Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111030

Financial Crisis
»Denmark: Farmers to Lose Billions in EU Subsidies
»Eurozone Summit: We Are All at Germany’s Mercy
»Greece to EU Court, Risks High Fine
»S&P Downgrades Cyprus After Bank ‘Haircut’
»Shanghai Property Fall Sparks Outrage
»This Was the Week That European Democracy Died
»Obama: “Italy is One of Our Strongest Allies”
Europe and the EU
»Elections in Switzerland: The League and UDC Rejoice, Bignasca Calls for a Wall Against Italy
»Italy: Berlusconi Says Italians ‘Need Him’ Dismisses Early-Election Reports
»Norway: Oslo’s Epidemic of Rape
»Russian Companies Vying for the Port of Rotterdam
»Schools: EU Primary Teachers, Cyprus 3% Over 50, Italy 45%
»Spain: Top in Europe for Number of Clients for Prostitutes
»Telcoms: Telefonica-Portugal Telecom Deal in Brussels’ Sights
»UK: Poppy-Burning Muslims Plan New ‘Hell for Heroes’ Demonstration on November 11
North Africa
»Algeria: Men Who Won the Civil War Under Accusation
»Egypt: Coptic Christian Student Murdered by Classmates for Wearing a Cross
»Robbers Make Off With Priceless Treasure of Benghazi After Drilling Into Underground Vault at Libyan Bank
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gender Segregation Grows in Orthodox Jewish Areas
»Was Schalit Deal a Sign That Israel is Ready to Attack Iran?
Middle East
»UAE: Unemployment 13% Among Locals Despite Available Jobs
South Asia
»Death Highlights Women’s Role in Special Ops Teams
»Pakistan: Christian Farm Workers Abducted by Muslim Landowners for Money in Faisalabad
»For Overcrowded England, There is No Turning Back

Financial Crisis

Denmark: Farmers to Lose Billions in EU Subsidies

EU’s redistribution of subsidies to east and southern Europe comes at a cost for Denmark

Denmark’s 50,000 farmers are set to lose billions of kroner in subsidies when the EU announces the future of its agricultural policy tomorrow.

According to newspaper Politiken, Denmark’s agricultural subsidy between 2014 and 2020 will initially be cut by 200 million kroner and in the final three years will be cut by 400 million kroner a year.

Denmark will be one of four EU countries facing deep subsidy cuts as the EU shifts support toward southern and eastern EU member states.

Niels Jørgen Pedersen, of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, said he was concerned.

“It’s an unfortunate development because it will ultimately reduce the number of jobs in agriculture,” he told Politiken.

Pedersen also questioned the logic behind the redistribution of funding. While Denmark, which currently receives seven billion kroner a year in agricultural subsidies, will face a five percent annual cut, countries such as Estonia will see increases of 30 percent.

“It means that EU support in the future will be channelled towards old fashioned forms of agriculture. Cutting the support of large and effective agricultural producers like the Danes lose while at the same time giving more to ineffective producers is anti-competitive.”

Other experts worry that the lack of support may cause every tenth farmer to go bankrupt. Especially vulnerable are the 4,500 cattle farmers who will be hardest hit by the withdrawal of support.

The European Commission is currently finalising the details of the subsidy proposal before tomorrow’s expected publication. The proposal will have to be agreed by EU member states in 2012 while Denmark holds the EU presidency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Summit: We Are All at Germany’s Mercy

The leaders of the Eurozone have reduced Greece’s debt and increased the amount of EU aid. However, for Eleftherotypia, which notes on its front page that “German tanks are in the bailout,” the decision will put the Greeks and all Europeans under the heel of Berlin.

Buoyed by a Bundestag vote in which she secured the support of 80% of Germany’s MPs, Angela Merkel went on to attend the Brussels summit to find a solution to the Greek problem.

However, the decision taken by the summit had already been announced, almost point by point, by the Chancellor before the German parliament. Apparently, she did not even take into account the views expressed by other European leaders. It is as though there were no other players in Europe.

Of course, everyone knows that Germany is the strongest player. Everyone knows that its opinion has more weight than the others. But it cannot always have the last word. Because in politics, you cannot apply the same rules as in football: otherwise we will arrive at a situation where “in the end, Germany always wins,” as one former English footballer put it.

Merkel does as she pleases

The way things are going now, politics and football have switched sides in this dichotomy: because in football, Germany often loses, whereas in Europe, they always succeed in imposing their opinion. And in so doing, they have not met with any opposition.

Even the French president has been roundly criticised by his national press for supporting the German position. Other leaders, like Luxembourg’s Prime Minster Jean Claude Juncker, have voiced concern over Germany’s hegemony.

However, none of this has served any purpose. Chancellor Merkel does as she pleases. With regard to Greece, she has imposed a solution that entails a 50% devaluation of sovereign debt, and far-reaching structural reforms including a number of key austerity measures…

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

Greece to EU Court, Risks High Fine

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 27 — Greece risks having to pay a high fine for failing to completely implement the directive on domestic market services, which dates back to 2006. The European Commission has decided, for the first time, to take three countries who still have not adopted the measure — Greece, Germany and Austria — to the EU Court, asking for immediate economic sanctions. Greece may have to pay fine of 51,200 euros for every day, starting from the day of the verdict to the day it implements the European regulation.

Services, the European Commission reports, represent 70% of the European economy. Unfortunately, excessive administrative requisites still are the main barrier to the development of these activities, particularly small-scale services. As a result, consumers have access to a smaller number, and less efficient services. Estimates of the potential economic benefits of the directive on services speak of a number of 60 to 140 billion euros, the equivalent of a potential annual growth between 0.6 and 1.5% of the EU’s GDP.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

S&P Downgrades Cyprus After Bank ‘Haircut’

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, OCTOBER 28 — Standard & Poor’s cut Cyprus’ long-term credit rating by a notch to BBB yesterday, mainly citing the banking system’s exposure to sovereign Greek debt. The move, as Famagusta Gazette reports, came only hours after EU leaders struck a deal in which banks would take a 50% loss on their holdings of Greek government debt as part of a broad Greek restructuring. That was above an earlier agreement that involved a 21% haircut. “We believe that a Greek default scenario with private sector involvement, or ‘haircuts,’ higher than previously agreed by commercial creditors would necessitate the recapitalisation of some domestic banking institutions” in Cyprus, S&P said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Shanghai Property Fall Sparks Outrage

Property sales in Shanghai, the most populous city in China, have fallen by more than a tenth over the first nine months of the year, sparking protests in some cases.

Sales of commercial properties in Shanghai including offices, residential and commercial buildings dropped 13.1 percent in January through September from a year earlier to 13.07 million square meters, data from the Shanghai Statistics department showed.

Sales of residential properties in the city fell at a steeper rate of 14.9 percent in the first nine months to 10.63 million square meters.

Facing tighter liquidity conditions, swelling inventory and slowing sales, more Chinese developers have moved to cut prices to lure customers.

But the price cuts have angered homeowners who bought their homes before they were instituted.

Hundreds of angry homeowners stormed the sales office of a property project in Shanghai’s Jiading district on Oct. 22, demanding a refund as prices of the development have fallen by up to one-third since they made their purchases, the Shanghai Youth Daily reported earlier this week.

Similar cases have been reported elsewhere.

Dispute spills over to the streets

In Pudong, the financial district, hundreds of customers of China Overseas Property Group protested at the developer’s head office over the weekend as home prices at one of its projects were cut by nearly 30 percent in a sales promotion, according to a Shanghai Daily report.

Earlier this month, a similar scene was staged at the head office of Jingrui Properties, when about a hundred homeowners gathered to protest after the company lowered prices for a project in Taicang near Shanghai by up to 20 percent during a 15-day promotion period, according to local media reports.

Developers including Jingrui Properties had so far refused to give in to homeowners’ requests for refunds or cancellation of purchases, saying such demands had no legal basis, the reports said.

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

This Was the Week That European Democracy Died

Democracy went down in a blaze of glory last week. Both the German Bundestag and our own House of Commons put up one hell of a fight against the dying of the light. Maybe history will record that fact in an elegy on the demise of the great 18th-century experiment in government by the people: they were eloquent to the end. Because at the end, eloquence was all they had.

Trying to hold back the resurgence of oligarchy — the final dismantling of democratic responsibility in the governing of Europe — has been looking pretty hopeless for a long time. That eruption of excellent rhetoric and faultless argument which sprang to the defence of the rights of the governed (and in Germany’s case, of constitutional legality) made the loss seem all the more tragic, but no less inevitable.

So this is where we are. The agreed EU “stability union” triumphantly paraded before the media in Brussels will have the power to approve or disapprove budgets of countries in the eurozone — that is, to vet and police them — before they are submitted to the elected parliaments of those countries. In other words, parliaments which are directly mandated by, and answerable to, their own populations will not control the most essential functions of government: decisions on taxation and spending. Even without the ultimate institutions of economic and political union, which still elude the EU, actual power over fiscal policy will be taken from the hands of national leaders. And if, as a voter, you cannot influence your prospective government’s tax and spending policies, what exactly are you voting for?

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


Obama: “Italy is One of Our Strongest Allies”

(AGI) Washington — “Italy is one of our strongest allies” said Barack Obama at the National Italian American Foundation Gala.

“America would not be what it is today without the unique contributions and the uncommon pride of Italian Americans”.

These are the words used by Barack Obama to pay tribute to the Italian legacy to the USA during a gala dinner of the National Italian American Foundation, the association that groups all Italian American citizens of the United States. While addressing an audience incluing the Italian Ambassador in Washington Giulio Terzi (who he thanked for the “extraordinary commitment in representing his Country”) and Confindustria leader Emma Marcegaglia, the US President — who had just opened his address by saying “Viva l’Italia” in Italian — recalled the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy “every American joins us in celebrating this anniversary of Italian unification”) as well as the contribution made by many Italians (from Colombus to Galile, from Jo Di maggio to Sophia Loren) to history, culture and science.

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

Europe and the EU

Elections in Switzerland: The League and UDC Rejoice, Bignasca Calls for a Wall Against Italy

The Swiss elect one more League MP and one UDC MP to the National Council, in Berne. The Ticino League and the UDC (the Swiss People’s Party) are rejoicing over the result obtained in the Swiss federal elections. Electors have chosen one more League MP and one UDC MP to go to Berne, to the National Council, one of the two branches of Parliament.

The leader of the Ticino League, Giuliano Bignasca (see photo), spoke immediately to reporters of the Swiss television station RSI, saying that the Ticino vote is a vote against Europe and against border-workers. He said, “We have to build a wall against Italy, and clarify many things about border-workers.”

Clarifications are published every week in the party’s Sunday newspaper, “Il Mattino”, and go from restrictions on labour to genuine regulation, which, all things considered, would put a stop to one of the things that Bignasca dislikes most, namely, the bilateral agreement on the free circulation of people (the “ALCP”). The charismatic leader of the League did a lot for these and for the last cantonal elections, in which, thanks to the essential help of the UDC with whom there is an unwritten agreement, he is now sending another member of the League, the counsellor Norman Gobbi, to the Government in Bellinzona. Today, we can also say that the favour has been returned, and the League-UDC union has produced the results hoped for, because the UDC President, Pierre Rusconi, obtained his seat in Berne, thanks also to the votes of the League, whose political contribution was decisive, although their numbers were not…

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

Italy: Berlusconi Says Italians ‘Need Him’ Dismisses Early-Election Reports

Rome, 28 Oct. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi dismissed reports he would resign and call for early elections, saying it would harm the country.

“It would create grave damage to Italy and Italians,” he said Friday during an interview with one of the television channels from his media empire.

Berlusconi has been dogged by legal problems and a sluggish economy. Critics constantly push for resignation and call either for early elections or a transitional government led by technocrats. He’s also come under fire for his handling of the European debt crisis for not doing enough to cut spending and implement reforms.

Italian news reports in the la Repubblica and la Stampa newspapers on Wednesday reported that Berlusconi struck a deal with his Northern League coalition partner to step down and call elections for the spring. In exchange the League agreed to allow the government to boost the retirement age by two years to 67.

The government’s five year mandate ends in 2013.

The European Union demanded Italy to come up with reforms to reduce its 1.9 trillion-euro debt and help bring order to a debt crisis that some fear can bring an the end to the euro currency.

League head and founder Umberto Bossi had refused to touch Italians’ pensions saying: “They would kill us.”

But the government announced it would indeed raise retirement age to 67 years old, as well as make it easier for companies to fire workers. Some union have called for a general strike.

Without the support of the Northern League, Berlusconi would lose the parliamentary majority causing his government to come to an early end. In 1994, Bossi pulled the plug on his support for Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, causing the government to fall.

“The League has always been a dependable ally, Berlusconi said in the Friday interview. Our relationship with Bossi is solid.”

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

Norway: Oslo’s Epidemic of Rape

Back in May it was reported that every rape assault in the city of Oslo in the last five years had been committed by a person with a “non-Western” background — a Norwegian euphemism for Muslim. Now it turns out that there have already been twice as many rape assaults in Oslo so far this year as there were in all of 2010. At least one member of Parliament, André Oktay Dahl of the Conservative Party, calls the situation “critical” and is brave enough to acknowledge that many of the perpetrators come from cultures “with a reprehensible attitude toward women.”


Not so very many years ago, Oslo was virtually a rape-free city, inhabited by people who had been brought up on civilized notions of mutual respect and tolerance. No longer. Over the years, the incidence of rape has risen steadily. A wildly disproportionate number of the perpetrators are “rejected asylum seekers” — which may sound puzzling unless you are aware of the perverse state of affairs whereby even persons officially rejected for asylum in Norway are still allowed to stay.


Yet it now appears that the incidence of rapes in Oslo has now eclipsed that in the other two Scandinavian capitals, Stockholm and Copenhagen. This is quite an achievement, given that Oslo has traditionally been the smallest and sleepiest of these three cities — the least cosmopolitan, the one that feels more like a safe small town than a European capital. In fact, it turns out that the incidence of rape in Copenhagen has been on the decline. It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that Denmark, for the last decade, has also been the country with the most sensible immigration and integration policies in Western Europe. (Nor is it coincidental that the other Scandinavian capitals have twice as many police per inhabitant as Oslo does.)


But until the authorities begin to take the welfare of law-abiding citizens as seriously as they take the welfare of criminal foreigners, the problem will only grow worse.

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

Russian Companies Vying for the Port of Rotterdam

Summa Capital, which will build a new oil terminal in the Netherlands, wants to set up a joint venture with Transneft. The goal is to make Ural crude a benchmark for international markets.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Pipeline monopoly Transneft plans to expand abroad and its first stop is Rotterdam. The company is vetting the possibility of building a new oil terminal in the Dutch port, which is the world hub for the oil trade, in a joint venture with fellow Russian investment group Summa Capital.

The Russian government backs the plan, especially the powerful Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. The aim is to turn Ural crude (which reaches Rotterdam from the port of Primorsk) into a benchmark for international markets, like the US Brent, Russian online newspaper reports citing Russian energy industry sources.

After winning the bid with Dutch company VTTI for the construction of the new oil terminal in Rotterdam, Summa Capital, which is controlled by Dagestan businessman Ziyavudin Magomedov, asked Transneft to set up a joint venture to trade Russian crude, Transneft Chairman Nikolai Tokarev said.

According to the two companies, Rotterdam’s Tank Terminal Europort West (or TEW) should be an “open hub” for Ural crude and any supplier or buyer.

The terminal, which will begin operations in 2015, will more than double the volume of Russian crude deliveries to the Dutch city to between 50 million-55 million metric tonnes, up from 25 million tonnes now.

However, Transneft should not have “a direct interest in participating in the joint venture”, said Dmitry Alexandrov of Univer Investment Company. For him, the Rotterdam hub would have been far more interesting for oil traders, like Gunvor, Russia’s main oil trader, than a pipeline company.

For this reason, Transneft’s alliance with Summa Capital in Rotterdam should be seen from a broader perspective for the Russian giant.

With a monopoly over Russian oil pipelines, Transneft “intends to develop its global presence through entering the port infrastructure market in Europe”, Alexandrov believes, “and, perhaps, in future, in Asia as well”. (N.A.)

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

Schools: EU Primary Teachers, Cyprus 3% Over 50, Italy 45%

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 25 — The youngest teachers in the EU working in primary schools are Cypriot, Polish and Slovenian, while the oldest are German, Swedish and Italian. This is the picture that emerges from the latest figures released by Eurostat, valid for 2009, which show that only 3% of Cypriot teachers in primary schools are over the age of 50, with the figure at 44.8% in Italy, 48% in Sweden and 49% in Germany. The figure falls to 31.7% in Spain, with Portugal (27.4%), Malta (22.8%), France (21.6%) and Slovenia (18.2%) following, while the EU average stands at 29%. Primary school teachers in the European Union are still mainly women (86%), a percentage that becomes even higher in Malta (88.7%), Italy (94%) and Slovenia (97.5%), but which is slightly lower in Cyprus and France (both 82.6%), Portugal (79.6%) and Spain (74.3%), while the figure in Turkey is decidedly more balance (50.4%). Turkey, a candidate country for EU accession, suffers the most from overcrowding in classrooms, with an average of 25.8 children per teacher, compared to an average of 14.5 in the EU. France has 19.7 children per teacher, ahead of Croatia (18.1), Slovenia (16.7), Cyprus (14.5), Spain (13.3), Portugal (11.3), Italy (10.7) and Malta (9.4).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Top in Europe for Number of Clients for Prostitutes

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 27 — Four out of ten Spaniards (39%), mainly between the ages of 35 and 55, have used the services of a prostitute at least once. This percentage far outstrips that for the Swiss (19%), Austrian (15%) or Swedish (14%) populations, placing Spain in first place in the European Union for the consumption of paid-for sex.

The figures come from a report on sexual exploitation which as been presented in Madrid by the Association for the Rehabilitation of Female Prostitutes (APRAMP) and the Secretary of State for Equality. The white paper cites data from the International Organisation for Migration which show that one and a half million women aged between 15 and 45 are being exploited by the prostitution industry in Europe each year. The guide, which draws a distinction between people-trafficking and people-trade, describes the typical profile of an exploited woman and of this “21st Century slavery “, with minors — often little more than adolescents — increasingly being bought and sold or reduced to sexual slavery. Along with the ‘protectors’ and all those profiting from the traffic, the clients too are defined as ‘profiteers from prostitution’ by the report.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Telcoms: Telefonica-Portugal Telecom Deal in Brussels’ Sights

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 26 — The Spanish company Telefonica and Portugal Telecom are the subject of antitrust reports in Brussels. The European Commission has decided to send a series of objections regarding a deal agreed between the two companies in July 2010, which stipulated that the two would not compete with one another on the Iberian market. An initial assessment by Brussels suggests that a similar agreement violates the EU’s regulations on competition.

The EU study began in January 2011, with the two companies concerned abolishing their non-competition pact in February, which does not conceal the fact that such an agreement was at one time in place. Non-competition clauses represent one of the most serious violations of the principle of free competition in the EU. At this point in the inquiry, the European Commission believes that the focus of the agreement was the disappearance from markets, with potentially higher prices and less choice for consumers. Brussels’s move to send the objections, meanwhile, will not affect the final outcome of the report. Telefonica and Portugal Telecom have two months to reply to the charges.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Poppy-Burning Muslims Plan New ‘Hell for Heroes’ Demonstration on November 11

An extreme Muslim group which caused outrage by burning a poppy last Remembrance Sunday is planning further disruption on November 11, with a twisted ‘Hell for Heroes’ campaign.

The demo, which mocks charity for injured soldiers Help for Heroes, is due to take place outside the Royal Albert Hall, the same location where a poppy was burned last year.

Emdadur Choudhury, who burned the poppy, was fined just £50.

The Muslims Against Crusades protestors, who have sought permission from police to hold the rally, aim to chant and disrupt the minute’s silence held in honour of the war dead.

Firebrand cleric Anjem Choudary, who has links to the Muslims Against Crusades group, said: ‘It’s going to be called Hell for Heroes and it will be around the Royal Albert Hall.

‘It will involve a protest and not observing the minute’s silence. We had a significant amount of support from Muslims around the world last year.

‘It’s one thing to remember the dead from the First World War and subsequent wars but it’s quite another when they say we need to remember the dead from Afghanistan and Iraq.

‘It’s become a political football and if they are going to use Remembrance Day for that purpose it’s only right that we have a counter protest, which we say is for Muslims.

‘The army is currently at war with Muslims in Muslim countries.’

Choudary also played down reports that MP Mike Freer had feared for his safety after a protest at a north London mosque where he was holding a surgery.

Up to a dozen protesters forced their way into the mosque where Mr Freer was meeting constituents, prompting officials to lock him in a private room for his own safety.

Mr Freer, a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, said he was called a ‘Jewish homosexual pig’.

He said he only later realised the MAC website had made reference to MP Stephen Timms, who was stabbed in his surgery by a Muslim women.

Choudary played down the protest saying: ‘It was peaceful and there were no arrests.

‘As far as I am aware there is no suggestion anyone from MAC said anything anti-semitic or homophobic.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Men Who Won the Civil War Under Accusation

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, OCTOBER 28 — Algeria, which deals with Islamic terrorism on a daily basis, is looking back to the past, as an extremely painful page in their history is reopening, when in order to react to other terrorists, also inspired by Islam, the government reacted with strength, determination and even cruelty, not hesitating in the face of the question asking if a state is authorised to make use of illegal violence to defend itself. This is the part of Algeria’s history in the 1990s that pulled the country into a civil war climate, with Islamists ready to take power and the state ready to respond with any means to whoever attacked it or its institutions. The war was won, but the seemingly-healed wounds are still present, and are now reopening, while Algeria is trying to embark on the difficult path of reforms, and with them, continue with the pacification which, declared by law, allowed many armed Islamist party representatives to return to legality. But the cost of the war was extremely high, and not only in terms of human casualties or rifts in society, because security forces and the Algerian Army deployed all means necessary to win, including long detentions, often on a preventative basis and at the limits of legality, and also violence, including the use of torture and other practices. For years this entire situation was cloaked in silence, even if everyone thought that it was a necessary price to pay to achieve peace. Today, however, many voices against those practices are being heard, and, if initially they went unheard, now they represent a problem while the army is constantly working to fight terrorism, which is also strengthening outside of the country, becoming a common problem in North Africa. The Defence Minister in the early 1990s, Khaled Nezzar, obviously a general, has been directly brought back into the picture, as he was summoned and questioned in Switzerland by Swiss federal prosecutor, Laurence Boillat, for involvement in the alleged torture two Swiss citizens of Algerian descent. This interrogation was the first time that an official of the High Council of State was called to respond to specific questions regarding how Algeria reacted to terrorism and if the methods used some how violated international human rights conventions. An unexpected development, which put an entire state on trial, even if just in a preliminary phase, through the implication of one of its men. Nezzar’s responses were clear and court records of the questioning show a state official, firmly convinced that he acted for the greater good and in respect of the law. Nezzar is at the centre of accusations presented by Noureddine Belmouhoub, the spokesperson for hundreds of imprisoned Algerians, often without any legal trial against them, in prison camps in the southern part of the country (in the middle of the desert) and who are now calling for justice for what they say was unjustified imprisonment and for what they suffered as prisoners. It is a mistake to think that Belmouhoub’s fight is simply a battle of principle, although fervent and passionate, because just a few days ago this man with sunken features was kidnapped, held and liberated by someone who only advised him to “stay calm”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Coptic Christian Student Murdered by Classmates for Wearing a Cross

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — In mid-October Egyptian media published news of an altercation between Muslim and Christian students over a classroom seat at a school in Mallawi, Minya province. The altercation lead to the murder of a Christian student. The media portrayed the incident as non-sectarian. However, Copts Without Borders, a Coptic news website, refuted this version and was first to report that the Christian student was murdered because he was wearing a crucifix.

“We wanted to believe the official version,” said activist Mark Ebeid, “because the Coptic version was a catastrophe, as it would take persecution of Christians also to schools.” He blamed the church in Mallawi for keeping quiet about the incident.

Today the parents of the 17-year-old Christian student Ayman Nabil Labib, broke their silence, confirming that their son was murdered on October 16, in “cold blood because he refused to take off his crucifix as ordered by his Muslim teacher.” Nabil Labib, the father, said in a taped video interview with Copts United NGO, that his son had a cross tattooed on his wrist as per Coptic tradition, as well as another cross which he wore under his clothes.

Both parents confirmed that Ayman’s classmates, who were present during the assault and whom they met at the hospital and during the funeral, said that while Ayman was in the classroom he was told to cover up his tattooed wrist cross. He refused and defiantly got out the second cross which he wore under his shirt. “The teacher nearly chocked by son and some Muslim students joined in the beating,” said his mother.

According to Ayman’s father, eyewitnesses told him that his son was not beaten up in the school yard as per the official story, but in the classroom. “They beat my son so much in the classroom that he fled to the lavatory on the ground floor, but they followed him and continued their assault. When one of the supervisors took him to his room, Ayman was still breathing. The ambulance transported him from there dead, one hour later.”

Prosecution arrested and detained two Muslim students, Mostapha Essam and Walid Mostafa Sayed, pending investigations in the murder case.

The father said that everyone in Mallawi knew how the event took place, but not one of the students’ parents was prepared to let their children come forward and give a statement to the police. “They are afraid of the school administration, which has lots of ways to harass the students, as well as being afraid of the families of the two Muslim killers.”

“I insist that the Arabic teacher, the headmaster, and the supervisors should be charged as well as the two students who committed the crime,” said Nabil. “The Arabic language teacher incited the students to attack my son, the headmaster who would not go to the classroom to see what is going on there when alerted to the beatings, but rather said to be left alone and continued sipping his tea, and the supervisors who failed in their supervising duties.”

Prosecution has three witnesses, two men working at school who named the assailants and one student who wanted to retract his statement, but was refused.”

“The evidence is under lock and key. Everyone is hiding the evidence. We will know the truth after forensic medicine has finished the report next week,” said Nabil, adding that the head of detectives on the case tried to influence the witnesses, claiming that the murder took place as a result of friction between students.”

The governor of Minya, El-Rouby, visited the Coptic Bishop Dimitrious of Mallawi to extend his condolences, accompanied by representatives of Minya military authorities. He also suspended the school’s headmaster and the two supervisors, as well as two social workers who were on duty when Ayman died, and referedg them to an investigation committee. But all of them have disappeared since then.

After the funeral service for Ayman, over 5000 Christians marched along the streets of Mallawi, denouncing the killing of a student whom they described as “Martyr of the Cross,” and the repeated killings of Copts in Egypt.

Prominent columnist Farida El-Shobashy wrote in independent newspaper Masry Youm “I was shaken to the bones when I read the news that a teacher forced a student to take off the crucifix he wore, and when the Christian student stood firm for his rights, the teacher quarreled with him, joined by some of the students; he was beastly assaulted until his last breath left him.” She wondered if the situation was reversed and a Muslim was killed for not removing the Koran he wore, what would have been the reaction.

Farida pointed out that the gravity of the incident is where it took place and who incited the attack (the teacher). She went on to blast the Ministry of Education for neglecting the education syllabus to prevent discriminatory contents but instead “left it to teachers to spread the fanatic Wahabi ideology.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Robbers Make Off With Priceless Treasure of Benghazi After Drilling Into Underground Vault at Libyan Bank

The thieves carried off with the pieces, known as The Treasure of Benghazi, having drilled through a concrete ceiling at the National Commercial Bank of Benghazi.

An expert has described the raid as ‘one of the greatest thefts in archeological history.’

Whilst the break-in was initially believed to have been part of the uprising against Muammar Gadaffi, Hafed Walada, a Libyan archeologist working at King’s College London told The Sunday Times; ‘It may have been an inside job.

‘It appears to have been carried out by people who knew what they were looking for.’

Alongside the coins, several artefacts, including monuments and figurines of bronze, glass and ivory, as well as jewellery, bracelets and medallions, are also believed to have been seized by the thieves.

Early leads had initially pointed to neighbouring Egypt, where a farmer had attempted to smuggle 503 gold coins and a golden statue through the port city of Alexandria, however attempts to locate him have thus far failed.

Most of the Benghazi treasures had been on Libyan soil following a mass recovery of the collection between 1917 and 1922 from the temple of Artemis, in Cyrene — an ancient Roman city, now Libyan territory and otherwise known as Shahat.

During the Second World War, much of the treasure was on display at the Museum of Italian Africa in Rome, but eventually returned to Libyan soil in 1961 and was kept at the bank.

Italian archeologist, Serenella Ensoli, from the Second University of Naples insisted the treasure was priceless given its historical value.

‘The collection is not well studied and is a huge loss for Libyan heritage.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gender Segregation Grows in Orthodox Jewish Areas

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, OCTOBER 21 — There is a neighbourhood in Jerusalem where men and women walk on different sidewalks. It is called Mea Shearim, a neighbourhood inhabited for years by Haredi Jews (literally “those who tremble”), an ultra-Orthodox branch of Judaism, reminiscent of an Ashkenazi Jewish corner of Poland in the 18th century. These separate sidewalks are an example of gender segregation practiced and invoked by strict Orthodox Jewish communities also in public places, despite the fact that several rulings in civil court have stated that these practices are illegal in Israel. The most recent ruling came on October 16: the High Court stated that the streets of Mea Shearim belong equally to men and women, and banned discrimination. “Starting next year,” the judges ruled, “conduct contrary to this sentence will no longer be tolerated.” This type of statement would lead one to believe the police are required to enforce this decision. But in Israel there are few people who would be willing to make that bet. In recent years, gender separation in public areas has been constantly increasing alongside growing numbers and rising influence in the country of Haredi Jews and ultra-Orthodox Jews of various sects. “Gender segregation is a relatively new phenomenon in Jewish life,” said Yossi Gurvitz, one of the contributors to digital magazine +972, “it has been present for a decade, perhaps a few years more. The bitter fruit of Orthodox Jewish movements, Hasidic Jews in particular, who say that the presence of women (or girls, often who are very young) is inappropriate, and fuels impure thoughts.” The jump from this idea to banning women on sidewalks was a short one, but it wasn’t the only one. Recently, the idea of buses where women have to sit in the back has created a stir, even outside of Israel, on transport lines that serve Haredi Jewish neighbourhoods. An unwritten law requires female passengers, in a sort of backwards etiquette, to give up their seats for men and sit in the back of the bus. Also in this case, the practice was rejected (in January 2011) by a High Court sentence: “Public transportation operators should not order women to sit in certain seats just because they are female. They should also not tell them how to dress.” In order to try to enforce the injunction, feminists in Jerusalem organised a movement professedly inspired by Rosa Parks, the African American woman who challenged a similar practice on buses, refusing to give up her seat for a white passenger. Activists were boarding public buses in Orthodox neighbourhoods and occupying the seats in the front of the vehicles. Despite the challenge by these activists and decisions by judges, “separation of genders in public places continues to spread” in Israel, said Gurvitz. An alarm has also been sounded by the Reform Judaism movement, which over the years has repeatedly warned politicians about these practices. “This phenomenon,” explained several representatives of the most liberal sect last year to Knesset, “is spreading in Israel like a disease. This degrades women, who are tremendously mortified by the practice.” The virus seems to have even infected the Internet. FaceGlat, a new social network for Orthodox Jews, offers homepages in two separate windows: one for men, the other for women, excluding any contact between the two sexes, even in the digital world.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Was Schalit Deal a Sign That Israel is Ready to Attack Iran?

This is an interesting analysis by Abraham Rabinovich at the Washington Times that interprets the 1000-1 exchange for captured soldier Gilad Schalit as a way of “clearing the decks” for action against Iran’s nuclear program:

Amir Oren, the veteran military analyst for Ha’aretz newspaper, took note of Israel’s exchanging 1,027 Palestinian convicts for army Staff Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who had been captured by Hamas in 2006. Mr. Oren wrote that the price paid by Mr. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak “can be interpreted only in a context that goes beyond that of the Gilad Schalit deal.”

He noted that Israeli leaders in the past have shown a readiness to absorb “a small loss” in order to attain a greater success, generally involving “some sort of military adventure.”

[Note from Egghead: OK. I was already thinking this myself. I guess that we’ll all see, won’t we?]

           — Hat tip: Egghead[Return to headlines]

Middle East

UAE: Unemployment 13% Among Locals Despite Available Jobs

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, OCTOBER 25 — There are at least twice as many jobs as citizens in the UAE, and yet, according to a survey carried out by Going Global, the unemployment rate among these citizens is five times higher, close to 13%, than unemployment among the foreign population. The anomaly of a country in which 90% of the workforce is formed by foreign workers explains the distant relation between local citizens and the private sector. A minority group in their own country, UAE citizens prefer working in the public sector, where working hours are shorter than in the private sector, and wages are higher. On the other hand, the private sector traditionally hires employees that meet requirements regarding production and performance, though a survey carried out by YouGovSiraj indicates that 67% of private entrepreneurs are willing to hire Emirati citizens if they are as qualified as the expats working in the country and paid the same salary. “The oil and gas sectors are expanding and the large companies are hiring,” confirmed Omar Bamadhaf Al Khatheri, government representative for support services, adding that the challenge continues to grow with an estimate 20,000 Emirati citizens per year ready to join the national workforce in the coming ten years.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Death Highlights Women’s Role in Special Ops Teams

Army 1st Lt. Ashley White died on the front lines in southern Afghanistan last weekend, the first casualty in what the Army says is a new and vital wartime attempt to gain the trust of Afghan women.

White, like other female soldiers working with special operations teams, was brought in to do things that would be awkward or impossible for her male teammates. Frisking burqa-clad women, for example.

Her death, in a bomb explosion in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar, demonstrates the risks of placing women with elite U.S. special operations teams working in remote villages.

Military leaders and other female soldiers in the program say its rewards are great, even as it fuels debate over the roles of women in combat. “We could do things that the males cannot do, and they are starting to realize that,” says Sgt. Christine Baldwin, who like White was among the first groups of women deployed to Afghanistan this year as specially trained “cultural support” troops.

Male soldiers often cannot even speak to an Afghan woman because of the strict cultural norms that separate the sexes and the tradition of women remaining behind closed doors most of the time. Forcing the issue has yielded only resentment, military officials say, and has jeopardized the trust and cooperation of villagers.

From the start of the war 10 years ago, Afghans have especially resented the practice of “night raids” in which male foreign soldiers enter and search homes, the traditional sanctum of women. “We could search the female, find out the other half of the information,” Baldwin said in an interview. “If you’re missing half of the lay of the land, how effective are you in engaging the populace?” That question was eight years in the making.

It arose from the frustration of U.S. commanders who realized two years ago that as they tried to apply the principles of counterinsurgency protect civilians and enlist them to reject insurgents and provide intelligence they were not reaching the majority of the Afghan population. Now, the first female soldiers are serving in commando units.

They are trained to ferret out critical information not available to their male team members, to identify insurgents disguised as women and figure out when Afghan women are being used to hide weapons. U.S. women have been on the front lines in Afghanistan since the war began, and over time they have been used to reach out to the Afghan population through health care initiatives and other programs.

They have traveled with Army soldiers and Marines throughout the warfront, often to assist in development projects or as part of psychological operations, which now are called MISO, or military information support operations.

But as elite special operations teams fanned out across the country doing counterinsurgency “stability operations” in the small villages, they complained to their superiors that they were not reaching the women and children who comprise as much as 71 percent of the population.

“We waited too long to get to this,” says Command Sgt. Maj. Ledford Stigall. “We had a lot of people focused on the kill and capture, and it really took someone to say, hey it’s not about kill, capture, it’s about developing a country that can take care of itself.” “Women have a voice,” he said.

“They can influence the men in their society.” In 2009, under pressure from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus, then the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, the Army began to develop Cultural Support Teams. Last November, the first group of women went through a grueling five-day assessment that tested their physical and military skills, their problem-solving and writing abilities and their psychological and mental fitness.

Those that passed moved on to a six-week training program. And in January, the first group of 28 women were deployed to Afghanistan with Army Rangers and Special Forces teams. They went in two-woman teams as part of larger special operations units, usually numbering about a dozen. And they were designed to go out on patrols and into the villages with the special operators to help build relations with the communities by engaging with the Afghan women.

In the process, they also could glean valuable intelligence about the people in the region, information they might not be able to get from the men. Capt. Adrienne Bryant was in the first group that deployed.

Down in Helmand Province with a team of Marine special operations forces, Bryant said, the initial response from the population was tepid. On her first patrol, however, the team introduced her and her CST teammate to a village elder.

“He had been constantly abused by the Taliban, had been kidnapped and returned and he didn’t want to work with coalition forces any more because of the fear the Taliban was going to retaliate,” Bryant said in an interview. Bryant and her teammate talked to him about what they could do for the women of his village, including the medical assistance and skills training, like sewing, they could bring. And he was interested.

“Helmand was a pretty conservative area, women aren’t really seen out much, they don’t shop. So we had to disguise our sewing program; we ran it in conjunction with our clinic,” Bryant said.

“In case the women were being scrutinized because they were coming to learn a skill from us, they had cover by coming on clinic days.” Baldwin was sent up north with an Army special operations team in Kunduz Province.

The women they encountered were hesitant at first. “We’d go out on patrol and be all kitted up and they were almost fearful, but once we took off that helmet, and put on the scarf, they would recognize that it was a female and the fear would be gone,” she said.

Both Baldwin and Bryant said the Afghan women and children at their meetings grew from a few to dozens. Neither said they ever felt they were in immediate danger during their eight-month deployment, although they knew what was possible.

“Any day that they’re walking into a village and engaging with the population they are at the same risk as those Special Forces, SEALs, or special operators they’re detailed to. So I would say it is not for the weak-kneed,” said Michael Lumpkin, principal deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations. “These women are on the front lines in very austere locations.”

Ashley White, 24, was among the 34 CST members to go to Afghanistan in the second group, and she was assigned to a Ranger unit.

The Ohio native and two Rangers were killed when their assault force triggered a roadside bomb. In a press release Monday, U.S. Army Special Operations Command said White “played a crucial role as a member of a special operations strike force. Her efforts highlight both the importance and necessity of women on the battlefield today.” Lumpkin said that so far commanders agree the program has been a success.

The third group of women is about to begin training, and the tentative plan is to have 25 permanent Army CST teams by 2016. “When 71 percent of the population are women and children, you have to have buy-in from a greater number of people in the villages to really connect with them, and to understand really what’s going on. Because of that female-to-female connection, that can be achieved,” Lumpkin said.

He added, “We’re coming late to the table, but we’ve recognized the value (of the program), and I think this will transcend beyond Afghanistan. … I don’t see them going away any time soon.”

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

Pakistan: Christian Farm Workers Abducted by Muslim Landowners for Money in Faisalabad

The Masih brothers worked on land owned by the Dogar family. The latter are Muslim and some of its members used to get drunk and beat the tenants. When Asif and Khadim decided to quit, they were abducted. Nothing has been known about their fate since September. The authorities have not investigated the matter because one of the Dogars is a policeman.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — Nothing is known of two Christian brothers from Faisalabad (Punjab) who were seized by the Muslim landowning family that employed them. The two disappeared on 14 September. Since then, “We have no idea where they are, whether they are dead or alive,” their mother told AsiaNews. A money dispute between the two Christian farm workers and their Muslim landlords is at the root of their abduction. Police have not yet opened a First Information Report because one of the landlords is a police officer.

Asif Masih, 23, known as Kali, and Khadim Masih, 35, come from a poor Christian family living in Chak 71, Jaranwala District, Faisalabad. They worked for 2,500 Pakistani rupees (US$ 29) a month for three Muslim landowners, policeman Javed Dogar and his brothers Sajjad Dogar and Rauf Dogar, who hail from Khurrianwala.

The mother of the two Christian brothers, Basheeran Bibi, said her sons had borrowed 20,000 rupees from the landowners, and were paying the loan back every month, out of their salary.

However, working for the Dogars was getting harder and harder. Although Muslims, they were often drunk and brutally beat the two Christians for no apparent reason.

When they found out, the parents of the Masih brothers suggested they pay off the debt and quit. This sparked an angry reaction from the Dogars who stormed the Masih home where they roughed up Niamat, the brothers’ father, who has a heart ailment. After that, they abducted the two brothers in September asking for a ransom of 70,000 rupees, plus the remainder of the debt.

The men’s mother tried to file a report with police, which refused because one of the suspects is a fellow police officer.

“Disputes between landowners and tenant farmers are commonplace in the area,” Fr Augustine, a priest in Faisalabad who provides financial and moral help to families, told AsiaNews. A serious and impartial inquiry should be conducted into the affair. “Farm workers are poor,” he explained. “They don’t have money to pay for legal action against landowners.”

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


For Overcrowded England, There is No Turning Back

Migration is adding a million people to the UK’s population every five years

By Alasdair Palmer7:00PM BST 29 Oct 20111370 CommentsAlmost eight million: that’s the Office for National Statistics’ projection of how many additional people there will be living in the UK in 16 years time.

Should we be worried by the prospect of 70 million people living in Britain in 2027? Some of the increase will be down to increased longevity — and most of us want to live longer. It was noted in the 16th century that “the wings of life are plumed with the feathers of death”. Fewer feathers of death means more living people. No one wants, as a matter of policy, to increase the amount of death — least of all any member of the Government. So, in the absence of some catastrophe such as an epidemic of a fatal and untreatable disease, increased longevity is here to stay as a cause of increased population.

But most of the increase won’t be the result of more people living longer. It’ll be the consequence of immigration. Net migration into Britain — the number of people arriving to settle here minus the number who leave permanently to set up home in a foreign country — is running at around 200,000 a year, which means we’re adding a million to the population every five years, even before the new arrivals have any children.

Ministers have promised to cut net migration by at least half, to around 100,000 a year. I doubt they will be able to keep that promise. You might think that it would not be difficult to achieve such a reduction. After all, the previous Government’s policies increased immigration. Why shouldn’t the present Government’s policies be able to diminish it?

The trouble is, it is much easier to turn the tap on (as it were) than it is to turn it off. Migrants come here because they believe they will have a much better life in Britain than they can achieve in their own countries. And very often, that is true: even when we’re in the midst of a very serious economic contraction, the gap between the standard of living here and what’s achievable in most African or Asian countries is so vast that it is worth tens of thousands of migrants every year making the expensive, and often very hazardous, journey to get here. It will continue to be so until that gap is very significantly reduced, either by a collapse in living standards here or an enormous increase in prosperity in the countries from which the migrants come — neither of which seems likely to happen in the next 16 years.

16 Oct 2011

Over the past decade, since Labour implemented policies to encourage immigration, word has got out that it is not difficult to get into Britain, and that it is well worth it once you do. It will be difficult for the present Government, or its successors, to reverse that perception. Increased border security may help, but since no one knows how many “illegals” slip through the existing system, it is hard to know how much difference it will make. We can, however, be sure that if the Government succeeds in making it more difficult for people to settle here legally, the principal effect will be to increase the number who try the illegal route.

Most of the migrants settle in the South East, because that’s where the jobs are. The empty parts of the UK — Northern Scotland, say, or the mountains of Wales — are that way because there’s far less that’s economically viable for people to do. The scary part of population growth is that it will be squashed into the parts of Britain that already amongst the most densely populated in Europe.

Worse, there is no plan from the Government on how to build the infrastructure that will be needed. To take just one example: more than a million new school places will be needed for the children of immigrants in the next decade. The cost is likely to be in the region of £100billion. Where will the money come from? Where will the space for the new school buildings, and the tens of thousands new houses that will also be needed, come from? Or the extra roads? The cars, the buses, trains, plumbing, cables?

Life doesn’t have to be worse when there are seven million more people in the South East. But it is not easy to see how it can be better — especially when no one has any idea of how to stop it amounting to one colossal traffic jam.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]