calais were waiting for Tunisian and Libyan arrivals. They will join many other immigrants set on crossing the Channel to start new lives in England.

In a derelict and roofless warehouse in the port town, Akram Jabrkhel, a 31-year-old Afghani, also hoping to make the journey to Britain, said: ‘Where else will these people go?’

Akram lived in Birmingham, Leicester, Cardiff and Nuneaton for a year until 2009. But he was deported because his asylum claim was rejected. Now, he is desperate to return. On the wall of their makeshift home, the men he is dossing down with have painted the words: ‘We love England.’

And as more migrants gather in Paris and the rest of France, the French authorities will increasingly attempt to cut off the flow from Italy.

Trains travelling from Ventimiglia across the Italian-French border to Nice are being patrolled and immigrants seized.

Those caught are handcuffed and held in prison before being sent back across the border to Italy. On the Ventimiglia streets, groups of migrants sent from France claim they were beaten with batons by gendarmes over the border. I watched this week as two young Tunisians bought tickets for Nice, boarding a train at Ventimiglia station with rucksacks. They took their seats nervously.

At Menton, the first French town across the border, several French police got on board. They made straight for the Tunisians and asked to see their visas and identity cards.

Three minutes later at the next stop, they hauled the Tunisians off the train and took them away for questioning.

It is not entirely clear what happened next, but plenty of the Tunisians waiting in Ventimiglia whom I had spoken to said they had all been sent back to Italy.

‘We go, they bring us back,’ said Bicel Memni, 22, who paid £150 for two tickets to Paris for him and a friend. He was hoping to get to Manchester, where he has a Tunisian girlfriend, who works as a nurse.

‘They ripped up our tickets. They said they did not recognise our visas.’

Not surprisingly, these migrants are growing angry. However, the most resourceful are slipping through.

This week I saw three Tunisians walk into France from Italy on the main coast road. Ramzi Smaci, 20, his friends, Rabai Sima, 17, and Sliti Rabiak, set out on Tuesday morning and an hour-and-a-half later were strolling along the promenade among holidaymakers in Menton.

They passed the old border control post next to the sea, abandoned when the Schengen agreement was struck.

‘We are happy,’ said Rabai as I stopped him to talk in Menton five minutes later. ‘We were frightened that we would be stopped. We cannot believe we are here.’ With his friends, he plans to go to Marseilles, France’s second-biggest city on the Mediterranean coast, where there is a big Tunisian enclave and they have family waiting for them.

‘I have told them we are on our way,’ added Rabai, taking out an expensive BlackBerry phone from his jeans. ‘We will get a bus to Nice and then a train. We could still be caught if we are not careful.’

What is happening here in Ventimiglia is having huge repercussions across Europe. Document checks are being hastily reintroduced on borders of the Netherlands and Belgium. Austria and Germany are threatening to tighten up border controls.

In a matter of days, a passport-free area that stretched from the North Cape of Norway to the Straits of Gibraltar has started to crumble.

Of course, all this means little to Karim Messaoudi, as he sips a coffee in Nice on a sunny spring day.

In the past month, his world has been uprooted. He was among the first Tunisians to get to Lampedusa, sailing there on a small boat back in March.

When he was given his ‘Berlusconi visa’ at a holding centre in Italy, he began to make his plans to get to England.

He looks smart, in a black T-shirt and pressed clean jeans. He could pass as a Frenchman or Italian. He had the sense to travel alone on the train across the controversial border between Italy and France, so he would attract less attention.

And he chose to do so at four in the morning when the French police were, no doubt, half asleep.

Because he was a tourist guide in Tunisia, he made English friends who holidayed there, which improved his already good English.

He can speak German, because his father was there as a migrant worker for 20 years. ‘But I would never go there because they do not like us Tunisians,’ he says decidedly.

After a tumultuous journey to Europe, he is about to travel onwards. And his mission is clear: ‘England is the place for me.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK Will be Like Paradise…You Get Rich on Benefits Without Working

HORDES of Arab migrants were huddled in camps in Paris last night — poised to flood into the UK to live on state benefits.

Nearly 1,000 North Africans are sleeping rough in parks waiting for the chance to slip across the Channel.

There are fears that it has the makings of a new Sangatte — the notorious French asylum seekers’ camp that turned into a gateway to Britain for thousands.

The migrants will pay people smugglers up to £1,000 a time to sneak them into the UK. They expect to make the money back within weeks by scrounging off state handouts.

And they believe the British Government — which backed the uprisings in Tunisia and Libya — will welcome them with open arms.

A 22-year-old Tunisian called Ali said: “Britain is like paradise. Friends who have already made it into Britain have told me about the riches you can make there without working.

“I hear the British benefits system is generous. Britain supported our revolution so we will be more than welcome there.”

His countryman Noureddine Bouzoumta, 30, said: “There is nothing for us in France. I sleep outside. I hear the Government in Britain gives money. I want to go to England. I will be rich. I will receive benefits. …

The asylum seekers were accused of breaching residency laws and urged to move to another country — such as Britain.

More than 3,000 migrants, mainly Tunisians, have been arrested in France since the Arab revolts erupted this year.

But the flood of migrants is unlikely to stop while the dream of benefits, housing and earnings from the black economy continues to lure them to the UK.

Migrants from Libya and Tunisia pay gangs 1,000 Euros (£890) to get them to Lampedusa, an Italian island off North Africa.

They claim asylum and then are transported to the Italian mainland and encouraged to head to France.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to do all he can to get rid of the migrants, accusing Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi of allowing them to enter France in the first place.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Superman Renounces U.S. Citizenship

After recently undertaking a journey to walk — not fly — across the United States in the “Grounded” storyline and reconnect with the country and everyday Americans, Superman appears to be taking another step that could have major implications for his national identity: in Action Comics #900…

…Superman announces that he is going to give up his U.S. citizenship. Despite very literally being an alien immigrant, Superman has long been seen as a patriotic symbol of “truth, justice, and the American way,” from his embrace of traditional American ideals to the iconic red and blue of his costume. What it means to stand for the “American way” is an increasingly complicated thing, however, both in the real world and in superhero comics, whose storylines have increasingly seemed to mirror current events and deal with moral and political complexities rather than simple black and white morality.

[Return to headlines]