Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110930

Financial Crisis
»Chinese Banks Close to Collapse. Fears of Zero Growth
»EU: Barroso Goes for Bravado
»Euro Inflation Jumps Sharply to 3.0%
»France: Debt Climbs to 86.2% of GDP in Second Quarter
»Germany: ‘Where’s the Money?’
»Greece: Opposition Reacts Harshly to New Squeeze
»Greece: Troika Meets Fresh Resistance in Athens
»Greek Civil Servants Block Troika From Entering Finance Ministry
»Italian Family Savings Fall to Lowest Level Since 2000
»National Governments Can’t be Trusted: Barroso Calls for More Power for EU Institutions
»Slovakia Poses Increasing Threat to EU Bail-Out Fund
»‘Black Widow’ Former Model Who Butchered and Ate Her Husband in Notorious Thanksgiving Murder Seeks Early Release
»Churches Remain Highly Segregated in 21st Century
»Stakelbeck Analysis of Awlaki’s Death
Europe and the EU
»Austria: Nestle Tempts Dogs With High Frequency TV Ads
»Belgium: ‘Tintin in the Congo’ Racism Trial Opens
»Belgium: Police Assaulted by Burqa-Wearer’s Husband
»Dutch Law Goes Before Islamic Law
»EU Offers to Buy Belarus for $9bn
»France: Lack of Doctors, Banlieue Schools Appeal to UN
»France: Schoolchildren Riot Over Holiday Cut Rumour
»France: Paris Metro Gives Lessons in Good Manners
»German Researchers Hear What Women’s Voices Reveal About Fertility
»Germany: Teachers Don’t Want Metro Attacker in Class
»Germany: Designer Creates Clothes From Milk
»Greece: Saudi Prince Interested in Panathinaikos Football Club
»Healthcare: Greece Risks EU Court Over Doctors’ Working Hours
»Infertility on the Rise in Finland
»Italy: Berlusconi Indictment Request for Wiretap of Left Ex-Leader
»Kazakhstan: Top Kazakh Muslim Cleric Raps Tough Religion Law
»Nokia is Painfully Packing up in Europe
»Teen Death Stokes Ethnic Tensions in Bulgaria
»UK: An Early Test for the New Prevent Strategy
»UK: Association of Muslim Police
»UK: Countering Al-Qaeda in London: Police and Muslim Communities in Partnership [Robert Lambert Book Launch]
»UK: Guildford Council Criticised Over Islamic Centre
»UK: Journalistic Success, Economic Failure: Can Free Web Content Save the Guardian?
»UK: Muslim Mother Stabbed Daughter 40 Times and Cut Out Her Liver in Ritual Killing to ‘Exorcise Evil Spirits’
»UK: Over 12,000 People Sign E-Petition to Stop Extradition of Babar Ahmad as Campaigners Release Music Video
»UK: The Chron [Northampton Chronicle & Echo] Investigates the University of Northmapton’s Report on Britain’s New Far Right Movement
»UK: Viewpoint: What Are BNP Supporters Really Like?
»Serbia: Underground Economy, 1.5 Bln Lost Each Year
Mediterranean Union
»EP Says Yes to Opening EU to Palestinian Exports
»Tunisia: EU: New ‘Special Measure’ For Poor Areas Launched
North Africa
»Egypt: Jews Are Not the Chosen People, Coptic Pope
»Egypt: Sean Penn Joins Protestors in Tahrir Square
»Morocco: Hunting Tourism Rising Constantly
»Tunisia: Number of Visitors Down 35.4% in 2011
»Tunisia: Constituent Assembly, Polls Show Ennahdha in Lead
Israel and the Palestinians
»Turkey to Build Biggest Hospital in Gaza
Middle East
»Anwar Al-Aulaqi, U.S.-Born Cleric Linked to Al-Qaeda, Reported Killed in Yemen
»Awlaki Unlucky
»Israel Jets Overfly Turkish Ship Off East Cyprus
»Jordan: Protesters Call for Genuine Reforms
»Oman: Journalists Arrested for Criticism of Minister
»Qatar: Emirate Ready to Buy BNP Paribas, Press
»Saudi Arabia: Ban on All Glider Flights
»Syria to Get Reprisal if Boycotts Turkish Goods, Minister
»Turkey-EU: Turkish Experts to Work at European Commission
»Turkey Requests Discount on Russian Gas Imports
»U.S.-Born Al Qaeda Leader Anwar Al-Awlaki is Killed in Yemen
South Asia
»Pakistan: Ten Year Old Girl Accused of Blasphemy and Sentenced for a Spelling Mistake
»Three Italian Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan
Australia — Pacific
»Brave Teenager Beats Bride Plan
»Woman to Serve 15 Days for Choking Walmart Greeter
»EU Considers Removing Visas for Turkish Citizens
»Lampedusa:320 Migrants on the Island, Centre Empty by Tonight
»Lampedusa: 4 in Custody for Reception Centre Fire
»Tunisian Gov’t Expresses Pain Over Paris Deaths
»UK: Letter to Baroness Flather From the Council of Mosques
»‘We’re Throwing Open the Doors to Benefit Tourists’: EU Plan to Let Migrants Claim as Soon as They Enter UK is Blasted
»Findings Indicate Einstein Was Right About Relativity

Financial Crisis

Chinese Banks Close to Collapse. Fears of Zero Growth

The Chinese Financial Index fell by 24%, more than that of European and American bank stocks. Chinese banks are plagued by insolvent debts due to loans to local governments and the stagnant property market. The country’s growth, currently estimated at 9.5%, is at risk

Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The listings of Chinese banks have dropped to very low levels, raising fears that a collapse could wipe out the country’s growth. This is what emerges from news announced today by Bloomberg, according to whom the MSCI index for the Chinese financial sector fell 4% this month, much more than all the European, American and Japanese banks.

The problem is very serious, even though in the last 12 months the index has recorded 104 billion in earnings. Chinese banks’ troubles are being caused by insolvent bonds offered to local governments, as well as by loans made to support the building boom that has left 50 percent of newly-built houses unsold, and by slowing global economic growth, which penalizes Chinese exports to Europe and the United States.

In 2008, at the beginning of the U.S. credit crisis, China sustained its economy with a package of aid to banks, local governments and Chinese industry of about 4 trillion dollars. This has led to a major overexposure on the part of Chinese banks and high inflation in the country. Local governments have received funding, but in most cases it was only used to create jobs, without a real business plan, without hope of repaying the debt contracted.

According to Jim Chanos, of Kynikos Associates, the insolvent debts could cut China’s growth to almost to zero (it is now estimated at 9.5%).The Chinese economy is also affected by the weight of sovereign debt in Europe and the stagnation in the United States. Both areas have diminished their purchase of Chinese products, undermining the volume of exports from Beijing.

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

EU: Barroso Goes for Bravado

In his “Speech of the Union” to the European Parliament on September 28, the President of the Commission sought to defend his institution and put forward concrete proposals to leave the crisis behind. But the European press has no illusions about his true room for manoeuvre.

“Barroso has popped up again!” quips Mediapart. “On Wednesday in Strasbourg, the European Commission showed signs of life. The disappearing act of its President, José Manuel Barroso, has been running for months against a backdrop of financial turmoil unprecedented for the eurozone.”

To prove to sceptics that he is more alive than ever, Barroso pulled out two flagship proposals meant to calm the financial markets: First, a tax on financial transactions across the EU. Second, eurobonds for the eurozone… the sole offer that the same Barroso placed on the table last year at the same time, (the green light to a European debt facility to finance targeted investment projects), never saw the light of day […] If he wins through just on the issues of financial regulation, at the height of the crisis, it’s because he spent a good deal of his first term (2004-2009) unravelling what little regulation of the markets was already in place. […] How can he claim today to have the means to put the markets back in their place?…

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

Euro Inflation Jumps Sharply to 3.0%

Eurozone inflation soared to 3.0 percent in September, official figures showed Friday, just days before outgoing European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet chairs his last policy meeting. The EU said the annual rate of price rises across the 17-nation currency area in September was 3.0 percent, a dramatic rise from 2.5 percent in August after Brussels said it had peaked, and well above the ECB’s target of below but close to 2.0 percent.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

France: Debt Climbs to 86.2% of GDP in Second Quarter

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 30 — France’s public debt climbed in the second quarter of this year by around 46.4 billion euros, to 86.2% of GDP, 1.7 points higher than in the previous quarter.

The figure was released by national statistics institute INSEE.

In 2010 the French public debt stood at 82.3% of GDP. The French government estimates in the finance bill that was presented last Wednesday that the debt should reach 85.5% by the end of this year, 87.4% in 2012 to fall back again to 87.3% in 2013, 86.2% in 2014 and 84.1% in 2015.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Germany: ‘Where’s the Money?’

Following the Bundestag’s vote on Thursday to expand the eurozone bailout fund, The Local hit the streets to find out what the average German makes of it all, in the latest instalment of our new Zeitgeist series.

Hannah Kowalski, 49, homemaker

“In my view, it’s crap when Germany gives others money. We are also poor. I am against this. Greece caused its own problems; it should take care of them. Where’s the money?”

Klaus B., 63, unemployed

“We never should have accepted Greece and Portugal (into the EU). You can’t compare these countries with Germany or France. It almost goes without saying. When this is over, they’ll just want more money.”

Sweden battles national butter shortage

As Sweden’s butter shortage enters its second month, the dairy industry is still struggling to meet demand and shelves in supermarkets up and down the country remain empty. Blame is being directed at the new back to basics cooking trend, full fat diet fads and young people turning their backs on farming.

“There are two obvious trends at the same time. On the one hand, demand for butter and cream is rising and on the other, production has been declining for the last few years,” Claes Henriksson of Swedish dairy giant Arla told The Local. Swedish TV-chef Leila Lindholm, known for her flamboyant flans and cute cupcakes, was one of the celebrity cooks whose cookery advice was recently singled by Swedish daily Aftonbladet and British newspaper The Guardian as a reason for the shortage.

“It is very flattering that they should think that I have that much influence on the Swedish public, but I think it is slightly exaggerated,” Lindholm told The Local. According to Lindholm there are many reasons why Swedes are choosing full fat products rather than the light varieties. “Light products are not in vogue at the moment, people are going back to basics when they cook and bake today,” Lindholm said. Also, she added, many diets such as LCHF (low-carb high-fat) are also advocating the use of real butter instead of margarine and other light products, at the same time as there are fewer dairy farmers producing these products in Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Greece: Opposition Reacts Harshly to New Squeeze

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 22 — The initial reactions of Greek opposition parties to the new austerity measures announced by the government after a lengthy meeting of the government commission lasting over 6 hours are very harsh. Giannis Michelakis, the spokesman of Nea Dimocratia, the main opposition party (centre-right), spoke of “a tsunami of unfair and unbearable measures, the result of a mistaken economic policies.”. “The government,” added Michelakis, “did not speak about the total cost of the measures, since behind its statement other measures are concealed. There is no respect for citizens who every day are called upon to make large sacrifices without getting anything in exchange by policies which are plunging us ever more into a recession.” Aleka Papariga, Secretary General of Greece’s Communist Party (KKE), has once again urged the population not to pay taxes.

“Not even one step back,” Papariga said. “We must turn the government’s life into a living hell. This is what we must do starting from today.” “The socialist government of Pasok,” the other left-wing party in Greece, Syriza said in a statement,” has no right to continue with the same catastrophic policies, not only because it lacks democratic legality but also because it is in clear contrast with the vast majority of society.” “Measures which are harsher than the previous ones and not as harsh as those to come,” reads a statement by Laos, the extreme right party, “it is not possible to dream of dignity and the quality of life while begging and praying.” “The measures that the government announced today demolish the social achievements won with decades-long struggle and sacrifices,” was the comment by Democratic Alliance, a small leftist party. “The government has exceeded all limits. It is turning the country into an enormous hospice for the poor,” was instead the comment of Constantinos Michalos, chairman of the Athens chamber of commerce and industry, in reference to the latest austerity measures. “These measures,” added Michalos,” cannot be carried out. The government’s insensitivity due to an unprecedented incapableness cannot be accepted either by firms or by workers or even pensioners. The entrepreneurial world fears that the measures announced yesterday will not be the last.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Troika Meets Fresh Resistance in Athens

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 30 — In a re-run of events on Thursday, Greek protesters blocked access to ministries due to be visited by troika representatives on Friday. Officials from the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund were due to meet with Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis at his department but dozens of anti-austerity protesters picketed the building and prevented them entering. It was not clear if the meeting was relocated as daily Kathimerini reports. Civil servants protesting wage cuts and firings demonstrated outside the Finance Ministry for a second day. Members of the Communist Party-affiliated PAME union protested outside several tax and Public Power Corporation offices.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek Civil Servants Block Troika From Entering Finance Ministry

Inspectors from the so-called troika of the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund returned to Athens on Thursday (29 September) to review the Greek government’s austerity work only to find staff from seven key ministries blockading their way.

Furious at fresh pay cuts and mass lay-offs, civil servants occupied the ministries of finance, development, labour, justice, health, agriculture and interior affairs, according to local reports.

Finance minister Evangelos Venizelos was scheduled to meet with the troika inspectors, but was forced to meet at the deputy prime minister’s offices when his own building was inaccessible.

Some of the occupations are to continue on Friday, with the sit-in at the Hellenic Statistical Authority due to continue through Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Italian Family Savings Fall to Lowest Level Since 2000

Savings rate drops to 11.3%

(ANSA) — Rome, September 29 — Italians appear to be feeling the impact of the economic crisis as family savings have falledn to their lowest level in more than a decade.

According to the national statistics agency, ISTAT, family savings fell 0.4% to 11.3% in the second quarter of 2011 and 1.% compared to the same period in 2010.

It was the lowest savings level recorded since 11.1% in the first quarter of 2000.

Family purchasing power in the second quarter dropped 0.2% compared to the previous quarter and 0.3% compared to the same quarter of 2010.

In the second quarter of 2011, Italy posted a primary surplus of 8.236 billion euros and the impact on GDP was 2.1%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

National Governments Can’t be Trusted: Barroso Calls for More Power for EU Institutions

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said in an interview that the EU’s institutions need to be strengthened to stabilize the euro zone, arguing that national governments can’t be trusted to take determined action. Meanwhile, former German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück says it’s time to openly admit that Greece is practically bankrupt.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Slovakia Poses Increasing Threat to EU Bail-Out Fund

Plans to strengthen the firepower of the eurozone’s bail-out fund may be put in jeopardy by Slovakia, where a coalition stalemate is prompting the government to consider asking for a special derogation. Last in line to vote, Slovakia’s parliament is supposed to pass two pieces of legislation — one agreeing the framework of the new fund and a second piece that would formally raise Bratislava’s guarantees from €4.4 billion to €7.7 billion.

However, the junior ruling coalition party Freedom and Solidarity remain steadfastly opposed to raising the country’s contribution, depriving the centre-right Christian Union party of Prime Minister Iveta Radicova of the necessary threshold of votes.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


‘Black Widow’ Former Model Who Butchered and Ate Her Husband in Notorious Thanksgiving Murder Seeks Early Release

A former model, who bludgeoned her husband, chopped up his body and cooked parts of it, in a notorious crime that had her compared to Hannibal Lector, is making an early bid for freedom.

Egyptian born beauty Omaima Nelson is serving 27 years for killing William Nelson, 56, in 1991.

Nelson was only 24 when she skinned her husband’s torso, cooked his head on the stove and fried the hands in oil in the Costa Mesa apartment the newly-weds shared.

They had been married only about a month.

Nelson later drove body parts to various ex-boyfriends houses in black bin bags, offering $75,000 for help disposing of the grisly evidence.

Neighbours said the garbage disposal was on for ‘a long time’ and there were ‘constant chopping sounds’ were coming from the home, according to the Daily Pilot.

In court, a psychiatrist testified that Nelson told him she put on red shoes, a red hat and red lipstick before spending hours chopping up her husband’s body.

Nelson told authorities that she was acting in self-defence and that her husband had raped her the night before the murder.

She also claimed she was sexually assaulted by her brother and stepfather and was forced to undergo a female circumcision, a ritual mutilation of the female genitalia practiced in some parts of the world.

The Orange County district attorney’s office opposes freeing her on the grounds that her crimes were especially heinous, and that she had a history of violence before killing her husband.

‘This is probably one of the most egregious mutilations we’ve ever had,’ Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Randy Pawloski, who prosecuted the case, told the Daily Pilot. ‘It is one of the most gruesome and notorious crimes ever committed in Orange County.’

Nelson is scheduled to appear at a parole board hearing next Wednesday in Chowchilla State Prison in Central California.

An earlier bid at parole was rejected in 2006.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Churches Remain Highly Segregated in 21st Century

There are currently between 300,000 and 350,000 congregations in the U.S., according to Michael Emerson, a sociology professor and co-director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research in Houston, Texas. Ninety-two percent are homogeneous, meaning at least 80 percent of the congregation is comprised of a single racial group.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck Analysis of Awlaki’s Death

Hi all, my instant analysis of Awlaki’s death…here’s one nugget:

Unlike another American-born Al Qaeda propagandist, Adam Gadahn (aka “Azzam the American”), Awlaki, who was an imam at mosques in San Diego and northern Virginia before leaving the U.S. in 2002, had major religious street cred in the radical Islamic world. In my conversation last year in London with Al Qaeda-linked, global terrorist Saad al-Faqih, he went out of his way to praise Awlaki as a religious scholar. Al Faqih, a former associate of Osama Bin Laden, would not offer such praise lightly. I believe that Awlaki’s unique blend of Westernized media savvy and religious gravitas make him, in many respects, even more difficult for Al Qaeda to replace at this stage than Osama Bin Laden.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Nestle Tempts Dogs With High Frequency TV Ads

The world’s biggest food company Nestle is seeking to conquer the dog food market with special advertising targeted at men’s best friend. “Nestle Purina has created the first-ever television commercial especially for dogs,” it said in a statement. “The TV commercial to be screened on Austrian television uses different sounds — including a high frequency tone — to capture the attention of four-legged friends and their owners,” it added. The advertisement includes three sounds that can be picked up by dogs, including a squeak that is similar to the sound made by dogs’ toys as well as a high-pitched ‘ping’.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Belgium: ‘Tintin in the Congo’ Racism Trial Opens

A Congolese man pleaded with a Belgian court on Friday to remove “Tintin in the Congo” from bookshelves, arguing that the comic book is littered with racist stereotypes about Africans. “It is a racist comic book that celebrates colonialism and the supremacy of the white race over the black race,” Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo said as he arrived for the opening of the civil trial in Brussels. “Will we continue to tolerate such a book today?” asked Mondondo, whose case against Tintin’s publisher is backed by a French anti-racism group. One of his lawyers, Ahmed L’Hedim, argued that the book, written by celebrated Belgian author Herge in 1931, violates Belgium’s anti-racism laws.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Police Assaulted by Burqa-Wearer’s Husband

Thu 29/09/2011 -Police officers in the Brussels municipality of Sint-Joost-ten-Node were attacked by the husband of a woman that refused to remove her burqa. The incident happened on Wednesday after a patrol from the Brussels-North Local Police Service spotted the woman wearing a burqa on the Liedekerkestraat at around 12:35pm.

The wearing burqas and other garments that cover the face has been illegal since legislation on the issue was passed by the Federal Parliament earlier this year. The police officers asked the woman to remove the part of the burqa that covered her face so that they could identify her. She refused and was asked a second time to show her face. This met with a furious response from her husband who proceeded to attack the police officers. One officer was injured in the attack and will be off work for three days. Police Commissioner Roland Thiébaut told the Brussels regional news website that “Our inspectors wanted to identify her to enable them to draft a crime report.” She refused and her husband became aggressive. He said that he would kill anyone that touched his wife. He struck one of the inspectors. The police officer is now unable to work for three days. “ The man was detained and his case is now in the hands of the judicial authorities. The woman left the scene without removing her burqa.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Dutch Law Goes Before Islamic Law

Dutch courts sometimes conform to the legal rules of other countries, but they are always watching for violations of the Dutch legal system and of human rights. Dutch laws always take precedence, Deputy Justice Minister Fred Teeven said on Thursday.

Mr Teeven spoke in response to questions from Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party about the influence of Islamic law or Sharia on sentences passed in the Netherlands. According to the deputy minister, the relationship between the two is “negligible.” MPs from the Labour, Socialist and Green Left parties expressed unease that the Freedom Party would suggest a link between Sharia and Dutch law. “You are trying to frighten people with myths, to incite them against something that does not exist,” said Labour MP Martijn van Dam.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

EU Offers to Buy Belarus for $9bn

EU leaders have promised authoritarian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko $9 billion if he frees political prisoners and holds normal elections. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk unveiled the offer at a press event at an EU summit with post-Soviet countries in Warsaw on Friday (30 September). The money would come in the form of loans from two EU banks, the EIB and EBRD, and from the International Monetary Fund in Washington. Lukashenko would not have to step down as part of the deal. But he would have to free political prisoners and, later on, hold EU-and-US-recognised elections, which would most likely see him ejected.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

France: Lack of Doctors, Banlieue Schools Appeal to UN

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 19 — There are not enough doctors willing to work in the schools of Paris’s banlieues, and therefore teachers and parents have launched an appeal to the UN for humanitarian aid to be sent. Once again at the centre of the matter is Seine-Saint-Denis, an outlying area in the north-eastern part of Paris, in which the conditions are the most dire. After a few months ago when Sevran’s mayor requested help from UN troops to restore security in the department, often the scene of clashes between young people and police officers, it is now the schools’ turn to request help from the UN. As reported by the France Info radio station, parents and teachers from the FCPE union intend to denounce in this way the chronic lack of school doctors in this department, which has one doctor for every 9,600 students and one nurse for every 1,300.

In Seine-Saint-Denis schools 40% of positions for doctors are vacant.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Schoolchildren Riot Over Holiday Cut Rumour

Several hundred French schoolchildren went on the rampage on Friday after false rumours spread that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government wants to take away a large slice of their school holidays. Protests that began in northern France spread to the capital’s outskirts on Friday, where police said they arrested 10 people after high-school children rioted, damaging cars by turning them on their side or smashing windows. Another 18 were arrested in northern France, where protesters attacked buses, torched bins and allegedly insulted a police officer. Around 20 schools were affected in the Picardy region, north of Paris, including in Amiens, where pupils set fire to bins and threw stones, eggs and tomatoes.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

France: Paris Metro Gives Lessons in Good Manners

Police, sociologists and elected officials got together with the management of Paris’ metro and bus network this week to talk about ways to improve the behaviour of the 10 million passengers the system carries each day. The meeting is part of a campaign launched by the transport operator, RATP, using posters across the city to remind travellers of some of the irritating practices that can turn a simple journey into a test of nerves.

“In our society, anti-social behaviour is a way of being self-assertive,” said the sociologist Francois de Singly in Le Figaro, adding that obedience or compliance is “a value that’s been in permanent decline for decades, well before 1968.” The deputy director of the transport police, Serge Rivayrand, said that offenders are getting younger and that handling situations is getting more difficult when police intervene.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

German Researchers Hear What Women’s Voices Reveal About Fertility

A new study investigates whether women’s voices change during their menstrual cycle. The provocative, sexy science impacts whom and how we love and marry, something interesting to biologists and lovers alike.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Germany: Teachers Don’t Want Metro Attacker in Class

Teachers at a Berlin high school are threatening to strike if the teenager convicted of brutally beating a man in a metro station in April is allowed to attend classes there. Torben P., 18, was sentenced this month to nearly three years in prison for the assault on a 29-year-old, which was captured on video and spawned a nationwide debate about youth violence.

But while his legal team appeals the sentence, Torben P. has been released on bail and wants to continue his secondary education. Torben P. was forced to leave the school he had been attending previously following protests from students and parents. The Catholic Liebfrauen school in the Charlottenburg district agreed to take him in last week, but now its teachers are threatening to resign if he is allowed to attend their classes.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Germany: Designer Creates Clothes From Milk

A Hannover microbiologist and fashion designer is releasing a new clothing line with a twist: the clothes are partly created from powdered milk — aiding skincare “The proteins in the powder care for the skin,” said 28-year-old Anke Domaske, who has founded the QMilch line, explaining how she believes the technique she came up with in cooperation with the Bremen Fibre Institute could have applications for other industries, including medicine.

Of course it’s not just powdered milk that goes in the clothes, but the process could be a breakthrough for the fashion industry, which is looking for new ways to create cheaper and environmentally friendly clothing. So-called “bio-clothing” has become a hot trend in the fashion industry. Big European companies like H&M and C&A have been released organic cotton lines. “The issue of sustainability has become a great advertising vehicle,” said Heike Scheuer, a spokeswoman with the International Association of Natural Textile Industry.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Greece: Saudi Prince Interested in Panathinaikos Football Club

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 22 — There is an official proposal for the acquisition of the Greek Panathinaikos footbal club’s majority stake, with reports suggesting the interest comes from a Saudi prince who is a construction magnate, as daily Kathimerini writes today quoting Panathinaikos president Dimitris Gontikas. Prince Sultan bin Naser Al-Farhan Al-Saud, owner of one of the biggest construction firms in Saudi Arabia, has according to reports tabled on offer to buy the controlling stake in the Greek football giant that has been up for grabs for over a week. His proposal, as expressed by his representative Vlassis Tsakas at the club’s board meeting on Monday, provides for an immediate 20-million-euro share capital increase, some 50 million euros next summer for the club’s operation and transfers, and a 150-million-euro project for the construction of a new 48,000-seat stadium for the club, to be completed by the Prince’s own company. Tsakas stated that the 26-year-old Prince, a friend of his, will likely come to Athens by end-October. The deal for the 54.7% stake in Panathinaikos is likely to stir the waters in the local game as this would be the first time a foreign magnate has invested in it.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Healthcare: Greece Risks EU Court Over Doctors’ Working Hours

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, SEPTEMBER 29 — Doctors in Greece work too many hours and today the European Commission asked Athens to conform to EU regulations on working hours in public health services. Brussels has sent Greece a formal letter, and now the country has two months time to take the necessary measures. If Greece fails to conform to regulations, it could be taken to the European Court of Justice. Brussels claims that doctors in Greece working in public hospitals and healthcare centres must work an average of 64 hours per week, 90 hours in some cases. Greece has imposed no ceiling on the number of hours doctors are required to work in continuation, and often they don’t have time to take sufficient breaks. The European Commission sees this situation as a serious violation of the EU directive on working hours. Working too many hours without sufficient rest creates health and security risks for the workers themselves, and excessive exhaustion of doctors can have serious consequences for their patients.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Infertility on the Rise in Finland

One in five women over 40 have not given birth, according to fresh research by Statistics Finland. The number of childless couples in the country is on the rise, pointing to fertility problems.

Two decades ago just 15 percent of Finnish women were childless.

Fertility rates, however, vary by region. In more rural areas, such as in Ostrobothnia, the share of women without kids is 15 percent, whereas in the capital region more than a third of women are not mothers.

Women are increasingly waiting to start a family. In 1990, the share of mothers among 30-year-old women was 67 percent. This figure dropped to 50 percent at the end of last year.

Researchers argue that if this development continues, there is a threat of an ever growing share of women remaining totally childless in future.

Two thirds of childless 40-year-old women are unmarried, a quarter are married and 8 percent are divorced.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Indictment Request for Wiretap of Left Ex-Leader

Would be premier’s fifth trial

(ANSA) — Rome, September 22 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi could face another criminal trial after a Milan prosecutor on Thursday made an indictment request over a wiretap case.

Prosecutor Maurizo Romanelli filed the request over Berlusconi’s alleged involvement in receiving illegally obtained wiretap evidence, the contents of which his brother Paolo later published in Paolo’s conservative newspaper Il Giornale.

Milan Chief Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said that in upcoming discussions with a preliminary hearings judge the prosecutors would decide whether to pursue or drop the case.

In December prosecutors had asked for charges to be dropped against Berlusconi.

However, Stefania Donadeo, a preliminary judge in Milan, refused this request last week and told prosecutors to formulate a petition for Berlusconi to be sent to trial.

Another preliminary judge will now decide whether to indict Berlusconi, who already faces four trials in Milan, three for alleged corruption and one concerning allegations he paid to have sex with an underage prostitute and abused his office to try to cover it up.

Prosecutors in Naples have also summoned the premier to face questioning about whether he was the target of extortion over his alleged use of prostitutes.

In the ongoing and several other previous trials, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly leftwing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons.

In more than a dozen cases, the premier has never received a definitive conviction, sometimes because of law changes passed by his governments, while some other charges were timed out by the statute of limitations.

The wiretap case regards the publication of a conversation in 2005 between the head of the one-time opposition Democratic Left (DS) party, Piero Fassino, and Giovanni Consorte, the former chairman of Unipol, an association of insurers historically linked to the DS, Italy’s former Communist Party.

At the time Unipol came close to taking over one of Italy’s leading banks, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), and Fassino was recorded as saying “we have a bank!”.

Fassino, now mayor of Turin, was widely criticised for the comment, especially among the rank and file of the DS, which has since turned into a slightly larger centre-left group, the Democratic Party.

Paolo Berlusconi has already been indicted over the case and the first hearing is scheduled to take place next month.

Also at the request of preliminary judge Donadeo, prosecutors on Thursday put Maurizio Belpietro, the editor of Il Giornale when the wiretaps were published, under investigation.

Two other people have already been convicted for involvement in the case.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kazakhstan: Top Kazakh Muslim Cleric Raps Tough Religion Law

By Dmitry Solovyov

ALMATY, Sept 30 (Reuters) — Kazakhstan's top Muslim cleric hit out on Friday at a tough new law on religious activity and warned that the restrictions it imposed on pious Muslims could spur extremism. Article 7 of the bill, which was passed by the Senate on Thursday and has already been approved by the lower house, bans prayer rooms in all state institutions. Both the U.S.-based human rights body Freedom House and the 56-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have criticised the legislation, which has yet to be signed into law by President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

To pray to Allah five times a day is a sacred duty of each Muslim. And it is quite possible that if reading prayers is banned at state institutions, certain groups will appear to voice their discontent with the state,” the Supreme Mufti of Kazakhstan, Absattar Derbisali, said in a statement. “Who can guarantee that, choosing between work for the state and worshipping Allah, such people will not join various political forces or extremist groups? Aren't we creating a threat to national security and the calm of the nation with our own hands? This is not the way to fight extremism and terror.” Oil-rich Kazakhstan, a majority of whose 16.5 million people are Muslims, has Central Asia's largest economy and is the world's biggest uranium producer, a major grain exporter and the ninth largest country by area.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Nokia is Painfully Packing up in Europe

Nokia plans to close its Cluj plant just three years after opening it, and move more production to Asia. It aims to axe some 3,500 jobs in Europe and the United States. In a move to lower operating costs, Nokia is shifting more of its production from Europe to Asia. The Finnish mobile-phone maker has decided to close its plant in Cluj, Romania, just three years after opening it. The plant replaced a former factory in Bochum, Germany. The move comes as Nokia continues to lose ground on the smartphone market.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Teen Death Stokes Ethnic Tensions in Bulgaria

Hundreds of Bulgarians rallied for a third night in major cities on Wednesday to protest against the Balkan country’s Roma minority. The death of a 19-year-old in southern Bulgaria had triggered the protests.

Bulgarians have been taking to the streets for several days to voice their anger at the country’s large Roma minority, after 19-year-old Angel Petrov was run over by members of a Roma family in Katunica, 160 kilometers (100 miles) east of the capital, Sofia, last Friday. His death has reignited simmering ethnic tensions in Bulgaria, not least because Bulgaria’s notorious Roma boss Kiril Rashkov, also known as “King Kiro,” was in the car that killed Petrov. Eyewitnesses said there had been a dispute between Petrov’s family and King Kiro.

Rashkov, who is the richest man in Katunitsa, is notorious throughout Bulgaria for a variety of illegal activities, including dealing with non-licensed alcohol. He has never had to go to court over this, and in addition to that, has been terrorizing the village for years, according to residents. “There is no one in this village who hasn’t been threatened by him,” one man, who did not want to be named, said.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UK: An Early Test for the New Prevent Strategy

By Paul Goodman

The death of Bin Laden has been read by some to suggest that the threat from Islamist extremism is over. But whatever the story may be behind this week’s arrests in Birmingham, that conclusion is a mis-reading: the danger hasn’t gone away. The Home Affairs Select Committee is currently carrying out an enquiry into violent radicalisation. Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam recently told the committee that “there is no evidence that this new strategy is yet being rolled out on the ground by civil servants to any meaningful degree.”

He claimed that there is “no national strategy to challenge non-violent extremism” and that there “is no criteria for engagement with extremists”. Is he right? To find an answer, I would start by examining three test cases.

  • The Muslim Council of Britain. The last Government ended relations with the MCB after the Daud Abdullah controversy. Abdullah remains a member of the organisation’s Central Working Committee. The Minister with overall responsibility under the Coalition’s revised Prevent Strategy with dealing with integration, cohesion, community relations and tackling non-violent extremism is Eric Pickles. The Department insists that it doesn’t engage with the MCB. It has funded MINAB, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Committee, of which the MCB and the Muslim Association of Britain, usually associated with the Muslim Association of Britain, are two of the four members. MINAB is the main survivor of Preventing Extremism Together (PET) — an initial Labour policy response to 7/7.
  • The Federation of Student Islamic Societies. There is a problem with a small number of college Islamic Societies. Five people who have held senior positions in University Islamic Socities have committed acts of terror or been convicted for terror-related offences. The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) — the umbrella body to which college Islamic Societies are usually affiliated — is viewed by the Government as unsatisfactory. The Government’s Prevent Strategy document said: “We judge that FOSIS has not always fully challenged terrorist and extremist ideology within the higher and further education sectors. FOSIS needs to give clearer leadership to their affiliated societies in this area.” The Home Office has told me that the Government continues to engage with FOSIS.
  • Azad Ali. Ali is a former President of the Civil Service Islamic Society — the website of which seems to be down at the moment — and adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He used his internet blog to praise a spiritual leader of Al-Qaeda whose sermons were attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers. He wrote of Anwar Al-Awlaki: “I really do love him for the sake of Allah, he has an uncanny way of explaining things to people which is endearing.” When I last wrote about him in June, he appeared still to be the Chair of the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF), although its website does not now show who its officers are. It claims to have “signed a working protocol with the Metropolitan Police and ACPO” and to be “advising the police on matters of safety and security from the Muslim perspective”.

Is Nawaz correct?

Nawaz is right to say that there is “no national strategy to challenge non-violent extremism”, but this seems to be largely a matter of timing. I understand that the DCLG’s strategy integration is ready for publication — I wrote about early contributions to it here, here, here and here — but that a place hasn’t yet been found for it in the grid. I expect Pickles to allude to it at the coming party conference.

He is perhaps right to say that there is “no evidence that this new strategy is yet being rolled out on the ground by civil servants to any meaningful degree” (although civil servants aren’t usually responsible for implementing strategies “on the ground”, and tests for deliverers of Prevent contracts are apparently being applied). But I would question whether one can expect much evidence to have been amassed less than six months after the new Prevent Strategy was agreed.

The civil service and the new Prevent policy

However, as I’ve indicated, there are clear criteria in the Prevent Strategy document governing non-engagement with extremists. (See page 107, a formula repeated in the larger Contest document). The question is whether or not it is being applied. Nawaz is evidently mistrustful of whether senior civil servants are committed to doing so: the name that keeps coming up in this context is that of Charles Farr, the Director of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism.

My judgement that although senior civil servants may not like the Government’s shift of policy, they’ve grasped that David Cameron and Theresa May require it to happen, and are thinking implementation through very carefully. My three examples show how it’s working out. On the MCB, the Government is sticking to the view that the MCB shouldn’t be engaged with. On FOSIS, it is also sticking to the opposite view, which was prefigured in the Prevent document.

Azad Ali — a test for the Met

The most problematic circumstance is in which an organisation or person which the Government views as extreme is a member of a larger body. The Azad Ali controversy is the sharpest example. Ali’s praise for the preacher linked to the Detroit bomb plot and the Fort Hood massace stands on the record, and a judge has ruled that a blog written by Ali can reasonably be read to have supported attacks on our troops in Iraq.

If Ali indeed remains active at senior levels of the MSF, he is an early test case for how seriously Bernard Hogan-Howe, the new Met Commissioner, takes the policy — and of the Home Office’s follow-through. It says that it wrote to all police forces after the Prevent strategy was published, and it intends to “hold the Met to the fire” over Ali. Let’s see what happens next. By the way, the Home Affairs Committee will find it worth studying Centri’s evidence as well as Quilliam’s.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Association of Muslim Police

Association of Muslim Police

Aims of the Association

The Association of Muslim Police (AMP) aims to:

  • assist Muslims in the police service to observe their faith, and to promote understanding of Islam within the police service & the wider community.
  • provide a forum for Muslims in the police, and support their religious and welfare needs, with a view to improving their immediate working environment and retaining them in the Service.
  • assist in the recruitment and retention of Muslim staff, and to assist in the creation of a fair and just working environment for all cultural minorities’

The AMP is formally recognised by the Metropolitan Police Service. It is active in pursuing faith-friendly policies and has been instrumental in ensuring the provision of many facilities to the benefit of Muslim staff, including Hijaab for female officers, ability to wear Islamic/cultural dress when not in uniform, provision of Halaal food and facilities for Salaah (Islamic Prayer). The AMP is available to provide support and advice to Muslim candidates. Those wearing Hijaab and considering a career in the police service are advised to contact the AMP for further specialist advice. Membership enquiries are welcome from police and civil staff candidates including PCSO’s, traffic wardens and cadets. Associate membership enquiries from spouses and family members are also welcome.

All enquiries, including media enquiries should be emailed to

[JP note: See a Harry’s Place post about the National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP), dated 21 January 2010, here and a Telegraph report, dated 20 January 2010 here The NAMP website appears to be no longer online and it is unclear whether in fact this organisation still exists.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Countering Al-Qaeda in London: Police and Muslim Communities in Partnership [Robert Lambert Book Launch]

Title: Countering Al-Qaeda in London: Police & Muslim Communities in Partnership (book launch and discussion)

Speakers: Robert Lambert

Date: 30 September 2011 at 18:45

Venue: Abrar House, 45 Crawford Place, W1H 4LP

Event details:

Since the events of 9/11, the destruction of Al Qaeda became the main target of military, ideological and political efforts by numerous states and groups. However, little is known of the hard work at the grassroots level to counter its ideas and practices. In this talk, the speaker presents an inside account of two pioneering projects in London where Muslim community groups worked in partnership with police to reduce the influence of Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism. One project empowered London Muslims to remove Abu Hamza and his violent hard-core supporters from Finsbury Park Mosque, while the other project bolstered long-term efforts by London Muslims in Brixton to challenge and reduce the influence of Al Qaeda inspired violent extremists including Abu Qatada and Abdullah el-Faisal. The speaker will discuss how the two projects serve as exemplars for future community-based counter-terrorism projects that recognise that the hand of central government can often be counter-productive when countering the influence of Al Qaeda: not least when the UK is waging war in Muslim countries.

The speaker:

Robert Lambert is an academic with a police career in counter-terrorism. In the aftermath of 9/11 he established the Muslim Contact Unit to work empathetically and in partnership with London Muslims. For the bulk of his police service (1977-2007) Lambert worked in counter-terrorism. In June 2008 he was awarded an MBE for his police service.

Free entrance. All welcome.

For more information please contact Sid ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 07786212486)

[JP note: The Metropolitan Police could do worse than to keep a close eye on Lambert.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Guildford Council Criticised Over Islamic Centre

A Muslim group has criticised Guildford Borough Council after it rejected an application for a new Islamic centre. Guildford’s Muslim Education and Cultural Association wants to convert a former garage in Recreation Road. The council rejected the plans because of possible disturbance to residents and concerns about parking. Osama Khan, from the group, said the council had not understood the application and they would appeal against the decision. He said the town had at least 1,000 Muslims and the only meeting space currently available for prayer was a room at the university which had a capacity of 500. Mr Khan said: “This would be basically an educational and cultural centre for the Muslim community who live in Guildford and around Guildford. “We did mention very clearly that any community from the Muslim families will come to the centre through public transportation because any parking space on Recreation Road is actually dedicated to the residents anyway. “There isn’t any [parking] space and we are very much aware of it and that’s why we actually bought that land because it’s central to the town and so that they are well connected to public transportation.” A Guildford council spokesman said: “The council does not have a duty to provide accommodation or sites for any religious group or faith. “However, where local community groups identify sites, we can offer advice on their suitability. We welcome involvement from our whole community in future plans for the borough and treat all planning issues in a consistent and fair way according to the current national and local policy framework.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Journalistic Success, Economic Failure: Can Free Web Content Save the Guardian?

The Guardian has been losing money for years. But whereas the New York Times has begun charging for online content, the British daily has staked its future on giving away its journalism for free. The media world is watching with bated breath.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Mother Stabbed Daughter 40 Times and Cut Out Her Liver in Ritual Killing to ‘Exorcise Evil Spirits’

A Muslim woman disemboweled her daughter as a sacrifice to God after she became convinced the four-year-old was possessed by spirits, the Old Bailey heard.

Shayma Ali, 36, stabbed the girl up to 40 times and took out her liver while Koranic verses played in the background.

When police arrived at their east London home, Ali was heard chanting: ‘I seek refuge in God from the curse of Satan’.

Ali was found covered in blood rocking back and forward in the lounge of her home, with the child’s liver on the carpet.

She had become obsessed that the child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was possessed by a Jinn, a spirit referred to in the Koran which can occupy humans and animals.

In the winter months of last year Ali developed acute transient psychosis, which ended in the killing of the child on December 16.

Duncan Atkinson, prosecuting, said Ali had become an increasingly devout follower of Islam after a trip to Egypt in 2009.

By last year she was prone to ‘outbursts of aggression’ towards members of her family who became concerned that her mental health was deteriorating.

‘She became particularly pre-occupied by the idea of possession by a thing call a Jinn,’ said Mr Atkinson.

He told the Old Bailey Ali became increasingly obsessed with exorcising the evil spirits.

‘She removed the eyes from toys and videos, covering over the eyes on covers of DVDs and books,’ he said.

‘She also became obsessed with cleaning because she believed such evil spirits thrived in dirty spaces.’ He said she ‘talked constantly about evil spirits’ and the belief that her daughter was possessed.

On December 16 last year she was alone with her daughter, who was not attending nursery because of a recent illness, at her home in east London.

Ali later told a psychiatrist she had been praying when she began to think about sacrificing a child ‘as proof of her love of God’.

Mr Atkinson said: ‘She became convinced God wanted her to sacrifice her own child.

‘She gripped her daughter by the neck until she blacked out. She took her to the kitchen and, as she said, “just to make sure she had killed the Jinn, the evil spirits, properly I took a kitchen knife which had been lying about and stabbed my daughter”.’

The court heard she called her husband and was found by family members in the lounge. The child was dead in the kitchen.

Police officers observed Ali repeatedly chanting: ‘I seek refuge in God from the curse of Satan.’ She was subsequently arrested and later charged with murder.

The four-year-old had suffered 28 exit wounds to her back, but many of the wounds overlapped each other, leading the pathologist to believe there had been 30 to 40 stab wounds.

She had also suffered blunt impact injuries to her head and compression to her neck.

In January this year Ali spoke to her husband and told him: ‘A voice told me “if you really love Allah you would sacrifice your daughter”.’

Psychiatrist Dr Philip Baker said Ali had become ill very quickly and it was ‘very difficult for any action to be taken’ but when she was psychotic she was capable of extreme violence.

Ali admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. Wearing a burka she sobbed in the dock, flanked by three nurses, as she entered her plea.

Judge Anthony Morris QC ordered she be detained in a medium-secure unit for treatment without limit of time under sections 27 and 41 of the Mental Health Act.

‘You were suffering from what has been described as an acute and transient psychotic disorder which clearly had been getting significantly worse over a short period of time before you carried out the killing,’ he said.

‘You became convinced that God wanted you to sacrifice your child and you went on to carry out the most terrible attack upon your four year-old daughter, stabbing her many, many times and then removing her internal organs.’

He added: ‘One of the most horrifying aspects of this case is how quickly you lost control of yourself in that you became, in a very short period of time, somebody who was acting in a way entirely foreign to your normal manner of behaviour.

‘The authorities must think long and hard before considering whether it is safe to release you, having regard to the rapidity of the onset of your acute symptoms in this case.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Over 12,000 People Sign E-Petition to Stop Extradition of Babar Ahmad as Campaigners Release Music Video

More than 12,000 people have signed the e-petition urging the UK government to stop the extradition of British detainee Babar Ahmad to the U.S and put him on trial in the U.K instead. It is currently the highest ranked e-petition about a single person. Supporters of the Free Babar Ahmad campaign have today released a 3 minute song video on You Tube about his case titled ‘Life is One Big Road,’ encouraging people to sign the e-petition. They hope to get over 100,000 signatures by 10 November 2011 to force parliament to respond to their demand of putting him on trial in the UK. Ashfaq Ahmad, Babar Ahmads father said: ‘As a result of the UK’s extradition laws, Babar has been imprisoned without trial since the 5th of August 2004. Over twelve thousand people have recently signed the e-petition for him to be tried in the UK. All of these people believe that our extradition laws should be amended to prevent bundling my son, Gary Mckinnon and others like them onto a plane to America. The Government has undertaken its extradition review the time for action is now.


[JP note: For those wishing the speedy extradition of Babar Ahmad, here is a link to Babar’s Travels by Jean de Brunhoff]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: The Chron [Northampton Chronicle & Echo] Investigates the University of Northmapton’s Report on Britain’s New Far Right Movement

EARLIER this year the world was left in shock as one man was charged with the mass murder of 93 people, many teenagers, in Oslo and Utoya Island in the name of a right-wing ideology. As people have struggled to understand why the 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik may have committed the atrocity, alleged links between Breivik and The English Defence League (EDL) have surfaced. The EDL, a far-right street protest movement which opposes what it perceives as the spread of ‘Islamism,’ began just 35 miles away from here, in Luton in March 2009, latching onto a football firm already in the town. But it is in Northampton that pivotal research is being carried out in a bid to understand the mentality of this organisation. Last week a major report was launched by the University of Northampton on ‘Britain’s New Far-Right Social Movement’, charting the rise, ideology, structure and development of the EDL and bringing together international leading experts in the field to Northampton.

“For some 30 months the English Defence League has brought disorder, violence and racism in its wake. It has stretched police budgets and strained cohesion amongst and between British communities,” says Matthew Feldman, director of the University’s Radicalism, New Media and Research Group. “A lot of key organisations do great work actively dealing with these problems in the security service and policing, what we want to do is bring all the thinking on this together.” As well as publishing the largest report on the EDL to date, the university’s school of social science, the radicalism and new media research group is an initiative that will generate a series of focused research projects on the subject, particularly on the use of social media.

Whereas it has long been recognised that sites like Facebook and Twitter can be harnessed to effectively communicate, as shown in the uprisings in the Middle East earlier this year.

The school is also looking at how these social media sites are being used to aid extremism — Breivik had both a Facebook and Twitter account. “The thing with the internet is that it is like anything, it can be used for good or evil,” says Dr Feldman. “We now know that a man can make weapons of mass destruction with a credit card and a modem. Its use was predominantly a right-wing phenomena to begin with but it has been used by Islamists. The first blogs were published in 2004, and in a sense in 1995 before most of us knew the internet existed right wing extremists were using it, an ex-KK guy set up Stormfront (a white nationalist group) on the internet then. That’s been going for 15 years now and has more than 150,000 members, the far right has been ahead of the centre in terms of the internet. The internet and social media is so new in so many ways that we still have a lot of key work to do to establish patterns in how extremists use it. We don’t have any answers to questions like if they start by putting up a post and then when they are going to attack or kill, do they suddenly go silent on the internet, or do they become more blustery and post more before they are going to attack. Can we learn anything from what they are thinking and what they do next, from the way they use social media? The EDL is approached as a social movement, driven by an alliance of football hooliganism, nationalism, xenophobia, street politics — collectively organised and disseminated from the leadership to grass-roots supporters via new media.” Dr Feldman says that there is evidence to suggest that the EDL’s anti-Muslim politics has a wider presence in British society than the tens of thousands of ‘followers’ registered on its Facebook site.

That said he does not wish to scare. “All the barbarians are not at the gate, for instance the BNP always loses out to the Monster Raving Looney Party,” he said. “There is the BNP Northants Patriot, and EDL suggestion in Northamptonshire, but it is a pretty cohesive community here, that rejects all forms of extremism and I think that’s very reassuring, which is why we feel very at home in our community here. It is always difficult to prove if there is or isn’t far right activity anywhere, but the thing the internet does is to leave traces and IP addresses. It is a slow and meticulous process trying to tailgate them but there are traces.”

Dr Paul Jackson, lead author on the report, and also of the university research team, said: “The BNP has fiddled with new media, it has used websites, which may take news from other news sites, and given them its own slant, they have blogged, the EDL has been more savvy. Facebook can help connect them because someone puts something on Facebook and someone might respond to them. They are able to share information and build up a sense of community. I don’t think we can say this isn’t in Northampton, nowhere is immune from the message of anti-Muslim attitudes. I don’t think anywhere should see that it isn’t there because there are no major demonstrations, there will be some people in Northampton who agree with the views of the EDL but may also feel they are too violent to support them. We have tried with the report to get a clear message of what the new far right is, what their ideology is and where to place them. The EDL is a new form of far right organisation that has moved away from Neo-Nazism and anti-Semitic agendas, which is Islamophobic by nature. We don’t want to overstate the problem but there is a significant problem there. We want to have more of a debate about it and see it taken up at a political level.”

The report has been passed onto relevant members policy makers, one of those invited to read the report was Northampton North MP Michael Ellis, who wrote its foreword. “I’m really pleased that the University of Northampton is at the forefront of this important research that is increasingly important, nationally and internationally. Extremism of any kind is a threat to our country and to our way of life and we need to counter the abhorrent practices of extremism. I am a member of the Home Office’s Select Committee, there are extremists on both sides and I will be keeping my eye on it in my work on the Home Affairs committee.”

To read the report visit:

“We do have good communities”

THE Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council works to support any victims of discrimination in the county, as well as offering support to victims of hate crimes and helping to bring the perpetrators to justice. Its chief executive Anjona Roy offered her insights on the EDL. “We have on occasion reported information about the EDL to the police in Northamptonshire. The EDL is not an organisation in the way that most people see, it is very chaotic in the way it is organised. It is very much based on what the far right are involved in, in a particular area. When they propose something you may get people joining in who may not see themselves as part of it but think they are just joining in at that time. It is violent tribal behaviour. They are not necessarily all following the ideology but taking the opportunity to be involved. It is also a very different kind of far right than other far right groups, who often try to present themselves as respectable and try to operate within the political mainstream. It is very clear about who their enemies are. It is very focused on Islam, and at one level they have become more focused than any other far right group.”

She has welcomed the news that it is an area the university is investigating. “Any research that creates a body of evidence that looks at creating more cohesive communities, that’s got to be welcomed. I think it actually says a lot for the town that its academics see this as an important issue,” she said. “Approaches to dealing with it are different in different parts of the country, and a more consistent approach is needed. I think on balance we do have good communities here. It takes only one bad incident and someone going off the rails in a community, like we have seen in Oslo, to change the situation. The majority of people in this town get on well together and in a nutshell on the whole our organisation gets it right.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Viewpoint: What Are BNP Supporters Really Like?

Many people believe the far right has only irrational, isolated supporters and could never succeed in the UK. They’re wrong, says Matthew Goodwin. About seven years ago, when I was a PhD student, I got into my clapped out Nissan Micra and trundled down to the south-west of England to interview a lady about why she had got involved in politics. Sharon was in her early 50s, and reminded me a bit of my mum. Over the next few hours and cups of tea, I listened to her story. Sharon was born and raised in the local village. She knew everyone, and devoted much of her spare time to helping the Residents Association. She was never really that interested in politics. Her husband was a Conservative, but she only went along to the meetings because she liked the sandwiches. But then, over the years, things began to change. For Sharon, it seemed as though the way of life she had become accustomed to was under threat. She talked about feeling a sense of injustice about what had been perpetrated on her fellow citizens — our increasing involvement with Europe, the loss of our manufacturing base, a dwindling sense of respect among young people and the creeping advance of political correctness.

But more than anything, she was concerned about a new phase of immigration into the country. She was profoundly anxious, especially about the impact of this rapid and unsettling change on her friends and loved ones. Her concern wasn’t simply about the economy. It stemmed from her feeling that British culture, values and the national community were under threat. Sharon was Jewish, and the party that she decided to join was the British National Party. Though aware of its history of anti-Semitism and holocaust denial, for her the far right was the only movement that was serious about tackling the threat from Islam.

But as she quickly found out, involvement with the far right comes with consequences. Some of her friends stopped returning her calls — after 17 years the Residents Association no longer required her help. When she stood for the party at an election, her employer threatened to have her dismissed. Then one night, when home alone, Sharon was woken by a car full of anti-fascists who pulled up outside to shout abuse. Sharon told me she could handle all of that, but what really hurt, she explained, was that she was reviled by the very people that she was fighting to protect. When I asked Sharon why, despite all of these consequences, she carries on there was little hesitation: “Because doing nothing is not an option. I am fighting for the survival of my people.”

I spent the next four years travelling up and down the country to interview some of the most committed followers of the far right. Conventional wisdom tells us there is something “wrong” with people like Sharon. Implicit in the stereotypes is that they are driven by crude racism, irrational impulses, and psychological problems. The inadequacy of these stereotypes became quickly apparent during the interviews. On the whole, most of the activists appeared as relatively normal people.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Underground Economy, 1.5 Bln Lost Each Year

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, SEPTEMBER 28 — The underground economy and black labour form one of Serbia’s main problems. Serbia’s State budget loses 1.5 billion euros per year to this phenomenon because of missed tax income. “Unfortunately, we are having difficulties winning this battle against the underground economy, in which between 500 thousand and a million people are working,” said Vice Premier Verica Kalanovic, who plans to propose a series of measures, mainly aimed at improving the efficiency of the tax inspection system. It has been calculated that each year between four and five billion euros pass through the black market in Serbia (which has around 7.5 million inhabitants), more than a third of total movement of goods and services in the Balkan country.

A survey carried out between May and July of this year by Serbia’s Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the American USAID Fund and the Association of Employers has shown that the share of the underground economy in Serbia has increased from 34% in 2008 to 40% in 2010. This figure is very high, even when compared with other countries in the region: 10% in Croatia, 16% in Macedonia, 20% in Greece and 31% in Moldavia. The role of the black market in the Netherlands and Sweden is just 1%, with a EU average of 15%. One on five workers work off the books and one out of ten have one normal job and a second off-the-book job.

Fifty-five percent of officially registered jobless do black labour. There are between 650 thousand and one million people active in the underground economy in Serbia according to a recent estimate. The sectors in which this black labour is most frequent are trade (more than 30%), tourism, hotels and restaurants (30%) and construction (12%). It is estimated that 54% of illegal commerce regards Chinese shops. Fines for people hiring off-the-book workers range from four to ten thousand euros, but the director of the Inspector’s Office for Labour, Radovan Ristanovic, has said that he does not know a single case in the past five years of someone paying such fine. If Serbia could cash just a third of the invaded taxes, its State budget would show no deficit. This means that more resources would be available for investments in sectors that are vital for the national economy like healthcare, education and social services. And with the money that is lost in the labyrinth of the underground economy ten new bridges on the Sava and Danube rivers could be built each year in Belgrade, projects the Serbian capital needs but has not sufficient funds for. The survey shows that the main causes that stimulate the underground economy include a lack of inspections (46.7%), insufficient political will to act (29%), corruption (17.1%) and inefficient customs activities (11.4%). Inspections must therefore be improved, also through the creation of a central register for imported goods, through which imports of goods can be checked at the border, as well as their distribution to the shops where they are sold. This would eliminate the widespread phenomenon of goods that are sold at market stalls.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EP Says Yes to Opening EU to Palestinian Exports

(ANSAmed) — STRASBURG, SEPTEMBER 27 — The European Parliament has given green light to the agreement that opens the EU market for farm and fisheries products from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and gives access to the Palestinian markets for some European products. Now that the Assembly in Strasburg has approved the document, it can come into force at the start of next year. “This agreement creates an opportunity for the Palestinian people and is the first step towards the development of a nation,” said Greek MEP Maria Eleni Koppa, of the group of social-democrats, sponsor of the text that was approved by hand vote. The agreement, which was signed in April by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton and by the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Salam Fayyad, is valid for ten years and includes a revision clause after five years. In the unlikely scenario that the new imports of farm produce and seafood would increase to a point where they lead to a “distortion” of the domestic market, the EU can take protective measures. The Palestinian Territories are the EU’s smallest commercial partner in the Euro-Mediterranean region, with a total trade worth 56.6 million euros in 2009, most of it (50.5 million) formed by EU exports. Imports of Palestinian products in the European Union totalled around 6.1 million euros in 2009.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: EU: New ‘Special Measure’ For Poor Areas Launched

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, SEPTEMBER 28 — The European Commission just launched a ‘Special Measure’ for the poorest areas in Tunisia. The return to economic recovery, said Brussels, is a must and requires the launch of immediate new economic and social policies and reforms which meet the needs of the citizens; in particular those in the most impoverished parts of the country.

The ‘Special Measure’ of support to the development of the most impoverished regions, in the framework of the Neighbourhood policy instrument, (Enpi) is divided into three main components: first to contribute to the creation of employment and to measures of social integration in line with the Tunisian Government’s own programme. The programme will mainly support an existing national programme focusing on short-term employment, for which the Tunisian Government has allocated 64 million Tunisian Dinar (TND) to the governorates of the poorest regions in order to finance 42,700 fixed-term jobs in the public sector.Another priority is to improve the living conditions of 600,000 people by renovating 229 suburbs including 100,000 houses in urban areas in the poorest regions in order to re-launch economic activities in these areas. Third component is to improve access to microfinance services for the population living in the most under-privileged areas by providing support to microcredit institutions to establish and reinforce its presence in the most impoverished areas.

This action is complementary to the programme of support to economic recovery which was adopted last July by the European Commission for an amount of 100 million euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Jews Are Not the Chosen People, Coptic Pope

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 30 — “The Jews are not the chosen people,” said Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria, also the patriarch of the episcopate of Saint Mark, quoted by the newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

During the weekly sermon he delivered last Wednesday in the Saint Mark Cathedral of Cairo, Shenouda III said: “I already discussed this issue with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. I have explained him that the Jews used to be called the chosen people because they were the only ones to worship God, while all other people were pagans. But once billions believed in the existence of God, the Jews no longer were God’s chosen people. Now all those who have true faith are God’s chosen people,” the Coptic Pope concluded.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Sean Penn Joins Protestors in Tahrir Square

(AGI) Cairo — American actor Sean Penn has joined demonstrators in Tahrir Square. The square is at the epicentre of the Arab Spring protests that brought an end to Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year reign in February. Accompanied by Egyptian actor Khaled el-Nabawi and carrying the Egyptian flag, Penn joined the young, increasingly angry demonstrators protesting about the situation in Egypt.

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

Morocco: Hunting Tourism Rising Constantly

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, SEPTEMBER 28 — Morocco must look at the firm possibility of extending further tourist numbers linked to hunting, a sector that, either directly or thanks to allied industries, can generate significant income. This is according to an annual study by the High Commission of Waters and Forests and the Fight against Desertification, which was reported by the MAP agency.

The report claims, amongst other things, that income for the Moroccan economy from hunting practiced by foreigners can be placed at 60 million dirhams.

Around 400,000 working days are derived from the so-called “tourist hunt”, which essentially benefit companies (34 have been recorded) involved in organising the hunts, The report says that the sector has recorded constant growth over the years, partly thanks to government incentives.

Turtle-doves, partridges, quails, woodcocks, thrushes and larks are the species that most attract foreign hunters to Morocco.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Number of Visitors Down 35.4% in 2011

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 28 — The figures regarding the Tunisian tourism industry are dramatic: the number of visitors plunged by 35.4% in the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period in 2010, from 5.2 to 3.3 million. The data have been released by the Ministry of Trade and Tourism, TAP reports. They also show that the number of overnight stays of 17 million has dropped by 43.2%. Tunisia has 850 registered hotels, which offer a total of 246 thousand beds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Constituent Assembly, Polls Show Ennahdha in Lead

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 30 — Today’s poll may very well be the last one released (starting on Monday with the official start to the election campaign it will be prohibited, as will statements on the election from experts and analysts in all media) — a poll which confirms the religious party Ennahdha as having the relative majority with around 25%. The poll, conducted by the German foundation Hanns-Seidel in collaboration with Nessma Tv and the daily paper El Maghreb, puts in second place (with 16% of those questioning intending to vote for it) the Progressive Democratic Party and Ettakatol in third (14%). Following (with 8 % or less) are the Congress Party for the Republic, Afek, El Moubadara, Al Qatan, Al Moustakbal and about ten other political parties and independent lists. Meanwhile, the amount of funds for state financing of parties and independent candidates running in the election campaign for Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly has risen to 9.5 million dinars, six of which have already been paid out. Those in charge at the Finance Ministry, who are overseeing the operation, have made an unusual “disclosure”: some of the funds have not actually been paid yet because some of the parties have not communicated the identification number of the accounts to which they should be paid.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Turkey to Build Biggest Hospital in Gaza

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, SEPTEMBER 19 — Turkish International Cooperation & Development Agency (TIKA) will construct the biggest hospital in Gaza, as Anatolia news agency reports.

TIKA’s Palestine Program Coordinator Refik Cetinkaya said that the agency was building a hospital in Gaza with Turkey’s finance. “When it is completed, it will be comprised of 150 beds,” Cetinkaya said adding that the construction began in May, and Turkish companies were building it as there was no foreign investors in Gaza due to blockade. Cetinkaya said the hospital will be a teaching hospital, and the biggest one in West Bank and Gaza. Aker Construction’s project director Mahmut Celepli said the company had employed 170 Gazan people, and this number would rise to 400-500 in the future.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Anwar Al-Aulaqi, U.S.-Born Cleric Linked to Al-Qaeda, Reported Killed in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen — Anwar al-Aulaqi, a radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric and one of the most influential al-Qaeda operatives wanted by the United States, was killed Friday in an airstrike in northern Yemen, authorities said, eliminating a prominent recruiter who inspired attacks on U.S. soil.

In Washington, a senior Obama administration official confirmed that Aulaqi is dead. Earlier, a senior counterterrorism official said U.S. intelligence indicates that the 40-year-old cleric, a dual national of the United States and Yemen, perished in the attack, the Associated Press reported.

The Yemeni Defense Ministry, in a text message sent to journalists, announced that “the terrorist Anwar al- Aulaqi has been killed along with some of his companions,” but did not provide further details. The report could not be independently verified; Aulaqi has been falsely reported killed before.

In a separate e-mailed statement, the Yemeni government said Aulaqi was “targeted and killed” five miles from the town of Khashef in Yemen’s northern Jawf province, 87 miles east of the capital Sanaa. The attack, the statement said, was launched at 9:55 a.m. Friday local time.

While the Defense Ministry said Aulaqi was killed in Marib province, other government sources said he was killed in neighboring Jawf province.

A Yemeni security source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said Aulaqi was killed in an airstrike, possibly by an unmanned American drone. The Obama administration in recent months has escalated the use of drones to target al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen and Somalia.

If true, Aulaqi’s death would be considered a significant victory in the U.S. war against global terrorism. It comes less than five months after U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda network, in a raid on his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Aulaqi, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, has been implicated in helping to motivate several attacks on U.S. soil. He is said to have inspired an Army officer who allegedly killed 13 people in a November 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., as well as a Ni­ger­ian student who attempted to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner the following month and a Pakistani American man who tried to set off a car bomb in New York City in May 2010. Aulaqi has also been linked to an attempt in 2010 to send parcel bombs on cargo plans bound for the United States.

[Return to headlines]

Awlaki Unlucky

Let me start by saying “good riddance…”. The BBC has the rest.

Lucy Lips adds

I wonder if CagePrisoners knew, yesterday, that Awlaki was dead. Yesterday, Asim Qureshi — an outspoken supporter of jihad against British soldiers — posted a long elegy contemplating the life of CagePrisoners’ Sheikh. In it, he peddles the myth that Awlaki was a peaceful religious man, turned to terrorism following his arrest in Yemen.


Awlaki spent most of his life sending young men to their deaths, and encouraging them to kill others. CagePrisoners knows this very well. They are funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. And Amnesty International continues to promote them.

[JP note: See here for the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation report on Awlaki ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel Jets Overfly Turkish Ship Off East Cyprus

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, SEPTEMBER 30 — Two low-flying Israel warplanes on Thursday night overflew a Turkish seismic research ship which is exploring gas near Cyprus, Greek Cypriot daily Phileleftheros reported. The newspaper said the two F-15 jets that took off from Tel Aviv flew through the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot airspaces. The jets reportedly ignored warnings from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) officials and got so close to Turkey’s Mediterranean coasts that they could be even seen from Mersin’s beaches, the report said.

Turkey then reportedly sent two F-16 jets to the area to track the Israeli jets, which then returned to Israel. An Israeli military helicopter also flew over the Turkish research ship, Piri Reis, on Thursday night, according to the daily, as it was in the Aphrodite gas field, off Cyprus’ southern coast and adjacent to the larger Leviathan field. The helicopter flew low over the ship for a long time, the report said.

Turkey disputes a Cypriot-Israeli accord signed last year to create exclusive economic zones in the waters between them.

It also says that only Greek Cyprus should not be exploiting natural resources until a settlement is reached between the Greek Cypriot government and the TRNC (recognized only by Ankara) for the reunification of the island, and that any revenues should benefit both communities. In response, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot government signed their own continental shelf agreement on Wednesday, permitting state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) to start exploration north of the island.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Protesters Call for Genuine Reforms

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, SEPTEMBER 30 — Thousands of Islamist activists demonstrated in downtown Amman after Friday prayer against recent constitutional amendments, calling for genuine reform and dismissal of the government.

The protest, held under the motto: “You will not fool us” was organized by the strong Islamic Action Front (IAF) and its mother organization, the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Holding banners that vilify the government of prime minister Marouf Bakhit, protesters called for the premier removal, appointment of a national salvation government and introduction of major constitutional changes.

Bakhit, a former army general and intelligence officer, has been blamed for much of the kingdom’s political ailments. He recently caused a political storm by dismissing chief of the judicial council in what many said was a prejudice motivated move. Bakhti, who also fired central bank governor in a bizarre move, has also been implicated in several high profile corruption cases including what is known as the casino case, when the government had to pay an investor nearly USD1.5 billion in damages as a fine for cancelled contract. A rubber stamp parliament, made of loyalist tribal leaders recently vindicated him, despite testimonies of ministers against him. Informed sources told ANSA that Bakhit could be shown the exit door by the king within a few days.

“We are no longer accepting promises of reform. The country needs real reform otherwise the situation could become very serious,” said Hamzeh mansour, secretary general of the IAF, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The parliament last week endorsed constitutional changes that allowed for the creation of a constitutional court and establishment of a committee to run elections. But opposition figures said major issues such as segregation of power and fair power distribution was not addressed. The opposition has been campaigning for changes that could see powers of the king reduced. The king, according to the constitution, can fire and hire governments at his wish and can dismiss and summon the parliament at his wish.

New but slight changes to the constitution kept the king’s power unchanged, where dismissing the parliament during two consecutive terms can not be done for the same reason. The government mobilized hundreds of riot police around downtown street of Talal. The Islamist movement this week announced its boycott to an upcoming municipal elections in protest against authorities refusal to make major constitutional changes in away that allows government be formed according to parliament majority. The group also calls for a new elections and political parties law and calls for an end to meddling by security agencies in the state affairs.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement organized a protest in separate location in downtown Amman also calling for reform. The group vowed to maintain pressure for change, amid accusations by the government that some leaders of the group have hidden agenda.

The mottos of protesters have been circling for weeks now around limiting the king’s powers to allow formation of governments based on parliament majority. Protesters say free governments can fight corruption, nepotism and lack of political liberty.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Oman: Journalists Arrested for Criticism of Minister

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, SEPTEMBER 22 — A court in Oman sentenced two journalists to five months in prison for accusing Oman’s Justice Minister, Mohamed Al Hanai, of fraud, deception and prevarications in an article published on May 14 this year in Muscat-based daily Azzaman, which was ordered to close for one month. The news was reported by Qatar-based daily The Peninsula.

Defence lawyer Ahmed Al Ajmi has appealed the decision and managed to have the two journalists released from prison on bail and reopen the newspaper until the next hearing in the case.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Qatar: Emirate Ready to Buy BNP Paribas, Press

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, SEPTEMBER 21 — Qatar is reportedly in negotiations to buy French bank BNP Paribas, reports Qatar-based daily The Peninsula, which wrote that this only would be the most recent investment that the emirate is making in Europe. Qatar is showing concrete interest in the European market, after already buying 5-star hotel W London for 200 million dollars and 3 football teams — Malaga, Paris St. Germain and Manchester United — with the latter alone costing 2.4 billion dollars. The banking, football and hotel sectors are not the only industries that have caught the interest of the Gulf country, which in recent years has already bought the famous Harrods department store in London and Christies auction house. The art market is also reportedly of great interest to the emir, who bought a Mark Rothko painting for a record price of over 72 million dollars.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Ban on All Glider Flights

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 29 — All activities regarding glider planes will be suspended in Saudi Arabia until an analysis has been carried out on its risks for national security. So reported by MENA which quotes Prince Naif Bin Abdel-Aziz, second Vice President of the Council of Ministers and Interior Minister. In a statement aimed at all glider schools and stores that sell flight equipment in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Aviation Club imposes an immediate end of all activities and sales of all equipment for hang gliding until further notice.

This directive, the website of MENA underlines, came after the announcement of the Saudi Interior Ministry that it has recently foiled an attempt to smuggle large amounts of drugs on a glider coming from the country’s northern border.

“This type of flight,” warns an Interior Ministry spokesperson, “could be used to transport terrorists, weapons and drugs, or for infiltration of people who are wanted by the justice system.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria to Get Reprisal if Boycotts Turkish Goods, Minister

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 30 — Turkey’s economy minister Zafer Caglayan made a terse warning Friday to Syria, saying his country would not hesitate to make a reprisal if the Arab state decides to boycott Turkish goods, as Anatolia news agency reports. “Clearly, this strikes me as an idea on which no careful deliberation was made. In case Syria bans Turkish goods, Turkey will do the same for Syrian goods. I hope they would make sure that this mistake is corrected in the shortest possible time,” Caglayan told reporters when asked about media reports that said Syria had started boycotting all kinds of Turkish products. What is at stake for Turkey is an export volume of over one billion USD. Imports from Syria are worth some 700-800 million USD, according to Caglayan. “This decision will make a bigger impact on the Syrian economy than it would do on Turkey’s economy or any other country for that matter,” Caglayan said.

Tensions between the two countries have been strained after Turkey shunned the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. Turkey has recently imposed a weapons embargo on its southern neighbor. Turkish security forces had already stopped a Syrian-flagged ship, officials have said. Earlier in September, Turkey hosted senior figures from anti-Assad movement which declared a 140-member Syrian National Council to build up pressure on Damascus. Around 7,600 Syrians who fled the violence are seeking shelter in camps in southern Turkey.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey-EU: Turkish Experts to Work at European Commission

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, SEPTEMBER 28 — Turkey and the European Union (EU) have signed an agreement enabling Turkish experts to work at the European Commission, Anatolia news agency reports today. Turkish EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis and Maros Sefcovic, EU commissioner for inter-institutional relations and administration, inked the agreement in Strasbourg on Wednesday. Delivering a speech at the ceremony, Bagis said Turkish experts who would work at the European Commission could have chance to gain new experiences with this agreement. “These experts will shape-up our common future (between Turkey and EU),” he said. Communication between EU experts and Turkish experts would be boosted with this agreement, officials said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Requests Discount on Russian Gas Imports

Turkey threatened Thursday to revoke a contract to purchase six billion cubic metres of natural gas, a third of its Russian imports, if the price is not reduced. “We have asked them (Russia) for a reduction. If Russia does not sufficiently meet this demand, we will display the will to end the contract,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters in Ankara. The energy minister referred to an agreement under which Turkey imports six billion cubic metres of gas from Gazprom Export, a subsidiary of the Russian gas giant Gazprom, via a western pipeline. Turkey imported 18 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia last year, about 60 percent of its total domestic gas consumption.

Ankara is seeking ways of keeping gas prices for domestic consumers down, the media reported. But the rising costs of gas imports and high exchange rates were putting pressure on the government.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

U.S.-Born Al Qaeda Leader Anwar Al-Awlaki is Killed in Yemen

SANA, Yemen — Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born preacher depicted as a leading figure in Al Qaeda’s outpost in Yemen, was killed on Friday morning in the north of the country, according to the Defense Ministry.

Earlier this year, the American military renewed its campaign of airstrikes in Yemen, using drone aircraft and fighter jets to attack Qaeda militants. One of the attacks was aimed at Mr. Awlaki, one of the most prominent members of the Qaeda affiliate group. There was no immediate comment from American officials.

But Mr. Awlaki’s death, if confirmed, seemed likely to be welcomed in the United States, where Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in July that two of his top goals were to remove Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s new leader after the death of Osama Bin Laden, and Mr. Awlaki.

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan: Ten Year Old Girl Accused of Blasphemy and Sentenced for a Spelling Mistake

Faryal Bhatti misspelled a word in urdu referring to Muhammad, resulting in incredible reactions from teachers and the ulema. Expelled from school, her mother, a nurse, forced to leave work. Bishop Anthony: “Society is becoming so intolerant that a tiny error gets major attention.”

Abbottabad (AsiaNews) — A spelling error has led to an accusation of blasphemy, and serious consequences for a Christian girl of 10 years of age and her family in Abbottabad. Faryal Bhatti, the daughter of a nurse, Sarafeen Bhatti is a student at Colony High School Havelian POF. On September 22, during an examination she misspelled a word in Urdu, putting the full top in the wrong place. Thus the word, referring to the prophet Muhammad, was transformed from “poem of praise” (naat) to “curse (lanaat). The Urdu teacher, Mrs. Fareeda, sternly rebuked Faryal in front of the class and took the matter to the headmaster, even though the child defended herself saying that it was a mistake.

The news of the alleged insult to Muhammad spread through the school, among teachers and the direction accused the girl of blasphemy. The school authorities informed the religious authorities who together with the inhabitants of the colony staged a demonstration, demanding the child be reported to police, expelled from school and her family expelled from the Colony. A mob chanted slogans against Christians, and in Friday sermons religious leaders denounced the episode as “a conspiracy against Islam”, which was to be crushed.

In a meeting with teachers and religious leaders the child (in tears) and her mother explained that it was a mistake and apologized. Maulana Syed Ejaz Ali, a religious leader of the Jamia Masjid saw the piece of paper, talked with the child and mother and concluded: “I have no precise idea about the intentions of Faryal, her eyes filled with tears show her innocence, but the error has transformed the word into an insult and this is sufficient reason for a punishment, she should never throughout her entire life, think against Islam. “

To appease the religious the school administration expelled Faryal from school, Islamic clerics lobbied the Colony administration resulting in the mother being fired and forced to leave the residence. Both mother and daughter were transferred to Wah Cantonment by the hospital management. The Masihi Foundation has asked two Islamic clerics in Islamabad to give their opinion on the matter, Maulana Mehfooz Ali Khan and Hussain Ahmed Malik. Maulana said: “It is the innocent mistake of a child. Many Muslim students in the madrasas incorrectly pronounce the Arabic words, changing their meaning, you can not punish a child for an honest mistake, the girl was only 10 years old, she will carry this trauma with her. Faryal Bhatti has been subjected to all of this only because she is Christian, I protest against the decision to expel the young child and to transfer the mother. “

The bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Anthony Rufin, told AsiaNews: “I condemn the incident. Now, even Christian students are victimized and accused of blasphemy. Society is becoming so intolerant that a tiny error gets major attention. The ulema have decided on the punishment of a child who does not even know what she did wrong. They should have explained the mistake to her, if it really was a terrible mistake, in this way gaining her confidence and making a service to religious dialogue. What happened is exactly the opposite. “

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

Three Italian Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan

Road crash raises death toll to 44

(ANSA) — Rome, September 23 — Three Italian soldiers were killed in a road accident in Afghanistan Friday raising Italy’s death toll in Afghanistan to 44 since it joined the NATO-led mission in the Asian country in 2004.

A fourth soldier was “seriously” wounded in the incident involving an Italian patrol in the western Afghan city of Herat, sources said.

The 41st came on July 26 when Corporal Major David Tobini, 28, was shot dead in a firefight in the Bala Murghab Valley, also in western Afghanistan.

Military sources said they would release the names of the victims once the families had been notified.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Brave Teenager Beats Bride Plan

A 16-YEAR-OLD girl secretly took legal action against her parents to escape an arranged marriage.

The teen, who cannot be identified, asked a court to place her on the airport watch list to stop her parents whisking her to Lebanon and forcing her to wed a young man she had met just once, the Herald Sun reported.

The court said such applications were becoming increasingly common.

Federal magistrate Joe Harman said he was satisfied there was a psychological risk to the girl unless the court intervened.

“The young person’s evidence makes very clear that she has expressed to her parents that she does not want to go to Lebanon and does not want to marry the person proposed,” he said.

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“She has indicated also in her evidence that she is fearful for her personal safety, that she has concerns as to what will occur in relation to her mother’s reaction once she becomes aware of these proceedings.”

Mr Harman said while it might be suggested the young woman had bucked the authority of her parents, she had displayed great bravery in seeking legal help.

“It is not the right of any parent to cause their child to be married against their will, whether in accordance with Australian law or otherwise,” he said.

Mr Harman restrained the girl’s parents from removing her from Australia and from harassing, threatening or intimidating her, or questioning her about the court proceedings.

He ordered that they surrender her passport to the court.

He also ordered the girl be placed on the airport watch list and Australian Federal Police maintain an airport watch for her.

The orders were made just two weeks before the planned wedding in the Middle East in April.

Details of the case have been revealed in a judgment published only this week.

The girl told the NSW court her father was aware of the proposed marriage but generally opposed it.

Mr Harman said that if she were taken to Lebanon, she would return married.

If the wedding were to take place in Australia, a court order and parental consent would be required because of the girl’s age.

The Herald Sun reported last September that the Family Court had banned a 14-year-old would-be bride from leaving Australia.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Woman to Serve 15 Days for Choking Walmart Greeter

ELYRIA — A woman who choked a 71-year-old greeter at the Elyria Walmart Supercenter and then boasted about it to her daughter was sentenced to 15 days in jail Thursday in Elyria Municipal Court.

Judge Lisa Locke-Graves, who imposed the sentence against Toni Duncan, 49, called the attack “absolutely reprehensible.’’ Duncan had pleaded no contest and was found guilty of assault earlier this week.

“I am appalled that someone would choke a person 71 years of age,” Locke-Graves said.

In the March 30 incident, prosecutors said Duncan choked Alger Burchell when he asked to see a receipt for her purchases.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]


EU Considers Removing Visas for Turkish Citizens

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 30 — The European Union for the first time is planning to draw a road map to completely remove visa requirements for Turkish citizens, while in the meantime the union will take steps to ease visa procedures, according to Cecilia Malmstrom, European Commission representative for interior affairs as daily Hurriyet reports. The process will start in the fall and will have five steps starting with granting longer visas, then multi-entry visas, then shortening the processing time, then reducing the paperwork required, and then extending again or even eliminating visas for certain sectors. Turkey’s European Union Minister Egemen Bagis on Wednesday participated in a session of the European Parliament discussing the union’s visa regime for Turkish nationals. The EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee meeting on Wednesday was the first high-level meeting between Turkey and the EU on what Ankara hopes will lead to further negotiations to remove visa requirements for Turks visiting EU member countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lampedusa:320 Migrants on the Island, Centre Empty by Tonight

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), SEPTEMBER 22 — There are a total of 320 migrants currently present on the island of Lampedusa, including 140 minors who are at the Loran Station. There are 270 Tunisians still at the reception centre. “By tonight,” said Agrigento Chief of Police, Giuseppe Bisogno, “the Imbriacola Centre will be emptied, also due to the safety of the facilities following the fires set to several structures.” Ten flights are scheduled today to transport the Tunisians who are still at the reception centre on Lampedusa, with 8 military and 2 commercial flights. The operation also involves 72 migrants who landed on Linosa and were transferred to Lampedusa today, as well as 90 minors and 6 families staying at the Cala Creta accommodation facilities. All of the flights, the Hercules military planes and the two Mistral flights, are leaving from the Palermo Airport. The first took off this morning at 9am. The flights are arriving on Lampedusa, the immigrants are boarding the planes and are being transferred to Palermo. According to reports, the two Mistral flights will bring the migrants back to Tunis after the stopover in Palermo. The immigrants who will not be immediately repatriated by plane will be transferred to two ships that are already at the port in the Sicilian capital, the Moby Fantasy and GNV’s ‘Audacia’. These two ferry boats have been used in recent months to transport immigrants to other reception centres in other parts of Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lampedusa: 4 in Custody for Reception Centre Fire

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), SEPTEMBER 22 — Four migrants believed to have started the fire that damaged the reception centre in Lampedusa two days ago, an action which led to the ensuing clashes on the island, were taken into custody by police after an order was issued by the Agrigento Prosecutor’s Office. During the operation, officials from police headquarters also took another 7 individuals into custody: 4 alleged human traffickers responsible for one of the arrivals on Lampedusa in recent days and 3 migrants who returned to Italy after previously being deported. The individuals arrested for the fire are 32-year-old Tunisian, Hamrouni Faysal, who arrived on Lampedusa on September 18, 29-year-old Tunisian, Ghammouri Mohamed, who arrived on the island on September 18, 40-year-old Saleh Mohamed, who also arrived on September 18 and 27-year-old Tunisian, Fazzani Bilal, who arrived on September 15. The migrants had communicated their identities to police when they arrived on Lampedusa. “According to what has been reconstructed,” Agrigento police sources said, “based on testimony from several immigrants present in the centre who provided useful information for the investigation, the fire was set by using pillows and mattresses to make the structure unfit for use in order to prevent repatriations to Tunisia. Making the centre unfit for use would make it necessary for the immigrants to temporarily stay in the reception centre on the mainland, giving them a greater chance to escape.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisian Gov’t Expresses Pain Over Paris Deaths

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 30 — Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry has released an official statement expressing profound sorrow over the death of four Tunisian immigrants in yesterday’s fire in a building in Pantin, a north-eastern suburb of Paris, illegally occupied by dozens of undocumented North African immigrants. Six people lost their lives in the fire.

The ministry added that it is in constant contact with French police authorities especially for the identification of some of the victims, which has been made difficult due to the fact that the flames calcinated the bodies.

Three other young Tunisians were injured in the fire and are now in hospital, where they are being assisted by functionaries of the Consulate. After receiving treatment nine other are now staying in a building provided by the Pantin municipality.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Letter to Baroness Flather From the Council of Mosques

Baroness Flather,

The House of Lords,



22 September 2011

Dear Baroness Flather,

“Immigrants have children for benefits”

We are deeply saddened and perturbed at your comments regarding “Immigrants have children for benefits” in the House of Lords on the 14th September 2011 as, reported by the BBC.

We are deeply disappointed to read that you have grossly misdirected the correlation between the number of children and benefits in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

There is no substance or evidence to support your contentions. This is hugely irresponsible of you particularly of someone of your status and therefore we would like some clarifications as to the basis for your biased comments.

You have failed to acknowledge the considerable economic contributions made by both communities that you have mentioned. We would urge you to research before you make such out of context remarks.

Finally, we wait for your response.

Your sincerely

Mohammed Rafiq Sehgal

Senior Vice President

Council for Mosques

[JP note: The good Baroness obviously struck an exposed nerve. For more on polygamy and exploitation of the benefits system by Muslims, see Daily Mail report here ]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

‘We’re Throwing Open the Doors to Benefit Tourists’: EU Plan to Let Migrants Claim as Soon as They Enter UK is Blasted

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, has warned that the decision is ‘an open invitation to benefit tourism’.

Europe has given Britain two months to scrap its policies which prevent benefit tourists claiming billions of pounds in handouts.

Last night the European Commission said it would take the Government to court unless it draws up plans to axe restrictions on claims by immigrants, saying they are against the law and must be scrapped.

Brussels bureaucrats acted after receiving a complaint that the rules infringed the human rights of EU citizens.

But Sir Andrew warned the EU ruling could be a disaster, adding: ‘Clearly this risks blowing the Government’s immigration policy out of the water.’

And Employment Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the move threatened to break the ‘vital link’ which should exist between taxpayers and their own government.

He added: ‘The EU settlement is supposed to protect the right of member states to make their own social security arrangements.

‘But we are now seeing a rising tide of judgments from the European institutions using other legal avenues to erode away these rights, and we should be gravely concerned.’

It is feared the change could open the door to tens of thousands of Eastern Europeans who are currently deterred from coming to Britain — costing taxpayers up to £2.5billion a year in extra welfare payments.

At present a ‘habitual residency’ test is used to establish whether EU migrants are eligible for benefits.

To qualify for jobseekers’ allowance, employment support allowance, pension credit and income support, they must demonstrate they have either worked here previously or have a good opportunity to get a job.

But the European Commission said this ‘right to reside’ test indirectly discriminates against nationals from other EU states by enforcing a set of conditions that effectively tests their right to state handouts.

Yesterday members announced they were considering taking the UK to the EU’s Court of Justice if it does not scrap the test.

And they gave the Government two months to inform them of the measures it takes to enforce the rules.

Officials in the Department for Work and Pensions warn it would cost anything from £620million a year to £2.46billion if they have to scrap the test — seriously hampering plans to rein in public spending.

Employment minister Chris Grayling said: ‘This is a very unwelcome development.

‘It’s obviously right that we support those who work and pay their taxes here, but it’s clearly completely unacceptable that we should open our doors to benefit tourism.

‘I’m really surprised the European Commission has chosen to go into battle on this very sensitive issue, when there are clearly far more pressing problems to solve in Europe.’

A source at the DWP added: ‘This could open the doors of the benefits system to anyone from the EU, even if they have no intention of working.

‘That would be bad enough if we were in good economic times, but we are not in good economic times.’

‘We will fight this tooth and nail. This is a battle we will win.’

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, said: ‘Once again we see the EC telling us how to run our country and people are becoming sick and tired of it.

‘The UK is perfectly within its rights to require EU nationals to fulfil certain conditions before taking advantage of our generous benefits system.

‘If the EC gets its way then there will be a far greater burden on the British taxpayer as more money will need to be found for the social security system.

‘The “right to reside” test should stay. It is not discrimination, but simply a system to ensure that benefits are paid only to those who are entitled to them.’

Stephen Booth, research director of think-tank Open Europe, said: ‘Freedom of movement within the EU has largely been positive for the UK but issues surrounding benefits and social security are understandably very sensitive.

‘For the freedom of movement within the EU to work, governments have to be able to assure their citizens that welfare systems won’t be abused.

‘At a time when people are concerned about the pressures of immigration, the Commission is playing a dangerous game by trying to overrule the UK on its “right to reside” test.’

The European Commission first set out its stall last year when it wrote: ‘EU law leaves it to member states to determine the details of their social security schemes and social assistance schemes, including the conditions on awarding benefits.

‘Having examined the “right to reside” test, it is not compatible with different legal provisions of EU law.’

           — Hat tip: TG[Return to headlines]


Findings Indicate Einstein Was Right About Relativity

A new Denmark-based study on galaxy clusters provides more evidence for Einstein’s general theory of relativity — which would mean that mysterious ‘dark energy’ probably does exist, although this has yet to be proven.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]


Westward Ho said...

"There are not enough doctors willing to work in the schools of Paris’s banlieues...."

Well, Paris is where Doctors Without Borders is based....