Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110712

Financial Crisis
»Asian Stocks Plummet Over Eurozone Debt and US “Default” Fear
»E-Banking is Flourishing in Greece, Survey
»EU Moves to Rein in Ratings Agencies
»EU Moots Changing Bailout Rules to Calm Markets
»Eurozone Trichet Pleads for a Minister of Finance
»Eurozone ECB Puts up a Fight
»For Euro Zone, It’s Euro Bonds or Else
»Greece: “Black Hole” In Budget Increases Again
»Italian Stocks Rise Slightly After Heavy Losses
»Italy: Markets Sanction Political Mess
»Italy Stares Into the Abyss
»The Next Domino? Italy Suffers From Euro-Zone Contagion Fears
»Frank Gaffney: Energy Freedom Now
»Jonah Goldberg: Facebook is Satan’s Urinal
»Leroy Petry Receives Medal of Honor
»Lights Out for the Light Bulb Ban?
»Spreading Islamist Misogyny — With Your Tax Dollars
Europe and the EU
»Danish Populists Have Harsh Words for German Critics
»Denmark Easiest Place in EU to Buy Heroin
»Denmark to be Electric Cars Guinea Pig
»Europe the Gentle Giant Must Wake
»Former CSU Boss Slams Merkel’s Leadership
»Israeli-Friendly MEPs Lobby Ashton on Palestine
»Italy: Peace and Palestinian High Couture in Rome
»Italy: Berlusconi TV News Anchor Denies Dealings With ‘Ruby’
»Italy: 1,800 Tonnes of Uncollected Garbage Rotting in Naples Amid Heatwave
»Italy: Berlusconi Shares Slide on News of 560 Mln Damages Bill
»Sweden: Hollywood Scraps Filming After Malmö Jews Alert
»Sweden: Teen Stabbed to Death on Stockholm Football Pitch
»UK: Murdoch Flies in to Save Crumbling Empire
»Bosnia: After Muslims, Bosnian Serbs Commemorate Their Victims
North Africa
»Egypt: Security Forces ‘Injure’ Tahrir Square Protesters
»Egypt: Pipeline to Israel Blown Up for 2nd Time This Month
»Italy-Algeria: Frattini Visits North African “Good Guys”
»Libya: Gaddafi ‘Ready to Flee to South Africa’ If Son Allowed to Run in Elections
»Libya: France: Juppé Admits Tripoli “Contact”
»Ramadan: Algeria: Government Initiative
»The Green, Green Arab Summer: I
»Tunisia: Secular Film Protesters, Salafists Freed
Israel and the Palestinians
»Stop Ayoob Kara’s Overseas Trips
Middle East
»A Convert From Islam, Iranian Pastor Risks the Death Penalty
»Caroline Glick: The Path to the Next Lebanon War
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Italian Soldier Killed by Blast, France Announces Withdrawal
»Assassination Rocks Afghans: Aide Shoots President’s Half-Brother. Taliban Claim Responsibility .
»Brother of Afghan President Shot Dead at His Home in Kandahar
»India: Andhra Pradesh, Pentecostal Pastor Stabbed. GCIC: The State is “Complicit”
»Indonesia/Malaysia: Most Young Muslims Oppose Polygamy
»Indonesia: Explosion in an Islamic School in Bima, Students Were Building a Bomb
»Malaysia: Edmund Bon: Bersih 2 is No Arab Spring, But We Do Want Clean and Fair Elections
»Vaccination Ruse Used in Pursuit of Bin Laden
Australia — Pacific
»In Australia’s Misguided Carbon Tax, A Warning for the U.S.
»Illegal Immigrants Rescued Off California’s Coast
Culture Wars
»Boost Sex Ed in Swedish Schools: Minister
»Violent, Selfish Fathers vs. Violent, Selfish Mothers on Trial

Financial Crisis

Asian Stocks Plummet Over Eurozone Debt and US “Default” Fear

Tokyo drops 1.53, Seoul 2.2 in, Hong Kong 2, Shanghai 1.26. Yesterday, the European stock markets were all negative. The European Ministers of Foreign Affairs draw up a new plan to save Greece. Standoff between Obama and the House of Representatives continues over whether to raise the debt ceiling to more than 14.3 trillion dollars

Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) — At midday today Asia’s stock markets were all lower as the fear that the euro zone could be swallowed by the debt crisis spread, but also from concerns over the US standoff over raising debt ceiling above the figure of 14,300 billion dollars.

The Nikkei fell below 1. 53%, following losses on Wall Street, which closed yesterday in the negative with a drop of 1.2.

In Shanghai the benchmark index was down by 1.26; in Hong Kong by 1.99. The same downward trend in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore. Seoul lost 1% within the first 15 minutes and in the end closed down by 2.2%.

Yesterday, the European stock exchanges suffered heavy losses, especially Italy, with Milan, loosing 4% , 2.7 France and Germany 2.3; London dropped 1%. Also yesterday, the EU Ministers of Finance discussed a new aid plan for Greece, with a fund of 400 billion Euros, characterized by “flexibility” and “breadth”.

In the United States the tug of war continues between President Obama and the House of Representatives to raise the debt ceiling and to agree on cuts and taxes in order to reduce the deficit. In a race against time, and round the clock meetings, the aim is to reach agreement ahead of an Aug 2nd deadline to avoid having to “default”, which would mean being branded as insolvent by the rating agencies.

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

E-Banking is Flourishing in Greece, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 11 — An ever increasing number of bank clients in Greece use the alternative networks of banking products and services, as the number of people registered for electronic banking services expanded by 12% annually in the first half of last year. A study conducted by the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) on “The Greek Banking System in 2010” showed that over 1,929,800 people or legal entities were registered users in e-banking services in the first half of 2010, up from 1,719,800 in 2009, as daily Kathimerini reports. The value of the transactions registered electronically, whether intrabank, interbank or security transactions, posted an annual increase of 8%, i.e. reaching 19.7 billion euros in H1 2010 from 18.3 billion euros on end-June 2009.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Moves to Rein in Ratings Agencies

The EU commission on Monday (11 July) for the first time indicated plans to regulate ratings agencies after several run-ins over agency decisions about the credit reliability of ailing eurozone members. Speaking in Paris, internal market commissioner Michel Barnier said the agencies occupied a place that is “far too important in Europe” and mooted a ban on ratings for countries covered by international rescue packages. “One can’t just not take into account the fact that these Member States are members of a European Union, they benefit from the solidarity of its members; and they are subject to internationally agreed aid packages.” “That is why we should ask ourselves, in the same way as Madame Lagarde has, whether it is appropriate to allow sovereign ratings on countries which are subject to an internationally agreed programme,” said Barnier, referring to an idea first suggested by former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the IMF. The commissioner also said he is considering making it obligatory that a rating agency inform a government of its decision first and that the agency publishes its reasoning in full. Ratings agencies may also in the future be required to conduct full analyses of countries more regularly.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Moots Changing Bailout Rules to Calm Markets

Pressed by Italy’s sudden trouble on the markets, eurozone finance ministers on Monday night (11 July) decided to increase the “flexibility and the scope” of the eurozone’s bailout fund (EFSF), so far a taboo for Germany and the Netherlands. “The length of the meeting illustrates that ministers are very concerned of recent market developments and subsequently they took important steps to reinforce our collective crisis response,” economics commissioner Olli Rehn said during a press conference at the end of eight-hour long talks. With Italy’s debt second only to Greece and markets worried that a fresh bailout for Athens with private investors’ involvement, would set a precedent to be replicated should Portugal need another bailout, ministers were struggling to cobble together a solution to stop contagion spreading to other euro-countries. Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the rules of the Luxembourg-based European Financial Stability Facility — a bond-issuing institution involved in the Irish and Portuguese bailouts — would be changed. But he gave no details, saying the specifics would be decided “very shortly”, and no timetable.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Trichet Pleads for a Minister of Finance

El Mundo, 11 July 2011

“Jean-Claude Trichet calls for a European finance ministry to shield the euro and advocates a confederation that will apply a common fiscal policy over the long term,” leads El Mundo. On July 10, at an annual Economic Forum in Aix-en-Provence, the ECB President called for a common tax policy with “a minister and a Federal Ministry.” “The difficulties in organising the second bailout in Greece continue to put in stark relief the urgency of strengthening the economic governance of the EU,” El Mundo writes. “The crisis of Europe affects far more than just Europe”, adds the newspaper, which believes the proposal of Trichet “should be heard out” since it would allow the public debt of the twenty-seven states to be unified and would “put an end” to attacks by speculators against the weaker economies in the eurozone.

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

Eurozone ECB Puts up a Fight

In deciding to raise its key interest rate and guarantee Portuguese bonds, the European Central Bank has taken a stand against rating agencies. Without actually doing any favours for the countries in crisis, notes the European press.

While European editorialists yesterday called for concrete action to be taken against the rating agencies suspected of destabilising the eurozone, Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank (ECB), has brought forward a rapid and “inflexible” response, notes Les Echos. At the conclusion of the monthly meeting of the Governing Council in Frankfurt less than forty-eight hours after the brutal downgrading of Portugal’s sovereign debt by Moody’s, the president of the ECB has taken three decisions that are a “signal to European governments, rating agencies and markets in these incredibly turbulent times,” writes the French daily.

First decision:…

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

For Euro Zone, It’s Euro Bonds or Else

Markets in Europe are being hit hard by fears that the debt crisis will spread to Italy, which is regarded as too big to rescue. German media commentators say the time has come to stop the piecemeal bailout efforts and to make the member states share liability for their debt — via euro bonds. European markets and the euro are falling on worries that the euro crisis is about to engulf Italy and Spain, which analysts regard as too big to rescue. To make matters worse, the euro-zone finance ministers failed at their meeting on Monday to agree on a second bailout package for Greece. They pledged longer bond maturities and a more flexible rescue fund to help Greece and other European Union debtors, but they set no deadline to act, merely saying new steps would be decided “shortly.” They also declined to rule out the possibility of a selective default by Greece, even though the European Central Bank is opposed to such a move. A decision has been postponed due to continuing disagreement over the terms of involving private-sector investors in a second bailout package for Greece.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: “Black Hole” In Budget Increases Again

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JULY 12 — Despite the drastic austerity measures adopted by the Greek government, the “black hole” in the country’s budget is deepening and has now reached a figure of 4.53 billion euros for the first six months of 2011. Provisional figures suggest that the central government’s budget deficit for the period between January and June 2011 reached 12.781 billion euros, more than the predicted figure of 10.374 billion and above the 9.997 billion figure recorded over the corresponding period of 2010. Revenue for the first six months of the year dropped to 3.051 billion euros. Net income from the ordinary state budget was 21.814 billion, a fall of 8.3% compared to the same period of last year, while targets laid out beforehand had identified a scheduled increase of 5.4%.

The Finance Minister says that the fall in revenue is in particular the result of a recession that is deeper than allowed for when the budget was being drawn up, and will be tackled in the second half of the year with revenue from tax income, as part of the medium-term economic programme running from 2011 to 2015. Government economists, however, fear that the extra 6.7 billion euros in measures laid out in the programme will not be enough to cover the “black hole” in the budget and reduce the deficit to 7.6% of GDP in 2011. This would make new economic measures necessary before the end of the year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Stocks Rise Slightly After Heavy Losses

Bond spread reaches new high before pulling back

(ANSA) — Milan, July 12 — Italian stocks ended positively on Tuesday after falling almost 5% amid renewed fears Italy would be drawn into a widening European financial crisis.

Milan’s main FTSE MIB index closed up 1.8% at 18,510 points and shares in the major banks recovered after suffering heavy losses on Monday.

In early trading on Tuesday, the 10-year spread between Italian and German bonds rose to a new high of 330 points, before falling below 300 points amid speculation that eurozone leaders would meet on Friday to discuss the financial crisis.

Other European stock markets slid lower — London’s FTSE index fell 1.59% and the main Paris index fell 2.13% — as the euro hit a four-month low of $1.383 before closing at $1.3975. On Tuesday Italy sold 6.75 billion euros of Treasury bills with an average yield of 3.67% — their highest daily yield since 2008. That compares with a yield of 2.147% when similar securities were last sold in June.

Analysts said the partial recovery in stock prices, at least in Italy, was linked to signs that the Italian government was accelerating the passage of the 48-billion-euro austerity package, expected to face a vote in the Senate on Thursday.

Speaking in Madrid, the president of the council of the European Union, Herman van Rompuy, said a meeting of the Eurozone’s 17 leaders in Brussels on Friday had “not been ruled out”.

“No decision has been made about a meeting of eurozone leaders, but this has not been ruled out,” said a spokesman for van Rompuy.

A new Treasury bond auction worth 5 billion euros is expected on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Markets Sanction Political Mess

Corriere della Sera, 11 July 2011

“Italy holds its breath”, headlines Corriere della Sera. After weeks of rumours, the feared speculative attack on Italy may have begun. With the Milan stock exchange in free fall, losing more than 7 per cent in the last week and opening Monday 11 July at -1.26%, the spread between Italian and German ten years bonds — 5.45% and 2.66% respectively — has reached an all time high. The slump has been made worse by the losses of the Berlusconi group, after a court ruling that the PM’s holding Fininvest must refund €560m to rival group Cir for a corrupt takeover.

Political factors of instability — like coalition infighting that is blocking the new financial bill — are the real reason for the markets losing confidence in an Italian economy otherwise capable of weathering the storm, asserts the La Stampa editorial. Now it’s the time for Italy to display serious self-discipline and for Europe to keep steady on the solidarity path, beginning with today’s Council. “A week is starting in which the judgement of financial markets over Italy will be crucial. To avoid disasters we will need the right decisions from Italy, Europe, and Italy in Europe.”

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

Italy Stares Into the Abyss

Financial Times Deutschland, 11 July 2011

“Europe fears for Italy,” leads the Financial Times Deutschland as the bloc’s 27 member states hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday July 11. Since the end of last week Italy has been targeted by the markets, and the costs of borrowing in the sovereign debt market are hitting record levels. According to a senior diplomat quoted in the Hamburg daily, EU finance commissioner Olli Rehn is “extremely concerned about the development of the situation in Italy” and is calling for “a comprehensive solution at last to save us from having to deal with one country after another.” According to the Berlin daily Die Welt, the European Central Bank is suggesting expanding the European rescue mechanism to 1,500 billion euros. The FTD notes in its editorial that, yet again, quick action is needed. “So far, the rescue strategy has been address the concerns of small European states to avoid another shock. But a collapse of Italy would expose this as mere window dressing.”

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

The Next Domino? Italy Suffers From Euro-Zone Contagion Fears

Italy has slid into the speculators’ crosshairs amid concerns that the euro-zone crisis could hit the country next. In many respects, Italy is much better off than its neighbors on the periphery. But unlike Greece, it is definitely too big to fail. The symptoms are all too familiar. The risk premium on Italian government bonds reached a new high on Monday, stocks fell and the Milan stock exchange restricted short-selling as a precaution. Italy has suddenly become the focus of international investors’ attention. New doubts about the stability of the Rome government and a deep skepticism about the country’s finances have combined to form a dangerous mixture. The national debt is at 120 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the second highest in the euro zone after Greece.

But how bad is Italy’s situation really? The investors’ attacks have not come as a huge surprise. Even when the single currency was introduced, the country, with its huge mountain of debt, was already viewed as a potential problem. It was inevitable that the markets would sooner or later test the vulnerability of Italy, as one of the euro zone’s weak points. The rating agencies fired initial warning shots in recent months.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Frank Gaffney: Energy Freedom Now

Mark Twain is usually credited with the quip that “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” The same is certainly true of our dependence on foreign, and often unfriendly, sources of energy — particularly when gas prices soar and every American feels the pinch.

The difference, of course, is that we actually could do something about energy freedom — a status that might not render us totally independent of all foreign sources of oil, but that would leave us vastly less dependent than we are today and, therefore, far more secure.

But will we? Or more precisely, will be before it becomes absolutely necessary to do so?

Obviously, we will take whatever steps are necessary once imported oil ceases, for whatever reason, to be available in the quantities or at prices to which we are accustomed. At that point, we will have no choice but to wean ourselves from a costly and strategically reckless dependency on such fuel…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Jonah Goldberg: Facebook is Satan’s Urinal


…I’ve concluded (as my Twitter followers already know) that Facebook is Satan’s urinal. I hate it. I closed down my Facebook page a couple months ago and I haven’t looked back. Now I admit that I’m not a great fit for Facebook for some uncommon reasons. I don’t lack for places to express my views (whether that’s a good thing or bad is open to debate). Also, I spend a lot of time writing about how I feel about things, the idea that I should do that when I’m off the clock too is just unappealing to me. Throw in my general — yet oddly cheery — mysanthropy and Facebook isn’t for me. Meanwhile, I’ve really grown to enjoy wasting incredibly valuable time for no discernible purpose on Twitter. Go figure.

Still, while I use Google a lot and Gmail, I wish Google hadn’t been the one to come up with the alternative to Facebook. It feels gratuitous. Like Google doesn’t run enough of the world, it needs this too? (Again, as I said on Twitter already), it’s as if Skynet opened a chain of espresso stands. One of these days, I need to get all of this social media stuff squared away properly. But in the meantime, my view is if it’s bad for Facebook then it’s okay with me.

One last thing about Google+, it makes me wish my name was Hal. That way I could categorize everybody I know by what Circle of Hal they belong in.

[Return to headlines]

Leroy Petry Receives Medal of Honor

President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, lauding his “extraordinary heroism” during a solemn White House ceremony Tuesday that marked just the second time since Vietnam that the honor was bestowed to a living recipient.

Petry, an Army Ranger from New Mexico, lost his hand throwing a grenade away from two fellow soldiers during a fight with insurgents in Afghanistan’s Paktia province in May 2008.

Petry had already been shot in both legs but could have dragged himself around a wall to save himself. Instead, he reached over and grabbed the grenade to eliminate the threat to two other soldiers close by, members of his unit told reporters last month.

“What compels such courage? What leads a person to risk everything so that others might live?” Obama asked before awarding the medal.

Petry’s selfless act alone was deserving of the honor, and given his wounds he could have retired from the Army with honor. Instead, Obama said, Petry reenlisted indefinitely, and returned just this year from his eighth deployment.


[Return to headlines]

Lights Out for the Light Bulb Ban?

Some politicians in Washington don’t think you’re all that bright. They believe that you can’t make wise decisions in your day-to-day life, so they have taken it upon themselves to impose regulations to protect you from yourself. And there’s no better example than Congress’ ban on the incandescent light bulb, which is up for repeal in the House today.

The 2007 law is set to phase-out Thomas Edison’s brainchild bulbs in 2012 and replace them with costlier but more energy-efficient alternatives, the most popular being compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Since then, the impending restrictions have become a hallmark of Nanny State overreach, provoking backlash across the country. State representatives in South Carolina went so far as to try to circumvent Congress and push for the state to produce and use incandescents solely for its own use. And just last week, U.S. Representatives Joe Barton (R—TX), Michael Burgess (R—TX) and Marsha Blackburn (R—TN) introduced a bill in Congress to put an end to the bulb ban.

But the fact that some folks like consumer choice and prefer the soft yellow lighting of less expensive incandescents to the unnatural, office-like white light of pricey fluorescents confounds Nanny State politicians and regulators. Case in point: Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

Secretary Chu, who is an advocate of the ban, said of the potential repeal, “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.” Confused by the bureaucratic doublespeak? Reaching for your copy of Orwell’s Guide to Big Brotherisms? You should be. Chu apparently believes that government regulations that restrict choice and force decisions upon you are great things for society because they pre-select the best choice imaginable, taking the guesswork out of being a free-thinking being. And they’re saving you money, to boot!

Chu isn’t the only one who thinks the light bulb ban is a great idea. Former Senator John Warner (R—VA) said, “We’ll be dropping backwards in America’s need to become more energy-efficient.” And then there’s Jim Presswood of the environmental activist Natural Resources Defense Council, who says, “Clearly, consumers, the economy and the environment will suffer if these standards are repealed.” The organization claims that the ban would save consumers $85 per year.

Well, that’s not entirely true. In California, utilities spent nearly $550 million to subsidize CFLs for consumers, but they didn’t get such great results. In March, The Wall Street Journal reported that energy savings under the program were 73 percent less than expected…

[Return to headlines]


Spreading Islamist Misogyny — With Your Tax Dollars

Tasha Kheiriddin

It’s rare that I see a photograph that makes my blood roil in anger. Or that leads me to share the opinions of Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick. But a picture published in Saturday’s Star managed to do both in one afternoon.

The photo depicts a row of girls sitting in the cafeteria of Valley Park Middle School in Toronto. The row is segregated behind a mass of students who are participating in an Islamic prayer service. The reason the girls in the back are not praying is because -wait for it -they have their periods.

One is tempted to say: Is this the Middle Ages? Have I stumbled into a time warp, where “unclean” women must be prevented from “defiling” other persons? It’s bad enough that the girls at Valley Park have to enter the cafeteria from the back, while the boys enter from the front, but does the entire school have the right to know they are menstruating?

These aren’t college kids, who are adults or on the verge of adulthood, and can make up their own minds about whether they are comfortable with religious practices that relegate women to the back of the bus. These are impressionable young women, Grade 8 students, who are being sent a very clear message: You are second-class citizens compared to the boys in your school, and third-class at certain times of the month.

As the mother of a little girl who just celebrated her second birthday, the thought that she -or any girl -should be conditioned to believe this makes me sick. This is the same type of discrimination against which Canadian soldiers fought in Afghanistan, where, in the name of religion, women were shrouded in burkas and some girls forbidden from even going to school. It is the type of thinking that in its most extreme forms justifies female circumcision, honour killings and men beating their wives.

Now, in a Canadian public school, religious leaders are being allowed to instill the same type of message. At least there are no burkas involved. Yet…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Danish Populists Have Harsh Words for German Critics

European Union members have heavily criticized Denmark’s recent decision to reinstate border controls, with Germany leading the pack. One politician even suggested a boycott of the nation. But the right-wing populist party behind the controversial measures refuses to back down, and its anti-German rhetoric has grown increasingly acerbic. When it comes to love of country and national pride, the Danish People’s Party (DF), won’t allow itself to be outdone. “Your country, your choice, my world begins here,” the parliamentarians sing in what they call a “patriotic” tune on their website. As lead singer, tall, blond parliamentarian Kim Christianson sets the tone. “Big and small, we must all fight for what we believe in,” he belts out.

But the right-wing populist Danish party’s beliefs are currently damaging the country’s relationship with the European Union — and neighboring Germany in particular. The anti-immigration party managed to get the reintroduction of border controls passed by demanding the new policy in exchange for its support for the government’s 2020 budget reform plan. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s center-right government, which does not have the majority, would likely collapse without DF’s support. But many politicians within the EU argue that the new customs checkpoints, erected last week along the country’s borders with Germany and Sweden, are a violation of the Schengen Agreement, which established border-free travel in Europe in 1985.

Copenhagen aims to fight cross-border crime and illegal immigration with random checks at its borders, but critics have alleged that the measures are largely symbolic and put European solidarity at risk. Jörg-Uwe Hahn, a European parliamentarian for the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) from the German state of Hesse, went as far as suggesting that Germans should boycott Denmark on their summer vacations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark Easiest Place in EU to Buy Heroin

Denmark, Spain and Italy are the easiest countries in the EU for young people to get hold of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, while the Czech Republic is the EU cannabis capital. The information comes from a European Commission survey on 15 to 24 year olds’ attitudes to drug use carried out in May and published on Monday (11 July).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark to be Electric Cars Guinea Pig

Studies have shown than when prices at the petrol pump rise, there is a corresponding leap in internet searches for the electric car. But that is about the extent of it as far as the consumer is concerned. When petrol prices return to levels that do not hurt the wallet so much, interest wanes. The electric car might be touted — at least at face value — as the silver environmental bullet but its hefty price tag and consumers’ natural conservatism when it comes to embracing a wholly new technology has kept it mostly in the showroom. But an ambitious new programme in Denmark, run by Silicon Valley start-up Better Place, is hoping to tip the scales towards the battery-run car.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe the Gentle Giant Must Wake

8 July 2011 De Groene Amsterdammer Amsterdam

In this early 21st century, many commentators compare Europe to a gentle, grassing eating dinosaur. In order to adapt to the new world being forged, it must come out of its sloth, urges Dutch writer Geert Mak.

Geert Mak

It was winter 1999 and the former Yugoslavia had fallen apart in confusion. The friendly city of Novi Sad, on the Danube, had been bombed repeatedly by the allies; the city’s bridges lay in pieces in the river. Distraught citizens stood on the snowy river banks. They were distraught by the war, by the destruction of their world, by the inconceivable things they had inflicted upon each other. I visited old Alexandre Tisma, one of the greatest Yugoslav writers, who lived nearby. He has died since.

When I asked how he felt in this lost country, he told me the story of his dog, Jackie. One winter day, the animal got loose and ran off alongside the Danube and ended up, no one quite knew how, on an ice floe. Some neighbourhood children came to get him: “Mister Tisma, your dog is drowning!” He rushed to the scene and called the dog several times by name. But the dog didn’t move off his ice floe, as if frozen in place. The animal was in a state of shock. Finally, one of the children managed to grab him by the neck. “That’s how we are right now,” Tisma said, “We are frozen on an ice floe, we don’t know what to do and, in the meantime, the current is dragging us off”.

We live in historic times. We are slowly getting over a nasty and especially dangerous economic crisis. The Arab world is shaken by popular movements that may hold the same place in history as the European Revolutions of 1848 and of 1989. No matter how these democratic upheavals play out, they constitute the greatest challenge to European foreign policy since the fall of the Wall. Meanwhile, the eurozone crisis continues to burn slowly like a peat fire.

Europe does never rush

European leaders and institutions cannot function, especially today, without the solid support, expressed or not, of the voters. Yet, in many countries, under the effect of the crisis, European construction is attacked more and more. And these attacks have reached their target precisely because European democracy is so weak.

If there is a European problem more pressing than the euro, it’s the deficit of democracy in Europe. It’s just under our noses but it continues to grow and that could mean the end of all of our dreams.

Yet, I don’t honestly think that public opinion is against the European project in general. On the other hand, many people have huge problems because of the path this project has followed. All they want is for politics, and that includes European politics, to reorganise around the reality of their daily lives. They want to have, once again, a little power of decision over their world.

The European Council on Foreign Relations has sometimes compared today’s Europe to the huge herbivores that roamed the earth in prehistoric times: gigantic in everything but lacking in aggression. Let’s not harbour any illusions: Europe is in fact, when it comes to global ambitions, a sloth that will never rush and will never play a major global role if it doesn’t receive the occasional prick of the spur or kick in the rear. At the same time, the current world order is no longer stable or serene enough to allow Europe to be satisfied with being Europe.

Europe must thus become strong. Primarily in its own interest. A new world is being forged; it includes China, the United States, Japan, India, and perhaps Brazil. If the European Union is not recognised as a full player, it will become the prey of the other powers. Instead of being a beacon of hope, an example of international order, it will become a void, the theatre of outbreaks of violence between States and especially non-States…

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

Former CSU Boss Slams Merkel’s Leadership

Erwin Huber, former chairman of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union, has launched an unusually sharp attack on Chancellor Angela Merkel for her weak leadership. The coalition of Merkel’s conservatives, the Christian Democratic Union, their Bavarian sister party the CSU and the pro-business Free Democratic Party was in a “worrying” situation, Huber, the CSU chairman from 2007 to 2008, told news agency DAPD. Merkel had to “much more strongly take the reins” and set a strong course for the coalition, he said. He also blasted her announcement that she would run for re-election in 2013. Huber, who is now head of the economic committee of the Bavarian state parliament, said there was “huge irritation” among the conservatives’ core constituency. There was a danger that “many of them won’t go to vote, because they doubt the meaningfulness of the centre-right coalition.” The centre-right government “scored too many own goals” in the first half of its term and was known first and foremost for “bickering and volatility.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israeli-Friendly MEPs Lobby Ashton on Palestine

A cross-party group of 104 eurodeputies has urged the EU’s new diplomatic service to do all it can to avoid a UN vote on recognition of Palestine. The MEPs said in an open letter to EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton on Monday (11 July) that the Palestinian initiative, expected at the UN General Assembly in September, could destroy any chances of peace. “A unilateral move will not bring reconciliation; it will not bring stability; it will not bring peace. Rather, it will most likely fell the peace process for good,” the letter explains. “The prospect of UN recognition also raises unrealistic expectations among Palestinians that they soon will have a sovereign state. But a UN vote will not change the reality on the ground and thus disappoint many Palestinians. Such disappointment has in the past often ignited new violence.” The letter was signed by members of five of the biggest political groups in the European Parliament, ranging from British eurosceptics to Estonian greens.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Peace and Palestinian High Couture in Rome

(AGI) Rome — Seven splendid dresses, inspired to the colours of the Flag of Peace closed Jamal Taslaq’s very acclaimed fashion show. The Nablus stylist brought his haute couture creation to the Palestinian embassy in Rome. “Two months ago, Italy decided to raise our delegation in Rome to the rank of embassy. It is an important step and I am very happy I can pay homage with this event”, Taslaq told AGI. He is the first and only Haute Couture Palestinian stylist, and he clothes queens, like Qeen Rania of Jordan, and vip all over the world, like Sharon Stone and Patty Pravo.

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

Italy: Berlusconi TV News Anchor Denies Dealings With ‘Ruby’

Milan, 11 July (AKI) — A TV news anchorman and close associate of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi accused of procuring prostitutes denied he had contact with the teenage Moroccan dancer nicknamed ‘Ruby’ who the premier is on trial for paying for sex with.

Lawyers for Emilio Fede, anchorman for Berlusconi’s Rete4 network’s TG4 news bulletin, on Monday denied he’d been in touch with ‘Ruby’ before she first visited Berlusconi’s villa in Arcore near Milan on 14 February 2010.

Milan prosecutors in June asked a judge to send Fede, Lombardy regional councillor Nicole Minetti and talent scout Lele Mora to trial for abetting prostitution and allege they attended erotic parties at Berlusconi’s villa in Arcore and other residences where he had paid sex with “numerous” young women.

But Fede’s lawyers on Monday demanded the judge shelve the case, claiming there was no proof he abetted prostitution.

“There is no trace of any contact between TG4’s director, not a single phone call,” Fede’s defence told investigating judge Maria Grazia Domanico on Monday at a preliminary hearing.

“There is no proof that Fede recruited anyone to prostitution. And examination of the locations of Ruby and Fede’s mobile phones on 14 February indicated that while Ruby was on her way to Arcore (outside Milan), Fede was headed to Milan,” said one of his lawyers, Nadia Alecci.

Fede, Mora and Minetti, who is said to have changed careers from dental hygienist to local politician in the Milan area after meeting Berlusconi, all deny any wrongdoing.

Berlusconi also denies he had sex with ‘Ruby’ on at least eight occasions when she was 17. In Italy, paying an underage prostitute for sex is a crime punishable with up to three years in jail.

Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, now aged 18, also denies she had sex with Berlusconi but admits receiving money and gifts from him.

Prosecutors told Domanico on 27 June that Fede, Minetti and Mora helped organise a “brothel for the premier’s pleasure.”

Italy’s constitutional court said on 6 July it would rule “in the next few months” on whether Berlusconi’s trial for using an under-age prostitute and abusing his office to cover up his relationship with El Mahroug should be tried by a regular court or a special court for ministers, as Berlusconi’s lawyers argue.

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

Italy: 1,800 Tonnes of Uncollected Garbage Rotting in Naples Amid Heatwave

Naples, 11 July (AKI) — As Italy sweltered in searing summer temperatures on Monday, 1,800 tonnes of uncollected garbage piled up in suburbs of Naples amid an ongoing trash crisis in the southern city.

Naples and the surrounding area lack enough dumps and incinerators to dispose of the trash and is now sending this to other provinces of Campania and even other regions of Italy under a newly approved government decree.

The decree was vehemently opposed by Italy’s Northern League, whose stronghold is northern Italy.

The prolonged crisis has sparked periodic protests in the city. Last week, residents burned piles of uncollected garbage, filling the skies of the city with black smoke, and called for the resignation of political leaders including Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who they say has broken repeated promises to resolve the problem.

The European Union has warned that it will fine Italy if it does not solve the Naples garbage crisis, which has sparked widespread environmental and health concerns since 2008. Officials say it is caused by an underdeveloped garbage disposal infrastructure and grip of the mafia on the waste disposal sector.

Naples’ new mayor Luigi De Magistris, a former prosecutor, was widely lampooned for failing to keep his promise to clean up the garbage in “4-5 days” after taking office. He was elected in a landslide victory in late May.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Shares Slide on News of 560 Mln Damages Bill

Rival begins steps to recover funds after court ruling

(ANSA) — Milan, July 11 — Shares in Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s companies fell sharply on Monday after a Milan court ordered his company Fininvest to pay 560 million euros in damages for bribing a judge in 1991.

Although the appeals court substantially cut the damages bill from 750 million euros, it ruled Berlusconi should compensate media rival Carlo De Benedetti who challenged him for control of Mondadori, Italy’s biggest publishing firm, two decades ago.

In Monday’s trading Mondadori lost 4.76% while Berlusconi’s media arm Mediaset fell 2.11%. But De Benedetti’s CIR group also suffered as CIR fell 3.69% and its other subsidiaries also declined.

Lawyers for CIR on Monday requested a copy of the judgement from the appeals court signalling what ANSA understands to be the first step to recuperate the damages from a fund of 806 million euros being held by banks led by Intesa San Paolo. Berlusconi on Saturday cut short a visit to the southern island of Lampedusa, where more than 40,000 immigrants have landed since January, and retired to Villa Certosa, his holiday home in Sardinia, for talks with his lawyer Niccolo Ghedini.

On Monday he was due to study the decision with his children including daughter Marina, chairman of Fininvest, who condemned the decision at the weekend saying her father had never done anything wrong. He has so far declined to comment on the decision but political ally Roberto Formigoni, governor of the Lombardy region surrounding Milan, said “such an enormous amount puts the accounts of a company at risk”.

“This has never happened before in Italian history,” Formigoni said.

Education Minister Maria Stella Gelmini, another Berlusconi ally, also hinted at a new legal measure to protect the premier for paying the damages.

Last week Berlusconi withdrew a clause which had been inserted in the budget reform package that would have meant Fininvest did not have to pay the compensation until it had exhausted the appeals process.

“The premier preferred to withdraw it after the subsequent attacks,” Gelmini told the daily, Il Messaggero.

“However, it will be presented again in the Senate because you cannot leave such substantial damages to the discretion of the judiciary.

“The article is going to be better written and explained, but the principle will be protected”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Hollywood Scraps Filming After Malmö Jews Alert

A Hollywood film company was planning to set a movie with a Jewish theme in Skåne in southern Sweden but changed its mind due to concerns over anti-Semitism in Malmö.

The Öresund Film Commission, a Swedish-Danish cooperation helping foreign film companies seeking to film in the Öresund region, received an email from the Hollywood firm in February which raised concerns over the safety of the Jewish community, according to a report in the local Sydsvenskan daily.

“Only problem I see with this project… is the huge problem that this being a Jewish story and that the Simon Wiesenthal center in the USA called the south of Sweden a VERY unsafe place for the Jewish community,” the email read.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre in December 2010 issued a travel warning urging Jews to exercise “extreme caution” when traveling in southern Sweden.

The warning came following an escalation of attacks directed against Malmö Jews and remarks from Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu perceived to lay the blame on the city’s Jewish community for failing to denounce Israel.

Mikael Svensson at the Öresund Film Commission expressed surprise over the film company’s email and its decision to find an alternative location.

“I have followed the debate, but never thought that it could spread to the film industry and this type of decision,” he told the newspaper.

Skåne has become an established location for Swedish and international film makers with several films based in and around the cities of Malmö and Ystad, such as the criminal detective series “Wallander”, starring Kenneth Branagh.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Teen Stabbed to Death on Stockholm Football Pitch

An inebriated 29-year-old man attacked a group of teenagers playing football in Hässelby in western Stockholm on Monday night, leaving an 18-year-old dead from stab wounds. The friends’ kick-about was interrupted suddenly at around 9pm on Monday as the bleeding 18-year-old fled for his life from the man who was brandishing a knife. While he evaded further attack, the teenager later died of his injuries. The tragedy occurred at 9pm on Monday evening in Hässelby gård in western Stockholm. Aside from the 18-year-old, two other teenagers sustained knife wounds in the attack. There were several witnesses to the drama and several recognised the attacker and knew where he lived. The man was arrested soon after in his apartment, on suspicion of murder. He had not been interviewed by Tuesday morning as he was inebriated at the time of his arrest, according to the police.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Murdoch Flies in to Save Crumbling Empire

The Times, 11 July 2011

“Police to interview Brooks as Murdoch takes control,” headlines the Times, after its owner, US-based press baron Rurpert Murdoch, jetted into London to salvage his News Corp behemoth, tottering in the wake of a phone hacking scandal which led to the shutdown of his 168 year old top-selling paper, News of the World. After it emerged that the Sunday tabloid, under the 2000-2003 editorship of Rebekah Brooks, had hacked the phones of child murder victims and the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, the News of the World published its final edition this Sunday 10 July. Ms Brooks is now to be interviewed by police, as more revelations emerge suggesting that Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister’s former director of communications, approved payments to police officers for help with stories when he was Editor of the News of the World between 2003 and 2007. Mr Murdoch’s arrival demonstrates his keenness to clean up News Corp’s reputation as more questions are raised about its controversial takeover of BSkyB — the UK’s largest public satellite broadcasting company.

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


Bosnia: After Muslims, Bosnian Serbs Commemorate Their Victims

Bratunac, 12 July (AKI) — A day after thousands of Muslims commemorated their victims, killed by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995, Bosnian Serbs on Tuesday paid homage to their dead, killed by Muslim forces in the Srebrenica area.

Religious services were held in Srebrenica Orthodox church in Srebrenica Tuesday and thousands of people later gathered in the cemetery in nearby town of Bratunac to commemorate their dead.

According to Serb sources, 3,267 Serb civilians were killed in the Srebrenica area during 1992-1995 war by Muslim forces under the command of Naser Oric. On 12 July1992 alone, 69 people were linked in the villages around Srebrenica and 22 were listed as missing.

Oric was indicted by the Hague-based United Nations war crimes tribunal for Srebrenica crimes in 2006 and was sentenced to two years in jail. But an appeals panel later acquitted him for lack of evidence, which provoked a wave of protests in Serbia.

Monday’s commemoration of some 8,000 Muslims killed by Serb forces in Strebrenica in July 1995 was attended by over 40,000 people, including several foreign dignitaries.

Bosnian Serb president Milorad Dodik told the Bratunac crowd there had been “suffering and victims on the other side too. We don’t deny it, but it hurts to see that for crimes against Serbs, no one has been held to account,” Dodik said.

“We can’t accept the fact that members of Bosniak (Muslim) armed forces freely strol around Sarajevo (the Bosnian capital) and are being glorified as heroes,” he added.

No high-level officials attended the Bratunac commemoration which has traditionally been overshadowed by that for Srebrenica, considered the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

Milos Milovanovic, president of the Bosnian Serb war veterans organisation in Srebrenica condemned what he called “double standards” in threating victims of war. “Serb victims shouldn’t be minimised and all perpetrators of war crimes should be called to acount,” he said.

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

North Africa

Egypt: Security Forces ‘Injure’ Tahrir Square Protesters

Cairo, 12 July (AKI) — A number of people were reportedly injured Tuesday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square when security forces attacked activists taking part in a sit-in against premier Essam Sharaf’s government, the Al-Jazeera satellite channel reported.

Members of Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement have been camped out in Cairo’s main square calling for former president Hosni Mubarak to be brought to trial and for political reform.

Activists have also been holding sit-ins in Alexandria and the canal city of Suez

In a speech on Monday, Sharaf said the government will to be reshuffled within a week.

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

Egypt: Pipeline to Israel Blown Up for 2nd Time This Month

Cairo, 12 July (AKI) — Masked gunmen in Egypt on Tuesday blew up a pipeline transporting natural gas to Israel and Jordan. It was the fourth such attack this year and the second this month.

The caused flames to leap “up to 10 metres high,” Egyptian news agency Mena reported.

An explosion on July 4 on the same pipeline cut gas supplies to Israel and Jordan. No group claimed immediately responsibility for the blast.

Under the terms of a 2008 deal, Egypt will ship gas to Israel for 15 years.

The latest explosion prompted Israel’s National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau to tell Army Radio that the attacks on the pipeline are equivalent to an assault on business ties between the two countries.

“The most important economic connection between Israel and Egypt is eroding,” Landau said. “Electricity disruptions are not expected since we have other energy reserves, however it will be more expensive.”

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

Italy-Algeria: Frattini Visits North African “Good Guys”

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 11 — Algeria has so far been only lightly affected by the Arab Spring, not least as a result of initial constitutional and administrative reforms. In an area infested by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the country is committed to combating terrorism and is maintaining a cautious and equidistant line between Gaddafi and the Benghazi rebels. This is the context in which the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, will travel to Algeria tomorrow, with the situation in place in the country similar to that of July 2010, the date of the Foreign Minister’s previous visit.

The interlocutors are the same: President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the Prime Minister, Ahmed Ouyahia and the Foreign Minister, Mourad Medelci, all remain in their positions. This is not insignificant, considering the upheaval in nearby Tunisia and Egypt, not to mention Libya, and also facilitates Frattini’s discussion of many of the key issues to be raised during the trip, namely the fight against terrorism and the state of Euro-Mediterranean partnership, but also bilateral economic relations (Algeria, is Italy’s leading gas supplier, providing 35% of the country’s requirements). Infrastructure, transport, and defence are lucrative markets for Italian businesses.

In terms of security, Algeria is one of 29 countries to have been invited by the United States to form a Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, a new instrument of political and technical coordination that is scheduled to be launched on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. September will also see the regional conference on security in the Sahel held in the Algerian capital. Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger will be joined at the conference by a number of external partners, such as the EU, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Italy, Spain and Holland, countries with whom Algeria has significant levels of cooperation.

Italy’s “attention” and “encouragement” for reforms in the country will be demonstrated tomorrow in a gesture that is sure to be well received: the signature of the deal for the second tranche of the 10 million euros debt conversion programme, a sum that will be used to finance initiatives in social and environmental development.

Anticipation in Algeria is mounting, with the local media giving Frattini’s visit extended coverage. Le Temps d’Algérie, one of the country’s most influential newspapers, says that the visit by the Italian Foreign Minister is part of the “political dialogue deriving from the treaty of friendship, good neighbourhood policy and cooperation that links the two countries”. The trip is also the subject of great attention from the local press agency APS, which relates large excerpts of last Friday’s briefing by the spokesperson of the Italian Foreign Ministry, Maurizio Massari. APS writes that Italy sees Algeria as “a partner of strategic importance”.

But for the country to maintain this role, stability must continue. Bouteflika and his team, despite internal resistance, are striving to ensure that this is the case. As the Prime Minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, said a few weeks ago, the main aim of the reforms is “to re-establish confidence between citizens and the country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi ‘Ready to Flee to South Africa’ If Son Allowed to Run in Elections

Tripoli, 12 July (AKI) — Beleaguered Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has agreed to into exile in South Africa on condition his son Saif al-Islam is allowed to stand in future elections, Libyan website al-Manara reports citing sources.

“According to an al-Manara source, Colonel Gaddafi has agreed to leave Libya, provided his son Saif al-Islam is allowed to take part in future elections,” said the website via its Facebook profile.

“As for the country of exile, the source said this is South Africa,” said al-Manara.

On 5 July, respected Russian daily Kommersant cited Gaddafi would be prepared to stand down in exchange for security guarantees and a pledge Saif al-Islam could run in elections.

Kommersant said the information came from a high-level source in the Russian leadership

The Kommersant report said rebels locked in a months-long civil war with forces loyal to Gaddafi might not be prepared to accept that his son run for office.

Other nations, potentially including France, were willing to provide guarantees for Gaddafi’s security, Kommersant said, citing the source.

The UN International Court in June issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief.

Gaddafi has ruled Libya since seizing power in a military coup in 1969.

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

Libya: France: Juppé Admits Tripoli “Contact”

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JULY 12 — France’s Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, has admitted today that there has been “contact” between Paris and the Libyan regime over the potential departure of Muammar Gaddafi, but added that no real negotiations had taken place. “There has indeed been some contact, but so far no real talks,” Juppé told France Info. “We are receiving envoys, who tell us: ‘Gaddafi is ready to leave, let’s talk’“. Yesterday, reacting to comments made by one of Gaddafi’s sons, who had spoken of dialogue between Tripoli and Paris, France spoke of “messages” rather than direct talks. “The Libyan regime sends messengers everywhere: to Turkey, to New York, to Paris”. As one of the countries at the forefront of NATO’s military intervention in Libya, France currently believes that “the conditions are not in place for a ceasefire”. According to Juppé, an end to air strikes can only come with “the withdrawal of troops to their barracks, control by the United Nations and a statement by Gaddafi, in a form to be established, announcing that he is handing over political and military power”. This morning’s Le Figaro newspaper reports that the Libyan Prime Minister, Baghdadi Al Mahmoudi, has suggested that talks between the regime and the rebels, which would also include NATO countries involved in operations, could take place without Gaddafi. The colonel “will not take part in these discussions. Everything must be free,” the Prime Minister said in an interview with the newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ramadan: Algeria: Government Initiative

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JULY 11 — For Ramadan, which begins in early August, the Algerian government has decided to distribute — even to homes, if necessary — one and a half million food packages. The government has also authorised local authorities to open 700 restaurants. About five million people will be receiving the packages.

The operation is to see 13,00 volunteers take part, and its overall cost is estimated at 3.5 billion dinars (about 35 million euros), most of which will be provided by state funding.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Green, Green Arab Summer: I

by Srdja Trifkovic

In the U.S. mainstream media the developments that have followed the misnamed “Arab Spring” have been curiously under-reported. The reason seems clear: In recent weeks those developments have taken a clear turn away from Western-style democracy, pluralism, tolerance, respect for human rights, etc. (as we’ve warned, repeatedly, that they would). The turmoil has undermined the region’s authoritarian secularists to the benefit of far more authoritarian Islamists.

In Tunisia, Reuters reported on July 7, “religious tension is rising as Islamists challenge the dominance of liberals in what was once a citadel of Arab secularism.” Last week an Allahu-akbar chanting mob attacked a cinema in Tunis that had shown Ni Allah, Ni Maitre (“No Allah, No Master”), a documentary film by Tunisian-French director Nadia El-Fani, an outspoken secularist. The police were slow to respond to the calls for help from the cinema, having previously advised that the screening be cancelled. According to Reuters…

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

Tunisia: Secular Film Protesters, Salafists Freed

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JULY 12 — Five Islamic fundamentalists who violently interrupted the screening in a Tunis theatre of a film deemed to be offensive towards Islam have been freed.

The Business News website says that the decision by the criminal court to free the men, who belong to an officially outlawed Salafist group, was taken after the date of October 27 was fixed for their trial. The five men, who all have traditional Salafist beards, smashed doors and chanted religious slogans as they entered the Afric’Art cinema, where the film “Neither God Nor Master” was about to be shown. The film is directed by Nadia El Féni, who is openly atheist and a campaigner for personal freedom. The fundamentalists are also accused of issuing death threats to members of the audience.

Meanwhile, another group of Salafists that on June 28 attacked lawyers protesting against their efforts to break into the law courts to free those being held over the Afric’Art theatre incident will face trial on July 19. The judge has granted the temporary release of 11 of the 16 men arrested.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Stop Ayoob Kara’s Overseas Trips

In official letter to PM, Lieberman accuses deputy minister Kara of meeting with anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi elements in Europe while disregarding Israel’s foreign policy, damaging State’s

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara (Likud) of meeting with anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi elements while disregarding Israel’s foreign policy and causing great damage to its image. In a letter sent by Lieberman to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, the foreign minister wrote he has “recently learned of the deputy minister’s meetings in Europe with extremists affiliated with racist and anti-Semitic lineaments, without informing or consulting with our official delegates in those countries.

“Israel has a clear policy forbidding such meetings. Holding such meetings renders controversial actions permissible, causing substantial damage to the image of the State of Israel within the international community.

“Such actions preformed by an official delegate of the Israeli government goes completely against the government’s stance and that of its delegates abroad — and it’s only appropriate that it should stop immediately.”

Yedioth Ahronoth reported last week that Kara had met with Swedish-German millionaire Patrik Brinkmann who has ties with German neo-Nazi groups in Berlin.

Brinkmann, who is trying to establish a far-right anti-Islamic party in Germany claims he is not an anti-Semite; however his previous close contacts with the German neo-Nazi party (NPD) and his past membership in another neo-Nazi party raise questions regarding his ideology.

The Foreign Ministry has apparently been following the deputy minister’s trips abroad and is recording all anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi officials he had met in Europe.

Lieberman also sent the prime minster a detailed account of Kara’s trips in Europe, including his meetings with extremist elements and the responses of different embassies to those trips. One such comment stated that, “the deputy minister’s ties with the extreme right wing party in Austria causes us and the Jewish community great damage.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Convert From Islam, Iranian Pastor Risks the Death Penalty

Iran’s Supreme Court finds flaws in Youcef Nadarkhani’s original conviction but does not overturn it. The case is sent back to lower court, which could retry it in the fall.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Iran’s Supreme Court has called for the death sentence of Rev Youcef Nadarkhani to be re-examined by the lower court that convicted him. He was found guilty of apostasy even though this offence is not covered by Iranian law. Rev Nadarkhani’s defence attorney had appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court.

Iranian sources say the conviction was not overturned. “According to one source the Supreme Court has agreed with the verdict ‘as it is based on fatwas of Ayatollahs Khomeiny, Khamenei and Makarem Shirazi’.”

Ayatollah Khomeiny was the first Supreme leader of Iran, and is considered the father of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei is the current supreme leader, whilst Ayatollah Shirazi is one of Iran’s most influential religious scholars.

Whilst agreeing with the death sentence, the sources noted, “The Supreme Court pointed out procedural flaws and is asking the lower court to re-examine the case. This is the only binding point of the ruling.”

“Is there a guarantee that Youcef will not be executed between now and the time of the re-examination?’ According to one Iranian source it seems there is no such guarantee.”

Supreme Court judges want the lower court to determine whether Youcef was in fact Muslim before he became Christian. If he was, and does not recant, then he must be executed. However, if he was not, the verdict of the lower court is not appropriate in this case.

During his trial Youcef said he never really believed or genuinely practiced Islam. He says he was simply born into a Muslim family but did not accept it himself.

At this point, the most likely outcome appears to be a re-trial later this fall.

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

Caroline Glick: The Path to the Next Lebanon War

Five years ago this week, Iran’s Lebanese proxy opened war with Israel. The war lasted 34 days, during which Hezbollah launched more than 4,000 missiles against Israel. Now five years later, under US President Barack Obama, America is pushing a policy that drastically escalates the chance that a new war between Israel and Iran’s Lebanese army will break out again in the near future.

Back in 2006, Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s aggression was swift but incompetent. While Israel scored some blows against the Iranian proxy force, the war ended with Hezbollah still shooting. Israel failed to defeat the terror army. And because Hezbollah survived, it won the war…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Italian Soldier Killed by Blast, France Announces Withdrawal

Kabul, 12 July (AKI) — An Italian soldier was killed Tuesday by a bomb blast after getting out of a vehicle in the western Afghan district of Bakwa.

Corporal Major Roberto Marchini, 28, brings to 40 the number if Italian troops killed in Afghanistan since their deployment in 2002.

“It’s another person we add to the soldiers we’ve lost and mourn together with all of Italy,” said Italian defence minister Ignazio La Russa.

Separately, during a surprise visit to French troops near Kabul, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said around 1,000 of its 4,000 soldiers from the country by the end of 2012.

The drawndown follows similar announcements by the United States and the UK as Western leaders of Nato members aim to remove combat troops by the end of 2014.

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

Assassination Rocks Afghans: Aide Shoots President’s Half-Brother. Taliban Claim Responsibility .

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Afghan president’s younger half-brother and southern Afghanistan’s most influential power broker, was assassinated Tuesday by a trusted security aide, dealing a major blow to the region’s stability.

The killing eliminated a man who had earned U.S. praise and condemnation alike, as he helped to combat the Taliban while also allegedly fostering graft and benefiting from the opium trade.

A former Chicago restaurateur who headed the Kandahar provincial council, Mr. Karzai was gunned down in his home in Afghanistan’s second-largest city, the Afghan interior ministry said. The gunman was shot dead by Karzai guards, an aide …

[Return to headlines]

Brother of Afghan President Shot Dead at His Home in Kandahar

Reports say Wali Karzai was killed by a bodyguard

Taliban claim responsibility, calling it ‘one of our biggest achievements’

Zalmay Ayoubi, spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province, where Wali Karzai lived and was head of the provincial council, said: ‘I confirm that Ahmad Wali was killed inside his house.’

A cousin of Wali Karzai, who asked not to be named, also confirmed to Reuters that he had been killed.

Wali Karzai was shot dead by one of his bodyguards as he was entertaining guests at his home, a heavily-fortified compound in Kandahar city.

Zalmay Ayoubi, a spokesperson for the governor of Kandahar province said: ‘A guard of Ahmed Wali Karzai named Sardar Mohammad opened fire and killed him. The other guards shot and killed Sardar Mohammad.’

The motive for the shooting is not known but the Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing shortly after the announcement, calling it ‘one of our biggest achievements’ in nearly a decade of war.

Born in 1961, Wali Karzai was the younger paternal half-brother of Hamid Karzai and son of Abdul Ahad Karzai.

The 50-year-old was elected to the Kandahar Provincial Council in 2005.

He survived numerous assassination attempts by the Taliban, and at least two attacks against his office in Kandahar — one in November 2008 and the other in April 2009.

According to Wali Karzai himself, a total of nine suicide bombers had killed themselves attempting to take his life.

The New York Times reported in 2009 that Wali Karzai received regular payments from the CIA, and had done so for much of the eight years before the October 27 report.

News of the assassination came as President Karzai was to hold talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan where he announced that Paris would recall 1,000 soldiers by the end of next year.

Wali Karzai was a deeply controversial figure in Afghanistan, dogged by allegations of unsavoury links to Afghanistan’s lucrative opium trade and private security firms.

American documents leaked by Internet whistleblower WikiLeaks late last year also painted him as a corrupt drugs baron, but Western officials always kept quiet in public on the president’s younger half brother’s tainted record.

Indeed, Nato commanders hoped to persuade President Karzai to dump his half-brother in a bid to move away from the corruption and vice allegations.

Despite being an embarrassment to the Karzai government, Wali Karzai’s assassination leaves a power vacuum in a key region just as America begins withdraw some 33,000 troops.

British officials said today that the assassination would not derail moves to begin handing over control to Afghan security forces.

One senior Foreign Office official acknowledged Wali Karzai’s killing was likely to lead to a period of ‘turbulence’ in the Kandahar area, although she insisted it would not affect the process of transition to Afghan security control which begins formally this month.

She added: ‘It doesn’t change our view because it is an isolated incident. AWK was, to be honest, probably a target for a very long time. He’s not unique in that. Of itself, we do not believe this particular event is decisive.

‘I think the important thing with all these campaigns is that you get on a trajectory that moves forward despite the shocks. I think we are close, if not already on that trajectory now.’

In the wake of David Cameron’s visit last week to Afghanistan, officials again reiterated that the death of Osama bin Laden offered the Taliban a chance to engage with the political process, although they acknowledged they had so far shown limited interest.

A foreign Office official said: ‘Various talks are going on beneath the surface. The Taliban are perhaps less interested in that at the moment than we would wish them to be, but that doesn’t mean we don’t pursue energetically — as do the Afghans and Americans and others — a political route forward.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

India: Andhra Pradesh, Pentecostal Pastor Stabbed. GCIC: The State is “Complicit”

Four Hindu radicals accused him of forcible conversions. For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the attack is a “crying shame” for a secular state like India. Even in Karnataka and Orissa there is no peace for Christians.

Hyderabad (AsiaNews) — “It’s really a crying shame that the Christian minority has no freedom of religion in a country like India where the Constitution guarantees the right to practice and preach their faith”, says Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) who condemns the latest attack against a Christian. On 3 July, four radical Hindus attacked the Pentecostal pastor GN Paul (see photo) near the village of Munugodu (Nalgonda district, Andhra Pradesh) while he was returning from Sunday services, accusing them of forced conversions. The man suffered serious wounds to the abdomen and head, but is now out of danger. Three times before the attack, some Hindus had ordered the pastor to cease all evangelization activities. Munugodu police registered the case, but no one was arrested.

On 3 July, the pastor of Independent Baptist Church, was returning home after the church service attended by about 20 families. Suddenly, four radical Hindus apprehended him and stabbed him. Witnesses at the scene called an ambulance, which brought the Pastor to the Government Hospital in Nalgonda. Two days later, Fr. Paul was transferred Osmania Government Hospital in Hyderabad, where he underwent an operation and currently continues his hospital stay.

According to Sajan George, the state is partly complicit in the violence against Christians: “The fundamentalists are encouraged by the failure of law enforcement and lack of will in ensuring justice to innocent Christians, victims of persecution.”

Throughout India, in fact, justice for the victims of fundamentalism is slow in coming. “In Kandhamal, there are still 50 thousand Christians displaced — says the president of the GCIC — waiting to return to their homes after the pogroms of 2008.” Sajan George then recalls the situation in Karnataka, where “the judge BK Somasekhara report exonerated members of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP, against all evidence (see AsiaNews,”Fasting and sit-ins, bishops and faithful reject false report on Karnataka violence “)”.

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

Indonesia/Malaysia: Most Young Muslims Oppose Polygamy

Jakarta, 12 July (AKI/Jakarta Post) — The vast majority of young Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia appear to disapprove of the traditional acceptance of polygamy but remain reluctant to openly support interfaith marriages or premarital sex, a new survey shows.

In the survey coordinated by two German-based cultural organizations, 86.5 percent of 1,496 Indonesians interviewed and 72.7 percent of 1,060 Malaysians said they were against polygamy. More females opposed polygamy compared to males, who are permitted four wives under Islamic law.

The findings indicate that opinions among the young in both Muslim-majority nations “have shifted from the traditional viewpoint that sees polygamy as an Islamic precept,” according to a survey summary released Monday by the Goeth-Institut and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

The all-Muslim respondents who participated in face-to-face interviews last October and November were from 15 to 25 years old.

Indonesia and Malaysia have Southeast Asia’s largest Muslim populations, and polygamy has become widely debated in both countries in recent years. Women’s groups say many men who enter polygamous marriages neglect their existing wives and children financially and emotionally.

Activists estimate polygamous unions in Malaysia account for about 5 percent of new marriages. The practice is thought to be more widespread in Indonesia, but many marriages are performed secretly at mosques and are not recorded by the state.

Supporters of polygamy have recently set up clubs in both Malaysia and Indonesia, encouraging women to be totally obedient to their husbands and insisting the practice can solve social problems such as prostitution.

The rejection of polygamy among respondents in the survey was “remarkable considering otherwise overwhelmingly favorable attitudes toward social and religious conservatism,” the summary’s authors wrote.

Ninety-two percent of the Indonesian respondents and 62 percent of the Malaysians said they were unwilling to wed someone from a different religion, the summary said.

“Even if they are willing to marry a spouse of a different faith, they wish for them to convert to Islam,” it said.

Only 1.4 percent of the Indonesians and 1.6 percent of the Malaysians polled said premarital sex was acceptable.

Researchers from Malaysia’s Merdeka Center for Opinion Research and Indonesia’s Lembaga Survei asked respondents about wide-ranging issues such as politics, their lifestyles and ambitions.

The Malaysian poll had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, while the Indonesian error margin was 2.6 percentage points, Kuala Lumpur-based researcher Ibrahim Suffian said Tuesday.

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

Indonesia: Explosion in an Islamic School in Bima, Students Were Building a Bomb

Armed with stick and knives, students prevent police from entering the scene of the blast. They are suspected of involvement with Muslim terrorists from the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid. The alarm is sounded about possible attacks by the group after its leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, is sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A large explosion rocked an Islamic boarding school (pesantren) last night in the village of Sanolo (Bima Regency, West Nusa Tenggara Province), killing one person. According to police, students (santri) were building a bomb for a terrorist attack.

Immediately after the blast, hundreds of students held back police, preventing them from entering the building for hours.

In a statement, police spokesman Anton Bachrul Alam said the bomb was supposed to be used in an attack against the police itself. This confirms recent threats made by Muslim extremists belonging to the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), following the conviction of Abu Bakar Bashir, leader and founder of the group, who was handed down a 15-year sentence for his role in 2002 Bali attacks.

In recent weeks, Indonesian police held dozens of alleged terrorists linked to JAT, an organisation that wants to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state.

On 30 June, agents arrested Saaban Abdurrahman, a pesantren student in Bima, in connection with the murder of a police officer.

A few days ago, police in Jakarta uncovered a plot to carry out a massive attack against law enforcement. Terrorists were planning to put cyanide in food destined for the capital’s police station canteens.

Malaysia has also been involved in the fight against the JAT. Today, Malaysian authorities announced the arrest of Agus Salim, an Indonesian national connected with Mas Selamat bin Kastari, one of the country’s most wanted Muslim terrorists.

Salim was hiding out in the Malaysian capital under a false identity, working as a taxi driver.

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

Malaysia: Edmund Bon: Bersih 2 is No Arab Spring, But We Do Want Clean and Fair Elections

Edmund Bon, a lawyer of Malaysia Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights and supporter of the Bersih 2.0, explains the significance of the demonstrations by more than 70 thousand people in Kuala Lumpur on 9 July. “Cleaning” of the electoral register and a longer campaign period. But these small corrections seem to undermine the UMNO party, in power for 56 years. In 30 cities worldwide demonstrations in support of the Bersih 2.0.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) — “No, no, no, the massive demonstration that we held last July 9 is not the ‘Arab Spring’ of Malaysia”, says Edmund Bon, a Catholic lawyer from the Malaysia Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (Mcchr) and supporter of Bersih 2. Bersih 2 is the name given by a group of NGOs to the big rally they organized last weekend, attended by more than 70 thousand people.

The massive demonstration — suffocated by the police with tear gas and 1600arrests — has some similarities with those that erupted in North Africa and the Middle East: People attended from all classes, all ethnicities, all religions — Christians, Muslims , Hindu, tribal … But unlike those of the Middle East, “the entire middle class rallied here and our goals were not the ones to bring down a dictatorship: Malaysia does not have a strong dictatorship, or a high percentage of unemployed . The reason that led us to demonstrate was to push the election committee to prepare clean and fair elections. “

Edmund Bon — who offers legal support to Bersi 2 — lists the contradictions within the Election Committee: There are people who vote twice, voting lists with names of deceased, families assigned 100 names and 100 cards election … “We — he tells AsiaNews — are asking them to eliminate all these irregularities.”

“Another thing we are demanding — he adds — is that the Election Committee give sufficient time for the election campaign: so far they have lasted 4-5 days from the announcement of the election. Obviously, this benefits those who already hold power. We demand that the election campaign is 15 days long, to give everyone a chance to consider who to vote for and to give everyone time to get organized. “

“Our demands — Bon clarifies — are not transcendental or enormous: we just want to rid the election of irregularities.” The lawyer says that such requests are those that international monitoring organizations seek to implement during the elections in the world. “They — he adds — are more or less the same made in 2007 when we held the Bersih 1, our first event. Then we met the members of the Election Committee, we drafted an agreement on steps to take … but nothing was done. “

The demonstration was not intended not to topple the government rather to criticize it: under the current electoral system, the party UMNO and its coalition partner the BN (Barisan Nasional) has always won the elections since 1956. “The NL — Bon concludes — is the longest serving government in the world. Only in the last elections was its power reduced and the opposition won in five states “.

The Mcchr lawyer points out that the organizers of the Bersih 2 are the NGOs and political parties. They called on all parties to participate, but only the opposition participated. Among them was Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the Pkr, along with other opposition parties.

The protest has enormous relevance because the next election is supposed to be held by 2013. In these years, the BN has lost more votes, especially among the youth, and it is possible that with these corrections they will lose even more elections.

Maybe that’s why police and the government had at first restrained and then suppressed the flow of huge crowds. Days before, police detained thousands of people to prevent them from arriving in Kuala Lumpur, on the eve of the protest they arrested some demonstrators, on the day of the great demonstration they blocked streets, used tear gas, water cannons, and dispersed the crowd with batons and arrests accusing the over 70 thousand of holding an “unauthorized” demonstration.

The Prime Minister Najib Razak has expressed his dissatisfaction with the gathering dismissing it as “chaos.” But so many people have defied the police and obstacles, which indicates that a lot of anger brewing in the hearts of voters. Meanwhile, in at least 30 cities around the world supporters are preparing (or have already held) 2 Bersih demonstrations in countries such as Australia, Japan, France, the United States, Great Britain, South Korea and Taiwan.

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

Vaccination Ruse Used in Pursuit of Bin Laden

In the months before Osama bin Laden was killed, the Central Intelligence Agency ran a phony vaccination program in Abbottabad, Pakistan, as a ruse to obtain DNA evidence from members of Bin Laden’s family thought to be holed up in an expansive compound there, according to an American official. The vaccination program was set up as the C.I.A. was struggling to learn whether Bin Laden was hiding in the compound, and adds a new twist to the months of spy games that preceded the nighttime raid in early May that killed the Qaeda chief. It has also aggravated already strained tensions between the United States and Pakistan. The operation was run by a Pakistan doctor, Shakil Afridi, whom Pakistani spies have since arrested for his suspected collaboration with the Americans. Dr. Afridi remains in Pakistani custody, the American official said.

Getting DNA evidence from the people hiding in the Abbottabad compound would have been a significant coup, because it would have allowed the C.I.A. to match the samples with DNA from other members of the Bin Laden family that are on file at the C.I.A. — providing the first hard evidence in years of his whereabouts. The American official said that the doctor managed to temporarily gain access to the compound, but that he never saw Bin Laden and was not successful in getting DNA samples from any Bin Laden family members. Obama administration officials have said publicly they were not sure whether Bin Laden was in Abbottabad when dozens of Navy Seals commandos stormed the house in May.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

In Australia’s Misguided Carbon Tax, A Warning for the U.S.

…The government of Australia announced that it will implement a US$24.74 per-metric-ton tax on carbon emissions. The damage the tax is expected to do to the energy sector there, and to the Australian economy generally, offers insight into what the effects of a carbon tax could look like in the United States.

The plan will tax 500 of the nation’s largest polluters, and will redistribute some of the revenue in an effort to offset increased costs to energy producers and consumers — though significant economic damage is expected to persist. After five years, the tax will convert into a cap-and-trade regime.

Estimates on the extent of the damage to the Australian economy vary. One estimate pegged that damage at US$31 billion to US$39 billion. The country is expected to lose between US$24.5 billion and US$48 billion in export revenue by 2022.


The tax is aimed at the heart of the industry — coal — that provides 80 percent of the country’s electricity. Eighteen of the country’s coal mines are expected to close within nine years of the enactment of the tax, resulting in an estimated US$23.5 billion of foregone revenue for the industry.

The first power plant to close will likely be the Hazelwood power station, which generates 1,600 megawatts of power. The government of the state of Victoria recently stated that the closure of the Hazelwood station would cut off a quarter of the state’s energy supplies.


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Illegal Immigrants Rescued Off California’s Coast

Stranded off the Santa Barbara coast, the illegal immigrants decided that being rescued was more important than reaching their destination undetected.

So one used a cellphone to call 911 on Friday. Boats carrying officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and National Park Service set off to find them amid the rugged beauty of the eight Channel Islands. Two days later, authorities landed on Santa Cruz Island, where 15 famished, but otherwise healthy, Mexican immigrants awaited.

They were stranded and couldn’t get to the mainland,” Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers said Monday. “It was a situation where they chose life over the possible ramifications of making that phone call.”

Smugglers increasingly are ferrying illegal immigrants — and drugs — by sea to Southern California. But in an effort to evade dragnets close to the San Diego-Mexico border, they have traveled farther north. In the last few months, there have been two or three smuggling operations a week discovered from Orange County north, immigration officials said.

Boats leaving Mexican waters often head 100 miles out to sea before turning north, putting them on the west side of the Channel Islands, said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s homeland security investigations.

“They think there’s going to be less of a chance of getting caught, which is true,” Arnold said.

The goal is to get to the mainland, he said. But when smugglers encounter engine trouble or believe the risk of being discovered is too great, they sometimes land on the islands.

Last year, for example, four Mexican drug smugglers were arrested after their boat ran out of fuel and shipwrecked on Santa Rosa Island. The smugglers had hidden more than 2,400 pounds of marijuana in the thick vegetation of a nearby canyon…


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Culture Wars

Boost Sex Ed in Swedish Schools: Minister

The Swedish government plans to boost sexual education in schools, announcing a 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) investment to expand the subject from biology classes into history, social studies and religion. “It will give teachers the tools necessary to inspire to dialogue and reflection,” minister for integration and equality, Nyamko Sabuni, wrote in an opinion article in daily Dagens Nyheter (DN) on Tuesday. According to Sabuni sexual education is still controversial in Swedish schools. When the national TV network Sveriges Television (SVT) together with sexual educators RFSU showed a film called “Sex on the map” (Sex på kartan) in Swedish schools it met with strong reactions as a dark skinned boy was shown having sex with a lighter skinned girl, and because the film featured homo-, bi-, transsexual and queer issues.

According to Sabuni there is a growing frustration with harassment and violence being swept under the carpet in Sweden. “Sexual education in Swedish schools is important from an equality perspective and in order to combat sexual violence, sexual harassment and other violating behaviour,” Sabuni wrote in DN. Treating sex ed as solely a part of the biology subject makes it too narrow, according to the government, arguing that issues concerning gender and sexuality should be discussed within the framework of other subjects as well.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Violent, Selfish Fathers vs. Violent, Selfish Mothers on Trial

By Phyllis Chesler

During the time that Florida mother Casey Anthony was in custody and on trial, any number of American fathers, stepfathers, and live-in boyfriends killed their children.

Daily, the local and national media dutifully report awful examples of paternal cruelty and infanticidal violence……

However, the American public did not launch any vocal campaigns against any of these violent and abusive fathers or against fathers in general.

Why not? People expect men to be violent. It is a given. When male-on-male, male-on-female, or male-on child violence erupts, people are not all that surprised and they do not condemn all fathers for the crimes of a few. In general, people want to forgive male sinners, or at least to show them compassion.

This is not true where mothers are concerned. In general, once a mother is accused—merely accused—the accusation itself psychologically convicts her. Unconsciously and automatically, people presume that she is guilty, not innocent. Her sexual and reproductive history is held against her, as is everything else.

We tend to have double standards when it comes to parenting. We expect much less of fathers and are ready to reward them for doing very little or to forgive them for failing one or two or three obligations: marrying the mother of their children, economically supporting the family, “helping out” from time to time. We do not expect fathers to fight for custody and when they do we are quick to assume that there must really be something wrong with the mother and that the fighting father is heroic.


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