Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111114

Financial Crisis
»Asian Shares Up, Betting on Italy and Mario Monti
»Berlusconi Bravado Outmatched by Market
»Berlusconi Toppled, Brussels Man Installed to Run Italy
»Citizens Will ‘Revolt’ Against Markets, French Regulator Warns
»Dutch Cabinet Rejects PVV Flirt With Guilder
»ECB Bond Purchases Down by Half
»EU Commissioner: Belgium Could Become the Next Greece
»Greece: Connections Islands — Mainland at Risk
»Greece: Most Back New PM, Coalition, Poll Shows
»Greece’s Nine Casinos See 18.4% Decline
»Greece: Samaras: No New Austerity Measures
»Greece: Papademos: A Choice Against Politics
»Is France the Next Victim?
»Italy: Unicredit to Boost Capital, Cut Jobs
»Italy: Monti Sets 2013 as Condition for New Government Duration
»Japan to Help if Eurozone Works on Crisis
»Markets Celebrate Berlusconi Exit
»Grover Norquist and the Iran Lobby
»Accused in Canal Deaths Said Daughters Betrayed Islam
Europe and the EU
»A Strange Study on Italian Nepotism
»Europol Wants to Host EU Cyber Crime Centre
»Germany: The Brown Army Faction: A Disturbing New Dimension of Far-Right Terror
»Italy: Deputy Berlusconi Has ‘40 Court Dates Through May’
»Italy: Monti Enters the Fray, Growth-Equity Programme Called
»Norway: Court Won’t Let Breivik Talk to Victims’ Families
»Norway: Trio Face Trial in Oslo for Cartoonist Attack Plot
»The EU’s Architects Never Meant it to be a Democracy
»UK: Commons Diversity Measures Urged
North Africa
»Algeria: 900 Mosques: Prayer Halls Shut for ‘National Security’
»Egypt: Libya Imposes Visa, Empty Planes
»Libya: Jibril Accuses NATO Countries and Qatar Over Fall of Gaddafi and Libya’s Future
»Libya: EU Commission Supports Mine Clearance Actions
»Media: Information Risks Islamisation After Arab Uprisings
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Defending Israeli Democracy
»Italian Project for Gaza Eco-Sustainable Schools
Middle East
»Berlin Considers Stronger Sanctions: US and Israel Demand Greater Measures Against Tehran
»Syria: Ashton: Enormous Concern, EU Backs Arab League
South Asia
»Indonesia: Bogor: Mayor Shuts Down Access Roads to Yasmin Church, Thus Breaking the Law
»Pakistan: Malik Denies London Arrests for Farooq Killing
Far East
»APEC Ends Amid Rows Over the Yuan and a Proposal for Transpacific Free Trade
Culture Wars
»Judge Endorses Censorship of Old Glory
»Men Sue Swedish Police for Sexual Discrimination
»Netherlands: Catholic Priest, 81, May Use Human Rights Law to Fight Celibacy Rule
»Aliens Don’t Need a Moon Like Ours
»Look Underground to Seek Signs of Life on Mars
»Mathematics as the Raw Material for Art
»Parasites Drove Human Genetic Variation
»The Dangers of Legitimizing Muslim Grievances

Financial Crisis

Asian Shares Up, Betting on Italy and Mario Monti

Hong Kong is up by 2.4 per cent, Tokyo by 1.21 and Seoul by 2.11. The appointment of a new Italian prime minister is the cause, analysts say. Many believe he will bring Italy’s and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis under control. However, some wonder if the “seizure” of national sovereignty will lead to a world government under international finance.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) — Asian shares are up after weeks of decline or stagnation. Analysts believe the change is due to reassuring news from Italy following the appointment of Mario Monti as the country’s new prime minister, and the belief that he can contribute to solving Italy’s and the Euro’s crises. However, in Italy, not everyone is happy about the appointment, concerned that it represents a “seizure” of national sovereignty in favour of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Hong Kong shares rose 2.40 per cent by the end of the morning session on Monday. In Tokyo, stocks rose 1.21 per cent, whilst in Seoul, the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) jumped by 2.11 per cent.

Everyone agrees that the positive signals are a response to a less pessimistic assessment of the Euro crisis and the sovereign debt problem in the eurozone.

However, Italy’s deficit represented 4.6 per cent of gross domestic product last year, similar to that of Germany and less than that of France, 7.1 per cent, and the UK, 10.3 per cent.

Italian banks are also in good health and have passed several European tests. Italians are also one the eurozone’s biggest savers. However, Italian government securities were targeted, reducing their value.

“Italy has a potentially high economic performance, yet it needs huge efforts to unleash it in a structural and permanent fashion,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy said.

In order to reduce Italy’s sovereign debt, the ECB imposed Mario Monti at the helm of a “technical” government to implement necessary reforms and cuts to avoid the country’s (and the Euro’s) bankruptcy.

Mario Monti, 68, a Yale University graduate, was an adviser to Goldman Sachs and a European commissioner. Currently, he is the president of Milan’s Bocconi University.

The decision by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to appoint him as prime minister was met with satisfaction by the ECB and the International Monetary Fund.

However, many in Italy are asking why the BCE should have such a large sway in Italian politics and wondering whether its action amounts to a surrender of national sovereignty.

A month ago, economist Maurizio d’Orlando note in AsiaNews that the Italian crisis was manufactured (see Maurizio d’Orlando, “Moody’s, instability and the world’s single currency,” AsiaNews, 7 October 2011) in order to mess up the world, and “force a single central bank upon the world’s nations, controlled by same world financial interests who monopolise the derivatives market,” i.e. “the same people” who are “responsible for the recent derivatives bubble.”

Other agree. Writing in Corrispondenza romana, Prof Roberto de Mattei, said, “The undeclared goal of the ECB is the liquidation of nation-states. Presented as an economic necessity, the European Union is a clear ideological choice. It does not entail the birth of a strong European state, but rather a polycentric and chaos-ridden non-state, with many decision-making centres with complex and contradictory tasks. We are confronted with a shift of power not towards a single institution but towards a plurality of international institutions, whose jurisdictions are voluntarily unclear. This situation is characterised by a great confusion and latent or manifest tendency towards a conflict of powers. [. . .] with such a lack of sovereignty,” the situation “would lead to a supreme world authority. In a speech given in New York on 26 April 2010 to the Council of Foreign Relations, former ECB president Trichet explicitly mentioned the need and urgency for a super world government that sets the economic and financial rules to face the gloomy prospect of economic depression.”

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

Berlusconi Bravado Outmatched by Market

Rome, 14 Nov. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Earlier this month, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told reporters what he thought of the risk to Italy’s solvency as the European debt crisis sent bond yields toward euro-area records, and who he thought should fix it.

“Restaurants are full, it is difficult to reserve a seat on a plane, resorts during holidays are fully booked,” he said at a Group of 20 meeting in Cannes, France. “We really are a strong economy. I can’t see another figure on the Italian scene capable of representing Italy on the international stage. I feel obliged to stay on.”

Four days later he offered his resignation after his parliamentary majority eroded and the country’s bond yields soared past the 7 percent mark. Berlusconi made good on that pledge on Nov. 12 after parliament passed parts of a 45.5 billion-euro ($62.6 billion) austerity package aimed at restoring investor confidence and taming financing costs.

His departure paves the way for a coalition government to be led by former European Union Commissioner Mario Monti. Berlusconi remains in parliament and could lead the People of Liberty party he founded in the next elections, which are due by April 2013.

Berlusconi’s display in Cannes partly explains his appeal to Italians, who helped turn the billionaire media mogul and former lounge singer into Italy’s longest-serving prime minister and the dominant figure in Italian politics for almost two decades.

Debt Burden

Still, his self-confidence couldn’t prevent Italy from being engulfed by the region’s debt crisis and his government from unraveling. Berlusconi’s failure to deliver on pledges to spur competitiveness in Europe’s fourth-biggest economy left the country with tepid growth and a 1.9 trillion-euro debt. That’s about 120 percent of gross domestic product, the euro region’s second-highest after Greece.

Under Berlusconi, 75, the country that produced Fiat SpA, Bulgari SpA and Benetton Group SpA became better known for the premier’s Bunga Bunga parties with young women, corruption trials and diplomatic missteps.

“A country like Italy can’t be represented by Berlusconi, who made us the laughing stock of the world,” said Santo Versace, co-chairman of fashion house Gianni Versace SpA and a member of parliament who quit Berlusconi’s coalition Sept. 29.

Sex Scandal

In addition to his failed response to contagion from the region’s two-year debt crisis, the premier is currently on trial in four different cases. Criminal accusations that he paid for sex with a 17-year-old nightclub dancer known as Ruby Heart- Stealer and then used the power of his office to cover his tracks may have done the most damage to his public support.

The publication of wiretapped phone conversations and testimony describing the parties she attended, plus details of soirees with dozens of other young women, outraged opponents and hurt Berlusconi’s standing with core supporters in a country where more than 95 percent of the population describe themselves as Catholic. His approval rating fell to a record-low 22 percent in October, less than half the level at the start of last year, according to a poll by IPR Marketing released Nov. 1.

The revelations also helped cement a rift with Gianfranco Fini, co-founder of the People of Liberty party. His break with the premier in July 2010 began the slow bleed of Berlusconi’s parliamentary majority.

Gift of the Gaffe

Berlusconi was known more outside Italy for his gaffes than for his accomplishments. After Barack Obama became the first African-American elected to the U.S. presidency, Berlusconi quipped that he admired his suntan. He told a German lawmaker he’d make a great Nazi prison guard in a forthcoming movie.

Weeks after the September 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the premier said world leaders were planning to shut global stock markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as much as 8.1 percent that day.

Under Berlusconi, the country’s international political influence waned, yet he saw himself as front and center on the world stage. At various times he took credit for persuading U.S. leaders to bail out Wall Street, ending Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia and persuading Obama to forge an agreement with Russia on reducing nuclear arms.

“When the Republican administration didn’t lift a finger to save Lehman Brothers, this gentleman went to Washington and spent an entire day speaking with the American president,” he told the Senate in Rome on Sept. 30 this year, speaking of himself. “After that, the decision came out to make $700 billion available to ensure that the American banks didn’t collapse because otherwise there would have been a disaster.”

French-German Chuckle

Reports of Berlusconi’s sexual exploits and his regular diplomatic faux-pas helped alienate his European allies, who increasingly distanced themselves from the premier rather than standing shoulder-to-shoulder as debt woes spread and his government teetered. At an Oct. 23 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy began chuckling when asked whether they had confidence in Berlusconi.

“In England or America, people would laugh at him,” said Maurizio Viroli, professor of political theory at Princeton University and author of “The Liberty of Servants: Berlusconi’s Italy.” “They would consider him a buffoon, not a politician. Italians love appearances. They prefer actors to people who make them think.”

Public Support

Many Italians found Berlusconi, with his electric smile, permanent tan, constantly shifting hairline and incessant quips, more a game-show host than statesman. Still, he earned public support that saw get him elected three times. He governed for more than half of the past 17 years, a feat in a country that has averaged almost one government a year since World War II…

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

Berlusconi Toppled, Brussels Man Installed to Run Italy

A former EU commissioner has been installed as prime minister of Italy after right-wing leader Silvio Berlusconi bowed to the pressure of financial markets and resigned on Saturday evening. Mario Monti was appointed head of government by President Georgio Napolitano on Sunday (13 November) to set up a tight cabinet of technocrats with the aim of pushing through radical economic policy changes.

Monti served as internal market and financial services commissioner from 1995 to 1999 and then took over the competition dossier at the EU executive from 1999 to 2004. The Brussels man, who in a highly unusual manoeuvre was appointed senator for life on 9 November by the president in order to lay the ground for his installation in the country’s top office, is understood to want to form a slimmed-down cabinet of some 12 non-politicians, although Monti would not say who he will appoint as ministers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Citizens Will ‘Revolt’ Against Markets, French Regulator Warns

Citizens will end up revolting against the “de facto dictatorship” of the financial markets, Jean-Pierrer Jouyet, head of France’s national financial regulator AMF, told Journal du Dimanche. He noted that three eurozone governments have already fallen due to market demands over excessive debt, with Italy’s government the latest to go.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Cabinet Rejects PVV Flirt With Guilder

THE HAGUE, 12/11/11 — Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager has rejected the Party for Freedom’s (PVV) initiative to have research carried out into the possible reintroduction of the guilder.

PVV leader Geert Wilders said Friday in De Telegraaf that his party wants an investigation of the costs and the effect of reintroduction of the former Dutch currency. De Jager said that the research would show that the costs would be enormous. He stressed that the euro has yielded much benefit for the Netherlands, such as low inflation and limited unemployment.

The opposition Labour (PvdA) party also sees little in the proposed research. “How can a change in the means of exchange solve the underlying problems of our economy?” asked PvdA MP Diederik Samsom.

Wilders said he would hire “a renowned international bureau” to investigate whether bringing back the guilder would benefit the Dutch economy. If the report is positive, he will ask the cabient to call a referendum on leaving the euro.

“The cabinet is frightening us by telling us the lights will go out if we leave the euro. Of course it will cost money, but I want to know if going back to the guilder will deliver more in the long term,” Wilders said in De Telegraaf.

Dutch central bank (DNB) president Klaas Knot warned on Thursday against open speculation about the collapse of the euro. “There is already enough speculation about this on the markets. If they get the impression that they will win, the appetite will only grow for speculating further on this.”

The DNB president was speaking on Thursday with the chairman of the Financial Markets Authority (AFM), Ronald Gerritse, in the Lower House about the 2010 annual reports of the two organisations. Knot said the European central bank can carry on for a long time with buying up state bonds of eurozone countries that see the interest on their state bonds rise sharply. “But we have the longest part behind us.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

ECB Bond Purchases Down by Half

The European Central Bank said Monday that its purchases of eurozone bonds were down by more than half to 4.48 billion euros ($6.1 billion) in the past week. In the previous week to November 4, it had bought 9.52 billion euros worth of eurozone government bonds.

The ECB, as usual, did not specify which government bonds it had bought. But the ECB has now bought a total 187 billion euros in eurozone government bonds since it first began such operations early last year as part of efforts to ease debt strains in the 17-nation bloc. It resumed major purchases in August when renewed strains pushed Italian and Spanish borrowing rates to unsustainable levels.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Commissioner: Belgium Could Become the Next Greece

Belgian EU commissioner Karel De Gucht has warned that his country could be in line to suffer a Greek-and-Italian-type loss of market confidence if it does not quickly form a new government. “Italy and Greece have been saved for now because they will have a new government. It may very well be that the financial markets look around and say: ‘Who’s next?’ And then I think that Belgium is one of the possible victims,” he said on national TV on Sunday (13 November).

Belgium has struggled to form a coalition government for the past 517 days — a world record — amid still-growing differences between its francophone south and Dutch-speaking north. At the same time, it has the EU’s third largest debt-to-GDP ratio after Greece and Italy: almost 100 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Connections Islands — Mainland at Risk

(by Furio Morroni) (ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 14 — Quite a large number of Greek islands (not only the ones located at the biggest distance from the mainland) risk to be isolated from the mainland in the next months, due financial issues to be tackled by coastal navigation companies and by the State intervention in the transport sector during one of the worst financial crises the country ever experienced. Losses for navigation companies are increasing, fuel prices remain high and the number of passengers and vehicles continues to decrease over the previous years, as stated in the yearly report published by XRTC Business Consultants Ltd., a Greek company providing consulting services in the sector of freight shipping, in July. In the first nine months of 2011, several coastal navigation companies listed on the Stock Exchange lost over 100 million euros, due to a drop in bookings (both for passengers and vehicles) and to the increase in fuel costs. Last year, total loss in the sector totalled 300 million euros. The navigation companies’ representatives, in an attempt at saving the ship industry and keeping connections between the country’s mainland and Greek islands asked the government to adopt more flexible policies and adapt Greece’s institutional framework to European Union law. According to the popular daily newspaper Kathimerini , the companies insist on the necessity to adopt a new approach to the main obstacles preventing the sector from growing. Among other requests, shipbuilders are asking to be free to determine the duration of labour contracts with their sailor men and abolish permanent annual contracts. Companies maintain that the existing laws are not compliant with Community law and must therefore be changed. According to the sector representatives, another important aspect of the matter is planning of labour contracts and work schedules on vessels such as catamarans and high-speed single-hull ships. However, such vessels and their crews’ contracts have a maximum duration of five months. According to existing laws, companies are obliged to hire crews for a minimum duration of 10 months and to provide ferry transport services for seven months and a half. This generates an increase of operational costs and in the price of tickets. Finally, the representatives of the sector urged the government to cancel the maximum threshold in the price of tickets and abolish the additional 3% tax on all tickets, in order to collect funds for financing services on public service routes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Most Back New PM, Coalition, Poll Shows

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 14 — More than half of Greeks have a positive view of the new prime minister, former European Central Bank Vice President Lucas Papademos, with only two in 10 expressing a negative opinion about him, according to a new poll published in Sunday’s Kathimerini. A total of 55% of respondents welcomed Papademos’s appointment while 18% had a negative view, according to the poll carried out by Public Issue. The survey also found that more than 70% of those questioned applauded the decision of the two main parties — socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy — to move toward the formation of a unity government. As regards Papademos’s potential for managing the country’s dire finances, 45% of respondents said they trusted him to do so, although 35% said they did not. If snap polls were to be held now, neither of the two main parties would emerge with enough votes to form a majority government, according to the poll which found that 28.5% would vote for ND, 19.5% for PASOK and a surprisingly high 12% for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), with the Communist Party (KKE) garnering 11%, right-wing LAOS 8.5%, the Democratic Left 7.5% and the Ecologist Greens 3.5%. The Public Issue poll found that the Democratic Alliance — led by former conservative Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis — would not enter Parliament, garnering just 2.5% of the vote, half a percentage point below the 3% minimum threshold required. Nearly three in 10 voters (or 27%) said they would not cast ballots. The survey also asked respondents what they believed the country’s biggest problems were. Six in 10 (58%) said the economy, 34% cited rising unemployment, while 29% saw Greek politicians and the political system as the country’s biggest burden.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece’s Nine Casinos See 18.4% Decline

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 14 — Turnover at the Greece’s nine casinos has been hit as a result of the economic crisis, daily Kathimerini reports today. Total turnover at the casinos of Loutraki, Parnitha, Thessaloniki, Rio, Rhodes, Xanthi, Halkidiki, Syros and Corfu posted an 18.4% decline in the January-September period this year from the same period in 2010, amounting to 319.5 million euros. Total bets recorded a 13.2% drop compared to the first nine months of last year, amounting to 1.68 billion. The total number of punters visiting casinos in the year to September dropped by 6.1% to 2,126,868. Loutraki casino maintains the lead, with more bets and a greater turnover than its peers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Samaras: No New Austerity Measures

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 14 — Antonis Samaras, the leader of Nea Dimocratia, the main Greek opposition party (centre-right) stated earlier today that his group will not vote in favour of further austerity measures brought about by the new coalition government led by new Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and confirmed that financial policies that international creditors are asking Athens to implement must be modified.

Samaras stated this during a speech he delivered this morning to the Nea Dimocratia parliamentary group. Samaras harshly criticised former Prime Minister Giorgio Papandreou and his financial policies. He also labelled the initiative of the referendum put forward by the former PM as “unbelievable. “Nea Dimocratia — Samaras stated — took the initiative to save the Country to ensure liquidity with the help of the new aid package, implementation of early elections and the permanence of our Country in the European Union”. After having stated once again that “Papademos’ government is a provisional government” and that “participation of leading members of Nea Dimocratia in the government des not mean that we take part in the government with Pasok”, Samaras has urged his party’s MPs to vote in favour of the Papademos’ government. Nea Dimocratia leader also reiterated that he will not sign documents required by the EU to release the sixth instalment of aid, amounting to eight billion euros. “I have already signed the agreements with Pasok before the President of the Republic, this is enough” Samaras stated, adding that “I am not questioning what has been signed by my Country; however, we will try to change what can be changed and certainly Nea Dimocratia will not vote in favour of new austerity measures”. Samaras confirmed that, in his opinion, “elections will regularly take place on the set date, on February 19th”. Samaras concluded by stating that “We need to be realistic, the situation is difficult, not only for Greece, but also for Europe”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Papademos: A Choice Against Politics

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — After five days of talks, announcements, denials and rifts between parties, the name of Lucas Papademos was finally agreed on Thursday. It was certainly a historic day for Greece, not only because the country’s two biggest political parties succeeded in reaching a deal on the name of the Prime Minister who, it is hoped, will save the country from economic disaster, but also because Papademos, who is not a part of the Greek political system (which the outgoing Prime Minister, George Papandreou, himself called “corrupt), thanks to the reaction of citizens and of many deputies from both parties, prevailed over figures wanted by Papandreou, according to the suggestions of the leader of the centre-right New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras.

Over these five days, Papandreou’s preferences for new Prime Minister were interpreted by many people as an attempt to remain on the political scene at all costs. The choice of Filippos Petsalnikos, the chair of Parliament, a close colleague and personal friend of many years, brought immediate reactions from a number of MPs from both major parties, who threatened not to vote for him. Papandreou was therefore forced to backtrack and to accept Lucas Papademos, the figure that everyone was expecting and whose name had been in the ring since the first day of the political crisis. After all, not least amid the announcement of the referendum on Greece’s stay on in the Eurozone, it was clear that Papandreou, with his tactical ploys and choices, drew attention to the issue of the Pasok party’s leadership on the day that his term expired.

The Greeks, who followed the talks between the two parties with indignation are now asking themselves if Papademos will succeed in such a difficult task? The question is not only not easy to answer, it is impossible. There are a great number of difficulties and the characteristics of the new government make decisions and, crucially, their implementation, even more difficult. The lengthy delay in handing out government roles is proof of continuing negotiations between parties, which could create more major problems.

“In order to solve Greece’s problems soon and in the best possible way,” Papademos told journalists after being appointed by the country’s President, Karolos Papoulias, the ingredients needed are “unity, understanding and wisdom”. As Daniel Gross, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, told Deutsche Welle, the three words “were used in vain by Papademos, because none of them apply to Greek politicians, unions or public sector workers”. “The Greek Parliament has voted in the laws wanted by the IMF, the EU and the ECB, but few of them have been implemented because public administration bodies have prevented them from being introduced and unions have reacted with force,” he added. It is impossible to disagree. The latest guarantees requested of Greece by creditors are down to the fact that necessary measures, decided as part of a common agreement with the so-called troika (IMF, EU and ECB), have not been implemented.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Is France the Next Victim?

President Nicolas Sarkozy is not ready to admit it, but France has begun to fear that it will be next in the markets’ firing line as the debt crisis spreads from Greece and Italy. The ratings agency Standard and Poor’s gave Paris a jolt on Thursday, announcing “in error” it had downgraded France’s creditworthiness. It withdrew the statement, but other signs of trouble are mounting.

The “spread” or gap between French and German 10-year bond yields has never been higher, as investors skip over France and invest in its safer neighbour, and the government’s borrowing costs are rising. France now pays 3.46 percent interest on its bonds, more than twice as much as Germany, although still around half as much as Italy does — for now.

At stake is France’s coveted “AAA” credit rating, any downgrade would be a humiliation for Sarkozy six months before he is due to seek re-election, and a blow for European leaders in their battle to save the euro. “After Greece and Italy, France?” worried Le Monde’s Friday headline, over a stark graphic showing France’s €1.7 trillion debt just short of Italy’s 1.9 trillion and dwarfing Europe’s trillion-euro bail-out fund.

This week Sarkozy scrambled to promise a second round of austerity measures, but Brussels was quick to call them insufficient, markets were unimpressed and some believe the crisis is already here.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Unicredit to Boost Capital, Cut Jobs

New strategic plan aims at returning to profitability

(ANSA) — Milan, November 14 — Italy’s biggest bank UniCredit on Monday announced a 7.5-billion-euro rights issue and said it would cut over 5,000 jobs in Italy as part of a new strategic plan which aims to return Italy’s biggest bank to profitability after the beating it has taken during the recent financial crisis.

The plan, approved by the bank’s board of directors in the morning, also calls for downsizing its activities in investment banking in order to concentrate on the less volatile retail and corporate banking business.

A statement issued here by the bank said that “the effects of the overall slowdown in the global economic environment, coupled with the European sovereign debt crisis and continued significant market volatility require a clear discontinuity on capital and liquidity, costs, business focus and ‘Italy Turnaround’“.

According to UniCredit, these “four pillars” would underpin a return to profitability by the end of 2015, “ensuring sustainable growth despite a challenging macroeconomic outlook”.

In the statement capital and liquidity was also referred to as “balance sheet structure”, while costs involved “simplification and cost management” and business focus was actually a “refocus”.

The bank said “the effects from implementation of the first three pillars will benefit the group as a whole, although in different measures across different business units, all three will come together in full in Italy, unlocking the full profitability potential of the Italian Commercial Business perimeter”.

The 7.5-billion-euro hike in capital will be the biggest by a bank in Europe in more than a year and should take place within the first three months of 2012, even in January if market conditions permit.

The bank’s board on Monday also approved a plan to exchange old ordinary and savings shares for new ones at a ratio of ten old shares for one new one.

UniCredit said the rights issue will boost its Core Tier 1 to 10.35% with Basel 2 and 9% with Basel 3, while its Common Equity Tier 1 ratio stood at 9.3% already in September 2011 and should be above 10% by 2015.

The capital increase became imperative after the bank’s share value plummeted during the recent speculation on Italy’s sovereign debt, of which UniCredit holds some 38 billion euros. It is also necessary in order to meet tighter European union requirements.

A drop in profits was said to be one of the factors leading the bank to cut its work force and not to pay a dividend for 2011.

Write-offs were responsible for losses for the bank of over 10.64 million euros in the third quarter but UniCredit said it expected to post a profit of 6.5 billion euros once its new plan has been fully implemented by the end of 2015.

This profit would be the result of a return on tangible equity (ROTE) of 12% while already this should reach 7.9% in 2013 to allow for a profit of 3.8 billion euros.

The 5,200 job cuts in Italy were part of the ‘simplification and cost management pillar’ and UniCredit explained that “through simplification of the organizational structure, downsizing of corporate centers/ governance functions, stricter procurement criteria and real estate optimization UniCredit will be able to bolster profitability notwithstanding the current weak macroeconomic scenario”.

In regard to the fourth ‘pillar, Italy turnaround, the bank explained that “the ultimate goal of the plan in Italy is to restore the role of UniCredit as an efficient and innovative leading commercial bank, close to and well entrenched in the territories it serves whilst offering domestic clients full access to a broader international network’.

“Leveraging on an advanced multi-channel offer of products and services, building on well established relationships with entrepreneurs and investing in the growth of Fineco are the most relevant initiatives embedded in this key pillar of the Plan”.

Aside from Italy, UniCredit said it intended to focus its attention on its core businesses in Austria, Germany, Poland and Turkey.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Sets 2013 as Condition for New Government Duration

(AGI) Rome- New Prime Minister Mario Monti stated that he will form a government on the condition that it will stand till 2013. Monti demands that the vote of confidence from the Italian Parliament, the final step in making his formal nomination a reality, include the duration of his new government until the end of a term of office of a legislature.

“The time scale in which the government I am working to form is placed, runs between today and the end of the term in spring of 2013,” Monti stated during a press conference.

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

Japan to Help if Eurozone Works on Crisis

Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda said Sunday that Japan would help the eurozone if the EU could demonstrate it’s working to solve its debt crisis. “We want Europe to first roll up their sleeves and work on this. If the proper stance is demonstrated, then we will make our appropriate contributions.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Markets Celebrate Berlusconi Exit

High Hopes for the ‘Italian Prussian’ in Rome

There has been a widespread sigh of relief in both Italy and the world’s financial capitals now that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has resigned. But his successor, Mario Monti, faces a steep uphill battle. Many are concerned that he won’t last long in a country full of political pitfalls.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Grover Norquist and the Iran Lobby

By Clare M. Lopez and David Reaboi

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released this week shows that Iran has made considerable progress in its nuclear weapons program. This alarming move toward a deliverable nuclear capability also demonstrates the dangerous consequences of the efforts-from 2007 through at least 2010-by a group of Washington anti-Israel activists and lobbyists who went to bat for the Islamic Republic through an organization known as the Campaign for a New American Policy for Iran (CNAPI).

This report is about the ways that Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) supported CNAPI activities, through support for a second organization, the American Conservative Defense Alliance (ACDA), a founder and leader of the CNAPI campaign. The policies for which CNAPI lobbied became the do-nothing Iranian policies of the Obama campaign in 2008 and of the Obama administration to the present day: no support for the Iranian Green movement and Iranian democracy activists, few or no economic sanctions, and no military option. And advocacy for unconditional negotiations, as Obama had advocated during the 2008 campaign.

The report first describes all the connections among Norquist’s ATR, and the lobbying groups ACDA and CNAPI — and then why those connections created dangerous consequences for national security.


More than just a founding member, ACDA actually hosted the November 2007 formation meeting of about 30 largely left-wing and Islamist organizations (including the Council on American Islamic Relations — CAIR) to form CNAPI, as reported on June 10 2008 in the New York Sun and the Global Muslim Brotherhood Report.

And where did they host it? According to the Sun, “at the headquarters of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington.”

But this support by Norquist’s ATR for ACDA and CNAPI was immediately obfuscated in the New York Sun article by statements from leaders of both groups. The Sun wrote of ATR that “A spokesman for that group said it was not involved in the Iran issue,” and of the ACDA that “The president of the American Conservative Defense Alliance, Michael Ostrolenk, said his group has office space in the building and borrowed the conference room for the session.”

ACDA did indeed have office space in the building. As the ACDA archived website shows, from 2008 through 2009 ACDA’s address was in the identical office suite — Suite 200 at 1920 L St., Suite 200, Washington DC — as Americans for Tax Reform, as the ATR archived website from the same time shows.

And when ATR moved to a new address (722 12th ST NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20005), ACDA had office space in that building as well, yet again in the same office suite — Suite 400 — as ATR, as seen in this June 2010 archived ACDA webpage (722 12 St., NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20005). Just scroll down to the bottom of the webpages to see the addresses.

However, ACDA had been based at ATR’s offices months earlier than the November 2007 CNAPI meeting reported by the New York Sun. We know this due to the recent public release of emails exposed as evidence from an ongoing 2009 libel lawsuit (595 F.Supp.2d 99 (2009), Trita PARSI and National Iranian American Council, Plaintiffs, v. Seid Hassan Daioleslam, Defendant). An email dated June 14, 2007 from Michael Ostrolenk, ACDA’s Co-founder/Director, to Babak Talebi and Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) among others, invited them all to a meeting at “our office,” using the ATR’s Suite 200 address in his email signature.

There is also evidence that ACDA hosted at least one other meeting on January 21, 2009, while they were still based in the ATR Suite 200 at the L Street address. As exposed in the “Meeting Minutes” from the Parsi v. Diaoleslam evidence, ACDA hosted a meeting for the full CNAPI group. The minutes state that this meeting included a group decision, among “legislative goals for the 111th Congress,” to “End the democracy fund as we know it.”

From a financial perspective, ATR’s hosting meetings and apparently providing office space ( in not one but two different offices) was a kind of “material support” — a thing of value. But some people might find providing office space, as ATR did for ACDA, and hosting meetings, as ATR did for CNAPI, to be insignificant connections, because Norquist never publicly joined the CNAPI group. Not only did Norquist never come out publicly himself as a CNAPI signer, even NIAC director Trita Parsi noted in an April 24, 2008 email that Norquist had not publicly “signed on” to the CNAPI effort.

But Parsi did emphasize that Norquist “offered his support,” stating:

“An example of this outreach was demonstrated when Grover Norquist offered his support but did not sign on. He exemplifies not just a powerful voice in the Republican Party, but also an important figure that can provide transpartisan legitimacy to our efforts. I think it is critical that we do whatever can be done to get him to sign on, especially since his full involvement would give our efforts a tremendous credibility boost.”

Some may find it merely coincidental that Norquist was providing office space (twice) to ACDA at ATR, and also hosting CNAPI meetings at ATR, and also was identified in an email as a supporter by CNAPI leader and NIAC lobbyist Trita Parsi. Perhaps really to prove Norquist’s involvement in ACDA’s partnership with CNAPI, we would need to show that he held positions of authority within ACDA — as an officer or director, for example. And Grover Norquist was never an officer or a director of ACDA.

But his wife, Samah Norquist, was both.

According to the now-archived ACDA websites, from 2008 — 2010, Samah Norquist was an ACDA Director and also an ACDA Officer, as Secretary on the Board of Directors. According to emails released as evidence from the Parsi v. Diaoleslam lawsuit, she was also cc’ed on CNAPI and Iran-related lobbying emails starting in 2007.

Therefore, given this well-documented evidence, a reasonable conclusion suggests that Grover Norquist’s ATR — with his extensive political connections and influence — had strong connections to ACDA and CNAPI, the Campaign for a New American Policy for Iran, through both his wife’s formal position in the governance of ACDA, and through ATR’s provision for over three years, from 2007 through 2010, of office and meeting space…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]


Accused in Canal Deaths Said Daughters Betrayed Islam

Court hears wiretap conversations recorded before arrests

The day before a Montreal man was charged with killing his three daughters and his first wife, he was caught on a wiretap saying that even if he is hoisted onto the gallows, nothing is more important than his honour.

“They betrayed kindness. They betrayed Islam. They betrayed our religion and creed. They betrayed our tradition. They betrayed everything,” Mohammad Shafia, 58, is heard telling his wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, in the conversation recorded by police.

Shafia, Yahya and their eldest son, Hamed Mohammad Shafia, 20, are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

Three teenage Shafia sisters, Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, were found dead inside a car submerged in the Rideau Canal in June 2009.

Police planted a microphone in the Shafia family van after family members returned to Kingston to collect the victims’ belongings. On Tuesday, the courtroom in Kingston, Ont, listened to wiretap conversations recorded in the three weeks between the day the bodies were found and the arrests.

Police planted a microphone in the family van, as well as in the Shafia home in Montreal’s Saint-Leonard neighbourhood.

During the taped exchanges, Shafia can be heard saying “even if they hoist us onto the gallows … we have not done anything bad.”…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Strange Study on Italian Nepotism

These are dark days for Italy. The country’s bond yields are way up; Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi looks to be on his way out. And Italian soccer superstar Antonio Cassano is in the hospital recovering from a suspected stroke.

What better time then to blog about a strange new study about Italian nepotism? Authors Ruben Durante, Giovanna Labartino and Roberto Perotti study the effects that a 1998 law decentralizing the hiring process at Italian universities had on levels of nepotism. Pre-1998, candidates for academic positions were selected through a national process. After 1998, however, universities were given the power to hire their own professors. The researchers found that this decentralization led to increased nepotism in areas of “low civic capital,” but not in areas of “high civic capital.” From the abstract:

Decentralization can lead to “good” or “bad” outcomes depending on the socio-cultural norms of the targeted communities. We investigate this issue by looking at the evolution of familism and nepotism in the Italian academia before and after the 1998 reform…

By far the most interesting part of this study is the researchers’ treatment of the term “civic capital,” something they define loosely, yet measure very narrowly. Their definition of a region with high civic capital is “an area where citizens are generally more politically involved and better informed,” and where individuals are “prone to internalize the social costs of their actions and the public is equally more likely to monitor the conduct of public officials.”

How do they measure such behavior? By just two things: the size of non-sport newspaper readership, and the rates of blood donation. So, what they’re essentially saying is that reading the news (outside of the sports page) and donating blood are strong indicators of one’s high civic capital. It’s certainly an interesting way of measuring a pretty vague concept. But surely there must be a more robust method. What about rates of voting? Or crime maybe?

Go ahead readers, how would you measure a region’s civic capital?

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

Europol Wants to Host EU Cyber Crime Centre

The EU’s joint policy body, Europol, is angling to host a new European cyber crime centre, with the European Commission due next year to decide where to put its new defence against the threat. With Europol already dealing with forensics and investigation of online crimes, placing an EU cyber crime centre on its premises would be ‘the natural choice’, says its deputy director of operations.

“We are in the business anyway, so this would be the natural choice. It’s also more cost-efficient, because you wouldn’t need to set up from scratch another EU agency,” Troels Oerting, Europol’s deputy chief in charge of operations and international co-operation told this website. In cases ranging from online scams to child pornography videos, Europol experts can assist national police from one or several member states, but they cannot investigate on their own. From 2014 on, when new rules kick in, its staff may be given more powers to gather evidence in the virtual world.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: The Brown Army Faction: A Disturbing New Dimension of Far-Right Terror

Germany has been shocked by a series of revelations relating to a trio of neo-Nazis who appear to have carried out a crime wave lasting for over a decade. They are suspected of murdering nine immigrants and a policewoman as well as a series of bank robberies. The evidence points to a new kind of right-wing terrorism unlike anything Germany has seen.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Deputy Berlusconi Has ‘40 Court Dates Through May’

Rome, 14 Nov. (AKI) — Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation as Italian prime minister means he will be busy defending himself in court.

The billionaire politician has 40 court dates through the end of May, according to a report in Turin-daily La Stampa.

As a deputy of Parliament, Berlusconi, 75, will no longer be covered by a law that allows him to not appear in court if it is considered a conflict with his schedule as a minister.

After dominating Italian politics for 17 years, Berlusconi, resigned on Saturday under pressure by the financial markets which were punishing the eurozone’s third-richest country for its enormous debt and pallid economic growth.

Berlusconi is facing four trials in cases involving corruption linked to his media empire and paying a minor for sex. He denies breaking any laws.

Mario Monti on Sunday was named prime minister for an emergency government what will be responsible for overlooking austerity measures rushed through by Berlusconi’s government immediately prior to his resignation.

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

Italy: Monti Enters the Fray, Growth-Equity Programme Called

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 14 — A few minutes after being formally appointed to form a new government, Mario Monti last night broke his silence and explained the ambitious objectives of his premiership. Monti spoke of “overcoming the challenge of improvement and equity”, adding that Italy needed to “return to being an point of strength and not a weakness in Europe”. The Professor called for a “joint effort” and said that he intended to work “with a sense of responsibility and service”. Following yesterday’s meetings with the chairs of both chambers of Parliament, talks begin today with political parties over the make-up of the new government and the new executive’s programme, the final step before Monti can take office as Prime Minister.

Monti said that he was well aware that “our country is going through a particularly difficult period” and said that his target was to ensure once again that Italy becomes a “main player” in Europe, outlining a programme of “efforts to restore the financial situation and focus on growth with greater attention to social equity”. “We owe it to our children,” he added. “We must give them a solid future of dignity and hope”.

Among the first measures that Monti wants to submit for the approval of the Council of Ministers are a tax on property, the reintroduction of a local housing tax (ICI) and the bringing forward of the increase in pensionable age to 67 before the year 2026. This is where the problems begin, with Monti faced with the task of forcing parties to “swallow” the new measures. “I am preparing for this task with complete respect for Parliament and for political forces,” he said. “I will work to make the most of common efforts to emerge from a situation that bears the characteristics of an emergency but one that Italy can overcome with a joint effort”. Monti intends to hold talks “with a sense of urgency but with great care” before naming his team. It is not certain, as was announced last night, that Monti will make his decisions known this evening.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norway: Court Won’t Let Breivik Talk to Victims’ Families

Anders Behring Breivik, who confessed to the massacre of 77 people in Norway in July, tried in vain to make a show of his first public court appearance Monday, but was blocked from addressing the families of his victims. The Oslo district court ruled that Behring Breivik would remain in custody until February 6th, when a new custody extension hearing will be held, and announced a possible trial start-date of April 16th.

The 32-year-old right-wing extremist, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and light blue tie and sporting a narrow beard, asked judge Torkel Nesheim if he could speak to the families “for five minutes,” but was turned down. It was the first court hearing open to survivors, victims’ family members, the media and the general public since the July 22nd killing spree.

After the hearing, his lawyer Geir Lippestad, who had asked that his client be set free, said Behring Breivik had prepared a short note, but that he did not know what he had planned to say. Behring Breivik also attempted to take advantage of his first public appearance since the attacks to make a speech. “I am a military commander in a resistance movement,” Behring Breivik said in a calm voice before questioning the legitimacy of the court to try him.

“You have been mandated by those who support multiculturalism. That is a hateful ideology that aims to destroy the Norwegian society,” he told Nesheim, who quickly interrupted him. The judge said he did not want to offer Behring Breivik “a soap box or an opportunity to justify his actions”.

Appearing calm and with a hint of a smile on his lips, the confessed killer turned repeatedly to look at the crowd in the courtroom, which looked on in stony silence. The court had initially placed a gag order on reporting Behring Breivik’s words for fear he would turn the hearing into a platform for his far-right ideology, but later lifted the order. A ban on publishing pictures or video of him remained in effect however.

Behring Breivik has admitted setting off a car bomb outside Norway’s government offices in Oslo on July 22nd, killing eight people, before going on a shooting rampage on the nearby island of Utøya where the ruling Labour Party’s youth wing was hosting a summer camp. Sixty-nine people, mostly teens, died in the shooting massacre.

In a 1,500-page manifesto he published on the internet just before the attacks, Behring Breivik said he was on a crusade against Islam and professed his hatred for Western-style democracy, saying it had spawned the multicultural society he loathed. “I acknowledge the facts but I do not plead guilty,” he said, reiterating the line he has taken since his arrest on July 22nd, describing his actions as “cruel but necessary.”

If a psychiatric evaluation, which is set to conclude this month, finds Behring Breivik fit to be held criminally responsible for his acts, his trial should begin on April 16th, 2012 and last about 10 weeks, the Oslo court said. As in past hearings, Behring Breivik on Monday described his incarceration in virtual isolation as an “irrational torture method”.

Previous custody extension hearings had all been held behind closed doors for fear that Behring Breivik, who has said he acted alone in the July 22nd attacks, might communicate with possible accomplices. As the investigation has progressed, police have said the theory that Behring Breivik had helpers appeared increasingly unlikely.

In addition to extending his custody for three months, the Oslo court ruled on Monday that Behring Breivik’s visits and correspondence would be strictly restricted for the first eight weeks and he would have no access to media for the first four weeks of the renewed detention period. Since the beginning, Behring Breivik has sought as much publicity as possible. “Our shock attacks are theatre, and theatre is always performed for an audience,” he wrote in his manifesto.

Herman Heggertveit, a young survivor of the Utøya massacre, attended Monday’s hearing as “a form of therapy.” “It is very emotional and very difficult. It is like meeting another person,” the young man, wearing a pin with a Labour Party rose, told reporters. “He is arrogant, sure of himself. He is living in his own little bubble.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norway: Trio Face Trial in Oslo for Cartoonist Attack Plot

Three men believed to have ties to Al-Qaeda and suspected of plotting an attack on the Danish newspaper that printed controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons will go on trial in Norway on Tuesday. Mikael Davud, a Norwegian of Uighur origin, Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, an Iraqi Kurd residing in Norway, and David Jakobsen, an Uzbek also living in Norway, have been charged with “conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack in northern Europe”.

The three, who were arrested in July 2010, have also been charged with possession of materials used to make explosives. Police found hydrogen peroxide and acetone stored in a cellar belonging to one of them.

According to the prosecution, the trio are suspected of planning and preparing an attack against the newspaper Jyllands-Posten and/or the caricaturist Kurt Westergaard. Westergaard, 76, drew the most controversial of the 12 cartoons, featuring the Prophet Muhammad with a lit fuse in his turban, which were published in 2005 and later touched off a wave of sometimes violent protests around the Muslim world.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The EU’s Architects Never Meant it to be a Democracy

The rise of a “technocracy” was always part of the plan for Europe.

By Christopher Booker

So, as headlines scream that vain bids to save the euro threaten us with “Armageddon”, the EU’s ruling elite has toppled two more elected prime ministers, to replace them with technocratic officials who can be trusted to do Brussels’s bidding.

The new Greek prime minister, Lucas Papademos, was the man who, as head of Greece’s central bank, fiddled the figures to enable Greece to get into the euro (against the rules) in the first place — before being rewarded with a senior post in the European Central Bank. He is no more democratically elected than Mario Monti, who will most likely be Italy’s new prime minister and had hurriedly to be made a “senator for life” to qualify him for the job. Monti’s main qualification is that, as a former senior EU Commissioner, he has long been a member of the Brussels elite himself….

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Commons Diversity Measures Urged

Parliamentary candidates should have a legal right to time off work to campaign, and parties should offer bursaries to would-be MPs from poorer backgrounds, a think tank says. The Institute for Government said Westminster was “overwhelmingly white, male and middle-class”. Just one fifth of MPs are women, and 27 out of 650 are from ethnic minorities.

The cost and time involved could deter “candidates from non-traditional backgrounds”, the organisation said. The report acknowledged parties’ past diversity efforts, including all-women shortlists by Labour and the Conservatives’ “A-list” of approved candidates.

But the Institute for Government argued that improved selection methods were “only part of the answer”. “The problem is increasingly not overt or covert discrimination within political parties, but the lack of women applying to become candidates in the first place. The same is true for other under-represented groups,” the report said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 900 Mosques: Prayer Halls Shut for ‘National Security’

Algiers (AKI) — The Algerian government last week closed around 900 mosques and prayer halls throughout the country because it says they were used for meetings by suspected Islamic terrorists, Algerian newspaper El-Khabar reported on Monday.

Authorities say they Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was particularly active in the places of worship where meetings among militants took place in secret, the report said.

The prayer halls were opened illegally, El-Khabar said, ignoring laws requiring approval by the Ministry of Religious Affairs before they can be opened.

AQIM grew out of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, and has its roots in an Islamist militia involved in the civil war in the 1990s that cost between 150,000 and 200,000 lives.

In recent years it has expanded its activities to include Mali, Niger and Mauritania and is considered by experts to be the most active Al-Qaeda offshoot

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

Egypt: Libya Imposes Visa, Empty Planes

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 14 — The compulsory visa regime imposed by Libyan authorities on Egyptian citizens enters into force today in the Cairo airport. This is what the operators of the Egyptian capital airport have reported.

New provisions also provide for annulment of visas and staying permits obtained by Egyptian citizens during Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The new measures adopted by Tripoli after the Egyptian authorities had imposed a compulsory visa regime on Libyan citizens, with the aim of limiting the mass escape of Libyans citizens during the anti-Gaddafi war had a definitely negative impact on the flights connecting the two capitals. According to Cairo Airport sources, recently resumed flights directed to Libya are only filled at 15% of their capacity. Libyan authorities apply the same provisions also to citizens coming from Syria and Algeria. There are no restrictions for Tunisian citizens. Last week, Tripoli had asked Egypt to lift the compulsory visa and clearance regime for the security of Libyans wishing to access the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Jibril Accuses NATO Countries and Qatar Over Fall of Gaddafi and Libya’s Future

For the former Prime Minister of the NTC, the rais knew too many secrets. His death was useful for many foreign countries interested in advancing their economic interests. The Islamic extremists movements supported by Qatar threaten the democratic future of the country. The education of young people only credible way for the reconstruction of Libya.

Tripoli (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Gaddafi was killed at the request of powers outside Libya, for whom it was convenient to silence the Rais. He was the black box of the whole country. He had too many wheelings and dealings with too many leaders in the world. With him, unfortunately, a lot of information is gone. “ So says Mahmoud Jibril, former Prime Minister of the NTC, who in an interview with Bloomberg points out the problems and risks for the new Libya. The leader explains that the country is in the grip of Islamic extremists and foreign powers particularly interested in energy and financial resources of the former regime, rather than the welfare of the Libyan people. This is despite the democratic claims made by NATO countries shortly after the summary execution of Gaddafi on 20 October.

According to Jibril, economic interests have divided Libya. “During the fight against Gaddafi — he notes — we were all together and we were fighting for a single purpose. Now things have changed. “ The former Prime Minister stresses that the country is without a state apparatus, and this has given free rein to foreign powers interested only in oil. “No one is excluded from this fight — he says — this is the game. This is politics. “

Shortly after the fall of Tripoli under the NATO bombs, oil companies like the Italian Eni and France’s Total sent their men to sign economic contracts with the new establishment. This thanks to the protection of the NTC, which once in power moved quickly to ensure its allies a return to normal production of oil by the end of 2011. The hunger for crude oil is coupled with the Islamist ambitions of Qatar, a major funder and promoter of the mission against the Rais. The country has also trained and sent thousands of Islamic guerrillas to Libya. Led by Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a former member of al-Qaeda and the current military governor of the capital, they were the real stars of the capture of Tripoli and then the hunt for Gaddafi and his loyalists. Another important tool is the television channel Al-Jazeera. The satellite broadcaster was the first to spread the images of clashes between rebels and the army in Benghazi, legitimizing the UN resolution 1973 and the NATO bombing.

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

Libya: EU Commission Supports Mine Clearance Actions

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 14 — The European Commission is to provide additional funding of 500,000 euros to tackle the increased need for rapid clearance of unexploded ordnances and booby traps in battleground areas in Libya. According to the Enpi website (, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department will have provided almost 2 million euros in funding for humanitarian mine action in Libya once this new funding is deployed.

Kristalina Georgieva, Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response stated: “One of the major threats to civilians remains the residues of war.

Despite the cessation of the fighting, unexploded ammunition and mines are still claiming victims, especially children. This additional funding will assist the Libyan people to reduce the risk of fatalities and injury”. The new funding will be channelled through the Danish Refugee Council (Danish Demining Group) to clear mines, other unexploded devices and booby traps in Sirte and Bani Walid. It is expected that several Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams will be rapidly deployed to the affected areas in the coming days. The Eu Commission is currently supporting two operations in the field of humanitarian mine action through two six month projects, the first with the Fédération Suisse de Déminage (FSD) and Danish Church Aid, and the second with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In addition, Save the Children UK has also included a mine risk and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW)-education component in its ECHO-funded operation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Media: Information Risks Islamisation After Arab Uprisings

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 14 — Despite the fact that the Arab uprisings have brought down several regimes in North Africa and have caused regimes in half the Arab world to totter, information in these countries continues to be restricted. Even worse, it is at risk of being Islamised. This became clear this morning in Rome during the presentation of the essay written by journalists Hamza Boccolini and Andrea Morigi, ‘Media e Oriente’, (Media and the East), (Mursia, 2011), held in the Chamber of Deputies.

Every day more than 700 satellite channels broadcast in the Arabic language to dozens of millions viewers in and outside the Middle East area. The writers of the essay specified these numbers: 131 generalist channels, 119 dedicated to music and variety, 58 to film and fiction, 51 to sports, 25 economic, commercial and shopping channels, 26 news channels, 21 for children, 23 dedicated to culture, 12 to documentaries, 11 to religion, 4 to tourism and 11 interactive channels. And the Arab world of information shows a clear division, with Morocco, for example, much more advanced than Algeria, or countries like Tunisia, where private networks like Hannibal and Nesma Tv are making progress, said Nabila Zayati, ANSA’s marketing manager for relations with the Arab world.

The stage is dominated by two competing television networks: Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. Boccolini said on the sideline of the events that “there is a real risk of Islamisation of the media, one only has to look at the most recent initiatives taken by the broadcaster from Qatar.” The former director of Al Jazeera, Waddaa Khanfar, the reporter of Adnkronos who has been following the Arab world for years pointed out, was recently sent to Libya to found a new all-news channel. And recently the Doha-based network created Al Jazeera el Misr, while the party that has won the elections in Tunisia, Ennahdha, has invited the Emir of Qatar to chair the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly.

“The force of Qatar is expanding everywhere,” said Boccolini. Apart from the risk of Islamic radicalism spreading through the media, another serious problem is the continuous control on the media, despite the “new spring.” “Our media are still strictly controlled, “ said MP Suad Sbai in her speech, speaking of “a real farce.” Besides, she continued, after the first fireworks — with half the world zooming in on what was happening in Tunisia and Egypt — today the western media have turned their attention away from the events after the revolution. “They no longer talk about what happens to imprisoned Egyptian bloggers in these days,” said Sbai. Attention has decreased, while the debate continues in the Arab world. In Italy there is no broadcaster with an Arab channel. Where France24, Cnn and other foreign networks have launched their channels in the Arabic language, comments the editor of newspaper Il Tempo, Mario Sechi, this has not happened in Italy.

“The Rai Med project,” he points out, “shipwrecked after a very short period.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Defending Israeli Democracy

US Embassy cables leaked by Wikileaks in September exposed the ugly truth that self-described champions of Israeli democracy would like us to forget about the actual goals of Israel’s self-described human rights organizations.

In a meeting with then US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv in January 2010, B’Tselem director Jessica Montell explained what her group wished to achieve by colluding with the UN’s Goldstone Commission’s inquiry into Israel’s handling of Operation Cast Lead. According to the embassy report, Montell said, “Her aim…was to make Israel weigh world opinion and consider whether it could ‘afford another operation like this.’“…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Italian Project for Gaza Eco-Sustainable Schools

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 14 — The Italian architect, Mario Cucinella, has sealed a partnership with the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which will see schools with energy self-sufficiency built in the Palestinian Territories. Cucinella has drawn up a project that will give Gaza schools that can sustain themselves by making the most of the sun, the rain and the surrounding land. The schools will open next year and will exploit the resources in the area. Cucinella explained that the buildings would adapt to the weather conditions of the area. “They will collect rainwater, protect themselves from the sun and cool down through a geothermal system,” he said. The project does not feature a connection to the electrical network. “We will only use a few photovoltaic panels, to guarantee the functioning of electrical equipment such as photocopiers and lighting, when necessary”.

The School prototype for a green future” project is part of a wider plan to build a hundred new schools in the Palestinian Territories, with the aim of creating buildings that are as autonomous as possible in an area that, as the architect points out, has no primary resources and does not produce energy. “The idea that a school in Palestine can be self-sufficient from an energy point of view paves the way for some significant political scenarios,” he said. “In that context, not having to depend on anyone is of great value”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Berlin Considers Stronger Sanctions: US and Israel Demand Greater Measures Against Tehran

Sanctions imposed by the EU against the regime in Iran have done more so far to harm European businesses than the mullahs. With the United States and Israel both urging sharper penal measures, Germany is considering tighter restrictions on trade with Tehran.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: Ashton: Enormous Concern, EU Backs Arab League

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 14 — “The situation in Syria is cause for enormous concern,” said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton when arriving at the EU Council of Foreign Ministers. “I spoke last night with the Secretary General of the Arab League, and expressed our commitment to working closely with them,” Ashton added. Today the Foreign Ministers will approve a new set of measures against the Syrian regime.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Bogor: Mayor Shuts Down Access Roads to Yasmin Church, Thus Breaking the Law

The mayor allows Muslim extremists to stop Christians from reaching site of Sunday service. Human rights organisation appeals to President. “Mr President,” its letter says, “you are the last hope for the Yasmin Church to see its rights respected.”

Bogor (AsiaNews) — Bogor Christians celebrated Mass at home yesterday. After the ban on meeting at their church, members of the Yasmin Church (KGI) were not allowed to hold their Sunday service in the street. Despite criticism and international focus on the case, Bogor Mayor Diano Budiarto continues to refuse to bow to public opinion and a court order. In his latest action, he has exceeded his authority and blocked all access roads to the Yasmin Church. A dozen of local plainclothes security agents and uniformed police did not however prevent anti-Christian extremists from blocking one access road to the place of worship. In the end, Christian worshipers went to the home of a parishioner to celebrate Sunday service (see Mathias Hariyadi, “West Java, Muslim and Christian intellectuals against mayor’s attempts to cancel Protestant church,” in AsiaNews, 11 November 2011).

This is the first time in months that this happens since Budiarto’ decision to freeze the construction of the church despite the fact that the congregation had all the right permits.

In a message to AsiaNews, a KGI spokesman, attorney Bona Sigalingging, said that opposition to the church comes from the Muslim Indonesia Communications Forum (Forkami), an organisation chaired by Ahmad Iman, a local extremist.

In a number of fiery speeches against the Yasmin Church, the latter has claimed that KGI leaders falsified the signatures by residents on the application for a construction permit in order to pursue their goal of building the church.

In Indonesia, a construction permit is necessary and requires a certain number of signatures by local residents before it is issued.

Sigalingging dismissed the charge out of hand. “This accusation is false,” he said.

The Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation is expected to act too. Its president, Todung Mulya Lubis, a well-known figure in the human rights field, has written to President Yudhoyono, asking him to exercise his constitutional prerogatives and uphold the law.

The time has come that “you, Mr President apply the law without preferences as stipulated by the constitution and that every citizen comply with the law.”

The Yasmin Church is in a desperate situation, Lubis added, since court orders have been ignored using different legal means in order to revoke the building permit, and that the mayor appears bent on pursing his path, no matter what happens.

“Mr President, you are the last hope for the Yasmin Church to see its rights respected,” Lubis said in his letter.

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

Pakistan: Malik Denies London Arrests for Farooq Killing

Islamabad, 14 Nov. (AKI/Dawn) — Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik has rejected a claim made by London police that two suspects had been arrested in Pakistan in connection with the murder of MQM leader Imran Farooq.

“No arrest has been made in the murder case of Imran Farooq,” the interior minister told reporters at the Benazir International Airport.

“No such thing has been mentioned in a letter sent by the UK authorities to the interior ministry,” Malik claimed.

Media reports said a couple of days ago that London Police Commissioner Bernard Morgan had confirmed the arrest of two suspects in Pakistan.

He said the London police were cooperating with Pakistani authorities in the matter.

Farooq was murdered outside his London home last year.

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

Far East

APEC Ends Amid Rows Over the Yuan and a Proposal for Transpacific Free Trade

The meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders ends with an agreement to create the largest trading zone in the world. Obama slaps Beijing for its undervalued currency.

Honolulu (AsiaNews) — The ‘yuan war’ continues between Washington and Beijing over the revaluation of the Chinese currency. US President Barack Obama has said that China has not done enough in that direction. His Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, countered arguing that the “yuan appreciation could not solve the problems the US is facing”.

Speaking on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Hawaii, the US leader said that the “slight improvement” to the value of the Chinese currency are not enough and that Beijing must do more.

China pushed back, saying that although the yuan’s rise was substantial, a large appreciation in the currency would not solve US problems. Instead, it would continue to appreciate its currency but only in a gradual manner.

The issue is an important one. The value of the yuan shapes the direct cost of Chinese labour and gives Beijing a direct advantage in exports. This way, it penalises US workers and creates a trade imbalance between the two nations. For some Republican congressmen, it is akin to piracy.

However, the two economies are so intertwined that an abrupt break appears impossible. What is more, Beijing holds a huge portion of US debt.

Aware of the situation, Obama stressed the need to cooperate in finding solutions that can be shared in order to promote mutually advantageous growth.

The US president did nevertheless achieve one goal, namely the establishment of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would create the largest free trade area in the world. After Japan, Canada and Mexico said they would join talks to remove trade barriers.

Such a free trade area would have 800 million consumers and almost 40 per cent of the world economy and would be largest trading zone in the world, bigger that the European Union, which is responsible for only one quarter of the world’s wealth. The final goal would be a “seamless regional economy”.

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

Culture Wars

Judge Endorses Censorship of Old Glory

Says threats of violence reason to hide stars and stripes clothing

The same federal judge who said it was perfectly fine for a homosexual judge in a long-term relationship with another man to rule on a dispute over homosexual marriage — a ruling from which he might benefit — now has concluded that it’s all right for a school to censor clothing displaying the American flag because there were students who threatened violence against those wearing the clothing.

The judge, James Ware, of the federal court in the Northern District of California’s San Francisco Division, has dismissed a complaint brought against the Morgan Hill Unified School District where the Old Glory theme on student T-shirts had been censored.

He found that it was reasonable because there were students who apparently hated the emblem enough to threaten with violence other students who were wearing it, and the censorship was “equal” even though the Mexican flag was not also censored because no one threatened violence against the students wearing that emblem.

The case was brought by parents of the students who had been ordered by school officials either to change their Old Glory shirts, turn them inside out or go home. They sued, alleging constitutional violations.

Nonsense, wrote Ware.

Only those students whose Old Glory-based clothing prompted threats of violence were ordered to change, he noted.

“Plaintiffs have offered no evidence demonstrating that students wearing the colors of the Mexican flag were likely to be targeted for violence, and that officials treated all students for whose safety they feared in the same manner,” he said.

“Here … [the school officials] have provided a non-discriminatory basis for asking plaintiffs to remove their American flag attire. Defendants have put forth signficiant evidence demonstrating that plaintiffs (wearing the American flag colors) were asked to change clothes in order to protect their own safety.

“The undisputed evidence shows that plaintiffs were the only students on campus whose safety was threatened that day,” Ware said.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Men Sue Swedish Police for Sexual Discrimination

The National Police Board (Rikspolistyrelsen) has been sued by a rights group for alleged discrimination, arguing that women have been favoured ahead of men in the recruitment process. The Centre for Justice (Centrum för rättvisa) has filed three writs against the board, alleging that male recruits have been denied places at the Swedish National Police Academy in favour of female recruits, despite the man having performed better in physical and language tests.

“If there has been violation of the law on admissions to the Police Academy, it is obviously very serious. Through this judicial process the questions will hopefully be answered,” said Clarence Crafoord, director of the Centre for Justice, in statement. Crafoord argued that the issue is of extra importance “because the Equality Ombudsman has chosen to act extremely passively in the matter”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Catholic Priest, 81, May Use Human Rights Law to Fight Celibacy Rule

An 81-year-old Catholic priest, threatened with expulsion from the priesthood because he lives with his 85-year-old girlfriend, says the celibacy rules should be tested against human rights legislation.

Jan Peijnenburg has lived with his girlfriend for 46 years. Friend Harrie van Tuijl told the AD legal experts were now looking to see if legal action is an option.

Officials from Den Bosch diocese have told Peijnenburg he must leave either his partner or the priesthood by December 1. ‘We cannot allow him to do that which is forbidden to others,’ spokesman Michiel Savelsbergh told news agency AFP.

According to the AD, the diocese accepts the fact that priests do live with a partner but to go public and to campaign against celibacy ‘is a step too far’.

Van Tuijl told the AD the diocese has known about his position for a decade. If Peijnenburg is forced to choose, he will opt for his girlfriend, the friend said.

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


Aliens Don’t Need a Moon Like Ours

TALK about being over the moon. It seems planets don’t need a big satellite like Earth’s in order to support life, increasing the number on which life could exist. In 1993, Jacques Laskar of the Paris Observatory in France and colleagues showed that the moon helps stabilise the tilt of Earth’s rotation axis against perturbations by Jupiter’s gravity. The researchers calculated that without the moon, Jupiter’s influence would make the current tilt of some 23 degrees wander chaotically between 0 and 85 degrees. That could cause huge climate swings, making it hard for life to survive, especially large, land-based organisms like us.

The result was taken by many to imply that complex life is rare in the universe, since Earth’s large moon is thought to have coalesced from the debris of a freak collision between a Mars-sized planet and Earth. Less than 10 per cent of Earth-sized planets are expected to experience such a trauma, making large moons a rarity. But a study now suggests moonless planets have been dismissed unfairly. “There could be a lot more habitable worlds out there,” says Jack Lissauer of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who led the research.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Look Underground to Seek Signs of Life on Mars

One implication of our findings relates to potential habitats for early Martian life. If the subsurface had circulating waters for hundreds of millions of years, while the surface only sometimes possessed liquid water, perhaps the best habitats for the origin and evolution of life would have been underground.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mathematics as the Raw Material for Art

IF YOU think of cosmology, you picture colourful nebulae; with neurology, intricate brain scans. But what does mathematics look like? That’s what a team of world-class artists and mathematicians set out to discover.

The product of the collaboration is the exhibition Mathematics — A Beautiful Elsewhere, at the Fondation Cartier in Paris, France. Curator Thomas Delamarre hopes it will do nothing less than provide an “answer to the abstraction of mathematics”.

Ambitious perhaps, but the team has impressive credentials: the mathematical line-up boasts three Fields medal winners, including 2010 recipient Cédric Villani. He and fellow mathematicians provided concepts to a group of artists, who interpreted them in a series of works. Throughout the process, the artists checked back to ensure the underlying figures had not been distorted.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Parasites Drove Human Genetic Variation

Adapting to pathogens was more important than climate and diet in driving natural selection

Modern humans began to spread out from Africa approximately 100,000 years ago. They settled in distant lands, where they had to adapt to unfamiliar climates, find different ways to feed themselves and fight off new pathogens. A study now suggests that it was the pathogens, particularly parasitic worms, that had the biggest role in driving natural selection — but that genetic adaptation to them may also have made humans more susceptible to autoimmune diseases.

Populations separated by distance tend to drift apart genetically over time, and roughly 95% of variability between populations is a result of that drift. But the local environment plays a part too. Genetic variants that improve survival in a given region tend to become more common in the population that lives there. By looking for correlations between the frequency of different variants in a population and environmental factors such as climate, researchers can gain a better understanding of the drivers of human adaptation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Dangers of Legitimizing Muslim Grievances

by Daniel Greenfield

There is no surer path to Muslim violence than through the legitimization of Muslim grievance. And once you accept the legitimacy of the grievance, then you are also bound to accept the legitimacy of the violence that follows.

Violence begins with grievance. Grievance is the pretext for violence and the narrative for the violence. Liberals make a fetish of separating the grievance from the violence, emphasizing constructive means of resolving the grievance. But what do you do when the grievance and the violence are inseparable?

Grievance is the stories that Muslims tell themselves to justify their violence. To explain why they kill children and why they murder the innocent. The list of grievances is an endless as the violence. Every act of violence carries its own narrative. The endless Muslim conflicts throughout the world all carry their burden of history. But it isn’t a history that can be resolved with a tolerance session.

Muslim grievances are the frustration of conquerors, the broken teeth of predators who weren’t allowed to feed on the world until their stomachs burst. All the lands they couldn’t conqueror, the peoples who rebelled against their rule, the inferior civilizations that pushed them back and drove them off. The swine who build skyscrapers and enjoy the fine things in life.

The civil rights model of social conflict resolution accepts grievances as legitimate and then tries to ‘heal’ through them through social justice. And when that model is applied to Muslims, it turns into empty appeasement because the conflicts at the heart of Muslim violence cannot be resolved through integration or representation. Applying the word “justice” in any form to a conflict involving Muslims is wasted ink.

The fundamental Muslim grievance is that they are not in power

The problem begins with a clash of definitions. To a citizen of a secular Western state, “injustice” means a lack of representation. To a Muslim, “injustice” means a lack of Islamic jurisprudence. A Non-Muslim state is always unjust simply because it is not ruled by Islamic law.

The fundamental Muslim grievance is that they are not in power, not just in Israel where the world has accepted their demand to be in power as a wholly moral and legitimate demand, or throughout the Muslim world where Western governments have helped bring the Islamists to power with bombs and political pressure. The fundamental grievance is that they are not in power… everywhere.

If you believe that Islam is the fundamental law of mankind, that all mankind at one time were Muslims and that there is no true justice except through Islamic law—then it follows naturally that Muslims have been cheated of their rightful power, that they are forced to live under “atheistic” regimes and that “justice” demands that the world “revert” to Islamic rule.

It’s why the rhetoric of democracy falls notoriously flat when it comes to Islam. Muslims are not out for representation except as a preliminary stage to absolute power. They may route the guardianship of that absolute power power in various ways, through a dictator or some form of popular democracy, but these are only vehicles for the imposition of Islamic law.

The absolute power of Islamic law is justified by its origin in Allah and the unjust nature of non-Muslim law is equally proven by its lack of divine origin. If you take Islamic assumptions at face value, then this makes perfect sense. Therefore a devout Muslim cannot view a non-Muslim society as just. Equating an infidel code with Sharia is blasphemy. And so the logic of Islam dictates that Western Muslims must view themselves as oppressed…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]