Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110903

Financial Crisis
»Berlusconi Brands Opposition and Press as “Anti-Italian”
»Hope and Change: Black Unemployment Numbers Are at 27 Year High
»Italy: Milan Stocks Fall Sharply on US Jobs Data
»Italy: Consumers Cut Back Spending, Central Bank Official Sees Even Weaker Economy
»Vatican No.2 Calls for Protection of Workers’ Rights
»California Man Arrested for Biting Pet Python
»Family Wants Justice for Dearborn Man Killed While Watching a Drag Racing Competition
»Gibson Guitar CEO Says Feds Told Him Problems Would ‘Go Away’ If Labor Outsourced to Madagascar
»Ten Years After 9/11, The Conspiracy Theorist Nutjobs Are Still Telling Lies
»YouTuber Charged With Material Support of Terrorism
Europe and the EU
»France: An Old Hatred Returns by Europe’s Back Door
»German Govt Signals UN ‘Durban 3’ Conference Boycott
»Germany: Lack of Volunteers
»Germany Walks Away From Durban III Anti-Racism Conference
»Holy See Denies Hampering Child Abuse Investigations
»Ireland: Nightclub Where Teen Was Raped Gives Out Free Liquor for Underwear
»Italian Helps Find Planet That Could Sustain Life
»Italy: Controversial John Paul Statue Looks Set for Makeover
»Italy: Red Brigades Catholic University Graffiti, Tremonti Threats
»Italy: Alemanno Says New Body Needed to Fight Youth Gangs
»Italy: Calderoli: We’ve Had Enough of These Eurobureaucrats
»Netherlands: Students Take Universities to Court
»Netherlands: Oxford on the Polders
»The Opera Belgium Can’t See
»UK: A Proms Protest With a Whiff of Weimar About it
»UK: Anti-Fascist Protesters Gather as EDL Holds London Demonstration
»UK: Cameron Can Come Out Fighting — Or Chuck it in
»UK: Far-Right Group Clashes With Police
»UK: Institutional Failure
»UK: Imam Killed After Morning Prayer in Finsbury Park
»UK: John Cleese: London is No Longer English City
»UK: John Cleese: London’s No Longer an English City
»UK: Londoners Hit Back as Cleese Says City is ‘London No Longer English’
»UK: Muslims Criticise Scotland Yard for Telling Them to Engage With EDL
»UK: Police Out in Force for English Defence League East London Demo
»UK: Rail Workers: ‘If EDL Racists Turn Up at Our Stations, We’Ll Shut Them Down’
»UK: The View From Inside the Albert Hall
»UK: When Exactly Did Free Speech Die in This Country?
Mediterranean Union
»Lebanon: EU Seminar Examines Waste Management Situation
North Africa
»Libya: NATO May Continue No-Fly Zone After War
»Libya Rebels Round Up Black Africans
»Libya: MI6 and British Government Worked Closely With Gaddafi’s Regime (And Even Helped Him Write His Speeches)
»Tunisia: Young People Clash With Police, 17-Year-Old Killed
Israel and the Palestinians
»Film: Pink Subaru: Surreal Comedy on Living in Mideast
Middle East
»Bahrain Plans New Industrial City in East of Kingdom
»Iran: Sporadic Protests in Tabriz and Urmia
»Israel to Turkey: Regret: But No Apologies
»Turkey Expels Israeli Ambassador, Due to Flotilla Incident
»Turkey: Luxury Istanbul Homes Attract Mideast Buyers
South Asia
»Indonesia: Pious Minister Prayers at Prison for Detained Corruption Suspect
»Nepal: Maoists Back in Power After Two Years
»Pakistan: Dozens of Pakistani Boys Kidnapped by Taliban
»Libya’s Lost Immigrant Souls With Nowhere to Go
Culture Wars
»Abortion Tied to Sharp Decline in Women’s Mental Health
»Italy: Transexual Arrested for Stalking Married Ex-Lover
»UK: Health Ministers ‘Oppose Abortion Advice Changes’
»Vacationing Italian Man Jailed in Sweden for Slapping His Son for Public Tantrum
»Reasons to be a Global Warming Skeptic

Financial Crisis

Berlusconi Brands Opposition and Press as “Anti-Italian”

(AGI) Paris — Berlusconi slammed criticism of the austerity package from the media and the opposition as “criminal”.

Speaking from Paris at the end of the international conference on Libya, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said that “unfortunately, we have an anti-Italian left-wing opposition and press that keep criticising the government as it is working to prepare the least burdensome and best possible package of measures and despite its willingness to listen to everybody’s opinions”.

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

Hope and Change: Black Unemployment Numbers Are at 27 Year High

From CNN:

— The August jobs report was dismal for plenty of reasons, but perhaps most striking was the picture it painted of racial inequality in the job market.

Black unemployment surged to 16.7% in August, its highest level since 1984, while the unemployment rate for whites fell slightly to 8%, the Labor Department reported.

“This month’s numbers continue to bear out that longstanding pattern that minorities have a much more challenging time getting jobs,” said Bill Rodgers, chief economist with the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

Black unemployment has been roughly double that of whites since the government started tracking the figures in 1972.



Congressman Allen West’s snip:

Unemployment remained at 9.1%, but in the black community, it increased 15.9% to 16.7%. It’s clear why CBC avoids facts & is race baiting


Sister Toldjah says:


By my count, liberalism has been failing the black community for longer than 27 years, going back to the 60s era “Great Society” programs. Democrats in general, OTOH, have been failing the black community for much longer. That the black community as a whole continues to see this party as a “savior” of sorts when in reality it’s just the opposite is downright depressing.


A commenter on her sites says:

By my count, liberalism has been failing the black community for longer than 27 years,…

Try close to 80. The New Deal was a disaster for Black workers and farmers, as the artificially inflated wages under the NRA made it almost impossible for Black workers to compete, as they were often less skilled than White workers. The closed-shop union rules that came in first under the NIRA and then the Wagner Act also wreaked havoc among Black workers, since the unions actively blocked them from being members. Thousands of Black workers were fired in the South when wage codes demanded higher pay from employers, who then couldn’t afford to keep the workers on.

Black farmers, who were mostly sharecroppers and tenant farmers, were also harmed by the New Deal, as the AAA money that went to pay farmers not to plant went to the landowner, not the sharecropper, who found himself not allowed to sell enough to survive.

It’s inexplicable to me that African-Americans could so revere FDR, when he did so much to harm them through his cavalier policy-making.

[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Stocks Fall Sharply on US Jobs Data

Bond spread rises on concern about Italian budget package

(ANSA) — Milan, September 2 — Milan stocks fell sharply on Friday joining a slide in European markets as they reacted to continuing stagnation in the US job market.

America’s unemployment rate was unchanged in August at 9.1% as the 17,000 new jobs matched the number of job losses, fuelling fresh fears of recession.

Milan’s FTSE Mib index fell 3.89% to close at 15,060 points and stocks in Paris, Madrid and Frankfurt all dropped close to 4%. London performed better but stocks still closed down 2.5%.

The 10-year Italian bond spread over the German bund rose to 324 points as the President of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, warned the government to deliver on its 45-billion-euro austerity package.

ECB support is crucial as the Frankfurt-based central bank has been buying Italian bonds in markets to keep yields low enough for Rome to continue borrowing without requiring further intervention from the European Union.

Trichet said the measures that Berlusconi promised in early August to balance the budget by 2013 were “extremely important.” Friday’s bond spread was at its highest level since August 8 when the European Central Bank began buying Italy’s debt. The government has revamped its austerity package which is designed to balance the budget by 2013 and measures include a severe crack down on tax evasion and raising the pension eligibility age.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi and senior ministers on Monday dropped a “solidarity tax” that proposed extra taxes on high income earners and then dropped a move to cut out time spent at university and compulsory military service from pension calculations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Consumers Cut Back Spending, Central Bank Official Sees Even Weaker Economy

Rome, 30 August (AKI) — Italian retails sales fell in June as consumers reduce spending as they worry about the prospects of the eurozone’s third-biggest economy and a Bank of Italy official says that the country’s pallid growth could get even weaker.

State statistics agency Istat on Tuesday confirmed its previous data that June retail sales declined 1.2 percent compared with the same month last year, and lost 0.2 percent over May.

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative governing coalition on Monday announced an agreement to trim 45.5 billion euros in spending in an effort to balance the national budget and reduce the world’s fourth-largest debt load.

But the measures, that include varying pensions and cuts in spending on local governments will inevitably hurt the economy even more as it prompts consumers and businesses to reel in spending even more, according to Bank of Italy’s vice director Ignazio Visco, who gave testimony on Tuesday to a senate committee.

“For many years Italy’s economic growth has been less than other members of the European Union,” he said. The necessary budget measures “will have inevitable restrictive effects on the economy.”

The International Monetary Fund will cut its forecast for Italian economic growth next year to 0.7 percent, according to a draft of the fund’s World Economic Outlook report. Italian finance minister Giulio Tremonti forecasts growth of 1.3 percent for 2012.

“In a forecast that is still extremely uncertain we can expect this year’i’s growth to be less than one percent and even weaker in 2012,” Visco said.

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

Vatican No.2 Calls for Protection of Workers’ Rights

‘Respect should not depend on markets,’ says Bertone

(ANSA) — Castel Gandolfo, September 2 — Workers’ rights are essential in a democracy and should not be driven by the markets, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said on Friday.

Bertone was addressing a conference of the Association of Italian Christian Workers (ACLI) at Castel Gandolfo, where Pope Benedict XVI has his summer residence outside Rome.

“Social rights are an integral part of a real democracy and a commitment to respect that cannot depend merely on trends in the markets or stock exchanges,” Bertone said.

“In the context of the crisis, the uncertainty of work and conditions creates personal difficulties” and “access to work for all” should be an urgent priority.

Bertone was addressing the conference as the government’s revamped budget package continued to provoke fierce debate in Italy.

On Thursday the Economy Minister, Giulio Tremonti, announced that serious tax evaders would face immediate imprisonment as part of the government’s bid to balance the budget by 2013.

The government’s 45-billion-euro measures include changes to pension eligibility, an increase in capital gains tax and other measures.

“A civil society cannot ignore the social merit of a company and its corresponding responsability in relation to workers’ families, to society and to the enviroment,” Bertone said.

The President of Acli, Andrea Olivero, criticised the government’s austerity package for reducing tax advantages for Catholic and other cooperatives.

Italy’s largest trade union organisation, Cgil, is planning a national strike to protest against the government’s budget measures on September 6.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


California Man Arrested for Biting Pet Python

(Reuters) — A California man is in custody after being accused of biting a python in what police said was apparently an unprovoked attack on the pet snake of an acquaintance. The suspect, David Senk, 54, was arrested on Thursday evening on suspicion of unlawfully maiming or mutilating a reptile, Sacramento police Sergeant Andrew Pettit said on Friday. The badly injured snake underwent surgery.

In a jailhouse interview aired on KOVR-TV in Sacramento, Senk said he had no recollection of the incident after having blacked out from drinking but felt “horrible as hell about it.” Asked why he might have bitten the snake, Senk replied: “I get drunk, I get crazy. I don’t know. I’ve been an alcoholic for a long time.” Senk was taken into custody after police, responding to a report of an assault, found him lying on the ground with blood on his face. Officers were then approached by another man and a woman who told them Senk had just taken two large bites out of their python when they let him hold the snake, Pettit said.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Family Wants Justice for Dearborn Man Killed While Watching a Drag Racing Competition

“What happened to our son?” says Dearborn family

DEARBORN, Mich (WXYZ) — “we want justice… we want justice.”

Chanting in the backyard, waving signs and pictures and pacing in pain.

“he has to bury his son with no justice” says cousin Eshan Alnassiri who acted as a translator for the victims parents.

The Alwaily family of Dearborn is looking for answers about what happened to their 23-year-old son and brother Hussein in the wee hours of the morning on August 28th when he was gunned down while watching a drag race at Grand River and McGraw in Detroit.

Speaking for Hussein’s mother Eshan told us “we have no idea what’s happened, or what’s going on we have been calling the detective and getting no answer”

Hussein was a 2007 Fordson High School Graduate, a mechanic who had a love for Soccor and his sisters.”

“I told him when he left to be careful and when he does come back he comes home to me in a casket. I still don’t believe it” said Hussein’s 13-year-old sister Zahraa. His 19-year old sister Aliaa says “he was a wonderful brother, kind and caring.”

The family members say they are waiting for answers from Detroit Police about how Hussein got shot, who has his phone, and how he got to the hospital.

           — Hat tip: RE[Return to headlines]

Gibson Guitar CEO Says Feds Told Him Problems Would ‘Go Away’ If Labor Outsourced to Madagascar

The tale of the Gibson guitar raid — the one focused on the legendary guitar maker’s alleged importation and use of illegal wood — has taken an odd turn. Now CEO Henry Juszkiewicz is claiming the Feds told him that some of his problems “would go away” if the company used Madagascar labor.

In an interview with Beck radio affiliate KMJ 105.9 in Fresno, California, Juszkiewicz told host Chris Daniel that the government made the point “explicitly:”

CHRIS DANIEL: Mr. Juszkiewicz, did an agent of the US government suggest to you that your problems would go away if you used Madagascar labor instead of American labor?

HENRY JUSZKIEWICZ: They actually wrote that in a pleading.

CHRIS DANIEL: Excuse me?

HENRY JUSKIEWICZ: They actually wrote that in a pleading.

CHRIS DANIEL: That your problems would go away if you used Madagascar labor instead of our labor?

HENRY JUSKIEWICZ: Yes, yeah. They said that explicitly.

Gateway Pundit has the audio…

[Return to headlines]

Ten Years After 9/11, The Conspiracy Theorist Nutjobs Are Still Telling Lies

Before we congratulate ourselves on standing shoulder to shoulder with America after 9/11, perhaps we ought to consider the following shameful statistic from a BBC poll: a quarter of young Britons believe that the attacks were carried out by the government of the United States. Some conspiracy theories are plausible. I’ve read books about JFK’s assassination that make sense for at least the first 50 pages. (My favourite is David Scheim’s investigative study, whose title subtly guides the reader towards the identity of the culprits. It’s called The Mafia Killed President Kennedy.) But to believe that the CIA demolished the Twin Towers you have to be a) mad, b) malicious, c) intellectually lazy or d) drunk — Charlie Sheen is a voluble 9/11 sceptic.

The events of September 11, 2001 inevitably threw up lots of supposed anomalies for conspiracy theorists to sink their unbrushed teeth into. This was the most complicated terrorist atrocity ever committed: three sets of mass murders, plotted in at least five countries, by a fanatical sub-sect of Islam whose paranoid modus operandi was a mystery to nearly everyone, including its members. The problem for 9/11 conspiracy merchants is that none of the anomalies amounts to much on its own. It’s surprising that the 7 World Trade Center building collapsed despite not being hit by a plane — surprising, that is, if you choose not to believe the structural engineers who discovered how uncontrolled fires caused support columns to collapse. And that’s the strongest so-called anomaly: other “clues”, such as the supposed missile-shaped hole in the Pentagon and the alleged lack of debris at the crash site in Pennsylvania, turn to dust as soon as you look at photographs other than the ones carefully chosen by conspiracy theorists.

But the 9/11 deniers have two mighty weapons. One is technological. In the age of the internet, if you don’t want to read evidence that contradicts your fantasies, then you don’t need to. Just visit one of hundreds of websites that will supply you with freshly minted “evidence” to replace any bits of your theory that have fallen apart on you. The other weapon is cultural. Thanks, in part, to multiculturalism, facts have been reduced to accessories in the West’s intellectual wardrobe. The postmodern message is that your version of reality is part of you; don’t let inconvenient truths damage your customised worldview and your self-esteem.

It’s an irony that, in America, an intellectual method derived from quasi-Marxist identity politics is borrowed by the Right-wing nutjobs who increasingly dominate the 9/11-denier community. In Britain, however, conspiracy theories serve as a bridge between the “intellectual” Left and their allies. A Pew Global Attitudes poll found that only 17 per cent of British Muslims believed that Arabs were involved in the September 11 attacks, as opposed to 48 per cent of French Muslims. Why is there such a difference between Britain and France? Perhaps because our education system is not so much secular as multiculturalist. The mantra of the 1960s generation was, if it feels good, do it. Today we’re told that if it feels good, believe it — particularly if you belong to a minority group that, by virtue of past suffering, is morally obliged to challenge the official (that is, fact-based) “narrative” of historical events. To quote an old Scientology slogan: “If it’s true for you, it’s true.” That’s not just a triumph for the forces of ignorance; it’s also, 10 years on, a little posthumous victory for Osama bin Laden.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

YouTuber Charged With Material Support of Terrorism

UPDATE: YouTube Account ID’d: AbuDujjana

[Please see original URL for excellent graphic]

Jubair Ahmad, a 24 year old immigrant from Pakistan living in the D.C. suburb of Woodbridge, has been arrested for providing material support for a terrorist organization. The material support in question? He produced and uploaded videos to YouTube on behalf of the Pakistanit terrorist group behind the Mumbai massacre, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

YouTube, your days are numbered. Can there be any doubt, now, that YouTube has become an important tool for the jihadis to spread their propaganda?

I’m pretty sure I remember this YouTube account, but I’ll need to confer with the posse to see if we have anything on them that we saved.

Here’s the FBI presser:

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Jubair Ahmad, 24, a native of Pakistan and resident of Woodbridge, Va., has been arrested on charges in the Eastern District of Virginia of providing material support to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and making false statements in a terrorism investigation.

The charges were announced by Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

If convicted, Jubair faces a maximum potential sentence of 15 years in prison on the material support charge and eight years in prison on the charge of making false statements in a terrorism investigation.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Jubair received religious training from LeT as a teenager in Pakistan and later attended LeT’s basic training camp. Jubair entered the United States in 2007 along with other family members, and in 2009, the FBI launched an investigation after receiving information that Jubair may be associated with LeT.

The affidavit alleges that in September 2010, Jubair produced and uploaded a propaganda video to YouTube on behalf of LeT, after communications with a person named “Talha.” In a subsequent conversation with another person, Jubair identified Talha as Talha Saeed, the son of LeT leader Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. Talha and Jubair allegedly communicated about the images, music and audio that Jubair was to use to make the video….

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France: An Old Hatred Returns by Europe’s Back Door

by Christopher Caldwell

In mid-August, as London’s neighbourhoods underwent violence, looting and fire, France’s Jews looked on with a familiar disquiet. Jews were in no sense the target of this summer’s rioting, but a decade ago, something similar went wrong on the streets of Paris that has not been put right since. The present era of European street violence began with widespread assaults on Jews around Paris in the autumn of 2000, the year of the so-called “second intifada” in Israel. The following year saw riots in Oldham and Rochdale — overshadowed in retrospect by the destruction of the World Trade Center just weeks later.

There were 744 acts of anti-Jewish violence and threats in France in 2000, the worst year since the war. While these were, beyond any shadow of a doubt, anti-Semitic acts, they were not perpetrated by the sort of anti-Semites against whom French people had steeled themselves to be vigilant. Violence was particularly intense in those north Paris neighbourhoods, such as Sarcelles and Garges-le’s-Gonesses, where an established and ageing Jewish population, much of it descended from North African immigration of the early 1960s, lived at close quarters with newer Muslim immigrants, many of them young. The attacks were stemmed by an aggressive government response starting in 2002, but they have never died out. The years 2004 and 2009 were worse. They form the backdrop to a more general sense of being ill-at-ease, or no longer quite so at home, that many French Jews describe.

Paris has more Jews than any country in Western Europe. It also has more Arab Muslims. Clashing visions of how the French state ought to respond have led to a divergence of interests between the two groups. But while the Arab population is rising rapidly, the Jewish population is ageing and shrinking due to emigration, intermarriage and small family size. It has fallen to under half a million, according to the authoritative Hebrew University demographer Sergio Della Pergola. It is now hard to teach the Holocaust in schools, due to harassment and disruption from mostly immigrant students. A third of Jewish students have abandoned the state school system for Jewish schools, while another third go to Catholic ones — more for reasons of security than pedagogy. Regularly scheduled, robustly attended demonstrations question the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

But a problem that France presents at its most intense is not exclusively a French problem. The senior politician of the Dutch centre-Right, Frits Bolkestein, has worried aloud that Holland’s unassimilated Muslims may make the country a dangerous place for its 40,000 Orthodox (and therefore visible) Jews. In Germany, the Left party has held fraught internal meetings to discuss whether its members’ passionate anti-Israel sentiments were shading over into anti-Semitic ones.

France’s behaviour towards its Jews in World War II has for decades served as the lodestone for its political ethics. For a quarter-century after the war, an official silence surrounded the collaboration of France’s wartime Vichy government with that of Nazi Germany. Since the early 1970s, when the American historian Robert Paxton and the documentary filmmaker Marcel Ophüls revealed that collaboration in detail, discussion of France’s misdeeds has been wide-open. But it has the power to fascinate and wound. Two major movies about the Holocaust were showing in French cinemas over the summer — the American film Sarah’s Key and the French-made La Rafle, which describes the night of July 15, 1942, when thousands of Jews, including children, were rounded up by French authorities. They followed a spat over whether to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, arguably France’s greatest 20th-century novelist but certainly one of its most notorious literary anti-Semites.

France looked at the record of World War II and found it so unspeakable that it insisted on stamping out the merest glimmer of the doctrines that had made such things possible. It was not the only country in continental Europe that did so. But there was an added drama to the French state’s relations with France’s Jews. For the first two decades of Israel’s existence, France was its most important ally. The two countries even cooperated to develop their nuclear weapons programmes. But after Israel fought the Six-Day War against a coalition of Arab powers in 1967, France’s president Charles de Gaulle withdrew his support, and in terms that made it seem his real gripe was not with Israel but with Jews, whom he called “an elite people, sure of itself and dominant”. Nonetheless, for decades after the 1970s, remembering the Holocaust in a dignified and appropriate way (le devoir de mémoire, as the French called it) was the core “spiritual exercise” of France — in its schools and on its public days of remembrance. Jews wound up, willy-nilly, at the centre of France’s moral system.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

German Govt Signals UN ‘Durban 3’ Conference Boycott

(AGI) Berlin — The German government has signalled it will not be attending the UN’s ‘Durban 3’ conference in New York.

Berlin’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle today issued a statement, submitting the UN’s anti-racism conference scheduled September 22, “may end up offering a stage to swathes of anti-Semite statements, just as in prior editions.” The foreign minister went on to clarify “we will not be taking part.” The German government’s decision follows up on those of Italy, Canada, teh US, the Czech Republic and Israel.

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

Germany: Lack of Volunteers

End of Conscription Causes Headache for Charities

When Germany eliminated conscription this year, an extensive civil service program for conscientious objectors also came to an end. A new program launched to replace it, however, has not found enough volunteers. Now, many service organizations are facing shortages.

When Matthias Fritzsche began working as a volunteer helping the elderly in Berlin, he had no idea how many people were in need of assistance. Now, a year later, he says the experience has helped him find his calling.

Fritzsche, though, wasn’t a willing volunteer when he began his stint with the relief agency Malteser International. For decades, young Germans who registered as conscientious objectors to mandatory military service were required to perform volunteer work instead. Without that policy, 26-year-old Fritzsche might never have decided to pursue a career in medicine.

“I wouldn’t have chosen to do this, so it’s good the government said I had to,” says Fritzsche, who will continue volunteering for Malteser after serving in the civil service for 10 months.

That government requirement, though, is now ending. On July 1, the German government officially terminated its mandatory military service for young men — which means the army of conscientious objectors, upon which the German social sector had relied on for 50 years, will also disappear. And just as the German military is struggling to attract recruits to fill the military ranks, the federal government is scrambling to attract volunteers to a federal program that is meant to fill the civil service void.

‘Commit Themselves to the Common Good’

Many social service organizations are concerned that the effort will not be successful. The new Federal Voluntary Service is looking to eventually recruit 35,000 volunteers for placements across Germany. Unlike the civil service program, available only young men opting out of the military, the new service is open to women and does not have an age limit.

German Family Minister Kristina Schröder has said she invites others to “commit themselves to the common good” and to ensure that the new service “will be as successful as the civil service over the last 50 years.”

Critics, though, argue that the government cannot expect to change the “culture of volunteerism” in just a few short months. An all-too-quick transition, they say, has led to miscommunication and confusion. And, looking to the Sept. 1 start date for the voluntary year, they worry that the young men who once opted to work in retirement homes, youth programs, and hospitals did so, at least initially, because it was required.

Now that the national volunteer service is, in fact, voluntary, who will sign up?

“This kind of voluntary work has to be established in Germany,” says Claudia Kaminski, a spokesperson for Malteser, which relies on volunteers for its humanitarian aid work. “Our society is used to this mandatory military service, and now its end shows our society that everyone has to care.”

‘Rather Difficult’

Kaminski says that as of Aug. 18, about 320 volunteers from the Federal Voluntary Service had signed up for assignments lasting six to 24 months with Malteser, though the organization had expected 1,000 new contracts by Sept. 1.

“The way [the new service] was communicated was rather difficult,” says Kaminski. “First the government told us we are going to shorten the service, and then it was quite surprisingly stopped in the middle of the year.”

Forty percent of the civil service volunteers at Malteser agreed to stay on longer, which Kaminski says will help with the transition. But she expects it will take years for the organization to regain its annual number of volunteers, and until then, it will face challenges in serving the community at the level it has in the past.

The extended service of civil service volunteers like Fritzsche not only helps organizations during the transition, but also allows the government to keep lower-than-expected recruitment numbers hidden in the small print…

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

Germany Walks Away From Durban III Anti-Racism Conference

BERLIN — Germany’s foreign ministry announced on Friday that it will not take part in the UN-sponsored anti-racism Durban III conference on September 22, because of the possibility that the event can be turned into a forum for anti-Semitic statements.

In a statement to The Jerusalem Post on Friday, a spokesman wrote, “Germany will not participate in the commemoration event for the 10th year anniversary of the Durban conference.”

He added that Germany “cannot rule out that the Durban commemoration event in New York will be misused for anti-Semitic statements, as was the case in previous conferences.”

The spokesman continued that “therefore Germany will not participate. This is an expression of our special responsibility toward Israel.”

Anny Bayefsky, a human rights scholar and the principal organizer of a counter-Durban III event, told the Post on Friday, “Germany has done absolutely the right thing in pulling out of the UN’s Durban III conference, which is a ‘commemoration’ — a celebration — of UN-based anti-Semitism on a global scale. Germany, and other European nations which have already pulled out, need to call on the UK and France immediately to stand with them and against Durban’s unacceptable perversion of the foundational promise of the UN Charter “the equal rights of nations large and small.”‘

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Holy See Denies Hampering Child Abuse Investigations

(AGI) Vatican City — The Vatican Secretary of State has issued a communique’ over the handling of cases of child abuse. The communique’ is a response to criticism that had led to the Apostolic Nuncio Msgr Giuseppe Leanza being recalled from Dublin in July. The communique’ says that the Holy See wishes to emphasise the fact that it has neither put obstacles in the way of investigations into child abuse in the diocese of Cloyn, nor tried to hamper the investigation. Furthermore, it says, the Holy See has never attempted to interfere with Irish law or hinder the authorities in the exercise of their duties.

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

Ireland: Nightclub Where Teen Was Raped Gives Out Free Liquor for Underwear

‘Liquors for knickers’ promotion offer shocks the country

A popular nightclub, in south Dublin City Center, is starting a new promotion every Friday night they call “free drink for your underwear”. The bar which was recently the location of the alleged rape of a 15 year old girl says on their Facebook page “You give us your underwear… we give you a free drink”.

The promotion has been dubbed ‘liquors for knickers’ by locals.

Their promotion also includes â‚3 shots, bottles and alco-pops, Jager bombs, free beer-bongs and free vodka shooters. They simply say “Hand in your underwear and we will give you a free drink.”

Dublin’s media has erupted in response to this latest promotion. George Hook, a radio host from Newstalk 106, released a video blog on the promotion calling it Tramco’s “latest smart idea to lure young kids on to the premises.”

He said “Imagine what well may happen on nights outside Tramco. Suddenly young girls whipping off their briefs on the way in, in lure of a gin and tonic.

“Laugh you may but it’s absolutely outrageous. The more I talk about it the angrier I get.

“I cannot believe that a, so called, respectable nightclub could actually behind a promotion like this.” (see the rest of his blog below).

In the last week of June, this year, Tramco was the location where a 15-year-old girl, who had just completed her Junior Cert, called the police to the nightclub alleging that she had been raped by a 14-year-old boy.

The Garda (police) were called to the nightclub, at the center of Rathmines village, in the south of Dublin’s City Center, when the girl said she had been attacked and raped in the men’s toilet. The 14-year-old boy was arrested and held in police custody.

The alleged attack happened at a disco organized by Tramco for students who had just finished their exams.

They claim that no alcohol was sold on the premise that evening, according to reports in the Irish Times.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italian Helps Find Planet That Could Sustain Life

HD 85512 B may have water given its position

(ANSA) — Rome, September 2 — A team that includes an Italian astronomer has found a new planet that may have water on its surface and be able to sustain life.

“It looks big compared to planets in our solar system, but it’s small for a gaseous planet,” said Italian scientist Francesco Pepe, who is part of the team that discovered the planet, named HD 85512 B.

“This leads us to believe that it may be rocky, like the Earth. “We still don’t know if it has an atmosphere, or an ocean, but its distance from its star, and therefore its surface temperature, makes it compatible with the presence of water”. Pepe is part of a University of Geneva team led by Swiss astronomer Stephane Udry. The extrasolar planet is three and a half times as big as Earth.

It orbits the star HD 85512 approximately 36 light-years away, in the southern hemisphere constellation of Vela, whose Latin name means a ship’s sail.

HD 85512 B is four times closer to its parent star than we are to the sun, so a year there only lasts as long as 54 Earth days. But because its star is smaller and about half as warm as the sun, the planet might have a reasonably temperate climate. “If HD 85512 B has more than 50% cloud cover, it could be habitable,” the scientists told Astronomy and Astrophysics magazine, noting that the estimated surface temperature is similar to temperatures in the South of France.

They used the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, a high-precision spectrograph installed on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile, to find the newcomer.

It is one of the smallest exoplanets, or planets outside the solar system, to be discovered in a habitable zone.

In astronomy, the habitable zone is the distance from a star at which a planet can maintain water on its surface, and consequently be capable of bearing life.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Controversial John Paul Statue Looks Set for Makeover

Artist ready to make some alterations

(ANSA) — Rome, August 29 — A statue of the late Pope John Paul II at Rome’s main train station looks set to be modified after causing a wave of disapproval.

Its author, Italian sculptor and Pontifical Culture Commission member Oliviero Rainaldi, said he is willing to make small alterations to the statue’s head and neck, amid reports that a city commission wants a makeover. Rising in the middle of a flowerbed outside the Termini station, the five-metre bronze monument, which has now oxidized into a green hue, was unveiled on May 18, on what would have been the late pope’s 91st birthday. It is an abstract rendering of a disembodied Pope with a minimalist cloak billowing out, symbolizing the beloved late pope’s all-embracing nature.

Openly criticized across the political spectrum, on social networks and by commuters, the statue has also brought dim views from the Vatican’s daily newspaper itself. L’Osservatore Romano said it “resembles a sentry box” and that its head is “excessively spherical”. The city commission has listed several points it sees in need of intervention. Among them are the statue’s face, the head’s welding and inclination, the arm, the cloak, and the shoulder.

The artist is careful to specify that any changes “will be minimal. The statue is not being redone.” “Substituting the statue would have been too drastic,” said Culture Undersecretary Francesco Giro, who praised the artist’s “generosity” in allowing his work to be altered. Some critics called for the statue to be removed, or at the very least to be repositioned so it does not turn its back on people arriving in Rome by train. Rainaldi told Italian media that people had “misunderstood” his concept.

“I wasn’t thinking of getting a resemblance but a work that could synthesize, in the posture of the head and body and the draping of the cloak, the way the pope went out into the world,” Rainaldi said.

Some Romans and tourists think the giant artwork looks more like Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

“That bullet-like head on top, it reminds me of Mussolini,” said Enrico, a 42-year-old computer programmer who commutes from Latina south of Rome.

American tourist Sandra Hillhouse, 24, from Arizona, said: “I don’t understand it at all. He looks more like one of those weird creatures from Star Trek”.

A station cleaner, Maria Colacelli, 46, added a practical objection to the aesthetic ones.

“That cape will be a magnet for street people. I’ll be sweeping out their beer bottles and trash every morning”.

To which the artist reportedly replied “If a street person needs a place to sleep and found it under my statue I’d be glad.

I’m surprised people still say such things”.

The statue got the green light from a Vatican culture commission last year, which approved a sketch of the work.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno has since been facing calls from political and cultural figures to “do something” about a statue some think gives visitors an embarrassing impression of Rome’s contemporary cultural scene.

He said he would bow to popular opinion.

“If public opinion coalesces around a negative view, we’ll have to take that into consideration”.

The statue was donated by a charitable institution, the Silvana Paolini Angelucci Foundation, which has so far declined to comment on the controversy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Red Brigades Catholic University Graffiti, Tremonti Threats

(AGI) Milan — A red five-point star along with the slogan “Nuove BR” has been daubed on a door at Milan’s Catholic University. Threats have also been made against Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti and Professor Carlo Dell’Aringa, of the Department of Political Economics at the university. The graffiti was found on a bathroom door inside the university on 30th August and the Italian Special Operations Police (DIGOS) are looking into the matter. “Nuove BR” stands for “New Red Brigades.” .

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

Italy: Alemanno Says New Body Needed to Fight Youth Gangs

(AGI) Rome — Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, called for the creation of a body to fight young gangs. The capital’s leader explained during a meeting today at city hall with interior minister Roberto Maroni: “The Rome area is not controlled by organised crime but it has penetrated into the economy.

Instead, locally there is a growing tendency for youth gangs that are increasingly drawn to violence. A specific body is needed to fight them not just from the point of view of repression and prevention, but also in terms of social education.”

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

Italy: Calderoli: We’ve Had Enough of These Eurobureaucrats

(AGI) Rome — Minister for the Simplification of Laws, Calderoli defends the emergency budget from the doubts expressed by the EU. The comment made by the Minister in an interview to the newspaper ‘la Repubblica’ was: “we’re sick and tired of these bureaucrats” and then he goes on to say: “How can people give credit to the statements made by an unidentified spokesman and not to the positive judgment of Chancellor Merkel? I agree with Berlusconi, the press is criminal. And I also agree with how he defined our Country: we are here to improve it”.

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

Netherlands: Students Take Universities to Court

A group of students will this week subpoena eight universities because of the increased fees being charged for a first master’s degree to cover the lack of subsidy for a second degree, says the Volkskrant.

Universities do not receive a subsidy for a second master’s degree and sometimes charge students thousands of euros more than the legal €1,713 tuition fee for a first master’s study in order to break even.

The students, united as the Collective Action Universities (SCAU), have repeatedly asked the universities for clarification but received no reply or an unsatisfactory answer.

The students’ lawyer wants a temporary suspension of the higher fees and uniform tuition fees for the duration of the case.

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

Netherlands: Oxford on the Polders

De Volkskrant Amsterdam

Easier and cheaper enrolment plus courses taught in English: for young Brits, studying in the Netherlands is the fashionable new trend for escaping the problems besetting universities back home.

Irene de Pous

Ritwik Swain, 19, believes that moving to Holland to study is at the cutting edge for UK students. A year ago, he had never heard of Groningen and knew nothing about Dutch universities. Two weeks later he was staying in a youth hostel and already signed up for a degree in psychology. He has no regrets. “I’m doing something that is still rare among British students,” he says over the phone. “I’m picking up international experience and I’m saving a lot of money.”

Swain wanted at first to get into the University of Warwick, which he considered the best university in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge. Before his finals he sent an application with a cover letter, resume and letters of recommendation to five British universities. Three made him an offer: he could enrol on condition that he obtained an A and two Bs in his A-levels. On “results day”, the day in August when schools publish the A-level results, it turned out he had two Bs and a C. “I could go to university in Coventry, but it’s a lot worse than Warwick,” Swain says. And so he began looking for another option. Less than two weeks later, he found himself in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is now the third most popular country

After this summer many more of his compatriots are likely to come join him. The number of students that fail to find a place in a British university is constantly going up. With fees now reaching £9,000 (more than €10,000), more and more of them are hunting abroad.

Holland, where the British can enrol in college for €1,700 a year, appears to have a fresh breeze in its windmills. The University of Maastricht, which has eight bachelor degree programmes in English, has so far received 450 pre-registrations from the UK. Perhaps not all of the applicants will come, but the interest is markedly higher than it was the year before. Hundreds of students have also already registered in Groningen, which offers nine bachelor degree programmes in English.

“Among Europeans, the British are traditionally the least keen on leaving home,” explains entrepreneur Mark Huntington, who in 2006 created an agency to inform British students of study courses abroad. “The few times they did travel abroad, they went to Australia or the United States.” European universities aroused little interest and Dutch universities even less.

In the last two years, though, this has changed at a breakneck pace. Where two years ago one in ten secondary school students requested information on the Netherlands, this year over half wanted to know more. “The Netherlands is now the third most popular country, after Australia and the United States,” said Huntington, who this year is recruiting students for ten Dutch institutions…

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

The Opera Belgium Can’t See

NRC Handelsblad Rotterdam

The opera, The Mute Girl of Portici, has been a symbol of Belgian unity since 1830. But to see it staged today, you have to go to Paris, because in Brussels it could arouse political controversy. Excerpts.

Birgit Donker

Nearly everyone in Belgium has heard of The Mute Girl of Portici, the opera that, in 1830, sparked the Belgian revolution. But few have ever seen it performed. That could change, however, because the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie is staging a new performance for the upcoming opera season. Except that it won’t be produced in Brussels but in Paris as a co-production with the Opéra Comique.

We did it knowingly, says the director of La Monnaie, Peter De Caluwe. Staging the opera now, in Brussels, would not only be an artistic act but it would also be a political manifesto and interpreted as an argument in favour of Belgian unity at a moment when the political situation is precarious. “It isn’t the right time,” says Peter De Caluwe, “because it would raise the question of whether or not we need Belgium. I want to withdraw opera from the debate.

Writer Geert Van Istendael, who had to learn excerpts of The Mute Girl of Portici by heart in primary school, agrees with Peter De Caluwe. “Staging the opera in Brussels today, in the political swamp in which we are wading would be a crushing blow,” he said. On August 16, discussions resumed over the formation of a Belgian government. Mistrust between the Flemish and the Walloons runs so high, that negotiations have been on-going for fourteen months. King Albert, one of the last symbols of unity left, last month blasted politicians for failing to find a compromise and warned against Poujadisme — an allusion to the French populist movement of the 1950s. In such a climate, staging The Mute Girl of Portici is considered dynamite on the political front.

Houses of high dignitaries attacked and burned

How did an opera from 1828 become such a sensitive subject in the Belgium of 2011? How did The Mute Girl of Portici by the French composer Daniel François Esprit Auber (1782-1871), with a mute woman in the lead role, become the symbol of unity in a country torn by linguistic quarrels?

It all began on August 25, 1830, at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, when French tenor Jean-François Lafeuillade threw out a “To Arms!” during the third act of the opera. “To Arms!” in a hall already prepared to pounce. A few instants earlier, after the galvanising air of Sacred Love of the Nation, the audience had given Lafeuillade a rousing encore. After his “To Arms!” the hall allegedly cried “Long live freedom!”, “Down with the king”, “Death to the Dutch” and perhaps, even in both languages “Vive la France! Vivat de Fransoeëze!”…

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

UK: A Proms Protest With a Whiff of Weimar About it

The demonstration at the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra BBC Proms concert was against Jews, not the Israeli state.

Until Thursday night, nothing in the history of Proms broadcasts had forced a concert off air. Certainly not the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. On the very night the tanks moved into Prague, the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich was at the Proms with the USSR Symphony Orchestra. And he was performing, with intense poignancy, the Czech composer Dvorak’s cello concerto. I have a cherished recording of the concert. The audience was rapt and not a word was uttered. When Chinese performers grace the Proms with their presence, there is not a word of protest about their government’s abuses of human rights. Nor should there be. They are musicians, not politicians. But when the Israel Philharmonic played on Thursday evening, a band of around 30 thugs — none was wearing jackboots, but they should have been — launched into chanting and mock singing, disrupting the concert to such an extent that BBC Radio 3 decided it could not go on with the broadcast.

The corporation has come under attack for pulling the plug. Louise Mensch, the Conservative MP, called it a “disgraceful” decision. But I sympathise with the BBC. Why should a bunch of hooligans be given free rein on the airwaves to have their hooliganism validated with a broadcast? The real story isn’t the broadcast, but the behaviour of the anti-Zionists, which has opened many people’s eyes to their real agenda, and what really drives them.

As the IPO began Webern’s Passacaglia, a dozen people unfurled a banner reading “Free Palestine” and started to sing about “Israeli apartheid” and “violations of international law and human rights”. As the orchestra played over the disruption, the hooligans were removed by security guards. Then, as Gil Shaham, an Israeli violinist, prepared to play an encore after the Bruch violin concerto, another group began shouting and started to scuffle with audience members. You can see videos of it on YouTube. They will remind you of something. It is inescapable. There is a chilling air to the so-called protests: an air of Weimar Germany, and the way Nazi party members broke up meetings.

It shouldn’t need saying that protesting against the actions of the Israeli government is not the same as being anti-Semitic. Clearly not: this month, 250,000 Israelis joined rallies against their government’s economic policies. They could hardly be driven by anti-Semitism. But Thursday night’s events can only be understood in the context of anti-Semitism. When have there been similar protests against “violations of international law and human rights”, as was chanted on Thursday, by any other country? And this in the middle of the Arab Spring, when genuine protesters for human rights are daily risking their lives in Syria against a murderous dictatorship.

If, indeed, this was a protest against the actions of the Israeli government, rather than against Jews, where have been the similar disruptions of performances by Russian, Chinese, Turkish, Iranian or any number of other nations’ musicians? What about disruptions of British national companies, in protest at British human rights abuses? To pose the question is to answer it. There’s little doubt in my mind that this was an action motivated specifically by the fact that the performers were playing in the national orchestra of the Jewish state.

This should no longer surprise anyone. It seems to me that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) long ago moved from legitimate protest for a legitimate cause — the rights of Palestinians to self-determination — to attacks on Jews for being Jews.

Last month, a St Andrews student was convicted of racially abusing a Jewish postgraduate. Paul Donnachie forced his way into the man’s room, rubbed his own genitals and wiped his hands on an Israeli flag in the room. With another student, Donnachie then jumped on the Jewish postgraduate and urinated into his sink. Legitimate protest against the Israeli government? That appears to be the view of the PSC, whose director, Sarah Colborne, has attacked the conviction. The Scottish branch of the organisation demonstrated last week in support of Donnachie. No wonder the Board of Deputies, often pilloried within the Jewish community for its spinelessness, says that the PSC’s anti-Israel rhetoric is “infused with anti-Semitism” and its members engage in “racist conspiracy theories”.

In July, Ellie Merton, the chair of Waltham Forest PSC, wrote that Anders Breivik’s massacre in Norway was “an Israeli government-sponsored operation”. The PSC is happy for her to continue in her role. But it is far from all doom and gloom. The sheriff who tried Donnachie refused to allow the Scottish PSC to turn the trial into another vehicle for its venom and found that the student’s identification with Israel is part of his Jewish identity, so that to attack him on those grounds constituted a racially aggravated offence. As for the Proms hooligans, there is one big difference from the Weimar audiences. Far from being afraid of the thugs, the Proms audience turned almost as one on them. They chanted “Out, out, out”. As one of the men fought with security guards, a woman can be heard shouting “Shut your mouth”. In fact, their violent, thoroughly illegitimate tactics did nothing but harm to their cause. Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister, was in the Royal Albert Hall for the concert. As he tweeted on the night: “Demonstrators seem to have turned [the] entire audience pro-Israel.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Anti-Fascist Protesters Gather as EDL Holds London Demonstration

Huge crowds are assembling before a planned demonstration by the English Defence League (EDL) in east London, vowing to defend the community from the far-right group. Amid a police presence of around 3,000 officers, hundreds of residents and anti-fascist campaigners converged along Whitechapel Road close to the East London mosque, a self-proclaimed target for some members of the EDL. Muslims accuse the group of fostering hate against them.

At around 1.20pm, staff at King’s Cross station closed the entrance to the tube, preventing the majority of the EDL supporters gathered outside from travelling to the demonstration around Aldgate East tube for around half an hour. The EDL supporters then made their way towards Aldgate East, and police said they expected around 1,000 would attend the protest. Earlier, the RMT train drivers’ union said it would shut down Liverpool Street station on health and safety grounds if the EDL gathered there.

Tensions have been heightened by the actions of the anti-Muslim extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who admitted killing 77 people in July when he detonated a bomb in the Norwegian capital, Oslo before embarking on a shooting spree at a youth camp on the nearby Utøya island. The EDL demonstration is its first since the killings by Brievik, who had praised the organisation in the past and claimed to have 600 EDL supporters as friends on Facebook.

Along Whitechapel Road, scores of anti-EDL protesters waved placards carrying portraits of Brievik and Tommy Robinson, the founder of the EDL. Beneath ran the message: “Different faces, same hatred.” Some in the crowd drew parallels with the Battle of Cable Street, several minutes’ walk south, where the local community railed in defiance of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists almost 75 years ago, refusing to let them pass through the East End.

Jamie Pitman, who had travelled from Oxford to show solidarity with the residents of Tower Hamlets, said: “Cable Street showed that, in times of austerity and a poor economic climate, fascism and racism can flourish. We need to beat fascism by turning out in bigger numbers than them — not resorting to violence but providing a bigger show of strength.” The mood was defiant, with a number of people dancing to a sound system erected on a parked lorry.

Reverend Alan Green, of St John on Bethnal Green and one of the organisers of United East End, a coalition of groups opposed to the EDL entering Tower Hamlets, said: “The vast majority of the population are very happy to live together in such diversity. “We need to show the extent of opposition to the EDL and how the things they say about the area, their rhetoric, is so wrong.” Claire Laker-Mansfied, 22, of the campaign group Youth Fight For Jobs, said: “We should have the right to defend our community against racist thugs and their racist lies about jobs and housing.”

Martin Smith, of Unite Against Facism, was among those hoping that the EDL would not be allowed access to the borough, with police looking to contain the group at Aldgate, on the eastern periphery of Tower Hamlets. One concern is that pockets of EDL might pretend they are not part of the official demonstration and attempt to converge upon the Whitechapel mosque area. The EDL “static” demonstration comes after the home secretary, Theresa May, banned the group from marching in Tower Hamlets on police advice.

But Dave Wainwright, an organiser of the Unite Against Facism wing in Leicester, predicted violence despite the ban. “In Leicester, the EDL were also banned from marching but that had little effect in terms of minimising their violence,” he said. “It stems from their ideology and a culture of heavy drinking. Yes, it will be violent.” It is the first time since the Brixton riots 30 years ago that police have requested powers to stop marches in London.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Cameron Can Come Out Fighting — Or Chuck it in

David Cameron’s party doesn’t really love its leader. Talk to a cross-section of his MPs and it is clear that many respect him — admiring his considerable self-confidence, his to-the-manor-born command of the House of Commons and composure in the aftermath of crisis such as this summer’s rioting. But for a lot of Tories in parliament and out in the country it appears to go no further than that.

“I feel almost schizophrenic when I see him perform in the House,” says a veteran Tory MP. “In one sense it is captivating. He has a very stylish delivery and sounds as though he means it all, the conservative stuff I mean. And then the other part of me thinks no, it’s just hot air and in the end he’ll never do what needs doing.” Watch him in front of a crowd of big-money Tory donors at one of the party’s black-tie fundraisers and you see that the applause is polite but little more than perfunctory. Some guests shift uncomfortably in their seats when they are shown smug films of senior Cameroons mending youth-centre roofs and are told patronisingly in the subsequent after-dinner speeches about the need to build the “Big Society”. Even Cameroon true believers, a pretty small band in the first place, suddenly seem rather deflated with how his tenure is going.

Conservatives have had plenty of time to get to know their deeply frustrating leader properly and to come to a rounded judgment on his merits and his weaknesses. It is easy to forget, thanks to the impression of youthful vigour that the Prime Minister conveys, that he is no longer the new kid on the block. Next month is the sixth anniversary of his famous Blackpool peroration in which he offered to take his party, in the ghastly modern parlance, on “a journey”. That sunny message in the autumn of 2005 made front-runner David Davis look out of date. Weeks later Cameron swept to the leadership.

Six years is as long as his hero Macmillan was Tory leader (1957-1963) and almost as long as Major was (kind of) in charge of the Conservative party from 1990 to 1997. If the next election is held in May 2015, as the coalition plans, Cameron will fight it having been leader for almost the same length of time as the disastrous Ted Heath. The typical pattern of British postwar party leadership suggests that he is already probably around halfway through his allotted time, and perhaps even on a downward trajectory.. Cameron himself has indicated that he has no desire to go “on and on”, in the phrase of a former party leader. He tells friends that he has seen what staying too long has done to previous prime ministers’ sense of equilibrium and consequently is not aiming to be a record-breaker. Indeed, the working assumption internally (certainly the expectation of George Osborne, who hopes to secure the Tory succession) is that Cameron aims to win an election in 2015 and step aside a couple of years later.

Intrinsically optimistic, and incredibly comfortable in his own skin, he says that if his premiership ends before then he will always have his family to fall back on. Yet underneath the faux modesty and the liberal Anglican sense of detachment the Tory leader is also an intensely competitive creature. An Old Etonian well used to the bar of White’s — a club he resigned from reluctantly ahead of becoming PM for fear of bad publicity over its men-only policy — could hardly be anything else. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine David Cameron being content to fail. Is he pleased with the idea of his premiership turning out to be of little consequence and of him ending up an unremarkable historical also-ran? At this point greatness doesn’t appear to be on the agenda.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Far-Right Group Clashes With Police

LONDON — Members of a far-right group clashed with police at a rally in London on Saturday, despite a government ban on marches imposed after deadly riots that rocked the country last month.

Police said they arrested more than 16 people after scuffles broke out and firecrackers were thrown by the crowd of more than 1,000 activists from the English Defence League.

EDL leader Stephen Lennon addressed the crowd in Aldgate, east London, saying he had defied bail conditions imposed for an earlier football hooliganism offence in order to appear at the rally.

“I’m meant to sign on at a police station on a Saturday, I’m not doing that … The credible outcome is I will be put on remand in prison for my democratic right,” Lennon said.

“That’s what’s going to happen and when I go to court, if they let me out of court with any bail conditions that restrict my democratic right to oppose militant Islam, I will break them the minute I walk out.”

Around 1,500 counter-protesters from an anti-fascist group gathered nearby in the Whitechapel area while more than 3,000 police monitored both protests in the overall area, which is home to large ethnic minority populations.

“There have been a total of 16 arrests for a variety of offences including affray, drunk and disorderly and assault on a police officer,” London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

There were further disturbances when a coach carrying EDL members broke down in east London and they fought with local youths, after which all the passengers on the coach were arrested, police said.

There was no immediate figure for the total number of arrests.

The EDL has held a number of demonstrations around the country since it was formed two years ago, many of which have turned violent.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Institutional Failure

In Hilary Mantel’s novel about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety, there are many horrifying moments. But perhaps the most revealing comes early on at the National Assembly when the members want to frame a Declaration of the Rights of Man. Some say that a constitution should be written first, rights existing only thanks to laws. But, as Mantel writes, “Jurisprudence is such a dull subject, and liberty so exciting.”

Britain is not quite in a 1789 state, not least because our rioters have too much, not too little, and express a greater interest in luxury goods than bread. We have already tried letting them eat cake, and it doesn’t work. But I thought of this passage as the summer’s lawlessness began and the authorities scrambled to get abreast of it. Over the last few years the failure of our institutions has been something of a theme of this column. Though the attack had started beforehand, one by one in recent years they have been assaulted afresh and brought themselves low.

In 2008 our financial institutions lost what confidence they enjoyed from the general public. “Bankers” became a term newly synonymous not only with greed but the most reckless — and, crucially, unpunished — irresponsibility. Then in 2009 Parliament debased itself with the expenses scandal. While nobody expected MPs to be saints, nevertheless they were not expected to behave so badly and so uniformly. Though the looters have only themselves to blame for their actions, it seems at least societally consistent that the principal objects of their desire — ridiculously outsized televisions — had also been coveted by Gerald Kaufman. As I pointed out at the time, the unwillingness of MPs to accept responsibility for their own actions demonstrated a top-down failure in our society, their defence being, like that of so many of the looters, that, after all, everyone else was doing it.

Then the media — one of the most powerful, if accidental, British institutions — endured its own breakdown. Yet the phone-hacking scandal demonstrated not just the media’s, but the country’s systemic failure. In 2003 Rebekah Brooks confirmed to a Parliamentary Committee that her newspaper’s staff had paid — that is bribed — police officers. A criminal offence was admitted but nothing happened. Parliament did nothing. The Crown Prosecution Service did nothing. The police did nothing. Eventually, as is sometimes the way, the scandal came to a head and a senior head or two rolled. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson resigned and Britain went into its summer thinking that that was that. Nothing had been sorted out. No institution had worked. But there had been a tardy witch-hunt and a couple of resignations. So stasis as normal.

But then the streets lit up. And crowds of looters, unmolested by the police or any other lines of authority — for the looters saw that there were none — did what they wanted. The nervous police, actually leaderless, once again demonstrated their institutional failing when they were chased — as they have been many times in recent years — by ever more confident mobs. It is no surprise to anyone who lives in Britain and spends their time among the people of this country that such an outbreak of violence should take place. A coarse culture and media have contributed to the population acquiring a threatening and acquisitive manner which knows no bounds and encounters no opposition. The failure of the state-school system leaves no way out through education, and the idea of a higher life is an alien concept.

It is not surprising that people did this. It is surprising the institutions could not stop them. Nothing here is easy to address. And there is no single panacea for our problems. But reform must start. And the only place in which to begin to turn around Britain is to turn around the institutions which are meant to control, define and guide us. Some of this the present government is trying to do — Michael Gove’s reform of schools, for example, and Iain Duncan Smith’s vitally important rethink of the welfare system. Other changes, such as Ken Clarke’s effort to consider the deterrent of prison principally through the prism of economics, have been shown to be not simply untimely but degrading. Making our institutions work again will seem much less exciting than endless “initiatives” and “plans”. It will be less sexy than media-satisfying inquiries, “czars” and walkabouts. It will be the quiet, unheralded work of years. But it will have to start. As Mantel wrote of the French Assembly, “They vie in the pandemonium…they gabble to relinquish what belongs to them and with eagerness even greater what belongs to others. Next week, of course, they will try to backtrack; but it will be too late.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Imam Killed After Morning Prayer in Finsbury Park

An imam who died in suspicious circumstances at a mosque in north London was killed after taking morning prayers, it has emerged.

The religious leader, understood to be Sheikh Maymoun Zarzour, was found at the Muslim Welfare House in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, on Friday.

A man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder. A post-mortem examination is being arranged.

The Metropolitan Police said it was not believed to be a faith hate crime.

Officers believe the suspect attended the mosque.

A statement on the Muslim Welfare House Trust’s website read: “Our imam has passed away after he led prayer.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: John Cleese: London is No Longer English City

FAWLTY Towers legend John Cleese has come under fire after declaring: “London is no longer an English city.” The comic, 71, said that the mix of cultures had helped the capital win the 2012 Olympics. But he added that it can be hard to find an English person and that the “parent culture has dissipated”. Cleese, who is performing in Sydney, was asked on Australian TV what he thought of last month’s riots around the UK. He replied: “I’m not sure what’s going on in Britain. Let me say this, I don’t know what’s going on in London because London is no longer an English city. That’s how they got the Olympics. They said, ‘We’re the most cosmopolitan city on Earth’, but it doesn’t feel English. I had a Californian friend come over two months ago, walk down the King’s Road and say to me, ‘Well, where are all the English people?’ I love having different cultures around but when the parent culture kind of dissipates, you’re left thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ “

The Monty Python star’s remarks prompted criticism from Mayor Boris Johnson, who said London’s diversity should be “celebrated”. Labour’s Ken Livingstone added: “To stay competitive London must be a global centre of business, culture and innovation, none of which can be achieved without people of all nations working and living here.” More than a quarter of London’s population is from an ethnic minority, and there are 300 languages spoken.

[JP note: I would go further than Cleese — London is stone-deader than the proverbial Norwegian Blue. It is morphing into a necropolis presided over by a death cult religion where its politicians flit about like insubstantial wraiths administering the last rites and sacrements of dhimmitude. London — it’s kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil and joined the bleeding choir invisible.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: John Cleese: London’s No Longer an English City

COMEDIAN John Cleese has waded into the row over Britain’s immigration policy by saying London is “no longer an English city”.

The Monty Python star says people in the capital now feel like foreigners in a city where the “parent culture has dissipated”. Cleese, 71, made his comments during an appearance on Australian television. He is currently in Sydney for a run of sell-out shows at the Opera House. During the interview, the funnyman was asked what he makes of British culture, particularly after the recent rioting. He said: “I’m not sure what’s going on in Britain. Let me say this, I don’t know what’s going on in London because London is no longer an English city and that’s how they got the Olympics. They said ‘we’re the most cosmopolitan city on Earth’ but it doesn’t feel English. I had a Californian friend come over two months ago, walk down the King’s Road and say to me ‘well, where are all the English people?’ I love having different cultures around but when the parent culture kind of dissipates you’re left thinking ‘well, what’s going on?’ “ Earlier this year Cleese — an ardent Liberal Democrat supporter — said he preferred living in Bath to London. He said: “I love being down in Bath because it feels like the England that I grew up in.”

With a population of eight million London is recognised as one of the world’s most ethnically-diverse cities with 300 languages spoken and more than a quarter of the population from an ethnic minority. Last night, Ukip leader Nigel Farage welcomed Cleese’s comments. “John Cleese has said what an increasing number of people in London are thinking,” he said. “It is sad, and may not be 100 per cent accurate but people do seem to be feeling that they are becoming foreigners in their own land. What makes these comments even more surprising is that Mr Cleese is a well-known Liberal Democrat supporter having starred in their party political broadcasts. For him to make these remarks certainly shows a tremendous strength of feeling on this matter. Of course other cultures are welcome but Mr Cleese is right to point out that it should not be at these expense of the parent culture.”

Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of MigrationWatch, said: “John Cleese is an astute man. “London has of course changed hugely in recent years. He is also not the first to point to the failures of multi-culturalism — the Prime Minister has said much the same thing. London is not the city I knew as a child and it saddens me that many of the unwelcome developments have largely been the result of mass and rapid migration.”

Somerset-born Cleese is currently dating jewellery designer Jennifer Wade. His marriages to Connie Booth, with whom he wrote Fawlty Towers, Barbara Trentham and Alyce Faye Eichelberger all ended in divorce. It was his £12million settlement with Eichelberger, a US psychotherapist, in 2009 which forced Cleese out of retirement for a series of one-man shows known as the “alimony tour”. In the interview with ABC show 7.30, Cleese also said he no longer finds television comedy funny. He said: “It’s a disaster and I feel very sad about it. English television from the Fifties to the Nineties was the least bad in the world and now it’s just as bad as it is anywhere.” Cleese added that he did not want to appear on the BBC again but needed to keep on working. He said: “I really don’t want to work for the BBC any more — I feel that strongly about it. But the alimony is one million dollars a year. That’s a lot.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Londoners Hit Back as Cleese Says City is ‘London No Longer English’

Comedian John Cleese sparked fury today after he said that London is “no longer an English city”. The Fawlty Towers star was slammed after saying that the capital feels like a foreign city and that English culture is disappearing. In an appearance on Australian television to promote a show at the Sydney Opera House he said: “I’m not sure what’s going on in Britain. Let me say this, I don’t know what’s going on in London because London is no longer an English city and that’s how they got the Olympics. They said ‘we’re the most cosmopolitan city on Earth’ but it doesn’t feel English. I had a Californian friend come over two months ago, walk down the King’s Road and say to me ‘well, where are all the English people?’. I love having different cultures around but when the parent culture kind of dissipates you’re left thinking ‘well, what’s going on?’“ Earlier this year Cleese said he preferred living in Bath to London: “I love being down in Bath because it feels like the England that I grew up in.”

Mayor Boris Johnson today criticised Cleese’s comments, saying “we should celebrate” the capital’s diversity. A spokesman for the Mayor said: “If the King’s Road is jam-packed with visiting foreign tourists then that is something we should celebrate.” A friend of Mr Johnson added: “Only an idiot would not want London to be the global capital of retail, food and fashion. We can’t all be Basil Fawlty.” And Labour’s Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone said: “To stay competitive London must be what New York is to the USA, a global centre of business, culture and innovation, none of which can be achieved without people of all nations working and living here. Without that London’s status as a driver of the British economy would be permanently lost.”

Cleese’s comments sparked outrage on Twitter, with one user, Ben Naylor, writing: “You and your friend probably did see a lot of English people, John Cleese, it’s just that they might not all have been white.” A link to Cleese’s comments was put on the Twitter page of far-Right group the English Defence League. Commuters across the capital today said that “the best thing about it is the diversity” and said they did not agree with Cleese’s claims. Damian Hale, 37, from east London, said: “I do not agree with John Cleese because I’m Welsh and I have been living here for 15 years and to me London is a very English city. The best thing about it is the diversity.” Dr Ayad Khalil, 55, said: “London is a multicultural place. People come here with different talents and different aspirations. We all work and co-exist together.” Lauren Carr, 26, a flight attendant from Sydney, said: “I don’t agree with John Cleese. I think it’s still very English, very recognisably England.” But Colin Brabender, 42, a construction worker from Leigh-on-Sea, said: “I used to live in London, but I moved out four years ago. It’s not an English city any more.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims Criticise Scotland Yard for Telling Them to Engage With EDL

Metropolitan police say English Defence League is ‘not extreme’, but sends 3,000 officers to planned demonstration

Scotland Yard has been accused of underestimating the threat from the English Defence League (EDL) after the head of the unit monitoring hate groups declared it was not an extremist organisation. In an email obtained by the Guardian, Adrian Tudway, National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, said he formed the view the EDL were not extreme after reading their website. Today the EDL, accused by Muslims of fostering hate against them, will stage a “static” demonstration in Tower Hamlets, east London, in one of their most potentially provocative displays so far.

The Metropolitan police obtained a ban against a planned march through east London by the EDL, fearing clashes with anti-fascist groups and also the prospect of British Muslim youths taking to the streets to defend their communities against feared racist attacks. British Muslims have claimed police have not done enough to protect them against the EDL.

In an email sent on 27 April 2011, Tudway told a Muslim group they should try opening up a “line of dialogue” with the EDL, who have been accused of staging attacks and directing hostility at British Muslims. Tudway wrote: “In terms of the position with EDL, the original stance stands, they are not extreme right wing as a group, indeed if you look at their published material on their web-site, they are actively moving away from the right and violence with their mission statement etc. As we discussed last time we met, I really think you need to open a direct line of dialogue with them, that might be the best way to engage them and re-direct their activity?”

Last night Tudway’s email was sent to the National Association of Muslim Police, which had been pressing him and his unit for tough action. Zaheer Ahmad, president of the National Association of Muslim Police, said: “There is a strong perception in the Muslim communities that the police service does not take the threat of right wing extremism seriously. This perception is fast becoming reality when communities witness an inconsistent, somewhat relaxed police approach to EDL demonstrations resulting in very few arrests and prosecutions. The community perception is reinforced by the position of the National Domestic Extremism Unit which does not view EDL as right wing extremists. There is a considerable body of independent evidence, which is growing at staggering pace, to highlight the serious threat of EDL to our communities.”

The national domestic extremism unit used to be run by the Association of Chief Police Officers. But this year it was moved into the Metropolitan police, where it is part of its specialist operations unit. Tudway’s unit was charged with investigating any links between the right wing Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and the English Defence League.

Defending Tudway’s views, the Met police said: “The EDL are not a proscribed group. Police are committed to taking robust action against anyone who causes harm by crossing into criminality in support of any issue.” It did not answer whether the force shared his views that the EDL were not extremist.

Dan Hodges, from anti-fascism charity Searchlight, said the charity had been privately telling police more resources needed to be devoted to countering the threat of far right violence: “It’s staggering given the EDL’s record of violence, intimidation and the outspoken support of many of its members for far right wing politicians and politics.” He said police should classify the EDL as extremist and linked to violence and spend more time and effort trying to thwart their plans: “It’s difficult to see what further evidence one would want to see them as extremist. “Every EDL demo ends in disorder and physical violence.”

The EDL emerged in Luton and has staged a number of demonstrations over the past two years — many of which have descended into violence. The group came under scrutiny earlier this year after Anders Behring Breivik repeatedly praised it in his 1,500-page manifesto, saying he had 600 EDL supporters as Facebook friends and had spoken with “tens of EDL members and leaders”. Members of the group deny any official contact with Breivik and insist their organisation is peaceful, non-racist and opposed to extremism. A Guardian investigation into the EDL found repeated racism and threats of violence among supporters..

Several hundred EDL supporters are expected to meet in two pubs in the Euston area of the capital from around midday on Saturday before being escorted by police to a static demonstration in Tower Hamlets that is due to start at 3pm. Police chiefs said more than 3,000 officers will be on duty amid fears of violence and unrest. After a police request, the home secretary agreed to a ban on marches for 30 days across five London boroughs and the City of London. It will cover Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Islington, Hackney and the City of London. Some anti-racist activists are planning to hold a counter demonstration. Unite Against Fascism is holding a static demonstration in Whitechapel with music and speeches from 11am.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Out in Force for English Defence League East London Demo

There are large crowds and a strong police presence in east London for a demonstration by the English Defence League.

Dozens of police vans lined up in Whitechapel Road from Aldgate East to Vallance Road in preparation for the EDL’s arrival in Tower Hamlets. As EDL members arrived at Liverpool Street station they began chanting. EDL members say they have come from as far as Scotland, and are being escorted by police through Aldgate. Demonstrators shouted “off our streets” as protesters made their way to Whitechapel.

A large crowd gathered outside the East London Mosque as word spreads that the EDL was heading in from central London. The EDL has told the Met Police it is leading a “static” demonstration in the wake of home secretary Theresa May’s 30-day ban against marching in six areas. More than 3,000 officers will be available amid fears of violence and clashes with opposition groups, including Unite Against Fascism. It is the first time since the Brixton riots 30 years ago that police have requested powers to stop marches in London.

Chief Superintendent Julia Pendry said: “Following the appalling disorder in London in recent weeks, it’s important London, its communities and businesses, can return to normality.” Ms Pendry added: “We have not sought this power since 1981 — which shows how we do not take this lightly.” While concern of unrest centres on the deprived inner city borough of Tower Hamlets, Mrs May also banned marches in Newham, Waltham Forest, Islington, Hackney and the City of London amid fears that demonstrations could spill across the border. A message posted on the EDL website said a demonstration in Tower Hamlets is definitely going ahead. “We will gather at muster points, and then be escorted to the demo site by the police,” leaders said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Rail Workers: ‘If EDL Racists Turn Up at Our Stations, We’Ll Shut Them Down’

London Underground workers in the RMT union today informed management that if the racist English Defence League (EDL) appear at any stations or on any trains tomorrow, they will refuse to work.

This means that stations would close on safety grounds if the racists turn up. Management have now said that the EDL will not be allowed on London Underground tomorrow.

The EDL had boasted earlier in the week that a ban on their march in Tower Hamlets, east London, would not affect them as they are still allowed to come for a static protest. But campaigning by anti-fascists and trade unionists is causing them real problems.

Steve Hedley, the RMT’s London regional organiser, spoke to Socialist Worker. “We’ve made clear that the EDL are racist and fascist thugs,” he said.

“Last time they came to Kings Cross they assaulted workers and members of the public.

“Our drivers will refuse to move trains if they are on them, and will close stations on safety grounds if they turn up.”

The EDL are panicking. They wanted to assemble in the car park of Sainsbury’s supermarket in Whitechapel. But Sainsbury’s have refused to host them.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: The View From Inside the Albert Hall

It seemed peaceful enough outside. Jewish groups waving Israeli flags were joined by pro-Israel Christian supporters outside the Albert Hall last night as they welcomed the Israeli Philharmonic prom. But as a kilted Israel supporter danced in the street, no-one could have anticipated the havoc caused moments later inside the hall, as Palestinian supporters leaped up from every part of the building, screaming anti-Israel slogans and disrupting the entire concert.

No sooner had the orchestra opened with Webern’s Passacaglia than some 30 Palestinian activists rose from the orchestra stalls to belt out their protests to the tune of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. A powerful soprano rang out from among them, but her voice was drowned by what seemed a stampede of angry Prommers shouting “Out! Out! Out!”, booing and stamping their feet in counter-protest. The activists, who appeared to be mainly white Britons, were ejected awkwardly by concert officials, given the narrow passage of the upper galleries. At one moment it looked as though some protesters were even in danger of falling from the gallery.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign had earlier uged people to boycott the concert, calling for the BBC to cancel it. On its website, it claimed the IPO were complicit in whitewashing Israel’s human rights violations. Outside scuffles broke out between the rival groups. The first part of the concert was broadcast by BBC Radio 3, including the disruption, but eventually it was abandoned — the first time such political protests had stopped a live Prom broadcast. Moments later, Israeli violinist, Gil Shaham, gently smiling throughout his exuberant performance, joined Israel Philharmonic’s conductor Zubin Mehta on stage for Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 in G minor. Spanish pieces by Albeniz and Rimsky-Korsakov followed, but protesters, who had clearly paid for their seats within a capacity-packed Albert Hall, again emerged from every part of the hall. Although neither the CST nor the police were anywhere to be seen inside the hall, the affirmative mood of the audience as they applauded, voting for the Israel Philharmonic with shouts of joy and foot-stamping, gave clear indication of their revulsion for the rejection of Israeli culture at this, its most prominent level.

Outside, two Prommers said that the mood of the audience had delivered a blow to such inappropriate disruption. One, who had travelled from Massachusetts, called it “disgusting — and “like a riot”. Mehta, the grandee elder statesman of Israeli classical music, remained dignified throughout the disruption. At the end, he bowed and smiled both to the audience and the orchestra, before giving an unexpected — and ironic — encore, delivered with great passion: it was “The Death of Tybalt” ( the main antagonist between rival families) from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. In the first act of Shakespeare’s play, Tybalt describes his hatred for peace.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: When Exactly Did Free Speech Die in This Country?

Why has this country become so intolerant of civilised, grown-up debate? Voltaire’s classic dictum that you may disagree with what someone says but defend to the death his right to say it has withered and died. When David Starkey uttered provocative remarks about young black men in the wake of last month’s riots, his critics were not only outraged by what he said — a perfectly legitimate response — but questioned his right to say it. A group of 100 academics pompously wrote a letter of protest saying he had no right to call himself an historian because he did not have even the most “basic grasp” of cultural history. Do these twerps have even the most basic grasp of the concept of free speech?

Then there was Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP, who wants women considering an abortion to be offered the chance to seek advice from an independent body. That’s hardly an outrageous proposition but it brought down the wrath of the pro-choice lobby by the bucketful. One Guardian writer accused Dorries of “attempting to set back women’s reproductive rights by at least 20 years”, and added, for good measure: “To see British politicians adopting the Christian right’s misogynistic and anti-sex attitudes is frankly terrifying.”

And there’s those dangerous folk — the National Trust, the Council for the Protection of Rural England — who are opposed to the Coalition’s plans for changing the planning laws to make it easier to build in the countryside. The response of Coalition ministers has been shameful. The objectors are “semi-hysterical”, according to Vince Cable; Greg Clark, the Planning Minister, accused them of “nihilistic selfishness”; and his colleague Bob Neill claimed the National Trust was running “a carefully choreographed smear campaign by left-wingers”. Neill should tread more carefully: there are on average about 7000 NT members in every English constituency — many more, I suspect, in the leafy lanes of his Bromley and Chislehurst seat.

The common theme in all these examples is not that a point of view is being questioned — that’s healthy. What is being challenged is someone’s right to hold that view. And that’s dangerous.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Lebanon: EU Seminar Examines Waste Management Situation

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, AUGUST 29 — The project for optimised management of Waste in the Mediterranean (GODEM), implemented in the framework of the EU-funded programme CIUDAD, is holding its second seminar on Integrated Solid Waste Management in Lebanon on 19 and 20 September 2011 in Tripoli, Lebanon.

According to the Enpi website (, the seminar will highlight the concrete implementation steps Al Fayhaa (Tripoli) municipality has embarked on in the context of the GODEM project including improvements of the collection system, feasibility studies for a compost plant and promotion of a zero waste concept. Waste management policies in Lebanon will also be presented and discussed. The seminar will be attended by Lebanese officials dealing with waste management, representatives of the private sector and a delegation of the GODEM project partners from Rabat (Morocco), Sousse, Mahdia and Djerba (Tunisia) and in Europe. The event will conclude with a visit to the site of the sorting plant and to Tripoli Landfill.

The GODEM project for the optimization of waste disposal management, implemented with a budget of 692,979 euros under the CIUDAD programme, aims to help address the issue of waste management in the Mediterranean region by putting in place a permanent network for the exchange of information and experience on sustainable waste management between European and South Mediterranean local and regional authorities. The project is implemented in Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: NATO May Continue No-Fly Zone After War

(AGI) Brussels — NATO may continue to patrol the Libyan skies to impose a no-fly zone also after the end of the war between insurgents and the remaining Gaddafi troops. Sources have reported that this is just one of the possibilities envisaged by NATO’s military staff and it is being analysed by the ambassadors of member states.This will only happen if requested by the United Nations which is expected to be entrusted with the transition in Libya .

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

Libya Rebels Round Up Black Africans

Approximately 5,000 have been detained, some seriously abused, with virtually no evidence against them

Rebel forces and armed civilians are rounding up thousands of black Libyans and migrants from sub-Sahara Africa, imprisoning them in makeshift jails across the capital and accusing them of being mercenaries for Moammar Gadhafi.

As the rebels and their Transitional National Council (TNC) struggle to maintain credibility in a post-Gadhafi Libya, they have been targeting black Africans for weeks now. The United Nations warned about mass arrests, beatings, and revenge-killings against the suspected mercenaries, and the African Union this week refused to recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority in Libya on the grounds that their treatment of the black Africans was a human rights violation.

Virtually all of the detainees say they are innocent migrant workers, and in the vast majority of cases there has been no evidence to suggest otherwise. Aladdin Mabrouk, a spokesman for Tripoli’s military council, said no one knows how many people have been detained in the city, but he guessed more than 5,000.

Despite promises from the TNC that human rights will be observed and respected, Associated Press reporters saw rebel forces in the Khallat al-Firjan neighborhood in south Tripoli punching a dozen black men before determining they were innocent migrant workers and releasing them.

At the Gate of the Sea sports club, a soccer stadium where about 200 detainees — all black — have been confined, detainees crowded against the high walls to avoid the hot sun in the roofless stadium.

One prisoner, Ahmed Ali, had burns across his face, neck, and arm. He said he had come from Chad two years ago to work. “When the rebels entered Tripoli, some guys came and burned down my house,” he said. “They brought me here,” he said, adding that he’d received no medical care in the six days since his arrest.

“The danger is that there is no oversight by any authorities, and the people who are carrying out the arrests — more like abductions — are not trained to respect human rights,” said Diana Eltahawy of Amnesty International. “They are people who carry a lot of anger against people they believe committed atrocities.”

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

Libya: MI6 and British Government Worked Closely With Gaddafi’s Regime (And Even Helped Him Write His Speeches)

British intelligence co-operated closely with Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, according to reports based on documents found in Libyan government offices.

The papers allegedly show that MI6 gave the Gaddafi regime information on Libyan dissidents living in the UK.

The documents were discovered in the Tripoli offices of former head of Libyan intelligence Moussa Koussa and also include talks between the CIA and the Gaddafi regime.

They also contain communications between British and Libyan security ahead of then prime minister Tony Blair’s desert tent meeting with Gaddafi in 2004.

It gives details about Mr Blair’s visit and mentions the visit was requested by Britain.

A letter from an MI6 official to Mr Koussa said ‘No 10 are keen that the Prime Minister meet the Leader in the the tent. I don’t know why the English are fascinated by tents. The plain fact is that the journalists would love it.’

Britain is also said to have helped the Libyan dictator with his speech-writing.

The discovery, by The Independent newspaper, will no doubt raise questions about the relationship between Mr Koussa, who fled Libya for London in March, and the British Government.

There were calls for Mr Koussa to be questioned by the police about his alleged involvement in a number of murders abroad, including the death of WPC Yvonne Fletcher and other opponents of the Gadaffi regime.

At the time of his arrival in the UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he may face charges but he was later allowed to leave and is now believed to be staying in the Gulf.

The Foreign Office said it did not comment on intelligence matters.

Asked about the claims today, Foreign Secretary William Hague said ‘all our discussions’ were focused on plans for the future of Libya.

‘On the subject of these apparent disclosures, first of all they relate to a period under the previous government so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time,’ he told Sky News.

‘Also we don’t comment, I can’t comment on intelligence matters on that or any other aspect of intelligence matters because, as people understand, once we start on that there’s no end to that.’

It has also been revealed the Libyan official Matouk Mohammed Matouk — one of three suspects involved in the killing of Miss Fletcher — claimed benefits while studying in Britain.

Documents found by the Daily Telegraph show that he went on claiming money from the state right up until he was deported from the country following the 1984 shoot-out at the Libyan embassy.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Young People Clash With Police, 17-Year-Old Killed

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 2 — A 17-year-old girl has died and four other people have been injured in a series of clashes that took place last night in Sbeitla, in the governorate of Kasserine. According to an authorised source of the Interior Ministry, TAP reports, young people in Cite’ Essourour-Ouest, in Sbeitla, blocked the road to Rkhamet “in order to loot.” This forced a patrol of police agents and soldiers to fire gunshots “to disperse the muggers.” Many local inhabitants then moved into the direction of the shots, after which more shots were fired. In the tussle that followed, according to the Ministry, “the young woman died after being taken to the local hospital of Sbeitla, and four people were injured.” After hearing about the woman’s death, groups of people attacked and set fire to the police station, three coaches of the regional transport company, the railway station and several cars. They also looted the hospital’s emergency room. The situation calmed down again around three in the morning, the Ministry informs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Film: Pink Subaru: Surreal Comedy on Living in Mideast

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 2 — The dream of a lifetime of buying a Japanese Subaru Legacy is broken in a single night and an entire Israeli village — Tayibe, along the border with the West Bank — gets mobilised and bustles about to help Elzober, a cook in a sushi restaurant in Tel Aviv. These are the ingredients in Pink Subaru, Japanese director Kazuya Ogawa’s first film, with the leading role (Elzober)played by the Arab-Israeli actor and scriptwriter Akram Telawe, which opens in Italian cinemas this evening. It is a very original story in which the co-existence of Israelis and Palestinians is discussed, who for once are not engaged in war. “This film,” ANSAmed was told by the Italian-Japanese producer Mario Miyakawa, “ wants to make the public think in a light manner about Israelis and Palestinians living side by side, without speaking about war and death.” In this surreal comedy, the focus is on feelings, friendship and human troubles which mark the existence of everyone regardless of what part of the world they are in. Miyakawa went on to say that “Pink Subaru functions as a sort of snapshot of reality, that of cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, where fashion and trends spread rapidly.” Like that of eating sushi, a culinary tradition which certainly did not begin in that part of the world and which sees the owner of the restaurant in which Elzober works — a 45-year-old widower with two children — changes gastronomical genre as if he were changing his shirt, to follow new trends in what to offer his clientele. One wonders what exactly a Subaru Legacy has to do with all of this. The producer said that “the Subaru was the first carmaker to export its cars to Israel.” The only ones not afraid of losing the important market share represented by Arab countries.

It seems that the Subaru is even the most-loved car of Palestinians. “The cars are stolen in Israel to go into the territories, where they are taken apart and sold in pieces or simply resold illegally,” said Miyakawa. Usually, to get back one’s car the unfortunate individual decides to pay a small sum.

Miyakawa noted that “it is usually found again.” However, in Elzober’ case it doesn’t go like that. Despite the fact that everyone in Tayibe — friends, car wreakers, magicians reading coffee grinds — take action to help the cook, the metallic black Subaru seems to have disappeared into thin air. It is a comedy which is also a bit of a melting pot, with a Japanese director and producer, Arab-Israeli leading actor and a village halfway between Israel and the West Bank. This is why the film, which will be shown this evening at 8:30 in Turin’s Cinema Lux, is in Arabic, Hebrew and Japanese, and necessarily subtitled in Italian. It is a distribution choice which intends to underscore — according to the producers — the multicultural nature of the film.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain Plans New Industrial City in East of Kingdom

(ANSAmed) — BAHRAIN, AUGUST 29 — A new industrial city could be built in the east of Bahrain, a senior minister has announced. “The location of the planned mega project hasn’t been demarcated yet as it requires a large area, said Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Abdulla Fakhro in comments published by state news agency BPA. Citing Arabic paper Al-Ayyam, BPA said Fakhro indicated that the project would be built on land reclaimed from the sea. Fakhro warned that the areas earmarked for mega industrial zones could be exhausted within one to two years, unless new land plots are reclaimed. He said initial plans had been submitted to King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and other senior officials for consideration.

According to the minister, the rate of occupancy in the existing industrial zones is “very high”. He said the contribution of the industrial sector to Bahrain’s GDP soared to 17 percent in 2010. “We hope to bring the contribution of the industrial sector to Bahrain’s GDP to 25 percent in the foreseeable future”, he added.

Citing updated figures, he said that loans granted to the industrial sectors over the last six months had grown by up to 25 percent to top BD508.4 million.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran: Sporadic Protests in Tabriz and Urmia

On Saturday, September 3, 2011, protestors in Tabriz and Urmia demonstrated in streets again to save Lake Urmia.

According to a report by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Iranian security forces were on alert since early Saturday morning throughout Tabriz and Urmia to confront protestors. As a result, clashes broke out in both cities.

Eyewitnesses in Urmia reported that Motahari and Taleghani streets were blocked by protestors, and a motorcycle was set on fire. Furthermore, clashes were reported in Atahie Street.

Other reports indicate that demonstrations have begun in Tabriz, and hundreds of protestors have poured into streets throughout the city. Clashes have been reported from Mohammadi Bazaar and Raste Alley, and fighting has spread into Qongha Bashi, Golestan Garden, Sayat Qabaghi.

Eyewitnesses have told HRANA that anti riot forces have shot tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at people in both cities in order to disperse the crowd.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Israel to Turkey: Regret: But No Apologies

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, SEPTEMBER 2 — Regret yes, but no apologies: this is Israel’s stance, confirmed today by high government officials, regarding the reprisal decided by Turkey following Israel’s refusal to apologise for the death of nine Turkish activists. The activists were killed last year when a flotilla that was trying to break through the naval siege on the Gaza Strip was boarded. Israel has said it regrets that victims have been made, but refuses to apologise.

“Israel express sorrow (over the victims), but will not apologise for an operation of self-defence,” a statement made in Jerusalem after the meeting between Premier Benyamin Netanyahu, the Defence Ministry and the Foreign Ministry reads.

The statement continues that the Netanyahu government is prepared to “accept the UN report” of the commission Palmer on the flotilla incident, but “with some reservations”, and calls the report “serious, professional and thorough.” In Israel’s view, the document recognises that the flotilla’s mission was “a flagrant attempt to break the sea blockade on the Gaza Strip,”, a legal blockade according to the commission Palmer. Israel justifies the blockade by underlining the need to “prevent the smuggling of weapons and missiles to Hamas, the terrorist organisation backed by Iran that controls Gaza.” The statement also claims that last year’s boarding was carried out without intentions to use violence, but that the Israeli marines “had to defend themselves” after being “attacked by violent activists of the (Islamic Turkish) organisation IHH, who used knives, sticks and iron pipes”, and after some of them “had been injured.” Israel is willing to express “regret”, but not to apologise for “an operation of self-defence because Israel, like any State, has the right to defend its citizens and soldiers.” At the same time, the Israeli government guarantees that it recognises “the importance of the past and present relations between the Turkish and Jewish people,” underlining that it has “made repeated attempts to settle the disagreement” with Turkey, “regretting that these attempts have been unsuccessful.” Israel “will continue to make efforts in that regard”. Regarding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Ankara, the sources clarified that the high diplomat “already completed his term several days ago and said his goodbyes to his Turkish counterparts. He is expected to arrive in Israel in the coming days.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Expels Israeli Ambassador, Due to Flotilla Incident

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 2 — The Israeli ambassador has been expelled from the country. A diplomatic crisis has erupted between Turkey and Israel over the incident regarding the Mavi Marmara, the ship part of the pro-Palestinian flotilla which was attacked last year by Israeli soldiers while they were attempting to force the blockade on Gaza, ending with the slaying of 9 Turkish citizens. Today, Ankara decided to expel the Israeli ambassador, suspend strategic military agreements with them and reduce their diplomatic representation in Israel to a low-ranking second secretary. The decision was made following the refusal of Netanyahu’s government to apologise to Turkey for the deaths of the activists. Yesterday the New York Times released the results of the UN report on the attack, which called the intervention “excessive”, but which acknowledged the legality of the naval blockade on Gaza. The report of the committee led by former New Zealand Premier, Geoffrey Palmer (expected to be published today), invites Israel to draft “an appropriate statement of apology” and to compensate the victims. In light of the measures announced by Ankara, Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu called for an urgent meeting of his closest ministers today. According to Israeli state radio, Netanyahu is standing firm also today on his decision not to apologise to Turkey for the attack on the Marmara passenger ship.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Luxury Istanbul Homes Attract Mideast Buyers

Rich Arab buyers are getting more interested in the waterside mansions and expensive houses by Istanbul’s Boshporus, according to the head of Sotheby’s Turkey. The recent political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa is also playing a role in drawing investors to safe havens such a Turkey, the executive says

Due to ongoing conflicts and clashes sweeping through Middle Eastern and North African countries, Arab investors are flocking to the Turkish real estate market to invest in luxurious residences and waterfront villas by Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait, according to the top executive of Sotheby’s local branch.

“In recent years, Arab investors started monitoring the Turkish market, but now this has accelerated,” Arman Özver, general manager of Sotheby’s Turkey, told the Hürriyet Daily News during a recent interview. Extremely rich Arabs generally pay from $2 million to $30 million for houses on the shore of the Bosphorus Strait, which divides the Asian and European parts of Istanbul, Özver said, adding that the remaining Arab investors look for luxury residence projects in central Istanbul for around $250,000.

Mansion to become hotel

Zeki Pasa Mansion is one of the flamboyant survivors and last of the great waterfront mansions on the Bosporus. It is listed in the company’s portfolio for 187.2 million Turkish Liras.

“We are continuing talks with two international hotel chains and they both want to turn the historic building into a boutique hotel,” Özver said. The luxurious house was built for Zeki Pasha, an Ottoman official working in the service of the Sultan Abdülhamid II, emperor of the Ottomans in the second half of the 19th century. With 3,000 square meters of enclosed space and 4,000-square-meter garden by the water, the residence also attracts interest from Central Asian investors, he said.

Cultural similarities shared by Turkey and Arab countries as well as the religious commonalities play a significant role in Arab investors choosing to live in Turkey, according to Özver. “Turkish soap operas widely watched and followed in Middle Eastern countries also attract many wealthy Arab investors looking for luxury here. The country’s economic and political stability also encourage investors to consider Turkey for new investments.”

Arab investments in Turkey totaled $10.6 billion last year, according to Ibrahim S. Dabdoub, chief executive of the National Bank of Kuwait, who recently spoke to the Daily News on the sidelines of the sixth Turkish-Arab Economic Forum in Istanbul.

Building its real estate portfolio up to a total of $500 million in the last six months, Özver said the local branch of Sotheby’s is in talks with 15 individual and corporate customers mainly from Middle Eastern and Gulf countries. “Nearly 70-80 percent of the sales take place in Istanbul and the rest in western and southern provinces,” he said.

Talking about the future plans of the international real estate company in the Turkish market, Özver said Sotheby’s plans to open 12 more offices in Istanbul, Ankara, the northwestern province of Bursa, the western province of Izmir and the southern province of Antalya. “We aim to reach total revenue of $1 billion in three years’ time,” Özver said.

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

South Asia

Indonesia: Pious Minister Prayers at Prison for Detained Corruption Suspect

Jakarta, 31 August (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian communication and information technology minister Tifatul Sembiring advised graft suspect M. Nazaruddin to repent for his sins and ask God for forgiveness.

“God knows everything, Nazaruddin,” the minister said during his speech at the Kelapa Dua Mobile Brigade headquarters in Depok, where Nazaruddin is currently detained.

Tifatul, who in the past has launched campaigns against pornography and illegal Internet music downloads, delivered his sermon during Ied prayers held at the mobile brigade headquarters.

“God will forgive us, even if our sins are as big as a mountain,” he said.

Nazaruddin reportedly participated in the prayers, even though he had previously been barred from exiting his detention cell.

The detention centre allowed Nazaruddin to participate in the mass prayer after coordinating with the Corruption Eradication Commission

Bribery suspect and former Democratic Party treasurer Nazaruddin was arrested in Cartagena, Colombia on 7 August in possession of a false passport.

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

Nepal: Maoists Back in Power After Two Years

Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai gets 375 votes out of 574, defeating the Nepali Congress candidate. He is the third prime minister in two years. The alliance with the Madeshi ethnic minority was crucial to his victory. He pledges support for the rights of ethnic and religious minorities threatened by proposed changes to the country’s penal code.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — Maoists are back in power in Nepal. Two years after historic Maoist leader Prachanda quit, Baburam Bhattarai, a leading member of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), became the 35th prime minister of Nepal. He is the third head of government in two years, and replaces Communist Prime Minister Jalanath Khanal, who resigned on 15 August after only six months in power.

Bhattarai obtained the vote of 375 members out of the 574 present, 105 more than Ram Chandra Poudel, his only rival for the job and candidate for the Nepali Congress Party. The new prime minister won thanks to the votes of the Unified Madeshi Democratic Forum, which represents the Madeshi ethnic minority. Its support is based on a deal that would guarantee the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, threatened by proposed changes to the country’s penal code that would ban conversions and favour Hindus.

The new head of government must now grapple with major issues, such as drafting the new constitution within the terms laid down by the United Nations and integrate 19,000 Maoist guerrillas in society. Despite election promises, past governments fell on these two issues since 2007.

In recent years, Bhattarai has been a moderate figure. According to some analysts, he could bring a new approach to politics and break the country’s political and economic gridlock. However, his vision might also generate more opposition among conservatives, (non-Maoist) Communists and his party’s own extremists.

Born in 1954 into a peasant family in the small village of Belbas (Gorkha District, central Nepal), Bhattarai attended the Amar Jyoti Janata Secondary School in Luintel, graduating at the top of his class. In the 1970s, he went to university in India where he studied architecture and earned a Ph.D.

In 1981, he joined the Communist Party of Nepal. In 1986, he returned home to fight against the Hindu monarchy in a civil war that ended in 2006. He later moved to the Maoist party, and has served as finance minister in various coalition governments since 2008.

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

Pakistan: Dozens of Pakistani Boys Kidnapped by Taliban

Islamabad, 2 Sept. (AKI) — Thirty Pakistani boys were abducted by Taliban militants after they mistakenly crossed the border into Afghanistan during a picnic.

The boys — aged 10 — 15 — were picnicking on Thursday during the Muslim Eid holiday in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal region when they were kidnapped. News of the kidnapping was delayed until after tribal elders tried to negotiate their release.

Parts of vast and largely unmarked.border are used as for refuge by the Taliban.

A number of the older boys managed to escape and alter others to the abduction, the BBC’s Urdu language service reported.

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


Libya’s Lost Immigrant Souls With Nowhere to Go

Colonel Gaddafi threatened to flood Europe with African immigrants unless they paid him to keep the tide at bay. Nick Meo talks to some of those swept up in his cynical plan.

With the blue of the Mediterranean stretching far to the horizon and a spectacular mosque perched on a hillside above, the fishing port at Zanzour is one of the jewels of the coastline around Tripoli.

It is also the scene of one of Muammar Gaddafi’s most bizarre and cynical plans; an operation to flood Europe with black African illegal immigrants in revenge for Nato’s bombing campaign.

For months until the uprising in Tripoli two weeks ago, men in uniform were seen around the port directing the loading of immigrants onto leaky boats bound for Italy.

Africans who landed this summer on the tiny island of Lampedusa — a speck of rock south of Sicily — said they had paid nothing for their passage, in contrast to the $1,000 fee usually demanded by people smugglers.

No boats have left since the rebels drove Gaddafi’s men out, but the human cargo is still stranded there; a thousand desperate black African men, women and children, clustered in the dirt under beached boats in utter squalor, hungry, scared, penniless, and desperate to escape.

“Our lives are under threat here,” said Pastor Anthony Ojieseri, 32, a Nigerian with sad eyes who was leading an open air Church service in the makeshift refugee camp. “Rather than staying here I would rather risk my life at sea in one of these old boats with a chance of getting out.”

The fear of thousands of people like him, combined with the chaos still reigning in Libya, raises the prospect of a massive new influx of migrants to Europe in coming months, with no guarantee that the fledgling rebel government will have the resources or inclination to stop it.

The Africans are desperate to get out and terrified that they will be murdered by rebels taking revenge. Since Gaddafi’s soldiers fled two weeks ago, Libyan gunmen have prowled the makeshift camp, raping women and robbing the men at knifepoint. Africans are singled out because Gaddafi invited huge numbers of them into his nation, giving them jobs and housing in return for their support. As well as recruiting them to fight in his armies, he used their presence to exert political blackmail on Europe.

In 2010 he warned that unless the European Union paid him £4 billion annually to stop illegal immigration, Europe would “turn black”. On a trip to Italy last year, he compared the threat that mass African immigration posed to Europe to that from the barbarian invasions, provoking Italian members of parliament to accuse him of acting like a Mafia don.

Prior to that there had been co-operation between Libya and Italy, with joint naval patrols in 2009 and crackdowns on human smuggler networks which brought the flow of immigrants to a stop.

Then, after Nato backed the rebels in March, Gaddafi again threatened to open the floodgates for migrants to Europe. The Italian government last month claimed that Libya had sent thousands to Lampedusa in revenge for Italy’s support for Nato’s campaign.

An exodus of boat people began when the Nato bombing started, with 28,000 arriving on Lampedusa from Libya between March and August. In the previous year, hardly any had arrived.

Laura Boldrini, of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that until this summer, it had been unheard of for immigrants to get to Europe without paying a trafficking fee.

Refugees interviewed by Italian journalists on Lampedusa this summer spoke of a high-ranking army officer in charge of the port in recent months, an account confirmed by a Libyan living near the port who spoke to The Sunday Telegraph.

The man, who would not give his name, claimed that the port had been controlled by a shadowy official called Zuhair, who had vanished when the rebels arrived.

“He is a Palestinian originally, with several passports,” the man said. “He had people under him and they sent the boats to Lampedusa.”

There seems little likelihood that the operation was being conducted without official sanction; Zanzour is located not on some remote, unpoliced stretch of coast but within an old military base, only about ten miles west of Tripoli, an area which was firmly under Gaddafi’s control until recently.

The problem of how deal with the refugees has been a difficult one for Italy, but the real victims are the families and young men who have ended up in Zanzour.

They know they are risking their lives by going to sea — two hundred died in one sinking alone in 2009 off Libya — but the prospect of life in Europe is a tantalising one.

           — Hat tip: Thom Jefferson[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Abortion Tied to Sharp Decline in Women’s Mental Health

A provocative new study shows that women who have an abortion face an increased risk for mental health problems including substance abuse, anxiety, and depression.

“Results indicate quite consistently that abortion is associated with moderate to highly increased risks of psychological problems subsequent to the procedure,” the authors wrote in the study, published in the September 1 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 877,000 women, including 164,000 who had an abortion. They found women who had an abortion experienced an 81 percent increased risk for mental problems.

Women who had an abortion were 34 percent more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, 37 percent more likely to experience depression, 110 percent more likely to abuse alcohol, 155 percent more likely to commit suicide, and 220 percent more likely to use marijuana.

Nearly 10 percent of the problems could be attributed to abortion, the authors concluded.

“There are in fact some real risks associated with abortion that should be shared with women as they are counseled prior to an abortion,” Dr. Priscilla Coleman, professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University, told the Daily Telegraph.

About 827,000 women have an abortion in the U.S. each year.

Previous research hasn’t found a definitive link between an abortion and a woman’s mental health.

In 2008, the American Psychiatric Association charged a task force to review scientific evidence on the link between abortion and mental health. They acknowledged women may experience sadness, grief, depression, and anxiety following an abortion, but could not find evidence abortions — and not other factors — caused these effects.

“The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy, the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion or deliver that pregnancy,” Dr. Brenda Major, chair of the task force, said in a 2008 written statement. “The evidence regarding the relative mental health risks associated with multiple abortions is more uncertain.”

[Return to headlines]

Italy: Transexual Arrested for Stalking Married Ex-Lover

Rome, 29 August (AKI) — A transexual near Rome has been arrested for stalking after his 46-year-old lover broke off their relationship and dedicate his affections to his wife.

Following threatening phone calls and text messages the married couple finally reported the alleged stalker after they spotted him Sunday loitering outside their home.

The alleged aggressor is being held at a prison in Rome.

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

UK: Health Ministers ‘Oppose Abortion Advice Changes’

The government has written to all MPs to tell them health ministers will vote against a proposal to change the advice given to women seeking an abortion. …

At present, women seeking an abortion need the consent of two doctors, which can be obtained through an NHS clinic or GP surgery, or at a private provider, such as Marie Stopes or the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), affiliated to the NHS.

In both cases, staff have a duty to provide counselling to the women who use them — and under Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ guidelines that advice should be impartial, objective and unbiased.

‘Nothing finalised’

Ms Dorries’ amendment — which is also supported by Labour backbencher Frank Field — would remove that duty from Marie Stopes and BPAS.

It says the NHS — specifically GPs — should provide “independent information, advice and counselling services for women requesting termination of pregnancy” — and it defines “independent” as an organisation that does not itself provide abortions.

There are no other stipulations about who those independent bodies could be. Pro-choice campaigners say they could be faith-based groups morally opposed to abortion, who will seek to persuade women that going ahead with one would be a sin.

While MPs are traditionally given a “free vote” on abortion, the Department of Health’s letter to MPs says all health ministers are against the idea.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Vacationing Italian Man Jailed in Sweden for Slapping His Son for Public Tantrum

In a parenting culture clash, the southern Italian visitor is being prosecuted in Stockholm under a super strict law against any form of “offensive treatment” of one’s own children — not only slapping, but maybe even yelling at them

Europe may share a single currency, and other signs of increasing integration and common culture. But apparently there is still a major North-South divide when it comes to a key question: parenting. A local politician from southern Italy was arrested during his vacation in Sweden for having slapped his son in public. He risks a conviction for assault on a minor, according to the strict Swedish law which since 1966 has forbidden any kind of physical punishment of children.

Giovanni Colasante, town counselor of the small village of Canosa in Puglia, was on vacation in Stockholm with his family and friends. On August 23, the group was going to a restaurant, but Colasante’s 12-year-old son threw a tantrum and refused to enter with the rest of the group. According to the charges, Colasante slapped him in the face.

Colasante denies the charges. “The child refused to enter in the restaurant. His father scolded him vehemently, and gesticulated. But this is how we do things in Italy,” said his defense attorney Giovanni Patruno.? “Colasante didn’t hit his son.”

What is known is that Colasante’s heated reaction convinced some witnesses that the man was assaulting his son. They alerted the police who arrested Colasante. The Italian man spent three days and two nights in a Stockholm jail, and cannot leave the city before the trial which will take place on Sep. 6.

The attorney Patruno says that surely his client will be released, given that his action was only a “vehement scolding.” In Italy, where people are often loud, the scene would have been considered normal. But in Sweden even yelling too much could be punished as a crime. According to the Swedish law “förbud mot barnaga” against children physical abuse, even “kränkande behandling” (offensive treatment) is forbidden. Yes, it appears that what elsewhere is a “good scolding” can be punished with jail time.

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


Reasons to be a Global Warming Skeptic

Unless one is arguing that humans are the only cause of global warming — in which case I’d have to point to that big glowing thing in the sky during the daytime — what I said explicitly includes a human contribution and even a greenhouse gas contribution.

Now, the IPCC AR4 model is rather stronger than that: it insists that anthropogenic, greenhouse-gas forced warming is the dominant — so dominant that it leads the unthoughtful to turn it into “only” — cause of global warming. For conciseness, call that the AGW model. Reasons I don’t find that hypotheses convincing include:

(1) from the start, it has depended on very sensitive statistical techniques to tease a signal out of an overall warming that has been going on for 500 years. Refer back to the famous “hockey stick” charts and then look for one with actual error bars: even in the papers making the strongest arguments for the AGW hypothesis have very wide error ranges — so wide that the AGW component barely exceeds the limits of the technique.

(2) the specific methods used for some of the dominant studies turn out to be mathematically flawed. in particular, the methods of Mann _et al_ turn out to present a clear hockey stick no matter what the input data is, including pure random numbers.

A method that detects a signal when there is no signal is necessarily suspect. At best.

Other examples of questionable parts of these results include:

¦the methods used to select data points in the GCHN data sets — examined carefully, it turns out that the selected points used to compute GAST and regional temps are, to a *very* high probability, the points from the raw data set that lead to the most warming. Carefully read, the descriptions of the analysis even say that’s a selection criterion: they’re selecting data points that fit the models well — but then testing the models by how well they fit the data.

¦actual site locations turn out to very commonly have poor site placement and site changes that would add significant warming. This warming has not been appropriately compensated for….

¦odd ad hoc methods to fit together paleoclimate data and actual temperature measurement, including the famous “hide the decline” patching, and contrariwise the exclusion of recent tree ring data that suggests tree rings may not be as strongly correlated with temperature as we think. The explanations for those exclusions end up looking very ad hoc in themselves.

(3) There is actually extensive literature showing anthropogenic components that are not driven by greenhouse gases. These results have been excluded from the IPCC, often in very questionable ways (cf Roger Pielke Sr’s removal from the IPCC editorial board.)

(4) The predictions of further warming are necessarily based on models…


…any number of people who have found that a model that predicts more warming gets funded; a model that predicts relatively less warming gets less funding. Pre-tenure researchers in particular are warned away from results that don’t fit orthodoxy.

(5) The models themselves turn out not to be very predictive…


These models are often revised so that after the fact that predict what really happened.


(6) It’s unclear how the AGW hypothesis can be falsified in its current form.

(7) The arguments against the skeptics turn out to be unscientific, and often unprofessional, in the extreme.

These range from the common — “the consensus is” — to the ad hominem, and even to outright attempts to suppress free inquiry.

“The consensus is” neglects the fact that science isn’t decided by consensus, not permanently at least. (At one time, the consensus was that fire involved a special elemental substance called phlogiston; at another, it was that atoms were indivisible and unchangeable; not so long ago, it was that light was a wave in a literally ethereal substance called the “luminiferous aether.” If consensus precluded further testing, we would still believe those today.)


I don’t think the AGW enthusiasts consider the costs and benefits of AGW amelioration versus the other possibilities. If preventing a sea level rise of one meter means dooming future generations in the Third World to sickness, hunger, and darkness, it’s not worth it.

[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

Here is the last - and most important - paragraph of Christopher Caldwell's long article referenced above:

"Now the state of Israel is at the heart of a new Jewish question, one that — like the old one — arises from innovations in the world of political philosophy. Today, leaders of the European Union and apostles of the "global community" hold the nation-state in contempt — and exhort the peoples of the world to view themselves as post-national citizens of the world, owing allegiance to the human race and not to any particular tribe, creed, or polity. There is no evidence to indicate that this is a workable project, but that has done nothing to moderate the calumny visited on those who resist it. Israel, as the nation-state par excellence, is cast as an enemy of "humanity", and the same attitudes confront its supporters, who include most of the West's Jews. Thus the demon of anti-Semitism has managed to reenter European life through the back door, in the name not so much of racism as of anti-racism."