Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110815

Financial Crisis
»Breaking Taboos: Concerns Mount in Germany Over ECB Bond Buys
»Dutch Provinces Invest in Euro State Bonds
»ECB Buys Record Eur 22bn of Government Bonds
»France Confirms Will Not Discuss Eurobonds With Germany
»Sarkozy Welcomes Italy’s Austerity Package
»Spiegel Interview With George Soros: ‘You Need This Dirty Word, Euro Bonds’
»Switzerland: Supermarket Cuts Good Range Over High Prices
»Frank Gaffney: Good News From Iowa
»North Suburban Doctor Describes ‘Pure Chaos’ After Indiana Stage Collapse
»Stakelbeck to Contribute to Glenn Beck’s GBTV
Europe and the EU
»Bulgaria Subway Expansion Digs Up Roman City
»Carbon Carousel Fraud Hearing Begins in Frankfurt
»Denmark Ramadan Meal in Parliament on Hold After Protests
»Glorifying Communist ‘Achievements’: Left-Wing Newspaper Gives Thanks to Berlin Wall
»Spain Will Continue to Employ Romanians: Minister
»Spain: Another Deadbeat Mosque
»Switzerland: Ticino Tax Threat Weighs on Neighbouring Italy
»UK Govt Divided Over Slashing Benefits to Rioters’ Families
»UK Scientists Shed New Light on Black Hole Physics
»UK: ‘Let the People Unite’: 1,500 Gather for Peace Rally After Three Asian Men Were Mown Down Protecting Their Community
»UK: Birmingham Peace Rally Sees City Unite as One After Winson Green Deaths
»UK: Birmingham Peace Rally’s Message of Hope
»UK: Forty Six Arrests After EDL Protest in Telford
»UK: London is Burning; Youth Demand a Future
»UK: MCB Meeting in Birmingham: Leadership Impressed by Grassroots Dignity and Resolve to Remain Calm
»UK: Public Debate to Discuss What Caused the London Riots
»UK: Riot Deaths Spur Community Fightback
»UK: Scheme to Spot Potential Right-Wing Extremists in Lancashire
»UK: Virginia Cowles: The American Who Saw Britain at Its Best
Mediterranean Union
»EU Project to Develop Common Qualifications in Med Region
North Africa
»Libyan Revolt Runs Out of Steam, Gadhafi Hangs on
Middle East
»Iraq: Attack Against Kirkuk’s St Ephraim Syrian Orthodox Church
»Turkey: Tolerance or Endurance?
»Islamists Targeted Russian Train, Report Says
South Asia
»Indian and Pakistani Rivalry Hampers Regional Efficiency, Say Analysts
»Pakistan:13 Killed in Bomb Blast at Hotel in Baluchistan
»Pakistan Has Made a Grave Error Allowing China to Inspect Downed US Helicopter
Australia — Pacific
»Qatar Land Grab Angers Bush
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Pirate: Deal Reached for Danish Hostages
»Australia: National Push for Asylum Seeker Medicare Cover
»Netherlands: Asylum Seekers to be Told Where to Live
»New Flood of Migrants Flees Libya as Gadhafi Promises ‘Martyr Blood’
»UK: Anger as More Than £12m Paid Out in Legal Costs and Compensation to Immigrants and Asylum Seekers in Just a Yeartaxpayers Alliance Says the Money is Being ‘Wasted’
Culture Wars
»German Women March in ‘Slut Walk’ Against Sexual Violence
»Switzerland: ‘Sex Box’ To Get New Name as Parents Revolt
»Experimental Drug Could Defeat Any Virus

Financial Crisis

Breaking Taboos: Concerns Mount in Germany Over ECB Bond Buys

The euro drama is escalating in Berlin. In order to save the common currency, the European Central Bank is now purchasing large volumes of Italian government bonds. German central bankers and politicians in Chancellor Merkel’s government oppose the move, which they see as a dangerous threat to the ECB’s independence.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Dutch Provinces Invest in Euro State Bonds

The four provinces of Overijssel, Limburg, Utrecht and Friesland have invested a total of €138.1m in the state bonds of the European countries Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain, broadcaster RTLZ reports on Monday.

All of the provinces have now sold their holdings in Greek state bonds.

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

ECB Buys Record Eur 22bn of Government Bonds

The European Central Bank (ECB) said Monday it bought a record 22 billion euros ($32 billion) of government bonds last week, trying to ease a eurozone debt crisis threatening Italy and Spain. The ECB announced earlier this month that it would resume its bond buy-back programme, which it suspended five months ago, to help eurozone countries hard hit by financial market volatility as they struggle to stabilise their public finances.

This brings to 96 billion euros the total amount the ECB has so far devoted to the programme.

The ECB, as usual, did not specify Monday whose government bonds it had bought but traders last week said it was intervening in support of Italian and Spanish bonds.

The previous record buy-back week was when the programme was first introduced and the ECB bought 16.5 billion euros worth of government bonds.

Economists expect the ECB to continue its buy-back programme over the coming weeks in the run-up to implementation of new measures to strengthen the intervention capacity of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF).

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

France Confirms Will Not Discuss Eurobonds With Germany

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy will not bring up the idea of issuing joint eurobonds to fund eurozone government debt at Tuesday’s summit with Germany’s Angela Merkel, his office said. The Elysee issued the statement shortly after a German government spokesman had said eurobonds would not be on the agenda at the Paris talks, triggering falls on the French and Spanish stock markets. France had not said publicly it planned to bring up the eurobonds idea, but Sarkozy has been clear that he wants to push forward with more centralised eurozone financial controls, despite German resistance.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy Welcomes Italy’s Austerity Package

(AGI) Rome — Berlusconi described the measures contained in Italy’s austerity package in a telephone conversation with Sarkozy. According to a statement, this afternoon prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had “a long and friendly telephone conversation” with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during which he “described the measures contained in the austerity package approved by the Cabinet last Friday. In particular, he stressed that the agreed measures will make it possible to balance the budget by 2013”. The statement explained that Sarkozy “had words of appreciation for the government’s austerity plan and the prompt approval of its measures”.

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

Spiegel Interview With George Soros: ‘You Need This Dirty Word, Euro Bonds’

In a SPIEGEL interview, billionaire investor George Soros criticizes Germany’s lack of leadership in the euro zone, arguing that Berlin must dictate to Europe the solution to the currency crisis. He also argues in favor of the creation of euro bonds as a way out of the turbulence.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Soros, we currently see a global banking crisis, a currency crisis and a sovereign debt crisis. Has the financial dilemma become too big to handle? How can politicians on both sides of the Atlantic be expected to solve such a multitude of crises?

Soros: The politicians have not really tried to fix any crisis; they have so far tried only to buy time. But sometimes time actually works against you if you refuse to face the relevant issues and explain to the public what is at stake.

SPIEGEL: Are you talking about the Germans? Many experts think Chancellor Angela Merkel has been particularly hesitant to address the euro crisis.

Soros: Yes. The future of the euro depends on Germany. This is the point I really want to drive home. Germany is in the driver’s seat because it is the largest country in Europe with the best credit rating and a chronic surplus. In a crisis, the creditor always calls the shots. Sure, this is not a position Germany or Chancellor Merkel ever desired and they are understandably reluctant to embrace it. But the fact is that Germans are now in the position of dictating to Europe what the solution to the euro crisis is.

SPIEGEL: Why should Berlin embrace that idea?

Soros: There is simply no alternative. If the euro were to break up, it would cause a banking crisis that would be totally outside the control of the financial authorities. So it would push not only Germany, not only Europe, but also the whole world into conditions very reminiscent of the Great Depression in the 1930s, which was also caused by a banking crisis that was out of control.

SPIEGEL: What, then, needs to be done to fight this crisis?…

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Supermarket Cuts Good Range Over High Prices

Coop, the supermarket chain, has decided to not to stock certain products after the firm and manufacturers failed to agree on slashing prices.

The move, revealed in newspaper announcements on Sunday, comes shortly after an appeal by Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann to the businesses, supervisory bodies and consumers to help lower the prices of imported goods.

The minister made the comments after presiding over a round table on August 10 to discuss how best the economy could deal with the recent surge in the value of the franc, particularly against the euro and dollar.

Coop, the number two supermarket retailer in Switzerland, said it would cut 95 brand-name products, representing a turnover of SFr30 million ($39 million). Purchasing and marketing boss Jürg Peritz told the SonntagsZeitung that the company wanted to “send a signal” with its decision.

Already on August 12, Coop, Spar and the discounter Denner, which belongs to market leader Migros, announced price reductions on certain goods.

Migros spokesman Urs Peter Naef was quoted on the Swiss news agency on Sunday as saying the chain would make a decision on whether to take goods out of its product range “by next week at the earliest”.

Cabinet is due to discuss economic issues next week.

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


Frank Gaffney: Good News From Iowa

Straw polls are notoriously overrated. This observation applies especially to the over-hyped one held most recently in Ames, Iowa over the weekend.

That said, for Americans concerned about national security and seized with the necessity of electing as our next commander-in-chief a principled, competent leader, the outcome was heartening.

That is true first and foremost because Michele Bachmann garnered the most votes. I have had the privilege of briefing and interacting with her on numerous occasions over the years that this Minnesota Republican has been in Congress. She is a thoughtful, quick study with very sound instincts. She embraces and would, if elected, surely apply Ronald Reagan’s strategy of “peace through strength.”

In fact, in 2010, Rep. Bachmann was among the candidates for office who signed onto a platform enumerating the principles she would be guided by in applying that strategy. (An updated version featuring twelve, rather than the original 10, planks — “Twelve for ‘12” — can be found at…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

North Suburban Doctor Describes ‘Pure Chaos’ After Indiana Stage Collapse

The three-story stage crumpled onto the crowd at the Indiana State Fair within seconds of being slammed by a powerful wind gust, but the disaster that killed a Chicago woman and four other people seemed to unfold “almost in slow motion,” a suburban doctor said Monday.

“You could see the stage collapse almost in slow motion. You knew it was going to fall on people because there were so many people there,” Dr. Dean Silas said of the Saturday night accident he witnessed from the arena grandstand. “It was absolutely unbelievable.”

After the stage collapsed, Silas wrestled his way through the crowd to the infield to try to help the dozens of people injured by the falling metal scaffolding, speakers and other parts of the structure.

When he arrived in the infield four or five minutes after the collapse, Silas found “pure chaos” as spectators and volunteers scrambled to aid the injured.

“There was a mass of metal and humongous speakers that had fallen onto these people,” said Silas, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

The 52-year-old Deerfield resident quickly began working with other volunteers — mostly doctors, nurses and paramedics who had been in the audience awaiting the start of a concert — to try to aid all those hurt in the collapse.

He helped carry at least four injured people from the infield to a makeshift triage area under the grandstand. The volunteers used collapsible tables as stretchers to help carry the injured away from the stage, parts of which were still standing precariously over the infield, he said.

“A lot of the effort was trying to get people out,” he said.

Silas treated three or four other patients for injuries caused by falling debris. Some people already were beyond help when he arrived, Silas said, recalling how he saw at least two bodies already covered with plastic sheets when he reached the infield.

He and others tried to lift some large music speakers to make it easier to reach those needing medical help, but were stymied by their sheer size.

“The speakers were too large,” he said.

Silas and other volunteers worked for at least 10 to 15 minutes before he saw any organized medical response from emergency crews.

“It seemed to me it took a long time” for emergency medical aid to reach the injured, Silas said.

He didn’t fault fair organizers for not cancelling the planned concert by the group Sugarland before the mishap when the weather turned ominous, saying the wind gust that collapsed the stage “came out of absolutely nowhere.”

[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck to Contribute to Glenn Beck’s GBTV

I’m happy to announce I’ll be contributing to Glenn Beck’s new 24/7 online network, GBTV.

First stop: heading to Israel this week to take part in GBTV’s coverage of Glenn’s upcoming Restoring Courage event in Jerusalem (plus related events throughout the week).

I’m excited to contribute to an important, cutting edge venture like GBTV while continuing my work at CBN on a daily basis.

See the above link for more details.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bulgaria Subway Expansion Digs Up Roman City

Cars zoom by on the boulevards overhead as work progresses on expanding the subway underneath — and in between a full-fledged Roman city has emerged right in the heart of the Bulgarian capital. Archaeologists have little by little unearthed well-preserved stretches of cobbled Roman streets, a public bath, the ruins of a dignitary’s house and the curved wall of an early Christian basilica, all dating back to the 4th century AD. If all goes well, the ruins will be fashioned into a vast underground museum due to open to the public in late 2012.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Carbon Carousel Fraud Hearing Begins in Frankfurt

One of the biggest tax fraud cases of the year kicked off in Frankfurt’s district court on Monday. Six managers are accused of stealing 230 million euros in an elaborate tax evasion scheme involving the carbon market. Frankfurt’s district court began a marathon tax fraud hearing on Monday as prosecutors presented a 500-page indictment detailing how six men allegedly stole 230 million euros while selling CO2 certificates on the European carbon market. The six defendants from Germany, France and the United Kingdom are accused of conspiring to avoid value-added tax (VAT) on sales of carbon emission certificates between September 2009 and April 2010.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Denmark Ramadan Meal in Parliament on Hold After Protests

Danish People’s Party tried to have Ramadan meal cancelled last year — but failed

A meal celebrating the end of Ramadan that was to be held in a parliamentary common room in Christiansborg Palace may not go ahead following protests from the Danish People’s Party. The meal was to be held on August 22 and was being organised by Social Democrat MP Hüseyin Arac and the newspaper Zaman Scandinavia.

But after a complaint by MP Søren Espersen, the parliamentary administration has concluded the event contravenes rules governing use of the facility because the invitations were sent out by the newspaper, a private organisation. Only people connected to parliament may send invitations to events in Christiansborg.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Glorifying Communist ‘Achievements’: Left-Wing Newspaper Gives Thanks to Berlin Wall

Universal education, no unemployment and “lusty sex:” These are some of the things that East Germans should be grateful for, according to a far-left German newspaper which listed 13 good things about the Berlin Wall on its front page. The cover has prompted harsh criticism from a prominent historian.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Spain Will Continue to Employ Romanians: Minister

Spanish companies will continue to employ Romanians despite new labour restrictions aimed at fighting Spanish unemployment, the Romanian labour minister said on Friday. The EU executive on Thursday gave Spain a green light to tighten restrictions on Romanian workers as it struggles against dire unemployment, the worst across the 27-nation bloc.

“I am sincerely telling you: not a single Romanian will be affected by this measure. The ones who are already in Spain are not concerned and the ones who are still living in Romania do not depend on these restrictions but on the demand of Spanish employers,” the minister, Sebastian Lazaroiu, told RFI Romania radio. “Spanish employers are still looking for Romanian workers to fill in jobs that Spanish citizens do not want, in the construction sector, in agriculture, in cleaning,” Lazaroiu added.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Spain: Another Deadbeat Mosque

Last time it was Halifax, Canada; this time, Lleida, Spain.

A radical mosque in Lleida, Catalonia, has been evicted from its premises for unpaid rent (not to mention repeatedly violating the maximum capacity for the space).

The meaningless lease was signed by a Salafist imam. This isn’t much of a surprise considering that most of the Arab money coming into Spain has funded Islamist clerics and congregations, and many of those leaders believe it is acceptable to cheat their Western hosts at every opportunity.

Translated (with some loose help from Microsoft) from a Jul. 15 El Pais article:

Eviction against Lleida mosque for five months unpaid rent

The days are numbered for the controversial mosque on Nord Street in Lleida, which has been closed for 10 months for exceeding its maximum capacity. A judge has ordered the eviction of the oratory [chapel] because the entity that runs it, the Lleida and Shire Association of Union and Islamic Cooperation, owes rent for the past five months. The debt claimed by the owner is 9,000 euros.

The Islamic community directed by Imam Abdelwahab Houzi, close to the radical Salafist stream, signed a lease for the premises (an old truck garage situated in the basement of an apartment complex) on July 1, 2010, but it has not paid recent bills, on which grounds the owner decided to lodge a complaint to claim what was owed and urge the eviction.

The hearing was held Wednesday at Magistrate’s Court Number 2 of Lleida, and no representative attended from the Muslim community, which may not appeal decision that declares the lease terminated. The Islamic entity, ordered to pay the legal costs, has six days to pay what is owed. The two entrances to the oratory remained closed yesterday with chains and padlocks placed by court order.

The mosque was closed by the City Council of Lleida indefinitely last September for violating the rules on safety and capacity. The Municipal Guard levied sanctions after verifying that one of the prayers had assisted 612 faithful, when the local capacity is for 240 people. The temple had been closed for the first time a month earlier for quintupling the maximum capacity.

Sara Mestres, councillor for public safety, says that this judicial eviction, plus the administrative process, could mean the end of a conflict that emerged 10 years ago when the court authorized the Muslim community to use the premises for worship against the opinion of the residents…

           — Hat tip: AD[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Ticino Tax Threat Weighs on Neighbouring Italy

More than 50,000 Italians cross the Swiss border daily to go to work. Now a simmering row over distribution of their taxes is undermining goodwill in the region.

Border municipalities in the Italian provinces of Lombardy and Piedmont have been worried since a partial freeze on the repatriation of taxes taken from cross-border workers was implemented last month by Switzerland’s southern canton Ticino.

The Italian communes have come to rely on this tax revenue and they claim the future financing of infrastructure is in danger. travelled to Lombardy on the Italian side of the border to see the effect of Ticino’s policy change.

On a hot August afternoon, Porlezza, with its picturesque setting on the northeast shore of Lake Lugano looks more like a holiday resort. Cars from the Netherlands and Germany are parked in the narrow streets of this small town of 4,500 people.

Mayor Sergio Erculiani gives a tour of the primary school. Strains of violin drift from the music room. He is proud of his commune and the concerted efforts of the past few years to improve its infrastructure and public spaces, and enrich cultural and social activities.

Putting money to good use

“Part of the returned taxes has allowed us to extend and renovate the school, and to build a sports hall,” he explains, careful to illustrate the good use made of the SFr700,000 ($907,000) paid every year by Ticino and transferred back to Porlezza from Rome after deductions.

Not a negligible amount for a small town that wants to boost tourism. The tax take from Ticino added to European Union funds also went towards refurbishing the lake promenade.

Further away at Valmorea, a commune of 2,700 people in the hills of the province of Como, mayor Mauro Simoncini also tries to show that the tax money is not wasted. Here almost the entire working population is employed in Ticino.

The mayor points out many examples of infrastructure financed by the taxes of the cross-border workers.

Driving through the village, he shows off Valmorea’s brand-new community clinic. We take a turn on a small roundabout, inaugurated last year “thanks to money from Switzerland, which made it possible to bring an end to a long series of accidents at this spot”, Simoncini adds.

Close neighbours

Simonici likes nearby Ticino and often goes walking there on Sunday with his wife. He prefers not to comment on the decision of the Ticino local government to freeze half of the proceeds of taxation taken at source from the salaries of cross-border workers.

“The work is in Switzerland. In the region, we don’t have many jobs to offer.”

As a small business owner, the mayor has direct experience. His shipyard has had to let go more than three quarters of his employees and the future remains uncertain.

“Here money doesn’t circulate. No one buys anything,” he says.

Turbulent debate

In the lakeside town of Como, the tone of the local councilor Luigi Bottone is more combative. He wants to organise a meeting of the unions at the beginning of September “to unite our forces and defend ourselves”. Bottone does not know how many of his fellow citizens work in Ticino.

This young coordinator from the centre-right I Popolari di Italia party is a leading voice in the debate about the SFr30 million at stake in the tax row, often responding to the pronouncements of Guiliano Bignasca, head of Ticino’s populist Lega party. The cross-border tax issue is one of Bignasca’s pet campaigns.

“Certain Italian politicians are making the most of this issue for their personal campaigns. In reality only a small number know the names of the relevant Ticino ministers and ever fewer are familiar with the mechanisms of Swiss politics,” a local Italian journalist, who is a specialist on Ticino-Italian tax matters told, speaking anonymously.

Fewer unemployed

Claudio Pozzetti does not belong to this category. Advisor to the general council of Italians abroad in Como, he is charged with looking after the interests of Italian workers employed in Ticino. He has closely followed every stage of the ongoing wrangling and knows all the positions of the Swiss government on this affair.

He is also outraged by the “humiliating campaign the cross-border workers have been subject to”, particularly through the controversial poster campaign run by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party portraying cross-border workers as rats.

But he hastens to add: “If these tens of thousands of workers did not have well-paid employment in Switzerland, a large share of them would definitely be unemployed and that would weigh heavily on the small communities which would not have the means to support them.”…

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

UK Govt Divided Over Slashing Benefits to Rioters’ Families

(AGI) London — The UK governing parties are divided over cutting benefits, like subsidised housing, to the families of those involved in the recent riots. Conservatives, such as David Cameron, pledge to support “zero tolerance” while Lib Dems are reluctant to take tough measures. In a clear sign of tension between the parties, Lib Dems’ deputy leader Simon Hughes told the Observer that they could not take away “support to the needy”.

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

UK Scientists Shed New Light on Black Hole Physics

New research seeks to bolster the theory that not everything a black hole consumes automatically stays trapped forever. The potential for information to escape could challenge the notion of a “point of no return.”

Established theory holds that gravity is the major driver behind the “space-bending” abilities of black holes. But Braunstein and his colleague, Manas Patra, theorized that gravity might not even be a fundamental force of nature. “If it can be derived as an emergent phenomenon, then gravity is not a fundamental force of nature,” Patra told Deutsche Welle. “It’s coming out of something else.”

Scientists have thought the opposite since the time of Sir Isaac Newton, who developed the theory of universal gravitation — but Braunstein said there’s still no standard theory on the subject. “Getting gravity to fit into the overall picture is always difficult,” he added. “There isn’t really a successful theory of quantum gravity.”

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Let the People Unite’: 1,500 Gather for Peace Rally After Three Asian Men Were Mown Down Protecting Their Community

Around 1,500 people gathered at a peace rally in Birmingham today, calling for unity after an ‘incredibly long and difficult week’ which saw the city looted and trashed by rampaging thugs. And in a moving ceremony, three men who died protecting their families and property at the height of the violence were hailed as martyrs who were willing to lay down their lives for their community. Haroon Jahan, 21, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31, all suffered fatal injuries after being struck by a car in the early hours of Wednesday.


Wearing a white t-shirt emblazoned with Haroon, Abdul, Shazad RIP, Tariq Jahan, 46, said: ‘I’m not a speech-maker and I don’t really know what to say, but to see the community together gives me strength in my heart. ‘All I can ask is for people to forget about me and remember these three men who sacrificed their lives for the community.

‘It’s the month of Ramadan and as a Muslim it’s a very auspicious month when the gates of Heaven are open and the gates of Hell are closed. ‘These three men died for the community, they didn’t die in vain and I hope this community remembers them forever.’ Abdul Quddoos — the elder brother of Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir — thanked the community for coming together. Holding back tears, he said: ‘Some of us are not the best people, but we can all try to be good. Our three brothers have been martyred.’ Amid shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar’, he continued: ‘Do not divide this community, we have to show people that we are all good. I want you all to pray for all the brothers and sisters out there.’

A message was read from the grandmother of Isaiah Youngsam, a black student who was murdered during the 2005 Lozells race riots. Addressed to the three dead Asian men, the message read: ‘I am praying for you and your family and praying that God gives you strength, grace and peace. ‘I hope your actions will only serve to further unite our communities..’ Chief Constable Chris Sims of West Midlands Police told the crowd he was certain the force had policed the unrest correctly. He acknowledged that the events of last week had put a great deal of strain on the whole community but it was now important to move forward.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Birmingham Peace Rally Sees City Unite as One After Winson Green Deaths

AROUND 2,000 people packed into a peace rally in a Birmingham park to show the world that the city was beginning to put last week’s riots behind it. The event in yesterday’s warm sunshine was organised by a coalition of faith groups under the banner “United Birmingham One City One Voice for Peace” and the city council. Politicians, faith leaders, community groups and police all took to the stage to speak of how devastating the riots were, but how the city was now moving forward. The rally was held in Summerfield Park, Winson Green, close to where three friends died during the riots as they tried to protect shops from looters. At the rally were the families of the three men: Haroon Jahan, aged 20, and brother Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31, who died in the early hours of Wednesday in Dudley Road.

Haroon’s father, Tariq Jahan, took to the stage greeted by loud cheers and applause and addressed the crowds wearing a T-shirt with the names of the three victims on it. He said he had been overwhelmed with letters, emails and phone calls from not just Britain, but all over the world. “I haven’t had a chance to respond to all of them. I don’t know how to because I’m nobody special.” He went on: “To see the community together like this gives me strength during my hurt. To me it’s the month of Ramadan, as a Muslim I believe that this is a very special month. For us Muslims we believe the gates of heaven are open and the gates of hell are shut this month, so that gives me the strength to believe that the three boys did not die in vain, they died for this community and I hope that this community will remember them.”

Other speakers included the Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Rev David Urquhart, who said he, like everyone else, had watched the riots with a heavy heart. “I watched with dismay, the reputation of the city going down, a sense of failure and disappointment, but at the same time with a really strong sense of people who are able to face difficulty and failure while looking forward in a more constructive way,” he said. Council leader Mike Whitby said the fact that all the faiths had come together showed what a united city Birmingham was.

“We have all the faiths here today which shows Birmingham at its best and what we’ve got to do now is move forward and onto the next stage, which will involve healing,” he said.

Among the other speakers were representatives of the Jewish community, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Muslims.

Ordinary people who had come to the rally included Tom Flannagan, aged 68, from Handsworth, and his friend Mary Scott, 78, from the city centre. He said: “We wanted to show our solidarity and admiration for the families of those young men who were killed.” Peter Garbutt, 52, from Sutton Coldfield, was there with his 12-year-old daughter, Chloe.

“I was born in Winson Green and spent 40 years of my life there so came here today to show my support for the families who lost people,” he said. “The dignified response of the families of the three men who died is incredible and must be admired.” Nasreen Din-Marashli, 46, from Erdington, said: “I’m here to make a stand against violence and to show that we’re united in one voice and we can live together in peace and harmony. We were all shocked by the violence and the deaths of the innocent men.”

There was a large police presence and city council stewards in case of trouble, but they were not needed and the event passed off trouble-free.

***THE funerals of the three men who died will take place this Thursday in Summerfield Park.

The public is invited to go along and pay their respects at the event at 3pm, before a private burial at Handsworth Cemetery at which only family and friends are invited.

Nazar Ajaib said his cousin, Haroon Jahan, would be buried alongside brothers Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir: “Because they died together, we thought it was fitting they should be buried together We’d welcome everyone along to the service in Summerfield Park, but then it is a private affair at the cemetery.”

[JP note: Those watching the rally on the news yesterday may have been disconcerted by the chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’ which sounded more belligerent than peaceful.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Birmingham Peace Rally’s Message of Hope

IT was the moment one city said “enough is enough”. When the decent started the fightback against the indecent.

After a week when we’d begun to question the very notion of community and ask if Britain was broken for good, thousands of Brummies, of all creeds, age and races, stood together and told those among them who wanted to bring anarchy to their streets that no matter how hard you hit us you will not win. The message from yesterday’s peace rally was summed up by the Bishop of Birmingham when he said: “The time has come to chase away the darkness of evil.” As uplifting and defiant as the gathering was in Winson Green’s Summerfield Park, a raw pain hung in the air. Only four days earlier, less than a mile down the Dudley Road, Haroon Jahan, 21, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31, were mown down and murdered as they tried to protect their shops from looters. Yesterday the brothers’ eldest sibling Abdul Qudoos took to the stage to thank the crowd for their support but the emotion was too much for him. “Brothers and sisters, we are not the best but we can try to be good. We’ve lost three brothers…” Abdul told the huge crowd before breaking down in tears. It was a heart-breaking moment which spread an eerie silence across the 5,000-strong crowd, until he summoned up the strength to say: “Do not let those people divide us. Let us unite in the face of this small minority of stupid people.” And then Tariq Jahan, the father of Haroon, put his arm around Abdul and helped him from the stage.

If one man has summed up the courage and decency of the nation in the face of mob rule, it is Tariq. He it was who made a powerful plea to his community to forget vengeance and for the violence to stop. “Blacks, Asians, whites, we all live in the same community,” he’d said. “Why do we have to kill one another?” Police claimed he had saved the city even more bloodshed. He told me yesterday that he had been “overwhelmingly humbled” by the response his family had received since their terrible loss. Visibly moved by the outpouring of support inside and outside the city, he said: “If the deaths of these boys can do some good that is wonderful. We must come together and ensure some good comes out of all this senselessness.” Asked how he was coping with losing his son, he replied: “My faith sustains me. I believe my son is in heaven now and that keeps me going..” When Tariq was announced to the crowd, they applauded and chanted for over a minute. Modestly he told them: “I am no one special. Just one of you. I’m no speechmaker. I don’t really know what to say but to see this coming together gives me strength in my heart. Forget about me. It’s about the three young men who have sacrificed their lives for this community.. I hope you remember them.”

The audience stood hanging on his every word, many clearly made emotional by his strength and humility in the face of such a terrible loss, as he said he’d received messages of support from across the world. And then he returned to the three young men who lost their lives and told the crowd not to fear for them. “The gates of heaven are open this month of Ramadan and that is where they will be,” he said. Community groups across the city had come together to hastily organise the “One City, One Voice for Peace” rally.

All the city’s major civic and faith leaders were present to listen to young people take to the stage in song and in protest at the violence they had seen on their streets. There were prayers and speeches from representatives of every faith in the city, all urging the people to unite and stay focussed on the battle for hearts and minds that lies ahead as Birmingham comes to terms with the shocking events of last week. The diverse crowd of Brummies gave them all a warm reception and joined in a poignant minute’s silence for the three victims.

William Barrow, there with his wife Sandra, said he had been absolutely shocked by the week’s events but the city yesterday was sending out the message that “people just want to live in peace. Enough is enough”.

James Bird and Lynette Woodward from Bartley Green had turned up simply to show support for the community, especially after others had told them not to go to Summerfield Park because they were sure there would be trouble. But there was no hint of violence at this rally. Just a determination to stop the madness and let the world see Birmingham as the great, supportive city that it is. Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, told me he had walked Dudley Road hours after the murders talking to the various communities.

“They spoke as one: Muslims, Sikhs, Kurds, Sri Lankans, Afro-Caribbean and whites all totally condemned this thuggery, robbery, intimidation and murder,” he said. “They spoke in total harmony. And what came across was a universal desire to get back to normality. Birmingham has condemned and captured and punished. Now it is about healing.”

Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart said it had been a terrible week for the city but now they wanted to demonstrate unity. He spoke of a “spirit of dismay and a sense of failure among community and faith leaders but there was a “strong sense of being about to face the future with new confidence. To chase away the darkness of evil”. West Midlands Police Chief Constable Chris Sims summed up that sense of harmony right across the communities, when he said he had been “absolutely amazed” at the support his officers had received on the streets. “They can’t remember a time when the goodwill towards them had been so high,” he said before pledging to bring to justice “everyone who has broken the law”.

As he spoke, the wheels of justice were grinding into motion.

Across the city a 26-year-old man and a teenager were in cells after being charged with the murders. The pair will appear at Birmingham crown court today. A third man was last night charged with the three men’s murders and will also appear before a court in the city today, while another remains in police custody. Meanwhile, less than a mile down the road at the spot were Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir were mown down, a floral shrine was growing by the hour as crowds of mourners laid wreaths under a huge inflatable tribute that said simply Rest In Peace. As the crowd dispersed after the two-hour rally they were asked to remember the three brave young men who had been killed simply for standing up for their community in the face of the mob. If yesterday’s emotional statement of intent was anything to go by, Brummies will never forget.

[JP note: Calling the victims ‘martyrs’ was not entirely helpful in the circumstances and it is disturbing to see this awful incident being appropriated by those with a religious axe to grind.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Forty Six Arrests After EDL Protest in Telford

Police arrested 46 people in the aftermath of a protest rally held by the English Defence League in Wellington.

Following a four-hour protest by the English Defence League in Wellington on Saturday, and a counter “unity” demonstration in the town, 10 people were charged with public order offences and three people were given cautions.

Other people arrested have been bailed pending further inquiries. Two people were due to appear at Telford Magistrates Court today.

Police confirmed there were “pockets of disorder” as up to 350 EDL members and 250 opposition protesters gathered in Wellington.

Chief Inspector Keith Gee said: “The fact that we have been able to deal with the biggest policing operation in West Mercia in recent times while at the same time managing to continue with our core business of prevention and detection of crime speaks volumes.”

Both protests ended at about 3pm. Incidents were reported later in the afternoon as demonstrators left the town, including trouble near to the Telford Central Mosque and at Morrisons.

Telford & Wrekin Council leader Kuldip Sahota said: “I realise that this has been a stressful time . . . but the fact that the demonstrations have largely passed off peacefully vindicates every decision that Telford & Wrekin Council and West Mercia Police have taken.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

UK: London is Burning; Youth Demand a Future

Youth Fight for Jobs, together with Turkish and Kurdish youth organisation Day-Mer youth, have called a public meeting in response to the riots in the area, 16 August, 7pm, North London Community House, 22 Moorefield Road, N17 6PY. This will follow a protest at 5.30PM Protest at Haringey Youth Services, 10 Bruce Grove, Tottenham, London, N17 6RA. As riots escalate in London and spread to other parts of the country, Youth Fight for Jobs calls for mass movement to defeat the ConDem government and push back the 30 years worth of neo-liberal attacks on Jobs and services that have led to this situation.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: MCB Meeting in Birmingham: Leadership Impressed by Grassroots Dignity and Resolve to Remain Calm

The Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain Farooq Murad and colleagues were humbled by the dignity of the two grieving families of Haroon Jahan and the brothers Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir, whom they met in Birmingham on Thursday 12th August. The magnanimity of Tariq Jahan and the quiet, dignified mourning at the Allens Road Mosque will be remembered in years to come as examples of British Muslim fortitude and good sense.

Farooq Murad and Deputy Secretary General Dr Shuja Shafi, assisted by Nozmul Hussain, had an opportunity to gauge at first hand the feelings and concerns within the community. They were repeatedly told that the initial Police response to the incident that occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning had been inadequate and there was an absence of senior police commanders to convey assurance and information to the community on the actions that were being taken. The recording of witness statements also seemed to have been inordinately belated. Speaking to Muslim youngsters, the lack of trust and confidence in the Police was apparent. There was frustration at the lack of police patrols prior to the tragedy in spite of movements of rioters and intimidations. There are clearly important lessons to be drawn.

The MCB team attended a briefing at the Coventry Road Jami Masjid provided by the police to community representatives on Thursday afternoon. Amongst issues raised with Chief Superintendent Surjeet Manku and his team was the lack of police presence around mosques. The officers circulated information sheet that had been prepared that morning for community dissemination providing essential facts about the enquiry. Addressing the meeting, Farooq Murad noted, “the tragic incident which so unnecessarily extinguished the lives of three young men has touched us all. I am sure I speak for the entire country, that today we stand united in our pride and admiration for Shehzad, Musawir and Haroon, who were heroes; courageous citizens who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending their community at their hour of need”.

The MCB team also met young Muslims at Masjid Usman, a mosque near Dudley Road, Smethwick, the site of the attack. Many were still in a state of shock and in need of assurance and sympathy. They had many questions in their minds such as the reasons for the delay in apprehending the miscreants even though there was a well-placed CCTV. Nozmul Hussain with the support of the mosque, assembled youngsters who witnessed the incident and explained the police process in an investigation of this type.. The youngsters appreciated that they were not being left on their own, and their community was with them, both at a local and national level. An outcome of the discussion was a greater willingness to provide witness statements to the CID team at hand.

Farooq Murad noted, “our visit to the families was both emotional and inspirational. We conducted prayers for the deceased with their families and local communities. I was touched by the resilience, forbearance, solidarity and the calmness in the community. I agree with Nozmul’s observation that this was due to the blessings of Ramadan and fasting. I hope the pensive and reflective mode I saw among many young people in, especially prior to Iftar, leads them to the realisation of their true potential in becoming the leaders in their society and country”.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Public Debate to Discuss What Caused the London Riots

A public debate is planned in Tower Hamlets tomorrow to discuss what caused the recent London riots and what the way forward is.

The meeting in Bethnal Green entitled ‘Why our kids deserve a better future’ is planned by Hoops, a campaign group against public service cuts in Tower Hamlets. Advertising the meeting on Facebook Hoops writes: “This is an opportunity for people to debate why the riots arose and the underlining problems in the country that drove young people onto the streets. It is also about turning raw anger into concrete demands for change.” The recent London riots also saw homes and businesses in the East End attacked.

The meeting at Oxford House community house in Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green, takes place between 6.30 to 8.30pm.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Riot Deaths Spur Community Fightback

Editor’s note: Farooq Murad is the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body representing over 500 local and national organizations. A management and training consultant by profession, he is a former president of the Islamic Society of Britain.

London (CNN) — Birmingham has suffered tragedy not only being the victims of the recent riots, but also as the victims of the murder that ensued. If we need advice on how to prevent further troubles in our community, it should surely come from the very people who have been blighted by these terrible events. The first among these would be Tariq Jahan, the father of Haroon, 21, who died while trying to peacefully defend his community from rioting. He did not ask for retribution. He did not engage in recriminations. He has not put his lot into the endless and polarized discussions currently taking place, passing judgment on why these riots took place and who, or what, is responsible. Instead he said: “I don’t blame the police, I don’t blame the government. I’m a Muslim: I believe in divine fate and destiny. It was his fate, his destiny, and now he’s gone, and may Allah forgive him and bless him. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise calm down and go home — please.”

His words we believe, we hope, has spurred on the people of Birmingham to defy some irresponsible voices to avenge his death and the deaths of brothers Shazad Ali, 30 and Abdul Musavir, 31 who were also killed on Tuesday. I have just returned from the city and have seen moving displays of solidarity between Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Hindus. This is not about race, and there is a revulsion on the ground that some in the media are going out of their way to stoke racial tensions. There is a determination in the belief that those who mindlessly murdered represent no one but themselves. And it is important we do not descend into apportioning blame to any part of our wider community. We must work hard to avoid treating this incident as one pitching community against community and remember this as it should be — community against criminals, right against wrong. We uphold this belief in the face of a deep anxiety about the safety of our homes, businesses and our institutions. The majority of young people not involved in the riots are now worried that the absence of law and order will lead to far-right extremists to attack. We all have a responsibility to ensure cooler heads prevail.

Amid the riots, the police have the onerous task to take such matters seriously. Having just visited Birmingham, I came back with a pervading sense that the police needs to show leadership and a more visible presence of senior officers to reassure young and old. While we must not descend into recriminations, the local community require urgent answers to questions on the police response following the murders.

Many will note how these murders took place in the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims everywhere are currently observing the month of Ramadan: a time for families to sit together and for communities to unite. But today two families are without their sons; one family mourning the loss of two sons. Up and down the country we have witnessed moving scenes where faith communities have clubbed together to defy the rioters: peacefully, but determinedly. At the same time, we hear in London and elsewhere of Imams urging their young worshippers not to take the law into their own hands, and to be vigilant against false rumors designed to provoke unwise reactions. In addition we have seen Muslim institutions raising money and taking part in the clean-up effort following these riots.

We must use times like these to reaffirm our commitment to the priceless gift of multiculturalism that binds our diverse communities together and what makes us strong. That is what we saw as people defied the rioters, and this is what is happening as the diverse community of Birmingham is expending effort to prevent conflict between ethnic groups. I call on all in our community and others, in the true spirit of Ramadan; to unite collectively in working towards restoring peace, trust and mutual respect between all sections of the society — that this huge tragedy must not become a source of division within the communities on the margins, already neglected and suffering.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Farooq Murad.

[JP notes: The tragic event in Birmingham has precious little to do with what happened in the country at large and it is disgraceful for a Muslim community leader to make multicultural capital out of this isolated event.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Scheme to Spot Potential Right-Wing Extremists in Lancashire

POTENTIAL right-wing extremists in Lancashire are to be spotlighted in a scheme originally set up to track would-be terrorists following the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks.

Parents, teachers, community leaders and police officers are referring children and young adults who they feel may be at risk of being radicalised by groups such as the English Defence League.

The move comes as Norway mass murderer Anders Behring Brevik was said to have been motivated by his extreme right-wing ideologies.

Police said the ground-breaking counter-terrorism programme Channel has been adapted to take account of the rise in right wing extremism in the county.

Officers who run the project said they had redrafted programmes and guidance in response to the growth of right-wing organisations.

Since April’s high-profile demonstration and counter-protest in Blackburn, in which 12 people were arrested, police said the project has received a number of referrals.

Channel is a national safeguarding initiative for individuals considered vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremists.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Virginia Cowles: The American Who Saw Britain at Its Best

Charles Moore reviews Looking for Trouble by Virginia Cowles (Faber) .

On June 10 1940, the Paris correspondent of, I regret to say, this newspaper, reported as follows: “The French — true to the finest traditions of a nation that has never yet asked for quarter — have decided that they would prefer their city, with its finest art treasures, to be destroyed to any sort of capitulation to invaders. The German dead will be piled high in the suburbs before a single Nazi enters a great heap of ruins.” Four days later, the Germans occupied Paris without a fight.

Virginia Cowles quotes this dispatch as evidence of how utterly shocking the French capitulation was. As refugees started to flee the city, she was one of the few going the other way.

A correspondent for Hearst newspapers in the United States, aged 29, Cowles had already covered the Spanish Civil War (from both sides), Soviet Russia, Czechoslovakia and, later, the Polish border, as the Germans rolled in, as well as the astonishing winter war between Finland and Russia. She had interviewed Mussolini in Rome, been flown personally by Air Marshal Balbo over Libya (“I know,” he said, having failed to entice her to fly for a second time, “the trouble is you don’t like my beard”), lunched with Ernest Hemingway and “the chief executioner of Madrid”, been falsely reported by Kim Philby as kidnapped in Spain, seen in the new year of 1940 with Winston Churchill singing Run, Rabbit, Run and had tea with Hitler in Nuremberg (where Unity Mitford told her enthusiastically: “He says it’s very exciting to have the whole world trembling before him”). Now she was chasing the story — as she thought — of France’s heroic resistance. Only a day after she arrived, she drove out again with a fellow correspondent, realising that if she didn’t leave at once, she would be there for the duration.

She got back to England by boarding a boat at the Pointe de Grave near Bordeaux. Designed to carry 180 passengers, it took 1,600. When they reached England, Cowles asked the woman handing her an immigration card what she thought of things. “Improving, on the whole,” was the reply. “At least there’s no one left to let us down.”

This book, now republished by Faber, but without any explanation of its context, first appeared in 1941. Its declared purpose was to persuade Cowles’s fellow Americans to come into the war on the Allied side. Her prologue — “There is a full moon shining down on London and overhead you can hear the drone of German bombers” — sets the scene. “On nights like this,” she continues, “you wonder how future historians will be able to visualise the majesty of this mighty capital. Will they understand how violently people died: how calmly people lived?” She was fierce against America for having been the first of the victorious powers of 1918 “to shrink from our obligations”. She wanted her country to save civilisation. After Pearl Harbor later that year, it obliged.

Strange to say of a book written at the darkest time, and of the grimmest subjects, its chief note is one of gaiety. Virginia Cowles was young and well-connected. As an attractive woman in an almost totally male world, she was treated chivalrously and allowed an access that, nowadays, even top television reporters would envy. “What a fine thing it was,” she writes at one point, “to be a female of the species.” She had the most marvellous time, and she does not solemnly pretend otherwise.

The sheer oddity of war fascinates her. There is a brilliant description of a picnic laid on by the nationalist forces so that she and other reporters could watch them blow up republican positions, and another of the difficulty of keeping warm in freezing Finland in a house which, at the time, was on fire. Equally, though, Cowles reports all the horror with direct human sympathy — the poor, distracted Egyptian desperate to get on the Paris train with her to find his children (he never does find them), the Australian cook who makes her breakfast in his Sunderland flying boat one day and is dead the next, the little lost Polish boy coming to the reception desk of a Romanian hotel, saying, “Mon père est un pilote.” All such vignettes are the more effective because they are not dwelt on, and the physical description of atrocities is restrained. This is clear, unaffected reportage, and the book is a delight to read for that alone.

What I like most of all about Looking for Trouble, however, is its more dated aspect — its romantic devotion to England/Britain (Cowles used those two words more or less interchangeably with an American lack of awareness of the difference). As a child, Virginia Cowles loved the stories of the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Francis Drake and so on, and she thought “England seemed a wonderful land where all men were very brave and wore splendid and beautiful clothes[!]”. This impression survived actual acquaintance. Indeed, she fell in love with Aidan Crawley, cricketer, soldier, later MP (for both main parties) and first editor-in-chief of ITN, and married him.

Cowles was most struck, especially when she compared it with the rout of France, by the way the British naturally respected their political leaders, and the way those leaders did, when they finally had to, lead. She also noticed how the British were positively pleased (see above) to be alone, defending their own shores. “I was more than impressed. I was flabbergasted. I not only understood the maxim that ‘England never knows when she is beaten’; I understood why England never had been beaten.”

What would she think now?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU Project to Develop Common Qualifications in Med Region

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, AUGUST 11 — A European Training Foundation (ETF) project on qualifications in the Mediterranean is adopting a new approach to the problem of inconsistency of qualifications across the region. It aims to develop qualifications that will be valid in Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Spain and Tunisia.

“This will enhance the mobility of the people in the region and will allow companies in these sectors to recruit skilled people easier” said Jean-Marc Castejon, the ETF’s project team leader. According to the Enpi website (, the project aims to create frameworks for four most common jobs in two key industries: waiter and receptionist in tourism, and bricklayer and site supervisor in construction. The idea is first to make qualifications transparent, then to facilitate their convergence, before ultimately setting up common qualifications in the seven countries. The ETF works directly with employers to define the problems and develop new qualifications that could help solve them. The European Training Foundation is an agency of the European Union established to contribute to the development of the education and training systems of the EU partner countries. With an annual budget of 18 million euros, its mission is to help transition and developing countries to harness the potential of their human capital through the reform of education, training and labour market systems in the context of the EU’s external relations policy.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libyan Revolt Runs Out of Steam, Gadhafi Hangs on

Libya’s rebels may have won over the international community but a decisive victory remains elusive against Moammar Gadhafi who is clinging to power in Tripoli six months on despite a NATO bombing blitz.

Following France’s lead, dozens of countries have recognized the rebels’ National Transitional Council, or NTC, as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Russia and China have so far held out, although Moscow has finally backed the UN sanctions regime imposed on Tripoli. Africa, despite its resistance to Western interference and its economies having received large cash injections from Gadhafi, has also turned its back on the strongman who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1969. “We are witnessing a desertion,” said a foreign observer. Only a handful of Libyan embassies around the world continue to represent Gadhafi while in Tripoli the sting of sanctions — power cuts, fuel shortages, price hikes — is taking their toll on the population. Militarily, the rebels have made advances on three fronts but they are moving at a snail’s pace despite concerted efforts to better train, organize and equip its volunteer army.

In a military spurt on Sunday, on the eve of the six-month mark, Libya’s rebels said they suffered “many casualties” Sunday as they advanced on Gadhafi’s forces in the western port town of Zawiyah, after losing a captured tank and four fighters in a mistaken NATO air raid. Breaking the siege of Misrata marked the rebels’ finest hour. But they have since got bogged down in Zliten, also western Libya. In the east, Gadhafi’s forces have so far held on to the oil hub of Brega despite punishing NATO air raids. In the western Nafusa mountains, rebels have managed to push their adversaries down into the plains towards Tripoli. Gadhafi still holds sway in the arid south, keeping a tight grip on the strategic Sabah, home to a major military garrison and vital node connecting supply lines between loyalist troops.

While air strikes by the Western alliance have inflicted heavy losses on Kadhafi’s forces, rebels have failed to turn this to their advantage, despite an influx of weapons from Qatar and, to a lesser extent, France. The rebel army commander, Abdel Fatah Yunis, a former interior minister and early defector, was murdered last month under mysterious circumstances, raising tribal tensions and prompting a leadership crisis in the NTC. Tripoli may be reeling under sanctions but the regime is still standing. And Gadhafi has made good on his promise to stay put in defiance of widespread expectations. “Every day is a victory” for the Libyan leader, according to a local journalist.

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

Middle East

Iraq: Attack Against Kirkuk’s St Ephraim Syrian Orthodox Church

A bomb exploded at around 1.30 am. No one was killed or injured, but the church was heavily damaged. The incident follows others against Kirkuk Christians in early August.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) — A bomb exploded last night near the St Ephraim Syrian Orthodox Church in Kirkuk, which is just a few hundreds of metres from the Chaldean cathedral, in central part of the city. The device blew up at 1.30 am and there were no victims. The damages to the church were however huge (pictured).

Today’s incident is the latest in a string of attacks against Christians and their places of worship. On 2 August, a car bomb exploded in front of the Holy Family Syrian Catholic Church, wounding 15 people. The bomb had been placed inside a car, parked near the building.

On the same day, another bomb also placed in a car parked near a Presbyterian church was defused before it went off.

Islamic fundamentalists, who remain very active, as well as groups involved in local feuds, have targeted Iraqi Christians.

With a population of 900,000, Kirkuk is located in Iraq’s most important oil fields. For years, it has been embroiled in a political fight among various ethnic groups, most notably Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds. The latter would like to see Kirkuk’s region annexed to Kurdistan, whilst Arabs and Turkmen would like it to remain directly linked to Iraq’s central government.

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

Turkey: Tolerance or Endurance?

There might be no limit to the consolidation of political Islam in this country. Electoral support of one in every two Turks must be sufficient enough to demonstrate that transformation of the axis of political power towards Islamist conservatism has reached a very advanced stage. Yet, apparently there are Islamist theologian-writers unsatisfied with the “great strides” of political Islam achieved particularly over the past nine years and who dream of a “State of Islam.”

Reading such comments, it is indeed impossible not to feel sorry for the democracy and democratic freedoms in this country. “To live together with people not living like Muslims is possible only with endurance,” a “fatwa” issued by an Islamist penslinger underscored this week. What he tried to say was indeed very clear and rather straightforward. There were two kinds of people in this country. There was a “first class” group of people who were good Muslims living according to the teachings of their religion and those infidels, who thanks to endurance by good Muslims, are leading a life in this country not in conformity with Islam.

Such a statement, of course, is sheer criminality as there is a sharp difference between “tolerance” that Islam calls for and “endurance” of the powerful, the upper class, the better race or the “good Muslims” for the “infidels.” Is it not a crime under the current Turkish penal code to disseminate hatred, discrimination and indeed racism — as the writer was suggesting that Muslims were “enduring” others as if they were superior to others?

Will any public prosecutor do anything against that Islamist writer or scores of others who have been disseminating such dirty perceptions on TV screens and in newspaper pages? I bet, none… Secularism is a constitutional principle but unfortunately for many decades it was applied as a tool to regulate religion and now political Islam is reshaping the state to conform to the culture of Islam, yet still claiming that secularism is a sacrosanct principle. However, in a secular state how would a group of people who are “good people,” — though they “hate” those infidels — demonstrate endurance and allow people who are “not that good people” to exist in this country?

As the controversy over these remarks swept the country — yeah, Turks do discuss issues apart from the economic crisis in Europe, S&P downgrading U.S. credit rating for the first time since 1940s, Syria developments and the so-called Arab Spring, Afghanistan or the London rebellion of the refugees — another Islamist theologian-writer rushed to provide a deeper meaning for his good Muslim brother. Accordingly, Babur Shah, the Moghul emperor of India, separated “Indians worshipping cows” and “Muslims sacrificing cows” and thus enabled peace and order in the country despite huge contrasts.

Of course we are not living in the 14th or 15th centuries. Establishing ghettos, subjecting a section of the population of the country to forced resettlement or trying to achieve some sort of ethnic, cultural or religious cleansing are not valid ideas that might fetch good money; hopefully! Yet, as studies of eminent sociologist Professor Yilmaz Esmer showed in this growingly Islamist-conservative society “others” are no longer “welcome” be they not-so-good Muslims, Jews, Christians, gays, lesbians or whatever different.

Shall we celebrate the replacement of the “culture of tolerance” we have been so proud of with the “culture of endurance”?

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


Islamists Targeted Russian Train, Report Says

Russian security serves have foiled a plot by a group of Islamists to blow up a high-speed train running between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the Kommersant business daily said Monday.

A blast on the same route that authorities blamed on Muslim rebels killed 26 people in November 2009.

The respected daily said the group of North Caucasus-based militants had already prepared a fertilizer bomb and were in the closing stages of their operation when they were arrested by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents.

FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov on July 18 reported to President Dmitry Medvedev that his service had averted a “major terror act” in the Moscow region in the preceding days.

Bortnikov added at the time that militants had plans to target public places and “transport infrastructure” in the Moscow region.

Russia is battling a Muslim insurgency in the North Caucasus, and suicide and other attacks have returned to the Russian capital in recent years.

A suicide bomber from the North Caucasus killed 37 people at Russia’s busiest airport in January. Two female suicide bombers from that region killed 40 and wounded dozens on the underground during morning rush hour last year.

Russia’s leading Islamist rebel Doku Umarov in February vowed to make 2011 “a year of blood and tears” and has claimed most recent attacks.

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

South Asia

Indian and Pakistani Rivalry Hampers Regional Efficiency, Say Analysts

The two nuclear powers India and Pakistan are often described as unequal brothers. India is big, radiant, loved and courted by the world, whereas Pakistan is small, isolated and unloved.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Pakistan:13 Killed in Bomb Blast at Hotel in Baluchistan

(AGI) Islamabad — At least 13 people have been killed in a bomb attack on a hotel in Pakistan’s volatile province of Baluchistan. The attack occurred in the city of Dera Allahyar.

The blast caused the hotel roof to collapse and dozens of people are feared to be trapped under the rubble. Twenty-two people were injured. The police defused a second bomb which had been attached to a gas pipeline not far from the hotel.

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

Pakistan Has Made a Grave Error Allowing China to Inspect Downed US Helicopter

Disturbing news from the Financial Times this morning that Pakistan has allowed a team of Chinese technicians to inspect the wreckage of the US special forces helicopter that crashed during the assassination mission against Osama bin Laden. I’m told the helicopter crashed after it hit a tree in the compound that had not been identified by satellite imagery when the attack on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad was being planned (though a recent account of the raid in the New Yorker blamed the compound’s walls). US Navy Seals who carried out the mission did their best to prevent the helicopter’s top secret technology from being recovered by blowing it up in the compound. But despite their best efforts it seems enough of the helicopter survived to enable the Pakistanis to invite Chinese specialists to make their own detailed inspection of the wreckage.

For a country that is supposed to be a key ally of Washington — and is the recipient of billions of dollars of American aid — this represents a serious breach of trust on the part of the Pakistanis. Islamabad cannot expect to be a key ally of Washington while at the same time indulging in open acts of treachery. Congress is already angry with Pakistan for not doing more to track down bin Laden, who was allowed to live with impunity on Pakistani soil for the best part of a decade. Much more of this kind of behaviour from the Pakistanis and they could easily find themselves at war with America

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Qatar Land Grab Angers Bush

A LARGE investment in prime Western District farmland by the Qatar government is increasing pressure for a toughening of Australia’s foreign ownership rules.

Amid growing disquiet in the bush over the loss of national sovereignty, the Greens and independent senator Nick Xenophon have called for changes requiring the Treasurer to approve all foreign acquisitions of rural land above $5 million.

Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said he was aware of angst in some rural communities but said the Gillard government wanted to examine the scale of foreign ownership in Australia before deciding if reform was necessary.

“Once we have all the facts on the table we can then consider in detail further policy responses,” Mr Shorten said.

Qatar-based Hassad Foods, which is the agricultural arm of the Qatar government, recently agreed to pay about $35 million for more than 8ooo hectares of sheep-grazing and cropping land in Victoria’s Western District.

The secretive deal includes five homesteads around Willaura and Dunkeld, near Ararat, and is believed to be one of the largest acquisitions of Victorian pastoral land in recent history.

Local stock and station agents estimate the Qatar government paid a premium of up to 20 per cent in order to secure the controversial deal, which involved three properties owned by local families and two — Merrimbula and Brierly homesteads — owned by the US-based Westchester Group.

With food security looming as one of the biggest global issues of the 21st century and local communities increasingly weary of foreign raids on family farms, Australia’s open-door policy is now under scrutiny.

Unlike other countries including New Zealand, Australian governments do not scrutinise or monitor overseas acquisitions and ownership of agricultural land.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Pirate: Deal Reached for Danish Hostages

Sailing family held hostage since February could be released this week

A Somalian pirate on board the captured Greek ship MV Dover, where a Danish family of five and their two deckhands have been held hostage for nearly six months, has told news service Somalia Report that a deal has been reached for their release.

Sources close to the pirates confirmed that they had reached ransom deals with the Greek owner of the MV Dover as well as with relatives of the Danish family. It is reported that $4 million will be paid for the ship and its 23 crew members, while $3 million will be paid for the release of the seven Danes.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Australia: National Push for Asylum Seeker Medicare Cover

The federal government is facing calls to extend Medicare benefits to thousands of community-based asylum seekers.

A study has revealed that many asylum seekers who are waiting on the government to decide whether they can remain in Australia struggle to access health care services because they are not eligible for subsidised treatment under Medicare.

Researchers from the University of NSW interviewed a small group of community-based asylum seekers who revealed problems paying for private doctors and medication.

Some had to wait weeks to see a GP and as a result suffered stress, anxiety and a deterioration in their health.

One asylum seeker who had a history of heart disease stopped taking his blood pressure medication because he could no longer afford to pay for it.

The researchers said while state government policies on providing hospital care to community-based asylum seekers had improved, the federal government should extend Medicare eligibility to widen the availability of health services.

“Access to primary care would be improved by extending Medicare eligibility to all asylum seekers,” the research team from the university’s Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity wrote in a study published by the Medical Journal of Australia.

“This is unlikely to add significantly to the cost of the health care system, and would bring Australia’s policy into line with that of similar countries.”

More than 8000 asylum seekers lodged protection visas in 2009/10.

Most arrived in Australia on valid visas and lived in the community while their applications were processed.

However, while many had a range of health problems, including chronic and infectious diseases as well as psychological problems, they were not eligible for Medicare services.

The Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme administered by the Australian Red Cross provides some help to community-based asylum seekers needing to access health services.

But the researchers said not all asylum seekers were eligible to receive help under the program.

When they interviewed the group of 12 asylum seekers from South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East and East Asia, who were now based in NSW, only four were eligible for Medicare.

Those who were ineligible were reluctant to see a doctor because they could not afford the bill.

Others who accessed a GP through charities often had to wait weeks for an appointment, with one pregnant woman forced to wait six months.

Nurses and doctors interviewed by the researchers also reported that negotiating pro-bono care for asylum seekers was difficult and time consuming.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Asylum Seekers to be Told Where to Live

Asylum seekers with permission to stay in the Netherlands will no longer be allowed to choose where they live, if a pilot project in Friesland, Drenthe and part of Utrecht is a success.

The new plan is to offer asylum seekers a home in a particular area within ten weeks. If they refuse it, they will still have to leave the asylum centre and find their own accommodation, according to the Volkskant.

Immigration minister Gerd Leers hopes to save an annual €65m by ensuring asylum seekers leave centres more quickly.

Most asylum seekers want to move to cities where they can join family members and find work more easily. But the cities are suffering a housing crisis while many towns and villages have spare capacity.

If the pilot is a success, it will become national policy.

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

New Flood of Migrants Flees Libya as Gadhafi Promises ‘Martyr Blood’

Ten new boats full of North African migrants have arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Most have come from Libya, where rebel fighters and Gadhafi’s forces continue their battle for control of the country.

Waves of refugees have continued to flee Libya for European shores, as Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi pledged to up the ante in his battle to stave off advancing rebel fighters.

Some 1,600 North African migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa this weekend, with the majority of them coming from war-torn Libya. The island’s port authority said just 10 boats had carried the hundreds of migrants, which included about 100 women and 40 children.

The Italian coast guard also said it had spotted two additional boats at sea carrying hundreds more migrants from northern Africa.

The island of Lampedusa lies in the Mediterranean Sea between the Tunisian coast and Sicily. Since the beginning of this year some 11,000 North Africans have landed on the island, fleeing uprisings and conflicts in their home countries. The Catholic aid group Sant’Egidio said 1,820 North Africans have drowned his year in the Mediterranean Sea attempting to reach Europe…

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UK: Anger as More Than £12m Paid Out in Legal Costs and Compensation to Immigrants and Asylum Seekers in Just a Yeartaxpayers Alliance Says the Money is Being ‘Wasted’

More than £12million was paid out in legal costs and compensation to asylum seekers and other immigrants last year, figures have showed.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) paid a total of £14.2million last year in compensation, legal costs and ex gratia payments, up almost £2million on the previous year, the agency’s annual report for 2010/11 showed.

This included payments to families who were unlawfully detained and removed, as well as £175,000 in compensation to an asylum seeker who was unlawfully detained and injured while in custody.

The TaxPayers Alliance told Mail Online today that the money which is intended for frontline services when given by hard-pressed tax-payers is instead being ‘wasted on compensation payments.’

Legal costs alone topped £7.7million in just over 1,000 cases, compared with £3.8million for 691 cases in 2009/10.

More than £4million was also paid out in 152 cases where each individual compensation payment was less than £250,000.

This compared with 837 such cases in 2009/10 which led to £4.4million in compensation being paid.

The UKBA report also said the agency had ‘various legal claims which are currently outstanding’ and had set aside £4million, ‘based on past experience’, for ‘a number of cases of unlawful detention’.

The TaxPayers Alliance today criticised the huge outlay as a ‘waste’.

‘Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying out millions every year for compensation claims, said Robert Oxley of the TaxPayers Alliance.

‘Whether it is the result of the UK Border Agency’s failure to manage chaotic border controls, or dubious cases in European courts where compensation isn’t really called for.

‘Either way, action is needed to get costs under control so that money intended for frontline services from hard-pressed taxpayers isn’t wasted on compensation payments.’

A UKBA spokeswoman said: ‘Detention is a necessary part of the process to remove some individuals with no right to be here.

‘Cases vary from foreign national prisoners who have served their sentences but are awaiting deportation, to failed asylum cases and individuals found overstaying their visas.

‘We use our powers to detain individuals when we believe it is reasonable and lawful to do so and regularly review the system.’

In January, failed asylum seekers won the right to claim damages which could run into thousands of pounds after the High Court ruled that three young children were held at an immigration detention centre unlawfully.

The ruling was a legal victory for the mothers — Reetha Suppiah, 37, a Malaysian nurse, and Sakinat Bello, 25, a Nigerian national — who brought the legal challenge.

Both said a lack of safeguards at Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire, the UK’s main removal centre for women and minors, led to their children suffering distress and trauma.

Mr Justice Wyn Williams, sitting in London, ruled that the Government’s current policy on detaining families with children pending deportation was not unlawful, but — in the cases being considered — it had not been applied by the UKBA ‘with the rigour it deserves’.

As a result, ‘the claimants were detained unlawfully from the time they were taken into custody until their release’ and they were entitled to claim damages.

The judge said: ‘The cases of the two families involved in this litigation provide good examples of the failure by UKBA to apply important aspects of the policy, both when the decisions were taken to detain each family and when decisions were taken to maintain detention after removal directions had been cancelled.’

The judge declared that the families’ rights to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been breached, along with their Article 5 right to liberty.

But he rejected claims that their right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment had been infringed.

Both mothers were failed asylum seekers arrested by UKBA officers in dawn raids on their homes last February.

They were taken to Yarl’s Wood for removal back to their country of origin on the basis that they had no right to remain in the UK.

Ms Suppiah and her two boys, aged one and 11, were detained for 17 days, while Ms Bello and her two-year-old daughter were held for 12 days before being released and allowed back into the community pending their legal challenges.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

German Women March in ‘Slut Walk’ Against Sexual Violence

Hundred of women took part, carrying placards and banners

Women clad in stockings and miniskirts have been out in force on the streets of Germany. Participants in the worldwide “Slut Walk” movement stress that skimpy clothing is not a justification for violence.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: ‘Sex Box’ To Get New Name as Parents Revolt

Officials in Basel have agreed to rename the “sex box” after receiving some 3,000 letters of protest from parents angered by the controversial trove of wooden penises and fabric vaginas set to be used in a new sex education programme for playschool and primary school kids. Christoph Eymann, Basel education minister and member of the liberal democrat party (LDP), responded to parent’s protests in an interview with SonntagsBlick.

“It was no doubt stupid to call it a ‘sex box’ — we will change that. But we will stick to our goal: to get across to children that sexuality is something natural. Without forcing anything upon them or taking anything away from their parents,” he said. Many parents say they do not understand why sex education needs to be taught to children as young as four. “There are usually two reasons why sexuality becomes a topic in kindergarten: either the teacher is pregnant or one of the children will soon get a new sister or brother. In such cases, it is correct that the teacher can respond”, Eymann told SonntagsBlick.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Experimental Drug Could Defeat Any Virus

Viruses might soon meet their kryptonite: an experimental drug that can, in theory, obliterate cells infected by any type of virus without harming healthy neighbours. For 50 years, we have been fighting viruses in two ways: drugs for existing infections and vaccines to prevent infection in the first place. However, most drugs or vaccines are specific to one virus, viral strain or family of related viruses. When a virus mutates — as they so often do — researchers must retool our medicines.

The new drug targets a molecule common to all virus-infected cells. Nearly every virus generates strings of double-stranded RNA longer than 30 base pairs during transcription and replication, in an attempt to duplicate itself and commandeer its host cell’s machinery. Healthy mammalian cells do not produce double-stranded RNA longer than 23 base pairs.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]