Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111002

Financial Crisis
»Eurozone Crisis: Let Greece Then Ireland Default
»Greece’s Middle Class Revolt Against Austerity
»Greece: Church Fortune to Remain Sacrosanct
»Italy: Enel Brace for Ratings Cuts After National Downgrade
»S&P Downgrades Intesa and Mediobanca — Fed Warns “Growth at Risk”
»The EU Dream Has Turned Into a Nightmare
»700 Arrested After Protest on NY’s Brooklyn Bridge
»Anti Wall Street Protest in the US, Over 700 Arrests
»Occupy Wall Street Protests Spread Across U.S.
»Political Islam Stalking Commonwealth of Virginia
»Texas Governor Doubts That Climate Change is Man-Made
»The Strange Case of Anwar Al Awlaki
Europe and the EU
»Berlusconi Hints That Tremonti Should Resign
»Bossi Says Those Who Display the Italian Flag Are Idiots
»Bulgaria: Collapse of a So-Called Social Model
»Buon Giorno, Oktoberfest: Italians Trek North for German Beer
»France: Murder in the Paris Subway (Again)
»Italy: Berlusconi’s Irritation at Foreign-Registered Mobile Phones — “Just Like the Mafia”
»Italy’s PM Refuses to Oblige Opposition Resignation Calls
»Italy: Romanian Suspected of Killing Man With Machete Arrested
»Italy: Tens of Thousands Attend Sel Rally in Rome
»Italy: Naples Will Also Have Its Mosque
»Italy: Amanda Knox ‘Publicly Crucified and Impaled’ Claims Lawyer
»Polish Youth Are Becoming More and More Like Their Western Counterparts
»Theologian Hans Küng on Pope Benedict: ‘A Putinization of the Catholic Church’
»UK: At Last: We Get Vote on Europe as MPs Are Forced to Decide on Referendum
»UK: Conservative Party Conference 2011: David Cameron Backs Theresa May Over ‘Chilling’ Human Rights Act
North Africa
»Egypt: Muslim Brothers: Elections After Ban to Mubarak Loyalists
»Gaddafi Vows to Die as ‘Martyr’ In Libya
»Guantanamo: Algeria Commission, at Least 10 Algerians Detained
»Libya: ‘Don’t Rush Into Elections or Risk Further Violence’ Argue US Experts
»Libya’s NTC Offers Conditional Cooperation on Lockerbie
»Red Cross: “Desperate Situation” In Sirte, Libya
»Sub-Saharan Migrants Free After Months of Captivity. Thousands Still in Libyan Prisons
»Terrorist Cell Dismantled in Morocco
Middle East
»Media: Al Jazeera Director Resigning, Denies US Influence
»Tragedy of Modern Day Romeo and Juliet: The Lovers Driven to Suicide by Iranian Regime That Threw Them in Jail for Being Friends With a Human Rights Activist
»Turkey: Women Taxi Drivers Break Into Male Sector
»Terror at the Beach: Radicals in Russia Have Been Bombing Bikini-Clad Women to Enforce Islamic Dress Codes.
South Asia
»Indonesia: Central Java Church Blast Suspect ‘Linked to Mosque Bombing’
»Indonesia: Islamic Extremist Bani Arsi Arrested in Jacarta
Far East
»Beijing: Justifiable War Against Vietnam and the Philippines, For South China Sea
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Kenya: Kidnapped French Woman Taken to Somalia
»South African Police Shed Light on Trade in Body Parts
Latin America
»In Venezuela, Chavez Prays for Gaddafi and Supports Assad
»600 Tunisian Immigrants Repatriated Last Week, Viminale
»Domestic Workers Systematically Abused in Jordan, HRW
»Netherlands: Majority Oppose Dual Nationality
»Netherlands: Illegal Immigrants Cannot be Jailed for Being Illegal, Says Brussels
Culture Wars
»Serbia: Interior Ministry Bans Gay Pride Parade as ‘Security Risk’
»Teacher Penalizes Students for Saying “Bless You” In Class
»UK: Government to Save Year of Our Lord From BBC’s ‘Common Era’
»UK: Thomas the Tank Engine Forced to Carry ‘Decorated Tree’ For ‘Winter Holidays’ As Christmas is Banned on Sodor

Financial Crisis

Eurozone Crisis: Let Greece Then Ireland Default

Irish Independent, Dublin

Growing rumours of a Greek default have spurred the markets, not sent them into freefall. This suggests that worse than default is agonising and dithering about the fate of the Eurozone, according to Irish economist David McWilliams.

David McWilliams

Did you notice something strange over the past two days about the financial markets? The European stock markets actually rallied on the rumour that Greece would be allowed a “ring-fenced” default. Now consider this again because the ‘official’ position of the Irish and the European political elite is that any default on anything by anyone would be a disaster, leading to huge capital flight and massive financial carnage.

If this is true, how come markets in the past two days have given precisely the opposite signal?

According to the latest financial market move, default actually calms things down for investors. It seems that it makes sense to face up to the reality that a country like Greece — or indeed a ‘bank’ like Anglo — has no money and therefore must default. If you prevent this basic capitalist process from happening (whereby investors pay for their mistakes), you spook the entire system.

If you doubt this, consider the risk perceived by banks in Europe and how they will lend to other banks. The entire banking system is kept liquid by interbank lending, whereby banks lend to each other. Think about it. You go into the bank today and deposit money, but if that money is not lent out to someone else today, the bank will end the day with a surplus of funds in its safe. It makes sense for your bank to lend this surplus money to another bank, which may have lent out too much today. This is how the system works.

But what happens if banks don’t trust each other because they are worried about what is on the balance sheets of the banks they are lending to and think that maybe the bank won’t be able to pay them back? In such an unusual case, the rate of interest goes up on the interbank lending to cover the lending bank for the risk that the borrowing bank is borrowing precisely because it is running out of money.

Look at the perceptions of risk in the European banking system in the past few weeks. It has skyrocketed. Interestingly, you can see that in the run-up to the Lehman crisis, the perceived risk increased enormously. Then it settled down after the Lehman default and collapse. It is important to see that this happened after the Lehman default.

Things calmed down and even during the various Greek, Irish and Portuguese crises last year, there was a sense that things would settle. Read full article in the Irish Independent…

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

Greece’s Middle Class Revolt Against Austerity

Small business owners in Greece have long been the backbone of the economy and reliable taxpayers in a country where tax evasion is rampant. That, though, is now changing. Self-employed workers like Angelos Belitsakos have had enough of rising taxes and have begun to revolt.

The people who could ultimately give Greece the coup de grace are not the kind to throw stones or Molotov cocktails, and they have yet to torch any cars. Instead, they are people like 60-year-old beverage distributor Angelos Belitsakos, people who might soon turn into a real problem for the economically unstable country. Feeling cornered, he and other private business owners want to go on the offensive. But instead fighting with weapons, they are using something much more dangerous. They are fighting with money.

Belitsakos is a short, slim and alert man who lives in the middle-class Athenian suburb of Holargos. He is also the physical and spiritual leader of a movement of businesspeople in Greece that is recruiting new members with growing speed. While Greece’s government is desperately trying to combat its ballooning budget deficit by raising taxes and imposing new fees, people like Belitsakos are putting their faith in passive resistance.

The group’s slogan is as simple as it is stoic: “We Won’t Pay.”

Working 12-Hour Days, Seven Days a Week

This business owners’ absolute refusal to pay any taxes resembles an uprising of the ownership class, rather than the working class, a rebellion of the self-employed business owners who have long been the backbone of Greek society. These are not the people who weaseled their way into Greece’s oversized civil service; these are people who put their money in the private sector, working 12-hour days, seven days a week. Or so Belitsakos says.

Standing in his small store, Belitsakos makes a sweeping gesture and says that the people in his movement no longer have a choice. “The state will kill us,” he says. “We’re acting in self-defense.” Then he starts to do the math. Over the last two years, his sales have massively shrunk as 60 of the tavernas and restaurants he used to make deliveries to have terminated their contracts with him. At the same time, the government has raised the value-added tax (VAT) twice while imposing a never-ending series of new fees. He mentions the €300 ($406) one-time fee for the self-employed, a two-percentage-point boost in the VAT, a €180 solidarity levy for the unemployed and a property tax that is “easily a few hundred euros every year.”

The taxes are part of Athens’ last ditch effort to avoid drifting into insolvency and to live up to the promises of austerity it delivered to the European Union. The country’s vast debt means it is already reliant on the steady drip of aid it receives from a €110 billion rescue package passed last year, with a second such package likely to be passed this fall. But each payment from the fund is dependent on progress being made on the effort to clean up the country’s finances.

That progress has been halting at best. In an effort to move the process forward, the government of Prime Minister Giorgios Papandreou has recently announced it intends to cut thousands of more civil servant jobs. And it introduced a controversial one-off property tax which has angered many. Several other taxes and fees have also been introduced.

Belitsakos calls them “charatzi,” a word from Ottoman times that can perhaps best be translated as “loot” or “compulsory levy.” The term is meant to indicate taxes levied arbitrarily and without justification, such as the tithe once paid to feudal lords. “But I can’t and won’t pony up. It’s wrong,” Belitsakos says. “Don’t you understand?”…

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

Greece: Church Fortune to Remain Sacrosanct

Le Monde, Paris

As the country struggles with the crisis and its consequences, the assets of the Orthodox Church have yet to be affected by the government’s stringent austerity measures. Le Monde reports on a taboo that protects the Church’s close links with the state and the clergy’s influence on public policy.

Alain Salles

The Church and the Greek monasteries will not pay the new highly unpopular property tax which was hastily drummed up on Sunday, 11 September, by the Greek government in a bid to meet the fiscal targets set by bail-out fund donors. In response to the outcry generated by this news, however, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance declared that “the Church will be taxed on the property it operates commercially,” although houses of worship and charities will remain exempt. But the trouble is that the boundaries between these different types of assets are sometimes blurred and the books of the Orthodox Church are far from transparent.

The wealth of the Church is still a taboo subject in Greece. “Its income is taxable, but there are two big problems,” warns Polikarpos Karamouzis, Professor of the Sociology of Religion at the Aegean University in Rhodes. “There is no economic system that could chart its true revenues, and no one knows the extent of its properties, because there is no central land registry.”

This suits both the Church and the State, “since politicians do not have to take on the Orthodox authorities,” says Stefanos Manos, an independent member of the Greek parliament and one of the few politicians to request a separation of church and state. “The Church of Greece is a national church”, explains Polikarpos Karamouzis. “This means there is a political connection between the church and the state that has given the church its privileges. The Church’s spiritual role is closely tied to its political role, which keeps alive some confusion among the faithful and citizens, and that is what is being exploited by vote-hungry politicians.”

Clergy paid by the state

The priests are shapers of public opinion that politicians prefer not to offend. In a text distributed to all parishes in December 2010, the Holy Synod of thirteen bishops denounced the “troika” — the representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and European Central Bank — as a “foreign occupation” force.

The Orthodox Church is one of the pillars of the Greek nation — a country where the Constitution was written “in the name of the Holy Trinity, a trinity consubstantial (i.e. one essence, one nature) and indivisible,” and one where priests come to schools on the first day of a new academic year to bless the pupils. They also bless new parliaments too. Catechism is taught in public schools, and people of all ages make the sign of the cross when they pass by churches.

In March 2010, George Papandreou’s Socialist government decided to levy a tax on churches of up to 20 percent on commercial income and between five and ten percent for reported donations. The 10,000 priests and bishops are paid by the state, at a budgetary outlay of 220 million euros a year.

Former finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, had planned to cut back on the state’s participation in the clergy’s salaries, but as soon as the news filtered out the government’s willpower evaporated. Current finance minister Evangélos Venizélos, who is very close to the Orthodox community, has no such ambitions…

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

Italy: Enel Brace for Ratings Cuts After National Downgrade

Rome, 21 Sept. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italian banks including Intesa Sanpaolo and state-controlled companies such as Enel may have their credit ratings lowered by Standard & Poor’s after the company downgraded Italy for the first-time in five years.

Italy’s rating was lowered yesterday by one level on concern that weakening economic growth and a “fragile” government mean the nation will struggle to reduce the euro- region’s second-largest debt burden. Italy was lowered to A from A+ with a negative outlook four months after the company warned the country risked a downgrade.

“At this stage a downgrade on Italian banks is likely,” said Luca Peviani, who oversees about 1 billion euros of assets as managing director of P&G SGR in Rome. “They have a lot of government bonds in their portfolios, which are losing value, weakening their financial positions.”

Italy follows Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece as euro-region countries whose credit rating have been cut this year as fallout from the region’s debt crisis prompts scrutiny of rising debt levels. Italian companies whose ratings are linked to the country’s creditworthiness have been suffering in markets as concern over the country’s solvency grows.

S&P lowered its outlook on Intesa, Mediobanca, and two other banks to negative in May, four days after putting Italy’s sovereign rating on review, because of “their predominantly domestic business profiles.”

Intesa, Italy’s second-largest lender, held 64.5 billion euros of government bonds as of June 30. UniCredit, the largest bank, owned 38.7 billion euros of bonds. Monte Paschi di Siena, the third-largest, holds about 25 billion euros.

“One of the possible transmission mechanisms to banks could have to do with valuation changes on banks’ government bond holdings,” S&P Managing Director of European Sovereign Ratings Moritz Kraemer said in a conference call yesterday. A rating cut of the banks wouldn’t be automatic, he said.

UniCredit has declined 53 percent this year, with Intesa Sanpaolo shedding 48 percent of its value, more than the 29 percent decline in Italy’s benchmark FTSE MIB index.

“We might expect that Italy’s rating downgrade could trigger a downgrade of Intesa’s credit rating, as the bank would now have a higher rating, A+, vs. Italy,” analysts at CA Cheuvreux wrote in a note yesterday.

Giuseppe Mussari, head of Italy’s banking association, said yesterday that S&P had affirmed ratings on many Italian banks in recent weeks and he “doesn’t see why they should be changed now.”

On 25 May S&P changed its outlook to negative for Enel, the biggest electricity company, citing slowing economic growth and “diminished” prospects for reducing government debt. The state still controls 31 percent of the former monopoly.

“I think it’s likely that the downgrade will soon hit Italian state-controlled companies given their reliance on government support,” said Angelo Drusiani, who manages about 3 billion euros at Banca Albertini Syz & C. in Milan. “Enel has a large debt and a downgrade would make it more difficult to finance itself.”

Enel, which became Europe’s most-indebted power producer after the purchase of Spain’s Endesa SA in 2007, has cut costs and sold assets to improve its finances. The company reported a net debt of 46.1 billion euros at the end of the second quarter and aims to cut that to 36.5 billion euros by 2015.

S&P said in May that a further debt reduction could lead the company return Enel’s outlook to stable.

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

S&P Downgrades Intesa and Mediobanca — Fed Warns “Growth at Risk”

Agency adjusts ratings of seven Italian banks for sovereign risk. Treasury claims budget is sufficient to balance accounts in 2013

MILAN — Standard and Poor’s has cut the ratings of seven Italian banks following Monday’s decision to downgrade Italy’s sovereign debt. The axe fell on the long-term ratings of Mediobanca and Intesa Sanpaolo, as well as on three of the latter’s subsidiaries, Banca IMI, Cassa Risparmio Bologna and BIIS, which slip back from A+ to A. Short-term ratings have remained unchanged. Findomestic and BNL were also downgraded. There is no change for Unicredit, whose ratings outlook is now negative as a result of the sovereign risk review. The news came like a slap in the face as head of state Giorgio Napolitano and PM Silvio Berlusconi met at the presidential palace. In response to the serious concern about the state of Italy’s economy, Mr Berlusconi is reported to have made assurances that he was on the point of launching a growth plan.

THE DECISION — The downgrading of bank ratings was required to bring banks with at least 40% of their assets employed in the domestic market into line with Italy’s rating, down from A+ to A. On Tuesday, S&P’s analysts floated the possibility that “one of the […] transmission mechanisms to banks could have to do with valuation changes on banks’ government bond holdings”.

NEGATIVE PROSPECTS FOR FIFTEEN BANKS — The outlook adjustment from stable to negative also affects eight other banks, in addition to the seven with downgraded ratings (Intesa Sanpaolo and its two subsidiaries, Mediobanca, Findomestic and BNL). Banks with revised outlooks are Unicredit and three of its subsidiaries — Unicredit Bank AG in Germany, Unicredit Bank Austria and Unicredit Leasing — Agos-Ducato, Istituto per il Credito Sportivo and Banca Fideuram, which is also part of the Intesa Sanpaolo group. All previously had an A long-term rating and A-1 short-term rating. The outlook is now also negative for Cariparma, which however retains its A+ rating…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

The EU Dream Has Turned Into a Nightmare

The euro project was always based on a colossal act of make-believe — and now it is unravelling.

It was hard to know — as the danse macabre of the euro spirals towards its devastating denouement — which of last week’s utterances and events was the maddest. First, there was the speech by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, in which, after admitting that this was the worst crisis the EU had ever faced, he renewed his wish for it to impose a tax on “financial transactions”, to provide Brussels with what has been estimated by Open Europe, the independent think tank, at up to £70 billion a year.

Since Britain’s share of the EU’s financial markets is 72 per cent, the cost to the UK would thus be up to £50 billion. But that wouldn’t last long because, as the Commission itself admits, such a tax would soon send the financial industry fleeing out of the EU, destroying the biggest single earner in the UK economy.

George Osborne may be right in saying that Britain would veto Mr Barroso’s proposal. But the very fact that the ex-Maoist in charge of the Commission should suggest anything so suicidal is a measure of just how surreal this crisis is becoming.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


700 Arrested After Protest on NY’s Brooklyn Bridge

NEW YORK (AP) — Protesters speaking out against corporate greed and other grievances were maintaining a presence in Manhattan’s Financial District even after more than 700 of them were arrested during a march on the Brooklyn Bridge in a tense confrontation with police.

The group Occupy Wall Street has been camped out in a plaza in Manhattan’s Financial District for nearly two weeks staging various marches, and had orchestrated an impromptu trek to Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon. They walked in thick rows on the sidewalk up to the bridge, where some demonstrators spilled onto the roadway after being told to stay on the pedestrian pathway, police said.

The march shut down a lane of traffic for several hours on Saturday. The majority of those arrested were given citations for disorderly conduct and were released, police said.

The group had meetings and forums planned for Sunday at Zuccotti Park, the private plaza off Broadway the protesters have occupied.

During Saturday’s march on the Brooklyn Bridge, some protesters sat on the roadway, chanting “Let us go,” while others chanted and yelled at police from the pedestrian walkaway above. Police used orange netting to stop the group from going farther down the bridge, which is under construction.

Some of the protesters said they were lured onto the roadway by police, or they didn’t hear the calls from authorities to head to the pedestrian walkway. Police said no one was tricked into being arrested, and those in the back of the group who couldn’t hear were allowed to leave.

“Multiple warnings by police were given to protesters to stay on the pedestrian walkway and that if they took roadway they would be arrested,” said Paul Browne, the chief spokesman of the New York Police Department.

The NYPD on Sunday released video footage to back up its stance. In one of the videos, an official uses a bullhorn to warn the crowd. Marchers can be seen chanting, “Take the bridge.”

Erin Larkins, a Columbia University graduate student at who says she and her boyfriend have significant student loan debt, was among the thousands of protesters on the bridge. She said a friend persuaded her to join the march and she’s glad she did.

“I don’t think we’re asking for much, just to wake up every morning not worrying whether we can pay the rent, or whether our next meal will be rice and beans again,” Larkins wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “No one is expecting immediate change. I think everyone is just hopeful that people will wake up a bit and realize that the more we speak up, the more the people that do have the authority to make changes in this world listen.”

Several videos taken of the event show a confusing, chaotic scene. Some show protesters screaming obscenities at police and taking a hat from one of the officers. Others show police struggling with people who refuse to get up. Nearby, a couple posed for wedding pictures on the bridge…

[Return to headlines]

Anti Wall Street Protest in the US, Over 700 Arrests

(AGI) New York — There is no stopping the US ‘indignados’ protest against banks and Wall Street. Saturday evening, the NY police reopened the Brooklyn Bridge after arresting over 700 protesters that blocked the traffic on the bridge while trying to cross it.

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

Occupy Wall Street Protests Spread Across U.S.

Inspired by the events in New York City, protesters begin assembling in several cities across the U.S.

As police arrested hundreds of protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, more demonstrations began to spring up across the U.S.

In Los Angeles, protesters gathered in front of City Hall and danced on buses with “peace” emblazoned on the side.

A smaller protest was held in Chicago’s financial district where protesters held placards demanding “Jobs Not Cuts”.

Protesters also turned out in Denver, gathering downtown before marching into the city chanting, “Occupy the streets.”

All the protests were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement which has seen hundreds of people camping out near the financial district in New York City and conducting marches calling for an end to home foreclosures and high unemployment.

[Return to headlines]

Political Islam Stalking Commonwealth of Virginia

This is a story about a political icon for many northern Virginia conservatives; an icon, however, who has been strangely indifferent to some of the political company he keeps; and who needs to recognize promptly and publicly the dangers of Political Islam.

Dick Black is running as the GOP nominee in the 13th district to be a state senator in the Virginia General Assembly.

He has an indisputably conservative record on many issues, and a long career in our armed forces. He is pro-Second Amendment and pro-life. He was one of the “Marshall defendants” joining delegate Bob Marshall who brought a successful action (Marshall v. NTVA) reaffirming “the mandates of accountability and transparency that the Constitution requires when the General Assembly exercises the legislative taxing authority permitted by the Constitution.”

He also has a blind spot about Political Islam.

Last Monday we wrote (yet again) that: —

Some time ago we asked whether the Virginia GOP would come to terms with Political Islam. We have met many rank and file Virginia Republicans who are increasingly concerned about this threat.

Lamentably the Virginia GOP Establishment — perhaps one not up to the high standards of Tammany Hall but nonetheless an organization [exercising] grinding control — is in rigid denial about Political Islam.

Can reviewing any GOP campaign donations from organizations seen as being in the orbit of the Safa Group help us understand why the Virginia GOP has lost its voice on Political Islam? In part.


“THE SAFA GROUP IS THE Saudi wing made up of more than one hundred business and charitable front groups operating mainly out of Northern Virginia (along the so-called Wahhabi Corridor, just outside DC), as well as Georgia. Before he was sent to prison, [Abdurahman] Alamoudi controlled the group, along with Jamal Barzinji, who remains at its helm.”

And we offered some detailed context for the group:

Here is a link to the “AFFIDAVIT IN SUPPORT OF APPLICATION FOR SEARCH WARRANT (OCTOBER 2003)” where senior special customs agent David Kane makes his extensive case to be granted a search warrant. (In affidavit — scroll to pages 42 and 105 for a survey of his target organizations.)

Agent Kane related —

“Since December 2001, I and other agents of the USCS, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (‘IRS-CI’), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (‘FBI’), have been investigating a group of individuals that are suspected of providing material support to terrorists, money laundering, and tax evasion through the use of a variety of related for-profit companies and ostensible charitable entities under their control, most of which are located at 555 Grove Street, Herndon, Virginia. For ease of reference, I will refer to the web of companies and charities controlled by these individuals as the ‘Safa Group.’“ (Emphasis Forum’s.)

Readers can also review ATTACHMENT D Safa Group Officers and Directors & Their Related Businesses and Organizations.

[See URL for] the contributions to Mr. Black from some of the organizations apparently part of the Safa Group’s universe, including contributions made both to his delegate races as well as to his current race for a state senate seat.


For conservative voters in Virginia’s 13th state senatorial district, what can Mr. Black do before November 8 to assure them that he now recognizes the danger of Political Islam in Virginia?

More than just tossing off a phrase, we would think.

Perhaps Mr. Black could start by showing us that he has grasped the central truths former Federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy illustrates in his “The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America”

These extracts are from McCarthy’s chapter entitled “Destroying Western Civilization From Within” —

“It is not every day that, even as the game is being played, the opposition’s playbook falls into your hands, telling you, chapter and verse, exactly how he intends to beat your brains in.”. . . “Still, by any standard, the Brotherhood memorandum obtained by the FBI and presented in Texas at the Holy Land Foundation terrorism-financing trial in 2007 was an eye-opener. The document [was] called “An Exploratory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” and [was] dated May 22, 1991 . . .” . . .”The seizures of the Brotherhood’s gameplan leave no doubt about its intentions. As aptly described by the former U. S. intelligence analyst Joseph Myers, these Islamists seek nothing less than ‘the usurpation and replacement’ of America’s foundations — Judeo-Christianity and Western liberalism — — by Islam. Given that reality, and the equally indisputable fact that the sabotage strategy relies on leveraging American liberties and democratic processes to Islamist advantage, the current U. S. strategic response of embracing the Brotherhood is akin to confronting an epidemic by increasing one’s unprotected exposures to the contagion.”

What did all these arguably questionable contributors expect from delegate Black? What do they expect from a state senator Black?

Alert voters can press Mr. Black on these cloudy matters…

[Return to headlines]

Texas Governor Doubts That Climate Change is Man-Made

(AGI) Washington — Texas Governor Rick Perry doubted that climate change is man-made in an electoral event in New Hampshire. Perry is one of the Republican candidates who might challenge Barack Obama in the race for the presidency and New Hampshire is a key state in the primaries that will open the presidential race in the USA. Perry, the favorite of the Tea Party conservative movement, also added that efforts to reduce polluting emission levels in the atmosphere will “devastate” the USA from an economic point of view.

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

The Strange Case of Anwar Al Awlaki

As widely reported, al Qaeda ideologue Anwar al Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in the Yemen province of Shabwa, a lawless area well out of reach of Yemen’s military. While it is clear that the world is a bit safer today thanks to the actions of American military and intelligence, there is a legitimate argument about the right of due process to American citizens. With regard to al Awlaki, however, this argument should be a moot point as his assassination was unnecessary.

Why didn’t we have to kill this traitor to the United States? Because we had him in custody on U.S. soil on felony charges in 2002. And we could have detained him indefinitely. Yet, he was ordered released by our own Department of Justice, only to go on to allegedly take instructional or operational charge in various other terrorist plots here in the U.S., including the massacre at Fort Hood, the alleged Christmas Day bombing attempt of a U.S. airline, and the failed bombing in Times Square. The FBI also detained him on September 17, 2001 about his role in the September 11, 2001 attacks, but released him. Why?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Berlusconi Hints That Tremonti Should Resign

Prime minister complains that economy minister disrespects him all over Europe

ROME — “It’s an outrage, I authorise you to tell the press. I checked the options myself. There were other scheduled flights or he could have taken a government flight, a flight authorised to take another route. I told him myself. He’d have saved time, too. He said he couldn’t”. While Silvio Berlusconi was venting to PDL deputies, Giulio Tremonti was already on the plane for Washington, where he is scheduled to attend meetings of the International Monetary Fund. But it is not just geography that separates the PM from the economy minister. The human and political distance between them has never been greater.

Marco Milanese had just been rescued by the majority but In the Chamber of Deputies, and especially in the vicinity of Silvio Berlusconi, the only topic of discussion was Giulio Tremonti’s absence. Mr Tremonti failed to attend the meeting of the Council of Ministers and did not vote on the application for the arrest of his former right-hand man. Mr Berlusconi gave the nod to a harshly worded press release: “An immoral act”. Normally, the prime minister speaks out and then denies everything. He may attack Mr Tremonti in private but then he pours oil on the troubled waters. This time, however, there was a new script. Nothing was official but it looks like a deliberately calculated operation. The final straw was a volume hot off the presses that the Treasury delivered first thing in the morning to all ministers at the oval table in the council chamber. The volume — the economics and finance document (DEF) — contains the latest updates on Italy’s economic performance and forecasts. But ministers had been left in the dark and were expected to approve it without explanation. For Silvio Berlusconi, this was too much.

Ministers Brunetta, Galan and Romani spoke and in a twinkling, the meeting turned into a collective trial of the economy minister. Those present call it “nearly a revolt”. Not even Roberto Calderoli spoke up for Mr Tremonti, which says it all. But the novelty was not ministers lining up against the man who for years was tolerated as the “superminister”. The new element was the prime minister’s stinging, explicit criticism…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Bossi Says Those Who Display the Italian Flag Are Idiots

(AGI) Somma Lombardo — Umberto Bossi voiced his very strong opinion about Italy once again. “This country has spent a lot of money because the southern Italy costs too much money” the Northern League leader said during a speech. He then continued by saying that “those who display the Italian flag are idiots”.

He insisted on the fact that Italy “humongous” sovereign debt is due to the fact “that a part of the country costs too much money”. ..

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

Bulgaria: Collapse of a So-Called Social Model

Trud, Sofia

The riots that rocked the village of Katounitsa and several cities across Bulgaria have not only marked a sudden upsurge in anti-Roma sentiment: an anthropologist argues that they are also a symptom of a sick society which has been unable to overcome the scourge of clientelism.

Antonina Jeliazkova

What happened in Katounitsa was not simply an incident [see box below] or an isolated case, but evidence of a destructive trend that the passivity of state institutions has allowed to become endemic in recent years. It is a conflict that must be examined within the overall context of politics in Bulgaria.

As a nation without proper leaders, we have been obliged to make do with para-politicians who have undermined our expectations and the hopes of civil society. Since election campaigns began several months ago [presidential and municipal elections are scheduled to be held on 23 October], we have not heard one interesting exchange of ideas on the economy, foreign policy or society. What we have had is a generous serving of plots and betrayals. We have reached a point where Bulgarian politics has now become an offshoot of the scandal sheets which feed on it.

Political dialogue, which is at an all time low, has now reached a level characterised by the shameless exploitation of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations in this country. Years have gone by, and we have yet to see one politician attempt to restore order in the relations between Christians and Muslims or between the Roma and other communities. No one has come forward to propose effective strategies for the real integration of minorities, because our self-proclaimed political elite is convinced that the best option is to sustain the humiliating status quo which enables it to cling to power.

Self-proclaimed kings

These tensions are always motivated by political interests, especially in the run-up to elections. There are thousands of reasons that have caused us to abandon hope for social justice in Bulgaria. And the despair that they have prompted has affected every section of society: from doctors to poets, and even subsistence farmers. Obviously the only people who do not appear to be worried by this state of affairs are the nouveaux riches bandits, big-time criminals, corrupt politicians and highly placed magistrates.

In such a situation, and here I am speaking as a historian and social anthropologist, the most effective political strategy is to project anger on minorities, the members of other religions, or any group that is simply different. Once the real issues have been masked by false problems, distinctions become blurred, and it is easy to present political errors or criminal incidents as inter-ethnic conflicts, with occasionally dramatic consequences.

There are powder kegs like Katounitsa virtually everywhere in Bulgaria. We have now had three or four generations of Roma with no education and thus no possibility of succeeding in the labour market, while crime has climbed steeply. At the same time, anti-Roma sentiment in society in general has reached an all time high.

The political parties have corrupted the poorest and most marginal groups by involving them in vote trading deals, which have launched the careers of ghetto leaders and self-proclaimed Roma “kings,” who grow wealthy on the backs of their fellow believers by selling their political support to the highest bidder. These are the people who now benefit from the undisputed control of neighbourhoods, villages and in some cases towns throughout Bulgaria…

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

Buon Giorno, Oktoberfest: Italians Trek North for German Beer

By Christopher Cottrell in Munich, Germany

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Italians head north for Munich’s Oktoberfest. Local entrepreneurs have identified a market niche, while Munich police have introduced special measures to deal with the massive influx — such as importing Italian police officers to keep their compatriots in order.

Last Sunday, Michael Spitzweg and his sister Claudia Hartl were busy at the campground they run on the outskirts of Munich, picking up beer bottles and bits of trash left over from the weekend rush.

A mere two days before, nearly 800 mobile homes bearing the letter “I” on their license plates had rolled into their camp, marking the beginning of Oktoberfest’s so-called “Italian weekend,” traditionally the second weekend of the world-famous festival. Directing one caravan after another to their designated parking spaces, Spitzweg and his colleagues packed the mobile homes into rows like bulky, white sardines.

“What I find interesting is that so many Italians come up just for one day,” Spitzweg told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “For me, that’d be too stressful. But then again, maybe we Germans have a different way of thinking.”

According to Munich’s tourism office, about 200,000 Italians attend the Oktoberfest every year. The “Italian weekend” alone sees 75,000 people make the trek northward, something tourism officials attribute to a late vacation season in Italy when mobile homes are cheaper to rent.

And when the Italians come to the city they call Monaco di Baveria, they bring their euros with them. Tourism officials estimate that Munich’s restaurants and retail stores get a €30 million ($41 million) boost from the festival’s 200,000 Italian guests, with each person spending an average of €150 a day. The Italians make up just over 3 percent of the event’s estimated 6.1 million guests…

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

France: Murder in the Paris Subway (Again)

A reader sent this from Yahoo:

Thursday night, a man got on line 7 at the Stalingrad station of the Paris subway. He pestered a young woman. A passenger intervened, placing himself between the two to defend the woman. An argument ensued and the three persons got off at the Crimée station in the 19th arrondissement. The two men exchanged insults and came to blows. Then the attacker pushed the man who had intervened onto the tracks. He was electrocuted. Help arrived but it was too late. He died instantly. The suspect is still at large. The inquiry is in the hands of the subway brigade. The police are studying the surveillance cameras. The scene was filmed.

Note: Intervening has its punishments and rewards. A while back a reader sent this story from the Daily Mailabout an Australian man who intervened on a London bus. He lived to tell the tale.

The photo of an empty Paris subway station is a reminder of how easily it would be for killers to corner some lone passenger and rob, rape or kill (or all three) him/her.

October 1, 7:17 p.m. — Here is an update on this killing from Novopress.

It’s not a good idea to oppose the actions of thugs. Yesterday, a young man, 27, of Sri-Lankan origin, lost his life following a fatal fall on the subway track after defending a female passenger who was being tormented by a North African man.

The crime (“drame”) took place on line 7 in the direction of la Courneuve. Early evening the attacker got on the train where he approached a young blond woman. The woman backed away from him, but the man insisted, became aggressive and threatening.

It was then that a passenger of Sri-Lankan origin, decided to intervene to defend the woman, an attitude sufficiently rare in our time to be praised at its true value. (…)

The article points out that the man “fell”, probably pushed by the attacker. Which of course means he didn’t “fall”. But perhaps a definitive report is necessary before we can say that he was pushed.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi’s Irritation at Foreign-Registered Mobile Phones — “Just Like the Mafia”

Butler tells of Nicla’s letters asking for money. Ghedini claims Lavitola wanted to give him a thrashing

ROME — When deal broker Valter Lavitola had “three telephones with foreign contracts” delivered to Silvio Berlusconi, the irritated prime minister grumbled: “Oh look at that. It’s the sort of thing the Mafia does”. The episode was described by the prime minister’s butler, Alfredo Pezzotti. However, it confirms that Silvio Berlusconi agreed to this method of communication since the two spoke to each other on those phones. The new details of the alleged blackmail by Mr Lavitola and the Tarantinis, husband and wife Gianpaolo and Nicla, reveal what was going on over the past year while magistrates in Bari were investigating the traffic in prostitutes at Palazzo Grazioli and Arcore. They reveal the existence of covert communications and confidential letters delivered by the Tarantinis to Mr Berlusconi to ask for money. But they also expose strained relations among those closest to the premier, such as his lawyer and People of Freedom (PDL) parliamentarian Niccolò Ghedini and Walter Lavitola, with the latter even threatening to give Mr Ghedini a “thrashing”. The existence of confidential letters has also emerged…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy’s PM Refuses to Oblige Opposition Resignation Calls

(AGI) Roma — Italy’s premier, Silvio Berlusconi, rejects opposition calls for his government to resign. Addressing a PDL party event by phone, Berlusconi said “we can’t act on either the opposition or the media’s media calls. We are not going to resign if not via a no-confidence vote in Parliament; and that is not about to happen. We will press ahead with our strong, united majority. We will deliver the reforms.” .

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

Italy: Romanian Suspected of Killing Man With Machete Arrested

(AGI) Turin — A 19-year-old Romanian citizen suspected of killing Georghe Cimpoesu with a machete in Turin has been arrested. David Cristian Alexa was arrested by the Carabinieri in a local park. The Romanian and another 17-year-old man are suspected of murdering Georghe Cimpoesu, after an argument in via Chivasso.

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

Italy: Tens of Thousands Attend Sel Rally in Rome

(AGI) Rome — The SEL left-wing party event ‘Adesso tocca a noi’, was “a huge success”, the party’s press office points out. This afternoon “tens and tens of thousands of people, music, conversations, feelings, ideas and hopes” gathered in “the beautiful Piazza Navona square” in Rome.

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

Italy: Naples Will Also Have Its Mosque

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, SEPTEMBER 21 — Soon Naples will have its own Grand Mosque for “the large Muslim community”, Naples Mayor Luigi De Magistris announced yesterday, after already ordering the Heritage Councillor to identify a suitable area for the structure “by the end of the year”. The Naples Mosque will soon be a reality, allowing the many Muslims who live in the city to gather in a large space compared to the spacese currently being used as mosques, located near Piazza Mercato in the Isabella d’Este Art Institute. The structure can hold a maximum of 600-700 people, but Friday prayer sees over 1500 people gather in the space, as the representatives of the Muslim community in Naples have denounced for some time. “And many are forced to pray outside in the street,” explained Agostino Gentile, the imam of the Piazza Mercato mosque. The worshipers obstruct transit and business for the many stores in the area, even creating moments of tension between mosque-goers and residents in the zone. Gentile spoke about these difficulties with De Magistris during the festival ending the month of Ramadan. During this conversation, an idea came about to find larger spaces at another location. “In recent years, former Councillor Di Mezza was looking to give us a larger space but the project was blocked by bureaucratic problems,” Gentile explained. Now it will be up to Councillor Bernardino Tuccillo to locate a suitable area. Currently 3-4 possibilities are under examination, which will be analysed in a technical meeting to be established this week: the Napoli Est area has the advantage. “We will work to find an area that is fully compatible with the facilities needed,” explained Councilman Tuccillo, who specified that the search is still “in its initial phases”. The City will examine of the situation, looking for an existing structure to be used as a mosque or an area to build one: “Both ideas will be examined,” Tuccillo confirmed. “If there is an space that is ready, all the better, otherwise we will have to build. Napoli Est is the forerunner among the areas under examination.” The news was welcomed also by the Diocese of Naples: at the seat of the archbishop of Naples on Largo Donnaregina, mention was made of the intense work by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe to promote dialogue between the religions and the fact that Naples hosted the Sant’Egidio Community Meeting of Religions in 2007. The construction of the mosque will only be the tip of the iceberg of a programme that also involves opening a Muslim cemetery. De Magistris’ plan, however, encompasses all religions: there are also plans to open a meeting centre for different religions. Work is in progress to set up a conference in Naples involving all of the movements that are participating in the Arab Spring, in the Maghreb and the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Amanda Knox ‘Publicly Crucified and Impaled’ Claims Lawyer

Perugia, 29 Sept. (AKI) — Convicted murderer and US college student Amanda Knox’s lawyer claimed on Thursday his client had been “publicly crucified and impaled” as Knox’s legal team began their final arguments in her appeals trial for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in the Italian town of Perugia.

“Who has been publicly crucified and impaled?” Carlo Dalla Vedova, one of Knox’s two lawyers, told the the appeals court in Perugia.

Knox, now aged 24, has fascinated media since the brutal 2007 murder of her flatmate, British exchange student Meredith Kercher, for which Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were in 2009 sentenced to 26 and 25 years in jail respectively.

“The attitude of the media has militated against her freedom…Amanda is a girl who has been hit by a tsunami,” Dalla Vedova added.

“She is innocent and has been in prison for over a thousand days,” he said.

“Amanda has always been a very different person from that portrayed (by media and prosecutors),” Dalla Vedova added.

The trial and current appeal, both held in Perugia, a picturesque and normally peaceful central Italian university town, has attracted huge international media attention, particularly from the United States and Britain.

Knox and Sollecito have always maintained their innocence, and Knox’s lawyers, family, friends and supporters say she was wrongly convicted of Kercher’s murder in a ‘trial by media’ and unjustly portrayed as a she-devil and nymphomaniac.

Lawyers were expected to request that the 23-year-old Knox be acquitted for the 2007 killing of Kercher. Prosecutors have demanded life sentences for the US student and for Sollecito.

Kercher was found in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia on 2 November 2007 — half-naked, with her throat cut, and covered with more than 40 stab wounds and injuries. Kercher was murdered after she refused to take part in a sex game, according to prosecutors.

A verdict in the appeal jointly lodged by Knox and Sollecito is expected by early October Knox and Sollecito’s lawyers have based their cases on what they claim was flawed forensic evidence used to convict the former lovers.

A third person convicted of killing Kercher, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede, who had opted for a separate, fast-track trial, was sentenced in 2008 to 30 years in prison. His sentence was subsequently reduced to 16 years on appeal.

Guede denies any wrongdoing but has admitted he was in the Perugia house the night Kercher was killed. He has also said he saw Knox and Sollecito in the house — something the two deny.

In what was seen as a setback for Knox and Sollecito, in February Italy’s Supreme Court said Kercher was killed by more than one person.

Kercher had been murdered in a “brutally forceful and abusive attack that revealed on the part of its unhappy perpetrators the orgiastic desire to vent the most perverted criminal impulses,” the court said.

The top court was explaining its December rejection of Guede’s appeal against a 16-year sentence for his role in Kercher’s murder.

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

Polish Youth Are Becoming More and More Like Their Western Counterparts

Polityka 23.09.2022 (Poland)

Polish youth are becoming more and more like their western counterparts, reports (here in German) Wawrzyniec Smocznyksi after reading the governmental report “Mlodzi 2011”. They are individualist, hedonistic — and unemployed. In Poland, too, joblessness among the youth is twice the average; the majority of young people work with short-term contracts or have unpaid internships: “Whereas young Poles still have hopes of wealth and upward mobility, their peers in France, Spain, and Greece are slowly giving up such dreams. The threat of a lost generation is looming over developed countries, the first generation since World War II to be potentially less prosperous than the one before it. Heralding this social crisis are the disturbances where young people have taken part: burning Parisian suburbs, street battles in the heart of Athens, mass demonstrations in Madrid and, most recently, the riots in London. Warsaw is not threatened by such scenes, but Poland is turning the same corner into a dead-end situation.”

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

Theologian Hans Küng on Pope Benedict: ‘A Putinization of the Catholic Church’

Pope Benedict XVI. “The Church is sick, and it’s the sickness of the Roman system,” says theologian Hans Küng.

On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Germany for a long-awaited visit. Prominent Swiss theologian Hans Küng explains to SPIEGEL why the papal visit will do little to help the crisis in the Church and compares Benedict to Vladimir Putin in the way he has centralized power.

SPIEGEL: Professor Küng, your former faculty colleague Joseph Ratzinger is coming to Germany this week for a state visit. Do you have an audience scheduled with him?

Küng: I didn’t request an audience. I am fundamentally more interested in conversations than audiences.

SPIEGEL: Does Benedict XVI even talk to you anymore?

Küng: After his election to be pope, he invited me to his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, where we had a four-hour friendly conversation. At the time, I hoped it would mark the beginning of a new era of openness. But that hope has not been fulfilled. We correspond with each other once in a while. The sanctions against me — the withdrawal of my permission to teach — still exist. (Ed’s note: The Vatican revoked Küng’s permission to teach Catholic theology in 1979 after he publicly rejected the dogma of papal infallibility.)

SPIEGEL: When was the last time Benedict wrote to you?

Küng: Through his private secretary (Georg) Gänswein, he thanked me for sending him my latest book and sent me his best wishes.

SPIEGEL: In your polemic book “Ist die Kirche noch zu retten?” (“Can the Church Still Be Saved?”), which was published earlier this year, you harshly criticized the pope for his anti-reformist policy.

Küng: I find it very gratifying that he hasn’t ended the personal relationship despite my criticism.

SPIEGEL: Many Catholics feel that the Church is in a rather desolate state. The cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by priests has driven believers away from the Church in droves. What’s going wrong?…

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UK: At Last: We Get Vote on Europe as MPs Are Forced to Decide on Referendum

A historic vote on growing demands for Britain to leave the European Union will be held in the Commons before Christmas.

MPs will debate whether the Government should give voters a chance to decide the issue once and for all in a referendum.

It will be the first time Parliament has held a major vote on seeking the public’s view since the 1975 referendum confirming the decision to join the Common Market.

If MPs vote in favour of a referendum, the result would not be binding on the Government.

But, combined with growing public opposition to the increasing power of the EU, it would put enormous pressure on David Cameron to let the people decide the country’s European fate. The Commons vote has been forced on MPs — and a reluctant Prime Minister — by public demand after the crisis in the eurozone, with desperate attempts to prop up the Greek economy, led to a surge in anti-Brussels feeling.

The decision to hold a debate was made after a petition, signed by more than 100,000 people demanding a referendum, was submitted to a new group of MPs given the job of making sure Parliament does not sweep controversial issues under the carpet.

The Mail on Sunday has learnt that the Commons Backbench Business Committee will agree to grant a one-day debate on a referendum after Parliament returns next week.

Committee chairman Natascha Engel, a Labour MP, said: ‘Given the crisis in the eurozone, this issue has become more relevant than ever. There is a clear majority of backbench MPs who want to debate this and we have to respond to that.

‘The EU today is completely different from the one the British people voted to join in 1975. It is time to examine the position again. For years it has suited successive governments to avoid debating whether Britain should leave the EU. The whole purpose of my committee is to make sure the big issues of the day are aired in Parliament. People in pubs and shops all over Britain are discussing our membership of the EU and it is time MPs openly debated it too.’

The debate will be held before the end of the year. Anti-European campaigners are divided over the question that should be put in a referendum. Some want a simple ‘in or out’ question. But others want to offer the choice of going back to an old- style trading association, along the lines of the Common Market which British voters agreed to 36 years ago.

If the nation voted ‘yes’ to this, the Government could demand that key powers over immigration, health and safety, City regulations and other issues are handed back to Westminster. If the EU refused, Britain could leave altogether.

In recent opinion polls, when asked directly, nearly half of people want Britain to come out of the EU, with about a third in favour of staying in. But when the question was rephrased to give the choice of returning to a Seventies-style trade association, a clear majority chose that option.

Tory MPs plan to use this week’s party conference in Manchester to step up their demand for a referendum.

Withdrawing from the EU has support at the highest level of the party, including from Mr Cameron’s senior No 10 adviser, Steve Hilton.

The Commons vote is a nightmare for the Coalition. Mr Cameron was heavily criticised in Opposition for going back on a pledge to hold a referendum on the 2007 Lisbon Treaty which continued the process of switching sovereignty to the EU.

He fears a referendum would be a distraction from his attempts to solve Britain’s economic problems. But he will face a mass revolt if he orders Tory MPs to vote against it.

Although Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is an avowed Europhile, he made an Election pledge to hold an ‘in or out’ EU referendum. It was seen as a crude Lib Dem ploy to prove that whatever their reservations about the EU, most Britons want to stay in. But with growing hostility to the EU, Mr Clegg may now be hoist with his own petard. A sizeable number of Labour MPs also want a referendum.

The historic Commons debate is set to be agreed after Tory MP David Nuttall approached the Backbench Business Committee on the strength of the petition. The Bury MP said he would defy any attempt by Mr Cameron to silence him. ‘I will vote in favour of a referendum. It is time the people had their say.’

Last night, despite the growing calls for a referendum, Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted the Government would not grant a public vote on leaving the EU altogether — but said he would consider putting any future erosion of sovereignty to the people.

‘The EU does have too much power, in our view,’ he said. ‘But this is a Coalition Government. We have an agreed programme on which the Lib Dems gave a lot of ground.

‘Any large-scale change in the treaties is for future years. Our place is in the European Union.’

Since Britain joined the Common Market, there have been a series of Commons votes on whether there should be referendums on EU treaties such as Maastricht and Lisbon — although none on whether we should remain in the EU. All have been defeated, largely due to Governments ordering MPs to vote them down.

The Government has suffered three defeats as a result of debates ordered by the Backbench Business Committee, including rejecting a European bid to give prisoners the vote.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Conservative Party Conference 2011: David Cameron Backs Theresa May Over ‘Chilling’ Human Rights Act

David Cameron agrees with Theresa May that the Human Rights Act should be replaced by a British Bill of Rights.

David Cameron said he and the Home Secretary shared a concern that the Commission to review the Human Rights Act would work “more slowly” than the Tories wanted.

But he said action was already being taken to help end the “chilling culture” which the Act had fostered among people fearful they would fall foul of it.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Cameron cited the recent example of a prison van driven nearly 100 miles to transfer a defendant the short walk to a court.

“I agree that it would be good to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. I think that is the right thing to do.”

But there was a concern that it would “go more slowly than Theresa and I would want”.

He said: “The Human Rights Act doesn’t say that’s what you have to do. It’s the sort of chilling effect of people thinking ‘I will be found guilty under it’.

“The government can do a huge amount to communicate to institutions and individuals let’s have some commonsense, let’s have some judgment, let’s have that applying rather than this over-interpretation of what’s there.”

His comments followed Theresa May’s interview in The Sunday Telegraph, in which she warns that the Act is hampering the Home Office’s struggle to deport dangerous foreign criminals and terrorist suspects.

“I’d personally like to see the Human Rights Act go because I think we have had some problems with it,” she says.

The Home Secretary’s words will be cheered by many Conservative MPs as well as Tory ministers across Whitehall.

However, they are likely to be greeted with dismay by leading Liberal Democrats, some of whom have signalled the future of the Coalition would be under threat if any serious action was taken against the Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.

At last month’s Liberal Democrat conference in Birmingham, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, was loudly cheered by his party’s activists as he declared: “Let me say something really clear about the Human Rights Act. In fact I’ll do it in words of one syllable: It is here to stay.”

Mrs May says today: “I see it, here in the Home Office, particularly, the sort of problems we have in being unable to deport people who perhaps are terrorist suspects. Obviously we’ve seen it with some foreign criminals who are in the UK.” The Coalition has set up a commission of human rights experts to report on the possibility of bringing in a British Bill of Rights to replace the Act by the end of next year.

Campaigners see the chances of the commission — which will report to Mr Clegg and Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary — recommending any serious changes as negligible, however. There had been widespread belief that it would not recommend the abolition of the Human Rights Act because of the make-up of the panel, which includes pro-rights lawyers, and the determination of the Liberal Democrats to keep the legislation.

But the force and timing of Mrs May’s comments, just two weeks after Mr Clegg’s declaration, dramatically changes the political landscape.

The Home Office has itself begun a review into the particularly controversial Article 8 of the European Convention, which sets out the right to a “family life” and which campaigners say has been abused by criminals fighting deportation.

Mrs May says: “We’re not standing still on this issue, we are actually looking at what can be done.”

Her position will raise tensions with Mr Clarke, seen as the most Left-leaning Tory in the Cabinet, who said last month: “There isn’t the faintest chance of the present Government withdrawing from the Convention on Human Rights.”

Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem Energy Secretary, has also made clear his party’s outright opposition to scrapping the Human Rights Act.

“If Conservative backbenchers persist in wanting to tear up the European Convention on Human Rights, then I can foresee a time when this party would be extremely uncomfortable in Coalition,” he said.

In one of the highest-profile cases involving convicts and their human rights claims, a failed asylum seeker who killed 12-year-old Amy Houston, from Blackburn, in a road accident, used the law to avoid deportation.

Other shocking examples uncovered by this newspaper include an Iraqi who killed two doctors but successfully argued that it would breach his rights to send him home.

           — Hat tip: LT[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Muslim Brothers: Elections After Ban to Mubarak Loyalists

(AGI) Cairo — The Muslim Brotherhood and another 59 parties, in a joint communique’, stated they will boycott the elections.

The Brotherhood, the oldest and most powerful Egyptian Islamic party along with another 59 political groups announced that they will boycott the November 28th elections if the military junta currently in power does not change the constitution by Sunday to prevent those loyal to ex-President Hosni Mubarak from participating in the electoral consultation.

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

Gaddafi Vows to Die as ‘Martyr’ In Libya

(AGI) Bani Walid — Broadcasting from a loyalist stronghold in Bani Walid, Col Gaddafi vows to fight until the bitter end. In a radio address aired today, Gaddafi said “there once were heroes that died as martyrs. We too await martyrdom.” The Colonel also dismissed rumours of his flight to Nigeria or Venezuela, declaring “I wish to die in my country as a martyr.” .

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

Guantanamo: Algeria Commission, at Least 10 Algerians Detained

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, SEPTEMBER 30 — The Algerians still detained in the Guantanamo prison without having undergone a formal trial number between 10 and 12. This was said yesterday by the president of the National Committee for the Promotion and Protection f Human Rights, Farouk Ksentini.

Most Algerian Guantanamo Algerian detainees, said Ksentini, reportedly came from Bosnia Herzegovina — where they had already been put on trial and acquitted only to later be picked up by the Americans and taken to the prison on Cuba. The other Algerians detained in Guantanamo and released by US authorities have had their cases tried and were acquitted by the Algiers Court of Appeals on charges which had cost them a sentence issued in absentia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: ‘Don’t Rush Into Elections or Risk Further Violence’ Argue US Experts

Rome, 28 Sept. (AKI) — Libya is not ready for elections any time in the near future but must first lay down the foundations of a civil society or risk that the electorate remains loyal primarily to tribal ties, according to a recent essay in Foreign Affairs magazine.

A United Nations memo cautioned against hasty elections and research on civil wars after 1945 seems to support this trepidation.

“We found that the sooner a country went to the polls the more likely it was to relapse into war. On average, waiting five years before holding the first election reduced the chance of war by one-third,” said the essay authored by Dawn Brancati, assistant professor in political science at Washington University in St. Louis and Jack L. Snyder, a professor in international relations at Columbia University.

Leaders from the National Transitional Council (NTC) have mooted a 20 month transitional period during which a new constitution would be written, culminating in national elections.

Libya must create civic organisations and patch up historical differences. Gaddafi ruled Libya for 40 years and stripped the country of any form of civil society or participatory democracy. It will take time to rebuild, the essay argues.

“Moreover, Libya is still awash in weapons, including stocks looted from government warehouses. Those arms are held by rival factions and private citizens alike,” say the essay’s authors.

To reduce the likelihood of violence amid early elections, Brancati and Snyder said one side must be beaten.

“First, if one side is completely defeated, the chance that the election will provoke renewed fighting is cut in half.”. And international peacekeepers overseeing the balloting “has dampened the risk of renewed fighting by about 60 percent, all other things being equal. But no one imagines that UN peacekeepers will play a significant role on the ground in Libya.”

They say following elections violence can be cut by building up “impartial, rule-based, and non-corrupt institutions, including courts, police, and other governmental bureaucracies.”

Power-sharing accords are also likely to decrease the risk of post-election fighting, they said.

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

Libya’s NTC Offers Conditional Cooperation on Lockerbie

(AGI) Tripoli — Libya’s justice minister Mohammed al-Alagi sets conditions on his govt’s cooperation with Scottish authorities.

Al-Alagi said cooperation in relation to the Lockerbie disaster will not extend to Libyan secret agent Abdel Basset al-Megrahi — formerly protected by Gaddafi and now benefiting by the same treatment under the NTC.

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

Red Cross: “Desperate Situation” In Sirte, Libya

(AGI) Misurata — The situation in Sirte, the town under siege that gave birth to Muammar Gaddafi, is “desperate”. According to the Red Cross International, people are dying due to lack of medical care and the local hospital, hit by rockets, is unable to care for the injured. The Red Cross envoy, Hichem Khadhraoui, added that the team he led into Sirte delivered 300 “war wound kits” and about “150 body bags”.

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

Sub-Saharan Migrants Free After Months of Captivity. Thousands Still in Libyan Prisons

Considered Gaddafi’s mercenaries, they are still targeted by insurgents. Hundreds testify violence and arbitrary arrests. Sirte and Bani Walid still in the hands of the Rais. Concern about the lives of over 200 thousand people.

Tripoli (AsiaNews) — About 200 sub-Saharan migrants found freedom after months of captivity in the refugee camps on the border with Niger. In a report launched by the BBC, they tell of being subjected to violence by the rebels, because they were accused of being Gaddafi mercenaries. Due to complaints of human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, they will be repatriated to their countries.

James, 26 years nigerians, he worked for two years in a construction company. After the fall of the Rais was captured by the rebels and accused of being a mercenary. “They thought that I was a Gaddafi’s supporter — he says — the rebels hate blacks because they consider them mercenaries of the regime. It is not safe for us to be in Libya. “

During the capture of Tripoli, hundreds of migrants have fled the city for fear of reprisals, finding refuge in a makeshift refugee camp, now under the tutelage of Doctors Without Borders. Interviewed by the BBC, they report that many of the rebels followed them inside the camp. To the cry of “murtazaka” (“mercenary” in Arabic), the rebels destroyed the barracks, beaten and raped women and arrested the men. The same scenario also happened in other cities.

Tiziana Gamannossi, Italian entrepreneur in Tripoli, said that a few weeks the situation has improved. “In the capital, many migrants have returned to work — she says — some are used in the sanitation of the city, resumed during these days. Others have been summarized by employers.”

Despite the slow return to normality and the reassurances of the CNT on the treatment of prisoners, thousands of people remained in the prisons, mostly are blacks. Many of them detained without trial. They are denied the possibility of having a contact with lawyers and families. A woman speaks to the Bnc about the violence for trying to defend her husband dragged to jail because it was considered a mercenary. “I have not heard from him so far — she says — I’m afraid of everything that happens in this country. I would ask the rebels to release my husband. He is innocent. It is a quiet man and not a mercenary.”

In these months, the CNT has repeatedly called to his fighters to avoid unnecessary violence and bloodshed. The appeal has been raised recently, but has not been very successful. Libya is still a country at war and there is a high risk of further reprisals and revenge. In Sirte and Bani Walid, Gaddafi’s last strongholds, are ongoing fighting between rebels and loyalists. NATO and Red Cross are worried about more than 200 thousand civilians that live under bombings for two weeks with food and water and rationed. Those who tried to escape said that the situation is chaotic. In the city there is no electricity and there is a high risk of epidemics. The roofs are still full of snipers that shooting against anyone, but from outside the rebels continue to launch rockets and bombs to force the last loyalists to surrender. (Sc)

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

Terrorist Cell Dismantled in Morocco

(AGI) Rabat — Morocco announced having dismantled a 5-member “terrorist cell”. According to reports, the cell “used the Internet to establish contacts with the al-Qaeda network especially in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia”.

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

Middle East

Media: Al Jazeera Director Resigning, Denies US Influence

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, SEPTEMBER 21 — Al Jazeera director Wadah Khanfar, who yesterday announced that he would be leaving the position after eight years at the head of the pan-Arab television station, has today denied that he had been subjected to any sort of pressure by the United States, as was instead shown by a number of documents published by Wikileaks. “The reason I am resigning is that eight years is long enough in such a position of responsibility,” Khanfar said in an interview with Al Jazeera itself. “We have never had relations with any government at a level in which they could order us to do something,” said Khanfar.

“Obviously we have been subjected to pressure, for example as concerns the coverage of news on Osama Bin Laden and Iraq, but we continued to work as we had before. Moreover, the US has always been critical of our work, our journalists have been imprisoned and our office bombed by the Americans.” According to documents published by Wikileaks, Khanfar agreed to change the content of some reportages after objections from the UN military intelligence. The director was allegedly in close contact with US diplomacy. Khanfar began working for Al Jazeera as a correspondent in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. The new director of the satellite television station is Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, a Qatari of the royal family.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tragedy of Modern Day Romeo and Juliet: The Lovers Driven to Suicide by Iranian Regime That Threw Them in Jail for Being Friends With a Human Rights Activist

Nahal Sahabi, 28, and her boyfriend Behnam Ganji, 22, who were both active bloggers, committed suicide four weeks apart after being imprisoned just for being friends with a human rights activist.

Mr Ganji was detained for eight days, while Ms Sahabi was held for three days at Tehran’s infamous Evin prison — soon after being released they were both dead.

Mr Ganji was a science student at Tehran University and lived with his close friend and human rights activist Koohyar Goudarzi, 26.

Mr Goudarzi, a member of the Committee for Human Rights Reporters (CHRR) had been previously arrested in demonstrations following President Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009.

After spending a year in prison, he continued his activism, which led to him being banned from attending university and again sought after by authorities.

On their hunt for Goudarzi, security agents thought to be from Iran’s ministry of intelligence, burst into the men’s flat and arrested both him and his flatmate Mr Ganji, The Times reported.

They were both taken to Evin prison on July 31, followed by Ms Sahabi and Mr Goudarzi’s mother being arrested shortly after.

Although it has been reported that Mr Ganji spent some of his imprisonment in solitary confinement, details of exactly what happened to him during his time in Evin have not been revealed.

He is said to have come out ‘a broken man’ after the ordeal and would not talk to, see or take calls from anyone after being released.

A friend of Ganji, named Amir, told The Times his friend was beaten by interrogators in the prison and forced him to falsely condemn Mr Goudarzi as a member of the MEK, a criminal opposition group.

Amir believes his friend was tortured, while another friend, Farya Barlas, told the newspaper that Mr Ganji and Mr Goudarzi were apparently raped in front of each other by guards.

Mr Goudarzi however, has not been seen since his arrest and his lawyer told the Guardian by phone that he is still missing.

Authorities at Evin prison deny that he is still there and claim to not know where he is.

Ms Sahabi, a kindergarten teacher, was apparently not as traumatised as her boyfriend after being released by interrogators, but lived in constant fear of rape after guards threatened to ‘dishonour’ her.

When she found out of her lover’s suicide, she was devastated and wrote on her blog: ‘Hey Behnam. Damn you, what am I supposed to do in your absence?

‘Maybe if you can understand someone loves you so much, you could return from death.’

On Thursday, she was found dead in her room at her parents’ house in Tehran after also taking an overdose.

She wrote one last blog before her suicide, reading: ‘So it’s Thursday again. Come, Behnam. Let’s dance together on Thursday once more.’

Their mutual friend Amir said: ‘It’s a story of two young people who were not political, loved each other, and just wanted to get on with their lives, but all of a sudden end up in prison.’

‘Everyone can identify it. Everyone [in Iran] feels it could happen to them. No one is safe.’

Bloggers in Iran have voiced their views on the tragic tale, with one named Darius posting: ‘Nahal was a girl of love. Long live love. Long live life. Death to the dictator.’

Ali Zamani posted: ‘Do not despair that the black ravens live longer than the canaries.

‘It is the singing of the canaries that will live forever.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Women Taxi Drivers Break Into Male Sector

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 27 — Ten women have started working as taxi drivers in Istanbul, in what is traditionally seen in Turkey as a men-only sector. The women have participated in a special project to help jobless women find work. So reported Turkish newspaper Hurriyet online, which underlines that one of the pioneers, after just ten days of work, has said that her clients are pleased to enter a taxi that smells nice, without the usual cigarette stench.

The project, an initiative of the “Actus” association, is meant to find work in “non-traditional” sectors for unemployed women. Another woman of the group of ten, 37-year-old Vildan Istanbul, pointed out that she has worked as manager in a pharmaceutical firm which went bankrupt, and that she had financial problems because she is alone with a 15-year-old daughter. The new taxi driver remarked that her salary is still at a minimum level, but that she will be able to earn more. At the moment she only picks up passengers from the taxi station and does not work night shifts.

The Istanbul taxi association (ITEO) and the Turkish Labour Ministry collaborate with Actus in the project.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Terror at the Beach: Radicals in Russia Have Been Bombing Bikini-Clad Women to Enforce Islamic Dress Codes.

On a clear morning last July, at around 6 a.m., schoolteacher Yelena Abduzhalimova met her colleagues on the central city beach for a round of volleyball. As the ladies changed into their swimsuits, a group of young boys began to warm up for wrestling exercises before their morning classes, right by the volleyball court. Other than the children, the beach was still fairly empty at that hour. Abduzhalimova walked onto the court with her friends and she stepped forward to serve the ball. Instantly, a powerful explosion threw her into the air, flying 10 feet above the ground. She had stepped on a mine hidden in the sand. It was the third explosion on the public beach that season, and one that cost Abduzhalimova her leg above the knee. The bomb was meant as punishment for women wearing swimsuits, she says. Now, she says she wished the Sharia beach had been open back then. “If only the guarded beach for women existed a year ago, I would have my leg now,” Abduzhalimova said

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Central Java Church Blast Suspect ‘Linked to Mosque Bombing’

(AKI/Jakarta Post) — The alleged suicide bomber killed in Sunday’s bombing of a church in Surakarta, Central Java, on was already on the police wanted list for his alleged role in the attack on a mosque at a police compound in Cirebon, West Java, earlier this year.

“We strongly suspect him of being related to the Cirebon bomber because they looked similar, physically,” National Police deputy spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said Monday.

Aside from the bombing suspect, the blast killed one other person and injured 27 people, many critically.

Amar added that police were currently conducting a DNA test to confirm the identity of the Surakarta bomber, employing a team of medical and forensic experts.

“We already have the DNA samples, and have found his relatives, but we are still conducting further investigations,” Boy said.

Sunday’s attack took place in the hometown of radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir who is considered the spiritual leader behind the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah. It came as hundreds of worshippers were leaving a Protestant church at the end of Sunday services.

The suicide bomber was killed and 30 people, all but two of them police officer, were wounded in the April attack on a mosque at a police station in Cirebon, about 300 kilometers east of Jakarta.

Two main suspects in that bombing were killed by police near Solo, West Java, in May.

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

Indonesia: Islamic Extremist Bani Arsi Arrested in Jacarta

(AGI) Jacarta — Indonesian anti-terrorism forces arrested Beni Asri, one of the most wanted Islamic extremists in the country, accused of having planned several kamikaze attacks. Asri is also suspected of being the ideologue behind an attack to a crowded church in Solo (in the province of Java), where 22 people were hurt. The man, who did not resist arrest, was apprehended near his parents’ house in Solok, in the province of Western Sumatra.

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

Far East

Beijing: Justifiable War Against Vietnam and the Philippines, For South China Sea

According to one Chinese analyst, there is “logical, beneficial and good reasons” to unleash a war in the Asia-Pacific. His article trends on the web and has the support of many Internet users. Japan and the Philippines promote a common front, Vietnam revives anti-Chinese nationalism. Taiwan confirms its claims over a portion of the Spratly.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — Beijing should punish the Philippines and Vietnam, for claims made on the disputed islands in the South China Sea, according to one political analyst and expert on Chinese energy. Long Tao claims that there are “logical, beneficial and good reasons” to unleash a war in the Asia-Pacific. In a commentary published in the Global Times — a newspaper close to the Communist Party — Long emphasizes that the Spratly and Paracel Islands are “the ideal battlefield “ for small-scale wars. In confirmation of his thesis, he rattles off several reasons in favour of war because “China has nothing to lose.”

An analyst of the non-governmental China Energy Fund Committee, Long calls for a “ moral education expedition” against nations — including Vietnam and the Philippines — which are making similar claims in the area. He apparently is unconcerned about the possible reaction of the United States, he said, are “ is fundamentally unable to start a second war in the South China Sea. “ and its “rigid” position is stamped by the analyst as “a bluff”. The article by Long Tao immediately trended on the net, receiving at least 2 thousand messages of support among the Chinese internet users in a few hours. For the moment no official position has been taken by military experts, with deep ties and knowledge of the Chinese army, it is a “sensitive issue” because it promotes a policy of war that is contrary to the “peaceful” development so far pursued by the leadership in Beijing. A retired colonel of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), on condition of anonymity, reports that war will be “inevitable”, if Vietnam and the Philippines “push China into a corner.”

To cope with the increased aggression of China, Manila and Tokyo have promoted a “mutual agreement” reaffirming the “vital interests” of the two countries in the region. On 27 September the Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino signed a document aimed to strengthen naval cooperation. Noda reiterated that the two nations share “core values and strategic interests.” Aquino, devoted to “peaceful dialogue” with Beijing, added Manila’s interest in “cooperation with Tokyo on maritime security issues.”

Taiwan has also entered the fray: after a period spent on the sidelines, the government of Taipei raised the issue of its possession of a part of the Spratly. The Defense Ministry will work in accordance with the National Coast Guard, to strengthen security on the island of Taiping, the only area to enjoy water sources, even installing heavy weapons and artillery. Recently the Chinese government repeatedly invoked Taipei’s collaboration, but so far the administration led by Ma Ying-jeou has snubbed the Chinese demands. Now an agreement between the two can not be ruled out, with them forming a united front against the nations of Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, Vietnam seems bent on riding nationalist anti-Chinese sentiment. Beijing’s aggressiveness has led to the emergence of a common front, including — unprecedentedly — veterans from the South during the war, linked to the pro-American regime in Saigon. More and more intellectuals and activists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City seem willing to put aside old divisions, conflicts and grudges, to create a “united front” against the powerful neighbour. Attacks against Vietnamese boats, the seizure of boats by the Chinese navy, are judged as a threat to the security and independence of the nation and trigger the reaction of a proud people in claiming their independence.

Among the nations of the Asia-Pacific region, China has the most extensive claims in the South China Sea, which includes the uninhabited Spratly and Paracel Islands, with rich fishing grounds and important oil and gas reserves. Beijing’s claims also reflect its strategic goal of hegemonic control over trade and mineral development, above all oil and natural gas.

Chinese demands have not gone unchallenged. Contenders include Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, as well as the United States, which has its own strategic interests in the region. Washington, in particular, is quietly moving a network of alliances to contain China’s expansionism. The Philippines and Japan in the first place, but also Vietnam could become precious allies in a ever looming possibility of open conflict in the Asia-Pacific.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: Kidnapped French Woman Taken to Somalia

(AGI) Lamu — The 66-year-old French woman kidnapped from a Kenyan island resort by Shebab militants “is already in Somalia”. The report was confirmed by the administrative head of Lamu, Kenya. The French tourist, who is in a wheelchair, was kidnapped by a command of armed men Friday night. The kidnapping took place in Manda Bay, where a British tourist was kidnapped and her husband killed by armed bandits in August.

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

South African Police Shed Light on Trade in Body Parts

In South Africa, the sale of human body parts is an issue often shrouded in secrecy.

It is a country where cultural practices still hold sway and discussing them openly is something even the media finds difficult.

There has long been a reluctance to investigate “muti murders” — the killing of people for their body parts — or to investigate those who traffic or use human body parts in traditional medicine for its so-called supernatural qualities.

But this week, police decided to speak out. They often find mutilated bodies, the victims of muti murders…

Police do not keep statistics of how many people die in ritual murders.

But in 2001 they said almost 2,500 people were caught in possession of human body parts…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

In Venezuela, Chavez Prays for Gaddafi and Supports Assad

(AGI) Caracas — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez repeats his solidarity for his “brothers” Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar el Assad. I pray to God for the life of our brother Gaddafi” he said, revealing he had spoken on the phone with his Syrian colleague who is resisting — he said — “against the imperialism of the Yankees and of their European allies”.

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


600 Tunisian Immigrants Repatriated Last Week, Viminale

(AGI) Rome — During the past week, 600 Tunisian immigrants landed on the Italian coast were repatriated by plane to Tunis, as announced in a note issued by Italian Ministry of the Interior .

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

Domestic Workers Systematically Abused in Jordan, HRW

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, SEPTEMBER 27 — Human rights watch said today Jordanian legal system allows flagrant abuse of domestic helpers that includes beating, human trafficking and other forms of abuse.

The New York based organization said the desert kingdom failed to protect Asian domestic workers from systematic abuse by employers and agents.

The report, published today, said workers face different types of abuse including beatings, confiscation of passports, confinement to the house, insults, non-payment of salaries, and overlong working hours with no days off.

In a detailed report, the organization documents abuses against domestic workers and the failure of Jordanian officials to hold employers and the agents who recruited the workers accountable. The report also criticizes Jordanian immigration and domestic work labor laws for facilitating abuse, such as confinement in the home and imposing fines for overstaying the legal residency period, even where the worker is not at fault. Jordan reportedly has at least 70,000 migrant domestic workers from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Several countries recently threatened to stop sending workers to Jordan in light of ongoing abuse to their nationals including Philippines, which has around 40, 000 people working in Jordan as domestic helpers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Majority Oppose Dual Nationality

A large majority of Dutch nationals are opposed to dual nationality, but people with an immigrant background are less likely to do so, according to research by the national statistics office CBS.

Some 64% of people think immigrants who become Dutch should give up their original nationality and 73% think government ministers should not have dual nationality.

However, people who have immigrant roots are less likely to oppose dual nationality than the native Dutch. Of immigrants with a western background, 59% are opposed to dual nationality. Of those of non-western origin, only 28% think people who become Dutch should give up their original passport.

Some 1.1 million people in the Netherlands have dual nationality and the government is planning to introduce measures to combat this.

In a poll earlier this year, only 19% of the over 2,000 people who took part thought dual nationality was a bad thing.

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

Netherlands: Illegal Immigrants Cannot be Jailed for Being Illegal, Says Brussels

The Netherlands is not allowed to jail illegal immigrants just because they are illegal, the European Commission has ruled.

The ruling comes after Dutch MEPs questioned the commissioner for home affairs following immigration minister Gerd Leers’ announcement that illegal immigrants would be fined and jailed if they did not pay up, reports Trouw.

Leers wants a maximum fine of €3,800 and a maximum four month prison sentence for those who cannot pay. Once they have served their sentence, they would be deported.


The commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, said she could not rule on the prison sentence for non-payment of the fine. She is allowed to explain a directive but not to judge how this will be interpreted by the European court.

Both sides are now claiming victory, says Trouw.

Dutch MEPs say this means jailing someone purely for being illegal is against European law.


According to Leers, what Malström says is that the prison sentence must not get in the way of deportation. Imposing a fine will encourage illegal immigrants to leave.

‘If the fine is not paid and the immigrant leaves, the fine will remain open,’ a spokesman told Trouw. ‘But if he does not leave, we will deport him.’

The anti-Islam PVV says Malström’s comments mean a jail sentence is legal, because immigrants will be jailed for non-payment of the fine and not because they are illegal.

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

Culture Wars

Serbia: Interior Ministry Bans Gay Pride Parade as ‘Security Risk’

Belgrade, 30 Sept. (AKI) — Serbian police on Friday banned a gay pride parade scheduled in Belgrade for Sunday and all related gatherings as a security risk, Tanjug news agency reported.

The interior ministry banned the gay pride parade and all public gatherings scheduled for the weekend that were deemed high security risks, Tanjug news agency said.

Only cultural and sports events were excluded from the ban, Tanjug said.

Scores of people including police officers were injured during violent ultranationalist protests that degenerated into riots at Serbia’s first gay pride march held in Belgrade on 10 October 2010.

Police minister Ivica Dacic said that while he supported the parade in principle in pose a threat to public order and warned he would ban the parade if organisers didn’t call it off.

This parade had divided public opinion and the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, patriarch Irinej, has called for the ban of gay parade, saying it was a “parade of shame” whose goal was to “overshadow the tragic position of Serbian people in Kosovo”.

“We had enough of humiliation and of fulfilling foreign wishes,” he said in a statement.

Many Serbian public figures and politicians said it was inappropriate to hold a parade amid the two-month-long standoff at the border in northern Kosovo where Pristina’s attempt to establish control over the entire territory has sparked violent clashes between local majority ethnic Serbs and Nato peacekeepers.

“Of course, we will never postpone the parade, they can just ban it,” Goran Miletic, a member of the organising committee, told a press conference in Belgrade.

“Every football match is also a security risk, but I don’t remember any clubs calling of the matches,” he said.

Serbia is hoping this year to attain official candidate status for European Union membership and holding the parade is seen by western nations as a democratic test for the country.

The Serbian human rights organisation the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights earlier warned that Serbia would fail this test if the parade was called off.

A Serbian court in Belgrade in April sentenced fourteen members of ultranationalist organization Obraz to up to two years in prison for last year’s violent disruption of the capital’s first gay pride parade.

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

Teacher Penalizes Students for Saying “Bless You” In Class

by Milton R. Wolf, M.D. [Obama’s cousin on his momma’s side. A conservative doctor who doesn’t like Obamacare]

Do the math: (Government control + California) — parental control = teachers like this guy.

A Northern California teacher says he doesn’t want to hear a common courtesy in his classroom.

He’s even lowering students’ grades if they say “bless you” after someone sneezes.

Yeah, it’s real. Read the whole piece. Including this:

After parents complained about students losing points for saying “bless you”, Cuckovich says he decided to stop the practice.

However, the teacher says he will just find another way to discipline students for saying “bless you” in class.

Anyone wanna bet the Hindu kids are still allowed to say “holy cow”?

In all seriousness, this is one more reason to introduce competition into public schools and shift control from Washington to parents where it belongs. If you want teachers like this — fine — send you kids to his school. If not — that’s fine too — send them elsewhere. The schools will figure out pretty quickly that, if they hope to survive, they will have to meet the parents’ expectations.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Government to Save Year of Our Lord From BBC’s ‘Common Era’

Last week this newspaper reported that the BBC had replaced Anno Domini (the Year of our Lord) and Before Christ with the obscure terms Common Era (CE) and Before the Common Era (BCE).

The Corporation believes BC and AD are offensive to non-Christians and has started to use the ‘religiously neutral’ alternatives on websites and in programmes including University Challenge and Radio 4’s In Our Time.

The decision has prompted an avalanche of complaints from viewers, Christian groups, politicians including London Mayor Boris Johnson, and even some of the BBC’s own star presenters, who have vowed to stick with the traditional terms.

And there was further embarrassment for the Corporation last night when the Government publicly championed the use of BC and AD. A spokesman for the Department for Education said there was nothing offensive about BC and AD, and urged teachers to keep using them in lessons.

He said: ‘It is common sense for schools to use BC and AD in everyday teaching because that’s the most widely used and understood way of dating historical events.

‘A school’s job is to prepare children for the real world so it’s plain common sense for them to use BC and AD.’

The Government’s intervention will be welcomed by Christian groups who fear that the switch to BCE and CE is part of a concerted attempt to ‘airbrush’ Christianity from national life.

The Mail on Sunday has established that dozens of universities, museums, leading historians and even the retailer W H Smith have either dropped BC and AD entirely or they are using it alongside the alternative BCE and CE system.

The Usborne Encyclopedia Of World Religions For Children uses the terms in all of its chapters including the one on Christianity. And a guide for 11 to 14-year-olds studying Key Stage Three History uses the modern terms in its section about Ancient Rome.

The book says the Romans conquered Britain in 43 CE and that their hold on power lasted until the 5th Century CE.

The BBC uses BCE and CE in its Bitesize GCSE History book.

Dozens of universities including the Open University, which is Britain’s largest, are also using the terms in particular courses.

The OU’s online study guides for classical history, Latin and religion are littered with the terms and even Christ’s birth and death dates are presented in terms of BCE and CE.

Durham University’s Oriental Museum has also adopted the system to classify its collection.

A spokesman said that in common with other museums, it wanted to use a dating system which wasn’t associated with any ‘one religion’.

Several historians including Professor Mary Beard, the author of Pompeii: Life And Death In A Roman Town, have used the terms in their work. She said: ‘I do use BCE and CE in writing but not in speaking.’

W H Smith uses the terms to categorise history books on its website.

Some observers predict the terms will eventually replace BC and AD.

The British Council’s website states: ‘The terms CE and BCE are relatively old terms that have experienced increased usage in recent years. They are identical to BC and AD and may eventually replace them.’

A spokesman for the British Council last night said the views were those of an individual employee who had posted them on its China homepage. It said its own style guide still encouraged the use of BC and AD.

A BBC spokesman said: ‘As we have made clear from the beginning, the BBC uses BC and AD as standard terminology. It is also possible for individuals to use different terminology if they wish to, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Thomas the Tank Engine Forced to Carry ‘Decorated Tree’ For ‘Winter Holidays’ As Christmas is Banned on Sodor

Thomas the Tank Engine has been accused of joining the politically correct bandwagon after Christmas was written out of one of his adventures.

The team behind the much-loved children’s TV series has angered campaigners by setting a story during the ‘winter holidays’.

Even Christmas trees have been axed in an episode of the DVD, Little Engines, Big Days Out, and are instead referred to as decorated trees. Brightly wrapped presents are delivered to a ‘holiday party’.

Critics say the omission was particularly strange because the original Thomas books, hugely popular around the world, were written by a clergyman, the Reverend Wilbert Awdry.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]