Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110717

Financial Crisis
»8. 2 Mln Italians Live in Poverty, 13.8% of Population
»Clinton in Athens for Debt Talks
»Default Panic Would be Worse Than Lehman
»Eurozone Faces Crunch Week in Debt Crisis
»Five of Eight Banks in Spain Fail EBA Stress Test
»Germany Says Greece ‘Could Cut Debt by €20bn’: Report
»Germany’s Humble Strength
»Gallup Poll Shows Any Republican Would Beat Obama
»Ultrasonic French Fries: Smooth and Crispy
»Video: CNN’s ‘Gotcha’ Hatchet-Job on Terrorism Fighter
Europe and the EU
»Bulgaria: The Superheroes of Soviet Sofia
»Cell Your Soul: Staying Young at a Swiss Jetset Clinic
»Germany: Quadriga Withdraws Award for Putin
»Germany: Kohl Says Merkel is “Breaking” Europe
»Italy: Extortion ‘Biggest Earner’ For Palermo Mafia Says Prosecutor After Mass Arrests
»Italy: Agriculture Minister Refuses to Resign Amid Mafia Probe
»Italy: Disgraced Ex-Senator Jailed for Five Years and Ordered to Repay €4.2mln
»Italy: Green Light to Recruit 67, 000 Teaching & Office Staff
»Italy: Waste Heaps on Fire and Protests Continue in Naples
»Italy: Prosecutors Investigate Fallaci’s Will
»Married to the Mob: Murderous Family Drama Unfolds in an Italian Court
»Netherlands: Turks Accuse Police of Brutality, Racism, In Death of Detainee
»Scotland: Over-Zealous Airport Security Threatens to Exacerbate the Terror Threat by Pushing Those Flirting With Radical Islam Over the Edge, An Msp Has Warned.
»Six Stabbed at Swedish Wedding
»Sweden: 12 Year-Old Girl Raped in Stockholm
»Tabloids: Murdoch’s Empire to be Dismantled, Says Miliband
Mediterranean Union
»Uprisings: EU Earmarks 85.5 Million for Southern Med Area
North Africa
»Eyes Over Libya: A Rare AWACS Ride-Along as NATO Bombing Raids Target Gaddafi Strongholds
»Libyan Insurgents Face Urban Warfare in Brega
Israel and the Palestinians
»Other Face of Economic Boom: High Prices and Protests
Middle East
»Arrested: 2 Women From Oman for Driving in Saudi Arabia
»Iranian Physics Student Faces Trial for Spying
»Iraq: 2010 a Terrible Year for Iraq’s Christians
South Asia
»Accepted by Most Indonesians, Polygamy is Rejected by Young People
Far East
»China: The Rule of Law is Dead. Killed by the “Harmonious Society”
»Taiwan: Shark Fin Soup, One of the Great Delicacies of Chinese Cuisine, At Risk
Australia — Pacific
»Diamond Disappears in Sunlight: Carbon Atoms Set Free by Ultraviolet Light.
»Man Lashed 40 Times During Home Attack
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ethiopia Moves Forward With Massive Nile Dam Project
»6.5% of Europe’s Inhabitants Are Foreigners
»Migration Board Using “Unreliable” Method
Culture Wars
»How to Land Your Kid in Therapy
»False Color Images of Saturn’s Massive Lightning Storm
»NASA Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around Asteroid Vesta—A Space First
»Salt or Cocaine, A Fix is a Basic Instinct

Financial Crisis

8. 2 Mln Italians Live in Poverty, 13.8% of Population

(AGI) Rome — Italians living in poor circumstances are 8.2 millions, a number equivalent to 13.8% of total population, according to a report issued by Istat (the Italian insitute of statistics) on poverty in Italy in 2010. Among these are 3.1 million people (5.2% of total population) living in circumstances of absolute poverty.

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

Clinton in Athens for Debt Talks

(ATHENS) — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Athens Sunday to offer support for the Greek government as it tries to tackle its perilous and worsening debt crisis. “She wants to show her support for Prime Minister (George) Papandreou, (who is) undertaking serious efforts to reduce the deficit and restore competitiveness,” a senior US diplomat said, requesting anonymity. Clinton is set to meet several Greek officials, including Papandreou, and Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis, although the US official reminded that Washington still views the Greek debt crisis as Europe’s problem to solve. “There is not a direct US role in this. The lead we see primarily as European, the European Union, the Central Bank and the IMF,” the diplomat said. “But we certainly have a major stake in the outcome, both for our ally Greece and for Europe as a whole,” the official added. Although the situation in Greece is “very challenging,” Washington believes Europe has the means to avert disaster.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Default Panic Would be Worse Than Lehman

A U.S. debt default would cause panic throughout the financial system and long-term uncertainty, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told CNN. “It seems to me an unthinkable financial risk to take,” Summers said in an interview on today’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program. It would cause “a cascade that makes Lehman Brothers look like a very small event.” The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEHMQ) in September 2008 was the biggest in U.S history and was followed by a collapse of credit markets and a 43 percent decline in the S&P 500.

In 16 days, the U.S. will begin to default on its debt obligations unless Congress and President Barack Obama can agree on a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Obama has been trying to break an impasse over whether to include cuts in entitlement programs and tax increases in the deal. Summers said a potential default makes him worry about “runs on banks, runs on money market funds,” exchanges facing “the prospect of collapse, institutions that had been built over decades” being “swept away.” “The ability to carry on routine financial business — to clear checks, to pay bills, to meet obligations would be lost,” he said. “It would be a totally self-inflicted cataclysm,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Faces Crunch Week in Debt Crisis

Eurozone countries must settle their debt crisis at an emergency summit this week to stop Greece toppling into default and possibly dragging the currency bloc’s bigger economies with it. After finance ministers failed to nail down a new rescue package for Greece last Monday, they saw the stakes rise sharply, with stocks and the euro tumbling and observers warning the crisis could spread across Europe. Analysts warned a debt default by Greece, one of Europe’s smaller economies, could spark financial contagion that would infect Italy, the eurozone’s third-biggest economy, and Spain, the fourth-biggest. “The policy-makers’ continued dithering appears to be pulling both Spain and Italy further into the crisis,” wrote analysts at financial consultancy Capital Economics.

“Either they stop fiddling and take decisive action or they may soon have to start contemplating the unthinkable.” “It is time for Europe to wake up,” said Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in an interview published Sunday in the Greek daily Kathimerini. EU president Herman Van Rompuy said Thursday’s summit would focus on “the financial stability of the euro area as a whole and the future financing of the Greek programme.” The EU and International Monetary Fund bailed out Greece in May 2010 with a package worth 110 billion euros ($160 billion) in exchange for a series of drastic austerity measures to stabilise its public finances. Greece is still in serious difficulty and needs another bailout valued at around the same amount. Ireland and Portugal have also had to be bailed out, while Italy and Spain are seen to be at risk due to the strained state of their public finances. Italy’s parliament on Friday passed a 48-billion-euro austerity budget aimed at slashing the public deficit by 2014.

Eurozone leaders are now considering ways to buy up Greek debt to take the short-term pressure off Greece. A key sticking point is what the role of Greek private lenders in this restructuring might be. Greeks have fought in the streets against Papandreou’s austerity measures which cut pensions and salaries. Key EU player Germany is now pushing for Greek banks to help shoulder the burden of a second bailout scheme. Critics of this plan, including the European Central Bank, warn that if banks are seen to be forced to lend to Greece on more favourable terms, markets would interpret this as an effective default and panic would escalate. EU officials have also mooted a convoluted plan to lend Greece money with which it can buy back its own debt at a reduced price on secondary bond markets, effectively postponing its repayments to give it breathing space. This money would come from a special eurozone bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Fund.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Five of Eight Banks in Spain Fail EBA Stress Test

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JULY 15 — Eight financial institutions in Europe failed the stress tests conducted by the European Banking Authority (EBA), including 5 Spanish banks: Catalunya Caixa, Banco Pastor, CAM, Unimm and Caja 3. The news was reported by sources in the EBA, cited by Spanish daily El Economista.

In addition to the five Spanish banks, two Greek banks and an Austrian bank failed the test. The financial institutes that failed the tests need an overall 2.5 billion euros in additional capital to be solvent in the worst case scenarios projected by the EBA. Aside from the banks that failed the stress tests, another 16 banks are close to the solvency limit, with capital between 5% and 6%. The worst case scenario projected by the EBA involves a 0.5% GDP decline in the euro area in 2011 and a 0.2% drop in 2012, with unemployment rates of 10.3% and 10.8% respectively. In Spain, the unemployment rate is currently over 20%, according to a survey on the active population conducted by the National Statistics Institute. The banks that did not pass the stress tests now have three months to present a recapitalisation plan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany Says Greece ‘Could Cut Debt by €20bn’: Report

Germany’s finance minister believes Greece could slice 20 billion euros ($28 billion) of its massive debt burden by buying back its own bonds, according to the weekly Der Spiegel, due out Monday. This scenario, one of several it envisaged, was the one the ministry thought most likely to win consensus in Europe, the weekly added. The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) could lend the money to Greece so it could buy back bonds from private creditors at market prices, Der Spiegel reported.

Thanks to its AAA status with the ratings agency, the EFSF could easily raise the money required in the markets then lend it to Greece at favourable rates it can longer find on the open market. European sources told AFP that this scenario has been put forward during recent talks between eurozone leaders. Another German proposal would involve the exchange of existing Greek bonds for ones that mature over a longer period. Eurozone nations will hold an extraordinary summit on July 21 in Brussels to discuss how to tackle the debt crisis and provide fresh aid for Greece, EU president Herman Van Rompuy announced on Friday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany’s Humble Strength

Germany was once a strong yet evil country. Then it was weak but good. Today it’s both strong and good, making the innate caution of its leaders more important than ever, argues Malte Lehming from Der Tagesspiegel. Compared to the United States — a strong but often unscrupulous country — Germany in the past was long seen as weak but overly moralistic. America waged war around the world, toppled dictators, made billions of dollars worth of tax cuts, while Germany appealed to the world’s only superpower to protect the climate and give terrorists a fair trial.

But now that relationship has changed. The United States has become weaker, but is still fairly ruthless. Germany is stronger, but still extremely prone to high-minded moralizing — even while considering the sale of hundreds of tanks to Saudi Arabia. Can this new balance hold? Germany’s position has also shifted within Europe. There’s an unspoken but clearly discernible belief in Germany politics now: “We’re a major player, and we’re good!” To name one example, hardly any other country has dealt with the recent financial and economic crisis as well as Germany. The economy is booming, unemployment is sinking, and tax revenue is filling government coffers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Gallup Poll Shows Any Republican Would Beat Obama

(AGI) Washington — It will be hard for Obama to get re-elected president in 2012. A recent Gallup poll indicates that almost any Republican would beat the president if elections were held now. The poll puts Obama at 39% with Republicans’ at 47%, and those undecided 16 months before the election at 15% .

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

Ultrasonic French Fries: Smooth and Crispy

It’s one of the most commonly consumed snacks in the Western world and has been made in one form or another for at least three centuries, so you might think nothing new could come of the humble french fry. But British chef Heston Blumenthal put paid to that notion years ago. He and his research chef Chris Young came up with a triple-cooked “chip” with a taste and texture that blow away anything you will find at a burger joint. Other chefs have raised the bar further. Nils Norén and Dave Arnold of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, building on work by a Polish researcher, figured out how to improve the texture inside fries by treating the potatoes with an enzyme. The chemical helps break apart the pectin in the fries, yielding a smoother mouthfeel.

Inspired by these heroic efforts, Maxime Bilet, Johnny Zhu and the other research chefs (including Young) at our culinary lab in Belle­vue, Wash., explored a variety of techniques for doing better still. The winning combination is simple in its ingredients but quite fancy in its execution. The potato batons are vacuum-sealed with 2 percent salt brine in bags to keep them intact during boiling. They are then bombarded with intense sound waves from the same device that dentists and jewelers use. A lengthy ultrasound treatment at 40 kilohertz causes the surface of each fry to crack and blister with myriad tiny bubbles and fissures.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Video: CNN’s ‘Gotcha’ Hatchet-Job on Terrorism Fighter

Confronts security adviser at conference, suggests his work a ‘scam’

The “gotcha” reporting of the Anderson Cooper program on CNN may have backfired, as a ministry organization in the United States now is going public with a long list of accusations that the AC360 employees lied about their “investigations” and actually used propaganda from a terror-linked organization for their story.

The recent programs concerned the work of Walid Shoebat and his foundation and related groups.

Reporter Andrew Griffin traveled to Rapid City, S.D., where Shoebat was speaking to a conference to confront him. He publicly accused a Shoebat associate of running a “scam.”


We have also learned [through] unimpeachable sources that CAIR operatives secretly worked with CNN in carrying out this political assassination of Mr. Shoebat.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bulgaria: The Superheroes of Soviet Sofia

Dr Doolittle BG

In mid-June, anonymous artists repainted the Soviet soldiers on a war monument in Sofia as comic-book superheroes. Beyond merely irritating the authorities with the farce, the gesture raises the question of the relationship between power, art and history.

Boiko Penchev

The full story behind the painted monument to the Soviet army [see below] reveals what governs us. Not the politicians in power at the moment, but the mentality that leaves Bulgaria a country that resists change. And when something does finally happen, the monument is steam-cleaned at three in the morning. The anonymous painters did not just paint over the grey figures of the monument. They painted over the grey face of power itself.

Vezhdi Rashidov [Minister of Culture and a famous sculptor] described the make-over of Soviet soldiers into American pop culture heroes as “vandalism”. Evidently, for the Minister, art is reduced to a few pieces of bronze on display in the lobby of a company headquarters, or the paintings modestly hung in the offices of banks. Contemporary art ought to be like classical art, but turned out by living artists. A “spirituality”, secluded and sheltered in a safe or in an exhibition hall.

Yes, art perhaps has no value if the authors are anonymous. And most importantly, when they have not yet been paid for their work. They are even threatened with two years in prison if they are found out.

The public prosecutor seems to have already settled, once and for all, the problems of organised and disorganised crime, human trafficking and smuggling in the country. And so on his own initiative he has rushed to open “pre-trial proceedings against unknown perpetrators of vandalism.”

For the corporatist political caste of today, art is a commodity […] And the worst of it is the provocations of those who challenge the received wisdom. In that case, it’s not art: it’s vandalism. Especially when it comes to memory and history.

Boyko Borisov as Don Corleone

The make-over of the bas-relief is an “assault on historical memory,” one hears. But historical memory is not something immutable, handed down once and for all, to be protected from the “vandals”. What a monument symbolises changes, and this symbol has been and will be up for discussion.

Monuments are an attempt to cloak clashing interpretations of history behind figures of bronze or granite. But it is impossible to escape the war over the past. Especially where the Soviet army and its monument are concerned. That’s why arriving at its visual transformation is a logical step. What is surprising in this case is the intelligence and artistic subtlety of the work.

Painting a Soviet soldier as Batman is a sacrilege. It’s an “undermining of historical memory” when history is rewritten in a non-organised way, without the sanction of the party and state. And that is the case before us.

But a monument symbolises something other than the event it commemorates. It is a strong embodiment of the power that put it in place, and hundreds of years must pass before one can, symbolically, rub it away. Power, in all historical periods, has always been enamoured of symbols, uniforms, pomp and monuments. For they encourage submission.

The monuments are there constantly to remind us of who has the power to impose an “official” memory of the past. In fact, nowadays, that’s what Boyko Borisov is doing in the media. Through his physical presence on television, the prime minister continually appoints himself as the authority. As a monument to himself. That’s why cartoonists and comedians continue to “paint” him as Don Corleone, as a Communist leader, as Batman…

Art of the streets, not the boss’s office

Indeed, the reaction of leaders of the GERB [the ruling party] to this situation has been profoundly comical. Their reflexes lead them to identify themselves as “the State” and “history”, understood as monolithic and unquestionable values. At the same time, they realise that this is the sign of a communist regime.

Well, the monument eventually got cleaned up. “We are not in the Czech Republic, where the Russian tank that David Cerný painted pink in 1991 is still pink, though only a replica [painted in April 1991, the tank celebrating the Red Army in a square in Prague is now on display at the Museum of Military Technology in Lešany]. Despite the clean-up, the monument will never be the same — the photos and memories will stay.

This repainted monument is one of those rare examples that show how one can approach the past not only full of reverence or denial, but also with a smile and some self-deprecation. This is modern art: art that plays with the context, that is produced in the streets, not in the solitude of showrooms or in the boss’s office.

The transformation of the sculpted heroes into comic strip figures has made everyone grasp that the “victors” in bronze form part of a culture for the masses that represents not the millions of dead soldiers, but the power of “triumphant socialism.”

“The anonymous authors” sought by the public prosecutor stand for the hope that our society is changing gradually. And the power? The power hasn’t changed…

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

Cell Your Soul: Staying Young at a Swiss Jetset Clinic

Whether you’re a Russian oligarch’s wife wanting to lose weight for your wedding or the leader of the world’s Catholics looking for a little pick-me-up, there’s a little place in Montreux that could be just what you need.

Yes, it’s expensive. Heart-stoppingly expensive. Clinique La Prairie, located in Montreux’s lakeside Clarens district, is billed as the world’s leading wellness facility and anti-aging institute, and it charges accordingly.

Given the clinic’s price list, it should come as no surprise that it attracts a jetset clientele. It made its name treating Pope Pius XII in 1953 and since then has been a firm favorite with Russian oligarchs, the Argentine polo set and the Hong Kong billionaires club. They all come for the same reason: to feel and look better than when they arrived.

A Swiss health farm for the jet set might not at first sound likely to contribute much to the sum of human knowledge, but in fact the research and development carried out at this exclusive retreat filters down to the rest of us in the form of more advanced medical procedures, not to mention creams, gels, and lotions to make us feel better about getting older and maybe even keep a wrinkle or two at bay.

Clinique La Prairie’s leadership in medical recovery and anti-aging treatment comes through its innovative research using the embryonic cells of sheep. These are used to strengthen the human immune system and speed recuperation after surgery or illness. Only black sheep will do, thank you, as they are the most resistant to illness; to control totally the entire medical process from start to finish, Clinique La Prairie maintains its own flock in a remote area of Switzerland.

Clients often return for follow-ups to previous treatment. Some stay for extended periods; one woman reportedly stayed a whole year in order to lose weight before her wedding (and she did). Husbands, wives, or friends often come to the clinic together for simultaneous treatment; the celebrated Revitalization therapy begins at just over CHF 20,000 for a six-day programme… and goes up from there, depending on choice of accommodation and full length of stay. On staff are more than sixty doctors, ranging from physiotherapists and dieticians to neurologists and cardiologists.

Two areas where the feel is definitely not clinical are the living quarters—five-star rooms and suites worthy of any luxury hotel—and the cuisine. The rooms also facilitate the presence of friends or relatives keeping the Clinique’s clients company during treatment. Clinique La Prairie’s stylish restaurant meets even the most complicated dietary requirements, with meals prepared by a kitchen staff who understand that taste and flavour need not be sacrificed for good nutrition…

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

Germany: Quadriga Withdraws Award for Putin

Organizers of prominent German political prize Quadriga reversed a decision Saturday to bestow the annual role model award on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin amid a public outcry. The Werkstatt Deutschland organization cited “massive criticism in the media and the political world” over its plans to give Putin the Quadriga Award that recognizes “role models for enlightenment, dedication and the public good.” The group said it “profoundly regretted the news that (former Czech president) Vaclav Havel wanted to return his prize received in 2009” in protest at Putin’s nomination. Putin was to receive the award in part because of progress he’d made in improving relations between Russia and Germany, the board had said earlier, adding that this “is one of the great achievements of Vladimir Putin.” But many German politicians have charged that his human rights record makes him an unacceptable candidate. Cem Özdemir, the head of Germany’s Green party, announced he was stepping down from the board of the non-profit Quadriga in protest at the decision.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Kohl Says Merkel is “Breaking” Europe

Helmut Kohl is apparently less than pleased with the work of his erstwhile protégé Angela Merkel. The former chancellor reportedly told a friend privately that Merkel’s European policies were “very dangerous.” News magazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday that Kohl told a recent visitor to his home, “She’s breaking up my Europe” — referring Merkel’s handling of the ongoing euro crisis, and to his own part in developing the European Union and laying the foundation for the single currency. Other prominent members of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have also criticized their leader. Volker Bouffier, state premier of Hesse and CDU deputy leader, recently said the chancellor was in danger of destroying her party’s pro-European heritage. “Europe is a political project. It’s too important to leave to the ratings agencies,” he told Der Spiegel.

“The last thing that an export country like Germany can afford is a euro-sceptic population,” added Kurt Lauk, the head of the CDU’s economic council. “The government must go on the offensive now.” Merkel is fast gaining a euro-sceptic reputation because she is seen as blocking a solution to the debt crisis. She recently threatened not to attend a summit of government leaders, planned for Thursday, unless a second aid package for Greece would be agreed there. Merkel is currently under attack from all directions. The head of the German Bundesbank Jens Weidmann told Die Zeit newspaper last week that the government lacked a clear strategy for dealing with the snowballing debt crisis in the eurozone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Extortion ‘Biggest Earner’ For Palermo Mafia Says Prosecutor After Mass Arrests

Palermo, 12 July (AKI) — Extortion is the biggest source of revenue for the Sicilian mafia in Palermo, its chief prosecutor said Tuesday following the arrests of 37 suspects in the southern city.

“Extortion has become the top way of creating wealth for Cosa Nostra in the district of Palermo,” Francesco Messineo told journalists.

“There’s continuous activity and we are only managing to detect the tip of the iceberg,” he added.

Messineo’s comments came after anti-mafia police Tuesday arrested 37 people suspected of extorting so-called ‘protection money’ from over 30 local business people in Palermo.

In addition to extortion, those arrested on Tuesday are suspected of mafia association, robbery and drugs trafficking as well as abetting mafia fugitives.

Tuesday’s operation was launched after a handful of alleged exortion victims went to the police — a novelty in Palermo, according to investigators.

Prosecutors also drew on evidence from some recent mafia turncoats, investigators said.

Messineo lamented the “scant” cooperation Italian authorities received from mafia extortion victims generally.

“Hardly anyone voluntarily reports extortion to police and it’s an uphill struggle but we mustn’t be discouraged,” he said.

Extortion was on the rise because jailed mafia members and their family need money, according to the commander of the Italian paramilitary police’s anti-mafia division in Palermo, Antonio Coppola.

“It’s the only way to keep the organisation going: otherwise the whole criminal system would collapse,” Coppola said.

The Italian government has vowed to stamp out organised crime in Italy and since taking office in May 2008 has arrested hundreds of mafia suspects and seized billions of euros of mafia assets.

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

Italy: Agriculture Minister Refuses to Resign Amid Mafia Probe

Rome, 15 July — (AKI) — Italy’s agriculture minister Saverio Romano has refused to resign over alleged links with the Sicilian mafia and vowed to clear his name. “I am not resigning, I am light years away from the mafia,” he told daily Corriere della Sera in an interview on Friday.

“I will defend myself before all bodies, including the anti-mafia commission,” he said.

Should a “conflict of interest” be established in his retaining a cabinet post, he would “decide what do do then,” Romano said.

“Had I received the legal documents or been questioned, and had a judge ordered me to stand trial, then I would not stay in my job. Instead, I am just being hounded,” Romano stated.

Prosecutors in Sicily requested Thursday that Romano be put on trial on mafia-related charges. In over a decade as an MP, Romano ‘put his position at the disposal of Cosa Nostra, contributing to the organization’s criminal plan aimed at gaining power and influence over political and administrative institutions,’ prosecutor Nino Di Matteo wrote in the request.

Members of Italy’s centre-left opposition immediately asked for Romano to resign from prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s cabinet and to answer the charges against him in court.

Romano was made a minister in March in a cabinet reshuffle. His appointment was widely seen a reward for his decision to quit the opposition centrist Catholic UDC party, in which he was elected to parliament, and to support Berlusconi in a crucial no-confidence vote held last December.

Prosecutors in Palermo re-opened an earlier investigation, the ‘Ghiacco’ (Ice) mafia and corruption probe and subsequent trial, shelved in 2004. This also involved jailed former Sicily governor Salvatore Cuffaro.Cuffaro, a former senator for the UDC party was in 2010 sentenced to 7 years in jail for abetting the mafia.

During Cuffaro’s trial and sentencing, Romano’s name was mentioned. Mafia turncoat Francesco Campanella testified that Romano was in 2001 “at the beck and call of the Sicilian mafia’s Villabate crime family based in Palermo”.

Romano has dismissed the claims as “politically motivated”.

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

Italy: Disgraced Ex-Senator Jailed for Five Years and Ordered to Repay €4.2mln

Rome, 15 July (AKI) — A judge on Friday sentenced former conservative senator Nicola Di Girolamo to five years in prison for his role in a two billion euro mafia-linked money laundering scam and ordered him to repay 4.2 million euros.

Di Girolamo resigned in March 2010 after being accused of masterminding the money laundering scam over which, he, Silvio Scaglia, founder of one of Italy’s largest internet companies, Fastweb and 54 other suspects were arrested last year.

Judge Massimo Battistini also sentenced another defendant in the scam, businessman Fabio Arigoni, to five years in prison while a third defendant, Franco Pugliese, was jailed for four years and eight months.

Arigoni and Pugliese were ordered to pay repay unspecified sums of money and all three defendants were barred from holding public office for five years.

Arigoni and Di Girolamo are currently under house arrest while Pugliese, alleged to be an associate of the Calabrian mafia or ‘Nrangheta, is already behind bars.

Di Girolamo was elected as a senator representing Italians living in German for Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling centre-right People of Freedom party.

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

Italy: Green Light to Recruit 67, 000 Teaching & Office Staff

(AGI) Rome — An agreement was reached between the Government & Trade Unions to employ 30,482 school teachers and 36,488 office staff. The recruitment is expected to be finalized by the beginning of the new school year. The news was reported by the Trade Unions after a meeting at Palazzo Chigi with Under-Secretary Gianni Letta and Ministers Gelmini and Brunetta. “Tomorrow the agreement should be sent to Aran for a negotiation that is expected to be brief” explained Mimmo Pantaleo, National Secretary of CGIL FIC, underscoring “the important step forward that will nonetheless have to be monitored in the application of the terms of contract”.

Satisfaction was also expressed by Massimo Di Menna of UIL: “It’s the first time that a school year starts with all the positions completely filled”.

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

Italy: Waste Heaps on Fire and Protests Continue in Naples

(AGI) Naples — Protests continue in Naples over the backlog of waste in the streets. The Police were called to the Fuorigrotta neighbourhood at 2.30 last night after the residents had dumped garbage onto Via Arlotta blocking the street. Firefighters were called for 18 piles of rubbish set alight overnight in Naples and the surrounding towns.

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

Italy: Prosecutors Investigate Fallaci’s Will

Late writer’s sister calls signature false

(ANSA) — Florence, July 12 — The signature on Oriana Fallaci’s will is a forgery, the late writer’s sister has said, thrusting a family feud into the courts.

The Florence Prosecutor’s office this week began investigating Paola Fallaci’s accusations which cast doubt on the legitimacy of the current heir to the estate, Edoardo Perazzi, Poala’s son and Oriana’s nephew.

Paola’s dispute with her son surfaced in a 2008 interview when she described herself and her other son Antonio as “mistreated”, highlighting that her concerns were moral and ethical as opposed to financial.

According to Paola Fallaci, for example, Oriana never wanted anyone to posthumously publish “A Hat Full of Cherries,” the late author’s final book.

Perazzi called his mother’s accusations “a baseless fantasy,” adding that “the will was signed in the United States, in front of witnesses, lawyers and the court”.

When asked what his mother’s motive was for bringing up the charges, Perazzi said it was the inheritance, “nothing more, nothing less”.

Oriana Fallaci, who died in 2006, won acclaim with a series of prickly interviews with some of the world’s most powerful figures including Henry Kissinger, Golda Meir, Yasser Arafat, General Giap, Colonel Gadaffi, Indira Ghandi, Deng Xiaoping and Ayatollah Khomeini — defiantly whipping off the headscarf the Iranians forced her to wear.

She harangued Kissinger into calling the Vietnam War “useless” — an admission that later prompted him to call the interview “the single most disastrous conversation I ever had with a member of the press”.

Fallaci wrote best-selling works of fiction and semi-fiction including Letter To An Unborn Child (1975), which topped the charts in Italy for years, A Man (1979), the story of the love of her life, tragic Greek leftist Alekos Panagulis, and Inshallah (1990) — her last publication before an anti-Islam tirade 12 years later.

The Rage and the Pride (2002) shocked many of her old admirers but won her new ones as she slammed Islam as “oppressive” and Arab immigrants in Europe as “bigoted”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Married to the Mob: Murderous Family Drama Unfolds in an Italian Court

Lea Garofalo’s life and death seem to be part of a Greek tragedy — or a crime novel. Her story, however, is all too real. A woman from Calabria, Garofalo flipped on her mobster husband’s family, going to the police with details about numerous crimes. In revenge, the mafia kidnapped her from the center of Milan, killed her, and dissolved her body in acid. This story is not being told in a book, but in a Milan Court of Justice, where the trial against six men charged for Garofalo’s murder has just begun.

“You will get involved in this trial, because this is a tragic human story,” Milan District Attorney Maurizio Tatangelo told the jurors. Garofalo’s husband, Carlo Cosco, is accused of killing his ex-wife with the help of his relatives. Their 19-year-old daughter, Denise, will testify against her father, two of his brothers, and her own ex-fiance. All of the men are accused of murdering her mother.

In 1996, Garofalo left her husband after he was arrested. In 2002, she decided to coperate with the police, telling them everything she knew the murders and extortions Cosco and her other mobster family members had carried out. Garofalo and her daughter spent years in a witness protection program.

In April 2009, the then 37-year-old Garofalo stopped coperating with the police. Maybe she knew that Cosco was close to finding her. A policeman had reporteldy revealed her location. Garofalo tried to get in touch with Cosco,who allegedly asked his bossses within the ‘Ndrangheta crime synicate for permission to kill her.

In May 2009, a man disguised as a repair technician entered Garofalo’s house under the guise that he needed to check her washing machine. He man attacked and tried to choke Garofalo. Denise, who that day was not at school, saved her mother. The girl will testify at the trial. “I am proud to cooperate with the police. It is not easy to testify against your own father, but this is a choice for my own freedom, and to re-start my life,” she said in a statement read by her lawyer, Enza Rando.

At some point between Nov. 24 and 25, 2009 Garofalo disappeared. Milan’s security cameras filmed her last movements. At 6:37 p.m. she got into a car. She was brought to a warehouse and between Nov. 26 and 28 her body was dissolved in acid.

The accused are pleading not guilty. Cosco’s lawyer, Daniel Sussaman, claims his client was trying to find his ex wife because he wanted to see his daughter, not to kill the woman. The trial is ongoing.

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

Netherlands: Turks Accuse Police of Brutality, Racism, In Death of Detainee

A 22-year-old Turk was found dead in a detention cell at a Dutch police station last Sunday. His family and friends say his death was caused by police brutality, while Dutch officials claim the young man died of a heart attack.

Head of the Islamic Federation of the Netherlands, also based in Rotterdam, Mehmet Yaramis, said: “We strongly condemn this incident and we will follow up on the case. Our higher council will release a statement. It is difficult to say anything as the investigation is ongoing, but can we say that there is racism involved? Certainly, we can.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Scotland: Over-Zealous Airport Security Threatens to Exacerbate the Terror Threat by Pushing Those Flirting With Radical Islam Over the Edge, An Msp Has Warned.

Humza Yousaf, who organised a meeting last night between members of ethnic minorities and police and Scottish Government figures, warned there was growing resentment over how Glasgow Airport’s border control was operating. He has also launched a petition calling on Home Secretary Theresa May to review Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which governs searches of people at UK borders.

Mr Yousaf, who is the Nationalist MSP for Glasgow, said: “Everyone understands there’s a security threat to Scotland, but any counter-terror expert will tell you that there is a tipping point caused by a sense of grievance towards an authority. “Instead of counter-terror, it’s counter-productive, and leaving people with a sense of resentment. Now 999 out of 1,000 people will shrug their shoulders and carry on, but one person who may already be flirting with these ideas may be pushed over the edge.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Six Stabbed at Swedish Wedding

Several people were stabbed on Saturday afternoon, when a wedding party at a castle outside Eslöv, in southern Sweden, got out of hand. A 52 year-old man was arrested, for attempted murder and aggravated assault. For reasons that are still unclear, a fight broke out between the man and several of the other guests, resulting in the man going berserk, and stabbing one person in the stomach. In the chaos that ensued, several other people were also stabbed, and the 52 year-old was wounded as well. A total of six people were in the end taken to nearby Skåne University Hospital with knife wounds, but none of the victims have life-threatening injuries, according to police officers. The 52 year-old was arrested, but due to the head injuries he received during the fight was among those brought to the hospital. He is suspected of attempted murder and aggravated assault, according to Lund police.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: 12 Year-Old Girl Raped in Stockholm

A 12-year-old girl was raped in central Stockholm on Friday evening. She was on her way to meet a friend of the same age, who lives in the central city district St. Eriksplan, and it was just outside her friend’s house that the young girl was suddenly attacked. “A call was made to the police at 8:24pm,” Stefan Nordenmark of the Stockholm police force’s communications central told the newspaper Expressen. The girl was badly shocked, reported the newspaper, but was able to tell police that an unknown man had attacked her and then molested her. “A man, of no acquaintance to the girl, raped her in a stairwell,” said Anders Molin, station officer of the Norrmalm police, to news agency TT. The event has sparked a major police search. Some 30 officers were involved in the search for the perpetrator on Friday night. As of Saturday morning, however, no suspect had yet been arrested. “We’re going to continue our work with interrogations and go through all the tip-offs and leads we’ve received,” said Anna Olsson of the Norrmalm police to Expressen.

Rapes of this sort, against young children, are very unusual in Sweden, according to statistics from Sweden’s National Council of Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet — BRÅ). 2010 saw a total of 23 attempted rapes outdoors against girls under 15 years of age, a figure which has hovered around the same number for the past couple of years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tabloids: Murdoch’s Empire to be Dismantled, Says Miliband

(AGI) London — Media tycoon Rubert Murdoch is in the line of fire in the UK. Giving up the takeover of satellite TV group BSkyB, closing the tabloid “News of the World” and the resignations of his trusted Rebekah Brooks are not enough. Ed Miliband wants to dismantle Murdoch’s media empire in the UK, because it “holds too much power”. The Labour Party secretary, once obtained the majority’s support for the motion aimed at blocking Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB, now wants to change the rules that allow the Australian origin tycoon to control The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and 39,9% of the British satellite TV platform.

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

Mediterranean Union

Uprisings: EU Earmarks 85.5 Million for Southern Med Area

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JULY 13 — European Parliament gave its approval to earmark 85.5 million euros in extra funds for partner countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean area committed to reforms for democracy. Financing will go to countries, which, according to European Parliament, are already making progress in this area, such as Tunisia, Jordan and Morocco. Today’s decision follows the approval given by the EU member-states and therefore can now go into effect. European funds, which will be used under the EU neighbourhood policy, come from unspent funds by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (34.5 million euros) as well as EU programmes in Latin America (26 million euros) and Asia (25 million). The new resources can be used to promote democracy and improve governance, regional cooperation, supporting the press and civil society, or in projects associated with immigration. The EP’s General Rapporteur for the EU 2011 Budget, Sidonia Jedrzejewska (EPP) of Poland, said that she is satisfied with the “speedy decision, and that European Parliament has shown “that we maintain our political commitments regarding EU funds for countries that undertake reforms”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Eyes Over Libya: A Rare AWACS Ride-Along as NATO Bombing Raids Target Gaddafi Strongholds

Big Brother is flying over the Libyan war. Here, Big Brother is NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), which is an airborne radar system designed to detect aircraft. La Stampa was given a rare opportunity to go aboard the AWACS plane used to monitor Libyan war operations.

At sunset, at the NATO’s Forward Operating Base, in Trapani, Sicily, 18 military personnel, whose identities cannot be revealed for security reasons, prepare for a secret night flight over the war zone. During the flight, they will record a huge amount of classified data. The personnel on board include men from New York and Dallas, Copenhagen, Enschede in the Netherlands, and two Italian Air Force officers.

We leave from Trapani Birgi airport, a base for the Italian Air Force’s 37th Wing. In one hour, we are already in Libyan air space. The AWACS connects with the radars in NATO’s bases in Poggio Renatico, in central Italy, and in Naples. The huge radar, Rotodome, starts to collect data. Its sound is like the cry of a whale, jokes an officer.

“The AWACS is not an espionage platform,” says U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Stephen Schmidt, before we boarded. “It is an airborne control center.”

After one hour of flight, one of the NATO officers points at a multi-colored spot on the monitor. “Here we are,” he says. We are over Tripoli. And we are not alone. The radar detects other signals that on the screen become letters and numbers. The Libyan sky is crowded tonight. A big arrow and a “Who is this?” in capital letters appear on the monitor. A radar operator makes a sign to the others, showing that he has understood who sent the message. Everything is under control.

“NATO is still systematically destroying all the chances of the regime to strike its own people,” Gen. Schmidt had told us. It is happening tonight. For two hours the AWACS were only assigned for surveillance tasks, collecting and sending data to other planes and to the bases. Diplomatic talks are going on late at night in Tripoli. For this reason, no one was shooting. For now.

But then, zero hour arrives. The AWACS plane becomes the coordinator of the raids. Thirty planes, eight of which are Italian, are in action. No one pays much attention to the many small spots on the monitor. “A guy gets in a car in Libya, in the middle of the night? We immediately know it,” says one of the men.

Some signals that switch on and off are more suspicious. There are still a few Gaddafi supporters testing some radar. But it is more and more infrequent. NATO is performing surgical action, looking for any and all remaining Gaddafi backers. Sometimes, they can find them with the planes’ infrareds, the radars, and the analysts who read data 24/7.

Around 1 a.m. a pilot sees something in a southern suburb of Tripoli and sounds the alarm. On the monitor we see a Predator spy plane moving around the possible target, which looks like a military base. It takes pictures and sends video. Two F-16 jets arrive. The pilots check for any reactions. Nothing. The AWACS double-checks with the control base. No one wants to risk collateral damages. The data from satellite and from planes are compared.

After one hour, the OK arrives. “We have a relevant target and no concern [of causing civil victims],” says an officer. They give the go-ahead to the F-16. The pilots ask for permission to use a laser-guided bomb. They obtain it. The air space is evacuated. Only a pilot-less drone stays on. It floodlights the target, which has been identified as a small base with weapons inside. The jets move 30 miles away, then come back, descend toward the target, and shoot. After a few seconds, the first updates arrive. Hit. The Predator comes back to verify: mission accomplished. In the meantime, other activities continue. A helicopter goes on a control mission, and comes back without attacking.

In Tripoli, a manhunt is under way. The NATO planes are looking for Gaddafi and for his supporters. Around 2.30 a.m., the radar detects near the first base that was attacked, another base, four buildings and something that looks like a launching ramp. Eight vehicles are seen coming in and out the barracks. A pilot, Striker01, double-checks. “I see them, but I’m too far away, I cannot see what kind of soldiers they are,” he says. Another Predator double-checks. Striker01 is ordered to attack. He consults the commanders on the device to release. They choose a laser-guided, GPS-controlled bomb. It weights 230 kilograms (507 pounds).

Stiker01 asks if the drone can give updates about the outcome of the raid. “It seems good, but we’ll double check in 20 minutes. There’s too much dust now,” answers an officer. After a few minutes, he tells Striker01 that another raid is necessary. “Adjust the target, I need you to shoot a few meters further north,” he says. The pilot does it and hits the target.

For tonight, it is enough. We head back to Trapani. The AWACS planes have been on almost 250 missions over Libya from the beginning of the military campaign, and have flown for more than 2,100 hours. Almost every minute that Gaddafi and his men look up at the sky, someone is looking down.

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

Libyan Insurgents Face Urban Warfare in Brega

(AGI) Benghazi — NTC sources in Benghazi have reported that insurgents are fighting building by building in Brega after entering the coastal oil town yesterday. Insurgents have reported that they are meeting with greater resistance in a residential area in the north-eastern part of the city, effectively still controlled by Muammar Gaddafi’s troops .

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Other Face of Economic Boom: High Prices and Protests

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JULY 14 — Israel’s flourishing economy has brought with it high living costs and repercussions on the social sphere, with consumer-citizens beginning to show their impatience, and leading a “consumer revolution”. The sustained pattern of economic growth in Israel (around 4-5% in the last few years) and the lowest ever rate of unemployment (5%) go hand in hand with significant price hikes. Petrol, rented accommodation, higher education, cars, mobile phones and food are all sectors in which Israelis spend well above the European and American averages. A full tank of petrol costs an Israeli citizen double what an American would pay and is 30% more expensive than the average price in Europe. The mobile phone sector is no better, with packages offered by Israeli networks the third most expensive in the world, while one minute of talking time puts Israel in the list of the top ten most expensive countries. Electricity bills are just as crippling: Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), the country’s leading supplier of electrical energy, has announced that prices could soon rise by 20%. Israel’s average wage, meanwhile, remains slightly lower than in the majority of Western countries. Yet Israeli consumers are rebelling and have shown a previously unseen level of shared conscience, with protests organised to challenge the increase in prices. An example is the widespread boycott of the popular cottage cheese in recent weeks. “A consumer revolution is taking place in Israel,” Moshe Kalon, the Minister of Communications, said yesterday.

The new category of engaged consumers is now closely following the activity of Israel Electric Corporation. The significant rise in the cost of electricity mooted by the company is thought to be the result of intermittent supplies of Egyptian gas. In the last six months, the pipeline that runs underneath the Sinai desert has been the target of four separate attacks, meaning that the gas now only flows fitfully. The IEC must therefore use alternative and more expensive fuels. The resultant spending is predicted to be 3-3.5 billion NIS (around 600-700 million euros). The figure exceeds the budget available to the public company for the purchase of fuel for this year. “We are expecting financial difficulties,” the IEC admits, “and increasing prices at the moment appears to be the only way to balance the books in the medium-term”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arrested: 2 Women From Oman for Driving in Saudi Arabia

(AGI) Riyadh — Two women from Oman were arrested by the Saudi police for driving in the ultra-conservative Country. They were accused of violating the ban on driving for women. According to the newspaper Al-Hayat, the arrest was produced after a local citizen tipped off the police. Police agents arrested the two women while driving with their family on the road from Riyadh to the Western town of Taef.

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

Iranian Physics Student Faces Trial for Spying

Campaigners says scientist is falsely accused of gathering information on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Omid Kokabee, an Iranian physics doctoral student affiliated with institutions in the United States and Spain, will go on trial tomorrow in Teheran facing charges of “communicating with a hostile government” and “illegal earnings”. Kokabee has spent the past six months in jail on suspicion of conspiring against Iran.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iraq: 2010 a Terrible Year for Iraq’s Christians

The human rights organization “Hammurabi” registers 92 killed and 47 wounded. Over the past seven years, Christian victims number 822, 629 of those killed because they belonged to the Christian minority. Benedict XVI’s exhortation not to leave the country, and the signs of vitality of the Christian community.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — The year 2010 was the worst year to date for the Christian community in Iraq, it has been revealed by the organization for human rights in Iraq, Hammurabi. Many Christians were forced to leave the country in fear of killings and violence of all kinds. The death toll among Christians over the past seven years, according to Hammurabi exceeds 822 people. 629 of them were murdered for being part of the Christian minority. Others were involved in 126 attacks of various kinds and many others have been victims of military operations undertaken by U.S. and Iraqi forces. 13% of victims are women. Among the Christian victims of 2010 there are 33 children, 25 elderly and 14 religious. In 2010 Hammurabi recorded 92 cases of Christians killed and 47 wounded, 68 in Baghdad, 23 in Mosul and one in Erbil.

The director of Hammurabi, named after the Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest known collections of laws in human history, William Warda, said that constant monitoring and documentation show that all the Christian Churches in Iraq — Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syrians, Armenians — have suffered heavy losses in the number of their faithful, all over the country. The decline is particularly strong in Baghdad and Mosul, where Christians are concentrated in greater numbers. Warda said that in one year there were more than 90 Christians killed and 280 wounded, and two churches have been the target of attacks in Baghdad. According to UNICEF, between 2008 and 2010 more than 900 children have been killed in Iraq, and 3200 injured. Children represent the 8 ..1% of the victims of attacks in Iraq, where there are an increasing number of attacks against schools and educators.

Although violence is still taking its toll on the Iraqi Christian community there are also strong signs of vitality. On 4 July the head of the Chaldean community, Patriarch Emmanuel Delly III, visited the highest Shiite religious authority of Iraq, Ali al-Sistani, and stressed that it was “a fraternal visit to reaffirm the unity of Iraq and of Iraqis, Muslims and Christians. “ Last week in Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, the first church built after the 2003 invasion of Iraq was inaugurated, on land donated by the Iraqi government with the support of President Jalal Talabani, and funded by donations from Iraqi Christians (IRAQ, New ‘Three Fountains Church’ near Kirkuk, a sign of hope).

There are also rumours, almost impossible to verify, of a possible visit by Benedict XVI to the historic city of Ur of the Chaldeens, in southern Iraq. A similar trip planned by John Paul II for the Jubilee of 2000 was called off for security reasons. Benedict XVI has repeatedly urged the Christians of the Middle East and Iraq in particular not to leave their homelands.

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

South Asia

Accepted by Most Indonesians, Polygamy is Rejected by Young People

Public figures and politicians are increasingly willing to admit they practice polygamy. A survey indicates however that most young Indonesian Muslims reject it as well as premarital sex.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Young Indonesian Muslims are against polygamy and premarital sex, this according to a recent study by the Indonesian Survey Institute (ISI). Ninety-eight per cent of the nearly 1,500 respondents rejected premarital sex; 99 per cent reject homosexuality and 89 per cent anti alcohol beverages. “Most young Muslims have shown their conservative opinions on these three matters,” the ISIS concluded. However, other surveys indicate that polygamy is spreading among politicians and public figures. At the same time, despite public opposition, premarital sex is more widespread than thought, albeit in secret.

As evidence of young Indonesians’ conservatism, the ISI survey found that 28.7 per cent of them prayed five times a day (as prescribed by their religion); 11.7 per cent understand many verses of the Qur’an and just under 60 per cent fast during Ramadan.

A poll conducted by the Indonesian Birth Control Bureau (BKKBN) in 2000 indicated that 50 per cent of Indonesian youngsters had had premarital sex.

Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country and polygamy is part of its culture. However, President Suharto, who ruled the country between 1967 and 1998, was strictly monogamous and would brook no compromise with polygamy, especially among government officials. In fact, he would not hesitate from firing officials involved in extramarital affairs. A monogamous marriage law (UU Perkawinan No. 1/Year 1974) was adopted during his presidency.

At present, polygamy appears to be making a comeback, this at least is one of the conclusions of a survey that was conducted for the Semarak Cerlang Nusa Consultancy and other groups that was released in January of this year.

Similarly, when Sharia is discussed, a growing number of public figures and politicians are less reluctant to hide their polygamous behaviour.

Recently, a well-known Muslim religious leader officially announced his intention to take a second wife. In Bogor, a local official also said that he would take a third wife. The announcement did not make any major waves except in relation to the would-be third consort’s young age.

Women’s groups have not been silent however. A number of them have criticised polygamy, saying that it is “a violent action against women”.

Finally, a survey conducted by two German-based cultural organisations found that 86.5 per cent of 1,496 Indonesians interviewed said they were against polygamy.

The contradictory trends indicated by the polls are a sign of an important cleavage in Indonesian society between conservatives and traditionalists, who are centred in rural areas, and more progressive Indonesians who live in the big cities.

More conservative-minded Indonesians view premarital sex as something unlawful despite the fact that more and more young people do it in the cities. By contrast, the latter increasingly accept ‘kumpul kebo’, or ‘living together’ outside of their families, free to determine their own behaviour.

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

Far East

China: The Rule of Law is Dead. Killed by the “Harmonious Society”

Imposing resolutions outside the jurisdiction of the courts in the name of harmony has reduced the courts of justice to simple rooms where the talk about law but don’t apply it. And the Party has transformed the judges into police aides, unable to tell the truth and to respect the law. The analysis of one of the most distinguished scholars of contemporary China.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — Chinese Chief Justice Wang Shengjun’s advocacy of out-of-court mediation as a favored means of settling civil disputes and “enhancing social harmony” has raised concerns about the further deterioration of the country’s rule of law and judicial independence. At a recent seminar for senior judges, Wang, who has been president of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) since early 2008, praised tiaojie (“mediation and reconciliation”) as an “effective way to handle social conflicts and promote harmony.” He asked the judges to “aim for a synthesis of mediation and adjudication, with priority being given to mediation.” “Upholding the priority of mediation tallies fully with the original spirit behind China’s law-making,” he indicated. “It is also a development of legal-culture traditions such as ‘valuing harmony’ and ‘playing down litigation and ending conflict’“ (Xinhua News Agency, May 30; [Beijing], May 31).

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) administration’s push for mediation is understandable given the estimated 180,000 cases of riots, protests and disturbances that erupted in China last year (Bloomberg, June 13;, March 11). Since the spring, the country has been rocked by horrendous incidents including suicide bombings in several cities and prolonged confrontations between protestors and the People’s Armed Police in Inner Mongolia and Guangdong Province (See “Chinese Citizens Challenge the Party’s Authoritarian Tilt,” China Brief, June 3). The National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, passed the “Law on mediation of the People’s Republic of China” last August with the purpose of building multiple layers of institutions for pursuing “a harmonious society.” An NPC spokesman indicated at the time that “mediation and reconciliation is the first line of defense against contradictions in society” (, August 28, 2010;, August 30, 2010).

While police, prosecutor’s offices, courts, as well as party and government departments are charged with implementing tiaojie, the courts have been at the forefront of promoting Chinese-style reconciliation. Since 2009, Chief Justice Wang has instructed regional and grassroots-level judges to play a key role in persuading parties to civil conflicts to settle out of court. In some provinces, at least half of civil cases handled by the courts have been resolved through mediation instead of adjudication. Wang pointed out in last March’s SPC Report to the NPC that 65.29 percent of civil and business-related cases heard last year by courts of various levels were dropped in favor of mediation. This was 3.31 percent more than the comparable figure in 2009 (Xinhua News Agency, March 19; People’s Daily, March 20, Wall Street Journal, May 31). Indeed, Chief Justice Wang noted as early as 2009 that Chinese courts had the prime mission of “upholding [economic] growth, upholding people’s livelihood, and upholding [socio-political] stability.” “Judges are social workers as much as legal workers,” Wang asserted. “While judges should know how to use the law to handle cases, they should be even more conversant with ways and means of defusing social contradiction” (New Beijing Post [Beijing], March 12, 2009; [Beijing], March 12, 2009).

The substitution of the due process of law by mediation, however, has been criticized by experts as eroding the rule of law, and depriving citizens of their constitutional rights of being protected by legal and judicial institutions. Ong Yew-kim, an adjunct professor at Beijing’s China University of Law and Political Science, pointed out that tiaojie was, in fact, evidence of a rolling back of legal and judicial reform. “The professional status of the courts has been compromised since judges are asked to engage in the political task of upholding social harmony,” Ong said. “Ordinary Chinese who want to seek legal redresses may be turned away by the courts under the pretext of maximizing harmony.” Vice-President of Beijing’s Renmin University Wang Liming warned that legal professionals should “guard against the judicial tendency of putting excessive emphasis on mediation.” “Courts are not mediation organizations,” said Wang, a legal scholar and NPC member. “Putting mediation above adjudication is at variance with the social status and functions that the law has given our courts” (, March 12; South China Morning Post, June 10).

Two recent cases of tiaojie, which have been handled by police in tandem with judicial organs, have underscored the dangers of putting harmony above the rule of law. In the run-up to the 22nd anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown, the Tiananmen Mothers—a world-renowned NGO seeking justice for the massacre victims—disclosed that authorities in the capital had tried to “mediate” with the parents of a Tiananmen victim by offering them an undisclosed sum of money. The strings attached to this tiaojie ploy were that the parents would have to give up their right to sue the party and government for responsibility for the killings. In an open letter released on June 1, the Tiananmen Mothers said this attempt by the powers-that-be to seek a “private settlement” through paying hush money amounted to “desecrating the spirit of the June 4 victims and hurting the personal dignity of the victims’ relatives” (Ming Pao [Hong Kong], June 1; Voice of America, June 1; Radio Free Asia, May 31).

The other incident involves the hundreds of thousands of parents whose infants fell sick in 2008 and 2009 after consuming milk power tainted with melamine. Since then, efforts by the victims’ relatives—as well as by Zhao Lianhai, the well-respected head of an NGO representing the aggrieved parties—to take the manufacturers to court have been in vain. Attempts by four parents to seek compensation via Hong Kong courts were also unsuccessful. Zhao himself was sentenced last November to two-and-a-half years in jail for “inciting social disorder.” Since 2010, however, representatives of the China Dairy Products Association (CDPA) as well as relevant health and police departments have been putting pressure on concerned parents to consider out-of-court tiaojie. Last month, the CDPA announced that 270,000 families had accepted a total of 910 million yuan (US$) of compensation. Chinese and Hong Kong media have reported that as a result of pocketing the one-off “reconciliation fee,” the parents have given up their right to future legal action. Zhao, who was released on medical bail earlier this year, noted that “many families had no choice but to accept the meager settlement because they could not get a fair hearing in the courts,” (Ming Pao, May 11; Wen Wei Po [Hong Kong], May 16; [Beijing], June 9).

The substitution of due legal process by mediation is only one manifestation of the overall degeneration of judicial standards. That judges, together with public-security agents, have become an integral part of the CCP’s apparatus for imposing “democratic proletarian dictatorship” against its perceived enemies was evidenced by the heavy sentences that the courts have slapped on hundreds of dissidents and NGO activists since the late 2000s. While Chief Justice Wang has advocated mediation and reconciliation to promote harmony as an overall principle, the courts have worked hand-in-glove with police units to mete out stiff jail terms to dissidents in the apparent absence of sufficient evidence. For example, scholar and public intellectual Liu Xiaobo was sentenced in late 2009 to 11 years in jail for “inciting subversion of state power.” A year later, the pacifist activist, whose most famous statement is “I have no enemies,” was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to world acclaim (The Guardian [London], January 12; New York Times, April 30).

A just-published book by Chinese University of Hong Kong Law Professor Mike McConville noted that judges and prosecutors had suffered from increasing “administrative interference” by parties including the police and the CCP Central Commission on Political and Legal Affairs (CCPLA), which exercises tight control over the police, procuratorates and courts. Rather than presuming the innocence of the accused, McConville wrote, “judges and prosecutors join hands with the police to make a case against suspects.” The professor cited one senior judicial official as saying that “judges naturally presume that the defendant is guilty” (South China Morning Post, May 12; [New York], May 9).

From early 2010 onwards, scores of dissidents and activists who have run afoul of the authorities have simply disappeared. Foremost among the victims is human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was globally recognized for his pro bono services for groups ranging from exploited workers to members of underground churches. Gao dropped out of sight in April 2010 after having undergone more than three years of repeated harassment and detention by police and state-security agencies. (BBC News, January 28; New York Times, March 28). Moreover, a sizeable number of public intellectuals and NGO organizers have remained under house arrest even after they had formally served out their jail terms. The most famous case is that of “barefoot lawyer” Chen Guangcheng, who was released last September after having been jailed for four years for “disturbing public order.” The blind activist garnered international sympathy particularly for his work against the forced abortion of village women (, February 10; Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2010). In all these instances, the courts have refused to accept writs filed by the dissidents’ lawyers. The situation has worsened considerably after a series of “color revolutions” struck the Middle East and North Africa early this year. Avant-garde artist Ai Weiwei “disappeared” in early April, and since then the police and the courts have refused to even talk to lawyers hired by Ai’s family members ( [New York], April 6; Reuters, June 2).

In a speech at Peking University last month, veteran legal scholar and reformer Jiang Ping expressed worries that “the emphasis on the principle of ‘stability overriding everything’ could engender the rule of man” instead of rule of law. “I often say that as far as the rule of law goes, there have been ups and downs in recent history,” he said. “Very often it’s one step backward and two step forwards.” The 81-year-old law professor warned, however, that in recent years, “it’s been one step forward and two steps backward.” “We have been retrogressing in the main, and this is a terrible phenomenon” (, May 26; Beida Public Law Net, May 28). For cadres such as Chief Justice Wang, a former police officer and CCPLA bureaucrat who has never attended law school, however, legal and judicial niceties pale in comparison to the CCP’s overwhelming imperative to nip all destabilizing agents in the bud.

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

Taiwan: Shark Fin Soup, One of the Great Delicacies of Chinese Cuisine, At Risk

Fishermen will no longer be able to slice off shark fins on board. A ban is already in place against tossing the fish back into the water after removing its fin. Every year, 73 million sharks are slaughtered this way, 4 million in Taiwan alone.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Shark fin soup lovers in China and around the world might have a hard time finding their preferred soup after Taiwan announced plans yesterday to tighten measures against hunting the ocean predator for its fin.

Taiwanese fishermen, who are already barred from tossing sharks back into the water after slicing off their fin, a measure that failed to stifle criticism from environmentalists, will no longer be able to remove a shark’s fin onboard. Offenders risk having their boats seized and their licence revoked if they do not respect the new regulation.

Finning sharks is a common practice in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. Up to 73 million sharks are killed each year around the world for fins for the sole purpose of making make soup.

Once it has lost its fin, the fish drowns or is attacked by other sharks.

However, according to Fisheries Agency chief James Sha, unlike their counterparts in Africa and Southeast Asia, Taiwan fishermen do not toss the bodies of the sharks into the water as feared by some environmentalist groups.

Local fishermen “have no reason to dump the meat of the sharks as local consumers eat them and they can be sold here at good prices,” he said.

Still, Taiwan’s Environmental and Animal Society has welcomed the measure. It estimates that up to four million sharks are slaughtered in Taiwan a year.

Despite campaigns from activists, demand for shark fins is seen as growing. The traditional soup is considered a pricey delicacy. In some restaurants, one portion can cost up to US$ 100.

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

Australia — Pacific

Diamond Disappears in Sunlight: Carbon Atoms Set Free by Ultraviolet Light.

It might be among the hardest materials known, but place a diamond in a patch of sunlight and it will start to lose atoms, say a team of physicists in Australia. The rate of loss won’t significantly trouble tiara wearers or damage diamond rings, but the discovery could prove a boon for researchers working to tap diamond’s exceptional optical and electronic properties.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Man Lashed 40 Times During Home Attack

A man has been lashed 40 times with a cable after he woke to find four bearded men in his bedroom in Sydney’s west.

The 31-year-old man was asleep in his Menton Street apartment in Silverwater when he woke to find four unknown men in his bedroom about 1am (AEST) on Sunday.

Three of the intruders allegedly restrained him on the bed, while the fourth used a cable to lash him 40 times.

The attack lasted about 30 minutes, police said.

The four men then left the flat.

Specialist forensic officers are examining the flat for evidence and detectives are calling for help to identify the men.

The man who allegedly carried out the lashing has been described as being between 40 to 50 years of age, of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance, 175cm tall with a solid build.

He has a beard and was wearing a T-shirt and track pants at the time of the incident.

The three other men have been described as being aged in their late teens or early 20s, of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance, and 175cm to 180cm tall.

They also have beards.

Anyone with any information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

           — Hat tip: Magic Jess[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopia Moves Forward With Massive Nile Dam Project

Ethiopia has announced that it will construct a controversial multibillion-dollar Nile River dam that could supply more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity for itself and its neighbors, including newcomer South Sudan. The project—the Grand Millennium Dam—has sparked worries about environmental and human costs and is refocusing attention on the country’s troubled history with large dams. At a public ceremony in March, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi laid the cornerstone for the new dam, a hydroelectric power plant that will span a section of the Blue Nile River in the country’s Benishangul-Gumuz region. The Blue Nile originates in Ethiopia’s Lake Tana and is one of two major tributaries of the Nile, the world’s longest river.

When completed in 2015, the Grand Millennium Dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa. It will also create the country’s largest artificial lake, with a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters of water—twice the size of Lake Tana in Ethiopia’s Amhara region.

In late June, Ethiopia announced that it would build four additional dams on the Blue Nile that will work in conjunction with the Grand Millennium Dam to generate more than 15,000 megawatts of electricity.

The cost of the four new dams has not been disclosed, but the Grand Millennium Dam is estimated to cost about $4.7 billion.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


6.5% of Europe’s Inhabitants Are Foreigners

(AGI) Brussels -There are 32 and a half million foreigners living in the 27 countries of the E.U. constituting 6.5% of the population. Eurostat data published today, indicate that 12.3 million come from another European state, while 20.2 million are non-Europeans. Germany has the highest number of foreigners, with 7.1 million amounting to 9% of the population, followed by Spain with 5.7 million, 12%, the United Kingdom with 4,.4 million amounting to 7%), Italy (4.2 million, 7%) and France, (3.8 million, 6%).

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

Migration Board Using “Unreliable” Method

Sweden may be getting asylum seekers’ ages wrong, treating some of those under 18 as though they were adults. Dental X-rays are used by the Migration Board to determine whether an asylum seeker is over 18 or not — and if they are legally under age and have come here alone, then they will be given extensive support. But Anders Tegnell of the National Health and Welfare Board tells Swedish Radio News that dental X-rays give unreliable results for those aged around 18. He says they are working on new guidelines for the Migration Board that further underline this advice.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

Why the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods. A therapist and mother reports.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


False Color Images of Saturn’s Massive Lightning Storm

A raging storm on Saturn, larger and stronger than any previously observed by NASA’s two Voyager flybys or the currently operating Cassini orbiter, has now been captured in new false-color images. A mosaic of 84 pictures was taken by the latter probe’s narrow-angle camera over a period of about five hours on February 26. False, or representative, color helps scientists visualize data in wavelengths they cannot see. The colors used for Saturn’s storm clouds represent different altitudes: blue indicates the highest, yellow and white are those at high altitudes, green shows intermediate layers, red and brown low altitude, and deep blue reveals a thin haze with no clouds below. Lightning is generated at the base of the clouds. The storm generated more than 10 lightning flashes per second at its most intense, according to NASA. The still-active storm was first detected in early December and covers an area eight times the surface area of Earth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NASA Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around Asteroid Vesta—A Space First

An unmanned NASA probe made history 117 million miles from Earth on Saturday (July 16) when it arrived at the huge asteroid Vesta, making it the first spacecraft ever to orbit an object in the solar system’s asteroid belt. The Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around Vesta after a four-year chase and will spend about a year studying the huge space rock before moving on to visit another asteroid called Ceres. Vesta is a huge asteroid about the size of the U.S. state of Arizona, and is also the brightest asteroid in the solar system. It is located in the asteroid belt, a band of rocky objects that encircles the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Salt or Cocaine, A Fix is a Basic Instinct

PRIMORDIAL instincts that drive animals to seek out salt may be governed by the same mechanism that drives drug addicts to hunt down their fix. Researchers deprived mice and rats of salt, then offered them salty water to drink. After killing the animals they examined gene activity in the hypothalamus, the brain’s “reward” centre. They found that gratification genes had been activated — the same genes that are active in cocaine and heroin addicts when their craving has been satisfied. If the team used a drug to block the effects of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of enjoyment, the animals did not drink the salty water. This suggests that the urge to seek out salt is indeed linked to the reward mechanism

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]