Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110803

Financial Crisis
»Spanish and Italian Debt Spiral
»Bloomberg Investing $30 Million of His Money in Program to Aid Minority Youth
»Free Cell Phones Are Now a Civil Right
Europe and the EU
»Finland: Unexpected Decline in Racist Crimes
»Italy: ‘Moderate’ Muslims Cheer Draft Law Banning ‘Women-Segrating’ Burka
»Netherlands: Pressure Mounts on Prime Minister Over Wilders Islam Debate Role
»UK: Tory Councillor for Millwall Defects to Join Rahman
»UK: Volunteers Seal Up Derelict East End Drugs Haunt
South Asia
»Mandatory Veil and Fasting as Indonesia is ‘Islamised’ During Ramadan
»Tajikistan Bans Minors From Entering Mosques
»920 Migrants at Lampedusa Centre After Latest Landings
»Italy: Bodies of Dead Migrants ‘Show Signs of Murder’
»UK: It’s Racist to Bar Me From Your Country! Meet the Indian Husband in Immigration Battle Who Refuses to Learn English and is Calling on Others to Join Him
Culture Wars
»Sao Paulo Council Approves Heterosexual Pride Day

Financial Crisis

Spanish and Italian Debt Spiral

El País Madrid

With each passing day, both countries are growing weaker on the markets. And the more it costs to finance their debt, the less chance they have of surviving the crisis. To date, no one has come up with a solution.

The hike in the risk premium for Italian and Spanish debt (Spain’s spiralled to 403 basis points relative to German bonds and closed above 380) ended up driving both countries into an emergency situation on August 2. The political alarm triggered by the unending punishment from the financial and stock markets has forced consultations among the Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and the opposition parties to analyse possible responses to the serious deterioration in Spain’s creditworthiness and to avert fears about a possible bailout of Spain, which Brussels has denied.

The constant battering of the markets against Spanish and Italian debt is threatening the very survival of the euro zone, which is practically exposed out in the open for lack of political resources still needed to ward off speculation against the national debts.

The diagnosis is already in, but Europe persists in failing to tackle the roots of the Greek crisis and in failing to present the image of a unified economic governance. Meanwhile, Spain and Italy remain trapped in the insoluble contradiction that arises when a drastic fiscal adjustment plan is applied. The deeper the cuts required of a country, the further the fall in their expectations of growth. Investors understand that without growth there can be no return of the financing they loaned. The cost of refinancing therefore goes up, and in turn the tourniquet tightens on their already somewhat diminished activity. And so on, until a bailout becomes inevitable.

The month of August will be a tough test for Spain and Italy. Investors have not set much value on the bringing forward of elections, as the early elections weigh in rather marginally next to the economic factors mentioned, such as the stunted capacity for growth (Spanish GDP will, hopefully, grow by 0.7 percent this year), the stagnant world economy (evident in the case of the U.S.) and the dire political mismanagement of the crisis in Europe.

Choosing between bad and worse…

Neither Germany nor the ECB have finished carrying out the financial reform criteria set out in the last European summit. Meanwhile, Europe is sliding into an irreversible crisis. If Italy and Spain, the third and fourth largest economies in the euro zone, were forced to fall back on a rescue plan, the disaster for the single currency would be complete.

The wriggle room for the Spanish government is somewhere between bad and worse. If the risk premium does not drop, the rising cost of servicing the debt will devour any such room for manoeuvre that public policy may still have. The recovery is hard enough with a spread of over 100 basis points; at 400 points, it is impossible to break the deadlock, create jobs and make any significant dent in unemployment.

One orthodox response (suggested by the IMF) would be to present to Europe and to the markets an additional budget cut of about 2 percent of GDP. But that decision would have impacts on growth equivalent to the strangulation that is producing the unbridled rise in financing costs. It would mean giving up any recovery for the next five years.

The die is cast. And, facing the failure of the most orthodox formulas, new ways forward must be found. One would be immediate and decisive action by the ECB (massive buying of Spanish and Italian debt). Another would be the acceptance of a European debt to replace national debts…

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


Bloomberg Investing $30 Million of His Money in Program to Aid Minority Youth

The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a blunt acknowledgment that thousands of young black and Latino men are cut off from New Yorkâ€(tm)s civic, educational and economic life, plans to spend nearly $130 million on far-reaching measures to improve their circumstances.

The program, the most ambitious policy push of Mr. Bloombergâ€(tm)s third term, would overhaul how the government interacts with a population of about 315,000 New Yorkers who are disproportionately undereducated, incarcerated and unemployed.

To pay for the endeavor in a time of fiscal austerity, the city is relying on an unusual source: Mr. Bloomberg himself, who intends to use his personal fortune to finance about a quarter of the cost, city officials said.

[Return to headlines]

Free Cell Phones Are Now a Civil Right

Pennsylvanians on public assistance now have a new ‘civil right’ — free cell phones. Meanwhile, the rest of us get to pay higher cell bills as a result.

Recently, a federal government program called the Universal Service Fund came to the Keystone State and some residents are thrilled because it means they can enjoy 250 minutes a month and a handset for free, just because they don’t have the money to pay for it. Through Assurance Wireless and SafeLink from Tracfone Wireless these folks get to reach out and touch someone while the cost of their service is paid for by everyone else.

You see, the telecommunications companies are funding the Universal Service Fund to the tune of $4 billion a year because the feds said they have to and in order to recoup their money, the companies turn around and hike their fees to paying customers.

But those of use paying for the free service for the poor, should be happy about this infuriating situation, says Gary Carter, manager of national partnerships for Assurance, because “the program is about peace of mind.

“ Free cell service means “one less bill that someone has to pay, so they can pay their rent or for day care…it is a right to have peace of mind,” Cater explained.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Finland: Unexpected Decline in Racist Crimes

High police official and Somali-born bus driver both fear trend may not be permanent

The number of racially motivated crimes reported to police this year has declined significantly.

The change goes against a prevailing perception that racism has increased, or become more visible than before.

The most common racially motivated crime is assault.

In the first half of 2011, 141 racist crimes were reported to police. This is 17 per cent less than in the same period last year.

Before that, there had been a rising trend until last year.

A fresh police statistical report predicts that if the trend continues, the total number of reported racist crimes this year would reach 271, which would be the smallest number since 2005.

“The decline is quite significant. However, it is not possible to draw the direct conclusion that the number of racist crimes would have actually declined proportionally”, says Jenni Niemi, a researcher at the Police College of Finland.

Niemi says that the change might reflect an actual decline, but another possible factor could be that police have had less time to investigate racist crimes.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Moderate’ Muslims Cheer Draft Law Banning ‘Women-Segrating’ Burka

Rome, 3 Aug. (AKI) — The approval of a Italian draft law to ban the burka is a victory for women’s rights, according to some leaders of Italy’s Muslim community.

“We learned of the news with great pleasure,” said Gamal Bouchaib and Ahmed Bashir of advocacy group Moderate Muslims in Italy and Mustapha Mansouri, member of the Interior Ministry’s Committee for Islam, an advisory group, in a joint statement.

The draft law passed by a parliamentary committee on Tuesday would prohibit the wearing of a burka, niqab or any headwear which covers the face. It has the backing of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government and is due to face a parliamentary vote when politicians return from their summer break.

Similar bans have been passed in France and Belgium

“We’re ready to demonstrate in the streets to defend this law for the freedom of all women,” that statement said, stressing that rules that force women to don the burka are hypocritical and a violation of women’s rights.

“We don’t take lessons from anyone…that segregates and hides the existence of women.” the statement said.

About 1 million Muslims live in Italy.

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

Netherlands: Pressure Mounts on Prime Minister Over Wilders Islam Debate Role

Two more opposition parties have added their voices to calls for prime minister Mark Rutte to react to to role of Geert Wilders as an anti-Islam campaigner following last month’s mass shootings in Norway.

Wilders has publicly distanced himself from Breivik’s actions, describing the killings as the work of a lunatic, but has accused left-wing politicians of trying to implicate him. The PVV leader was mentioned at least 30 times in Breivik’s manifesto.

GroenLinks MP Ineke van Gent told news agency ANP she too is ‘very unhappy’ with the current tone of the debate and ChristenUnie leader Arie Slob said the Norwegian attacks required a ‘moment of self-reflection from everyone’.

Slob also said he thought it noteworthy that the VVD and Christian Democrat ruling alliance had remained ‘quiet so silent’ about the PVV.


‘The political climate has become so polarised that normal discussion is no longer possible and everyone is divided into two camps,’ he said.

Earlier, D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said in an interview with the Volkskrant that Rutte should come clean on where he stands.

‘Where is the prime minister?’ Pechtold said. ‘Rutte cannot continue to say Wilders is simply an ally on some issues and the rest is nothing to do with me. I have to ask who is propping up who.’

The PVV has an alliance with the ruling minority coalition and has agreed to support it on the economy in return for tougher immigration rules.

Earlier stories

Prime minister should comment on Wilders Norway links: D66

Wilders accuses left of demonising him over Norway shootings

Wilders issues statement on Norway links

What the papers say

Norway shooter made many references to the Netherlands

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

UK: Tory Councillor for Millwall Defects to Join Rahman

A former Tory councillor has defected to join Lutfur Rahman’s team in another coup for the independent mayor.

Cllr Maium Miah joins a throng of Labour councillors to have switched allegiances in recent weeks — many of whom have landed paid cabinet roles. He has been given the role of executive advisor to the mayor and will report on charities but will get no further allowance.

Mr Rahman — who was Labour’s candidate for the mayorship last year but had to re-stand as an independent after allegations of vote rigging — now has 14 backers. Cllr Miah said the cuts being driven through by the Tory government led him to quit. He added: “These cuts are destroying the services our residents rely on. They are an ideological attack on the public sector.”

His decision came after he attended a trip to Leicester where the mayor and independent councillors were campaigning for a Labour party candidate in a by-election. Cllr Peter Golds, conservative leader, said: “I was surprised at his decision, not least because he regularly voiced his opposition to the current administration.” Political allegiances are becoming increasingly messy in the borough.

Tower Hamlets has the national record for defections with 29 members changing sides in the last five years. Mr Rahman has also campaigned for Labour on several occasions. Labour is still the largest group in the council with 27 members and the Tories now have seven. Mr Rahman said he is happy to work with any councillors who “dedicate themselves helping our residents.

[JP note: A rotten borough in other words.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Volunteers Seal Up Derelict East End Drugs Haunt

Activists have taken direct action to make a derelict building safe that has been used as a drugs haunt in London’s East End

Members of Telco, The East London Communities Organisation, turned up outside the three-storey building in Cavell Street, Whitechapel, after delivering an ultimatum to Tower Hamlets councillors to ‘get it sorted.’ They arrived with their own tools to safely brick up windows and doors to stop intruders using it as an illicit drugs den. Police had already cleared junkies out, but the building remained exposed and dangerous with broken glass and ripped hoardings.

Telco member Jude Padfield, curate at St Paul’s Church in Shadwell, said: “Closing down drug haunts is a critical issue. We’re doing this in partnership with families and property owners.” His church has been joined by the nearby Darul Ummah mosque to help create the East End’s first ‘City Safe’ zone, aimed to be free of street crime. Volunteers are hoping one day they might use the building in Cavell Street for the community if it remains empty.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Mandatory Veil and Fasting as Indonesia is ‘Islamised’ During Ramadan

Pamekasan District chief imposes jilbab on female public servants. Restaurants are closed during the day for a whole month. Nightclubs shut down as Muslim fundamentalists go after those who break the rules. On Sumatra Island, civil servants are fired if they break the fast.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Wearing the veil for female public servants and fasting, including job loss if caught eating, are becoming compulsory in Indonesia. In some parts of the country, Ramadan has become a time of Islamisation with rules increasingly inspired by Sharia. For the authorities, fasting and praying have become compulsory, forcing Muslims to abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk.

On Madura Island (East Java Province), Pamekasan District chief Kusairi issued a directive whereby all female employees must wear the jilbab, or headscarf. In order to promote conformity with Islamic principles, women street vendors have to conform to the obligation. For Kusairi, this will strengthen Muslim women’s faith.

Restaurants and nightclubs will also have to obey the rules. During Ramadan, such places must be closed during the day until dusk. Clubs, bars and places of nightly entertainment will close for the entire month.

Representatives of the extremist Islamic Defence Front (FPI) are out at night to strike against rule-breakers.

In Bengkulu District (Sumatra), Mayor Ahmad Kanesi said that any municipal workers caught breaking the fast would be fired. He offered a 1 million rupiah (US$ 118) reward to anyone who caught a Bengkulu civil servant breaking the fast.

With an estimated population of 231 million people (2009), Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world. However, it is made up of different ethnic groups and has significant religious minorities.

Muslims (mostly Sunnis) represent 87 per cent of the total. Protestants are about 6.1 per cent whilst Catholics are 4 per cent. Hindus and Buddhists represent about 1 per cent.

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

Tajikistan Bans Minors From Entering Mosques

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) — Tajikistan’s authoritarian leader has approved a law barring minors from praying in mosques as his secular government seeks to minimize the rising influence of Islam in the Central Asian nation.

President Emomali Rakhmon signed the bill Wednesday despite vocal resistance from rights activists and the opposition Islamic Revival Party.

The law also requires people under the age of 18 to study in secular schools thus barring thousands of students from attending mosque schools seen by authorities as a breeding ground of Islamism.

The impoverished and predominantly Sunni Muslim nation shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan.

The country was ravaged in the 1990s by a civil war between government forces and a loose alliance of Islamists and democrats.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


920 Migrants at Lampedusa Centre After Latest Landings

(AGI) Agrigento- Currently 920 migrants are housed at the identification and expulsion centre of Imbriacola district in Lampedusa. The facility has thus exceeded its nominal capacity.

The last massive arrival occurred last night when 330 refugees including 50 women and 4 children landed on the island on board a fishing vessel. Meanwhile, just 40 refugees left Lampedusa by air. They will be distributed between a number of centres in southern Italy.

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

Italy: Bodies of Dead Migrants ‘Show Signs of Murder’

Agrigento, 3 Aug. (AKI) — Two would-be migrants found dead on a boat near Italy were probably beaten to death, according to the results of autopsies conducted on the bodies of 25 men found in the vessel’s hold.

Police initially believed that all the victims found late Sunday died from asphyxiation from gas coming from the boat’s motor.

“If the truth proves to be what was shown by the autopsy we will look into the possibility of murder,” said Agrigento Renato Di Natale, who is the head prosecutor in the Sicilian city of Agrigento where autopsies were conducted.

Di Natale, whose office is heading up the investigation, in an interview with Adnkronos on Wednesday said injuries were found on the two bodies in question that could have been fatal.

The twenty-five bodies were discovered by Italy’s coast guard aboard a boat transporting migrants to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa near Tunisia.

The bodies all belonged to males from sub-Saharan Africa. The boat was carrying 271 people, including 6 women and 21 children.

Police on Monday identified who they believe are the five migrant smugglers who operated the boat that set sail from Libya.

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

UK: It’s Racist to Bar Me From Your Country! Meet the Indian Husband in Immigration Battle Who Refuses to Learn English and is Calling on Others to Join Him

The Indian man challenging immigration laws which block non-English speakers from coming to live in Britain said yesterday he hopes ‘many other people’ will come if he wins.

Talking about his case for the first time, Vali Chapti, a farmer who wants to join his wife in Leicester, also insisted that he would never learn English.

Speaking to the Daily Mail in his remote village, he said he could easily ‘get by’ without English because there were many Gujarati speakers in Leicester and it would be the main language where he would live.

The 57-year-old also branded Britain’s immigration system ‘racist and discriminatory’ and said his human rights had been breached in a ‘disgraceful way’ by rules introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May requiring immigrants to have a basic command of English.

His wife Rashida, 54, has begun a court challenge funded by legal aid against the rules, which are aimed at ensuring immigrants can integrate into British society.

Mr Chapti said he was confident his case would be successful and added that hoped to bring one of his sons with him to the UK.

‘How can the British Government deny me the right to live with my wife at this late stage of my life because I am unable to speak the language?’ asked Mr Chapti, who has been married for 37 years.

He said several of their seven children had previously applied for visas to join their mother but they too had been turned down.

Mr Chapti, who has seen his wife once in the past six years, said: ‘I have faith in the right of a husband and wife to be together. I want to come as soon as I can to England.

‘However long it takes we will fight until we receive justice in this case. If we are rejected, we will appeal again and again for our human rights to be respected.’

And he claimed that if the challenge is successful, it will set a precedent that will ‘open the gates’ for other spouses around the world kept apart by the rules introduced as part of the Government’s attempts to curb net immigration.

‘My wife may be fighting for me, however when we win the victory it will help so many other people who want to come to the UK but can’t due to the present immigration law making English mandatory.’

Mr Chapti said he had dropped out of school aged nine — he can barely read or write in his mother tongue, Gujarati — and has no intention of trying to learn English.

‘It’s not easy to learn a foreign language late in life especially when I have not even finished my proper education at school in India and, except Gujarati, I don’t speak any other language properly.’

‘However long it takes we will fight until we receive justice in this case. If we are rejected, we will appeal again and again for our human rights to be respected.’The High Court challenge last week provoked widespread debate, with Mrs Chapti claiming that even though her husband would not learn the language if he was given permission to join her at the home she shares with relatives in Leicester, he would be able to work in the clothes factory where she is a machinist.

She moved to the UK with her parents six years ago, travelling on a British protected passport first issued when the family lived in Malawi, Africa, then a British colony.

Later, Mrs Chapti successfully applied for naturalisation as a British citizen, then attempted to ‘send for’ her husband and youngest child.

The case also argues that the language tests for non-EU migrants discriminate on race grounds against migrants from India, Pakistan and the Middle East.

Throughout the debate one crucial voice had been missing — that of Mr Chapti. Yesterday the Mail traced him to the farming area of Valan, some 250 miles from Mumbai.

The community of 15,000 is dominated by seven mosques and has strong ties to Leicester and Blackburn, with families regularly sending money back to loved ones. Unlike many similar towns, there is no English language learning centre.

Of his lack of English, Mr Chapti said: ‘I do not think it will be any kind of problem for me — my wife can speak and understand some English and relatives speak it very well. Why should it be a problem?’

Mr Chapti, a deeply devout Muslim who prays five times a day at the mosque, divides his time in Valan between his family farm and religious work, teaching the virtues of Islam and spending 45 days each year touring religious shrines.

‘I do not think it will be any kind of problem for me — my wife can speak and understand some English and relatives speak it very well. Why should it be a problem?’He follows a strict Islamic lifestyle and unlike neighbours has no TV in the three-bedroomed mud-brick home with a flat tile roof that he shares with six family members.

His income of around £4 a week, made working the family’s eight acres of land, is augmented by money sent from two sons living in Africa.

Of the Chaptis’ five sons and two daughters, only one has visited their mother in the UK. ‘We don’t ask my wife for any money as she is struggling to save money from her meagre salary of a machine operator in a hosiery factory,’ Mr Chapti said.

She earns around £200 a week, but also works part-time as a machinist at a second factory when work is available, which adds around £400 a month to her income. Her monthly rent amounts to £525.

So determined are the Chaptis to save money to buy visas that Mrs Chapti did not return home four months ago for the marriage of one of her sons, Javed.

He said the whole family first applied for visas in 2008 but were refused.

They applied the following year with the same result. ‘We have spent a lot of money in all this process and feel disappointed at not getting a favourable result,’ said Javed.

The family see Mrs Chapti as a ‘champion of human rights’ and are confident she will win the case.

Another son, Juned, said: ‘My mother is a very brave lady and fighting this case to bring justice for us.’

Last night Mrs Chapti said: ‘If we win this case, others in India and other countries will also benefit. I am fighting for my husband and all those other people too, who deserve the chance to come to the UK to be with their partners.

‘If I lose, I can take the case to a higher court — the European Court of Human Rights.’

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Sao Paulo Council Approves Heterosexual Pride Day

SAO PAULO (AP) — Sao Paulo’s city council has approved a law creating a Heterosexual Pride Day to be celebrated on the third Sunday of each December.

The law must still be approved by the mayor of South America’s largest city and he says he says he is studying it. He press office decline to say when he would decide.

Carlos Apolinario, the law’s author, says Heterosexual Pride Day is not anti-gay but a protest against what he says are the privileges the gay community enjoys.

As an example, he mentioned how Sao Paulo’s Gay Pride Day is held every year on Paulista Avenue, one of the city’s main thoroughfares. But the March for Jesus organized by evangelical groups cannot be held on the same avenue.

           — Hat tip: Van Grungy[Return to headlines]