Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111127

Financial Crisis
»Austria: Credit Crunch Comes to the East
»Berlin Faces Isolation on ECB Euro Rescue Role
»Europe Bond Yields to Keep Stocks Spellbound
»Greece: Rubbish Collectors Protesting
»Italy: Research Establishes Link Between Hardship and Junk Food
»One Chart to Rule Them All…
»Only Eurobonds Can Save US
»Alleged LA-Area Pepper-Spraying Shopper Surrenders
»ATF and DOJ Break the Law
»In Bloombergistan, Government Lackeys Have Gone Mad
»US Halts Military Treaty Obligations With Russia
Europe and the EU
»EU to Sue Italy Over Rules State Power in Traded Companies
»EU: Turkey Has to Safeguard Women’s Rights, Says Fule
»German Police Clear Nuclear Waste Train Protest
»Italy Has Recovered 35 Bln From Tax Cheats in Three Years
»Italy: Calabrian Mayor Arrested Over Illegal Waste Dump
»Netherlands: Egotistical Meat Eaters Researcher Rebuked by Tilburg University
»Prodi: Those Born in Italy Are Italian
»Spain: Brussels Asks New Rules for EU Insurance Health Card
»Spain to EU Court for Law on Buildings Performance
»The Netherlands Has Relatively Few Civil Servants
»UK: Muslim Medical Students Boycotting Lectures on Evolution… Because it ‘Clashes With the Koran’
Mediterranean Union
»EP Gives First Green Light to EU-Morocco Fisheries Deal
North Africa
»Egyptian Army Refuses to Buckle to Popular Pressure
»Face of Egypt’s Eye Hunter: Protesters Produce ‘Wanted’ Posters After Policeman ‘Deliberately Blinds People With Rubber Bullets’
»Libya: ENI at 200,000 Barrels Per Day
Israel and the Palestinians
»Swinging Tel Aviv Hits the Catwalk
Middle East
»Bahrain Used ‘Excessive Force’ Against Protesters
»Jordan to Construct World Second Largest Oil Shale Plant
»Lebanon: UN Deputy Secretary, Attacks Will Not Stop UNIFIL
»Turkey: Ministry Dismantles Family Planning
South Asia
»Enraged Pakistanis Burn Obama Effigy, Slam US
»India Opens to Foreign Supermarkets
»Indonesia: 14-Year-Old Australian Sentenced to 2 Months for Marijuana
»Pakistan: Lahore: Ahmadi Student Expelled on False Blasphemy Charges
»‘Please, I Haven’t Committed a Crime’: Afghan Transvestite Forced to Undress on Camera for the Amusement of Police
»Twenty Years of Jail for Anti-Monarchy SMS in Thailand
Far East
»Chinese Super-Rich Seeking Refuge Abroad
Sub-Saharan Africa
ȣ1 Billion of UK Aid to Fight Climate Change in Africa
»UK: Swoop Reveals 40% of Register Office Weddings Were a Sham
Culture Wars
»The Sex Addiction Epidemic
»UK: Christian Mother ‘Forced Out of Heathrow Job After Hate Campaign by Muslim Fundamentalists’I Was Told I Would Go to Hell, Claims Worker

Financial Crisis

Austria: Credit Crunch Comes to the East

Die Presse, 24 November 2011

“The Austrian Financial Market Authority and the National Bank of Austria put a brake on credit for the East,” headlines Die Presse, in the wake of a decision by both organisations to demand that Austrian banks increase their capital by 2% to 3%, and limit “the excessive granting of loans” in the region.

The measure has been announced at a time when Moody’s is re-evaluating its outlook for Austrian debt, which currently holds a precious AAA rating that Vienna is determined to keep. In its editorial, the Viennese daily worries about a possible “state bankruptcy caused by banks along the lines of the Irish model,” because, “in the wake of several gold-rush years,” Austrian banks have 300 billion euros — more than the country’s GDP — in Central and Eastern Europe, and an estimated 6% to 40% of this is invested in toxic assets.

“The National Bank of Austria’s decision will end one phase of the ongoing crisis and probably introduce another,” points out România libera in Bucharest:

The concrete effects will be severe — additional pressure on the leu, rising interest rates, and state borrowing difficulties — but these can be overcome. However, on a symbolic level it will be even more serious because we have been forced to acknowledge that Romania is now viewed as an emerging country offering significant profits associated with a high level of risk that is still a good destination for investors, but only if they already have a predefined exit strategy.

The Bucharest daily looks back on the high times of 2007, when “Greek and Austrian bankers were competing to be present in the Wild East,” which are now over: “Austria has sacrificed Romania, where it owns more than half of the banking system along with Greece, to save itself.” In short, this is “the tragic end of financial colonialism.”

In the Czech Republic, Respekt fears that —

… countries like Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine will be forced to contend with a sudden credit crunch, at least with regard to Austrian banks, who will be reluctant to lend.

The Prague daily notes that Czech Republic and Slovakia will also suffer, because the international press often overlooks the fact that their situation is very different to the one in other countries of the region: “there are a lot of savers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which are both relatively under-leveraged. And this applies not only to major corporations […] but more importantly to the small business sector. For example, mortgage loans in these countries amount to 25% of GDP, whereas in Western Europe this figure stands at 55%, and at more than 100% of GDP in the UK.”

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

Berlin Faces Isolation on ECB Euro Rescue Role

Germany faced mounting pressure Sunday to let the European Central Bank (ECB) save the crisis-hit eurozone, as reports surfaced of IMF contingency bailout planning for a re-modelled Italy.

With bond market vultures circling even gold-plated economies, and Italy’s La Stampa daily citing IMF officials on a rescue plan worth up to €600 billion ($794 billion), another of Germany’s closest Triple A-rated allies jumped ship on the ECB’s role to leave Berlin isolated.

Amid predictions that the currency faces its death throes within weeks failing radical intervention, Austria joined Finland in backing ECB action to stem financial market contagion threatening Italy, Spain and even France.

The pressure has intensified since Germany itself struggled to raise public finance on commercial money markets, in a potential tipping point for the balance of power within the eurozone on the painful debate about integrating public finance across borders.

“The European Central Bank could perform a more powerful role, as in the United States,” Austrian Prime Minister Werner Faymann said, also giving his support to the creation of commonly-issued eurobonds.

“It could itself buy states’ bonds,” he said on the sidelines of a congress of European Socialist parties in Brussels.

That meant a large-scale ramping up of carefully targeted action on the sell-on, secondary bond market, trying to prevent interest rates for Italy or Spain from skyrocketing to the levels that forced bailouts on Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

The scope for direct ECB action at primary level, as long sought by US, British and other G7 partners among the world’s most powerful economies in an accelerating crisis, will be the unspoken nub of euro finance ministers’ talks on Tuesday night in Brussels.

Finland’s finance minister Jutta Urpilainen said Friday: “I think we have seen that if there is nothing else left then we can think about strengthening the role of the ECB.”

In Strasbourg last week for a mini-summit with France and Italy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said politicians should not intervene in ECB decision-making.

“The French president has just underlined that the European Central Bank is independent,” she said, but a smiling Sarkozy interjected: “All three of us said that with respect for the independence of this institution, one should refrain from positive or negative demands of the ECB.”

The Financial Times Deutschland interpreted that exchange as proof that France, the most vociferous eurozone backer of a turbo-charged ECB role at the heart of the continent’s politics, was winning the day.

“By committing to silence, Merkel and Sarkozy are freeing the ECB to make a more forceful intervention in the crisis,” it said.

A French government source said pressure has been piled on Merkel for months, citing the meeting alongside new Italian premier Mario Monti and an invitation for US President Barack Obama to join a French-German huddle in Cannes during a G20 summit last month.

“The idea was to point out to Merkel that, even Monti, who is willing to go much further than Berlusconi was in reforming Italy, won’t make it without ECB intervention — the way all other central banks act,” said the source.

The IMF loans, at rates of 4.0 percent or 5.0 percent, would give Monti a window of 12 to 18 months to implement urgent budget cuts and growth-boosting reforms “by removing the necessity of having to refinance the debt,” La Stampa quoted an IMF official as saying.

In Paris, the view is clear: unless Merkel turns completely, not even Germany will be able to stand in the way of market pressures.

It is a position adopted by many economists, the outspoken Jacques Attali going as far in one interview as to say the real question, rather than a threat to France’s Triple A rating, was “will the euro still exist at Christmas?”

Britain’s banks have started drawing up contingency plans for the possible dismantling of the eurozone, a senior official at its Financial Services Authority said last week.

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

Europe Bond Yields to Keep Stocks Spellbound

(Reuters) — U.S. investors came to the Thanksgiving holiday table on Thursday mostly thankful that the week was a short one, or losses could have been larger.

As another round of news and bond auctions from Europe begins next week, traders will watch closely sovereign bond yields that have kept markets on edge.

Yields rose in almost every euro-zone country this week, and Germany failed to find enough bids for a 10-year auction. The S&P 500 reacted by posting a second straight week of declines and its worst week in two months.

Politicians are scrambling to find a way out of a two-year-old sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone and a visit to Washington from top European Union officials, as well as a meeting of euro-zone finance ministers, will provide the market with headlines and possibly add to uncertainty.

With the specter of rising yields, France, Britain, Italy, Belgium and Spain are holding debt sales next week. The direction of bond yields will determine the direction of equity markets.

“Politicians are trying to buy themselves time so austerity measures kick in and impact budgets and deficits and markets become more forgiving and rates come down,” said Wasif Latif, vice president of equity investments at the San Antonio, Texas-based USAA Investment Management, which manages about $45 billion.

“The credit market and fixed income are a little bit more in the eye of storm; that’s where the issue is rising, so equities are more reactionary,” he said. “You may continue to see more of the same.”

Investors have worried about rising borrowing costs in many euro-zone nations, but Italy, the third-largest euro zone economy, has grabbed most of the focus. On Friday Rome paid a record 6.5 percent to borrow for six months and almost 8 percent to issue two-year zero coupon bonds.

Many market participants have said that the sharply differentiated risk-on and -off trades that the euro zone crisis has generated has seen equities being sold as an asset class, with little or no difference between strong and week balance sheets and earnings reports. But a wedge has opened at least from a global perspective, as data show stocks of companies with more exposure to Europe are underperforming.

[Return to headlines]

Greece: Rubbish Collectors Protesting

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 23 — Since 10 a.m. this morning rubbish collectors have been gathered in front of the Interior Ministry in Athens while awaiting a meeting between their representatives and Minister Tassos Gianitsis. The workers in the sector, who yesterday occupied the office of the Interior Ministry Undersecretary Paris Koukoulopoulos, are protesting against the government’s decision concerning the temporary suspension of work and the reduction in their salaries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Research Establishes Link Between Hardship and Junk Food

(AGI) Rome — Economic hardship makes for weight gain, according to a study conducted by Avellino-based nutrition experts.

Managed by the the CNR’s Nutrition Institute in Avellino, EU funded project ‘Idefics’ studied health and lifestyles among children of school age across eight EU countries (Italy included), revealing a link between economic woes and families’ propensity to purchase low-cost, high calorie ‘junk food’. The findings were recently published in the Italian National Research Council Almanac. According to the Institute’s Alfonso Siani “there is a significant link between social and economic backgrounds and child weight gain and obesity, especially in low-income, migrant or single parent families.” Siani went on to explain that “while the causes are still subject to evaluation, there appears to be a tendency to feed on cheap, high calorie ‘junk food’ (at the expense of fresh fruit and vegetables) and to forego extracurricular expenses on sports.

In Italy, the latter predicament is compounded by a chronic lack of parks and cycle lanes.” .

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

One Chart to Rule Them All…

Director Blue, looking back in detail at a 1999 exhortation from the LA Time. Poor people and minorities have a right to home ownership:

The breathless mainstream media and the race-obsessed Democrat Party hyped the kind of no-documentation, loosely underwritten loan that formed the core of the housing crisis.

In July of 2009, according to The New York Times, Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Housing and Urban Development mandated that half of all loans purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were to have originated with low- and moderate-income borrowers. In 1998, 44% of all Fannie loans had already met those criteria.

Consider the chart in that context.

On the way: more central planning, more social engineering, more Democrat-inspired disasters, but this time with your health care, not just your home.

[see full chart at the URL]

           — Hat tip: Tartan Marine[Return to headlines]

Only Eurobonds Can Save US

El Mundo, Madrid

The measure demanded by most European partners and supported by the European Commission still meets with stiff opposition from Germany. But Berlin cannot indefinitely block the launch of Eurobonds, which increasingly appear to be the only solution to the debt crisis.

On 23 November, the bite of the European sovereign debt crisis was felt in Germany. No-one can deny that investor flight from the low yields offered by 10-year bunds (Germany only managed to sell 62% of the total issue) has sounded a warning for Angela Merkel. Contagion is gaining ground and it is increasingly obvious that if we are to overcome the crisis, all the parties involved will have to row at the same time and in the same direction.

Events have accelerated to the point that they are inevitably leading to the mutualisation of eurozone member debt, the only measure capable of withstanding market stresses. The characteristics and form of member participation will certainly have to be discussed, but one thing is certain: if the EU does not devote all of its efforts to launching eurobonds, then we will have to have a rethink on the euro.

Merkel, for now, will hear no talk of it. Yesterday, she expressed herself categorically: “it is inappropriate that the European Commission should focus on Eurobonds, because it gives the impression that the debt burden can be shared.”

Sanctions on recalcitrant countries

From a rational point of view, she is probably right. Under present conditions, mutualising debt would be like rewarding defaulting countries and sanctioning those that have fulfilled their duties. The issue is whether the eurozone can hold out much longer in such conditions.

Let’s remember that hardly two years ago, the debt crisis was confined to Greece, whose problems were attributed to a spendthrift government. Today we have three countries that have have been bailed out, two others on the brink, and the rest experiencing difficulties with their debt.

This includes core Eurozone states that are not doing well: France has had to introduce spending cuts to keep its AAA rating, while Germany is struggling to attract investors with bonds that offer an interest rate of less than 2%. Faced with such a situation, no one can predict what will happen in three months time.

On 23 November, the Commission presented its project for the issue of Stability Bonds, which adroitly included measures for increasing Brussels’ control over the finances of member states in difficulty. Commission President José Manuel Barroso and the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, want Brussels to be able to review and validate member state budgets before they are approved by national parliaments. They also propose that the Commission be able to impose sanctions on recalcitrant countries.

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


Alleged LA-Area Pepper-Spraying Shopper Surrenders

Authorities in Los Angeles say a woman who allegedly fired pepper spray at other customers during a Black Friday sale has surrendered to police.

Police Sgt. Jose Valle says the woman who allegedly caused minor injuries to 20 shoppers at a Los Angeles-area Walmart turned herself in Friday night.

He says she is currently not in custody but could face battery charges. Her identity was not released. Police plan to release more details Saturday morning.

The attack took place about 10:20 p.m. Thursday shortly after doors opened for the sale.

The store had brought out a crate of discounted Xbox video game players, and a crowd had formed to wait for the unwrapping.

Valle says the woman began spraying people in order to get an advantage.

[Return to headlines]

ATF and DOJ Break the Law

by Jim Ross Lightfoot

Following a widely watched hearing conducted by the US House Government Oversight Committee July 25, 2011 William G. McMahon, (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s deputy director of operations in the West, William D. Newell Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the agency’s Phoenix office and David Voth, field supervisor who oversaw Operation Fast and Furious that allowed over 2,000 rifles to walk into the arms of Mexican Drug Cartels, were whisked away to the safety of ATF Headquarters fortress on New York Avenue in Washington, DC.

Many that viewed the hearing and most ATF agents in the field believe these men should have been arrested, or at the least fired, for their gross incompetence and outright violation of US Law.

Attorney General Eric Holder has fought the Congressional Committee at every turn and evidence has grown to implicate his involvement in Fast and Furious to a degree that the number of Congressmen calling for his resignation increases each day.

Is indictment of Holder, Newell, McMahon, Voth and others in ATF management just around the corner?

There is not space enough in this column to go into great detail, however here are a few facts you can check for yourself.

Let’s start with the murder of Border Patrol Agents Brian Terry and Jaime Zapata, not to mention every other cop and civilian harmed by a Fast and Furious gun. Each has been deprived of their Constitutional civil rights at the hands of ATF and DOJ Attorneys under the color of law.

42 U.S.C. § 1983 now reads in part:

Every person who under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, (shorten at this point to save space)

How about the commission of wire and mail fraud? There are huge wire fraud implications resulting from EVERY email, fax, and Teletype that occurred with the intent to mislead the true actions of Fast and Furious.

All prosecutable under 18 U.S.C. § 1343 , carrying penalties that include “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.”

18 U.S.C. 371, CONSPIRACY provides in part, “outlaws conspiracy to commit any other federal crime.”

In the words of an ATF agent intimately familiar with Fast and Furious, “You can commit a conspiracy with an unindicted co-conspirator. It appears this is the one that will kill them (ATF and DOJ Attorneys) in relation to very act the cartel/straw purchasers committed, including murder. In order to avoid this, they have to admit they are acting under color of law for ANY Law Enforcement protections. The problem with that is that acting under color of law requires you are within the scope of your duties and advancing legitimate law enforcement actions.”

It is obvious to even the casual observer that Fast and Furious had no legitimate law enforcement purpose.

For the sake of the good agents within ATF, the Constitution and the future of our country, hopefully, Congressman Issa and Senator Grassley will be joined by many other Members of Congress in pushing for full disclosure and then let the evidence lead where it will.

That very well could conclude with the clanking of jail cell doors on public servants that have subjugated their duties to satisfy personal agendas rather than serve the country they took an oath to protect.

           — Hat tip: Tartan Marine[Return to headlines]

In Bloombergistan, Government Lackeys Have Gone Mad

In the spirit of the holiday, it’s time for us all to show gratitude to the higher power watching over us all.

For all you do — not just on Thanksgiving weekend, but every day of the year — thank you, rulers and overlords.

Thank you, government.

In this age of joblessness and terror, thank you for saving us from lobby cats who threaten to spread fluffiness and petability while frightening the populace with their purring.

Thank you for saving us from the growing menace of soup kitchens that give out warm, nutritious home-cooked meals without clearing any of this with the Inspector Clouseaus of the restaurant-regulation industry.

Thank you for being the last line of defense between us and cheese-based snacks placed on bars, where people might eat them.

Perhaps most of all, thank you for using the threat of harassment, fines and shutdowns to scare citizens into clamming up about the above. What kind of society would be living in if people felt free to talk about what their masters were doing to them?

The Post’s Steve Cuozzo broke the news this week that at the Algonquin Hotel, where Dorothy Parker once imbibed whiskey sours, the lobby cat Matilda, normally found amid the upholstered chairs in the bar, has been placed on a leash and confined to the area behind the lobby desk.

Matilda’s forebears are an Algonquin tradition dating back to 1932. What on earth could have caused her such humiliation?

Hotel employees first pussyfooted around the topic. Afraid of inviting further wrath from the gods of the bureaucracy, Algonquin General Manager Gary Budge cooked up a cockamamie tale about Matilda being victimized by miscreants roaming the dozy, club-like rooms at the hotel. The Algonquin is a place where superannuated tipplers come and go talking of Michelangelo, whom a lot of them went to high school with.

When pressed, Budge eventually confessed that Mayor Bloomberg’s restaurant inspectors had “suggested” it was not a good idea for animals to be allowed in the same place where food and/or beverage is served.

Matilda was kept clear of the food-preparation area and was strictly forbidden from dunking her paws in the martini shaker. She was even kept behind an invisible fence for extra security, to restrain her in case she ever developed a mad urge to hurl herself into the onion soup.

None of this mattered. Noncompliance with the Health Department’s suggestion would likely have led to a giant, damning letter C grade being placed prominently on the front windows of the Algonquin, where it would have pointlessly destroyed economic activity, scaring potential customers into imagining the place was infested with cholera. The restaurant grades are supposed to be transparent and informative. So how come no signs reading, “WARNING: CAT POSSIBLY ASLEEP UNDER WING CHAIR”?

           — Hat tip: Tartan Marine[Return to headlines]

US Halts Military Treaty Obligations With Russia

(AGI) Moscow — The United States have decided to halt cooperation with Russia under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty governing the number of heavy weapons deployed in Europe west of the Ural Mountains, a mainstay of the post-Cold War disarmament process. Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the State Department announced that Washington is to stop sharing data with Moscow on conventional arms and troops in Europe, four years after the Russian suspended their observance of the Treaty.

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

Europe and the EU

EU to Sue Italy Over Rules State Power in Traded Companies

Rome, 25 (AKI/Bloomberg) — The European Union has said it will sue Italy over rules restricting investment in companies, including Finmeccanica, Enel and Telecom Italia, that allow the government to interfere in management decisions.

The new Italian government, led by prime minister Mario Monti, has one month to take action before the European Commission triggers a court case over the matter, the regulator said in an e-mailed statement from Brussels on Thursday.

“Italian legislation provides that the state may be granted special powers to safeguard its vital interests should they be under threat,” the commission said. “Such powers make direct and portfolio investment less attractive and may discourage potential investors in other member states from buying shares in the companies concerned.”

The commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive arm, already sued Italy in 2006 for repeatedly failing to strip the government of its veto power over decisions at companies, including defense company Finmeccanica, Telecom Italia and energy company Enel, that it said were controlled directly or indirectly by the state. The measures violated EU rules on the free movement of capital, including by allowing the Italian state to block mergers, the commission said.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s internal market commissioner, said he’ll discuss the matter with Monti tomorrow. Barnier made the comments to reporters in Rome today after a hearing at the country’s Senate.

The EU called in February for Italy to modify its law.

“Latest contacts with the Italian authorities suggest that compliance can be envisaged in the very short term,” the commission said today.

An Italian government spokesman declined to comment on today’s decision by the commission.

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

EU: Turkey Has to Safeguard Women’s Rights, Says Fule

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, NOVEMBER 22 — The EU has called on Turkey to safeguard all fundamental human rights, including women’s rights, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule states in a response to Cypriot MEP Mrs. Antigoni Papadopoulou.

Moreover, as daily Famagusta Gazette reports today, Fule notes Turkey’s obligation vis-a-vis the European Convention of Human Rights, as a member of the Council of Europe and a candidate member of the EU. According to an announcement, issued by the MEP’s office, Fule’s statement came as a response to a question by Papadopoulou, who cited particular cases of violence against women in Turkey. Fule marks in particular the reference made in the European Commission’s Progress Report on Turkey, last October, that honor killings, forced marriages and cases of domestic violence against women remain serious problems in the country. The Commissioner adds that the relevant legislation must be implemented with consistency in all countries and that the European Commission monitors the issue.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

German Police Clear Nuclear Waste Train Protest

Police in Germany say they have cleared thousands of protesters who were trying to block a trainload of nuclear waste.

Protesters had blocked the tracks near the site in northern Germany where the spent nuclear fuel is to be stored.

The 150 tonnes of uranium, originally from German nuclear plants, is being moved in 11 containers from Normandy, France, where it was reprocessed.

It is the last of 12 such shipments from France because of a German move away from nuclear power.

Reports said 1,300 people had been detained following the clearing of the protest.

Riot police

About 20,000 police have been deployed along the German route of the train.

When the train started out from north-western France on Wednesday, riot police were used to remove protesters who tried to block tracks.

Twelve arrests were made in the violent clashes which erupted.

Other protests have also slowed the train’s progress but have been largely peaceful.

Anti-nuclear activists have said it was too dangerous to move the nuclear waste 1,200km (750 miles) from the Areva reprocessing plant at La Hague to its final destination of Gorleben.

Areva has denied that transportation of the waste poses a risk to the environment.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this year that all of her country’s nuclear plants would be shut down by 2022.

[Return to headlines]

Italy Has Recovered 35 Bln From Tax Cheats in Three Years

Authorities turning up heat on evaders

(ANSA) — Rome, November 23 — Italy has recovered around 35 billion euros from tax cheats over the last three years but the country’s black market is still booming, the director general of the national tax collection agency said Wednesday.

Italy’s authorities have been turning up the heat on tax evaders in recent years, with the state badly in need of revenue as the government bids to balance the national budget by 2013 and steer Italy out of its debt crisis.

“The fight against tax evasion has generated 35 million euros in three years but the problem is you must never let up,” Attilio Befera, the director general of the Agenzia delle Entrate agency, told Mediaset television.

Befera estimated that around 120-billion-euros worth of undeclared business was done on the Italian black market each year.

The tax-collection agency and Italy’s Treasury launched a hard-hitting radio and TV campaign produced by Saatchi and Saatchi earlier this year which dubbed tax evaders “parasites” who feed off the honest majority.

The campaign also reminded the public of the importance of being honest, because taxes pay for public services.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Calabrian Mayor Arrested Over Illegal Waste Dump

Cattle grazed on run-off water

(ANSA) — Reggio Calabria, November 24 — A mayor in a mafia-ridden area of Calabria was arrested Thursday over an illegal waste dump serving local towns and cities including Reggio Calabria.

Pietro Armando Crino’, 62, of Casignana in the Locride area, a stronghold of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, was taken into custody along with three other people.

He was subsequently released to house arrest.

Authorities said the “huge” dump contained unauthorised and “potentially dangerous” waste.

The dump is unfenced and cattle and sheep graze on land contaminated by run-off water, police said.

The illegal disposal of dangerous and sometimes toxic waste is becoming a “growing problem” in Calabria, where ‘Ndrangheta holds sway, police say, but has yet to reach the level of the region around Naples where the Camorra mafia operates.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Egotistical Meat Eaters Researcher Rebuked by Tilburg University

Professor Roos Vonk, who collaborated with disgraced social sciences professor Diederik Stapel, has been rebuked by Tilburg University’s integrity committee, writes NRC on Tuesday.

Vonk was told she had shown ‘unprofessional and careless conduct’ when working on research into the psychological effects of thinking about meat. Vonk, who is a vegetarian, concluded that meat eaters are more likely to be egotistical.

The data, collected by Stapel, turned out to be completely false and were not checked by Vonk who is cited as co-author of the paper. The committee did not think she acted fraudulently.

‘I have gained a painful insight in my own ‘human frailties’’, Vonk commented.

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

Prodi: Those Born in Italy Are Italian

(ANSAmed) — NOVARA, NOVEMBER 23 — “Foreign children who are born in Italy, grow up in Italy and study in Italy are Italian”.

This is according to the former Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, who made the comments in a speech this morning at the Piemonte Orientale University entitled “USA-China and Africa. New political and economic scenarios”.

Speaking after the talk, Prodi said that he was unwilling to discuss the current political situation, but explained that in the framework a multi-cultural future it was impossible not to consider children born in Italy to foreign parents as Italian..

Answering questions by students, Prodi said: “The future ahead of is much more difficult and complicated than it once was. In the changing world, if Europe and Italy remain passive, the future becomes the past. If we join movements that have already started, there will be space for us too. We have the ability, the intelligence and the cohesion to do it. I say just one thing to young people. Do not be afraid, be ready for new experiences and to measure up to others”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Brussels Asks New Rules for EU Insurance Health Card

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 25 — The European Commission has requested Spain to end its refusal to issue European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) to non-Spanish EU nationals who are neither employed, self-employed nor state pensioners, but who are entitled to healthcare on the basis of their residence in the Spanish Autonomous Communities of Andalusia and Valencia.

Since Spanish law permits this group of non-economically active persons to have access to the public healthcare systems in Andalusia and Valencia, they are “insured persons” under the EU social security coordination rules and should therefore benefit from the rights given by the EHIC. The request to Spain takes the form of a ‘reasoned opinion’ under EU infringement procedures. Spain now has two months to inform the Commission of measures it has taken to comply with EU law. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer Spain to the EU’s Court of Justice.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain to EU Court for Law on Buildings Performance

EU Commission requires Madrid fully comply with directive

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 24 — The European Commission has decided today to refer Spain to the EU’s Court of Justice for failure to fully comply with the directive on the energy performance of buildings. Under Spanish law, the adopted methodology for calculating the energy performance of buildings and the requirements for handing over an energy performance certificate are applicable only to new buildings and existing buildings undergoing a major renovation. The Directive on the contrary requires establishing a methodology and certificates for all types of buildings.

This is a key issue in the European legislation as the foreseen Energy Performance Certificate provides a clear view on the quality of the building in terms of energy savings and the associated costs. It is an important tool to give bargaining power in building purchase or rental agreements: some surveys show that purchasers can be ready to pay more for efficient buildings.

Furthermore, the Commission considers that Spain still has not put in place the necessary measures to establish a regular inspection regime for boilers. Bad functioning boilers can represent an important part of the heating costs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Netherlands Has Relatively Few Civil Servants

Just 2.9% of the Dutch working population are employed by the state, compared with 3.3% in the US and 4.7% in the UK, according to new research quoted by the Financieele Dagblad on Tuesday.

The figures are contained in a report by Leiden University researchers due out in December.

It says the low percentage of civil servants in the Netherlands is due to the large number of non-profit organisations in the public sector. These organisations are not part of government but do work which is a state function in other countries.

The current government has made reducing the size of the state sector a central part of its strategy to cut spending.

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

UK: Muslim Medical Students Boycotting Lectures on Evolution… Because it ‘Clashes With the Koran’

Muslim students, including trainee doctors on one of Britain’s leading medical courses, are walking out of lectures on evolution claiming it conflicts with creationist ideas established in the Koran.

Professors at University College London have expressed concern over the increasing number of biology students boycotting lectures on Darwinist theory, which form an important part of the syllabus, citing their religion.

Similar to the beliefs expressed by fundamentalist Christians, Muslim opponents to Darwinism maintain that Allah created the world, mankind and all known species in a single act.

Steve Jones emeritus professor of human genetics at university college London has questioned why such students would want to study biology at all when it obviously conflicts with their beliefs.

He told the Sunday Times: ‘I had one or two slightly frisky discussions years ago with kids who belonged to fundamentalist Christian churches, now it is Islamic overwhelmingly…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EP Gives First Green Light to EU-Morocco Fisheries Deal

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 22 — The European Parliament has given green light to the fisheries agreement closed by the EU and Morocco, which will cost Europe around 35 million euros. The Fisheries Commission accepted the agreement with 12 votes in favour, 8 against and one abstention. If the deal also passes the plenary vote in December, it will be effective until the end of February 2012. The outcome of today’s vote was uncertain, because the original version included a negative decision from the European Parliament for economic, environmental and legal reason.

According to the sponsor of the counter proposal, liberal-democrat Carl Haglund from Finland, “many in the Commission are not happy with the agreement and we will continue to work on that. We still have a vote in the plenary session ahead of us.” The EU-Morocco agreement includes fishing quotas for 119 boats for fishing on limited scale on bottom species and tuna.

European fishermen will be allowed to catch up to 60 thousand tonnes of sardines, mackerel and anchovy. Morocco will receive 22.6 million euros to allow access to its waters, and the EU will give another 13.5 million to promote sustainable fisheries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Army Refuses to Buckle to Popular Pressure

(AGI) Cairo — The Egyptian military junta is pursuing the path it begun with the appointment of Kamal Ganzouri as prime minister. On the eve of elections, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said it would not buckle to pressure from the streets calling for the formation of a government led by former head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei and by former secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. Instead the military has asked the two, both candidates in the upcoming presidential elections, to support Ganzouri.

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

Face of Egypt’s Eye Hunter: Protesters Produce ‘Wanted’ Posters After Policeman ‘Deliberately Blinds People With Rubber Bullets’

Pictured clutching a pump-action shotgun in a crowd of protesters, this is the boyish face of the man accused of being ‘The Eye Hunter’.

Wanted posters showing First Lieutenant Mahmoud Sobhi El Shinawi have gone up all round the capital Cairo after he was blamed for a series of horrific attacks in which a policeman tried to blind people.

The Egyptian officer was captured on video allegedly being congratulated by a colleague after shooting at least five demonstrators in the face during a riot.

He has been ordered by Egypt’s general prosecutor to submit to questioning over the suspected shootings.

A spokesperson for the country’s general prosecutor told CNN: ‘The Ministry of Interior is preoccupied by the latest events, but he will come in for questioning soon.’

And protesters, who call El Shinawi ‘The Eye Hunter’ want justice too and have sprayed graffiti spelling ‘wanted’ over images of his face, name and rank on Tahrir Square walls in Cairo.

Protesters have also been handing out fliers in the square identifying him and offering a reward of 5,000 Egyptian pounds (£53) for information leading to El Shinawi.

El Shinawi is said to be a ‘highly trained marksman’, CNN was told by an Interior Ministry spokesman.

One victim, Ahmed Harrara, was blinded by being shot in both eyes in separate attacks 10 months apart.

He was first shot on January 28 and then once again in his other eye last Sunday with a rubber bullet…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Libya: ENI at 200,000 Barrels Per Day

In 2013 at 300,000, to double in 10 years

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, NOVEMBER 25 — Eni has almost gone back to its level of 280,000 barrels of oil produced every day prior to the revolution which overthrew the Gaddafi regime. This was noted by Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni in a seminar held in the San Donato Milanese (Milan) offices. “Our production in Libya, he said, “has reached 200,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent” and, according to the director of the Exploration and Production division Claudio Descalzi, “it will reach the pre-war levels by June 2012.”.

The manager then added that “we will reach 300,000 barrels in 2013”, saying that potentially “production could double in a decade” on the basis of investment between 30 and 35 billion dollars. In relation to the recent record-high gas find in the territorial waters of Mozambique, Descalzi predicted that “the first gas cargo” produced from the field would be seen in 2018.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Swinging Tel Aviv Hits the Catwalk

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, NOVEMBER 22 — New York, Paris and Milan are still faraway dreams, but Tel Aviv, which enjoys a reputation as a swinging Middle Eastern city, is determined to put at least one foot in the glamorous world of fashion. This partly explains the rebirth of a local Fashion Week after a 30 year absence. The event opened yesterday with a tribute to Italian design by Cavalli and focussed on the creativity of a sparkling generation of young Israeli stylists, some of whom are already recognised abroad.

The aim is to project the bourgeois and hedonistic city, once a symbol of old Zionist Socialism, into the empire of glamour, offering a showcase for the country’s brightest talents, many of which have been produced by the two main national design schools, the Shenkar College in Ramat Gan (a suburb of Tel Aviv) and the Betzalel academy in Jerusalem. The event, which actually lasts only three days, will see seven daily catwalk shows and a parterre of 20,000 spectators, including around a hundred foreign fashion journalists. The show takes place in Tachana, a former railway station recently transformed into a shopping area perfect for strolling, which the guide books call “one of the coolest places in the new Tel Aviv”.

Significant efforts have been made across the board. The press says that around 7 million dollars have been invested, a large part of the total from the coffers of the Ministry of Tourism, which says that the Fashion Week could prove a golden opportunity to “promote Israel’s image abroad” overall. If they are to compete with the other major international fashion capitals, Israelis can at least count on one heavyweight partner. The Italian stylist Roberto Cavalli was the guest of honour of the first night of the show with the Spring/Summer collection 2012 by the Tuscan label.

“Cavalli’s participation in Fashion Week is part of a wider promotion of Italian fashion in Israel,” says Italy’s embassy in the country, which has marked the event by agreeing to back a fresh partnership deal between the Milan Chamber of Fashion (represented by its chair, Mario Boselli) and the organiser of the Tel Aviv event, Ofir Lev. “Reviving Fashion Week is a way of recognising the enormous changes that have occurred in the Israeli fashion sector in recent years,” Leah Perez tells ANSAmed. Perez has been head of the Fashion Department at Shenkar College for 14 years and has every reason to be included among the champions of this new wind of change. “Tel Aviv is bristling with young designers who are not afraid to take risks, with newly opened boutiques and ateliers,” she says. “Israeli academies are now internationally renowned. This is the result of the hard work and significant investments made in research laboratories. This means that Donna Karan, Roberto Cavalli, Diane von Furstenberg and other major international brands are now coming to us to recruit new talent”.

Speaking of new talent, one name to keep an eye on, according to the authoritative Shenkar professor is Niran Avisar, who is currently on a course in Italy, at the Trieste-based Diesel, after winning the Diesel Prize Award 2011 in July.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain Used ‘Excessive Force’ Against Protesters

Manama, 23 Nov. (AKI) — Bahrain used “excessive force” to put down anti-government demonstrations earlier this year, according to a report by an independent commission.

More than 40 people died and 1,600 were arrested when the Arab Spring movement arrived in tiny Bahrain where a majority Shia Muslim population expressed anger against the the Sunni royal family.

King Hamad Ben Issa al-Khalif said he would to everything so “those painful events won’t be repeated.”

“We will create and implement reforms that will satisfy the components of our society. This is the only way to reach an agreement of national reconciliation,” he said.

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

Jordan to Construct World Second Largest Oil Shale Plant

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, NOVEMBER 22 — Jordan signed an agreement with Chinese authorities to construct what would be the world second largest oil shale plant to produce alternative source of energy in the southern parts of the kingdom, an official said today.

The 900-megawatt (MW) station is expected to cost nearly $1.25 billion and will be powered by oil shale thermal-fired power.

The Chinese-owned firm Lejjun Oil Shale Investments and the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO) will be carrying out the project in the southern town of Lijon on hope of providing the kingdom with needed energy resource.

Officials say the plant would be an ideal solution to the kingdom’s chronic shortage of fuel and help reduce impact of importing the necessary commodity.

Jordan has embarked on a number of project to tap into its healthy resources of oil shale in the south, believed to be the third larges in the world including an agreement with Estonian company to produce energy by 2016, said officials from ministry of energy.

The station is expected to utilise Lejjun’s oil shale deposits, which under a separate project by a British firm are to yield up to 19,000 barrels of shale oil per day by 2017. Jordan also hopes to complete an ambitious project to build nuclear plant despite rising doubt over environmental impact in light of Japan’s nuclear disaster a year ago.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: UN Deputy Secretary, Attacks Will Not Stop UNIFIL

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 25 — The attacks on the UN peacekeeping forces between Lebanon and Israel will not intimidate these forces, said United Nations deputy secretary-general Ashi-Rose Migiro during a visit to the UNIFIL headquarters in the south of Lebanon. “The attacks on the UN troops will not keep them from carrying the white (peace) flag),” said Migiro during a reception in the coast city of Naqoura. She added that cooperation between UNIFIL troops and the Lebanese army is “excellent.” In September, before his resignation, United Nations coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams warned that Italy, France and Spain may decide to withdraw their contingents from UNIFIL if more bomb attacks are carried out on the UN forces.

Earlier attacks took place in May and July, injuring six Italian and six French troops.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ministry Dismantles Family Planning

In line with PM’s call for more children, newspaper

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 24 — In line with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policy to encourage families to have at least three children, the Health Ministry is dismantling its units tasked with family planning, according to the Turkish paper Aksam. As authoritative figures have said, equal rights have not been entirely achieved in Turkey and among the complaints on the condition of women the moderate Islamic PM’s call — who has four children — for every family to have at least three is often cited. Turkey is among the last places (126th out of 131) in the rankings of the 2010 World Economic Forum report as concerns the gender gap between men and women. However, the European Union considers the legal framework for women’s rights adequate in Turkey, a country with a population of mostly Muslims but secular legislation brought in during the 1920s and 1930s by Kemal Ataturk, who banned the Islamic headscarf and introduced divorce, abortion, civil marriage, equal inheritance rights and gender equality.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Enraged Pakistanis Burn Obama Effigy, Slam US

Hundreds of enraged Pakistanis took to the streets across the country Sunday, burning an effigy of President Barack Obama and setting fire to US flags after 24 soldiers died in NATO air strikes.

The rallies were organised by opposition and right-wing Islamist groups in major cities of the nuclear-armed country of 167 million people, where opposition to the government’s US alliance is rampant.

In Karachi, the port city used by the United States to ship supplies to troops fighting in Afghanistan, more than 700 people gathered outside the US consulate, an AFP photographer said.

They shouted: “down with America, stay away Americans, Pakistan is ours, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our army”, while Pakistani riot police were deployed near the consulate.

Outside the press club in Karachi, dozens of political activists burnt an effigy of President Obama, an AFP photographer added.

In the central city of Multan, more than 300 activists loyal to the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as local traders took to the streets, burning US and NATO flags.

They carried placards and banners, and shouted: “down with America,” “down with NATO,” “Yankees go back”, “vacate Afghanistan and Pakistan” and “stop drone attacks” — a reference to a CIA drone war against Islamist militants.

Speaking at the rally, opposition lawmaker Javed Hashmi demanded that the government end its alliance in the US-led “war on terror”…

[Return to headlines]

India Opens to Foreign Supermarkets

New Delhi is set to allow 51 per cent foreign ownership of multi-brand retail stores like Tesco and Wal-Mart, and 100 per cent in single-brand retailers like Nokia and Rebook. Farmers and small businesses are opposed because of potential job losses. India’s retail market is worth US$ 450 bn.

Mumbai (AsiaNews/Agencies) — India will open its retail market to global supermarket chains. The cabinet agreed to 51 per cent foreign ownership of multi-brand retail stores like Wal-Mart and Tesco and 100 per cent of single-brand retailers like Nokia and Reebok. Until now, these companies could only sell wholesale in India, not directly to customers.

The decision is of monumental consequences for India, where the retail market, one of the fastest growing in the world, is estimated to be around US$ 450 billion.

However, it has also generated protests by small businesses, opposition parties and some allies of the ruling Congress-led coalition government.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India expects liberalisation in the country’s retail sector to be worth US$ 1.3 trillion by 2018.

Supporters of the move say that allowing foreigners to control 51 per cent of multi-brand stores will bring in capital and breathe new life into the country’s economy at a time of high inflation and a weak rupee. However, the final draft proposal might be delayed or changed.

For the main opposition (ultranationalist) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the move is “a tool to kill the domestic retail industry”.

Opponents say the multi-nationals will squeeze out India’s smaller and poorer traders and drive down prices paid to India’s farmers.

One cabinet ally of the ruling Congress party, Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress, said his party was “completely opposed to it”.

With this reform, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s embattled government appears to be slowly shaking off a string of corruption scandals.

Yet, the decision is a major political gamble. Small businesses and their employees could lose income and jobs.

This might fuel anger against the Congress party, unable to reconcile the interests of part of its electoral base and investors, and have an impact on the 2014 parliamentary elections.

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

Indonesia: 14-Year-Old Australian Sentenced to 2 Months for Marijuana

Jakarta, 25 Nov. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — A 14-year-old Australian boy has been sentenced to two months in prison by the Denpasar District Court for being caught in possession of narcotics.

The sentence for the boy, known only by his initials LAM, was one month less than the prosecutors’ demand of three months imprisonment.

Judge Amzer Simanjuntak said that the mitigating factors for the lightened sentence were the defendant’s young age, the fact that he admitted to his crime and that he had no record of law infringement.

“I did not receive any pressure from anyone in making this decision,” he said on Friday, as quoted by

He added that the location of the boy’s detention would depend on the prosecutors.

The defendant’s lawyer, who has yet to launch an appeal, insisted that the boy should be returned to his parents.

LAM was arrested in Kuta for being in possession of 6.9 grams of Marijuana, which he bought at Kuta beach for Rp 250,000, or around US$25.

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

Pakistan: Lahore: Ahmadi Student Expelled on False Blasphemy Charges

Rabia Saleem ripped up an anti-Ahmadi poster. Students affiliated with Islamic fundamentalist groups accused her falsely in order to expel her from campus. The university usually covers up extremist abuses as silence reigns in the Education Ministry. Catholic priest slams the authorities’ inaction.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — An Ahmadi student from Lahore (Punjab) was expelled from her university in her senior after she was accused of blasphemy. Students affiliated with Tahaffuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat (TKN) accused Rabia Saleem of ripping up a poster with anti-Ahmadi content. Ahmadi Muslims are considered heretical by mainstream Islam because they do not view Muhammad as the last prophet. The poster was on the door of the hostel where the young woman lived, and, according to sources, it did not contain any verses from the Qur’an. A student, who asked for anonymity, said that the university “discriminates against religious minorities” and allows fundamentalist groups to “do as they as they please.”

Rashid Ahmad Khan, additional registrar at the Comsats Institute of Information Technology in Lahore, had denied any link between the student’s expulsion and her religion. Instead, he said she was expelled for “breaking university rules” since she “did not provide a document” required in order to register. Student sources say instead that the expulsion of the Ahmadi student was racist in nature, the result of an attitude of discrimination towards religious minorities that permeates the university.

In the meantime, TKN-affiliated students announced that “Ahmadi students would not be allowed” on campus, and that anybody who tried to resist them would be killed. The university and the education ministry reacted to the threat with total silence.

By contrast, it has send shockwaves through the Ahmadi community, which now fears fresh attacks, like the dual attack of May 2010 against two mosques in Lahore that left hundreds dead.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Amir John said that “many students are victims of discrimination in school and that no one has seriously tackled the problem.” In his view, the state “tolerates religious hatred” and “does nothing when episodes of persecution occur.”

For the Catholic priest, the extremist mindset continues to spread and because of it Pakistan could lose important and prominent people from religious minorities.

The Masihi Foundation and Life for All, two NGOs involved in helping victims of discrimination and violence, also condemned Rabia Saleem’ expulsion. In a joint statement, they called for “tolerance and harmony” and urged religious leaders to “play a positive role” in building a multi-confessional society.

They also noted that the only Pakistani to win a Nobel Prize (for Physics) is Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi, who was not appropriately honoured at home for his international award.

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

‘Please, I Haven’t Committed a Crime’: Afghan Transvestite Forced to Undress on Camera for the Amusement of Police

Video viewed 25,000 times shows Afghan cross-dressing male suffer humiliation at hands of police.

Homosexuality and cross-dressing are a criminal offence in Afghanistan.

Video footage has emerged of Afghan police humiliating a cross-dressing man by forcing him to undress on camera apparently for their own amusement.

The Afghan male, seen initially wearing a long shiny black wig, jewellery and a flowing black robe, is ordered to remove all his female attire despite protests of innocence.

The man is cruelly humiliated as officers demand he remove the wig, jewellery robe during the eight-minute video.

By the end he is stood in a scarlet short-sleeved traditional female dress with his receding hair on full show.

As police officers appear to laugh and goad the cross-dressing man, he pleads for mercy and can be heard saying, ‘Don’t make fun of me.’

At one point he even suffers the indignity of having to remove fake breasts from under his dress, which turn out to be two socks filled with dough.

Upon seeing this, an officer comments: ‘Dough to make the breasts feel softy-soft.’

According to the Guardian, the officers then deliver a barrage of questions to the transvestite and a second man who is arrested.

They ask the pair: ‘Why are you dressed like this? Where did you put the makeup on? What is all this about? What have you two been up to?’

As the Afghan cross dresser removes his jewellery, he can be heard to whisper: ‘I was shopping for clothes.’

After being near reduced to tears, the second man tells police officers: ‘Please, officer, we haven’t committed a crime.’

The video, which appears to have originated from an Afghan news source, is listed as being filmed in Kabul on Friday.

It is not clear what eventually happened to the two victims, but the footage has since been viewed nearly 25,000 times online.

Homosexuality and crossdressing are considered criminal offences in Afghanistan, with the regime change in the country doing very little to alter gay rights.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Twenty Years of Jail for Anti-Monarchy SMS in Thailand

(AGI) Bangkok — A man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for texting insults against the monarchy Thailand. Ampon Tangnoppakuln was found guilty of lese-majesty. In May 2010 he texted the private secretary of then-prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva. The lawyer defending Mr Tangnoppakuln will appeal the sentence. The Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej, 83, is considered almost a demigod by his subjects.

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

Far East

Chinese Super-Rich Seeking Refuge Abroad

46% are preparing to emigrate to the U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore. Insecurity and fear of social unrest; desire for a clean environment and better education for their children.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — Almost half of Chinese millionaires are thinking of emigrating abroad, concerned about political and social tensions as well as pollution, 14% have already done so, or are preparing affairs to leave. Among the most popular destinations are the USA, Canada, Singapore and Australia.

This phenomenon was revealed by research carried the Hurun Report and the Bank of China on 980 millionaires, whose wealth is above 10 million Yuan each (about 1.17 million Euros).

The primary reason that impels them to migrate is the search for a better quality education for their children. In this they follow the example of China’s leaders: we know that Xi Jinping, Hu Jintao’s likely successor as president, takes his children abroad to study. Along with education, they also cite the desire for less polluted cities than those in China and the fear of poisoned or manipulated food.

Another cause for their concern is the country’s social insecurity. Recent years have seen a surge in the so-called “mass incidents”: strikes, riots, protests. According to Sun Liping of Qinghua University there were 180 thousand incidents in 2010, nearly three times those of the previous three years. These riots could lead to clashes, or even a change in politics — perhaps a return to Maoism — which would penalize those who have enriched themselves on party privileges, and in doing so become an object of the wrath for the population.

There is also legal uncertainty: the courts in China and allegations of corruption or illegality are manipulated according to the whim of Party policies and there is always the risk of finding oneself on the wrong side.

On the other hand, many of these millionaires have often accumulated wealth through corrupt methods. For years, the Party has been calling on members (and their family members) to explicitly declare all sources of income and property, but have failed to achieve any results. Emigrating abroad is the best way to keep wealth secure, removing it from all possible controls.

But this is creating problems in host countries. At least one third of respondents said they had engaged in ‘investment immigration’, which allows a person to emigrate after they agree to first invest a certain amount of money in the host country.” In the U.S., for example, this year at least 3 thousand wealthy Chinese have applied for this type of visa. In 2007 there were only 270. But the U.S. and other countries demand accurate documentation on accumulated wealth and often the super-rich Chinese can not present it, given its ambiguous origin.

Nevertheless, in many countries — U.S., Canada, Italy, etc … — offices are sprouting up with the aim of helping Chinese millionaires manage their capital and guide them in investments.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

£1 Billion of UK Aid to Fight Climate Change in Africa

The UK is set to pour up to £1 billion of taxpayers money into helping African countries fight climate change.

Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, is due to announce details of a foreign aid package ahead of government talks at a United Nation’s summit on climate change in Durban, South Africa, which start this week.

Among the projects to be funded will be schemes to help African farmers insure their crops against flooding and drought while other projects include installing solar power in rural villages and building slurry pits that can produce gas to power generators.

The move, however, is expected to attract intense criticism at a time when the UK economy is struggling to recover from recession.

One of the countries which will receive money is South Africa, the most economically advanced in the continent. Last year its economy grew by 2.8 per cent, while Britain’s economy rose by 1.8%.

The finance package comes from a cross-departmental fund set up to tackle climate change in developing countries…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: Swoop Reveals 40% of Register Office Weddings Were a Sham

Almost 40 per cent of marriages at a register office were found to be bogus when border officials staked-out the premises.

Out of 78 wedding applications at Leeds Register Office over a two-week period, 30 were found to be sham marriages, with couples failing to turn up for their own weddings when they realised immigration officials were waiting for them…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

The Sex Addiction Epidemic

by Chris Lee (from Newsweek via The Daily Beast)

It wrecks marriages,destroys careers,and saps self-worth. Yet Americans are being diagnosed as sex addicts in record numbers. Inside an epidemic.


…Reliable figures for the number of diagnosed sex addicts are difficult to come by, but the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, an education and sex-addiction treatment organization, estimates that between 3 and 5 percent of the U.S. population—or more than 9 million people—could meet the criteria for addiction. Some 1,500 sex therapists treating compulsive behavior are practicing today, up from fewer than 100 a decade ago, say several researchers and clinicians, while dozens of rehabilitation centers now advertise treatment programs, up from just five or six in the same period. The demographics are changing, too. “Where it used to be 40- to 50-year-old men seeking treatment, now there are more females, adolescents, and senior citizens,” says Tami VerHelst, vice president of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. “Grandfathers getting caught with porn on their computers by grandkids, and grandkids sexting at 12.”

•Chris Lee: Sex Addiction and the City (/newsweek/2011/11/27/sex-addiction-and-the-city.html)

In fact, some of the growth has been fueled by the digital revolution, which has revved up America’s carnal metab­olism. Where previous generations had to risk public embarrassment at dirty bookstores and X-rated movie theaters, the Web has made pornography accessible, free, and anonymous. An estimated 40 million people a day in the U.S. log on to some 4.2 million pornographic websites, according to the Internet Filter Software Review. And though watching porn isn’t the same as seeking out real live sex, experts say the former can be a kind of gateway drug to the latter.

“Not everyone who looks at a nude image is going to become a sex addict. But the constant exposure is going to trigger people who are susceptible,” says Dr. David Sack, chief executive of Los Angeles’s Promises Treatment Centers.

New high-tech tools are also making it easier to meet strangers for a quick romp. Smartphone apps like Grindr use GPS technology to facilitate instantaneous, no-strings gay hookups in 192 countries. The website promises “affairs guaranteed” by connecting people looking for sex outside their marriages; the site says it has 12.2 million members.

This year the epidemic has spread to movies and TV. In November the Logo television network began airing Bad Sex, a reality series following a group of men and women with severe sexual issues, most notably addiction. And on Dec. 2, the acclaimed psychosexual drama Shame arrives in ­theaters. The movie follows Brandon (portrayed by Irish actor Michael Fassbender in a career-defining performance), a New Yorker with a libido the size of the Empire State Building. His life devolves into a blur of carnal encounters, imperiling both his job and his self-regard. In perhaps the least sexy sex scene in the history of moviedom, Brandon appears to lose all humanity during a frenzied ménage à trois with two prostitutes. “It’s a foursome with the audience,” says director and co-writer Steve McQueen. “What we were doing was actually dangerous. Not just in terms of people liking the movie, but psychologically.”


[A long essay, best to read at URL above]

           — Hat tip: Tartan Marine[Return to headlines]

UK: Christian Mother ‘Forced Out of Heathrow Job After Hate Campaign by Muslim Fundamentalists’I Was Told I Would Go to Hell, Claims Worker

A worker who claims she was the victim of a race-hate campaign by fundamentalist Muslims because of her Christian beliefs has launched a landmark case against her former employers.

Nouhad Halawi, a saleswoman at Heathrow Airport’s World Duty Free shop, said she and other Christian staff were systematically harassed by Muslims.

She alleged the intimidation included:

  • Bullying a friend at the airport for wearing crosses.
  • Muslims telling her she would go to hell if she didn’t convert.
  • A Muslim colleague insisting she read the Koran. And;
  • That Jews were responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Mrs Halawi lost her job at the perfume counter in Terminal 3 in July after 13 years when she spoke out about bullying by a small group of ‘extremist’ Muslims at the airport.

The mother-of-two had been the subject of a complaint by an Islamic colleague but when she raised her own concerns as a Christian, she said she was the one who was dismissed.

Her case for unfair dismissal is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, who believe it raises important legal issues over whether Muslims and Christians are treated differently by employers.

Mrs Halawi, 47, who came to Britain from Lebanon in 1977, said: ‘I have been sacked on the basis of unsubstantiated complaints.

‘There is now great fear amongst my former colleagues that the same could happen to them if one of the Muslims turns on them.

‘This is supposed to be a Christian country, but the law seems to be on the side of the Muslims.’

She says that she had always got on well with her Muslim colleagues,but the atmosphere changed with a growing number of employees promoting ‘fundamentalist Islam’.

Mrs Halawi told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘One man brought in the Koran to work and insisted I read it and another brought in Islamic leaflets and handed them out to other employees.

‘They said that 9/11 served the Americans right and that they hated the West, but that they had come here because they want to convert people to Islam.

‘They say that Jesus is s***** and bullied a Christian friend of mine so much for wearing her crosses that she came to me crying.’

She claimed she became a targeted for the fundamentalists after she stood up for her friend who wants to be anonymous because she still works at the terminal.

In May, five of her Muslim colleagues complained to David Tunnicliffe, the trading manager at World Duty Free, accusing her of being anti-Islamic following a heated conversation in the store.

According to the Telegraph, her description of a Muslim colleague as an allawhi — ‘man of God’ in Arabic — sparked a row when another worker overheard the remark and thought she said Alawi, which was his branch of Islam.

Following the complaints she was suspended but was not told on what grounds until she met Mr Tunnicliffe in July.

Two days after the meeting she received a letter withdrawing her Heathrow security pass — needed to work at World Duty Free — because her comments were deemed ‘extremely inappropriate.’

Mrs Halawi, paid at World Duty Free on a freelance basis by cosmetic staff agency Caroline South Associates, was told that she would not be unable to continue working without her pass.

A petition signed by 28 colleagues, some of them Muslims, argued that she has been dismissed on the basis of ‘malicious lies.’

The Christian Legal Centre has instructed Paul Diamond, a leading human rights barrister, to represent Mrs Halawi in taking both Caroline South Associates and Autogrill Retail UK Limited, which trades as World Duty Free, to an employment tribunal.

A lawyer acting for CSA told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘The case is still pending so the company is not in a position to comment, but as far as the company is concerned she’s never been an employee and has never been dismissed.’

A World Duty Free spokesman said they were unable to comment because of ‘ongoing legal proceedings’.

Last week, Jewish businessman Arieh Zucker complained that he has been repeatedly singled out for full-body scans by Muslim security staff at the airport.

The 41-year-old mortgage broker, from London, has accused them of ‘race hate’ and is threatening to sue for racial discrimination after being made to ‘feel like a criminal’ while being scanned.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]