Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110710

Financial Crisis
»China: EU Bailout Leaves ‘Fundamental Problems’ Unresolved
»Eurozone Split as it Takes Fresh Stab to Ease Greece Crisis
»Government of Sociopaths
»Greece: Church Property Exempt From State Sell-Offs
»IMF Rewards Greece for Its Debt-Reduction Efforts
»Italy: Debt Payment Costs Risk Jumping $14 Billion a Year
»Italy: Geronzi: Cragnotti Given Jail Terms for Cirio Collapse
»Italy: Food, Wine Exports Outstrip Cars and Bikes
»Real Unemployment Rises to 16.2% in June
»Is This Why White House Funded ‘Guns-to-Drug-Lords’ Scheme?
»The Insidious Kumbaya on American College Campuses
»U.S. Holding Millions in Aid to Pakistan, Says Obama’s Chief of Staff
Europe and the EU
»France: Strauss-Kahn Faces Paris Inquiry Into Attempted Rape Case
»Germany: Spider Shuts Down Saarland Supermarket
»German Prize for Putin Stirs Controversy
»Greece’s Electricity Charges Among Lowest in the EU
»Italy: Four Arrested Over High-Speed Train Link Protests to Stay in Jail
»Italy: Finance Minister Gives Up €8,500/Month Apartment Paid for by Ex-Aide
»Italy: Islamic Finance Volume, USD 2 Trillion in 5 Years
»Italy: MP Accused of Corruption and Conspiracy
»Italy: Naples to Send Trash Outside Region
»Italy: Berlusconi Firm Fined 560 Million Euros in Bribery Case
»Meat BBQ? A Battle in Northern Italy Over Brown Bears in Parks and on Plates
»Netherlands: Rosenthal: ‘Government Will Not Gag Wilders’
»Skilled German Muslims Held Back by Stereotypes
»Spain: After 28 Years Socialists Lose Extremadura
»Sweden: Academy Blocks Iranians From Flight Training
»Switzerland: Basel: Proposal for Muslim Old-Age Home
»Top Czech Scientist Outed as Communist STB Collaborator
»Voters Desert the Sweden Democrats
»What is Wrong With This Tour De France Cyclist’s Leg?!
»Albanian Town Thanks George W. Bush With Statue
»Serbia: Minister Apologises to Roma Gypsy Family for Police Brutality
North Africa
»Algeria: Jobless Attempt Suicide, Arrested 4 Months Later
»Algeria: Volunteers Working Against Child Abuse
»Algeria: Army Will Lead Fight Against Terrorism
»Bossi Says Napolitano Wanted War in Libya Too
»Egypt: Christians Registered as Muslims Can Change Their Status
»Egypt: Alleged Abductions of Young Coptic Women Fuel Christian-Muslim Conflict
»Egypt: Birth of “Liberal Egyptians”, Sawiris’ Secular Party
»Egypt: Muslim Sisterhood, Ready to Participate in Public Life
»First Meeting on Islamic Finance in Tunis
»Gaddafi Counterattack Underway 50 Km From Tripoli
»Libya: Berlusconi Reiterates Opposition to NATO Mission
»Libyan Crisis ‘Doesn’t Threaten’ Italian Energy Supply
»Tunisian Amazigh Fighting for Equal Rights
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel: Maximum Alert, Pro-Palestinian Activists Stopped
Middle East
»Saudi Prince Says No Change in News Corp Investment
»Syria: Mar Musa Monastery on Last Legs, Monks Demand Help
»Muscovites Suffer Hours in Traffic for a Weekend at the Dacha
»Orthodox Nationalists Attempt to Prevent Jehovah’s Witnesses Congress
»RWE Said to be in Investment Talks With Russia’s Gazprom
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Twenty-Four De-Mining Workers Kidnapped
»Canadians Eye Home Front as They Quit Afghanistan
»Clashes Between Police and Islamic Demonstrators in Dacca
»Indonesia: Govt to Give Migrant Workers Mobile Phones
»Janet Levy: Is the Fate of the Infidels Tied to the Buddhas?
»Over 1,400 Arrested, Tear Gas Fired in Malaysia Protest
»Pakistan: Mullen Called ‘Irresponsible’ For Accusing Govt of ‘Sanctioning Reporter’s Killing
»Police: Islamists Clash in Bangladesh, Dozens Hurt
»Sri Lanka: Sinhalese and Tamil Muslims Together for Rizana Nafeek
»Video Shows Children of Killed Taliban Fighters Being Trained to Kill Our Troops
Far East
»China Throws Out ‘Flashmob’ Swedish Blogger
Australia — Pacific
»Carbon Tax: Pensioners to Receive Compensation
»New Australian Law to Make Muslims Lift Veils
»Coast Guard Rescue 299 Migrants Off Lampedusa Waters
»Fifteen Immigrants Rescued Off Sant’Antioco Coast
»More Eastern Europeans in the Netherlands
»Norwegians Claim Immigration Policy Failing
»Sweden: ‘Lower Wages Will Give More Immigrants Jobs’
Culture Wars
»Indian Health Minster Creates Stir With Homosexuality Remarks
»1.5 Million Sexless Years No Good for Stick Insects
»Governments Turn to NGOs as Proxy Conflict Negotiators

Financial Crisis

China: EU Bailout Leaves ‘Fundamental Problems’ Unresolved

China’s ambassador to the EU has said Greece might default despite EU and IMF efforts, but indicated that Beijing will continue to support the single currency. “Despite the recent payment of €12 billion by the EU and IMF, some of the fundamental problems in Greece have not yet been resolved … People are still discussing if there will be a restructuring [of Greek debt] or a default, obviously a restructuring would have much smaller negative consequences,” ambassador Song Zhe told press at an event in Brussels on Friday (8 July). Reacting to analysts who say Beijing is buying risky bonds in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain in order to gain political influence in the EU, Song said the purchases have no “suspicious” motives.

With EU-China trade growing to €480 billion in 2010, the ambassador noted: “We can build stronger trade ties only by investing in a sound EU economy. We hope in this way to bring back the stability of the euro so that in the future we can move ahead [on trade issues] more smoothly.” Song predicted the European Union as such will emerge from the crisis. But when asked if he thinks China will get its money back from Athens, he answered: “Risk goes along with any kind of investment.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Split as it Takes Fresh Stab to Ease Greece Crisis

Eurozone leaders head into fresh talks Monday to craft a new rescue package for Greece hoping to bridge widening splits over private sector involvement as Europe’s debt crisis threatens to spiral. After a tumultuous week that saw debt contagion hit Italian banks and Spanish bonds, and borrowing costs peak for eurozone struggler Ireland, finance ministers from the 17-nation area meet from 1300 GMT. Their counterparts from the full EU 27 will join them on Tuesday. Gathered just a week after plucking Athens from default this summer — clearing a 12-billion-euro ($17 billion) slice due from its first 2010 bailout — eurozone leaders have delayed a final decision on a second rescue until September. Observers are not expecting a quick fix at this week’s talks.

Instead, it will focus on how to get banks to bear a fair share of involvement in a second Greek bailout — and in such as a way as to avoid it being interpreted as a credit default that would ripple across the single currency zone. The prickly issue in the last days has exposed sharp splits in the euro-front, and comes days ahead of much-awaited July 15 data on European bank stress-tests. Differences that flew into the open after a market-rattling decision last week by Standard & Poor’s ratings agency need to be addressed swiftly, EU sources said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Government of Sociopaths

It’s politically risky to raise taxes. It’s politically risky to cut spending. The one thing that isn’t politically risky to do is go deeper and deeper into debt. Whatever agreement evolves or devolves out of congress it will likely allow Republicans to satisfy their base by cutting spending a little, allow Democrats to satisfy their base by raising taxes a little, and kick the ball down the road by going deeper into debt.

The real subject of this is not Medicare or the Stimulus plan— it’s long term thinking.

We did not suddenly go to sleep and then wake up the next day with a political class that acted this way. Or with CEO’s that act this way. The erosion of long term thinking is progressive. It begins slowly before becoming pervasive.


Lack of long term thinking manifests itself as a lack of responsibility.. The difference is not in intelligence. Very intelligent people show no grasp of responsibility and no understanding of consequences. ‘Stupid’ behavior by intelligent people is often a symptom of that. Sociopaths, who often have very high IQ’s, yet a poor understanding of consequences, are at the farthest limit of that category…

What explains this behavior? Socialization and empathy. Sociopaths are often quite bright, but it is the company of other people that makes us fully human. Sociopaths are too detached from other people to be able to rationally calculate long term consequences in a social context.


Worsening symptoms leave [sociopaths] even more detached. They use “I” often. Everything that happens is processed through their own experience. Everything becomes about themselves. Celebrity becomes a consuming craze. They feel driven to be witnessed by other people, otherwise they feel unreal. The truth becomes a mutable thing to them. They recreate it at every turn and forget that they have done it. Nothing is their fault anymore. Nothing at all.

Finally there is a stage so near that of the sociopath that it hardly makes any difference anymore. Long term consequences vanish. Everything takes place in the present. Reality is infinitely mutable. They have no patience for obstacles. Life to them is a game. And they are determined to win it. The answers to everything seem clear, and do not require any reality testing. Everything either exists to accommodate them, or it shouldn’t be allowed to exist at all.

What does a country run by sociopaths look like? It looks a lot like our own actually. Lots of short term fixes. Lots of ‘keep this thing running’ pragmatism. Short attention spans. No sense of responsibility. And no thought for the future.

This is the problem with filling a cabinet full of bright people who don’t understand responsibility or long term thinking. While their intelligence should allow them to solve most problems, the situations they are confronted with are social, not abstract. And they lack empathy for the people involved, any sense of them as individuals, and any real understanding that they will also have to live with the long term consequences of those decisions.

To the Sociopath, most situations come down to, “How Do I Make Person X Do What I Want.” This sounds a lot like the Cass Sunstein theory of ‘Nudges’…


Put bluntly, the behaviors which are common to politicians are also common to sociopaths. But the worst of these is irresponsibility. Without responsibility, there is no self-correcting mechanism. The experience of negative consequences does not lead to avoidance of the same behavior.

…there are also entire societies where the general population acts and thinks this way. Where empathy is an alien notion, where doing whatever you please if you think you can get away with it is the norm, and where no one thinks in the long term. And we are slowly headed that way.

In the late 20th century, an economic system built on hard work and inventiveness, was replaced with one built on temporary bubbles and salesmanship. A culture with thousands of years of moral and intellectual tradition, was forced to make way for one built on egotism and instant impulse satiation. A nation of few laws and many mores, was replaced with a nation of a million laws and few mores.

Which economic system and culture looks more like a sociopath habitat, the one we had before or the one we have now?



           — Hat tip: Nat[Return to headlines]

Greece: Church Property Exempt From State Sell-Offs

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 7 — The property held by the powerful Greek Orthodox Church will be excluded from the list of those under the State Property Valorisation Office — the authority to be tasked with the privatisation programme provided for by the agreement between Athens and its creditors — and will not be sold to foreigners. Moreover, priests’ salaries will continue to be paid by the Greek state, while as concerns the new tax law being drawn up, there will be a consultation with Church representatives before the presentation of the draft law in Parliament. This was decided — according to reports in Greek newspapers today — by Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and the archbishop of Athens and all of Greece Ieronymos in a meeting in which all the members of the Holy Synod of the Greek Church took part. However, a special body will be set up through a collaboration between the Church and the State to valorise Church property, with the revenue to be allocated exclusively to charity. “The Church,” the minister said at the end of the meeting, “already contributes in a decisive manner and is willing to contribute even more towards getting out of the crisis that Greece is dealing with.” The archbishop Ieronymos instead said that “in this country the Church has always stood by the side of the people, it has fought and given what it could. It will do the same in this difficult situation, but under some conditions as has been decided and as will be shown in deeds done.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

IMF Rewards Greece for Its Debt-Reduction Efforts

The IMF has given the Greek government’s austerity measures the thumbs up by releasing the latest tranche of its first bailout. Its new managing director, however, warned that much work was still to be done. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday released 3.2 billion euros ($4.6 billion) of an emergency loan to Greece, the fifth loan disbursement to Greece that is part of a 110-billion-euro EU and IMF bailout package meant to help the debt-stricken country avoid bankruptcy. Following a meeting of the IMF’s executive board, the global lender’s newly elected managing director, Christine Lagarde, praised the Greek government’s efforts to climb out from under its mountain of debt. Taking steps to reduce public debt is a condition set out by the EU and the IMF for releasing the funds to Greece.

“The fiscal deficit is being reduced, the economy is rebalancing, and competitiveness is gradually improving,” Lagarde said in a statement following a meeting of the board at the IMF’s Washington headquarters. “However, with many important structural reforms still to be implemented, significant policy challenges remain,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Debt Payment Costs Risk Jumping $14 Billion a Year

Rome, 7 July (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italy risks becoming a debt crisis casualty if bond yields remain at their current levels because annual interest costs will jump by more than $14 billion, according to Gary Jenkins at Evolution Securities Ltd.

Yields on Italy’s 10-year bonds yesterday exceeded 5 percent for the first time since 2008, threatening to add an extra 9.7 billion euros to coupon payments, Jenkins, London-based head of fixed income at the brokerage, wrote in a note. The nation has more than 860 billion euros of notes maturing in the next five years, he wrote.

Italy has so far avoided being sucked into the crises that have engulfed Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and which threaten Spain. Lawmakers are seeking to balance the budget by 2014 and plan to push deficit-cutting measures worth 40 billion euros though Parliament later this year.

“If contagion spreads to the point where Spain is unable to fund itself in the market and there is concern over private participation in any bailouts, it is difficult to see how highly indebted Italy could escape unhurt,” Jenkins wrote. “Debt reduction will become considerably harder if contagion spreads and funding costs increase further.”

The nation, which has more than 1.6 trillion euros of bonds outstanding, the world’s third-largest pile of debt after the U.S. and Japan, already spends more than 4.25 percent of economic output servicing its debt, according to Jenkins. Each percentage point increase in rates would cost it about 9 billion euros, or 0.6 percent of gross domestic product, if applied over the whole 2011-2016 period, according to the note.

Italy also has 260 billion euros of one-year notes, according to Evolution. While the average yield on one-year notes is 1.8 percent over the past year, that has now increased to about 2.25 percent, adding 1.2 billion euros to servicing costs, Jenkins wrote.

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

Italy: Geronzi: Cragnotti Given Jail Terms for Cirio Collapse

Pair given four-year and nine-year sentences respectively

(ANSA) — Rome, July 5 — Former Cirio chairman Sergio Cragnotti and Cesare Geronzi, until recently one of Italy’s top financiers, have been given nine-year and four-year jail terms for the fraudulent bankruptcy of the foods conglomerate in 2003.

Three of the children of Cragnotti, a prominent figure in Italy before the collapse as he was the chairman of Serie A soccer club Lazio as well, were also among some 25 people convicted of offences related to the case, along with his son-in-law. Geronzi was convicted over the alleged role of Banca di Roma, a bank he was in charge of at the time which is now part of the Unicredit group. Geronzi, also the former chairman of Mediobanca, recently lost his leading role in Italian capitalism when he stepped down from the helm of insurance giant Generali in April.

In Italy jail terms do not usually take effect until the appeals process is exhausted, with two appeals granted in each case.

“I’m relaxed because I still consider myself to have acted correctly, within my statutory responsibilities, performing a job that is natural to me, that of a banker, without committing any crimes,” said Geronzi.

Cirio collapsed in July 2003 after defaulting on more than one billion euros in bonds. Banca di Roma came under investigation when it surfaced that it had been selling Cirio bonds when there was a conflict of interests since it was one of the group’s creditors.

Cirio’s collapse left about 30,000 small investors holding worthless bonds and led to accusations that Banca di Roma had sold the bonds in order to shift the group’s debt off their books.

The bank maintained it was not aware that Cirio was in financial difficulty.

Unicredit has been fined 200 million euros for Banca di Roma’s alleged role in the bankruptcy.

Founded in the mid-19th century, Cirio was Italy’s oldest food canner.

Cirio’s collapse was followed by that of Italian dairy and foods giant Parmalat.

Parmalat went under in December 2003 in a false accounting scam that resulted in estimated debts of 14.5 billion euros.

The dairy multinational’s meltdown left more than 150,000 investors with virtually worthless bonds.

After his arrest at the end of 2004, Parmalat’s disgraced founder and ex-CEO Calisto Tanzi accused Geronzi of “pressuring” him to buy the Eurolat milk company from Cirio at a price far above its market value.

Geronzi denied Tanzi’s accusations which he said were “self-serving”.

However, the operation raised some eyebrows because proceeds from the sale were given directly to Banca di Roma, which not only had lent large sums of capital to Cirio but was also involved in placing both Parmalat and Cirio bonds with small investors.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Food, Wine Exports Outstrip Cars and Bikes

Agro business up 23% in five years, auto down 11%

(ANSA) — Rome, July 7 — Exports of Italian food and wine have started to outstrip those of cars, motorbikes, tractors and other vehicles, the Coldiretti farmers association said Thursday.

In the first quarter of the year, it said, agro exports amounted to 7.1 billion euros while automotive exports were no higher than 6.6 billion euros.

Over the last five years, Coldiretti said, Italian food and wine exports rose 23% while motor vehicle exports fell 11%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Real Unemployment Rises to 16.2% in June

The real unemployment rate rose to 16.2 percent in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Friday, marking a return to levels not seen since January 2011.

The “real” unemployment rate is technically a combination of three measures of unemployment: the unemployment rate, the number of people working part-time who want full-time work, and the number of people “marginally attached” to the workforce.

Those who have left the workforce but would still like to be employed are considered marginally attached.

This figure is considered a more complete measure of unemployment because it captures a broader spectrum of those affected by the weak economy. Merely counting those who apply for unemployment benefits as “unemployed” does not fully account for everyone who is out of work or underemployed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Is This Why White House Funded ‘Guns-to-Drug-Lords’ Scheme?

Misleading data target gun owners in scandal that could rock Obama

Under the Obama administration, a controversial government project that runs guns into Mexico has contributed to fraudulent statistics seemingly targeting U.S. gun owners.

The misleading data raise questions about the intentions of Project Gunrunner, which some believe could be a defining scandal for the White House.

In February 2008, William Hoover, Assistant Director for Field Operations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, testified before Congress that over 90 percent of the firearms that have been recovered in or intercepted in transport to Mexico originated from various sources within the U.S.


After a series of independent reports contradicted the ATF claims, however, the bureau then admitted in November 2010 that its 90-percent figure cited to Congress “could be misleading” because it applied only to the small portion of guns verified through its eTrace system, an Internet-based firearm database that Project Gunrunner was build around.

The ATF admitted its statistics were based on the guns it traced, all of which originated in the U.S., thus skewing the data.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Insidious Kumbaya on American College Campuses

On June 7, President Obama appointed Azizah al-Hibri, a Muslim professor and scholar, to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Obama has already taken al-Hibri’s advice to stand up for Muslims against their American critics. According to Daniel Greenfield’s article entitled “The Professor Who Sharia’ed Bill Clinton” (FrontPage article of June 14), Al-Hibri called on Obama to do so at an ISNA meeting two months before her appointment, and she has spent a good deal of her time promoting Islamic law in the United States advocating that Sharia law is superior to American law.

This April, preceding his appointment of Al-Hibri, President Obama set in motion the Interfaith and Community Service Challenge, an initiative to foster tolerance in religion on college campuses. He designated Eboo Patel, a Rhodes Scholar heading the Interfaith Youth Core, which is an organization that trains “interfaith fellows.” Mr. Patel has been known to delegitimize fears of Islam, and he once said that the polarizing opinions held by Franklin Graham and Amjad Choudry were the same—nothing that a cup of coffee together wouldn’t solve (Washington Post, Oct 4, 2010). Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core recruits student participants in order to improve inter-religious relations on campus and alleviate potential religious conflict stemming from religious diversity.

Apparently, Mr. Patel, who was named by Islamica Magazine as one of the ten young Muslim visionaries shaping Islam in America, and who served on the president’s religion advisory council, has identified religious divides and discovered real solutions to this pervasive American problem. But shaping Islam in America is what the Interfaith Youth Core is really about.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Holding Millions in Aid to Pakistan, Says Obama’s Chief of Staff

Washington (CNN) — The United States is holding back $800 million in aid to Pakistan, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff said Sunday.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” White House Chief of Staff William Daley confirmed a report in the New York Times that the aid was being withheld.

While Pakistan has “been an important ally in the fight on terrorism,” Daley said, “now they’ve taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we’re giving to the military, and we’re trying to work through that.”

A spokesman for the Pakistani military told CNN the military was not informed of any such plan.

“Since we haven’t received anything in writing,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said, “we will not comment on this matter.”

Senior U.S. officials, who declined to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the curtailing of aid, which represents a third of U.S. security assistance to Pakistan, was done both to pressure Pakistan to crack down on militants and as retribution for expelling U.S. military trainers.

The funding includes $300 million to compensate Pakistan for the cost of deploying more than 100,000 troops to its border with Afghanistan to combat extremists. Hundreds of millions in training assistance and military hardware is also on the chopping block.

Additionally, officials said that still other portions of the aid cannot be sent because Pakistan has denied visas to American personnel required to operate the equipment that includes helicopter spare parts, radios and night vision goggles.

“In many cases the personnel and the equipment comes as a package,” one senior official said.

The aid also includes rifles, ammunition and body armor that Army Special Forces trainers took home with them after Pakistan threw them out of the country after shutting down an American program to train Pakistani troops combating the Taliban and al Qaeda in the country’s tribal and border areas.

“While the Pakistani military leadership tells us this is a temporary step, the presence of our trainers is having the immediate consequence of preventing us from delivering a significant amount of military assistance,” a senior State Department official said.

“We remain committed to helping Pakistan build its capabilities, but we have communicated to Pakistani officials on numerous occasions that we require certain support in order to provide certain assistance. Working together, allowing an appropriate presence for U.S. military personnel, providing necessary visas, and affording appropriate access are among the things that would allow us to effectively provide assistance,” the official added.

The move comes amid intense pressure among lawmakers to halt U.S. security assistance. Last week the House approved a Pentagon budget bill than limits funding for Pakistan’s military until the secretaries of defense and state submit a report to Congress explaining how the money will be spent to combat militants.

“When it comes to our military aid,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Senate panel last month, “we are not prepared to continue providing that at the pace we were providing it unless and until we see certain steps taken.”

Tensions between the United States and Pakistan, further aggravated by the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbotabad, continue to mount. Last week Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen stepped up U.S. rhetoric against Pakistan, becoming the first American official to publicly accuse Pakistan of sanctioning the murder of journalist, Saleem Shahzad, who was critical of the regime.

The Pakistani military and Inter-Services Intelligence agency denied any involvement in Shahzad’s killing, and Pakistani Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan called Mullen’s statement irresponsible.

The senior State Department official said that while the United States wants a “constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan,” Washington is urging Islamabad to strengthen its cooperation toward the two countries’ “shared security goals.”

“We are taking a very clear-eyed approach to our relationship with Pakistan — weighing both the importance of a continued long-term relationship and the importance of near-term action on key issues,” the official said.

On the ABC program Sunday, Daley said the U.S. relationship with Pakistan “is very complicated.”

“Obviously there’s still a lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama bin Laden,” although the United States has “no regrets,” he said. The relationship with Pakistan “is difficult, but it must be made to work over time,” he said.

“But until we get through these difficulties, we’ll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give.”

Responding to whether that figure was “some $800 million,” Daley said, “Yep.”

Abbas, the Pakistani military spokesman, told CNN, “We have said in the past that military aid should be redirected to the civilian area where it’s needed more.”

“As far as the impact is concerned,” he added, “we have stated in the past we have conducted operations against militants in the tribal region — and they have been successful operations — using our own resources without taking any external support. Those operations in the tribal areas will continue.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France: Strauss-Kahn Faces Paris Inquiry Into Attempted Rape Case

(AGI) Paris — Prosecutors in Paris have started an inquiry into a journalist’s claims that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her. It was announced by judicial sources who confirmed that a preliminary inquiry is underway. Tristan Banon said she was sexually assaulted in 2003 by the former IMF managing director who allegedly tried to rape her in a Paris flat during an interview.

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

Germany: Spider Shuts Down Saarland Supermarket

Experts in the western German town of Bexbach are still searching a supermarket for a spider that jumped out of a Colombian fruit crate on Friday. The eight-legged escape artist is thought to be a highly venomous banana spider. A spokesman for the grocery store told German news agency DAPD that the supermarket remained closed to ensure customer safety. He said experts were “frantically” working to track down the creature, though there had still been no trace of it. Staff from the zoo in Neunkirchen are at the scene, and zoo director Norbert Fritsch said the risk is not to be underestimated if the arachnid in question was, indeed, a banana spider. He said the spider’s bites can be life-threatening, even for a healthy adult. Banana spiders can grow to be 13 centimeters in size. The term refers to two genera of spiders, one of which is large but relatively harmless, and another highly venomous species.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Prize for Putin Stirs Controversy

A prominent German political prize will go to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a spokesman said Sunday, in a move sharply criticised in the German press due to his rights record. The Quadriga Prize, bestowed on the anniversary of German reunification on October 3, is a private award that recognises “role models for enlightenment, dedication and the public good,” the Werkstatt Deutschland organisation said. Its board of trustees is comprised of top officials from across the political spectrum, journalists and business executives. Previous winners include European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, former Czech president Vaclav Havel and Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Werkstatt Deutschland spokesman Stephan Clausen confirmed reports that Putin would accept the prize in Berlin. However he admitted that the board’s choice was a matter of “heated debate,” with Greens party leader Cem Özdemir abstaining in the vote, which nevertheless garnered a majority for Putin. “Reliability paired with staying power, dependability paired with the ability to communicate make up the character and personality of Vladimir Putin,” the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung quoted the organisation as writing in its report on the selection of Putin.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece’s Electricity Charges Among Lowest in the EU

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 7 — Greece had the third-lowest charges for electricity of all European Union states in the second half of last year, according to data released on Wednesday by Eurostat. This, as daily Kathimerini reports, was despite the fact that electricity charges in Greece rose by as much as 17% from 2009 to 2010, which was the third-highest increase across the bloc.

The average annual increase in EU electricity rates came to 5.1%, the data showed. Comparisons are made based on purchasing power. In absolute terms, Greece’s rate of 12.11 euros per 100 kilowatt-hours is the fifth lowest in the EU. It was only beaten by Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Romania. Electricity charges are set to increase from 2013, when the free rights to carbon dioxide emissions by power plants comes to an end, according to EU law. The cost of this will be rolled over to consumers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Four Arrested Over High-Speed Train Link Protests to Stay in Jail

Turin, 7 July (AKI) — Four people arrested on Sunday during violent protests in northwest Italy over a planned high-speed rail link between Turin and the French cityof Lyon must stay in jail, a judge ruled on Thursday.

The four protesters are all in their early thirties and were named as Marta Bifani from the northern city of Parma, Salvatore Soru, from Maranello, Roberto Nadalini from Modena and Gianluca Ferrari from Marghera.

Nearly 400 people including almost 200 members of Italy’s security forces were injured during hours of clashes on Sunday between police and around 6,000 demonstrators in Chiomonte, Valsusa, west of Turin in the Piedmont region. The protesters are seeking stop the construction of a tunnel which is part of the work site at Chiomonte.

The clashes drew condemnation from Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, from prime minister Silvio Berluscconi and politicians from across the political spectrum.

Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni on Monday described the violent protests against the train link link as “terrorism” and vowed the project would go ahead as planned.

Work on the main 58-kilometre tunnel, of which 12 km are in Italy, is due to begin in 2013 and go into service around 2023, cutting three hours off the current seven-hour train journey between Paris and Milan.

The project has sparked fierce opposition including from residents, environmental groups and 23 local mayors. Protesters claim drilling to build the train link will damage the local ecosystem and could release potentially harmful substances into the atmosphere.

Construction of the high-speed link in Italy was brought to a standstill by protests before and after the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006 and has been disrupted by protests over the past 18 months.

The European Commission on Thursday reiterated its support for the project, saying it would contribute to Europe’s economic growth, but warned it would review funding for the project in light of the delays.

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

Italy: Finance Minister Gives Up €8,500/Month Apartment Paid for by Ex-Aide

Rome, 8 July (AKI) — Italian finance minister Giulio Tremonti says he has moved out of a luxurious Rome apartment paid for by a former aide and member of parliament who is under investigation for his alleged involvement in secret a network of favour giving among politicians and businessmen.

Tremonti, often praised by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for resisting a government spending spree to stimulate the economy, has by equal measure come under attack by members of the government for too tightly controlling the public purse strings.

The 8,500 euros per month for the apartment in the heart of Italy’s historic capital was paid for by Marco Milanese, a close adviser to Tremonti who was once employed by the Italian tax police, according to daily La Repubblica.

“I had accepted the offer made by Milanese for the temporary use of part of the property,” Tremonti said in an e-mail statement late Thursday.

“After learning the judicial developments concerning the property, as of this evening I will change my arrangements.”

Milanese resigned on 26 June from his job as an adviser to Tremonti. He was a member of the prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party.

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

Italy: Islamic Finance Volume, USD 2 Trillion in 5 Years

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 6 — >From a current business volume of a trillion dollars, Islamic finance will reach 2 trillion within the next 5 years, according to Rushdi Sadiki, head of Thomson Reuters Corporation’s islamic finance sector.

The Islamic finance sector will benefit, according to financial experts cited by ‘Al Arabiya, from the Arab Spring and the West’s changed outlook toward this financial world which was previously often associated to terrorism. Despite the global financial crisis, the Islamic financed sector has continued to grow, proving that the lack of transparency inherent to the traditional banking system caused many financial institution’s significant financial losses. Due to a lack of liquidity, the West, claims Sadiki, will “be forced to” focus its interests on Islamic finance, hoping to attract petrodollars.

The climate of protests which swept through Arab countries has led several of the affected countries to transfer their financial institutions to more stable countries. Indeed, some Islamic funds were moved from Bahrain, which was traditionally a hub for this sort of activity, to Dubai.

Despite growing interest in Islamic finance at the global level, it only accounts for 1.5 percent of the global economy, which amounts to 65 trillion dollars, and 1.5 percent of the traditional banks’ equity. Despite positive medium-term forecasts, Sadiki believes that estimates with regards to growth within the Islamic banking sector to a sum of two trillion dollars is linked to the provision of new services and the West being aware of the differences between the Islamic banking sector and the traditional one. The former is still very new, no older than 40, whilst the traditional sector has been operating for over 100 years and has equity amounting to some 100 trillion dollars.

Some of the challenges the Islamic sector will have to face include: transparency, lack of information on companies, banks and Islamic products and the lack of communication between Islamic financing institutions and the rest of the world.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: MP Accused of Corruption and Conspiracy

PdL MP took Ferrari, Bentley, say investigators

(ANSA) — Naples, July 7 — Authorities issued an arrest warrant for an MP accused of corruption, divulging judicial secrets and conspiracy Thursday.

Marco Mario Milanese, an MP in Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, allegedly took bribes of money, expensive watches, jewelry, luxury cars — including a Ferrari and a Bentley — and overseas trips in exchange for confidential information related to a police investigation into the EIG insurance company.

“The Naples prosecutor’s office does not discriminate,” said Naples Chief Prosecutor Giovandomenico Lepore. “Police officers, judges and politicians are all treated as regular citizens under the law”.

Milanese is part of a larger investigation into the dealings of EIG.

A warrant has also been issued for Carlo Barbieri, mayor of Voghera, which is outside Milan.

It is unclear how he is connected to the investigation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Naples to Send Trash Outside Region

Lombardy, Sicily among recipients

(ANSA) — Rome, July 7 — Large amounts of Naples waste are to be moved to other Italian regions, said the governor of Campania Thursday.

Leaders from Sicily, Puglia, Marche, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy and Friuli Venezia Giulia are expected to sign an agreement Friday, according to Governor Stefano Caldoro, allowing Naples to ship rubbish to their territory.

Still, it is unclear if the measure will resolve the trash crisis that has snarled Naples streets in recent weeks.

“It does not fix the emergency,” said Caldoro, “neither in method nor in merit”.

A central government measure passed last week permits the Campania region to export refuse to other parts of the country, though not without resistance from the regionalist Northern League party.

Armed police escorts had recently begun accompanying garbage trucks as exasperated protesters had resorted to tipping over dumpsters, blocking traffic and setting fire to the growing piles of waste choking the daily flow of city life.

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

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

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

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

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

The government has said it will present a plan within one month outlining a proposed solution to the crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Firm Fined 560 Million Euros in Bribery Case

An appeals court in Milan has ordered Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s media holding company to pay damages worth more than half a billion euros to a business rival. A Milan appeals court ruled Saturday that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s media holding company, Fininvest, must pay compensation totaling 560 million euros ($800 million) to rival media group, Compagnie Industirali Riunite (CIR), after Fininvest bribed a judge to approve a company takeover. The verdict is the latest installment in a long judicial tussle that goes back to 1991, when Fininvest was first accused of bribing a judge to win a takeover battle for one of Italy’s leading publishing houses, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore. Fininvest won control of Mondadori at the expense of CIR thanks to a ruling at the time by a Rome judge, who was later sentenced and sent to prison for corruption. Saturday’s appeals court decision, however, reduced by a quarter the original compensation judgment of a lower court asking for 750 million euros in damages.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Meat BBQ? A Battle in Northern Italy Over Brown Bears in Parks and on Plates

A political battle erupts when locals objecting to the arrival of bears decide to hold a very particular kind of barbecue

It was meant to be a provocative protest against plans to populate a wooded area in northern Italy with brown bears. But to some members of the Italian government and other critics, it was simply barbaric.

A planned BBQ of bear meat was halted just before kick-off, sparking the ire of its organizer. “I’m as mad as a bear,” said Erminio Boso, a local politician and longtime member of the Northern League, a member of the ruling coalition known for flamboyant and highly controversial stances against immigrants and Muslims. And now, it seems, bears.

Boso had organized the outdoor banquet featuring some 100 kilograms of bear meat, imported from Slovenia, to protest against an initiative aimed at populating the woods in Trentino, an Alpine region in northern Italy. He fears it would prevent people from taking hikes in the woods. His solution? Eating a bear.

The plan in the small village of Imer prompted immediate protests of not just animal rights groups, but also of members of the government, the League’s allies in Rome, including prominent ones such as the foreign minister. Eventually, Italy’s health minister sent members of a police unit usually dealing with food contaminations and animal disease, who seized the meat. “They spoiled the party,” Boso complained. He and his fellow party-goers were left with sausages and a pasta dish with minced deer sauce.

As it turned out, the police also found that organizers lacked proper documentation for the import of the Slovenian bear.

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

Netherlands: Rosenthal: ‘Government Will Not Gag Wilders’

THE HAGUE, 09/07/11 — The cabinet is rejecting calls by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to muzzle Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders.

‘The Dutch Government will continue to reject any call to gag a politician. The Netherlands enjoys freedom of expression and attaches great value to it,” accordign to Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal. He was responding on the ministry’s website to a call from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to “contain the campaign of hatred and incitement” by Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders.

“To prevent any misunderstanding the Dutch government wants to make clear that Mr Wilders is not a part of the government,” stated Rosenthal. “It is well known that the government takes a different view of Islam from the PVV. The government considers Islam a religion and the Netherlands respects freedom of religion.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Skilled German Muslims Held Back by Stereotypes

They are ambitious, well-educated and jobless. In Germany, a rising number of skilled Muslims are complaining of discrimination. Especially women wearing a headscarf feel excluded from the job market. “My name is Ismahen Dabbach, I am 26 years old, I was born in Germany and I am a trained office clerk. I am very flexible, independent and open to everything that carries me further forward in life.” This is how Ismahen Dabbach describes herself in job interviews. She is wearing a light-blue shirt and a black woolen scarf that covers her hair, neck and shoulders — an outfit she would also choose when meeting her potential employer for the first time. But Dabbach, whose parents are Tunisian, feels that since she decided to wear the Muslim headscarf four months ago, her search for a job has become extremely difficult.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: After 28 Years Socialists Lose Extremadura

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 7 — For the first time since the end of Franco’s rule, the Spanish socialist party led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has lost control of Extremadura, the region on the Portuguese border where it had been in power for 32 years. The leader of the Extremadura People’s Party, José Antonio Monago was elected as the new regional President this morning, as a result of the abstentions of regional deputies from the left-wing Izquierda Unida party. The PP came out on top in the region in the local and regional elections held on May 22, which proved humbling for Zapatero’s PSOE party.

The socialist party now have presidents in only 2 of Spain’s 17 regions: Andalusia and the Basque Country, though Basques did not vote in the May 22 elections. Polls are predicting the victory of Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party at the next general election, which is due to be held in March next year, though some analysts believe it could be brought forward to November. The current Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, will lead the PSOE into the next parliamentary elections, with Zapatero due to stand down at the end of his term.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Academy Blocks Iranians From Flight Training

An aircraft pilot training academy will no longer teach students from Iran Air following recent sanctions brought by the Americans against the airline. Arlanda Airport in Stockholm is used as a base by the Oxford Aviation Academy, formerly the SAS Flight Academy, who have been training pilots from the Iranian airline since January this year. However, in line with American sanctions against the airline the contract between the two parties has been abandoned with immediate effect. America claims that Iran Air has links with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an organization that allegedly supports terrorist activity in the Middle East, according to a report in Aftonbladet. According to reports, the airline has been providing materials and services to the IRGC. Terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp said to the paper, “There is an escalation of pressure against Iran”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Basel: Proposal for Muslim Old-Age Home

The Basel-City canton is considering opening an old-age home for Muslims. Philippe Waibel, head of health services in the canton wrote in the Basler-Zeitung that the canton needs to see what services will be needed in the future, and that multicultural services don’t just start with old-age homes. In February, two socialist deputies of Turkish origin suggested opening such homes. Gülsen Oeztürk explained that until now the canton had neglected to consider how to care for first generation immigrants.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Top Czech Scientist Outed as Communist STB Collaborator

The Czech scientific community has been split by the revelation that one of the country’s most distinguished scientists collaborated with the Communist-era secret police (StB) as an industrial spy, stealing biological cultures and equipment in the West. The facts about Jirí Bártek’s underground activities from 1985-1990 stem from extracts of his StB files, which form the basis for Thursday’s revelations in the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes. Bártek, who is currently the head of Department of Cell Cycle and Cancer at the Danish Cancer Society, used study visits to Germany and Britain to collect cell cultures being used for cancer research and brought them back home in a thermos flask partly filled with ice, the paper reported.

The secret police gave him the code name Rak or Raki, an abbreviation for the slang term in Czech for cancer (rakovina). Bártek has admitted his collaboration but defends himself on the grounds that he was acting for a good cause — scientific advancement and cancer treatment at home — and that he never turned anyone over to the StB. Bártek also says his decision was a result of the times. “The young are lucky today that they do not have to make such choices at all,” he told the paper a few weeks ago. He says that today’s perspective where a scientist can choose to live and work where he wants and take his family with him makes it difficult to judge the past. “For me, it was all about work. In the West I learned a lot of things. Today it is commonplace; no one would even think that they would have the restrictions that existed then,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Voters Desert the Sweden Democrats

The Sweden Democrats Party has lost one in three voters over the past month according to the latest opinion survey. Only 4.2 of the electorate described the party as their favourite last month, down by 2.4 percent from the previous month, reports TT. The voter survey, carried out by Skop, was based on telephone interviews with 1059 people made during the period between June 17th and July 3rd. They were asked the question: “Which is your favourite political party?” The result was good news for the centre-right Alliance which saw a 2.3 percent rise in popularity, closing the gap on the Red-Green opposition, polling their second best result since the election in 2010. Support for the two largest parties, the Moderates and the Social Democrats, remains at a pretty steady 30 percent meanwhile.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

What is Wrong With This Tour De France Cyclist’s Leg?!

As American cyclist George Hincapie pedals his way toward a record-tying 16thTour de France that started July 2, it looks as though his brain is escaping from his leg. Actually, he’s suffering from an unsightly case of varicose veins, says Dr. Walter M. Whitehouse, Jr., a vascular surgeon and Medical Director of Restoration Vein Care in Ann Arbor, Mich. In Hincapie’s case, it’s likely caused by his hours and hours of sitting on his bike. Sitting or standing for long periods can put pressure on the veins and cause them to bulge. “These are the ugliest varicose veins I’ve seen in awhile,” he says. “They are more severe than the typical patient. I’ve seen bigger, but these are just a huge mass that are clumped together.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Albanian Town Thanks George W. Bush With Statue

A tiny Albanian village that U.S. President George W. Bush visited in 2007 has unveiled a shirt-sleeved statue of him, in a square named for him.

The 2.85 m- tall statue of the former president, raising his left hand in greeting, was unveiled on Wednesday in the square festooned with Albanian and American flags for the occasion.

“Albanians’ pro-Americanism has its roots in our attempts… to build our deserved future as a free nation, as a free country,” Prime Minister Sali Berisha told the crowd.

Bush, who marked his 65th birthday on Wednesday, was the first U.S. president to visit post-communist Albania, which is hoping to join the European Union.

Albanians have a special affection for the United States, which they credit with ending their country’s Cold War isolation and leading NATO’s 1999 bombing offensive that halted ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians by Serbian troops.

Washington also was a staunch supporter of Albania’s drive to join NATO, which accepted it into the military alliance in 2009.

“He left his mother in the United States but he found a mother here,” Thomaidha Kaziu, 72, who had seen Bush in 2007 and was told Bush had found a resemblance between her and his mother.

“I will not die without meeting him again,” she said.

In Kosovo, which borders Albania, a statue of former U.S. president Bill Clinton has been erected to thank him for taking action to stop Belgrade’s 1998-99 war against Albanians in Kosovo.

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

Serbia: Minister Apologises to Roma Gypsy Family for Police Brutality

Belgrade, 28 June (AKI) — Serbian police minister Ivica Dacic Tuesday issued an apology to a Roma family for police brutality in a case that shocked the public and sparked protests by human rights organisations.

Dacic received a Roma youth, Danijel Stojanovic and his father Gani, after it was discovered that Danijel was brutally beaten by police in the eastern city of Vrsac four years ago.

The scandal wound up on the popular Youtube video-sharing website and caught public attention after one of three policemen who took part in the beating sold his mobile telephone on which he filmed the beating in Vrsac police station.

Apologizing to Danijel, now 22, Dacic said two police officers had been arrested over the beating and legal proceedings were under way for a third who had in the meantime retired, Dacic said.

Police claimed Stojanovic and his father were involved in criminal activities, but Dacic said these allegations could not justify the policemen’s brutal behaviour.

“It is in the public interest that citizens think well of police, not badly,” Dacic said. “I hope this event will be a turning point for police and for the Stojanovic family and that all will draw a lesson from it,” he added.

Police brutality was widespread in Serbia due a lack of reform including internal controls, according to Ivan Kuzmanovic, an official from Serbia’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights group.

His organization had interviewed about 300 prisoners in Serbian jails and more than 200 of them complained that they had been subject to “some sort of torture” by police, Kuzmanovic told Belgrade television B92.

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

North Africa

Algeria: Jobless Attempt Suicide, Arrested 4 Months Later

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 4 — Two unemployed individuals have been arrested in Algeria because four months ago, out of desperation, they had tried to commit suicide in front of a security forces barracks. To press for the release of the two — Hamza Ziouane and Aldjia Adel — a demonstration was held today in front of the courthouse in the Saharan city Ouargla in which hundreds of people took part, reports the online edition of El Watan. “Shame, from the unemployed in front of a courthouse” and “We are Algerians, not Israelis” were the slogans yelled out by protestor. Some of the demonstrators quoted by the daily paper asked polemically whether “trying to commit suicide is a crime punished by the law.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Volunteers Working Against Child Abuse

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 8 — There are no official figures, perhaps due to the reluctance to report cases and obstacles linked to the culture and family traditions, but every year in Algeria 7,000 children reportedly suffer sexual abuse, many times within their own homes. It is a huge figure if looked at in relation to the population, and one which is rarely spoken of, being as it is an issue many would like to marginalise or even eliminate from potential debate. One of the aspects that those studying the issue holds as emblematic is that often these episodes occur in family settings, making it even more unlikely that the crime will be reported or prosecuted. However, a part of Algerian society is instead now focusing on the problem, as can be seen in child protection associations and those dealing with families which have decided to come out into the open and bring in an awareness campaign highlighting the problem and giving strength to those who can report the abuse. Monday will see the official creation of a network for the protection of children including Nada, the SOS Village and the Association of Volunteers for Childhood and the Family. Among the many obstacles to a solution for the problem is cultural resistance to report sexually-related crimes. This leads to the direct consequence of utter impunity for those committing the crimes and leaves the victim to suffer the dire consequences, many times for the rest of their life, and especially when the “bad guy” is a relative or even someone living in the same house. Those working in the Algerian associations have collected numerous cases in which the “monster” can be anyone: a neighbor perhaps offering to lend a hand by keeping an eye on the child while the latter’s parents are away; a shopkeeper who draws the boy or girl sent by his or her parents to pick up something into the backroom; or teachers who use their role unscrupulously to intimidate, deceive and violate. However, according to the files, the one to commit the abuse is often a father, uncle or brother. The volunteers know that they cannot carry out their mission alone, and for this reason have asked for help from the national authorities who on Monday — as part of the forum which will officially launch the network — will become not interlocutors but part of the process to defend childhood and its rights.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Army Will Lead Fight Against Terrorism

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 6 — All activities geared toward tackling terrorism and subversion in Algeria will be the Army’s responsibility; this was decided by a ministerial decree, ‘el Watan’ reports, published on June 5’s official bulletin.

Therefore, going forward, the PNA will be coordinating security services, the gendarmerie and police on the ground.

The newspaper remarks that this is a somewhat logical decision in light of the state of emergency being lifted. The aim behind the government’s decision is apparent: to give guidance from a single source in leading action against terrorism which, in recent months, has seen a surge, increasing attacks and, above all, giving the impression that it has plenty of room for manoeuvre and the ability to attack the State through its uniforms. Aside from the fact that terrorist clusters operate from a regional base, targeting the entire Sahel.

The key role within the new Army formation goes to the organisation’s chief, who will be in charge of “leading” and “operational coordination against terrorism and subversion” ..

Another innovative aspect, compared to the previous setup, is that the Army will also be tasked with harmonising the security forces, gendarmerie and police intelligence units.

However, the decree significantly limits the Army’s mandate within urban areas, except when it is considered absolutely necessary. Had this measure been adopted previously, recent episodes could have been avoided in which Army units reacted to terrorist attacks with excessive violence in urban settings, to the point where their behaviour triggered heated protests on the part of some sectors of the population.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bossi Says Napolitano Wanted War in Libya Too

(AGI) Trescore Cremasco -Bossi remarked, “The war party is very numerous, Berlusconi went to Libya because the President sent him.” He added, “One needs to tell the truth, the war in Libya was supported by the President of the Republic too, without naming anyone.” Umberto Bossi made the comment during a meeting at Trescore Cremasco in the province of Cremona.

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

Egypt: Christians Registered as Muslims Can Change Their Status

Egyptian Supreme Court ruling handed down. Words “ex Muslim” may be removed from documents, because of discrimination. Spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church: “Results will only be seen with the real application of the law.”

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Christians under duress or by mistake registered as Muslims will be able to write the right religious denomination on their identity cards. This was decided in recent days by the Egyptian Supreme Court. The verdict clears the law that forced the Christians who “converted” by error to Islam from having “ex-Muslim” written in brackets next to religion on their documents. In order to change the status it will now be sufficient to present a birth certificate confirming the registration as a Christian, with a confirmation of church membership.

To date, in many Egyptian registry offices, infants and anyone who has to change their documents are registered as Muslims. Often officials refuse to correct the error and encourage Christians not to change their status because “being Muslim is an advantage” (AsiaNews See “ Hegazi case: Islam’s obsession with conversions”). According to some Christian scholars this demonstrates the willingness of some government offices to take advantage of their position to “Islamize” Christians. Muslim organizations claim the “conversion” to Islam of at least 10 thousand Christians every year.

Fr. Greich Rafiq, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, told AsiaNews that “the Court’s decision is a positive sign of the change taking place in the country.” “In the past — said the priest — the Court has repeatedly proposed a revision of the discriminatory rule, but it has always received strong opposition of Habib Adli, the former interior minister, now in prison for corruption.”

However, according to Fr. Greich opposition comes mainly from low-level officials. “The law — said Fr Greich — will not necessarily be applied by all, results will only be seen with the real application of the law, especially in remote areas of the country. “ (Sc)

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

Egypt: Alleged Abductions of Young Coptic Women Fuel Christian-Muslim Conflict

Coptic activists say more 150 abductions have taken place since 1993, but cannot provide sufficient evidence to back their claims. Many Christian women escape their homes to get married against their family’s wishes. The editor in chief of ‘Arab-West Report’ blames the problem on hasty interpretations of the facts and the confusion between social issues and religion.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Sectarian conflict between Egyptian Christians and Muslims is being fuelled by the kidnapping of young Coptic women forced to convert to Islam, with both sides accusing the other. Coptic activists claim that 150 young Christian women and girls have disappeared since 1993, abducted and forced to convert in order to be married. Muslims counter that these women fled their homes because of family problems or to get married despite the parents’ opposition.

The latest case occurred on 12 June in Minya (Upper Egypt), when two girls, Nancy (age 14) and Christine (age 16), were reported missing. Police found them later in Cairo, wearing a niqab but recognisable by the Coptic cross tattooed on their forehead.

Despite their parents’ protestation, the two girls are being held in a Cairo psychiatric hospital and it is unclear whether they escaped or were abducted.

Some analysts point the finger at erroneous and hasty interpretations of events that are dubbed religiously motivated abductions, a definition that fuels tensions between Christians and Muslims.

This attitude favours extremists and unscrupulous criminals let out after the fall of Mubarak’s regime. An example is the outbreak of violence in Imbaba (Cairo) on 8 May. Twelve people died after extremist gangs stirred up Coptic-Muslim animosity over allegations that a woman had been abducted, a claim that later turned out to be false.

Cornelis Hulsman, editor in chief of Arab-West Report, an international news agency, said that in most cases, there is no hard evidence to back allegations. Social problems and religious issues end up being confused.

Often, police neglects to follow up on cases and refuses to release data about the problem.

Coptic families are afraid of retaliation and in most cases do not report their missing relative.

Muslims instead take advantage of family problems to encourage young women to escape and leave their faith.

For Hulsman, it is impossible to separate what is true from what is false. The issue of abductions is used by both sides to promote their own political interests, turning a social problem into a religious conflict. (S.C.)

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

Egypt: Birth of “Liberal Egyptians”, Sawiris’ Secular Party

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 7 — “Almasrien Alahrar” (Liberal Egyptians) is the name of the new secular party founded by the billionaire Naguib Sawiris, the owner of Wind and one of Egypt’s most successful businessmen. Sawiris, a Copt, has an estimated wealth of 2.5 billion dollars. The new party was officially launched today during a reception in a Cairo hotel. “The new party will take part in the construction of a modern Egypt and will help to raise it to the level that it deserves,” said Hani Sareddin, a member of the political office of Liberal Egyptians.

“We believe that the country should respect all religions but should be secular,” said Mohammed Hamed, another party official, who was quoted by Middle East Online. “The new party has around 65,000 members and we do not allow any of them to speak in the name of the religion that they follow,” Hamed added.

Liberal Egyptians, the website says, is diametrically opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, which was founded a month ago, and is the first party launched by the organisation to be legally recognised since 1928.

Sawiris has called on all liberal forces and parties to join a single list ahead of the first parliamentary elections since the ousting of Mubarak, which are due to be held in September.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslim Sisterhood, Ready to Participate in Public Life

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 4 — “We have regained the freedom the corrupt regimes have denied us in the past 60 years, keeping us from doing our work publicly.” This statement was made by the Egyptian Muslim Sisterhood at the end of the congress they held the day before yesterday at the Al Azhar University in Cairo.

“The woman, from revolution to awakening” was the name of the conference, organised by the Muslim Brotherhood in response to accusations that the movement marginalises women.

More than two thousand women from several provinces in Egypt participated in the congress, as well as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badi. During the debate, newspaper Assharq Al Awsat reports, the responsibility of women in the development of society and of public activities in collaboration with men was underlined, as well as the need to make women aware of potential threats that can undermine faith and the values of their families. “Organising the conference with the Muslim Sisterhood makes it a very important event”, said Shorouk Al Shawaf, one of the organisation’s leaders, adding that “the security services of the corrupt regimes have kept us from working in the open in the past 60 years.” “The revolution has not changed our view”.

The mentality of the Muslim Sisterhood, the movement’s leader underlined, is very closed due to the abuse suffered in the past by the organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood. But this must change because the Islam, she continued, “is not against the participation of women in public life.” Al Shawaf concluded that the role of women inside the organisation also needs to change, giving them more power, particularly when both sexes are working together. The conference concluded with a series of recommendations to guarantee the political role of women and to allow them to represent the Muslim Brotherhood in national and international conferences. The recommendations include primary social services like literacy programmes, drug addiction treatment and help to children living on the street, facilitation of marriage and active participation in information in all its forms.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

First Meeting on Islamic Finance in Tunis

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 08 — The first meeting of officials from the world of Islamic finance has been scheduled to take place in Tunis on July 15-16. The encounter will allow for the actions undertaken by the countries of the Maghreb regarding Islamic finance to be assessed and to identify the prospects and opportunities that the sector offers for their development. Encounters have also been scheduled for global leaders in Islamic finance as well as experts from North Africa in order to evaluate opportunities for cooperation and development. The meetings will be attended by the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Ahmed Mohamed Ali, and Sheikh Salah Abdallah Kamel, the president of Islamic banks and financial institutes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi Counterattack Underway 50 Km From Tripoli

(AGI) Tripoli — Troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have launched a counter-attack on rebel positions 50 Km from Tripoli. The battle is underway in the area of Gualish, a center in the hands of rebels and a strategic point on the road leading to the Libyan capital.

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

Libya: Berlusconi Reiterates Opposition to NATO Mission

Rome, 7 July (AKI) — (AKI) — Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi remains opposed to Nato’s mission in Libya, he said on Thursday in comments that exposed rifts among the military alliance over its operation against strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

“I am and was opposed to intervention in Libya but the parliament of my country tied my hands and I was forced to accept it,” Berlusconi told a press conference at the lower house of the Italian parliament.

Libya was an Italian colony from 1911 to 1943 and Italy is the North African country’s biggest trade partner.

Berlusconi had forged close ties with Gaddafi, going so far as to kiss his hand during a visit to Libya.

Nato warplanes have mounted air strikes in Libya since the end of March under a United Nations mandate, but the cost of the operation and its failure to produce a decisive outcome to the civil war between Gaddafi and rebel forces have put mounting strain on the operation.

Italy’s defence minister Ignazio La Russa said that the cost to Italy of the Libya operation would fall from 142 million euros in the first half of the year to less than 60 million euros in the second half as part of general defence spending cuts.

About one-quarter of Italian troops involved in military missions abroad (2,078 men) will be brought home by the end of the year, saving the country 117 million euros annually, La Russa and reforms minister Roberto Calderoli told journalists in Rome on Thursday.

The Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi with three aircraft on board with 890 soldiers on board will be withdrawn and their tasks would be taken on by land-based aircraft, the ministers said.

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

Libyan Crisis ‘Doesn’t Threaten’ Italian Energy Supply

Rome, 6 July (AKI) — The civil war in Libya doesn’t pose a threat to Italian and international energy supplies this year, according to the Italian energy regulator.

“There remains a more than sufficient margin to meet demand for 2011,” the Italian Energy Authority’s chief Guido Bortoni said Wednesday at an annual presentation to parliament in Rome.

Bortoni’s comments came after Libya’s 1.6 million barrels a day of oil was lost to the international market because of the conflict, which began in mid-February.

Italy is Libya’s biggest trading partner and Rome-based energy giant Eni is the largest international company operating in the country.

The armed conflict between rebels and forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has brought the country’s oil production to a halt. Libya is the African country with the most oil and gas reserves.

Italy depends on Libya for around 25 percent of its petroleum and 12 percent of its gas. Prior to the Libyan crisis, Eni was producing around 280,000 barrels of Libyan oil per day, out of the country’s total daily output of around 1.6 million barrels.

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

Tunisian Amazigh Fighting for Equal Rights

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 8 — Tunisian Amazigh are fighting so that the new constitution will take into account the values of their culture and especially their language. The promoters of the campaign -which is being conducted mainly through online social networks — note that only the Amazigh language is held in minority status, whereas their cultural values are shared at the national level. In their opinion, the new constitution should establish Islam as the state religion and Arabic as the official language. The term Amazigh identifies the Berber population in North Africa, and in Tunisia they are found mainly in the southern part of the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel: Maximum Alert, Pro-Palestinian Activists Stopped

With a wide-reaching operation that has stretched as far as Europe, Israel today countered attempts by hundreds of political activists to meet at “Lydda” airport (the Arab name for the town of Lod, near Tel Aviv), where, in the presence of Israeli border guards, they were due to start a rally provocatively entitled “Welcome to Palestine”. More than two hundred activists were stopped as they attempted to board planes at a number of European airports (including Paris, Geneva and Vienna), as a result of “black lists” forwarded to airlines by Israel’s Interior Ministry. Around sixty others were intercepted at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. These included passengers of the Alitalia flight from Rome. Half of these passengers (Belgian, French, American, Spanish, German and Dutch) were immediately ordered to return home. For the others, checks by the Israeli Interior Ministry are continuing. Israeli police had planned for the event by raising the level of alert in the airport’s arrival hall and in areas close to the airport, in an attempt to prevent solidarity protests by left-wing Israeli activists.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Saudi Prince Says No Change in News Corp Investment

DUBAI (Reuters) — Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said on Sunday there would be no change in his Kingdom Holding’s investment in News Corp.

“No change, my investment is strategic, not thinking of selling anything,” he told Reuters by telephone. “The crisis does not make Kingdom Holding blink at all. It makes our partnership stronger.”

News Corp chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch flew into London on Sunday to tackle the telephone-hacking scandal that may cost him a multi-billion dollar deal to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.

Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding is the second biggest shareholder in News Corp and controls 7 percent of the votes, he said. News Corp owns in return 14.5 percent of Alwaleed’s Rotana Media Group.

Alwaleed said he was in contact with News Corp from the onset of the crisis and that he supported the decision to close Britain’s News of the World tabloid engulfed in the scandal.

“Since the crisis erupted I have been in touch with them to contain this problem,” he said. “Their decision to shut down this tabloid in England is supported by me because we have to put this issue behind us.”

“What happened in the scandal is a deviation from what News Corp wants now which is full control of the remaining shares (of BSkyB).”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Syria: Mar Musa Monastery on Last Legs, Monks Demand Help

The Syrian crisis may also account for the Mar Musa monastery, a site for Christians and Muslims in the middle of the desert that was opened in 1982 by the Roman Jesuit, Paolo Dall’Oglio, and that has become a meeting point for pilgrims around the world, with an average of more than 50,000 travelling to the area every year. The Jesuit and his colleagues yesterday sent out an appeal for “money, commitment and prayer”, as the monastery is no longer able to rely on donations from its visitors and is at risk of closure, at a time when the local community has the greatest need for help and support. Only yesterday, for instance, the monks took in W., a two and a half year-old child. “His parents have disappeared in the storm that is afflicting this country. A widow with three young girls picked up little W. and came here,” the monks said in their statement.

Set deep in the mountains east of Nebek (a town 80 kilometres north of the capital Damascus), the monastery stands at 1,320 metres above sea level and has a staircase of 300 steps built into the rock of a breathtaking valley. The original 6th century building was dedicated to Bar Musa, Saint Moses the Abyssinian, and is surrounded by caves that were used for centuries by hermits, which have also been revived by Father Paolo. “Concern for the physical safety of the Syrian relatives of our monks and nuns is compounded by anxiety over a galloping economic crisis, which is even more serious for the tourism sector, which is in a disastrous state,” the statement continues. “Up until Easter, we would have hundreds of visitors. Tonight, one Chinese tourist came here and we looked at her as if she were a martian. Many young people, most of them destitute, reacting with their work and prayers to the depression and stress that threatens us all”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Muscovites Suffer Hours in Traffic for a Weekend at the Dacha

It wouldn’t be summer in the Moscow region without regular trips to the dacha, or country cabin. And it wouldn’t be a trip to the dacha without hours spent in traffic trying to get there. Russia’s capital, Moscow, can be unbearable in the summer. More than 10 million residents crowd the city, most of them living in crowded high-rises dating from Soviet times. The temperature can reach above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and, aside from the polluted Moskva River and a just a handful of outdoor pools, there are hardly any places to swim. But for many Muscovites there is a solution: They spend their weekends at their dachas — small summer or garden houses. Spending time at your dacha is a tradition that the Czars and Soviet leaders alike fostered and it remains popular today. The only problem? Dachas are often located more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from the city and, with millions heading out of town at the same time, getting to the beloved dacha often means sitting in traffic.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Orthodox Nationalists Attempt to Prevent Jehovah’s Witnesses Congress

The event should take place this weekend, but the organization ‘Council of the People’ asks the attorney general to verify its legality: “The JWs are a dangerous cult and violate the law.”

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The Orthodox activists of the nationalist movement ‘Council of the People’ are trying to prevent a large national convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW), scheduled from July 8 to 10 in Moscow. As announced by Russian agencies, the organization — which in Russian is called ‘Narodny Sobor’ — has asked judicial authorities to verify the legality of the event and prevent “violations of federal law,” as it said in a statement addressed to the Attorney General and published by Interfax.

The convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to a report in the daily Gazeta Nezavizimaya, should be held this weekend at the Crocus Expo, a large arena for mass events just outside the Russian capital and is expected to host more than 9 thousand faithful. According to the nationalist Orthodox, the Jehovah’s Witnesses “have not asked for permission to organize and hold a public religious ceremony … thus violating the law on freedom of conscience and religious associations,” the statement continues.

The Narodny Sobor — whose accusations in the past have led to the conviction of the organizers of the exhibition considered blasphemous ‘Forbidden Art-2006’ — stresses that the JWs are “one of the most dangerous sects in Russia” who have several criminal and civilians cases hanging over them. Often in Russia religious confessions and denominations that can not be classified among the traditional religions or are unacceptable to the political and Orthodox authorities are often defined as sects or destructive cults. Since 2004, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been particularly targeted, becoming the subject of a real persecution, which the leaders of the community compared to that suffered under Stalin. Several Russian courts have banned many of their publications and outlawed their activities. Assaults and vandalism against the community are becoming more frequent. The organization is also accused of “the violation of the rights of non-believers” through “attempts to enter their homes to pray and aggressive forms of evangelization.”

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

RWE Said to be in Investment Talks With Russia’s Gazprom

The head of German energy giant RWE, Jürgen Großmann, is mulling a partnership with Gazprom, the largest company in Russia, according to a Saturday news report. Der Spiegel magazine reported that Großmann met Alexey Miller, the head of Gazprom, in Paris on Friday to discuss potential investment opportunities that could see the Russian gas producer take a stake in RWE, Germany’s second-largest power supplier. Großmann hopes to be able to present the results of those negotiations to RWE’s supervisory board by early August. The RWE chief executive is seeking a new way forward in light of the German parliament’s decision to abandon nuclear power by 2022 — which has Großmann mulling a strategic partnership between Gazprom and RWE or its subsidiaries. That involvement could see Gazprom assume the role of major stakeholder in the German company. Gazprom’s own majority stakeholder is the Russian government, which holds 51 percent of the company’s shares.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Twenty-Four De-Mining Workers Kidnapped

Kabul, 6 July (AKI) — Twently-four people working as de-miners in western Afghanistan have been kidnapped by Taliban militants, according to news reports.

The group of de-miners in Farah province were kidnapped early Wednesday along with their four drivers, according to provincial head of police Syed Mohammad Roshandil, news agency Xinhua reported.

The kidnapping occurred while the de-miners were at work. They are all employed by the Afghan non-government organisation Demining Agency for Afghanistan.

An average of 52 Afghan civilians lost their lives per month in 2010 due to landmine explosions, according to Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan, a humanitarian group.

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

Canadians Eye Home Front as They Quit Afghanistan

Canadian troops have begun to return home from Afghanistan, as the country’s nine-year combat mission comes to a close.

For the Canadian troops leaving Afghanistan for the last time, the smiles and laughter as they filed across the tarmac to their transport plane said it all — they were finally going home.

The 117 troops who left Kandahar airfield, the giant military base in the heart of the southern war zone, early Wednesday were among nearly 3,000 Canadian combat troops whose mission ends this week after nine years and 157 deaths.

Still in uniform, carrying camouflage kit bags and flashing thumbs-up signs to photographers, most were purely and simply looking forward to going back to their families.

But others were conscious that the adjustment from frontline to civilian life might not be totally straightforward, despite a five-day “decompression” period in Cyprus on the way home to help them acclimatise.

Speaking on the runway moments before boarding the C17 transport aircraft, Captain Giles McClintock was desperate to get back to Canada to catch up on lost time with his infant son.

“I got to meet him for a week before I was deployed and during three weeks’ break,” he said. “I haven’t even known him as a baby — I’m coming back to him as a little boy.”

McClintock, who spent eight months in Afghanistan working with an engineering unit building roads and schools, said it felt “great” to be going home.

But some more senior officers cautioned that some soldiers might have a harder time adjusting to the aftermath of war.

Lieutenant-Colonel Martin Arcand spent 15 months in a senior operational role for Canadian forces and starts work as a military adviser to Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York later this month.

“Here, you’re always on, you’re called throughout the night. Back home it’s going to be more like nine to six. You don’t bring much work home. It will need some adjustment for sure,” he said.

In Cyprus, the troops will attend talks on the psychological impact of war, while counselling will be available for those who want it. It will also be their first chance in months to drink alcohol.

Arcand said the Cyprus stop-off aimed to help them prepare for going home.

“You’ve been away for a year, you’re going back home, your family have been doing stuff together for a year so you need to be able to adapt to a normal life,” he said.

McClintock, though, was ambivalent about the prospect of the extended layover.

“Obviously it will be nice to be with the guys in a relaxed setting,” he said. “However, all of us just want to go home.”

A few soldiers whose husbands, wives or partners were also in the military in Afghanistan do not feel in such a rush to head back to their families.

Warrant Officer Yves Martin served as a physician specialising in trauma at frontline bases around Kandahar province, one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous.

He said that members of his team provided strong support for each other, particularly after dealing with some of the most harrowing cases of dead and injured soldiers.

“After every case, we would get together and do a debrief,” he said. “You can’t save all the lives. You need to make sure everybody knows they did their best. So far I’ve been lucky, knock on wood, that I haven’t had anything too traumatising.”

Martin also had his wife to turn to, although military rules prevent intimacy between serving couples.

“We saw each other but we couldn’t be too close. We played a lot of cards,” he said.

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

Clashes Between Police and Islamic Demonstrators in Dacca

(AGI) Dacca — Several people were hurt in clashes between police and Islamic demonstrators in the Bangladesh capital, Dacca. The twelve Islamic parties of the country called for a 30-hour general strike, to impose the insertion of a new Constitutional law, affirming “absolute faith and confidence in Allah”.

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

Indonesia: Govt to Give Migrant Workers Mobile Phones

Jakarta, 8 July (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesia’s national agency for the placement and protection of migrant workers has signed an agreement with telecoms firm PT Nurkumala Abadi to provide cell phones to migrant workers sent to South Korea.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had earlier promised the public that he would provide every Indonesian migrant worker with a cell phone, following numerous cases of abuse in several countries.

“It is highly expected that the cell phones will enable them to communicate with their family members and related government authorities in Indonesia more frequently,” the agency’s head Jumhur Hidayat said on Friday.

“ Let’s hope that this reduces the amount of problems faced by migrant workers,” he added.

The government sent 2,923 migrant workers to South Korea between the 1 January and 4 July.

PT Nurkumala Abadi Hermin general manager Abdul Syukur said that before leaving for South Korea, workers would be asked to complete a registration form.

“Once they arrive in South Korea, they will receive cell phones just by showing the form,” he said.

He said PT Nurkumala Abadi had committed to provide 8,000 to 10,000 cell phones each year.

Accordin to the agency’s data, 3,962 migrant workers were sent to South Korea in 2010 and 2,024 workers in 2009. The highest number of workers sent to South Korea was recorded in 2008 when 11,885 workers were sent there; almost tripling the 2007’s figure of 4,303 workers.

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

Janet Levy: Is the Fate of the Infidels Tied to the Buddhas?

No fanfare and little notice marked the 10th anniversary earlier this year of the destruction of the 1,500-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas. These 6th-century stately statues carved into sandstone cliffs in central Afghanistan included one of the tallest standing Buddhas in the world. On March 12, 2001, the 180- and 121-foot Buddhas crumpled under dynamite set off by the Taliban — the Islamist militia group ruling Afghanistan from 1996 through late 2001. Mullah Omar, the leader of the Al Qaeda-supported movement, deemed the statutes idolatrous graven images insulting to Islam and ordered their destruction. Other Buddhist images, including statues and relief carvings as well as ancient Sikh gurdwaras and Hindu temples, were also destroyed by the Islamic terrorists belonging to the Taliban Movement.

This kind of cultural destruction has been part and parcel of Islam since its inception. According to Dr. Bill Warner, founder of the Center for the Study of Political Islam, “Political Islam has annihilated every culture it has invaded or immigrated to by destroying the host culture.”

Dr. Warner cites the extinction of a once-Christian Middle East, Turkey, and North Africa, and a Zoroastrian Persia, as a result of Islamic jihad. He also includes the decimation of Hindus and Buddhists as well. All told, he totals more than 270 million “nonbelievers,” including Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Africans, and Jews, who have died in Islamic massacres since the birth of Islam 1400 years ago.

Prior to the Islamic conquests, which began in the 7th century, Afghanistan was primarily Hindu with significant minorities of Buddhists and Jains. Hinduism, the oldest living religion, began in the Indus Valley around 1500 B.C., in land which is today part of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Northwest India. Many areas of Afghanistan had strong cultural links to the Indian sub-continent where Buddha was born in modern-day Nepal to a Hindu family during the 5th century B.C. The religion he founded was an offshoot of his Hindu belief system. In the 3rd century B.C., Buddhism spread from the Indian sub- continent to Central, East, and Southeast Asia.

By the 11th century, the region that includes modern-day Afghanistan had been Islamized and the remaining Hindus and Buddhists were stripped of their legal and social rights and relegated to dhimmi status. This meant they were required to exist under shariah or Islamic doctrine and forced to pay the jizya, a tax payable to Muslims to guarantee protection against forced conversion or death.

When the Taliban came to power in 1996, Hindu and Buddhist minorities were forced to identify themselves by wearing yellow badges and the women were required to wear burkas. The destruction of the Buddhas was yet another attempt to demoralize and humiliate Hindus and Buddhists and destroy their culture. Afghanistan had been ruled by Hindu kings until 1002 A.D. and Buddhists shared common cultural and religious traditions with the rest of the Hindus; thus, the Bamiyan Buddhas were representative of the 3,000-year-old Hindu civilization and identity in Afghanistan and, as such, needed to be destroyed.

Similarly, like Afghanistan, which once flourished under Hinduism and Buddhism, the Indian sub-continent is now under siege by Islam. In Bangladesh and Pakistan, Islamization has decimated Hindus and Buddhists and forced survivors to flee. Hindus, who made up 30% of the Bangladesh population in 1941, have been reduced to a mere 11% today. In Pakistan, where the Hindu population was reduced to 3% of the population from 10%, the remaining traces of Hindus and other religious minorities are endangered by rape, forcible conversion, and marriage to Muslims. In India, with a Hindu majority, the government is yet failing to sufficiently resist attempts to elevate Islam and delegitimize Hinduism. Indian textbooks lionize Islam and cast Hinduism as an evil, exploitative, backward faith. Legislation has been proposed that will discriminate against Hindus by specifically punishing communal violence against minorities, such as Muslims, but not violence committed by minorities against majority Hindus. The official discourse omits the atrocities and genocides committed under Islamic rule, including a past replete with the destruction of religious sites, civilian massacres, and forced conversions.

The fact that nothing was done to commemorate the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas speaks to the legacy of 1,000 years of Hindu and Buddhist dhimmitude. Buddhists, who practice non-violence and offered no resistance to Muslim invaders in Afghanistan and Bangladesh, are once again threatened by Muslim attacks in Thailand. Buddhists hesitated to make demands of the Afghan government, preferring to take comfort in the belief that Buddha “takes care of himself.”…

[Return to headlines]

Over 1,400 Arrested, Tear Gas Fired in Malaysia Protest

Malaysian police fired repeated rounds of tear gas and detained over 1,400 people in the capital on Saturday as thousands of activists evaded roadblocks and barbed wire to hold a street protest against Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government.

At least a dozen people were hurt in the demonstration for electoral reform in downtown Kuala Lumpur. There were no reports of serious injuries but some analysts said the police action was excessive and would dent Najib’s image.

“We are not criminals, we are just asking for free and fair elections,” opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, told reporters after her father was knocked down and hurt in a melee when he and his supporters were tear gassed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Mullen Called ‘Irresponsible’ For Accusing Govt of ‘Sanctioning Reporter’s Killing

8 June (AKI) — Pakistan fended off accusation by a top-ranking American military official that it was behind the killing of a journalist calling it “extremely irresponsible.”

On Thursday, Adm. Mike Mullen said he believed the Pakistani government “sanctioned” Shahzad’s killing. He said he could not directly link the killing to the country’s powerful spy agency.

Soon after Mullen made the comments state news agency Associated Press of Pakistan issued a statement citing an unnamed government spokesman who called Mullen’s allegations “extremely irresponsible” and said that it “will not help in investigating the issue.”

The powerful military agency Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, has come under widespread suspicion for Saleem Shahzad’s death. It has denied killing him but accusations persist.

Mullen’s comments can’t help strained relations between the Washington and Islamabad which hit a low in early May when US commandos flew into Pakistan from Afghanistan by helicopter and killed Osama bin Laden.

Mullen, who as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff is one of president US Barack Obama’s closest military advisers, said Pakistan must stop persecuting journalists.

“It’s a way to continue to, quite frankly, spiral in the wrong direction,” he said.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the US was in possession of classified information that fingered the ISI as the culprit in Shahzad’s killing.

Days before his abduction on 29 May in Islamabad, he published an article in Asia Times alleging links between Al-Qaeda and officials in the Pakistani navy. In recent years he wrote articles probing the relationship between the militants and Pakistani military.

Shahzad was the 37th journalist killed in Pakistan since the 11 September attacks in the US, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Pakistan in June appointed a commission to investigate Shahzad’s killing. The findings are scheduled to be released early in August.

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

Police: Islamists Clash in Bangladesh, Dozens Hurt

DHAKA (Reuters) — Police in Bangladesh on Sunday fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse Islamist activists trying to enforce a nationwide strike over the removal of a Muslim phrase in the constitution, and witnesses said around 50 people were injured.

The clashes erupted when thousands of bludgeon-carrying Islamists cut off a stretch of highway leading to the capital’s eastern suburbs with barricades.

The protesters also damaged several cargo trucks before the police crack down, and some 100 people were detained.

The strike, which began two days after the country emerged from a 48-hour stoppage enforced by the opposition, was called to protest a recent amendment to the constitution which dropped the words “absolute faith and trust in Allah”.

The Islamists also want to scrap “secularism” as a state principle in the Muslim-majority country.

The strike, which was called for by 12 Islamist parties, was however, largely ignored by most people in Bangladesh, where businesses and transportation was operating as normal.

The strike was spearheaded by the Bangladesh Islami Andolon, one of a handful of small Islamist parties that have no representation in parliament but who back the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia, who is trying to force early elections.

The BNP lost to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League in the 2008 parliament polls and has since been trying to rally support of the Islamist and other groups.

The two women have dominated the south Asian country’s often volatile politics for two decades and are likely to face off again in the next election due by end of 2013.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: Sinhalese and Tamil Muslims Together for Rizana Nafeek

The Sinhalese maid was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for allegedly killing an infant in 2005. Q protest rally is held outside the Saudi Embassy. Activists say that the child’s death was an accident and blame both countries for the situation.

Colombo (AsiaNews) — More than 500 Sinhalese and Tamil Muslims demonstrated outside the saudi Embassy in Colombo demanding the immediate release of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan maid sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for allegedly killing an infant.

The Muslim Rights Organization (MRO) and other civil society organisations staged the demonstration in Colombo’s famous Lipton Circus.

Concern over Rizana’s fate rose after an Indonesian woman was executed in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of murder (see Mathias Hariyadi, “Indonesian woman beheaded in Saudi Arabia, Jakarta threatens to stop flow of migrants,” in AsiaNews, 21 June 2011)

For MRO President Per Mujiboo Rahumaan, the Saudi government cannot execute Rizana for an accident. “She was hired as a maid. If the parents needed someone to look after their baby, they should have hired a qualified babysitter.”

Rizana was not an adult when the incident occurred.

“I am not afraid to say that the governments of both countries are responsible for this,” said Catholic human rights activist Nimalka Fernando. “As a mother, I feel close to her family and their pain.”

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Employment Minister Dilan Perera said that the Sri Lankan government is prepared to pay compensation in exchange for the young woman’s release.

“One parent of the dead child has pardoned the maid, but that is not enough,” the minister said. “This incident needs to be handled with caution and should not be exploited for political gain.”

Rizana Nafeek has been in a saudi jail since 2005. The young Muslim woman comes from a very poor family in the village of Mutur (eastern district of Trincomalee).

She arrived in Saudi Arabia at the age of 17 using a fake passport to work as a maid.

If her sentence is upheld by the king, she could be executed at any time.

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

Video Shows Children of Killed Taliban Fighters Being Trained to Kill Our Troops

Taliban train children as young as three

The chilling video was shot at an Al Qaeda camp where boys as young as THREE are turned into trained killers ready to wage war on ­British soldiers.

It shows how, in the wake of its leader Osama Bin Laden’s death in May, his terror group is brainwashing a new generation of child soldiers. British commanders in Afghanistan say children are increasingly used as suicide bombers and human shields during battles.

In the most ­disturbing sections of the video children appear anxious and unhappy as they are trained with guns. The film also shows a “dentist” pulling a child’s back tooth out with a pair of pliers for an ­initiation ritual.

The ­footage, filmed in North Waziristan near ­Pakistan’s border with ­Afghanistan, was ­obtained by our ­investigators after it was posted on an underground Al Qaeda ­website. It was issued by the ­Islamic Movement of ­Uzbekistan, which acts as a “foreign ­legion” supplying fighters to wage war alongside the Taliban.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Throws Out ‘Flashmob’ Swedish Blogger

A Sweden-based student in China has been sent home after calling for a flashmob in Shanghai in support of freedom of expression. reports Swedish Radio news programme Ekot. The Swedish Radio news programme Ekot reports that the 24-year-old man chose to make his protest on July 1st, the day that the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 90 year anniversary. He wrote on his Swedish language blog “I have long had in mind to try to organize something small, a small marker, which also could attract some of the paranoid authorities’ attention.” In the blog, the 24-year-old called on party chairman Hu Jintao to join a flash mob to mark the occasion, although it is unknown whether the public event actually took place, because its organiser was already being held for questioning when it was due to happen. In his blog he called on people to write the word “Freedom” in Chinese characters anywhere on their body, then congregate at a specific location in downtown Shanghai at an allotted time and stand there for five minutes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Carbon Tax: Pensioners to Receive Compensation

AUSTRALIA’S 3.4 million pensioners will receive compensation at least equal to cost of living price rises under the Gillard government’s carbon price.

Australians on age pensions, disability pensions, carer payments, service pensions and the Seniors Supplement will all receive assistance as part of the government’s $14.9 billion compensation package.

Pensioners will receive lump sum advance payments of up to $250 for a single pensioner before the carbon price begins in July 2012.

They will start receiving a new Clean Energy Supplement equal to a 1.7 per cent increase in the maximum pension rate from 2013. This supplement will be equal to an annual increase of up to $338 for singles and $510 for couples combined.

About 90 per cent of pensioner households will benefit from a buffer of at least 20 per cent above their expected average price rises from the carbon price, the government says.

The assistance will be permanent and will rise in line with the consumer price index.

About 280,000 self-funded retirees who hold Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Cards will get the same amount of assistance as age pensioners.

“Age pensioners and self-funded retirees have worked hard all their lives to build our nation, so the Gillard government is determined to provide cost of living help as we go about cutting carbon pollution,” the government said in a statement.

Arrangements will be introduced to ensure compensation is shared fairly between aged care residents and providers.

Aged care providers that bear many costs for their residents — including electricity — will receive around half of the assistance paid through the age pension.

Pensioners in aged care will receive the remainder to help them with increases in their other living costs.

People who have high electricity costs due to their use of essential medical equipment such as dialysis machines or other life-support equipment, will be eligible for an annual cash payment of $140 a year.

Public housing tenants will get the full benefit of assistance.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

New Australian Law to Make Muslims Lift Veils

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Muslim women would have to remove veils and show their faces to police on request or risk a prison sentence under proposed new laws in Australia’s most populous state that have drawn criticism as culturally insensitive.

A vigorous debate that the proposal has triggered reflects the cultural clashes being ignited by the growing influx of Muslim immigrants and the unease that visible symbols of Islam are causing in predominantly white Christian Australia since 1973 when the government relaxed its immigration policy.

Under the law proposed by the government of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, a woman who defies police by refusing to remove her face veil could be sentenced to a year in prison and fined 5,500 Australian dollars ($5,900).

The bill — to be voted on by the state parliament in August — has been condemned by civil libertarians and many Muslims as an overreaction to a traffic offense case involving a Muslim woman driver in a “niqab,” or a veil that reveals only the eyes.

The government says the law would require motorists and criminal suspects to remove any head coverings so that police can identify them.

Critics say the bill smacks of anti-Muslim bias given how few women in Australia wear burqas. In a population of 23 million, only about 400,000 Australians are Muslim. Community advocates estimate that fewer than 2,000 women wear face veils, and it is likely that even a smaller percentage drives.

“It does seem to be very heavy handed, and there doesn’t seem to be a need,” said Australian Council for Civil Liberties spokesman David Bernie. “It shows some cultural insensitivity.”

The controversy over the veils is similar to the debate in other Western countries over whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear garments that hide their faces in public. France and Belgium have banned face-covering veils in public. Typical arguments are that there is a need to prevent women from being forced into wearing veils by their families or that public security requires people to be identifiable.

Bernie noted that while a bandit disguised with a veil and sunglasses robbed a Sydney convenience store last year, there were no Australian crime trends involving Muslim women’s clothing.

“It is a religious issue here,” said Mouna Unnjinal, a mother of five who has been driving in Sydney in a niqab for 18 years and has never been booked for a traffic offense.

“We’re going to feel very intimidated and our privacy is being invaded,” she added.

Unnjinal said she would not hesitate to show her face to a policewoman. But she fears male police officers might misuse the law to deliberately intimidate Muslim women.

“If I’m pulled over by a policeman, I might say I want to see a female police lady and he says, ‘No, I want to see your face,’“ Unnjinal said. “Where does that leave me? Do I get penalized 5,000 dollars and sent to jail for 12 months because I wouldn’t?”

Sydney’s best-selling The Daily Telegraph newspaper declared the proposal “the world’s toughest burqa laws.” In France, wearing a burqa — the all-covering garment that hides the entire body except eyes and hands — in public is punishable by a 150 euro ($217) fine only.

The New South Wales state Cabinet decided to create the law on July 4 in response to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione’s call for greater police powers. Other states including Victoria and Western Australia are considering similar legislation.

“I don’t care whether a person is wearing a motorcycle helmet, a burqa, niqab, face veil or anything else — the police should be allowed to require those people to make their identification clear,” State Premier Barry O’Farrell said in a statement.

The laws were motivated by the bungled prosecution of Carnita Matthews, a 47-year-old Muslim mother of seven who was booked by a highway patrolman for a minor traffic violation in Sydney in June last year.

An official complaint was made in Matthews’ name against Senior Constable Paul Fogarty, the policeman who gave her the ticket. The complaint accused Fogarty of racism and of attempting to tear off her veil during their roadside encounter.

Unknown to Matthews, the encounter was recorded by a camera inside Fogarty’s squad car. The video footage showed her aggressively berating a restrained Fogarty and did not support her claim that he tried to grab her veil before she reluctantly and angrily lifted it to show her face.

Matthews was sentenced in November to six months in jail for making a deliberately false statement to police.

But that conviction and sentence were quashed on appeal last month without her serving any time in jail because a judge was not convinced that it was Matthews who signed the false statutory declaration. The woman who signed the document had worn a burqa and a justice of the peace who witnessed the signing had not looked beneath the veil to confirm her identity.

Bernie, the civil libertarian, said the proposed law panders to public anger against Muslims that the case generated on talk radio and in tabloid newspapers, which itself is a symptom of the suspicion with which immigrants are viewed.

Muslims are among the fastest-growing minorities in Australia and mostly live in the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. There are many examples to suggest they are not entirely welcome.

Muslim and non-Muslim youths rioted for days at Sydney’s Cronulla beach in 2005, drawing international attention to surging ethnic tensions. Proposals to build Islamic schools are resisted by local protest groups. The convictions of a Sydney gang of Lebanese Muslims who raped several non-Muslim women were likened by a judge to war atrocities and condemned in the media.

In 2006, then-Prime Minister John Howard published a book in which he said Muslims were Australia’s first wave of immigrants to fail to assimilate with the mainstream.

Government leaders have also condemned some Muslim clerics who said husbands are entitled to smack disobedient wives, force them to have sex and for suggesting that women who don’t hide their faces behind veils invite rape.

“I wouldn’t like to go and say this is Muslim bashing,” said Ikebal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, of the proposed New South Wales laws.

“But I think that the timing of this was really bad for Muslims,” he said.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]


Coast Guard Rescue 299 Migrants Off Lampedusa Waters

(AGI) Lampedusa — The Italian Coast Guard rescued a migrant boat, escorting it to the island of Lampedusa. The vessel’s engine had broken down and a fire was about to break out onboard. Coast Guard personnel extinguished the fire, restarted the engine and proceeded to guide the boat towards the island.

Officials report 299 Sub-Saharan African migrants onboard, including 13 women and 1 child.

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

Fifteen Immigrants Rescued Off Sant’Antioco Coast

(AGI) Cagliari — As of tonight, the Elmas refugee camp has resumed activity to host 15 north african immigrants. The camp is in the military airport near Cagliari. The immigrants, probably Tunisians, were intercepted by the Finance Police patrol unit off the south western coast of Sardinia. They were taken ashore, on the island of Sant’Antioco, and were then transferred to the controversial temporary shelter camp, from which a group of Tunisians to be repatriated escaped last week.

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

More Eastern Europeans in the Netherlands

There were 125,000 workers from central and eastern Europe in the Netherlands in March 2011, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS.

This is 20% up on March 2010, the CBS says.

Four out of five have Polish nationality, two-thirds are male and their average age is 33. Most have seasonal jobs in the farming and market gardening sectors.

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

Norwegians Claim Immigration Policy Failing

One in two Norwegians thinks the country has enough immigrants and criticise the government for its policies.

At the same time Norway needs more people to fill vacant positions, especially engineers, an increase in the number of immigrants entering Norway has made the natives sceptical, reports Aftenposten.

53.7% of the 1,380 people surveyed said they want to see a stop in the numbers of immigrants being accepted into Norway, according to latest results from Integrerings Barometeret (translated “Integration Barometer”). The figure was 45.8% when the inquiry was first conducted in 2005.

Two Norwegians Aftenposten met in Bislett, scene of last month’s drive-by shooting that killed Einar Opsahl, believe the media is mainly responsible for the increased xenophobia shown by the poll.

“It is unfortunate that so many are negative towards further immigration, but I’m not surprised. I think the [Norwegian] media is to blame to a large degree. Newspapers and television should tell the truth if an immigrant shoots a man on the street, as happened here in Bislett, but by doing so, it influences many to generalise about foreigners” says 25-year old Laura Emdal.

Declaring foreigners, Norwegians, and politicians should do more to aid integration, 24-year-old Elise Larsen Håvoll says, “Everyone should have to take a language test, not just a course.”

Foreigners now have to complete 600 hours of Norwegian tuition instead of 300 previously. However, both Laura Emdal and her Canadian partner Chris Parsons, who came to Norway as an immigrant four years ago, claim the courses need modernising.

“The problem with these is that many participate because they have to and don’t pay attention,” he says, having chosen to take a test instead.

Whilst the fur is flying over who is to responsible, results of the poll show 60% and 83.5% blame Norwegians and foreigners, respectively, for their lack of integration efforts. Six out of ten criticise authorities for their unsuccessful clampdown on high levels of immigration.

On a positive note, 88 percent of Norwegians think immigrants should have the same rights to jobs as their so-called ‘ethnic Norwegian’ peers, according to the inquiry, which shows they respect foreigners’ traditions and values.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has also announced that foreigners can apply for visas, residence permits, or citizenship online.

“Using the application portal, you can register your visa application wherever you are, whenever you like, without any queue. This reduces waiting time for applicants and ensures more effective processing of all types of applications,” he said.

Norwegian authorities dealt with between 100-450 applications a day last year, and received 18,000 requests to reside in the country.

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

Sweden: ‘Lower Wages Will Give More Immigrants Jobs’

The best way to boost employment levels among Sweden’s foreign-born is by reducing wages for low-paying jobs, argues Jenny von Bahr, author of a report on the subject commissioned by liberal Swedish think tank Timbro.

Having a job not only brings an income, but it is also serves as a way for people to build their professional networks and skills. For those who have migrated to a new country, work is an important bridge to the new country’s culture and an opportunity to develop skills in their new language. Employment is therefore important not only for economic security, but also a prerequisite for successful integration.

The WSP Analysis and Strategy consulting firm has therefore been commissioned by the liberal Swedish think tank Timbro to conduct an evaluation of Swedish integration policy. The aim has been to answer the question as to whether current policy is sufficient to eventually reach the goal of full employment among Sweden’s foreign-born.

Today, the employment rate for foreign-born workers in Sweden is 61.8 percent, far below the rest of the population’s level of 76.5 percent. The rate is particularly low among foreign-born women, for whom the employment rate is 56.5 percent and which has fallen in 2010.

In our report “Bidrag — vägen till arbete?” (‘Benefits — the way to work?), we identified four key explanatory factors for the lower employment rates among Sweden’s foreign-born.

Foreign-born earnings are on average much lower in the first years in Sweden before later increasing. This is due to the relocation factor, namely that a person’s human capital is initially less valued in a new country than at home. This is because language and social skills, personal networks and the like, to some extent become useless with a move.

Our study shows that the relocation factor increases the more culturally and linguistically distant a country is. For example, immigrants from Asia and Africa in Sweden earn on average earned incomes of 86,000 and 95,000 kronor per year ($13,960 and $15,420), respectively, after five to nine years in Sweden, while the corresponding level for a newly arrived immigrant from the northern hemisphere is 205,000 kronor. The relocation factor, of course, also affects Swedes moving abroad — most of them would have an easier time finding a new job in Oslo than in Mogadishu.

The merit factor describes how employers have a hard time judging the merits of a foreign-born worker. Most employers have less knowledge of higher education standards in other countries and language barriers also make it difficult to take references from previous employers. According to the study, there is also a trend for employers to weed out applications from foreign-born workers. Meanwhile, the general trend of discrimination in Sweden is significantly lower than in other countries.

The third factor is the wage factor. The high minimum wages in Sweden exclude people who, because they are immigrants for example, have a lower productivity when entering the labour market. The work they can perform is simply not valued at the same level as the lowest wages currently agreed upon between unions and employers.

High unemployment among immigrants is not a natural law; in countries with a significantly lower minimum wage than Sweden, employment levels among the foreign-born are often the same as those for people born in the country, or even higher.

The fourth factor is the incentive factor, which deals with welfare benefits that can counteract pro-work policies. The Swedish social welfare system can work against the incentive to find a job for large groups of foreign-born because, on the margin, they earn little or nothing more by working than they would by remaining on benefits.

This is of course also the case for native-born Swedes as well, but the relocation factor reinforces this tendency. One consequence of this is that up to 12 percent of Sweden’s foreign-born receive some form of income support, compared with 2 percent for people born in Sweden.

The study also examines how Swedish integration policy is currently designed.

Swedish integration policy has a very clear focus on the relocation and merit factors, by providing language training, employment training and validation measures. In the 2008-2009 academic year, for example, just over 110,000 foreign-born took Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) languages classes and 70,000 were enrolled in adult education programmes. At the same time, Sweden’s National Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) provides different types of work traineeships, wage subsidized employment opportunities, and validation measures.

Measures to mitigate the effects of the relocation and merit factors are both extensive and generous. The conclusion of our study is that further action in these areas will not result in anything more than marginal effects on employment levels of Sweden’s foreign-born.

On the other hand, very little has been done to tackle the wage factor. Wage formation is the responsibility of labour market parties, but politicians who see the problem can also take up the discussion with unions and employers.

Awareness of the incentive factor has, however, increased. The government declared in December 2010 that it had “broken with the dependency mentality” and has introduced a full-time attendance-requirement for newcomers participating in establishment measures in order for them to receive full compensation.

The government has also introduced an option for newly arrived refugees participating in establishment programmes to maintain an income of 8,000 kronor per month without having their establishment benefits reduced. This is good, but the measure only covers 1 to 2 percent of the approximately one million foreign-born people of working age living in Sweden.

Despite increased awareness of the incentive factor, there is much to be done to strengthen pro-work policies within the benefit system. Special focus should be placed on encouraging foreign-born women to enter the labour market.

The conclusion of the study is that current integration policy, with a focus on comprehensive reception measures, is inadequate. This policy has been in place for decades and has no potential to increase employment more than very marginally.

The reason is that improvements in the reception system for newly-arrived immigrants have little use if there isn’t a labour market that takes over when the reception measures end.

In order to reduce unemployment among immigrants, the focus should instead be on reforms in wages and incentive factors: general reforms that encourage more jobs with lower requirements for language skills and a clearer pro-work approach within the benefits’ systems.

Such a policy has — in contrast to the current policy — a good position to reduce social exclusion among immigrants in Sweden.

This article was originally published in Swedish on the Newsmill opinion website. English translation by The Local

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

Culture Wars

Indian Health Minster Creates Stir With Homosexuality Remarks

Indian gay rights activists voiced shock and outrage Tuesday over public comments by the health minister who said homosexuality was unnatural and a “disease” brought to India by foreigners.

Speaking at a national meeting Monday of district and mayoral leaders on HIV/AIDS prevention, the minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, stated that gay sex was “unnatural and not good for India.”

“Unfortunately this disease has come to our country too…where a man has sex with another man, which is completely unnatural and should not happen, but does,” Azad said at the conference.

Activists said his comments served to set the nation back in its battle both for gay rights and against HIV.

Members of the Indian government, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi were in attendance at the conference, but the prime minister’s office declined to comment on Azad’s statement. The Health Ministry has also refrained from issuing a statement, the Associated Press reported.

Activist groups, however, quickly condemned the minister’s remarks. Anjali Gopalan, head of the NAZ Foundation, a rights group that promotes equal rights for homosexuals and works with HIV-positive people, said Azad’s remarks were worrisome given the nation’s difficulty in fighting against HIV.

“These comments help no cause. It’s definitely not going to help in our fights against HIV,” she told AP.

With 2.5 million HIV positive citizens, India has the largest population of people living with the virus in Asia. Because of the nation’s history of marginalizing the gay community, experts said the HIV/AIDS awareness message did not always reach those who needed it most.

“If you’re not going to invest in community building then gay people will continue to be marginalized,” Gopalan said.

Homosexuality remains taboo in most of India, despite some advances in acceptance around the country. In 2009, the Delhi High Court struck down a law that made homosexual intercourse a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail. The law — rarely enforced — was largely used for harassment.

Gay rights activists said Azad’s inflammatory words required immediate action.

“How can the health minister say something so unscientific and irrational?” Nitin Karani, a gay rights activist told a television new channel, AP reported. “He needs to apologize immediately or he needs to go.”

Azad once said Indians should watch late night TV as an alternative to sex in order to control population, a remark that received public attention.

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


1.5 Million Sexless Years No Good for Stick Insects

ONE stick insect species may have been celibate for 1.5 million years. Ditching sex means no risky matings, but harmful mutations build up over the generations, so asexual animals shouldn’t survive for long. Bernard Crespi of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, established the last time Timema tahoe stick insects had sex by studying mutation rates of two genes. A lack of sex might eventually catch up with the insect, says David Hillis of the University of Texas at Austin, as 1.5 million years is not long in evolutionary terms. “It looks like asexuals arise commonly and must go extinct commonly too,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Governments Turn to NGOs as Proxy Conflict Negotiators

State actors are increasingly turning to private organizations to broker peace deals in the world’s conflict zones as governments look for ways to avoid the risks associated with direct involvement in mediation. Just as private contractors and proxy armies have provided governments with the necessary distance to become involved militarily in international conflicts which could have been inflamed through state intervention, so nations are increasingly turning to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to manage their peace negotiations in the world’s war zones.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]