Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110527

Financial Crisis
»EU: ECB May Have More Scope for Greek Leeway Than Talk Suggests
»Appeasing Communist China, Or Driving to Self-Destruction in a Cadillac
»Brooklyn Jury Convicts Imam Kareem Ibrahim in Kennedy Airport Plot
»California Mosque Fire Started by Arsonist
»California Releases 450 ‘Violent and Dangerous’ Criminals After Computer Glitch Sets Them Free
»Caroline Glick: Lessons of Netanyahu’s Triumph
»Democracy or Republic?
»Full Text of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress May 24
»Iraq Vet and Former U.S. Marine Jose Guerena Gunned Down in Arizona SWAT Raid, Video Released
»Left West, Right West, And Other Matters of Balance
»The Court of Last Resort
»Tornado Dog Crawls Home on Broken Legs Almost 3 Weeks After Deadly Alabama Storm (Video)
Europe and the EU
»Berlusconi Slams Magistrates Again
»Bulgaria: Muslims Want Second Mosque in Sofia
»Germany: Munich Airport Opens New Muslim Prayer Room
»Italy: Milan Mayor Candidate: Workers on Boards of Municipal Companies
»Italy: Row Between Moratti & Pisapia Supporters, 2 Bruised
»Italy: Gap to Expand in Milan and Open in Rome
»Post-Burqa Ban: Will France Lose Out on Mideast Flashy Tourism?
»UK: Burglar is Freed to Care for His Children After Judge Rules Prison Breached His ‘Human Rights’
»UK: NHS Nurses Think Care of Elderly is ‘Beneath Them’
»Serb Authorities Not Complicit in Mladic’s Hiding — Srdja Trifkovic
Mediterranean Union
»Five Billion to Aid Arab Revolutions
North Africa
»Egypt: Christians Worry Egypt Being Hijacked by Islamists
»Egyptian Teacher Arrested After Shocking Footage Shows Him Beating Terrified Children
»USA & France Decided to “Finish the Job” In Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
»Alice Walker Do You Support Hamas?
»Amnesty to IDF: Rescind Death Penalty Demand for Fogel Family Murderers
»IDF: Fogel Family Murderers Planned Another Attack
Middle East
»At Least ‘Two’ Italian UN Peacekeepers Killed in Lebanon
South Asia
»Pakistan: Faisalabad: Christian Sisters Kidnapped, Forced to Marry a Wealthy Muslim
»Pakistan Shuts Down U.S. ‘Intelligence Fusion’ Cells
»Thailand Arrests American for Alleged King Insult
Australia — Pacific
»Burqa Talk Dangerous, Warns Anti-Discrimination Watchdog
»Eyewitness Tells How to Defeat ‘Totalitarian Lie’

Financial Crisis

EU: ECB May Have More Scope for Greek Leeway Than Talk Suggests

Brussels, 26 May (AKI/Bloomberg) — European Central Bank officials may have more scope to cope with a Greek restructuring than they are letting on even as policy makers warn that such a move could trigger the beginning of a “horror story.”

While German and French officials say the ECB would no longer accept Greek debt as collateral in its money-market operations should the country be forced to default, the ECB’s rules are less clear and only say that such a step “may be warranted” if officials deem it necessary. The ECB’s rhetoric may be as much about forcing Greece to step up budget cuts as it is about drawing a line in the sand, say Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG economists.

“Without these ECB warnings, the Greeks wouldn’t have come up with the announcement of additional measures,” said Juergen Michels, chief euro-area economist at Citigroup in London. “The ECB showed early with the eligibility requirements on collateral rules that they can stretch the whole thing pretty far.”

European policy makers are seeking ways to restore investor confidence on increasing concern that Greece won’t be able to repay its debts after last year’s 110 billion euro ($155 billion) bailout. While finance ministers are mulling options such as extending maturities, ECB policy makers have argued that such steps could destroy Greece’s banking system and destabilize other nations in the 17-member euro region.

‘Devastating’ Impact

“Restructuring is not a solution, it’s a horror story,” ECB council member Christian Noyer said on May 24. His Spanish colleague Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo said last month such a move would “very probably” have systemic consequences “quite likely more devastating than” the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008.

While restructuring is “one option” to reduce the country’s debt load, “it is better to keep up pressure on Greece” to implement reforms, Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager told Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland. Greece may need more time to meet its targets, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper published today.

Nouriel Roubini, the economist who predicted the global financial crisis, said in Bucharest today that ECB council members’ remarks on the impact of a Greek default were “utter nonsense” and could “trigger a bank run in Greece.”

Greek Deficit

The ECB is for now sticking to its line that tougher austerity programs are the only way out of a quagmire that will see the country’s debt jump to almost 158 percent of gross domestic product this year. Greece’s budget shortfall may average 9.5 percent of GDP this year, the European Commission says. That’s the second-largest gap after Ireland.

The Greek government this week endorsed an accelerated asset-sale plan and a package of budget cuts in an effort to meet requirements for a fifth tranche under its bailout agreements with the European Union, the Washington-based International Monetary Fund and the ECB.

Without it, Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government would be forced into a restructuring. Credit-default swaps on Greece fell 29 basis points today to 1,388 basis points, according to CMA. That’s down from a record 1,473 basis points on May 24.

ECB Rules

The ECB may still find room for maneuver as the Greek bond- market sell-off intensifies on concern that tougher austerity measures won’t be enough to ward off a default.

The Frankfurt-based central bank’s own rules say that “a suspension, limitation or exclusion of counterparties may be warranted in some of the cases which fall within the notion of the ‘default’ of a counterparty.”

One option for the ECB may be to embrace a so-called Vienna Initiative proposal floated by Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, which aims to persuade creditors to buy new bonds from the Greek government when existing ones mature. Just under half of the ECB’s 23-member Governing Council is currently in favor of the idea, according to a person familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified because the discussions are private.

“Given all the options on the table, this is probably the one that the ECB could live with,” Citigroup’s Michels said.

The Vienna Initiative was a key plank in the IMF-sponsored rescues of Hungary, Romania, Latvia and Serbia in 2009. Under the plan, banks including UniCredit SpA (UCG), Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI), and Societe Generale SA, then the biggest lenders in eastern Europe, publicly pledged to keep their units in those countries afloat by rolling over funding and providing fresh capital if needed.

‘Genuinely Voluntary’

The risk for the ECB is that such a proposal would fail to garner enough support to prevent ratings companies classifying the move as a default.

It would have to be “genuinely voluntary,” said Alastair Wilson, chief credit officer for Europe at Moody’s Investors Service. “If we concluded that there was an element of compulsion, we would very likely class this as a default.”

That would render Greek bonds ineligible as collateral in ECB refinancing operations, according to council members such as France’s Noyer, Germany’s Jens Weidmann and Juergen Stark of the Executive Board. Banks have been reliant on the ECB for funding after being shut off financial markets.

‘Complete Havoc’

The threat of that happening may force the ECB into a compromise, say Deutsche Bank economists Gilles Moec and Mark Wall. In May 2010, the ECB suspended its minimum credit-rating threshold for Greece, just four months after President Jean- Claude Trichet said that he wouldn’t change central bank rules for just one member state.

“There is probably a limit to the ECB’s mantra on ‘no restructuring,’“ they said in a note on May 20. Otherwise it “would have to bear the responsibility of the subsequent crisis for the Greek banking sector. Would the ECB take the responsibility to ‘make things even worse’? We seriously doubt it.”

Nor would the damage be restricted to Greek banks. Citigroup estimates that about a third of the county’s debt, or 109 billion euros, is held by so-called foreign non-banks including mutual, pension or sovereign-wealth funds as well as insurers. Greek financial institutions own about 29 percent.

The ECB and the 17 national central banks have about 130 billion euros of risk from Greek debt, Andrew Bosomworth, a fund manager at Pacific Investment Management Co., told reporters in Paris yesterday. Germany, France and other euro nations may need to recapitalize their central banks in the case of a default, which might be “inevitable,” he said.

“If you write those down by half, you wipe out the entire capital stock of the Greek banking system,” said Klaus Baader, an economist at Societe Generale in London. “Complete havoc would be wreaked with the ECB’s ability to conduct monetary policy.”

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


Appeasing Communist China, Or Driving to Self-Destruction in a Cadillac

Cadillac, a division of General Motors, was once synonymous with financial achievement and success in the world. Cadillac was as American as apple pie, if at the upper crust. Today, however, with the agreement by Cadillac to pay for the production expenses of a Communist Chinese Party propaganda film, the Cadillac brand now stands for something quite different: the appeasement of a power hostile to the United States in the name of financial gain.

GM CEO Daniel Akerson describes China as the “key to [GM”s] success.” GM was one of the auto companies receiving 2009 federal bailout money.

The film, with an English title of “Birth of a Party” or “The Great Achievement of the Founding of the Party,” is due to be released in China on June 15.

Cadillac lost its luster as the premier vehicular status symbol to other makes of cars long ago after decades of legendary poor workmanship and terrible gas mileage. Cadillac can now add to its list of misjudgments paying for a film commemorating the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, a political organization which has been responsible for the deaths of many millions of human beings whose only crime was that they may have disagreed with the Party.

The action of Cadillac is not merely an act of kowtow in the hope of profit. It is the reflection of a much wider strategy by China to establish dominance — economically, socially, politically, and militarily. In turn, this dominance is in the name not of Chinese civilization, but of an ideology introduced into general Chinese society by the Communist Party of China.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Brooklyn Jury Convicts Imam Kareem Ibrahim in Kennedy Airport Plot

A Brooklyn jury on Thursday convicted a Trinidadian national of conspiring to blow up the fuel lines and fuel tanks at Kennedy Airport in a fiery attack that would rival 9/11.

Kareem Ibrahim, the fourth would-be terrorist convicted in the plot, gave his daughter a double thumbs-up sign after the jury returned the verdict in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Ibrahim, 65, an imam and leader of the Shiite Muslim community in Trinidad, faces life in prison when he’s sentenced in October.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

California Mosque Fire Started by Arsonist

May 26—STOCKTON — The fire that destroyed a north Stockton mosque in April was caused by an arsonist, investigators announced Wednesday.

With the announcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also released a short video clip recorded by a surveillance camera about one hour before the fire is believed to have started, around 4 a.m. April 23.

The clip shows a person, apparently a man, walking in and out of Masjid al Emaan at 4212 N. Pershing Ave. He appears to open the door quickly and easily, without forcing it. Over his head is a plastic or very thin paper bag, obscuring his face.

The ATF is offering $10,000 to anyone who can identify the suspected arsonist.

“Somebody who knows this person should be able to recognize him,” said Special Agent Helen Dunkel of the ATF’s San Francisco office.

The fire was reported around 4:15 a.m., about one hour after the video was taken. It took nearly 40 firefighters about one hour to control the two-alarm fire.

At first, firefighters attacked the fire from inside the building but withdrew over concern the roof might collapse. In the end, the mosque was a shell, charred within.

The adjacent Reliance Real Estate was destroyed. The church with which the mosque shared a wall, Living Well Min-istries and Christian Center, also was damaged.

Investigators estimated the cost to repair the damage at $400,000.

No one was injured in the fire. The mosque’s members moved elsewhere, but the new space, in the same area, was too small too accommodate them all.

Dunkel would not say whether video taken earlier or later showed anything significant. She said investigators — including the Stockton fire and police departments — were still working to solve the crime and were cautious not to release information that would threaten their work.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the arsonist to call ATF’s hot line, (888) ATF-FIRE, or (209) 244- Deputy Fire Chief Paul Willette said there was no evidence yet that the fire was motivated by bigotry, a potential hate crime.

“There’s no one saying this person entering and leaving the building is not necessarily a member of the mosque,” he said. “Maybe they are. Maybe they’re not.”

The president of Masjid al Emaan, Fahmy Naseer, said the video was chilling and that it was difficult to explain why the door had been left unlocked.

“This is a place of worship; 6653. Anonymous tips leading to an arrest are eligible for the $10,000 reward.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

California Releases 450 ‘Violent and Dangerous’ Criminals After Computer Glitch Sets Them Free

Hundreds of violent and dangerous prisoners have been released on unsupervised parole in California because of a computer glitch, according to the state’s inspector general.

Software errors led prison officials to mistakenly release some 450 inmates deemed to have a ‘high risk for violence’, as part of a programme meant to ease overcrowding in the state’s jails.

And more than 1,000 additional convicts said to present a high risk of committing drugs crimes, property crimes and other offences were also freed.


All of the released prisoners have been placed on so-called ‘non-revocable parole’ — meaning that they do not have to report to parole officers and can only be sent back to prison if they are caught committing another crime.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Lessons of Netanyahu’s Triumph

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was hoping to avoid his clash with US President Barack Obama this week in Washington.

Four days before his showdown at the White House with the American leader, Netanyahu addressed the Knesset. His speech was the most dovish he had ever given. In it, he set out the parameters of the land concessions he is willing to make to the Palestinians, in the event they ever decide that they are interested in negotiating a final peace…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Democracy or Republic?

If you read our Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers, and the Constitution of any state up to 1950 you’ll never find the word democracy used other than to condemn that form of government and declare that our nation is a republic.

The Bill of Rights was designed to limit the authority of the federal government. The first eight amendments limited acts of Congress in respect to our personal freedom. Amendments nine and ten limited acts of Congress to the issues cited in Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution.

So why is America being repeatedly referred to as a democracy when we are a republic? Is there an intentional effort to deceive the American people into believing we are a democracy in order to change it from a republic? Who benefits from a democracy and who benefits from a republic?

Permanent law rules a republic. Ever-changing impulses of men rule a democracy. In a democracy, elected officials can pass any sort of legislation they desire as long as they persuade the majority to agree. In a republic, the law restricts elected officials as to what they can or cannot do.

In a democracy, the majority rules, and the rest have no unalienable rights. In a democracy, the government can take wealth from one group (the working class) and give it to others as long as they persuade the majority to agree. If individuals did that it would be considered stealing, but when done with government authority it is considered lawful. This form of rule leads to dishonesty, corruption, a breakdown in law, and eventually chaos and anarchy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Full Text of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress May 24

Here is the full text of Israeili Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, May 24, 2011. It is definitely worth the read, particularly by people who don’t know or understand the situation in the middle east.

This is one of the clearest speeches on Israel and the Middle East you’ll ever read.

Here it is:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iraq Vet and Former U.S. Marine Jose Guerena Gunned Down in Arizona SWAT Raid, Video Released

Dramatic footage of a SWAT team gunning down a former Marine near Tucson, Ariz., has been released by authorities.

The video shows the uniformed team pulling up outside Jose Guerena’s home — one of four believed to be associated with a drug smuggling operation — sounding their sirens and pounding on the front door before they kick it in. They open fire shortly after entering the home.

Guerena, 26, died during the May 5 incident after being shot 60 times in seven seconds. However, CNN has seen an initial report from the medical examiner that details 22 bullet wounds.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department released the SWAT helmet footage Thursday in response to public records requests fueled by outrage from the victim’s family.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Left West, Right West, And Other Matters of Balance

One-time Obama supporter and Princeton professor, Cornel West, has come under scathing attacks by the liberal media for daring to criticize Obama. They do so hate it when one of their own strays too far from the “plantation.” Let me say to Mr. West—”Welcome to the party, pal.”

Calling Obama “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs, and…puppet of corporate plutocrats,” as West has done, is no way to endear yourself to the liberal’s vast PM (Propaganda Machine), but it is certainly a good way to invite a liberal “smack-down.”

Cornel West and I do not often see eye to eye on issues, but in his assessment of Obama as a front-man for an international cabal of corporate gangsters and banking crooks, we agree. West probably believed that Obama was a committed communist, whereas Obama’s MO actually has more in common with Nazi fascism. In any event, it’s all about enriching political/social elites, and the people be d—ned. “Power to the people” my butt.


It has been a long time coming, but a number of liberal idealists who thought that Obama was their savior, are waking up to the real world—and not liking what they see. They had best wake up quickly; for as the late KGB defector, Yuri Bezmenov, said back in the 1980s, “You can get popular…and filthy rich… for criticizing [America]; [but] in the future such people will be squashed like cockroaches. Nobody is going to pay them nothing for their beautiful, noble ideas of equality.” [Link]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Court of Last Resort

It is an undeniable fact that the current administration in Washington and many members of both the House and Senate are out of control as they have been ignoring and openly defying The Constitution of the United States on a regular and repeated basis. The same is true of members of the Federal Judiciary that by legislating from the bench ignore and defy the Constitution.

If America is to survive as a nation of laws that protect the freedom of the individual citizen, something must be done to bring such people under control. Clearly the arrogance of these individuals has become such that they see themselves as being above those laws (The Constitution of the United States) that they are all sworn to protect and defend. Removal from office of those who violate their very oath of office is, without question, a just response to such action. Officials that are elected can always be removed from office at the next election, but the damage that they do by their outright unconstitutional actions while in office can take years if not generations to repair. Others are appointed, some even for life, which places them effectively outside the control of the citizens that they supposedly serve.

Although far too many people today seem to have lost track of the concept, it is a fact that this nation was established, not for the benefit of the rulers or a “ruling class” but for the protection of the freedom of the citizens. The Constitution was written by our founding fathers, not to grant certain rights to the citizens but, rather to limit the power of the Federal Government to take rights away. Even the so called “Bill of Rights” was not written for the purpose of granting rights, as the name implies, but rather to restrict and limit the power of the Federal Government, thus preventing it from infringing upon the rights of the people as enumerated.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tornado Dog Crawls Home on Broken Legs Almost 3 Weeks After Deadly Alabama Storm (Video)

This little guy makes the animals from Homeward Bound look like they achieved nothing.

Almost three weeks after deadly tornadoes ripped through Alabama, this dog finally returned home. With two broken legs.

Mason, as WAVY-TV 10 refers to the dog, was blown away during the storms. He had been hiding in a garage when the storm picked him up and blew him away on April 27th.

Perhaps most astounding was the extent of Mason’s injuries.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi Slams Magistrates Again

‘My duty to inform Obama’, PM says

(ANSA) — Deauville, May 27 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday again slammed Italy’s magistrates for allegedly interfering in political life and rejected media and opposition criticism of his mentioning the issue with United States President Barack Obama at the Group of Eight summit in France.

“In Italy the interference of some prosecutors in (the activities) of the democratically elected representatives of the people is no longer tolerable,” Berlusconi told reporters at a post-summit press conference.

Telling the press they should be “ashamed” of themselves because of the way they allegedly misrepresented him and his judicial woes, the premier denied suggestions that an international summit, or a private chat with Obama, was not a suitable forum for airing his grievances.

“It is my precise duty, every time I find myself in this international context, to explain what the situation is in Italy, also about those affairs that could undermine (Italy’s) credibility”. On Thursday Berlusconi confided in Obama that a coterie of allegedly biased prosecutors was bidding to set up a “dictatorship” over public life. The premier, who is facing four cases of alleged corruption, fraud and sex with an underage prostitute, also rejected suggestions that Obama had not shown much interest in the topic.

“It is absolutely false that President Obama showed detachment or coolness towards me.

“On the contrary, there was great cordiality, respect, friendship and support”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bulgaria: Muslims Want Second Mosque in Sofia

The leadership of Sofia’s mosque have said that the temple is now too small to hold the capital’s Muslim community during Friday prayers and that the authorities should authorise construction of a second mosque.

In order to avoid future tension with other residents, and to prevent rallies such as that staged by Ataka members on May 20, they have also vowed to “reconsider” their policy of allowing worshippers to pray outside, hoping to reduce obstruction to pedestrians during prayer time.

They have also promised to reduce the sound on loudspeakers to the “bare minimum” so that the noise does not disturb the surrounding area.

“We were given assurances by the Sofia municipality that this Friday (May 27) we would be allowed to carry on with our prayer as we have done in the past,” said Hyussein Hafuzov, the Muslim general secretary in Bulgaria, cited by Dnevnik daily.

“Every Friday, we get between 1200 and 1500 worshipers, most of them young people, and they are often forced to go out into the courtyard or the pavement because there is insufficient room in the mosque to accommodate them all,” he added.

There were no reported disturbances during the May 27 prayer, although there had been fears that another rally might be staged in protest.

The Muslim leadership also appealed to other Muslims to be calm and not be provoked by the May 20 incident, saying that “there was no clash between Muslims and Ataka last week per se; some people simply defended themselves and the mosque”.

Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova has said that measures have been drawn and presented to the Muslim leadership, stipulating that amendments have to be made so that other people are not disturbed on prayer days and that “people should be aware of the laws”. She added that “Islam is a registered religion in the country and is protected by Bulgarian law”.

Tensions in the community resurfaced again last week when three Ataka supporters were arrested and one of the party’s MPs, Denitsa Gadzheva, was injured in the incident at the Banya Bashi mosque, which followed a protest by Ataka against the use of loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer on Friday May 20.

This was the latest in a series of protests which started some years ago against the loudspeakers, but Ataka has revived its campaign in the run-up to Bulgaria’s autumn 2011 municipal and presidential elections, in which Siderov has said he will stand as a presidential candidate.

Scuffles broke out after one of the Ataka protesters tried to steer a column towards Muslims taking part in Friday prayers.

Earlier on May 27, the Bulgarian Parliament had condemned the actions of Volen Siderov and members of his ultra-nationalist Ataka party outside the Sofia mosque.

MPs from all parties present in the parliamentary sitting, with the exception of Ataka MPs who abstained, voted in favour of the declaration condemning Ataka’s actions, calling it a “threat to national security”.

Siderov himself said that “an internal investigation” is currently underway to determine who torched carpets outside the mosque, as Ataka members “had nothing to do with this”.

“I never advocated physical violence or the destruction of property,” Siderov said, quoted by Dnevnik.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Germany: Munich Airport Opens New Muslim Prayer Room

Munich Airport makes Muslim guests feel welcome: Airport CEO Dr Michael Kerkloh (left) officially opened the newly completed Muslim prayer room in Terminal 1. Mohammed A. Al Romaithi, the General Consul of the United Arab Emirates, Ahmad Al-Khalifa, the head of the Munich Islamic Center, and Salah Elenany, the Vice President of the Bavarian Arabic Society (l. to r.) attended the ceremony.

Last year alone, routes to the Near East accounted for some 870,000 arriving and departing passengers at Munich Airport, and the traffic continues to increase. Serving as a gateway to the Arab world is Module C in Terminal 1, where airlines such as Emirates, Etihad Airways and Oman Air offer flights to major centers in the Gulf states. In addition to signage in German, English and Arabic, the food services in departure area feature halal menu selections. The prayer room now completes the facilities. “We are very pleased to see the increasing numbers of guests from Arab countries and are proud that we are able to address their needs and wishes in this way.” Kerkloh thanked the General Consul of the United Arab Emirates for the support with the furnishings of the new room, where men and women can pray separately. The decor in the prayer room includes carpets from Dubai and paintings by a Jordanian artist. In his speech, General Consul Mohammed A. Al Romaithi emphasized the symbolic dimension of the new prayer room at Munich Airport, saying that it is “emblematic of religious tolerance and a deeper understanding among nations.” He added that this will not only foster mutual understanding between religions, but will also go a long way to make Bavaria even more appealing to the Arab world.

Source : Munich Airport

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Mayor Candidate: Workers on Boards of Municipal Companies

(AGI) Milan — Giuliano Pisapia said workers should be sitting on the board of companies partially owned by the municipality.

Speaking at a meeting at the headquarters of trade union CISL, the Milan centre-left mayoral candidate said “it is unacceptable that workers don’t seat on boards. Only those who work know how to respond to work-related problems”. Pisapia explained that “the companies partially owned by the municipality have not brought about that level of development that we all expected. Decisions were not made based on competence and skills, but on political belonging. They also agreed to use dividends as ATM cards for their current expenses”.

MoonStar WebMail

Message 5 of 44

From: “C_Cantoni1983”

To: <“Undisclosed-Recipient:;”>

Date: Fri, 27 May 2011 07:13:38 +0200

Subject: (AGI) Milan — Giuliano Pisapia said workers should be sitting on the board of companies partially owned by the municipality.

Speaking at a meeting at the headquarters of trade union CISL, the Milan centre-left mayoral candidate said “it is unacceptable that workers don’t seat on boards. Only those who work know how to respond to work-related problems”. Pisapia explained that “the companies partially owned by the municipality have not brought about that level of development that we all expected. Decisions were not made based on competence and skills, but on political belonging. They also agreed to use dividends as ATM cards for their current expenses”.

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

Italy: Row Between Moratti & Pisapia Supporters, 2 Bruised

(AGI) Milan — Last night, 2 people were hurt in a row that broke out in Via Ripamonti between supporters of Moratti and Pisapia. The squabble occurred between 2 supporters of Milan Mayor Moratti, one of who was the President of Retailers of Milano-Vigentina, and 3 young supporters of the other candidate for Mayor, Pisapia. After exchanging insults, the group started a fight in which two people were bruised. The Carabinieri intervened on the spot and reported the 5 people involved for having a street fight.

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

Italy: Gap to Expand in Milan and Open in Rome

Milan, 27 May (AKI) — American retailer Gap on Friday said it will expand in Milan by inaugurating an outlet store and intends to open a store in Rome where Dolce Vita elegance and the Vatican’s ecclesiastic austerity will meet the San Francisco company’s khaki and denim casual wear.

The San Francisco-based company on 2 June will launch its newest location in an outlet centre in Vicolungo near Milan.

“We are excited to bring the value expression of Gap brand to Italy for the first time and provide Italian consumers with the opportunity to purchase products designed specifically for Gap fashion-minded, value-driven customers,” Stephen Sunnucks, president of Gap’s international business said in a statement.

Gap opened its first Italian store in Milan late last year.

The company said it had 14.7 billion dollars in sales at its Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta brands during fiscal 2010. It operates around 3,200 stores worldwide.

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

Post-Burqa Ban: Will France Lose Out on Mideast Flashy Tourism?

A visit to Eiffel tower, a stroll down the glitzy Champs-Elysees or a wander into the most prestigious Parisian high streets. This may be a typical day-out for the typical tourist in France, but female Muslim visitors may start to feel the sting of the law.

France’s ban on face veils, a first in Europe, went into force last month. Those wearing a “niqab” or burqa in public, tourists included, could now face a fine of €150 ($214) and/or be ordered to have French citizenship classes.

France is the second-most popular destination for tourists from the Middle East. Middle Easterners tend to shop more than other tourists and stay in more expensive hotels, studies by the Paris tourist promotion agency show.

Parisian upmarket hotels rely heavily on businesses from the Gulf; an estimated 11 percent of guests were from the region last year.

Tourists from the Middle East had given France’s tourism industry a much-needed boost during the global credit crunch of 2008. The number of Middle East visitors jumped by an estimated 20 percent in the summer months of the crisis from the previous year. While in 2009, about 215,000 Middle Easterners visited Paris, which accounted for three percent of the eight million foreigners who visited Paris in 2009.

But the ban on the burka provoked a backlash from Muslim communities abroad, seen as an impingement on their religious freedom and democratic rights.

Rashida Mahmoud, a pharmacist living in the United Arab Emirates, wears the burqa. She has family in France—but now feels that she is no longer welcome in the European state.

“It’s like saying ‘you are no longer welcome here,’“ Ms. Mahmoud said. “I used to go every summer to see my sister but now I feel disgusted by the ban. I’ll pay a fine but I won’t take it off, I don’t live there,” she added.

But Junior family minister Nadine Morano had said that visitors would have to “respect the law” and take off the face veil.

“When you arrive in a country you have to respect the laws of that country,” Ms. Morano said on France Info radio last year when the ban on tourists wearing the veil was announced.

This has prompted critics to question the awkwardness between the government and top Saudi-owned Parisian hotels that are flooded with guests from the Middle East throughout the year, such as Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris. The hotel is 95 percent owned by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and Microsoft Corp.’s Bill Gates.

Saudis with businesses in France visit the country frequently with their families, which prominently include women who wear the burqa.

The French State Ombudsman, Jean-Paul Delevoye, is worried that the law could result in difficult situations, Reuters reported.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do with the Saudi women who go shopping on the Champs-Elysees,” Mr. Delevoye said also on French radio.

The Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Employment declined to comment about the matter when contacted Friday.

To date, there have been no reported incidents in which tourists have been fined, but economic analysts wait to see the effect on the tourism industry and if France will really lose out on Middle Eastern tourists.

“There is a lot of high-end tourism from the Gulf, so the economic impact will be huge,” Chahid Bouamarane, a general manger at Saudi-based Al Tayyar Travel Group told Maktoob News.

He also said many Middle Eastern tourists travel in family groups and it could be problematic if one member wears the veil.

Other Gulf-based travel companies have voiced fears over Middle Eastern tourists wishing to wear the burqa, saying that they may feel it is a violation of their privacy.

“People from this region are particularly sensitive about their privacy,” said Mohsin Kidwai, manager for holidays at UAE-based Orient Travels.

“They want to have fun when they travel and if they fear harassment somewhere they will change their destination.”

France, with at least 75 million foreign tourists per year, has an annual GDP of $2.16 trillion and a GDP per capita of $33,300. France is the most visited country in the world and maintains the third largest income in the world from tourism.

Widely benefiting from the Middle East’s big spenders, France’s annual tourism figures after the ban will be picked at and scrutinized by analysts seeking to spot a change in Middle Eastern tourist trends.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

UK: Burglar is Freed to Care for His Children After Judge Rules Prison Breached His ‘Human Rights’

A burglar was let out of jail yesterday because locking him up breached his family’s human rights.

In a staggering judgment, the Appeal Court ruled that the rights of Wayne Bishop’s five children were more important than those of his victims or the interests of justice.

MPs said it opened the way to thousands more convicts claiming a ‘get out of jail card’ under the controversial Human Rights Act.

Article 8, the right to a family life, has repeatedly been used by foreign criminals to avoid deportation from the UK. But this is believed to be the first time it has been used to let a prisoner walk free from jail.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Nurses Think Care of Elderly is ‘Beneath Them’

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

Elderly people are being neglected in NHS hospitals because highly-qualified nurses think providing basic care is “beneath them”, according to the daughter of a woman who was left saying she wanted to die.

Muriel Browning, who was 96, developed an infection and sores in Ipswich Hospital after being left in a soiled bed by staff who would not help her use a commode or take her to the bathroom.

She also went hungry and thirsty and was reduced to saying: “I want to die, I want to die.”

Her daughter, whose complaint prompted a damning report by the health watchdog on Thursday, believes the problem was the attitude of nurses who do not want to provide basic support to frail pensioners who need help eating, drinking, washing or going to the lavatory.

Angela Lawrence, a retired BBC journalist, said: “Because nurses are educated to degree level, they are contemptuous of low-level care. They think it’s beneath them.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Serb Authorities Not Complicit in Mladic’s Hiding — Srdja Trifkovic


Serbian writer and historian Dr. Srdja Trifkovic says it is surprising that alleged war criminal Ratko Mladic was arrested in the home of a close relative, because his close contacts had been under observation by the security services for years.

“This can mean two things: either that he was entirely left to his own devices and that there was no elaborate support group in the background helping him hide, or that the Serbian authorities have been conniving in his hiding, which I don’t believe to be the case,” he said.

Peter Robinson, a US lawyer for another Bosnian Serb leader on trial, Radovan Karadzic, told RT on Thursday that “President Karadzic is sorry for General Mladic’s loss of freedom. He looks forward to working with him to bring out the truth about what happened in Bosnia.” Robinson had also pointed out that today’s arrest will influence Karadzic’s case, a point echoed by Trifkovic:

“The prosecutors at The Hague will try to pit Karadzic against Mladic, and I expect their long-term strategy will be to have one try to pin the blame on the other, and in the end they would be both worse off, which would be the best possible scenario for The Hague,” said Trifkovic.

As for accusations that the UN War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is biased and obsessed with catching only Serbians, Trifkovic was stinging in his criticism.

“This is a highly politicized institution that has been used over the years to provide retroactive quasi-judicial verification of the political position of the Western powers that the Serbs are indeed the main culprits for all that came to pass in the former Yugoslavia,” he said.

Trifkovic says that the Serbian media is now controlled by the government more than it ever was under Slobodan Milosevic, and consistently pushing the idea that joining the EU is a panacea for all that ails the country.

“If Serbia does join the EU, it will be the first time in history that a rat has jumped onto a sinking ship,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Five Billion to Aid Arab Revolutions

Within the framework of its Neighbourhood Policy, “the EU has made democracy a condition for aid to Arab countries,” headlines the daily El País. On 25 May, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, and the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, presented the new strategy for the 16 countries that are the European Union’s neighbours on its eastern and southern borders. Of the seven billion euros of aid to be distributed between now and 2013, five billion has been earmarked for countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

Until now, points out El País, in its approach to countries like Egypt and Tunisia “the EU strategy has been based on the principle of ‘security in exchange for millions of euros.’“ The parameters that have now been announced — free elections, freedom of speech in the press, an independent judiciary, the fight against corruption, and democratic control of security and armed forces — will enable Europe to measure the level of democracy in these countries. The Madrid daily notes that the plan unveiled by the European diplomacy chief also includes measures for the control of migration flows. However, it points out that “Ashton has denied that the plan offers money to prevent immigration.”

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

North Africa

Egypt: Christians Worry Egypt Being Hijacked by Islamists

Last January, Nazih Moussa Gerges locked up his downtown Cairo law office and joined hundreds of thousands of fellow Egyptians to demand that President Hosni Mubarak step down.

The 33-year-old Christian lawyer was back on the streets this month to press military rulers who took over after Mubarak stepped down to end a spate of sectarian attacks that have killed at least 28 people and left many afraid.

Those who camped out in Tahrir Square side by side with Muslims to call for national renewal now fear their struggle is being hijacked by ultra-conservative Salafist Islamists with no one to stop them.

“We did not risk our lives to bring Mubarak down in order to have him replaced by Salafists,” Gerges said. “We want an Egypt that will be an example of democracy and freedom for the whole world.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egyptian Teacher Arrested After Shocking Footage Shows Him Beating Terrified Children

[WARNING: Graphic content.]

This shocking video captures a belligerent day care teacher — who was arrested after this video came to light — violently whacking at least 10 of his young pupils in Egypt.

The master, Magdi el-Shaar, who teaches in Kafr Shukr in Gharbiya state, is shown viciously pulling hair and whipping students with a ruler.

The young children, who could be as young as five, cry and recoil at the pain administered by el-Shaar, who insists that he was driven to his actions as the January revolution had caused the pupils to became indisciplined.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

USA & France Decided to “Finish the Job” In Libya

(AGI) Deauville — The United States and France have decided to put an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. The statement was made by US President Obama at the end of the bilateral talks with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, on the margin of the last day of the G8 Summit that is underway in Deauville, in Normandy. ““We are joined in resolve to finish the job in Libya”, declared the US President.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Alice Walker Do You Support Hamas?

Alice Walker, Author of the book “The Color Purple”, and public campaigner with and for President Barack Obama, has cut a CodePink video in support of the upcoming Hamas Flotilla, scheduled for June 2011.

In the video, she compares Hamas and Fatah to black people of the segregated South of the 1950’s.

[video at link]

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Amnesty to IDF: Rescind Death Penalty Demand for Fogel Family Murderers

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

The Israel Defense Forces should rescind its reported demand that the suspects in the Itamar stabbing attacks be given the death penalty, Amnesty International said in a statement on Thursday.

Last week, Haaretz reported that the army intended to seek the death penalty for the suspected murderers of five members of the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar in March, which would mark the first time it has sought a sentence of death since the mid-1990s.

Such a request would most likely be purely symbolic, since the only case in which a death penalty was ever actually carried out in Israel was that of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1962. Death sentences were occasionally handed down against terrorists in the early years of the state, but were always commuted.

Responding to the Haaretz report, the Israeli chapter of Amnesty International urged military prosecutors to drop such a demand in a statement on Thursday, saying that the news was “cause for grave concern.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

IDF: Fogel Family Murderers Planned Another Attack

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

The two suspects in the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar last March were planning to carry out another attack, the military prosecution said Thursday.

These details were revealed as a military court ruled to extend the suspects’ remand by 11 days.

After confessing to the murder, the suspects, Amjad Awad and Hakim Awad, have now changed their position and are claiming they are innocent. Yet the military prosecution said there is forensic evidence linking them to the murder, including DNA samples and fingerprints.

The two apparently were planning a similar attack following what they saw as a successful operation, but it is unclear whether they were actually going to carry out their plan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

At Least ‘Two’ Italian UN Peacekeepers Killed in Lebanon

Beirut, 27 May (AKI) — At least two Italian soldiers on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon where killed Friday in an explosion that stuck their military transport vehicle near the city of Sidone., according to news reports.

At least five Italian soldiers were injured in the explosion around 40 kilometres south of Beirut, Arab-language satellite news channel al-Arabiya said.

Italy in 2006 deployed around 3,000 troops as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) following the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel.

“The UNIFIL mission has given a decisive contribution to the stability of one of the Middle East’s most sensitive areas,” Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said in a condolence statement following news Friday’s apparent bombing.

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

South Asia

Pakistan: Faisalabad: Christian Sisters Kidnapped, Forced to Marry a Wealthy Muslim

The girl’s father reported the kidnapping. In response, the police accused him of abusing alcohol and his daughters. Neighbour: the authorities overturned the facts, because they are colluding with criminals. Catholic priest killings and kidnappings of young Christian women common practice, encouraged by the mullahs and supported by the government.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — A powerful Muslim businessman, with the help of a group of accomplices, kidnapped two Christian sisters, forced them to convert to Islam and marry him. The girl’s father reported the kidnapping to the police but the police blocked investigations by reversing the facts: the daughters fled because of their father’s violence. A priest from the diocese of Faisalabad points out that the kidnapping of young women has become “common practice”, because the authorities and police are “puppets in the hands of extremists.”

The father of two girls, Rehmat Masih is a Christian carpenter from Jhung District, in Faisalabad, Punjab province, an arena of repeated violence against religious minority. Muhammad Waseem — the parent explains to AsiaNews, — is a Muslim businessman in the area, long time leader of a banned extremist group. A few weeks ago he came to my house, along with gunmen, saying he was concerned about my daughters and wanted to marry them. “ In case of refusal, the man continues, the Muslim businessman threatened to abduct the two girls.

Masih filed a complaint with the police, but authorities did not want to open an investigation. On May 24 the dramatic epilogue, “My daughters were returning from the market — he says — and a vehicle owned by Muhammad Waseem intercepted them and threw them inside, taking them away.” The parent returned to the police to report the kidnapping. In response, officials said that “Waseem is a respected and admired businessman, the accusations against him are” false. “The authorities say the girls would fled because their father is an alcoholic who had “abused” them with “immoral actions.”

A neighbour argues the defence of the Christian father, emphasizing his goodness and integrity. “I’ve known Rehmat for 20 years — Shahid Malik told AsiaNews — he is a decent man. I have never heard words out of place out of his mouth. “ On the contrary, Muhammad Waseem is an influential man and we have seen him repeatedly threaten the Masih family. The police, he adds, are reversing the facts because “he can not do anything against Waseem, which is collusion.”

The next day, May 25, Muhammad Waseem married by force Saima Masih, in the presence of Mullah Muhammad Qasim Zubair. With the ceremony, according to Islamic laws, the Christian woman was “converted” and has embraced the Muslim faith. Local sources also make clear that the religious leader who officiated the ceremony is linked to outlawed Islamist groups (-e-Sahaba Sipe), protagonists of numerous kidnappings of Hindu or Christian women.

Rehmat Masih is desperate: the police asked him to forget his daughters, leaving him indefenseless. “Instead of serving the Punjab government — says the father — [the police] are the servants of extremist groups.”

Fr. John William, a priest of the diocese of Faisalabad, confirms that the kidnapping of young women has become “common practice”, because the authorities and police are “puppets in the hands of extremists.” In recent days, AsiaNews reported the tragedy of another young girl, again from Punjab, seized by force and forced to marry a Muslim (see AsiaNews, 12/05/2011 Punjab: Christian student nurse forced to convert to marry Muslim man).

Christian and Hindu girls, the priest continues, are forced to marry Muslims and convert to Islam, while police and local authorities “are paid” to settle the bureaucracy to avoid reports. The officials are in the hands of extremists and religious leaders in Friday sermons “speak openly of killing and kidnapping Christian girls.” And the government, said Father John, “is complicit.”

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

Pakistan Shuts Down U.S. ‘Intelligence Fusion’ Cells

Pakistan also tells the U.S. to cut back its troops in the country, in a move amid deepening mistrust after the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden and a CIA contractor’s shooting of two Pakistani men. Joints Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen heads to Pakistan for talks.

Reporting from Washington—

In a clear sign of Pakistan’s deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

The liaison centers, also known as intelligence fusion cells, in Quetta and Peshawar are the main conduits for the United States to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations against militants, including Taliban fighters who slip into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and allied forces.

U.S. special operations units have relied on the three facilities, two in Peshawar and one in Quetta, to help coordinate operations on both sides of the border, senior U.S. officials said. The U.S. units are now being withdrawn from all three sites, the officials said, and the centers are being shut down.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the steps are permanent. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew Thursday to Pakistan for a hastily arranged meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army. A Pentagon official said the two will probably discuss Pakistan’s demands for a smaller U.S. military presence.

The closures, which have not been publicly announced, remove U.S. advisors from the front lines of the war against militant groups in Pakistan. U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus spearheaded the effort to increase the U.S. presence in the border areas two years ago out of frustration with Pakistan’s failure to control the militants.

The collapse of the effort will probably hinder the Obama administration’s efforts to gradually push Pakistan toward conducting ground operations against insurgent strongholds in North Waziristan and elsewhere, U.S. officials said.

The Pakistani decision has not affected the CIA’s ability to launch missiles from drone aircraft in northwest Pakistan. Those flights, which the CIA has never publicly acknowledged, receive assistance from Pakistan through intelligence channels separate from the fusion centers, current and former officials said.

The move to close the three facilities, plus a recent written demand by Pakistan to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in the country from approximately 200, signals mounting anger in Pakistan over a series of incidents.

In January, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, shot dead two men in Lahore who he said were attempting to rob him. He was arrested on charges of murder but was released and left the country in mid-March, prompting violent protests in several cities.

Soon after, Pakistan ordered several dozen U.S. special operations trainers to leave the country in what U.S. officials believe was retaliation for the Davis case, according to a senior U.S. military officer.

Then, on May 2, five U.S. helicopters secretly entered Pakistani airspace and a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden and four others at a compound in Abbottabad, a military garrison city near the capital, Islamabad. The raid deeply embarrassed Pakistan’s military and inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment across the country.

Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani brigadier, blamed the decision to close the three intelligence centers on the mistrust that has plagued U.S.-Pakistani relations in recent months. Washington’s decision to carry out the raid against Bin Laden without informing Pakistan’s security establishment brought that mistrust to a new low, he said.

“There is lot of discontent within Pakistan’s armed forces with regard to the fact they’ve done so much in the war on terror, and yet they are not trusted,” Hussain said. “Particularly after the Abbottabad raid … the image of the armed forces in the eyes of the people has gone down. And they hold the U.S. responsible.”

The two intelligence centers in Peshawar were set up in 2009, one with the Pakistani army’s 11th Corps and the other with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which are both headquartered in the city, capital of the troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The third fusion cell was opened last year at the Pakistani army’s 12th Corps headquarters in Quetta, a city long used by Taliban fighters to mount attacks in Afghanistan’s southern provinces. U.S. troops have staffed the Quetta facility only intermittently, U.S. officials said.

The closures have effectively stopped the U.S. training of the Frontier Corps, a force that American officials had hoped could help halt infiltration of Taliban and other militants into Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military officer said.

The Frontier Corps’ facility in Peshawar, staffed by a handful of U.S. special operations personnel, was located at Bala Hissar, an old fort, according to a classified U.S. Embassy cable from 2009 that was recently made public by WikiLeaks.

The cable, which was first disclosed by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, hinted at U.S. hopes that special operations teams would be allowed to join the paramilitary units and the Special Services Group, a Pakistani army commando unit, in operations against militants.

“We have created Intelligence Fusion cells with embedded U.S. Special Forces with both the SSG and Frontier Corps” at Bala Hissar, Peshawar, the 2009 cable says. “But we have not been given Pakistani military permission to accompany the Pakistani forces on deployments as yet. Through these embeds, we are assisting the Pakistanis [to] collect and coordinate existing intelligence assets.”

Another U.S. Embassy cable said that a “U.S. Special Operations Command Force” was providing the Frontier Corps with “imagery, target packages and operational planning” in a campaign against Taliban insurgents in Lower Dir, an area of northwest Pakistan considered an insurgent stronghold.

In September 2009, then U.S. ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, wrote in another classified message that the fusion cells provided “enhanced capacity to share real-time intelligence with units engaged in counter-insurgency operations” and were “a significant step forward for the Pakistan military.”

The intelligence fusion cell in Quetta was not nearly as active as the facilities in Peshawar, current and former U.S. officials said. Pakistan has long resisted pressure to intensify operations against Taliban militants in Quetta. The city, capital of Baluchistan, is outside the tribal area, which explains Pakistan’s reluctance to permit a permanent U.S. military presence, a U.S. official said.

Despite the ongoing tensions, Pakistani authorities have agreed to allow a CIA team to inspect the compound where Bin Laden was killed, according to a U.S. official. The Pakistanis have signaled they will allow U.S. intelligence analysts to examine documents and other material that Pakistani authorities found at the site.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said the reams of documents and electronic data that the SEALs seized at the compound have sparked “dozens” of intelligence investigations and have produced new insights into schisms among Al Qaeda leaders.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Thailand Arrests American for Alleged King Insult

BANGKOK — AN AMERICAN has been arrested in Thailand for allegedly insulting its monarchy, a serious offence in this Southeast Asian nation punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

The US Embassy confirmed the arrest but gave few details.

The 54-year-old man arrested on Thursday created a link on his blog in 2007 to The King Never Smiles, an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej that is banned in Thailand, a spokesman for the Department of Special Investigation, Thailand’s equivalent of the FBI, said on Friday.

The man denies the charge against him. He was born in Thailand and lived in the US state of Colorado for 30 years and returned to Thailand last year for medical treatment.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy but has severe lese majeste laws that mandate a jail term of three to 15 years for any person who ‘defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the Regent.’ Thai-based media routinely self-censor coverage of the royal family, but the Internet has tested the taboo. Thai authorities have responded by trying to block more than 2,000 websites.

Critics say the lese majeste laws are often a weapon of political harassment, and calls have grown recently to amend or abolish them. — AP

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Burqa Talk Dangerous, Warns Anti-Discrimination Watchdog

VICTORIA’S anti-discrimination watchdog wants the burqa debate shelved because it puts Muslims in danger.

Equal opportunity and human rights commissioner Helen Szoke said yesterday that constantly airing the issue threatened the safety of Muslim women on public transport and in other public places.

“I’d be concerned if that whole anti-burqa, anti-hijab dialogue started again,” she said. “It really places Muslim women who choose to wear that garb in a pretty invidious situation.

“It can make you feel frightened or makes you feel like you don’t want to come out.”

Figures show that the number of religious vilification complaints received by the commission this year is 50 per cent higher than last year.

Race-based complaints have shot up by more than 40 per cent.

Dr Szoke said religious dress issues provoked high emotion and featured stereotyping and misleading information.

“Everyone is entitled to an opinion (but) at the same time everyone is also entitled to feel safe and accepted in our community,” she said.

Late last year South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi called for a ban of the burqa, while his leader, Tony Abbott, said the burqa was “particularly confronting” and he wished fewer women wore it.

The Islamic Council of Victoria told a federal inquiry into multiculturalism that Australians should be more tolerant of Muslims wearing burqas and hijabs.

Australian Federation of Islamic Councils board member Heba Ibrahim said there was a lot of anecdotal evidence of anti-Muslim abuse when politicians and others raised the burqa issue.

State Multicultural Affairs Minister Nick Kotsiras said recently that he had no problem with anyone wearing the burqa, providing they were not forced to.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]


Eyewitness Tells How to Defeat ‘Totalitarian Lie’

Former Hitler Youth gives chilling but life-saving warning to America

Von Campe grew up under the Nazis, served in the Hitler Youth and fought against the Red Army in the Yugoslavian theater as a tank gunner in the German army. He was captured at the end of the war and escaped five months later from a prisoner of war camp in Communist Yugoslavia.

“It took me a long time to understand and define the nature of National Socialism,” says von Campe. “And, unfortunately, their philosophy continues to flourish under different labels remaining a menace to America and free human society.”

Von Campe’s message is that political freedom and democratic rules alone are not sufficient to govern humanity justly.

“Democratic procedures can be subverted and dishonest politicians are like sand in the gearbox, abundant, everywhere and destructive,” he writes. “What I see in America today is people painting their cabins while the ship goes down. Today in America we are witnessing a repeat performance of the tragedy of 1933 when an entire nation let itself be led like a lamb to the Socialist slaughterhouse. This time, the end of freedom is inevitable unless America rises to her mission and destiny.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]