Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110822

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Tourism, Exports Help Shrink Current Account Deficit
»Italy: Milan Stocks End Week on a Downturn
»Italy: Massive Pension and Benefit Fraud Uncovered
»Number of Greek Companies Moving to Cyprus Rises, Report
»Stocks Inch Higher, Shaking Off 4 Weeks of Losses
»Fort Morgan Meatpacking Plant Strives, Struggles to Accommodate Muslim Workforce
Europe and the EU
»Benedict XVI in Spain: A Triumph for This ‘Meek Man of Mighty Action’ (Despite the Best Efforts of the BBC)
»Italy: Bossi Apologises for Calling Fellow Minister ‘Dwarf’
»Italy: Venice: From Greece Black Comedy About ‘Replacing’ Deceased
»UK: Muslims Demand Sharia Student Loans Because Paying Interest Goes Against Islamic Law
»UK: Tracey Emin Brings More Boredom to No 10
»UK: When Will the BBC Ever Tell the Truth About Anthony Blunt?
»Vatican Rebuffs Madrid Protesters
»World Youth Day: Spain: Believers Perfume as Souvenir
»World Youth Day: Pope in Madrid, Indignados-Pope Fans Tension
North Africa
»Arab August
»Arab Businessmen in Cairo With Suitcases of Libyan Dinars
»Libya: The Spirit of 2006
»Libyan Draft Constitution: Sharia is ‘Principal Source of Legislation’
»Libya: Reports of Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi’s Capture False, Appears in Tripoli
»Srdja Trifkovic: The Libyan Endgame
Israel and the Palestinians
»Jerusalem: Controversial Tram Begins Service
»Mavi Marmara: Lieberman Sparks New Controversy
Middle East
»Medical Tourism: Turkey Hosted 500,000 Patients in 2010
Australia — Pacific
»ALP History a Real Riot
»Malek Fahd Islamic School Fees Are Funding Australian Federation of Islamic Councils
Culture Wars
»Spain: The BBC’s Coverage of World Youth Day Has Been a Disgrace

Financial Crisis

Greece: Tourism, Exports Help Shrink Current Account Deficit

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, AUGUST 19 — Tourism is once again propping up the Greek economy, as Bank of Greece data indicate that the rebound in arrivals from abroad has translated into an increase in revenues. In June — as daily Kathimerini reports — there was a 21.7% rise in revenues from tourism compared with the same month in 2010, as receipts amounted to 1.49 billion euros, versus 1.23 billion last year. In the first half of the year tourism spending in Greece amounted to 3.21 billion euros, posting growth of 12.6% over the same period in 2010. Receipts from exports showed an 11.1% rise and this has also helped in the reduction of the country’s deficit in the balance of payments by 14% in June: It came to 1.58 billion euros, down 258 million from June 2010. In the first half of the year the deficit in the account balance shrank by 6% year-on-year to end at 13.3 billion euros. A worrying figure in June was the 11% decline in transport receipts, traditionally dominated by shipping revenues.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Stocks End Week on a Downturn

Fear more than fundamentals affect trading

(ANSA) — Rome, August 19 — Milan stocks closed lower and other European markets lost further ground on Friday after a turbulent week of trading amid continuing economic uncertainty.

Milan began the day on the downturn and after opening 0.38% lower its benchmark FTSE Mib index sank first by 2% and then by 3% in early trading.

The same pattern was seen in Frankfurt, London and Paris as traders looked across the Atlantic to see whether Thursday’s plunge would continue on Friday.

Wall Street did open lower but within an hour the Dow Jones index was in the black and this moderated European trading and reduced losses to 1% or lower, with London almost breaking even.

However, renewed fears over growth prospects came back to haunt the markets and profit-taking in the final minutes erased much of the recovery in Europe and the US.

At the closing bell the FTSE Mib index was down 2.46% at 14,602 points.

Italy’s biggest bank Unicredit was down by 5.5% in the final minutes while the second largest, Intesa San Paolo, was down 4.68%.

Elsewhere in Europe shares in London closed down 1.01%, in Frankfurt they sank 2.19% and Paris ended the day with a loss of 1.93%.

Reflecting on the past week, operators said fear rather than fundamentals appeared to put pressure on trading. These fears centered on the risks of a return to recession in Europe and the US, with second quarter growth reports falling below expectations and continuing concern over the risk of a sovereign-debt crisis in Europe.

Adding to concern on the market floor was a fear that politicians are unable or incapable of addressing these problems.

Stocks also suffered due to a proposal this week from France and Germany to impose a financial transaction tax (FTT) in the 17-nation euro area to discourage speculation and raise cash for the zone’s special fund to help members with debt problems.

Market turbulence saw many investors dumping their stocks to put their capital elsewhere which was in part responsible for gold repeatedly setting new records in the second half of the week.

Despite the volatility, many operators maintain that now is the time for investors seeking a more medium-to-long-term return to buy, with traditionally strong stocks at bargain prices.

A drop in vehicle sales in Brazil and lower expectations for sales in the US sent Fiat shares tumbling on Thursday and Friday.

However despite its reduced sales prospects, Goldman Sachs on Friday placed Fiat on its ‘conviction buy’ list thanks to its falling share price.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Massive Pension and Benefit Fraud Uncovered

Abuse of system reduced thanks to new anti-fraud unit

(ANSA) — Rome, August 18 — Around 3,000 cases of pension and benefit fraud costing the state over 48 million euros a year were uncovered in the first seven months of 2011, a report by the finance police said on Thursday.

The probes led to 4,400 people being reported to prosecutors, police said.

Although the numbers were high, the findings represented a sharp drop from a similar report a year ago, when over 100 million euros in fraud was uncovered during the same period, with 5,245 people placed under investigation. Antonio Mastropasqua, the president of national pension agency INPS, said the reduction was thanks to collaboration between the finance police and the new internal anti-fraud squad INPS set up last September.

This collaboration, he explained, resulted in over 11,000 checks on people drawing disability pensions and income support benefits.

“Much still has to be done and our anti-fraud unit is working in unison not only with law enforcement agencies but also with the banks that pay pensions, local governments and welfare offices,” Mastropasqua said.

The INPS chief said that in 40% of the cases where fraud was discovered, those receiving the pensions or benefits paid back the sums without protest.

While last year’s report showed how the majority of fraud cases involved alleged disabilities, this year the majority of causes centered on economic hardship claims to obtain food coupons, rent assistance and other benefits.

Some 270 cases were said to involve foreigners who had their elderly parents come to Italy to qualify for financial assistance and then, once the aid was approved, sent them home again. This fraud was said to amount to 6.2 million euros.

Other common cases of fraud, aside for disabilities and mental illness, involved drawing pensions of the deceased and employers drawing up contracts with fictitious employees.

In early 2010 a massive pension scam was uncovered in Naples with hundreds of cases of people claiming to be disabled or mentally ill — 55% of them lived on the same two city streets.

Further examination of public health records by investigators led to the discovery of up to 400 cases of disability pensions for mental illness in one central neighborhood alone, 10 times the number of other city districts.

Investigators at the time calculated that cases involving people falsely claiming to be blind cost the state some one million euros over a three-year period.

Officials responsible for authorising the disability pensions put the blame on the bureaucracy for creating this situation, given that the paper work had to be processed by three separate offices: the local national health agency, the city and national INPS offices.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Number of Greek Companies Moving to Cyprus Rises, Report

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, AUGUST 19 — More than 1,000 companies of Greek interest have transferred their headquarters to Cyprus in the past 20 months, due to the financial crisis in Greece, CNA writes citing a report carried out by the Greek embassy in Nicosia. According to the survey, a total of one 1,500 companies have transferred their headquarters to Cyprus. The majority of those are financial institutions, service related firms, retail and construction companies. Central Bank of Cyprus related data, cited in the report, shows that 59 Greek companies were registered in Cyprus in 2009 whereas in 2010 this number rose to 248. In the first five months of 2011, 107 new companies were registered. Moreover, almost one hundred of the companies registered here, have undertaken projects in the public sector.

In 2009 Greek investments in Cyprus amounted to 710.2 million euro. The report also shows that a huge number of Greek citizens are looking for a job in Cyprus. There are a total of 10.000 thousand Greeks registered in the Social Insurance Scheme, whereas a total of 1.739 persons have been registered for unemployment benefits.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stocks Inch Higher, Shaking Off 4 Weeks of Losses

NEW YORK — It was another day of big swings in the Dow Jones industrial average, but at least Monday ended with a modest gain.

The Dow soared 200 points in the morning, an encouraging start after four weeks of losses. By noon that gain shriveled to just 2 points, then came a rise of another 100 in the afternoon. At the end of the day, the Dow closed up 37 points.

Compared with the even wilder fluctuations over the past two weeks, Monday’s trading looked relatively calm. The Dow has gained or lost at least 200 points eight days in August, including a 419-point plunge last Thursday. A downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and fears of a new recession have shaken investors, leaving the Dow down 10 percent this month.

Hewlett-Packard Co. rose 3.6 percent, the most of the 30 large companies in the Dow Jones industrial average. H-P sank 20 percent on Friday after saying it planned to sell its PC business and stop selling other products.

Bank stocks, which have been clobbered over worries about Europe’s debt crisis, took another fall. JPMorgan Chase & Co. dropped 2.7 percent. Bank of America lost 7.9 percent, the biggest drop among the 30 Dow companies. Analysts at Wells Fargo cut their price target on the stock, citing fears that the U.S. could slip back into a recession…

[Return to headlines]


Fort Morgan Meatpacking Plant Strives, Struggles to Accommodate Muslim Workforce

FORT MORGAN — One afternoon this summer, Asha Abuukar said, she approached her supervisor at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant and got permission to go on break.

She washed in accordance with Islamic principles and prayed in a “reflection room” Cargill has set aside where beef is boxed and sealed.

When she returned two minutes late, she said, her supervisor told her that if it happened again, she would be fired.

“I’m sorry,” Abuukar, 41, who also runs a Somali market in town, recalled replying. “I was only praying.”

Although Cargill’s Fort Morgan operation has escaped controversy over accommodating the religious needs of its Muslim workforce, an undercurrent of problems exists, according to current and former workers and Somali translators.

Company officials say they respect religious rights and follow the law but cannot undermine a plant that produces 4 million pounds of beef daily.

“We know that some of our employees would like a guaranteed prayer time every day,” said Cargill spokesman Michael Martin. “That is not the legal requirement, and it would be impractical to accommodate this without shutting down the production line.”

He said the company accommodates the vast majority of daily prayer requests.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers cannot deny a “reasonable” religious accommodation request as long as it does not pose an undue hardship, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Muslims pray five times a day at prescribed times that move depending on the sun’s position. That can pose challenges for plants with many Muslim workers. One-fourth of Cargill’s 2,000 workers are Somali, company officials say.

The number of federal workplace-discrimination complaints filed by Muslims shot up in 2009 and 2010, to almost 800 each year, the EEOC says. Those numbers eclipsed the decade’s previous high mark the year after 9/11.

“It’s not a good thing when you have a family and you are supporting your wife, your kids,” said Abdinasser Ahmed, a former Cargill worker…

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Benedict XVI in Spain: A Triumph for This ‘Meek Man of Mighty Action’ (Despite the Best Efforts of the BBC)

The crowd-pulling power of Benedict XVI is almost miraculous, given the contrast with his openly charismatic predecessor, and his former image as a conservative “enforcer”. Who could have predicted that at World Youth Day in Spain — which was not even his first visit to that country as Pope — he would attract a crowd of a million young people? Not the BBC, which decided to play down the week’s events in a manner that one commentator described as “almost parodic” in its grouchiness. Read what the Catholic Herald had to say about it here; I must declare an interest, being a director of the Herald, but its online coverage of World Youth Day really has been superb.

I’m very struck by the rapport — so evident during the Pope’s visit to Britain — that Benedict has established with young people. Partly it’s his grandfatherly charm; partly his spiritual message, expressed in language that is neither platitudinous nor patronising. What a breath of fresh air for young people exposed to bishops’ conferences’ “youth ministries”, with their dumbed-down homilies and 1970s folksy musak. The Herald’s Madeleine Teahan, definitely a young Catholic writer to watch, came up with a lovely phrase for this Pope: “A meek man of mighty action”.

One detail from the celebrations is well worth noting. The Pope chose English deacon James Bradley to sing the Gospel at the opening World Youth Day Mass. That is a significant gesture, for James is a deacon of the Ordinariate: just a few months ago he was on the path to ordination in the Church of England. What more proof do we need that the Pope regards the Ordinariate as a project very close to his heart (though, speaking personally, I could do with more proof that the project is close to the English bishops’ heart). Here are James’s thoughts on the experience:

Somebody asked me what struck me when I asked the Holy Father for his blessing. All I can really say is that I recognised immediately the genuineness of his generosity and care for the Church. This is something we have all seen in his exemplary renewal of the liturgy and his offer of corporate reunion for Anglicans, not in some distant sense but in a real and tangible way. He is truly a shepherd and pastor and his very person emphasises that.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bossi Apologises for Calling Fellow Minister ‘Dwarf’

‘You say things in heat of the moment’, says leader

(ANSA) — Calalzo, August 18 — The leader of the Northern League, Umberto Bossi, has apologised to ministerial colleague, Renato Brunetta, for calling him the “dwarf of Venice”.

Bossi, who is Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s main coalition partner, said Thursday he had telefoned Brunetta, the civil service minister, who is under 1.5 metres tall, to retract the insult.

Earlier this week Bossi criticised pension cuts outlined in the government’s latest 45 billion austerity package and accused Brunetta of pushing excessive pension reform.

“Dwarf of Venice, don’t break our balls and safeguard pensioners’ rights,” Bossi told a party rally at Ponte di Legno in northern Italy. On Thursday Bossi said he admired the minister who has been particularly outspoken about reforming Italy’s bloated public sector. “I admire Brunetta,” Bossi told journalists. “He was offended so I telephoned him to apologise. Sometimes you say the wrong thing in the heat of the moment in politics”.

Bossi was condemned by politicians from all parties for the insult. Anna Cinzia Bonfrisco, from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, accused Bossi of “incivility”, while Massimo Donadi, from the opposition Italy of Values party, said he had used vulgar language that bordered on “fascist”.

Despite ongoing tension between Bossi and Berlusconi about the direction of the government and proposed cutbacks to balance the budget by 2013, Bossi said he was optimistic about the future.

“I can see that we will find the right way forward in the end, the best way possible to take us forward,” Bossi said.

Bossi said he had spoken by telephone to Berlusconi without revealing details of their discussion.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Venice: From Greece Black Comedy About ‘Replacing’ Deceased

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 18 — Despite the deep economic crisis their country is going through, a new generation of young and talented Greek filmmakers, like Athina Rachel Tsangari, Syllas Tzoumerkas and Argyris Papadimitropoulos, able to produce films for a low budget (the latest films for less than 300 thousand euros), is winning prizes and drawing attention worldwide. Another example of this new generation is Yorgos Lanthimos, born in 1973, one of this year’s five candidates to win the Oscar for the best foreign film with his dark film Dogtooth and competing in the upcoming Venice Film Festival (August 31-September 10) with his black comedy Alps. The leading roles in this comedy are played by Ariane Labed (a year after winning the Volpi prize as best actress in Tsangari’s Attenberg), Aggeliki Papoulia and Aris Servetalis.

The film promises to be one of the most original stories ever to compete at the festival. It tells about the adventures of the ‘Alps’ group, formed by a night nurse, a paramedic, a gymnast and her trainer, who offer their paid services as ‘stand-ins’ people in mourning, replacing the deceased. Dogtooth on the other hand was about a family in which the parents locked their children up in their house, not allowing them any contact with the outside world and teaching them a distorted reality. Lanthimos has said that compared with Dogtooth, Alps “will be darker and more entertaining. It is a bit more extreme.” The protagonists of the film (which has as its slogan “when the end comes, the Alps are near”) screen the many requests they receive and pick those who died recently, replacing them for a certain period. They move into their houses, take over their habits, preferences and behave like the deceased did, in order to make the loss less painful for friends and family. The group follows 15 precise rules for their service, which include: make clear that some things are not included in the service (like kissing, lifting weights, travelling); don’t grow attached to the clients and don’t have intimate relations with them; have some basic knowledge of psychology and sociology; don’t change your appearance (like painting hair, lose or gain weight) without the approval of the Boss; defend the group’s interests and be willing to kill for it, and don’t tell about the group’s activities to outsiders; pick your own nickname, based on the name of a mountain in the Alps. An apparently iron discipline, which in fact the group’s leader, the nurse (Aggeliki Papoulia) will break.

Lanthimos, who also directs theatre plays, videos and commercials, said about the plot of Alps that “the film tells the story of many people. Its style is similar to that of Dogtooth, and it is equally contradictory.” The film has felt the impact of the deep crisis in Greece, because the Greek Film Center, which had agreed to fund the film, has no resources.

“We still managed to make it,” said Athina Rachel Tsangari, who has co-produced Alps with her company Haos Film, in an interview. “It is yet another small independent production, made without money and with great support from friends. We will continue this way because at the moment it is the only way to make films in Greece.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims Demand Sharia Student Loans Because Paying Interest Goes Against Islamic Law

Muslim groups are calling for a separate student loan system because the interest due to be charged will conflict with rules of Sharia law.

The changes to tuition fees, which come into force next year, will see students charged higher rates of interest on the loans they take out to pay for university.

Until now they have paid the market rate of inflation but the reforms mean students who go on to earn more than £21,000 will have to pay interest of up to 3 per cent.

But in some interpretations of Sharia law, which is Islam’s legal system and governs every aspect of Muslim life, loans are forbidden.

The National Union of Students has said it could be two years before an alternative system is worked out, leaving some Muslims fearing they cannot go on to further education.

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies told The Independent that the rate increase was a ‘pressing issue’.

A spokesman said: ‘Because the rate of interest is above the rate of inflation, it is quite blatant usury.’

Usury means the practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest, possibly at a very high rate.

Mohammed Ahmed-Sheikh, 17, says the changes will discourage him from applying to university next year.

‘The fees are the reason I’m having doubts. I’m Muslim and loans are against my religion,’ he told The Independent.

Ahmad Mitoubsi, 21, who graduated this year, added: ‘We’ve just had to adapt to the British system or else I couldn’t have gone to uni.’

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills says discussions are ongoing with student groups about a solution.

But it is thought an alternative, such as already happens with mortgages in which education could be ‘rented’ instead, may not be agreed until the 2013/14 academic year.

Sharia law is Islam’s legal system. It was derived from the Koran, as the word of God, the example of the life of the prophet Muhammad and fatwas — the rulings of Islamic scholars.

It is different to the legal traditions of the Western world because it governs — or informs — everything about how a Muslim lives.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Tracey Emin Brings More Boredom to No 10

When will they see that the Empress has no clothes? Tracey Emin’s bit of neon, just installed at Number 10, outside the Terracotta Room, makes the heart sink. Number 10 is no ordinary terraced house. It’s a grand mansion — two 1683 houses knocked into one in 1735 for the first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, by the leading Palladian architect, William Kent. So it makes sense to fill it with 17th and 18th century paintings, with later works that complement such an elegantly-designed classical building.

Emin’s work is neither skilled, elegant nor beautiful. Like most of her art, it depends on a tiny batsqueak of originality, repeated over and over again in other works, until it becomes utterly banal and unsurprising. In this case, the originality comes from taking an everyday form — neon lighting, normally used for American advertising (“Drink Coke,” say, emblazoned on the exposed brick wall of a biker bar in Western Virginia) — and applying it to more philosophical thoughts.

One of Emin’s many problems is that she is incapable of more than elementary philosophical thoughts; quite often, in her tapestries, she can’t even spell the simplest of words. Without the intellectual equipment to think or write well, she is inevitably handicapped in her many works that depend on the written word. She usually compensates for the shortcoming by using shock tactics — as in the tent with the names of her previous lovers stitched into it. But “More Passion” has zero shock value; it’s the sort of thing said by Alan Partridge at one of his motel seminars, the last-gasp shout of the desperate football manager at the end of the half-time team talk.. Emin claims that the work will give Number 10 a little more “edge”, implying it’s a place full of fuddy-duddy, grey politicians, desperately in need of a sprinkle of Emin stardust. Instead, it’ll just give a beautiful place a small patch of dull banality.

If visitors to Number 10 want to see something with a bit of real wit, they should look at the frieze over the doorway, once they’ve walked into the Terracotta Room, past Emin’s embarrassing work. In 1989, Quinlan Terry, the classical architect, ultra-Palladianised the place. In that frieze, he included a little plaster model of a thatcher, thatching away with characteristic industry and determination; a genuinely original reference to the building’s incumbent at the time

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: When Will the BBC Ever Tell the Truth About Anthony Blunt?

Charles Moore reviews an edition of The Reunion (Radio 4) that focused on the disgraced art critic and his treachery.

The Courtauld Institute was once the best place in Britain to study the history of art. But its director, Anthony Blunt, had, earlier in his life, spied for the Soviet Union. He was the “Fourth Man” in the ring with Burgess, Maclean and Philby. He confessed to the British intelligence services in 1964 (having repeatedly denied all the accusations over many years). The information was kept quiet, partly because he was Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures. In 1979, he was publicly exposed, stripped of his knighthood and disgraced. The Reunion brought together five distinguished people who had studied under Blunt. They included the director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor, the novelist Anita Brookner and the critic Brian Sewell. All five agreed what a wonderful chap Blunt was — brilliant, kind, civilised, terrific work on Poussin. And all said how appalling it was that Blunt had been attacked by the press after his exposure. Sue MacGregor (no relation of Neil, I think), who presented the programme, said that Blunt had been the victim of “public vilification”; she referred to the scandal as “what had happened to him”.

We were told only in the thinnest outline what Blunt himself had done to others. In the mid-Thirties, he began working for the NKVD (the forerunner of the KGB), and helped recruit other British agents for them. It is often alleged that people in the West at that time had no means of knowing what Stalin was up to. This was not the case. Malcolm Muggeridge, attacked on this programme for attacking Blunt, went to the Ukraine in 1933 and reported — in this paper’s sister, The Morning Post — that millions were starving there as a deliberate act of Stalin’s policy. There were many like him (though not nearly enough).

Much was made, particularly by Brian Sewell, of the claim that the threat of fascism was so great in the Thirties that Communism seemed the only way. This does great injustice to all those — the majority of the population — who detested both. If Sewell is right, why did Blunt, Philby, Burgess etc continue to work for Stalin after he made his pact with Hitler, which lasted from 1939 to 1941, the time of greatest danger for Britain? And why did Blunt continue to shelter Burgess, Maclean and Philby from discovery after the war, when Nazism had been defeated and the Soviet Union was the deadly enemy of the West?

As for Blunt’s acts of spying, these were brushed aside by the programme on the grounds that there had been “very exaggerated estimates” of the number of people who had died as a result of his actions. His treachery, said another former pupil, Michael Jacobs, had been “a minor and ultimately irrelevant aspect of his life”.

It is a good thing that people feel gratitude to their teachers. It is also true that Blunt’s work on Blake, Poussin, Borromini and so on does not become bad because he turned out to have been a Communist spy. So it was difficult to blame the five for their loyalty to Blunt, even when they were talking rubbish. What was disgraceful, though, was the structure of the programme. For many, The Reunion‘s version may be the first they have heard of the subject. It is the duty of the BBC to apply to history the impartiality on which its Charter insists. Yet, as with the same programme’s treatment of the 30th anniversary of the Brixton riots (which this column criticised on March 28), the entire panel was on the same side. Blunt was a virtually innocent victim, we were told, and the only villain was the press.

Sue MacGregor explained that Blunt “made no secret of his Marxist beliefs”. This was perfectly irrelevant. The issue in his story was not his beliefs, but his treachery, which, by definition, was secret. He pretended that he was a normal British citizen and, during the war, a loyal officer of MI5, but in fact he was working for a murderous tyranny. Almost the only censure in the entire programme came from Neil MacGregor. Blunt, he said, had been guilty of “a very serious breach of trust”. This understatement was rendered powerful by its solitary splendour.

The breach of trust was made even worse by the “establishment” career which Blunt chose to pursue. At least Burgess, Maclean and Philby ended up, drink-sodden, in miserable Moscow flats supplied by the dictatorship they so admired. Blunt, however, stayed, advised the Queen about her pictures, was knighted and honoured in academe. For a quarter of a century, throughout which time he concealed what he had done, he lived in the Courtauld’s grace-and-favour Georgian elegance in Portman Square. His entire (non-spying) career was constructed on principles in direct conflict with his Marxism.

And when he was finally unmasked, even his handling of the news reflected his love of the privilege which had always surrounded him. He had lunch at The Times (then the establishment paper) before the press conference, and restricted access to selected reporters. The Reunion propagated the theory that spying for the Soviets in the Thirties and Forties was nothing worse than an excess of zeal. This is a shocking untruth. Hitler and Stalin were moral equivalents. Indeed, at the time when Blunt signed up for the Soviet Union, Stalin had actually killed far more people than Hitler because the Führer was only just getting into his stride. The BBC would (rightly) never dream of making a programme which sought to excuse traitors who worked for the Nazis.

In our generation, Blunt’s equivalents are the intellectual apologists for Islamist extremism. No doubt it will turn out that some of them worked secretly for countries like Iran, and no doubt, in due time, the BBC will laud them too.

[JP note: Over the weekend Skynews carried a clip of a Libyan newsreader holding a pistol and promising to use it on the rebels. Similarly, one might imagine a BBC newsreader waving copies of the Koran and Das Kapital to ward off the enraged of Croyden.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Vatican Rebuffs Madrid Protesters

Pope arrives for World Youth Day following demonstrations

(ANSA) — Vatican City, August 18 — As Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Madrid Thursday, Vatican Radio released a statement rebuffing claims from angry Spanish protesters that the pontiff’s visit for World Youth Day was an unfair burden on taxpayers.

“The event will not cost anything” for Spain, it said. “The burden will fall on the church, the pilgrims, and private donors,” it added, citing Spanish Government Spokesman Jose Blanco.

The Spanish leftist union CGT instead estimated that the real cost to taxpayers is around 100 million euros when taking into account security, public buildings and spaces made available, different forms of aid and tax allowances.

Demonstrators in the central square of Puerta del Sol decried the pope’s arrival into early Thursday with shouts of “go away” and “shame”.

The chants were led by several thousand youth mostly under the banner of the so-called “indignados”, a grassroots movement of angry young people who earlier this year took over squares in huge numbers all around the country for several weeks, demanding better work opportunities from their government.

About five million workers are unemployed in Spain, accounting for 21% of the active population, 50% of whom are young.

Numerous law enforcement vans were brought into the square, and police in anti-riot gear charged twice towards demonstrators to get them to move away from the square and make room for World Youth Day celebrations.

Police said that they arrested seven and 11 were injured.

Madrid city officials estimate that more than one million outsiders will be in Madrid through the end of the celebrations on August 21.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

World Youth Day: Spain: Believers Perfume as Souvenir

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 19 — Perfume of the faithful is the latest souvenir on offer as part of World Youth Day, following t-shirts, fans, rosaries, caps, sunglasses, key chains and commemorative medals, with the “scent of the pilgrims” on sale in authorised shops for the less-than-cheap price of 20 euros. The business of souvenirs, with every imaginable type of merchandising designed exclusively for Benedict XVI’s visit has invaded Madrid, though only in shops authorised by the organisation. On the World Youth Day web page, there is a section dedicated to information for the enterprises which would like to take part by selling the products with the brand name JMJ 2011: the cross on the red crown. “In order to be official sponsors, shopowners have to call us and then we will decide together what types of products to put on sale and the amount thereof,” Ama Merche’ Muñoz, head of World Youth Day merchandising, told the media. “If we agree, in exchange for a percentage which stays with the organisation we grant franchising agreements and authorisation to sell our souvenirs.” The money raised with the percentage from sales goes to the “Solidarity Fund” to help young people from poorer countries with limited economic means take part in World Youth Day. One of the retail outlets for the XXVI World Youth Day souvenirs is at the Moncloa connecting station, where all types of products are on offer: from bracelet-rosaries, to computer mice and toilet paper with the official colours of the Vatican (yellow and white). It is the idea of Lorenzo de Cardenas, the head of marketing for Renova. “We have 10,000 rolls, 7,500 of which we have donated to World Youth Day,” he said. “It is an exclusive edition of the rolls which yesterday were used as a sort of giant coil for the trip of the Pope-mobile from the Barajas airport to the nunciature offices and, from there, to Puerta de Alcala’ de Henares.” On sale in the authorised shops are also DVDs with the music and shops of the meetings with Benedict XVI, the pilgrims’ orange backpacks at 15 euros each, and especially tickets going for 5, 10 or 15 euros for the solidarity match between Spain and the rest of the world,” which will be played on Sunday August 221 in the Vicente Calderon stadium. However, with the exception of shops “blessed” by the organisation, other souvenir retailers — who in Madrid do a roaring trade the entire year — have not stocked up on souvenirs of the Pope’s visit, remembering what happened in the autumn when Benedict XVI visited Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona and most of the merchandise was left unsold. “On that occasion, the Pope’s visit led to losses for many shopkeepers who, once the event was over, did not know what to do with the souvenirs they had purchased,” El Mundo was told by Marimar Bueno, owner of a gifts kiosk in front of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

World Youth Day: Pope in Madrid, Indignados-Pope Fans Tension

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 18 — Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Madrid this morning, where he was met at Barajas airport by King Juan Carlos and by the socialist Prime Minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Hundreds of thousands of young Catholic pilgrims have been eagerly anticipating the Pontiff’s arrival in recent days, in an atmosphere of heightened tension after incidents that followed the protest by the “indignados” movement against the supposedly “excessive” cost of the Pope’s visit, in a country already crippled by an economic crisis. The Pope will remain in the Spanish capital until Sunday and will oversee World Youth Day. Organisers say that around one and a half million pilgrims will attend the closing mass on Sunday morning at Cuatro Ventos airport.

It is the Pope’s second visit to Spain in less than ten months, after his trip to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona last November. During that visit, Pope Ratzinger criticised what he called “radical secularism”, with the Vatican considering socialist Spain to be at the forefront of the phenomenon. Benedict XVI is expected to repeat this stance in Madrid in his nine scheduled speeches. The Pope’s latest Spanish visit comes at a delicate time on the country’s political scene, with the early general election of November 20 certain to herald the end of “Zapaterism”, after the outgoing Prime Minister’s admission that he would not be seeking re-election.

The Pope’s first meeting with the throng of young pilgrims at World Youth Day is scheduled this afternoon at Plaza de Cibeles.

The other main attractions during the four-day event include tomorrow’s Via Crucis on Paseo de Recoletos, Saturday’s morning mass at the Almudena cathedral and a vigil on Saturday night at Cuatro Ventos airport, where final mass will take place on Sunday. The Pope’s visit, which has brought the centre of the capital to a standstill, amid an imposing 10,000-strong police presence and the invasion of hundreds of thousands of the Pontiff’s disciples, has been heavily criticised. Thousands of people — 5,000 according to the police, 20,000 according to organisers — took part in yesterday evening’s protest march staged by the “indignados” and by secular groups. There was tension in Puerta del Sol, with insults exchanged between protesters and pilgrims and isolated scuffles. The police eventually charged the protesters in order to clear the square. Eleven people suffered minor injuries and eight arrests were made. A gay organisation has planned a “protest kiss” to co-incide with the Pope’s arrival in central Madrid.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Arab August

by Diana West

With non-Constitutionally-US-supported anti-Qadaffi forces taking Tripoli today, it looks as if — to be as delicate as a NATO commander — the “flickers” of Al Qaeda and Hezbollah have won. In franker words, America’s jihadist allies, a significant presence among the Libyan “rebels,” are now rising to power in Libya. In more startling terms, the same people who fought with al Qaeda against Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan (and committed unreported atrocities in Libya), are now, thanks to the US taxpayer, very likely about to run or at least help run a state with the ninth largest oil reserves in the world.

But don’t worry. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman was in Benghazi all weekend, making sure everything works out all right.

To wit(less):…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Arab Businessmen in Cairo With Suitcases of Libyan Dinars

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 19 — The international airport of Cairo has recorded the arrival of many Arab entrepreneurs in the past days, most of them Egyptians coming from the Gulf Country with suitcases filled with Libyan banknotes. The businessmen, the newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi underlines, fear the immediate fall of Gaddafi’s regime and the following devaluation of the Libyan currency. Quoting sources in Egyptian customs, the newspaper reports that the entrepreneurs have declared the possession of large sums of Libyan money at their arrival in Cairo. Egyptian law states that sums larger than 10 thousand dollars have to be declared. On a single flight from the United Arab Emirates, the newspaper specifies, more than a million Libyan dinars (over 550 thousand euros) were brought in. The entrepreneurs, the daily continues, will try to sell the Libyan money to Libyan businessmen, present in Egypt in large numbers, as soon as possible. The businessmen fear that the Libyan banknotes, and those with the image of Gaddafi printed on them in particular, will be taken out of circulation after the fall of the regime.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: The Spirit of 2006

by Diana West

From the beginnings of fighting in Libya, John Rosenthal has owned the English-language reporting on the “rebels” — a remarkable feat for an independent journalist competing with Goliath Media.

With anti-Qadaffi forces now in Tripoli, it’s worth revisiting what may be Rosenthal’s singlemost clarifying report on the jihadists roots of the insurrection, which go back to a violent Benghazi outpouring in 2006 against the West — against freedom of speech and the Danish Mohammed cartoons. In these Libyan protests, which Rosenthal describes below, we see the point of the sword in the ongoing Islamic pressure-movement against Western freedom of speech, specifically, against the freedom to criticize, to mock, to oppose, to debate, to understand Islam — in other words, to undergo the essential intellectual preparations to defend our freedom from jihad.

From April 1, 2011 at Pajamas Media: Our Principles? The Libyan Insurrection and the Mohammed Cartoons”…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Libyan Draft Constitution: Sharia is ‘Principal Source of Legislation’

The dust has not yet settled over the Libyan capital of Tripoli since rebels took control over the weekend. But already, a draft constitutional charter for the transitional state has appeared online (embedded below). It is just a draft, mind you, and gauging its authenticity at this point is difficult. There is also no way to know whether this draft or something similar will emerge as the final governing document for a new Libyan regime.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Libya: Reports of Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi’s Capture False, Appears in Tripoli

Saif al-Islam, the son of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, appeared at a Libyan hotel early Tuesday morning despite widely circulated reports of his capture during the rebels’ move into Tripoli a day earlier.

Saif arrived in a convoy with armed men at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli and told Fox News that the rebels had been lured into a trap and that pro-Qaddafi forces will crush them. He also said his father remains in Tripoli and he is alive and helping to coordinate the defense of the city.

He also said his forces were winning the fight with the rebels.

The Transitional National Council had informed the media of the capture, but provided no proof of the seizure. The International Criminal Court had previously confirmed the capture of Seif al-Islam, who along with his father faces charges of crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, the Libyan leader was nowhere to be found Monday as his 42-year rule teetered on the brink of collapse.

Months of NATO airstrikes have left his Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli largely demolished. Most of his security forces fled or surrendered when rebel forces rolled into the capital Sunday night and took control of most of the city. Three of his sons were under arrest.

A mood of joy mixed with trepidation settled over the capital, with the rebels still fighting pockets of fierce resistance from regime loyalists firing mortars and anti-aircraft guns. Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, who was in Tripoli, said the “danger is still there” as long as Qaddafi remains on the run

[Return to headlines]

Srdja Trifkovic: The Libyan Endgame

Chronicles Online, August 22nd, 2011

Regardless of whether Muammar Qaddafy is killed, brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, or exiled, his regime has collapsed beyond recovery. After a five-month air war against his forces NATO has succeeded in decisively tipping the balance on the ground in favor of the rebels. This does not mean that the war in Libya is over, however. It is only entering a new, more complicated stage.

The new chapter is heralded by a flamboyant half-Irish rebel commander, Husam Najjair, announcing that the first thing his forces will do “is set up checkpoints to disarm everyone, including other rebel groups.” Otherwise it will be a bloodbath, he said, since “all the rebel groups will want to control Tripoli.” Najjair’s Tripoli Brigade is only one among several “rebel groups,” however, and it is unimaginable that others will willingly surrender their weapons and thus accept his authority. Najjair’s statement merely reflects a mindset likely shared by his erstwhile allies who now view each other as rivals.

The United States, Britain and France have encouraged, financed, armed, and — crucially — provided 150 days of air support to the rebels in the name of protecting civilians. They have finally succeeded in bringing down Qaddafy. This had been their objective all along, regardless of the UNSC resolution authorizing limited action for supposedly humanitarian goals. They are therefore responsible for what happens on the ground in the days and weeks to come — and they will do nothing about it.

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Jerusalem: Controversial Tram Begins Service

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, AUGUST 19 — With a delay of more than three years from the original schedule, the first tram line was begin service today in Jerusalem amid protests staged by Palestinians, criticism and controversies. The tram will connect the eastern part of the city, occupied by Israel in 1967, with the western part, crossing the entire city. The opening of the new service, which will be offered to the public for free during the first two weeks, has stirred up protests from Palestinians who oppose the route of the tram line. They claim that the new line violates international law because it also crosses the occupied Arab sector, that way strengthening the Israeli annexation of the entire city. The tram line is 14km long and connects the Jewish urban settlement of Pisgat Zeev, in the eastern periphery of Jerusalem, with Mount Herzl in the west. A total of 42 stations have been set up along the route. During rush hour a tram is scheduled to pass every five minutes. The project was conceived in 1998 to reduce traffic congestion. It has been undermined by several planning errors, controversies, criticism and protests staged by the owners of stores in streets that had to be closed for traffic during the construction of the line. Moreover, costs continued to rise, reaching 4 billion shekel (800 million euros).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mavi Marmara: Lieberman Sparks New Controversy

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, AUGUST 18 — Tension remains high between Israel and Turkey over the Mavi Marmara episode. Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, today accused Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of attempting deliberately to question the legitimacy of the state of Israel. The two countries have been locked in a bitter dispute since nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed on May 31 2010 when an Israeli navy commando stormed the Mavi Marmara, one of a fleet of ships intending to force Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“The Turkish Prime Minister is trying to damage the legitimacy of Israel by demanding from us an apology that would be tantamount to an admission of guilt and would also call into question our right to defend ourselves from attacks from Gaza,” Lieberman told state radio. The Foreign Minister has been unshakable in the face of Turkey’s demands. Israel prefers to wait for the forthcoming publication of a UN report which Lieberman believes will recognise the legality of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip with regard to international law, and dismiss Turkey’s counter claims. “This is why Turkey has tried to delay its publication,” Lieberman added. At the same time, it is thought that the report will accuse the Israeli military of using disproportionate force.

Meanwhile, the office of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, and the deputy Foreign Minister, Dany Ayalon, have today denied press reports of US pressure on Israel to apologise to Turkey. “These are reports with no foundation,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement, with Ayalon adding that “there is no pressure but we are holding talks with our greatest friend”. It has emerged that a similar denial has been issued in Washington. The Israeli press claims that the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, phoned Netanyahu to convince him to offer Israel’s apology to Turkey, underlining America’s political interests in the region. She is said to have been met, however, with the refusal of the Israeli Prime Minister. Erdogan has demanded an apology from Israel, compensation for the families of the activists killed and the lifting of the blockade as conditions for relations between the two countries, until recently close allies, to return to normal.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Medical Tourism: Turkey Hosted 500,000 Patients in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 19 — Turkey hosted nearly 500,000 foreign patients in 2010, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Turkish health minister Recep Akdag as saying on Friday. Akdag added that they achieved significant success in several areas within the scope of Transformation Project in Health, stating that Turkey had an important place in the medical tourism sector. Akdag said that Turkey attracted patients especially from the Middle East and Europe, stating that nearly 500,000 foreign tourists visited Turkey in 2010 to receive treatment in the country. There was need to increase the number of doctors, nurses and other health personnel to improve the medical tourism sector, he added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

ALP History a Real Riot

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is not one to miss an anniversary if it provides a photo opportunity — particularly when the minority government she leads needs to divert public attention from its ever-growing mire of moral and economic failures.

Yet an important milestone in the Australian trade union movement slipped by on Friday without a murmur from the Labor spin doctors Hawker Britten via the prime minister’s office.

It was the fifteenth anniversary of the storming of Parliament House in Canberra by dozens of chanting trade unionists who smashed the front doors, looted the small businesses in the lobby, threw acid and urine at the riot police called to control the violence and rampaged through the corridors.

How could Labor have forgotten this milestone when it is actively sought to demonise peaceable demonstrators who descended upon wintry Canberra last week to protest against Gillard’s ham-fisted administration and is now attempting to play down the protest convoy which will roll into the capital tomorrow? How could Labor have forgotten this gross act of incivility when it is so uncomfortably attempting to downplay the well-documented allegations about the misuse of trade union funds by former trade union boss Craig Thomson?

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Malek Fahd Islamic School Fees Are Funding Australian Federation of Islamic Councils

THE nation’s peak Muslim body is extracting millions of dollars in rent and fees from a successful Islamic school in Sydney that draws most of its funding from taxpayers.

Documents reveal the Malek Fahd Islamic School paid the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils $5.2 million last year alone, an amount equal to one-third of the school’s educational funding from the federal and state governments.

An investigation by The Australian has uncovered millions of dollars in funds charged to the school, including unexplained “management fees”.

The school has also been charged $2.59m in back rent after AFIC retrospectively altered a lease agreement in 2009.

Last year, it paid $3.15m in “management fees” to AFIC, which included $2.2m in “management fees back charge”.

AFIC, also known as Muslims Australia, has not explained how the fees are being spent by the organisation, despite detailed questions from The Australian.

Malek Fahd, in Greenacre in Sydney’s west, received $15.7m in educational funding from the commonwealth and NSW governments last year, accounting for 74 per cent of its overall income.

According to the school’s financial statement, it received a total of $19.6m in government funding last year, with the figure boosted by cash from the federal government’s Building the Education Revolution program.

The school of about 2000 students is widely considered a success story for Islamic education in Australia, rating 15th in NSW HSC system ratings last year and in the top 10 in 2007.

The school is listed as independent and is a separate legal entity from its landowner and founder AFIC. Government funds are given directly to the school, not to AFIC.

Both are not-for-profit organisations, with the school entitled to a range of tax concessions as a charitable institution.

In 2008, a lease was signed between the school and AFIC that set annual rent for the Greenacre property at $1.3m, but documents reveal that in 2009 the lease was changed to increase the rent to $1.5m a year. The agreement was backdated to January 2004, resulting in a one-off payment of $2.59m going to AFIC.

According to the school’s last financial report, another deal saw the school hand over a lump sum of $2.2m in backdated management fees to AFIC, with another $959,800 handed over for management costs in that year.

Neither the school nor AFIC can explain what the management fees are charged for.

AFIC president Ikebal Patel, who has held the role since 2007, is also the chairman of directors of the school. He was briefly removed from the position of AFIC president by the AFIC congress in 2008, but was reinstated after a complex federal court challenge to the legitimacy of the vote.

When asked by The Australian how he explained the fees being charged to the school and where and how AFIC was spending the funds, Mr Patel said: “The financial statement is out there. If you want to discuss anything else I’m happy, but I’m not going to discuss any of this.”

Mr Patel has not replied to questions in writing about how the large fees were justified or where the money was being spent.

Mr Patel would also not answer questions as to how much he or other members of the AFIC executive were personally drawing in income or any other payment from AFIC funds.

Intaj Ali, the school’s principal, told The Australian that “all questions about the school’s finances should be directed to the school’s director, Ikebal Patel”.

However, it is understood that Dr Ali — a respected educator who has been principal since the school’s inception in 1990 — is privately furious over the manner in which AFIC has been using the school’s funds.

Senior figures at the school and in the Islamic community are angry the school is being denied its funds to reinvest into the school, which has large classes and generally caters to students of non-English speaking backgrounds and of lower socioeconomic groups. The school receives proportionately larger government funding for this reason.

The Greenacre school site was purchased by AFIC in 1989 for about $2.2m with funds from the Saudi royal family. The school, which charges fees of about $1200 a year, has been responsible for funding the construction of its own buildings.

Along with Mr Patel as chairman of directors of the Malek Fahd, the school’s board also has several other AFIC executives. These include AFIC vice-president Hafez Kassem, treasurer Mohamed Masood and assistant AFIC treasurer Ashraf Usman Ali.

Neither the commonwealth nor the NSW education department has provided comment on the matter, but The Australian understands the school’s funding issue has been brought to the attention of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s office.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Spain: The BBC’s Coverage of World Youth Day Has Been a Disgrace

How depressing that yet again the BBC has turned a joyful occasion into an excuse for mean-spirited criticism

comes to something when I when I find myself agreeing with the Guardian‘s Andrew Brown, and yet here we are.. His blog post yesterday drew attention to something many Catholics will be feeling this weekend. “If I were a Catholic,” he writes, “I would be feeling rather p—d off with the BBC.” Well, quite.

Why on earth the BBC has chosen to focus its coverage on the comparatively tiny number of protesters in Madrid is a mystery. I mean, it’s not as if they’re the most sympathetic types. We need only turn to the esteemed Deutsche Welle to recognise the usual suspects:

5,000 people turned out on Madrid’s streets late Wednesday to protest the pope’s arrival for the six-day youth festival. The demonstrators included members of secularist, feminist, gay and lesbian, alternative Christian and leftist groups.

Over a hundred of these fringe protest groups coalesced, as they so often do, into a confused mêlée of conflicting special interests. They were united, however, in the sheer nastiness with which they expressed their views. To give but one example: As pilgrims sang “Hallelujah”, “Long Live the Pope!” and Benedicto!”, demonstrators responded with shrieks of “Nazis!” and “Paedophiles, watch out children!”

And, inevitably, there were violent thugs in their number who got physical, prompting eleven arrests. So much for the inclusive tolerance trumpeted by the Left. Here in Madrid was its real face: a sneering, violent mob of self-righteous bullies who thought it appropriate to hurl abuse at children for the crime of having pride in their faith and being excited about by a visit from the Holy Father.

Even the putative grounds for this protest were bogus. Protesters squealed about the outrage of part-funding the Pope’s visit at a time of economic crisis (prompting me to wonder: how many of these goons were luxuriating under the largesse of the state themselves? I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the museum official bleating to AFP about being “intimidated” by police came from a public museum). Yet the organisers had already said that World Youth Day is likely to cover its own costs. Examples of the BBC’s skewed attitude abound. This tweet is by no means the only one I’ve seen exasperated by the Today programme, which made little space for the fact that the 5,000 protesters were dwarfed by the incredible 1.5 million people who are expected to attend the various World Youth Day events. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us by now that the state broadcaster uses any available opportunity to criticise and ridicule the Church, siding with obnoxious minority protest groups at the expense of the majority. But it’s always depressing when it does.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]