Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110902

Financial Crisis
»Berlusconi: Raising VAT to 22% Over 3 Months if Needed
»Economy Showed No Job Growth in August; Unemployment Rate at 9.1%
»Italy: Court of Auditors — Robin Hood Tax Undesirable Side Effects
»Vatican’s No. 2 Says Worker Rights Can’t be Sacrificed for Financial Markets
»Caroline Glick: Cliche-Based Foreign Policy
»Halliburton Sues BP for Slander
»Mexican Federal Agents Cross Into U.S. Without Permission
»Obama Pulls Back Proposal to Tighten Clean Air Rules
»Obama Backtracks on Prospective Emissions Standards
Europe and the EU
»Italy: Berlusconi Seeks to Open Guilds to Boost Economy
»London: Pro-Palestinians Interrupt Israeli Concert
»The New Street Sex Tax: German Prostitutes Pay Parking Ticket Machines for Permission to Work
»UK Riots: David Cameron Attacks BBC and Pledges More Money for Problem Families
»UK: A Tip to Palestinian Activists: Upset the English Middle-Classes at Your Peril
»UK: Anti-Israel Protesters Disrupt BBC Prom
»UK: BBC Proms: Shaham, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mehta
»UK: Ban on Protest Marches Starts in London
»UK: EDL Planning Static London Demonstration After Marching Ban
»UK: Officers on Standby for Far-Right Protest
»UK: Politicians Call for East Enders to Stay Away From EDL Counter Protests
»UK: Protesters Disrupt Israel Philharmonic Broadcast in London
»UK: PSC [Palestine Solidarity Campaign] Turns Proms Audience Pro-Israel
»UK: Protests Disrupt Proms Concert by Israel Philharmonic
»UK: Why Did the BBC Pull Last Night’s Live Transmission of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Proms?
North Africa
»Frattini Says World Leaders Must Not Patronize Libya
»Libya: After the War, The Oil Scramble
»Libya: New Government Will be Ready in ‘About 20 Months’
»Libya: NATO Raids on Sirte: Bani Walid Bombed
Israel and the Palestinians
»Diana West: The Jihad is Against the Bible
Middle East
»Iranian News Agency Publishes List of U.S. Citizens and Lawmakers
»‘More Than 12,000 Civilians’ Died in Seven Years of Iraqi Suicide Bombings
»The Islamic Roots of Democratic Rebellion and Liberty
»Turkey Planning Sanctions on Israel Following Flotilla Report
»Turkey Expels Israeli Ambassador Over 2010 Raid
South Asia
»Pakistan: Militants Attack Tribal Leader Residence
»Taliban ‘Kidnap 30 Pakistani Boys in Afghanistan’
»Thirty Pakistani Teens on Tour Abducted by Talibans
Far East
»‘Oldest’ Woolly Rhino Discovered
»673 Thousand (7. 5%) Foreign Students in Italian Schools
»European Council Investigation of Deaths at Sea
»Italy: Ministry Says No to Class With Only Foreign Pupils
Culture Wars
»Swiss Kindergartners to be Taught About ‘Pleasures of Sex’ From a ‘Sex Box’

Financial Crisis

Berlusconi: Raising VAT to 22% Over 3 Months if Needed

(AGI) Paris- Silvio Berlusconi said that, if necessary, the government could decide to raise VAT to 22% over a 3-month period. Speaking from Paris at the end of today’s international conference on the future of Libya, prime minister Berlusconi explained that raising VAT would be “a safeguard clause”.

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

Economy Showed No Job Growth in August; Unemployment Rate at 9.1%

The economy showed no job growth in August, the first time there has been no job growth in the United States in a year.

The net addition of no jobs in the month was down sharply from a revised 85,000 gain of jobs in July, the Labor Department said Friday, and was far below a consensus forecast by economists of 60,000. The unemployment rate stayed constant at 9.1 percent in August.

The non-farm payrolls stayed flat in August after a prolonged increase in economic anxiety that began with the brinksmanship in the debt-ceiling debate and was followed by the country’s loss of its triple-A credit rating, stock market whiplash and renewed concerns about Europe’s sovereign debt. And the jobs figure, a monthly statistical snapshot by the Department of Labor, appear more negative than they actually are because they do not include 45,000 Verizon workers who were on strike when the survey was taken.

[Return to headlines]

Italy: Court of Auditors — Robin Hood Tax Undesirable Side Effects

(AGI) Rome — The Robin Hood Tax could have “undesirable” effects. This is the view expressed by the president of the Court of Auditors, Giampaolino Louis, during a hearing on the budget package before the joint budget committees of the House and Senate. “Side effects could also result from the practical application of the provision (Article 7 of Decree in question) that increases the numbers of taxable persons subject to the additional IRES for companies operating in the energy sector (introduced by Decree Law 112 / 2008) and increases the rate (up to 10.5%) for the period 2011-13.” .

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

Vatican’s No. 2 Says Worker Rights Can’t be Sacrificed for Financial Markets

Castel Gandolfo, 2 Sept. (AKI) — The Vatican’s second-in-command on Friday admonished politicians to not sacrifice workers’ rights for the good of financial markets.

“They an integral part of the substance of democracy,” said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vactican’s secretary of state, during the annual meeting of the Association of Christian Italian Workers at the papal summer Castel Gandolfo lake retreat near Rome.

The Italian government led by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is trying to hammer out a plan to cut spending by 45.5 billion euros and balance the budget by 2013. Moves to alter retirement rules and pensions have been introduced and scrapped while the government tries to reassure Italy’s bond and stock markets that it doesn’t run the risk of defaulting on its 1.9 trillion euros in debt.

Investors fear that Italy and Spain will follow Greece, and Portugal’s lead in asking the European Union for a bailout to help their debts.

“A civil economy cannot neglect social structure of a company and the corresponding responsibility for families of workers,” he said.

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


Caroline Glick: Cliche-Based Foreign Policy

US Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, kicked up a political storm this week. On Tuesday, Ros-Lehtinen introduced the United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act. If passed into law it would place stringent restrictions on US funding of the UN’s budget.

The US currently funds 22 percent of the UN’s general budget. That budget is passed by the General Assembly with no oversight by the US. America’s 22% share of the budget is nonvoluntary, meaning the US may exert no influence over how its taxpayers’ funds are spent.

If Ros-Lehtinen’s act is passed into law, the UN will have two years to enact budgetary reforms that would render a minimum of 80% of its budget financing voluntary. If the UN does not make the required reforms, the US government will be enjoined to withhold 50% of its nonvoluntary UN budget allocations…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Halliburton Sues BP for Slander

(AGI) New York — The American oil services giant Halliburton has sued BP for slander related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused by the British company last year. A company statement read,”Halliburton is suing BP in a Texan Court for untrue statements, slander and libel related to the April20th 2010 Macondo incident.” ..

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

Mexican Federal Agents Cross Into U.S. Without Permission

EL PASO — A scary day for some local Dove hunters on the U.S. / Mexico border. We’re told Mexican Federal Agents crossed into U.S. territory and aimed their automatic weapons directly at them.

Border Patrol agents were on the move at the Zaragoza Bridge. It’s dove hunting season, which means the crossing in the Ysleta District is usually pretty busy.

“This morning they just didn’t open the gate for us, and it’s usually open pretty early,” Jacob Cope said.

Cope has been trying to hunt all day, but he hasn’t been allowed through the gates. That may be because this morning another group of hunters came face-to-face with Mexican men carrying powerful guns.

“Right now, I went and they said there was an incursion on the Mexican side coming over here, some Mexican soldiers,” Cope said.

The Border Patrol confirmed that Mexican Federal Agents crossed into the U.S. without permission. Word spread through the hunting community that those Federal Agents shot at a group of hunters and then stole some hunting equipment. Border Patrol says those allegations were not part of their initial investigation, and so far there’s nothing to prove that actually happened. Tonight Border Patrol, the State Parks and Wildlife, and the Mexican Government are all investigating what happened. It appears that investigation means a closed border for frustrated hunters who say they’ve never experienced this before.

“I’ve done this since I was probably 12-years-old, and it’s never been an issue. I mean they drive back-and-forth on their side all the time. You’ll see guys up there with M-16’s,” Cope said. “I wish they’d open the gates for us. We’ve done this for years, and there’s no reason they should shut gates on us.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Obama Pulls Back Proposal to Tighten Clean Air Rules

The Obama administration is abandoning its plan to immediately tighten air quality rules nationwide to cut reduce emissions of smog-causing chemicals after an intense lobbying campaign by industry, which said the new rule would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs, officials said Friday.

The Environmental Protection Agency, following the recommendation of its scientific advisers, had proposed lowering the so-called ozone standard from that set by the Bush administration to a new stricter standard that would have thrown hundreds of American counties out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. It would have required a major effort by state and local officials, as well as new emissions controls by industries and agriculture across the country.

The more lenient Bush administration standard from 2006 will remain in place until a scheduled reconsideration of acceptable pollution limits in 2013, officials indicated Friday.

[Return to headlines]

Obama Backtracks on Prospective Emissions Standards

(AGI) Washington — President Obama signals climb-down on stricter emissions standards, to compensate for jobs. Obama has issued surprise decisions for the EPA to reverse new emissions rules. The move heralds a free hand for industry for another 8 years, as under the Bush administration.

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

Europe and the EU

Italy: Berlusconi Seeks to Open Guilds to Boost Economy

Rome, 2 Sept. (AKI/Bloomberg) — To drugstore owners on Venice’s Lido Island, Caterina Borgo says she’s public enemy number one.

In 2002, Borgo was working as a pharmacist and refused an offer from her employer to buy his business for 700,000 euros, the usual way of acquiring a license in Italy to dispense medicines. Borgo waited seven years to open a store that’s allowed to sell non-prescription drugs, creating a new source of competition and upsetting the status quo.

“Other pharmacists in Lido hate us,” said Borgo, 39. “I couldn’t accept the idea that either you inherit a pharmacy or you have to be rich enough to buy the license.”

While Greece started lifting the legal shield for more than 150 jobs two months ago, Italy retains restrictions on who can enter professions. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi plans to strip away the protection as he tries to avert a debt crisis by revitalizing an economy that’s trailed the average growth rate for the euro region since its formation.

Fostering competition across the economy would boost growth by as much as 1.8 percentage points a year, according to Antonio Catricala, head of the country’s Antitrust Authority. That includes protected groups such as pharmacists, notaries, accountants and taxi drivers.

“A liberalization of professions and more in general of the whole economy may lead to additional growth,” Catricala said in a telephone interview. More competition would “have a positive impact on employment,” as joblessness among young people is about 30 percent, he said.

Gross domestic product grew an annual 0.8 percent in the second quarter, the slowest pace since the first three months of 2010 and less than half the average rate for the euro region, according to data from Eurostat in Luxembourg.

The parliament in Rome will vote as early as next week on a plan passed by Berlusconi’s cabinet on 12 August that commits lawmakers to liberalizing the professions within a year. Some barriers, such as compulsory membership of professional groups and tests to join, would require changes to the constitution.

The legislation was included in 45.5 billion euros of tax increases and spending cuts to reach a balanced budget in 2013, and should competition help lower prices, it might help offset some of the austerity measures, according to Fabio Fois, an economist at Barclays Capital in London.

“If next year you are going to pay less for lawyers, accountants, you know, whatever, it’s going to be an increase in surplus of consumers that can help offset a little bit the tightening of fiscal austerity measures,” Fois said.

Data from the Organization for the Economic Cooperation and Development show that Italy has the third-heaviest regulation of professional services in the developed world, after Turkey and Luxembourg. As the access to dozens of jobs is reserved to the lucky few, the lack of competition in the country bearing the world’s third biggest debt is a drag on consumers and fares.

“Without reforms, Italy’s growth potential is poised to remain low,” said Lavinia Santovetti, an economist for Nomura International in London. On 20 August, Santovetti and colleagues said that Italy will miss its targets because they are based on growth assumptions that are “too optimistic.”

Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti told lawmakers on 11 August that a “full liberalization” of professions was requested in a confidential letter to the government signed by ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and his successor from November, Bank Of Italy Governor Mario Draghi.

Past attempts by national and local authorities to increase competition met opposition.

In November 2007, the City of Rome said it would issue 500 new taxi licenses, promoting cab drivers to stage a wildcat strike, parking their white cars along the roads that wind around the Colosseum during the evening rush hour and bringing the traffic around the historic center to a standstill.

Drivers in and around Athens blocked approaches to airports and disrupted ferry services in recent weeks to protest the government’s decision to open up more industries to competition. The Greek law came into effect on July 2.

Previous plans in Italy “to liberalize professional services have been stalled for some time and should be speeded up,” the Paris-based OECD said in a report in May.

Borgo, the pharmacist on the Venetian island that hosts the city’s film festival this week, took advantage of a law in 2006 that Berlusconi’s party subsequently tried to reverse.

The measure paved the way for “parafarmacie” and required that their managers had graduated at least five years before and worked for two years in a licensed drugstore. They operate alongside pharmacies like paramedics compared with doctors.

“I joined forces with a former pharmacy trainee and two years ago, we opened a parafarmacia on the high street,” Borgo said by telephone. “Today we make enough money to employ a part-time assistant.”

The law increased competition in an industry that has annual sales of 19.2 billion euros in Italy, figures from the pharmaceutical industry group Farmindustria show. Since then, almost 3,500 independent drugstores have been opened, currently employing about 7,000 people, according to the Forum Nazionale Parafarmacie group.

A bill put forward three years ago by Senator Luigi D’Ambrosio Lettieri, a member of Berlusconi’s party in Italy’s Upper Chamber, imposed restrictions on the kind and number of medicines new drugstores like the one opened by Borgo can sell.

Lettieri is the vice president of the pharmacist federation, which opposed the creation of parafarmacie. The law still requires a final vote by both houses after being approved by committees.

“Any previous initiatives by lawmakers to block or reduce the size and the scope of liberalizations and restoring old privileges will come to an halt in the light of the government’s” new measures, Catricala said. Those initiatives “won’t be politically compatible any longer,” he added.

On Lido, it’s no surprise Borgo, a mother-of-four who graduated in 1994 and worked first as a researcher for what became GlaxoSmithKline, Europe’s largest drugmaker, has made some enemies in the last three years, she said.

Resistance to change “can be worse than any legal obstacles,” said Borgo.

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

London: Pro-Palestinians Interrupt Israeli Concert

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 2 — A concert by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra held yesterday in London’s Royal Albert Hall was interrupted twice following protests by some members of the audience against the Israeli authorities’ policies in the Middle East. Reports were on the online site of the BBC which — like every year — had organised the Proms season in the famous London theatre named in honour of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband. The broadcaster, which put the evening on air on Radio 3, suspended the live transmission during the protest and apologised to listeners. The first interruption was when Gil Shaham was about to play the Violin Concerto by Bach under the direction of Zubin Mehta. Some members of the audience suddenly began to whistle loudly and yell out anti-Israeli slogans. The same occurred an hour later. A group called the Palestine Solidarity Campaign had asked fans to boycott the evening due to the presence of the Israeli orchestra and had even asked the BBC to call off the event. The movement accuses the Philharmonic of being “an accomplice in hiding the continual violations of international law and human rights by the State of Israel.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The New Street Sex Tax: German Prostitutes Pay Parking Ticket Machines for Permission to Work

Prostitutes working the streets of the former German capital are now having to pay £5.30 per night to a modified parking meter — to gain permission to ply their trade.

Sex workers in Bonn face hefty fines for not forking out the new ‘income tax’ which has been brought in to try and regulate the outdoor aspect of the industry.

It is to bring them into line with the country’s brothel workers who already pay out a percentage of their profits in tax, which varies depending on the region.

But city officials, who are set to earn £265,000 per year from the system, believe it will go some way to bringing street prostitutes into line with their peers in registered sex establishments.

Spokesman Monika Frombgen said: ‘This is an act of tax fairness.

‘Prostitutes in fixed establishments such as brothels and sauna clubs already pay tax.’

She revealed that inspectors will monitor the streets.

And, if caught without a valid ticket, offenders would be reprimanded. They would then face fines, and later a ban.

The fee is a daily charge, and irrespective of how many punters are entertained.

The machines, made by German company Siemens, clearly show the times of day when a ticket is required.

After protests from residents, specific quarters have been designated as sex work zones.

City officials have created ‘consummation areas’, which are wooden parking garages where customers driving cars can retreat to with their prostitutes.

Dortmund has a similar system where prostitutes buy tickets from petrol stations.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK Riots: David Cameron Attacks BBC and Pledges More Money for Problem Families

David Cameron has launched a strong attack on the BBC for advocating doing nothing in response to the riots as he pledged more money for problem families

The Prime Minister criticised the BBC for what he called trying to “mush” together the riots with other ills in society — such as the behaviour of bankers — and using it as an excuse to do nothing until all inequalities are addressed. “When you listen to the BBC, you put these things as a great big mush,” he said. The BBC implied you “cannot do anything about it (riot causes) until you’ve addressed all inequality”, he claimed. He also has said he will make enough funds available to ensure the deep-seated problems that caused last month’s riots are properly and effectively tackled. He said he was in favour of “tough love” when trying to deal with the reasons behind the outbreak of violence and criminality which he described as “a wake up moment.” In an interview, Mr Cameron said he had been talking about the “broken society” for six years and said it was now vital to push ahead with plans to change the way welfare benefits work, restore discipline in schools and ensure people understand that they have responsibilities.

He said that there was a “hardcore” element in the riots but also a number of people who simply “passed broken shop windows and just popped in and helped themselves.” The Coalition has been attacked by Labour for talking about getting to grips with the social problems that helped fuel the riots, while cutting budgets to vital projects. But Mr Cameron said he would ensure George Osborne, the Chancellor, had enough money to drive through the right policies. He said: “The problem there are a number of people in our society that don’t have proper moral boundaries.” Describing himself as a “commonsense Conservative,” Mr Cameron said he would sum up his approach to the problems as “tough love.” He said for some people involved in the riots there “probably were failures in their backgrounds.” But he added that when people step out of line there needs to be tough punishments. He said Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, would be at the forefront of tackling the issues thrown up by the riots.

Mr Cameron also defended the Coalition’s defence review, arguing that the successful operation in Libya had not suffered because of cuts to capability. He said: “I do not think we did suffer from not having an aircraft carrier.” He said Britain was able to use bases in the Mediterranean and flew “20 per cent of the strike sorties” that helped advance the rebel cause in Libya and topple Gaddafi. He added that Britain had “punched at or above its weight” and rejected criticisms that America now viewed Britain “as a weak ally.” But the Prime Minister added: “In the west there is a danger of people taking too much credit. This is a victory for the Libyan people.” On the wider issue of intervention he said if the opportunity was there in the future and it was necessary it could be used again. He said: “I think the point about the intervention in this case is that there was both a moral imperative to do so, to stop a slaughter in Benghazi. There was also the ability to do it, because we were able to get the backing of the UN and the backing of the Arab League. “We were able to do something that was right to do, and I think there was a big political advantage because success in Libya means the Arab Spring can continue and I think that’s good for democracy and good for the world. “There was a national interest argument too because Gaddafi was a monster responsible for appalling crimes including crimes in this country, and the world will be much better off without him. Those circumstances were unique and meant it was the right thing to do.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: A Tip to Palestinian Activists: Upset the English Middle-Classes at Your Peril

The protesters who interrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Albert Hall last night weren’t just rude, nasty philistines, they were also politically very stupid. Demolish and burn, scream and shout, march and campaign, but don’t come between the English middle-classes and their holy rituals. I’d have thought your average Radio 3 listener — and Proms goer — was probably of a mildly Leftish, gently pro-Palestinian persuasion. Until last night. You bloody fools — you’ve been attacking your own constituency. If you really want to complete this disastrous PR project, here’s a list of things to do: interrupt the recording of the next broadcast from Ambridge; embark on a five-day sit-in on the cricket square at Lord’s, during the Final Test; disrupt the filming schedule of the next series of Downton Abbey. Your work will be done — you will have turned your gentle, Middle England supporters against you.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Anti-Israel Protesters Disrupt BBC Prom

Anti-Israel protesters repeatedly disrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall last night, causing the BBC to abandon its live broadcast of the prom. A dozen people unfurled a banner reading “Free Palestine” and sang about “Israeli apartheid” as the IPO began the concert. They were removed by security guards as orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, played on. Soon after, as Gil Shaham prepared to play a violin solo, a smaller group began shouting and scuffled with audience members.

The audience chanted “out, out, out” and “shut your mouth” as one man resisted removal. Prom-goers on Twitter voiced their disapproval of the events. One tweeter, named Juliette, said: “Disappointed that there’s clearly not enough security to deal with this.” Karen Myers wrote: “Sadly protesters have infiltrated and two lots thrown out during the Webern and Bruch.”

The BBC suspended its live Radio 3 broadcast during the disruption, but was later forced to abandon it completely after further protests. Around 30 people were removed during the two hour concert, but police said they had made no arrests. The BBC and Royal Albert Hall had pledged to take additional security measures before the performance in order to limit the protests, but audience members were subjected to only brief bag searches as they arrived. At the conclusion of the performance, Pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with prommers outside. An earlier demonstration by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign had included leafleting of people entering the concert. A counter-demo, organised by the Zionist Federation and British Israel Coalition, drew twice as many supporters. Radio 3 will broadcast the concert uninterrupted at 2.30pm on Wednesday, September 7.

[JP note: I am sure the police would not have been so lenient if the protesters had been members of the EDL disrupting an event attended by the bien pensant classes.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: BBC Proms: Shaham, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mehta

Police. Placards. Protests. And bag checks. It meant only one thing. Jews were performing at the Proms. Here we were in the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2011 witnessing a stage of musicians being barracked and abused for having the gall to be Jewish. Last year, four more Jewish musicians, the Jerusalem Quartet, had the cheek to perform and broadcast a recital at the Wigmore Hall. They were again heckled and hounded off air. No, not a portrait of Europe in the early 20th century, but Britain in the 21st. I wonder. In a few years, will Jews be able to make music publicly in Britain at all?

If it wasn’t all so depressingly shameful, it might have been amusing, such was the pathetic absurdity of the protests. The evening certainly started with comedy. A small bedraggled bunch of Palestinian protesters (all white, middle class and bearded of course) were scowling by a side entrance of the Royal Albert Hall. Opposite them an Irish Zionist, sporting the tricolour of Eire and the star of David, was goading them with an Irish jig. That was where the whole farce that is the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign’s (PSC) boycott of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra should have remained: in the realms of risibility.

But it didn’t stop there. A few minutes into a fuzzily luxuriant performance (even the triangle was being vibbed) of Webern’s Passacaglia, Op 1, a bunch of protesters in the choir stands got to their feet and began to barrack. To the strains of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, they sang their anti-Israeli chants. I imagine a few of the audience and orchestral members would have been familiar with this sort of public abuse, from when they were children in mainland Europe.

They made it difficult to concentrate on the Webern, though Mehta made sure some of their fortissimos sliced through the taunts. They returned to dog the start of the Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor. Zubin Mehta, the Israel Philharmonic and Gil Shaham (pictured right) stood still, silent and calm, while the ushers and security swept out the protest. Amid this maelstrom, Mehta and Shaham, their patience wearing thin, tore into the opening bars. The work achieved a level of meaning and fury that no one will ever witness the like of again.

But while it was all sparks and springs in the outer movements, in the slow, both soloist and orchestra bowed to the softest, gentlest, most tender sound imaginable, as if they were reaching down to plant a kiss on a baby’s crown. Not even the Neanderthals dared break this spell. Nor dared they interrupt Shaham’s elegantly sculpted performance of the Preludio from Bach’s Third Partita.

The BBC had by now switched off their live Radio 3 broadcast after the audience began barracking the barrackers at the beginning of the Bruch. It was understandable — no point giving the protesters publicity — but disappointing, considering that, if the listeners had been given an opportunity to hear the whole Prom, they would have heard the Prommers shouting down the protests, and the Israeli Phil ploughing on valiantly through their programme, to repeated standing ovations. That is, they would have heard us win.

Was it because of the feeling that the BBC had deserted him and his orchestra that Mehta (pictured left) and his musicians came out on stage looking deflated? The continued protests must have demoralised them. It did me. They never quite recovered the responsive vim of the first half. There was another moment of comedy among the PSC disrupters — before the depressingly repetitive boredom of it all set in — as two whiskery old men started to hound the orchestra from a box and a lady next door hooked one of their necks with her walking stick.

In these circumstances, who can blame the orchestra for not delivering the top form that they are capable of? Albeniz’s Iberia was neither brawny nor colourful enough to make headway in this hall. And though Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol had its moments, particularly when the melody was lobbed from strings to winds, leaving the violins and percussion underwater-pedalling virtuosically, the lack of synchronisation between the sections meant there was no chance of anyone generating any threatening Spanish heat.

There was no bite either in the encore, the Death of Tybalt scene from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. The wind had been taken out of their sails. The strength it took to sit silently and wait out the taunts was a big enough battle won. They had no fight left in them. Still, we cheered them to the rafters. They were guests in our country. And they had been rudely abused. It was the least we could do.

For some, something else had also been violated last night: the freedom of artistic expression. With qualifications, I am with them. I am not one of these people who thinks politics is above art. If people insist art and artists have the power to change lives for the better (and, boy, do music marketing people, with one eye on dwindling funds, keep insisting on this), they must also have the ability to change lives for the worse. Art, artists and musicians are, therefore, not sacrosanct. Break the law, rape a girl (yes, that’s you I’m talking about, Polanski) and you should not be given a free ride simply because you are endowed with creative talent.

Cultural boycotts have their place. One cannot have anything but sympathy with the Holocaust survivors who set up pickets outside concert halls in 1950s America, demonstrating against the visit of Herbert von Karajan, a man who had joined the Nazi party not once, but twice. I bow to the rights of the PSC to protest peacefully outside the Royal Albert Hall. I bow to their right to try to convince us that the Israeli Phil is evil. Of course, one could legitimately ask, why, if they felt so keenly about human rights and democracy, they have never protested to the frequent visits by the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra, who perform clothed in the symbols of an authoritarian state, or the East-Western Divan, whose Arab members proudly represent some of the most vile dictatorships on earth.

But that’s by the by. They had a right to stand outside and propagate their views. And they were granted that right. But then they went beyond this right. They imposed their protest on us to the extent that we were restricted in our freedom to do what we wanted. This is exactly the form of authoritarianism that the PSC claim to be attempting to end.

What do we do now? What can we do now? The protesters have all now walked free to hound some more Jews. The recorded concert — what’s left of it — will be salvaged and aired next week. One thing, we do know: the Israel Phil won’t be coming back to these shores in a hurry. And that’s where things start becoming troubling. When we get into a position where programmers and arts organisations are forced to think twice about giving a platform to certain nationalities and races lest they incur the wrath of hooligans, we are in real danger of no longer being able to call ourselves civilised. The protesters didn’t win last night. But they certainly did raise the stakes.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ban on Protest Marches Starts in London

A 30-day ban on protest marches goes into force on Friday in five ‘troubled’ boroughs of London. The Metropolitan Police Service obtained on August 26 the consent of the Home Secretary to prohibit protest marches in the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Islington, and Hackney starting September 2. All five boroughs were in the heart of violent riots and looting that hit London and several other British cities on August 6-10, leaving over 100 police officers injured. The disturbances were triggered by the shooting dead of London resident and suspected drug dealer Mark Duggan. More than 1,600 people were detained during the ensuing rioting. “This decision has been made based on specific intelligence and information which has led us to believe that serious public disorder, violence and damage could be caused by the presence of marches in these areas,” the London police said in an earlier statement. The English Defense League (EDL), a far-right street protest movement which opposes what it perceives as the spread of Islamism, Sharia law and Islamic extremism in England, has announced plans to hold rallies over the weekend in London. The prohibition is under section 13 of the Public Order Act which gives the Commissioner the power to do so with the consent of the Home Secretary in order to prevent serious public disorder. “The prohibition does not apply to processions that are commonly or customarily held in the area or funeral processions,” police said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL Planning Static London Demonstration After Marching Ban

The English Defence League plans to demonstrate in London despite a 30-day ban against marching. The far-right group has told the Metropolitan Police it wishes to go ahead with a “static” protest in Tower Hamlets, east London, on Saturday. It follows Home Secretary Theresa May’s decision to impose a ban on marching in six London boroughs. More than 3,000 officers will be available amid fears of violence and clashes with opposition groups. While concern of unrest centres on Tower Hamlets, the home secretary has also banned marches in Newham, Waltham Forest, Islington, Hackney and the City of London.

‘Minimising disorder’

Ch Supt Julia Pendry said it was the first time since the Brixton riots 30 years ago that police had requested powers to stop marches. “Following the appalling disorder in London in recent weeks, it’s important London, its communities and businesses, can return to normality,” she said. “We have not sought this power since 1981 — which shows how we do not take this lightly. As far as Saturday is concerned, both parties have requested a static demonstration and we will be negotiating with them suitable locations with the aim of minimising disorder.” Section 13 of the Public Order Act would allow a ban of up to three months, but the force has said it does not believe it appropriate. The EDL has said that the ban on marching sends out “completely the wrong message”. They have insisted that a static demonstration will go ahead. Civil rights group Liberty has criticised the ban and said it was a “serious” and “grave” move.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Officers on Standby for Far-Right Protest

The Metropolitan Police will deploy 3,000 extra officers in the capital on Saturday amid fears that the far-right English Defence League might clash with anti-fascist demonstrators during a protest in Tower Hamlets. The EDL, which was criticised in the summer over possible links with Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who massacred 77 people, had initially planned a march through east London over the weekend. That event was banned by Theresa May, the home secretary, after a request by Scotland Yard.

Julia Pendry, a chief superintendent at the Met, said the decision to stop the march, using powers unused since the Brixton riots 30 years ago, had “not been taken lightly”.

“There is intelligence to suggest that if a procession went ahead with these groups in Tower Hamlets on Saturday, there would be a chance of serious public disorder,” Ms Pendry said on Thursday. She added that police took into consideration last month’s riots, which spread quickly across London, as well as the history of “huge community tension” within the borough of Tower Hamlets, which has a high Muslim population. “Following the appalling disorder in London in recent weeks, it’s important London — its communities and businesses — can return to normality,” Ms Pendry said. She warned people to stay away from the static protests expected from both the EDL and Unite Against Fascism. She said that while people might think they were standing up for their beliefs, they were in danger of being “sucked into” violence and unrest.

The Home Office ban on marches, which draws on section 13 of the Public Order Act, starts from September 2 and extends for 30 days after, covering Tower Hamlets and its neighbouring boroughs of Newham, Waltham Forest, Islington and Hackney. Separately, Ms May announced draft emergency legislation on Thursday that would allow the government forcibly to move terrorist suspects, having previously promised to abolish such powers. While the terrorism prevention and investigation measures bill, which is currently before parliament, removes the home secretary’s right to move suspects around the country, the emergency law would allow this in “exceptional circumstances”. Terrorism prevention and investigation measures are due to replace the Labour government’s system of control orders, due to be scrapped in January next year. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the move to strengthen terrorist legislation was “confused and impractical”. “Instead of amending her own bill to sort this out, the home secretary has created a shambolic process of draft emergency legislation that won’t work for those cases and is impractical and chaotic,” Ms Cooper said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Politicians Call for East Enders to Stay Away From EDL Counter Protests

After leading the campaign to ban the English Defence League marching through Tower Hamlets, the East End’s Labour politicians have now called for counter demonstrations to be called off.

The Home Secretary banned protest marching in Tower Hamlets for 30 days after a campaign delivered a 25,000 strong petition to the Metropolitan Police. The EDL has indicated members and supporters will come to Tower Hamlets on Saturday regardless and hold a static demonstration and campaign group Unite Against Fascism has indicated they will gather to oppose the EDL’s visit. The Advertiser reported earlier today how more than 3,000 police officers will be drafted in to help deal with any potential incidents.

Tower Hamlets Labour group leader Joshua Peck said: “It is important that residents stay at home and let the police deal with any visit by the EDL and they should be reassured that extra officers will be in place to help this weekend pass without incident. I would ask that anyone planning to hold or attend a counter demonstration reconsiders — the safest thing for everyone is to remain calm and let the police do their job.” London Assembly member for City and east John Biggs said: “I know how strongly many people feel about this event. It is important that we react with dignity and restraint and trust the police to tightly manage the demonstration. I have confidence that they are able and prepared to do so. What will destabilise this will be any outbreak of disorder.” Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said: “I urge people to remain calm and level-headed. I don’t want the EDL in my constituency in any form, but the best answer is to turn our backs on these people and let the police deal with them.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Protesters Disrupt Israel Philharmonic Broadcast in London

(JTA) — Anti-Israel protesters disrupted a live BBC broadcast of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra playing in London. Hecklers in the audience shouted during Thursday night’s appearance by the orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall. BBC’s Radio 3 interrupted its broadcast during the heckling and later resumed it, only to suspend the broadcast after more shouting. The orchestra was participating in the BBC Proms summer classical music festival. The hecklers were removed by security and jeered by the audience. Britain’s culture minister, Ed Vaizey, who attended the concert, tweeted: “Demonstrators seem to have turned entire audience pro Israel.” “We regret that as a result of sustained audience disruption within the concert hall which affected the ability to hear the music, tonight’s Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Prom was taken off air,” a BBC spokeswoman said, according to The Daily Telegraph. The spokeswoman noted that the concert was able to continue in the music hall and said that part of the concert would be broadcast on September 7. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign had called for a boycott of the concert. The BBC refused calls to cancel the performance, saying the invitation to perform was “purely musical,” according to Britain’s Jewish Chronicle. Deborah Orr, a columnist for The Guardian newspaper, tweeted: “I’m pro-Palestinian myself. But interrupting a concert? It’s just a good night out for people who like making self-righteous trouble.” The Israel Philharmonic is celebrating its 75th year and musical director Zubin Mehta’s 40th year with the orchestra.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: PSC [Palestine Solidarity Campaign] Turns Proms Audience Pro-Israel

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign — which consorts with homophobes, misogynists, supremacists and antisemites — managed to turn an entire audience pro-Israel at the Royal Albert Hall last night. I was there. So was Ed Vaizey, Culture Minister, who tweeted “Demonstrators seem to have turned entire audience pro-Israel”. The PSC morons included all the usual suspects who picket Ahava in Monmouth Street every fortnight. Deborah Fink was there in disguise, presumably because she thought she is so infamous that security would spot her — she had her hair swept back and dyed grey. Bruce Levy — who has been banned by the police from Monmouth Street where Ahava is located, for his loutish behaviour — also attempted to disguise himself, by growing a beard. (Finkler Jew Levy famously said that Gilad Shalit should be dug up and then reburied). The PSC morons tried to stop me doing an interview with the BBC outside the Hall after the concert, by yelling and screaming. If you can’t win an argument try censorship — that’s the way these Stalinists operate. The applause at the end of the Bruch Violin Concerto — before the interval — was tumultuous and soloist Gil Shaham even played an encore. I was told that the applause at the end of the concert was every bit as enthusiastic. Whata shame that the audience’s enthusiasm for the IPO could not include the waving of Israeli flags — which had been banned by the Hall, along with all leaflets and other flags. (I waved a flag at the cultural morons of the PSC but was asked to leave). Presumably this ban applies to all flags including Union Jacks at the Last Night — it cannot just be Israel which is being singled out for a flag ban … Well done to all who stood up for Israel outside the Hall, most especially our much loved Christian supporters

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Protests Disrupt Proms Concert by Israel Philharmonic

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators inside the hall were greeted by boos when they tried to protest

Protesters have disrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s BBC Proms concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Several demonstrators in the hall shouted as Zubin Mehta stood to conduct Bruch’s violin concerto. Many other audience members booed in response.

BBC Radio 3 said it had to interrupt its live broadcast twice “as a result of sustained audience disturbance”.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign had earlier called on people to boycott the concert and urged the BBC to cancel it.

In a statement published on its website ahead of the Proms, the pro-Palestinian group claimed the IPO showed “complicity in whitewashing Israel’s persistent violations of international law and human rights”.

The BBC Proms Team tweeted: “We’re sorry that the concert was taken off air following hall disturbance. Glad both pieces were heard by the audience in the RAH.”

It later added: “We regret that as a result of sustained audience disturbance tonight’s concert was taken off BBC Radio 3.”

The performance, which consisted of four parts, was interrupted at about 19:45 BST and coverage was cut off again an hour later after more protests.

A spokeswoman for BBC Proms said it appeared each piece had been targeted by different protesters seated around the hall.

She said the broadcaster was “disappointed” the coverage had been taken off air but said the performance had continued in the hall.

About 30 people were removed by security but there were no arrests and no violence, she said.

The BBC’s Tom Symonds said: “As Zubin Mehta stood up and began each piece a small group of protesters each time tried to stop the music.

“They sang, they shouted, they were met by boos by the audience and they had to be removed by the security staff.”

Outside the concert hall a group of about 20 campaigners waved banners and sang songs in protest against the appearance of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO).

Several pro-Israeli groups met them with their own protest outside, our correspondent said.

He said it had been a “pretty disruptive” but the orchestra was said to have “taken it all in their stride and had smiles on their faces”.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Did the BBC Pull Last Night’s Live Transmission of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Proms?

The band played on, the audience inside the Royal Albert Hall loved it and screamed “More!”, so then why did the BBC pull last night’s live Radio 3 broadcast of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra at the Proms near to the beginning? People around the world had tuned in to listen, but instead the BBC quickly switched to a recording of a past IPO performance. The six or so anti-Israel disruptions (see clips below) didn’t really detract from the evening’s overall enjoyment. The BBC would’t pull the live transmission of a big football match because 30 hooligans invaded the pitch, but this is the equivalent of what they did last night to the detriment of those who were not lucky enough to be there in person.

The BBC is broadcasting recorded exerpts of the concert next Wednesday at 2.30pm (BST), but the main beauty of an event is that it is live. Then the BBC’s report of what happened handed a complete propaganda coup to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organisation that recently invited Sheikh Raed Salah to speak, a man who has called homosexuality “a crime” that starts “the collapse of every society”.

First, despite the BBC seeming so offended by last night’s disruptions they still found it passable to upload audio of it for their report. Second, they referred to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as a “pro-Palestinian group”, but what has the PSC ever done for the Palestinians? They are nothing more than a bunch of anti-Israel activists. Third, the BBC report speaks of “increased security measures for the concert”, but my bag was given a cursory glance and some of the protesters went in disguise; one woman dressed as a man with grey hair and a beard. They were later seen coming out of a nice South Kensington restaurant as no arrests were made.

The disruptions were totally predictable, judging by past events, and yet when each interruption occurred security took ages to get to the scene of the protest. And it didn’t need a Sherlock Holmes to tell you that the absence of the hardcore activists at the anti-Israel rally outside the event indicated that they would all be inside the Royal Albert Hall. It is the same small group of activists that disrupt these events time and time again and cause distress to people watching who have paid good money during hard times. Meanwhile, young people have been going to prison for stealing a packet of chewing gum or having a lick of some stolen ice-cream during the London riots.

>From what I could tell someone who was led away, I believe, is still on a conditional discharge for previous anti-Israel activity. Another conviction could mean imprisonment. And when it came to paying the costs of the court case that person pleaded poverty, yet there they were in a good seat at the Royal Albert Hall and going out for dinner in South Kensington. The final insult was when someone was taken out by security for holding up an Israeli flag during each disturbance, yet on the last night of the Proms everyone is waving a Union Jack flag. Mind you it only cost me £5 to get in to stand and it was probably the best value entertainment I have ever had. And Zubin Mehta and his Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra were heroic.

[JP note: Perhaps the broadcast was pulled, because the BBC is not entirely comfortable with the concept of an Israeli state.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Frattini Says World Leaders Must Not Patronize Libya

Europe must ‘do the heavy lifting’ in supporting transition

(ANSA) — Rome, September 1 — The international community must not patronize the new Libyan leadership but stand united in its support of the transitional council, said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

“Under the U.N.’s leading role,” wrote Frattini in an editorial, world leaders should maintain “internal cohesion and unity of purpose in assisting Libya’s recovery and democratic transition” while also avoiding a “patronizing attitude” toward its emerging leadership.

He added that once fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is captured, his trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague “would be the best international calling card for the new Libyan leadership”.

Rebel leaders have said they want to put the 69-year-old fallen dictator on trial in Libya, which could lead to the death penalty if he is found guilty of atrocities including killing thousands of his own people.

The foreign minister went on to express his confidence in the Libyan Transitional Council’s will to adopt a democratic constitution, to hold free elections and to protect human rights after a six-month civil war and NATO-led air strikes forced Gaddafi into hiding.

In early April, Italy was among the first countries in the world to recognize the anti-Gaddafi Libyan National Council as its only legitimate talking partner for relations with the North African Country, Italy’s former colony.

The Foreign Minister’s statement came as Italy reopened its embassy in Tripoli and as a diplomatic team from the European Union was “transported into Libya to Tripoli by our navy yesterday afternoon,” said Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa.

Frattini said it was Europe’s responsibility to “do the heavy lifting” when it comes to supporting the institution-building process in Libya.

“Libya’s success will be a telling tale of whether or not Europe’s hour has finally come”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: After the War, The Oil Scramble

Lurking behind the public agreement on display among the participants at the Paris conference on “New Libya” is a shadowy struggle that France, Italy and the UK have already started in the race to exploit the country’s resources. So say the French, Italian and British newspapers.

Six months after hostilities against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi got underway, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have convened in Paris representatives of some sixty countries and NGOs, as well as those from the Libyan National Transition Council, to mark the end of military operations and to sketch out the political transition and reconstruction of the “New Libya”. In the background, lusts for the Libyan oil bonanza are stirring.

Libération writes of a “successful trial by fire in Libya, which puts France high in the saddle and into step with a new Arab world,” and of a “diplomatic Blitzkrieg coupled with an audacious military gamble.” It was a wager that “French oil companies could reap great benefits,” the paper adds.

“In any case, it’s what’s written down in black on white in a document that Libération has obtained. The text is signed by the National Transitional Council (NTC), the transitional authority set up by the Libyan rebels. Certainly, it was common knowledge that the countries most committed to the insurgents would receive the most favourable consideration by the CNT when the day came — in particular, a number of petroleum contracts in hard cash. But this document clearly shows that quantified commitments were made several months back.” In fact, the newspaper explains, from April 3 — or 17 days after resolution 1973 was adopted by the Security Council of the UN — the NTC signed a letter addressed to the Emir of Qatar, who was acting as go-between between France and the NTC. In the letter it was specified that the petroleum agreement with France would award 35 percent of the total crude oil to the French in exchange for recognition of the NTC as the legitimate representative of Libya.

“The phoney war in Libya was mainly intended for Paris”

France’s diplomatic triumph and energy coup are greatly worrying to Italy. Lagging at the rear of the coalition led by Paris and London, the former colonial power now fears being forced out of any share of the Libyan “oil-cake”. What is to become then of Italy, the country that “was the main economic partner of Libya and was linked to it by a Treaty of Friendship, signed at the cost of a misalliance?” asks La Stampa. “This Italy that today is in the second rank with ENI [the Italian oil and gas company partly owned by the state], which will have to scrap with the French and English for new energy contracts?” Well, the paper notes, Italy “is courting the NTC to salvage its contracts.”

“The phoney war in Libya was mainly intended for Paris, and then for London. Nicolas Sarkozy will therefore try to reap the benefits of France’s commitment by leading the economic reconstruction. The presence of Italy in Libya will emerge fatally resized,” observes Marta Dassù, still in the pages of La Stampa. Recalling the historical hostility of the inhabitants of Cyrenaica — the region where the rebellion originated — towards Italy, the political scientist suspects the scope of Italy’s diplomatic manoeuvring will be limited.

“Italy had a lot to lose from the phony war in Libya. And yet it hasn’t lost. The [recent] visit of the head of ENI to Benghazi confirms that the firm is capable of safeguarding its own energy agreements…. After having been divided on the war, the Europeans have an interest in promoting an agreement among the successors to Gaddafi. The illusions of Franco-British co-ownership have crumbled in the Mediterranean before. They will crumble again if the Europeans in Libya fail to move beyond arguing over the ‘cake’. The common interest of Europeans, and the Libyans, lies in never having to regret the end of Gaddafi. After that, business will come to those who will be capable of it. That’s the only acceptable competition between the democracies of the Old Continent.”

“Precarious political situation that risks being derailed by a scramble”

On the British side, no one is being fooled on the challenges of the post-war. As The Independent points out, “countries will be there [at the Paris conference] to see what they can get out of it.” And when it comes to “getting the garbage collected, the water supplies running and the oil flowing to port in a petroleum-rich country, who gets the contracts?” The opportunities for Western meddling are endless, which is why so many Libyans and the Arabs more generally remain so cynical about the West’s ‘humanitarian’ ventures.”

That is why, to avoid “a precarious political situation [that] risks being derailed by a scramble for personal enrichment,” the Financial Times suggests that the “need for credible checks and balances on the energy sector mirrors the need for a larger constitutional settlement to permit Libyans to rule themselves as a free people.”…

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

Libya: New Government Will be Ready in ‘About 20 Months’

London, 2 Sept. (AKI) — A Libyan council whose job will be to write a new constitution will be elected within eight months, while national elections for president and parliament will be held at the beginning of 2013, according to Guma al-Gamaty, the representative of the National Transitional Council (NTC) in Britain.

“We have outlined a clear road plan, a transition period of about 20 months,” Guma al-Gamaty, the representative of the NTC in Britain, told BBC radio.

“And then hopefully by the end of about 20 months the Libyan people will have elected the leaders they want to lead their country.”

Speaking at a meeting in Paris attended by representatives of 63 countries on Thursday, NTC leaders pledged to construct a society with tolerance and respect.

The meeting was hosted by French president Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss Libya following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. It was held on the 42nd anniversary of the coup that brought Gaddafi to power.

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

Libya: NATO Raids on Sirte: Bani Walid Bombed

(AGI) Brussels — Allied sources say Nato planes are carrying out further airstrikes on loyalist targets in Sirte. The city is the birthplace of Muammar Gaddafi, who is suspected of hiding out in the area. Several command posts have apparently been destroyed over the last 24 hours, along with several arms depots, anti-aircraft batteries and military vehicles.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Diana West: The Jihad is Against the Bible

Beyond the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks looms another signal date in the annals of global jihad. That date is Sept. 20, when the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas is expected to petition the United Nations for statehood.

What would a U.N.-ordained Palestinian state have to do with global jihad? Practically everything, because such statehood would mark a major victory in the long war on Israel’s existence. And, whether unadmitted or unimagined, it is Israel on which the axis of Islamic jihad turns.

I’ve never been more convinced of this than after reading four, clarifying pages of Bat Ye’or’s new book, “Europe, Globalization, and the Coming Universal Caliphate” (Lexington Books). In a first-chapter primer on the relationship between the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, much of which revolves around mutual animus toward Israel, Ye’or revisits the hateful perversion that passes for political normal: the relentless mission of the Islamic world, with EU encouragement, “to appropriate a tiny piece of land” — Israel — as a political and religious cause despite the fact, as she reminds us, no town, village or hamlet of Israel is mentioned in the Koran or early biographies of Muhammad.

Why Israel? Ye’or asks. “Given the immense territories conquered and Islamized over thirteen centuries of expansion and war,” she writes, “why would Muslim countries keep plotting to destroy Israel?” And further: “Why does the immense oil wealth of Muslim nations nourish a flood of hatred that poisons the heart of humanity against such a small nation? Why is Israel considered so alarming?”

The well-read global citizen might regurgitate something about land, modern Zionism and the post-1948 “plight of the Palestinians,” but these are stock narratives overwriting the age-old reason. “What Israel possesses,” Ye’or explains, “is the Bible.”

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iranian News Agency Publishes List of U.S. Citizens and Lawmakers

by Clare M. Lopez and W. Thomas Smith

Iran’s Khomeinist news agency, Press TV — long recognized for its Jihadist-supporting broadcasts — has published what is being referred to as a veritable “hit piece” against many leading U.S. media companies, commentators, antiterrorism experts, legislators, and at least one presidential candidate — calling several by name — in what the news agency considers to be “The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.” And what observers fear may reveal a more sinister motive.

The article entitled, “U.S. Empire foments Islamophobia,” and based on a just-released report by the Center for American Progress, contends there is a conspiracy by these so-named (primarily conservative) organizations and individuals to foment fears about Islam.

Press TV is funded almost exclusively by Iranian petrodollars (oil profits) from the same regime that funds and directs global terrorist organizations like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (the IRGC which is also known as the Pasdaran), the IRGC’s Quds Force, Lebanon’s Hizballah, and others; all of which are designated foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S. government and other countries.

The annual budget of Press TV is approximately $25 million according to estimates. And according to reports from the Iranian opposition — specifically the Green Movement — Press TV is directly controlled by the Pasdaran. The agency broadcasts the tightly-controlled propaganda of the Iranian regime, and it prepares the ground — so to speak — for future propagandizing against any real or perceived enemies of the Iranian Islamic state.

In the past, Press TV has focused its efforts against the U.S. and Europe, Arab moderates (including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco). Moreover, the agency has proven to be a standard-bearer for Hizballah, the Mahdi Army in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and all of Iran’s allies worldwide. In addition to its operations in Tehran, Press TV operates in Beirut, from where the agency vigorously supports and promotes the leadership of Hizballah, and frequently interviews so-called experts who support Iran, Hizballah, and Hamas.

In the article published Sept. 1, 2011, Press TV changes up its batting order, specifically targeting — attempting to discredit and demonize — several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), members of the U.S. Congress, Muslim dissidents like Nonie Darwish and Walid Shoebat, various Western think tanks, and a number of international terrorism researchers like Robert Spencer, Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes. The article also castigates the chair of the Homeland Security Committee in the U.S. House, Rep. Peter King; the chair of a subcommittee on Intelligence, Rep. Sue Myrick, and others. The list expands to include Rep. Paul Broun, Rep. Allen West, Rep. Renee Ellmers and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

The article goes on to target national media such as FOX News (particularly Sean Hannity) — accusing the network of fueling anti-Muslim sentiment — the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the Washington Times, National Review (including Andy McCarthy, former Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the terrorists in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing), former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney, well-known lawyer David Yerushalmi and Professor Walid Phares. Private foundations are even named: Donors Capital Fund, the Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Newton Becker foundation, and others…

           — Hat tip: DB[Return to headlines]

‘More Than 12,000 Civilians’ Died in Seven Years of Iraqi Suicide Bombings

Baghdad, 2 Sept. (AKI) — More than 12,000 civilians and some 200 coalition soldiers died in suicide attacks in Iraq between 2003 and 2010, according to a report in medical journal The Lancet.

The paper by London-based Iraq Body Count and others highlights the much higher impact suicide bombings had on civilians than foreign troops following the American invasion of Iraq backed by some allies.

In excess of 30,000 Iraqi civilians were injured by suicide bombs between 20 20 March 2003 and 31 December 2010, and 12,284 Iraqi civilians were killed in more than 1,000 suicide bombings. These amounted to around 10 percent of 108.624 civilian deaths and 25 percent of civilian injuries from armed violence in that period.

Of the 200 troops killed in suicide attacks, 175 were American, the report said.

The report was part of a Lancet series on the health effects of the 11 September terrorist attacks.

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

The Islamic Roots of Democratic Rebellion and Liberty

There is no god but Allah, and Gaddafi is his enemy!” So reads one of the popular mottos used by the Libyan rebels, who just put an end to Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year-long tyranny after a chaotic civil war. Similarly, most rebel fighters who captured Tripoli this week were chanting, “Allahu Akbar!,” which means, “God is the greatest!” (“Allah” in Arabic simply means “God.”) Ironically, though, the now-dethroned Libyan colonel, too, had long been referring to God to justify his dictatorial rule. A mantra of his regime bluntly read: “Allah, Muammar, Libya — that’s all we need!” The image of Allah, in other words, seems to have shifted in the minds of many Libyans from a pillar of authoritarian rule to a beacon of liberty.

A similar transformation seems to be ongoing in Syria as well, which used to have its own version of the authoritarian Arab trinity: “Allah, Syria, Bashar — that’s all we need!” But the peaceful Syrian protestors who have been raising their voice against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad and co., despite all the killing and torture they face, are now using a different motto: “Allah, Syria, Freedom — that’s all we need!”

It is perfectly understandable that such religious themes within the Arab Spring comes as confusing, if not worrying, to the Islamo-sceptic Westerners (and even some Arab secular liberals) who assume that all political manifestations of Islam will lead to tyranny. Moreover, they have in their mind the unpleasant case of the Iranian Revolution, which, after a brief “spring” in 1979, replaced the secular dictatorship of the Shah not with liberal democracy, but Islamic theocracy.

However, the history of the Muslim civilization shows that Islam has been understood in many different ways, and while it sometimes has been used to support tyrants, it more often than not challenged them. In fact, one of the very early theological splits in Islam was precisely on this issue. The successive caliphs of the Umayyad Dynasty (661-750 AD) promoted a theory of divine predestination, which implied that the corrupt Umayyad rule was predestined, and thus willed by God. The opposing theologians, who defended humans’ freewill, argued that rulers were responsible to both God and the people.

After a few centuries of debate, the Sunni view on this matter settled on a middle position, which valued strong rulers, but also expected them to be just and lawful. In other words, as historian Bernard Lewis notes, “Islamic tradition strongly disapprove[d] of arbitrary rule.” In the Ottoman Empire, the ritualistic expression of this idea was a popular slogan that common people would say to the sultans after Friday prayers: “Don’t be arrogant my sultan, God is greater than thou!”

In the modern age, however, traditional Islamic law, whose functions included constraining arbitrary power, failed to update itself, and was gradually rendered ineffective via “modernization.” As Noah Feldman illustrated brilliantly, this process produced not the liberal democracy of the West, but various secular (and sometimes fiercely secularist) autocrats — such as the Atatürk of Turkey, Reza Shah of Iran, or the Nasser of Egypt.

Islamism, the totalitarian ideology that aspires for an “Islamic state,” was more of a reaction to this modern crisis, rather than a direct continuation of the Islamic tradition. It was also based on an export of the worst ideas of the West. One of the founders of the Islamist ideology, Pakistani thinker Sayyid Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi, had openly acknowledged that his “Islamic state” would “bear a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states,” in the way it would dominate the whole society.

Now, here is the key question for today: If Mawdudi and his followers synthesized Islam with totalitarianism, can others synthesize it with liberal democracy?

The answer does not look as grim as some suspect, as I argue in more detail in my new book, Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. Not only the symbolic combination of “Allah” and “freedom” in the minds of the Arab masses, but also the ongoing discussions within more moderate Islamic parties show positive signs. Turkey’s incumbent Justice and Development Party also seems to play an indirect role, by showing that pious Muslims can well be a part of the democratic game and gain from it. As covered in this very interesting report, at least the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of Syria seems to have taken important lessons from the Turkish case, and got transformed from a militant and oppressive group to a moderate and relatively liberal one.

To be sure, a probable transformation of the Muslim mind from authoritarianism to liberalism would be a very challenging process, which would face many obstacles. But was the political evolution of Christianity any easier? It certainly took a lot effort to move from the Spanish Inquisition and the “divine right of kings” to the liberating motto of Benjamin Franklin: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Islam, I believe, is just no less capable of going the same distance.

Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish journalist, and the author of the just-released Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty . (W.W. Norton)

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Turkey Planning Sanctions on Israel Following Flotilla Report

Turkey is planning to implement sanctions against Israel following the release of a U.N. report on the Israeli raid on the 2010 flotilla to Gaza, Haaretz reported Sept. 2. Ankara might order a downgrade of bilateral diplomatic relations ranging from the ambassador level to first secretary, meaning Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy and his deputy, Ella Afek, would be expelled. Turkey is also planning on bringing diplomatic and legal cases against Israel in the United Nations and it will also support families of those killed in the flotilla file lawsuits in international courts. Ankara is also threatening to suspend trade between the two countries.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Turkey Expels Israeli Ambassador Over 2010 Raid

Ankara, 2 Sept. (AKI) — Turkey on Friday expelled the Israeli ambassador ahead of the release of a United Nations report that condemned a 2010 raid on a Turkish-led humanitarian aid flotilla that killed nine activists.

Details of the report were leaked to the New York Times on Thursday condemning the raid on the ship that sought to break a naval blockade of Gaza. But the UN said Israel was within its rights to impose the blockade.

Turkey also said it would suspend all military agreements between the countries.

Turkey has in vain demanded an apology from Israel for the deadly raid in May 2010.

Ankara and the Palestinian National Authority in June signed a pact that bolsters Turkey’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state and increases investment in water resources and agriculture. and increase cooperation in culture, education, health and science.

The agreement was endorsed a week after nine people, mostly Turkish activists, died when Israeli navy commandos stormed a ship trying to break Israel’s blockade that was imposed in June 2007.

Israel claims the blockade, imposed after the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the Gaza Strip, is to counter indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli cities by Palestinian militants. Opponents says it unfairly punishes Gaza’s 1.7 million people by restricting their access to supplies like food and medicine.

The UN report apparently had the opposite effect of its intention to heal relations between Turkey and Israel.

“Turkey and Israel should resume full diplomatic relations, repairing their relationship in the interests of stability in the Middle East and international peace and security,” it said, according to its text published by the New York Times.

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

South Asia

Pakistan: Militants Attack Tribal Leader Residence

Islamabad, 2 Sept. (AKI/Dawn) — Militants in western Pakistan’s Mohmand Agency attacked a tribal leader’s residence on Friday, kidnapping three people in the process, government sources told DawnNews.

The attack, that took place in the Safi area of Mohmand Agency, also resulted in the injuring of two people including a woman. Both were later taken to hospital

Moreover, sources told DawnNews that security forces had launched an operation in search of the assailants following the attack.

According to reports, militants had also attacked security check-posts in Kareer and Qayyumabad villages

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

Taliban ‘Kidnap 30 Pakistani Boys in Afghanistan’

KHAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan have kidnapped more than 30 Pakistani boys who had mistakenly crossed the unmarked border from the country’s lawless northwest, officials said Friday.

They said the incident took place on Thursday after the group of boys, aged between 12 and 18, left the Gharkhi area of Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal region during celebrations marking the Muslim Eid holiday.

“These boys inadvertently crossed into Afghanistan while picnicking on the second day of Eid and were kidnapped by militants,” senior local administration official Syed Nasim told AFP.

Bajaur administration official Islam Zeb said the boys had been abducted by a militant group allied with Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, who led insurgents in Bajaur but is believed to have fled to Afghanistan in 2010.

“The kidnappers belonged to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Faqir Muhammad group, which used to operate in Bajaur,” said Zeb.

Two local intelligence officials confirmed those reports.

Afghan border police commander General Aminullah Amarkhel, the governor of Kunar, where the boys vanished, Fazlullah Wahidi, and the local Afghan Taliban commander all told AFP they were unaware of the incident.

Afghanistan shares a disputed and unmarked 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) border with Pakistan, and Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked militants have carved out strongholds on either side.

The Pakistani military has repeatedly claimed to have eliminated the militant threat in Bajaur, one of seven districts in the semi-autonomous tribal belt that the United States sees as the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda.

Another Pakistani administration official speaking anonymously said security forces were stretched thin along parts of the frontier.

“It is a porous border and security cover is not available everywhere,” he said.

The last similar incident was in June 2009 when hundreds of Pakistani students from the tribal North Waziristan region were kidnapped by Pakistani Taliban as they travelled in a convoy of buses to the northwestern town of Bannu after their college closed for its summer vacation.

All were later released unharmed.

Afghanistan and Pakistan blame each other for several recent cross-border attacks that have killed dozens and displaced hundreds of families.

The Pakistani military have accused Faqir Muhammad of being behind an attack on a Pakistani paramilitary checkpost last week, which killed 25 troops.

It said his group helped co-ordinate the raid, adding that the terrorists regrouped in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan with Afghan support after their expulsion from Pakistan.

An escalating border war in the area is fanning tensions at a key juncture as Afghans and Americans reach out to the Taliban for peace talks.

For years the neighbours have traded accusations over the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants embedded in both countries, who criss-cross the porous, unmarked border and fight security forces from both governments.

Afghan officials say that since early May hundreds of rockets, mortars and artillery shells have been fired from Pakistan into Afghan villages.

But the Pakistan military admits only that a few stray rounds may have crossed the border and complains that villages on its side of the border have been the victim of Afghan-based Taliban violence.

The row is exacerbated by the fact that Afghanistan disputes the 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) Durrand Line, the 19th century demarcation of the border that separates Pashtun families and tribes.

US troops in Afghanistan earlier this year abandoned remote outposts in the far reaches of Kunar and Nuristan provinces, where they had failed to win over locals, in favour of concentrating on larger population centres.

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Thirty Pakistani Teens on Tour Abducted by Talibans

(AGI) Khar — Talibans adbucted 30 Pakistani teens who inadvertedly crossed the border with Afghanistan. They were on a trip around Ghraki, in the Northwestern region of Bajaur, say official Pakistani sources; the group was visiting the area on the occasion of the Eid al Fitr celebrations, closing the fasting month of Ramadan .

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

Far East

‘Oldest’ Woolly Rhino Discovered

A woolly rhino fossil dug up on the Tibetan Plateau is believed to be the oldest specimen of its kind yet found.

The creature lived some 3.6 million years ago — long before similar beasts roamed northern Asia and Europe in the ice ages that gripped those regions.

The discovery team says the existence of this ancient rhino supports the idea that the frosty Tibetan foothills of the Himalayas were the evolutionary cradle for these later animals.

The report appears in Science journal.

“It is the oldest specimen discovered so far,” said Xiaoming Wang from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, US.

“It is at least a million years older, or more, than any other woolly rhinos we have known.

“It’s quite well preserved — just a little crushed, so not quite in the original shape; but the complete skull and lower jaw are preserved,” he told BBC News.

The rhino was found in Tibet’s Zanda Basin. The area is rich in fossil beds, and this specimen was unearthed along with examples of extinct horse, antelope, snow leopard, badger and many other kinds of mammals.

It has been put in a new species classification — Coelodonta thibetana.

Dr Wang and colleagues say it displays some very primitive features compared with its counterparts that lived through the later great glaciations of the Pleistocene Epoch.

Judging from marks on the skull, the creature’s horn, which has not survived, would likely have been quite flat in construction and leaning forward.

This might have allowed the animal more easily to sweep snow out of the way to get at vegetation, a useful behaviour for survival in the harsh Tibetan climate, the team says.

“We think it would have used its horn like a paddle to sweep the snow away,” Dr Wang explained.

Although the extinction of the Pleistocene beasts, such as woolly mammoths and rhinos, great sloths and sabre-tooth cats, has been intensively studied in recent years, much less is known about where these giants came from and how they acquired their adaptations for living in a cold environment.

The argument made in the Science paper is that perhaps they got those adaptations on the Tibetan Plateau.

“When this rhino existed, the global climate was much warmer and the northern continents were free of the massive ice sheets seen in the later ice ages,” Dr Wang said.

The horn has not been preserved but its nature has been judged from the skull “Then, about a million years later, when the ice age did hit the world, these Tibetan woolly rhinos were basically pre-adapted to the ice age environment because they had this ability to sweep snows.

“They just happily came down from the high altitude areas and expanded to the rest of Eurasia.”

The Los Angeles-based researcher concedes that many more fossil finds will be required to underpin the Tibetan hypothesis.

Andy Currant, an expert on the Pleistocene (1.8 million to about 11,000 years ago) at London’s Natural History Museum, says this is not straightforward in the case of woolly rhinos, and good specimens can sometimes be hard to come by.

“Woolly rhino were preyed on by spotted hyenas and they were eaten pretty thoroughly; the hyenas liked the bones,” he told BBC News.

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673 Thousand (7. 5%) Foreign Students in Italian Schools

(AGI) Milan — Nearly 675 thousand foreign students (673,800, or 7,5% of the total number) were enrolled in Italian schools in 2010. The figures are backed up by research carried out by the Leone Moressa Foundation, which shows that numbers went up by 7% over the last year and were 81.1% up on 2005. A communique’ says that the students are “aspiring to lower study certificates than their Italian counterparts, one in three of whom hopes to graduate from university” and that they tend largely to go for technical and professional institutes.

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

European Council Investigation of Deaths at Sea

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, SEPTEMBER 2 — Tineke Strik, the Dutch Senator appointed by the parliamentary assembly of the European Council to conduct an investigation to determine who was responsible for the deaths of the immigrants fleeing from Libya while they were crossing the Mediterranean, will be in Rome on September 6 and 7 to begin gathering elements that could contribute to clarifying the situation. The senator will meet with the survivors of the shipwrecks as well as Italian Coast Guard personnel, UNHCR officials and representatives from NGOs active in the field of immigration. The purpose of the meetings is to evaluate in particular how the ships carrying these people are stopped or let go. There was a great desire within the parliamentary assembly for the investigation conducted by Strik to take place after British daily The Guardian published an article in May stating that 61 immigrants who fled from Libya died in the Mediterranean after their calls for assistance went unanswered.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ministry Says No to Class With Only Foreign Pupils

(AGI) Rome — An elementary school in Milan was not authorised to form a 1st year class with only foreign students. The Education Ministry explained in a statement that the authorization was denied because all of the 10 pupils enrolled were foreigners, but stressed “its intention to continue on the path of integration. We can’t encourage the integration of immigrants by creating ghetto-classes consisting only of foreign students. For this reason, the children were moved to nearby schools where they will be able to interact with Italian children of the same age”.

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

Culture Wars

Swiss Kindergartners to be Taught About ‘Pleasures of Sex’ From a ‘Sex Box’

Officials in Switzerland were plowing ahead with a controversial sexual education program for school children as young as four despite outcry from parents furious over the candid program and the use of a “sex box.”

[Return to headlines]