Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110713

Financial Crisis
»After Portugal, Now Ireland is Junked
»Arab Investors ‘Still Have Faith in Europe’
»Brussels’ Political Stalemate: Impasse Could Drag Belgium Into Euro Crisis
»Debt Crisis: It’s the Euro, Stupid
»ECB President-Designate Draghi Calls for Better Crisis Management
»French Banks Face Highest Risk From Italian Debt
»Ireland Downgraded to ‘Junk’ In Spiralling Euro-Crisis
»Italy: ‘Austerity Package to be Strengthened, Approved by Friday’
»Italy: Govt ‘To Strengthen Cost-Cutting Plan and Get Parliament Backing by Friday’
»Pressure Rises on Divided Eurozone to Act on Debt Crisis
»Raise Taxes or Granny Gets it
Europe and the EU
»Business Group Head Tells Italians to ‘Respect the Law’
»Danish Border Controls Break Schengen Law: Experts
»Germany: Sentence Upheld Against Negationist Bishop Williamson
»Italy: Mondadori Sentence Confirmed on Appeal — Berlusconi to Pay Compensation
»Italy: Head of American Jewish Group Awarded Italian Honour
»Italy: Naples Trash Tops 2,000 Tonnes
»Murdoch Drops British Satellite Bid
»Netherlands: Police to be Banned From Wearing Crosses and Headscarves
»Spain Lashes Out at Germany
»Sweden Enforces New Litter Laws
»Tsunamis Buried Ancient Olympics Site
»UK: Council Forks Out £72 a Day to Drive Mayor Around in Top Class Mercedes
»UK: Call to Ban EDL March Through the East End the Week After Ramadan
»UK: Shock Poll Shows Rising Tide of Right-Wing Nationalism
»Wilders Case Gives Boost to Judiciary
»Serbia: Heatwave Kills at Least Ten as Temperatures Hit 40C
North Africa
»Libya: 15th French Jet Made Emergency Landing in Malta
»The Military and the Economy, The Egyptian Spring’s Enemies
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel Adopts Law to Stop Settlements Boycott
Middle East
»Paris Judges Russia & China Veto on Syria “Indecent”
»Syria Accuses US and France of Manipulating Assault News
South Asia
»Copper Mining Will Crush Ancient Afghan Site
»India: Three Blasts in Mumbai, Two Dead, 100 Injured
»India: Three Blasts in Mumbai, 10 Killed, Over 100 Injured
»India: At Least 18 Killed, Dozens Injured in Mumbai Blasts
»Indonesia: Migrant Worker Spared Execution Due to Return Home
»Italian Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
»Nepal: Minorities Ask for More Security in the Wake of Buddhist Nun’s Rape
Far East
»Dissident Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Accepts Position at Berlin University
Australia — Pacific
»Man Kicked Girl Away From Life Jacket
Sub-Saharan Africa
»U. S. Magazine Reports CIA Has Secret Base in Somalia
»Hundreds of Migrants Arrive by Boat Escorted by Police
Culture Wars
»UK: Breast-Feeding Mother ‘Told to Leave Council Headquarters Because She Would Offend Muslim Visitors
»Vatican: Church Declares War on European ‘Secularisation’
»Human History Recorded in a Single Genome

Financial Crisis

After Portugal, Now Ireland is Junked

The Irish Times, 13 July 2011

“Irish debt cut to ‘junk’ status as euro zone crisis deepens,” headlines the Irish Times, the morning after Moody’s downgraded Ireland’s credit rating. The announcement occurred just “hours after the Minister for Finance said that measures to aid Greece proposed by euro zone finance ministers on Monday night would benefit Ireland,” the Dublin daily notes. On the contrary, for Moody’s — “the measures being contemplated for Greece had increased the chance that Ireland might default on some of its debts if it has to seek another bailout from Europe.” The resulting downgrade to junk status, like Portugal’s last week is expected to lead to a sell-off in Irish bonds when markets open today. The Irish Times adds that, “The downgrade came at the end of a day on which EU internal market commissioner, Michel Barnier, said he would propose “stiff measures” in November to curb the power of the agencies. “We were surprised that the agencies would downgrade a country without any warning,” he said, referring to Portugal.

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

Arab Investors ‘Still Have Faith in Europe’

Cairo, 13 July (AKI) — Arab financiers are unfazed by the escalating European debt crisis and still consider it a stable and secure investment environment, Egyptian economist Ibrahi Issawi told Adnkronos International.

“Despite the crisis, Arab investors still have faith in Europe,” said Issawi, who teaches economics at Egypt’s National Planning Institute in Cairo.

Explaining how people in the region are reacting to the market jitters that recently sent share prices plummeting, Issawi said. “I believe Arab investors will remain interested in Europe and the United States even since the unrest that has hit the Arab world.”

While no one is currently thinking of disinvesting in Arab countries, in future they will prefer to invest in European and also in American markets, Issawi said.

“I think that despite the latest crisis, they will continue to choose Europe because it is viewed as a more stable and secure environment for business and that is the most important thing.”

Issawi voiced scepticism however on the potential for partnership between the ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ shores of the Mediterranean, specifically French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union project.

“There can’t be reciprocal interests between rich and developing countries, but there is always the growing desire to exercise control over who is weaker and especially to secure energy supplies,” he concluded.

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

Brussels’ Political Stalemate: Impasse Could Drag Belgium Into Euro Crisis

Belgium is the holder of an unenviable world record. For over a year, the country has not had an elected goverment. But the paralyzing conflict between the Flemish and Walloons comes with a high risk. The divided country could get caught up in the euro crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Debt Crisis: It’s the Euro, Stupid

Sceptical about the Greek bailout, the markets are rounding on the Spanish and Italian sovereign debts. For the Spanish press, the fault lies with those Europeans elites incapable of defending the single currency with a community response.

“Free fall”, leads El Periódico, reporting on the shudders sweeping through the Spanish and Italian stock exchanges shaken by the attacks against both countries’ debts. “Yesterday Spain and Italy began to take a ride on the roller-coaster of sovereign debt that was steeper than ever before,” adds the Barcelona daily.

Yet Spain had “done its homework” in terms of budget deficit and structural reforms. For El Periodico, the problem is, above all, “the fragility of the EU institutions and the dilapidated nationalism of its leaders, headed by Angela Merkel,” and their “resounding inability to put defending the common currency before their national interests. In other words,” writes Enric Hernández, the editor of the daily: “It’s the euro, stupid!”

A matter of survival

For El País, “an unbearable situation in the short-term” is looming up “for the credit-worthiness of Spain, and especially of Italy… In Spain, the explosion in the interest rate on the debt is stifling any recovery” of the economy. The daily emphasises “the gross mismanagement of the crisis” owing to “the absence of a European economic government capable of making decisions,” an absence that “has sown disorder in European finances, derailed the adjustment programmes of several countries, and that could even bring about the demise of the euro.”

For El País, “it is now a matter of survival [of the single currency]: the entire constellation of institutions must agree, painful though it be, to salvage the euro — and they cannot wait for a new rescue plan for Greece.”

Trichet is right

While La Vanguardia notes that “the Italians are now living through what the Spaniards have been living through for a year and are wondering incredulously why the markets doubt the solvency of a country that, until recently, was the “entertainer on the cruise ship the euro was travelling in”, El Mundo stresses the “emergency the European economy finds itself in following the sudden plunge of Italy into the group of countries being punished.”

The sovereign debt crisis has ceased being peripheral and has penetrated to the core of the euro: the third largest economy of the single currency and a member of the G8…. Just how high will the price of the debt to the Treasury get?” asks the paper. “This is the tragedy we’re living through with the crisis: the more things go wrong, the more we are abused by the markets, which are choking our ability to ever get back to health. And all because the European institutions have not engaged in a genuine common economic policy.”

“Trichet is right”, notes El Mundo: “The crisis is teaching us that the only way to get on top of it is through deeper economic integration.”

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

ECB President-Designate Draghi Calls for Better Crisis Management

Rome, 13 July (AKI) — Mario Draghi, Italy’s central bank head who is due to become the European Central Bank president later this year, called for better management of the debt crisis spreading through some countries that use the euro currency.

“We must recognise that managing the financial crisis has not gone well with only partial and temporary measures which have boosted uncertainty in financial markets,” Draghi said on Wednesday during a speech to the Italian Bankers’ Association.

“We now have to create certainty…by better defining political objectives, the design of instruments and the amount of resources,” he said.

His comments came as investor worries about Italy’s ability to repay its massive debt load weighed on the country’s bonds, making them more expensive to finance.

Those jitters caused Italian stocks to tumble to levels not seen in two years.

Draghi also called Italy’s proposed plan to cut government spending “an important step forward.”

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

French Banks Face Highest Risk From Italian Debt

Paris, 13 July (AKI/Bloomberg)- French banks, including BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole have the most at risk from the euro- region’s debt crisis infecting Europe’s largest borrower, Italy.

At the end of 2010, French banks carried $392.6 billion in Italian government and private debt, according to data from Basel, Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements. That’s the most for financial institutions from any foreign country and more than double held by German lenders.

“They’re on the frontline,” said Julian Chillingworth, who helps manage about 16 billion pounds at Rathbone Brothers in London. “French banks like BNP Paribas have taken substantial positions in Italy when the market opened up to foreign players and now they face the downside.”

Italian stocks and bonds have been roiled on concerns about the country’s ability to trim debt after warnings by Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s and infighting in Silvio Berlusconi’s government over a budget-cutting plan. Italy’s woes may overshadow efforts to fix Greece’s finances, which have left European policy makers struggling to find a strategy that won’t spark a region-wide debt panic.

Italy, whose 1.6 trillion euros of bonds outstanding is the largest debt load in Europe and behind only the US and Japan, had avoided being sucked into the financial crises engulfing Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Confidence eroded after both Moody’s and S&P in the past two months said they were reviewing ratings for Italy and its banks.

Italian stocks entered a bear market on 11 July, defined as losses of more than 20 percent from a previous high, and 10-year Italian yields reached the highest in 14 years. Stocks recovered and yields on 10-year Italian notes retreated from a euro-era high of 6.02 percent after the completion yesterday of an auction of 6.75 billion euros of treasury bills and Berlusconi’s reassurances on hastening the passage of a 40 billion-euro deficit-cutting plan.

“These are positive signs, but it would be better to anticipate markets rather than to react to them,” said Christophe Nijdam, a Paris-based analyst at AlphaValue. “It’s as if politicians got down on their knees before the markets.”

BNP Paribas, which slid to its lowest level in 7 1/2 months this week, rose 1.2 percent to 47.51 euros in Paris trading as of 12:30 p.m. France’s biggest bank has fallen 11 percent this month, more than double the 5.1 percent decline in the 49-member Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index. Credit Agricole has dropped 13 percent, while Societe Generale, France’s third-largest bank by assets, slid 11 percent.

“The French banks’ case is being tested because of Italian wobbles coming in the wake of the Greek uncertainty persisting longer than expected,” said Matthew Czepliewicz, an analyst at Collins Stewart in London.

Pascal Henisse, a spokesman at BNP Paribas in Paris, Credit Agricole’s spokeswoman Stephanie Ozenne and Societe Generale’s spokeswoman Astrid Brunini all declined to comment on the turmoil in Italy and its impact on their banks.

About 45 percent of Italian debt held by foreign banks is carried by French institutions, according to BIS data.

French banks’ Italian debt holding is more than their combined exposure to Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece, which stood at $253.8 billion at the end of 2010, according to BIS data. The lenders had $97.6 billion in Italian sovereign debt at the end of the year, dwarfing their $57.5 billion of such debt from the four other countries, the data show.

Drawn by the lucrative financial industry in Italy, French financial companies spent at least 20 billion euros since 2006 to buy banking and insurance assets in the euro-area’s third- largest economy.

BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole, France’s second-largest bank, bought two of Italy’s 10 largest lenders. At the end of 2010, BNP Paribas held more Italian than French sovereign debt.

BNP Paribas, which acquired Rome-based Banca Nazionale del Lavoro SpA in 2006 for 9 billion euros, has about 900 branches in Italy. Credit Agricole operates about 960 branches in Italy. BNP’s 19,000 and Credit Agricole’s 12,000 employees in Italy are the most outside their home market.

Paris-based BNP had 71.2 billion euros of loans at its BNL unit at the end of March, compared with BNL’s 31.7 billion euros of deposits, according to its website. Credit Agricole’s Italian retail-banking unit, Cariparma, had 31.6 billion euros of loans and 30.3 billion euros of deposits at the end of March, company data show.

“Credit Agricole’s funding position in Italy is more conservative compared with BNP Paribas’s,” said Dirk Hoffmann- Becking, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “BNP makes up the gap by channeling funds from the corporate center.”

Investors’ concerns about commercial and sovereign debt held by BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole in Italy may be mitigated by the overall funding capacities and deposits base of the French banks, analysts and investors say.

“When you break down the exposures into their major components, the asset quality implications do not seem as negative as the share price movements often indicate,” Czepliewicz said. “Do recent sovereign debt movements change something in the quality of BNL’s lending book? Probably not.”

Also, the fears of a contagion may be overblown, the Collins Stewart analyst said.

“The question is if an Italian contagion would be fundamentally grounded or is just panic,” he said. “My sense is: it is just panic.”

Italy has “big advantages” over other southern European nations as it has low foreign debt, a primary budget surplus, long debt maturity and lack of a housing-market “bubble,” a team of strategists at Credit Suisse Group AG led by Andrew Garthwaite in London wrote in a report yesterday.

Those advantages may matter little in a market gripped by panic, and may require European leaders to act firmly and quickly, some investors said.

“We’ve seen fever spikes,” said Valerie Cazaban, who helps manage 100 million euros at Stratege Finance in Paris and holds shares in BNP Paribas. “European policy makers should contain it as soon as possible before the illness bursts out.”

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

Ireland Downgraded to ‘Junk’ In Spiralling Euro-Crisis

US-based credit rating agency Moody’s on Tuesday (11 July) downgraded Ireland’s debt to junk status, amid growing market concerns about the stability of the eurozone as the debt crisis reaches Italy and Spain. Citing the “growing possibility” that Ireland may need a second bailout at the end of 2013 and the “increased” likelihood that this bailout will require private sector participation, Moody’s downgraded the country’s rating by one notch to Ba1 status — meaning that its bonds are now considered “non-investment grade” and pensions funds, for instance, are no longer allowed to purchase them. Moody’s made the same move last week when it downgraded Portugal’s rating by three notches to Ba2 status. Greece’s rating is considerably lower — Caa1 which stands for “substantial risk”, just three steps before what a rating agency considers “default” and with no perspective for investors to recover their money.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Austerity Package to be Strengthened, Approved by Friday’

Measure to be bolstered ‘over whole four years’ says Tremonti

(ANSA) — Rome, July 13 — Italy’s austerity package will be bolstered and approved by the end of the week to calm fears of contagion from the Greece debt crisis, Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said Wednesday.

The close-to-50-billion-euro four-year package, which has been criticised by some for leaving the heftier moves to the last two years, will be “strengthened over the whole four years,” Tremonti told the annual general meeting of the Italian Banking Association (ABI).

“It will be approved by Friday,” he said as Italian bonds and stocks held on to a recovery pundits credited to Tremonti’s quick return to Rome from Brussels to shepherd the measure.

Tremonti downplayed the impact of recent speculative attacks which have pushed up the premium on Italian bonds compared to benchmark German bunds.

“The problem with the surge in bond yields is not that of a single country but the whole structure of Europe,” he said, noting that the bonds of several countries with financial problems had been targeted and not just Italy’s. Earlier, Bank of Italy Governor and future European Central Bank Governor Mario Draghi said further cuts were needed to avoid tax hikes and called for “structural reforms” to boost Italy’s chronic low growth.

The International Monetary Fund also called for growth-boosting reforms and reiterated that Italy’s high debt, the second-biggest in the eurozone after Greece’s, made it “vulnerable” to the crisis.

ABI voiced confidence Italy’s banks would pass upcoming eurozone stress tests.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt ‘To Strengthen Cost-Cutting Plan and Get Parliament Backing by Friday’

Rome, 13 July (AKI) — Italian economy minister Giulio Tremonti said Wednesday that parliament will in the next three days approve a beefed up government austerity package aimed at tackling the country’s massive public debt amid concerns Italy could be the next victim of Europe’s escalating debt crisis.

“The decree for balancing the budget will be strengthened… and approved by Friday,” Tremonti said in Rome, at a gathering of the country’s bankers’ association, ABI.

“The budget bill will be bolstered for each individual year,” Tremonti said.

The budget plan, which includes over 40 billion euros in cuts, is viewed as crucial by the European Union to restore confidence in Italy’s ability to keep its public debt in check. Italy, the eurozone’s third largest economy has — after Greece — the area’s second highest debt, amounting to about 120 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Bank of Italy governor and future head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi told ABI that more public-spending cuts were needed in Italy’s four-year budget plan. Otherwise higher taxation was inevitable, which would dampen Italy’s already sluggish economic growth, he warned.

Analysts are especially concerned at plans to postpone until 2013-2014 cuts to the salaries of Italian politicians, who are among Europe’s highest paid.

Italy’s main opposition centre-left parties said late Tuesday they would not hinder attempts to introduce the measures with last-minute amendments, during parliamentary debates scheduled later this week.

The upper house Senate is expected to approve the government’s proposals on Thursday, while the lower house Chamber of Deputies is expected to do so on Friday.

Tremonti also dismissed reports that he would resign over an alleged falling-out with prime minister Silvio Berlusconi over the planned cuts.

Berlusconi in turn on Wednesday said in a statement: “We must be united in the national interest.”

Italy is the third-most-indebted nation in the world and its woes have generated a burst of investor panic in recent days amid concerns of political infighting in Rome over budget cuts.

Italian bank shares have been battered, and the nation’s borrowing costs have skyrocketed to dangerous levels.

Tremonti told ABI the Italian government’s aim to close the budget deficit by 2014, which stood at 4.6 percent of GDP in 2010.

Over the past 14 months, the eurozone or 17 countries that use the euro currency has been forced to bail out three relatively small economies — Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

There are doubts that the eurozone would have sufficient resources to rescue Italy’s far larger economy. The country has almost 1.4 trillion euros of sovereign debt outstanding, far more than any of the other problematic European governments.

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

Pressure Rises on Divided Eurozone to Act on Debt Crisis

Divided European leaders faced on Wednesday an onslaught of demands for rapid action to fight the spreading eurozone debt crisis but Germany and France disagreed about calling an emergency summit. In extraordinarily outspoken terms, the next head of the European Central Bank issued a blunt warning that the solvency of eurozone countries should not be taken for granted. And Greece and Spain have attacked in equally blunt terms a German-led drive for private investors to shoulder part of the costs of a second rescue for Athens, widely expected to trigger a default status on Greek debt. This critical matter, opposed by the ECB, is a factor behind turmoil on financial markets and has helped put Italy and Spain in the eurozone spotlight.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Raise Taxes or Granny Gets it

The liberal media’s idea of a grown-up.


President Obama is pulling out the big guns and pointing them straight at your grandmother. “Obama on Tuesday said he cannot guarantee that retirees will receive their Social Security checks August 3” absent an agreement with Congress to raise the debt ceiling,

CBS News reports:”I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, according to excerpts released by CBS News.

At a press conference yesterday, Obama demanded that Republicans not only authorize trillions of dollars in new borrowing,which at this point seems unavoidable, but agree to what he called “massive, job-killing tax increases” effective in 2013—i.e., after what he expects will be his re-election.

For this he drew plaudits from what used to be called the mainstream media. “Obama Grasping Centrist Banner in Debt Impasse” read the New York Times headline. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza dubbed him “Dad-in-Chief,” explaining: “Boil Obama’s message down and you get this: Adults sometimes have to do things that they don’t want to do. This is one of those times. So, let’s get it done.”

The kids are acting up, so he threatens to starve Granny to death. That’s just how a strong father behaves.

It looks to us as if Obama may once again be overestimating his persuasive powers by relying for feedback on journalists who, for a combination of ideological, partisan and personal reasons, are predisposed to take his side. has a useful compilation of what it calls the “softballs” reporters lobbed at yesterday’s press conference. Some of them were actually a bit adversarial, but only from the left.


[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Business Group Head Tells Italians to ‘Respect the Law’

Rome, 11 July (AKI) — The head of Italy’s largest business association on Monday said the European Union’s fourth-largest economy will have difficulty gathering steam without respect for the law.

“There cannot be economic growth without true respect for the law and a fight against criminal organisations,” said Confindustria president Emma Marcegaglia.

“It’s also crucial that civil society take part in this fight,” she said.

Off-the-book business activities, corruption and entrenched mafia activities has heavily indebted Italy, where the economy continues to be mired in sluggish growth.

The Confindustria in June cut its 2011 and 2012 growth forecast, citing the country’s “difficulty gaining momentum”.

“It’s important to work together to defend our country and above all to build a better future for our children,” she said.

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

Danish Border Controls Break Schengen Law: Experts

Denmark’s decision to deploy permanent customs officers at its borders breaks the European Union’s Schengen agreement, two Danish law professors said in an opinion piece published Wednesday. “The Schengen border codex says directly that speed must not be reduced as a result of control facilities,” Carsten Willemoes Joergensen and Karsten Engsig Soerensen of Aarhus University wrote in the Berlingske daily. “When you see the pictures that have been published of the border facilities that are to be established, these clearly contravene Schengen.” The professors said they had compared the wording of Denmark’s border agreement with that of the Schengen agreement. “We are convinced that if the issue comes to the European court, Denmark will lose. It will not take much of a queue and waiting time at the border before the Commission will react,” they wrote. “Schengen does not differentiate between police and customs officers, it just says that there should not be personal controls at borders.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Sentence Upheld Against Negationist Bishop Williamson

(AGI) Berlin — The Regensburg court upheld a conviction against negationist bishop Richard Williamson for his November 2009 statements casting doubts on the existence of gas chambers in the nazi lagers. The bishop had claimed that only 300,000 jews died in the nazi extermination camps. The court reduced to 6,500 Euros (form 10,000) the amount of the fine imposed on the English Lefebvrian bishop.

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

Italy: Mondadori Sentence Confirmed on Appeal — Berlusconi to Pay Compensation

But reduction slashes payment to Carlo De Benedetti’s CIR from €750 million to €560 million

MILAN — Magistrates reviewing the “Mondadori award” have reduced damages payable by Fininvest from €560 million to €750 million. But the €190-million saving is the only piece of good news for the prime minister and the company he owns with his children. The ruling by Milan’s second civil court of appeal means that Fininvest will pay a total of €560 million in capital, statutory interest from October 2009 and costs to Carlo De Benedetti’s CIR company, compensation for damages caused to the publisher of Repubblica when judicial corruption in 1991 tipped the scales in the struggle between the two men for control of Italy’s leading publisher, Mondadori.

THE AWARD — The amount awarded comprises compensation of €540 million plus statutory interest of 2.5%, calculated from the date of the sentence of first instance by judge Raimondo Mesiano in October 2009, and costs of €8 million. A large proportion of the reduction came as a result of the expert opinion requested by the appeal court from academics Luigi Guatri, Maria Martellini and Giorgio Pellicelli in March 2010 in order to ascertain “whether any variations had occurred in the value of the companies involved in the exchange between the parties between June 1990 and April 1991”. The view of the three experts was that there had been a fall in the value of the companies of around 18.8%.

TIMING — In the civil courts, sentences become effective immediately after the first-instance proceedings but in December 2009, the two parties’ lawyers (Giuseppe Lombardi, Giorgio De Nova, Achille Saletti and Fabio Lepri for Fininvest; Elisabetta Rubini and Vincenzo Ruoppo for CIR) reached an agreement to freeze payment on two conditions: the issuance by a pool of four banks of an €800-million guarantee of payment on behalf of Fininvest for CIR; and the appeal court’s pledge to swiftly conclude second-instance proceedings, which began on 24 February 2010. The upshot is that in a few days’ time, CIR will have official copies of the sentence by magistrates Luigi De Ruggiero (president), Walter Saresella (rapporteur) and Giovambattista Rollero, enabling CIR to present the guarantee to Banca Intesa Sanpaolo, the leader of the pool which includes the Monte dei Paschi di Siena and Popolare di Sondrio banks, and collect the €560 million decided by the appeal court magistrates. This is precisely what the codicil slipped into the budget after the meeting of the council of ministers was designed to avoid. That insertion was withdrawn in a storm of controversy but the prime minister maintained it was “sacrosanct”. According to Mr Berlusconi and members of his majority, the codicil looks set to resurface as an amendment to the budget on its way through parliament…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Head of American Jewish Group Awarded Italian Honour

Rome, 11 July (AKI) — Italy on Monday awarded the head of the American Jewish Committee the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic for his efforts to combat anti-Semitism.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini (photo) bestowed David Harris with the award for his “high-profile activities in the fight againt anti-Semitism and the promotion of human rights,” said a statement from the Italian foreign ministry.

Italy also recognized AJC executive director Harris’ outreach work with Jews and Italians to “deepen dialogue between Jewish and Italian institutions in New York,” the statement said.

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

Italy: Naples Trash Tops 2,000 Tonnes

Sanitation department ‘holding its breath’

(ANSA) — Naples, July 12 — Uncollected trash in Naples topped the 2,000 tonne mark Wednesday as the southern Italian city’s waste crisis worsened.

Approximately 2,150 tonnes of rubbish littered the streets, forcing citizens to don doctors masks in order to quell the stench as officials tried to decide upon a dumping ground.

“We currently have around fifty vehicles backed up” outside Naples, said Raphael Rossi, head of the city’s sanitation department, “and none of them can dump. We’re talking about 500 tonnes-worth of garbage. We’re working under a lot of stress, treading water and holding our breath”.

A recent government measure permits the Campania region to export refuse to other parts of the country, but government authorities are still working out the details of a plan.

Campania Governor Stefano Caldoro said Wednesday that so far the regions of Liguria, Tuscany and Emilia Romagna had signed a waste-transfer agreement with Naples, effective by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris promised his office was searching for additional solutions.

“We’re looking for dumping grounds with as little red tape as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to find extra space in an old dump site, but that’s a limited area, for emergency purposes lasting one or two days”.

De Magistris said he would soon have a meeting with Premier Silvio Berlusconi to address all aspects of the problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Murdoch Drops British Satellite Bid

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation announced on Wednesday that it was withdrawing a $12 billion bid to take over the shares it does not already own in Britain’s main satellite television broadcaster, Sky News reported.

The development was the latest upheaval flowing from the phone hacking scandal within Mr. Murdoch’s British newspaper empire that has convulsed his company and ended what, for years, had been a close, cozy and influential relationship with the British establishment.

[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Police to be Banned From Wearing Crosses and Headscarves

A new dress code for the police includes a ban on religious symbols such as crosses and headscarves, the Nederlands Dagblad reports on Wednesday.

The code emphasises that the police are there for all citizens and obvious religious affiliations are not desirable, the paper says. Instead, the aim is for ‘lifestyle neutrality’.

Large tattoos and unusual piercings are also no longer acceptable because they could frighten or intimidate people. Police officers with large tattoos will have to cover them up.

The new requirements have been around for some time but their implementation was delayed by the collapse of the previous government and objections from police unions, the paper says.

Originally, the new dress code was to have been enshrined in law but union objections led to the creation of a code of conduct instead. The unions were keen to ensure flexibility in the rules and ‘some room for officers’ own identities,’ a spokesman said.

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

Spain Lashes Out at Germany

La Vanguardia, 13 July 2011

“ECB to the rescue,” headlines La Vanguardia following yesterday’s attack on Spanish and Italian sovereign debt on the financial markets, which was then halted by the ECB’s buying of bonds issued by both countries. Speaking in the presence of Herman Van Rompuy on a visit to Madrid, the Spanish Prime Minister insisted that “powerful countries” should assume their responsibility in the eurozone crisis — a direct allusion to Germany and Angela Merkel’s reluctance to authorise a plan that would have private banks participate in a second Greek bailout — a “central and decisive” issue for Zapatero. According to the daily, Zapatero’s remarks amounted to a “socialist message” and “demonstration of Spanish resistance.” In its editorial, La Vanguardia argues that Herman Van Rompuy should address the question of “the worrying lack of government” in the EU by organising an emergency summit in Brussels this weekend, “especially in the wake of the pathetic spectacle provided by the EU finance ministers’ meeting” on 11 July.

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

Sweden Enforces New Litter Laws

With the good weather looking set to continue and the summer barbeque party season in full swing litter, if you leave behind glass bottles, drink cans and one time disposable barbeques you can be fined up to 800 kronor ($130) by police.

The new law has been well received by the police and the general public, although there have been questions raised on why it is still okay to discard cigarette butts, a major form of irritation to many public park users in particular.

Until now police have not had the power to administer fines on the spot for minor litter offences. From today however, if you are caught by one of the patrols, punishment can, and will, according to the authorities, be immediate.

Environment minister Andreas Carlgren is confident that the new law will have a positive effect.

“I hope and believe that it will lead to a cleaner Sweden. The intention is not that people should end up paying masses of fines, but that they stop dropping their litter. All of us who have walked past green areas in the morning at a weekend before they have been cleaned know how bad it can look,” he said in a statement.

The government has not gone into great detail on what is seen as unacceptable and will result in on-the-spot fines, although those throwing away sweet wrappers, bus tickets, chewing gum and cigarette butts will escape the immediate penalty.


[Return to headlines]

Tsunamis Buried Ancient Olympics Site

A series of devastating tsunamis — not an earthquake — might have swept away the birthplace of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece nearly 1500 years ago, according to new findings. Scholars have long assumed that Olympia, located at the confluence of the Kladeos and Alpheios rivers in the western Peloponnese, was destroyed by an earthquake in 551 AD and later covered by flood deposits of the Kladeos river. Indeed the site where the first Olympic Games took place in 776 BC, was rediscovered only some 250 years ago, buried under 26 feet of sand and debris. Systematic excavations by the German Archaeological Institute, which began in 1875, brought to light the remains of some of the finest works of classical art and architecture, such as the huge temple of Zeus. It boasted a now lost 40-foot statue of the god made of gold and ivory that was numbered among the Seven Wonders of the World. According to Andreas Vött of the Institute of Geography of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, the burial of ancient Olympia “is one of the most interesting geoarchaeological mysteries in the Mediterranean world.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Council Forks Out £72 a Day to Drive Mayor Around in Top Class Mercedes

The mayor of Tower Hamlets’ lavish tastes have put him in the firing line once again after it emerged he is hiring a top-of-the-range Mercedes at taxpayers’ expense.

Lutfur Rahman has given the go-ahead to rent out the E-Class saloon to drive him around the borough at a cost of £72 a day.

The designer car could land taxpayers with a bill of £360 a week or more if used at weekends.

Only last month the Independent mayor was slammed for forking out £115,000 of council cash to triple the size of his office and expand facilities for his cabinet.

Critics argue it would cheaper and greener for the mayor to use public transport or hire a less extravagant vehicle.

Emma Boon, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s quite frankly sickening to see this man cruising through the streets of one of London’s most deprived boroughs in a luxury car.”

The use of the Mercedes — which starts from around £30,000 to buy — is in stark contrast to the way leaders of neighbouring boroughs get around.

In Newham, directly elected mayor Sir Robin Wales uses his own car and in Hackney mayor Jules Pipe predominantly uses public transport and ocassionally his own car.

Tower Hamlets’ Tory leader Peter Golds, who put in a member’s enquiry to get the information, said: “Most people use public transport and there’s no reason why the mayor shouldn’t. Tower Hamlets has very good transport links.”

The council is currently driving through spending cuts of £70million.

A council document said the car is being hired from ING Car Lease and added: “The vehicle is being driven by a chauffeur, drawn on a rotating basis from the pool of council-certified drivers.”

A council spokesperson said: “The mayor often has no option but to work whilst on the move. Like most ceremonial mayors and council leaders do, the mayor uses a car as an efficient way of being able to do just that, and ensure he can attend the many back-to-back appointments that he is required to attend.”

The council said it regularly assesses whether the mayor’s travel is as green as it can be.

It refused to say how much has been spent on the car so far and how long it has being hired for.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: Call to Ban EDL March Through the East End the Week After Ramadan

The Home Secretary has been asked today to ban a threatened march by the English Defence League through London’s East End

The call comes from the London Assembly’s budget chairman John Biggs, who represents East London at City Hall.

He has written to Theresa May asking her to ban the “divisive” march through Whitechapel planned for September 3-anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.

“I have real concerns that groups opposed to the Far Right EDL will also take to the streets if it goes ahead,” he said. “The results will be huge public disorder, a risk of injury to the public and damage to property.”

Today’s letter was the second in a week to the Home Secretary in which he outlines his concerns: “I believe the march will be totally divisive.”

It would be staged the first weekend after Ramadan, he points out, if it goes ahead.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: Shock Poll Shows Rising Tide of Right-Wing Nationalism

Almost half the country would back a new right-wing party that vowed to crack down on immigration and Islamic extremists, a shock poll reveals today.

They would also restrict the ­building of mosques and order the flag of St George or the Union Jack be flown on all public buildings.

The revelations will spark fresh fears of racial tension in Britain amid a new wave of support for extreme right-wing parties like the British National Party and the English Defence League.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Wilders Case Gives Boost to Judiciary

Radio Netherlands

Wilders case gives boost to judiciary Published on 13 July 2011 — 10:48pm

More about: Dutch judiciary Dutch society Europe Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders Holland Netherlands TNS NIPO University of Amsterdam

The trial of Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders has given a boost to public confidence in the judiciary.

On 23 June, briefly before the Amsterdam court handed down its ruling in the case against Mr Wilders, 55 percent of those interviewed said they had great confidence in the judiciary, after the Freedom Party leader was acquitted, that percentage rose to 60.

The survey was carried out by the University of Amsterdam and the TNS NIPO market research company.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Heatwave Kills at Least Ten as Temperatures Hit 40C

Belgrade, 11 July (AKI) — At least ten people have died in Serbia over the past few days amid a searing heatwave that has sent temperatures soaring up to 40 degrees centigrade, local media reported on Monday.

Two people collapsed and died in Belgrade’s streets on Sunday and medical emergency services said the number of call outs to public places has tripled.

With temperatures expected to climb towards 40 degrees again, there were 30 interventions in less than two hours early on Monday and doctors advised people, especially the elderly, to stay indoors and to drink plenty of liquids.

High temperatures are expected to prevail throughout this week and police said the number of traffic incidents have also drastically increased due to weather conditions which doctors described as “catastrophic”.

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

North Africa

Libya: 15th French Jet Made Emergency Landing in Malta

(AGI) La Valletta — Once again, two French military aircraft were forced to an emergency landing in Malta after a raid over Libya. Maltese civil aviation authorities report so. Since the bombings began, on 19 March, this is the fifteenth time French fighter-bombers — usually Mirage and Rafale aircraft — have been forced to an emergency landing in La Valletta.

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

The Military and the Economy, The Egyptian Spring’s Enemies

People are unhappy with the military. So far, no official involved in the death of 900 people killed in Tahrir Square has been tried. Young people continue to protest in favour of a new Egypt; they are the only hope for the country’s future at a time of economic crisis.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Six months after the fall of Mubarak, Egyptians are frustrated with the military’s refusal to try the men responsible for the death of 900 people killed during clashes in Tahrir Square. Sources told AsiaNews that the big protests on 8 July in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez are a sign that the ideals born of the Jasmine Revolution are still alive. “People want justice; they are tired of the government’s lies,” they said.

Recently Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has ordered the suspension of police accused of killing protesters in Tahrir Square. At the same time, he has threatened the use of force against protesters.

Despite the warnings, more than 50,000 people gathered in the square for a peaceful protest. No clashes with police were reported.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has lost all credibility with the people, sources say. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, and his prime minister are deemed too compromised with the former regime.

“People protest because of inaction by the government and the military,” a source said. The latter “are under pressure from those who want to take power. The young people in Tahrir Square are especially afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood’s duplicity: supports for a secular state in order to join a future government.”

Egyptians are especially angry because of the economic crisis caused by the country’s political instability. In just a few months, the average salary has dropped by 20 per cent—in some sectors the decline has been up to 80 per cent.

“Tourism has been halved and foreign companies have cancelled investments,” the source explained. Likewise, the United States and Western nations are only trying to protect their economic interests and do not support the revolution.”

“Yet, it is surprising how, in such a situation, Egyptians, especially the young, are fighting every day to give Egypt a new face,” the sources said. “This is a sign of hope for the country’s future.” (S.C.)

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel Adopts Law to Stop Settlements Boycott

The bill was approved yesterday by Israel’s parliament. Anyone who backs boycotting the settlements can be taken to court for damages. The vote comes as the Quartet tries to breathe new life in Israeli-Palestinian talks. Human rights groups appeal to the High Court to get the law cancelled.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The Israeli parliament has passed a controversial law that will punish any Israeli individual or organisation boycotting West Bank settlements. The controversial bill was voted through 47-36. Under international law, the settlements are illegal even though Israel disputes that. Recent peace talks with the Palestinians were derailed over the issue of continued building in settlements on land that is expected to be part of a future Palestinian state.

Among recent initiatives that angered settlers and their influential political patrons was a pledge by Israeli academics and artists to boycott the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Under the new law those who sponsor a “geographically based boycott”, which includes any part of the Jewish state or its settlements, could be sued for damages in a civil court by the party injured in the boycott call.

Recently for example, Israeli developers agreed not to use products or services from settlements when they signed on to help build a new modern Palestinian city, north of Ramallah.

The new law condemns appeals to boycott. The petitioner is not required to prove that “economic, cultural or academic damage” was caused, only that it could reasonably be expected from the move.

Centrist party Kadima blasted Netanyahu for his absence from the vote. “Netanyahu’s government harms Israel and should be the first to pay the price,” I said. “Netanyahu’s scuttle from tonight’s vote does not diminish the harm he has done. He has crossed a red line of stupidity and national irresponsibility”.

Netanyahu initially wanted to defer the vote, to avoid presenting Israel in a negative light as the Quartet (United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia) gets ready to meet for a crucial discussion over the intention of the Palestinian Authority to seek UN recognition for a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians have also slammed the bill, saying that if it passes, “the content of an impending Quartet announcement regarding the possible renewal of negotiations will become irrelevant.”

Israeli Labour lawmaker Eitan Cabel called the bill “a cowardly law,” “another law in a series of fascist laws drafted by the government.”

Several human rights groups immediately announced they would file a High Court appeal against the new law and ask that it be cancelled. They will argue that the law is anti-constitutional, that it impedes political freedom of expression, and that it violates international law and the laws of torts.

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

Middle East

Paris Judges Russia & China Veto on Syria “Indecent”

(AGI) Paris — Paris accused Moscow and Beijing of “indecent” behavior for vetoing the UN resolution condemning Syria. As is widely known, since last 14th of March, Syria has been stifling in bloodshed the protest demonstrations against President Bashar Assad. France’s criticism was raised by Defense Minister Gerard Longuet. Yesterday, Prime Minister Francois Fillon affirmed that the “silence” of the Security Council on what is going on in Syria “is no longer acceptable”.

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

Syria Accuses US and France of Manipulating Assault News

(AGI) New York — Syria’s ambassador to the the UN accuses the US and France. The diplomat, Bashar Ja’afari, claims they manipulated the news sent to their embassies in Damascus regarding Monday’s assault. He told the reporters that his government tried to protect the embassies and that some people involved in Monday’s demonstrations have been arrested and will be tried.

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

South Asia

Copper Mining Will Crush Ancient Afghan Site

Teams in Afghanistan scramble to save artifacts before a Chinese company starts mining work at Mes Aynak, an area filled with the ruins of 5th century Buddhist monasteries.

The ruins poke out of a monotonous stretch of scrub and beckon the world to visit Afghanistan as it was more than 1,400 years ago, when Buddhist monasteries dotted the landscape. An ancient citadel juts from a tall crag, standing sentinel over what once was a flourishing settlement. The monastery sits largely preserved, as does a series of reliquaries adorned with schist arches and shelves. But few people today will have a chance to see these ruins, which French and Afghan archaeologists are unearthing.

Sometime soon, perhaps in as little as 14 months, the sprawling, 9,800-acre Mes Aynak site will be crushed by Chinese bulldozers hunting for copper — a clear choice of economic development over historic preservation in a country trying to overcome decades of war, religious extremism and occupation. “As an archaeologist, of course I’m worried about this,” said Khair Muhammad Khairzada, a researcher at the Afghan Institute of Archaeology, which is overseeing the dig. “I want all of the archaeological sites to be saved. But at the same time, Afghanistan’s economy is also important. It needs to grow.”

And so, a dozen archaeologists and 100 Afghan laborers are working like army ants to finish the dig. Many valuable relics were looted long ago, and the archaeologists won’t be able to save the ancient edifices from the mining company. But they can remove the statues, pottery and gold and silver coins still buried within the buildings. “We don’t know exactly how much time we have to excavate the site. Sometimes the deadline is 14 months and sometimes it’s two years. It will depend on the Chinese,” said Nicolas Engel, a young French archaeologist with James Joyce spectacles.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India: Three Blasts in Mumbai, Two Dead, 100 Injured

Mumbai: In a seemingly coordinated attack, three explosions took place in Mumbai on Wednesday between 6.30 and 7 in the evening — two in South Mumbai at Opera House and in Zaveri Bazar and one at Dadar West, in central Mumbai. The Home Ministry has confirmed a terrorist attack and Mumbai is on high alert.

Union Home Secretary R K Singh said atleast two people have been killed and about 100 injured in the three explosions.

Mumbai Police sources say the Indian Mujahideen (IM) is suspected to be behind the attack. In Delhi, Home Ministry sources too say that the hand of the IM working closely with the Lashkar-e-Taiba is suspected.

Two members of the IM were arrested in Maharashtra yesterday by the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad. However, sources confirm there was no intelligence alert or input that warned of today’s terror attack. (Read)

The largest number of injured are at Zaveri Bazaar, where the blast took place in the crowded Kahu Gali, a street of eateries. (Watch: Eyewitness accounts of the blast in Zaveri Bazaar)

All blasts took place during rush hour and in crowded places. The Dadar West explosion took place in a car . A police officer said the Zaveri Bazaar blast may have been triggered in a meter box. The Opera House blast took place at Prasad Chamber.

Dadar, a middle class area also houses the Shiv Sena Bhawan and the famous Shivaji Park. The Home Ministry has said that Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were used.(Read: Find out who is behind the blasts, Shiv Sena tells Govt)

There are also unconfirmed reports of an unexploded bomb being found in Dadar.

Early reports said a police control room had received a call claiming that there were serial blasts in Mumbai.

A National Investigation Agency (NIA) team has rushed to Mumbai from Delhi to investigate. A National Security Guards (NSG) team and forensic experts have also been airlifted on a BSF plane and are bound for Mumbai. The police have appealed for calm.

Zaveri Bazaar has been hit before — over 50 people were killed in twin blasts in 2002.

Malls, markets and other crowded places in Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore are on high alert.

[Return to headlines]

India: Three Blasts in Mumbai, 10 Killed, Over 100 Injured

India’s Western city of Mumbai was rocked by three serial blasts at around 7.30 pm on Wednesday. The explosions took place at Dadar West, Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House.

At least 10 people were killed in the blasts, including four in Zaveri Bazaar. Six people were killed in Dadar.

All three locations are busy market places and the evening rush hour added to the intensity of death toll which is feared to go up further.

All the blasts took place in a span of 15 minutes from 6.45 pm to 7 pm.

The blast at Dadar took place at Kabutar Khana bus stop in a car, while Zaveri Bazaar bomb was kept in a meter box at a jewelry shop.

One unexploded bomb was also found in the city and the bomb squad has been rushed to the spot.

Taking the toll of the situation teams of National Investigative Agency (NIA), National Security Guards and Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) teams have rushed to Mumbai from the national capital New Delhi and a high alert has also been declared in Mumbai.

According to witnesses, at least 20 were injured in Zaveri Bazaar alone. Home Secretary have put the toll of injuries to 100.

Home Ministry has termed the blasts as terrorist attacks.

The use of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) heaps the suspicion on Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that are known for using the same kind of device for its strike.

Sources in Home Ministry and Mumbai Police said that Indian Mujahideen is the main suspect behind the blasts.

Two Indian Mujahideen activists were arrested just a day ago by the Mumbai police.

[Return to headlines]

India: At Least 18 Killed, Dozens Injured in Mumbai Blasts

The death toll from three blasts that rocked Mumbai on Wednesday has risen to 18, with dozens more injured.

One of the explosions hit the crowded Dadar neighbourhood, while the remaining two occurred in the Jhaveri Bazaar jewelry market and the Opera House business district.

“The latest information that’s coming out on these three attacks is the official death toll as has been given to us by the state administration is now 18,” said Bhupinder Chaubay, with CNN’s IBN Network, reporting from New Delhi.

“There are a total of roughly 81 people who have also been injured.”

Chaubay told CTV News Channel all three blasts occurred within a 20-minute period, between 6:45 and 7:05 p.m. local time, indicating the explosions were intended as part of a “clear cut strategy,” likely carried out by terrorists.

Chaubay said the death toll could have been much higher since the explosions occurred in high-density areas.

“The only silver lining in this entire episode…is the fact this was some kind of a low intensity blast,” he said.

In the aftermath of the explosions, police were scrambling to determine the cause of the blasts and find those responsible.

The explosions occurred when the affected neighbourhoods would have been packed with office workers and commuters heading home.

The explosions come on the same day as the birthday of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the only surviving attacker from the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Migrant Worker Spared Execution Due to Return Home

Jakarta, 13 July (AKI) — An Indonesian migrant worker who has been spared the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is scheduled to return to Indonesia on Wednesday.

Darsem is expected to arrive at Jakarta’s main airport where she will be met by family and Foreign Ministry officials.

“The word is that [Darsem] left Saudi Aarabia last night. [Her family] is on the way to the airport,” Darsem’s family attorney, Elyasa Budianto, said Wednesday.

Darsem was accused of killing her employer in defense, after he attempted to rape her. The family of the employer agreed to forgive Darsem if she paid a fine in accordance with the laws in Saudi Arabia.

The Indonesian government later agreed to pay the Rp 4.7 billion (US$549,900) fine.

Elyasa added that while the family was already heading to the airport from Subang, West Java, they were not sure what time the flight would arrive.

“[She will] probably arrive at noon,” Elyasa said, as reported by

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

Italian Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

Folgore brigade combat engineer Roberto Marchini, 28, killed while attempting to defuse improvised explosive device

MILAN — An Italian soldier was killed in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off in the district of Bakwa in the west of the country, part of the Italian zone. The man who died was Corporal Roberto Marchini, 28, from Caprarola in the province of Viterbo, a combat engineer from the Legnano-based eighth Folgore parachute regiment. Corporal Marchini had just left his vehicle and was attempting to defuse the device when it exploded. The ministry of defence said that he had been on a reconnoitring patrol with Afghan troops.

VICTIMS — On 2 July, another Italian soldier, Corporal Gaetano Tuccillo, 29, died nearby not far from the village of Chagas, 16 kilometres west of Bakwa. Corporal Marchini is the 40th Italian soldier or intelligence agent to die in Afghanistan since the start of the mission, which involves a contingent of roughly 4,200 troops. The Italians, most of whom are deployed in the west of the country, are part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Nepal: Minorities Ask for More Security in the Wake of Buddhist Nun’s Rape

Hundreds protest in Kathmandu after a young Buddhist nun is the victim of violence. For the past 17 days, she has been in a state of semi-consciousness, whilst her attackers are still free. For critics, the government is washing its hands when it tells men and women religious to defend themselves.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — Hundreds of Christians, Muslims and representatives of tribal groups protested yesterday in Kathmandu demanding greater protection and security for the country’s religious minorities. The event that triggered the rally was the rape by five men of Sangita Lam, a 21-year-old Buddhist nun, on a bus in eastern Nepal.

Sources told AsiaNews that she is still in hospital Siliguri (India) in a state of semi-consciousness. Her attackers, who include the bus driver and his assistant, are still free. A few days ago, the authorities said they would swiftly proceed against the offenders. However, they also rejected calls for greater security measures for minorities.

“Special security provisions for all religious minorities in the country are not possible now. The religious should be conscious and adopt self-security,” government spokesperson and Minister for Education and Sports Gangalal Tuladhar said.

For Angdawa Sherpa, a member of the country’s constituent assembly, “Sangita’s rape is an act of violence against all religious minorities.”

The lawmaker is critical of government inertia with police taking months to arrest people who attack members of religious minorities.

“If the government does not take immediate against them, more cases of violence against monks and religious will occur,” he added.

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

Far East

Dissident Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Accepts Position at Berlin University

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has accepted a guest professorship at Berlin University of the Arts (UdK), it said Wednesday, although it was unclear when he will be able to take up the post. “When the artist can take up his professorship is unclear,” the UdK said in a statement. “After almost three months in prison Ai Weiwei was released on bail from prison on June 22. It remains to be seen when he will be allowed to leave China.” Police have accused Ai of tax evasion and the government said he was freed because of his “good attitude” in admitting to the charges against him, his willingness to repay taxes he owes and on medical grounds. He has diabetes. Rights groups have however said the outspoken 54-year-old, who is known for his fierce criticism of the ruling Communist Party, was detained as part of a wider clampdown on activists launched in February.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Man Kicked Girl Away From Life Jacket

AS a four-year-old girl desperately paddled towards a life jacket amid the wreckage of SIEV 221, a man bobbing in the monstrous Christmas Island swell grabbed it and then kicked her away, an inquest has heard.

Local Australian Federal Police officer, Special Constable Shane Adams, stood on the cliffs at Rocky Point on December 15, trying to help the 89 asylum seekers and three crew members whose boat had smashed into rocks.

He spotted the girl after the boat broke apart trying to dog paddle towards a life jacket he had flung into the sea.

Const Adams said he then noticed a man aged about 35 in the water nearby.

“He reached out and grabbed the life jacket, pushed out with his right foot and struck the young girl on the shoulder, pushing her back,” he told the inquest on Christmas Island.

That was the last time Const Adams saw the girl.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

U. S. Magazine Reports CIA Has Secret Base in Somalia

(AGI) Washington — The Central Intelligence Agency supposedly has its own secret organization in Somalia that is being used in the fight against terrorism according to the American weekly ‘the Nation’ which has quoted its own secret sources. These sources have reported that the fulcrum of the CIA’s presence in Somalia consists of a “vast fortified fortified compound with over 10 buildings protected by high walls, equipped with its own airport and supervised by Somali troops but will all access controlled exclusively American staff.” This compound is supposed to be somewhere on the Indian Ocean coast. The magazine also reports that in Mogadishu the CIA has a prison situated beneath the headquarters of the Somali Nation Security Agency that owns the building, but whose agents are supposedly apid by U.S. intelligence with only the CIA responsible for all interrogations of those detained there.

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


Hundreds of Migrants Arrive by Boat Escorted by Police

Rome, 13 July (AKI) — A boat carrying 286 migrants landed on the small southern Italian island of Lampedusa late Tuesday night as people continue to set sail from North Africa amid civil war in Libya and popular uprisings in other parts of the Arab world.

The new arrivals were intercepted by Italian police and escorted to the Lampedusa port where migrants are normally registered before being granted political asylum, returned home or transferred to detention centres on the Italy’s mainland or Sicily.

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.

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]

Culture Wars

UK: Breast-Feeding Mother ‘Told to Leave Council Headquarters Because She Would Offend Muslim Visitors

A breast-feeding mother has been ordered out of council offices after staff said it would ‘cause an uproar’ among Muslim visitors, it has been claimed.

Emma Mitchell, 32, was about to feed her 19-week-old son, Aaron, when a receptionist at Oldham Civic Centre told her it was a ‘multicultural building’.

When she was told to use the toilets of a nearby shopping centre she argued with a manager before being offered an empty room under supervision.

Ms Mitchell, a carer who is currently on maternity leave, said: ‘It was just awful. I felt humiliated, intimidated and guilty through the whole thing.

‘We all live in Oldham and we all use this building, and I was doing what was one of the most natural things a mum can do.

‘If someone from another culture started praying in the waiting room, I wouldn’t say, “Excuse me, you’re offending me” I would respect it because it’s their culture.

‘So I shouldn’t be made to feel what I wanted to do was wrong just because it’s not in their culture.

Labour Councillor Shoab Akhtar said Oldham Council supports the right of mothers to breastfeed their children and actively supports it due to the long-term health benefits it provides.

But he added: ‘Unfortunately there are no breast-feeding facilities available at Access Oldham based at the Civic Centre nor are there any public toilets or baby changing facilities.

‘There is no requirement to provide such facilities at Access Oldham and we are committed to make the best use of the limited space that is available to provide facilities and meeting rooms where we can deal with issues that affect local residents quickly and effectively.

‘Not every building is suitable for breast-feeding and that is the case with the very busy, open-plan layout of Access Oldham.’

However the council made an embarrassing U-turn later in the day with Cllr Akhtar issuing a second statement in which he made an ‘unreserved apology’ to Ms Mitchell.

He said: ‘We fully support the right of mothers to breastfeed their children and actively encourage this due to the long term health benefits it provides.

‘Ms Mitchell’s disappointing experience has highlighted the need to make all our staff fully aware of our policy and our legal requirements. All staff will be trained in the coming days to ensure this never happens again.

‘We are contacting Ms Mitchell to unreservedly apologise for the unnecessary difficulty she experienced.

‘As previously stated, Access Oldham does not have dedicated breastfeeding facilities available, however staff are now aware that they should make every reasonable effort to assist a mother’s need to breastfeed — whether she requests the use of a private room or otherwise.

‘We always act on feedback from residents and are glad that this issue was brought to our attention.’

Ms Mitchell was visiting the Citizens’ Advice Bureau at the council’s headquarters and was using computers there to find a babysitter.

Baby Aaron started crying for food when she asked the receptionist if she could use an empty corner of the room to breastfeed.

‘She said “Oh no, we don’t allow that in here. We’ve had that many complaints that we don’t allow it.”

‘I told her my son was hungry and I didn’t want to have to go away and come back.’

According to Ms Mitchell a manager then said ‘You absolutely can’t do that here.’

With young Aaron still crying a member of the complaints department was also called and she told her to wait while she spoke to the receptionist.

Eventually the woman from the complaints team took her to a small room and stood waiting with her, but Ms Mitchell said she could not carry on and had to finish feeding him in her car.

She added: ‘It’s political correctness gone mad when they’re worried about offending people of other cultures over something so natural.

‘You wouldn’t eat your dinner in the toilets, so why should my son?’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Church Declares War on European ‘Secularisation’

Vatican City, 13 July (AKI) — The Vatican has announced plans for a 2012 war on European ‘secularisation’ in some of the continent’s biggest cities.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation, announced the “Metropolis Mission” re-evangelisation campaign on Vatican Radio and in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

The campaign is due to begin in February during the six-week Christian fasting period of Lent.

“The goal is simple: to give a sign of unity among the diverse dioceses present in the largest European cities that have been particularly affected by secularisation,” Fisichella wrote in the Osservatore Romano.

The campaign was agreed at a meeting in the Vatican on 11 July with European cardinals and the archbishops of Barcelona, Budapest, Brussels, Dublin, Cologne, Lisbon, Liverpool, Paris, Turin, Vienna and Warsaw, Fisichella said.

It will focus on “ordinary pastoral care activities” particularly in the field of training and “the simultaneous implementation of these activities” in the aforementioned European cities during Lent.

The initiative will be based at each city’s cathedral, which will host a range of activities.

In 2012, Lent begins on 22 February — Ash Wednesday — and ends on 7 April.

“This is an initial response to the request made by the Pope during our first plenary meeting, to overcome division and to show signs of unity”, said Fisichella.

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


Human History Recorded in a Single Genome

WANT to know the history of your ancestors? Look no further than your genome. It seems every one of us carries in our genes a million-year record of past human population size. Analysing the ways that mitochondrial DNA sequences differ across a large number of living people has helped to establish prehistoric population trends, but this record stretches back only 200,000 years to the point where all humans alive today shared a common female ancestor. That’s because mitochondrial DNA passes down from mother to child. Richard Durbin of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, and Heng Li at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can push the record back five times as far by reading a single genome.

Taking advantage of the handful of complete human genome sequences now available, the pair looked at how alleles — the two copies of each gene we inherit from our parents — differ within a genome. Many differences between the two copies suggest that they separated some time ago, while similar copies have a more recent separation date. By reading thousands of alleles and estimating mutation rates, the duo can work out the separation date for each allele and calculate past population sizes. For instance, evidence that many alleles share the same separation date suggests the population was small and genetically similar at the time.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]