Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110706

Financial Crisis
»Britain Should Start Spying on Eurozone Neighbours, Former MI6 Chief Says
»Fear of Junk Status: Europe Seeks to Free Itself From Rating Agencies’ Grip
»France:45% Will Not Go on Holiday This Year
»Greece: Industrialists Criticise Govt Again
»Greece: Attacks on Politicians Increasing
»Greece Blasts ‘Madness’ of Ratings Agencies
»Italy Must ‘Cut Spending to Avoid Crisis’
»Legal Challenge to Greece Aid: German Court Likely to Rule ‘Yes, But’ On Euro Bailout
»Letting Greece Into Euro Zone Was “A Mistake”
»Portugal Debt Given Junk Status Amid ‘Formidable Challenges’
»Portuguese Borrowing Rate Shoots Up on Debt Downgrade
»Portugal Reels After Moody’s Junk Rating
»Spain Hopes Banks Will Need ‘A Lot Less’ Than 15 Bn Euros
»Spain Has Nearly 700,000 Unsold New Homes: Government
»Spanish Activists Vent Their Anger by Blocking Evictions
»America’s Biggest Teacher and Principal Cheating Scandal Unfolds in Atlanta
»Chief Calls Looting, Beatings in Riverwest Barbaric
»Fort Hood Shooting Suspect to Face Death Penalty
»Man With Mich. Ties on FBI Most Wanted Terrorists List
»National Labs Investigate Cyberattack
»Hindu Group Criticizes Toronto School’s Muslim Prayer Sessions
»William and Kate Visit Canada’s Far North
Europe and the EU
»Afghan Couple Convicted of Honor Killing in Sweden
»Belgium: Controversial Mosque Gets Go Ahead
»Belgium: Antwerp Diamond Industry Ties Up With China
»Danes Deploy Increased Border Controls
»Denmark: Nine Arrested in Latest Gang War Shoot-Up
»EU: Brussels Proposes 40% Rise in Neighbourhood Funding
»Greece: Taxi Drivers to Strike Over Liberalization
»Italy: Berlusconi Wins Early Battle in Sex Case
»Italy: Berlusconi Pledges to Remove Damages Clause
»Muslims Get Rough Ride in Swiss Media: Study
»Netherlands: PVV Europarliamentarian Accused of Racism
»Netherlands: Smoking Ban Death Blow for Water Pipe Bars
»‘Other Nations Will Follow Denmark’s Example’
»Paris: Hangar-Mosque to Avoid Praying on the Street
»Spain Aims to Welcome One Million Chinese Tourists in 2020
»Sweden: Chinese Should be Taught in Schools: Minister
»Top Israeli Politician Met Far-Right Millionaire Businessman in Berlin
»UK: Muslim Family Making Mecca Pilgrimage Hauled Off Flight by Armed Police After Relative Told Airline They Were Suicide Bombers
»UN Harshly Criticizes German Social Policies
»UN Says Germany Failing to Tackle Social Inequalites
»Serbia: Accused Killer of Muslims, Croats Calls for ‘Annual Vacation’
North Africa
»Algeria: Rai King Commemorates Anti-French Resistance
Israel and the Palestinians
»Ancient Israeli House Surprises Archaeologists
»Defense: Israeli Ministers Divided Over Exports to Turkey
»Israeli Ministers Divided Over Exports to Turkey
Middle East
»Iran: Mystery Shrouds Fate of Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death for Apostasy
»Pipeline Attack Prompts Jordan to Diversify Energy Resources
»Saudi Lifts Ban on Jordanian Farmers
»Syria’s Minorities Fear Chaos That Regime Change Could Bring
»Transport: Turkey’s Air Carrier Flies to 26 Cities in Mideast
»23 Million Live Below Poverty Line
»African Student ‘In Coma’ After Russia Attack
»Putin Calls for Science Projects to Rival Europe
South Asia
»Bin Laden’s Family Not Allowed to Leave Pakistan
»India’s Supreme Court Orders Kerala Temple Treasure be Documented
Far East
»Chinese Media Attack WTO Ruling Against China
»The Man Leading the Fight Against Anti-Girl Abortions
Australia — Pacific
»Sheik Feiz Mohammed Denounced
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Southern Sudan Prepares for Independence
»Amid EU’s Open Borders, Workers Stay Put
»Boat Catches Fire in Red Sea, 197 Die
»Dozens Arrested Across Italy for Human Trafficking
»Libya: 688:000 Refugees Have Reached Tunisia Since February
»Libya: Tunisia: Concern About Flow of Refugees to Djerba
»Poland Warns Against Deporting Its Workers
Culture Wars
»Indian Gay Rights Activists Slam Health Minister
»Utrecht Gay Bashers Not Prosecuted
»Developing World Need $1 Trillion a Year for Green Tech: UN
»Hubble Telescope Takes Millionth Look at the Universe
»New Physics Finding May Lead to Non-Electronic Gadgets, Scientists Say
»Private Guards Outnumber Police Worldwide: Survey
»Storm as Wide as Earth Rages on Saturn

Financial Crisis

Britain Should Start Spying on Eurozone Neighbours, Former MI6 Chief Says

Sir Richard Dearlove, Britain’s former chief spymaster has said the country should start spying on its Eurozone neighbours to protect the economy as the common currency is wracked by national defaults.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fear of Junk Status: Europe Seeks to Free Itself From Rating Agencies’ Grip

The “Big Three” credit rating agencies can determine the fate of entire countries, by deciding whether they are creditworthy or not. Now Portugal is under pressure after Moody’s downgraded its debt to junk status. European politicians want to create an alternative, even though they helped give so much power to the agencies in the first place. Strange as it may seem, there are still credit rating agencies that give cash-strapped Greece top marks. The experts at Germany’s Euler Hermes Rating currently give the Mediterranean country their top AA rating, citing its “very strong business environment.” And there is little doubt that Euler Hermes can be trusted. It is the first rating agency that officially meets the tougher European regulations for the industry that were introduced at the end of 2010.

There is only one problem: Their good rating for Greece is not related to the creditworthiness of the state, but to that of Greek companies. When it comes to rating sovereign bonds, that is still done almost exclusively by the three major US-based rating agencies — Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch — who are collectively known as the Big Three. That is something that European politicians have long wanted to change, and there have been repeated calls to set up an independent European rating agency. Now the European Union is working on its proposal for what such an agency could look like.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France:45% Will Not Go on Holiday This Year

ALMOST half of French people will not be going on holiday this summer, a new poll has revealed. The France Info and 20 Minutes survey found a lack of money and the need to save instead of spend were the main reasons why 45% of people will stay at home this year. Some 17% of people who would normally take a summer holiday have decided not to do so, and another 28% who did not go away last year will do the same this summer. Of those staying at home, the majority said personal reasons preventing them going on holiday. Some 45% said they could not afford it and 40% said they preferred to save their money for other things.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Industrialists Criticise Govt Again

Despite the recent, double approval of fresh austerity measures by the Greek parliament, Greek industrialists have once again criticised the government for the controversial and painful economic measures. “Once more the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) urges the government to change its policy since — as has been seen — the measures brought in do not achieve the desired results. To the contrary, they lead the country towards a deeper recession, the market to stagnation and society to desperation,” said EBEA chairman Constantinos Michalos in the presentation of the bi-monthly survey carried out by the Alco company on EBEA’s behalf.

The survey on May-June 2011 shows that the percentage of Greeks who feel that the economic policy followed by the government is wrong has reached 81% from 77% in the two previous months, while 7 out of every 10 citizens say they are pessimistic over the economic trend in the country as well as over their own personal economic situation. Moreover, 66% of respondents said that the Medium-Term Economic Programme will lead the country to a deeper recession, while the same percentage said that the recent government reshuffle would not improve the government’s actions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Attacks on Politicians Increasing

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 6 — Cases of citizens attacking and insulting politicians are rising by the day in Greece, especially against parliamentarians from Pasok, the socialist party in the government “guilty” of having voted in favour of the Medium-Term Economic Programme launched by the government in collaboration with the country’s creditors. There are already over 80 politicians who have suffered attacks by indignant citizens, while confrontational tones are growing harsher between Pasok and the small left-wing party Syriza over the issue.

Pasok continues to accuse Syriza and its president, Alexis Tsipras, of instigating violence against its parliamentarians, while Tsipras accuses the government of wanting to exploit the issue to downplay the importance of the violence used by police against demonstrators during last week’s 48-hour strike. “We know that since the State started collaborating with the state-controlled organisations, anything is possible. We have told our members to be ready for possible provocation against Syriza,” Tsipras said.

Today the issue will be among those to be dealt with by the Council of Ministers meeting called by George Papandreou.

Newspapers say that the prime minister will make an appeal to all parties in parliament to take on responsibility and will urge politicians to avoid statements which could further stir up citizens’ indignation. Papandreou will also address citizens and urge them to stop attacking politicians from all parties.

Meanwhile, security measures have been stepped up around Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis’s residence after the latter received threats against his family members.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece Blasts ‘Madness’ of Ratings Agencies

Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambridinis attacked on Wednesday what he termed the “madness” of ratings agencies in the European debt crisis, saying they exacerbated an already difficult situation. He told a conference in Berlin that the decision by Moody’s agency late on Tuesday to downgrade Portuguese debt to speculative status was not based on any failure to implement economic reforms. The downgrading reflected rather “the assumption that Portugal would need a second bailout.” Lambridinis said that this had “the wonderful madness of self-fulfilling prophecy” by aggravating Portugal’s fiscal straits. He accused market players of undermining his own debt-saddled country by betting on a default. “Unfortunately a lot of people in these ‘rational’ markets have invested billions of euros in (a) Greek collapse,” he said. “That part of the market is more interested in seeing us fighting each other … and hoping that in the end they would make the money that we are losing.” Lambridinis lamented the deterioration in relations between Greece and Germany, the biggest national contributor to the rescue package for Athens, and reminded Germany that it had a vested interest in the strength of the eurozone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy Must ‘Cut Spending to Avoid Crisis’

Country ‘risks fate of Greece’, says Confindustria

(ANSA) — Rome, July 6 — Italy must cut public spending in order to avoid an economic crisis, said the president of Italy’s industrial employers association Confindustria Wednesday.

“Our country has to cut spending or risk becoming like Greece,” said Emma Marcegaglia. “No one likes to make cuts, but we must”.

Her comments come after the cabinet last week approved an austerity package designed to eliminate Italy’s budget deficit by 2014 by generating 47 billion euros in savings to stop the country getting sucked into the Greek debt crisis.

Key measures include cuts to funding for ministries and local authorities, tax increases on bank trading activities and on high consumption cars, a freeze on civil-servant pay and a new levy on stock-market transactions.

Italy’s fiscal system will be simplified too, with three tax bands of 20%, 30% and 40% set to replace the current five-band system by 2014.

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.

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.

The cabinet-approved austerity package must now go through parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Legal Challenge to Greece Aid: German Court Likely to Rule ‘Yes, But’ On Euro Bailout

Did the German government act lawfully by committing billions of euros to the bailout of Greece? The answer of the Federal Constitutional Court, which began hearing the case on Tuesday, will probably be ‘Yes, but.’ The judges are likely to grant parliament greater power in decision-making and perhaps even set an upper ceiling on any future rescue package. The future of the euro is in the hands of the justices of the German Federal Constitutional Court, if the two sides of a legal battle over last year’s bailout of Greece and establishment of a euro rescue fund are to believed.

Germany’s highest court, based in the southwestern city of Karlruhe, began its deliberations on Tuesday with a public hearing on the legality of Germany’s contribution to the bailout. A prominent Bavarian conservative politician, Peter Gauweiler, and a group of professors have mounted a legal challenge against Berlin’s actions last year to help save the single currency. They accuse the German government of breaching both the constitution and European law. They believe the aid paid for Greece and the contribution to the European Union’s euro rescue fund was in breach of EU law, which stipulates that member states must not assume each other’s debts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Letting Greece Into Euro Zone Was “A Mistake”

With the benefit of hindsight, the decision to admit Greece into the euro zone was an error, Austria’s chancellor at the time tells Wolfgang Schüssel also says Austria’s decision to join the European Union in 1995 “made perfect sense”, although he hedges his bets when asked whether Switzerland should do the same.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Portugal Debt Given Junk Status Amid ‘Formidable Challenges’

Credit rating agency Moody’s on Tuesday (5 July) downgraded Portugal’s debt rating to junk status, a move hinting at market expectations that a second bailout may be needed as in Greece. The euro slid from 1.4460 to 1.4420 against the US dollar after Moody’s downgrade by four notches to Ba2 status, meaning that pension funds are not allowed to hold Portuguese bonds any more. Citing concerns that Portugal will not be able to meet the “formidable challenges” in cutting its spending, the rating agency said there is a risk the country will need another lifeline by eurozone governments after the €78 billion agreed just in May this year.

The new Portuguese government retorted that the junk status does not reflect the effects of an extraordinary income tax agreed last week and the broad political support for austerity measures which are “the only way to reverse the course and restore confidence” in Portugal. Under the terms of a bailout by the EU-IMF bailout, Portugal must cut its budget deficit to 5.9 percent of GDP this year, from over 9 percent in 2010. Measures similar to the ones in Greece are envisaged: privatising state-owned banks, energy companies and the TAP Portugal airline and reducing a series of social benefits, such as compensation for fired workers. Moody’s also expressed concerns that private investors would be drawn into a second bailout for Portugal, as is the case with the second lifeline for Greece.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Portuguese Borrowing Rate Shoots Up on Debt Downgrade

The cost of borrowing for Portugal shot up on Wednesday shortly after rating agency Moody’s downgraded Portuguese debt to speculative status, warning the country might need a new rescue. The rate charged for lending money to Portugal for 10 years rose to 11.749 percent from 10.755 percent late on Tuesday before Moody’s made its statement downgrading the rating from “Baa1” to “Ba2”. The 10-year rate, or yield, on debt issued by Spain rose to 5.563 percent from 5.474 percent late on Tuesday, and on Italian debt to 5.083 percent from 4.993 percent. Both countries are considered to be potentially at risk owing to the state of their public finances and growth prospects, although unlike Greece, Ireland and Portugal, they are not being rescued.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Portugal Reels After Moody’s Junk Rating

Bailed-out Portugal paid an immediate price Wednesday for a drastic Moody’s rating downgrade to junk status, having to offer investors a much higher rate of return to raise fresh funding. Dropped four notches to Ba2, Lisbon found itself on the defensive in the markets as rattled investors demanded more for their money, with the new government’s tough austerity programme forgotten quickly in the crossfire. Portugal did manage to raise 848 million euros ($1.22 billion) for three months at a yield, or rate of return, of 4.926 percent, but this was up from the 4.863 paid at a similar sale on June 15. Worse still, the yield on its benchmark 10-year bond soared above 12 percent for the first time ever, and compared with 10.755 percent late Tuesday as the downgrade sparked fresh nerves about the whole eurozone debt crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain Hopes Banks Will Need ‘A Lot Less’ Than 15 Bn Euros

Spain hopes its savings banks will need “a lot less” than the maximum estimate of 15 billion euros ($21 billion) in new capital to put them on a sound footing, Finance Minister Elena Salgado said Wednesday. Madrid hoped the banks would require “in the area of half” of the top estimate of 15 billion euros to bolster their balance sheets by September in line with new capital requirement rules, she said in an interview with AFP. Spain’s lenders, especially regional savings banks that account for about half of all lending in the country, have been heavily exposed to bad debt since the collapse of the property sector at the end of 2008. The Bank of Spain has estimated the entire banking system requires no more than 15.15 billion euros to recapitalise.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain Has Nearly 700,000 Unsold New Homes: Government

Spain had nearly 700,000 new homes sitting unsold at the end of last year, with more than half clustered on the country’s overdeveloped coast, the government said Tuesday. With demand fuelled by low interest rates and easy credit, Spain built nearly 700,000 new homes each year during most of the previous decade — as much as Britain, France and Germany combined. But the global credit crunch and oversupply caused the property sector to collapse in 2008, plunging the Spanish economy into its worst recession in decades.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spanish Activists Vent Their Anger by Blocking Evictions

As Spain’s economic crisis continues to bite, more and more families are struggling to pay their mortgages. But campaigners for fairer housing regulations are preventing repossessions. When Anwar received notification in June that his home in Madrid was about to be repossessed because he had failed to keep up with mortgage payments, it looked like the end of this Lebanese man’s dreams of making a success of his life in Spain. “There came a moment when I had to decide between eating and paying,” Anwar said. “And I chose to eat.” But several weeks later, Anwar and his wife and daughter are still in the apartment, after dozens of activists gathered to help him on the day of the scheduled eviction and peacefully stopped court officials from entering the premises. This unemployed baker is likely to face a new eviction order in the near future, but for the time being he is staying put.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


America’s Biggest Teacher and Principal Cheating Scandal Unfolds in Atlanta

At least 178 teachers and principals in Atlanta Public Schools cheated to raise student scores on high-stakes standardized tests, according to a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Award-winning gains by Atlanta students were based on widespread cheating by 178 named teachers and principals, said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday. His office released a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that names 178 teachers and principals — 82 of whom confessed — in what’s likely the biggest cheating scandal in US history. This appears to be the largest of dozens of major cheating scandals, unearthed across the country. The allegations point an ongoing problem for US education, which has developed an ever-increasing dependence on standardized tests. The report on the Atlanta Public Schools, released Tuesday, indicates a “widespread” conspiracy by teachers, principals and administrators to fix answers on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), punish whistle-blowers, and hide improprieties.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Chief Calls Looting, Beatings in Riverwest Barbaric

Shaina Perry remembers the punch to her face, blood streaming from a cut over her eye, her backpack with her asthma inhaler, debit card and cellphone stolen, and then the laughter. “They just said ‘Oh, white girl bleeds a lot,’“ said Perry, 22, who was attacked at Kilbourn Reservoir Park over the Fourth of July weekend. Though Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn noted Tuesday that crime is colorblind, he called the Sunday night looting of a convenience store near the park and beatings of a group of people who had gone to the park disturbing, outrageous and barbaric. Police would not go quite as far as others in connecting the events; Flynn said several youths “might” be involved in both. “We’re not going to let any group of individuals terrorize or bully any of our neighborhoods,” Flynn said. Perry was among several who were injured by a mob they said beat and robbed them and threw full beer bottles while making racial taunts. The injured people were white; the attackers were African-American, witnesses said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fort Hood Shooting Suspect to Face Death Penalty

The Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly Fort Hood rampage will be tried in a military court and possibly face the death penalty. Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged in the November 2009 shooting spree at the Texas Army post. (July 6)

           — Hat tip: J-P D[Return to headlines]

Man With Mich. Ties on FBI Most Wanted Terrorists List

Search Under Way For Faouzi Ayoub

DETROIT — Federal documents that were unsealed earlier this month reveal a 44-year-old man with ties to Dearborn, Mich., is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list.

According to the indictment obtained by Local 4, Lebanese-born Faouzi Ayoub is accused of trying to use a fake passport on Oct. 8, 2000, to enter Israel for “the purpose of bombing on behalf of the designated terrorist organization Hezbollah.” He used the alias Frank Mariana Boschi.

He is charged with passport fraud in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

The indictment against Ayoub was originally signed and sealed on Aug. 5, 2009.

His profile is listed on the FBI’s website.

The FBI said said Ayoub has been known to use 10 different aliases, speaks Arabic and English and is considered armed and dangerous.

“People need to keep their eyes around and out for him. He did passport fraud, that’s the charge against him,” said Detroit Special Agent Sandra Berchtold. “Anybody that would use a United States passport to illegally enter a country is very concerning to us.”

           — Hat tip: RE[Return to headlines]

National Labs Investigate Cyberattack

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — Officials at a nuclear research lab in Richland, Wash., are investigating what they are calling a sophisticated cyberattack that forced them to shut down computer network services for several days.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was targeted, along with the Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory in Newport News, Va., and Battelle Memorial Institute, which operates the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Battelle spokeswoman Katy Delaney says no critical data was lost. She said company officials shut down their Internet connections as a protective measure against the attack Friday afternoon. Normal operations resumed by Tuesday morning.

Representatives at the two laboratories said they hoped to return to normal operations by the end of the week.

Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory spokeswoman Debbie Magaldi says the lab does not conduct classified research, and there was no sign that anything was compromised.

[Return to headlines]


Hindu Group Criticizes Toronto School’s Muslim Prayer Sessions

A Hindu group that regularly criticizes Islam is going after a Toronto school for holding prayer sessions for Muslim students on Friday afternoons, arguing that it violates principles of secularism in the public school system. For about three years, Valley Park Middle School on Overlea Boulevard in Flemingdon Park has held the services in its cafeteria after non-Muslim students are finished lunch. An imam from a nearby mosque leads the sessions, which last 30 to 40 minutes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

William and Kate Visit Canada’s Far North

Prince William and new bride Catherine landed in Canada’s far north Tuesday to meet aboriginal groups who still refer affectionately to his ancestor Queen Victoria as “grandmother.” Under drizzle and overcast skies in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, the indigenous Dene people prepared to greet Britain’s royal couple with dancing and singing to the beat of caribou skin drums. After the performance, honoring both aboriginal and Christian prayers, William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, were to be treated to an afternoon of Arctic sports and lessons in tribal governing by consensus.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Afghan Couple Convicted of Honor Killing in Sweden

An Afghan couple was found guilty on Tuesday of a grisly “honor killing” for which their son had already served four years in prison.

A Swedish appeals court sentenced Raoof Ataei, 47, and Leyla Ataei, 45, to 10 years each in prison for the 2005 murder of their daughter’s boyfriend, who was doused with boiling oil, beaten with a baseball bat and stabbed repeatedly.

After serving their sentences they will be expelled from Sweden, where they have been living since the early 2000s.

Honor killings are relatively rare in Sweden, but a handful of cases involving immigrants in the past decade have stirred a debate about how to protect young women seen at risk of such violence.

The case playing out in the Gota Appeals Court was unusual in that context because the victim was a man, 20-year-old Abbas Rezai, also from Afghanistan.

The girl’s brother, Abdulmajid Ataei, now 23, confessed to the murder in a previous trial. But he changed his story after his release, saying he had taken the blame to protect his parents, who didn’t approve of their daughter’s relationship with Rezai.

Suspicions that the parents were involved in the killing had emerged already in the first trial, but could not be proven.

After hearing the son’s testimony, the Gota Appeals Court ruled that the parents carried out the murder and that their son assisted them.

The son’s sentence already served was reduced from four years to one year and four months. In addition, the appeals court canceled his deportation order.

The court labeled the murder an “honor killing,” motivated by “a relationship that the girl’s parents strongly opposed based on their values and cultural background.”

The son testified that his parents were very upset that his sister had run away with her boyfriend. He said they lured Rezai to their home in Hogsby, in southern Sweden, where the mother cooked up a pot of oil that she poured over Rezai. Her husband then battered him and stabbed him multiple times with a knife.

The parents denied the charges, insisting it was their son who killed Rezai during a fight.

The appeals court said their stories were inconsistent and didn’t match the technical evidence from the scene.

Their son acknowledged that he had fetched the knife when his father ordered him to so, but claims he didn’t participate in the stabbing.

Honor killings are committed regularly in some traditional Middle Eastern societies that enforce strict separation between the sexes and view an unmarried woman’s unsupervised contact with a man, even by telephone, as a stain on the family’s reputation.

The son’s lawyer, Helena Karlsson, said her client was relieved. “He obviously feels it is very positive that the appeals court has listened to the story about his situation, not only regarding this specific event but also generally,” she said, adding her client fears for his life.

“Naturally, this has been an incredibly difficult time for him,” she said. It wasn’t immediately clear if the parents would appeal the sentence.

Ann Kristin Bladh, deputy chair of an organization working against honor-related crimes in Sweden, said there is a growing problem. “We are contacted daily, primarily by young girls, but also by young men, who live very limited lives,” Bladh told local news agency TT.

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

Belgium: Controversial Mosque Gets Go Ahead

The construction of a controversial mosque in the Antwerp town of Lier edged a little closer on Monday. The Planning and Heritage Department of Antwerp province has now approved plans for the building of a mosque cum cultural centre. Earlier the Lier town authorities also gave the project the green light. Plans to build the mosque in the Donk neighbourhood are controversial and attracted 53 formal complaints. The town authorities threw out an earlier application saying that the proposed project was too large scale. Later a second application was approved. With the go ahead from the Planning and Heritage Department in Antwerp no further obstacles should prevent Lier from issuing the required building permit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Antwerp Diamond Industry Ties Up With China

The Antwerp diamond industry, world capital of the gem, on Monday announced an investment deal with leading Chinese bank ICBC. The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) in a statement announced the deal with ICBC, which could act as an intermediary to provide finance for diamond transactions in Antwerp. “It is the first time a Chinese bank entirely commits and decides to finance the diamond sector through Antwerp,” said AWDC chief executive Ari Epstein. “The diamond is a special investment product and has a distinct function that other investment products cannot replace,” ICBC’s Jiang Jianqing said.

“We firmly believe that the Belgian economy through the diamond industry will play a predominant role in ending the financial crisis,” he added. The AWDC is planning to organise from October 24 a 10-day roadshow in China to promote Antwerp to the country’s top jewellers. Around 80 percent of the trade in uncut diamonds and half of world trade in cut stones transits through the northern Belgian town, which is facing increasing competition, including from India. ICBC — Industrial and Commercial Bank of China — is the world’s largest bank by market value.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Danes Deploy Increased Border Controls

The European Commission said it would closely monitor the deployment to ensure it did not violate the European Union’s open border rules. The move followed parliamentary approval last week despite concerns voiced by Brussels and Berlin. “Fifty extra officers have already been deployed at certain borders and will be carrying out random checks,” Customs spokesman Finn Serup told AFP.

He stressed though that “they will not be stopping all vehicles. That is not the idea. We are talking about random checks.” The Danish government has defended the move, saying random border checks are in line with the Schengen passport-free travel area and that the aim is to combat the smuggling of illegal goods and drugs, not control travellers. “The commission will strictly monitor the implementation of this first phase to ensure that European law is fully respected,” Michele Cercone, the home affairs spokesman for the European Union’s executive arm, told a news briefing in Brussels. Thirty customs officers had been sent to the Danish-German border at Froeslev, 10 to the Oresund Bridge that links Denmark to Sweden and 10 to the Gedser ferry terminal which services Rostock in Germany, Serup said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Nine Arrested in Latest Gang War Shoot-Up

Police find getaway car in flames and suspects burning clothes

This morning police found the getaway car used in a shooting and stabbing incident that took place in a bakery in the Nørrebro district yesterday. Nine young men have been arrested in connection with the attack. The 26-year-old male victim was shot three times in the buttocks, thigh and ankle and was also stabbed in the chest. He survived the attack and is in stable condition at a local hospital.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU: Brussels Proposes 40% Rise in Neighbourhood Funding

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JULY 6 — The European Commission proposed a total of 16.1 billion euros for the future European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), for the next financial framework 2014-2020. According to the Enpi website (, if adopted, the new funding for the neighbourhood policy would represent a rise of more than 40%, compared to the 11.4 billion euros under the current European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which covers the current financial period 2007-2013.

“The Commission — said the Eu commissioner Stefan Fule — has proposed today to increase the funding for European Neighbourhood Policy by 4.7 billion euros for the next financial perspective. I am convinced that the EU’s support to our partners in the South and the East is essential to ensure the success of the democratisation process and improve economic and social development. The significant increase reflects our commitment to our neighbourhood and its growing importance for the EU”.

The future European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) would continue to provide the bulk of funding to the European Neighbourhood countries, essentially through bilateral, regional and cross border co-operation programmes. The new instrument would be increasingly policy-driven and provide for increased differentiation, more flexibility, stricter conditionality and incentives for best performers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Taxi Drivers to Strike Over Liberalization

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 6 — There will be no taxis serving the capital and other major Greek cities on Wednesday as cabbies stage a 24-hour strike, as daily Kathimerini reports. Taxi drivers are protesting plans heralded by Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis to fully open up their profession to competition. Unionists claim that the 30,000 or so cabbies serving the country’s roads are more than adequate and that relaxing limits on accession to the sector would result in a glut of drivers and curb their income which is already down as a result of the economic crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Wins Early Battle in Sex Case

Constitutional Court agrees to look at jurisdiction

(ANSA) — Rome, July 6 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi won an early battle in his defence against charges he had sex with an underage prostitute on Wednesday, when Italy’s Constitutional Court said it would examine where jurisdiction for the case lies.

The premier denies paying for intercourse with Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer also known as Ruby, before she turned 18.

He has described this and accusations he abused his power when intervening last year after Mahroug was detained on an unrelated theft charge as “absurd”.

Berlusconi’s defence team have argued that, if the case should have been heard at all, it should have gone to a special court for ministers instead of the Milan court where the trial is currently taking place.

They said Berlusconi was carrying out his official duties when he telephoned a police station in May 2010 to ask about Mahroug, before she was released into the care of an official of his People of Freedom (PdL) party.

Berlusconi has said he was trying to avoid a diplomatic incident as he had been falsely told Mahroug was a relative of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, argue the premier was trying to hush up the affair by calling and then sending an official, comparing the move to a “military attack”.

The Italian parliament, where Berlusconi’s centre-right government holds a slender majority, asked the Constititional Court to look into the matter.

The court is not expected to give a ruling for many months. The premier’s lawyers may now seek to have the trial in Milan suspended until that ruling arrives. The next hearing is scheduled to take place on July 18, when the court in Milan is expected to announce whether it has upheld any of 16 objections to proceedings presented by the defence.

Paying for prostitutes is not illegal in Italy but paying for sex with someone above the age of consent but not yet 18 is a crime and carries a jail term of up to three years.

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

Berlusconi says left-leaning prosecutors have trumped up the accusations and those in three separate corruption trials to oust him from power.

Mahroug has also denied ever having sex with Berlusconi and said money he gave her was a gift.

Prosecutors, however, say they have evidence showing the premier paid for intercourse with 33 alleged prostitutes after so-called ‘bunga bunga’ sex parties at his home near Milan, including Mahroug, who they say he slept with 13 times when she was 17 after she was allegedly recruited at a beauty contest at the age of 16.

Three other people have also been indicted in the case on suspicion of procuring young women for the premier’s alleged sex parties.

They are Berlusconi’s former dental hygienist, ex-showgirl and now Lombardy regional councillor Nicole Minetti, the PdL official who was sent to the police station for Mahroug last year; a veteran news anchor at one of Berlusconi’s TV channels and close personal friend of the premier’s, Emilio Fede; and a showbiz talent scout and self-styled ‘VIP impresario’, Lele Mora.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Pledges to Remove Damages Clause

PM criticises ‘shameful ballyhoo’

(ANSA) — Rome, July 5 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday pledged to withdraw a controversial article attached to the budget reform bill that would have excused his company from a 750-million-euro damages award.

Earlier on Tuesday a media conference with Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti and Northern League ministers including Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and Simplification Minister Roberto Calderoli, was cancelled amid growing oppposition to the legislative move which critics said would protect Berlusconi’s company, Fininvest.

In a statement released by Berlusconi’s office late in the day, the Premier promised to remove the article, which sources said had surprised and “deeply upset” League ministers.

“To clear up every possible argument I have given approval for this fair and proper regulation to be withdrawn,” Berlusconi said in Tuesday’s statement.

He said he hoped that workers who may face a similar situation to the workers of Fininvest did not suffer and that they should remember this “shameful ballyhoo”.

The legal move, which the media dubbed “Save Fininvest”, was criticised by Michele Vietti, vice-president of the Council of Magistrates (CSM), the judiciary’s self-governing body who said it violated the “principle of equality for all citizens before the law”.

Silvana Mura, from the centre-left Italy of Values Party (Idv) welcomed the announcement saying Berlusconi had been caught with “a mouse in his mouth”.

“The second thing is that this government is getting weaker and up until today a personal law (for Berlusconi) had never been withdrawn in such quick time,” she said.

During his 17 years in office, Berlusconi has frequently been accused of passing laws to suit his personal and professional requirements. With a personal fortune estimated to be around 6.5 billion euros he is one of Italy’s richest men.

Welfare Minister Maurizio Sacconi, from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, defended the 47-billion-euro financial reform package passed by cabinet last Thursday saying the latest criticism arose from a “particularly poisonous political climate”.

In August last year Justice Minister Angelino Alfano denied suggestions that the government was considering judicial reform to help the premier avoid paying the award to his long-time business rival Carlo De Benedetti for the early 1990s breakup of the Mondadori group.

Fininvest was ordered to pay De Benedetti’s holding company the damages in 2009 to compensate for bribing a judge in the takeover battle.

The article at the centre of the law would have frozen payments such as Fininvest’s payment until Italy’s highest appeal court, the Court of Cassation, has ruled on a final appeal.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Muslims Get Rough Ride in Swiss Media: Study

An unfavourable bias in the Swiss media has led to the creation of a negative, stigmatizing image of Muslims in Switzerland, a new study has found. Terror attacks in the news and the political influence of right-wing parties have also contributed to damaging the reputation of Muslim immigrants, who are often labelled as extremists. “During the last few years, there has been an oversimplification that presents Muslims as a danger to Switzerland,” said the authors of the study, carried out by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The newly published report analyzed coverage of Muslim issues by Swiss media through the years. The research found that, in public debate, followers of Islam are perceived as a “bloc” and as a “threat” to Switzerland, even if they have nothing to do with fundamentalism. Despite coming from different countries — such as Turkey, Macedonia and Morocco — and practising their religion in different ways, they are often considered part of the same ethnic group, it said. The study found Swiss media coverage was in general one-sided, especially during the 2009 national minaret ban vote and the ensuing debate, with opponents receiving more media attention than those who were in favour. Similarly, the conservative Swiss People’s Party, known for its controversial and often provocative stances, has contributed to creating a negative collective image of Muslim migrants, who are often referred to as “violent” or “ignorant,” the study said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: PVV Europarliamentarian Accused of Racism

A MP for the anti-Islam party PVV in the European parliament has been accused of being a racist during a debate on the Polish presidency of the EU in Strasbourg.

During the debate, Barry Madlener had said the Netherlands ‘does not want to pay for the upkeep of the Polish unemployed or Romanian beggars’.

German MEP Martin Schulz, who heads the Socialist alliance in the European parliament, said Madlener had used racist language.

European Commission chairman José Manuel Barroso has also said he had heard statements during the debate which ‘verged on racism’ but did not name Barry Medlener by name.

According to the Volkskrant, Madlener said he abhorred racism but was simply stating what had to be said. ‘I have been mugged twice by a Romanian,’ he said.

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

Netherlands: Smoking Ban Death Blow for Water Pipe Bars

The extension to smoking ban that came into force on July 1 is a major blow for the dozens of Arab-style water pipe bars that have sprung up in big cities such as Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. The proprietors of the so-called chicha bars had hoped to be spared from the new rules that ban smoking from all public bars. This is the case in a number of other European countries where smoking bans are in force. The owner of the Palmyr chicha bar in Central Brussels told the Brussels regional news site that “It’s like asking a restaurant to stop serving food.” “When we started up they assured us that the smoking ban wouldn’t come in until 2014. So we were very surprised when we heard that it would be brought in from 1 July 2011.” Around 40 Brussels chicha bars have sought legal advice to try and fight a solution. The ban on smoking could well also spell the end for chicha bars.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Other Nations Will Follow Denmark’s Example’

Denmark’s tightened border controls have rattled Europe. Some politicians say they not only shake the foundations of the European Union, but could also embolden right-wing populists in other countries. While some German commentators believe Copenhagen’s decision is only symbolic, many say it can’t be tolerated.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Sure, there have been protests from Germany and other countries. But none of the heads of state or government has put any serious pressure on the Danish prime minister, such as with threats of political sanctions … The European Commission has known what the Danes were planning for almost two months. Yet they have only reviewed, reviewed and reviewed.” “The Danish example will catch on because no one is standing resolutely in their way. That is a catastrophe for Europe — because the populist temptation to close borders against undesirables is rife in other countries as well. Those who don’t want this must act. It’s no excuse that the euro crisis is simultaneously taking up almost all of the continent’s political energy … Freedoms are just as important for the EU’s survival as the currency.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Paris: Hangar-Mosque to Avoid Praying on the Street

A large hangar on the outskirts of Paris could be turned into a place of worship for Muslims, with the city’s police keen to stop members of the community from praying on the streets. Police authorities have already identified a former barracks that could hold the large number of worshippers who meet every Friday in Rue Myrha and Rue Polonceau, in the multi-ethnic Goutte d’Or area in the north of the city. Prayers take place in the middle of the road because the nearby mosques are too small to deal with the numbers. The situation, which has been going on for some time, has led to traffic and public order problems, with some local residents on a war footing. The leader of the far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, has even drawn on the issue as part of her campaign for the 2012 Presidential elections. The government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, mindful of losing votes, has promised to resolve the issue.

Today’s Libération newspaper says that the police have found a huge hangar that could be turned into a makeshift mosque: a disused barracks near Porte des Poissonniers, between the road heading north out of Paris and the Périphérique, the city’s famous ring road. Yesterday, the Imam of the small mosque on Rue Myrha, Hamza Salah, visited the proposed new site. Moussa Diakité, the Imam of the mosque on Rue Polonceau, visited the hangar a few days ago. The building is owned by the Ministry of Defence and part of it is already occupied by an association that provides support for the homeless. The other part, some 1,500 square metres, is currently unused. The plan would see the area shared between North African Muslims from the Rue Myrha mosque with sub-Saharan Muslims from the Rue Polonceau. But in what conditions? And, above all, “who will pay?”, asks Daniel Vaillant, mayor of Paris’s 18th arrondissement, who says that a law passed in 1905 forbids the secular state from financing places of worship.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain Aims to Welcome One Million Chinese Tourists in 2020

Spain, Europe’s second-most visited country after France, aims to welcome one million Chinese tourists in 2020, the government said Tuesday. The country received 89,523 Chinese tourists in 2009, the last year for which figures are available, and Tourism Minister Miguel Sebastian said this figure should rise to 300,000 in 2012. To increase the number of visitors from China, Spain plans to ease visa requirements for Chinese nationals, encourage more direct flights between the two countries and open more tourist offices in the Asian giant, he added. The government also plans to publish guides about Spain in mandarin and encourage restuarants and hotels to offer foods and opening hours that are more suited to Chinese tastes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Chinese Should be Taught in Schools: Minister

Learning Chinese at any elementary school in the country could become reality for children in Sweden within the next decade, if education minister and Liberal Party head Jan Björklund gets his way. “Chinese will become more important, from an economic perspective, than French or Spanish,” he said to newspaper Dagens Industri. French, Spanish and German are today the languages commonly offered in all elementary and high school language classes. Björklund wants Sweden to be the first European country to introduce Chinese language classes in all schools, in a bid to strengthen the country’s competitiveness. “Not everyone in the business world speaks English. Highly qualified businesses are now leaving Europe and moving to China,” he points out to business newspaper Dagens Industri.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Top Israeli Politician Met Far-Right Millionaire Businessman in Berlin

BERLIN (JTA) — A top Israeli politician met with a far-right millionaire businessman in Berlin, during a weekend visit to the German capital. Ayoub Kara, deputy minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee, a Likud lawmaker in Israel’s Knesset, met with Patrick Brinkmann, a Swedish right-wing extremist who has supported neo-Nazi and right-wing populist parties in Europe, according to a report in the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot. Brinkmann, 44, who is pushing an anti-Islam agenda, has been reaching out to Israel in recent months, claiming to want to establish a broad-based, far-right movement “without anti-Semitism.” He reportedly met with Kara and other Israeli politicians while in Israel earlier this year. Over the weekend, Kara, representing Israel in Berlin’s annual Festival of Cultures, confirmed to Yediot Acharonot that he had met with Brinkmann. Noting that he also had met with other politicians, Kara said Brinkmann’s ties with neo-Nazis “do not interest me, it is an irrelevant issue.” Brinkmann, who visited Israel with European right-wing populist politicians in February, reportedly has been working to shed the image of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism associated with the far right in hopes of building a coalition against Islam together with Israeli rightists. Other European right-wing populists, including Dutch politician Geert Wilders, boast allies in Israeli. Wilders featured a member of Israel’s nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party at his Berlin appearance last fall. Recently, Brinkmann was forced to confront criticism of his outreach to Israel, coming from the populist camp. In an interview conducted during his Israel trip, Brinkmann told the German right-wing populist website, “,” that he had gone there “because we have common roots and common problems.” At a meeting of the Likud bloc he “was received with friendly applause,” he added. Brinkmann withdrew in March as head of the right-wing populist Pro-Deutschland Party after an openly gay politician — Alexander Schlesinger — ran for the party’s seat on a regional assembly. Brinkmann said at the time that he rejected “all forms of decadence, support for National Socialism and anti-Semitism” and lamented the failure to create “a common front of all Islam-critical forces.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Family Making Mecca Pilgrimage Hauled Off Flight by Armed Police After Relative Told Airline They Were Suicide Bombers

Two 999 calls said father and son had swallowed something which would explode mid-air

A Muslim family were pulled off a flight from Heathrow to Mecca by armed police after officers had been tipped off they were suicide bombers.

They were on their way to make the traditional Hajj pilgrimage which all devout Muslims are required to do once in their lifetime.

Two 999 calls were made that day by a distant member of the same family who warned that the father, mother and son were from Afghanistan, very religious and had links to Al Qaeda, a jury was told.

Furthermore, the caller Golan Azimi, 48, said the father and son had swallowed a liquid which would explode in mid-air.

Armed police then stopped the family in front of other passengers at the departure gate in November last year.

But officers quickly realised the information was false and the family was able to board the flight they intended to take, with 40 other pilgrims.

‘I thought if I did not report it and people died I would have it on my conscience for the rest of my life. I had to fulfil my obligations as a British citizen’Alison Morgan, prosecuting said two 999 calls were made on the morning of November 9 last year, naming the father and son, and saying they had swallowed something which would explode in mid air.

He told them they would be on an Egypt Air flight leaving from terminal three.

She said: ‘The defendant is related to the other family through marriage and the relationship has not always been without conflict and arguments.

‘In the calls he said the family were very religious people from Afghanistan and alleged they had contacts in Al Qaeda.’

Police traced the caller, Azimi, who admitted making two calls to tip off police, but said he genuinely believed information he had been given was ‘100% true’.

On Tuesday at Luton Crown Court a jury cleared Azimi, from Stratford, East London, of making a bomb hoax call.

‘Police took the information seriously and at face value and armed police stopped them at the departure gate in front of other passengers going on the pilgrimage.

‘But it quickly became apparent that the information was false. They were clearly not bombers and were allowed to rejoin the plane, but were very humiliated.’

Azimi, who pleaded not guilty, told the jury the information had been given to him by a man who had pledged him to secrecy.

‘He said there were liquids that you can put in your body and they are timed to blow up. I asked if he was trying to be funny, but he was very serious. Anyone who heard him would have believed him.

‘For two nights after that I could not sleep. I thought if I did not report it and people died I would have it on my conscience for the rest of my life. I had to fulfil my obligations as a British citizen.’

The jury of seven men and five women took less than an hour to return a unanimous not guilty verdict to the charge of communicating false information with intent.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UN Harshly Criticizes German Social Policies

United Nations report has ripped into Germany’s social policies, saying the nation’s poor and immigrants continue to suffer greatly. The report by the body’s committee responsible for economic, social and cultural rights, seen by Der Tagesspiegel newspaper, comes four years after a similar report which also slammed Germany. But the UN has expressed “deep concern” because many of its previous recommendations were never implemented, the newspaper reported on Wednesday. The report’s main criticism focuses on discrimination against immigrants and the glaring lack of a comprehensive programme to combat poverty. The report also alleges that one in four German children go without breakfast to school, and urges “concrete measures” so that poorer children can get proper meals. It said 13 percent of Germans live in poverty. As far as immigrants are concerned, the UN identified many injustices in the labour market as well as health and social services. Foreigners continue to see large obstacles to education and employment and asylum seekers are often denied adequate social services, it said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UN Says Germany Failing to Tackle Social Inequalites

A UN committee has sharply criticized Germany’s social and education systems, saying the country fails to provide equal opportunities for immigrants and women. It’s also not doing enough to help poor children and the elderly, the UN says. But the German government alleges the report isn’t based on facts. The German government on Wednesday rejected criticism by a United Nations body that it fails to provide adequate help for society’s most vulnerable and discriminates against immigrants.

A United Nations report obtained by Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel states that German authorities have no comprehensivce program to combat poverty and that elderly and disabled people often live in “degrading conditions.” One in four children in Germany go to school without eating breakfast, the report claims, demanding “concrete measures” to ensure that “children, particularly from poor familes, receive proper meals.” The 10-page preliminary report by UN experts also criticises a lack of equality in the German health and social systems. Immigrants, it claims, suffer major discrimination in their rights to education and employment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Accused Killer of Muslims, Croats Calls for ‘Annual Vacation’

The Hague, 6 July (AKI) — Serbian ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj on Wednesday rejected charges by the United Nations war crimes tribunal of contempt of court and demanded to be released for “annual vacation”.

Seselj, the leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, has been accused of crimes against Muslims and Croats allegedly committed by volunteers recruited by his party in 1991-1995 war that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

While the main trial is drawing to a close, Seselj was sentenced to 15 months in jail last year for contempt of court for revealing names of protected witnesses. Another contempt of court trial ended last month and the verdict was expected shortly.

He was indicted for a third time in May, but on Wednesday Seselj pleaded “non-guilty. He said the prosecution resorted to contempt of court charges because it had no case against him on war crimes charges.

Seselj surrendered to the tribunal voluntarily in February 2003 and has spent over eight years in detention. “I’m the greatest enemy of the Hague tribunal and the only indictee who managed to break up the tribunal,” Seselj said on Wednesday.

The prosecution ended its case in the main trial earlier this year and gave Seselj time to name his defense witnesses. But Seselj said he would not call witnesses because the prosecution has failed to prove charges against him.

Seselj said he was planning to provoke “another seven” contempt of court charges against him and demanded to be granted an “annual vacation”. Asked by the judge Burton Hall whether it meant he asked for temporary release, he said “yes”.

Seselj said he has spent eight years in detention and that all his rights had been violated. But he said he would not ask for state guarantees from “traitorous, pro-NATO regime in Belgrade” for his release.

According to the rules of the tribunal, indictees can’t be granted temporary release without guarantees from their home country.

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

North Africa

Algeria: Rai King Commemorates Anti-French Resistance

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 6 — Even decades later, the wounds inflicted on Algeria at the time of French colonialism and the draconian repression against those who fought for independence have not fully healed.

This is a historic dispute which rears its head time and time again because referring to the country which was borne of a battle with the French strengthens the unity of a nation whose divergences and differences stemming from culture, politics, religion and the social sphere of a country which ponders its fate on a daily basis, are quite obvious . Therefore, paying tribute to a “martyr” is another way to remember the past, looking ahead to what the future might hold.

As for “officiating” the ceremony, this is something that goes hand in hand with African music, and in this case it changes everything, because in Algeria music is often used as a vehicle for transmitting political messages. Khaled is globally considered to be the biggest symbol of Rai music, traditional Algerian music which, thanks to him, crossed the country’s borders, gathering popularity across the world.

His concerts are always, in a way, a sort of ritual and the show he performed in Oran with another famous singer, Blaoui El Houari, commemorated one of the heroes of modern-day Algeria, who gave his life to the cause of fighting colonial troops. His name was Ahmed Zabana and he was the first Algerian to be a part of the Resistance and to face the guillotine set up in Sekadji prison. That name, along with that of another prison, Barberousse, still has the power to shake Algerians to the core.

Zabana was killed in 1956, at the age of 30, having spent many years fighting the French. He was a brave man, but above all an extraordinary leader, who was able to spread the resistance to every part of the country, creating cells in many cities. Which is why he soon became a major target for French intelligence. The hunt for him came to an end in November of 1954, but only because, during a battle, he was wounded by two bullets. The rest of his story is similar to that of other Algerian rebels: prison, interrogations, perhaps torture, and a lighting trial which had him sentenced to death in less than a week. On June 19, 55 years ago, he faced his execution, according to Algerians today, smiling proudly. The day after his death, the mujahidin, as Algerians call their guerrilla warriors, scattered throughout the Oran region in a series of attacks which lead to the death of 47 mercenaries and the “execution” of two French soldiers. Khaled’s concert dedicated to Zabana was held in an Oran stadium brimming with people; the audience was almost entirely made up of youth, who had made the trip from all parts of the country . To listen to his music, of course, but to whom Khaled addressed a speech in honour of the “martyr”, to make today’s youth aware that History cannot be forgotten.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Ancient Israeli House Surprises Archaeologists

The remains of a house uncovered in the city of Haifa are the best-preserved yet from the Kingdom of Israel, dating back nearly three millennia. The site of the discovery was excavated about 40 years ago, but neglect had left the structure hidden until now. Layers of earth and garbage had piled up atop it, and off-road vehicles had plowed over the area, damaging the artifacts. When archaeologists recently re-exposed the area during a dig, they found the four-room home to be remarkably good shape ? the best-preserved house from the period of the Kingdom of Israel found so far, the researchers said today (July 6). The dig is in an area called Tel Shikmona.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Defense: Israeli Ministers Divided Over Exports to Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 6 — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is reportedly blocking the sale of Israeli-made defense products to Turkey despite recently intensified efforts to get the two countries to reconcile, as Today’s Zaman reports quoting The Jerusalem Post. The Israeli Defense Ministry is trying to re-launch the export of defense products to Turkey as part of an attempt to rescue once good ties the two countries enjoyed in the region for decades, but Lieberman, one of the most adamant opponents to Turkish-Israeli rapprochement, is blocking the sale. The Jerusalem Post claimed on Tuesday that Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are at odds over whether Israel should renew defense exports to Turkey, Israeli defense officials informed. The total estimated value of the current military contracts that Turkey has awarded to Israeli companies amounts to 1.8 billion USD. This figure comprises a significant amount of the two nations’ total annual trade volume of 2.6 billion USD. Turkey had cancelled dozens of military agreements, war games and military projects with Israel following a lethal Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara in May of last year; the ship was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza to breach an Israeli naval blockade. In May 2007, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan visited Israel, which was returned with a visit by Israeli President Shimon Peres in November of that year. After the two visits, Turkey awarded Israel 700 million USD in projects, involving tank modernization and the modernization of 48 warplanes and 300 helicopters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israeli Ministers Divided Over Exports to Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 6 — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is reportedly blocking the sale of Israeli-made defense products to Turkey despite recently intensified efforts to get the two countries to reconcile, as Today’s Zaman reports quoting The Jerusalem Post. The Israeli Defense Ministry is trying to re-launch the export of defense products to Turkey as part of an attempt to rescue once good ties the two countries enjoyed in the region for decades, but Lieberman, one of the most adamant opponents to Turkish-Israeli rapprochement, is blocking the sale. The Jerusalem Post claimed on Tuesday that Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are at odds over whether Israel should renew defense exports to Turkey, Israeli defense officials informed. The total estimated value of the current military contracts that Turkey has awarded to Israeli companies amounts to 1.8 billion USD. This figure comprises a significant amount of the two nations’ total annual trade volume of 2.6 billion USD. Turkey had cancelled dozens of military agreements, war games and military projects with Israel following a lethal Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara in May of last year; the ship was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza to breach an Israeli naval blockade. In May 2007, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan visited Israel, which was returned with a visit by Israeli President Shimon Peres in November of that year.

After the two visits, Turkey awarded Israel 700 million USD in projects, involving tank modernization and the modernization of 48 warplanes and 300 helicopters.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Mystery Shrouds Fate of Iranian Pastor Sentenced to Death for Apostasy

The Supreme Court had overturned the decision on the condition of the evangelical leader return to Islam. The sentence for apostasy, not covered by the Code of laws of Iran of political origin.

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Mystery shrouds the abolition of the death sentence of an Iranian Pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, a convert to Christianity, which was announced in recent days. Christian sources in Iran have stated that the Supreme Court had overturned the conviction of the evangelical leader, but asked for his return to Islam as a precondition. And there is still no written confirmation of the Supreme Court decision to accept the pastor’s appeal against the death sentence for apostasy.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Youcef Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Moahammad Ali Dadkhah should have received written notice of the decision in recent days. But Dadkhah, one of the founders of the Center for Defense of Human Rights along with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi is in a difficult legal position. On July 3, a Tehran court sentenced him to nine years in prison and 10 years of banishment from university and the teaching profession, “for actions contrary to the Islamic regime and propaganda.” Dadkhah has 20 days to appeal, but fears that he might be arrested in the coming days.

Iranian civil law does not provide the crime of apostasy, even if authorities have discussed passing such a law for some time. In the case of Pastor Nadarkhani, which has been described as “distorted” and “extrajudicial”, it seems that there was political pressure on judges, who were divided on the sentence. The court apparently used art. 167 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that if the judges do not find the basis for a decision in civil law then they should “cite Islamic reliable sources or a valid fatwa to arrive at a judgement and issue a verdict.”

Pastor Nadarkhani Youcef, a member of the Church of Iran, was arrested Oct. 13, 2009 in the city of Rasht as he tried to legally register his church. It is believed that his arrest was caused by his position, critical of the Islamic religious monopoly on the education of children in Iran. He was initially accused of protests, but later the charges were changed into that of apostasy and the evangelization of Muslims.

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

Pipeline Attack Prompts Jordan to Diversify Energy Resources

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, 5 JULY — Jordan has devised a plan to diversify its fuel and gas resources in line of continued disruption to gaz supplies from Egypt, an official said today. Prime minister Maruf Bakhit held an urgent meeting with ministry of energy and officials from top electric companies and the national oil refinery to approve a multi-million plan that can guarantee ongoing power supply in the kingdom, Petra news agency reported. The government said gas supplies from Egypt has been halted for the third time in less than two months after the pipeline linking the two countries was blown up. According to Khalid Touqan, minister of energy, the government is working on securing steady supply from other countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saudi Lifts Ban on Jordanian Farmers

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JULY 6 — Future for Jordanian farmers could not look greener after shipping the first load of products to the oil rich neighboring country Saudi Arabia following years of being banned from the large market.

The decision comes after improved ties between Jordan and Saudi and the near inclusion of the kingdom into the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Farmers in Jordan have been suffering from lack of markets after Saudi Arabia banned Jordanian vegetable produce over quality control issues.

According to Radhi Tarawneh, secretary general of the Agriculture ministry, Jordan will be able to export at least 100 tonnes of vegetables and fruits daily.

“The Saudi market is very important to Jordan because the two countries are near each other which makes it more feasible to both sides,” he said. The farming sector has been reeling under impact of years of drought and lack of markets. The government recently promised to support farmers in their difficult financial situation by opening up new markets and reducing fees on services.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria’s Minorities Fear Chaos That Regime Change Could Bring

President Bashar al-Assad continues to forcibly put down demonstrators in Syria. But what would it mean for the region — and for the minorities within Syria — if the regime were toppled? Muslims, Christians, Alawis, Druze and Ishmaelites: No other country in the Middle East, except perhaps for tiny Lebanon, has such a multiplicity of religious and ethnic groups. The Assad family’s regime hasn’t followed a particular political doctrine in its 41-year rule. According to its constitution, Syria is a secular state, and there is a powerful state-run economic sector.

But the protests against the Assad regime could lead to religious and ethnic tensions, says Middle East expert Volker Perthes from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin. Syria’s religious minorities in particular are worried that the demise of the Assad regime could be a long and bloody affair, and that it could result in civil-war style conflicts. “There could be religious tensions and acts of revenge,” Perthes warned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Transport: Turkey’s Air Carrier Flies to 26 Cities in Mideast

Turkish national airline company has increased its destinations to 26 in the Middle East with Istanbul-Najaf flight. Turkish Airlines (THY) has started to operate flights between Istanbul and Najaf, its fourth destination in Iraq. “THY has raised its destinations in the Middle East to 26 with Najaf flights,” Executive Board Chairman Hamdi Topcu said on Wednesday at the Najaf Airport, as Anatolia news agency reports. Topcu said THY would make direct connections to Najaf from 183 cities in the world via Istanbul.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


23 Million Live Below Poverty Line

The number of officially recognized impoverished Russians increased by 2.3 million to 22.9 million, or 16 percent of the population, in the first quarter of 2011, compared with the same period last year, according to the State Statistics Service. The number of impoverished had decreased in the first two years after the 2008 recession, but the trend was reversed this year, Kommersant reported. The minimum monthly wage currently stands at 6,437 rubles ($231), up 17 percent in the first quarter of last year. The increase, which was mostly due to rising food and services prices, is coupled with weak salary growth nationwide and has resulted in more people finding themselves below the poverty line, the report said. Analysts told Kommersant that the new figures are more accurate than previous reports by the statistics service but still downplay the actual number of impoverished people in the country. No alternative estimates were provided.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

African Student ‘In Coma’ After Russia Attack

An African student was hospitalised in a coma Tuesday after suffering a beating by racist attackers in Russia’s northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, local police said. “We have learned that a student of Saint-Petersburg Polytechnical University, a 29-year-old native of Ivory Coast, was beaten by three unidentified individuals near a bus station” in the city, a police source that asked not to be identified told AFP. The victim has been hospitalised after suffering numerous head injuries that put him in a coma. Racist assaults are frequently committed by skinhead gangs which have grown in number in recent years in Russia and specifically Saint-Petersburg. They often target people from Russia’s Caucasus region and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Putin Calls for Science Projects to Rival Europe

Russia will develop large-scale scientific projects to rival Europe’s Large Hadron Collider, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said. “Such projects can be comparable to the space or nuclear programs that have been successfully carried out in our country,” Putin told a meeting of the government’s committee on high technology late Tuesday in the Moscow region. The Education and Science Ministry has drawn up a list of six potential projects, including construction of a thermonuclear research center and reactor. The cost of the projects could be 133 billion rubles ($4.8 billion), said Deputy Finance Minister Alexander Novak. The LHC is a 27-kilometer circuit of magnets running under the French-Swiss border that smashes beams of atomic particles to record the resulting collisions. The world’s biggest scientific experiment is recording collisions in its hunt for the origin of the universe’s missing mass and “dark matter.” Putin viewed a Russian collider under construction in the Moscow region town of Dubna, RIA-Novosti reported.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bin Laden’s Family Not Allowed to Leave Pakistan

A government-appointed commission looking into the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has said his wives and children cannot leave Pakistan until it gives its prior consent. Sixteen people were detained after bin Laden was killed by US special forces in the northwestern garrison town of Abbottabad on May 2. They included his three wives — one from Yemen and two from Saudi Arabia — and several children. Pakistani officials had originally said they would be repatriated and recent media reports suggested Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, bin Laden’s youngest wife, would be allowed to return to Yemen. However, on Tuesday the commission issued a statement saying that the Ministry of Interior and Pakistan’s ISI spy agency had been “directed to ensure that the family of Osama bin Laden is not repatriated from Pakistan” without its consent.

Pakistan’s government was widely criticized after the raid on Abbottabad

After bin Laden was killed, mainly opposition lawmakers in Pakistan demanded a civilian — not military — probe into his death and into the fact that the al Qaeda head had been able to live in Pakistan for so long, apparently undetected.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India’s Supreme Court Orders Kerala Temple Treasure be Documented

India’s Supreme Court has ordered that treasure estimated to be worth billions of dollars found recently at a Hindu temple in the country’s south be filmed and documented. Gold coins, an idol of Lord Vishnu and emeralds are among the many treasures found in hidden vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in the Indian state of Kerala. The 16th-century temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, contains a 30-meter, seven-tiered tower and a corridor with 365 elaborately carved stone pillars. Four of the six underground cellars were opened regularly but two more, located about six meters below ground had been sealed for over 100 years. Local legend says that opening the vaults brings bad luck but earlier this month, five of them were opened and revealed to be full of precious stones, ancient gold coins and diamond-studded crowns.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Media Attack WTO Ruling Against China

Chinese media on Wednesday lashed out at a ruling by the World Trade Organisation that said Beijing’s export restrictions on raw materials are illegal, and warned rare earths would be the next target. The WTO on Tuesday upheld complaints by the United States, European Union and Mexico, ruling that China had failed to abide by accession commitments when it imposed quotas and duties on several types of minerals. These include bauxite, coking coal, fluorspar, magnesium, manganese, silicon metal, silicon carbide, yellow phosphorus and zinc.

The Economic Information Daily accused the European Union and United States of wanting access to “China’s low-cost resources to satisfy the needs of their domestic industries, especially the development needs of high-tech industries.” The newspaper — owned by the official Xinhua news agency — said China should be “on guard” as some countries pursue their own interests and “make better use of WTO rules to fight for its own lawful rights and interests”. A report carried on the Caixin business website Wednesday also warned China’s export controls over rare earths were “very likely” to become the next target of WTO complaints.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Man Leading the Fight Against Anti-Girl Abortions

Sex-selective abortion has left China with millions more boys than girls. Meet Shuzhuo Li, who is campaigning to reverse the trend

How great is the gender imbalance in China?

In 2005, there were 32 million more men than women under the age of 20 in China. Young men with no prospect of marriage become a disruptive force in society. And with no one to marry, they will have no children and no one to take care of them when they are too old to work.

Is the imbalance an unintended consequence of China’s one-child policy?

Gender-selective abortions exacerbate the problem of dwindling birth rates. In China, a son is not just a source of pride, but a financial necessity. A daughter leaves home to join her husband’s family after marriage, so her parents have no one to care for them in their old age.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Sheik Feiz Mohammed Denounced

AUSTRALIA’S most senior Islamic leader labelled Western Sydney preacher Sheik Feiz Mohammed dangerous, insisting the firebrand cleric be banned from delivering sermons to young Muslims.

Sheik Taj El-Din al-Hilaly told The Sunday Telegraph Sheik Feiz, who recently began teaching in Sydney again after years in self-imposed exile overseas, “prefers for Muslims to be marginalised” in society.

“If religion had something like the Australian Medical Association, or a trade authority, they would never allow him to be preaching — they wouldn’t give him a licence,” Sheik al-Hilaly, the Imam of Australia’s largest mosque at Lakemba, said.

His comments came after The Sunday Telegraph revealed last week Sheik Feiz had quietly returned to Australia in the past few months and resumed preaching, four years after Kevin Rudd declared the Sydney-born cleric was “not welcome” for making inflammatory remarks, including likening Jewish people to pigs.

Sheik Feiz’s followers insist he has changed but his return, to open a new prayer hall in Auburn, has divided the Muslim community.

“What I’m seeing from the young people who attend his talks, this is the same message — I haven’t seen a change in him,” Sheik al-Hilaly said. “Sheik Feiz is like a new fad — young people are attracted to this Rambo style. I’ve heard some of his views and they are not constructive.

“It can lead young people to move away from their family and community [and] to distance and isolate themselves.”

Sheik Feiz, who is monitored by police, declined an interview but declared on a Facebook page he was a “proud Australian citizen” who “always obeyed the law,” adding that he was determined to serve the community “to the best of my ability, including solving social problems and assisting the youth to become better citizens”.

Sheik Feiz, a former boxer who studied Islam in Saudi Arabia, admitted to being involved in a local political scandal, but insisted he was offering good counsel to the culprit and not inflaming what he called “a silly incident” where one of his followers was pulling down election posters.

He said he had “cautioned” the follower “against committing unsocial acts”.

“I have never encouraged anyone to commit any acts which counter the democratic values of this country,” Sheik Feiz said.

“And I would never intentionally seek to break the laws of this country.”

His sermons sparked outrage from political leaders in Australia, Britain and Europe for their hardline views.

These have included denouncing other religions and encouraging Muslim children to choose martyrdom.

The Sheik holds classes on Sharia law and other topics in a musallah behind Auburn’s Bukhari House bookstore, which The Sunday Telegraph visited last week, but was asked to leave.

The building was bought in January by the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah Association, which made Sheik Mohammed its full-time Amir.

His Facebook site has links to other pages, including one titled the “Flag of Islamic Khilafah” that advocates setting up a “caliphate” or Islamic state of Sharia law.

Backers say he has been transformed and no longer preaches extremist rhetoric.

Lebanese Muslim Association president Samier Dandan said last week: “He’s had enough time overseas to adjust what he has done and correct the faults he had.”

AUTHORITIES have asked Auburn cleric Sheik Feiz Mohammed to remove from his website footage featuring the al-Qaeda spiritual leader Anwar al-Awlaki.

While the clips did not promote hardline rhetoric or incite violence, counter-terrorism authorities described the connection with the Sydney preacher as “unsettling”.

Sheik Feiz was asked to remove the footage and he did so promptly. He has been described as more of an “egomaniac” than a security threat. And recent assessments by NSW Police show that he does not warrant any serious investigation into his activities.

But according to one senior law enforcement source, his past comments remain “concerning”. “We’ve looked,” the source told The Sunday Telegraph. “He’s too big now to be getting up to mischief.” Police rely heavily on community-based contacts to identify extremists.

One such contact said officers quizzed him about Sheik Mohammed and the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah group he is associated with.

“I just told them that they’re talking tough,” the source said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Southern Sudan Prepares for Independence

A new country will come into existence this weekend in Africa. Southern Sudan, rich in oil reserves, is declaring its independence. But an ongoing conflict with the north combined with numerous warlords pursuing their own agendas means that optimism is in short supply. The first impression travelers get when exiting an airplane here is that they’ve landed at a construction site. The new terminal building is but a skeleton, with Chinese laborers covering vast areas with concrete. Welcome to Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan! The city still has much to do before United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and up to 40 heads of state and government fly to Juba Airport this coming weekend, an airfield about the size of that in the German town of Paderborn. On Saturday, July 9, Southern Sudan will proclaim its independence . The move will strip Sudan, Africa’s largest country, of a quarter of its area — and the world will get a new country, the youngest in Africa.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Amid EU’s Open Borders, Workers Stay Put

Europeans tend not to work outside their “home” countries. In 2010, only 3.2% of those working in the 17 members of the euro zone were citizens of another EU member nation. In 2007, the year before the financial crisis really took hold, that proportion was 2.9%.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Boat Catches Fire in Red Sea, 197 Die

One hundred and ninety-seven African migrants headed for Saudi Arabia drowned, died in the fire engulfing the ship or were killed by sharks in an incident in the Red Sea which Sudanese authorities reported yesterday. This morning the official government information agency Sudanese Media Center reported the news and added that a second attempt to bring another 250 Africans from the same area to Saudi Arabia via sea had been thwarted by Sudanese authorities. According to the Red Sea police commander General Haider Ahmed Suleiman, the boats which the migrants — mostly from Nigeria, Chad, Somalia and Eritrea — had left the Sudanese coasts on were reportedly Cuban. The boat which sunk yesterday, “did not have any seats or cabins and had apparently been built for fishing or other purposes,” the high-ranking official told radio Omdurman, “but not for carrying passengers, especially a large number of illegal migrants.” Most of those onboard, according to General Suleiman, died from burns suffered in a fire on the boat, drowned in the attempt to save themselves of were attacked by sharks which live in the waters just off the Sudanese coastline. A small number of them managed to reach the shore by swimming, though some of the latter lost arms or legs in the attacks by sharks and are now in hospital.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dozens Arrested Across Italy for Human Trafficking

Immigrants shipped to France, Switzerland, Denmark and Austria

(ANSA) — Rome, July 6 — Police on Wednesday arrested dozens of people across Italy for allegedly trafficking thousands of immigrants across Europe.

The arrests followed an investigation, which began in May 2010 by the interior ministry’s Central Operations Service (SCO), local police from Lecce, Bologna and Ravenna, and the National Anti-Mafia Directorate At least 18 people were arrested in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna in the north and in the southern regions of Lazio, Puglia, Abruzzo and Calabria.

They are alleged to have trafficked thousands of illegal immigrants of Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani and Indian origin through cities including Rome, Milan, Bologna and Bari via a complex network headquartered in Greece and Turkey.

Police said many of the immigrants landed in both small boats and large ships along the Adriatic coast of Puglia and they were “in constant fear for their lives”.

Once they landed in Italy, the immigrants were transferred to Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, France and Belgium.

“Today’s operation has exposed a substantial trafficking of illegal immigrants,” Vincenzo Carella, police commissioner of the southern city of Lecce told ANSA.

“In a year of investigations in Salento (province) we have intercepted more than 5,000 immigrants and conducted major prevention”.

In Rome at least 15 people were arrested on Wednesday for aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

Police claimed the operation included falsifying documents for residency and non-existent work.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: 688:000 Refugees Have Reached Tunisia Since February

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 6 — As of the beginning of tensions and clashes between loyalist troops and rebels, 688,762 refugees from 106 different countries have left Libya for Tunisia.

TAP news agency reports that this figure was provided by the Tunisian Public Health Ministry.

Most of the refugees (some 425,000) are from Libya; 67,000 are Tunisians who were working in the country and were forced to return home. Currently, according to the above source, the refugee camps which have been set up in Tunisia are providing shelter for about 3,000 people, and efforts are being made to improve their living conditions, especially in light of the high temperatures.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Tunisia: Concern About Flow of Refugees to Djerba

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 4 — Public order in Djerba is at risk due to the large flow of refugees coming in from Libya.

Inhabitants of the well-known Tunisian tourist destination say that the refugees are having a considerable impact on daily life in the seaside resort. Tensions are rising among the inhabitants of Djerba, and they have filed an official protest against the creation of a reception centre for refugees on the island, which forms the heart of urban tourism. According to the most recent estimates made by humanitarian organisations, there are currently more than 8 thousand refugees in Djerba. Many of them — apart from the rich ones who have chosen the location because they used to go there on holiday before the start of the war — need food, clothes, medical assistance and many other things. Aid has been available so far, but this situation may not continue due to a lack of funds, also from international organisations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Poland Warns Against Deporting Its Workers

“Deporting unemployed Poles and Eastern Europeans is dangerous” Polish Economic Affairs Minister Waldemar Pawlak made this statement in an interview with Dutch newspaper Trouw. Social Affairs Minister Henk Kamp wants to deport Eastern Europeans who do not speak Dutch and have no prospect of finding work. Poland fears other countries may follow the Dutch example. The Polish government says the issue could strain relations if The Hague were to carry put its plans into effect.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Indian Gay Rights Activists Slam Health Minister

India’s health minister has sparked a furious row by describing homosexuality as a ‘disease.’ Gay rights activists and campaigners across the country have held protests and criticized him for his unhelpful remarks. Indian Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights groups across India have condemned Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s comments earlier this week, when he said at an HIV/AIDS forum that men having sex with men was “unnatural” and a “disease” imported into India that must now be dealt with. Health organizations also said they were disappointed and made clear that this kind of language is disruptive, especially on the part of a health minister. Amid the massive uproar, Azad was quick to recant his comments: “Some people have played with the words. I have been quoted out of context,” he said at a hastily convened press conference. “My reference was to HIV as a disease. As health minister, I know that (male homosexual sex) is not a disease.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Utrecht Gay Bashers Not Prosecuted

A group of youths who harassed a male gay couple until they fled the Leidsche Rijn district in the city of Utrecht will not face prosecution. The Court of Appeal in Arnhem rejected the couple’s request that the Public Prosecutor’s Office be ordered to bring charges against some of the youths involved. The court ruled that a new investigation would be pointless, partly because the alleged crimes were committed more than a year ago. In 2009 and 2010, the gay couple filed six separate reports of harassment, vandalism and damage to property. One of the reports concerned their car having been rammed deliberately by anothe vehicle. The men eventually felt forced to leave the district; selling their home far below market value.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Developing World Need $1 Trillion a Year for Green Tech: UN

The world needs $1.9 trillion in green technology investments a year, with over half of that sum necessary for developing countries,” the UN said Tuesday. “Over the next 40 years, $1.9 trillion (1.31 trillion euros) per year will be needed for incremental investments in green technologies,” the UN Economic and Social Affairs body said in its annual survey. “At least one-half, or $1.1 trillion per year, of the required investments will need to be made in developing countries to meet their rapidly increasing food and energy demands through the application of green technologies,” it added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hubble Telescope Takes Millionth Look at the Universe

NASA’s prolific Hubble Space Telescope has hit a major milestone after 21 years in orbit: one million science observations, with the latest being a look at possible signs of water in an alien planet’s atmosphere. The landmark observation occurred on Monday, July 4, while the observatory was looking at a planet 1,000 light-years away.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Physics Finding May Lead to Non-Electronic Gadgets, Scientists Say

Physicists find a way to amplify ‘spin current,’ a significant step in the world of spintronics. Earlier related research made it possible for the solid-state drives found in iPhones and other newer gadgets. In a new scientific paper, scientists in Germany and the United Kingdom have come up with a new technique to amplify the “spin current” of electrons — and that could pave the way for significant improvements in consumer electronics, possibly including storage devices that no require no electricity at all. In an article published online in the journal Nature Materials on Sunday, the team from the University of Cambridge and the University of Münster outlined what may be the next step in “spintronics.”

This new area physics research is being hailed as the successor of conventional electronics, based on transistor and semiconductor technology. In general, for over the last 50 years, the number of transistors that can be put on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every 18 to 24 months. However, the number of transistors is now getting so large, on such a small space, that it’s beginning to hit its physical limits, and will soon reach the size of individual atoms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Private Guards Outnumber Police Worldwide: Survey

Private security companies employ up to 25.5 million people across the world, exceeding the number of police officers, and hold up to 3.7 million firearms, a survey said Wednesday. “The global trend towards downsizing government, including public security institutions, has contributed to the growth of the private security sector,” said the Geneva Graduate Institute’s small arms survey. “In prisons, at airports, along borders and on the street, security provision is increasingly in the hands of private actors,” said Keith Krause, director of the survey project. “The key question — to which we don’t know the answer — is whether these evolving arrangements are enhancing or impairing security,” he said. The formal private security sector now employs between 19.5 million and 25.5 million people worldwide.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Storm as Wide as Earth Rages on Saturn

The Great White Spot on Saturn has been imaged in unprecedented detail and is now yielding clues to how this titanic storm may have formed far earlier than scientists expected. The staggeringly powerful thunderstorm is approximately 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) wide, nearly as wide as Earth, and has a tail of white clouds that encircles all of Saturn. The storm began forming in the ringed planet’s northern hemisphere in December. This is about 10 years early for Great White Spots, which usually recur about every 30 Earth years, when Saturn’s northern hemisphere tilts most toward the sun.

Only five similar Great White Spots have been observed in the past 135 years. To learn more about this mystery storm, researchers employed both ground-based telescopes and observations from the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn. Their findings show it to be packing as much total energy as “the Earth receives from the sun within one year,” said researcher Georg Fischer, a planetary scientist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz. The Great White Spot is a massive complex of thunderstorms.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]