Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111023

Financial Crisis
»Berlusconi Confident Merkel Approved of Budget Measures
»Britons Are ‘Lazy’ And ‘Addicted to Benefits’, China Claims
»Greeks Target Discount Vouchers, Special Offers
»Italy Must Come Up With Budget Cuts, Says Dutch Finance Minister
»New Euro ‘Empire’ Plot by Brussels
»Sarkozy: Italy and Greece Must Act Responsibly
»Scandal the European Parliament Tried to Keep Secret
»Turkey — Erdogan: Better Than Obama: The Rich Suffer Too
»Obama Administration Pulls References to Islam From Terror Training Materials, Official Says
Europe and the EU
»European Children Being Brainwashed Into ‘Respecting’ Islam
»Fule Praises Bulgaria, Romania, Greece Initiative
»How a Far-Right Party Came to Dominate Swiss Politics
»How Much Damage Could Saif Still Do to Britain: Why New Labour May Not Relish Gaddafi’s Son Telling All in a War Trial
»Italy: Berlusconi Says ‘Elegant Dinner Parties’ Transformed Into the ‘Unspeakable’
»Italy: Fire Extinguisher-Hurling Black Bloc Protester Arrested
»Killer Tree Disease Arrives in UK to Wipe Out Popular Varieties
»Pirates Have 10% Votes as SPD and Greens Disappoint Germans
»Railways: Greater European Network on Track
»Romania: Just How Many Roma Are There?
»UK: Department of Education Brands 100,000 Pupils ‘Special Needs’ By the Age of 5 — That’s One in Six
North Africa
»Egyptian Military Court Orders Imprisoned Blogger to Mental Hospital
»From Politicians to Hostesses — Gheddafi’s Too Many Italian Friends
Israel and the Palestinians
»Reservists’ Group: ‘Don’t Swap Terrorists For Us!’
Middle East
»230 Mln People in OIC States Suffer From Hunger
»Arab Uprisings: Lebanon: Meeting to Revive Role of Christians
»Black Magic Widespread in Middle East
»Saudi Arabia: 20% Foreigner Bar: 3 Million Face Loss of Job
South Asia
»Afghanistan to Back Pakistan if Wars With U.S.: Karzai
Far East
»China: Yueyue, the Two Year Old Hit by Two Trucks and Left to Suffer, Dies
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Africa: ENI Makes ‘Giant’ Mozambique Gas Discovery
»U.S. Embassy Warns of Imminent Terror Threat in Kenya
Culture Wars
»African-Caribbean Boys ‘Would Rather Hustle Than Learn’
»Demoted for Not Backing Gay Marriage: Housing Manager’s Pay Slashed for Criticising New Law on Facebook

Financial Crisis

Berlusconi Confident Merkel Approved of Budget Measures

(AGI) Brussels — Berlusconi said he may have convinced Merkel of the effectiveness of the government’s anti-crisis measures.

“I had a long conversation with Merkel about the Italian measures”, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi told reporters at the end of the European People’s Party meeting. Asked whether he managed to convince the German Chancellor of the effectiveness of those measures, Berlusconi replied: “I think so”.

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

Britons Are ‘Lazy’ And ‘Addicted to Benefits’, China Claims

Britain’s “sloth-inducing” work ethic and dependence on benefits are to blame for the current economic downturn, a senior Chinese official has claimed.

Jin Liqun, chairman of China Investment Corporation (CIC), the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, warned that Europeans should “work a bit harder” if they want to pull the eurozone out of recession.

He said people in the West are too reliant on welfare payments and the benefits system, looking for external solutions to the debt crisis rather than tackling the problem from within.

Mr Jin also said the long-term economic slide could only be solved by amending the restrictive labour laws that mean Western workers are unable to compete in global markets.

He told Channel Four News: “Europe is not really short of money. Europe needs to give a clear picture to the Europeans themselves and to the rest of the world that their problems could be worked out.

“The root cause of the trouble is the over-burdened welfare system, built up since the Second World War in Europe — the sloth-inducing, indolence-inducing labour laws. ..

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Greeks Target Discount Vouchers, Special Offers

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 20 — Greek households are resorting to special offers and discount vouchers in an effort to reduce their monthly expenditure, as the time of overflowing shopping carts in supermarkets seems long gone. As daily Kathimerini reports, a global survey by research company Nielsen found that Greeks visit retail stores only to get their basic supplies, with 63% opting for products on special offer, while more than half use discount vouchers (55%) or choose economy packs (51%). Three-quarters of consumers (76%) say they choose the stores they shop at for their everyday needs based on the discounts and the low prices advertised. Only 2% said that they have not made any efforts to cut their household expenses.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Must Come Up With Budget Cuts, Says Dutch Finance Minister

Italy must come up with an additional package of measures to get its economy back on track, Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager is quoted as saying ahead of a crucial EU summit.

‘I expect Italy to announce extra measures this weekend,’ De Jager is quoted as saying by the Financieele Dagblad. ‘They have to get going quickly when it comes to economic reform and spending cuts.’

Eurozone finance ministers are meeting on Friday evening and Saturday to discuss how to boost the emergency fund and a new support package for Greece.


De Jager stressed to the paper that the approach to solving the euro crisis must be ‘all-encompassing’.

‘The situation is serious and I have been saying that since May 2010,’ he said. ‘That is why the Netherlands is finding increasing support… for its focus on much tougher monitoring and short-term reforms and cuts. Putting money in the emergency fund is only counteracting the symptoms.’

The Netherlands has called for the introduction of a special eurozone commissioner to monitor compliance with monetary union budget rules.

De Jager declined to comment on the dispute between France and Germany about how to expand the emergency fund. ‘It will be difficult discussions. But of course, we are with Germany on many points,’ the FD quoted him as saying.

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

New Euro ‘Empire’ Plot by Brussels

European Union chiefs are drawing up plans for a single “Treasury” to oversee tax and spending across the 17 eurozone nations.

The proposal, put forward by Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, would be the clearest sign yet of a new “United States of Europe” — with Britain left on the sidelines.

The plan comes as European governments desperately trying to save the euro from collapse last night faced a new bombshell, with sources at the International Monetary Fund saying it would not pay for a second Greek bail-out.

It was also disclosed last night that British businesses are turning their back on Brussels regulations to give temporary workers full employment rights, with supermarket chain Tesco leading the charge.

Meanwhile, David Cameron is attempting to face down a rebellion tomorrow by Tory MPs in a vote over staging a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy: Italy and Greece Must Act Responsibly

(AGI) Brussels — France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy And Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel met Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi today and will meet Greece’s Prime Minister George Papandreu. During a Sarkozy-Merkel press conference, the French president said it happened “because it is necessary to take decisions together, but the countries involved should know what their responsibilities are and the new decisions they must take.” Sarkozy spoke of measures taken in Ireland, Portugal and Spain, “three countries to whom Europe brought credible solutions.” ..

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

Scandal the European Parliament Tried to Keep Secret

The European Parliament’s £1.5 billion budget is beset by the abuse of staff perks and expenses, nepotism and the wasting of taxpayers’ money, according to secret internal audits obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

A series of reports by the parliament’s internal auditor found that significant breaches of the rules were common among the 7,000 unelected officials who work for the EU’s assembly.

Staff are allowed to authorise their own expenses and pay allowances to family members, despite the auditor warning of the risk of “conflicts of interest”.

The reports, covering three years, identify instances of officials being given double payments or allowances to which they are not entitled.

Despite these findings, the audits have been kept secret from most MEPs, allowing the abuses to continue unchecked.

Klaus Welle, the parliament’s secretary-general, tried to block the release by arguing that public exposure of the audits would “disrupt decision-making”.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Turkey — Erdogan: Better Than Obama: The Rich Suffer Too

(by Rodolfo Calo’) (ANSAmed) — ANKARA, OCTOBER 21 — The economic strategy that Turkey’s Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan is having no problem in enacting in his country would appear to be based on a ‘Democratic’ philosophy not unlike the one President Barack Obama has so far failed to impose on the US Congress.

This state of affairs has recently been accentuated in Turkey and it stems principally from an inspired initiative by the Turkish Premier: that of increasing the taxation rates for luxury cars, mobile phones (the category also includes tablets such as the i-Pad), cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. The move has been justified by the need to keep the current account deficit within limits. This deficit is in fact the ‘Achilles heel’ of a Turkish economy with a hunger for energy that can only be sourced abroad and at a high price, to drive its world-record-breaking growth.

An increase in indirect taxation has become necessary in Turkey after the slowdown in economic growth that has up to now been feeding direct tax revenues with GDP levels of 10.2% in the first six months of the year: a rate of growth that has no precedent in the world economy, China included. For the second half of the year, however, a slow-down is expected, bringing the overall figure for 2011 down to between 7% and 8% , with a slowing trend into 2012, heading below the 5% threshold. Even such a figure is the stuff of dreams for an arthritic Europe, although it means a halving of growth for the upstart Turkey. “Instead of driving a Porsche, opt for a Fiat and the problem is solved,” Mr Erdogan said last week, brushing off criticisms of his “Special Consumption Tax” (OTV), whose rate has been raised from 84% to 130% for cars of over 2,000 cc, bringing their prices up by a quarter on the current list price. The motto is, put briefly: “the rich have to suffer as well,” which, according to a commentator on the daily newspaper Zaman, resembles the Obama approach to taxing the richest individuals, which has encountered an obstacle in the strong Republican opposition in Congress.

VAT on luxury goods in Turkey forms part of the government’s ‘medium term’ (three-year) economic planning and, according to one authoritative estimate, it will only affect the prices of 11% of all the cars sold in the country — most of which are imported from abroad. And so the impact should be limited on the enormous electoral base the Premier enjoyed at the most recent elections, where he reached almost 50% of the vote. And with a one-party executive, (solid white — the colour of his “AK” party), Mr Erdogan has no problem in imposing any of his initiatives.

However, there remains an underlying problem: the dependence of an energy-hungry eonomy like the Turkish one, which has no nuclear power stations and a hydroelectric programme that is coming on too slowly, on energy imported from abroad. Such a dependence makes it impossible to keep this sector under control and with it the current balance of payments, even when GDP growth is continuing apace. The tax on SUVs, which has been accompanied by one on wine and other alcoholic tipples frowned upon by Erdogan’s moderate Islamic government (but Islamic nonetheless), should go some way to solving it.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Obama Administration Pulls References to Islam From Terror Training Materials, Official Says

Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole confirmed on Wednesday that the Obama administration was pulling back all training materials used for the law enforcement and national security communities, in order to eliminate all references to Islam that some Muslim groups have claimed are offensive.

“I recently directed all components of the Department of Justice to re-evaluate their training efforts in a range of areas, from community outreach to national security,” Cole told a panel at the George Washington University law school.

The move comes after complaints from advocacy organizations including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and others identified as Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the 2004 Holy Land Foundation terror fundraising trial.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

European Children Being Brainwashed Into ‘Respecting’ Islam

European children are being brainwashed into ‘respecting’ Islam with school-organised mosque visits and syllabuses that give undue prominence to a mythical Islamic ‘Golden Age’. The picture above is from La Roche in France. The newspaper headline says “School pupils immerse themselves in Islam at La Roche mosque”.

Thanks to this visit, the school pupils will have an image of the place where Islam lives. A good way of arriving at a better understanding of their educational syllabus, which focuses on the beginnings of Islam.

(I somehow doubt Good Bye Mohammed or the researches of the Inarah group will be on the agenda.)

And why are European school pupils being taught about the history of Islam anyway? Is there really nothing in the history of Europe that would be better for them to learn?

Here’s a photo from something similar in England. Look at the evil-looking Muslim dressed in white. He seems to be enjoying himself as the little blonde white girls bow down in front of him…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fule Praises Bulgaria, Romania, Greece Initiative

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 21 — European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule “welcomes initiatives by member states aiming to maintain enlargement as a priority of the EU agenda and helpin to enrich the EU strategy for the Western Balkans.” This is Fule’s position after having received the joint letter from Bulgaria, Romania and Greece proposing a strategy to speed up integration of Western Balkan countries. “Currently,” continued the EU commission, “we are studying the letter and will work closely with the future EU rotating presidents to strengthen the enlargement agenda.” In the joint letter, Sofia, Bucharest and Athens name their shared objectives: the achieving of membership criteria, an increase in European projects in the region, cross-border cooperation in the infrastructure building, energy and the struggle against organised crime. According to the EU executive, “Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, like other nearby member states in the Western Balkans, are in a good position to help their neighbours who would like to enter the EU.” To this end, Brussels also noted “that bilateral issues on hold between Western Balkans countries and the nearby members states should be dealt with in a constructive manner and resolved by the parties involved.” The latter was a clear reference to the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, still poised between Skopje and Athens, which is blocking the beginning of EU membership talks for the Balkan country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

How a Far-Right Party Came to Dominate Swiss Politics

It has become the biggest party in Swiss politics and one of the most talked-about far-right parties in Europe. Meritxell Mir looks at how the SVP became so successful.

With a strident anti-immigration stance and provocative campaigns, the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has become one of the most successful right-wing populist parties in Europe. It now looks set to repeat its success in October’s federal elections.

For decades, the SVP seemed to be little more than a curiosity in Swiss politics, winning about one in every ten votes in elections. However, since the early 1990s its popularity has rocketed, its share of the vote doubling in 12 years. In the 1995 federal elections, the far-right party got 14.9 percent of the votes. By 2007, its support had risen to 28.9 percent.

“It has become the strongest and most stable extreme-right party in Europe,” says Georg Lutz, director of Swiss Electoral Studies at the Swiss Foundation for Research in Social Sciences in Lausanne.

Today, it’s as strong as ever. The latest poll, published on September 9th and conducted by pollster gsf.berne, showed the SVP way ahead of its opponents, with the support of 28 percent of respondents. The Socialist Party ranked second with 20.5 percent of the vote share, followed by the Free Democratic Party (15.6 percent), the Christian Democratic Party (14.5) and the Greens (9.5).

Like similar parties in other countries, the SVP plays on voters’ fear of change, Lutz argues:

“Globalization, the openness and the enlargement of the European Union, and the increasing amount of immigrants were seen as a cultural threat to Swiss identity for many people.”

The SVP identified those fears and “it became a one-issue party,” always talking about immigration “in different variations,” such as foreign criminals, minarets or the burqa, Lutz tells The Local.

“First, they put the European Union issue on the table; then, when that issue lost its potential due to bilateral agreements, they switched to the question of immigration and foreign criminals,” explains Simon Bornschier, a political researcher who studies the rise of right-wing populist parties in Switzerland and the rest of Europe.

The SVP’s clear and unambiguous message has helped it set the political agenda for the last 15 years, Bornschier says. It has done this partly through Switzerland’s system of popular initiatives — referendums launched as a result of public petitions. Some of the most high-profile recent popular initiatives, such as the minaret ban or the automatic deportation of foreign criminals, were launched by the SVP.

The party’s campaigns have also influenced, or at least closely reflected, voters’ perceptions of reality. According to a poll on citizen’s main concerns published by gfs.berne in September, about 45 percent of the Swiss polled identified immigration as the most important issue in the country. The environment (25 percent) and the economic situation (22) followed far behind.

According to polls, the average SVP voter is a male from a lower socio-economic group who lives in one of the German-speaking cantons…

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

How Much Damage Could Saif Still Do to Britain: Why New Labour May Not Relish Gaddafi’s Son Telling All in a War Trial

… Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the late dictator’s favourite son and one-time heir apparent, is reportedly on the run for his life. Some sources suggest that he is also badly wounded, possibly as a result of a strike by RAF planes.

… And what if he is caught? Well, what a tale Saif al-Islam could tell; potentially at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which earlier this year issued an indictment against him for war crimes, allegedly committed during the Libyan rising.


The groundwork for the Megrahi deal and its attendant business sweeteners offered by Libya was laid early in the last decade, shaped by a cast including Gordon Brown, Lord Mandelson, Prince Andrew and a number of major British energy companies.

But the prime mover in this all of this was the then PM, Tony Blair.

In August 2003, Libya agreed to compensate the Lockerbie victims and ‘accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials’ over the bombing. Five days later, Mr Blair introduced a UN resolution to lift sanctions against Tripoli.

The following March, Blair and Gaddafi Senior met in a tent outside the Libyan capital to discuss bilateral relations. On Blair’s ‘farewell tour’ of Africa in 2007 there was another fond embrace, and the legal structure that would assist in securing the repatriation of Megrahi was put in place.

Shortly afterwards, BP signed a £545million deal to drill for Libyan oil. The company was committed to spending more than £10billion over the following decade if yield predictions were realised.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says ‘Elegant Dinner Parties’ Transformed Into the ‘Unspeakable’

Rome, 21 Oct. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, known worldwide for his libido boasts, described parties he hosted in Rome as high-class soirees that evolved into scandalous affairs.

“They were elegant, nice and happy dinners that transformed into something unspeakable,” he told a conference of supporters in Rome on Thursday, referring to dinner parties at his Palazzo Grazzioli residence in the Italian capital.

Italian prosecutors last month concluded a two-year investigation into a prostitution scandal associated with Berlusconi by charging eight people with allegedly providing the billionaire politician with dozens of escorts for parties he hosted.

According to investigators, around 30 prostitutes were provided for parties at his Palazzo Grazioli and other homes where they received cash and gifts from Berlusconi who is worth almost 8 billion dollars, according to Forbes Magazine.

Berlusconi has been dogged by trials in Milan that include one for allegedly paying an underaged woman for sex. He says he has done nothing illegal and a judge earlier this week cleared him of allegations of tax evasion and corruption in one case involving his media empire.

Embarassing wiretap transcripts regularly appear in Italian newspapers with salacious details of Berlusconi’s promiscuity. The prime minister says he is the victim of political persecution left-wing investigators and used his Friday address in Rome to renew his claim that the country’s magistrate are abusing the power in a “justice coup” in 1994 amid a mega-corruption scandal involving politicians and businessmen.

The Tangentopoli, or “Bribesville” scandal that broke in 1992 prompted Berlusconi to enter politics two years later after his close friend prime minister Bettino Craxi fled to self-imposed exile in Tunisia after coming under investigated for corruption.

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

Italy: Fire Extinguisher-Hurling Black Bloc Protester Arrested

Twenty four-year-old with criminal record for drug offences photographed throwing red cylinder in Piazza San Giovanni: “I was trying to put out a fire”.

ROME — Police officers have arrested the man who was photographed hurling a fire extinguisher in Piazza San Giovanni during the Black Bloc protests on Saturday 15 October. He is F.F., a 24-year-old student from Rome with a criminal record for drug offences. He is also known by the nickname “er pelliccia” [The Fur]. The photograph was picked up by hundreds of newspapers and websites around the world. A bare-chested F.F., with fairly long blondish hair and his face covered by a scarf, grabbed the extinguisher, emptied it and swung it in the air before hurling it at police officers. He was immortalised by a photographer from the ANSA news agency as he launched the red cylinder during Saturday afternoon’s clashes, which effectively broke up the peaceful protest march of at least 200,000 Indignati. The picture enabled police forensic scientists to identify the 24-year-old student, who was detained by officers from the DIGOS security police. F.F. is being held on charges of resistance with more than one aggravating circumstance.

DETAINED OUTSIDE HOME — F.F. was identified by police experts on Monday and detained outside his home by a squad of officers led by Lamberto Giannini. F.F. handed over to the arresting officers the clothes he was wearing at Saturday’s demonstration. When questioned, he attempted to justify his actions by claiming he had used the extinguisher to put out a fire. DIGOS officers searched his accommodation, having urgently obtained a warrant signed by deputy public prosecutor Tescaroli from the anti-terrorism pool of the Rome public prosecutor’s office, directed by public prosecutor Pietro Saviotti.

IDENTIFIED BY OFFICIAL — F.F. was also identified by an official at police headquarters who was near him on Saturday, standing in line with the extinguisher’s trajectory. Crucial to F.F.’s identification were the investigations of the regional forensic police secretariat and a number of witness statements.

TWELVE OTHER ARRESTS — This brings the total of arrests in Rome to 13, in addition to the 20 individuals detained in custody after the riots on Saturday 15 October…

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

Killer Tree Disease Arrives in UK to Wipe Out Popular Varieties

Trees in England’s parks and gardens are at risk from a killer disease that has arrived in this country for the first time.

Lawson cypress trees are at risk from the deadly fungus, which has already destroyed their populations in parts of the U.S. and Canada.

Scientists working for the Forestry Commission have found trees infected with Phytophthora lateralis — which kills their roots — at an industrial estate in Plymouth, Devon.

In diseased trees, the leaves turn a lighter shade of olive-grey than healthy trees, then they wither and turn reddish-brown as the foliage dies.

The infection extends from the roots and up the stem, killing the inner bark so the entire tree dies.

It is not clear how the disease arrived in Britain but outbreaks have recently been recorded in Scotland, Northern Ireland, France and The Netherlands.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Pirates Have 10% Votes as SPD and Greens Disappoint Germans

(AGI) Berlin — The Pirates Party garnered a surprising 10% of votes, doing better than Linke in a poll by the Forsa Institute for German weekly ‘Stern’. Spd dropped one point to 26% as did the Greens with 16% whose result is the worst since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in mid-March. Linke remained at 8% while Angela Merkel’s Cdu/Csu shed a point to 31%. The Fdp liberals have 3% and might not make it into the next Parliament.

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

Railways: Greater European Network on Track

La Vanguardia, 20 October 2011

On 19 October, the European Commission presented its project for the integration of European transport networks. Endowed with a budget of 37.7 billion euros, it includes plans to modernise infrastructure and “rationalise cross border transport” by 2030. In individual countries, the initiative is being evaluated in terms of its national impact. In Spain, La Vanguardia leads with the front-page headline “Europe chooses the Mediterranean,” and a report on the rail corridor that will link the French-Spanish border to Algéciras in southern Spain. The daily points out that its inclusion in the trans-European transport network will provide 20% of the funding for this coastal line, which will cost an estimated 19 billion euros. That is why “the Mediterranean corridor is a victory,” explains the editorial in the Catalan daily, which notes in passing that the principle that every rail link should pass through Madrid “has been amended.” Adding that “good sense has prevailed,” La Vanguardia points out that 40% of Spains GDP is generated by the Mediterranean regions of the country.

In northern Europe, Eesti Pävaleht insists that the project is a “clear green light” for the new “Rail Balitca” axis that will link Estonia to the Polish-Lithuanian border via Latvia. Plans for the route, which have been put forward by Estonia and Lithuania “appear tailor-made for the conditions required by Brussels,” writes the Estonian daily, which notes that this is the first time that “the EU has agreed to spend such significant sums on transport projects which are not designed to solely serve the needs of individual member states.” For the newspaper, the implementation of the Rail Baltica project will also put an end to the proposal for a high speed link between Riga and Moscow, which was put forward by former Latvian president Valdis Zatlers but later contested by Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis — in a move which highlights Latvia’s desire to stand back from its relationship with Russia.

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

Romania: Just How Many Roma Are There?

Jurnalul National, 20 October 2011

“Will we ever know the exact number of Roma in Romania?” That’s the question posed by conservative Romanian daily Jurnalul National. “In the census the Roma will be counted,” runs a headline in the paper. That’s one of the aims of the census which begins on October 20, the first to be carried out in Romania since the fall of communism in 1989 to comply with European rules. The actual size of the Roma community, a question posed both in Romania and within the EU, is one of the major issues of the census, which will end on October 31. According to Romani Criss, a non-governmental organisation that informed the Roma about the census — notably by distributing badges that said “Being a Rom is Fantastic” — there are some 2.5 million Roma. Romanian authorities, however, reckon they are no more than 500,000. “Between the advantages of being truthful — more European funds; more scholarships — and the fear of being stigmatised” and of paying greater taxes, the paper says, the Roma find themselves on the horns of a dilemma.

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

UK: Department of Education Brands 100,000 Pupils ‘Special Needs’ By the Age of 5 — That’s One in Six

More than one in six children is branded ‘special needs’ by the age of five, according to official figures.

They show some 17 per cent of pupils in the first year of primary school were diagnosed with special educational needs during the last school year.

The vast majority of these were branded SEN by their school rather than by a team of specialists.

This has raised fears that some schools diagnose difficult or slow pupils as having special needs to mask poor levels of achievement when the real cause is defective teaching.

Pupils with SEN also attract more funding for schools.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Military Court Orders Imprisoned Blogger to Mental Hospital

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — The Egyptian Military Court ordered imprisoned Christian activist and blogger Michael Nabil Sanad, who has been on a hunger strike for nearly 60 days, to a mental health hospital, to ascertain whether he is responsible for his actions. Mark Sanad, Michael’s brother, said that he visited him on Saturday in El Marg prison but was surprised to discover that Michael had been sent to El-Khanka Hospital in Qalyubiyah province. But because the hospital had no available beds he was returned to the prison, to be sent the following day to Abbasiya mental health hospital in Cairo. Both hospitals are known for their inhumane treatment of patients and are reserved for seriously ill psychiatric patients.

Blogger Michael Nabil Sanad was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on 10 April 2011 on charges of “insulting the military and dissemination of false news about the armed forces” in his blog “Son of Ra.” He had posted on his blog an article titled “the people and the army were never one hand.” He went on hunger strike since August 23, to protest his prison sentence, and asking for equal treatment Michael with the recently freed activists Loay Najati and Asma Mahfouz, who were held on similar charges (AINA 8-25-2011).

In an interview with activist Nader Shoukry, Dr. William Weesa, writer and activist, criticized the court’s decision to send Michael to the mental hospital. Weesa said this is extremely dangerous because it violates Michael’s civil rights, adding that “there are many people who were admitted to these hospitals by the security services, who were quite healthy when they went in but came out as a devastated human beings.” He further said that if there was any kind of seriousness in the verification of Michael’s mental status, he would have seen a psychologist, “but to remain under observation for a month and a half in this hospital, which has nothing to do with any kind of hospital for health care, means that he will come out damaged psychologically.”

Weesa appealed to the public “to stop this farce perpetrated against a prisoner of conscience.”

Attorney Mamdouh Nakhla, head of Al-Kalema Center for Human Rights, wondered how the court could send Michael to evaluate his mental capabilities without a request from his family, noting that Michael will stay in hospital for 45 days and may be subject to electric shock therapy and described this as legal torture. “He will be discharged in the end after loosing his mind and will be released due to insanity,” said Nakhla.

After being subjected to pressure from US Senators, activists and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, the Military Court ordered the retrial of Sanad. Michael did not attend the last session of his retrial on October 18, refusing to appear as a civilian in front of a military court, forbade his lawyers from representing him,” said his brother Mark Sanad. The court appointed one of its lawyers to represent him during the hearing which, was adjourned to November 1, before a decision was made to send Dr. Michael Sanad to a mental hospital. November 1 would be the 70th day of Michael’s hunger strike.

The European Union has also taken up his case, asking the Egyptian authorities to uphold international standards in protecting prisoners. A spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said “The EU has been following with great concern the case of Egyptian blogger (Nabil). His health condition is claimed to have seriously deteriorated and if he is not immediately moved to facilities where he can receive proper hospital care, his life could be in danger.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

From Politicians to Hostesses — Gheddafi’s Too Many Italian Friends

Visits by prime minister, other government ministers and delegations Sofri recalls “He seized a cockroach with his toes”

“Lance Corporal Gheddafi. Ten-shun!” A chuckling Francesco Cossiga used to say that Gheddafi had more than just a possibly Jewish mother in his past, swearing that his father had been in the Carabinieri. The former president of Italy told of how he had personally taken his friend Muammar to the Libyan-Tunisian border to see the “barracks at Zuara where his father had served as an NCO in the Italian military police”. Is it true? What is certain is that more than anyone else, Gheddafi was Italy’s “next-door tyrant”. It was an Italian mine that blew up when he was a boy, killing two of his cousins and leaving him with a scar on his arm. The 20,000 colonists he threw out of the country in July 1970 were also Italian. Italians were the hated enemies to blame for the crimes committed by the Fascists and Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, against whom Gheddafi proclaimed “Vengeance Day”. He chose 24 October, the anniversary of the day in 1911 when a contingent of Italian soldiers was massacred with particular savagery at Shara Shat. And Italian women from the Tremiti islands, when the island of San Nicola was used by Mussolini as a place of exile for Libyan patriots, are said to have yielded to the allure of the men from the desert, prompting Colonel Gheddafi to demand blanket DNA analyses for residents to confirm the Jana press agency’s claim that “all the local inhabitants have Libyan blood”. Now and again, the provocation is picked up by Tremiti-based politicians with an anti-Rome axe to grind who support Gheddafi’s claim: “Tripoli is less far away than Rome!”

Then there are the Italian hostesses recruited a couple of times for the Libyan dictator’s Rome spectaculars. The small ads were surreal: “500 attractive women wanted. Age 18-35, at least one metre 70 tall, well dressed but strictly no miniskirts or low necklines”. Attendance fee: €60. Duties: to accept the gift of a Koran and listen to a sermon from the dictator. In November 2009, the women, one of whom emerged from the event and told the press that she had instantly turned Muslim (“Well, gonna take my photo?”), were treated to gems like: “Jesus wasn’t crucified. They crucified someone who looked like him instead”.

No political semester passed without a visit to the Colonel by a prime minister from the Left or the Right, or a minister, or a junior minister, or a delegation, or a journalist. For example, Oriana Fallaci in the mid 1980s spent three and a half hours at Bab el Azizia twiddling her thumbs and staring at a “bookcase lined mainly with Who’s Who”. She then made one of her scenes so she could “go for a pee” only to find herself “with a ring of kalashnikovs aimed at [her] belly”. Fallaci got her own back with a vitriolic tirade (“as well as being a tyrant, he’s a great lout” with “evil lips that fold into the self-congratulatory snigger of someone who is very pleased with himself because he knows he is important, powerful and, in his own opinion, good-looking too”) at a host she dismisses as “assuredly the biggest idiot of them all”. Her colleague Ilaria D’Amico was kept waiting for five hours, despite her Mediterranean good looks. She was finally greeted by thick clouds of incense that might have pleased Salome but forced Ilaria, with her incense allergy, to flee the room gasping for breath amidst the laughter of Gheddafi’s bodyguards. Adriano Sofri has a marvellous story from a visit he made with a delegation years ago: “In the tent at Bab el Azizia, Gheddafi lived up to the yearning for the exotic that we travellers from the north harboured on only one occasion. While he was speaking, a cockroach popped out of the sand and ambled slowly but purposefully across the carpet towards his desk. When it came within reach, Gheddafi slipped off his clog, seized the insect with his toes and without so much as looking down, threw it to one side, where it could bury its way back into the sand”. A few months ago with the war at its height, Sofri remembered the incident and wished a similar fate on the Colonel: self-burial in the sand after a bloodless removal…

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Reservists’ Group: ‘Don’t Swap Terrorists For Us!’

An IDF reservists’ group has started a petition to help Israel avoid future swaps for soldiers freeing terrorists with blood on their hands.

Israel news photo: IDFAn IDF reservists’ group called “My Israel” is calling on soldiers to sign a petition not to participate in future terrorist swaps that would free murderers with blood on their hands.

The move comes following the release of 477 terrorists, including many fulfilling exactly such criteria, as part of a prisoner exchange deal to free kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held hostage for more than five years by the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza. Shalit was freed last week in the first phase of the two-part exchange, which will eventually free 1,027 Palestinian Authority inmates of Israeli prisoners, including many murderers serving multiple life sentences who immediately vowed upon their release to renew their terrorist careers as soon as possible.

The petition, which can be found on the group’s website, urges the government not to ever agree to a prisoner swap that frees terrorists with blood on their hands.

Signatories on the petition agree not to participate in such a swap if they are ever, G-d forbid, captured or kidnapped in future action.

“We demand [the government] not release murderers, also at the price of our own personal lives,” clarified the reservists.

My Israel chairperson Ayelet Shaked and David Tzviel, who initiated the petition, said the campaign is intended to facilitate the efforts of decision makers who might in future be faced with the need to negotiate for the release of Israeli soldiers in captivity.

“When soldiers and reservists say they are ready to bear on their shoulders the burden of [defending the nation], even the terrible suffering [if] captured by the enemy, to save Israel from the terrible danger posed to the country due to the release of terrorists — the State of Israel can’t avoid expressing a firm, resolute and clear stance against the terrorist organizations in this matter,” said the two.

The petition may be signed, and names of other participants may be seen at the organization’s website, by clicking the link above..

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Middle East

230 Mln People in OIC States Suffer From Hunger

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, OCTOBER 21 — The richest Muslim countries are 200 times wealthier than the poorest ones, Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchange (TOBB) Chairman Rifat Hisarciklioglu has said, as reported by daily Hurriyet. “If our neighbors and brothers are starving, we cannot live in ivory towers by raising our garden walls,” Hisarciklioglu said during a Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC) meetingin Istanbul, adding that a fair distribution of wealth had to be sustained. He also said Islamic countries should start supporting female entrepreneurship. “We should keep in mind that the wife of the Prophet Mohammed, Khadijah, was also a female entrepreneur.” The share of intra-country trade among Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) members increased from 14.5%, or 205 billion USD in 2004, to 17.03%, or 539 billion USD, in 2010, OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said at the conference. Similarly, the share of OIC member states in world trade increased from 8% in 2004 to 10.5% last year. “There is no doubt that if this trend continues, the target of attaining 20% of intra-OIC trade, set out in the OIC 10 Year Programme of Action, will be reached by the end of 2015,” Ihsanoglu said. However, 230 million people in OIC member states are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, according to official statistics.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Arab Uprisings: Lebanon: Meeting to Revive Role of Christians

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 20 — The Christians of the East “are an integral part of the Arab world and must be political players in the ongoing Arab Spring”. This is the hope underpinning a large conference opening beginning next Sunday near Beirut, where more than 700 Lebanese and Arab intellectuals and politicians will discuss the role of Arab Christians in the popular uprisings that continue in North Africa and the Middle East.

“We Christians of the East are the best-placed interlocutors to help Europe, and the West in general, understand the importance of dialogue between Muslims and Christians,” says Fares Suaid, a former deputy in Lebanon’s parliament and the co-founder of the group of Lebanese Christian intellectuals, “Sayyidet al Jabal” (Woman of the Mountain), which is named after a convent north-east of Beirut where their first meeting was held eleven years ago.

“Our role is like that of Sant’Egidio in Italy,” Suaid told ANSAmed, ahead of the conference beginning on October 23. For over ten years, Sayyidet al Jabal has regularly brought together intellectuals and opinion leaders, and not only Christians and Lebanese, “in order to come up with reflections on what is happening in the region, to supply the political and cultural interpretations necessary to face the challenges being laid down in front of us”.

After the attacks of September 11 2001 and the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005, Suaid believes that the uprisings that have shaken the region in the last ten months are the crucial challenge of the first decade of the new millennium. “It is an event comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989,” says the former deputy, who is from the Byblos region north of Beirut. “The Arab Spring will begin a period of uncertainty all over the Mediterranean with inevitable destabilisation in Europe”.

“And while in 1989 it was Europe’s eastern borders that were hit by destabilisation,” he continues in perfect Italian, the result of six years of studying medicine in the country before specialising in cardiology in France, “it will now affect the southern shores. Europe will therefore be the absorber of these uprisings, not only as a result of the potential increase in immigration, but also amid the possible political repercussions within Arab and Muslim communities in European cities”.

“Italy, more than anyone, with its history and its position, must understand the magnitude of these events,” Suaid explains, adding that “Arab Christians are best-placed to explain what is happening”.

“We Christians of the East are not Martians, aliens landed from space. We are part of these societies and we must defend today the principles of citizenship, of respect for human rights and of democracy. We have a role to play in the Arab Spring”.

Suaid strongly condemns the leaders of Christian Churches in the East, which for months have taken the side of Arab dictatorships, the neighbouring Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad in particular, which has been hit by seven months of protests in spite of a bloody crackdown in which more than 3,000 people are so far known to have died.

“The Church uses the argument of fear of Islamic fundamentalism to defend dictatorships, but in so doing we they risk remaining on the outside of the history and the geography of the region,” Suaid says.

“The Arab Spring is a process that can no longer be stopped by anyone,” he continues. “Lining up against it means lining up against the majority of protesters, who are Muslim. We are siding against Islam. We are dividing instead of uniting. The foundations are being laid for a future of marginalisation and not of cohabitation. If Christians oppose the revolution, against the principles that they should instead defend, they are lining up against themselves”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Black Magic Widespread in Middle East

Belief in black magic runs deep in Saudi society. The issue was raised last month when the quasi-legislative body Shoura Council granted permission for Moroccan women to work as maids in Saudi households. Hundreds of Saudi women complained to the Council that granting Moroccan maids permission to work was tantamount to allowing the use of black magic in their homes to steal their husbands. Saudi wives complained the issue was not lacking trust in their husbands, but their men were powerless to ward off spells.

While greeted with skepticism in western societies, Saudis would no more question the existence of black magic than they would Islam. Two surahs (chapters) in the Qur’an under Al Mi’wadhatyan address black magic and are often recited during or after prayer. Simply, part of being a Muslim is believing in the existence of magic.

In April of this year, members of the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice underwent special training in the Eastern Province to investigate black magic crimes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: 20% Foreigner Bar: 3 Million Face Loss of Job

(by Alma Safira) ANSAmed — DOHA, OCTOBER 21 — Around three million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia face losing their jobs and being forced to leave the country under the new plan of the Saudi Ministry of Employment, which aims to bring in a limit whereby the number of foreigners present in the country should represent no more than 20% of the total population. The news comes in today’s edition of Arabian Business. The move aims to bring more Saudi citizens on to the job market in a country that today numbers almost nine million foreign residents — 31% of the total population and an unemployment rate approaching 11%. The Nitaqat programme aims to label companies according to a colour scheme reflecting the number of Saudi workers they take on. Companies in the yellow category will not be allowed to renew the work permits for their foreign workers for more than six years in succession while all of the companies in the red category will be banned from renewing any work permits that do not have a time cap. Companies in the green category, on the other hand, will be given benefits. Although these measures are anti-competitive in nature, are often held to be anti-meritocratic and against the interests of consumers, Saudi Arabia is not the only Gulf State to embark on policies encouraging an opening of their labour markets to their own citizens to the disadvantage of those from other countries.

Indeed, Qatar has recently raised wage, pension and social security levels for all Qatari public-sector employees by 60%.

There has been a 120% rise for officials working in the State Defence sector. This is a clear incentive being dangled in front of the Emirate’s citizens, encouraging them to take on a job. In order to avoid an exodus of workers from a private sector that has lost much of its competitiveness and attraction, many private companies have followed suit by raising wage levels for their Qatari employees. The move works against the interests of foreign workers — a labour force representing 80% of Qatar’s population and an important driving force in an economy that is growing at 16% per year. It works to the exclusive advantage of Qatari citizens, who have this year become the richest in the world with a pro capita GDP approaching 110,000 dollars, as World Monetary Fund figures indicate.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan to Back Pakistan if Wars With U.S.: Karzai

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) — Afghanistan would support Pakistan in case of military conflict between Pakistan and the United States, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview to a private Pakistani TV channel broadcast on Saturday.

The remarks were in sharp contrast to recent tension between the two neighbors over cross-border raids, and Afghan accusations that Pakistan was involved in killing the chief Afghan peace envoy, former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, by a suicide bomber on September 20.

“God forbid, If ever there is a war between Pakistan and America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan,” he said in the interview to Geo television.

“If Pakistan is attacked and if the people of Pakistan needs Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you.”

Such a situation is extremely unlikely, however. Despite months of tension and tough talk between Washington and Islamabad, the two allies appear to be working to ease tension.

In a two-day visit to Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued stern warnings and asked for more cooperation in winding down the war in Afghanistan, but ruled out “boots on the ground” in North Waziristan, where Washington has been pushing Pakistan to tackle the Haqqani network.

The Haqqani are a group of militants Washington has blamed for a series of attacks in Afghanistan, using sanctuaries in the Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border.

Pakistan is seen as a critical to the U.S. drive to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Yueyue, the Two Year Old Hit by Two Trucks and Left to Suffer, Dies

The small girl hit by a truck, was not rescued by passers-by. Another vehicle broke her legs and left her in a coma. The video of her tragedy has sparked millions of comments on the immorality and materialism that dominate today’s China.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A two year old girl hit by two vehicles and ignored by at least 18 passers-by, died this morning at a hospital in Foshan (Guangdong). The images of the tragedy, spread on the internet, have inflamed the minds of millions of bloggers who criticize the materialism and immorality of the Chinese society.

CCTV images dating to Oct. 13 show the little Wang Yue (familiarly called Yueyue) being hit by a truck that fails to stop to care for her, leaving her bleeding on the road.

In the following seven minutes, there are dozens of people who pass by on foot or by bicycle and nobody stops to help her. Another truck strikes her and breaks her legs. Only a woman sweeper drags her to the edges of the road until her mother, a migrant who runs a small shop, rushes to her (see the tragic video here).

Taken to the hospital, the doctors declared small Yueyue, in a coma, would not survive. Today, the declaration of death for “systemic organ failure.”

The accident and now her death has caused millions of blog comments that call into question the morality of China. “I hope — says a comment — that this little angel who was discarded by society can act as a wake-up call to the nation about the importance of moral education.”

The two drivers who hit Yueyue are in prison. The Communist Party of Guangdong is planning to pass a law requiring people to help those who are in obvious difficulty. But bloggers say that education is needed before laws.

It must be said that many in China many are reluctant to help people in need because sometimes “good Samaritans” are accused of being guilty and obliged to pay those whom they helped.

In any case, for many bloggers, the death of small Yueyue is the confirmation that the traditional values of China have by now been totally consumed and materialism has dried up every impulse of compassion and morality.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa: ENI Makes ‘Giant’ Mozambique Gas Discovery

Rome, 20 Oct. (AKI) — Eni, Italy’s largest oil company, said it has made a “giant” natural offshore natural gas discovery off the coast of Mozambique so large it has the potential to boost development of the impvershed East African country.

“This important discovery will result in the development of large-scale gas production destined for the international and regional markets,” Rome-based Eni said in a statement in Thursday.

It is Eni’s largest gas discovery as the operator, or the lead company, of a project.

Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. It is one of world’s poorest countries.

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

U.S. Embassy Warns of Imminent Terror Threat in Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) — The U.S. Embassy in Kenya warned it has credible information of an imminent terror attack, days after the east African nation announced it is sending troops to Somalia to battle Islamist militants.

The attack is likely to target places that foreigners congregate in Kenya, including malls and night clubs, the embassy said.

The U.S.Embassy did not offer details on who might carry out such an attack, but said it has taken measures to limit official U.S. government visits. It urged its citizens to consider deferring travel to Kenya.

The warning comes after Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia to pursue Islamist Al-Shabaab militants. The terror group has threatened Kenya with retaliatory attacks, saying it considers the forces’ incursion an affront to Somalia’s sovereignty.

Al-Shabaab, which is linked to al Qaeda and has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is fighting to impose its own interpretation of Islamic law, or sharia, on Somalia.

Kenya has blamed some recent abductions of tourists and aid workers on the terror group, which has heightened tensions.

On September 11, armed bandits broke into a beachfront cottage where Britons Judith and David Tebbutt, both in their 50s, were staying. David Tebbutt was shot dead while trying to resist the attack. His wife was grabbed and spirited away on a speedboat, and is believed to have been taken into Somalia.

On October 1, pirates made another cross-border raid, this time snatching a French woman in her 60s, who used a wheelchair and was believed to be in bad health, from a holiday home on Manda Island where she lived part of the year. She later died, likely because of the kidnappers’ refusal to give her medicine, according to the French Foreign Ministry.

Also this month, gunmen abducted two Spanish workers from the medical charity Doctors Without Borders from the Dadaab refugee complex, about 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) from the Somali border.

Al-Shabaab has denied responsibility for the abductions.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

African-Caribbean Boys ‘Would Rather Hustle Than Learn’

Black schoolboys can choose to perform poorly to avoid undermining their masculinity, the head of the Jamaican Teachers’ Association has said.

Adolph Cameron said that in Jamaica, where homophobia was a big issue, school success was often seen as feminine or “gay”.

He was concerned the same cultural attitude was affecting African-Caribbean male students in the UK.

They are one of England’s worst-performing ethnic groups in schools.

Only traveller children do worse at GCSEs.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Demoted for Not Backing Gay Marriage: Housing Manager’s Pay Slashed for Criticising New Law on Facebook

A housing manager has been demoted, and his salary slashed, after he criticised a controversial new gay rights law.

Adrian Smith, a Christian, was found guilty of gross misconduct by his publicly funded housing association for saying that allowing gay weddings in churches was ‘an equality too far’.

He posted the comment in his own time, on his personal page on the Facebook website, which could not be read by the general public.

But after a disciplinary hearing, he was downgraded from his £35,000-a-year managerial job to a much less senior £21,000 post — and avoided the sack only because of his long service.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


pacificwaters said...

The link was wrong. he actual link is


pacificwaters said...

The link is wrong. The url has an at the very end of html so it reads htmla, not html as it should. correct that in the URL bar and you'll get to the article.

Baron Bodissey said...

pacificwaters --

Thanks for catching that. I've fixed it.