Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110814

Financial Crisis
»Budget: Van Rompuy OKs Timely and Rigorous Measures
»Chinese Inflation Up 6.5% in July, Never So High in Three Years
»Greece: Around 15% of Stores in Attica Have Shut Down
»Greece: Civil Servants Intent on Blocking Reforms
»Italy: Austerity Plan Will Cut €9.5bln to Local Govt in 2012-2013
»Italy: Manoeuvre Based on ECB Indications Unanimously Passed
»Italy: Civil Servants’ Severance Pay Delayed by 2 Years
»Italy: Solidarity Tax: 5% Over 90,000; 10% Over 150,000 Euros
»Italy: Under Supervision
»Italy: Austerity Package to Cost Milan 100 Mln Euros in 2012
»Social Unrest: The Street Bankers
»‘Thank God That Turkey is Not in the Eurozone, ‘ Economic Expert Says
»UK’s Osborne: Police Budget Cuts Will Remain in Place
Europe and the EU
»Germany May Import Austrian Energy in Winter
»Italy: Conservative MP and Businessman Investigated for Conspiracy in Criminal Probe
»Italy: Palermo to Receive Extra 45 Mln for Garbage Disposal
»Italy: Pompeii Night Tours Extended for Holiday Season
»Netherlands: Prime Minister Condemns Wilders’ Hate Palaces Comment
»Switzerland: Family Loses Appeal Over Swimming Lesson Fine
»The Netherlands Deports Terrorist Suspect to the US
»UK: Armed Officer Holds Gun Head Over the Head of 15-Year-Old Boy
»UK: A Quick Quiz You Can Do Between Firebombings
»UK: No Shame: Masked Looters Brazenly Pose With Their Haul of Top Gadgets
»UK: Police Water Cannon and Plastic Bullets? After 50 Years of the Most Lavish Welfare State on Earth? What an Abject Failure
»UK: Remanded in Custody — The ‘Bad Samaritan’ Accused of Attacking Malaysian Student in the Robbery That Shocked the World
»UK: Steel Guard for London Blitz Memorial Defaced by ‘Racist’ ‘Kill the Brits’ Vandals
»UK: When the Polish Plumber Fails
»Kosovo: NATO Commander Denies Love Affair With an Ethnic Albanian Woman
North Africa
»Egypt’s Double Standard in Muslim and Christian Abduction Cases
»Libya: Italian Pilotless Drone Completes First Surveillance Mission
»Suicide Attack Injures 29 in Algeria
»Tunisia: Women Protest Against Gender Discrimination
Middle East
»Qatar: Italian Architect Designs Semi-Submerged Hotel
»Syria: Minaret Destroyed, Mosques Turned Into Barracks
»Turkey: Arrivals From Islamic Countries Up 25%
South Asia
»India at 64: Muslim Man Says Indian Muslims Are Happy
Far East
»Islamabad: Extradites 5 Uyghurs to China: Among Them a Woman and 2 Children
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Tutu’s ‘White Tax is Racist’
»France: Clampdown on Non-EU Citizen IT Workers and Builders
»Italy: Another 400 Migrants Land in Lampedusa
Culture Wars
»Turks Lack Sex Education, Unaids Official Warns

Financial Crisis

Budget: Van Rompuy OKs Timely and Rigorous Measures

(AGI) Brussels — European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, welcomes anti-crisis measures launched by the Italian government. Rompuy called the of “crucial importance” for all of the 17 Eurozone countries. In a comunique issued after he spoke yesterday on the telephone to PM Silvio Berlusconi, Van Rompuy said, “I fully support and welcome the timely and rigorous financial measures.” “I have underlined,” he explained, “that these measures are of crucial importance not only for Italy, but for all of the Eurozone.” .

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

Chinese Inflation Up 6.5% in July, Never So High in Three Years

Price of food increased by 14.8%, +56.7% for pork. The government can not control inflation, but the measures taken to date have created difficulties for small businesses, the foundation of the economy. Experts: revise the model of development and focus on the needs of the population.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Inflation in China spiked at 6.5% in July (it was 6.4% in June), a 37 month records, contradicting the general expectation that the government was failing to contain it. The figure is far more serious because it reveals a growth of food prices, the main expenditure item for families with low and medium income: +14.8% in July, well above the 4% cap set by the Government for 2011 .

The cost of foods that are the basis of Chinese cuisine have spiraled: in July the price of pork increased by 56.7%, eggs by 19.7%, fresh vegetables by 7.6%. Moreover the increases occur at the origin and retailers complain that their earnings decrease continuously, due to lower sales and the need to undercut prices to remain competitive.

In addition the current difficulty of global financial markets does not recommend the adoption of the usual instruments of government intervention. The Central Bank of China raised interest rates five times between October 2010 and was ready to do it again, but now it is likely to delay the move to avoid the risk of excessive repercussions on investment. Also because of the increased cost of money, which has had uncertain results on inflation, has hit small private companies, which constitute a large part of Chinese wealth: they are experiencing increasing difficulty in obtaining new credit, but have higher costs for wages and raw materials.

For months, Chinese leaders have indicated the price controls as their main priority and, in addition to raising the cost of money, they also sought to contain new bank loans, to avoid a surplus of money circulating largely used for speculative operations. In June, Premier Wen Jiabao said he was “confident” that inflation was under control, a belief shared by many experts, but denied by the data. However many estimate that industrial production has contracted in July, although there are no official data yet, so it is feared that any anti-inflationary measure will affect already waning economic growth.

Analysts observe that the global crisis also has serious repercussions on the Chinese model of development, based on an continuous increase in exports, for some time now considered by everyone, including Premier Wen, “unbalanced, unstable and unsustainable.” This has led Beijing to disregard the rise of the middle and lower class income and domestic consumption, encouraging large companies and state companies. But now it foresees a decrease in Chinese exports to the United States and Europe, its main markets. The reduction in exports could be offset by an increase in domestic consumption, with families who see a growing proportion of income absorbed by the basic needs such as food.

Experts believe that if inflation continues to grow, the government will be forced to review its economic policy in order to encourage increased consumption. So far, the stimulus measures have been directed instead to promote investment, with particular advantage for large companies, primarily state ones.

Tang Yunfei, of Founder Securities, notes that “it is time for Beijing to announce to the world that it will again try to stimulate domestic demand.” For example, allowing a re-valuation of the yuan, with lower domestic price for foreign products.

The government still needs to act decisively and quickly, for fear that the rise in prices will lead to more social unrest: according to experts, in 2010 there were over 180 thousand mass protests in China, mainly for economic reasons such as widespread corruption, expropriation of land and the escalating food prices.

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

Greece: Around 15% of Stores in Attica Have Shut Down

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, AUGUST 11 — Shop closures in Greece’s Attica region, which includes Athens, have reached 15% since the economic crisis started hitting consumer spending, daily Kathimerini reports citing a study by the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce. Of 3,421 stores sampled in the region, 505 have closed, according to the study. In central Athens, 215 businesses out of 1,252 have closed, according to the study, conducted between July 19 and 30. The most affected were clothing stores. The organization didn’t provide any comparative figures. Greece’s economy, in the third year of recession, faces austerity measures imposed by international lending agencies. The economy is forecast to shrink 3.8% this year after a 4.4% contraction last year, according to European Commission data released July 4. Strikes and protests in downtown Athens have harmed business, the confederation said. The level of closures on Stadiou Street, which runs through the heart of downtown Athens, was 25%, the highest in the study. On Ermou, Athens’s main shopping street, 15% of stores have shut.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Civil Servants Intent on Blocking Reforms

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, AUGUST 12 — With only 10 days left until a team from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission arrives in Athens to check how Greece is progressing with its economic reforms ahead of receiving an 8-billion-euro loan tranche next month, the government is facing a battle with civil servants that could hamper its effort to make changes. The government — as daily Kathimerini notes — has a number of loose ends it needs to tie up by the time the troika inspectors arrive in Athens on August 22. These include the shutting down of public bodies, the introduction of a single pay structure in the civil service and the speeding up of a privatization program. However, on the last two, PASOK appears to have come up against fierce resistance from public sector workers.

Civil servants’ union ADEDY (that represents the country’s some 800,000 civil servants) made it clear this week that its members would strike in September if their wages are cut further. Bureaucrats have already seen their salaries slashed by up to 30% since last year. This week, they also began working an extra 30 minutes each day, taking their working week to 40 hours from 37.5.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Austerity Plan Will Cut €9.5bln to Local Govt in 2012-2013

Rome, 12 August (AKI) — Rome will slash 9.5 billion euros of funding to Italy’s regional and local governments over the next two years as part of an austerity plan to balance Italy’s budget by 2013.

The bulk of the funding cuts will be to municipalities with just 1 billion of cuts being made to Italy’s regions and the savings do not include cuts to health budgets, Italy’s economy minister Giulio Tremonti told local authority representatives on Friday.

The conservative Italian government has announced 20 billion euros of fresh austerity cuts to balance the budget by 2013 instead of 2014 as planned in a bid to reassure jittery financial markets.

Higher taxes; reforms to the pension system, the privatisation of municipal services and laws to ease hiring and firing of workers in Italy’s rigid labour market are among possible measures to achieve the 20 billion euros of savings.

The austerity measures are due to be hammered out at a cabinet meeting in Rome late Friday and issued by decree. They come on top of 48 billion euros of spending cuts unveiled by the government in July aimed at mending Italy’s ailing finances.

Italy’s massive 1.9 trillion euro public debt amounts to 120 percent of gross domestic product, second only to Greece’s in the eurozone. Fears that Italy and Spain — the zone’s third and fourth largest economies — could be the next victims of the eurozone debt crisis have contributed to the recent turmoil in global financial markets.

Earlier this week, the European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet called on Italy and Spain to hasten their return to “normal” budgetary situations.

Trichet, said he had asked Italy “in a very clear way” to take action on its budget deficit. Tremonti has pledged to reduce this from 3.9 percent of national income in 2011 to 1.5 -1.7 percent before reaching zero in 2013.

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

Italy: Manoeuvre Based on ECB Indications Unanimously Passed

(AGI) Rome — The Council of Ministers unanimously passed the new economic manoeuvre which “goes in the direction recommended by the Ecb”, as announced by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at a press conference in Palazzo Chigi. Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti was with him. “Ecb invited us to anticipate the budget parity from 2014 to 2013. We had announced our intention to do it soon and to do it well — he added — and tonight there was the unanimously approval by the Council of Ministers. The manoeuvre goes in the direction recommended by the Ecb and allowed Ecb to start buying our bonds last Monday” .

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

Italy: Civil Servants’ Severance Pay Delayed by 2 Years

(AGI) Rome — Under the emergency budget measure, the public sector employees’ severance pay will be paid out with a 2-year delay. The draft decree is currently being examined by the Cabinet.

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

Italy: Solidarity Tax: 5% Over 90,000; 10% Over 150,000 Euros

(AGI) — Rome — A solidarity tax is included in the economic manoeuvre passed by the Government tonight. It will amount to “5% for revenues over 90,000 Euros and 10% for revenues over 150,000 Euros for two years”, as announced by Premier Silvio Berlusconi .

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

Italy: Under Supervision

L’Espresso, 12 August 2011

“Stock prices are in a tailspin, the euro is on the ropes, and even Obama and the United States are at the mercy of the markets.” According to Espresso, everything is going wrong, particularly for “poor Italy,” which is “at the heart of the storm, with a government under EU supervision that is incapable of taking the necessary measures”. As to who is to blame for this situation, the Roman magazine highlights “the mediocrity of our government” — an executive that will soon have to live with an additional “thorn in its side,” following the appointment of Mario Draghi, who will take over at the ECB in November. The European Central Bank’s new president is expected “to approve a host of government measures and fiscal adjustments.” To date, notes Espresso, Draghi is “planning to reform the pension system,” at a time when the prospect of recession is once again weighing heavily on the young generation.

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

Italy: Austerity Package to Cost Milan 100 Mln Euros in 2012

(AGI) Milan — Should the announced austerity package be confirmed, it will cost Milan 100 mln euros in 2012. Milan municipal budget councillor Bruno Tabacci wrote so in a press release. “If the announced austerity measures were confirmed, allocations to the municipality of Milan will drop by about 100 mln euros for 2012, plus there will be indirect cuts due to the financial measures the regional government may pass”.

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

Social Unrest: The Street Bankers

Der Standard Vienna

Europe is bailing out its financial centres, but not its youth. Three basic conditions — education, employment and housing — are denied them. So when they fight back, says Der Standard’s writer, they’re just following the message from the top: take what you can and get out.

Karl Fluch

The world’s youth show precious little homogeneity as a social group, and they’re not a financial sector poised on the edge of bankruptcy. Too bad for them. Otherwise emergency parachutes would have been handed out long ago and national and international consortiums would have pumped billions into training them, creating jobs and affordable housing for them and securing a future for all — just the future envisaged in the so-called ‘generational contract’ between those of working and retirement ages.

But an inability or unwillingness among politicians to create consensus in these key areas is eroding away the foundations of affluent societies, whose citizens are increasingly turning into mere onlookers in a cheerful, increasingly elitist capitalism. Capitalism is only tolerable so long as it offers the possibility to share in it. But now this fickle plaything of the free markets, it’s losing its appeal: it’s a discontinued model with nothing else next to it on the shelf. For young people taking a place in society for the first time, this breeds uncertainty, scepticism, and fear of the future. And those who takes away from the young their prospects and opportunities for the future will eventually find them at the door in their thousands, demanding them back.

Countries such as Greece, Spain, Chile, Israel and Great Britain are currently going through such experiences with varying degrees of passion. As different from country to country as the motives behind the sometimes violent protests may be, they still all come down to basic demands: open access to education, the desire for work and for a place to live.

But standing in the way of those needs, which are really fundamental rights, are obstacles that the young of today either cannot overcome, or do not wish to. In some cities of Britain and Israel, having a good education and a job no longer means you can afford an apartment, let alone a school for your children.

Governments are showering billions into the markets with one hand to keep our resident devil, the Dow Jones, happy. With the other, they’re slashing social benefits. That policies of this sort are received as pure cynicism in countries like Spain, Greece and Britain, where youth employment is around 44, 38 and 20 percent respectively, is a puzzle for the minuscule elite, who discuss the difference between frustrated protesters and criminals over tea while worrying only about the state of the money markets.

But value wiped off in the stock markets is nothing compared to decaying social cohesion. If, despite a hard-won education, one sees precious few opportunities for oneself and one’s dreams, eventually Facebook ceases to be an adequate safety valve. Then — as in England — a truly tragic but ultimately mundane reason is enough to unleash all people’s pent-up frustrations under cover of the mob. Then people may have just cause to turn into rioters and looters. On a small scale, such chaos merely reflects the example handed down from above: grab what you can and make off with it. In spirit, these are the bankers of the street.

This downward slide can only be stopped by politicians. Not with extra police and empty phrases, but with action. And quickly. But who knows whether the generation demonstrating in the streets will see that day come.

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

‘Thank God That Turkey is Not in the Eurozone, ‘ Economic Expert Says

Turkey has avoided some of the worst of the financial crisis facing many advanced economies because the majority of its public debt is held in Turkish Liras, says an economic expert who in the past had called for the country to join the eurozone. ‘Thank God today we are not in the eurozone,’ says Göngör Uras.

Turkey’s having not thus far joined the euro has helped save it from the financial crisis wreaking havoc in many developed economies, according to veteran financial journalist Göngör Uras.

The country’s economy has been doing relatively well because most of its debt is in Turkish Liras, he told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.

“In the past we called for Turkey to join the eurozone. Thank God today we are not in the eurozone,” Uras said, adding that despite the economic troubles facing the European Union, the 27-nation bloc is still very important for Turkey.

Who is Göngör Uras?

A graduate of Ankara University’s Political Science Faculty, which has produced numerous Turkish politicians and civil servants, Göngör Uras worked in the State Planning Organization between 1962 and 1974.

He served as the secretary-general of the Turkish Industry & Business Association, or TÜSIAD, from 1974 to 1980 and then worked for 21 years as the head of the board of a prominent insurance company. Uras’ first newspaper article appeared in 1960. He has been writing for daily Dünya, one of Turkey’s most prestigious economic dailies, for the past 23 years. After having written commentaries for daily Sabah, he currently writes for daily Milliyet.

Q: What exactly happened during the past two weeks, which have been extremely turbulent for the economy?

A: Part of the problem is that Turkey enters up and down cycles very quickly. We get psychologically too quickly affected [by external turbulence]. Turkish people are too sensitive to economy politics. In Turkey we monitor prices very closely. For instance the best-selling magazines are those about cars. Not because readers plan to sell their cars tomorrow — they want to monitor the value of their cars for times of trouble. Since we do not have social security we closely monitor prices. In other countries, people do not get up in the morning to see the value of the euro or the dollar. But since we have foreign exchange as a currency unit in addition to the lira, we closely monitor whether the dollar went up or down.

What happened over the past 10 days is a partial readjustment of the foreign exchange rate. For a long time we had distanced ourselves from realistic exchange rates. I have been saying since 2003 that there is a current account deficit problem and this is about cheap foreign currency. We have been implementing a high-interest-rate, cheap-foreign-currency policy. When interest rates are high, money enters the country and the value of foreign currency goes down.

There is a false conviction in the public opinion that we are spending too much with foreign currency, and that’s why we have a deficit. In no country can you spend first and then find the currency. If the currency is cheap, you spent it. When the currency is cheap, Turkish people start importing more. But what happens is that those in the production sector also import intermediate goods. Economy Minister Zafer Çaglayan said that in the 1970s we used to produce compressors to make refrigerators. Currently we have exported $600 million worth of refrigerators but imported $400 million worth of compressors. With cheap foreign currency, Turkish industry prefers to import rather than produce. I am against the current account deficit because cheap foreign currency has damaged the structure of Turkey’s industry.

Q: Since the June 12 general elections we have been hearing contradictory messages. First a high-level ruling party official warned people not to spend too much. There was more talk about taking measures against the current account deficit. Then the Central Bank made decisions that, rather than restricting consumption, were aimed at fighting a possible recession.

Q: First of all, the government started to grasp the importance of the current account deficit even before the elections. There was more talk about overheating. The government was planning to take the current account deficit problem under control. In order to curb consumption there was talk about restrictions in bank credits. But then it saw the crisis in the world was getting more serious and panic had started in Turkey. Since it saw that the crisis could shake the Turkish economy, it changed the policy.

If you put the brakes on inside the country — that is, if you curb consumption — and the crisis reduces Turkey’s exports abroad, this will lead to recession. The government decided to put aside the problem of the current account deficit and continue economic growth, thinking maybe the readjustment in foreign currency would do the job better than introducing measures to curb consumption.

This readjustment now is a step in the right direction. But what is important is that we should not overdo it. This readjustment needs to be digestible by the Turkish economy. Some of the Turkish industrialists buy in dollars but do not sell in dollars. A difficulty in their situation could also be bad for the banks.

Q: What will be the effect of the new crisis looming on the horizon?

A: I would rather call it a serious confidence crisis. This confidence crisis is getting deeper. Thank God in Turkey, the situation is different. Thank God we have not entered the eurozone. We used to say in the past, let’s enter the eurozone. The state’s debt in foreign currency is very little. The majority of public debt is held in liras. Turks are indebted to Turks. This is a big advantage for the government. This is not the case in Germany, for instance.

Q: But won’t there certainly be some negative effects?

A: Of course it will affect us. First, it affects us psychologically. Second, we will be affected by the contraction in demand. But I believe the flow of hot money will continue. This is going to help the government because it will think it can finance the current account deficit this year as well.

Q: Is this a curse or blessing? Doesn’t this mean we postpone facing the structural problems in our economy?

A: The current account deficit is a real problem. I am against it because it has damaged Turkey’s production structure. If we have a realistic foreign exchange rate then the current account deficit problem will be solved. Turkey’s privilege is the fact that despite all of its problems it has a production structure. What can make this production structure competitive in the world is readjustment for a more realistic foreign exchange rate.

Q: So at the end of the day, do you believe the government correctly read the latest signs in the world economic situation and adopted the right measures?

A: We have learned to survive crises. For some others it is the first time that they have entered such a crisis. And some cannot get out of it. We have been in and out of crisis so many times. The Turks can easily adapt to changing circumstances.

Q: Has the EU lost its attractiveness for Turkey?

A: The European Union does not just mean the euro. The EU is very important for Turkey. It is our market. We should never say we no longer need the European Union. On the contrary we should keep our relations with it very warm and close.

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

UK’s Osborne: Police Budget Cuts Will Remain in Place

(AGI) London — The harsh budget cuts to Britain’s Police forces decided within the drastic anti-deficit plan will reamain in place. The decision was taken despite the recent unrests that swept acress the principal cities of Great Britan. The reassurance comes from George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The UK Government has planned to save 2 billion Pounds from the budget allocated to the Police, entailing the cut of approximately 30,000 jobs.

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

Europe and the EU

Germany May Import Austrian Energy in Winter

Germany is considering buying electricity from Austria, fearing it will run low on power this winter due to plans to shut down eight nuclear plants, an Austrian daily reported on Friday.

Citing a letter from Germany’s electricity agency canvassing eight Austrian providers, the Kurier newspaper said that Berlin was concerned it would not have enough power for the south of the country should this winter be another hard one.

Following the disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan this March, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government decided to shut down all 17 of Germany’s nuclear reactors over the next 11 years.

Austrian providers would be an alternative to prolonging the life of one of the German reactors, an issue on which the electricity agency is to make a decision later this month.

Austria itself imports electricity in the winter as its hydroelectric generators do not produce enough.

Exporting power to Germany would push Austria’s gas-run generators to the limit and increase the alpine nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, the report added.

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

Italy: Conservative MP and Businessman Investigated for Conspiracy in Criminal Probe

Rome, 9 August (AKI) — Italian conservative lawmaker Alfonso Papa and businessman Luigi Bisignani, are now under investigation for conspiracy as well as criminal association in the so-called P4 enquiry.

The Court of Review of Naples upheld the appeal by prosecutors Henry John Woodcock and Francesco Curcio that Papa and Bisignani were involved in a criminal conspiracy involving the Italian public administration, justice system and secret services.

The preliminary investigations magistrate in the case had said it concerned a criminal association but not conspiracy, a ruling prosecutors appealed.

Papa, a member of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling People of Freedom (PdL) party, was arrested in July and is being held in Poggioreale prison on the outskirts of the southern city Naples. Bisignani is under house arrest.

Late on Monday, investigating magistrates completed their probe into an earlier conspiracy, the so-called P3 secret association allegedly involving Italian instititions and graft over the awarding of public contracts.

PdL coordinator Denis Verdini and PdL Senator Marcello Dell’Utri and may all be ordered to stand trial for their roles in the alleged conspiracy.

Former junior economy minister and PdL coordinator for the southern Campania region surrounding Naples, Nicola Cosentino, former regional councilor Arcangelo Martino, ex-judge Pasquale Lombardi and Sardinian businessman Flavio Carboni could also face trial for slandering the region’s president Stefano Caldoro.

Carboni was detained in a Rome prison last July after his arrest by police in the Italian capital on corruption charges. Investigators allege he was involved in graft over the awarding of permits to construct wind farms power plants on the island of Sardinia.

Corruption charges in the case have been dropped against Sardinia’s regional president, Ugo Cappellacci, who is believed to have been pressured by Carboni and Verdini. He could still be charged with abuse of office, however.

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

Italy: Palermo to Receive Extra 45 Mln for Garbage Disposal

(AGI) Rome — The municipality of Palermo will receive an extra 45 million euro to help with waste disposal. It is established by an order of the Prime Minister published on the Official Gazette today.

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

Italy: Pompeii Night Tours Extended for Holiday Season

Extra 1,500 visitors to see ancient ruins

(ANSA) — Rome, August 12 — Tourists can enjoy a moonlit tour of the ancient city of Pompeii for the next week to mark the summer holiday season.

The city was destroyed at the height of the Roman Empire by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and is one of Italy’s top tourist sites, attracting more than 2.6 million visitors a year.

Now for the third consecutive year, the ruins can be seen at weekends in a special tour called ‘The Moons of Pompeii’, but museum authorities are extending evening opening hours from August 12 to August 21.

“We have decided to open every evening this week, while at other times the night visits are conducted only at weekends,” said project organiser, Antonio Ciampaglia.

The Moons of Pompeii is organised by the city of Pompeii with the archaeological office of Pompeii and Naples, and the Campania region with additional funding from the European Union.

Eight different candle-lit routes cross the ancient town and give visitors an eerie insight into how people lived — and died there.

An extra 1,500 visitors are expected to take the night tours this week.

Pompeii is located south of the city of Naples and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The management of Pompeii has been under fire in Italy and abroad after the recent collapse of several buildings as well as looting, stray dogs and structural decay.

The Italian government appointed a special commissioner who has been credited with solving some of these problems since 2008.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Prime Minister Condemns Wilders’ Hate Palaces Comment

Prime minister Mark Rutte on Friday condemned Geert Wilders, leader of the coalition’s PVV alliance partner, for describing mosques as ‘palaces of hate’.

Wilders used the term in an interview with the Telegraaf newspaper shortly after the Norwegian shootings.

Rutte told a news conference that Wilders’ comment was ‘terrible’ and went too far. It was an extremely inappropriate remark, the PM said.


The PVV leader was mentioned 30 times in the manifesto left behind by gunman Anders Breivik. In the interview, Wilders said the left is out to demonise him by trying to connect him to shootings.

Rutte told reporters it is wrong to try to connect Wilders to the shootings.

And while calling for the debate to be carried out with respect, he said he had no intention of limiting anyone’s right to say what they want. ‘Every bird sings its own tune,’ Rutte said.

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

Switzerland: Family Loses Appeal Over Swimming Lesson Fine

A court says that fines imposed on Muslim parents in canton Basel-City for keeping their children out of mandatory school swimming lessons were correct.

A cantonal administrative court on Friday threw out the appeal of a Muslim couple against their fine, ruling that it was not in breach of freedom of religion and conscience.

The parents were fined SFr1,400 ($1,816) last year — in the first move of its kind — after they withdrew their daughters aged seven and nine from the school swimming lessons.

The court said it had based its ruling on the latest decision by the federal court. Compulsory schooling meant that all parents were obliged to send their children to school and that children had the right to adequate schooling, the Basel-City court said in a statement. This included sport and swimming lessons which before puberty are mixed in the canton.

The court added that it was greatly “in the public interest that all children, including little girls of the Muslim faith, should go to school swimming lessons”. This was not only so that they should learn to swim but also because such lessons encouraged socialisation and integration, it continued.

Cantonal education officials had previously argued that it was important for schools to avoid creating parallel societies. There are a total of 1,033 Muslim boys and girls registered in the canton’s primary schools.

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

The Netherlands Deports Terrorist Suspect to the US

The Netherlands handed over a Somali terror suspect to the US on Thursday and he has now been flown to the US to face charges, Trouw reports on Friday.

The High Court ruled in February that the man could be extradited.

The 44-year-old is alleged to have helped extremists travel to Somalia to train with the radical Islamic movement Al-Shabab. He was arrested at a refugee centre in Dronten, Flevoland in November 2009.

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

UK: Armed Officer Holds Gun Head Over the Head of 15-Year-Old Boy

Terrified shoppers watched as an armed officer held a gun over the head of a 15-year-old boy in a Manchester high street.

This dramatic picture shows the officer standing over the boy with the semi-automatic rifle outside a Greggs bakery in Wythenshawe which was the scene of riots just four days earlier.

At least a dozen police officers swarmed the area and searched a group of boys aged between 11 and 15 after someone reported seeing two young men pass a weapon between them.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: A Quick Quiz You Can Do Between Firebombings

ATTENTION Comrades, it is sadly not surprising that the freedom-fighters in London have been denounced as “rioters” by the right-wing media machine.

These brave revolutionaries have risked their lives — or at least other people’s lives — to create a new socialist utopia.

But, as always, the dark forces of capitalism have sought to crush their spirit and incarcerate their bodies — at least for a few hours until they make bail.

Never has one group of people done so much to promote equality, freedom and the equitable redistribution of Adidas equipment. And yet they are pilloried by the capo-fascist power structure and painted as common criminals by counter-revolutionaries in the ruling classes.

As a result I am obliged to circulate this test to weed out any subversive elements seeking to infect our own revolutionary spirit…

           — Hat tip: DB[Return to headlines]

UK: No Shame: Masked Looters Brazenly Pose With Their Haul of Top Gadgets

Proudly posing with their stolen spoils, this bunch of thieves embody the greedy nature of looters who snatched whatever they could while ransacking England’s streets.

Peeking from behind their obligatory hoods and scarves tied around their faces, their eyes defiantly stare at the camera with their hordes of looted goods.

One clutches a large flat-screen LCD television, with a row of new mobile phones neatly lied up on top of the box, while a pile of shoe boxes and video games litter the shabby room.

Laptops perched on their knees, another member of the group grips a baseball bat while a friend has a large heavy chain draped around his neck.

Police are using computerised facial imaging technology to identify and arrest rioters and looters who wreaked havoc across Britain’s major cities.

Specialist officers at Scotland Yard match images from CCTV and even high-powered cameras on helicopters with pictures stored in the computerised files of people who had been arrested or charged.

It is thought to be the first time the technology has been used in such volume.

Senior Metropolitan Police sources say that provided the pictures taken have sufficient pixels, they can be matched with those on file.

All photographs taken of suspects and those arrested at police stations are taken with the face looking forward on high-quality digital cameras. Using a sophisticated software system, experts in the Met’s Intelligence Bureau can then match them to high-resolution pictures sent in from the scenes of the riots.

A source said: ‘Today’s CCTV cameras are of high quality, so provided we have a full face image of the person from those pictures, the system will work.

‘Police helicopters capture very accurate images, too. You would be surprised what we can see.’

Commander Simon Foy, of the Met’s Specialist Crime Directorate, would not discuss details of the technology used to catch rioters. But he told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We are using every means we can to identify the people who took part in the riots. There is no hiding place. It will take some time, but we will get them all.’

Mr Foy said some looters left the boxes that had contained stolen TVs and other electrical goods in skips near their homes.

Others had been arrested, he said, after firemen putting out blazes during the riots had looked into flats and houses and spotted stolen goods piled up inside.

Many of those arrested were identified from CCTV images in streets and shopping areas, combined with film taken on mobile phones by members of the public and police surveillance cameras.

More arrests are expected over the next few days as results come in from DNA and finger-printing tests at crime scenes.

The riots came as the prison population this week reached a record high. There are 85,324 prison inmates, with fewer than 2,000 places spare.

The Government insists there is capacity for anyone jailed in relation to the rioting and looting.

Meanwhile, acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner Tim Godwin rejected claims at Prime Minister’s Questions that police had been ‘held back’ during the disturbances.

‘I heard those. There is no order ever given to hold back,’ said Mr Godwin, who promised that 3,000 rioters would be ‘put through the courts’.

The Government is to launch an independent study into the causes of the riots, it emerged last night.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: ‘We don’t need research to tell us that much of this was pure criminality, but the more we can learn the better.

‘In policy-making as in war, it is important to know your enemy.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Water Cannon and Plastic Bullets? After 50 Years of the Most Lavish Welfare State on Earth? What an Abject Failure

By Peter Hitchens

Bitter laughter is my main response to the events of the past week. You are surprised by what has happened? Why? I have been saying for years that it was coming, and why it was coming, and what could be done to stop it.

I have said it in books, in articles, over lunch and dinner tables with politicians whose lips curled with lofty contempt.

So yes, I am deeply sorry for the innocent and gentle people who have lost lives, homes, businesses and security. Heaven knows I have argued for years for the measures that might have saved them.

But I am not really very sorry for the elite liberal Londoners who have suddenly discovered what millions of others have lived with for decades.

The mass criminality in the big cities is merely a speeded-up and concentrated version of life on most large estates — fear, intimidation, cruelty, injustice, savagery towards the vulnerable and the different, a cold sneer turned towards any plea for pity, the awful realisation that when you call for help from the authorities, none will come…

           — Hat tip: An EDL buck[Return to headlines]

UK: Remanded in Custody — The ‘Bad Samaritan’ Accused of Attacking Malaysian Student in the Robbery That Shocked the World

A man has been charged with the robbery of a young Malaysian student that shocked the world.

Mobile-phone footage of the callous attack, branded ‘disgusting’ by David Cameron, showed a gang of looters pretending to come to the aid of injured Asyraf Haziq Rossli, 20, who was lying on the ground.

The looters played ‘good Samaritans’ by helping him to his feet — then robbed him.

Reece Donovan, 21, of Romford, Essex, appeared yesterday before magistrates in Westminster, Central London, accused of robbing Mr Rossli of his Nokia mobile phone and a Sony PSP console.

Donovan is alleged to have been one of a gang who posed as good Samaritans as the student lay bleeding on the ground after his jaw had been broken by thugs in an earlier attack.

But instead of helping him, Donovan is alleged to have sneaked behind him and removed possessions worth £300 from his rucksack while other gang members distracted him.

Millions of television and YouTube viewers saw the culprit kiss his fingertips in a sick salute as he swaggered off with the stolen goods.

Last night, Donovan’s neighbours claimed their lives had been blighted by him playing loud music. One neighbour said that his favourite tune was a version of In For The Kill by La Roux, which he played at high volume every night.

The woman, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, said: ‘He listened to Eminem a lot but his favourite was In For The Kill.’

During yesterday’s hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Donovan sat expressionless, staring at the floor.

Mr Rossli had been cycling along the Northern Relief Road in Barking, East London, when he was approached by a gang of 60 to 100 youths.

He was punched with such force that his jaw was broken in several places. As he fell to ground, his bike was stolen. Mr Rossli was approached by another group of youths who helped him to his feet.

As some appeared to assist Mr Rossli, Donovan allegedly rummaged through his rucksack and took the phone and the Sony PSP. The incident was shown on news channels around the world.

Mr Rossli’s parents begged their son to go back to Malaysia. But Mr Rossli said he will stay in London and complete his studies, despite requiring surgery to have metal plates fitted in his jaw.

Yesterday, the court was told that Donovan, from Cross Road, Romford, had denied the charges. District Judge Nicholas Evans said he was remanding him in custody and ordered him to appear before Wood Green Crown Court in North London on August 19.

l??Joshua Donald, 26, from Ladywood, and a 17-year-old boy from Winson Green were last night charged with the murder of Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir, who were hit by a car in Birmingham on Wednesday while guarding shops from looters.

And detectives investigating the murder of Trevor Ellis, 26, of Brixton Hill, South London, have made a fifth arrest. Mr Ellis was found in a car in Croydon on Monday with a gunshot wound to the head.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Steel Guard for London Blitz Memorial Defaced by ‘Racist’ ‘Kill the Brits’ Vandals

A war memorial to honour civilians killed in the London Blitz has had to have protective 5ft high metal railings built around it after youths scrawled offensive slogans on it including ‘Kill the Brits’.

The elegant modern sculpture of a dove in flight, the traditional sign of peace, sits in the Hermitage Memorial Park, Wapping, overlooking the River Thames in London’s East End and has been subjected to continual graffiti attacks since its unveiling three years ago.

Residents of the borough of Tower Hamlets, one of the capital’s most ethnically diverse communities, have long blamed local youths for the attacks on the £80,000 memorial, which some think may be racially motivated.

One, who asked not to be named, said that some of the vandalism on the side of the monument facing the river was ‘hostile and horrible’.

‘Anyone walking along the path in front of the park would have noticed that the front of the memorial was covered in Asian names and what appeared to be the tags of Asian gangs,’ the resident said.

‘This part of London is a multi-racial area so in a way you would expect that. You would think it was just the work of local kids.

‘But what passers-by didn’t see was the vandalism and the graffiti on the side facing the river. Some people felt it was clearly racist — and it did include phrases such as “Kill the Brits”.’

‘Anyone walking along the path in front of the park would have noticed that the front of the memorial was covered in Asian names and what appeared to be the tags of Asian gangs.’

Local resident The vandalism has been particularly upsetting for those who fought a long campaign to establish the park, which is built on the site of a former Second World War bomb shelter. London’s East End was one of the areas worst affected by the Blitz. Hermitage Memorial Park is now a popular attraction and the monument, the work of acclaimed local sculptor Wendy Taylor, is a local landmark.

But the battle against the graffiti thugs has been unrelenting — with the vandals seemingly going out of their way to defile the monument.

On one occasion Ms Taylor, who lives close to the park, had to flee the site after she confronted a number of hostile youths who she felt were disrespecting the sculpture.

And even when wire fencing was erected around the monument last year so a £10,000 clean-up operation could begin, the attacks continued. On one occasion, a group of youths was spotted trying to break through the wire with bolt-cutters.

Ms Taylor, who has now managed to clean the sculpture, installed the new railings in February and so far they have kept the memorial safe.

Frank Muldoon, a member of the Hermitage Environment Group, which raised the funds to pay for the sculpture, said: ‘The railings are not something we wanted but the monument was being defaced so we had to.

‘I personally don’t think the graffiti was racially motivated. I remember seeing names scrawled on it and the gang tags.

‘It is true they were probably Asian in origin but people should not read too much into that. This area has a lot of Asian young people so in a sense you would expect that.’

Jim Fitzpatrick, the local Labour MP, said: ‘It is sad that we have had to protect the monument in this way but if this is the price we have to pay then so be it.’

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: ‘In 2010 we did receive reports of antisocial behaviour and criminal damage occurring in and around the memorial park in Wapping. In particular, the criminal damage appeared to centre around the war memorial within the park.

‘The fence was erected in February and there have been no further reports of criminal damage within the park or directed towards the memorial.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: When the Polish Plumber Fails

Group Rescues Stranded Immigrants

Hundreds of thousands of Poles have traveled to Britain in recent years hoping to make their fortunes. But some struggle to get by and land on the street. A homeless aid group from their own country is searching for them in parks and alleys, helping to send them back home.

One by one, the lights go out in the Swiss Re Tower, the conical building jokingly known among Londoners as the “Gherkin.” The insurance agents and lawyers, ties loosened, stand around in front of upscale pubs in the City of London, London’s financial district, pints in hand. Janusz Smura weaves his way through the tipsy crowd, where the wafting smell of alcohol is at once tantalizing and frightening.

Smura turns right into Rose Alley, which despite its appealing name is narrow, pitch black and full of garbage, not even wide enough for two people to walk side by side. If the bankers on the main street come here at all, it’s only to urinate, as the alley’s smell attests. Smura peers behind a dumpster. “No one there, just a bed,” he says, indicating a couple pieces of cardboard spread out on the ground.

A bit further along, in a small park with a fountain in Bishopsgate, Smura ducks behind the bushes and once again finds cardboard spread all around. Here, a figure in a sleeping bag sits up, mumbles a few words of greeting in Polish, then sinks back to the ground.

Smura is well known among the City of London’s homeless, since he patrols the area twice each day, checking all the nooks and crannies between the office towers. He’s a social worker sent to London by Barka, a Polish organization that helps the homeless. His job is to seek out Eastern Europeans who have fallen on hard times and try to convince them leave the streets and alcohol abuse to go back home to Poland or Lithuania or Hungary. He’s here to sweep up the flotsam of globalization.

Too Proud to Return Home

When the European Union expanded its borders eastward in 2004, over half a million people came to Great Britain from Poland alone, hoping to start a new life and make quick money. They were welcomed as “Polish plumbers” — cheap laborers — and easily found work.

But not all of them found success. Many lost their footing, then their jobs and their apartments. No one knows precisely how many Eastern Europeans are stuck here in the limbo of Great Britain’s streets, but experts estimate that up to one-fifth of London’s homeless come from Poland. “They don’t dare go back home, having failed like this,” Smura explains.

It often takes weeks, he says, before he can convince his clients to get back in touch with family back home and make the return journey. “The most important thing is to establish trust,” he says.

The Polish social worker knows well how to deal with alcoholics, since he once counted among their ranks. It was, in fact, Barka social workers who picked Smura himself up off the streets of Poznan, Poland, and convinced him to get sober. Now he does the same for others. “I can use my own experience to help other people,” Smura says, his grin revealing ruined teeth.

Smura’s boss Ewa Sadowska, 29, is a woman with short, platinum blonde hair. She lives together with former homeless people in a small house that serves as Barka’s London headquarters, in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Her office is decorated with pictures of Pope John Paul II…

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


Kosovo: NATO Commander Denies Love Affair With an Ethnic Albanian Woman

Belgrade, 12 August (AKI) — The head of NATO-led forces in Kosovo, German general Erhard Buehler, on Friday denied he had a love affair with an ethnic Albanian woman, reports of which had sparked political row in Pristina and Belgrade.

After several days of silence, Buehler on Friday denied the media reports in an interview with Belgrade daily Alo.

“I’m not involved with a young Albanian,” he said.

His comments came after Pristina television channel Klan Kosova claimed that 55-year-old Buehler was romantically involved with a young ethnic Albanian woman who he was to marry and take home to Germany when his mandate ends in September.

Serbian media accused Buehler of siding with Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority and claimed his his romantic involvement made him unfit for his role there. Some reports even claimed that Buehler’s father served with Nazi forces in Kosovo during World War II.

Buehler’s alleged bride-to-be was the sister of Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci’s wife, said some of the reports, which Buehler rejected in the Alo interview.

“My partner lives in Germany and has no connections to Hashim Thaci,” Buehler said.

The woman, with whom he has lived for years, has is quite open about her ties to Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, Buehler claimed.

“Everything that has been written for days is a dirty campaign aimed at discrediting me as mediator and negotiator,” Buehler explained.

His father, born in 1932, was a child during the Second World War meaning he could not have served with Nazi forces and committed crimes, Buehler said.

Buhler brokered a tempory accord that eased tensions that erupted in northern Kosovo in recent weeks after local Serbs set up road blocks in protest at Thaci’s despatch of special police to man two border crossings amid a trade dispute with Belgrade.

One Kosovo policemen was killed in clashes at the Jarinje and Brnjak crossings .

Kosovo Albanians declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade has continued to oppose the move. Serbs, who form the majority of the population in the north, don’t recognise Pristina’s authority there.

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

North Africa

Egypt’s Double Standard in Muslim and Christian Abduction Cases

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — A 15-year-old Muslim girl, Zeina, was abducted on April 3, 2011 by gunmen in two cars as she was on her way to school in the family car. The driver was beaten and tied up by the kidnappers while the girl was forced into another car. A ransom of 5,000,000 Egyptian pounds was demanded for her return from her wealthy father Effat El-Sadat, a relative of former Egyptian President Anware Sadat. The kidnappers drove Zeina through three Nile Delta provinces before releasing her near a cafeteria on the Cairo to Alexandria desert road, after getting the ransom.

The authorities gave a press conference the next day and said that thanks to the efforts of a team of 400 officers from the Interior Ministry who worked on the case, the six culprits had been arrested. It took less than 24 hours for Zeina to return home, the six kidnappers to be arrested and the 5,000000 Egyptian pounds to be returned. The kidnappers were charged with abducting a minor and on April 19 the military court sentenced five of them to life imprisonment and the sixth to 15 years.

Two days after this kidnapping, on April 5, Nabila Sedky (15), a Coptic Christian girl from the poor neighborhood of Zawya el Hamra in Cairo, accompanied her Muslim schoolmate Souad Abdelrassoul for a lesson at school, which was never to be. Her family never saw her again.

Sedky Sobhy, Nabila’s father, said that he filed a report with the police after “the Muslim schoolmate evaded us and on numerous occasions gave us wrong information about the whereabouts of Nabila after they left each other, and sent us on wild goose chases. “

Coptic activist and lawyer Karam Gabriel along with other Coptic colleagues volunteered to take up Nabila’s case without fees because the family cannot afford a lawyer.

At first the police had as their prime suspect a 22-year-old Copt, Pola Samir, who had asked for Nabila’s hand in marriage when she becomes of age, as is customary in some parts of Egypt. “But Pola had an alibi,” said Gabriel “as he was working 50 kilometers away from Cairo with Nabila’s uncle on the day Nabila disappeared.”

After pressure from the Coptic lawyers, the state prosecutor’s office obtained from the three mobile phone networks operating in Egypt the numbers and addresses of people who had spoken to Nabila before her disappearance.

“We were able to identify a young Muslim named Mohammad Abdelbari Mady and his accomplice,” said Gabriel, “who owns the mobile phone line which Mohammad used to call Nabila with.” He was arrested and confessed to abducting her.

During investigation it was revealed that Mohammad Abdelbari Mady and his brother-in-law took Nabila by car from Ramsis Street, in downtown Cairo , and hid her for over three months at his sister’s home. By the time prosecution got permission to search the sister’s home Nabila was moved somewhere else.

District public prosecution charged Mady with ‘abduction of a female without deception or coercion.’ “This is illogical. How could you ‘abduct’ someone with her free will? “ said Karam, adding that during last week’s court session, he insisted the charge should be “abducting a 15 year -old minor, without her free will, by deception and coercion.” He added that prosecution ignored his friend, who gave him his phone to use, and his sister and her husband, who hid Nabila for over three months in their home, then moved her again before the police searched their home. “These are accomplices and ought to be charged as well, according to Egyptian law.”

Karam Gabriel and his team had filed a complaint with the Attorney General and are asking to have the charges changed to abduction of a minor by deception and coercion, and to include the other three participants.

“I have proof there are corrupt police officers. I gave the investigators tips where to look, information we got through three months of hard work, and instead they were looking at a Copt with an alibi,” said Karam, adding that he believes Mady still has Nabila hidden somewhere and he could wait until she reaches 18 years old to convert her to Islam or marry her before, which is also against the law but still takes place.

Two weeks ago Nabila Sedky appeared in a YouTube video clip presented by an Islamic website. She was wearing a Hijab and told her parents that she is fine and did not want to leave them but she converted to Islam, the religion of truth, in March and it is not possible to return back to them “because as you know any Christian girl who converts to Islam, you send to the monastery and she is tortured until she dies,” she said, echoing the false charge made by Islamists against the Coptic Church. She said if they wanted her to go back to live with them, they would have to convert to Islam.

Commenting on the video clip, Nabila’s father said that she looks like his daughter, but she does not talk like her. He believes she has been drugged and brainwashed. “I called the security officer and told him about the video clip but he assured me that it was all kids’ play, and said your daughter is a minor and I will get her back for you.”

Ezzat Andrawes, of the Coptic History Encyclopedia, which monitors all offences against Copts, said the police policy is to delay matters for several weeks, to give the Islamization rings enough time to rape the Coptic girl or terrorize her through threats of killing her father or mother or disfiguring her sister’s face by acid, or until she is pregnant with a Muslim fetus. “The girl then gives in and sacrifices herself to save her family.” In cases where the victim is raped, Egyptian law stipulates the death sentence, “but this applies only to Muslims and not to Coptic females,” said Andrawes.

Nabila’s father said that he still knows nothing about her whereabouts. “All I get are promises from security officials. Why do they apply double standards? el-Sadat’s daughter was found within several hours but what about my daughter? Are Coptic girls not Egyptian citizens as well?”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Libya: Italian Pilotless Drone Completes First Surveillance Mission

Rome, 12 August (AKI) — The first Italian pilotless Predator drone has completed a 12-hour surveillance flight over Libya after taking off from an air base in Foggia, southern Italy

The Predator B drone took off from the Amendola air base in the Puglia region Wednesday and carried out its surveillance mission, crossing the Strait of Sicily in the Mediterranean between Italy and North Africa.

Aircraft taking part in Nato’s Unified Protection mission to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and protect civilians from attack by forces loyal to embattled Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi are now taking off from six Italian military bases located across the country.

Italy is currently remotely operating two unarmed Predator drones which are being used for reconnaissance flights.

Since the beginning of the United-Nations mandated Nato operation on 31 March a total of 18,656 flights, including 7,079 strike sorties have been conducted, the alliance said in a statement on Friday.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon on Thursday expressed alarm at the rising number of civilian casualties in the Libya conflict, including those inflicted in NATO airstrikes, as the Libyan rebels said they captured the key oil terminal of Brega that has repeatedly changed hands in the 6-month-old civil war.

More than 35,000 people have been killed since the revolt against Gaddafi’s 42-year rule in Libya began in mid-February according to the rebel National Transitional Council, which 32 countries have recognised as the country’s sole legitimate representative, at least temporarily.

As well as the 35,000 people killed, tens of thousands have been injured and the damage to infrastructure is over 240 billion dollars, the Bengasi-based TNC’s spokesman Abdel Monem al-Houni said on Thursday.

Al-Houni, Gaddafi’s former envoy to the Arab League was speaking to Egypt’s Al-Masri al-Youm newspaper.

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

Suicide Attack Injures 29 in Algeria

(AGI) Algiers — Twenty-nine people have been injured in a suicide attack on police headquarters in Tziz Ouzou, about 100 kilometres from Algiers. The suicide bomber, probably an Islamist militiaman, drove his car into the biulding. Medical sources have reported that “Most of those wounded have been released from hospital.” Tozo Ouzou is in the Kabylie mountain region where there are a number of al Qaeda strongholds.

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

Tunisia: Women Protest Against Gender Discrimination

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 11 — Dozens of Tunisian women protested yesterday in front of the government buildings in Tunis to demand equal rights between men and women and the elimination of discrimination against women in their constitution. Reports were from the daily paper Al Quds Al Arabi, which noted that Tunisian women are also demanding a change in the Islamic law on women’s share of inheritance: women, according to Islamic Sharia law, receive half of what men do. Tunisian women decided to make their voices heard while the Tunisian Council of Ministers is discussing, underscored the daily, the position to be taken as concerns the SIDAW convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

SIDAW is an international convention adopted by the UN General Assembly as a document for the international rights of women. In the past, former president Ben Ali — notes the daily — had had some reserves on the convention due to the principle of equality between men and women as concerns inheritance. Thanks to the Personal Status Law approved by former Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba, Tunisian women enjoy certain human rights that women in the rest of the Arab world do not. Al Quds Al Arabi noted that this law prohibits polygamy and does not grant decisional power as concerns divorce to men, entrusting it instead to courts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Qatar: Italian Architect Designs Semi-Submerged Hotel

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, AUGUST 9 — The richest country in the world has now decided to enrich itself architecturally, commissioning projects for hotels, stadiums and museums to many European architects, including some Italians.

The ambitious semi-submerged Amphibious 1000 hotel designed by Italy’s Giancarlo Zema will be built in a marine reserve in Qatar. The project, which costs nearly 500 million dollars, includes a one square kilometre resort where people will be transported around on 20m aluminium hydrogen-powered yachts, equipped with underwater viewing areas. The project for the Amphibious 1000 includes 4 large hotels, museums, restaurants, a marine park and underwater observation areas connected through tunnels from which it will be possible to observe the marine reserve. It also includes plans for 80 luxury floating “medusa suits” spanning 4 floors. In an interview with ‘The Australian”, Zema described the structure as “a large aquatic animal that stretches from land to water over two large arms”.

But this is just one of the ambitious projects under construction in Qatar. In 2014 the Qatar National Museum will be inaugurated, built by French architect Jean Nouvel. Spanning over 150,000 square metres and located on a park that covers nearly 430,000 square metres, the museum’s shapes will be modelled after those of caravanserais, traditional inns where travellers crossing the desert used to rest, and will have an external covering of a series of concentric discs with shapes reminiscent of desert dunes. The French architect was given directions to take his inspiration from Qatar’s culture and to represent the richness of the traditions of the country, displaying this in the museum’s artistic contents and in the structure itself.

But the true architectural experimentation in Qatar can be witnessed in the designs in the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup which will be held in Doha, with an investment totalling over 60 billion dollars calling for the construction of 9 football stadiums with a total of 85,000 seats. The true challenge for the country was to design stadiums whose innovative cooling systems will be called upon to combat temperatures which exceed 50 degrees Celsius in the summertime. The boldest project calls for the construction of a remote-controlled solar-powered carbon-fibre cloud that will cool the stadium while suspended dozens of metres from the ground, also providing shade for the spectators. This work of engineering cost 500,000 dollars and was realised by Saud Abdul Ghani, the head of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Qatar University, who studied in Europe and earned a PhD at the University of Nottingham in England.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Minaret Destroyed, Mosques Turned Into Barracks

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 12 — Mosques and their minarets continue to be targeted by the Syrian Army and security forces. Anti-regime activists have told pan-Arab TV network, Al Arabiya, that today the minaret of the Anwar Al Rahman mosque was destroyed in Dayr az Zor, the capital of the eastern region bordering with Iraq, where protests coincided with Friday prayer. Activists released footage on Youtube that documents the destruction of the minaret.

These images are similar to the ones seen yesterday in the Arab press depicting the tower of the Uthman ben Affan mosque crumble under artillery fire from Syrian government forces. The same mosque “was closed today to worshipers and transformed into a military barracks”, activists cited on the TV network confirmed. Also according to activists, in Daraa, the centre of the revolt, the Mussa ben Nassir mosque in the Qussur area was also occupied by soldiers, while in Banias, on the western coast, all Islamic places of worship were closed to worshipers this morning. This is the second Friday of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Arrivals From Islamic Countries Up 25%

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, AUGUST 11 — The number of tourists coming from Islamic countries to Istanbul increased 25% in the first seven months of 2011 when compared to the same period of 2010, as Anatolia news agency reports. Istanbul hosted 700,228 Muslim tourists in the mentioned period, according to figures of Istanbul Culture & Tourism Directorate. Istanbul is a home to historical artifacts of Roman, Byzantium and Ottoman Empire periods as well as 8,500-year-old archeological artifacts. Istanbul hosted 6.4 million tourists in 2007, and 6.8% of them were from Islamic countries. 7.6% of 7.049 million tourists was Muslims in 2008, 9.3% of 7.5 million tourists in 2009, and 10% of 6.9 million tourists in 2010 were from Islamic countries. In the first seven months of 2011, 4.4 million tourists arrived in Istanbul via Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen airports as well as Haydarpasa, Pendik and Karakoy ports. 15.6% of these tourists were from Muslim countries. Istanbul hosted 560,511 Muslim tourists in the first seven months of 2010.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India at 64: Muslim Man Says Indian Muslims Are Happy

On 15 August 1947, India and Pakistan were born. The event sparked mass migrations and equally large-scale violence between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Today, “India is truly a secular democratic country and I am proud to be an Indian Muslim,” a Muslim politician says.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — India on 15 August will celebrate the 64th anniversary of its independence, a date that marks the division between India and Pakistan. In the days and weeks that followed partition, mass population movement took place. According to 1951 data, more than 7 million Muslims moved to Pakistan and an equal number of Hindus and Sikhs moved in the opposite direction. The governments of the two new states were prepared to face such a huge migration. On both sides of the border, acts of violence and murder were perpetrated. The actual number of dead is unknown. The lowest estimates put it at 200,000, the highest at 1,000,000.

On the occasion of India’s independence, Asif Zakaria, a 40-year-old Mumbai municipal councillor for the Congress Party, spoke to AsiaNews about it. “It is great to be a Muslim in India. India is truly a secular democratic country and I am proud to be an Indian Muslim. Indian Muslims in India are happier than Muslims in Pakistan or even in any Islamic states. And while there have been incidents of violence against the community like the catastrophic Gujarat riots, the Indian Muslim community enjoys freedom and dignity in secular India.” Ultimately, “I do not feel discriminated at all,” he said. “There has never been a feeling of being either sidelined or even a minority”.

Speaking about his community, Zakaria noted that, regrettably, the Muslim community lacks education and that development for the Muslims has been rather slow. There is “a wide chasm between the rich and the poor Muslims, while the rich ones are well educated and enjoy a high standard of living and their education gives them an independence to rationalise, the poor sadly rely on ‘so called leaders’ who do not always teach the authentic teachings of Islam.”

For Asif Zakaria, “Religion and politics must never be mixed. Importantly, I have been elected for the constituency at large and it would not be proper for me to discriminate in favour of only one community. I am working for the civic betterment of the entire community and [. . .] a stable social environment where tolerance, peace and interconnectedness flourish.”

Education is a major problem though. “In the interior areas of India, children go to madrassas, where education is religious. Madrassas need to impart secular education and help pupils become aware of issues of civil society, rights and other important issues [. . .]. Regrettably, far too often, many imams have a stranglehold on the people and label any voice of dissent as either ‘reformist’ or less Muslim. This needs to change.”

Because of this, Islam is seen as violent and radical. “The politicisation of Islam is a tragedy,” Zakaria noted. In reality, “Islam does not teach to cause inconvenience to others by praying in or blocking the streets. However, these things happen. Hence, there is a need to address issues at a grassroots level. Moderate voices are a minority, but slowly they are making progress.”

“India,” he explained, “is a great secular country, and we look forward to a time when people of every ethnic, linguistic or religious background can live in peaceful coexistence, mutual tolerance and harmony.”

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

Far East

Islamabad: Extradites 5 Uyghurs to China: Among Them a Woman and 2 Children

Shackled and hooded, the five — who had fled from the northern province of Xinjiang, China — have been put on a plane to return to China. There, Uyghur dissidents denounce, “torture and jail await them. Beijing continues its ferocious repression against us. “

Beijing (AsiaNews) — With the complicity of the Pakistani government, the Chinese regime has deported five ethnic Uyghur who had fled from China and had crossed the border into Pakistan. Among the five treated as terrorists, we are a woman and two children, the extradition was imposed after the riots in recent weeks that have taken place in the northern province of Xinjiang.

The Pakistani authorities handcuffed the five on the morning of August 9 and, after being hooded, took them in the airport Benazir Bhutto international: here they were boarded on a China Southern Airline flight. Among the five a women, Manzokra Mamad, who was carrying the minor daughter and teenage son, was identified by some dissidents,.

According to the World Uyghur Congress, the non-governmental organization based in Germany that monitors the situation of compatriots in Xinjiang, “extradition is illegal, cruel and shows hate towards minorities in Beijing. Islamabad, then, is even more so: they know what happens to the Uyghurs who are forcibly repatriated. They are tortured and thrown into jail for no reason. “

On August 1, Chinese police shot in cold blood two Uyghurs suspected of being involved in the July 31 attack that caused the death of six people in a bar in Kashgar. The two — Memtieli Tiliwaldi (29) and Turson Hasan (34) — were killed in a cornfield and left there. Kashgar’s government had put a bounty of 100 thousand yuan (about 10 thousand euros) for their capture.

Before this last episode bloody episodes erupted in the city of Hotan and in the provincial capital, Urumqi. The ethnic Uyghur — Turkish speaking peoples of Islamic religion — have languished under the heel of the Chinese government since 1949 which has imposed a series of extreme religious and cultural restrictions on the minority. Several groups claim independence and demand the restoration of East Turkestan, but the majority of Uyghurs only want greater autonomy.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Tutu’s ‘White Tax is Racist’

Johannesburg — Calls made by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for white South African’s to be taxed were racist and thoughtless, the Freedom Front Plus said on Saturday.

“It borders on the emotional statements of [ANC Youth League president] Julius Malema and does not contribute to the debate on how to address the country’s economic problems properly,” FF Plus spokesperson Anton Alberts said.

Tutu, who spoke at a book launch at the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town on Thursday evening, said the damage apartheid caused was impossible to escape.

He said white citizens needed to accept the obvious: “You all benefited from apartheid.”

“Your children could go to good schools. You lived in smart neighbourhoods. Yet so many of my fellow white citizens become upset when you mention this. Why? Some are crippled by shame and guilt and respond with self-justification or indifference.

“Both attitudes make that we are less than we can be.”

The Cape Argus spoke to Tutu after the speech, where he expanded on his wealth tax call.

“There were many in the white community who were ready for this [at the time of the TRC process].

“It could be quite piffling, maybe 1% of their stock exchange holdings. It’s nothing. But it could have helped… maybe building new homes, and that would have been an extraordinary symbol of their readiness.”

Asked whether he was again calling for a “wealth tax”, Tutu said: “That’s what I’m saying.”

He then laughed: “What were you doing in there [the conference centre]? Were you listening?”

Tutu said he hoped whites themselves would “agitate” for it to be imposed upon them.

However Alberts said in a statement it was improper to single out white people as they have contributed disproportionately more to the fiscus than any other group for the past 17 years.

“The request for introspection and a greater moral contribution should instead be addressed to the ANC government itself.”

Tutu’s race argument was so much more immoral if taking into account the fact that there were already more than 600 000 poor whites, he said.

“Taxes levied on white people will merely be damaging social cohesion and will not contribute anything toward a sustainable economy.”

[RH comments: I’m just wondering what I can downgrade my car to … I currently have a 1.4 Chico that is most probably worth R30k (+/- $4000) — all whites must downgrade their cars he said on Friday.

Im tired of people like him. They want to keep Africans poor while they line their own pockets. And in so doing they miss the irony: not only are his ideas racist towards white people, they are racist towards blacks, assuming the latter can never stand up and be counted unless it is with white money.

From Breadbasket to Begging bowl; the Fall of the Rainbow Nation, that’s all I have to say.]

           — Hat tip: RH[Return to headlines]


France: Clampdown on Non-EU Citizen IT Workers and Builders

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 12 — Builders and IT technicians from outside the EU are no longer welcome in France, after the French government closed the door to immigrants from outside the EU looking for work in the sectors, halving the list of jobs that provide residence permits for foreign workers.

The move is part of wider government policy to cut legal immigration, taking the figure from 200,000 down to 180,000- The measure brings about to the list drawn up in 2008, with only 14 out of the original 30 professions now open to non-Europeans.

The most significant restrictions concern the IT sector (only certain posts for specialised engineers will be upheld) and construction. Foremen and construction team leaders no longer figure on the list of permitted professions, with only industrial design maintained.

Professions that remain open to immigrants include long-distance sales, auditing and accounting, wood and glass manufacture, pharmaceuticals and chemistry, and the design of electronic equipment. These decreasing number of professions remaining, often highly-skilled, are those for which it is difficult to find candidates in employment agencies, which currently have 4 million people on their books in France.

The government’s priority is therefore the professional training of the unemployed. The explicit aim, however, is to reduce the number of residence permits allocated for working reasons, with the figure at around 20,000 in 2010.

The measure remains partial, however, as it excludes immigrants who are fixed residents in the country and those from countries such as Tunisia and Senegal, with whom France has close specific agreements in terms of immigration. Despite this, the hastily passed measure has caused a storm among members of the opposition, who have complained of “political posturing” ahead of the presidential elections in 2012. Unions remain sceptical, saying that “cutting off legal immigration encourages the illegal equivalent”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Another 400 Migrants Land in Lampedusa

(AGI) Rome — More than 400 migrants landed in Lampedusa over the course of last night. Shortly after midnight Finance Police and port authority patrol boats rescued 199 people, including 11 women and six children. The vessel was picked up about 20 miles from Lampedusa. At 4.50 am, Palermo port authority announced that another boat had been intercepted just outside the harbour with 227 people on board. Finally 377 other immigrants were rescued in Maltese waters. The navy is taking them to Malta.

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

Culture Wars

Turks Lack Sex Education, Unaids Official Warns

The level of sex education given in Turkey to young people is not sufficient, according to Dennis Broun, UNAIDS chief for Europe and Central Asia, who believes that condoms should be promoted more.

‘Young people in Turkey seem to be sexually active earlier and earlier, says Dennis Broun, UNAIDS chief for Europe and Central Asia, who advocates more education.

Turkey should provide sex education to young people and establish a working partnership with civic groups to curb an increase in HIV infections, according to a visiting official from UNAIDS, the UN agency fighting AIDS.

“Young people in Turkey seem to be sexually active earlier and earlier… The level of information for young people is not sufficient,” Dennis Broun, UNAIDS chief for Europe and Central Asia, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Friday. “There should be more promotion for the use of condoms. It’s not advertised enough among young people,” he said. UNAIDS is pressing the government to establish a mechanism of “contractual” partnership with civic organizations such as Positive Living, which groups HIV carriers, and gay and trans-gender associations such as KAOS-GL and Pink Life, to reach out to people in high-risk groups and marginalized communities. “We would very much want this dialogue and planning to start this year, so that there is action in 2012. The government tells us they are ready for that. They are showing a lot of good will,” Broun said, following talks in Ankara with Health Minister Recep Akdag and other officials.

The mechanism, he said, should enable civic groups to take on a broader role in public health by helping sex workers, their clients, men having sex with men and transgender people access information and prevention services such as condom distribution and rapid HIV testing. Turkey stands out in Eastern Europe as a country with a low HIV prevalence and the only one that provides full access to treatment for infected people, Broun said.

“The level of HIV infection in Turkey is low, but it’s growing and the number of new cases increases every year,” he said.

In 2009 and 2010, Turkey

registered 528 and 627 new HIV cases respectively, bringing the total to 4,525. The Joint United

Nations Program on HIV and AIDS, or UNAIDS, is the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV epidemic.

The mission of UNAIDS is to lead, strengthen and support an expanded response to HIV and AIDS that includes preventing transmission of HIV, providing care and support to those already living with the virus, reducing the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV and alleviating the impact of the epidemic. UNAIDS seeks to prevent the HIV/AIDS epidemic from becoming a severe pandemic.

UNAIDS is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, where it shares some site facilities with the World Health Organization.

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