Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110731

Financial Crisis
»Economic Crisis Hardly Affected the Netherlands: Ministry Report
»Senate Blocks Reid’s Debt Ceiling Bill
»US Recession Worse Than ‘Depression’
»Obama’s Popularity Rating Drops to 40%, All-Time Low
»Obama Following in Hitler’s Footsteps
»President Obama is No Longer Tethered to Reality
Europe and the EU
»EDL Leader Demanded Debate on Killing David Cameron and Archbishop
»Euro Politicians ‘Bidding at Auction’ To Attack Islam, Expert Says
»Italy: Mayor of Milan Dismisses Public Transport Company Board
»Italy: LNP Party Suspends Firebrand EuroMP Borghezio for 3 Months
»Italy: Lega Nord to Help Farmers Cheated Over Milk Quotas
»Italy: ‘Mistake’ But No Wrongdoing in Flat Affair Says Tremonti
»Italy: AOC Reports Spending on Pets Up 62% in Ten Years
»Jean Le Pen Says Norwegian Government Naive
»Poland’s Addiction to Tasers
»Spain: Zapatero Throws in Towel, Early Elections
»Two Month Biological Rest for Adriatic Fishing From Monday
»UK: Muslim Teenagers Convicted of Criminal Damage After Spraying Burkas Onto Scantily-Clad Models in Lynx Poster
North Africa
»Benghazi Clashes Between Insurgents and Loyalists
»Egypt: Islamists Protesting, Thousands at Tahrir Square
»Fundamentalist Attack in Egypt’s Sinai Claims Lives of 4
»Libya: Gaddafi Still Strong Despite Bombs, Tripoli Bishop
Israel and the Palestinians
»Is Terrorism Against Israel Really More Justified Than Terrorism Against Norway?
»Two Missiles From Gaza on South Israel
Middle East
»Last Minute Mercy: Iranian Woman Blinded in Acid Attack Spares Man Who Did it From Same Fate
»Lebanon: Hariri: STL Reveals Idendities of 4 Hezbollah Accused
»Turkey: Experts Offer Latest Analysis on Military Resignations
South Asia
»10 Police Officers and a Boy Killed in Afghanistan
»11 Shiites Die in a Wave of New Violence in Pakistan
»Archbishop Saldanha: Pakistani Christian Parties a “Failure”, Unity is Needed
»Indonesia: Light Sentences for Muslim Extremists Who Attacked Ahmadis
»Religious Freedom in Kazakhstan Means “One Nation — One Religion”
Far East
»China: Unrest in Kashgar, Xinjiang, Leaves 15 Dead
Sub-Saharan Africa
»What Do Wealthy Arabs Really Care About?
»Denmark: Opposition Calls for Multi-Language Health Campaigns
Culture Wars
»Italy: Homophobia Law Blocked

Financial Crisis

Economic Crisis Hardly Affected the Netherlands: Ministry Report

The economic crisis has had little affect on the quality of life in the Netherlands, according to a new report for the home affairs ministry.

The downturn in economic activity only led to a slight increase in unemployment which meant there was little impact on the quality of life in towns and villages. However, the steady improvement which began in 2006 has stagnated, the report shows.

The researchers looked at topics such as housing, public safety and local provisions. They concluded that the situation in the Netherlands in general is ‘positive’.

In the 40 areas earmarked for special attention in 2006, most have also improved,hte report shows. Nevertheless, one in five people living in these areas still report they have a poor quality of life.


‘But it is notable that the unemployment rate in these 40 areas bucked the trend and went down between 2008 and 2010,’ the report said. Housing and local provisions have also improved, although feelings of public safety had deteriorated.

Developments in the big four cities have also been promising, although much of this is due to the sharp improvement in the quality of life in Rotterdam, the report said.

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

Senate Blocks Reid’s Debt Ceiling Bill

As last-ditch budget talks between top Congressional Republicans and President Obama continued on Sunday, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, convened the Senate at noon, then moved to a symbolic procedural vote on his own proposal for raising the debt ceiling.

Senate Republicans have been filibustering that plan, which House Republicans rejected on Saturday, and the procedural vote on breaking the filibuster fell 10 votes short of the 60 votes needed under Senate rules.

[Return to headlines]

US Recession Worse Than ‘Depression’

Traders are seen working at the New York Stock Exchange. The debt ceiling crisis in the US is negatively affecting the investors on the American bourse.

The “Great Recession” was even greater than previously thought, and the U.S. economy has skated uncomfortably close to a new one this year.

New data on Friday showed the 2007-2009 U.S. recession was much more severe than prior measures had found, with economic output declining a cumulative of 5.1 percent instead of 4.1 percent.

The report also showed the current slowdown began earlier and has been deeper than previously thought, with growth in the first quarter advancing at only a 0.4 percent annual pace.

The data indicated the economy began slowing in the fourth quarter of last year before high gasoline prices and supply chain disruptions from Japan’s earthquake had hit, suggesting the weakness is more fundamental and less temporary than economists had believed.

The annual revisions of U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, data from the U.S. Commerce Department showed economic growth contracted at an annual average rate of 0.3 percent between 2007 and 2010. Output over that stretch had previously been estimated to have been flat.

At the depth of the recession in the fourth quarter of 2008, output plummeted at an annual rate of 8.9 percent — the steepest quarterly decline since 1958, and 2.1 percentage points more than previously reported.

The recession was already the deepest since the Great Depression and, while it still pales in comparison, the data help explain why it is taking so long to shake off its legacy.

“The general picture of the recession remains pretty much the same, it was a record decline before and now it is a even bigger decline,” Steven Landefeld, the director of the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, told reporters.

The economy was weaker in both 2008 and 2009 than had been thought. Gross domestic product contracted 0.3 percent in 2008; the department had previously reported it was flat. In 2009, it shrank 3.5 percent instead of 2.6 percent.

In the first quarter of 2009, the economy shrank at a 6.7 percent pace, 1.8 percentage points more than had been thought.

When growth finally resumed in the second half of 2009 after four straight quarters of contraction, it was less vigorous than thought. Growth in the fourth quarter of 2009 was cut to a 3.8 percent pace from a previously reported 5.0 percent rate.

The revisions also showed weaker income growth. Disposable income adjusted for inflation grew at an average annual rate of 0.6 percent between 2007 and 2010, rather than 1.2 percent.

At the same time, households saved less in 2009 and 2010. Perhaps surprisingly, corporate taxes were stronger than had been thought in 2009 and 2010.

Not only did the economy skirt perilously close to a contraction in the first quarter, growth in the fourth quarter of last year was at a tepid 2.3 percent annual rate, not the solid 3.1 percent pace that had been believed.

The downward revision to the first quarter was even sharper. Previous figures had shown the economy advanced at a 1.9 percent rate.

A combination of bad weather, high gasoline prices and disruptions to manufacturing after the March earthquake in Japan had been blamed for this year’s slowdown.

But the surprisingly weak tone in the data so far this year and the downward revisions to growth in the fourth quarter before those headwinds hit suggest those transitory factors bear less of the blame than thought.

House delays vote on debt

Republican leaders in Congress postponed to Friday a vote on their bill to prevent a U.S. debt default, deepening the crisis over stalled efforts to keep the world’s biggest economy from running out of cash…

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


Obama’s Popularity Rating Drops to 40%, All-Time Low

(AGI) Washington — The stalemate over the debt at the US Congress made Barack Obama slide to an all-time low. The latest popularity survey of the US president, carried out by Gallup, shows 40%, that’s 1% less than the lowest he ever fell to during the first two years and a half of his term. On 7 June, Obama’s approval rating was 50%.

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

Obama Following in Hitler’s Footsteps

As Obama continues to toy with Republicans over raising the debt ceiling, he is well aware that the continuation of his policies will destroy the U.S. economy beyond repair. I believe his strategy from the outset has been to follow the Saul Alinsky model: Win the Presidency through a semi-legitimate election, then tighten your grip over everything and everybody, move swiftly to create economic chaos, and use the chaos you’ve created to establish a dictatorship.

Now don’t go giving Obama too much credit for originality. He’s really just a slick and clever copycat. Getting elected and then using your powers to eliminate all competition is an old trick used by power-hungry thugs throughout history.

Of all the dictators over the past hundred years, I believe Obama’s rise to power mirrors that of Adolf Hitler’s more than anyone else. I know, I know… I can practically hear readers chuckling. Enslaved people throughout history have a propensity for chuckling — until they wake up one morning and find themselves in chains. So, by all means, feel free to chuckle — but do hear me out.

[Return to headlines]

President Obama is No Longer Tethered to Reality

President Barack Obama’s speech to the nation Monday night was highly disturbing. Because read carefully, it reveals a president wildly divorced from the fundamental realities of the nation he is supposed to be leading.

President Obama actually told America on national television that it is a nation “with a system in which the deck seems stacked against middle class Americans in favor of the wealthiest few.” It is incomprehensible how a man serving as president of these United States could make such a fundamentally false assertion about his own country.


As a result, Obama is constitutionally required to pay Social Security benefits, under his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. That means failing to pay those benefits would be an impeachable offense.

[This brief Forbes article provides excellent easy-to-understand financial information. -Egghead]

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EDL Leader Demanded Debate on Killing David Cameron and Archbishop

Alan Lake ran a far-right website where he discussed execution of political and religious leaders and predicted Islamic enclaves

A senior member of the English Defence League, who founded a far-right website carrying articles by bloggers closely monitored by the Norwegian gunman Anders Behring Breivik, published an online essay discussing the execution and torture of the UK’s political and religious leaders.

On 23 May 2010, Alan Lake posted on his 4 Freedoms website an article outlining his belief that “in 20 or 30 years the UK will start to fragment into Islamic enclaves”. He went on: “It’s time we decide… who we will force in the Islamic enclaves (and who we will execute if they sneak out.) By forcing these liberal twits into those enclaves, we will be sending them to their death at worst, and at best they and their families will be subjected to all the depredations, persecution and abuse that non-Muslims worldwide currently ‘enjoy’ in countries like Pakistan… It will be great to see them executed or tortured to death.”

Lake urged visitors to the site to contribute the names of people who should be sent to the Islamic enclaves and made three of his own suggestions. He suggested that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, should be a candidate on the grounds that he “approves of the creation and use of sharia courts”. David Cameron, he explained, should be included in the discussion “to help refine our criteria about who deserves to die at the hands of the Muslim overlords”. He also included Nick Clegg on the grounds that he is “such an angelic and pure person that he upholds various ‘human rights’ issues more important than plebeian matters of public safety”.

Soon after his posting, Lake removed the references to execution and torture. “I took it back after one day,” he said. “I said, ‘This doesn’t help.’ I’m not perfect, I will make mistakes. But the fundamental point of that piece is correct. I am holding people responsible for the consequences of their actions.”

In interviews outlining the EDL’s philosophy, Lake describes himself as its”events director”. He has admitted to loaning the EDL equipment, but denied claims he bankrolls the organisation.

Users of the 4 Freedoms site have posted articles by a far-right blogger known as Fjordman who was extensively cited by Breivik in the 1,500-page manifesto he issued shortly after the mass killings. On a separate far right website, Gates of Vienna, Breivik is believed to have posted a tribute to Fjordman , under the internet pseudonym “year2183”.

“Keep up the good work mate,” Breivik writes in response to a Fjordman posting. “You are a true hero of Europe, although most ppl [people] won’t realise this for a very long time.”

Last week Lake issued a statement saying he did not know Breivik and had never met him: “I categorically condemn his actions, which have also killed friends of a friend of mine — one in Oslo and two on Utøya island.” But Lake said he would continue his support for the EDL. “England is the only country that has anything like the EDL, a large grassroots movement that is raising issues that you are not supposed to raise,” he said. “They reopen the debate.”

Lake has spoken at far-right rallies in Sweden and on Norwegian television, where he has warned that Europe is in danger of becoming an Islamic state. Responding to a march by Muslims in Britain calling for the imposition of sharia law, Lake told the Norwegian channel 2 Nyhetene: “They are seeking the overthrow of the state. As far as I am concerned, I’ll be happy to execute people like that.”

Some of his comments have alarmed even those close to the EDL. Paul Ray, a right-wing Christian blogger, who founded the EDL in 2006 and who has denied being Breivik’s mentor, said: “As things have gone on, it’s become apparent how extreme [Lake’s] views are. This is a guy directing an extreme far-right movement in the UK.”

Ray said Lake played an important role in linking the EDL to influential far-right communities online. “The anti-jihad movement isn’t your mainstream press, it’s all online [far-right] blogs and websites and Lake has been able to keep them on board. They [Tommy Robinson, the EDL’s leader] know that without this online presence they won’t have any support.”

Fjordman has condemned the killings in Norway and in an online posting said he would not be responding to calls for interviews. The EDL has also condemned Breivik’s actions.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Euro Politicians ‘Bidding at Auction’ To Attack Islam, Expert Says

The deadly attacks in Norway were inevitable with ‘European politicians competing to exclude the ‘other,’ says expert Riva Kastoryano. ‘Europe has a problem with Muslims because they challenge the homogeneous understanding of the nation and the established understanding of secularism’

The competition among some European politicians to capitalize on societal fears of Muslim immigrants “legitimizes” actions like the July 22 deadly attack in Norway, according to an expert on Europe, nationalism, identities and immigration.

Muslims in Europe have “challenged the homogeneous understanding of the nation” and are “shaking the relationship between state and religion,” Riva Kastoryano, a research director at the prominent Center of International Studies and Research in Paris, told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview in Istanbul, where she comes every summer to visit her family.

Q: What did you feel when you heard about the attacks in Norway and the man who perpetrated them?

A: I said to myself, this was going to happen. This was coming, after all the populist rhetoric of politicians using much of the same discourse as the perpetrator. European politicians have over the last three or four years entered into a competition to reject the “other.” They are blaming Muslims for asking to have minarets in Europe, for wanting to wear the burqa. Politicians are bidding like at an auction to attack Islam.

Q: You blame the politicians. But perhaps they talk like that because of the general public mood?

A: There might be some fear in the society. But this fear is being developed by the politicians. The danger with politicians using a discourse that fuels these fears is that it legitimizes any action against multiculturalism, which in Europe means Islam. They are blaming the Muslims for asking for the same freedoms as the other citizens of Europe.

Q: But aren’t Europeans resentful of the Muslims’ integration problems?

A: Actually, the existing problems are there because they are more integrated. The immigrants have become citizens and they are asking for minority rights. But states are not ready to grant those rights. Anti-immigration trends started in the 1980s. But the issue then was not Islam. Muslims became an issue in the late 1980s as they started to become citizens.

Q: You emphasize Muslims, but not all the immigrants in Europe are Muslim.

A: Multiculturalism is oriented toward the Muslims, because multiculturalism is about recognizing the political rights of minorities. Muslims are [demanding] to have some rights. These rights are not claimed by the Portuguese, the Polish, new immigrants from Russia or the Roma. It is the Muslims who are concerned with equality and citizenship issues.

Q: Why are those issues of concern only to Muslims?

A: One Turkish immigrant living in Germany told me, “In a few years they will assimilate us but they can never take away Islam from us.” I think religion is the permanent difference. And the permanent difference is where you negotiate your rights. Why is it Muslims? Because they are the biggest minority and the one most discriminated against. They have challenged the homogeneous understanding of the nation. Europe’s philosophy is, “Take your citizenship and be one of us.” But Muslims are saying, “I want to be one of you but also Muslim.” This is not a problem of immigration. This is a minority problem.

Q: But if there are no similar problems with other non-Muslim minorities, are we then talking about a clash of civilizations due to religious differences?

A: I don’t call it clash of civilizations but there is a clash. Muslim migrants came in the 1950s and 1960s with the belief that they would go back. Then they started to settle in the 1970s and in the 1980s a second generation started to appear. By the 1990s, the need for mosques, religious education, and more arose. It was at this stage that Europe realized how important religion was as an element in the life of Muslim communities. It was then that discussions began about the headscarf.

Muslims are shaking the relationship between state and religion. Secularism is at the heart of Europe. It is an institutional arrangement between state and the church. But when all of a sudden Muslims came and made claims based on religion in the public sphere, within public institutions, it challenged the established understanding of secularism. We had internalized that we are all secular. But when another religious group comes and makes claims based on equality you wonder what the secularism you have internalized is about. Each state has a religion, the religion of the majority. Democratic states had to make some institutional arrangements in order to have other religions represented. What do we do with Islam, since there is a demand for Islam’s equal representation within state institutions? We are talking about a problem of institutional recognition.

Q: But doesn’t Europe’s problem with Muslims go beyond this institutional challenge?

A: Europe’s problem with Muslims is not even real. It is imaginary; the way they [equate] Islam with suicide bombers and terrorism. The guy in Norway [Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to killing at least 76 people in the July 22 attacks] talks about Islamophobia, but how many Muslims live in Norway? Almost none. That’s why this discourse by politicians is so dangerous. We came to this point because politicians tried to emphasize national identity so much by excluding the others.

People no longer complain that their jobs will be taken away. Now there are fears that society will become Islamized. Everyone in Paris knows that on Friday people pray in the street in the 19th arrondissement because there is not enough space in the mosque. But when the media makes news saying, “Look what is happening to our city. We can’t even walk here on a Friday,” then people start to panic. But is the problem about the person praying in the street or about the lack of enough space for that man to pray? There are only 600 burqa-wearers in France but they made a law just for those 600.

Q: But aren’t there integration problems that feed those fears when people witness behavior of which they don’t approve, like “honor killings” or female circumcision?

A: These are marginal. We had the Italian mafia, for instance. We have incest in French families, for instance. But of course I don’t deny that there has been resistance to adapting.

Q: You question in one of your articles whether the free movement of people will be the basis of the division of Europe.

A: On the one hand you have free movement and open frontiers; on the other hand, you start suspecting others and ask for tighter border controls. The EU is at a crossroads. The EU has been a project of the states, of the elites and intellectuals. The person on the street does not consider him- or herself as European but as French, or German. The EU needs to be endorsed by the societies and the media. NGOs and other groups should play a role in that direction.

Q: What do you think will be the effect of the attacks in Norway?

A: I wonder whether they will lead political parties to be more careful in their rhetoric. In the past, this rhetoric was considered extremely right-wing. If we continue to see this discourse as legitimate, the danger will continue.

‘Turkey became a mirror for EU’

Turkey’s bid to join the European Union has played the role of a “mirror” for Europe, according to expert Riva Kastoryano. “While saying no to Turkey, Europe started to question its own identity,” she said, adding that Turkey helped Europe know itself better.

Since the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, a known opponent of Turkish entry into the EU, as France’s president, public-opinion polls show that the rate of those opposing Turkey’s bid has decreased, Kastoryano said. While in the past there was no difference between Turks and Arabs in the eyes of the French, “due to Turkey’s recent economic successes, the French have started to say, ‘Yes, but the Turks are different,’“ she added.

Who is Riva Kastoryano?

Born and raised in Istanbul, Riva Kastoryano currently lives in Paris and works as a research director at the prominent Center of International Studies and Research.

A former Harvard lecturer and a former research fellow at the Princeton University Institute for Advanced Studies, Kastoryano specializes in political sociology with a focus on Europe, nationalism, identities and immigration. The author of “Negotiating Identities: States and Immigrants in France and Germany,” published in 2001, she is also the co-author of several books on immigration and identity issues in Europe.

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

Italy: Mayor of Milan Dismisses Public Transport Company Board

(AGI) Milan — The Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, has dismissed the public transport company ATM’s entire board of directors headed by Elio Catania .

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

Italy: LNP Party Suspends Firebrand EuroMP Borghezio for 3 Months

(AGI) Milan — Party sources say the LNP’s federal council has voted in favour of Euro-MP Mario Borghezio’s 3-month suspension. The 3-month suspension comes in the wake of his statements of the Euro-MP’s controversial statements in the wake of the Norway massacre.

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

Italy: Lega Nord to Help Farmers Cheated Over Milk Quotas

(AGI) Salsomaggiore — Bossi said the Lega Nord will address the milk quotas issue after some farmers were cheated by the ministry. Speaking at a rally, Umberto Bossi said his party will start dealing with the issue of milk quotas next week claiming some farmers had been “cheated by the Agriculture Ministry”. Addressing the farmers who were attending the rally, Bossi said: “I’ve received figures and requests from you and this week Calderoli and I will start working for the farmers, who are the cheated here and not the cheaters. The Agriculture Ministry issued fines for milk quotas that had not been actually produced”.

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

Italy: ‘Mistake’ But No Wrongdoing in Flat Affair Says Tremonti

‘I’d like to continue to work in my country’s interests’

(ANSA) — Rome, July 29 — Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti on Friday apologised for making “a mistake” over cash-in-hand payments for a Rome flat to a former close aide and MP under investigation for corruption but said he had done nothing against the law.

“In hindsight, I made a mistake,” Tremonti said of the 1,000-euro-a-month rent he paid, until leaving the flat three weeks ago, to Marco Milanese, an MP in Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party implicated in a suspected influence-peddling probe.

“Did I do anything against the law? As far as I’m concerned, certainly not,” the minister told Corriere della Sera newspaper amid fears the money markets might be rattled by questions raised against the man they see as central to Italy’s financial stability.

Bond markets were spooked early this month when Berlusconi chided Tremonti as “not a team player” over his insistence on belt-tightening despite the PdL’s need for popularity-boosting measures after a surprising string of local-election defeats. As the premium on Italy’s debt rose to a eurozone-era high amid fears of contagion from the Greek crisis, the minister quickly put together a 70-billion-euro austerity package which parliament passed in record time.

Speaking about the flat affair on Italian radio Friday, Tremonti stressed: “I don’t need illicit favours or to rob the Italian people. “Perhaps I should have been more careful but if I made mistakes the only excuse I have is that I work very hard because I have to handle the world’s third-biggest debt.

“And I’d like to continue to work in my country’s interests”. Tremonti recalled that the austerity package aims to balance the budget by 2014 through a raft of spending cuts. He denied accusations that it will increase the tax burden.

This year Italy will have an estimated budget deficit of 3.9% of GDP. For years its public debt has been running at about 120% of GDP, the second-biggest in the eurozone after Greece’s.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: AOC Reports Spending on Pets Up 62% in Ten Years

(AGI) Rome — It costs over 500 euro a year to keep a cat if you include food, vet, leashes, brushes, bowls and a few games.

Dogs cost nearly three times as much, almost a salary. Quite a few surprises emerged from a survey by the consumers association ADOC into how much Italians spend on their four-legged friends. Spending has increased by 62% over the last ten years and by 8% in the last year.

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

Jean Le Pen Says Norwegian Government Naive

(AGI) Paris — Jean-Marie Le Pen caused an uproar in France when he said that the massacre in Norway, “appeared to have more to do with the naivete’ of the Norwegian government” in discounting the dangers of immigration and terrorism, “than the madness of this crazy man.” Le Pen’s words appear to put his daughter Marine in difficulty. She took over the leadership of Le Pen’s right-wing party in January and strongly condemned the attacks in line with a more moderate political stance.

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

Poland’s Addiction to Tasers

Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, 29 July 2011

“The state arms itself against citizens,” headlines Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, reporting on the government plan to arm more officials including railway, forest and state fishing guards with electric stun guns. There are 400,000 policemen, custom duty officers as well as border and bodyguards with firearms in Poland but clearly this doesn’t seem to be enough. “Are we safer or, quite to the contrary, more threatened by this internal army?” wonders the Warsaw daily, stressing the fact that no other EU country has such liberal laws concerning the use of tasers as Poland. Currently, nearly 400,000 policemen, body guards, city, border and prison guards are equipped with electric stun guns. And there will be some 8,000 more when the law on firearms is amended in line with the government’s proposals. Legal experts warn that such amendments would constitute a breach of citizenship rights. “We could not confirm the presence of Great White sharks in our rivers,” DGP ironically comments — an allusion to a plan to provide State Fishing Guard wardens with tasers, pointing out that the latter “can be lethal for people with heart problems, that is some 2 million Poles”.

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

Spain: Zapatero Throws in Towel, Early Elections

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 29 — The Zapatero government bows out four months ahead of full term. Today, Spain’s Premier put an end to the rumors that have been circulating for weeks on the date of his parting by announcing early elections — to be held on November 20, four months ahead of the full term of his administration, which would have fallen in March 2012. On September 26, the government will dissolve parliament.

Then, under strong pressure from the financial markets and an electoral campaign that promises to be keenly fought, Spain will choose the leader who will have the task of resolving one of the biggest economic crises in its recent past. Zapatero’s decision has been taken “in the general interest,” and was motivated by a will to “set out a clear timetable,” to create “certainty and stability,” the Socialist premier told a press conference held in the Moncloa Palace. By the end of September the present executive will approve its final reforms announced over the past few months and on August 19 an extraordinary cabinet meeting is due to be held. After the elections, the new administration will be faced with the task of bringing the country under control once more. As soon as “January first, the new government will be able to work towards an economic recovery and the reduction of the deficit,” Zapatero said, having fixed the vote right on the anniversary of Francisco Franco, who passed away on November 20 1975. This coincidence was, however, not a deliberate one.

“It is a date like any other,” the now former leader of the Socialist Party (Psoe) said. This morning’s announcement has quenched the lively debate on the date of the coming elections and overturned assertions made by Zapatero over past months, when he resolved to see out his term of government despite the trouncing suffered in March’s local elections, when the Popular Party romped home victor. Since then, both among the opposition and among the ranks of the Psoe, pressure has grown for an early farewell. Now the hopes of the socialists reside in 59-year-old Alfredo Perez Rucalcaba, the new Psoe candidate, Interior Minister and mainstay of the government as one of the leading forces behind the fight against Basque terrorism.

“We shall regain the trust of the electorate,” was the first reaction to come from Mr Rucalcaba, who announced himself “ready to construct a better Spain”. However, recent polls give a seven point lead to Conservative leader, Mariano Rajoy, who called the November election “good news,” but who warned that the new executive will have “an extremely difficult task”.

Despite having reduced its budget deficit by 19%, Spain is still sailing on choppy waters. Today, Moody’s threatened to downgrade its rating of the country’s sovereign debt, which currently stands at ‘Aa2’, while inflation is running at 3.1% and the rate of unemployment, despite a slight improvement in the second quarter, is still at 20.89%, touching on extremely high peaks among the young.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Two Month Biological Rest for Adriatic Fishing From Monday

(AGI) Ancona — The fishing fleets of the Adriatic are to observe a two month biological rest, which is twice the usual 30 days. The break starts on Monday and can be voluntarily extended for an additional three days within the eight weeks of the resumption of activities, scheduled for 3 October.

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

UK: Muslim Teenagers Convicted of Criminal Damage After Spraying Burkas Onto Scantily-Clad Models in Lynx Poster

Two Muslim teenagers have admitted defacing advertising hoardings featuring scantily-clad models and painting a ‘burka’ over them because they offended their religious views.

Mohammed Hasnath and Muhammed Tahir, both 18, used black paint to cover up the picture of a female model on a hoarding advertising Lynx deodorant.

The duo proceeded to paint over the faces on several other advertisements around London’s East End, claiming it was a ‘sin’ for them to be uncovered.

The youths, who represented themselves, had both denied initial charges of religious aggravated criminal damage.

However, they both pleaded guilty to six counts of criminal damage when they appeared at Thames Magistrates Court in east London.

Taiwo Akinrowo, prosecuting, told the court: ‘On the morning of February 26th this year a member of the public called the police because they had seen three males damaging the bus shelters.

‘One of the males was seen to paint on the female angel in the advert for Lynx. On the other side was an advert for the film ‘Drive Angry’ and this male was seen to paint on the female image next to Nicholas Cage.

‘Police were called and began to monitor the males and they saw them walking along Whitechapel Road towards Osborne Street where they then used the paint on the window of the Money Shop on the faces of the females.

‘They police officers arrived and the defendants ran away. They were then stopped by police, arrested and interviewed and they gave full and frank admissions as to what they had done.

‘They told them that the way the women had been photographed was against their religion and they said it was a sin in Islam for a male to look twice at a woman who is not covered.

‘If a man looks at a woman the first time it could be accidental, but if they look again it is a sin and they did not want children and other people seeing the image of these woman who were not covered.

‘Consequently they began to paint over burkas around the faces of the women. When arrested, Mr Hasnath’s clothes were covered in black paint and they also had the brushes on them.

Referring to the fact that the charges were originally religious aggravated criminal damage, Hasnath told the court: ‘We don’t have anything against anyone.

‘We have black friends, white friends and Chinese friends. We are not racist.

‘The pictures — that is someone’s daughter. If someone was to look at our wife or mother or daughter with a bad intention we would not like it so we were just trying to do good.’

Hasnath, of Poplar, and Tahir, of Tower Hamlets, both east London, were both ordered to pay costs of £283 each and were each released on a 12 month conditional discharge.

A third defendant, Abdul Hakim Langaigne, 24, of Thamesmead, south east London, who was also charged with six counts of criminal damage, failed to appear in court. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

Last week the Daily Mail reported that Islamic extremists have launched a poster campaign across the UK proclaiming areas where Sharia law enforcement zones have been set up.

Hate preacher Anjem Choudary claimed responsibility for the scheme, saying he plans to flood specific Muslim and non Muslim communities around the UK and ‘put the seeds down for an islamic Emirate in the long term’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Benghazi Clashes Between Insurgents and Loyalists

(AGI) Benghazi — The Transitional National Council has had to fight within its own stronghold of Benghazi instead of marching on Tripoli. Insurgents have killed 20 Gaddafi loyalists, arrested 31 and lost 6 of their own fighters in clashes in Benghazi. The cell of Gaddafi’s men, suspected of have been part of the group that shot and killed General Abdel Fatah Younes, was hiding in a factory that manufactures number plates for cars. The news was reported by NTC member Mahmmud Shamman .

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

Egypt: Islamists Protesting, Thousands at Tahrir Square

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JULY 29 — “The Sharia (law) of God is dearer to us than our children, our blood and our possessions.” A banner with this text written on it can be seen at the entrance of Tahrir Square. It summarises the change in today’s demonstration in a few words. Organised by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has participated several times in the protests called by the revolutionary movements, today’s demonstration at the square that has become the symbol of the anti-Mubarak uprising is dominated by Islamists. Tens of thousands of Salafis, half a million some people say, took to the streets shouting slogans that praise the Islam, the sharia, and slogans against the secular State. There were several Saudi flags, thousands of men wearing long beards and very few women. Many of the women that have shown up wear a niqab, which covers the entire body except the eyes.

After heated negotiations between the secular pro-revolution movements, which have been present on the square since July 8, and the Islamist movements it was decided to organise a “Friday of unity”, which would also include groups of Copts. The agreement specified only unified political slogans, and clearly this deal has been broken. Around thirty non-Islamist parties and movements have decided to leave the demonstration because of the lack of respect by the Salafite groups for the agreements that had been made. These parties have accused the Salafite groups of acting in their own interest. Today the square looks completely different than at the time of the revolution, but also different from the previous demonstrations that were organised each Friday. There is no open hostility, but it is clear that foreign journalists are not trusted now. Several Salafite demonstrators are unwilling to talk after they are approached. After a while they appoint a ‘spokesman’, lawyer Mohamed Nasser. “We are here to defend our country’s identity and to protect the will of the people, as expressed in the constitutional referendum,” he says. “The basic principle of democracy is respecting the will of the people and the secular groups know very well that there is no place for them, so they try to bypass the will of the people and impose a new constitution.” “Applying the sharia means applying the principles of the Koran and the Sunnah of the prophet. I wonder why people are afraid of enforcing the Sharia, because it protects the rights of non-Muslims.” Asked about the role of women, the Salafite lawyer says that he has nothing against women in politics as well. “The Islam gives women full rights and does not forbid them to work, within the limits of the Sharia. We are not against women in politics, but not as President because their nature is different than the nature of men.” Nasser added, referring to the young people of the revolution, that the real young of the revolution want stability in the country. “The incidents we have seen in the past two weeks were caused by young people looking for a row.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Fundamentalist Attack in Egypt’s Sinai Claims Lives of 4

(AGI) Cairo — Friday’s attack on a police station on the Mediterranean shores of the Sinai has claimed the lives of four. The latter include three civilians and one army officer.

The attack was carried out by some 150 el-Arish fundamentalists. The casualties — including 19 injured, one of whom an 11-year-oldboy — are reported by Egyptian press agency Mena.

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

Libya: Gaddafi Still Strong Despite Bombs, Tripoli Bishop

(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY, JULY 29 — “The bombing has intensified, but I don’t know why. Perhaps there are waiting for some decision by Tripoli, but I do not believe that it will be so easy to make the leader give in. Gaddafi still seems strong and it does not seem to me that the bombs are making him yield,” said the apostolic vicar of Tripoli, Monsignor Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, in comments today concerning the situation in Libya to the Vatican agency Fides. “Over the night,” he said, “we heard incredibly powerful explosions. I do not know what they hit, since I only heard the explosions at around 2.3 AM. It was a very rough night due to the bombing.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Is Terrorism Against Israel Really More Justified Than Terrorism Against Norway?

by Alan M. Dershowitz

In a recent interview, Norway’s Ambassador to Israel has suggested that Hamas terrorism against Israel is more justified than the recent terrorist attack against Norway. His reasoning is that, “We Norwegians consider the occupation to be the cause of the terror against Israel.” In other words terrorism against Israeli citizens is the fault of Israel. The terrorism against Norway, on the other hand, was based on “an ideology that said that Norway, particularly the Labor Party, is foregoing Norwegian culture.” It is hard to imagine that he would make such a provocative statement without express approval from the Norwegian government.

I can’t remember many other examples of so much nonsense compressed in such short an interview. First of all, terrorism against Israel began well before there was any “occupation”. The first major terrorist attack against Jews who had long lived in Jerusalem and Hebron began in 1929, when the leader of the Palestinian people, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, ordered a religiously-motivated terrorist attack that killed hundreds of religious Jews-many old, some quite young. Terrorism against Jews continued through the 1930s. Once Israel was established as a state, but well before it captured the West Bank, terrorism became the primary means of attacking Israel across the Jordanian, Egyptian and Lebanese borders. If the occupation is the cause of the terror against Israel, what was the cause of all the terror that preceded any occupation?…

[Return to headlines]

Two Missiles From Gaza on South Israel

(AGI) Jerusalem — Two missiles launched from the Gaza Strip have hit the south of Israel, without causing damage or injuries. The Israeli military reported the incident. The missiles fell on the areas of Pitchat Shalom and Shaar HaNegev, near the border of the Palestinian territory. With this the number of missiles launched from Gaza towards Israel since the beginning of July has risen to 26.

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

Middle East

Last Minute Mercy: Iranian Woman Blinded in Acid Attack Spares Man Who Did it From Same Fate

Ameneh Bahrami spared Majid Mohavedi from the same fate that she suffered after he poured liquid on her face, taking her sight, when she turned down his marriage proposal.

She had been due to mete out the punishment to him but spared him at the last minute, Iranian media reported today.

Miss Bahrami was blinded in 2004 when Mohavedi poured acid onto her face after she spurned his hand in marriage.

In 2008, a court sentenced Mohavedi to be blinded in both eyes for taking away Ms Bahrami’s sight, using the principle of retribution permitted under Iran’s Islamic law.

‘I have been trying for seven years to get the qisas [retribution] sentence, but today I decided to pardon him,’ Ms Bahrami was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

She said the international interest in the case was one reason for deciding to drop her demand for the sentence of retribution to be carried out: ‘It seemed like the entire world was waiting to see what we did.’

The case attracted international media attention, and the rights group Amnesty International urged Iran not to inflict the retributive form of punishment.

The concept of ‘qisas’ also applies to other crimes in Iran, such as murder. A victim’s family can demand the death of a convicted murderer or commute the sentence in return for financial compensation from the criminal.

Tehran prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi praised Ms Bahrami’s move as a ‘courageous act’, and said the judiciary had until then been determined to carry out the sentence.

‘Everything was ready for carrying out the qisas on Majid’s eyes, but Ameneh pardoned him on the brink of the execution of the sentence,’ Dolatabadi told ISNA.

‘Ameneh is seeking compensation for other injuries inflicted on her,’ he added, but did not give any further details.

A lawyer for Mohavedi had previously said his family would have great difficulty in finding the amount of money sought by Mr Bahrami to commute the sentence, as their only asset was a house in Tehran.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Hariri: STL Reveals Idendities of 4 Hezbollah Accused

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JULY 29 — The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which has been set up by the UN to investigate the 2005 killing of former Premier Rafiq Hariri, has officially announced the identities of the four Hezbollah members accused last month of having taken part in the attack.

According to the website of the Lebanese daily paper An Nahar, the four accused, whose names were already confirmed in June by the Beirut government following press leaks, are Salim Jamil Ayyash, Mustafa Amin Badreddin, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra. Badreddin is the brother-in-law of Imad Moughniyeh, the Hezbollah military leader killed in Damascus in 2008 in a car bomb attack. The head of Hezbollah, Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, has ruled out consigning the four to the STL, whose authority he has refused to acknowledge.Daniel Fransen, the judge presiding over the preliminary investigations, has lifted secrecy over the identities of the accused at the request of Prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare. The STL has also issued photo images of the four. “The deadline for the Lebanese authorities for reporting on the progress made in their execution of the arrest warrants has been set at August11,” the UN tribunal states in a communiqué.The activities of the STL have been behind the internal crisis in Lebanon, which led in January to the downfall of the government under Saad Hariri, son of the murdered Rafiq, and the setting up of a new executive led by Premier Najib Mikati, in which Hezbollah and allied parties constitute the majority.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Experts Offer Latest Analysis on Military Resignations

Turkey’s highest-ranking soldiers resigned en masse late Friday amid growing tensions with the government due to the detentions of a number of top military personnel.

The Hürriyet Daily News is providing expert analysis of the standoff ahead of a key Supreme Military Council meeting between the government and the army on Monday.

Murat Yetkin: A sharp turn in military-civilian relations

Yusuf Kanli: A landmark

Mustafa Akyol: A farewell to politics-in-arms

Nihat Ali Özcan: Civilian control à la Turca

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

South Asia

10 Police Officers and a Boy Killed in Afghanistan

(AGI)Lashkar Gah -The death toll following the attack at the police headquarters in Lashkar Gah in the southern Afghan Helmand province is now up to eleven. Ten police officers and a boy were killed in the blast, the provincial governor said.

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

11 Shiites Die in a Wave of New Violence in Pakistan

(AGI) Quetta — At least 11 civilians were killed and three more were injured in an attack against a minivan in the outskirts of Quetta, the capital city of Pakistan’s south-west province of Baluchistan. All of the victims were shiite which may reveal a new wave of sectarian violence. Yesterday seven shiite pilgrims were killed in Baluchistan in a similar way.

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

Archbishop Saldanha: Pakistani Christian Parties a “Failure”, Unity is Needed

A Christian professor, founds the All Pakistan Christian League (Apcl), for a liberal Pakistan and a guarantee of minority rights. The criticisms and scepticism of the Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore: too many parties in the past, but they were short-lived. For the bishop confidence “in the democratic system” is lacking and the situation remains “desperate”.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — “I wish the Apcl party all the best, but I don’t believe it will take off or be a success. I fear that it will prove a total failure, like all the other Christian political movements of the past”. This is the concise and somewhat disheartened opinion of Mgr. Lawrence John Saldanha, Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore expressed to AsiaNews, about the birth of the Christian party, the All Pakistan Christian League (Apcl). The prelate adds that “over the past 60 years there have been numerous political parties led by willing Christian leaders”, but “most of these” have been short-lived and have not served to make the case for and defend the rights of the religious minority.

The All Pakistan Christian League (Apcl) is a Christian-based political movement that aims to promote a “strong and democratic” country, defending the rights of Christians and ensuring their representation at the federal level and in the various provinces. Stressing that this is the first “entirely Christian” party since 1972, the President Salamat Akhtar — along with co-founder Salamat Nawaz — evokes the vision of a liberal Pakistan sanctioned by Ali Jinnah, and calls for unity among Christians, in defence of women and education for young people.

The Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore and former president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference recalls that “in the last 60 years” he has witnessed a number of Christian political movements, but they were short-lived because “the party is restricted to members of a family or group, but does not represent the entire community. “ Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr. Saldanha accused Christians of being “notorious for their lack of unity”, adding: “they prefer to promote their own party rather than join an already existing reality.”

Its policies are linked to money and business, and many parties of the past, said the prelate, existed “only on paper, without feedback from the masses,” the initiative of “wealthy men, who have the economic power to promote their activities “and interests. He recalled that the introduction in 2002 by former President Musharraf of a “joint electoral system” — which allows non-Muslims to vote for Muslim candidates of their respective constituencies — has left “little room” to propose to the Christian parties’ own candidates “ which “almost completely ceased to exist. “

Archbishop Saldanha said he was “surprised” by the birth of Apcl and knows its leader, Professor Salamat Akhtar, who “ is quite old and will not have the energy and strength sufficient to lead a party.” The problem, according to the prelate, revolves around the “lack of confidence in the democratic system” and “little hope of a change in the future” for a situation that at the moment “is desperate” for the religious minority. “I’m afraid — the Archbishop Emeritus concludes — that this will result in yet another failure.” (DS)

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

Indonesia: Light Sentences for Muslim Extremists Who Attacked Ahmadis

Twelve defendants are given sentences ranging between three and six months in jail. In February, they took part in an attack against members of a religious minority that left three people dead. In the country, the courts’ failure to meet out justice has turned into a major controversy. Human rights activist warns that similar episodes are bound to happen in the future.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesia’s justice system is once again criticised for failing to impose lengthy sentences on people responsible for sectarian violence and crimes against minorities. The latest example came yesterday when a District Court in Serang, Banten Province (Java), handed down lenient sentences against 12 Muslims extremists for their role in a brutal assault against Ahmadi Muslims in February in Cikeusik.

The defendants received sentences of between three and six months in jail, Islamic Lawyer Team (TPM) said. Both the prosecutor and the judges said that Ahmadis (a Muslim group deemed heretical by mainstream Muslims because they do not view Muhammad as the last prophet) “provoked” the assault and so bore some responsibility.

For one of the prosecutors, M Yunis, Ahmadis “systematically provoked riots”. In reality, pressures from Muslim extremists were behind the light sentences.

Human rights activists and members of civil society groups have been outraged by the court’s decision when compared to the gravity of the facts.

On 6 February, a mob of about a thousand extremists attacked a private home where a group of Ahmadis had gathered. When told to leave the premises, they refused. This triggered a brutal reaction from the mob. At the end of the attack, three people lay dead, and dozens were wounded.

Twelve people were indicted for crimes in connection with the attack. However, they were given sentences of just a few months.

“Once again Indonesia has failed to provide justice,” in a case of sectarian violence, said Setara Institute President Hendardi. For him, the victims were deliberately targeted, and the sentences will deter no one in the future.

Asian Human Right Watch’s president Phil Robertson agrees. In his view, similar attacks are likely to happen in the future.

The failure of Indonesia’s justice system to prosecute properly people involved with sectarian violence has been evident on several occasions, especially when Christians are the victims.

In one of the most recent cases, a Muslim leader received a light sentence for a brutal attack against Christians in Temanggung (central Java) (see Mathias Hariyadi, “Central Java, Justice held in check only one year for imam who ordered attack on three churches,” in AsiaNews 18 June 2011).

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

Religious Freedom in Kazakhstan Means “One Nation — One Religion”

A new agency is set up to control religious groups. President Nazarbaev calls for greater surveillance of religious extremism. Religious minorities fear instead more repression. Many are already being forced out of their places of worship.

Astana (AsiaNews/F18) — For Kazakhstan’s new Agency of Religious Affairs (ARA), religious freedom means “one nation — one religion”. In fact, Kazakh authorities have announced new measures to increase controls on religious groups, including legal penalties.

On 22 July, Kazakh President Nazarbaev said, “It is necessary to strictly suppress the spread of elements of extremist religious ideology in the country, especially, open actions which are aimed at undermining the constitutional system and which pose a threat to citizens’ lives and health”.

At a meeting of the country’s Security Council, the president said that local governments “should step up educational and preventive measures, as well as keep a close watch on religious associations’ strict compliance with the existing legal norms.”

This set off alarm bells among religious minorities. In April, Nazarbaev had already called for greater controls against an unspecified “extremist religious ideology”, which was followed by a police crackdown against religious minorities and a hostile campaign against them in state media.

In fact, in the absence of any clear definition of “religious extremism”, ARA has gone on an offensive against all Muslim groups that do not adhere to what it considers mainstream moderate Islam.

Set up on 18 May, the new agency is responsible directly to the prime minister, and is preparing to change the Religious Freedom Law to make it more restrictive.

On 17 June, ARA president Lama Sharif said, “Each citizen of Kazakhstan has a right to freedom of conscience and choice, and we have made our own choice. Our choice is objective and based on the principle of ‘one nation — one religion’, and it is exactly this principle that makes us one nation. In this context, we will prepare a concept on the ‘Development of moderate Islam in Kazakhstan’.”

However, such a view has drawn fire from critics. For lawmaker Serik Temirbulatov, a statement like Sharif’s could be expected from a member of the clergy, not a public official. It “contradicts the constitution of Kazakhstan, and violates the principle of non-interference of the state in the affairs of religious communities.”

In the meantime, the country’s administrative and penal codes have changed. They now give government agencies more power to interfere in the activities of religious groups.

On Wednesday for example, in the southern town of Shymkent, a regional court said that the local Ahmadi community could not meet in the mosque, and that the ban would be in place until a final appeal is heard.

Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other small religious groups are also suffering from persecution. In 2010, the authorities told the New Life Protestant Church that its members could not meet in its registered building on the grounds that the latter was not meant for religious activities.

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

Far East

China: Unrest in Kashgar, Xinjiang, Leaves 15 Dead

Weekend unrest in Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region, has left at least 15 people dead, state media say.

The violence began on Saturday when two men killed a truck driver, then drove his lorry into pedestrians and attacked them with knives, killing six. One of the attackers also died.

On Sunday an explosion killed three people and police shot dead “four suspects”, the Xinhua agency said.

Xinjiang has a Muslim Uighur minority and has seen serious ethnic tension.

The BBC’s Martin Patience in Beijing says there are reports of further clashes in the city on Sunday.

Migration dispute

A local official was quoted as saying that both of Saturday’s attackers were Uighurs.

According to, a Xinjiang government-run website, the assailants hijacked a truck waiting at traffic lights, stabbing the driver to death before ploughing the vehicle into bystanders.

They then got out of the vehicle and started attacking people at random, the report said.

It said the crowd then turned on the men, killing one of them. The second man was captured.

State-run news agency Xinhua said the attack had been preceded by two explosions.

Xinjiang has a Muslim Uighur majority Twenty-eight people were reported to have been taken to hospital.

On Sunday, Xinhua reported another explosion, which it said killed three people, including a police officer, and injured three others.

It also said police had shot dead “four suspects” in the city, without giving further details.

This is the second outbreak of violence in Xinjiang in a month.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

What Do Wealthy Arabs Really Care About?

Arab governments have not even deemed it necessary to hold a conference to discuss ways of saving the lives of millions of people in Somalia. But when the Palestinian Authority earlier this week demanded an emergency session over its financial crunch, the Arab League convened within hours in Cairo to hear Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s urgent request for $300 million. True, the financial crisis facing the Western-backed Fayyad government is for real. It is also worrying that nearly 150,000 Palestinian civil servants have received only half salaries for the past month. But there is no comparing the crisis in the Palestinian Authority with the immediate threat to the lives of millions of people in Somalia.

Following the Cairo meeting of the Arab League representatives, a communiqué issued by the participants did not make any reference to the situation in Somalia. A week earlier, however, the Arab League did issue a laconic statement in which it promised funds for humanitarian aid, and encouraged Arab states to support Somalia. The Arab League issued its statement following an appeal by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations: “The Arab League urgently calls for all Arab countries, Arab organizations, the Arab Red Crescent, Arab civil society organizations and the Arab private sector to mobilize their energies and capabilities to rescue those affected by the drought in Somalia,” the league said in a posting on its Facebook page.

So the Arab leaders are hoping to fight the drought through Facebook only, at a time when some of them have been trying to block the internet in their countries. But these are the kinds of promises that everyone knows would never be fulfilled. The Palestinians know more than anyone else that these are empty promises that are merely intended for public consumption. That is why the Palestinians today are almost entirely dependent on American, European and Japanese money for survival. The starving people of Somalia will also have to rely on Western aid because the Arab dictators and regimes simply do not care if a few million Arabs and Muslims die of starvation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Opposition Calls for Multi-Language Health Campaigns

The opposition Social Liberals and Social Democrats say public health campaigns should be published in languages other than Danish in order to reach the country’s largest immigrant groups. “You have to use language that people understand,” the Social Liberal’s health spokesperson Lone Dybkjær told Information newspaper. “It’s no use that we only run campaigns in Danish when immigrants account for 7.5 percent of the population today.” The Social Liberals propose spending 15 million kroner to create health campaigns aimed at reaching immigrants in their native languages.

But the Liberal government and its support party, the Danish People’s Party (DF), hold fast to the idea that immigrants need to learn Danish — and not be catered to in their native tongues. The National Board of Health has reported an increased numbers of cases of diabetes, chronic lung disease, heart disease, HIV/ AIDS and abortion among citizens with foreign backgrounds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Homophobia Law Blocked

Homosexuality measure ruled unconstitutional

ROME — There is no way forward. Two years on, a second halt has been called and this time it looks definitive. Yesterday when the law against homophobia was presented in the Chamber of Deputies, a cross-party front uniting the People of Freedom (PDL), Northern League and former Responsible Ones with the Christian Democrat UDC and some members of Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) supported a preliminary ruling of unconstitutionality. In practical terms, the move sinks a bill that sought to introduce an aggravating circumstance of homophobia for criminal offences. Severer sentences would have been introduced for prejudice-driven attacks on homosexuals. The vote — 293 ayes, 250 noes and 21 abstentions — reflected a similar situation in October 2009. Then, too, unconstitutionality was the objection presented by the UDC and subsequently approved.

It proved impossible for opposition and majority to reach agreement afterwards, even though PD deputy Paola Concia, the presenter of the original proposal and the only openly homosexual member of Parliament, had months before drafted a compromise bill with the minister for equal opportunities Mara Carfagna. That proposal was destined for rejection by the justice committee in May. Yesterday’s text, which included aggravating circumstances on the basis of homosexuality or “in general by reason of disability, sex, age and transsexuality”, also came to nothing.

The row now rages in the Chamber. “If I were an ordinary deputy who could vote, I would have been firmly against this preliminary ruling”, said the leader of the Chamber of Deputies Gianfranco Fini. Democratic Party (PD) secretary Pierluigi Bersani said it was “disgraceful. It’s one of the worst episodes and I hope it does not pass unobserved”. “Today, Parliament was called on to decide whether to take the side of the violent or that of the victims. It has chosen, or at least part of it has, to be on the side of the violent”, said Ms Concia, who was resigned to defeat from the outset. The majority denied any homophobia. For PDL group leader Fabrizio Cicchitto, “our default position is to consider gays as citizens on a par with everyone else and for that reason we contest any differentiation in juridical treatment, which would concede and emphasize a substantially unconstitutional diversity”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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