Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110831

Financial Crisis
»Balanced Budget ‘Golden Rule’ Rare in Europe
»Italian Bond Spread Rises Above 300 Points
»Italy: Medical Sector Up in Arms Over Austerity Package Pensions
»Italy: Inflation Rises to Highest Level Since 2008
»Italy: Berlusconi ‘Very Happy’ With Budget Changes
»A Violent Racist Game Claims More Victims
»Breaking: Hazmat Crews at Scott Air Force Base, 3 Hospitalized
»Fiat May Shift SUV Production to US
»Justice Department Moves to Block Merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, News Reports Say
»NYPD Reportedly Ran Undercover Program to Track Muslims Near New York
»President Obama to Address Congress on Jobs and Economy on Sept. 7
»Tests Turn Up Nothing at Illinois Air Force Base Where 3 Were Sickened While Handling Mail
»Theme Park Shuts Its Gates After Mass Brawl Breaks Out Over Muslim Women Banned From Wearing Their Hijabs on Rides
»USA 2012 Presidential Elections to Cost a Record 6 Bln Dlr
»Wild Scene Erupts at Playland: Police Arrest 15 in Dispute Over Muslim Hijab
Europe and the EU
»1st OK to Opening EU Market to Palestinian Exports
»Black Death Bug Identified From Medieval Bones
»Eurozone Economic Confidence Falls for Sixth Month
»Italy: Napolitano: Battisti Case Deeply Violates Our Rights
»Italy: Falck and Marelli Bribery Case Widens
»Italy: Milan Single Tickets Rise Tomorrow From 1 Euro to 1. 50
»Spain: New Rules for Catalan Mosques and Places of Worship
»Survey: 59% of Germans Think CDU Does Not Support Merkel
»Sweden Democrat Targeted in Arson Attack
»Swedish Newspapers Target Racist Comments
»Switzerland Loses “Safest Country” Accolade
»UK: BBC Apologizes for Promoting Pork Dish for the Muslim Holiday
»UK: Cambridge Park is Venue for the First Eid Celebrations
»UK: DD560 Eid in the Square2011 — Saturday 24th September 2011
»UK: Eid Festival London
»UK: Eid El-Fitr [BBC Food Recipes Inc Pork Apology]
»UK: Husband Stabs Beautiful Ambitious Wife to Death in a Moving Car Driven by his Father
»UK: The Prime Minister Wishes Muslims ‘A Very Happy and Peaceful Eid Ul Fitr’
»UK: Thousands of Eid Worshippers Mark End of Ramadan on Stepney Green
»Serbian President and Kosovo PM Clash Over “Criminal Structures” In North Kosovo
North Africa
»Diana West: “Rebels,” “Terrorists,” and Anti-Aircraft Missiles
»Egypt: EU, 100 Mln Support to Create Jobs and Fight Poverty
»ENI to Reopen Libya Pipeline by Mid-October
»Italy Unfreezes 350 Mn Euros of Libyan Assets
»Libya: Algeria Cites ‘Holy Rule of Hospitality’ For Taking in Gaddafi Family Members
»Libyan Rebels Don’t Want Foreign U. N. Peacekeepers
»Libya: Frattini: Regime Surrenders Due to Fall of Sirte
»Libya: NATO Mission to End With Sirte’s Fall, Frattini
»Libya: Sharia Begins to Cast Its Shadow on the New Democratic Libya
»Libya: Amnesty: Fear for Violence Against Gaddafi Supporters
»Pepe Escobar: Why Gaddafi Got a Red Card
»Tuareg Attacked by Insurgents Flee to Algeria
Israel and the Palestinians
»Netanyahu’s Wife Accused of Maltreating Home Helper
Middle East
»Al-Maliki Confirms US Troops to Withdraw as Established
»How Much Does Ramadan Cost?
»Iran Sends Warship and Submarine to Patrol Red Sea
»Outdated in Outer Space: Russia’s Soyuz Program Crashes and Burns
»Traffic and Controversy, Muslims Celebrate Eid Al Adha in Moscow
South Asia
»India: Karnataka: 4 Christians Arrested Over “Door to Door” Forced Conversions
Australia — Pacific
»Delivery Man Rapist Jailed for 18 Months
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Earliest Signs of Advanced Tools Found
»Germany: Official Blames Sarrazin for Hindering Integration
»Miller: Free Tuition for Illegals
»Norway: Christian Converts From Islam Flee in Fear From Muslims at Asylum Reception Center
»Astronauts May Evacuate Space Station in November, NASA Says

Financial Crisis

Balanced Budget ‘Golden Rule’ Rare in Europe

All European Union member states must keep their budget deficits to a strict limit but most have failed the test and so Germany, Europe’s paymaster, has laid down the gauntlet by adopting a “golden rule” on keeping the books balanced. Under a constitutional requirement, the German government must ensure that there is no budget deficit — the shortfall between revenues and spending — from 2016 and France and Italy say they intend to adopt a similar rule. Spain approved a debate Tuesday on such a provision as the eurozone countries all try to put their finances in order to escape the wrath of the markets for those that do not.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Italian Bond Spread Rises Above 300 Points

Weak demand at 10-year bond auction

(ANSA) — Rome, August 30 — Italian bond spreads rose above 300 points against the German bund on Tuesday after weak demand at the first auction of 10-year securities since the European Central Bank began buying the nation’s debt.

Italy’s 10-year yields climbed to a three-week high of 5.16% before falling to 5.14%, after Premier Silvio Berlusconi bowed to demands from his coalition ally to revamp the government’s 45-billion euro austerity package.

Milan stocks fell 0.23% with the FTSE Mib index closing 15,106 points. Earlier in the day the Bank of Italy warned that the Italian government’s updated austerity measures were essential but would slow the country’s economic recovery.

“The move to resolve the deficit and balance the budget by 2013 will slow growth but there is no alternative,” Ignazio Visco, the bank’s deputy director-general, told a Senate committee.

The government changed the austerity package approved by the cabinet two weeks ago after a meeting between Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Giulio Tremonti, his Economy Minister, and coalition ally and leader of the Northern League, Umberto Bossi, outside Milan on Monday.

The new version of the package, which is due to face a vote in the Senate next week, drops the so-called “solidarity tax” on higher incomes, and proposes halving the number of MPs, changes to pensions, and increasing measures to stop tax evasion.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Medical Sector Up in Arms Over Austerity Package Pensions

(AGI) Rome — The ANAAO is calling for “intervention from MPs working in medical and health spheres, to avoid clear injustice.” The union says that “that as of now the sector as a whole is up in arms” over the austerity package legislation, which will hit the health sector “hard.” A communique’ from the National Secretary of ANAAO Assomed, Costantino Troise, says: “Things have gone too far this time. An appalling proposal has been made as a result of the Arcore meeting: the years spent on conscription and university are to be forfeited, specialisation and research doctorates are no longer any use in attempting to take early old age pensions.” .

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

Italy: Inflation Rises to Highest Level Since 2008

Jobless stable, but ‘no recovery’

(ANSA) — Rome, August 31 — Italy’s inflation rate has risen to its highest level in nearly three years, but the country’s unemployment rate was steady in July, according to figures released on Wednesday.

The government statistics agency, Istat, on Wednesday showed that inflation rose to 2.8% in August from 2.7% in July.

It was the highest inflation rate recorded since October 2008.

According to Istat, the number of jobless barely changed — falling 0.3 points to 8% in July, compared to the same month in 2010.

“The dramatic job losses caused by the crisis have stopped,” Istat officials said. “But there is no sign of a recovery”. More than two million Italians were jobless in July, according to the figures.

There was a small increase in new jobs — 36,000 more positions were created in July and 88,000 more compared to July 2010. Coldiretti, the national farmers’ association, said consumers were spending more money on transport and fuel than they were on food and drinks.

It said Italians were spending more than 19% of their household income on transport, fuel and energy costs while spending on bread, pasta, meat and fish had fallen significantly.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi ‘Very Happy’ With Budget Changes

‘More equitable and sustainable’, says PM

(See related story on site) (ANSA) — Rome, August 30 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusocni said Tuesday he was “very happy” with the revamped budget package he approved with senior ministers late Monday.

“I am very, very happy because the austerity package has been improved without changing the total revenue raised,” Berlusconi told a news programme broadcast on one of his TV channels. The new version of the package, which is due to face a vote in the Senate next week, drops the so-called “solidarity tax” that proposed an extra 5% on incomes higher than 90,000 euros a year, and a 10% increase on incomes above 150,000 euros.

“I said I was introducing the solidarity tax with a bleeding heart, because I always promised that we would not put our hands in Italians’ pockets. We have successfully done away with it with other ways of saving”. The latest changes also include halving the number of members of parliament, changes to pensions, reducing proposed cuts to local authorities, and increasing measures to stop tax evasion.

Berlusconi praised the strength of his coalition following seven hours of meetings at his villa outside Milan with Economy Minister, Giulio Tremonti, and key ally, Umberto Bossi, head of the Northern League and other leaders on Monday.

“I am satisfied because the result confirms the cohesion of the majority and the fact that the reality is different to what is being said in the newspapers about relations between me and Tremonti and relations withint the coalition,” Berlusconi said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


A Violent Racist Game Claims More Victims

One man was stomped to death and another man nearly killed in a racist amusement called the “knock-out game,” currently being played by black teenagers. The victims were both white, and that fact needs to be raised in our national conversation about race.

Half-brothers Elliott T. Murphy, 18, and Deonta “Fuss” Johnson, 16, were recently convicted of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the heinous stomping death of 61-year-old Jerry Newingham and the stomping attack of 46-year-old Kevin S. Wilson. The two convicted were part of a group of 9 blacks. Their two victims were white. The brutal murder took place in Decatur, IL, a place commonly known as “a classic Midwest USA small city.” They group was playing the “knock-out game.”

The game is as cruel and ignorant as it sounds. The only rule is to pick a victim and try to knock them out. The group of black teens in Decatur discussed playing the game, before going out and finding a random victim for their unprovoked attack. They called it the “point ‘em out, knock ‘em out” game.

After being let out of school, the teens began their fun. They “randomly” selected a white person to play along. The teens punched, kicked, and then jumped on and stomped their first victim, Mr. Newingham. He never regained consciousness after being mauled by the feral teens.

Seventy minutes later, the group beat up Kevin Wilson, who also just happened to be white. One witness said he saw Murphy jump on Wilson’s head — jumping with both feet. That witness said that Wilson was not even moving during and after the attack. Another witness, a 14-year-old girl, told a detective, “They were jumping on him like he was a trampoline, basically.”

This is not the first time the game has been played. Such attacks have been reported in Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New Jersey. It was played on a large scale in Wisconsin, with as many as 18 suspects arrested for involvement. Students in Chicago have produced a community service movie speaking out against the game.

In general, the knockout game involves “unprovoked attacks on innocent bystanders,” according to police who have had to deal with it. A retired police officer explains, “Normally it was a group of black males, one of which would strike [the victim] as hard as he could in the face, attempting to knock him out with one punch.” The victims are typically not robbed, but simply punched with no provocation. One would be hard-pressed to find an example of whites playing this “game.” Given the racial make-up of victims and attackers in this trend of crime, it makes sense to ask whether there is a racial motive involved.

Between the flash mobs and the knock-out game, we have very good reasons to change the way we think about racism in America…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Breaking: Hazmat Crews at Scott Air Force Base, 3 Hospitalized

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) — Hazmat crews descend on Scott Air Force Base after a suspicious package sends three to the hospital and prompt evacuations of several facilities on the base.

“Currently we’re responding to a suspicious package that occurred at the official mail center (Building 1650),” SAFB spokesman Lt. Benjamin Garland tells KMOX News.

He said they’re not releasing any further information about the “suspicious package” or what it may have contained at this time. However the package reportedly emitted a sulphur-like smell.

Garland says at least 3 people have been transported to the hospital and 13 others are in decontamination. The hospitalized people were likely the package handlers and they showed no symptoms other than a rash.

The incident began just before 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The education center, the bowling alley and ITT center at Scott are closed until further notice.

Check back for more on this developing story.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Fiat May Shift SUV Production to US

Turin, 31 August (AKI/Bloomberg) — Fiat, the Italian carmaker which controls Chrysler, may shift planned production of Jeep and Alfa Romeo brand sport-utility vehicles from its oldest plant in Turin to North America and build a small city car at the factory instead, a person familiar with the matter said.

Fiat may assemble a yet-to-be built subcompact car at the Mirafiori plant after the strengthening euro against the dollar made the possibility of building SUVs mainly destined for the U.S. a less competitive option in Europe, said the person, who declined to be identified before an official announcement. A final decision hasn’t been made, the person added.

Fiat last November announced a 1 billion-euro investment to make as many as 280,000 Jeep and Alfa Romeo SUVs at the Mirafiori plant starting in the fourth quarter of 2012. The euro has gained about 9 percent against the dollar since then, raising the cost of building vehicles in Europe bound for the U.S. market.

“From a product-mix point of view, it makes a lot of sense,” AT Kearney analyst Marco Santino said by phone. “The U.S. would keep know-how of SUV building, it would help the launch of Alfa Romeo in North America and it would be a more competitive product due to lower costs of production.”

The automaker may discuss the small car in Turin Thursday when chief cxecutive officer Sergio Marchionne hosts the first meeting of Fiat and Chrysler’s single management team, the person said. A Fiat spokesman, who confirmed the meeting, declined to comment on the production plan. Fiat unions today asked for a meeting with the company to discuss the Mirafiori plant’s future.

Fiat is planning models like the subcompact to turn around its European operations after posting losses in its biggest market and losing ground to competitors. Marchionne last month appointed purchasing chief Gianni Coda to run Fiat and Chrysler in the region. Coda starts his new job tomorrow.

Fiat’s European market share shrank to 7.2 percent in the first half from 8.1 percent a year earlier as deliveries fell 13 percent to 530,228 vehicles. Fiat aims to recover market share in the second half with new models, including the Fiat Freemont, a European version of Chrysler’s Dodge Journey SUV, and the Lancia Ypsilon subcompact.

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

Justice Department Moves to Block Merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, News Reports Say

The Justice Department filed a complaint on Wednesday to block AT&T’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile, a deal that would create the largest carrier in the country and reshape the industry.

The complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, said that T-Mobile “places important competitive pressure on its three larger rivals, particularly in terms of pricing, a critically important aspect of competition.” The complaint also highlighted T-Mobile’s high speed network and its innovations in technology.

[Return to headlines]

NYPD Reportedly Ran Undercover Program to Track Muslims Near New York

From an office on the Brooklyn waterfront in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, New York Police Department officials and a veteran CIA officer built an intelligence-gathering program with an ambitious goal: to map the region’s ethnic communities and dispatch teams of undercover officers to keep tabs on where Muslims shopped, ate and prayed.

The program was known as the Demographics Unit and, though the NYPD denies its existence, the squad maintained a long list of “ancestries of interest” and received daily reports on life in Muslim neighborhoods, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The documents offer a rare glimpse into an intelligence program shaped and steered by a CIA officer. It was an unusual partnership, one that occasionally blurred the line between domestic and foreign spying. The CIA is prohibited from gathering intelligence inside the U.S.

[Return to headlines]

President Obama to Address Congress on Jobs and Economy on Sept. 7

President Obama is requesting a joint session of Congress for next Wednesday — at 8 p.m., exactly the same time as the scheduled Republican presidential debate, as it happens — to give a much anticipated speech outlining his proposals to boost employment and the economy.

In a letter to the leaders of both houses of Congress on Wednesday, Mr. Obama said it is his “intention to lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses, helping Americans get back to work, and putting more money in the paychecks of the middle class and working Americans.”

That Mr. Obama was going to make his speech next week was expected. But it is remarkable that he would choose to do so in such an elevated setting, and at the same time that Republican candidates for president will be laying out their own vision for how to get the country out of the economic doldrums.

[Return to headlines]

Tests Turn Up Nothing at Illinois Air Force Base Where 3 Were Sickened While Handling Mail

MASCOUTAH, Ill. — Environmental tests at an Air Force base in southern Illinois failed to pinpoint what caused three people to fall sick while handling mail Wednesday, the Air Force said.

Two workers for the U.S. Postal Service and an Air Force serviceman at Scott Air Force Base developed respiratory or skin reactions around 9 a.m. in reaction to something in the mail room, according to base commander Col. Michael Hornitschek. The incident led to the evacuation of parts of the facility.

The Air Force issued a news release Wednesday night saying that environmental tests turned up “nothing of significance” at the mail center. Base spokeswoman Karen Petitt told The Associated Press that it’s possible whatever sickened the three people had dissipated by the time tests were conducted.

U.S. Postal Service inspectors are continuing to investigate the cause of the adverse reactions and the mail facility will remain closed Thursday, the Air Force said.

“Our personnel are safe and the buildings in which they work have been declared safe and we will proceed with normal business tomorrow,” Hornitschek said in a statement.

Hornitschek told reporters earlier that he didn’t believe there was ever any threat to the local community and that it’s possible the package could have been a “very benign shipment someone had sent (and that) something had spilled or broke.” However, he stopped short of assuring that it wasn’t a deliberate act.

He offered no details about the package or what material was inside.

Hornitschek said hazardous materials specialists had isolated the suspicious package to one specific bin. But he could not say whether that bin contained mail that was arriving or was meant to be sent from the base.

Hornitschek, appearing relaxed, said he believed the matter was “absolutely not” connected to the pending 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We view this as an isolated incident that could have happened any particular day in any particular mail center” in the Air Force, Hornitschek said.

The colonel said the three injured people were treated then released from a hospital in Belleville, Ill. Thirteen people were decontaminated as a precaution on the base. Another person sought medical attention at an on-base health center and was cleared.

The incident prompted precautionary evacuations of the base’s education center, bowling alley and other services near the mail center. Hornitschek said about 100 people were evacuated. The base is outside Mascoutah, Ill., about 25 miles east of St. Louis.

The base was never closed and its security level remained unchanged throughout the day.

Still, the incident prompted some concern at the base. Alarms blared, with a voice over a loud speaker warning that it was not an exercise. Hazardous material trucks, firefighters and ambulances hurried to the scene.

Hornitschek said as recently as last week the base underwent training responding to conditions similar to what happened Wednesday.

Master Sgt. Jerome Baysmore said “several” firefighters at the base were overcome by heat and treated by on-base medics. He did not know how many. The incident happened on a day when temperatures reached well into the 90s.

The air base serves as a global mobility and transportation hub for the Defense Department. The base is home to the U.S. Transportation Command, Air Mobility Command, the 618th Air and Space Operations Center and Air Force Network Integration Center. It is also one of four bases in the Air Force to house both a Reserve unit — the 932nd Airlift Wing — and an Air National Guard unit — the 126th Air Refueling Wing.

Hornitschek said 10,000 to 12,000 people are on the base on a given day.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Theme Park Shuts Its Gates After Mass Brawl Breaks Out Over Muslim Women Banned From Wearing Their Hijabs on Rides

A theme park was forced to shut its gates to visitors yesterday when a mass brawl broke out after Muslim women were banned from rides unless they removed their headscarves.

Two park rangers were hospitalised and 15 people were arrested in the scuffle at Rye Playland in New York.

The theme park was crowded with around 6,000 visitors. Roughly 3,000 were in a Muslim tour group celebrating a holiday at the end of Ramadan.

The scuffle happened after visitors started to argue, before rangers stepped in and eventually closed the park entrance for two hours.


The Muslim American Society of New York had been advised of the rule many times before its tour took place,parks official Peter Tartaglia said.

Hedefended the policy against head coverings on rides for safety reasons and faulted the group for not ensuring visitors understood the policy.

Mr Tartaglia said the policy is for safety, as scarves can become entangled in mechanical parts, choke riders or fly off and land in a ride’s tracks.


Rye Playland, owned and run by Westchester County, is America’s only government-owned amusement park, reported Fox News.

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

USA 2012 Presidential Elections to Cost a Record 6 Bln Dlr

(AGI) Washington — Cold to the economic crisis, the 2012 US presdential elections will cost at least 6 bln Dlrs, 1 more than in 2008. This is how much the US presidential candidates are estimated to spend for the 6th of November elections, thus setting a new recod. The amount also includes the current spending for the turnover of a third of the Senate and of the whole House of Representatives. The estimate was published by the Center for Responsive Politics, which meticulously checks all the expenditures of American politics.

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

Wild Scene Erupts at Playland: Police Arrest 15 in Dispute Over Muslim Hijab

A massive disturbance broke out at Playland Park in Westchester County, New York, Tuesday when a group of Muslim visitors grew angry over park rules forbidding the use of “headgear” on some of its rides. The headgear, in this instance, was the traditional Muslim head covering — often called a hijab — worn by women.

Authorities from allegedly nine different agencies descended on the fun-park after county police responded to the disturbance, which by that time, involved some 30 to 40 people. Local reports indicate some 3,000 Muslim-Americans had gathered at the park.…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

1st OK to Opening EU Market to Palestinian Exports

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, AUGUST 31 — The European Parliament has given its first approval to the agreement that includes the opening of the EU market to all farm and fisheries products from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The European Parliament International Trade Committee has unanimously approved the agreement, which will now be examined in the plenary session by the end of September.

“The future of the region depends on the improvement of the economic development,” said Greek MEP Maria Eleni Koppa of the social-democrats, rapporteur of the approved text, who underlined that trade can contribute to the reduction of poverty and the establishment of political stability.” The agreement was signed in April by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Salam Fayyad. It has a validity of ten years and a clause for revision after a five-year period. Should imports of farm and fisheries products increase to a point where they start to cause a “distortion” of the domestic market, the EU has the possibility to take protective measures.

The Palestinian Territories are the EU’s smallest trade partner in the Euro-Mediterranean region, with trade totalling 56.6 million euros in 2009, mostly (50.5 million) from EU exports.

Imports of Palestinian products to the EU reached around 6.1 million euros in 2009.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Black Death Bug Identified From Medieval Bones

The Black Death infamously wiped out about a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century, but until now there was no firm evidence that bubonic plague was the cause. Some researchers have suggested that the epidemic was caused by a virus such as Ebola, but an analysis of DNA from a London plague pit seems to settle the argument in favour of the “plague” bacterium Yersinia pestis. Hendrik Poinar at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues developed a technique to look for Yersinia DNA in the bones of Black Death victims. The task was made tricky because of the possibility of contamination, Poinar says. “When we extract DNA from the skeletons, we also get DNA from their environment.”

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Economic Confidence Falls for Sixth Month

Consumer and business confidence in the eurozone economy fell for the sixth consecutive month in August, an EU survey showed on Tuesday amid rising fears of an economic slowdown. The decline resulted from a “broad-based deterioration in sentiment across the sectors,” particularly in services, retail trade and among consumers, the European Commission said. Only the construction sector saw an improvement.

The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) fell by 4.7 points to 98.3 in the 17-nation eurozone compared to 103 points in July. In the wider 27-nation EU, the ESI fell by 5.0 points to 97.3. “In both regions consumers were pessimistic about the future general economic situation and expressed higher unemployment fears,” the commission said. “Their expected financial situation and their saving expectations were also assessed more negatively than in the past months,” it said. Confidence in industry remains above its long-term average but worsened in the eurozone and the EU “on the back of a drop in managers’ appraisal of the level of order books and production expectations.”

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Italy: Napolitano: Battisti Case Deeply Violates Our Rights

(AGI) Rome — Napolitano speaks up on the case of Cesare Battisti. “I have always promoted and supported all initiatives aimed at making Brazil surrender Battisti to Italy and I deplored the Supreme Federal Tribunal’s decision passed against us, affirmed the Head of State. The negative outcome of the extradition procedure deeply violates due compliance with the agreements signed and the efforts to combat terrorism and to defend the constitutional norms that Italy made in fully performing the provisions set forth under the Rule of Law”.

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

Italy: Falck and Marelli Bribery Case Widens

(AGI) Monza — The general director of the municipality of Sesto San Giovanni, Marco Bertoli, has been indicted for illegal funding to parties as part of an investigation being conducted by Monza’s public prosecutor on bribes paid in the old Falck and Marelli industrial areas. Bertoli’s name appeared in the notification that investigations will continue as Financial Police notified 20 people that they are under investigation.

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

Italy: Milan Single Tickets Rise Tomorrow From 1 Euro to 1. 50

(AGI) Milan — Bus, metro and tram fares in Milan are set to rise tomorrow from 1,00 euro to 1,50 euro. The fare increase involves single journey tickets (1 euro to 1.50), the Carnet (10 journeys from 9.20 to 13.80), the daily ticket (from 3 to 4.50 euro) the evening ticket (2 to 3 euro) plus weekly tickets (9 to 11.30 euro), but will not effect monthly urban tickets (30 euro) and annual ones (300 euro).

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

Spain: New Rules for Catalan Mosques and Places of Worship

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 31 — New places of worship in Catalonia, from mosques to evangelical churches, will need to “bear in mind the archaeological, cultural, historical and traditional characteristics of buildings and the impact on their artistic elements”. These are the new rules imposed by the Generalitat government chaired by Artur Mas, from the nationalist Christian Democrat Convergencia i Union (CiU) party, part of a law bill likely to be approved on September 13, according to today’s edition of El Pais. The regulations would replace a 2009 law and, for the first time, would include references to the “tradition” and the “history” of Catalonia as elements to be taken into consideration when building new places of worship. Although phrased quite ambiguously, the bill also suggests that external appearance (for example, that of Islamic oratories) should be in line with the environment, with the facades of other buildings and with the remains of local history.

The reform also puts and end to the obligation imposed upon town authorities to modify building plans to allocate land for religious use, leaving decisions “fuelled by needs” to the discretion of local bodies. This will make it more difficult for the region’s growing number of religious communities, be they Islamic or Evangelical, to obtain planning permission to build places of worship. The town of Torroella de Montgri, in the province of Girona, which is governed by CiU, has already announced that it will ban the construction of a mosque because the Arab elements of the archaeological façade or not in harmony with local tradition.

But references to local tradition, culture or history have already brought serious criticism, especially from parts of the Islamic and Evangelical communities, who consider the new rules a limitation of the freedom of worship allowed by the Spanish Constitution. The Evangelical Council has presented amendments to the law bill, saying that it signifies “a huge step backwards”.

The Generalitat, meanwhile, is justifying the measure by focussing on the need to avoid problems deriving from the potential change to design plans. The 2009 law set out the security, hygiene and accessibility conditions that needed to be met by places of worship and fixed a deadline of 5 years for town authorities to be up to scratch. The new reform, which is likely to be approved in the next few days, extends the deadline to 10 years. “Communities are making efforts to adapt, but many have no resources and need time,” explains the director of religious affairs at the Catalan government, Xavier Puigdollers, justifying the moratorium called for by a number of town authorities. The new law will also ensure that the temporary occupation of roads or the sporadic loaning of pubic structures for religious festivals includes the “degree of seniority of each of church, confession and religious community”.

“The aim of this may be a process of camouflaging mosques in the urban environment, as has occurred in some European countries, to avoid archaeological elements that cause waste,” says Jordi Moreras, a sociologist and expert in Islam, in an interview with El Pais.

But the climate of intolerance in the region, which is home to the largest Muslim immigrant population in the country, is growing. A week ago, the regional government’s interior department banned a protest against the construction of a mosque in Salt (Girona) organised by Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC), a party close to the xenophobic right, amid the risk of “serious harm to pubic order”. Some 40% of the population of Salt are immigrants. The town, which has been severely hit by unemployment, was the setting in recent months for violent clashes between ethnic locals and foreigners, fuelled by the propaganda of the PxC and its leader, Josep Anglada.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Survey: 59% of Germans Think CDU Does Not Support Merkel

(AGI) Berlin — Angela Merkel’s commitment to save the Euro is increasingly countered within her party. According to a survey by the weekly magazine Stern, 59% of Germans is convinced that Chancellor Merkel can no longer have the full cohesive support of her party and 52% of CDU supporters share the same opinion.

At the same time, one German out of four (25%) claims to be convinced that the Black-Yellow Government coalition with the Liberals will not last through to the end of the current Parliament.

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

Sweden Democrat Targeted in Arson Attack

A Sweden Democrat local politician was targeted in an arson attack at her home in Södermanland south of Stockholm on Monday evening. “Somebody has thrown something burning through a letter box,” said Mikael Ericsson at Sörmlands police. The fire was extinguished immediately and by the time the emergency services arrived only smoke remained. Police have classified the case as arson or attempted arson. Frida Grundström, who is a member of the municipal council in Gnesta, was home alone in her apartment when the incident occurred at around 8pm.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Swedish Newspapers Target Racist Comments

Several major Swedish newspapers have introduced restrictions to the comment functions in their discussion forums in an attempt to gain better control and limit racism, sexism and personal attacks. Expressen has decided to close the possibility to comment on articles in real-time discussion forums on its website. Posts will instead be pre-moderated and not removed afterwards as is the current practice.

The newspaper wants to keep a better check on what is being written and hopes to avoid racist comments and personal attacks, the editor-in-chief Thomas Mattson wrote on his blog. Mattsson and associate editor-in-chief Per-Anders Broberg will be legally responsible for the posts. Thomas Mattsson explained that he hopes that the new policy will lead to greater transparency and that more people become involved under their full identities. “The Internet is ripe for the audience, but the audience is not ripe for the internet.”

“It is not an easy decision for a liberal newspaper to state that, for a period of time, it is to limit people’s ability to express themselves, but we must take a responsibility for those that feature in our articles will not be subjected to derogatory comments and that the network does not become a forum covert racism.” Mattsson argued that there the offenders are a small, but vocal group of anonymous users. “There is a small group who use the forum which is to publish personal attacks and racist or illegal argument that are contrary to the good tone that all the media are seeking.”

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Switzerland Loses “Safest Country” Accolade

Once seen as the safest country in Europe, Switzerland has succumbed to the continent’s average levels of street violence, burglaries and assault.

A report presented by the cantonal justice and police directors on Tuesday showed a rise in criminal activity since 2004, when the last major study on crimes was carried out.

“Although Switzerland had the lowest crime rate [in Europe] in 1988, today’s crime rate is to a large extent aligning itself with the percentages in the rest of Europe,” said a statement by the cross-cantonal police body.

“The myth that Switzerland is the safest country in the world, or at least Europe, is over. Forget it,” added the criminologist in charge of the report, Martin Killias.

The report looked at a representative 2,000 Swiss who were polled between 2006-2010. Over ten per cent of respondents said they had been the victim of assaults or threatening behaviour, compared with 7.2 per cent in 2004. Most incidents happened in public and had become more serious over the years.

The number of people burgled also rose in that time, from 5.1 to 7.1 per cent. Robberies were also up, but stayed below the European average. Bike theft leapt, although car break-ins and motorbike theft was down, probably because of better security measures.

Sexual assaults against women fell slightly compared with 2004 and were under the European average.

Pierre Nidegger, president of the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors, said the results would be reviewed to improve policing strategies, but added: “In this 24-hour society police cannot be in two places at once.” It’s a view shared by the chairman of the police commission.

Despite the rising crime rates, the report found that most people (73.9 per cent) — and women in particular — had confidence in the police.


The rise in street violence was probably due to Swiss nightlife picking up, according to Killias, a Zurich University criminology professor.

Killias, who is also standing in parliamentary elections in October, said the violence and crime trend was inevitable considering the increasing number of people on the streets at night, drinking alcohol and using night trains and buses.

This was backed up in a recent study by the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention which found that cases of violence in public spaces had multiplied in 15 years, particularly among men aged 15-24.

The organisation said 30 young men in 1,000 were badly injured through violence in 2009 — a three-fold rise on the figure in 1995. In women the number of incidents doubled in the same time. Overall, 82 per cent of accident insurance claims resulted from violence happening in public spaces.

According to the council, the authorities had not yet developed an adequate response to the problem.

A target for gangs

Meanwhile, the rise in robberies could be a result of the increased value of stolen goods such as gold, as well as a boom in organised gang crime, Killias noted…

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

UK: BBC Apologizes for Promoting Pork Dish for the Muslim Holiday

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has apologized through the Anadolu Agency (A.A) for promoting pork dish for the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. BBC told the A.A that the dish “pork vindaloo” was included among Eid al-Fitr recipes posted on its web-site by mistake. It said that the automatic suggestion system caused the mistake. BBC apologized for the inconvenience it caused. Earlier, Muslim people reacted harshly to BBC’s mistake.

Hakan Camuz, chairman of the Independent Industrialists’ & Businessmen’s Association (MUSIAD) in the United Kingdom, told the A.A that BBC had the vision to be aware of importance of the Eid al-Fitr for Muslim people. “But it is unacceptable that BBC could ignore the fact that Muslim people do not eat pork. This is disrespectful,” he said and called on BBC to apologize from Muslim people. Ahmed Versi, editor of the Muslim News, said that BBC made a big mistake by promoting a pork dish for Eid al-Fitr. Eid al-Fitr is the three-day Muslim holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan, the holy month when Muslim people fast from dawn to sunset.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Cambridge Park is Venue for the First Eid Celebrations

The Muslim festival of Eid is being celebrated for the first time on Parker’s Piece in central Cambridge. The organisers said they hoped the park would hold an annual event to mark the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of prayer, giving and fasting. Kashif Mahmood, one of the organisers, said they had booked Parker’s Piece for two days because it was hard to know exactly when Eid will begin. “It’s dependent on the sighting of the moon,” he said. He continued: “It’s an age-old tradition. The night before we look into the sky and we’ve got a four-minute gap to look up and see the new moon.” Mr Mahmood said he hoped about 2,000 people would attend the celebrations, due to run on Tuesday and Wednesday. Mr Mahmood said Eid-ul-Fitr was “like Christmas and Easter and all the major festivals” for Muslims. Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset throughout the Ramadan month. They are also asked to donate money to the poor, and pray and reflect upon their faith. The end of Ramadan is celebrated by the holiday of Eid, when Muslims can enjoy their first meal in daylight.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: DD560 Eid in the Square2011 — Saturday 24th September 2011

DD560 Eid in the Square 2011 — Saturday 24th September 2011

Published Date: 19 August, 2011

Reference No: DD560

Decision by: Daniel Ritterband, Director of Marketing

Executive Summary:

It is proposed to stage Eid in the Square on Saturday 24th September 2011. 2:30- 6:30pm. Eid in the Square is a unique cultural festival marking the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. Around one million Muslims in London celebrate Eid ul;-Fitr, which literally means “breaking the fast”, with celebrations that bring communities, families and friends together. The event programme consists of live Nasheeds and entertainment from a range of Muslim communities on the main stage, a street bazaar and exhibitions from stakeholders and sponsors.

The event is produced by the GLA in association with the Eid Committee, a voluntary group made up of representatives from a number of Muslim community and cultural groups and organisations in London.

The Director is asked to approve:

  • That the GLA, in association with the Eid in London Committee, organise Eid on the Square on Trafalgar Square on Saturday 24th September 2011.
  • the setting of a core budget and expenditure of up to £50,000 to procure core production and event management services.
  • the commencement of a competitive procurement exercise, using the Events for London ‘Framework’ of companies to source core event production services (which shall also include the seeking of quotes for: (i) optional additional event production services in the event of additional budget from sponsorship and other income becoming available.
  • the subsequent award by the Executive Director of Resources to the bidder submitting the most economically advantageous and event relevant proposal without the need for a further DD;
  • the seeking of additional sponsorship for this event and entry into related sponsorship / media partner agreements and the Director of Marketing’s approval of entry into related sponsorship / media partner agreements; and
  • additional expenditure of up to £25,000 for Eid on the Square, including marketing and Square’s costs, subject to raising of sponsorship and other income.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Eid Festival London

Celebrate the end of Ramadan with the Trafalgar Square Eid Festival. London welcomes the return once more of the light festival after its successful outing last year.

Eid celebrations

A traditional Muslim festival that ends a month of fasting is observed by millions of people all over the UK and thousands of Londoners. Organised by Muslim groups and the Mayor of London, the Eid festival in Trafalgar Square is a chance for everyone to join in the celebrations and enjoy the theme of unity.

Day of celebration

Eid ul Fitur is a special day where Ramadan comes to an end and both Muslims and non Muslims alike can come together across religious boundaries and enjoy the festivities together. Visitors to the Eid festival at Trafalgar Square can experience the cultural diversity of the day and the cultural richness of Islam, with a day of activities and events for all.

Live performances

Different cultures and communities will be able to appreciate art, music and performance poetry at this special festival. Last year, the range of live acts included Polish Egyptian hip hop artist Quest-Rah, African drum band Nahini Doumbia and acoustic sufi rock and soul British group SilkRoad.

2011 highlights

The Eid festival 2011 also features Qu’ran recitations and call to prayer, as well as exhibitions, souks and market stalls. Last year, the festival featured hip hop, rap and spoken word performances from Mumzy Stranger and French band Akeem, as well as rai music from Cheb Nacim, a UK based band featuring North African artists. For 2011, you can expect more exciting live entertainment at the Trafalgar Square Eid festival London event.

Events for kids and families

Music and performance aside, the Eid London festival will also boast some delicious Eid food plus displays about Islam in Trafalgar Square, making for an event packed day of festivity for kids and adults alike. A chance to enjoy and to appreciate all aspects of Islamic art and culture, the Eid festival is sure to be another brilliant day of celebration in the square.

The Eid Festival London event takes place from 2pm — 6pm, Saturday 24th September 2011. The event is free to attend.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Eid El-Fitr [BBC Food Recipes Inc Pork Apology]

In error we offered a pork recipe on this page for some hours. This mistake was due to our automated suggestion system offering an inappropriate recipe which we failed to spot. We removed the recipe as soon as we could. We apologise for any offence caused.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Husband Stabs Beautiful Ambitious Wife to Death in a Moving Car Driven by his Father

A husband stabbed his wife to death with a camping knife because he thought she had been possessed by the devil.

Kashif Baig claimed he saw beams of light coming from her eyes and thought he would die if they touched him.

The 31-year-old from Crawley, West Sussex, launched a frenzied attack on Shehlah, 27, while they were being driven along the M25 by his father.

Mumtaz Baig tried to stop his son but was threatened with the knife and told to keep driving while his daughter-in-law bled to death from a severed artery.

Baig’s father managed to drive back to Crawley and raise the alarm just after 6pm on November 16 last year.

Police arrested Baig after finding Shehlah’s blood-soaked body slumped in the back of his father’s VW Passat.

Baig attacked the police when they went to arrest him, trying to strangle one officer and head-butting another.

He sobbed and rocked from side to side in the dock as he was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act at Lewes Crown Court yesterday.

The 31-year-old had admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at an earlier hearing.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Duncan Anderson, who treated Baig at a secure mental unit in Hellingly Hospital, said: ‘He saw that his wife had been taken over by Satan and that there were beams of light coming from her eyes that would kill him if they touched him.

‘He took the knife and attacked what in his mind he believed was the Djinn or Satan.’

Shehlah married her husband at an arranged ceremony in Pakistan in 2007 and moved to the UK a year later.

She had a degree in computer science and worked as a special needs teacher in Crawley, where the couple lived with Baig’s parents.

After he was sentenced, Shehlah’s family described her as ‘the perfect daughter, niece, sister, cousin and aunt’.

In a statement, they said: ‘Beautiful, funny, ambitious, resourceful, generous and loving, she packed so much into her short life.

‘Her loss at the hands of the one she loved most will forever be painfully branded on our souls.

‘We owe it to Shehlah to bear this loss with as much dignity as we can muster. No punishment could befit this crime. Nothing will recompense us for our loss.’

The court heard Baig had been treated for schizophrenia since 2002 but stopped taking his medication five months before the killing.

Prosecuting, Richard Barton said: ‘Suddenly and without warning he turned around and started stabbing her.

‘It was a frenzied attack all over her body and she cried out for help as she sat in the back seat. Mumtaz tried to pull his son away but was unable to do so.’

Mr Barton added: ‘He was labouring under delusional beliefs about devils being in the car with him. He lashed out at them with the knife he was carrying. Tragically, he was, in fact, stabbing his wife.’

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: The Prime Minister Wishes Muslims ‘A Very Happy and Peaceful Eid Ul Fitr’

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has released a message wishing Muslims “a very happy and peaceful Eid ul Fitr” — the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan:

“I want to send all Muslim families in the United Kingdom and around the world my best wishes for this very special time of Eid. The ending of the Holy month of Ramadan is a joyous time as families and friends join to together in celebration. This year many of you will come together to contemplate the appalling scenes we have witnessed on our streets and how our communities have been affected. Community spirit however remains strong in this country. I was particularly moved by the scenes of a united community coming together in Birmingham, not only to mourn the deaths of three young friends, but also to issue a strong message of unity and cohesion with people of other faiths. Peace, forgiveness and unity are the spirit of Eid. They are important messages now and will remain so long into the future. I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Eid ul Fitr. Eid Mubarak.”

[JP note: I do not remember the PM issuing a message at either Christmas or Easter wishing Christians well — perhaps Christians are best ignored? And Unity? Who’s unity?]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Thousands of Eid Worshippers Mark End of Ramadan on Stepney Green

Thousands of worshippers packed Stepney Green Park in London’s East End for the Eid prayers this-morning to mark the end of Ramadan.

An estimated 4,000 turned up, despite an overcast sky. “It was an ecstatic atmosphere,” said one worshipper, Wais Islam, who took a picture of the gathering. “It’s the fourth year we’ve assembled at Stepney Green for Eid.” The 30 minutes of prayer which began at 9.30am were led by Sheik Madani, an imam from Shadwell’s Darul Ummah mosque. Daily fasting for the month of Ramadan ended last night.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Serbian President and Kosovo PM Clash Over “Criminal Structures” In North Kosovo

Belgrade/Pristina, 31 August (AKI) — Serbian president Boris Tadic and Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci exchanged bitter accusations on Wednesday over the situation in northern Kosovo and alleged existence of “criminal structures” there.

The exchange followed a European Union and Kosovo police action in northern Kosovo early on Wednesday, aimed at discovering the killers of a Kosovo ethnic Albanian policeman on 26 July.

Irina Gudeljevic, a spokeswoman for the EU police in Kosovo (Eulex) said the police during the search of Serb homes in the village of Zupce confiscated weapons and found evidence in connection with the murder of a policeman who was presumably killed by a Serb sharpshooter.

“Eulex can confirm that orders had been issued for the arrest of six persons in connection with the murder,” she said. “Similar operations can be expected in the future relating to the murder and other acts of violence which recently took place in the north,” Gudeljevic added.

Tensions in northern Kosovo worsened after Kosovo government sent special police unit on 25 July to take over two border Crossings with Serbia. Local Serbs, who oppose Kosovo independence, declared by majority Albanians, responded by setting up road blocks and a policeman was killed.

Thaci said “parallel structures” that Serbia still operates in Serb-populated north have turned into criminal and “terrorist structures”, supported by Belgrade which opposes independence.

He said the killers of the policeman may well have found a refuge in Belgrade, but warned that “days of criminal structures in the north have been counted. Illegal Serbian structures in north Kosovo are turning into paramilitary structures which are behind terrorist acts and organized crime in that part of Kosovo,” he added.

Tadic said no one contests that the killers of the policeman should be found and punished. “But Hashim Thaci’s statement that there are parallel structures in the north connected with terrorism behind which stands the state of Serbia is a prelude to new violence,” he said.

“ It’s the height of hypocrisy that Pristina institutions should establish the rule of law in northern Kosovo, because the EU and every statesman in the EU and the US knows that Kosovo and Pristina institutions are not immune to organized crime,” he said.

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

North Africa

Diana West: “Rebels,” “Terrorists,” and Anti-Aircraft Missiles

France’s Sarkozy may find it perfectly swell that an “al Qaeda asset,” Adbelhakim Belhadj, is commander of rebel forces in Tripoli, a story gradually seeping into MSM consciousness. According to the Asia Times’ Pepe Escobar, however, Belhadj, founder and “emir” of the previously (presently?) al-Qaeda-allied Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), is not alone. He is one of many such jihad commanders. Escobar writes:

Hardly by accident, all the top military rebel commanders are LIFG, from Belhaj in Tripoli to one Ismael as-Salabi in Benghazi and one Abdelhakim al-Assadi in Derna, not to mention a key asset, Ali Salabi, sitting at the core of the TNC. It was Salabi who negotiated with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi the “end” of LIFG’s jihad, thus assuring the bright future of these born-again “freedom fighters”.

The quotation marks around “end” denote the LIFG leaders’ phony renuciation of jihad against the Qaddafi regime and violence in general that led to their 2010 release.

Question of the day: Are these same Islamic jihadists who command rebel forces in Libya the very “terrorists” the US is now scrambling to deprive of some 20,000 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from the Qaddafi arsenal?

From Bloomberg:

The U.S. plans to deploy two contractors to Libya with the exclusive job of tracking down and destroying shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles before they fall into the hands of terrorists.

With so much of Libya in control of US-NATO-supported LIFG-led “rebel” forces, the fact that these forces are apparently not trusted to secure these weapons suggests that the answer is way too much of a “yes” for comfort.

The State Department also will deploy an in-house specialist in controlling and destroying the portable missiles to oversee the team, which is expected to arrive in early September, according to an official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the subject.

State Department officials notified Congress of these plans Aug. 15, the day before rebels stormed the Libyan capitol of Tripoli, a decisive break in the sixth-month-old civil war.

There is evidence that a small number of Soviet-made SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles from Qaddafi’s arsenal have reached the black market in Mali, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active, according to two U.S. government officials not authorized to speak on the record.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb? As Escobar writes:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Egypt: EU, 100 Mln Support to Create Jobs and Fight Poverty

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, AUGUST 30 — The European Commission has approved a 100 million euro support package for Egypt to help improve living conditions for the poor in Cairo, create more jobs, and make sustainable energy more widely available. The new support, which will benefit one million Egyptians, will improve environmental conditions in the area by financing initiatives for waste collection, recycling of solid waste, solar energy systems for health clinics and waste water disposal. 60% of people in Cairo currently live in slum areas and lack basic social services like access to drinking water, sewage and waste disposal.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

ENI to Reopen Libya Pipeline by Mid-October

Italian energy giant ‘in a hurry’ to ship gas, says CEO

(ANSA) — Trento, August 31 — Italian energy giant Eni said Wednesday it hopes to reopen the Libya-Italy natural gas pipeline by mid-October.

“We are working towards the goal of relaunching [the pipeline] by October 15,” said Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Eni.

“Perhaps it’s a bit ambitious,” he added. “But I’m in a hurry to restart gas shipments since facing winter with one of our supply sources suspended concerns me a great deal”.

Inaugurated in 2004 by fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, the pipeline, known as Greenstream, transported 280 billion cubic feet per year of natural gas from western Libya to Italy until Eni shut it down in February amid growing turmoil in the North African nation.

On Monday, Eni signed an accord with the Libyan Transitional Council “for the provision of enormous quantities of gas and oil to meet the needs of the people”, according to Berlusconi.

“We have agreed with the council authorities to resume production, even on fields that we do not yet know the condition of,” said Scaroni.

When asked if the developments would ease fuel costs, Scaroni said “that depends on the cost of crude, the market and many factors”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Unfreezes 350 Mn Euros of Libyan Assets

Milan : Italy has unfrozen 350 million euros (around $503 million) of Libyan assets that can be used by the transitional government to pay salaries and provide other services, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced Thursday.

“We’ve shown our willingness to unfreeze state funds held in Italian banks and began with the first tranche of 350 million euros,” Berlusconi said during a joint press briefing with Mahmoud Jibril, prime minister of the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC).

Jibril and the TNC have begun lobbying to get around $100 billion of assets frozen around the world to be released. Overnight, the UN sanctions committee released assets worth $500 million.

“The battle is still going on and we need urgent held,” Jibril told journalists during the Milan briefing, which followed a meeting with Berlusconi and other Italian officials. “Our people have not received salaries in months.”

One of the priorities is to reconstruct infrastructure like power plants that have been destroyed during the civil war that started five months ago, Jibril said.

“The priorities can’t be carried out without the necessary money,” he said.

Jibril added that the legitimacy of the rebel movement among the Libyan people depends on delivering services like healthcare and education.

           — Hat tip: American Delight[Return to headlines]

Libya: Algeria Cites ‘Holy Rule of Hospitality’ For Taking in Gaddafi Family Members

Algiers, 30 August (AKI) — The Algerian representative to the United Nations cited a “holy rule of hospitality” for his country’s decision to grant refuge family members of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The Algerian foreign minsitery said Gaddafi’s wife Safia, daughter Aisha and sons Muhammad and Hannibal crossed the border between Libya and Algeria at 8:45 am local time on Monday.

In an interview with the BBC, Mourad Benmehid said Algeria was respecting the desert’s rules of hospitality when it took in members of the Gaddafi family.

Thirty-one members of the Gaddafi family and some associates, including 27 grandchildren and assistants escaped to Algeria, in a convoy of seven vehicles, according to the website of Algerian newspaper Echorouk. They waited for 12 hours at the border before being granted permission to cross into Algeria, the report said.

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

Libyan Rebels Don’t Want Foreign U. N. Peacekeepers

(AGI) New York — Libyan rebels reject the possibility of deploying a UN peacekeeping force in the North African Country.

The plan envisages the deployment of 200 peacekeepers to guide the Country towards democratic elections and the establishment of a sound democratic system.

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

Libya: Frattini: Regime Surrenders Due to Fall of Sirte

(AGI) Rome — Muammar Gadaffi’s surrender, at the end of the Nato mission in Libya, is linked to the fall of Sirte, his home town. “These are the alst military actions to avoid sudden reversals of the regime,” Minister Frattini said on Radio 24, “Before summer, Nato decided to extend the mission until the end of September. Assessments are made day after day.”

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

Libya: NATO Mission to End With Sirte’s Fall, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 31 — “NATO has extended its mission in Libya until the end of September” and the mission “will end when Libya has been declared liberated”, said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini to Radio 24. “We are looking at very few days,” added the head of the foreign office, “if Sirte goes down, as I hope, due to a peaceful surrender within a few days — by Saturday, that is — it will be the definitive pillar marking the fall of the regime.” NATO’s mission in Libya has been “an indispensable and necessary action, which today must accompany the fall of the regime to prevent any backlash, actions which the regime could carry out — as we have unfortunately seen — in withdrawing amidst bloodshed, horror and burnt corpses,” Frattini said.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Libya: Sharia Begins to Cast Its Shadow on the New Democratic Libya

An early draft of Libya’s new constitution is inspired by Islamic law. The NTC rejects the idea of foreign peacekeepers voiced by the United Nations. The presence of Jihadis among the rebels is raising disquieting questions.

Tripoli (AsiaNews/ Agencies) — Libya after Gaddafi could slide towards fundamentalism. Observers note that the National Transitional Council (NTC) plans to make the country an Islamic state based on Sharia. The danger is that greater because the NTC has also rejected the presence of foreign forces on Libyan soil, including United Nation peacekeepers. For some analysts, “rebels” belong to extremist Muslim groups whose goal is an Islamic state, not democracy and human rights.

Article 1 of the NTC’s draft constitution says, “Libya is an independent Democratic state wherein the people are the source of authorities [. .. .] Islam is the Religion of the State and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).”

Like other Muslim countries, Article 1 goes on to say, “The State shall guarantee for non-Moslems the freedom of practising religious rights and shall guarantee respect for their systems of personal status.”

Although it is just a draft, many analysts are worried by the document’s contradictions, hiding Sharia behind terms dear to Western culture like “freedom” and “rights”.

For many observers, such a text represents a step back compared to Gaddafi who had been more open to other religions and had moved away from strict interpretations of Islam.

Despite much talk about democracy and pressing demands of money for the new Libya, the NTC does not want foreign forces in Libya to maintain security ahead of elections. In fact, today the rebel council said emphatically no to foreign troops, even United Nations peacekeepers.

Yet, Ian Martin, special advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said the United Nations could organise an international force of police trainers and monitors to help the country. At present, “There is no electoral machinery, no electoral commission, no history of political parties,” the UN official explained.

Making a democratic future that more unlikely is the presence of Jihadist groups sent in by some NATO countries, most notably the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an extremist group led by Abdelhakim Belhaj, a Libyan Berber with a past among the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets in the 1980s in Afghanistan. After his capture in 2003, he became a collaborator of the Libyan regime and now is serving the Americans.

In the meantime, fighting in Sirte continues with Gaddafi loyalists. After offering them the possibility of surrendering peacefully, the NTC issued an ultimatum against the tribes still loyal to Libya’s former strongman. They have until 1 September to give up their weapons and surrender.

Also today, thousands of people took part in celebrations marking the end of Ramadan in Tripoli’s heavily patrolled, recently re-named Martyrs’ Square.

In his traditional sermon for the feast of Eid al Fitr, a local imam called on believers to remember those who died sacrificing their life to rid the country of Gaddafi.

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

Libya: Amnesty: Fear for Violence Against Gaddafi Supporters

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 31 — Patients being dragged out of hospitals “to be interrogated”, beatings of alleged Gaddafi loyalists and threats being made: these are the violations witnessed by an Amnesty International delegation in Libya. The delegation is concerned about the situation of people who are suspected of having fought on the side of the colonel, particularly Libyans with a dark complexion and sub-Saharan Africans. In the past days the delegation recorded many incidents: on August 29 for example, the delegation visited the central hospital of Tripoli, where three fighters for the opposition, wearing civilian clothes, dragged a patient with a dark complexion for his bed and arrested him. The three said that they would take the patient to Misrata for interrogation. Two other dark-skinned Libyans, who had been admitted to hospital with shot wounds, were told that ‘they would be next’. The delegation also saw a man being beaten outside the hospital by a group of rebels. The victim screamed that he was not a “fifth columnist”, as those who supported Gaddafi are called. “We are afraid of what could happen to prisoners when independent observers are not watching,” said Claudio Cordone of Amnesty International. According to the activist, the NTC “must do more to keep its fighters from carrying out acts of violence against prisoner, particularly against more vulnerable groups like Libyans with a dark complexion and sub-Saharan Africans,” who are often accused of being mercenaries hired by Gaddafi, only because of the colour of their skin.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pepe Escobar: Why Gaddafi Got a Red Card

Surveying the Libyan wasteland out of a cozy room crammed with wafer-thin LCDs in a Pyongyang palace, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, must have been stunned as he contemplated Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s predicament.

“What a fool,” the Dear Leader predictably murmurs. No wonder. He knows how The Big G virtually signed his death sentence that day in 2003 when he accepted the suggestion of his irrepressibly nasty offspring — all infatuated with Europe — to dump his weapons of mass destruction program and place the future of the regime in the hands of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Granted, Saif al-Islam, Mutassim, Khamis and the rest of the Gaddafi clan still couldn’t tell the difference between partying hard in St Tropez and getting bombed by Mirages and Rafales. But Big G, wherever he is, in Sirte, in the central desert or in a silent caravan to Algeria, must be cursing them to eternity.

He thought he was a NATO partner. Now NATO wants to blow his head off. What kind of partnership is this?

The Sunni monarchical dictator in Bahrain stays; no “humanitarian” bombs over Manama, no price on his head. The House of Saud club of dictators stays; no “humanitarian” bombs over Riyadh, Dubai or Doha — no price on their Western-loving gilded heads. Even the Syrian dictator is getting a break — so far.

So the question, asked by many an Asia Times Online reader, is inevitable: what was the crucial red line crossed by Gaddafi that got him a red card?

‘Revolution’ made in France

There are enough red lines crossed by The Big G — and enough red cards — to turn this whole computer screen blood red.

Let’s start with the basics. The Frogs did it. It’s always worth repeating; this is a French war. The Americans don’t even call it a war; it’s a “kinetic action” or something. The “rebel” Transitional National Council” (TNC) is a French invention.

And yes — this is above all neo-Napoleonic President Nicolas Sarkozy’s war. He’s the George Clooney character in the movie (poor Clooney). Everybody else, from David of Arabia Cameron to Nobel Peace Prize winner and multiple war developer Barack Obama, are supporting actors.

As already reported by Asia Times Online, this war started in October 2010 when Gaddafi’s chief of protocol, Nuri Mesmari, defected to Paris, was approached by French intelligence and for all practical purposes a military coup d’etat was concocted, involving defectors in Cyrenaica.

Sarko had a bag full of motives to exact revenge on The Big G.

French banks had told him that Gaddafi was about to transfer his billions of euros to Chinese banks. Thus Gaddafi could not by any means become an example to other Arab nations or sovereign funds.

French corporations told Sarko that Gaddafi had decided not to buy Rafale fighters anymore, and not to hire the French to build a nuclear plant; he was more concerned in investing in social services.

Energy giant Total wanted a much bigger piece of the Libyan energy cake — which was being largely eaten, on the European side, by Italy’s ENI, especially because Premier Silvio “bunga bunga” Berlusconi, a certified Big G fan, had clinched a complex deal with Gaddafi.

Thus the military coup was perfected in Paris until December; the first popular demonstrations in Cyrenaica in February — largely instigated by the plotters — were hijacked. The self-promoting philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy flew his white shirt over an open torso to Benghazi to meet the “rebels” and phone Sarkozy, virtually ordering him to recognize them in early March as legitimate (not that Sarko needed any encouragement).

The TNC was invented in Paris, but the United Nations also duly gobbled it up as the “legitimate” government of Libya — just as NATO did not have a UN mandate to go from a no-fly zone to indiscriminate “humanitarian” bombing, culminating with the current siege of Sirte.

The French and the British redacted what would become UN Resolution 1973. Washington merrily joined the party. The US State Department brokered a deal with the House of Saud through which the Saudis would guarantee an Arab League vote as a prelude for the UN resolution, and in exchange would be left alone to repress any pro-democracy protests in the Persian Gulf, as they did, savagely, in Bahrain.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC — then transmuted into Gulf Counter-Revolution Club) also had tons of reasons to get rid of Gaddafi. The Saudis would love to accommodate a friendly emirate in northern Africa, especially by getting rid of the ultra-bad blood between Gaddafi and King Abdullah. The Emirates wanted a new place to invest and “develop”. Qatar, very cozy with Sarko, wanted to make money — as in handling the new oil sales of the “legitimate” rebels.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be very cozy with the House of Saud or the murderous al-Khalifas in Bahrain. But the State Department heavily blasted Gaddafi for his “increasingly nationalistic policies in the energy sector”; and also for “Libyanizing” the economy.

The Big G, a wily player, should have seen the writing on the wall. Since prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh was deposed essentially by the Central Intelligence Agency in Iran in 1953, the rule is that you don’t antagonize globalized Big Oil. Not to mention the international financial/banking system — promoting subversive ideas such as turning your economy to the benefit of your local population.

If you’re pro-your country you are automatically against those who rule — Western banks, mega-corporations, shady “investors” out to profit from whatever your country produces.

Gaddafi not only crossed all these red lines but he also tried to sneak out of the petrodollar; he tried to sell to Africa the idea of a unified currency, the gold dinar (most African countries supported it); he invested in a multibillion dollar project — the Great Man-Made River, a network of pipelines pumping fresh water from the desert to the Mediterranean coast — without genuflecting at the alter of the World Bank; he invested in social programs in poor, sub-Saharan countries; he financed the African Bank, thus allowing scores of nations to bypass, once again, the World Bank and especially the International Monetary Fund; he financed an African-wide telecom system that bypassed Western networks; he raised living standards in Libya. The list is endless…

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

Tuareg Attacked by Insurgents Flee to Algeria

(AGI) Algiers — In the past 24 hours hundreds of Tuareg have crossed the Libyan border and taken refuge in Algeria after being hunted down by insurgents who consider them as collaborators of Muammar Gaddafi, if not even mercenaries who fought for the regime against them .

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Netanyahu’s Wife Accused of Maltreating Home Helper

(AGI) Jerusalem — New troubles for Sarah Netanyahu. A Nepalese immigrant accused the premier’s wife of maltreating her. The woman is Sarah Netanyahu’s father’s home helper. According to the Israeli television network Channel Two, the woman, whose name was not revealed, accused the premier’s wife of assaulting, hurting and maltreating her three weeks ago. Sarah Netanyahu defended herself saying she had catched the woman stealing her father’s money.

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

Middle East

Al-Maliki Confirms US Troops to Withdraw as Established

(AGI) Baghdad — Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki has said U.S.

forces will leave Iraq by the end of the year as previously established. “The agreement concerning the withdrawal of American troops will be respected as planned at the end of this year,” said al-Maliki, adding that no U.S. bases will remain in the country .

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

How Much Does Ramadan Cost?

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI — The holy month of the Muslim calendar ended yesterday with the festival of Eid al Fitr. Ramadan is the month of sacrifice, abstinence, prayer, as well as families gathering together each night at sunset for the meal that ends the day without food and water. It is a month in which the days for the 49 Muslim-majority countries in the world transform from intense and difficult to fast and joyful. But what does this mean for the economies of these countries, after a month in which the pace of work slows and hours are reduced? The answer is nearly 5.8 billion dollars for the Gulf countries, according to an new study conduced by Productive Muslim in collaboration with Dinar Standards. Countries reducing their work days from 8 to 6 hours lose the equivalent of a week of productivity, an average 7.7% of GDP, explained the study, entitled “Productivity during Ramadan: Strategies for Modern Muslim Labour Policies”. Saudi Arabia led the world ranking for losses with 2.4 billion dollars, followed by Indonesia, with 2.2 billion and the United Arab Emirates with 1.4 billion dollars. Several regional analysts, however, raised objections to the study based on 1,524 cases. While some industries slow down, others speed up, they said.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Iran Sends Warship and Submarine to Patrol Red Sea

(AGI) Tehran — Iran has sent a warship and a submarine to patrol the Red Sea waters. Navy commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, announced so. “The fleet will patrol the waters and reveal the power of the Islamic republic”. Immediately after such announcement, Israel deployed two missile ships in the same waters, although a spokesman of the Armed Forces denied there is a connection with the military initiative of its historical enemy.

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


Outdated in Outer Space: Russia’s Soyuz Program Crashes and Burns

DPALast week’s Soyuz crash was just the latest in a series of embarrassing mishaps for Russia’s space industry, which is plagued by quality problems and an ageing workforce. With no other way to get astronauts into orbit, the operation of the International Space Station is now in question.

The people in the Altai Mountains of Siberia are regarded as frugal and tough. In late summer, many live from harvesting berries and cedar nuts. They are also used to having burned-out rocket stages crash in the wilderness after spacecraft launches. When, in the middle of last week, a large ball of fire was seen in the sky above the taiga, residents of the village of Karakoksha were not alarmed. “I was at home when I felt the tremors,” said Yelena, a 26-year-old local woman with a dark ponytail. She heard a rumble and went to sleep.

In truth, Yelena had witnessed a debacle. After a malfunction, a Russian Soyuz rocket had crashed along with an unmanned cargo spacecraft named Progress. The explosion was heard even 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta noted with irritation.

The accident has shattered public confidence in the aging Russian technology, which is crucial to the future of manned spaceflight. The mishap could hardly have happened at a worse time. In July, NASA mothballed its decrepit space shuttle fleet. Since then, Russia has been the only country that has the ability to regularly put humans into space. Permanent operation of the International Space Station (ISS) is now impossible without the Soyuz rocket, which went into service in its current form in 1973 and had previously been the most reliable rocket of all time.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Traffic and Controversy, Muslims Celebrate Eid Al Adha in Moscow

90 thousand in only four mosques in the capital. The President praises the role of the Islamic community in maintaining peace between different peoples in Russia. But controversy over the inadequate number of the mosques. In Chechnya, an attack results in at least seven dead and 18 injured.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Traffic in tilt and overcrowded metros. This is how Moscow celebrated the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr. For the holidays, also known as Kurban Bairam in Russia and Central Asia. In the capital alone about 90 thousand faithful gathered for the morning prayer in the only four mosques in the city. Of these 50 thousand, according to the newspaper Rbk, flowed into the Central Prospekt Mira Mosque, insufficient to contain them all. Thus, the scenes of hundreds of men on the streets kneeling in prayer towards Mecca, and the resulting queues of impatient motorists, have reignited the debate — never dormant in the country — on the insufficient number of mosques in the city. This year, for the first time, authorities have made a public space for celebrations available — a Hall in the Sokolniki Exhibition Centre — added to the four traditional mosques in Moscow.

According to reports by security forces, there were no accidents or collisions. newspaper reports that in Moscow and St. Petersburg, large groups of believers tried to settle down to prayer in the middle of roads or along the path of the tram, but the police intervened moving them to pedestrian areas or parks, in order to avoid tensions.

President Dmitry Medvedev sent his greetings to the community. “The tradition of good neighbourly relations between representatives of different peoples, faiths and cultures have deep roots in our country — said the head of the Kremlin in an official message — the Russian Muslim community plays a major role in maintaining it” .

But despite the fine words, the relationship between the leaders of the Islamic community and the central government are experiencing a period of increased friction. Some Mufti have accused the political authorities of favouring the Russian Orthodox Church and of wanting to divide and weaken the Muslim community driving it into ghettos, (see AsiaNews 23/12/2010 Russian Islamic leaders against the Kremlin).

At the same time, the tug of war over a new mosque to accommodate the growing Muslim community in the capital continues (see AsiaNews 23/08/2011 Moscow, a park instead of the new mosque), with the city administration delaying any decision on the matter and religious leaders who complain of discrimination and lack of space. Last week, the first vice president of the Russian Muslim Spiritual Centre of (TsDUM), the Mufti of Moscow and central Russia Krganov Albir, had warned the authorities: “Seeing masses of believers praying on the asphalt during the main Islamic holiday will send a negative image of Moscow to the Muslim world. “

Eid al-Fitr, the feast which marks the end of Ramadan and the closure of the Hajj pilgrimage, lasts three days. The third falls in conjunction with the great feast, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. On this day Muslims commemorate the subjugation of Ibrahim (Abraham) to God, who ordered him to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Then Allah established the child be replaced with a kid goat, now the protagonist of the feast: the animal is slaughtered according to Islamic ritual and then consumed in a big lunch. From the point of view of the Koran, the festival celebrates obedience and sacrifice in the name of God

Finally, last night, a double suicide bombing hit the Chechen capital Grozny. The provisional toll is seven dead — including five policemen — and at least 18wounded. The attacks coincided with the celebrations for the end of Ramadan. The first explosion hit the Leninsky district, and was carried out by a militant linked to the extremist fringe. An hour later, however, a suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of onlookers who had, meanwhile, formed in the area.

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

South Asia

India: Karnataka: 4 Christians Arrested Over “Door to Door” Forced Conversions

According to the police they were proselytizing among the Dalits and poor Hindus. Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians: “The situation is alarming. The Dalits are empowered by Christian prayer and Hindus are afraid of this. “

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — “The number of Christians targeted by Hindu extremists are on the rise: the situation is alarming”, warns Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), speaking to AsiaNews of the umpteenth case of anti-Christian violence, the fourth in the month of August in Karnataka. Yesterday the police arrested four Uppinangady Pentecostal Christians in Puttur Taluk (Dakshina Kannada district), accused of trying to convert by force a Dalit colony in Nidle Boodujalu. The Christians were beaten before being arrested.

Praveen Boodujalu, a Hindu, denounced the four, accusing them of door to door proselytizing. Some local residents, including the Dalits, said that the group — Mary (60), her son Kunjimonu (30), his wife Lenny (23) and BT Sainu (34) — went to their homes every Sunday for a month, bringing books to help in the conversion to Christianity. According to the police report, the houses chosen by the Christian were only those of Hindu and Dalits with financial difficulties. “When we refused — explain some locals — the Christians attacked and insulted on the basis of our caste.”

But for Sajan George, “this arrest reflects the lack of religious freedom in Karnataka. Moreover, the evangelization of the Dalits is still viewed with suspicion. In India, for Hinduism India’s over 250 million Dalits are Hinduism’s “untouchables,” relegated by the high-caste to an almost permanent underclass status. The caste system, though illegal in India, remains in force socially. Dalits are not allowed to enter upper-caste houses, fields, or temples. They cannot draw water from village wells or wear shoes while passing upper-caste areas”.

“Many of them — continues the president of the GCIC — are empowered by the liberative message of the Gospels and this is staunchly opposed by the Hindus, hence they will use even fabricated charges to arrest anyone who announces to them the Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ”. (NC)

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

Australia — Pacific

Delivery Man Rapist Jailed for 18 Months

A takeaway delivery driver who raped a woman after finding her asleep in her Sydney home has been jailed for at least 18 months.

In sentencing Amit Hamal on Wednesday in the NSW District Court, Judge Laura Wells said the 21-year-old had confessed he had a “wandering eye and was always on the lookout for sexual encounters”.

The Nepalese, who was found guilty in June of sexual assault without consent, later told his victim, “I saw you sleeping there and I just had to have you.”

Hamal had delivered an Indian meal to the couple’s Rose Bay home in eastern Sydney in July 2010 when he committed the “unplanned and opportunistic” crime, the judge said.

When he arrived, the woman, 44, had put herself to bed and her husband was sleeping on the couch.

The woman said she felt her pants being removed, but being drowsy and in the darkness she assumed it was her husband.

Hamal had sex with her for up to three minutes and left.

The woman’s husband denied it was he who had had sex with her, saying she must have had a vivid dream.

Her doubts were confirmed when Hamal rang their house, admitting he was the one who had been with her the night before.

“My name doesn’t matter, you don’t know me and it was too dark in the room for you to see my face,” he told her, also suggesting she “might need more” in her relationship.

The woman described the call as “an irreversible nightmare” that haunted her to this day, and said she suffered constant panic and anxiety.

The judge said Hamal might have been phoning with a misplaced optimism that the woman might take up his offer.

Hamal was arrested at Sydney airport the next day with a one-way ticket to Kathmandu.

He was deliberately leaving the country because he knew police were looking for him, the judge found.

Hamal initially said he had tried to wake the husband by shouting and shaking him, and that the woman had tried to force him to have sex.

But he later admitted lying to police and his second version of events was inconsistent with the complainant’s evidence.

The judge said little reliance could be placed on anything he said.

Hamal, who had arrived on a student visa 18 months earlier, had not recognised he was to blame.

Nor had he apologised to the woman, who the judge said was entitled to protection from violence in what should have been the sanctity of her own home.

Hamal had written that he felt sorry for the family but it might be that he was most sorry for jeopardising his own future in Australia and his own marriage, the judge said.

Taking into account Hamal’s lack of prior offences, his difficult upbringing and the fact he was new to this country and culture, she sentenced him to a maximum of three years in jail.

With time already served in custody, he will be eligible for parole in February.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Earliest Signs of Advanced Tools Found

One hallmark of Homo erectus, a forerunner of modern humans, was his stone tools, an advanced technology reflecting a good deal of forethought and dexterity. Up to now, however, scientists have been unable to pin a firm date on the earliest known evidence of his stone tool-making.

A new geological study, being reported Thursday in the journal Nature, showed that tools from a site near Lake Turkana in Kenya were made about 1.76 million years ago, the earliest of their ilk found so far. Previous dates were estimates ranging from 1.4 million to 1.6 million years ago.

Although no erectus fossils were found with the Turkana tools, a skull of that species was excavated last year in the same sediment level across the lake. This suggests that Homo erectus was responsible for these particular tools, which were made with what scientists refer to as Acheulean technology. The term connotes the type of oval and pear-shaped hand axes and other implements that were a specialty of early humans.

American researchers at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of Columbia University, established the age of the Turkana tools by dating the surrounding mudstone with a paleomagnetic technique. When layers of silt and clay hardened into stone, this preserved the orientation of Earth’s magnetic field at the time, and an analysis of the periodic polarity reversals and other records yielded the age of the site known as Kokiselei.

“I was taken aback when I realized that the geological data indicated it was the oldest Acheulean site in the world,” said the lead author of the report, Christopher J. Lepre, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty who also teaches geology at Rutgers University.

The assemblage of hand axes, picks and other cutting tools was collected, mostly in the 1990s, by French archaeologists led by Hélène Roche of the National Center for Scientific Research in France. Dr. Roche, a co-author of the paper, was steered to the site by Richard Leakey, the Kenyan fossil hunter who had discovered, just six miles away, the Turkana Boy, a young Homo erectus who lived about 1.5 million years ago and is the most complete early hominid skeleton found so far.

In the journal article, Dr. Lepre’s group said that artifacts from an earlier and simpler technology, Oldowan, were found alongside the more advanced Acheulean tools. The Oldowan tools were mainly sharp stone flakes and roughly worked rock cores, while the more sophisticated tools displayed signs of symmetry, uniformity and planning.

The presence of both Oldowan and Acheulean artifacts at the site indicates that “the two technologies are not mutually exclusive” components of an evolving cultural lineage, the scientists said. It was possible that the Acheulean technology was imported from a place yet to be identified, or originated from Oldowan toolmakers in the area.

[Return to headlines]


Germany: Official Blames Sarrazin for Hindering Integration

The German government’s integration commissioner said Tuesday that former central banker Thilo Sarrazin damaged efforts to integrate immigrants into society with his controversial book “Germany Abolishes Itself,” which was published one year ago.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Miller: Free Tuition for Illegals

California Democrats push taxpayers to subsidize higher ed for aliens

Democrats will do anything to pander for Hispanic votes in 2012. They’re even in favor of amnesty and cash handouts to illegal aliens, if that’s what it takes. The latest scheme from California liberals is a move to force over-burdened taxpayers to foot the bill to put illegals through college.

On Thursday, the California Senate Appropriations Committee passed AB 131, which would allow undocumented pupils to sign up for public financial aid at state schools. At the same time, the Golden State’s dire fiscal straits have forced cutbacks in public-education spending for actual citizens.

This particular bill is one of two measures in the so-called “California Dream Act,” a package designed to call to mind the congressional Dream Act which grants citizenship for illegals who go to college.

California’s version makes illegal immigrants eligible for millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded Cal Grants and other forms of financial assistance. The only limit for applicants is that they must have attended state high schools for three years.

The same legislation has passed before, but former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated the measure. Current Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, however, has said that he would sign the bill….

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Christian Converts From Islam Flee in Fear From Muslims at Asylum Reception Center

Muslims at the asylum center told him: “This is Jihad, holy war, and we are waiting for at fatwa (licence to kill) from the local imam at the mosque in Sandnes”

I had to escape and flee the asylum reception center in fear for my life, “Arsland” tells the news paper Dagen.

“Arsland” is from Afghanistan, converted to Christianity a while a go, and is now baptized as a Christian.

Arsland is friends with “Ali”, the Christian convert from islam who got attacked with boiling water and acid at the asylum reseption a few days ago.The young Afghan man is afraid to show his face and real name to the reporters, because he knows the muslims are out to get a hold of him.

Hostile attitude:

- Another Christian friend of mine also noticed the hostile attitude of Muslims at the reception. “We must escape, for I fear that they will kill us,” he said.

So I rode off at 1:30 Sunday morning, and went to the Bird Park at Nærbø. There, I tried to sleep on a bench while it was raining, says “Arsland”. Sunday he was taken care of by Christian friends who live in that area.

Over the weekend, “Ali” moved to another asylum seeker reception because of the lack of security at Hå asylum reception center. while three other Christian converts from Afghanistan also fled Hå reception center, and is scattered in Jæren among Christian supporters.


“Arsland” was an eyewitness to some of the harassment and violence “Ali” was exposed to last tuesday

I heard screaming and went out of the room to see what happened. I witnessed that “Ali” fell on to the floor after it was being poured boiling water over him. Muslims from Somalia turned loose on him and they shouted · “This is jihad (holy war), says” Arsland “.

The involved muslims ran quickly to their rooms when “Arsland” showed up.Together with another Afghan “Arsland” lifted “Ali” carefully and carried him to his room.”Arsland” tried to warn police about what had happened, but without getting any response. A woman from the Lutheran Free Church was at the reception at the same time that this happened. She quickly called the police and they came after about half an hour. Later the ambulance arrived, and “Ali” was taken to hospital for treatment. He was back at the reception on Wednesday.

No response from the asylum centers management:

“Ali” has been bullied and harassed several times in the past before the terrible incident last week. “Asland” says that he went to the head of the reception center and told me about this, but nothing was done.

- I have even been threatened several times by the Muslims at the reception. But this was not taken seriously when I complained to the manager. “You must contact the police” was the reply I got from her, said, “Arsland”.

- How did you react to what happened with “Ali”?

- I was very scared. On Saturday night I went out of my room and met some Muslims. They were angry and said that no Muslim would allow “Ali” to live. At the same time they stressed that it was an “accident” what happened to him when he got thrown boiling water over him self… “But we are waiting for a fatwa (license to kill) from the Imam in Sandnes. “Ali” has destroyed our religion Islam, “they emphasized.

“Arsland” and his friend then realized that now their lives was also at risk, and therefore escaped the Hå asylum reception center.

- I will never go back to the reception center , he emphasizes.

- Do you regret that you accepted Jesus as your savior?

- No, not at all! I feel safe with Jesus, answer “Arsland”.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Astronauts May Evacuate Space Station in November, NASA Says

The International Space Station may have to start operating without a crew in November if Russian engineers don’t figure out soon what caused a recent rocket failure, NASA officials announced today (Aug. 29). The unmanned Russian cargo ship Progress 44 crashed just after its Aug. 24 launch to deliver 2.9 tons of supplies to the orbiting lab. The failure was caused by a problem with the Progress’ Soyuz rocket, which is similar to the one Russia uses to launch its crew-carrying vehicle — also called Soyuz — to the station.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]