Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110516

Financial Crisis
»Asia: Prices of Silver and Other Commodities Herald a New Crisis
»Illinois Democrats Unveil Budget Only Minutes Before Votes
»Nasdaq and ICE Drop Bid for NYSE
»Netherlands: Parliament Holds Secret Debate on Second Greek Loan
»New York State Investigates Banks’ Role in Fiscal Crisis
»Real Estate: Greek Home Prices Falling at Faster Rate
»Spain: Among Euro Zone Periphery Economies, Says IMF
»Spain: “Youth With No Future” Take to the Streets
»Spanish Banks Offer Their Clients High Rates, iPad and TV
»UK: Government Plans Wine Sale to Save Money
»UK: Pay Gap Widening to Victorian Levels
»“Something Really Wrong is Going on Here”
»Ben Stein Links Muslim Brotherhood to Hitler, Warns Iran Gaining Power
»Debt Limit Reached! ‘Treasury’s Latest Debt Scam’
»Democrats Furnish Talking Points, Protest Signs for West and Other GOP Town Halls
»Liberalism’s Rape Corps
»Obama’s Plan for America is President-Assisted Suicide
»Scratches Found on IMF Chief Strauss-Kahn’s Chest
»The Foreign Policy Elite and Bureaucracy Starts Parting Ways With Obama
Europe and the EU
»Belgium: Stalemate: The Only Show in Town
»Berlusconi’s Support to be Tested in Local Elections
»Bishops Should Cooperate With Authorities Over Child Abuse
»‘Bunga Bunga’ Pizzeria Bar to Open in London
»French Writer Will File Complaint Against Strauss-Kahn
»Italy: Military Hauls Trash in Naples
»Italy Pushes Eurofighter as Turkey’s ‘Only Alternative’ To US Options
»Italy: Mora Denies Acting as a Pimp for Ruby Rubacuori
»Italy: Berlusconi Claims Leftwing Politicians ‘Don’t Wash Much’
»Italy: Bossi (Northern League): Real Racism Belongs to the Left
»Italy: Genoa Curia Suspends Priest Arrested for Pedophilia
»Spain: Arrest Warrant for Knife Maniac Was Issued Three Days Before He Beheaded British Grandmother in Tenerife
»UK: ‘Huge Security Alert’ Closes Area Surrounding Buckingham Palace After Police Receive Coded Bomb Warning
»UK: Burglar With a Cleanliness Obsession is Spared Jail… Because He’d Find it Too Dirty
»UK: Custard on Pupil’s Arm? £750. Fall Off Classroom Chair? £6,000. How ‘Compensation Culture’ Is Spreading Through Schools
»UK: Hacker, 19, Who Ruined Stranger’s Web Business ‘For a Game’ Is Spared Jail … So He Can Continue Law Degree
»Vatican: New Sex Abuse Guidelines to be Sent to Bishops
»Serbia: Shrinking Towns Prompts Grooms to ‘Import’ Albanian Brides
Mediterranean Union
»EU Study: Domestic Violence Between 40%, 75%
North Africa
»Egypt: Secular Parties Join Forces to Stop Muslim Brotherhood Ascendancy
»Libya: Air Raids Turn Tripoli Into Ghost Town. Bishop: “Give These People a Rest”
»Libya: Gaddafi ‘Hiding in Desert’ Refuge
»Seven Hurt as Muslims and Christians Clash in Cairo
»Tunisia: Country Beleaguered With Violent Chaos, Govt Probe
»U. K. PM Invites Libyan Insurgents to Open London Embassy
Israel and the Palestinians
»Ben Stein: “Arab Spring” Is a Fraud
»Caroline Glick: Ehud Barak’s Latest Nakba
»Head Rabbi Receives “Jewish Obama”
»Napolitano Says Palestinians to Have Embassy in Italy
»PNA: Majority Think EU Can Help Bring Peace to Region, Study
»Why George Mitchell Failed
Middle East
»Ahmadinejad: Osama’s Death a Ploy to Re-Elect Obama
»France, Germany Accused of ‘Black Campaign’ Against Turkey’s EU Bid
»Frattini Says Assad Not Like Gaddafi, Deserves Opportunity
»Lebanon: Thousands of Syrians Flee Violence
»Syria: Press: Lebanese Police Send Refugees Back
»Syria: Assad Delayed Reforms But Has to Stay, Says Erdogan
»Syria: Tanks Surround City Where 10,000 Died in 1982 Uprising
»UAE: 800 ‘Blackwater’ Mercenaries in Abu Dhabi
»Yemen: Almost 200,000 Protect Presidential Palace Against Anti-Government Protesters
South Asia
»India: West Bengal: Communist Party Loses After 34 Years
»Indonesia: Govt Bans Celebrations of Israel’s Independence
»Pakistan: Punjab: Christian Student Nurse Forced to Convert to Marry Muslim Man
»USA Interrogates All 3 Bin Laden’s ‘Hostile’ Widows
Australia — Pacific
»Muslims to Push for Sharia
»Survivor of Total Horror
»Danish Threat to Schengen Agreement Under Fire
»EU: Schengen: Back to the Nation Oasis
»Issue of Arab Spring Migrants to Cast Shadow on G-8 Talks
»Muslims in Europe Face Growing Hostility: Report
»UK: Migrants Get ‘Squatters’ Rights’ to Remain in UK if They’ve Stayed 14 Years
Culture Wars
»The American Flag is “Offensive” In Schools Now

Financial Crisis

Asia: Prices of Silver and Other Commodities Herald a New Crisis

After rising for years, the price of silver, oil and other commodities has collapsed. This is not a good sign. A new crisis is in the making. In addition to its financial aspects, it involved public debt and an endless depression or hyperinflation. All this is connected to the price of gold and silver, which has been controlled for centuries by various groups, today by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

Milan (AsiaNews) — The recent instability in world markets, especially the commodity markets that are so important for Chinese and Indian manufacturing, appears contradictory, even incomprehensible, given in its scope. Suddenly, the world economy appears to have completely changed. Fear of inflation now looks almost out of place. In one day, crude oil dropped by 10 per cent. Rubber, minerals and other raw materials declined from their historic highs. Stocks across Asia are starting to show signs of weakness and the yen lost ground. Silver also took a nosedive, plunging from US$ 50 an ounce to US$ 35 (later bouncing back a bit). What is behind this sudden volatility?

The end of the War on Terror

True, Bin Laden is dead and so is the so-called War on Terror. A collective sigh of relief could be heard across the globe as a clash of civilisation between secularists and Islamists appeared to be averted. One might suppose that this would be an element of economic normalisation and a change in direction for markets.

In fact, concern over international politics seems to have shot up, not gone down. Tensions in Arab nations continue, as does the War in Libya (despite rumours about an imminent truce), which Syria and other Arab autocracies and monarchies, Gulf included, are likely to follow soon. In other words, political factors at best cancel each other out.

From an economic point of view, no single factor seems to have changed for the better to justify a rosier picture, at least in terms of dreaded higher interest rates, and the possible collapse of financial (the bond and partially the stock) markets.

Despite all the efforts, economic data do not suggest any drastic change in the picture; the same is true for the public debt in Europe, United States and Japan. No real improvement seems to be forthcoming from China as far as real inflation and the strength of the financial system are concerned. Unemployment remains high in the West and so on.

The slight dip in US unemployment is certainly no major breakthrough since it is partly a function of the number of people who are too discouraged about finding a job that they have actually stopped looking for work. Economic growth is at best anaemic, at least in Western nations.

Despite the huge rescue package for the US banking system undertaken in the last few months of the Bush administration, which Obama continued and boosted (at an estimated cost of US$ 24 trillion) and which was imitated by almost everyone else (China, Great Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, etc.), despite the Obama “stimulus” plan in the first months of the new US administration (also imitated by China), and despite the Quantitative Easing 2 (QE2) of October 2010 by the chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, good results are scarce.

What is clear is that fears over a new global crisis have not decreased but actually increased. As in 2008, the crux of the matter is financial. What is even more worrisome is the fact that the problem is no longer at the level of the banking system, but rather at that of the public debt. The derivative bubble, by far the greatest systemic danger, is also far from being resolved.

Whether the worldwide economic crisis is starting to find a solution or not is not the issue. In fact, many fears that we are the verge of a collapse. The main topic of discussion among the most attentive economists or those not compromised with a specific political project is whether we are moving towards a phase of deflation and a Great Depression (with lower prices for raw materials) or towards the type of hyperinflation that devastated Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe and Serbia. Such a dilemma would require a long analysis, and it is probable that the world economy might have to deal with both evils.

Beyond the dollar

Still, the diatribe between those who believe in the Great Depression scenario and those who think hyperinflation is the real threat does not go beyond a short-term analysis. It fails to see that the essence of the disaster is the pending systemic crisis, which will soon become apparent to everyone. As noted in the last paragraph of a previous article on the War in Libya, we are on the eve of epoch-changing turning point, at the end of an era that began with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The issue, however strange it might seem, is closely related to the value of silver.

Money, the value of the reserve currency, the dollar, but even more so the relationship between paper money and the gold and silver standards continue to generate heated discussions. Money underlies all economic activity—it is at the heart of the imperial system of modernity. It is thus hard to understand today’s economic vicissitudes without looking back at old historical events…

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

Illinois Democrats Unveil Budget Only Minutes Before Votes

A Facebook posting from Illinois State Senator Sam McCann:

I am at my desk here on the floor of the IL Senate. We are in the midst of voting on FY2012 Budget Bills. You may ask yourselves how I have time to make this post when I perhaps should be weighing the merits of the facts contained within the individual bills so that I can make thoughtful, educated votes, for you, the taxpayers for whom I work. And you would be wise to ask that question. And I have the answer for you: I have NO BILL LANGUAGE TO READ!!!!! You are reading correctly. The bills we are voting on are AMENDMENTS to previously filed bills (many of which are SHELL Bills to begin with).

The Amendments become the Bills themselves. And it was JUST MINUTES ago that the Chicago Democratic Machine-controlled Democrat Caucus came out of a back room filing these bills AND immediately calling them for votes. Not only has there NOT been a week or three days or 24 hours or even one hour of SUNLIGHT on any of this budget language, there has not even been one minute. NOT ONE MINUTE!!!! They not only have not had time to print it out, it DOES NOT EVEN EXIST IN THE ELECTRONIC RECORD. Not only can I not pull up the language or any analysis on my “special Senate computer”, there is nothing on the IL General Assembly website.

Furthermore, I don’t believe there is anything even on the rank-and-file Democrats’ desks, either. It is all talking points from their leadership. I am not trying to sound partisan. I was elected by the people of the 49th District and I work for ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE 49TH District. I wake up in the morning and am proud to consider myself an American and an Illinoisan before anything else. But I have to tell you something: this is sickening. It is appalling. At a time when the People of the state are demanding balanced budgets and wise stewardship of their tax dollars, the majority party is choosing to continue to engage in bullying and blind-voting instead of conversation and negotiation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Nasdaq and ICE Drop Bid for NYSE

Nasdaq OMX and IntercontinentalExchange announced on Monday they were dropping their bid for NYSE Euronext, after antitrust regulators said the deal would not gain the necessary approvals.

Nasdaq and ICE spent weeks trying to court NYSE. In April, the two exchanges made an $11.3 billion takeover offer for the owner of the Big Board, sweetening a $10 billion deal put forth by Deutsche Börse weeks before.

But NYSE remained committed to the tie-up with the owner of the Frankfurt exchange, twice rejecting the offer from Nasdaq and ICE. The management of NYSE said, in part, that it worried a deal with NYSE and ICE would not clear regulatory hurdles.

[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Parliament Holds Secret Debate on Second Greek Loan

MPs were called together by finance minister Jan Kees de Jager and Dutch Bank president Nout Wellink on Thursday morning for a secret emergency debate on the possibility of a second loan to debt-ridden Greece, reports the Financieele Dagblad.

According to the paper, MPs confirmed they were called back from the Easter recess but would not divulge any details on what was said.

The fact the meeting took place feeds speculation there will have to be a second round of loans for Greece, says the paper.

Last week the government’s alliance partner PVV said it did not want to give any more money to Greece.

De Jager said at the time of the first rescue package, worth €110bn, that the Dutch contribution would be around €5.5bn.

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

New York State Investigates Banks’ Role in Fiscal Crisis

Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, has requested information and documents in recent weeks from three major Wall Street banks about their mortgage securities operations during the credit boom, indicating the existence of a new investigation into practices that contributed to billions in mortgage losses.

Officials in Mr. Schneiderman’s office have also requested meetings with representatives from Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, according to people briefed on the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly. The inquiry appears to be quite broad, with the attorney general’s requests for information covering many aspects of the banks’ loan pooling operations. They bundled thousands of home loans into securities that were then sold to investors such as pension funds, mutual funds and insurance companies.

[Return to headlines]

Real Estate: Greek Home Prices Falling at Faster Rate

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MAY 13 — The pace at which housing prices in Greece are falling picked up in the first quarter of the year, dropping 5% on an annual basis, with the property market in Thessaloniki in a deep slump. According to figures presented by the Bank of Greece on Thursday, as daily Kathimerini reports, apartment prices in Athens fell 5.9% between January and March after slipping 3.2% in 2010 and 4.6% in 2009. In Thessaloniki, housing prices gave up 7.5%, after dropping 7.4% and 6% in 2010 and 2009 respectively. The prices of newly built apartments showed more resilience than that seen among older homes. Data showed that new home prices retreated 4.2% in the first quarter of the year, versus a 5.6% drop for apartments more than five years old. The number of deals concluded in the property market in the first three months of the year also plummeted, falling 43.9% year-on-year to 12,718. The data are based on real estate transactions completed via the country’s banking system.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Among Euro Zone Periphery Economies, Says IMF

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 13 — The IMF has included Spain in the EA4 group of unhealthy economies, according to the headlines today on the front page of Spanish daily El Mundo, underlining that the country’s economy was grouped in by the international body with the economies of bailout recipients Greece, Ireland and Portugal. The Euro Area 4 (EA4) category is the new acronym being used by the IMF for the euro zone periphery economies, considered to be in the midst of a serious crisis compared to the rest of the euro area (RoEA). Spain was included despite the “efforts of the Spanish government to distance itself from countries receiving bailouts” from the IMF, European Commission and ECB, wrote the daily. The most recent IMF report on Spain indicated that of the fiscal measures passed in Europe, those adopted by the Spanish government will have the greatest impact in terms of slowing the economic recovery, subtracting over 2 points from the GDP growth in 2011 and 1.5% in 2012. The report admits that the country is moving away from the other unhealthy economies, but is still in the EA4 group with the others that posted a spread of 200 basis points compared to the German bund between January and April. The IMF indicated that the “tail end” of the group includes countries where the recovery is having difficulty getting underway with major competitive problems, a high public deficit and an important foreign trade deficit. According to the IMF, private demand will grow in the central countries of the euro area and in Northern Europe, while “remaining weak in Spain, Greece, Ireland and Portugal, where efforts to correct the great imbalances that accumulated before the crisis continue to be made”. Portugal and Greece are in a recession, while Spain’s economy will grow by 0,8% in 2011, half of the average in the euro zone. But the group mainly pointed to the high unemployment rate and the risk of “a lost generation” due to the job market, where a lack of employment affects almost one out of two young people. In any case, the report mentioned that Spain was an example for the reforms that they have made and that their financial system “is solid”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: “Youth With No Future” Take to the Streets

El País, 16 May 2011

“Anger hits the streets”, leads Spain’s El País daily following demonstrations held in fifty cities that drew many thousands of people. They were mobilised by social networking sites and the Democracia Real Ya (Real Democracy Now) platform to protest economic reforms, deemed “antisocial”, that have been pushed through by a government that is “in bed with the bankers,” writes the daily. Founded in April at a university, Democracia Real Ya “has managed to rally many young people behind the slogan ‘No home, no job, no pension, no fear,’“ explains El País. The paper adds that the movement has published a manifesto expressing the “concern and indignation of citizens trying to cope with the consequences of the economic crisis and the political response to it.” El Mundo emphasises the similarities between the Spanish protest and the “Arab spring”: “The people, worried about political corruption and failure to tackle the economic and social crisis” are marching to “the cry of ‘Don’t vote for them”. “This show of vigour by civil society should force a political class, which is increasingly turned in on itself, to respond”, El Mundo concludes.

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

Spanish Banks Offer Their Clients High Rates, iPad and TV

(AGI) Madrid — Spanish banks offer clients high rates, iPads,flat-screen TV sets and Blue-Ray supports to beat competitors. These gadgets are offered to convince wealthy clients to open new accounts. Bansesto offers iPads, Caixa falt-screen TV sets, Santander video-games consoles and Caja Madrid Blu-ray support devices. The offer of gifts was intensified after Spain’s banking crisis.

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

UK: Government Plans Wine Sale to Save Money

(AGI) London — In tight times the British government has decided to sell a number of bottles of precious wine from its cellars. A total of 864 thousand pounds (over 993 thousand euro) of wine is stored for state occasions and this includes precious vintages like Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The government had considered selling the entire cellar, which is administered by the Foreign Office, but ruled that out as this is the ‘cheapest’ way to supply wine and spirits to state banquets.

However, there will be a ‘targeted sale’ of the most precious wines, which will finance the purchase of new bottles.

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

UK: Pay Gap Widening to Victorian Levels

High pay commission forecasts top earners’ slice of national income will rise from current 5% to 14% by 2030

Wage disparity between the UK’s top earners and the rest of the working population will soon return to the levels of the Victorian era unless action is taken to curb executive pay, a new report by the high pay commission claims.

At the same time a new ICM poll shows that 72% of the public think high pay makes Britain a grossly unequal place to live, while 73% say they have no faith in government or business to tackle excessive pay.

The high pay commission was set up last November to scrutinise the rising pay of those at the top of the public and private sectors. Its research suggests that if current trends continue, the top 0.1% of UK earners will see their pay rise from 5% to an estimated 14% of national income by 2030, a level not previously seen in the UK since the start of the 20th century. At present, top earners in this group take as big a slice of national income as they did in the 1940s, the report says.

Deborah Hargreaves, chair of the high pay commission and a former business editor at Guardian News & Media, said that the report provided evidence that the pay gap between the corporate elite and the general public was widening beyond control. “Set against the tough spending measures and mixed company performance, we have to ask ourselves whether we are paying more and getting less,” she said.

In 2010, the average annual salary of FTSE 100 chief executives was more than £3,747,000, 145 times greater than the national median full-time wage of £25,800. Executive pay dipped slightly during the recession, but the report predicts that by 2020 the ratio will have spiralled up to 214:1.

Nicola Smith, chief economist with the TUC, said that the report raised concerns about the wider workings of the economy: “Average pay growth was slowing before the recession, wages took a real hit during the recession and we’re now seeing very slow wage growth coupled with high consumer inflation. There are real issues of fairness at a point when workers are facing the greatest squeeze in living standards for decades.”

Separate figures released by the Institute for Fiscal Studies last week confirmed that income among the top 1-2% of earners grew much faster than for the majority of workers during the Labour government years, a factor the report blames for an increase in social inequality since 1997.

The ICM poll shows that, from a range of options, the majority of the public (57%) wants top pay linked clearly to company performance, while half (50%) want shareholders to have a direct say on senior pay and bonus packages.

Robert Talbut, chief investment officer of Royal London Asset Management and a member of the high pay commission, said that the ICM poll showed a clear public interest in tackling excessive pay.

“Increasingly there is a clear business interest in doing so too, in part because companies depend on public support but also because the ever more complicated pay packages designed to incentivise performance for top executives — which have contributed to a ballooning in pay at the top — do not appear to have worked,” Talbut said. “The clear link between executive pay and company performance appears tenuous at best.”

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a left-leaning thinktank, said that recent research showed the public was ready for politicians to tackle income inequality.

Nick Pearce, director of the IPPR, said a YouGov poll revealed that two-thirds of people believe the pay gap in their workplace is too wide.

“It is vital that the government use this public support to act and start to narrow unjustified inequalities in pay and reward,” he said.

In an interview with the Guardian last month, John Cridland, the new director-general of the employers’ organisation the CBI, admitted it was an issue that needed to be addressed. “Business has to show high levels of remuneration are payment for results,” he said. “It’s not payment separate from the achievement of senior executives.”

The high pay commission was formed last year and is due to make its final report in November.

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


“Something Really Wrong is Going on Here”

The handling of the raid on Florida mosque (v. U.S. Marine shot to death)

In the U.S., under the Obama-Holder “Justice” Department, which can be considered a policy extension and acceleration of the former administration and Department of Justice policies in many ways, it is certain that “something really wrong is going on here.”

Many might recall the scene in the 1979 hit movie And Justice For All when star Al Pacino, cast as lawyer Arthur Kirkland, delivered his opening statement to the jury in the packed courtroom of Judge Francis Rayford, played by actor Jack Warden. Sick of the injustice system that would allow a guilty man to go free and innocent men jailed, Pacino stated about his own client, “That man is guilty! That man, there, that man is a slime! he is a slime! If he’s allowed to go free, then something really wrong is going on here!”

At that point, Judge Rayford angrily slammed his gavel and retorted “Mr. Kirkland you are out of order!” Attorney Kirkland then responded with a full throttle meltdown, shouting “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They’re out of order! […] It’s just a show! It’s a show!” As he was being dragged from the courtroom by bailiffs, Kirkland (Pacino) added “ Hold it! Hold it! I just completed my opening statement!”

The opening statement of this article bears repeating. “Something really wrong is going on here.”

Consider the following two unrelated cases, one involving a Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq and was shot dead in his Tucson, Arizona home by a Pima County SWAT team, and the other involving the raid on a Florida mosque where three Muslims were arrested on suspicion of providing aid to the Taliban. I don’t believe there can be two more different approaches than represented by these two cases. One case involves a U.S. Marine veteran, the other a mosque whose leaders are under indictment for providing aid to the Taliban.

In the case of at Jose Guerena, the Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq, a Pima County, Arizona SWAT team were serving a narcotics conspiracy warrant at his home earlier this month. Guerena, who had been sleeping just two hours after working his shift at a local mine, was awakened by screams from his wife when she observed an unidentified man with a gun outside of their home. She grabbed her baby and hid in a closet as Guerena grabbed a rifle and proceeded to investigate. He was shot dead inside the sanctity of his own home, in the U.S. and not by some sniper in Iraq. In total, seventy-one rounds were fired at Guerena.

To make matters worse — much worse, medical treatment was withheld by the SWAT team, according to his widow and verified by police and medical logs. At this point, it would appear that Guerena was startled awake and thinking he was protecting his family from a possible home invasion, stumbled onto a police raid. He never had a chance.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ben Stein Links Muslim Brotherhood to Hitler, Warns Iran Gaining Power

On CBS’s Sunday Morning show, during his regular commentary, right-leaning CBS contributor Ben Stein gave a pessimistic view of the “Arab Spring” movement to topple authoritarian governments in the Middle East, charged that America would regret allowing Hosni Mubarak lose power in Egypt, and predicted that the radical Muslm Brotherhood would take over there.

He also gave rare attention to the Muslim Brotherhood’s history of alliance with Nazi Germany during World War II. Stein:

The most potent political force in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, hates the U.S., loathes Israel, condemns the killing of bin Laden whom they praise as a martyr, and they’ve been wedded to terror for their entire existence. Oh, P.S., they were closely connected with Adolf Hitler. They’ll probably take over Egypt completely sooner or later.

As NewsBusters previously documented, Nazi Germany helped build up the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1930s to spread anti-Jew hatred in the Middle East.

Stein went on to warn that Iran will emerge stronger as a result of the “Arab Spring” movement:

There’s a gigantic regional coup by Iran taking place. We’re doing very little if anything to stop it. We’re going to regret helping the Egyptians kick out Mubarak, as much as we regret helping Khomeini force out the Shah. You can call it “Arab Spring” if you want, but with Iran now the regional superpower, it’s a lot more like an extremely bleak Mideast winter.

Below is a complete transcript of Stein’s commentary from the May 15 Sunday Morning on CBS:

CHARLES OSGOOD: What can we make of the changes sweeping the Arab world? Contributor Ben Stein now to tell us what he thinks.

BEN STEIN: Now I’m going to tell you the truth about the so-called “Arab Spring” and about the Middle East generally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER: Finally, we get our freedom!


STEIN: First, the “Arab Spring” as a force for democracy, human rights and peace in Egypt, seems to me to be a fraud. The dictator and his entourage who were kicked out of Egypt were pro-West, a bit restrained on Israel, open to free enterprise and resistant to Iranian-sponsored terror. Egypt is now rapidly becoming anti-Israel, pro-Iran, pro- the Iranian terrorist group Hamas, and very far from pro-human rights.

They’re arresting businessmen right and left in Egypt just for the crime of being successful. They have arrested Mubarak’s sons and have said they plan to try Mubarak. The most potent political force in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, hates the U.S., loathes Israel, condemns the killing of bin Laden whom they praise as a martyr, and they’ve been wedded to terror for their entire existence. Oh, P.S., they were closely connected with Adolf Hitler. They’ll probably take over Egypt completely sooner or later.

As the terrorist government of Syria cracks down violently on its own people, the U.N. Security Council does exactly nothing about it. Has anyone noticed that the common denominator of all all the successful “Arab Street” movements is that they are sympathetic to Iran? When the dust settles, Iran is going to own the Middle East except for maybe Saudi Arabia if we have the guts to help them which I very much doubt. We’re going to lose our pals in Bahrain — not nice guys, but pals of the U.S. anyway — and we’re going to lose our pals in Yemen, and it will possibly have an actual al-Qaeda government.

There’s a gigantic regional coup by Iran taking place. We’re doing very little if anything to stop it. We’re going to regret helping the Egyptians kick out Mubarak, as much as we regret helping Khomeini force out the Shah. You can call it “Arab Spring” if you want, but with Iran now the regional superpower, it’s a lot more like an extremely bleak Mideast winter. You heard it here first.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Debt Limit Reached! ‘Treasury’s Latest Debt Scam’

Geithner borrowing money from retirement accounts to leverage hike

With the $14.3 trillion debt limit reached today, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner began borrowing money from a new source — government worker retirement funds.

The organizer of a grass-roots campaign to persuade Congress to deny any hike in the debt limit sees the action by the administration as a trap — what he calls “Treasury’s latest debt scam.”

“The goal of Barack Obama and Geithner is to force Congress’ hand to raise the debt limit,” says Joseph Farah, who created the “No More Red Ink” campaign. “The latest trick by Obama and Geithner is to steal money from retirement accounts that must be repaid. They’ll do anything not to curtail current and future spending levels. It’s a shell game designed to coerce Congress to allow unlimited borrowing.”

Farah explained the more Geithner is allowed to borrow, the more raising the debt limit is perceived as a necessity — if only to repay money confiscated from other funds.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Democrats Furnish Talking Points, Protest Signs for West and Other GOP Town Halls

U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, is one of five House Republicans hosting town hall meetings today, according to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee website that urges party faithful to show up and “Tell Republican Members of Congress to keep their hands off the Medicare benefits that seniors have earned.”

Democrats, who accused tea party members of “Astroturf” protests at town hall meetings in 2009, are supplying talking points, downloadable protest signs and pre-drafted letters to the editor decrying the GOP’s “reckless privatization scheme.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Liberalism’s Rape Corps

[WARNING: Disturbing Content.]

Idealistic Peace Corps leadership acted like the evil Haliburton leadership, blaming the victims and discouraging them from seeking legal action

Two years ago the left launched a major assault on Haliburton over its mishandling of two sexual assault cases by or against its civilian contractors. Al Franken successfully introduced a bill to bar defense contracts from going to companies who behave likewise. Left wing media boasted that they were the defenders of rape victims, while Republicans support rape.

Now for the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, it’s been revealed that over a 1,000 female volunteers have been raped in the last decade. Numbers that are positively 9/11 in scope. And that the idealistic Peace Corps leadership acted like the evil Haliburton leadership, blaming the victims and discouraging them from seeking legal action. There are no cries that Democrats support rape. No bills to defund the Corps, that awkward legacy of New Frontierism. This time it’s Republicans, like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, stepping up to demand accountability. And it’s the Democrats who are standing in the way.


The Peace Corps’ coverup of over a 1,000 assaults is disturbing, but also ideologically necessary. Its function depends on its image. To admit that over a thousand of its idealistic volunteers get raped in the countries they are coming to help, might make Americans think that those countries aren’t worth helping. That maybe they aren’t noble souls who happen to lack proper irrigation and classrooms, but that they lack those things because there is nothing noble about their cultural backwardness.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Plan for America is President-Assisted Suicide

The United States is rapidly becoming a totalitarian democracy.

As described by Israeli historian J. L. Talmon, totalitarian democracy is a political system in which lawfully elected representatives rule a nation state whose citizens, although granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of government.

In a totalitarian democracy, the government is transformed from one based on traditional values and articles of faith into one in which social utility takes absolute precedence.

Having no allegiance to those traditional values and articles of faith upon which America was founded; Barack Hussein Obama is in the process of dismantling our Constitution to create his new “Amerika”.

Obama is a disciple of Chicago-native, Saul Alinsky, a neo-Marxist and community organizer, who wrote: “Rules for Radicals”, a guide which provides Obama’s operational model.

“The first step in community organization is community disorganization. Present arrangements must be disorganized if they are to be displaced by new patterns… All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new.” p.116

Obama’s plan for “disorganizing” America includes:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Scratches Found on IMF Chief Strauss-Kahn’s Chest

(AGI) Paris — Scratches were found on the chest of IMF chief Strauss-Kahn, who is accused of alleged sexual assault at a NY hotel. It emerges from a report of the French Consulate in New York cited by website which also published extracts of US police reports. According to the report, Strauss-Kahn himself agreed to undergo further forensic medical testing . The IMF chief reportedly said that the police used a “red kit”, a blood-sampling kit used to investigate allege rapes. Traces of sperm found in his room were also collected and analysed and the results are expected to be ready in five days.

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

The Foreign Policy Elite and Bureaucracy Starts Parting Ways With Obama

By Barry Rubin

“Please release me let me go
for I don’t love you anymore
To waste our lives would be a sin
Release me and let me love again.”

—”Please Release Me Let Me Go”

Perhaps the most important policymaking development of the last month has been President Barack Obama’s increasingly visible loss of a lot of the foreign policy elite, including considerable segments of the State and Defense departments. Why this is happening is one of the most interested-and highly neglected-stories of this period.

Consider the factors involved:

—Most of the foreign policy elite is liberal and for this reason they were enthusiastic about Obama and contemptuous of his predecessor, George W. Bush. You already know a lot of this story. Obama combined several irresistible qualities for them including being apparently polished, cosmopolitan, and “smart.”

Of special importance, Bush had embarrassed them in front of the foreigners they dealt with. They were ashamed of his policies. If America was unpopular, they were unpopular. That’s why the idea that Obama would make foreigners love America again was of such huge importance for them.

But now Obama is embarrassing them because while Bush was disliked as a reckless cowboy, now Obama is seen as something just as bad: a naïve amateur.

—There is something of huge importance that few people understand in the distinction between those who focus on domestic policy and those who deal professionally with international affairs. Domestic policy elite members can be liberal or leftist to an unlimited extent. Since all of the factors are within the American system, they can believe that everything is controllable and everything is doable. They can also identify the “enemy” as political opponents within the system, meaning those who are rich, corporations, etc.

To be part of the foreign policy elite, however, is very different…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgium: Stalemate: The Only Show in Town

Le Soir, 13 May 2011

“After 48 weeks, ‘Stalemate’ — a wildly successful comedy — is to get a new run at Belgium’s Theatre Royal.” Brussels daily Le Soir waxes ironic in the wake of the presentation of a report by the latest mediator in the Belgian political crisis, Wouter Beke, to King Albert II. At the end of a two-month mission to devise a new consultative framework to enable the country to finally form a government, there is still no agreement between the Flemish and Walloon parties. The leader of the Christian Democrats, “who is certain he has done a excellent job, claims that we can reach agreement on the reform of the state and the formation of a government in ten weeks,” remarks the Brussels daily. “However, the content of the report is still top secret!” Le Soir blames the deadlock which has raised the prospect of “divorce” between the two communities on Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever, “who has prolonged the crisis by constantly changing his strategy. On its front page, Flemish daily De Standaard quotes a Confucian proverb cited by Beke: “The man who knows what is just but does not act on it lacks courage,” while blaming the Francophone socialist leader for the deadlock: “If Elio Di Rupo is serious about this deadlock, the ticking of the time bomb under Belgium is likely to accelerate.”

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

Berlusconi’s Support to be Tested in Local Elections

Italians headed to the polls Sunday in local elections that are expected to show whether recent corruption and sex scandals combined with a stagnant economy have damaged Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi just two years before his term in office ends.

AFP — Italians voted Sunday in partial local elections with all eyes on the northern business hub of Milan, a centre-right stronghold of embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The vote Sunday and Monday is a last major test of Berlusconi’s popularity before his term runs out in 2013, and comes as the flamboyant Italian leader is embroiled in legal and sex scandals.

The centre-right incumbent in Milan, Letizia Moratti, is expected to retain her post, but polls show she might not win outright in the first round and could be forced into a runoff vote at the end of the month.

Some 13 million of Italy’s 49 million-strong voters are eligible to cast ballots, with weak growth and unemployment as well as local issues — notably the chronic waste disposal crisis in Naples — uppermost in their minds.

In Milan, Berlusconi’s hometown, the 74-year-old prime minister has campaigned vigorously on Moratti’s behalf, even heading the electoral list there.

The daily Il Giornale, owned by the Berlusconi family, gave “10 reasons to re-elect Letizia Moratti” against her centre-left rival, lawyer Giuliano Pisapia, who polled at between 40 and 42 percent against 44 to 48 percent for Moratti in voter surveys.

“In two weeks, what should have been local elections has become an umpteenth referendum” for or against Berlusconi, said the Turin daily La Stampa.

Berlusconi himself agreed, saying: “It’s not a normal mayoral election, it’s an election about me and my government.”

Speaking to his entourage, according to the left-leaning daily La Repubblica, he added: “I’ve done what I could… but I must admit I’m a bit worried.”

Leading daily Corriere della Sera underscored the stakes for the billionaire leader: “Thirteen million Italians are called to vote but only some of them, those from Milan, can make the difference for the government and the right.”

The billionaire Berlusconi, head of a sprawling media empire, is currently a defendant in three trials in Milan, including one in which he is accused of having sex with an underage prostitute and using his position to cover it up.

Berlusconi has also been hit by the defection of a key ally, parliament speaker Gianfranco Fini and around 40 lawmakers.

His popularity reached a record low of 31 percent in the latest poll last month — down from more than 60 percent after his election to a third stint as prime minister in 2008.

But he has remained in power thanks to the support of the anti-immigrant Northern League and has gone on the offensive, accusing prosecutors of waging a hate campaign against him and painting his leftist critics as communist extremists.

The elections involve 1,310 communal administrations — around 16 percent of the total — including Bologna, Naples and Turin in addition to Milan.

Centre-left incumbents are expected to hold on to the traditionally “red” cities of Bologna and Turin.

Naples is less certain as the southern city faces yet another waste disposal crisis, and the outcome will likely hinge on the second-round run-off.

Polls opened Sunday at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) and were to close at 10:00 pm, reopening Monday at 7:00 am until 3:00 pm.

The second round is set for May 29 and 30.

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

Bishops Should Cooperate With Authorities Over Child Abuse

(AGI) Vatican — The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith laid out guidelines for fighting child sexual abuse. The body commented: ‘Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical crime, but also a crime prosecuted by the civil authorities’.

In a circular to the Bishops Conferences the doctrinal body specified the criteria for national level guidelines to combat the phenomenon. ‘Although relations with the civil authorities differ in different countries, it is in any case important to cooperate with them in the context of their respective powers.

In particular, the requirements of civil laws regarding the reporting of the crimes to the relevant authorities should always be taken as a given, without however affecting the internal sacramental forum’.

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

‘Bunga Bunga’ Pizzeria Bar to Open in London

Ruby the Heart Stealer invited to July launch

(ANSA) — London, May 12 — Ruby the Heartstealer, the woman at the centre of the sex scandal engulfing Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, has been invited to open a new pizzeria in London to be called the ‘Bunga Bunga’.

According to the London Evening Standard newspaper, entrepreneurs Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling want to ask the Moroccan teenager, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, to launch their business venture in July.

Berlusconi is defending himself against charges that he had underage sex with the runaway when she was only 17 at after-dinner sex parties, nicknamed ‘Bunga Bunga’, at his villa at Arcore outside Milan.

Prosecutors have alleged that 33 young women including Ruby were involved in alleged prostitution at the premier’s parties between the start of 2009 and January 2011.

Berlusconi has denied charges of allegedly paying for sex with Ruby when she was underage and alleged abuse of power to get her out of police custody after an unrelated theft allegation.

The London bar and pizzeria plans to offer cocktails named after the girls who attended the parties and feature a tribute wall to the Italian prime minister as well as a floor dedicated to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Gilkes is hoping that Ruby Rubacuori, the most famous of Berlusconi’s Bunga Girls, will be there for the opening night.

The case has generated intense media attention worldwide and has had a significant impact on Berlusconi’s popularity.

Ruby allegedly spent the night at Berlusconi’s villa outside Milan 13 times in mid-2010.

Two weeks ago Ruby was seen having a cocktail at an Italian restaurant in London, and there have been rumours she may take part in the UK version of the reality show, Big Brother.

Berlusconi’s trial prosecutors have secured a fast-track trial for him and the next hearing is due on May 31.

Paying for prostitutes is not illegal in Italy but paying for underage sex is a crime and carries a jail term of up to three years.

Abuse of power spells a possible jail term of 12 years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

French Writer Will File Complaint Against Strauss-Kahn

(AGI) Paris — Tristane Banon’s lawyer David Koubbi announced his client will file a legal complaint against Strauss-Kahn.

Ms. Banon, 31, will charge IMF chief with sexually assaulting her in 2002, as she herself revealed in 2007 during a television interview. Strauss-Kahn was taken into custody in New York after being charged with sexually assaulting a hotel chambermaid.

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

Italy: Military Hauls Trash in Naples

3,000 tonnes of garbage still lining streets

(ANSA) — Naples, May 10 — Italian army engineers hauled garbage in Naples Tuesday after firefighters and police spent an intense night battling trash fires all over the city.

Eighteen men in uniform and an excavator went to work in the eastern suburb of Gianturco, where residents have been inhaling noxious fumes from the tons of refuse lining the streets.

Each mechanized vehicle can contain 4-5 tonnes, with 30 tonnes to be picked up over the day, the army coordinator, Lieutenant Colonel Vincenzo Lauro, said. Military trash collectors also went into action Monday and Tuesday in Quarto, near Naples.

Approximately 40 trash fires burned in Naples Monday night, with groups of citizens moving overflowing bins to the middle of the street to prompt their removal.

The military went into action Monday night, collecting 1,380 tons of garbage. But 3,000 tons still lie in the streets, the town councillor in charge of public hygiene, Paolo Giacomelli, said.

“The army can’t solve the problem and their impact will not be huge, but their presence means the government is at least paying attention,” Giacomelli said.

Giacomelli stressed that the root cause of the trash overflow is not so much hauling it, as a lack of places to put it.

“The existing storage plants are inadequate,” he said. Giacomelli remarked that the military had been sent to the area just a few days before Italians vote in administrative elections in Naples and a few other big cities.

He called for other moves.

“Our Achilles’ heel is a lack of coordination on recycling.

More could have been done. We must avoid bickering,” Giacomelli said.

A university of Naples professor of public hygiene, Maria Triassi, agreed. “The solution lies in recycling, not in opening more storage plants,” Triassi said. “We should be recycling at least 50% of our trash. The sale of recycled materials could be a motor for economic recovery in our region”.

Italian authorities, from the national government to municipalities, have been passing the buck on who is responsible for freeing Neapolitans from the tonnes of trash still clogging their streets. A state prosecutor, Giovandomenico Lepore, on Tuesday responded to Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s accusation that “prosecutors are shutting down garbage dumps.” “We have no garbage dumps in our province,” Lepore said.

“How could we be shutting them down?” Speaking at a press conference detailing the capture of seven organized crime affiliates and the seizure of goods worth 600 million euros, Lepore stressed that Naples’ trash emergency in no way stems from his department’s crime-fighting activities.

Campania’s plan to bring the region’s trash situation in line with EU norms is still being examined in Brussels. A decision will be made in 2-3 weeks, a spokesman for the EU Environmental Commission said.

Italy has been asked to comply with EU regulations or incur more court-ordered sanctions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Pushes Eurofighter as Turkey’s ‘Only Alternative’ To US Options

The Italian Defense Ministry continues pushing Turkey to join the Eurofighter aircraft project as an alternative to its present fleet of US-made jets. ‘Turkey wants part of its fighter aircraft fleet to remain outside the technological and other influence of the United States,’ says a Turkish defense analyst

The pan-European Eurofighter fighter aircraft is the only viable alternative to U.S. planes in its category for the Turkish military, Italy’s deputy defense minister said late Tuesday, urging Turkey to join the ambitious European-led defense program.

“The Eurofighter is the only alternative to U.S. aircraft, and provides a great relief to world countries,” Guido Crosetto told a small group of international reporters through an interpreter on the sidelines of the 2011 International Defense Industry Fair, or IDEF, being held in Istanbul.

“If Turkey joins this program, the program would gain a larger importance,” Crosetto said.

Turkey, whose present fighter fleet is comprised of U.S.-made aircraft, also plans to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II planes, a next-generation, multinational program also led by the United States.

But Turkish officials privately say they want another future jet fighter to be developed with a country or countries other than the United States, in an effort to reduce Ankara’s over-dependence on Washington.

Most of Turkey’s present fleet of F-16 fighters is being modernized by the United States.

Lockheed Martin and the planned future F-35s are open to U.S. influence. Only its older F-4 aircraft, modernized by Israel, and its oldest F-16s, being modernized by Turkey itself, are technologically free from this influence, the officials believe. But these older aircraft are expected to be decommissioned around 2020.

“Turkey wants part of its fighter aircraft fleet to remain outside the technological and other influence of the United States. It believes this scheme would better fit its national interests,” said one Turkish defense analyst.

The members of the Eurofighter consortium include Germany, Italy, Britain and Spain. As an influential member of the group, Italy is leading the efforts to add Turkey to the consortium.

Quest to find a fighter partner

In December, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said that Turkey at that point was not considering the Eurofighter as an option, and was more interested in developing a national fighter through its own assets or through cooperating with non-U.S. partners.

Initial talks with South Korea came to nothing as Seoul insisted on its own terms for partnership with Turkey, while Ankara remained interested in no less than an equal partnership.

Despite Ankara’s rejection in December, Italy has continued to insist on the multinational Eurofighter program as the best solution for Turkey.

Crosetto said the inclusion of India and Japan in the Eurofighter program was likely, and again urged Turkey to also join.

The Eurofighter, short-listed together with France’s Rafale in technical evaluations for India’s huge fighter program, and short-listed together with the U.S. F-18 and F-35 in Japan’s fighter competition, believes it can add the two Asian countries to the pan-European program.

“It would also be great to include Turkey in this scheme,” said one Eurofighter official.

Separately, Crosetto urged Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland, which recently lost a multibillion-dollar competition to U.S. firm Sikorsky Aircraft for Turkey’s next-generation utility helicopter deal, to pursue a new Turkish contest to find a partner to make light utility helicopters.

“[AgustaWestland] needs to pursue all opportunities, [all] chances in the helicopter field,” Crosetto said. “They will have to fight in a tight market.”

Separately, on the second day of the IDEF fair, Turkey and Qatar signed a military cooperation agreement that calls for the Turkish sale to the Gulf country this year of various pieces of defense equipment worth $120 million.

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

Italy: Mora Denies Acting as a Pimp for Ruby Rubacuori

(AGI) Milan — Lele Mora repeatedly denied acting as a pimp. He was speaking at a press conference in Milan to announce a demonstration that will take place in Emilia Romagna and also to reply to journalists’ questions on the Ruby case. He explained: “I never took Ruby to Arcore: neither Fede nor I, but someone else. In any case, this doesn’t change things because nothing happened at Arcore.” ..

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

Italy: Berlusconi Claims Leftwing Politicians ‘Don’t Wash Much’

Crotone, 11 May (AKI) — Italy’s conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has accused his leftist political opponents of poor personal hygiene. He made the astonishing claim during a local election rally in the southern Italian city of Crotone on Tuesday.

“I understand why leftwing politicians are always in a bad mood. As they need to attend parliament, they have to shave.

“It’s not as if they wash much, but they have to go into the bathroom to shave, and when they switch on the light and see themselves in the mirror, it spoils their day,” said the 74-year-old premier.

Comments by Berlusconi -who is undergoing four trials in cases that include corruption and abuse of ofice — were met with a barbed reaction from the leader of Italy’s biggest opposition Democratic Party, Pierluigi Bersani.

“We on the left are serious people, and if we don’t wash much, it’s because we are clean,” Bersani quipped ironically, speaking on the popular prime time talk show ‘Ballaro’.

Berlusconi gaffes are legion, inside and outside Italy. These include his description of US president Barack Obama as “suntanned”, his claim that “it’s better to like beautiful girls than to be gay,” and that wartime Italian dictator Benito Mussolini “never killed anyone” and sent opponents “on holiday in (internal) exile.”

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

Italy: Bossi (Northern League): Real Racism Belongs to the Left

(AGI) Desio — “Real racism belongs to the left, they support everyone, the illegal immigrants too, and forget our people.

They are racist towards our own people” said Northern League leader Umberto Bossi, speaking at an electoral rally in Desio, near Milan.

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

Italy: Genoa Curia Suspends Priest Arrested for Pedophilia

(AGI) Genoa — The Curia of Genoa has suspended Father Riccardo Seppia, who was arrested for pedophilia and drug dealing.

“Having been informed, by means of a formal communication by the competent Authorities, of the ongoing investigations on Father Riccardo Seppia of this Archdiocese, which led to his being held in pre-trial custody, the Cardinal Archbishop expresses his disconcertment and grief for the seriousness of the occurrence”. This is what is written in a communique’ released by the Curia of Genoa after receiving news of the arrest of the Parish priest of Sestri Ponente by the NAS Unit of the Carabinieri of Milan with the charge of pedophilia.

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

Spain: Arrest Warrant for Knife Maniac Was Issued Three Days Before He Beheaded British Grandmother in Tenerife

[WARNING: Disturbing Content.]

Deyan Deyanov was wanted for psychiatric examination after previous attack. But police failed to bring in Bulgarian vagrant who was well known to them. Mayor says he ‘doesn’t dare’ talk about police negligence’

A maniac who beheaded a British grandmother in Tenerife was wanted by police at the time of the horrific attack, it emerged today.

An arrest warrant for Deyan Deyanov, 28, had been issued three days before he brutally murdered Jennifer Mills-Westley, 60, in a shop in the resort of Los Cristianos.

A magistrate said he should be detained for examination by a psychiatrist after a previous attack on a shop security guard.

But police officers failed to bring in the killer, who was well-known on the streets of the resort, before he pursued and brutally murdered Mrs Mills-Westley.

The mayor of the region even said Deyanov should have been locked up earlier. Jose Albert Gonzalez Reveron said: ‘This person was well known to police and had been involved in very many altercations.

‘I don’t dare to talk about police negligence, but everyone would like him to have been detained earlier.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Huge Security Alert’ Closes Area Surrounding Buckingham Palace After Police Receive Coded Bomb Warning

A coded bomb threat stoked fears last night that Irish dissidents are preparing to mark the Queen’s State visit to Ireland with an attack on the British mainland.

Security services in both countries were on high alert after Irish republican terrorists used a recognised code word in a warning message to Scotland Yard.

The ambiguous threat did not specify a location or time but sparked several operations during a tense day in central London. Officials said the message, made from a telephone in the Irish Republic on Sunday night, was the first coded warning in Britain for at least ten years.

A swathe of the capital between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square was shut down for almost eight hours as jittery police dealt with a series of suspicious incidents. Former security minister Lord West said the latest bomb warning was ‘extremely worrying’ and warned that security officials were aware of ‘sleeper cells’ who want to mount fresh attacks.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Burglar With a Cleanliness Obsession is Spared Jail… Because He’d Find it Too Dirty

He’s got a string of previous convictions as long as your arm. But crime isn’t Nathan Cassidy’s only compulsion.

The serial burglar has an obsession with cleanliness — and that condition has helped keep him out of prison.

The 20-year-old was allowed to walk free from court after he told a judge he would find jail ‘too traumatic’ because of his obsessive compulsive disorder.

Cassidy smashed his way into an elderly couple’s home while they were sleeping and stole a handbag containing £105.

The thief, who has 14 previous convictions for 29 crimes, committed the burglary while on a suspended sentence for robbery and handling stolen goods.

However, he avoided jail by convincing Cambridge Crown Court he would not be able to cope with life behind bars because he is obsessed with cleanliness.


Aslaug Choudhray and her husband Mohibur were woken when they noticed their bedroom door was open.

The court heard Mrs Choudhray [aged 70] discovered her handbag, containing £100 inside a cheque book and an additional £5, was stolen, along with a kitchen knife. Charles Snelling, prosecuting, told the court Mr Choudhray was so shocked by the burglary that he collapsed the following day.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Custard on Pupil’s Arm? £750. Fall Off Classroom Chair? £6,000. How ‘Compensation Culture’ Is Spreading Through Schools

A pupil sued his school for £750 after having hot custard spilt on his arm and another was given more than £6,000 after falling off a chair, a shocking survey reveals today.

Thousands more were paid out in the past two years to children who tripped up on the playground, further showing how a ‘compensation culture’ has spread to the country’s schools.

Payouts were also given to a pupil hit in the eye with a pen and another who tripped over an unmarked ramp, according to statistics provided by councils on Merseyside.

Headteachers have told how the claim culture means schools have to put up warning signs every time it rains, while another said that ‘even the cotton wool we wrap children in is checked beforehand’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Hacker, 19, Who Ruined Stranger’s Web Business ‘For a Game’ Is Spared Jail … So He Can Continue Law Degree

A computer hacker who ruined a man’s internet firm ‘for a game’ and was caught with thousands of stolen bank account details has been spared jail — so he can carry on studying for a degree in law.

Sussex University student Zachary Woodham, 19, had bragged online about how easy it was to take control of servers.

He even forced one victim to shut down his website hosting firm, accompanying his cyber-attacks with a series of silent telephone calls, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Woodham also boasted to his friend and fellow hacker Charles Tobenhouse, 18, that he had redirected visitors to a church website to web pages depicting gay orgies.

When he was arrested at his parents’ home, he was found to be in possession of thousands of stolen bank account details.


Martin Husseyin, representing Woodham, said his client, who is now studying for a law degree at Sussex University, was considerably more mature than he had been when he committed his offences, and realised the impact of what he had done.

Passing sentence, Judge Mr Recorder Jeremy Donne QC said the offences were so serious that if Woodham had been over 21 and been convicted after a trial, he would have given him a three-year prison sentence.

But he said that because of the defendants’ age, their guilty pleas and the fact they have either just started or are due to start further education, he could spare them immediate custody.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: New Sex Abuse Guidelines to be Sent to Bishops

Vatican City, 11 May (AKI) — The Vatican will next week issue a new document for bishops on how to deal with cases of sexual abuse of children by priests.

The letter, due on Monday from the Vatican watchdog responsible for disciplining clergy, is designed to help bishops worldwide to prepare guidelines for abuse cases, the Vatican said.

The missive will be published in Italian, French, Spanish, English, German, Portuguese and Polish, according to the Vatican.

The head of the Vatican’s disciplinary watchdog the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, announced in November 2010 that the document was being prepared.

The letter would include “directives” relating to the “reception of victims”, working with civil authorities, protecting children and the training of future priests, Levada said.

The Vatican is under pressure to produce the guidelines at the request of a US civil court which is examining the Holy See’s role as “employer” in the case of a priest accused of child sex abuse.

The publication in Ireland in 2009 of two shocking reports documenting hundreds of cases of child abuse by priests and systematic cover-up efforts by senior clergy over decades plunged the Church into its worst crisis in many years.

Hundreds of cases have also come to light in United States and in several other European countries including Austria, Germany, Italy and Belgium.

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


Serbia: Shrinking Towns Prompts Grooms to ‘Import’ Albanian Brides

Belgrade, 10 May (AKI) — Serbia’s small towns and cities are shrinking because of a low birthrate, the director of the country’s statistics bureau Dragan Vukmirovic said on Tuesday. In some towns a shortage of young woman has sparked an interest in Albanian brides.

The country’s population of 7.3 million is about 200,000 less than a 10 years ago and is expected to shed more people Vukmirovic said. With a birthrate of 1.4 per cent countrywide, only 11 municipalities had population growth in 2009, he added.

Vukmirovic said the average Serbian was 41.2 years old and in 370 villages not a single child was born in the past decade. The influx of the rural population into the cities has left many villages completely deserted with 30 percent of Serbians living in the country’s three biggest cities: Belgrade, Novi Sad and Nis.

About 2 million people live in Belgrade, where the population is increasing by 50,000 each year. Young women leaving rural villages are more likely to take part in the exodus to the captial than than men, statistics showed.

The trend has prompted southern Serbian men to “import” brides from Albania, the head of humanitarian organization Stara Raska Ceda Vucicevic told reporters.

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

Mediterranean Union

EU Study: Domestic Violence Between 40%, 75%

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 9 — Violence against women in the home is the main emergency needed to be tackled by the Mediterranean’s southern shores. The phenomenon affects between 40% and 75% of married women, who suffer mainly at the hands of their husbands. This is the glaring figure contained in a study carried out by the Euromed Gender Equality Programme (EGEP), which has been presented at a conference held in Brussels. The ‘Programme to enhance quality between men and women in the Euromed Region’, which is financed by the European Union as part of neighbourhood policy, focussed on nine partner countries between 2008 and 2011: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Syria and Tunisia.

“The spread of domestic violence among a figure between 40% and 75% of women is not an overestimate,” says Florence Raes, a team leader at EGEP. “There have been interesting investigations into this, the most recent in Morocco, and others have been carried out in the Palestinian Territories and in Syria. Indeed, they all show figures of above 50% and have an impact on emancipation and on the employment market. Women do not leave the house to go to work covered in bruises”. The report stresses that the problem is particularly acute in Jordan, where almost seven out of ten women have been the subject of some form of domestic violence, while the figure in Lebanon is over two thirds.

“In terms of sexual abuse, less information is available,” Raes continues. The expert adds that “the problem of violence against women exists in all countries, both in private and in public. This assumes different characteristics when other factors are brought into play, such as the honour crimes carried out in Jordan, the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, for example”. The report states that between 20 and 25 women are killed every year in Jordan in order to preserve the honour of the family. There were 32 such cases documented in the Palestinian Territories between 2004 and 2006, with the figure rising to 58 in 2007. “It is important to underline that violence against women remains a taboo, an issue shrouded in silence, though less so than in previous years, as there is growing recognition of the problem,” Raes explains.

National strategies have been drawn up in a number of countries. “These include Morocco, Algeria and the Palestinian Territories, and the aim is often to coordinate the action of the various ministries in terms of justice, health and security forces,” Raes says. Another important factor is the financial costs of the phenomenon. “The impact on women is also a financial one, due to their non-participation in the employment market and on account of justice and health spending”.

In the general context of the “Arab spring”, what can the European Union do for women’s rights? “We have to be very careful and encourage women to take part in democratic transition, and the European Union needs to take steps towards this urgently,” Raes continues. “The presence of female protesters in the streets does not mean that they are necessarily in power. In Tunisia, equality has been established between men and women [in terms of candidates running for election], while the Egyptian government does not feature a single woman”. Another important requirement, Raes concludes, “is to broaden the sphere of rights that have already been acquired and to be careful of going backwards”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Secular Parties Join Forces to Stop Muslim Brotherhood Ascendancy

The leaders of parties born in the wake of the Revolution in Tahrir Square meet in Cairo. “A coalition of moderate parties is the only way to stop the progress of radical groups, and avoid the creation of a confessional state,” says a spokesperson for the Egyptian Catholic Church. The military reopens 16 churches closed for security reasons.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — A meeting of 1,500 leaders from moderate parties has rekindled hope that Muslim Brotherhood’s apparent ascendancy in the upcoming election in September might be halted, Fr Rafik Greiche, head of the press office of the Catholic Church of Egypt and spokesperson for seven Catholic denominations, told AsiaNews.

The event was organised by Tahrok Igaby (Positive Action) and other secular-oriented groups. It brought together leaders from a number of parties created following the revolution in Tahrir Square, namely the Free Egyptians Party, the Justice Party, the Democratic Front Party and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, to set up a coalition to transform Egypt into a secular state.

“A coalition of moderate parties is the only way to stop the progress of radical groups, and avoid the creation of a confessional state,” Fr Greiche said.

Recent clashes between Copts and Muslim extremists, which left 11 people dead and hundreds injured, is raising concerns over Egypt’s Islamisation, a prospect that not only scares the country’s Christian minority but also millions of moderate Muslims, especially women and the poor.

“A takeover by radical Islamic parties would especially hurt widows and women abandoned by their husband because they would not be able to maintain their children,” the clergyman said.

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic parties want to apply the Sharia in a radical fashion so that women cannot go out of their homes or work.

In recent weeks, many Muslim women have joined protests organised by the Coptic community in front of Egyptian state TV, shouting slogans in favour of the separation of state and religion and against the country’s Islamisation.

Today, the ruling military council announced the reopening of 16 churches closed for security reasons, following Muslim-Christian clashes on Saturday.

The government also announced a new law to regulate the construction of new religious buildings. (S.C.)

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

Libya: Air Raids Turn Tripoli Into Ghost Town. Bishop: “Give These People a Rest”

NATO continues to bomb despite the UN’s appeal for a ceasefire. At least four missiles fired at the Gaddafi bunker. For Msgr. Martinelli the population is exhausted and afraid to leave home. Gaddafi re-appears in a video after 11 days of silence.

Tripoli (AsiaNews) — UN appeals for a cease-fire have failed to stop NATO which continues to drop bombs on Tripoli. “I heard loud explosions throughout the night — says Msgr. Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli — there is no one on the streets, there is absolute silence. “

The prelate once again calls on Western countries to stop the bombing and seek a diplomatic solution to end the conflict. “The population is exhausted — says Msgr. Martinelli — mothers tell me that their children do not sleep at night. By now everyone is afraid to leave the house. We must find a way to give these people a rest”.

Overnight at least four missiles hit the Bab al Aziziya bunker in Tripoli, where Muammar Gaddafi is supposed to be barricaded. Yesterday, the Rais reappeared on a video, presenting tribal chiefs who are his supporters to the nation. Gaddafi had not appeared in public since the death of his son and three grandchildren killed in a NATO raid on March 30.

Meanwhile, after days of intense fighting, the Cyrenaica rebels yesterday conquered Misurata Airport. The city, located 200 km east of Tripoli, has been besieged for over two months by government forces and represents a major strategic points for a possible attack against the capital. (Sc)

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

Libya: Gaddafi ‘Hiding in Desert’ Refuge

Tripoli, 11 May (AKI) — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has abandoned the capital Tripoli for the relative safety of the desert, according to 17 February rebel movement.

Gaddafi for a number of days has sought refuge in the Ash Shurayf desert area around 400 kilometres south of Tripoli, 17 February said on its website.

Gaddafi has not appeared in public for days as Nato bombs have targeted the Libyan capital and sparking speculation that he has been killed.

He’s been out of public view since he reportedly escaped 30 April air strikes that killed one of his sons, Saif al-Arab.

Nato denies that it has targeted Gaddafi.

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

Seven Hurt as Muslims and Christians Clash in Cairo

(AGI) Cairo — At least seven people are known to have been hurt in clashes between Muslims and Christians in central Cairo. The unrest began late yesterday evening in front of the State television offices, and continued well into the night.

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

Tunisia: Country Beleaguered With Violent Chaos, Govt Probe

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 12 — The scent of jasmine, the flower which represents the “revolution”, has vanished from the streets of Tunisia, chased away by the bitter scent of tear gas and burning tyres. The country seems to have forgotten the days of the “gentle revolt”, ravished by an wave of violence which outdid that which toppled Ben Ali’s regime. Today we ask ourselves whether what is happening is the result of a precise and accurately implemented plan on the part of those wishing to push the country toward ungovernability and anarchy. The country’s High Commission, created by the government to enact the principles of the “revolution”, mirrors this sentiment, comprising fear and doubt. The Commission officially requested that a probe be launched- not into recent violent acts, which the magistrates are dealing with- but into what lies beneath, their true core. The document submitting the request does not only include street rallies, but also “state violence”, stigmatising the use of force — deemed excessive by most- by the security units which bore down on protesters in Tunis last week with a steel fist, and that is not a euphemism. Protesters and passers-by (who always crowd Avenue Bourghiba, the heart of the capital) were not the only victims of this violence; journalists were also beaten and had their work implements taken from them. Everyone is wondering, can these violent episodes across the entire country be the fruit of a spontaneous, though savage, protest? One possibility is that they are a reaction to the improvised road blocks set up in the city’s major thoroughfares which give access to the town centre, at which dozens and dozens of criminals seize cars and motorists and deprive them of all their belongings. Is rage the driving factor behind masses of enraged people rising up contemporaneously in cities which are nowhere near each other, causing them to set fire to police barracks and National guard headquarters as well as government buildings? And what about youth, bouncing around the streets of Tunis, Gabes and Sfax, pillaging shops and malls, organizing these raids amongst themselves, with urban guerrilla techniques which could be straight out of a violent and anarchic futuristic movie? Many people believe there are too many coincidences, and perhaps it is time to look at the situation from a new perspective. For example, it needs to be determined whether after the “Grand Tunis” curfew was imposed, hundreds of people were arrested in the street, most of whom had a record. In its request, the High Commission took a brave stance, clearly stating that someone may be aiming to drive the country into chaos and scupper the election process. Who would that benefit? Clearly, in Tunisia the future is what is at stake and it is also abundantly clear that not everyone wants to play it straight. Right now it’s easy to fuel discontent: the economy is flailing and the government can only guarantee wages until the end of June. But who can afford to do all this just to rule a country destined to be reduced to rubble?

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

U. K. PM Invites Libyan Insurgents to Open London Embassy

(AGI) London — British Prime Minister Cameron has invited the Benghazi Transition Government to open an embassy in London.

The invitation was made during talks with the Council’s leader, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who is visiting Great Britain to ask for aid and for formal recognition. The meeting was also attended by Britain’s Foreign Minister William Hague.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Ben Stein: “Arab Spring” Is a Fraud

Says street movements in Middle East mean U.S. is losing valuable allies — and Iran is reaping a “gigantic regional coup”

Now, I am going to tell you the truth about the so-called “Arab Spring,” and about the Middle East generally right now.

First, the “Arab Spring” as a force for democracy, human rights and peace in Egypt seems to me to be a fraud.

The dictator and his entourage who were kicked out in Egypt were pro-West, a bit restrained on Israel, open to free enterprise, and resistant to Iranian-sponsored terror.

Egypt is now rapidly becoming anti-Israel, pro-Iran, pro the Iranian-sponsored terrorist group Hamas, and very far from being pro-human rights. They are arresting businessmen right and left in Egypt just for the crime of being successful. They have arrested Mubarak’s sons, and have said they plan to try Mubarak.

The most potent of the political forces in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, hates the United States, loathes Israel, condemns the killing of bin Laden (whom they praised as a martyr), and have been wedded to terror for their entire existence.

Oh, P.S, they are closely connected with Adolph Hitler.

They will probably take over Egypt completely sooner or later.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Ehud Barak’s Latest Nakba

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have some explaining to do.

On Sunday, Israel was invaded along its border with Syria. More than 100 Syrians successfully infiltrated the country and rioted violently in Majdal Shams for several hours.

The IDF was reportedly surprised by these events. It was more prepared for violent riots along the borders with Lebanon and Gaza. And security forces were deployed more or less effectively in Jerusalem, the Galilee, the Negev, Judea and Samaria on Sunday…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Head Rabbi Receives “Jewish Obama”

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 11 — On Thursday in his Jerusalem office, the head rabbi of Israel (Ashkenazi) Yona Metzger received Mark Ndesandjo, son of the third wife of US president Barack Obama’s father. Ndesandjo’s mother, name Ruth Nidensand, is of Jewish origins and pushed her 50-year-old son to go to Israel to “discover his roots”. Ndesandjo has visited a number of locations with religious significance. The visit by the US president’s half brother — who lives and works in China — was kept secret in Israel due to its taking place at the same time as the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and concerns over a possible attack on him, according to the press.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Napolitano Says Palestinians to Have Embassy in Italy

(AGI) Bethlehem — Napolitano said that Italy has decided to raise the rank of the permanent PNA delegation to Rome to embassy. President Giorgio Napolitano made the announcement at the end of a meeting with PNA president, Mahmoud Abbas.

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

PNA: Majority Think EU Can Help Bring Peace to Region, Study

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 10 — Three quarters (75%) of palestinians think that the EU can help bring peace and stability in the region, up from only 54% a year ago. This is one of the results of the findings of the third in a series of polls carried out at six-month intervals between December 2009 and November 2010, before the change in neighbouring Tunisia.

The study is promoted by the EU-funded Opinion Polling and Research (OPPOL) project, under the 2007-2010 ENPI regional information and communication programme. It is carried out across the countries benefiting from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI).

The survey involved 400 members of the general public in the territories. According to the Enpi website (, palestinians also increasingly think that the EU should play a greater role in promoting democracy: 70%, compared to 55% in december 2009. In addition, nearly four out of five respondents (79%) think that their country has benefited from EU policies, up from only 42% in 2009. Furthermore, significantly fewer respondents now think that the EU should play a more important role when it comes to refugees and displaced persons (68%, down from 88% in december 2009), energy security (48% down from 67%) and environment and climate change (35%, down from 53%).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Why George Mitchell Failed

It is unfair to ask Israel to trust those who shamefully advocate the killing of Jews, and claim that Islamic annihilation of the Jews by an Islamic army is a model that must be emulated today.

The problem is not only in the existence of violent teachings in historical Islamic texts, but also in the dangerous desire of many Islamists and violent Islamic scholars to revive such violence in modern times. Violent texts exist in other religions as well, but we do not generally see such destructive desire to use the texts to justify killing others, and we rarely hear about modern scholars of other faiths who advocate using such texts literally.

The problem is that this disastrous anti-Semitic religious dimension is not limited to verses in books, but is also propagated by a powerful media machine that utilizes vicious, Nazi-style propaganda across the Muslim world. Publishing dehumanizing cartoons in the mainstream media, and blaming Jews for nearly every problem in the world has become much too common in the leading Arab media over the past few decades.

It is virtually impossible to promote any form of peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict without reducing such levels of anti-Semitism in the Muslim world.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Ahmadinejad: Osama’s Death a Ploy to Re-Elect Obama

(AGI) Tehran — Bin Laden’s elimination was a scam to secure Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believes that the Americans had the al Qaeda founder in their hands “for a while” when they decided to kill him “for domestic political reasons”.

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

France, Germany Accused of ‘Black Campaign’ Against Turkey’s EU Bid

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there is a “black campaign” led by France and Germany to “destroy Turkish determination to become a member of the European Union,” Bloomberg reported Thursday.

“They want Turkey to give up,” Erdogan said in an interview in Ankara with journalist Charlie Rose from the U.S. public broadcaster PBS that aired Wednesday night.

“Let me put it very clearly: France is number one, secondly Germany” in opposing Turkey’s EU membership, he said.

Turkey has been “at the doors of the European Union for more than 50 years and there is still a European Union that does not accept Turkey as a member,” Erdogan said. He added that Turkey remains committed to joining, although the EU continues to “change the rules of the game.”

“It’s not honorable. They don’t stick to their promises,” he said.

‘Hamas not a terrorist group’

In the same interview, Erdogan also expressed his belief that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, saying he felt the recently penned Palestinian reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah was an essential step toward Mideast peace.

Erdogan’s comments came one day after Hamas’s Gaza strongman, Mahmoud Zahar, said that while his organization would accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, it would never recognize Israel. He said this was because of the damage such a move would do to Palestinian refugees in the “diaspora,” according to a report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Commenting on the recently achieved unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, the Turkish prime minister said he did not feel Hamas was an obstacle in achieving Mideast peace.

“Let me give you a very clear message: I don’t see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party,” Erdogan told PBS. “It is a resistance movement trying to protect its country under occupation.”

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

Frattini Says Assad Not Like Gaddafi, Deserves Opportunity

(AGI) Rome — Frattini said Assad is not like Gaddafi as his role in the Arab League proved and deserves another opportunity. The Foreign Minister told Corriere TV that there are a number of reasons why Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deserves another opportunity and dismissed comparisons between him and Muammar Gaddafi. “Over the years, Assad has proved to be a reliable interlocutor with a strong role within the Arab League unlike Gaddafi who was also accused of plotting against key leaders in the Arab world “ Frattini said.

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

Lebanon: Thousands of Syrians Flee Violence

Beirut, 16 May (AKI) — Around 10,000 Syrians have fled to neighbouring Lebanon to escape a violent crackdown against anti-government protesters, according to eyewitnesses.

Maher, like many of the refugees, is staying in Wadi al Khaled in the country’s north.

“Many of us have the luck of having family here that allows us to have a free place to stay,” said Maher, who only gave his first name.

“We escaped because the situation in Syria is more dangerous by the day,” he told Adnkronos International.

“We fear for our children,” said Umm Mohammad, a 50 year old woman. “We saw soldiers conduct house-to-house searches and arrest people without any reason. This is why we can’t stay at home.”

Human rights groups say more than 800 people have been killed by Syrian security forces since mid-March when protesters took to the streets to demand political reforms and then the resignation of president Bashar Assad.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper earlier in May reported the Lebanese army intelligence have rounded up Syrian refugees in Lebanon over the weekend and forced them to return to their country.

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

Syria: Press: Lebanese Police Send Refugees Back

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MAY 11 — Syrians who had fled on foot to Lebanon from the violent repression by the Syrian regime have been detained and sent back to Syria by Lebanese security forces, witnesses report from the remote north-Lebanese region of Wadi Khaled.

Hundreds of people, mostly Syrian citizens from Tall Kalakh, this weekend crossed the narrow Kabir river which marks the border between Syria and Lebanon, several Lebanese told a reporter of British daily The Guardian. Their relief was short-lived however, because “there were checkpoints everywhere”, and most of them were intercepted or traced down by the Lebanese security forces within a few hours.

At dawn they were handed over to the Syrian security forces, the witnesses told the Guardian. Some of the interviewed refugees told the newspaper that Tall Kalakh, a town with 20 thousand inhabitants a few kilometres from the border, is under military siege, with tanks and armoured vehicles in the streets. “Dead people are lying on the streets and snipers are shooting at anyone who tries to recover them”, said one of the inhabitants, who asked to remain anonymous. “If you are injured”, he added, “nobody wants to come and get you and you will die slowly on the street”. Several weeks ago a few hundred Syrians crossed the border on foot. They described the situation in Tall Khalakh in similar words.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Assad Delayed Reforms But Has to Stay, Says Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 12 — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “a good friend of mine,” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said, complaining, however, that the embattled Syrian leader had failed to take steps on time to address his people’s demands for reform. “Bashar is a good friend of mine and we had long discussions (for a year or even more) about lifting (the) state of emergency, (the) release of political prisoners, we discussed these issues and elections, I mean, changing the election system, allowing political parties, and we discussed all of these issues with him,” Erdogan told PBS’s Charlie Rose Show on Wednesday night as daily Today’s Zaman reports today. “However, he was late in taking these steps…

Taking these steps was delayed and that’s how, unfortunately, we ended up here.” Assad, who has built close ties with Turkey over the past years, has been facing growing protests at home.

Turkey has urged the Syrian administration to take steps for reform but Turkish officials have been increasingly vocal lately in their complaints that Assad is delaying those steps. Erdogan said it was still too early to call for Assad’s withdrawal, emphasizing that it is a decision up to the Syrian people. “And I wish Syria is not damaged by that. The unity and integrity of Syria should remain, and they should act in unity and integrity, and that’s how we want to see our neighbor,” Erdogan said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Tanks Surround City Where 10,000 Died in 1982 Uprising

Damascus, 12 May (AKI) — Syria has surrounded the central city of Hama with soldiers and tanks as president Bashar Assad aims to crush an uprising that has left hundreds dead since anti-government protests began two months ago.

At least 19 people reportedly died across the country on Wednesday, with a number of victims in Hama, where shells fell on three districts.

Human rights group Insan earlier this week said at least 632 people have been confirmed dead and 2843 detained since Syria’s demonstrations began on 15 March.

In 1982, around 10,000 people were thought to die in a government crackdown when the current Syrian leader’s father Hafez al-Assad put down an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood.

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

UAE: 800 ‘Blackwater’ Mercenaries in Abu Dhabi

(AGI) New York — Abu Dhabi apparently became the base for a foreign legion of 800 mercenaries of US pmc Xe (formerly Blackwater). The Emir hired them to defend oil wells, hold at bay any aggression and, above all, crush any interior revolt.

The operation, led by the founder of the renowned private military company Erik Prince, who has been living in Abu Dhabi for one year now, supposedly cost the Emir 529 million dollars.

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

Yemen: Almost 200,000 Protect Presidential Palace Against Anti-Government Protesters

Sanaa, 13 May (AKI) — Around 180,000 supporters of the Yemen’s government on Friday gathered outside the presidential palace in capital Sanaa to use themselves as shields against anti-government protesters.

The throng arrived from around the country to lend support to embattled president Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to a report by the Arab-language al-Arabiya satellite news channel.

Saleh has been reported to pay people to attend demonstrations that support his rule, though there have been no immediate reports that this was the case on Friday.

Anti-government demonstrators have threatened to occupy the offices housed in the presidential palace in an effort to push Saleh to resign after more than 30 years in power.

Friday demonstrations against rule by autocratic rulers have been a mainstay of the protest movement that has spread through North Africa and parts of the Middle East this year. Protests are often held following Friday prayers.

But demonstrations and governments’ responses are by no means limited to Friday. On Wednesday in Yemeni at least 10 people were killed and 200 injured during a countrywide crackdown on protests.

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

South Asia

India: West Bengal: Communist Party Loses After 34 Years

Lack of development is behind the result that gives the Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee, minister of Railways, an historic victory. In Kerala, the left also loses votes, as the United Democratic Front closes in on a majority.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) — The Communist Party of India (CPI) has lost the election in West Bengal, a state it had ruled since 1977. It lost to the Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee, federal minister of Railways. ‘It’s a people’s mandate, and we respect the mandate,’ Gurudas Dasgupta, a CPI leader, said.

The results in West Bengal mark an incredible turning point in the country’s electoral history. Elections were held in six phases, starting on 18 April, and results were released today.

In addition to West Bengal, elections were also held in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam.

The CPI is part of the Left Front, an opposition alliance led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

The Trinamool Congress is also left leaning and is the second largest party in the United Progressive Alliance, which governs in New Delhi.

In Kerala, the Communist-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is fighting to hang on to power. The latest results indicate that they are neck-and-neck with the Congress Party-led United Democratic Front (UDF), which is slightly ahead in terms of state assembly seats, 71 against 67.

“It is the end of 34 years of Marxist rule in West Bengal,” said Fr Paul Thelakat, editor-in-chief of THE newsweekly Satyadeepam (Light of Truth). “They were an anti-development party, keeping the people poor and uneducated.”

“In Kerala, the victory of the United Democratic Front is not so clear-cut. However, it does indicate that voters read issues differently than before. People want parties and candidates that live up to their promises and are willing to serve the public with sincerity and honesty.”

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

Indonesia: Govt Bans Celebrations of Israel’s Independence

Jakarta, 13 May (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa says the Indonesian government will halt any attempt to celebrate Israel’s independence day, because Indonesia does not officially recognise the state of Israel.

“Our policy on this has been crystal clear — that we will recognise the existence of [the state of] Israel only if it acknowledges [the state of] Palestine,” Marty said Thursday as quoted by

Earlier, the website published a story that a Jewish community in Indonesia had planned to organize a local celebration of Israel’s independence day.

The site did not provide details of the location or date of the event.

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

Pakistan: Punjab: Christian Student Nurse Forced to Convert to Marry Muslim Man

Farah Hatim, 24, was kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam. Although her family filed n abduction report, local police and politicians are protecting the culprits. The victim’s lawyer and a human rights activist also point to the legal flaws in the young woman’s alleged statement of conversion presented in court. For a Catholic priest, the rising number of anti-Christian incidents is “alarming”.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — A 24-year Christian woman from southern Punjab was abducted by a Muslim man who, after forcing her to convert to Islam, also forced her to marry him. Although her family filed a formal report of kidnapping, the police did not act immediately, either to stop the abduction or to arrest the culprits. Likewise, her family has gone to court to get her released to no avail; the young student nurse remains in fact in the hands of her kidnappers. This, according to a local priest, is part of an “alarming” trend in anti-Christian violence. He is, to put it mildly, “disappointed by the behaviour of local authorities”. A human rights activist confirms that the region of Pakistan where the woman lives is a “safe haven for extremists” who perpetrate abuses and kidnappings “with total impunity”.

Farah Hatim, 24, from Rahim Yar Khan, a town in southern Punjab, was training to be a nurse at the Sheikh Zaid Medical College, working in the orthopaedic ward. Last Sunday, she was kidnapped as she crossed Jinnah Park, which is located near the college where she worked.

Her kidnapper is Zeehan Iliyas, a young Muslim man working as an office boy at a local branch of the United Bank Ltd. With the help his brothers Imram and Gulfam, he abducted the young woman, ordering her to convert to Islam and marry him.

“This [Muslim] family has a history of kidnapping young Christian women and forcing them to convert,” said Bilquees Marriam, Farah’s mother, adding that they act with impunity because they are backed by a local Member of the National Assembly, who belongs to the ruling party.

The woman and her other six children went to the police to file the abduction report, but the duty officer refused to take a First Information Report (FIR).

The day after the kidnapping, the local Christian community rallied around the kidnapped woman’s family and began protesting against the violence against her and the complicity of local law enforcement. Initially, police tried to disperse the crowd but following the intervention of the superintendent of police, a FIR application was accepted and an investigation was launched.

However, the delay gave Farah Hatim’s kidnappers time to take the young woman to a district court under duress so that she could state that she had converted to Islam and would marry Zeehan Iliyas.

The judge, who failed to cross-examine the woman, especially with regards to the wounds to her body, simply accepted her statement as “valid”.

Zahid Hussain, the Hatim family lawyer, slammed the gross violation of the Farah’s rights and the faulty legal procedures. He said that when “someone makes a statement before a court, the judge must question the applicant alone in order to determine whether his or her decision was made under duress or by consent. In this case, the courtroom was full of people, including those who actively took part in her abduction and assault. The judge also ignored her wounds. [. . .] All this shows that she was forced to sign the statement”.

Last Tuesday, Farah’s family filed a second complaint, which the police has so far failed to pursue.

“Southern Punjab is a safe haven for extremists,” said Rizwan Paul, head of the human rights organisation ‘Life for All’. Indeed, local authorities and police are more interested in “protecting offenders” than in justice.

“We have highlighted several cases of forced conversions and brought it to the attention of the authorities, but they have turned a deaf ear to our complaints,” he said.

“It is a sad incident,” said Fr Sohail John, parish priest at Rahim Yar Khan. “We strongly condemn the kidnapping and the forced conversion. We are disappointed over the response of the local authorities. It is alarming that [. . .] the Punjab government has failed to protect the minorities” and is instead “protecting the culprit”.

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

USA Interrogates All 3 Bin Laden’s ‘Hostile’ Widows

(AGI) Washington — Quoting government sources, CNN has revealed that Osama bin Laden’s three widows have been questioned by US intelligence officers, supervised by Pakistani security officers. The women were interrogated all together this week and were ‘hostile’ to Americans according to Pakistani source.

The eldest of the women was appointed to speak and ISI officials were also in the room.

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

Australia — Pacific

Muslims to Push for Sharia

THE nation’s peak Muslim group is using the Gillard government’s re-embracing of multiculturalism to push for the introduction of sharia in Australia, but it says it would be a more moderate variety of Islamic law that fits with Australian values.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s new multiculturalism policy, argues that Muslims should enjoy “legal pluralism”.

In an interview with The Australian, the organisation’s president, Ikebal Adam Patel, who wrote the submission, nominated family law and specifically divorce as an area where moderate interpretations of sharia could co-exist within the Australian legal system.

In the submission, the AFIC acknowledges some Muslims believe Islamic law is immutable, regardless of history, time, culture and location.

“They claim that Muslims may change, but Islam will not,” it says.

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The AFIC argues this is not the case and sharia can be applied in a way that fits in to Australia and is not extreme.

“This means most of the regulations in Islamic law may be amended, changed, altered, and adapted to social change.

“Therefore, Muslims Australia-AFIC takes the position that Islamic law is changeable according to the requirements of different places and times, and therefore suits the values shared by Australian people,” the submission says.

A hardline reading of sharia confers unilateral divorce rights on men, while women who initiate divorce are stripped of their property and financial entitlements.

A more moderate interpretation and common practice in Islamic countries is to recognise divorce by mutual consent.

In the interview, Mr Patel said: “I’m saying that instead of letting the extremists within Islam take over the agenda, we are saying there is a path whereby it will work for all the communities in a moderate way.

“It is important for someone who is Muslim or a practising Jew that aspects of our religion which can be incorporated within the greater legal system are introduced.

“This is about personal issues about family, and won’t affect any other Australian,” he said.

“It’s about a system that does not impinge on the rights of any other Australian.”

In its submission to the inquiry, the AFIC says criticisms of sharia as being biased against women and treating them as second-class citizens are wrong.

“It is important for Muslims to seriously consider this criticism,” the submission says.

“But it is also important for the Australian government to respect the rights of Muslim women who want to keep and maintain the way they dress, eat and interact with others, as long as such behaviour does not inflict harm to others.

“Muslims in Australia should accept the Australian values, and Australia should provide a ‘public sphere’ for Muslims to practise their belief. It takes two to tango.

“This approach demands a compromise from Islam, which should be open to other values, and also to make a similar demand of Australia.

“It is not only Australian Muslims who should reconcile these identities, but all Australians.”

Mr Patel says the AFIC, as the peak body of Islamic organisations in Australia, “strongly supports that multiculturalism should lead to legal pluralism . . . and twin tolerations”.

The submission cites regulations governing Islamic finance and halal certification in Australia as examples of how legal pluralism can work.

British law since 1996 has allowed for alternative dispute resolution through sharia tribunals, the rulings of which are enforceable in county courts and the High Court.

The submission calls on the inquiry members to consider “hard questions” from Muslim communities.

“Muslims are required to have social integration with the majority of people in Australia: what does this really mean? Should Muslims remove the hijab, dress like others, drink alcohol and go to the pub to demonstrate they have actually integrated?”

In most Western countries, the submission notes, the idea of an “Islamic family tribunal or arbitration is likely to fuel the debate on radicalism and liberalism”.

“But is it true that Australia will never consider Islamic law?” it asks.

“It seems that in two areas, namely Islamic finance and halal food, the Australian government has been actively involved.

“So although the Attorney-General ruled out introducing Islamic law, or sharia, at the same time Australian financial institutions are encouraged to do much more to attract Muslim business by developing innovative products which comply with Islamic law.

“Apart from the economic motive, how can we reconcile the conflicting statement and fact?”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Survivor of Total Horror

SOMETIMES the most shocking adversity can lead a person to a bright new beginning. That is the case for Anna C, one of the victims of a spate of racist gang rapes that shocked Australia 11 years ago.

The gang rapists, Australian-born Lebanese Muslims roamed Sydney hunting for non-Muslim teenage girls they regarded as “Aussie sluts”.

Ms C was 18 when she was raped 25 times by as many as 14 men, including the notorious Skaf brothers Bilal, then 18 and Mohammed, 17 — in August, 2000.

She had been sitting on a train, dressed for a job interview in her best suit, reading The Great Gatsby, when she was approached by the youths.

They stole her mobile phone and lured her off the train, raped her in a toilet block and then drove her to a secluded park in Sydney’s southwestern suburbs.

There she was “passed from group to group to be abused, insulted and defiled,” as Justice Michael Finnane described it.

“It is hard to believe that young men brought up in modern Australia could behave so much like wild animals.”

Carloads of youths were summoned by mobile phone: “There’s a slut at Bankstown Trotting Club”.

During her six-hour ordeal, they called her an “Aussie pig”, asked if she liked “Leb c**k” and boasted: “I’m going to f*** you Leb style.”

She suffered every indignity, had a gun held to her head and, at the end, was hosed down like an animal.

“I looked in his eyes. I had never seen such indifference,” she told the court.

Ringleader Bilal Skaf was sentenced to 55 years jail, later reduced to 28 years.

It was the harshest sentence ever handed out for rape, reflecting the racist nature of the hate-crimes and Ms C’s extraordinary courage and credibility as a witness.

Now 29, she suffered depression, had trouble trusting men and had to abandon nursing training because she couldn’t bear touching people.

But she is now engaged to a “lovely man” and is pregnant with her first child, a son due in July.

She has a job she loves, in retail, which has helped her deal with her fear of strangers, and the support of a loving family. “I’m very lucky.”

At last she has put her ordeal behind her.

She met her boyfriend, a specialist mechanic, at a party two years ago, and “I just trusted him straight away. He’s quite open and honest — that won me over.”

Her friends had told him, “something had happened to me. But he’s very practically minded. His personality made it very easy for me to trust him. He’s incredibly lovely and really protective.”

As for the rapes: “Generally I try not to think about it.

“At the moment I’m so distracted by being pregnant.”

For the first seven years after the attacks, she locked herself in her mother’s house.

“I was mistrustful and I figured the easiest way to stay out of trouble was not to go out. I didn’t want to deal with strangers. It was very hard. I was trying desperately to get over what had happened. I was trying to find a focus and a path.”

Highly intelligent, virtually self-educated, books have been her solace and distraction. During the trials she was reading Harry Potter, and currently is reading Sherlock Holmes.

The past three years have “been quite good … it was going back to work that got me out of the funk and back into the real world.”

The ordeal did change her for the better.

“It made me a different person. It changed me to try to be a bit more of a thoughtful person and a bit more cautious. I used to be a little careless.

“The world was a sort of open place. I would trust anyone. Before what happened, I was probably no more self-involved than any teenager, but I probably wasn’t as conscious of others as I should have been.”

Testifying in court was “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But I got through it because of my family, who were incredibly supportive”.

Through the trials and retrials, the rapists laughed at her in court, and at one low point, when she described screaming during the attacks, defence barrister Richard Jankowski told her, “No, you were moaning in pleasure, weren’t you”.

“There were times I just wanted to pull the plug and walk away because it was so gut-wrenching,” she says.

“But I didn’t want them to get away with it. I wanted some measure of justice.”

Afterwards, she thought about becoming a police officer because “after what I’d gone through I wanted to help other people, but after a while, I didn’t think it was such a good idea”.

Nursing didn’t work either. “Nursing was a bit too intimate with people so I shied away from that. The theory part was easy, but then when it got to the practical part and you had to handle people, I couldn’t do it.”

After the false starts, she lucked into the retail job she has today.

It brought her in contact with people, but not too close. “There is some sort of barrier, sort of like a veneer between me and them and it got me back into socialising.”

At the time of the rapes, the problems of Muslim integration in western societies wasn’t well understood, but a year later came the September 11 terrorist attacks.

She sees her ordeal as, “almost like a precursor to all the stuff that’s happened since”.

Born in Australia, the rapists had been raised to see non-Muslim women as sexual prey. One Skaf supporter reportedly screamed in court, in Arabic: “It’s not a crime to f*** a white slut”.

Ms C helped bring this twisted world view into the light.

The courtroom ordeal nearly broke her, but she draws strength from the fact she prevented more rapes. “It got them off the streets,” she says.

As the Skaf brothers rot in jail, her best revenge is her happy new life.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]


Danish Threat to Schengen Agreement Under Fire

The tiny country of Denmark is threatening one of the European Union’s core principles — freedom of movement — out of self-interest. But other member countries are outraged and expect the European Commission will staunchly reject their plans to reintroduce border controls.

It was Friday the 13th when José Manuel Barroso mustered all his strength to repel the most serious attack ever launched against the European Union.

“Dear Prime Minister,” the head of the European Commission wrote to Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, “I received a first legal assessment of the announced measures from the Commission services. This analysis raises important doubts about whether the proposed measures would be in line with Denmark’s obligations under European and international law.” The Portuguese politician also warned the Dane against taking “unilateral steps.”

It sounded like the prologue to a declaration of war. The nation that had provoked this great continent was little Denmark, a country smaller than the German state of Lower Saxony. Ten years after the abolition of Danish controls on the borders with Germany and Sweden, Copenhagen has announced its intention to reverse this step. Goodbye, free movement of goods and people!

“We noticed an increase in cross-border crime,” Danish Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said in defense of the move: “It involves drugs, human trafficking and the smuggling of money. We want to put a stop to this.” Justice Minister Lars Barfoed added: “We especially have to shut down Eastern European criminals.” It sounded as if Denmark’s existence was suddenly under threat.

In a little over two weeks, Copenhagen plans to reintroduce controls and, by the end of the year, make 35 million crowns (€4.7 million/$6.6 million) available to employ additional police and customs officials. The Danish government contends that this is “compatible with the Schengen Agreement.”

Not So Fast, Denmark!

That assessment appears to be somewhat premature. Under Article 23 of the Schengen Borders Code, a member can in fact reintroduce controls at inner EU borders “in the event of a serious threat to public order or national security.” However, these measures can only be maintained for a maximum of 30 days or as long as the “serious threat” persists. There is no such threat in sight between Germany’s Flensburg and the town of Tonder on the Danish side of the border.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who always likes to speak frankly on such occasions, described the Danish move as a “breach of law.”

“Schengen is the EU’s most popular and citizen-friendly achievement,” he said. “I expect the Commission to do its utmost to defend the principles of the European Community.”

The Germans are also outraged by the impending reintroduction of border controls, which will primarily affect Denmark’s large neighbor to the south. The plans could spark a “spiral of mistrust,” predicted German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU).

Critics say that instead of curbing the activities of Eastern European mafia, the new measures are more likely to have a major impact on commuters from the German state of Schleswig-Holstein who cross the border every day. The South Schleswig Voters’ Association, which represents Danish and Frisian minorities in the region, already believes that the German-Danish border area will become a “high-security zone.”…

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

EU: Schengen: Back to the Nation Oasis

Die Presse Vienna

Denmark, which has caused a splash with its solo reinstatement of border controls, is leading the dismantling of the EU and the retreat to the nation state. Border controls back up, no foreign students, import restrictions and transit agreements. Sound good?

Wolfgang Böhm

The tyre is flat. The EU project has shuddered into crisis. The modernist advance is no more. What’s modern now is the retreat, the longing to get back to the tranquillity of the nation state. It’s not just the right-wing parties driving this forward; it’s almost a consensus. And because the broad undertow of this social mood is entwined with specific problems of the EU, the community project is actually already headed for the rocks. With its announced reintroduction of border controls, Denmark is showing just how it’s done. And many other member states could probably soon follow suit.

Longings to dismantle the EU are plentiful. In Austria today many want the return of the schilling, which would be immune from the problems in Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Many dream of border controls going back up to put a stop to gangs of burglars, beggars, illegal immigrants and drug traffickers coming into the country. They would approve of no more foreign students taking up seats in overcrowded Austrian universities. They would probably agree unhesitatingly that such a move would mean bringing back restrictions on transit traffic. A majority, we know from surveys, would support reintroducing barriers to our labour markets. And many companies and workers would ultimately not only support but even vehemently insist on import restrictions on all those products that are outcompeting their own domestic products. The dismantling ought to begin.

It actually will begin if no one from Austria’s leadership raises his or her voice and clearly commits to the joint European project. It will begin, if the 27 governments continue to shirk their common responsibility. And the divorce will begin, too, if no benefits to the people are made clear — that they do indeed get something out of liberalising the internal market, out of opening up the labour market, out of the common currency.

How is it in relationships that hit the rocks — both private and public? The worst part is the phase of uncertainty, the continual beating around the bush. This is the phase the EU finds itself in.

The Union has to choose between two painful options. The first is that the 27 governments get going on cleaning up the current debt problems of the euro, the turmoil in the financial market and the problems of the waves of migrants from north Africa. In all these matters so far there have been only declarations of intent, but no sufficiently concrete actions, such as a “haircut” for debtor nations, a powerful financial oversight authority or a common immigration policy — including effective border security. It is unpopular to say so openly, but if the EU chooses this option, there will have to be new transfers of competence to common institutions, new democratic challenges and many a painful measure for individual member states. ?

The other option is for the 27 to actually break up their work-in-progress. That would indeed chime in with the current public mood. But here, too, all must be aware that this retreat would not be limited to the desired areas; all the good things would go, too. An end to the freedom of travel is something we could live with. But taking part in a hard-currency association grouped around Germany would hit the domestic export and tourism industry hard. And somewhere along the line the European single market would also end up on shaky ground. As soon as the tendencies towards dissolution of the EU become evident, French car manufacturers or local farmers will demand import restrictions on products from foreign competitors — and, at some time or other before upcoming elections, they will get them, too.

An exit from the euro and a return to national protectionism would seriously damage the common market, the driving force behind our economic growth. It would create a push towards re-nationalisation, which always hankers for new lines of demarcation and isolation. Do we really want that?

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

Issue of Arab Spring Migrants to Cast Shadow on G-8 Talks

LONDON — When the leaders of the Group of 8 meet next week — among them, Barack Obama, David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy — one of their official concerns will be supporting attempts to make democracy emerge in some kind of recognizable form from the Arab revolts in countries like Tunisia and Libya.

Unofficially, and perhaps even without public mention at the summit meeting in the French resort town of Deauville, that helping hand also means providing sufficient economic incentive to hold off a wave of Arab migration toward Europe. The potential human flood gets described by the apocalyptically minded as “biblical.”

Of course, no one in Deauville would talk in those terms. But a European diplomat has acknowledged that there is more than a tacit link between sustaining the process of change in North Africa and avoiding a flow of refugees to the four European Union countries (including Italy) that make up the G-8 alongside the United States, Canada, Japan and Russia.

Sounding irritated, António Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, has spoken of a “grudging “ response from Europe, described as largely interested in “how to keep out” people trying to seek shelter on the other side of the Mediterranean.

But reality doesn’t sit still. What is changing now is that none of the heads of the four big Western countries at Deauville in 2011 can avoid immigration as a domestic/international political issue that carries with it the emotional vote-getting-or-vote-losing volatility of war or taxes.

For example: Mr. Obama last week traveled to near the Mexican border to insist he’s cracking down hard on illegal immigration. The New York Times wrote that this was the president’s fifth immigration-linked event in the last four weeks.

In parallel, signs are emerging of left-of-center politicians’ acknowledgment of the legitimacy of European voters’ concerns about how their lives are affected by the failed integration of many Muslim immigrants.

Here was Ségolène Royal, who ran as the French Socialist Party’s candidate against Mr. Sarkozy in 2007 and seeks its 2012 presidential nomination, saying last week that no one entering France because of the Arab world’s turmoil should think they’re “destined” to remain in the country.

Why? Because Ms. Royal obviously regards that saying “no” on the issue means votes in an eventual party primary. She argues that exceptions must not be made to the principle of rejecting all illegal immigration. This sounds like support for efforts by some European Union member governments to tighten the open border-passage provisions of the community’s internal controls.

To boot, Ms. Royal was reported telling residents of French immigrant neighborhoods, “Stop complaining.”

In Britain, Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party, which has a hard-edged take on immigration, fared very well in local elections in England a couple of weeks ago in spite of its austerity budgets and undistinguished economic results.

The prime minister had been attacked on immigration from inside his governing coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Vince Cable, one of the party’s cabinet members, chastised Mr. Cameron for his pronouncement of the death of multiculturalism in Britain and his more recent promise to sharply cut non-European immigration.

The cabinet minister accused the prime minister of “inflaming” Islamic extremism in the process. But the voting went badly for the Lib Dems — not the Conservatives.

Mr. Cameron explained he was fighting the idea that “concern about immigration is somehow racist.” Saying nothing, he argued, created room for the real bigots in extremist parties.

He spoke of immigrants who “on occasion” were unwilling to integrate, and who created “discomfort and disjointedness in some neighborhoods.”

That’s a long way from the language of being invaded, swamped or made to feel an alien in your own country. But Mr. Cameron insisted at the same time that it would be “untruthful” and “unfair” not to address a real problem.

A reflexive equation linking concern about immigration with reactionary thinking has been dulled in Europe, but not without embarrassment. In a clumsy attempt to cozy up to its wavering white working-class constituency, the German Social Democratic Party leadership voted last month not to expel Thilo Sarrazin, a party member who wrote a best seller, larded with genetics-based arguments, designating Muslim immigrants as a drag on German society.

Yet for parts of the European left, a serious question exists about a way to move closer to the immigration themes it once rejected as reflecting bigotry.

In France, how could the Socialist Party not consider them in a presidential campaign landscape where both Nicolas Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen, the head of the extreme right National Front, talk tough about immigration’s downsides?

Recent polling by Harris Interactive provides the answer: 76 percent of the French (including 62 percent of left-wing voters) think that immigrants don’t make sufficient effort to integrate into French society. Speaking for the polling group, J.D. Levy told a French reporter that while the events of the Arab Spring were presented positively by the media, “most people were mainly worried” that they would mean “even more potential immigrants.”

A strategy paper on how to win in 2012 drawn up by supporters of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the strongest Socialist Party candidate before his arrest on sexual assault charges in New York, suggests a successful campaign must include a focus on the value of work and the secular character of French society, while emphasizing citizens’ duties — a kind of nudge-nudge message to voters that the party understands their worries about Muslim immigration.

To leap ahead of the nudge and wink stage, Gaullist party sources have told me that Mr. Sarkozy no longer wants to talk of immigrants’ integration but promote their “assimilation.”

That’s always been a loaded word. Currently, it is used by Islamists in Britain to paint Mr. Cameron’s rejection of multiculturalism as an assimilation plan robbing Muslim immigrants of their Islamic identity.

Surely, at Deauville there will be no desire on the part of the summiteers to wade into such a contentious bog.

But there is the real likelihood that the summit meeting plays a role, even unspoken, in accompanying a palpable change in the politics and discussion of immigration and its intensifying impact.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Muslims in Europe Face Growing Hostility: Report

Hostility toward Muslims is growing throughout Europe and Islam is perceived as a major threat by many Europeans, according to a new report by a high-level body within the Council of Europe.

The report also suggested ways to prevent discrimination against Muslims, calling on European countries to accept that a person can be a “hyphenated European” — for instance a “Turkish-German” — just like one can be an “African-American.”

“Multiple identities are a source of enrichment for our societies if they are handled well. One could be Muslim, Turkish and European, all at the same time,” said Professor Ayse Kadioglu from Sabanci University, one of the members of the Group of Eminent Persons, which prepared the report.

Hyphenated identities is an acknowledgement of peoples’ existence, Kadioglu said, adding that the report reclaimed fundamental human rights and equality before the law while at the same time acknowledging diversity in Europe.

“Cultural and religious differences are not the source of conflict in Europe. Conflict arises when policies are not good — when cultural diversity is mishandled,” said Kadioglu.

“The far right and racist political parties in Europe are using anti-Islamic rhetoric as a tool,” said Müjge Küçükkeles from the Foundation For Political, Economic and Social Research Foundation, or SETA. “Their main rhetoric here is ‘Muslims cannot integrate into society.’ But in fact, they are trying to put the blame on Muslims because of their unsuccessful policies on immigrants.”

Chaired by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the Group of Eminent Persons’ report on intolerance and discrimination in Europe drew attention to the “rising intolerance toward immigrants and Muslims throughout Europe.”

“There is a growing hostility to Muslims throughout Europe,” said the report, titled “Living Together: Combining Diversity and Freedom in 21st Century Europe.”

“Islam is perceived as a major threat to Europe by many Europeans because they feel that the minority is growing and that Islam is incompatible with modern European life,” the report said. “Because increased immigration of Muslims to Europe in recent decades has resulted in more ‘visible’ Muslim communities and coincided with the growth of political Islam, many Europeans have acquired the conviction that Islam per se is radical, militant and incompatible with European values, and that Muslim immigrants and their descendants therefore cannot be integrated into European societies in the way that earlier waves of migrants have been.”

The report described the discrimination against Muslims in Europe as “a serious human-rights problem,” stressing that such prejudices are “combined with racist attitudes” directed against people originating from Turkey, Arab countries and South Asia.

“Muslims with this background are discriminated [against] in the labor market and the education system in a number of European countries. There are reports showing that they tend to be targeted by police in repeated identity controls and intrusive searches,” the report said.

These findings are not surprising, according to Küçükkeles.

“The anti-Islam atmosphere that started especially after the ‘war on terror’ launched by the U.S. government after Sept. 11 has spread to all Western societies,” she said.

‘Role models’ for immigrants

The report by the Group of Eminent Persons held up Turkish film director Fatih Akin, Dutch lawyer Famile Arslan and German politician Cem Özdemir as “role models” for immigrants.

“These people can both act as role models for other members of those groups, showing that the effort of integration is worth making, and improve the image of their group in the eyes of the wider majority or ‘host’ society, by showing that people from that group can indeed make a valuable, even spectacular, contribution if given the chance to do so,” the report said.

It also called for immigrants to have the same rights and responsibilities as other people.

“Like all other citizens in a democracy they should have a say in making the law, but neither religion nor culture can be accepted as an excuse for breaking it,” the report said.

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

UK: Migrants Get ‘Squatters’ Rights’ to Remain in UK if They’ve Stayed 14 Years

Thousands of immigrants have been granted ‘squatters’ rights’ to stay in the UK — after living here illegally for 14 years.

Under a little known rule up to 2,000 immigrants have been allowed to remain indefinitely every year — simply because they have been here for so long.

A law passed by Labour in 2003 gives them the right to claim residence if they have successfully evaded the immigration authorities for 14 years.

Anyone whose application is approved gets the right to stay indefinitely, working rights and full access to benefits.

Many will be failed asylum seekers who have never been deported. Others will be illegal workers employed in the black economy for more than a decade, paying no tax or national insurance.

Critics branded the law a ‘slow motion amnesty’. Worryingly, the numbers taking advantage of the rule have increased by 120 per cent since its first full year.

And there are fears the total could spiral in coming years as thousands of illegal migrants who arrived in the past decade apply.

The figures will raise concerns that criminal behaviour — including people who have sneaked into the country or abused the system — is being rewarded.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

The American Flag is “Offensive” In Schools Now

Increasingly, it seems that the American flag is joining toy guns and dodgeball on the banned-from-school list. And the latest story on this front involves The Butterfield Elementary in Orange, Massachusetts, where a teacher told an 11-year-old boy that he may not hang his depiction of Old Glory because it might “offend” another student.

The boy, Frankie Girard, had drawn the picture in art class but then found that his teacher didn’t share his patriotism. Says his father, John, “He was denied hanging the flag up. And he asked if he could just even hang it on his desk, and he was told no. He could take the picture that he drew and take it home and be proud of it there.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]