Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110804

Financial Crisis
»Markets Tumble as Signs Point to Weak Global Economy
»Premier Says Italy’s Economy is Sound
»Disapproval Rating of Congress at a Record 82 Percent, Poll Finds
»Interfaith Monologue
»NASA Reports First Evidence of Flowing Water on Mars
»Super Congress to Target Second Amendment
»Unconstitutional EPA Must be Abolished
»Virginia Tech on Lockdown After Reports of Gunman Near Campus
Europe and the EU
»Europe Rediscovers Coal
»French Court Investigates Lagarde for Tapie Case
»Have Researchers Discovered the Millennium Falcon Beneath the Sea?
»Italy: Politicians Get Their Vacation Cut Amid Pilgrimage Uproar
»Italy: Discount Flights From the South for Treatment in Bergamo
»Once Upon a Time in the West
»UK: Family of Albino Muslims Terrorised After One of Them Marries a Christian Man
»UK: Judge’s Fury as Sobbing Teenager Branded ‘Wicked Woman’ By Barrister is Forced to Read Out Sex Abuse Details
»Croatia Celebrates, Serbs Mourn on Anniversary of Operation “Storm”
»Croatia-Vatican: Dispute Over Compensation for Monastery
North Africa
»France Recalls Aircraft Carrier From Libya for Maintenance
»Missile 2km Short of Italian Frigate Stationed Off Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
»Protests Over Cost of Living Hit Taxis, Schools and Housing
Middle East
»Death Sentence: More Hangings and Decapitations for Sharia
»Protection of Historic Buildings Sparks ‘War’ In Moscow
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Bomb Explodes in Herat Wounding 4 Italian Soldiers
Far East
»Fake Ikea Store Follows Fake Apple Store in China
Australia — Pacific
»Unlacing the ‘Necklace Bomb’
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Clinton Appeals to Al-Shabaab on Food Aid
»Lampedusa: Boats Recovered and Disposed of
»‘There Are Too Many Immigrants in the UK’, Say Seven in 10 Britons

Financial Crisis

Markets Tumble as Signs Point to Weak Global Economy

The stock market fell sharply Thursday on intensifying investor fears about a slowdown in global economic growth and worries about Europe’s ongoing debt crisis, which is centered now on Italy and Spain.

As Japan intervened to weaken its currency and European stock markets turned negative across the board, United States stocks fell by around 3 percent in morning trading in New York.

A fear haunting markets in the United States is that the economy may be heading for a double-dip recession. Although the fractious debt ceiling debate is now past, markets fear spending cuts and weaker economic data point to a weaker economy. The latest weekly jobless data Thursday again showed the economy was still fragile.

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Premier Says Italy’s Economy is Sound

Berlusconi addresses Chamber after close of trading. “Growth pact required. I have three quoted companies. I’m in the front line”

MILAN — Piazza Affari finished another day’s trading in the red but Silvio Berlusconi warned the Chamber of Deputies against taking a cue from the market’s fluctuations. “The crisis should be faced with coherence and firmness”, Mr Berlusconi told deputies. The PM made special assurances about the solidity of Italy’s politics and economy. The head of government, who was flanked by Giulio Tremonti and Franco Frattini although Umberto Bossi was absent, reiterated to deputies that the budget passed on 6 July was a good one. Balancing the books before the end of 2014 was the objective. “We have passed a budget that was adjudged adequate and sufficient by Europe and by international observers”, pointed out the prime minister, claiming that the markets had failed to take into account the solidity of the Italian banking system or the wealth held by Italian families.

GROWTH PACT — Mr Berlusconi referred to the economic situation in Greece before admitting that uncertainty has increased worldwide and above all in America. In this context, said the PM, the Italian government had done a considerable amount but nevertheless there was “still a lot left to do”. The key objective is growth and to achieve that “an immediate action plan is required”. Mr Berlusconi then called on the social partners and opposition politicians. “Italy is economically and financially solid. At difficult times, the country pulls together and faces up to difficulties” and “I welcome with conviction President Napolitano’s appeal for cohesion, a wise admonition to which I subscribe. We all have a duty to roll up our sleeves”, said the premier. “I do not ask the opposition to agree with the government’s programme but I do hope they can contribute with their own proposals and ideas to elicit what the country needs”. It was an appeal that the Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani left unanswered a few minutes later.

COST OF POLITICS — The prime minister spoke for just under forty minutes, during which time he was interrupted by applause on twelve occasions (Northern League minister Roberto Maroni said he was “satisfied”). The PM’s speech also dealt with the cost of politics. Mr Berlusconi said the government was committed to a significant reduction in the number of official cars and the adjustment of salaries for public positions to the European average…

English translation by Giles Watson

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


Disapproval Rating of Congress at a Record 82 Percent, Poll Finds

The debate over raising the debt ceiling, which brought the nation to the brink of default, has sent disapproval of Congress to its highest level on record and left most Americans saying that creating jobs should now take priority over cutting spending, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

A record 82 percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job — the most since The Times first began asking the question in 1977, and even more than after another political stalemate led to a shutdown of the federal government in 1995.

More than four out of five people surveyed said that the recent debt ceiling debate was more about gaining political advantage than about doing what is best for the country. Nearly three-quarters said that the debate had harmed the image of the United States in the rest of the world.

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Interfaith Monologue

WASHINGTON — More than 250 colleges, universities and seminaries have submitted plans to the White House for yearlong interfaith service projects in response to a campaign launched by the Obama administration.

Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said officials had hoped for 100 participants.

“They don’t have to agree about their different beliefs but we feel like they can agree on issues of service and strengthening our communities,” he said Tuesday (Aug. 2). “And so many of them are responding and saying … we want to take you up on this challenge.”

Projects range from Adrian College, a United Methodist-related school in Michigan, which will combat sex trafficking, to Southern Utah University, a state-supported school, which will help hungry families.

The “campus challenge,” which was launched in March, grew out of recommendations from advisers to DuBois’ office who called for projects on more than 500 U.S. campuses by the end of 2012.

Eboo Patel, president of Interfaith Youth Core and one of those advisers, said he was pleased with the diversity of participants, including Cornell University, University of South Carolina, evangelical Bethel University in Minnesota and Hebrew College, a rabbinical school in Massachusetts.

“I really believe that this is an historic moment for the interfaith cooperation movement,” he said Tuesday.

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NASA Reports First Evidence of Flowing Water on Mars

Scientists at the US space agency NASA announced Thursday that they had found the first evidence of flowing water on Mars.

If confirmed, the evidence gathered by the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter, would be the first discovery of active liquid water in the ground on the red planet.

“We have found repeated and predictable evidence suggesting water flowing on Mars,” Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration program, told a press conference broadcast on NASA television.

NASA said the orbiter circling Mars since 2006 had monitored numerous instances of what appeared to be water flows occuring in several locations during the Martian Spring and Summer.

Time-sequence imagery of the Newton crater in the southern mid-latitude region showed finger-like markings spreading along several steep slopes and then fading again once colder temperatures move in.

“The best explanation we have for these observations so far is flow of briny water, although this study does not prove that,” said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

“It’s a mystery now, but I think it’s a solvable mystery with further observations and experiments,” said McEwen, lead author of a study explaining the findings in the journal Science.

NASA experts are still not sure if what they have witnessed is actually water flowing on Mars, where no liquid water has been found to date.

“By comparison with Earth, it’s hard to imagine they are formed by anything other than fluid seeping down slopes,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist Richard Zurek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“The question is whether this is happening on Mars and, if so, why just in these particular places.”

McEwen said the orbiter recorded “thousands” of the flows over the past three years at seven locations.

It had identified 20 other possible sites of similar flows, he said.

Frozen water has been detected in some of Mars’ higher latitudes, and other evidence has suggested that water interacted with the Martian surface throughout the planet’s history.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Super Congress to Target Second Amendment

Unconstitutional body created by debt deal to get “even greater super powers”

The so-called “Super Congress” that is about to be created with the debt ceiling vote will have powers far beyond just controlling the nation’s purse strings — its authority will extend to target the second amendment — eviscerating normal protections that prevent unconstitutional legislation from being fast-tracked into law.

As the Huffington Post reported last month, the debt deal that has already been passed by the House and faces the Senate tomorrow will create an unconstitutional “Super Congress” that will be comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats and granted “extraordinary new powers” to quickly force legislation through both chambers.

Legislation decided on by the Super Congress would be immune from amendment and lawmakers would only be able to register an up or down vote, eliminating the ability to filibuster. The Speaker of the House would effectively lose the power to prevent unpopular bills from making it to the House floor.

But far from just being a committee that would make recommendations concerning the debt ceiling, the body is now to be granted “even greater super powers, according to multiple news reports and congressional aides with knowledge of the plan,” writes Michael McAuliff.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pulled no punches in making it plain that the Super Congress would have supreme authority. “The joint committee — there are no constraints,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “They can look at any program we have in government, any program. … It has the ability to look at everything.”

That includes introducing laws to restrict the second amendment, states a Gun Owners of America bulletin, warning that the body would be “a super highway for gun control legislation”.

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Unconstitutional EPA Must be Abolished

The Environmental Protection Agency must be abolished because it is destroying the rights of Americans, it’s another monumental waste of money and America doesn’t need it. Like the unconstitutional federal Department of Education which employs almost 4,500 people and will suck up a colossal $63.3 billion dollars for 2005, the EPA with its 18,000 employees, will gobble up $7.76 billion dollars this year.

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution does not authorize Congress to legislate in the area of the environment, therefore, it is unconstitutional. All 50 states of the Union have their own version of the EPA as authorized under the 10th Amendment. There is no need for a federal agency. The states of the Union can handle their own environmental needs as authorized by their legislatures.

At the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro, June 3-14, 1992, the Secretariat for World Order distributed a nonpublic document titled, “The Initiative for Eco-92 Earth’s Charter.” It reads, in part, under policies that must be implemented as follows:

The Security Council of the U.N. will inform all nations that outmoded notions of national sovereignty will be discarded and that the Security Council has complete legal, military and economic jurisdiction in any region of the world … The Security Council of the U.N. will take possession of all natural resources, including the watersheds and great forests, to be used and preserved for the good of the Major Nations of the Security Council.

In the late Dixie Lee Ray’s book, “Environmental Overkill”, one gets a full accounting of what really went on with Al Gore and his loony friends at the Rio Summit. On page 10 of her book, it states:…

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Virginia Tech on Lockdown After Reports of Gunman Near Campus

DEVELOPING: A gunman has been reported near a Virginia Tech dining hall, officials said Thursday.

The university issued an alert on its website at 9:37 a.m. Thursday telling students and employees to stay inside and secure doors.

The alert said the gunman was reported near Dietrick Hall, a three-story dining facility. The dining hall is steps away from the dorm where the first shootings took place in 2007, when a student gunman killed 32 people and then himself.

The school said on its website that three juveniles attending a camp at the school reported seeing a man holding what may have been a handgun. They said it was covered by a cloth or covering of some sort, and that the man was walking in the direction of the volleyball courts.

Officials said they are looking for a white man with light brown hair who is 6 feet tall. Officials say the person is wearing a blue and white striped shirt, gray shorts and brown sandals. He was described as clean shaven, according to the university’s website.

Police from Virginia Tech, Blacksburg and Christiansburg are searching for the man, as well as Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies.

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Europe and the EU

Europe Rediscovers Coal

La Stampa Turin

The Fukushima accident has greatly reduced interest in nuclear power. But because renewable energies are not sufficient to satisfy the needs of the Old Continent, European nations are turning to the most ancient source of fuel but also the most polluting.

Marco Zatterin

Coal is back: The cause of thick smog that blackened the industrial revolution, the coal of realist novels by Emil Zola and the stuff of nightmares for small men who, in Wallonia or Sardinia, went down into the belly of the earth. It seemed destined to exile. Then the Fukushima accident rewrote history, re-launching a resource that, only a year ago, Europe was demanding be banned by 2050.

All world powers are reviewing their budgets and their plans in order to reduce the share of nuclear power because public opinion demands it and, until renewable energy becomes truly profitable, they are returning to the first ‘black gold’, a resource that while, thought of as obsolete, still lights one out of two light bulbs.

This shows are far we are from ‘decarbonisation’. Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), told the European Parliament a few days ago that the Japanese disaster has led to the decision to reduce by half nuclear power plant construction programmes scheduled up to 2035. Rather than the 360 Gw of expected production, only 180 Gw will be supplied. This represents a fall of 10 to 14% in the share of nuclear power in global energy production. It’s estimated that a third of demand will have to be re-oriented and will be supplied by the coal market. This has two troublesome consequences: An inevitable rise in both the market price and in greenhouse gas emissions.?

Growing demand

Global demand in lignite and other types of coal has risen significantly, spurred by China and India. Analysts forecast a rise in production by over 50% by 2035. In 2010, global production reached 6.5 billion tonnes, an 8% year-over-year rise. Over all, coal represents 41% of global electricity production, with Europe accounting for 26% of the total.

But these figures are bound to change. Giuseppe Lorubio, analyst for Eurelectric (European association of energy producers and suppliers) calculated that shutting down only 28 — out of 143 — of the older European nuclear reactors will increase the needs in coal by 8 — 10%.

Germany, Europe’s primary consumer of anthracite, has begun a painful return and Poland, which can extract 90% of its energy needs from coal, is preparing to do the same. The English, sustained by a balanced mix of nuclear power, coal and gas, are playing the green card to replace their most decrepit power stations. For the rest, the scenario is stable: In Europe there is no margin for building new coal-fired plants. Those resources available will have to be exploited to the fullest…

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

French Court Investigates Lagarde for Tapie Case

(AGI) Paris — A French court has opened an inquiry for abuse of power involving the IMF’s director general Christine Lagarde on events linked to the so-called Tapie case. Facts date back to when Lagarde was Finance Minister and decided to approve a 285 million euro compensation payment to a controversial businessman called Bernard Tapie, considered close to President Nicholas Srakozy, for a complex affair inked to the sale of Adidas. Lagarde has always denied all charges .

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

Have Researchers Discovered the Millennium Falcon Beneath the Sea?

Han Solo has got to find a better parking spot for the Millenium Falcon. Swedish researchers have discovered an unidentified object that looks strangely like the ship on the floor of the Baltic Sea.

While searching through ship wreckage for cases of rare champagne, the Ocean Explorer team, led by researcher Peter Lindberg, stumbled across a large, round object, 300 feet beneath the ocean. Details are scant; budget limitations prevented Lindberg and his team from taking a closer at the orb.

“You see a lot of weird stuff in the job, but during my 18 years a s a professional I have never seen anything like this,” Lindberg said. “The shape is completely round.”

Ocean Explorer released blurry images that show that the circle is about 60 feet in diameter, surrounded by marks that, as CNET notes, “almost look like a skidded landing area.” There has been rampant speculation that it could be a UFO. It might be more alluring to postulate that the object came from space, but there is more than likely an explanation that is based more on logic and less on science fiction or cult film lore.

It could be the wreckage from a battleship, a ring from an underwater volcano, or a flooded archeological site, but the images are muddled enough to leave room for imagination.

Lindberg has refrained from hypothesizing on what the object could be, perhaps allowing the tale to grow.

“It’s up to the rest of the world to decide what it is,” he said of the item he theorizes “might be a new Stonehenge.”…

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Italy: Politicians Get Their Vacation Cut Amid Pilgrimage Uproar

Rome, 4 Aug. (AKI) — Italy’s politicians had their summer vacation reduced amid an uproar lawmakers were more concerned about extending their break to around 40 days to go on a bi-partisian religious pilgrimage than deal with an economic crisis.

The recess had been extended by a week until 12 September because almost 200 politicians and their families planned to visit religious sites in the Middle East.

Politicians’ vacation kicked off on Wednesday after prime minister Silvio Berlusconi addressed the Lower House of Parliament and the Senate to reassure the country and international investors that the Italian financial house was in order and it would not be the next victim of a sovereign debt crisis affecting some country’s that use the euro currency.

Italians have accused their political class of remaining aloof to Italy’s woes, which include a stagnant economy and stubbornly high employment. Before they voted last month on tens of billions of euros of cost cuts that required ordinary citizens to make sacrifices and pay higher taxes, a group of politicians reportedly struck from the bill measures that would trimmed their benefits and expense accounts.

“I’m sorry this has been used” to make it appear scandalous. “We conform to the calendar, not vice versa,” said Paola Binetti, member of the left-leaning opposition Democratic Party who has made the pilgrimage every year since 2005, in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“Is it possible that you can’t return earlier from summer recess because of a pilgrimage by some politicians?” deputy Dario Francescini, who is part of Binetti’s party, told the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday.

Apparently it is. Following Berlusconi’s address speak of the Lower House Gianfranco Fini announced that the Chamber of Deputies would reconvene on 6 September, five days earlier than planned.

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

Italy: Discount Flights From the South for Treatment in Bergamo

(AGI) Bergamo — Patients from southern Italy will be offered cheap flights for treatment in Bergamo. The offer comes under an agreement signed between the airline Trawel Fly and Bergamo United Hospitals. Patients will be given a 25% discount on flights, plus free access to A&E at Orio al Serio airport and there will be a 15% discount for all hospital staff deciding to travel with the airline. The Bergamo hospitals explained that the agreement aims to improve so-called ‘health mobility’, that is, travel to other regions to resolve a health issue, a growing phenomenon in Bergamo.

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

Once Upon a Time in the West

A Commentary by Jakob Augstein

This week, the United States nearly allowed itself to succumb to economic disaster. Increasingly, the divided country has more in common with a failed state than a democracy. In the face of America’s apparent political insanity, Europe must learn to take care of itself.

The word “West” used to have a meaning. It described common goals and values, the dignity of democracy and justice over tyranny and despotism. Now it seems to be a thing of the past. There is no longer a West, and those who would like to use the word — along with Europe and the United States in the same sentence — should just hold their breath. By any definition, America is no longer a Western nation.

The US is a country where the system of government has fallen firmly into the hands of the elite. An unruly and aggressive militarism set in motion two costly wars in the past 10 years. Society is not only divided socially and politically — in its ideological blindness the nation is moving even farther away from the core of democracy. It is losing its ability to compromise.

America has changed. It has drifted away from the West.

The country’s social disintegration is breathtaking. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz recently described the phenomenon. The richest 1 percent of Americans claim one-quarter of the country’s total income for themselves — 25 years ago that figure was 12 percent. It also possesses 40 percent of total wealth, up from 33 percent 25 years ago. Stiglitz claims that in many countries in the so-called Third World, the income gap between the poor and rich has been reduced. In the United States, it has grown.

Economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, has written that America’s path is leading it down the road to “banana-republic status.” The social cynicism and societal indifference once associated primarily with the Third World has now become an American hallmark. This accelerates social decay because the greater the disparity grows, the less likely the rich will be willing to contribute to the common good. When a company like Apple, which with €76 billion in the bank has greater reserves at its disposal than the government in Washington, a European can only shake his head over the Republican resistance to tax increases. We see it as self-destructive.

The same applies to America’s broken political culture. The name “United States” seems increasingly less appropriate. Something has become routine in American political culture that has been absent in Germany since Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik policies of rapprochement with East Germany and the Soviet Bloc (in the 1960s and ‘70s): hate. At the same time, reason has been replaced by delusion. The notion of tax cuts has taken on a cult-like status, and the limited role of the state a leading ideology. In this new American civil war, respect for the country’s highest office was sacrificed long ago. The fact that Barack Obama is the country’s first African-American president may have played a role there, too…

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

UK: Family of Albino Muslims Terrorised After One of Them Marries a Christian Man

The so-called ‘honour’ retribution has included smashed windows at their Coventry home, vandalised cars and death threats.

Now, head of the family Aslam Parvez has made a plea to the culprits to end the hatred.

‘We’re a good family and have done nothing wrong yet we’re being punished in the name of honour,’ he said.

Aslam Parvez, 53, blames members of the Muslim community who believe the family have been dishonoured by his daughter’s marriage.

The hate campaign started five months ago when a national magazine published an article on albinos which featured Naseem, who no longer lives in Coventry and has little contact with her family.

It revealed how she has married a Christian, goes to church and is expecting her second child with her husband.

Mr Parvez says copies of the article were quickly spread maliciously, and were posted on walls near their house and through the doors of Muslim homes in the community.

Mr Parvez says he has received numerous death threats and has spent hundreds of pounds installing security cameras around his house.

He has now stopped going to mosque and says he may be forced to flee the city with his wife Shameem Akhtar, 55, three sons Mohammed, 17, Haider, 28, Gulam, 30, and daughters Muqadas, 26 and Musarat, 19.

Mr Parvez called the police last week and officers are investigating the issue.

‘We want it to stop now,’ Mr Parvez said in a direct appeal to the culprits.

‘We’ve had enough of all these bad things. We’re not a bad family and have done nothing wrong.

‘We’re being punished for our daughter’s decision. We just want to live our lives in peace.

‘I’m a good religious man. Look at your own lives before you judge us.

‘I know deep in my heart that I am a good man. God will judge you for what you’ve done to us.’

Mr Parvez was born in Pakistan and moved to Coventry at the age of 10 to join his family. He later met and married his Shameem, who is also an albino.

Their six children inherited their parents’ condition, which causes an absence of pigmentation and partial sightedness.

Mr Parvez says their condition has meant they have been subjected to ridicule, but recent events have made their lives unbearable.

‘I’ve always had it bad,’ Mr Parvez said. ‘I was called names when I went to school and then when I went to work.

‘You get funny looks in the street but you get used to it.

‘We’ve dealt with discrimination all our lives. This has made us feel 10 times worse.’

A Coventry Police spokesman said they received an allegation from the family on July 20 and are investigating the matter.

Mandy Sanghera, a social worker and Coventry expert in honour violence, is supporting the family.

She said: ‘This family is already vulnerable because of their condition and have clearly been affected by honour violence against them.

‘They don’t deserve it. They need the support of the community not to be alienated by them. I urge those responsible for doing this to stop.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Judge’s Fury as Sobbing Teenager Branded ‘Wicked Woman’ By Barrister is Forced to Read Out Sex Abuse Details

A judge was forced to intervene after a barrister tried to force an alleged victim of child-sex grooming to read out graphic details of her alleged abuse.

The witness, suggested to be a ‘compulsive liar’ and a ‘wicked woman’ by defence barrister Tayyab Khan, is one of seven alleged victims in a sex exploitation trial at Stafford Crown Court.

But the 19-year-old, who cannot be named, left the stand in tears as she was asked to read out her account of an alleged sexual assault on her by her step-father — unrelated to the sex exploitation trial — that she made to police in 2005.

The teenager was asked why she had retracted her claim her step-father raped her when she was 13.

She said when she told her mother, the allegation was reported to police, but she retracted it a day later to protect her ‘because I didn’t want my mum to be upset’, the jury was told.

The alleged victim, the third of the seven alleged victims to give evidence at the three month trial, insisted it was not a false allegation, according to The Times.

Mr Khan suggested she had invented the story and asked her to read out details of the abuse she claimed to have suffered.

Crying, she read out a section of her account, and broke down a second time.

After some members of the jury shook their heads at her distress, judge Robin Onions stepped in and said: ‘It’s extremely painful for the witness, Mr Khan. Why can’t you read it to her?’

Later, Mr Khan said: ‘You are a compulsive liar. You have told lies about my client, also?’

The lawyer said she had told lies about his client, 23-year-old Ahdel Ali, who with his brother Mubarek Ali, 28, is accused of arranging her prostitution in 2008 and 2009.

Seven men from Telford have denied more than 50 charges relating to sexual exploitation and child prostitution.

The teenager claims Ali took her to have sex with two workers at a Wellington restaurant.

According to the BBC, the witness said: ‘Were you there? You don’t know anything. He did take me to the restaurant.’

She began to cry and swore at Mr Khan when she was asked about a separate incident in 2009 involving a middle-aged Asian man.

After returning to the stand, the teenager said she had punched the man when he ‘tried to put his hand up my mate’s top.’

Mr Khan said the man had been supplying the girls with alcohol but the witness had threatened to make a rape claim against him when he refused to give them any more.

Mr Khan then branded the witness a ‘very wicked woman’ and suggested she had invented malicious allegations.

She denied that she had made any false allegations.

The other five defendants in the trial are Noshad Hussain, 21, Mohammed Ali Sultan, 24; Tanveer Ahmed, 39; Mahroof Khan, 33; and Mohammed Islam Choudhrey, 52.

The men live in the Wellington and Sutton Hill areas of Telford and deny charges related to incidents alleged to have happened between 2007 and 2009.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Croatia Celebrates, Serbs Mourn on Anniversary of Operation “Storm”

Zagreb/Belgrade 4 Aug. (AKI) — Croatia on Thursday celebrated the 16th anniversary of military operation “Storm” which crushed a Serb rebellion and sparked exodus of some 200,000 Serbs, while Serbia commemorated victims of what it calls the worst ethnic cleansing in Europe after World War Two.

Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said operation “Storm” was a “brilliant military action” and a great victory which re-united the country. “The Day of Victory we celebrate in peace and freedom, taking our place in the European family of states and nations,” Kosor said.

Serbiaian president Boris Tadic said the anniversary was a date of “sorrow and remembrance”. Justice has been partly served by the fact that Gotovina and Markac were in jail, but a lot more remained to be done, he added.

Tadic attended a commemoration in Belgrade’s St. Mark church for the victims of the operation “Storm”. Religious rites were held by the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church patriarch Irinej.

Croatian forces launched an offensive on self-proclaimed Republic of Serb Krajina on August 4, 1995 and in only two days re-conquered a third of its territory held by local Serbs who rebelled against Croatia’s secession from the former Yugoslavia.

According to Serbian sources, 1,205 civilians, including 522 women and 12 children, were killed in the operation and some 200,000 fled to Serbia. According to Croatian Helsinki Human Rights Committee, 677 Serb civilians were killed.

The United Nations War Crimes Rribunal for the former Yugoslavia last April sentenced two Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, to 24 and 18 years in jail respectively for crimes committed in the operation.

According to the indictment, they were a part of a “joint criminal enterprise”, headed by late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, aimed at expelling minority Serbs from the country. Gotovina and Markac have appealed the sentence.

Croatia is expected to join the European Union in 2013, but Belgrade insists Zagreb should first facilitate the return of refugees, resolve their property claims and create conditions for normal integration into society.

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

Croatia-Vatican: Dispute Over Compensation for Monastery

(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY, AUGUST 2 — The issue regarding compensation in favour of a Benedictine monastery in the Padua area for assets in Croatia which were confiscated following WWII has led to a diplomatic dispute between the former Yugoslavian republic and the Vatican. After the pope put the Parenzo-Pola Diocese under the administration of an external commissioner for the period of time during which the deal was signed to compensate the Benedictines — opposed by local Bishop Ivan Milovan — a protest erupted from the Croatian church, while government officials declared that the Treaty of Osimo had been violated. But today the Holy See provided an equally stiff response, stating that this is an internal issue for the Church with no “intention to damage” the country, and that the issue should not be “exploited” for “political and demagogic purposes”. Controversy broke out in Croatia after Pope Benedict XVI temporarily suspended, for what seems like split second, Bishop Ivan Milovan, giving Vice-Camerlengo Santos Abril y Castello’ the power to sign a deal to compensate the Benedictines, calling for the payment of 6 million euros and the restitution of the property. Since 2002, the Benedictines of Praglia, in the Province of Padua, have been asking the Croatian government for compensation for their possessions in Dajla (Istria), where in the 18th century they had founded a small monastery. In 1948, after Istria came under the control of Tito’s communist Yugoslavia, the monastery was confiscated by the state, but was given back to the parish of Dajla following the birth of Croatia and the implementation of laws relative to the restitution of confiscated assets. The Benedictines’ request was rejected, also because 1.7 billion lira in compensation had already been ordered by the Italian state based on the Treaty of Osimo in 1975 between Rome and Belgrade. Meanwhile, the Parenzo-Pola Diocese sold the annexed land, totalling about 400 hectares of property with a view of the sea, where plans for a golf course and tourist resort are in the works. In 2006, the Italian Benedictines appealed to the courts, asking for 30 million euros. In order to avoid a long legal dispute, in 2008 a commission was formed (including Cardinals Attilio Nicora, Josip Bozanic, the Archbishop of Zagreb, and Urbano Navarrete, deceased) and ruled in favour of the monastery, drafting an accord ordering the payment of 6 million euros and for restitution of the property.

However, in recent months Bishop Ivan Milovan has refused to sign the deal, leading to the papal order to put the diocese under the temporary control of an external commissioner on July 6. The decision drove a bonafide protest movement in Croatia. Premier Jadranka Kosor announced that she will use all diplomatic means in order to help the ‘rebel’ bishop, saying that she understands that Monsignor Milovan “feels that his dignity has been violated”. Croatian legal experts assert that the decision by the commission is in violation of the Treaty of Osimo because the Benedictines were already compensated, and they cannot receive compensation twice. “No legal act can violate the Osimo accord,” warned Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, calling for the courts to intervene. Former Croatian President Stipe Mesic also agrees with the current president on the issue.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

France Recalls Aircraft Carrier From Libya for Maintenance

(AGI) Paris — The French Defence Minister says the Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier is to be recalled from Libya on Wednesday. Gerard Longue explained that maintenance work on the vessel, which is currently being used by Nato, will take “several weeks.” According to the French Air Force site, however, the works are likely to take “several months,” which could therefore mean that France’s only aircraft carrier, and the Unified Protector mission’s largest European vessel, could be taken out of service definitively.

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

Missile 2km Short of Italian Frigate Stationed Off Libya

(AGI) Rome — A missile landed in open waters, 2km off from Italian navy frigate ‘Bersagliere’. News of the attack against the Italian ship was reported by Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, at a PDL party press conference.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Protests Over Cost of Living Hit Taxis, Schools and Housing

Thousands of parents, teachers and students march against the rising cost of education. Taxi drivers block roads over higher fuel prices. In many cities, people set up tent cities to protest against the high cost of living. Born from egalitarian and socialist dreams, Israel now has one of the widest gaps between haves and have-nots.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) — Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to protest against the Netanyahu government over the rising cost of living, which is pushing up the price of housing, food, clothing and education. This morning, taxi drivers joined the protest by blocking downtown Tel Aviv because of rising cost of diesel fuel. In various cities, protesters set up tents to protest high housing costs.

Hundreds of cabbies parked their cars at the intersection of Kaplan and Menachem Begin streets today, one of Tel Avis’s busiest junctions. After blocking the road for several minutes, they proceeded to drive slowly toward northern Tel Aviv where they held a rally.

At around 5.30 pm, parents also took to the streets in a number of locations throughout Israel. They held “stroller marches” against the high cost of raising children.

Similarly, teachers protested against cutbacks by the Education Ministry, which effectively reduced their wages and increased costs for parents. High school and college students, as well scouts, held a sit-in in front of the Education Ministry.

Marches took place in Tel Aviv, Ariel and Herzliya, but hundreds of demonstrators also blocked intersections in other cities across the country, ranging from the southern desert city of Beersheba to Kiryat Shmona in the far north.

All the protesters accuse the Netanyahu government of neglecting the needs of the population whilst the ranks of the poor swell and a few families get super rich.

The wave of protest, dubbed by some with a certain sense of humour, Israel’s ‘Tahrir Square’, began some weeks ago when Daphne Leef and about 20 friends set up a tent encampment in central Tel Aviv near the Rothschild Boulevard to criticise the high cost of housing.

According to an Israeli observer, Noah Efron, housing prices in the city jumped by 65 per cent in the past five years, crowding out lower-middle class families from the real estate market.

Many people have had to take two or three jobs to afford a mortgage, without the certainty that they will be able to pay it off.

Quickly from Tel Avivi, tents protests spread to other towns and cities, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people.

As the movement grew, so did the demands, going from housing to the cost of living, education, health care and wages.

The protest is even more poignant considering Israel’s history and its founding egalitarian and socialist dreams. In fact, over the past 25 years, the income gap between rich and poor has gone from being among the lowest in developed nations to in the fifth highest among the 34 OECD nations. Now, one in four Israelis and one in three kids live below the poverty line.

For many, this comes as no surprise since both leftwing (labour) and rightwing (likud) governments have reduced the size of the state through privatisations. Schools, hospitals, universities and social services have been the most affected.

The situation is such that a 90m2 flat can cost US$ 2-3,000 a month, way above what most Israelis can afford.

Families are spending up to US$ 100 a month to pay for their children’s school services, which were once free.

Some surveys show that if the ‘tent’ movement were a political party, it would take 20 seats at the next parliamentary elections.

Recently, the country’s trade unions have been moving in the direction of the protesters.

Critics have labelled them “too leftwing”, afraid that their demands might join similar claims pushed by Palestinians.

Protesters’ spokespeople have rejected the criticism, saying that their protest is not politically related to the Israeli-Palestinian question.

For his part, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avidgor Liebermann has described the demonstrations as the work of “spoiled brats” who do not know how rich they are.

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

Middle East

Death Sentence: More Hangings and Decapitations for Sharia

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 4 — The use of the death penalty to implement the Sharia, Islamic law, continues to increase year by year: in 2010 there were at least 714 executions, against 658 in 2009 and around 585 in the previous year, in 13 countries with a Muslim majority, many of which ordered by religious tribunals.

The sentences were carried out by hanging, decapitation and execution by firing squad. These figures emerged from the 2011 report presented today in Rome by the association ‘Nessuno tocchi Caino’ (Hands Off Cain).

Worldwide 24 of the 47 countries with a Muslim majority practice capital punishment; 18 of these have a judicial system that explicitly refers to the Sharia. There is only one Islamic country, Iran, that applied the death penalty in 2010 and in the first six months of 2011 to minors who were under the age of 18 when they committed their crime. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritania and Egypt also sentenced minors to death, but did not execute the penalty.

The Sharia has been applied through hanging, decapitation and execution by firing squad. In Iran, Nigeria and Pakistan people have been sentenced to death by stoning, but there are no reports of actual executions by this method, though stoning is used without regular trials in Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Hanging, often in public, is the most widespread method. The Iranian version is particularly cruel: in this country a crane or a low platform is used that causes the convicts to die a slow and painful death. The only country to apply decapitation is Saudi Arabia. In 2010 there were 27 executions, less than half of the number recorded in 2009 (at least 69), but the number of decapitations increased significantly in 2011 (34 on July 25).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Protection of Historic Buildings Sparks ‘War’ In Moscow

For two weeks, citizens have set up barricades near the Patriarch’s Ponds against the demolition of a nineteenth century building to make way for a luxury condominium.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — A few meters from the famous Patriarch’s Ponds in Moscow, where the Devil appeared for the first time in Bulgakov’s ‘Master and Margarita’, barricades have been erected in what local media have already dubbed “the Bolshoi Kozikhinskij street war”. On one side, citizens of the historic district, on the other a construction company that want to raze an entire block to make way for a luxury condominium with a three floor garage attached.

Since mid-July, residents and activists of the “In Defense of Moscow” movement have been picketing the area, where excavators arrived on July 16 knocking down a wall of the nineteenth century building at number 25. A young protester, throwing himself against the bulldozers, stopped the demolition. There was another attempt to continue with the demolition, July 26, but again popular resistance blocked it. The activists argue that the construction company, Vektor, does not have the necessary permits to build on the ruins of a building deemed historic and denounce the presence on site of “mercenaries who attacked the demonstrators, and threatening them verbally.” For his part, Vektor, claims to have the law on its side and the authorities deny that the building at No. 25 has any artistic value.

The standoff continues between the two parties in the silence of Mayor Sergey Sobianin, who is increasingly beginning to resemble his predecessor Luzhkov, forced to resign last year due to differences with the Kremlin.

In Moscow, speculation on architectural heritage is an incendiary issue question. Dozens of noble houses and villas dating to the 1600’s and 1700’s, which survived the Napoleonic fire of 1812, have fallen under the blows of greedy contractors, with the complicity of the municipal administration. According to the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society, this is cultural “genocide”: there are over 400 historic buildings have disappeared over the past 12 years.

A concert was held on July 30 in defence of the No. 25 Bolshoi Kozikhinskij alley and some of the leading Russian figures in the world of art and architecture are mobilizing. On the ‘social information website, a petition has been launched addressed to President Dmitry Medvedev which calls for “a moratorium on demolition of historic buildings in Moscow” so that “civil society, the business world and authorities can develop and implement a program for their recovery. “

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Bomb Explodes in Herat Wounding 4 Italian Soldiers

(AGI) Herat — A bomb exploded in the province of Herat wounding 4 Italian soldiers. They suffered several fractures, the Italian Defense Ministry reported.

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

Far East

Fake Ikea Store Follows Fake Apple Store in China

We’ve seen fake Apple stores, but now a fake Ikea store has been spotted in China’s southwestern city, Kunming. Five fake Apple stores were recently discovered in Kunming, and now a four storey Ikea copycat store has sprung up, calling itself 11 Furniture. The store is almost exactly the same as Ikea, with the same blue and yellow colour scheme, …

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Unlacing the ‘Necklace Bomb’

The experience of Madeleine Pulver reads like the plot of a terrifying psychological thriller.

The 18-year-old was revising for her exams in the kitchen of her family’s luxury home in the well-heeled Sydney suburb of Mosman when an intruder wearing a balaclava broke into the house and placed what appeared to be a collar bomb around her neck, leaving a ransom note before fleeing.

Also known as a necklace bomb, a collar bomb is essentially a device constructed to hold explosives around the victim’s neck, sometimes using a collar which may be made of metal or plastic.

In the case of Madeleine, reports say, a chain attached to the device was laced around her neck.

It took bomb disposal experts 10 hours of painstaking work to disable the device and establish that it was part of what police called a “very, very elaborate hoax”.

Bomb disposal experts say the collar bomb is unique in both its ability to create terror in its victim and the techniques needed to tackle it.

“If you want to inflict the most terror on a victim while leaving them in their own home, there are few things you could do more effective than putting this collar around their neck,” said Roy Ramm, a former commander of specialist operations at Scotland Yard, London’s police service…

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Clinton Appeals to Al-Shabaab on Food Aid

Families from the south of the country wait at the side of a street before making their way to a refugee camp seeking food and shelter, in Mogadishu, Somalia, August 3, 2011 .U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday appealed to al-Shabaab militants in Somalia to give unfettered access to relief workers trying to aid thousands of people threatened by famine. Clinton said a high-level U.S. team will lead a fact-finding mission to neighboring Kenya to review relief efforts.

The United States lists al-Shabaab, which has ties to al-Qaida, as a terrorist organization and has actively helped Somalia’s U.N.-supported transitional government try to resist a takeover by the Islamic militants.

But in an unusual direct appeal to al-Shabaab, Clinton urged the group to drop what she said was its deliberate effort to block food deliveries in south-central Somalia and in parts of the capital, Mogadishu, under its direct or indirect control.

“It is particularly tragic that during the holy month of Ramadan, al-Shabaab are preventing assistance to the most vulnerable populations in Somalia — namely children, including infants, and girls and women who are attempting to bring themselves and those children to safety and the potential of being fed before more deaths occur,” said Clinton. “I call on al-Shabaab to allow assistance to be delivered in an absolutely unfettered way throughout the area that they currently control.”

Al-Shabaab, which dominates the southern part of Somalia, maintains there is no famine and has barred the entry of aid groups other than the International Committee of the Red Cross.

U.S. officials say drought and famine in Somalia have killed nearly 30,000 children during the last three months and the United Nations says more than 600,000 children are acutely malnourished.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced it would not rigidly enforce rules barring material support to terrorist groups and reassured aid agencies that they would not be prosecuted if some of their relief supplies or funds end up in the hands of al-Shabaab.

Clinton, who spoke at a press event with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, said U.S. officials are aware that al-Shabaab has extorted cash and other concessions from aid providers in the past.

“We know that they make money from kidnapping those who are attempting to provide humanitarian relief,” she said. “We know how difficult this is. Therefore, we don’t want to add to the difficulty. If people from the U.N. or other organizations are trying to get food into the al-Shabaab controlled region, the United States will not be imposing the penalties that are called for under our law.”

Clinton said U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, will visit Kenya this weekend along with U.S. Agency for International Development Director Raj Shah and other officials.

She said they will inspect camps being set up along the Somali border to house people fleeing the food crisis, to assess immediate needs as well as steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects of long-term drought.

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Lampedusa: Boats Recovered and Disposed of

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), AUGUST 4 — This morning operations began for the recovery of about twenty boats which sunk or were partially sunk off in the Lampedusa port, all of which landed on the island over the last few months and had been carrying migrants. Beginning on August 15, as well, further reclamation of all the rickety boats which have gone down near the port will begin, followed by the disposal from the island of all the about a hundred boats heaped up at the stadium and within the former Loran base. Other wreaks, upon the request of the town council and the cultural association Ascavuza, could be used for the setting up of a “Museum of Memory”. The area identified for the exhibition space is near the “European Port” sculpture by Mimmo Paladino, dedicated to the migrants who have landed on the island.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘There Are Too Many Immigrants in the UK’, Say Seven in 10 Britons

Three in four agreed that immigration has placed too much pressure on public services while three in five agreed that it had made it harder for Britons to get jobs.

Just one in four thought immigration had been good for the economy, the survey of 1,000 people showed.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he wants to cut net migration from the current 242,000 to the levels of the 1990s when the number of people coming to the UK was in the ‘tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands’.

Ashish Prashar, of Ipsos Mori, said: ‘Clearly, people in Britain are concerned how immigration is affecting their employment opportunities; the strain on public services; and impact on a sluggish economy.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of campaign group MigrationWatch UK, said: ‘This is further overwhelming evidence that the British public remain deeply concerned about immigration.

‘Despite the efforts of the immigration lobby, three quarters believe that immigration is putting too much pressure on public services while only just over a quarter think immigration is good for the British economy.

‘This poll is a timely reminder that the Government must keep its pledge to get immigration down to tens of thousands or pay a very heavy price with public opinion.’

The Global @dvisor survey of more than 17,000 people in 23 countries showed that only Russians (77 per cent) and Belgians (72 per cent) were more likely than Britons (71 per cent) to agree that there were too many immigrants in their country.

The Japanese were the happiest with their current level of immigration, with just 15% agreeing that there were too many immigrants in Japan.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: ‘For too long immigration was allowed to get out of control and we are taking action to reduce net migration back to the tens of thousands.

‘In the past year we have introduced an annual limit on the number of non-European workers able to come to the UK and overhauled student visas. We are currently consulting on restricting settlement rights and the family route.’

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: ‘These findings show what real people care about and immigration has long been the elephant in the room for both this Government and the last.

‘Nothing can be done to halt those arriving in the UK from other EU countries, which is a problem that should not be glossed over when you consider that David Cameron is keen for Turkey to join the EU, a country with a population of around 75 million.

‘As for non-EU immigration, the existing controls in place are shambolic.’

He went on: ‘We continue to advocate a five-year freeze on immigration in order to sort the current mess out, then a cap of 50,000 people a year.

‘Our country is already buckling under the strain of its current population which is why we need to put effective measures in place now.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]