Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110701

Financial Crisis
»Double Standards: Greek-Style Austerity Would be Hell for Germans
»European Budget: Crisis to Change Rules for Structural Funds
»Italian Govt Poised to Approve Austerity Measures
»Italian Cabinet Passes Austerity Package
»Poland Demands Seat at Eurozone Meetings
»Spain: Government Gives in to Indignados, Changes Debt Rules
»U.S. Leaders Seek Immigrant “Savants” To Jumpstart American Economy
»Weeklong Rally Lifts Dow Index by 5.4%
»Bogus Obama Document ‘Bigger Than Watergate’
»Bully Pres in His Bully Pulpit
»Is Democracy Viable?
»Since When Are July 4th Parades Right Wing?
Europe and the EU
»EU Chides Italy for Naples Trash Crisis
»EU Hires 65 Spin Doctors at Taxpayer Expense
»Geert Wilders: A Voltaire for Our Times?
»Germany: ‘A Reversal of the Nuclear Phase-Out is Hard to Imagine’
»Germany: The Pharaoh of Thuringia: Archaeologists Puzzle Over Opulent Prehistoric Burial Find
»Germany: Friedrich Warns of Political Violence
»Italy: Politician Posts 10kg of Trash to Naples Mayor
»Polish Leader Warns About ‘New Euroscepticism’
»Europe Tires of Albania’s Two-Year Political Deadlock
North Africa
»Egypt: ‘Harassment of Christian Girls’ Sparks Sectarian Strife
»Egypt: Thousands in Tahrir Square, Demanding Trials
»Libya: Gaddafi Calls Up Shamans Against Rebels
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gazans Unimpressed by Flotilla
Middle East
»Iran: Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Christian Priest
»Iran: Ahmadinejad Cousin Arrested for ‘Corruption’
South Asia
»Pakistan: Islamabad Abolishes Minority Affairs Ministry, As Bhatti Murder Could Go Unpunished
»Thailand: Car Blown Sky High as Bomb Disposal Officer Investigates in Narathiwat
Australia — Pacific
»Osama a ‘Folk Hero’ And ‘Resistance Fighter’ To Some Supporters in Sydney
Sub-Saharan Africa
»African Union Will Not Act on Gaddafi Arrest Warrant
»Audio: Violence Surges After Muslim President Takes Reins
»‘Corrosion of the Freedom to Travel’: Denmark to Reintroduce Border Controls on Tuesday
»EU Reviews Denmark’s Border Control Plan
»Nigeria: FG to Open Consulates in California, Others Soon
Culture Wars
»Germany: Greens Call for Action on ‘Toxic’ Dildos
»LA USD Declares Homework Racist, Classist
»Safer Sex: Greens Warn Against Dangerous Dildos
»Mind-Reading Scientists Predict What a Person is Going to Do Before They Do it
»Swedish Ships Take Up Arms to Combat Pirates

Financial Crisis

Double Standards: Greek-Style Austerity Would be Hell for Germans

Tough times are ahead for the Greeks, with the government raising taxes, cutting social benefits and selling off state enterprises. Berlin has led the European pack in demanding the measures from Athens. But economists say Germany would be overwhelmed if it were forced to implement similar measures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

European Budget: Crisis to Change Rules for Structural Funds

“Brussels has acknowledged that the rules for structural funds will be modified to provide support for countries like Portugal,” reports the Lisbon daily Público. It explains that the European Commission is planning to present a proposal that will allow for a reduction of national governments’ contributions to projects benefitting from structural funds after 2014. This should ease the financing difficulties experienced by countries like Portugal and Greece.

As it stands, explains Público, “European rules dictate that structural funds to support development of the poorest EU countries must be co-financed, to the tune of 15% to 25%, by national governments.” However, the crisis and the austerity polices adopted by the majority of member states “have severely limited their capacity to benefit from European aid.” As of last week, the Commission has proposed that Greece be allowed to reduce its contribution to the structural funds, and that similar conditions should apply, starting in 2014, to all countries that benefit from structural funds.

The European Commission is set to launch the debate on the 2014-2020 EU budget on 29 June, and is also proposing to freeze spending at the 2007-2013 level. Policies described as “future-oriented” — research, innovation, education and neighbourhood policies — will nonetheless be granted budget increases, as will justice and interior affairs.

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

Italian Govt Poised to Approve Austerity Measures

Tough package aims to eliminate budget deficit by 2014

(ANSA) — Rome, June 30 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s cabinet was poised on Thursday to approve austerity measures designed to eliminate Italy’s budget deficit by 2014 and stop the country getting sucked into the Greek debt crisis.

The budget aims to generate 47 billion euros in savings, with ministries and local authorities facing cuts, and tax breaks for companies and families being reduced too.

Key measures include tax increases on bank trading activities and a new levy on financial transactions.

But a plan was scrapped to bring forward a raise in women’s retirement age, which is set to gradually increase from 60 to 65 as of 2020.

“The budget leaves a hole in the 2013-2014 period, a question mark, which is a time bomb,” said Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the biggest opposition group, the Democratic Party, presumably referring to a lack of specifics in some areas.

“It will all turn into cuts in social services. They have not addressed the problem for three years”.

The budget was set to be approved at cabinet level after Berlusconi managed to soothe over tensions with his Northern League allies, who had been calling for tax cuts to boost the centre-right government’s popularity after heavy defeats recently in local elections and in four referendums. Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti had also come under fire from fellow members of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party for his drive for fiscal prudence. But Tremonti’s position has prevailed amid concerns Italy risks being dragged into the financial turbulence that has hit Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal, although big obstacles await the budget in the Italian parliament.

Rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have warned they could downgrade the credit rating of Italy, which is also struggling with low growth and has a national debt of 120% of gross domestic product (GDP), one of the biggest in the world.

“The situation of the public finances and our country’s low growth prospects are weakness factors that, despite the solidity of our banking sector, make us vulnerable to contagion from the Greek crisis,” Giuseppe Vegas, the head of Italy’s stock-market watchdog, said Thursday. The government has said a plan to reduce taxes and simplify the fiscal system is in the pipeline.

Italy’s budget deficit is forecast to fall to 3.9% of GDP this year, compared to 4.6% in 2010, thanks to measures already in place.

Tuscany Governor Vasco Errani, the head of the conference of Italian regional governments, said he was “very worried” about there being major implications for services provided by local governments, who are set to receive 9.7 billion euros less in the 2013-2014 period because of the austerity measures.

The Culture Minister was set to be exempted from the cuts, after being hit hard in pervious budgets, and draft budget featured a measure that would enable taxpayers to allocate a section of their taxes to the culture sector.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Cabinet Passes Austerity Package

The Italian cabinet on Thursday passed a series of austerity measures aimed at balancing the budget by 2014 and stopping the eurozone crisis spreading.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Poland Demands Seat at Eurozone Meetings

Poland on Friday said it was at odds with the eurozone over Warsaw’s right as a non-member but current EU president to take part in meetings of the 17-nation currency bloc on solving its lumbering debt crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Government Gives in to Indignados, Changes Debt Rules

The Spanish government led by the Socialist Prime Minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has today adopted new rules to protect families who have been unable to keep up mortgage repayments since the beginning of the financial crisis, one of the key demands made by the “indignados” movement. The deputy Prime Minister, Alfredo Rubalcaba, said after the weekly meeting of ministers that the new rule increases the share of a family’s monthly income that is not subject to obligatory repayment to banks of the remainder of the mortgage after property has been seized. The minimum income that will not be affected by repayment obligations has risen from 700 to 961 euros, and stands at 1,350 euros if the mortgage is paid by at least two people. The Zapatero government has also ruled that houses put up for sale due to non-repayment of mortgages cannot be sold for less than 60% of the initial price (against the current figure of 50%).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

U.S. Leaders Seek Immigrant “Savants” To Jumpstart American Economy

Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder (left), a former computer executive/entrepreneur, now in his first elective office, has seized upon an idea he believes will dig the state out of its unemployment quagmire — one that’s among the highest in the country. He announced June 21 that he will be looking to “foreign-born engineers, scientists, and cutting-edge tech savants” to jumpstart Michigan’s business and commerce. All kinds of data, he says, support his concept, Global Michigan Initiative. He points to Silicon Valley in particular as having launched some one-half of its computer and silicon chip businesses with immigrant technical wizards.

The real question, though, is what this says about the American-born population’s level of knowledge, creativity, innovative determination, and work ethic. More specifically, what does it say about American schools?

As for job/career readiness, to which some might include “work ethic,” youngsters today are urged to become “team players” — reminiscent of the old Soviet Comintern’s “collective spirit” — not individual achievers. This has far-reaching implications for innovation and creativity. The child learns primarily to be well-liked and not to “make waves” as opposed to being accomplished, well-rounded, and having a grasp of basic disciplines that will catapult the pupil to professionalism in a field later on.

A few outspoken leaders within the U.S. Department of Education admit that American schoolchildren are not held to the standards that many foreign countries demand of their pupils. Pascal D. Forgione, Jr., Ph.D., U.S. Commissioner of Education Statistics, declared in a speech that even if a school is said to compare well on SAT scores, it probably is “lightweight on the international scale.” (That speech has now been removed from the Internet: For proof that it existed see here.) In referring to ongoing educational decline, Dr. Forgione says: “By the time our students are ready to leave high school — ready to enter higher education and the labor force — they are doing so badly with science [that] they are significantly weaker than their peers in other countries… Our idea of “advanced” is clearly below international standards.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Weeklong Rally Lifts Dow Index by 5.4%

American stock markets wrapped up one of their strongest weeks in two years with further gains on Friday, erasing their losses from earlier in June. An unexpected upturn in manufacturing and easing of concerns about a public-debt default in Greece were the driving forces.

The Dow industrials closed on Friday at 12,582.77, a gain of 1.36 percent for the day and 5.4 percent for the week, in preliminary figures. The broader S.&P. 500 did even better, gaining 1.44 percent on Friday and 6 percent for the week.

[Return to headlines]


Bogus Obama Document ‘Bigger Than Watergate’

‘Not just a crime of some plumbers breaking into an opponent’s office’

A retired U.S. military commander who brought a court challenge to Barack Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office says the mounting evidence indicating the “Certificate of Live Birth” he released in April is fake should shock the American public.

“If everyone was intellectually honest, they would admit those images put on the Internet are forgeries,” said CDR Charles Kerchner, whose lawsuit that alleged Congress failed in its constitutional duty to make sure the man elected president was eligible for the office, was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

He cited the work released this week by longtime Adobe software book author and computer expert Mara Zebest.

Kerchner believes there’s evidence Obama’s placement in the White House was orchestrated, and now that the façade that was created for him is cracking, no holds are barred.

“He’s desperate,” Kerchner told WND. “He’ll do anything to survive. He’s way overconfident that the media is never going to do a thing to investigate [and] so far he’s right.”

However, he said, “At some point the truth is going to come out and the house of cards is going to fall.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Bully Pres in His Bully Pulpit

Rarely, if ever, has a sitting president displayed so many examples of so many qualities so unbecoming as were flagrantly displayed at his June 29 press conference.

The purpose of the event was to chide Republicans into voting to raise the debt-ceiling before the August 2nd deadline. Obama said:

“The fact that we’re here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign—is a sign of leadership failure. Leadership means the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

Ooooops! That’s what Obama said in 2006.

On June 29th,2011, it was a different story. According to the new revised version, Obama now says that if Republicans won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling, soldiers won’t get paid. Social security checks won’t be mailed, babies will have no milk. The markets will fall, the global economy will collapse, and the world will go to hell in a hand-basket — and it will all be the fault of the nasty Republicans.

What a load of crap, delivered on national television no less.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Is Democracy Viable?

Frivolity and short-sightedness threaten our ability to keep this republic.

The media have recently been so preoccupied with a congressman’s photograph of himself in his underwear that scant attention has been paid to the fact that Iran continues advancing toward creating a nuclear bomb, and nobody is doing anything that is likely to stop them.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism might seem to be something that would sober up even the most giddy members of the chattering class. But that chilling prospect cannot seem to compete for attention with cheap behavior by an immature congressman, infatuated with himself.


While the convention that was writing the Constitution of the United States was still in session, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin what the delegation was creating. “A republic, madam,” he said, “if you can keep it.”

In the middle of the next century, Abraham Lincoln still posed it as a question whether “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Years earlier, Lincoln had warned of the dangers to a free society from its own designing power-seekers — and how only the vigilance, wisdom, and dedication of the public could preserve their freedom.

But, today, few people seem to see such dangers, either internally or internationally.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Since When Are July 4th Parades Right Wing?

Who can object to a patriotic parade but an irrational, anti-American progressive from Harvard who finds somehow that a 4th of July parade is a political stunt aimed at garnering new converts to the Republican Party?

David Yanagizawa-Drott published his three key findings in a recent Harvard Kennedy School of Government study:

  • Attendees to the July 4th parades before the age of 18 are likely to identify as Republicans by a “whopping” 2 percent
  • People watching parades are “likely” to vote as Republicans by another “whopping” 4 percent
  • Parade “revelers” will “likely” make a contribution of 3 percent to Republicans

Since when is patriotism, joy, and pride of being American, of celebrating 235 years of history, accomplishments, and fantastic success right-wing and for sale? It is if you are a “progressive” who is anti-American and tries to tarnish American values and symbols under the faux, pseudo-scientific guise of research for research’s sake. Could it be because Yanagizawa-Drott is a mere Assistant Professor and on a quest to raise his status to Associate Professor by taking cheap shots at the GOP and freedom loving Americans?

Paul Bedard, the author of the article, recommends, “Democratic political candidates can skip this weekend’s July 4th parades.” Celebrations are going to boost GOP turnout on Election Day and turn children into Republicans, so why waste your time attending if you are a Democrat.

Could it be because a large majority of Americans loves their country, its history, its national anthem, its flag, and its symbolism? Could it be that Americans respect all branches of the military and the sacrifices they have made throughout its storied existence?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EU Chides Italy for Naples Trash Crisis

Government denies health risks

(ANSA) — Naples, June 28 — After 20 trash fires in Naples raged into the morning, the European Union criticized the Italian government Tuesday for the relentless trash crisis, threatening sanctions.

“Recent events show that the Italian authorities have yet to find an adequate or definitive solution to the problem,” said Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, threatening “pecuniary sanctions” if Italy failed to properly resolve the crisis.

The government, which has promised to find a solution to the problem in a Thursday cabinet meeting, insisted that the health concerns in Naples are not grave.

“There is no danger of an epidemic or of particular infections,” said Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio.

“Except maybe some gastroenteritis,” he added, which is a severe inflammation of the stomach and intestines resulting in acute diarrhea and vomiting.

Hundreds from the Naples region of Campania protested in front of the House Monday, blaming the local mafia and the government for the situation, hoisting signs that read “Naples will become a huge land fill”.

The mayor of Naples, Luigi De Magistris, said last week that the open garbage clogging the streets and passageways did pose serious health risks.

Authorities have removed 130 tonnes of rubbish since Monday, bringing the total amount of uncollected trash down to 1,430 tonnes.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano recently said that the central government had to intervene to resolve the crisis.

Last week, armed police escorts began accompanying garbage trucks as exasperated protesters resorted to tipping over dumpsters, blocking traffic and setting fire to the growing piles of waste that continue to choke the daily flow of city life.

Naples and the surrounding region of Campania have suffered similar crises periodically for a number of years.

The previous public outcry occurred last November when weeks of clashes and rising trash piles brought Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to the city.

It was then that the premier, who won plaudits by sorting out a similar emergency in 2008, made a vow to clear the streets in three days.

But the problems have returned partly because of technical failures in local incinerators and the lack of investment in other landfill sites.

The issue is further complicated by the role of the local mafia, or Camorra, and claims that they have infiltrated waste management in Naples and dumped toxic waste on sites near residential areas.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Hires 65 Spin Doctors at Taxpayer Expense

Austerity might be on the menu in most capitals of the European Union, but in Brussels the institutions are still hiring.

Ever conscious of the need to battle Euro-scepticism and sharpen up its image, the EU has begun recruiting around 65 spin-doctors, or ‘communications specialists’.

Those boasting the appropriate language skills, a background as a journalist, press officer or communications consultant and a willingness to persevere with verbal, numeric and abstract reasoning tests can look forward to a starting salary of 4,267 Euros a month (£3,855), plus perks.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Geert Wilders: A Voltaire for Our Times?

Trouw Amsterdam

Geert Wilders’s acquittal of hate speech charges may open up a new trend in Europe. Now that governments have stopped defending multiculturalism, critics of Islam can come back out into the open, writes a Dutch intellectual pleased with the decision

Thierry Baudet

In acquitting Geert Wilders the Dutch judge bucked a European trend. Despite years of intolerance towards any criticism of Islam, the Netherlands are honouring their tradition of ensuring a sanctuary for open debate. In western European countries over the past few years, things have been quite different: sworn opponents of Islam have been condemned for expressing their views.

Early in May in Denmark, for example, Lars Hedegaard, the ideologue of the Danish People’s Party, was sentenced on appeal for saying that “girls in Muslim families get raped by their uncles, their cousins, or fathers,” and that “if a Muslim rapes a woman, he has the right. It’s part of his culture.”

On 15 February in Vienna, Elisabeth Wolff-Sabaditsch was fined for calling Muhammad, the founder of Islam, a “paedophile”. According to the Austrian court, Mohammad’s marriage to Aisha, who was nine years old at the time, could not be equated with paedophilia, because that would be “disparaging” to the “religious doctrines” of Islam, especially since the marriage continued after Aisha turned 18.

Comparable verdicts for comments critical of Islam were also handed down in France, Belgium and England. Jean-Marie Le Pen was indicted for saying: “The day when we have not five million but 25 million Muslims in France is the day they will be in charge. And the French will hug the walls and scuttle down the street with their eyes on the ground.” Mark Anthony Norwood had to remove from her window a poster that read “Islam out of Britain”. And Belgium’s Daniel Feret, declared ineligible to stand for public election for ten years, was ordered to perform community service in the field of integration. He had called for the “repatriation” of immigrants who he said were “criminals” and demanded that social benefits be given only to Belgians and “Europeans”. When passing down these judgments the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg held that a “legitimate purpose” was being furthered and that the restriction of freedom of expression was, in this case, “necessary in a democratic society.”

Curious, because in none of these cases were there any calls for violence. According to the national courts, the statements overstepped the mark because they incited “hatred” or “discrimination” — concepts that can easily stretch and be used to silence unwelcome political views.

If for a long time it was hard to utter any criticism of Islam, it was because such criticisms were not compatible with multiculturalism. Yet now that leaders such as Cameron, Aznar, Sarkozy and Rutte have all subscribed to the surprising conclusion reached in 2010 by Angela Merkel, who said that “the multicultural society has completely failed,” criticism of Islam is once again allowed.

With the acquittal of Geert Wilders on Thursday, June 23, the Netherlands has become the first country in western Europe where legal authority has drawn explicit conclusions from the abandonment of multiculturalism. The Netherlands have lived up to their reputation of being a haven of tolerance for free speech.

Indeed, for a long time, the writings of countless critics of religion, from Spinoza to Voltaire, could only be published in Holland, while elsewhere in Europe they were banned. The repressive elite of that era who wanted to suppress criticism by resorting to the courts could only keep the ban in place up to the late 18th century. In the end, what had begun as a critical debate gained momentum and led to the French Revolution. A similar development could threaten the European elites of today.

Whether multiculturalism is a good idea or not, whether Islam is a political ideology or a peaceful religion and whether Muhammad was a paedophile or not, none of these ideas should be imposed or prohibited. This can only lead to a radicalisation of opinions. Only open debate can be permitted to decide these issues, and the parties that have been offended or injured can then try to persuade the critics of Islam of their alleged wrongs by force of argument.

If Wilders had been found guilty on Thursday, June 23 — even if only on a single statement — the authority of the judiciary as a whole would have been weakened yet again. Such a decision would have ushered in years of more legal jousting, which would have led to increased politicisation of the courtrooms. It would seem therefore that the judge proved conciliatory just in time. The question is: after this reasonable verdict, which European country will follow suit?

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

Germany: ‘A Reversal of the Nuclear Phase-Out is Hard to Imagine’

It’s been tried before, but this time Germany means it: In about a decade, the world’s fourth-largest industrial nation will have to get by without atomic energy, following parliament’s approval of the government’s nuclear phase-out plans on Thursday. German commentators agree there is no going back.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: The Pharaoh of Thuringia: Archaeologists Puzzle Over Opulent Prehistoric Burial Find

When archeologists recently excavated a 3,800-year-old palace near the eastern German city of Weimar, they discovered about 100 valuable weapons buried next to a massive structure. Now they are puzzling over how an ancient chieftain buried nearby became so rich.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Friedrich Warns of Political Violence

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich warned on Friday that both right and left-wing extremists pose a growing threat to the nation’s security, even though political violence actually decreased last year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Politician Posts 10kg of Trash to Naples Mayor

Albenga, 1 July (AKI) — A local politician in the northwestern Italian town of Albenga sent 10 kilogrammes of garbage by express mail to Naples newly-elected mayor Luigi De Magistris on Friday. The stunt was a protest at the southern city’s ongoing trash crisis and a newly approved decree allowing the surrounding Campania region to ‘export’ its trash to other areas of Italy.

“If De Magistris doesn’t know how to dispose of the rubbish and wants to learn how make people play by the rules, he should call his fellow mayors, including ours,” said the stunt’s author, Albenga’s social services city councillor Eraldo Ciangherotti, cited by the Northern Leagues’ La Padania newspaper,

“In 2010, the citizens of Albenga paid no less than 4.8 million euros for the collection and disposal of their garbage,” Ciangherotti added. “If every town council can manage its waste, so can Naples.”

La Padania ran a front-page headline on Friday that read: ‘Not a single sack of Neapolitan rubbish in the regions governed by the Northern League’.

The Italian parliament Thursday approved a decree allowing Naples and the surrounding Campania region to send its trash for disposal in to other regions, a move vehemently opposed by the Northern League.

The junior partner in Italy’s ruling conservative coalition, the Northern League now governs the northern Piedmont and Veneto regions and is the biggest party in Veneto and one of the largest throughout northern Italy.

Naples’ garbage crisis has sparked widespread environmental and health concerns since 2008. Officials say it was originally caused by an underdeveloped garbage disposal infrastructure and grip of the mafia on the waste disposal sector.

De Magistris in May won the election for Naples’s mayoral office in a landslide upset over a candidate supported by Italy’s conservative prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Once in office, the former prosecutor was widely lampooned for his failing to keep his promise to clean up the garbage in “4-5 days.”

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has also drawn criticism for several similar promises.

The prolonged crisis has sparked periodic protests in the city. This week, residents burned piles of uncollected garbage, filling the skies of the city with black smoke, and called for the resignation of political leaders including Berlusconi.

The European Union has warned that it will impose fines against Italy if it does not resolve the problem.

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

Polish Leader Warns About ‘New Euroscepticism’

The financial crisis and Arab Spring migrants have given rise to a “new euroscepticism” inside the union, Polish leader Donald Tusk has warned as Poland takes over the EU presidency. Contrasting a new breed of hypocrisy with the old “ideological” EU-pessimism in the UK, Tusk said continental leaders have begun aggressively protecting national interests despite their pro-EU rhetoric.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Europe Tires of Albania’s Two-Year Political Deadlock

Two years to the day since Albania’s disputed parliamentary elections, European fatigue has set in over the Balkan country’s longest-running political crisis in two decades.

“Europeans are tired of Albania. It is up to it [Tirana] to take over its responsibilities,” a diplomat from Brussels told AFP, summing up the attitude of the European Union, which Albania hopes to join in the near future.

“I don’t see the situation improving,” EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule has said.

The country’s political stand-off was triggered when the Socialist Party led by Tirana mayor Edi Rama claimed electoral fraud and demanded a recount of votes cast in the June 2009 legislative poll.

The ruling Democrats, led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha, have repeatedly rejected the demands of the opposition, which boycotted parliament before a partial delegation returned to the assembly.

Every Albanian election since the fall of communism in the early 1990s has been marred by accusations of fraud.

Albert Rakipi of the Institute for International Studies in Tirana, a non-governmental research body, said there was little sign of resolution “with the majority and opposition accusing each other of causing the current situation.”

“This could endanger the European perspectives of the country,” he added.

Albania has said it would like to achieve EU candidate status by the end of this year.

But as the stalemate continues, many key decisions that demand a three-fifths parliamentary majority are blocked due to the absent opposition lawmakers.

These include laws on judicial and economic reform, such as the fight against organized crime and corruption, sought by Brussels as a precondition for Tirana joining the bloc.

Attempts by Europe as well as the United States to mediate the crisis have failed to yield any results as Berisha and Rama remain at loggerheads.

In January the crisis turned violent when four people were killed and several injured in clashes at an anti-government protest in the capital.

Some are taking advantage of the stalemate, as evidenced by the number of illegal buildings being constructed, including on the Adriatic coast in the past month, local media reported.

The international community had hoped that May 8 local elections would be a chance for Albania to show some political maturity. But as usual the vote count was contested in several areas, including Tirana.

Incumbent Rama, the proclaimed winner of Tirana’s mayoral race, was dethroned after a second vote count by ruling coalition candidate Lulezim Basha.

Rama had been declared the winner by just 10 votes, but several recounts of ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong polling boxes, initially considered invalid, later yielded a 95-vote victory for Basha.

Rama claimed the outcome had been “manipulated” and dismissed the process as illegitimate.

Europe has insisted on a complete reform of Albania’s electoral system. The opposition however has refused to even consider the issue until authorities recognize Rama as Tirana mayor.

“It is evident that a comprehensive reform of the electoral code is needed and must be carried out by the ruling majority together with the opposition and the civil society,” Fule told the European Parliament earlier this month. “This can only be achieved if political parties… find a way to talk together. Confrontational rhetoric will only increase tension in the country.”

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

North Africa

Egypt: ‘Harassment of Christian Girls’ Sparks Sectarian Strife

Samalout, 1 July (AKI) — Security forces on Friday quelled sectarian clashes that broke out late Thursday in central Egypt after local Muslims allegedly harassed some Christian girls, Al Masry Al Youm daily reported.

Eyewitnesses said fighting began in the village of Qolosna in Upper Egypt’s Minya Governorate after several Muslim taxi drivers reportedly bothered a group of Christian girls.

Shots were fired in the air and the injured — four Christians and three Muslims, according to security sources — were taken to hospital in the nearby town of Samalout.

Security sources said 10 people were arrested over the clashes and are being investigated.

Eyewitnesses said the military had imposed a local curfew starting after Friday afternoon prayers.

Coptic Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s population and have been repeatedly targeted by Muslim extremists.

As recently as last week, hundreds of extremist Muslims surrounded a church in a village 7 kilometres south of Minya and threatened to kill the local priest, the Assyrian International News Agency reported. The extremists began targeting the church iin March after renovation work began, threatening to demolish the church.

Twenty-four people were killed and around 100 injured in a New Year’s Eve bombing of a Coptic church in the northern Egyptian port city of Alexandria.

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

Egypt: Thousands in Tahrir Square, Demanding Trials

Thousands of protesters, 10,000 according to some websites, have gathered in Tahrir Square to mark the “Friday of punishment and of martyrs”, a protest organised by young Egyptian revolutionaries and by the 6 April movement to demand trials against those who ordered the violent crackdown during the revolution of January and February and to show support for the families of around 800 “martyrs” killed over the period.

It has been a calm day in Cairo’s central square, after the violent incidents that took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning. A crowd of protesters gathered outside the Council of Ministers but did not attempt to break police lines, while another march attempted to reach the Interior Ministry, but was stopped by security forces. “The people want the death sentence for the murderer”, protesters cried, in reference to the former Interior Minister, Habib El Adly, while others called on the Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, to “Come to the square”, the very place where he claimed upon taking office that he had received the legitimacy of the people. A number of relatives of young people killed during the anti-Mubarak uprising appeared on stage during the day.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Calls Up Shamans Against Rebels

Black magic and African shamans are the latest weapon that Gaddafi has made recourse to in order to extend the life of his regime. Shamans and witches from Mali, Mauritania, Gambia, Morocco and Nigeria have the main task of repelling the rebels, who are moving in ever closer to his stronghold in Tripoli. Gaddafi has urged the most famous shamans to help him defeat the rebels, according to the colonel and pilot Saleh Al Ubaidi, who has recently gone over to the side of the rebels and who was quoted by the daily paper Asharq Al Awsat. The pilot said that the shamans send their “priests” onto the battle field with magic talismans in the hope of preserving soldiers’ loyalty. “After the February 17 revolution, shamans — claims Saleh Al Ubaidi — have been used by Colonel Gaddafi as a parallel intelligence agency.” Quoting a source very close to Gaddafi, the pilot said that the leader had requested help from a Gambian shaman, and the latter recited the text of a talisman over Gaddafi’s mantle to protect him from NATO and rebel attacks. Al Ubaidi added that Gaddafi always wears this mantle, even when in high temperatures. He went on to say that the leader also never takes off a silver ring made with the brains and bones of a hyena, which shamans believe has special powers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gazans Unimpressed by Flotilla

Israeli claims over futility of flotilla receive reinforcement from surprising direction — Gazan businessmen who say it isn’t imports that are problem, it’s exports. ‘Gaza doesn’t need anymore humanitarian aid,’ says Gisha movement director

Israel has been claiming for quite some time that the desire to break through the blockade on the Gaza Strip is devoid of any basis since it is possible to transfer essential goods to Gaza through the monitored crossings. This claim received unexpected reinforcement on Thursday from none other than the Gazans themselves.

In a conversation with Ynet Palestinian businessmen expressed veiled criticism saying that the flotilla organizers were missing their target since the main problem wasn’t getting goods into Gaza — but exporting them outside of the strip.

“The flotilla isn’t bringing things that reach the man on the street,” says Salah Ayash a textile manufactory owner in the strip who, until the beginning of the month worked with Israeli fashion labels who would produce their goods at his factory.

“I think they might be bringing medication, but I’m not sure what they are bringing if anything. The only important thing from our perspective is not importing equipment but exporting goods,” said Ayash adding that there is no shortage of stock — but they can’t get it out.

Mohammad Tilbani, who owns a candy and cookie factory in Deir el-Balah explains that most of his work is based on exports. “60% of the production at my factory was intended for the West Bank, today I’m working at a very low output because production is exclusively for the Gaza market.”

Data published by the Palestinian Industrialists Association reveals that over 80% of Gaza factories have halted operations or are working at less than half of their usual output. Businessmen explain that this has led Gaza Strip unemployment to surge.

“In the past I had 80 workers in my factory, now I’m forced to employ only six or five and only part time,” Ayash explains, “some of the workers are forced to find other income sources and enlist in Hamas or Fatah to support their families.”

The Gisha movement has criticized both the flotilla organizers and Israel over their remarks and claim that they are misleading. “Gaza doesn’t need anymore humanitarian aid. There is only one way to allow Gaza residents long term economic development while maintaining Israel’s legitimate security needs and that is a removal of the sweeping limitations on transfer of goods subject to individual security checks,” said Sari Bashi the Director of Gisha.

Optimistic outlook

The Gazan businessmen stress that they are not opposed to the flotilla: “It is not that we don’t support the flotilla, we just want both. Not just the entry of goods but their export so that the economy will be rehabilitated and people can return to the workforce in the factories,” said Tilbani.

The coordinator of the government activities in the Palestinian territories presents a more optimistic picture. At a briefing Wednesday, Major-General Eitan Dangot said that Israel is in the final stages of approving an additional export package for the Gaza Strip.

Dangot noted that Israel is working in coordination with EU and Palestinian representatives to export produce like potatoes and tomatoes to Jordan and that the preparation work will soon be completed and exports will commence.

He stressed that in the past year Israel enabled the export of dozens of tons of flowers and hundreds of tons of fruits and vegetables from the Gaza Strip to European markets. According to Dangot, the exports ceased because it was the end of the season and due to the fact that some of the produce failed to adhere to European standards.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Christian Priest

Tehran, 1 July (AKI) — Iran’s Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence handed to a Chiristan priest convicted of apostasy, Iranian website Peykeiran reports.

A lower Iranian court sentenced the priest, Yousef Nadarkhani, from the city of Rasht on the Black Sea, in December 2010 after finding him guilty of apostasy. He has been held for almost two years in Lakan prison and was arrested in October, 2009 while attempting to register his evangelical church in the city of Rasht.

The young priest was born to a Muslim family but denies he was ever a Muslim.

Under Iran’s Sharia law, converting to another religion from Islam is apostasy, a crime punishable by death.

Churches are reported to have come under intense pressure in the last year, with a wave of random arrests and increasingly anti-Christian rhetoric.

In May, high profile Iranian cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yadzi reportedly chided the authorities for failing to stem the growth of churches despite stepping up their efforts.

The ayatollah reportedly urged the government set up a central system to monitor and coordinate the suppression of churches.

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

Iran: Ahmadinejad Cousin Arrested for ‘Corruption’

Tehran, 1 July (AKI) — Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cousin Omid Mehmari has been arrested for corruption, according to opposition website Iranpressnews.

According to the report, Mehmari was arrested after resigning last week investment company Qadir where he faced pressure to step down.

Three other people close to Ahmadinejad have been arrested over the past two weeks, according to the site.

In May, 12 people with close links to the Iranian president were detained on orders from magistrates, whose institution is close to Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni, Iran’s powerful Supreme Leader.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei humiliated Ahmadinejad earlier this year by publicly reversing the president’s decision to fire the intelligence minister.

Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh Iran’s former deputy foreign minister for administrative and financial affairs and Ahmadinejad ally was also arrested last month, according to semi-official news agency Fars.

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

South Asia

Pakistan: Islamabad Abolishes Minority Affairs Ministry, As Bhatti Murder Could Go Unpunished

The chief of the team investigating the death of the Catholic minister wants to close the case for lack of evidence. Islamabad police points the finger at the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The federal government plants to close Bhatti’s old ministry. Christian garbage collector is murdered by Muslim merchant.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — The murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic Minister for Minority Affairs, on 2 March in Islamabad, could go unpunished. Investigators are divided over the case with some in the Islamabad police pointing the fingers at the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In recent weeks, an attempt was made to shift the blame to “internal squabbles” among Christians. Meanwhile, the government has decided to abolish the Federal Ministry of Minority Affairs, shifting responsibilities to the provinces, this in a country where Christians continue to die from abusive behaviour and personal vendettas.

Joint Investigation Team Chief Tahir Alam said that the file should be closed for “lack of evidence”. After interrogating 519 suspects, including Mumtaz Qadri, who killed Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, Alam said that he had nothing to go on to find the culprits.

Likewise, Muhammad Hafiz Nazar was released by a judge. He had been recently arrested under suspicious circumstances—some observers suggesting that his detention was an attempt to divert attention from the case by hinting that Bhatti’s murder was somehow connected to “internal squabbles” in the Christian community.

Backed by the Interior Ministry, Islamabad Inspector General Police Bin Yameen insists that Bhatti’s murder leads to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. For him, Ilyas Kashmiri and his 3131 Brigade are to blame.

Kashmiri carried out various attacks against sensitive sites in the country, and may have died several weeks ago during a US drone attack.

“We have reasons to believe that the group carried out the operation” that led to the death of the Catholic minister, Nazar said.

Meanwhile, the federal government has announced its intention to abolish the Minority Affairs Ministry as part of a decentralisation plan that would see powers in this area transferred to the provinces.

For federal government leaders, this is an “historic step” to empower provinces. However, for many, it is also symptomatic of the climate of indifference and loss of control now prevailing in Pakistan, where Christians continue to die for the most futile and trivial motives.

The latest example dates to 21 June, when a Christian municipal sanitation worker in Lahore was stabbed to death by a Muslim merchant.

Muhammad Ilyas savagely attacked Abas Masih, a 40-year-old father of four, because the latter did not immediately heed his demand to clean the area outside his shop.

Initially, city authorities tried to prevent charges from being filed; however, pressured by local residents, police opened a first information report and arrested Muhammad Ilyas.

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

Thailand: Car Blown Sky High as Bomb Disposal Officer Investigates in Narathiwat

This incredible sequence of pictures captures the moment a car bomb exploded this morning in Thailand’s southern province of Narathiwat.

The images show a member of a Thai bomb squad standing to the left of the car as it is blown apart in the blast.

The man was hurt in the blast although the extent of his injuries is unknown.

The bomb is believed to have been planted by separatist militants behind the uprising by the Malaysian border, in the south of the country.

Critics accuse the government of failing to address the grievances of Thailand’s Malay Muslim minority, including alleged abuses by the military and a perceived lack of respect for their ethnic identity, language and religion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Osama a ‘Folk Hero’ And ‘Resistance Fighter’ To Some Supporters in Sydney

FOR most of the world he was a symbol of death and evil — a mad man who was dedicated to killing innocents.

But, for some Muslims, dead arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden is a “folk hero” similar to Australia’s Ned Kelly.

Hardline Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia’s spokesman, Uthman Badar, said the group rejected democracy, seeking to establish a trans-national Islamic caliphate state, and viewed bin Laden as a “resistance fighter” with huge sympathy among Muslims.

“The type of figure Muslims see Osama bin Laden as is similar to Ned Kelly,” Mr Badar told The Sunday Telegraph.

“The person does things that would otherwise be viewed as crimes, but he is seen as a folk hero.

“Most Muslims accept him as someone who fought a resistance … the real terrorists are the Western governments. When we say the Western governments are terrorists we include the Australian Government in that.”

It was a view echoed at Auburn’s Bukhari House Islamic Bookstore, where Wassim Fayad, a volunteer working at the shop, all but praised the dead terrorist.

“For the sake of Allah, our brother died a martyr,” Mr Fayad said.

“He was a soldier of God. He did not fight for the sake of his government or for another human being.

“Quote me on this: if he died, he died a martyr and he is now in paradise.”

The Bukhari bookshop has drawn attention from authorities before, when it was recently revealed the radical Islamic cleric Sheik Feiz Mohammed — who has previously urged children to die for their religion — was conducting sermons for youths at the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah centre, which operates out of one of the bookshop’s back rooms.

“No comment regarding Osama bin Laden, but it is sad for anyone to die in the Muslim world,” a spokesman said.

In contrast to those supporting bin Laden, influential Sydney imam Abdul Salam Mohammed Zoud did not speak of bin Laden during his half-hour sermon at Belmore mosque at noon on Friday.

According to an independent translator, he told a congregation of 150 people — mainly men and children — to keep the faith alive at a time when enemies were trying to undermine Islam.

Many Muslims also revelled in the chance to publicly reject bin Laden. At a Lebanese bakery, Australian-born Ahmed Ajaj said of bin Laden: “Nowhere in Islam is what he did acceptable,” but he added his crimes “did not compare” to those of the US and UK.

For Sam Zaky, who came to Australia from Iraq two and a half years ago, the death of bin Laden was welcome news.

He knew first hand just what bin Laden stood for, having seen friends killed by al-Qaeda car bombs while they walked to university in Baghdad.

“I know many who were killed for nothing,” he said.

He said he was disturbed by the number of “ignorant” Australians who had come into the shop he works in and declared bin Laden their “hero.”

The first person charged under Australia’s terror laws, taxi driver Jack Thomas, said he was pleased the man he once met in the hills of Afghanistan was dead.

In March 2001, five months before the September 11 attacks on the US, Mr Thomas shook bin Laden’s hand. But the man dubbed “Jihad Jack” said he knew young and impressionable people in Australia who were being bred into extremism.

“No doubt there are angry young Muslim men in Australia that have been misled by Osama bin Laden,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

African Union Will Not Act on Gaddafi Arrest Warrant

(AGI) Malabo- African countries will not act on the arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi issued by the International Criminal Court. The African Union made the announcement at the close of the summit in Equatorial Guinea. The final document states that African leaders believe the warrant “seriously complicates” efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis.

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

Audio: Violence Surges After Muslim President Takes Reins

Fighting in Ivory Coast follows forced transition of power

Reports are surfacing that the violence that erupted while recently installed Ivory Coast President Alessane Ouattara was trying to take control of government following a disputed election is worsening, with claims of Ivorians who are loyal to ousted president Laurent Gbagbo being murdered.

This time the reports have an added detail: The executions and house burnings are being done under the knowledge and possible consent of Ouattara, according to reports.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


‘Corrosion of the Freedom to Travel’: Denmark to Reintroduce Border Controls on Tuesday

The Danish parliament in Copenhagen moved on Friday to reintroduce limited border controls in the country by deploying additional customs agents starting Tuesday. In Germany and Brussels, politicians believe the country could be violating the terms of the Schengen Agreement on passport-free European travel.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Reviews Denmark’s Border Control Plan

The European Commission said Friday it was reviewing whether controversial customs controls sought by Denmark respect rules governing Europe’s border-free Schengen travel area.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nigeria: FG to Open Consulates in California, Others Soon

As parts of its efforts to make immigration matters easier for Nigerians living in some remote parts of the United States, the federal government has concluded the arrangement to begin the operation of a Consulate-General in California.

Also, the government of Nigeria is considering the opening of Consulate offices in Chicago, North Carolina and some other places, according to Professor Adebowale Adefuye, the Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States.

Making this known recently during a function jointly organised by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Continental Africa Chambers of Commerce,

Ambassador Ade Adefuye noted that he had been able to discuss the idea of opening a Consulate-General in St. Francisco with President Goodluck Jonathan during his last visit to the United Nations.

He added that the President assured him that everything would be put in place to begin the operation very soon, noting that it will be very easy and fast since Nigeria already has its own building in the area.

Professor Adefuye further said that Nigeria was thankful to the US government for the assistance it rendered to the country during the last historic elections, adding that the help from the America enabled President Jonathan to fulfill the promise he earlier made to President Barrack Obama to conduct credible elections in 2011…

           — Hat tip: RE[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Germany: Greens Call for Action on ‘Toxic’ Dildos

The environmentalist Greens have a new worry for the German people on top of nuclear power and GM food: the toxic dangers inherent in dildos, vibrators, butt plugs and other sex toys.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

LA USD Declares Homework Racist, Classist

How to deal with the rude K-12 achievement gap in Los Angeles? District officials have a new solution that should be pretty popular all-around. Based on the theory that homework is more likely to be completed by kids with a secure home life and involved parents — aka, the white middle class — LAUSD is forcing teachers to cap homework at 10 percent of a student’s grade, beginning next month. “The policy is intended to account for the myriad urban problems facing the district’s mostly low-income, minority population,” writes the Los Angeles Times today.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Safer Sex: Greens Warn Against Dangerous Dildos

Germany’s Green Party is worried about the health risks of sex toys. Dildos and vibrators contain dangerously high levels of phthalates and other plasticizers, which can cause infertility and hormone imbalances, they claim. Now the party wants the government to take action to protect the 20 percent of Germans who use sex toys.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Mind-Reading Scientists Predict What a Person is Going to Do Before They Do it

It has long been a dream of both scientists and law enforcement officials alike.

Researchers monitoring brain activity can now determine what action a person is planning before he carries it out.

Although it is currently only possible to know what someone is going to do just moments before it happens, the implications of the breakthrough are huge.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Swedish Ships Take Up Arms to Combat Pirates

Swedish commercial shipping firm Wallenius has employed armed security staff to police its fleet to help combat the risk posed by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]