Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110711

Financial Crisis
»A Danger of Backsliding: ‘Politicians Like to Use the EU as a Scapegoat’
»Breaking the Power of the ‘Big Three’: German Firm Wants to Set Up New Rating Agency
»Brussels: 25 Mln for 3,582 Former Renault Workers
»EU Holds Crisis Meeting as Concern Grows Over Italy
»EU Moves Towards Partial Gag on Ratings Agencies
»EU Races to Ease Euro Crisis Contagion Fears
»Eurozone Swept by Fresh Panic as Leaders Mull Greece
»Germany: Indian Exec Touted as Next Deutsche Bank Boss
»Greece: FinMin to Chase 41 Bln Euros in Unpaid Taxes
»Greece: Finance Minister Speeds Up on Privatizations
»Greeks Increasingly Concerned and Angry
»Greek Budget Deficit Grows Despite Austerity Drive
»Holder Launches Witch Hunt Against Biased Banks
»Italy: Stock Market Slide Continues as Debt Fears Hit Markets
»Letting Greece Into Euro Zone Was “A Mistake”
»Spain: Debt Spread Reaches All-Time High
»Spain: Public Deficit Castile La Mancha ‘Dramatic’
»The Disappearing Black Middle Class
»Top Eurozone Officials Meet Amid Alarm on Italy
»‘We’ll Send a Strong Signal to Money Markets,’ Italy Vows
»NASA Chief: Final Shuttle Launch Begins New Era
Europe and the EU
»Arctic Shipping Routes Unlikely to be ‘Suez of the North’
»Cooperation Talks: Germany’s RWE Mulls Gazprom as Major Shareholder
»Germany: Ex-Stasi Informants and Newspaper Clippings: UN Social Report Relied on Questionable Sources
»Italy: Workers in Florence: Time for a Smoke Break? Then Punch the Clock
»Italy: ADOC: Only 20% of Italians to Vacation Due to Price Hikes
»Pope: Hostages Must be Treated With Humanity by Pirates
»Portrait of the Danish Soldier
»Radical Islam in Germany: The Convert as Missionary
»Strasbourg Minaret Ruling Causes No Surprise
»Sweden: Animal Rights Activists Claim McDonalds Firebomb Responsibility
»Sweden: Seven Year-Old Stabbed to Death, Relative Arrested
»Austria-Hungary Was Better…
North Africa
»Algeria: 500,000 More Council Houses
»France Changes Stance in Libya, Political Solution Needed
»Libya: Real Negotiations Are With Paris, Gaddafi
»Libya: EU Parliament: Some Frozen Assets Should Go to NTC
»Libya: Gaddafi Representatives Are ‘In Talks With France’
»Libya: Head of Pro-Gaddafi Tribe Wants End to NATO Actions
»Libya: Livni Met With Gaddafi’s Envoys, Press
»Press: Air France: Threat of Rockets in Sahel
»Srdja Trifkovic: The ICC Orders Qaddafy’s Arrest
»Tunisia: Tomato War Breaks Out
»Tunisia: Citizens Clash, Then Cooperate Against Police
»Tunisia: Arab Democracy ‘Impossible’ Without Islamists
Middle East
»Libya-Turkey: Rebels Ask Ankara for Access to Frozen Assets
»Panetta: US Forces Against Iran-Supported Militias in Iraq
»Syria: Turkish and Iranian FM Meet in Tehran
»Syria: Assad Loyalists Raid USA & French Embassies, Clashes
South Asia
»Indonesia: Muslim Threats Against Yasmin Church in West Java Continue
»Pakistan: State Jobs in Punjab, Government Fails to Respect Quota for Minorities
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Do a Deal With Islamist Rebels to Save the Starving, UN Tells Aid Agencies as Kristin Davis Flies in to Support Refugees
»EU Countries Recognise South Sudan
»North Sudan: What Next?
»Barge Carrying 40 People Intercepted
»Boat Sets Sail From Lampedusa With 1,121 Migrants on Board
»How Immigrants Become “Muslims”
»Two Tons of Lead Batteries Recovered From Lampedusa Seabed
»Ethane Lakes in a Red Haze: Titan’s Uncanny Moonscape
»How Tough Turtles Survived Dino-Killing Meteor
»Sharks Fin Soup Bans Don’t Stop Strong Demand

Financial Crisis

A Danger of Backsliding: ‘Politicians Like to Use the EU as a Scapegoat’

In a SPIEGEL interview, Werner Hoyer, a senior German Foreign Ministry official, discusses the European Union’s current unpopularity, German stereotypes of “lazy” southern Europeans and his concerns about Denmark’s reintroduction of border controls.

SPIEGEL: Could the EU fall apart?

Hoyer: No. But for the first time in the 25 years that I have been involved with the European project, I see the danger of backsliding, including in relation to the major goals of peace, freedom and prosperity. At the same time, we are in danger of missing the boat when it comes to a much-needed reorientation of the EU so that it is fit to deal with globalization.

SPIEGEL: There have already been setbacks. Denmark has reintroduced border controls, for example.

Hoyer: Denmark is setting a dangerous precedent. In this case, part of a common European achievement is being sacrificed to right-wing populist tendencies. Other Europeans cannot stay silent.

SPIEGEL: The European minister for the state of Hesse, Jörg-Uwe Hahn, who also belongs to the FDP, has called for Germans to boycott Denmark as a vacation destination.

Hoyer: I share his concerns about the fate of a core European achievement and about Denmark’s image as a model example of a cosmopolitan and tolerant country. Nevertheless, I do not support threats and boycott, because they only play into the hands of the right-wing populists.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Breaking the Power of the ‘Big Three’: German Firm Wants to Set Up New Rating Agency

European politicians are blaming the escalation of the euro crisis on the major rating agencies, and are determined to break the monopoly of the “Big Three.” Supporters of an intiative by a German consulting firm to set up a European rival agency believe that their time has come. The euro crisis also has its share of winners. They include Markus Krall, a management consultant with the Munich-based consulting firm Roland Berger. For months, he has been soliciting the support of banks, insurance companies and investment funds for a bold project: the establishment of a European rating agency. Krall has to raise at least €300 million ($426 million) by the end of the year to develop a competitor for the controversial “Big Three” rating agencies: Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s. The campaign had gotten off to a slow start. But ironically, now that Europe is sinking more deeply into debt, Krall’s venture is gradually gaining momentum. “There is a very good chance that the idea is about to take off,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Brussels: 25 Mln for 3,582 Former Renault Workers

(ANSA) — BRUSSELS, JULY 11 — The European Commission has given green light to the almost 25 million euros requested by France to help the 3,582 workers that have been dismissed by Renault and subsidiaries find new work. The funds will mainly be used for education and retraining, to support the creation of companies and for guidance in the search for a new job. The money will be allocated by the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) as part of a 37.6 million euro aid package. EU Labour Commissioner Laszlo Andor said that “the financial crisis has slowed down the economy, hitting the car industry particularly hard. Automobile production in Europe has collapsed and workers in the sector are still suffering the consequences.” The regions in which Renault dismissed its workers are Ile-de-France, Upper Normandy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais. In Ile-de-France most people who lost their jobs worked at Renault’s general headquarters Guyancourt Aubevoie, while in Upper Normandy Cleon (near Rouen) and Sandouville (near Le Havre) were hit hardest. In Nord-Pas-de-Calais the involved cities are Douai and Mauberge, both in areas where unemployment is already high. After approval by the European Commission the European Parliament and Council of EU Ministers have to approve the move.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Holds Crisis Meeting as Concern Grows Over Italy

The euro zone is heading into what could be a turbulent summer recess. Finance ministers can’t agree on a second aid package for Greece, and now markets are getting nervous about Italy. The EU’s sluggish crisis management is partly to blame. The last meeting of euro-zone finance ministers before the summer recess was meant to focus on a second aid package for Greece. But over the weekend, attention switched to a far more important euro-zone member: Italy, the third-largest economy in the single currency bloc.

According to media reports, there is mounting concern that the debt crisis could spread to Italy, due partly to the nation’s high government debt and sluggish economy, but also to worries that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may be trying to thwart efforts by Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti to cut spending and get the budget deficit under control. Concern over Italy seems to be so great that a small group of top EU officials is meeting on Monday ahead of the euro-zone finance minister talks. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso were be joined in their meeting by European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the region’s finance ministers, and Olli Rehn, the EU’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner.

EU officials have stressed that it’s not a “crisis meeting.” But it is precisely that.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Moves Towards Partial Gag on Ratings Agencies

Brussels on Monday urged a clampdown on the world’s ratings agencies, including a ban on ratings for countries covered by international rescue packages, and possible legal action. Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier said in a speech delivered in Paris but released in Brussels that he would ask Poland, which currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, to put action on ratings agencies to ministers soon. “We must first and foremost be more demanding on ratings of sovereign debts,” he said. “We see each day the effects on the countries concerned: a hike in the cost of credit, weakened states, possible contagion to other economies.”

Arriving in Brussels for eurozone talks, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said that verification was needed “to check if there is abusive behaviour” by the agencies. “We need to examine the possibilities of smashing the rating agency oligopoly,” he added. Moody’s came under heavy EU fire last week after downgrading Portugal’s rating to “junk” status, casting new doubts on markets over EU efforts to manage the eurozone debt crisis. Some leading European Union personalities were particularly upset over the timing of the ratings cut. The downgrade was made just as Portugal begins to implement austerity measures in return for a 78-billion-euro ($110-billion) EU-IMF bailout agreed in April, and as the eurozone struggles to craft a new rescue package for Greece.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Races to Ease Euro Crisis Contagion Fears

The European Union’s top economic officials raced Monday to head off fears of debt crisis contagion to Italy and beyond by seeking to swiftly iron out differences over a new Greek rescue package. Amid signs of a knock-on effect to Italy, the eurozone’s third largest economy, EU president Herman Van Rompuy has called talks with Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet, ahead of a same day gathering of finance ministers from the 17-nation eurozone. “This is not a crisis meeting, but to coordinate positions,” said Van Rompuy’s spokesman, Dirk De Backer. “The agenda is Greece, not Italy,” he added of the 1000 GMT preparatory talks. Meanwhile in Milan, Italy’s financial regulator imposed temporary curbs on short selling after shares plunged on fears of contagion from Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, and in Asia the euro fell further on the same concerns.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Swept by Fresh Panic as Leaders Mull Greece

Europe’s debt crisis threatened to spill over to Italy, Spain and beyond Monday, challenging eurozone finance ministers to overcome sharpening divisions over options for indebted Greece. Meeting in Brussels to finesse a second rescue package for Athens in September, ministers from the 17-nation zone huddled as fears of debt crisis contagion rattled Italy and Spain, its third and fourth largest economies. The euro slumped to its lowest level in six weeks, stock markets closed with heavy falls, including an almost four percent plunge in Milan, and borrowing costs rose to 12-year euro-era record highs in Spain and Italy. “We are looking at something which is more systemic” than Greece, said Spanish minister Elena Salgado. “It concerns the stability of the eurozone in general.” With the fate of the single currency again hanging in the balance, EU finance officials were under mounting pressure to bridge a rift over the terms of a second Greek bailout and speak with a single voice.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Indian Exec Touted as Next Deutsche Bank Boss

Anshu Jain, the 48-year-old Indian head of Deutsche Bank investment banking, is tipped to be named co-chief executive of the German bank, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported Monday. This followed a meeting on Sunday of members of the bank’s supervisory board who decided to recommend that Jain, along with Jürgen Fitschen, currently head of the bank’s German operations, take over from current chief executive Josef Ackermann in 2013. The decision will quickly be put to the whole supervisory board, the paper said, while warning that the two candidates were not yet assured of a majority vote.

The main problem resides in the fact that Fitschen, at age 63, is considered close to retirement, and that his appointment would in effect leave Jain in charge. Jain, who has spent much of his career in London, does not speak German. He has been responsible for running Deutsche Bank’s most profitable division. The banker, who captains Deutsche Bank’s cricket team, until recently owned

a stake in the Mumbai Indians, the all-star Indian Premier League cricket team

owned by the super-rich Mukesh Ambani. Armed with a degree from Delhi University and an MBA in finance from University of Massachusetts Amherst, Jain first cut his teeth at Merrill Lynch in New York before moving to his present employer in London in 1995.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: FinMin to Chase 41 Bln Euros in Unpaid Taxes

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 11 — Greece’s finance ministry will step up efforts to collect part of about 41 billion euros in unpaid taxes and penalties as it scrambles to boost revenues and shrink the budget deficit, as daily Kathimerini reports. Athens is under pressure to meet fiscal targets set by its international lenders, a key prerequisite for funding, as revenue slippage in the first half of this year meant more taxes had to be paid. At a meeting with the ministry’s top brass on Friday, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos decided to use lawyers, accountants and auditors from the private sector to assist in the government’s collection effort. The ministry said that out of a total of 900,000 cases of tax arrears, collection efforts would focus on 14,700 — each owing amounts over 150,000 euros or 37 billion euros in total, a sum equal to about 11% of the country’s debt. Of these 14,700 cases, 6,500 involved individual taxpayers and 8,200 legal entities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Finance Minister Speeds Up on Privatizations

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 11 — Greece’s Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos will inform his eurozone counterparts on Monday about the progress of the new privatization fund to be created, starting with the composition of its governing board, as Athens News Agency reported. Sources suggest that former Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos will chair it. On the same day the state will cash in some 391.6 million euros from the sale of a 10% stake in OTE telecom to Deutsche Telekom. The next sell-off moves are set for September and will probably include state gaming company OPAP, Athens International Airport and the state lottery, adding up to a targeted amount of 1.5-1.7 billion euros. The government will not wait for the new fund to take shape but will start the privatization process this quarter in an effort to get results as soon as possible.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greeks Increasingly Concerned and Angry

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 11 — People in Greece are deeply concerned about the economic and social situation in the country and are angry with the political system: this emerged from a survey carried out by Kapa Research on behalf of Sunday newspaper To Vima tis Kyriakis (The Sunday Tribune). The percentages that indicate how people would vote if elections were held next Sunday are meaningful for the country’s two largest political parties: Pasok (governing socialist party) and Nea Dimocratia (centre-right main opposition party). Pasok would obtain just 16.5% of votes in that case, Nea Dimocratia 17.8%. The number of votes for these parties taken together (34.3%) is lower than the number of people who did not know for which party to vote (35%). On the other hand, 49.6% of interviewed people approve of the violent and aggressive reactions towards Ministers and MPs (against 40.5% who disapprove). Such reactions are considered “spontaneous” by 61.4% of interviewed (against 32.3% who see them as “organised actions”) and 58.7% do not see the small left-wing Syriza party as responsible for this type of response, as Pasok claims.

Besides, 67.6% of people who were interviewed for the survey said they are in favour of organising early elections this autumn if the goals of the Programme are not reached by September. On the other hand, 24.4% are against early elections.

Focusing on the much-discussed public administration, 54.2% of people in Greece, according to the survey, are in favour of dismissing redundant civil servants.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek Budget Deficit Grows Despite Austerity Drive

Debt-hit Greece’s budget deficit grew by 27.9 percent in the first quarter of 2011 despite over a year of austerity efforts, the finance ministry said on Monday. The ministry said state finances were over two billion euros adrift with a recorded shortfall of 12.78 billion euros ($18.0 billion) instead of a targeted 10.37 billion euros. Fiscal revenue was down by 8.3 percent compared with the same period last year while expenditure has increased by 8.8 percent, it added. The state deficit is a big component of the critically important public deficit as measured by EU standards. The ministry said the country’s interest payments had increased by 1.28 billion euros to over seven billion euros, while another 429 million euros had been set aside to settle old hospital debts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Holder Launches Witch Hunt Against Biased Banks

In what could be a repeat of the easy-lending cycle that led to the housing crisis, the Justice Department has asked several banks to relax their mortgage underwriting standards and approve loans for minorities with poor credit as part of a new crackdown on alleged discrimination, according to court documents reviewed by IBD. Prosecutions have already generated more than $20 million in loan set-asides and other subsidies from banks that have settled out of court rather than battle the federal government and risk being branded racist. An additional 60 banks are under investigation, a DOJ spokeswoman says. Settlements include setting aside prime-rate mortgages for low-income blacks and Hispanics with blemished credit and even counting “public assistance” as valid income in mortgage applications.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Stock Market Slide Continues as Debt Fears Hit Markets

Milan, 11 July (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italy’s benchmark stock index continued to fall, dropping 1.5 percent early Monday amid fears the country could be the next to be threatened by the eurozone’s woes. European Union officials were due meet in Brussels to discuss the growing crisis.

Italy’s financial-market regulator moved to curb short selling after the country’s benchmark FTSE MIB index plunged 3.8 percent on Friday — the most in almost five months and bonds tumbled on investor concern Italy would be the next victim of the region’s debt crisis.

The regulator known as Consob after an emergency meeting Sunday ordered short sellers must reveal their positions when they reach 0.2 percent or more of a company’s capital and then make additional filings for each additional 0.1 percent. The measure takes effect on Monday and lasts until 9 September.

The decision came ahead of a regular meeting of Europe’s finance ministers to seek ways to shore up Greece and defend the region’s other heavily indebted nations.

The Italian ruling follows similar action taken in other European countries, including Germany, Rome-based Consob said in a statement posted on its website.

A decline in shares in Italy’s largest bank and other bank shares that are the among the largest holders of the country’s debt drove the FTSE MIB index’s drop. The yield on Italy’s 10-year bonds rose to a nine-year high of 5.27 percent, driving the premium investors demand to hold the country’s debt over German bunds to a euro-era high of 244 basis points.

UniCredit shares plummeted 7.9 percent and those of Banca Intesa, the second-biggest lender, dropped 4.6 percent. Both hit lows not seen since the period when markets were emerging from the crisis spawned by the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank in 2008.

Italian politicians including Paolo Bonaiuti, an undersecretary for prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and one of the premier’s main spokespeople, blamed the slide on “speculators” and pledged action to rein in investors perceived to be attacking Italy. Bonaiuti said Italy would be united “in blocking the effort of speculators.”

On July 5, European lawmakers voted in favor of a ban on short selling of government bonds in the EU unless traders have at least “located and reserved” in advance the securities they intend to sell. The European Union Parliament in Strasbourg, France, also called for restrictions on traders’ use of credit- default swaps to profit from defaults on sovereign debt they don’t own.

Short selling involves the sale of securities borrowed from the owner, and generates profit when the trader repurchases them at a lower price and returns them to the owner. The amount of shorting is limited by the willingness of owners to lend.

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

Letting Greece Into Euro Zone Was “A Mistake”

With the benefit of hindsight, the decision to admit Greece into the euro zone was an error, Austria’s chancellor at the time tells

Wolfgang Schüssel also says Austria’s decision to join the European Union in 1995 “made perfect sense”, although he hedges his bets when asked whether Switzerland should do the same.

Schüssel, who headed the Austrian government from 2000 to 2007, played down similarities between his country and Switzerland. At the same time he stressed that Brussels and Bern “needed” and “appreciated” each other.

He was speaking at an international human rights conference in Bonn, “Human rights in a globalized world — challenges for the media”, which took place at the end of June.

Wolfgang Schüssel: It’s a good question. The euro is obviously a political project, but it obviously also has very precise economic conditions. I was there [when the criteria were set] as foreign minister in 1997. We came up with criteria that had to be applied: the annual government budget deficit mustn’t be greater than three per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), gross government debt mustn’t exceed 60 per cent of GDP, and the exchange rate must be stable.

In 1998, the only countries that were accepted [into the eurozone] were those that could fulfil these criteria. Greece wasn’t one of them — it’s acceptance was delayed by three years. In their assessment, the European Commission and the European Central Bank said they were both satisfied. That was a mistake — looking back today, that has to be said quite categorically.

That said, the Greeks also used tricks. For example, military expenditure rose between 2000 and 2010 from €3 billion (SFr3.66 billion) to €10 billion. This was calculated not in the year of purchase but in the year of delivery — that twists the picture.

W.S.: I don’t think Austria can be compared with Switzerland. Switzerland has the advantage that it didn’t have to go through two world wars and was more international right from the beginning.

Switzerland has large global players, which operate abroad from Switzerland. Austria doesn’t. Switzerland has very low debt — we don’t, because we’ve had loads of catching up to do. Those are big differences.

For Austria, joining the EU made perfect sense. We slid from the edge of Europe right into the middle. For us it was a unique opportunity, also to rethink our own rules. The Union helped us overcome many corporatist ways of thinking and isolation.

But I don’t believe that in Switzerland Europe is seen as the Titanic, being steered towards an iceberg. Switzerland is the EU’s second-biggest trading partner — bigger incidentally than many other large countries…

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

Spain: Debt Spread Reaches All-Time High

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 11 — The risk differential between the Spanish 10-year bond and the German benchmark bund has today surpassed the maximum of 300 base points, reaching a historic high of 301.9 points under a large amount of market pressure due to the situation in Greece and Italy. European Council president Herman Van Rompuy has called an extraordinary meeting for today in order to deal with the latest emergency situation. The IBEX, the Spanish stock exchange index, began trading today with declines of over 1%, in line with the other European stock exchanges.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Public Deficit Castile La Mancha ‘Dramatic’

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, JULY 11 — The economic situation of the municipality of Castile La Mancha “is dramatic” and the region’s public debt is more than twice as high as the target of 1.3% of GDP set by the central government to reduce the public administration’s deficit. This was announced today by municipality president Maria Dolores de Cospedal, quoted by Europa Press. De Cospedal has requested an emergency meeting with Vice Premier and Economy Minister Elena Salgado, to “explain the dramatic situation” of the region. The region’s debt is not only higher than the government-imposed 1.3%, but instead of the initially estimated 1.7% “is much higher than 4% of GDP,” said a member of the People’s Party. Castile La Mancha is a former socialist stronghold that is currently governed by the People’s Party.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Disappearing Black Middle Class

Millions of Americans endured financial calamities in the recession. But for many in the black community, job loss has knocked them out of the middle class and back into poverty. And some experts warn of a historic reversal of hard-won economic gains that took black people decades to achieve. “History is going to say the black middle class was decimated” over the past few years, said Maya Wiley, director of the Center for Social Inclusion. “But we’re not done writing history.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Top Eurozone Officials Meet Amid Alarm on Italy

Top eurozone officials are meeting on Monday (11 July) morning to discuss the debt crisis in the 17-nation single currency region amid concerns that it could spread to Italy. European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet, EU monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn, eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, are attending the specially-convened event in Brussels. The meeting, called by European council President Herman Van Rompuy, is expected to focus on the second bailout for Greece and its implications for broader eurozone stability.

Discussions on the fresh Greek package stalled earlier this month over disagreement on the nature of private creditor involvement. At the time, it was said talks would probably restart in September, after the summer recess. But events once again overtook the political process — Van Rompuy called the event on Saturday, the day after Italian stock markets suffered a dramatic fall of 3.5 percent. Markets became jittery after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi publicly criticised his widely-respected finance minister Giulio Tremonti. There is also concern about the health of Italian banks, with the results of EU stress tests due out on Friday. At the end of last week, the premium which Italy pays to borrow money compared with Germany’s soared to its highest point since the eurozone came into being.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘We’ll Send a Strong Signal to Money Markets,’ Italy Vows

Austerity package will be passed ‘within a week’ says Tremonti

(ANSA) — Rome, July 11 — Italy has vowed to give the financial markets an unequivocal message that its latest debt-cutting measure will be approved as fast as possible and will do what it sets out to do.

“We’ll send the markets a strong signal,” Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said Monday as Italian bonds were again targeted by speculators and the differential with German bunds hit a new high.

“The austerity package will be approved within a week,” he said, denying suggestions it might be tweaked to please voters after recent local-election and referendum defeats for Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right government.

The near-50-billion budget-cutting measure will bring the deficit down to 0.2% of GDP by 2014, Tremonti promised.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Berlusconi Monday to urge a fast passage for the austerity package and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called for “national cohesion” as shares on the Milan stock market fell by 2.5%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


NASA Chief: Final Shuttle Launch Begins New Era

In an exclusive interview with The Root, Charles Bolden talks future space missions (think Mars) and the importance of black astronauts.

There is an ongoing effort to recruit more astronauts of color, women and other minorities. That has been ongoing since 1977, when NASA recruited its first group of space shuttle astronauts. Personally, I’m never satisfied with the number that we have; nor do I think we’ll ever have enough. I really want to be able to inspire young people of all races and colors to want to follow in my footsteps and become an astronaut. One of the things we do is spend significant amounts of our education funding in collaboration with historically black colleges and universities. We have a number of scholarship programs, internship programs and grant programs that go into minority neighborhoods, all the way from middle and high school on up. We try to use as many of our astronauts as possible who look like kids in some of the minority neighborhoods to talk to them about how they became interested in space, and how they studied and made very diligent efforts to get there. It’s hard to become an astronaut; we don’t want them to be afraid of it, so we try to tell them how much fun we’ve had in getting here.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Arctic Shipping Routes Unlikely to be ‘Suez of the North’

Late last year a cargo ship made maritime history. It became the first foreign bulk carrier to make a commercial trip across Russian Arctic waters. Carrying over 40,000 tonnes of iron ore, the MV Nordic Barents left Kirkenes port in Norway on 4 September. It sailed the North Sea route, a path that runs eastwards from northern Europe, along Russia’s north coast and through the Bering Strait. Some three weeks later, it docked in Xingang, northern China. “The whole trip went very well. There were no big delays and it was a lot cheaper. Just compared to going via the Cape of Good Hope, the savings for fuel alone was around $550,000,” said Christian Bonfils, CEO of Nordic Bulk Carriers, operator of the ship.

The Russians have been using Arctic waters all year round for decades. Retreating sea ice due to global warming in recent years has seen foreign shipping companies start to look northwards for the possibility of commercial shipping routes. But until recently the area has been closed to foreign ships wanting to get to hungry Asian markets. Instead companies use the Suez Canal — a trip which, counted from Norway, is almost twice as long. Last year Tschudi Shipping, which owns a mine in Kirkenes, approached the Russians about the possibility of using the North Sea route to get to China, the mine’s biggest customer. “We got a very clear message from the Russians. It was: ‘We want to compete with Suez’,” said CEO Felix Tschudi. The Norwegian company hooked up with Nordic Bulk Carriers, who had the right type of ice ship, to make the trip.

Until then uncertainty about how much the Russians would charge for the mandatory use of their ice-breakers meant the trip was not economically viable. “The rate we paid last year [$210,000] for ice-breaker services was very comparable with the Suez Canal,” said Bonfils. So what prompted the Russian thaw? According to Professor Lawson Brigham, an expert on Arctic policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, it comes down to Russia wanting to exploit natural resources in the area.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cooperation Talks: Germany’s RWE Mulls Gazprom as Major Shareholder

German energy firm RWE and Gazprom, Russia’s largest company, are considering far-reaching cooperation and RWE could imagine Gazprom buying a major stake in it. RWE head Jürgen Grossmann met Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller in Paris on Friday to discuss gas supply contracts but also the possibility of future link-ups, SPIEGEL has learned. Grossmann told confidants after the meeting that he could imagine the Russian giant taking a long-term major stake in the company. He aims to inform his supervisory board of the outcome of the negotiations in early August. Gazprom has supplied the German company with gas for years. Germany’s decision to stop using atomic power by 2022 has left RWE in a difficult position. Grossmann has said that Berlin’s decision to accelerate its nuclear power exit plans would leave the firm facing “several billions” of unexpected costs over the coming years. Adding to its costs, the German firm, a leading CO2 producer, will have to buy emissions permits starting next January.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Ex-Stasi Informants and Newspaper Clippings: UN Social Report Relied on Questionable Sources

A damning United Nations report has caused an uproar in Germany by severely criticized social inequalities in the country. But it does not hold up well under closer examination. Several passages were taken word-for-word from lobby groups and one part relies on testimony from a group associated with the former East German secret police.

The report also sharply criticizes economic and social conditions in eastern Germany. The crucial data for this part of the report was contributed by the Society for the Protection of Civil Rights and Human Dignity (GBM). This organization’s membership boasts several former officials from former East Germany, including many ex-employees of the Stasi, the country’s dreaded secret police. They have never been able to forgive the government of reunited Germany for curtailing their pensions just because they harassed their fellow citizens during the communist era. The group has also made a name for itself by conferring a human rights award on Fidel Castro and by lauding the merits of East Germany in letters to the editor.

The GBM is no doubt elated that it succeeded in drawing UN officials to their side. The UN committee expressed its concern about the “discrimination” to be found in Germany when it comes to “the pension rights of former (East German) ministers and deputy ministers.” This corresponds exactly with the formulation that Harald Nestler, formerly a senior East German trade official to China, had suggested when he testified before the UN committee in Geneva.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Workers in Florence: Time for a Smoke Break? Then Punch the Clock

New rules in the Italian city could require all public workers to get docked for every time they step outside the office for a smoke

Smokers working for the Florence registry office now have a new rule to follow. Any time they step out for a cigarette break, they will have to punch the time clock. The accumulated time spent smoking instead of working will therefore not be included in work hours. Needless to say, smokers are fuming, and local union representatives have lashed out at the new regulation.

“A cigarette break is a necessary moment of physical and psychological recovery for a smoker,” says Stefano Cecchi, a representative of the RSU (United Union Representatives) syndicate, who has called on city officials to reverse the decision. But Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi — a non-smoker — likes the idea. “I won’t even consider changing this rule,” he declared. Renzi is even planning to extend it to all of the 5,000 municipal employees.

“Public service must set an example,” says the mayor. “Of course, everyone is free to take a break for a coffee or a cigarette. But employees should be conscientious. They should punch the clock, go out for a fifteen-minute break and then come back. Otherwise citizens see a bad example.” Some municipal employees have said that if they are docked for the cigarette breaks, the only solution may indeed be to finally quit smoking for good.

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

Italy: ADOC: Only 20% of Italians to Vacation Due to Price Hikes

(AGI) Rome — The ADOC announced a black summer for tourism in Italy. According to the consumer association, only 20% of Italins will go on vacation, with price increases averaging 200 euros for transportation and lodging weighing on family budgets. ADOC President, Carlo Pileri stated, “This will be a black summer for tourism, only a fifth of Italians will go on vacation and the majority of these will opt for shorter and mor economical trips.” According to ADOC study data “six Italians out of ten will vacation for a week at most, while only 1% can afford almost a month of relaxation”. This is also because, traveling and lodging this year one will spend, on average, 200 euros more than in 2010.

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

Pope: Hostages Must be Treated With Humanity by Pirates

(AGI) Castelgandolfo — The Pope prayed to day “for the seafarers kidnapped by pirates.” The Pope was speaking to worshippers gathered in the courtyard of his Castelgandolfo residence, which today also included relatives of some of the hostages. He said after the Angelus that he hoped “they would be treated with respect and humanity” adding that he was “praying for their relatives to hold strong to their faith and not lose hope of seeing their loved ones again soon.” .

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

Portrait of the Danish Soldier

Danish soldiers serving abroad are mostly male, white and totally average

A new study by the Danish National Centre for Social Research (SFI) released earlier this week busts some popular myths about soldiers being more violent and less educated than civilians, but shows that the vast majority are still white men. The study, titled “The soldier before and during duty”, is the first of its kind to systematically compare the educations, incomes, family backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, criminal records and much more of soldiers with those of the population at large. The study is based on personal statistics about the 26,028 men and women who did a total of 53,861 foreign tours of duty for the military between 1992 and 2009. The vast majority served in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. In contrast with the United States and Britain, where people with underprivileged backgrounds are over-represented in the military, the SFI study indicates that the backgrounds of Danish soldiers reflect society as a whole.

Soldiers from Denmark are mainly white. Who could have guessed that?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Radical Islam in Germany: The Convert as Missionary

by Veli Sirin

Abu Hamza, born a German named Pierre Vogel in 1978, is a very popular Islamist preacher in Germany. The former professional boxer became Muslim in 2001 and is now among the most influential German representatives of Saudi-originated Wahhabi fundamentalism, which masquerades as “Salafism.”

His “kunya” or “Islamic nickname,” Abu Hamza, means “father of the strong.” He should not be confused with the notorious radical Muslim agitator currently locked up in Britain, Abu Hamza al-Masri, known for his missing eye and a prosthetic hook that substitutes for his right hand, or for the two late al-Qaida terrorists active in Pakistan and Iraq, who also used the same name. Vogel’s impact among German Muslims is no less ominous, however, even if his extremism appears more restrained.

Adherents of Wahhabism like Pierre Vogel, alias Abu Hamza, call themselves “Salafi” in claiming they emulate the prominent adherents of early Islam. “Salaf” is an Arabic noun meaning “predecessor” or “forefather,” and the first three Muslim generations are collectively referred to as “al-Salaf as-Saleh,” or the “Pious Predecessors.”

Vogel received his religious training in an Islamic school in Saudi Arabia. Through nationwide lecture tours and the creation of several websites, he has reached out to very religious young German Muslims, as well as to young non-Muslim Germans with identity problems.

Those who flock to him are impressed by Vogel’s apparent knowledge of Islam and his mastery of Arabic, the language of the Koran. Central to his teaching is the belief that Islam is the only true religion, while all Christians and Jews are “kuffar,” or “unbelievers.” In addition, Vogel sees “da’wa,” or calling others to Islam, as an obligation incumbent on every Muslim. He has fashioned himself as a missionary and argues explicitly that he possesses theological evidence for the superiority of Islam.

Vogel’s worldview embodies a rigid distinction between Islamic and “un-Islamic” behavior. The strict division between “the bad” and “the good” appeals to some young Muslims, because they are promised a clear orientation in their everyday lives and identification with a like-minded community. Although Vogel rejects the use of violence in the cause of Islam, the German authorities see his Manichean outlook — the harsh separation of “bad” and “good” — as dangerous, because of its radicalizing effects on the very religious and the confused.

The preaching of Pierre Vogel and his limiting Islam to a formal set of “Salafi” rules is opposed increasingly by other German Muslim personalities and organizations. They also criticize Vogel for exploiting complaints of discrimination against Muslims in Germany. On his websites, Vogel asserts that Muslims in Europe are faced with an impending Holocaust.

The internet is his main stage. His sites have gained five million hits in one and a half years, a matter of which he is proud…

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]

Strasbourg Minaret Ruling Causes No Surprise

The European Court of Human Rights issued a long-awaited ruling on Friday, turning down two appeals from Swiss Muslims against Switzerland’s ban on building minarets.

The ruling by the court in Strasbourg has been met with no surprise, by either opponents or supporters of the Swiss law.

In a popular vote November 2009 the Swiss approved an initiative to add to the constitution a ban on the construction of any new minarets. Of those who voted, 57 per cent were in favour.

Silvia Bär, deputy secretary-general of the right-wing People’s Party, which supported the minaret ban, told that the party had expected that the Strasbourg ruling would go the way it did.

“As we have always said, the minaret initiative does not affect either the freedom of religion nor the right to practise a religion,” she said.

The party expects to see the same ruling in the cases that are still pending.

Walter Wobmann, the chairman of the committee that launched the anti-minaret initiative, told the Swiss News Agency that he was “naturally pleased” at the ruling — but added that the court could hardly have decided otherwise.

“We are a sovereign state, the people voted clearly in favour of the minaret initiative and the initiative had been declared valid,” he said.

A necessary step

Although the Strasbourg ruling is definitive, and other similar cases will certainly be thrown out on the same grounds, the plaintiffs are not downhearted.

“We suspected that it would be ruled inadmissible, but it was necessary to take this step,” said Hafid Ouardiri, co-president of the Interknowing Foundation, and former spokesman for the Geneva mosque, who submitted one of the appeals to the Strasbourg court.

Ouardiri had included in his case the claim that “he had no effective remedy available to seek a ruling that the constitutional amendment was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

He told the Swiss News Agency that he felt “positive and calm” after the ruling: the European court had “set a process in motion”, and reminded the Swiss state of its duty.

He was apparently referring to the judges’ statement that the Swiss courts “would be able to examine the compatibility of a possible refusal to authorise the construction of a minaret with the [European Human Rights] Convention”.

Ouardiri’s lawyers issued a statement saying they were “encouraged” by the ruling, since they were convinced the Swiss courts were bound to conclude that the ban violates human rights and is a threat to religious peace.

Yahya Hassan Bajwa, who heads an office for intercultural communication in Switzerland and is a member of the Aargau cantonal parliament told that he could understand why a minority that feels legally discriminated against should have lodged an appeal.

He expressed disappointment that the People’s Party should come up with initiatives of this kind which “disturb the country’s social peace”. The behaviour of Muslims in Switzerland shows that they behave democratically, he said.

Strasbourg principles

Swiss international human rights lawyer Walter Kälin told that the appeals laid by Ouardiri and the other plaintiffs — a group of Swiss Muslim organisations — had made no difference to the issue.

It is a well-established principle that only people who are directly affected by a law can take their case to the Strasbourg court, he said. This can only be done once they have exhausted all possible recourses in their own country.

“You can’t go to Strasbourg in order to combat a law in general terms, or to have it checked,” he explained.

“If an actual group submitted a building application for a minaret, and didn’t get a permit, and then went through the Swiss courts — the administrative court up to the federal court [Switzerland’s highest legal body], and if the federal court then said: ‘You cannot have a permit because of the article in the Constitution’, it’s only at that stage that Strasbourg can look into the case.”

There is potentially such a case in Switzerland already: Muslims in the town of Langenthal in canton Bern had been given permission to build a minaret before the vote was held. This case is still going through the Swiss legal system, as opponents of minarets appeal against lower court rulings that construction can go ahead.

The fate of the Langenthal minaret is not affected by Friday’s decision in Strasbourg…

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

Sweden: Animal Rights Activists Claim McDonalds Firebomb Responsibility

The Animal Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for Friday’s fire attack at a hamburger restaurant in Gothenburg, according to local media reports.

In a posting on the animal rights activists website Bite Back Magazine, those allegedly responsible described how they smashed two windows with hammers at the burger restaurant at the Scandinavium Center, poured ten liters of petrol in and set it alight. The posting continued, “We were in a hurry as the sun had risen and it was light outside, so we threw the containers with written ALF-messages on them and some lighted matches into the restaurant and it went up in a big fire instantly. Burn in hell animal killers and capitalists!” Nobody was in the restaurant at the time of the attack, said to be around 5 o’clock in the morning, though damage is extensive. Police have confirmed that the perpetators will face charges of aggravated arson.

On the Bite Back website activists also claimed responsibility for other attacks in Sweden including a hunting and fishing shop in Nyköping where windrows and doors were destroyed, a Pressbyrån shop in Eskilstuna and another McDonalds in the same city, where stones and tar bombs used to smash windows in the fast food joint. Bite Back was founded in 2001 by Nicolas Atwood, an animal rights activist in West Palm Beach, Florida, with a mission to “support animal rights prisoners of conscience and report on current events in the struggle.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Seven Year-Old Stabbed to Death, Relative Arrested

A seven year-old boy was stabbed to death in Umeå in northern Sweden on Sunday. Two of the boy’s relatives — a man and a woman — were arrested on murder charges, but the woman was released around 7pm Sunday evening. “She was released after interrogations. The man remains in custody, suspected of murder, and a remand hearing will be held on Monday,” Ebbe Nyberg, duty officer at Västerbotten police force, told the TT news agency. The police are keeping a tight lid on the circumstances of the event, which has been described as “a very tragic family drama”. “Severe mental disorders are nearly always involved in this type of crime,” said criminologist Mikael Rying, of Mittuniversitetet, to TT.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Austria-Hungary Was Better…

Our attention has been belatedly drawn to a news item over a month old: Valentin Inzko, the International High Representative of Bosnia-Herzegovina, has decreed that it is “deeply deplorable” that the Republika Srpska (RS) — the Serb half of the Balkan non-country — plans to help fund the defense of General Ratko Mladic at The Hague Tribunal.

“This is taxpayers’ money and this is also the money of the mothers of Srebrenica,” a visibly indignant Herr Inzko fumed: “I cannot imagine that an Austrian war criminal, a Nazi war criminal, would get financial support from the Republic of Austria… This is what is going on now and is deeply deplorable… [RS President] Dodik is really stretching the nerves of international community and also the nerves of really peaceful Bosniak community.”

Herr Inzko’s outburst came only days after Pope Benedict, among others, came out loudly in support of Croatia’s immediate membership in the European Union. Croatia is salonfähig, it appears, eminently clubbable at the Berlaymont… even though the Croatian government has gone out of its way to support, propagate and organize legal teams for the appeals of Generals Gotovina and Markaè, who were already convicted by the Trial Chamber earlier this spring, and sentenced to a total of over fifty years in prison, at the self-same Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague.

Furthermore, it has been reported that Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor “has announced the strengthening of [Croatia’s] diplomatic offensive, with a team of experts that would help the generals’ defence as it prepares to appeal the verdict.” This means that Croatian officials, civil servants and diplomats will be mobilized and ordered, on government time, to try and exert political influence on a legal process concerning these two convicted war criminals…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 500,000 More Council Houses

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 11 — The lack of council housing has been at the heart of daily protests in Algeria for months. In some cases these protests have led to real uprisings aimed at public offices and buildings. The main cause of the chaos was the publication of lists specifying to whom council houses would be allocated, leading invariably to violent reactions from the side of people who fell left out or discriminated. Some people have even committed suicide over the issue, often by setting themselves on fire.

The main complaint is that people often requested a house years ago, and that they still haven’t been assigned one. But many protest against the selection criteria which, in their view, are not very clear, leave too much space to the selection commissions and therefore space for favouritism, approaching unlawful acts. Some newspapers report that sometimes houses are awarded to people who live in another city, who can lay no claim to these houses for that reason. Housing has therefore become a social problem as well as a problem of public order. This becomes evident from the dozens of streets which are systematically blocked immediately after the publication of the lists of assignees. The government is trying to respond, and yesterday the Council of Ministers, in a meeting chaired by Abdelaziz Bouteflika, decided to allocate 10 thousand hectares, spread over 2 “wylaia” (comparable with a Province) to the construction of 550,000 council housing accommodations, part of the 2010-2014 5-year plan.

It seems obvious that the government and President Bouteflika are trying to respond to the protests. Bouteflika has underlined, APS reports, “the need to carry out the public housing programmes within the scheduled time.” Bouteflika also pointed out that much has already been done in this sector, and that the country’s efforts will continue to respond to the people’s needs. He added that substantial resources have been made available (around 20 billion euros) for the realisation of the 5-year plan, which includes the construction of schools and public health structures. The number of council housing accommodations have been increased from 2 million to 2.5 million to meet the demands of the people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France Changes Stance in Libya, Political Solution Needed

(AGI) Paris — France changes stance from being supporter of military action in Libya to urging direct rebels-regime negotiations. Defense Minister Gerard Longuet maintains that the time has come for both parties to sit around a table and negotiate “because we have proved that there is no solution by only using force.” .

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

Libya: Real Negotiations Are With Paris, Gaddafi

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 11 — Seif Al Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and regime spokesman, has said that Tripoli is conducting the true negotiations on the conflict in Libya with France and not with the rebels. In an interview with the Algerian daily Al Khabar, Seif said that “we are actually conducting the true negotiations with France, and not the rebels”. “Through the intermediary of a special envoy who met with the French president, we have received a clear message from Paris,” Seif said. “The French president told our envoy very frankly that ‘we are the ones who created the council (the National Transitional Council, the government of the rebels in Benghazi, Ed.) and without France’s support, its money and arms, it would not exist.” “President Sarkozy insisted that he is Tripoli’s interlocutor and not the rebels,” Seif added. “The French have officially informed us that they want to set up a transitional government in Libya. Sarkozy told the Libyan envoy that he had a list and that those on it are ‘France’s men’ .”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Libya: EU Parliament: Some Frozen Assets Should Go to NTC

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, JULY 7 — MEPs have requested that a portion of the Libyan assets that have been frozen by EU states be made available to the National Transitional Council for the most urgent needs of the people. In a resolution approved today by European Parliament, the assembly expressed concerns regarding the scarcity of food, lack of medical assistance and lack of money that the Libyan people are dealing with. The resolution reiterates “the commitment of the international community to protect the civilian population in Libya, also intensifying the pressure put on the Libyan regime”, and called for the European Council to keep the arrest warrant issued by the ICC for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in mind. The left-wing GUE Group in European Parliament was the only group that abstained from the vote, because they believe that the military operations in the country have exceeded the boundaries of the UN mandate, designed to protect the Libyan people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Representatives Are ‘In Talks With France’

Tripoli, 11 July (AKI) — Libya and France are conducting negotiations, according to Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam.

“The truth is that we are negotiating with France and not with the rebels,” he told Algerian El Khabar newspaper.

France is one of a number of countries to have recognised the opposition rebel National Transitional Council, or NTC, as Libya’s legitimate leaders, at least in an interim capacity.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has spearheaded international efforts to conduct military missions against forces loyal to Gaddafi.

“Our envoy to (Nicolas) Sarkozy said that the French president was very clear and told him: “We created the (rebel) council, and without our support, and money, and our weapons, the council would have never existed’,” Saif al-Islam said in the interview.

No comments were immediately forthcoming from the French government but French defence minister Gerard Longue recently said that rebels should conduct talks even if Gaddafi is in power.

The NTC says the rebels will take part in talks with Libya only after Gaddafi steps down from power.

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

Libya: Head of Pro-Gaddafi Tribe Wants End to NATO Actions

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 11 — “The Arab League has handed Libya over to the ‘Council of International Horror’, also known as the (UN) Security Council, which decided on NATO’s intervention in Libya,” the daily Assharq Al Awsat was told in an interview by Muftah Al Waer, head of the delegation of pro-Gaddafi tribes currently in Cairo to back three refusals: “no to the country’s break-up, no to NATO’s military operations and no to conflict between Libyans”. “The West,” said Al Waer, “ is trying to control Libyan funds abroad, which total some 300 billion dollars.” The tribal leader made an appeal to Egypt, which he considers the only country able to apply pressure to stop the bloodshed in Libya. Al Waer’s visit to Cairo is to include, according to the daily paper, talks with the Military Council, the prime minister, Al Azhar, the Arab League and other political groupings.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Livni Met With Gaddafi’s Envoys, Press

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JULY 11 — Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni met with Libyan businessmen close to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi last week in Tel Aviv, according to the private Channel 2 television station. Livni has opted not to comment on the matter so far. The pro-government daily Israel Ha-Yom reports that the delegation included four Libyan businessmen (who arrived in Israel on foreign passports) as well as two representatives with origins from Libya’s Jewish community, one Frenchman and one Italian.

The newspaper added that the delegation had also been received by a representative of the centrist party Kadima, former justice minister Meir Shitrit.

“They censured NATO over the bombing of Libya, and it seems they were hoping that Israel would speak out against the operations,” Shitrit said. Israel Ha-Yom holds that the men wanted to convince Israel to take part in a diplomatic effort to stop the attacks. In exchange Gaddafi — according to the newspaper — would have given back property left by Jews of Libyan origins to those who had left it when leaving Libya. Political sources quoted by the paper expressed surprise that Livni had not informed the government of the meeting which — they noted — “was by no means looked on approvingly” by Israel.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Press: Air France: Threat of Rockets in Sahel

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 6 — Air France security officials are closely evaluating the alarm raised by French intelligence authorities regarding the possibility that flights in the Sahel could be targeted by ground to air missiles originally from the Libyan arsenal and now in the hands of Al Qaida, according to the website of weekly magazine Jeune Afrique. The weapons are reportedly mainly Sa-7 missile-launchers (Russian made), as well as more modern versions (SA-14, SA-16 and SA-18), which are capable of striking airplanes while taking off or landing, at up to 1,500 meters in altitude. The missiles can be fired by a single operator and can strike a target that is 5km away. According to the weekly publication, the weapons are reportedly part of the arsenal that belonged first to pro-Gaddafi troops and now have reportedly ended up in the hands of Al Qaida in the Maghreb in an unknown quantity. According to Jeune Afrique, French specialists have been in N’Djamena, Niamey, Bamako and Nouakchott in recent weeks to help local authorities strengthen security at their airports.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Srdja Trifkovic: The ICC Orders Qaddafy’s Arrest

The Libyan affair became a choreographed farce on June 27, with the International Criminal Court (ICC) issuing arrest warrants for Muammar Qaddafy, one of his sons, and his chief of military intelligence. This move is a carbon copy of The Hague Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicting Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes at the height of NATO’s bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999. In both cases a transnational court of dubious legitimacy, controlled and financed by the intervening powers, acted on cue to provide retroactive justification for an illegal and unprovoked act of military aggression.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno-Ocampo called on Qaddafy’s closest aides to become “part of the solution in Libya” by deposing him. “Justice will be done,” he declared at the court’s headquarters at The Hague. ICC judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng had already explained that “evidence submitted to Ocampo”—she did not disclose the identity of the submitter(s)—was enough to establish “reasonable grounds to believe” the three were guilty of murder, the persecution of civilians, and “crimes against humanity..”

The statements by Their Honors emanating from their virtual world would be as irrelevant as the fatuities of Bertrand Russel’s Vietnam “tribunal” 45 years ago, were it not for the fact that their “warrants” will be used in the manner that has destructive political and military consequences. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland promptly announced “the U.S. believes that the decision to refer the case to the ICC was the right decision” and that “Qaddafy’s got to take the message that it’s time to go.” White House spokesman Jay Carney called the decision “another step in this process of holding him accountable.” Over in Brussels the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton declared that the “the European Union fully supports the International Criminal Court, which plays a key role in the promotion of international justice.” This means that Qaddafy’s removal—decided upon in London, Paris and Washington long before the limited UN Security Council authorization for “protecting civilians” was adopted in March—now has ex post facto international legitimacy. This is on par with the Nazi government decreeing on July 2, 1934, the Staatsnotwehrgesetz (the Law on State Self-Defense) which retroactively “legalized” the Night of the Long Knives two days after the bloodbath.

Back in 1999 Louise Arbour’s ICTY indictment convinced Milosevic of the need to stiffen resistance to NATO and encouraged the Albanians to escalate the KLA campaign of terror. In Libya Qaddafy will be more determined than ever not to end up like Milosevic and the insurgents will be equally determined not to seek a compromise solution, now that their Western mentors have upped the ante to the point where third-party mediation efforts are meaningless.

That the Obama Administration is enthusiastically supporting the actions of the ICC reflects not only the immediate political utility of the latter’s decisions but also the fact that the liberal-hawk sisterhood in Obama’s inner circle (Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power), and their allies in the academia and the State Department bureaucracy, are intent on the United States signing on to The Rome Statute establishing the ICC. They do not worry about having a court that could theoretically prosecute American officials for pursuing American policies: who pays the piper calls the tune…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Tomato War Breaks Out

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 8 — Tunisia’s tomato production sector has always been important for agriculture in the country, because most of the harvest is exported. But tomato farming is going through a difficult period, because a price war has broken out between growers and the processing industry.

What has been going on for five days now in Sidi Othman, Nachaa and Nabeul, where tomato processing plants are blocked by producers, may seem of little importance in the eyes of a European. But one has to consider the economic side of the conflict, because the producers want more money for their delivered fresh tomatoes. At the moment the price is fixed at 115 millimes per kilogram, where 1000 millimes equals one dinar, around 50 euro cents. The money paid to the Tunisia growers is not even enough to pay the costs of growing, they say now, also due to rising costs caused by international fluctuations, or real speculation. The anger Tunisian tomato producers show today, blocking processing plants, is a consequence of the conflict that has been going on for some time in the important sector for Tunisia’s agriculture. The protests, commissioner for agricultural development in the Nabeul region Ridha Haj Salem told TAP, have become “a serious threat to the tomato processing industry” because they are the cause of heavy losses, both for growers and the processing industry. There seems to be nothing wrong with the argument Ridha Haj Salem defends: we cannot change the sales price of fresh tomatoes now because it is fixed at the start of each harvest by a national commission, which includes representatives of UTAP (Tunisian union for agriculture and fisheries), of the Tunisian Union for Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts (UTICA) and of the Ministries of Industry, Trade, Finance and Agriculture. But the producers reply that the price is not fixed, but that it can be changed in the light of developments on the national and international markets. To fully understand the problem, it should be stressed that the Governorate of Nabeul contributes 35% of national processed tomato output. The current tomato harvest is estimated at 340 to 370 thousand tonnes, of which 240 to 270 thousand tonnes will go to the processing industries. The anger of growers has already led to protests in Nabeul, but producers in Sidi Bouzid and Kairouan (around 100 thousand tonnes produced per year) are considering to follow in the footsteps of their colleagues and join the protest.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Citizens Clash, Then Cooperate Against Police

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 11 — Since yesterday there has been a curfew from 8 PM to 4 AM in the Tunisian city Sbeïtla, in the Kasserine governorate, location of extremely violent clashes between group of citizens which security forces were forced to act harshly to quell. The curfew was established by the Interior Ministry after groups of inhabitants began throwing rocks at each other for reasons yet to be identified on Saturday evening. When the police intervened to break up the fights, the violence turned on the barracks, which was attacked and sacked. People were injured in the clashes but no numbers have yet been released.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Arab Democracy ‘Impossible’ Without Islamists

Tunis, 11 July (AKI) — The Arab countries will never be democratic without the participation of moderate Islamist groups in the political process, said Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia’s Islamist al-Nahda, or Renaissance party.

“A transition to democracy in the Arab world is impossible without a moderate Islamist current, he said in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

“That current in Tunisia is represented by al-Nahda and by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,” he said.

After about two decades of exile, Rachid Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia on after a month of popular protests unseated Tunisian president Zine El Abedine Ben Ali who fled to Saudi Arabia.

Ghannouchi, who was born in 1941, doesn’t believe his party can govern alone, but rather must share power with other political forces.

““For this reason I ask that an executive is formed by an national alliance. And the same for Egypt where it isn’t in the interest of the country that the Muslim Brotherhood governs alone,” Ghannouchi said.

Ghannouchi was met at Tunis airport when he arrived to his native Tunisia from London where he lived in exile since 1989. He has said he doesn’t intend to run for president.

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

Middle East

Libya-Turkey: Rebels Ask Ankara for Access to Frozen Assets

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 7 — A Libyan opposition representative has asked Turkey to grant access to frozen Libyan assets in A&T Bank to the rebel-led Transitional National Council, or TNC, as daily Hurriyet reports. Ankara said Wednesday, however, that international law does not allow the frozen Libyan assets to be allocated to the TNC, but that Turkey had signed an additional 200-million USD loan deal with the Libyan opposition. An international legal basis should be established in order to hand off frozen Libyan assets to the TNC, a senior official from the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Hurriyet on Wednesday. “No legal ground has been established by the international figures yet,” the official said. “The current U.N. resolution is not sufficient to create the legal basis for delivering frozen Libyan assets abroad. An additional decision is needed to release those assets.” The issue would be taken up at the Libyan Contact Group meeting scheduled for next week in Istanbul, to which the representatives of Russia and China were also invited, the official added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Panetta: US Forces Against Iran-Supported Militias in Iraq

(AGI) Baghdad — US forces are carrying out military operations against Shiite militias in Iraq. Shiite militias are supported and armed by Iran. This is what the US Secretary of Defence Leon Paneta said upon his surprise arrival in Baghdad. He said: “We are very concerned about the role played by Iran and about the arms it supplies to extermists in Irak. We lost many soldiers because of these attacks in June”.

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

Syria: Turkish and Iranian FM Meet in Tehran

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JULY 11 — Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in Tehran on Sunday, as Anatolia news agency reports from the Iranian capital. Holding a joint press conference after his meeting with Salehi, Davutoglu said that they discussed regional issues, adding, “our region is experiencing a very important historical transformation process.” Noting that all countries in the region should exert efforts to restore a more prosperous, peaceful and stable structure in this transformation process, Davutoglu said that peoples in many countries in the region had right and legitimate demands. These demands should be turned into a reform process through peaceful methods, he added.Davutoglu also said that Turkey was against every type of external intervention in the region. On the other hand, the Iranian minister said that Turkey and Iran had rooted relations, adding that the trade volume between the two countries was expected to reach 14 billion USD this year. He expressed hope that the annual trade volume would reach 30 billion USD within the next few years. Noting that they discussed recent developments in Syria during their meeting, Salehi said that Turkey, Iran and Syria were members of a family, and if a problem appeared in one of them, they all should launch initiatives to solve it. Salehi said that it was important to meet the demands of the people, adding that developments in the region affected the whole world.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: Assad Loyalists Raid USA & French Embassies, Clashes

(AGI) Damascus — Supporters of President Bashar Assad burst into the American and French Embassies in Damascus. The protesters got into a shootout with the security forces policing the French Embassy. Yesterday, the Government had expressed its irritation for the visit of the American and French Ambassadors to Hama, the city that is at the core of the protest demonstrations against the regime, and had summoned the diplomatic representatives.

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

South Asia

Indonesia: Muslim Threats Against Yasmin Church in West Java Continue

The faithful still have to pray by the roadside after their church was shut down. Radical Muslim groups continue to disrupt their activities and issue threats against them. The mayor of Bogor still refuses to accept a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court upholding the Church’s right to build its own places of worship.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Diani Budiarto, mayor of Bogor (West Java), does not give up. He still wants to force the members of the Yasmin Protestant Church (GKI) to leave their church building, even though it was built in accordance with the rules. The mayor has refused to uphold a direct order by the Supreme Court of Indonesia, which authorises the Yasmin Church, to build a place of worship on land it owns. Local sources have told AsiaNews that Mayor Budiarto has also tried to stir anti-Christian sentiments among extremist Muslim groups.

On Saturday, the mayor again sent a letter to the Church demanding it stop holding Sunday prayers outside the church building. He also suggested other places where they church congregation could meet, for instance the Harmoni Function Hall.

However, Yasmin Church officials are steadfast in refusing the mayor’s proposal to go elsewhere. They note that the mayor has never said where they could build their new church, and that his latest letter is worthless since it does not provide “any date or useful information”.

On Sunday, hundreds of faithful met again on the road next the church site to celebrate a religious service. However, dozens of radical Muslims swarmed the place, disrupting the function. The same had occurred a week earlier; on that occasion, the protesters tried to interrupt the service by singing.

Rev Ujang Tanusaputra and his secretary, Rev Diah Renata Anggraeni, denied claims by the mayor in his letter that they had accepted to stop praying in the street. Contrary to what the letter said, their Church did not hold any meetings on the indicated dates, namely 6, 7 and 8 July. Instead, they urged the mayor to respect the Supreme Court’s decision.

Mr Bona Sigalingging Sh, a spokesperson for the Church, told AsiaNews “the idea of moving the road service to Harmoni Function Hall is not part of the solution.” Instead, “the mayor created a new problem by ignoring the supremacy of the law. The Church will not be chase away from the road where it meets,” he added.

“Two protesters tried to reach our leader, Jayadi Damanik,” Bona Sigalingging explained. “They told him to persuade the faithful to stop praying by the road, but he rejected their request. Even a Bogor city official intervened, asking me to persuade the community to stop its activities because Muslim groups view them negatively. I rejected the request. The real problem is the fact that the mayor has ignored the Supreme Court decision.”

Minor incidents followed the service. “At least, eight demonstrators got close to Jayadi Damanik and Tomas Wadu Dara to force them to stop and take them away,” Bona Sigalingging said.

The two clergymen said they were taken away and locked up in a room in a nearby building in order to convince them to stop praying in the street. The Yasmin Church will not however give up.

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

Pakistan: State Jobs in Punjab, Government Fails to Respect Quota for Minorities

The quota was introduced by Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities, killed on 2 March. Selected candidates only Muslims, Christians protest. A Catholic priest: “Without the Ministry for Minorities we are orphans in our own country.”

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — The Punjab government has ignored the rule that reserves 5% of federal government and provincial governments jobs to minorities, in District Coordination Officer recruitment (DCO) in Khanewal. “The government had announced 65 vacancies in the district administrative office — explains Munir Masih, a Christian — and many Christians have sent their cv’s. But while meeting the requirements, none of them were taken. “ The quotas were introduced by Shahbaz Bhatti (in photo), Minister for Minorities murdered on March 2 last. The job assumptions have sparked protests from Christians, who have demonstrated outside the office of the DCO on July 8.

Fr. Yaqoob Masih, of the Diocese of Khanewal, claims to have personally delivered 15 applications to the DCO: “I was shocked when I saw that the office gave the positions to only Muslim candidates. And now that the federal government has abolished the Ministry for Minorities [cf. AsiaNews, “ Islamabad abolishes Minority Affairs Ministry, as Bhatti murder could go unpunished “], we Christians do not have any body to turn to. We are orphans in our own country. “

However, Rashid Mahmood Langrial, of the DCO of Khanewal, denies any wrongdoing: “The minorities have the right to protest, but it is the responsibility of the Committee to consider the proportion of 5%. I can neither indicate, nor to force any selections. “

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Do a Deal With Islamist Rebels to Save the Starving, UN Tells Aid Agencies as Kristin Davis Flies in to Support Refugees

Communication should be opened with rebel groups — who are controlling foreign access to large parts of Somalia — in order to ease the ‘absolutely appalling’ suffering of millions facing a famine, brought on by one of the most severe droughts the region has seen in decades.

Antonio Guterres, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees, said the agencies must do what they can to persuade militant groups to allow them access to those badly affected.

As many as 12million east Africans have been hit by drought — with Somalia thought to be the worst-hit — and are now in need of urgent help.

Thousands feeling famine are now streaming towards the war-torn Somalian capital city of Mogadishu — despite fierce fighting between the Government and the insurgent group al-Shabaab.

The rebels now control almost all of Somalia’s centre and south and have refused to allow foreigners to work in their territory. However a spokesman for al-Shabaab said last week that they would be willing to allow in aid for the starving masses.

Yesterday, the head of the UN refugee agency said Sunday that drought-ridden Somalia is the ‘worst humanitarian disaster’ in the world after meeting with refugees who endured unspeakable hardship to reach the world’s largest refugee camp.

The Kenyan camp, Dadaab, is overflowing with tens of thousands of newly arrived refugees forced into the camp by the parched landscape in the region where Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya meet.

Sex And The City actress Kristin Davis visited the camp this weekend to meet refugees as part of her role as an ambassador for Oxfam.

She looked shocked as she met with Somalians and heard how they had fled famine, in some cases walking for weeks.

She met Madina Farah Yusuf, who arrived at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya a week ago after walking for 10 days with her seven children.

On the way she came across four other young children who had lost their parents. She took them in and brought them all to Dadaab, where they are now taking shelter under a tree.

She said: ‘We left Somalia in fear our lives. There was so much hunger and war. Bandits robbed us of our food and clothes on the way. I found these four young children as we came. They were on their own as their mother had died of starvation.

‘We brought everyone here (Dadaab) as we thought we could get help. But we stay under this tree. It gets very cold at night, and the children cry. We only have one blanket.’

The World Food Program estimates that 10million people already need humanitarian aid. The U.N. Children’s Fund estimates that more than 2million children are malnourished and in need of lifesaving action.

Antonio Guterres, appealed to the world to supply the ‘massive support’ needed by thousands of refugees showing up at this camp every week. More than 380,000 refugees now live there.

In Dadaab, Guterres spoke with a Somalia mother who lost three of her children during a 35-day walk to reach the camp. Guterres said Dadaab holds ‘the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.’

The mother, Muslima Aden said: ‘I became a bit insane after I lost them. I lost them in different times on my way.’

Guterres is on a tour of the region to highlight the dire need. On Thursday he was in the Ethiopian camp of Dollo Ado, a camp that is also overflowing.

He said: ‘The mortality rates we are witnessing are three times the level of emergency ceilings.

‘The level of malnutrition of the children coming in is 50 percent. That is enough to explain why a very high level of mortality is inevitable.’

Dr Dejene Kebede, a health officer for UNHCR, said there were 58 deaths in camps in one week alone in June.

Most of the deaths take place at the registration office and transition facilities of the refugee camps in the southeastern Dollo region of Ethiopia, the health officer said.

Up to 2,000 Somali refugees are crossing the border into Ethiopia every day, UNHCR said. Thousands of families arrive in poor conditions often after walking for days in search of food.

Guterres said the influx is overwhelming for UNHCR and other international and local aid organisations: ‘Nothing can compare to what we have seen this month. I believe Somalia represents the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.’

The camps are full and lack capacity to provide the Somali people with food and shelter.

This makes effective health treatment almost impossible, said Jerome Souquet, head of Doctors Without Borders at the Dollo Ado camps.

He said: ‘We can treat the severely malnourished children, but they will definitely come back to us underfed because there is not enough food and almost all of them suffer from diarrhea.’

Habiba Osman Ibrahim, a 76-year old Somali refugee from the al-Shabab-controlled Luk region of Somalia, said she walked for three days with her two underfed grandchildren. Al-Shabab is Somalia’s dangerous militant group. It had forced out all international aid groups, but earlier this month said they could return considering the desperate conditions.

The epicenter of the drought lies on the three-way border shared by Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, a nomadic region where families heavily depend on the health of their livestock. Uganda and Djibouti have also been hit.

The World Food Program said it expects 10 million people in the Horn of Africa to require food assistance. WFP currently provides food aid to 6 million people in East Africa.

Somalis desperate for food are also overrunning Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp in neighboring Kenya, which is seeing some 10,000 new arrivals each week, six times the average at this time last year.

The U.N.’s refugee agency says Dadaab’s three camps now host more than 382,000 people, while thousands more are waiting at reception centers outside the camp.

Yesterday, a U.S. official revealed his fears that the Ethiopian Government might be underestimating its own country’s needs in the worsening famine crisis.

Officials announced 4.5million Ethiopians needed food aid — a 40 per cent increase on last year — but aid agencies believe the actual number to be higher. The three-country drought crisis is also devastating communities in Kenya and Somalia.

Jason Frasier, mission director of US Aid in Ethiopia, said: ‘We are concerned that we are underestimating the situation, especially in the southern provinces.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

EU Countries Recognise South Sudan

All 27 EU member states have officially endorsed the independence of South Sudan despite ongoing differences on recognition of Kosovo and, potentially, Palestine. “On this historic day, the EU and its member states welcome the Republic of South Sudan as a new independent state,” the EU said in a formal communique on Sunday (9 July) after the flag raising ceremony in the new capital of Juba on Saturday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Sudan: What Next?

Nothing will change in Sudan until the world addresses the religious element of its conflicts.

The recent declaration of independence by South Sudan from its northern neighbor is certainly a welcome event. After two civil wars (1955-1972 and 1983-2005) that took the lives of more than 2.5 million Christians and animists, secession was the only reasonable option. Of course, there are immediate challenges for South Sudan, as it seems unlikely that 7,000 UN peacekeeping troops can protect a new nation that has vast oil reserves and a population living largely in abject poverty.

But what about North Sudan’s future? One noteworthy development in the north is the aerial bombardment targeting civilians in the Nuba Mountains, which are part of the petroleum-rich province of South Kordofan that will be the main oil producing region for North Sudan, following the south’s secession. The Nuba Mountains — once a base for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army that fought against the Arab-led government in Khartoum during the second civil war — are primarily inhabited by the Nuban people, a mixed Christian and Muslim population with their own language and culture.

Indeed, as Amar Amoun (a Nuban MP in North Sudan’s opposition) says, the bombing is a deliberate tactic to depopulate the Nuba Mountains. With Nuban rebels starting to take up arms and hoping to achieve more civil rights or independence for the Nuban people, war with the central government appears likely, hence the potential for another humanitarian catastrophe as in Darfur.

Here is the heart of the issue. It’s all very well to have South Sudan secede, but the root of the problem has still not been addressed: namely, the traditional doctrines of jihad that underlie the Islamist and Arab supremacist ideology of the ruling elite in Khartoum.

           — Hat tip: Derius[Return to headlines]


Barge Carrying 40 People Intercepted

(AGI) Catanzaro — A barge carrying 40 non-EU citizens has been intercepted by two Financial Police motor boats. The operation took place between Catanzaro Lido and Sellia Marina. The vessel, which was 16 metres long and had Arab writing on the sides, was then escorted to the port of Crotone.

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

Boat Sets Sail From Lampedusa With 1,121 Migrants on Board

Lampedusa, 11 July (AKI) — A ship set sail from Lampedusa on Monday with 1,121 illegal immigrants on board who landed on the tiny southern Italian island over the weekend.

Since the unrest that has hit North Africa this year, over 41,000 migrants have reached Lampedusa, whose sole detention centre can hold a maximum of 850 people. The latest immigrants land on Lampedusa were due to be transferred to holding centres in Sicily and on the southern Italian mainland.

Earlier on Monday, police arrested ten migrants suspected of people trafficking and of fomenting riots that broke out on Friday inside a holding centre in Pozzallo, on the southern Sicilian cost.

After a surge of Tunisian arrivals in early 2011 following the unrest in the North African country that toppled longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power, most migrants now reaching Lampedusa and nearby islands have set sail from Libya.

Most hail from sub-Saharan Africa and are more likely to gain political asylum than Tunisians, who are considered economic migrants.

The European Union’s border protection agency Frontex said in June that Italy has replaced Greece as the chief route for illegal migration to Europe.

The surge in illegal migration to Europe from North Africa has sparked rows between EU states, with Rome arguing that other EU member states must share the burden of the influx of illegal immigrants to the bloc.

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

How Immigrants Become “Muslims”

Terror attacks, political manoeuvering by rightwing parties and oversimplification in the media explain why Muslims in Switzerland are perceived as a threat.

The National Research Programme 58 study into religious pluralism says immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries have been singled out even though this group has no reason to be suspected as fundamentalist.

The research, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, was led by Patrik Ettinger and Kurt Imhof of Zurich University.

The authors point out that the immigrants in question come from very diverse countries like Turkey, Macedonia and Morocco and practise their faith in a variety of ways, seeing themselves first and foremost as members of a particular ethnic group.

Their research focused on how often and in what way Muslims were mentioned in domestic newspapers and public television reports beginning in the 1960s. Parliamentary debates were also included, and how these were covered in the media.

Oversimplification, the study says, has increased among both politicians and in the media in recent years, leading to the approval by voters of a ban on the construction of new minarets in 2009.

“It wasn’t as much the media reports about the 9/11 attacks as the bombings in Madrid and London, as well as the Danish caricatures of the Muslim prophet. The reporting on these events led to the creation of the image of a violent Islam and a clash of civilisations,” Ettinger told

Political debate

“It was in particular the Swiss People’s Party and to a lesser extent the Federal Democratic Union who took the image of Muslims out of an international context and put it into a national one,” Ettinger pointed out.

In this way Muslim immigrants became “the Muslims”.

Previously, Ettinger explained, they were categorised according to their ethnicity; like Turks or Bosnians. “That doesn’t mean that immigrants were regarded favourably, rather problems were put down to ethnic traits rather than religion.”

The researcher added that a broad debate about Switzerland’s role in Europe also played a role. In the end, the political elite were discredited, enabling the People’s Party to take advantage of the situation and promote its own version of what it means to be Swiss, with an emphasis on disassociation from foreigners.

“There were also grave fears that Protestant cities in German-speaking Switzerland would become predominantly Catholic when waves of Italians immigrated in the 1960s — which is very similar to today’s fears of an Islamicisation of Switzerland,” Ettinger said.

“And just as few Catholics from Italy and Spain were fundamentalist in their views, the same can be said of the majority of Muslims here now.”

Questionable value

In response to the findings, the People’s Party said the study results were of “questionable value” highlighting the fact that since 1970, the Muslim population in Switzerland has grown from 16,000 to more than 350,000.

“Coverage of Islam in the study has no bearing on the real situation in the country and popular perceptions,” People’s Party General-Secretary Martin Baltisser told

Baltisser said integration issues, respect for the rule of law, and attitudes toward family life, school and public institutions were reasons for debate.

He also said public appearances by exponents of the Islamic community played a part. The authors of the study, according to Baltisser, have presented a “peculiar understanding of causality”. Public perception is much more complex, he argued.

However, support for the findings came from the imam of the Bosnian community in Zurich, Sakib Halilovic. Halilovic said the results pointed in the right direction and the research apparently had been done seriously.

“I think the statement is spot on that the media have failed to differentiate between global terror on the one hand and Islam on the other, and from Muslims in Switzerland, most of whom are integrated.”…

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

Two Tons of Lead Batteries Recovered From Lampedusa Seabed

(AGI) Agrigento — About 1.2 tons of lead batteries, 300 litres of sulphuric acid and 100 kilos of plastic from vessels transporting immigrants have been recovered from Lampedusa port’s seabed by experts from the Coast Guard in cooperation with the National Consortium for Collection and Recycling. This completed the recovery of 7o lead batteries in the Molo Madonnina area and those surrounding the port. In an operation supervised by the Harbour Master in cooperation with the Lampedusa Island Natural Reserve Organization, these accumulators from vessels carrying migrants and also from private ones were all collected, and will now be professionally recycled by staff from Palermo-based Brugnano s.r.L. appointed by Cobat for operations in Sicily. Legambiente and Marevivo also took part in this operation .

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


Ethane Lakes in a Red Haze: Titan’s Uncanny Moonscape

We knew very little about this strange world before NASA’s Cassini spacecraft arrived at Saturn seven years ago. Since then, the ringed planet has completed a quarter of an orbit around the sun and Titan has passed through its spring equinox. In that time, Cassini has swooped by Titan almost 80 times and has released the Huygens lander onto its surface. Together they have penetrated the haze that hides Titan’s surface to reveal modest mountains, vast fields of sand dunes, rocks, and even streams, lakes and weather.

Titan looks surprisingly familiar, although it is a cold, dimly lit world made from unfamiliar materials, says planetary scientist Elizabeth Turtle of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland. “The rocks are water ice and the lakes are methane and light hydrocarbons, yet we see processes very similar to what we see on Earth.” So far, there are no recognisable signs of organic life. That’s not surprising: by terrestrial standards, Titan is a deep freeze with surface temperatures at a chilly -180°C. Yet Titan is very much alive in the sense that its atmosphere and surface are changing before our eyes. Clouds drift through the haze and rain falls from them to erode stream-like channels draining into shallow lakes. Vast dune fields that look as if they were lifted from the Sahara sprawl along Titan’s equator, yet the dark grains resemble ground asphalt rather than sand. It is a bizarrely different world that looks eerily like home.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How Tough Turtles Survived Dino-Killing Meteor

What does it take to survive a catastrophic meteor impact? The tough turtles of the Cretaceous know a bit about that; they seem to have survived the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs because of their slow metabolisms and aquatic lifestyles, researchers now say. “Turtles are very tough animals, if times get tough they can go into a state of suspended animation,” said study researcher Tyler Lyson, of Yale University. “Animals that were living in the water were kind of protected against whatever killed the land plants and the dinosaurs.” Essentially, since their bodily processes were so slow, needing very little energy, they could survive on sparse resources during and after the wipeout of dinosaurs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sharks Fin Soup Bans Don’t Stop Strong Demand

Shark fin soup has been served as a delicacy for centuries in China and elsewhere. But it’s more than just an expensive bowl of soup; it’s considered to have special medicinal properties and is used in Chinese medicine. It’s one of many folk remedies and alternative medicine cures threatening endangered species around the world. The shark fin industry has come under mounting pressure in recent months. Shark populations have declined dramatically in recent years, fueled in part by the demand for shark fins. Scientists estimate as many as 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins. The sharks are often thrown back into the ocean to die after their fins have been cut off. Some shark species populations have dropped by 90 percent, studies find.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]