Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111209

Financial Crisis
»Dutch Economy Virtually Halted, Recession in 2011 Second-Half
»Eurozone Crisis Too Red Hot for Metallica
»Farewell Sweet Sovereignty…
»Finland Threatens to Leave Bailout Fund Over Unanimity Row
»Greece: Athens Mayor Seeks Cheaper Christmas Celebration
»Greece: Plan to Cut State Employees Fails
»Greece: Parties Feuding Despite Serious Crisis
»Italy: Markets React Cautiously to EU Summit
»Italy: Austerity Package Will Depress Economy, Says BOI Chief
»Italy Would Have Preferred UK in New EU Treaty, Says Monti
»New EU Treaty Deal May Not Suffice to Save Euro, Says Monti
»The Economic Order That Inspires Merkel
»Gunman in VT Shooting Confirmed as 2nd Person Found Dead
»Gunman Firing at Cars in Hollywood Killed by Cops
»Monti to Meet Obama at White House in January
»Police Identify Gunman in Virginia Tech Murder-Suicide
Europe and the EU
»Anders Breivik Declared Insane: Who is Guilty? — Part 1
»Black Market in Swedish Work Permits ‘Booming’
»Greece: Poll Shows Increase in Support for ND and Left
»Italy: Photos Wrongly Suggested ‘Harem’ At Villa, Says Ex-PM
»Italy: Violence as Protesters March on TAV Site
»Swiss Hair Scare: Italians Seek Bald Truth
»Vatican: Top Bishop Sees Jailed Priest Accused of Sex Abuse
»EU: Croatia: Treaty Signed, 28th Member From 1/7/2013
North Africa
»Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood, No Contact With US Over Israel
»Egypt: ‘Don’t Trust Islamists’, Activist Says
»ENI: Production in Libya Back to 70%, Iran No Problem
»Qaradawi: Sharia “Gradualism” For Egypt—and Beyond
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Democracy Strikes Back
»Palestinians Do Not Exist, They Are Terrorists: Gingrich
»‘War Winds’ Blowing, But Army Fights Waste of Money
Middle East
»Turkey to Freeze Relations With EU From January
»Turkey: Work on First Nuclear Power Station to Begin in 2013
South Asia
»India: Kashmir: Sharia Court Summons Fr Jim Borst on Proselytising Charges
»Pakistani Editorial Says Nuclear War With India “Inevitable” As Water Dispute Continues
Far East
»Bill Gates to Build Nuclear Reactors in China?
»Schengen: For a Europe of Borders
Culture Wars
»France: Catholics Protest Against ‘Blasphemous’ Play in Paris
»UK: For a Tolerant Society to Work, We All Need Thick Enough Skins
»When Bin Laden Died, He Was No Longer at Al Qaeda Helm

Financial Crisis

Dutch Economy Virtually Halted, Recession in 2011 Second-Half

The Dutch economy will come to a virtual halt next year, with GDP growth falling to 0.2% and unemployment rising to 5.3%, the central bank said in its latest half-yearly statement on Friday.

However, if the European debt crisis is tackled quickly and decisively, a ‘restoration in confidence may give the economy a positive boost,’ the central bank said.

The bank says growth will reach 1.4% over 2011 as a whole but the Netherlands has entered into a recession in the second half. The economy contracted in the third quarter and is expected to do so again in the final three months.

Trade and confidence

‘The more sombre growth prospects result from the lower growth in world trade and the increased loss of confidence among enterprises and consumers,’ the bank said. ‘Households tend to save more because their financial situation is deteriorating, notably through declining house prices.’

Central bank president Klaas Knot told Nos television the downturn means the government will need to make further cuts and reforms in order to strengthen the economy. Mounting unemployment, forecast to reach almost 6% in 2013, is ‘worrying’ the central bank president said.

Earlier on Friday, the Telegraaf said the cabinet is preparing to make extra cuts of up to €10bn in order to balance the government’s books. The government’s macro-economic policy bureau is due to publish its latest forecasts on Tuesday.

Housing and benefits

The paper says sources in The Hague say at least €6bn needs to be shaved off spending, but the total could be much higher. The cuts would come on top of the €18bn package already agreed and partly implemented.

Ministers are shocked at the sharp deterioration in the finances, now the economy is slowing down and a recession looms. One source told the paper the figures are ‘very deep red’.

Ministers are considering ‘draconian’ measures involving the labour and housing markets to realise the savings, the paper says.


Over the past few weeks, a number of prominent cabinet supporters have said the generous Dutch system of mortgage tax relief should be reviewed and this is likely to be on the agenda. The cabinet had said it would not interfere with the system, but many pundits regard this as now inevitable.

Major cuts in unemployment benefit are another option, according to media reports.

The anti-Islam PVV, which supports the minority coalition on economic policy, has already said it will not back further cuts unless €4bn is cut from the development aid budget.

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

Eurozone Crisis Too Red Hot for Metallica

The world of rock is indifferent to the Eurozone’s torments. According to the Wall Street Journal, US heavy rock band Metallica, whose hits include The Four Horsemen and Enter Sandman, are accelerating their tour plans “to avoid getting sucked into Europe’s debt troubles.”

Touring represents a major chunk of income for major rock acts. In 2010 alone, Metallica earned $110.1 million (€82.2 million) from the activity. Now, instead of playing Europe in 2013, as originally envisaged, they will take a curtailed tour dubbed “European Summer Vacation” in 2012, taking in Norway, Germany, Denmark, England and Austria. The WSJ notes:

With the gloom among investors spreading to richer countries such as France, Mr. [Cliff] Burnstein [Metallica’s manager] is worried that the euro will tank, making it harder for concert promoters in the 17 countries that use the currency to pay Metallica’s fees.

Mr Burnstein said —…

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

Farewell Sweet Sovereignty…

El País, Madrid

If approved by the Twenty-Seven, the fiscal union proposed by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy would be a decisive new stage on the path to European federalism. But are all willing to pay the price: the surrender of the budgetary autonomy of states.

Lluís Bassets

Sovereignty is in mourning in Europe. The greatest surrender of sovereignty in Europe since the treaties of Rome and Maastricht were signed is being prepared for the next few days.

With the first of the treaties, in 1957, tariff policy was surrendered, laying the foundations for the single market. With the second, in 1992, went currencies — symbols of nationhood that had been until then at least as resonant as national flags — and monetary policies, which allow interest rates and exchange rates to be fixed.

This, in turn, laid the foundations for the current sovereign debt crisis. At today’s summit the old states are now going to be asked to hand over their entire budgetary policy — in other words, the political soul of the nation state.

There will be no salvation in this globalised world if the old countries of Europe each go their own ways. Not even those two countries playing in the top league and winning all the cups — the FC Barcelona and Real Madrid that are Germany and France.

Liquidation of sovereignty

It is not just a question of scraping by in the global marketplace, but about living in acceptable conditions that will not significantly eat away at the fantastic quality of life that Europeans have enjoyed over the past 30 years. What is involved is not just national pride, seats at the G20 or the Security Council — that is, the weight, influence and visibility of the Europeans around the globe — but issues that are more tangible and closer to home, like, quite simply, our well-being and our ways of life, which can only be preserved in a European Union that works.

The transfer of sovereignty will result in a fiscal union. But this will be imperfect, since it will be a union of budgetary stability and austerity and not a union of transfer, solidarity and growth. At least, not yet.

The method used will not be the community method, in which leading roles are played by the Commission, the Parliament and the European Courts, which we identify most directly with federalism and Europeanism. It will be an intergovernmental method, and it will not bring in all the 27 countries.

Some because they do not want to be in it, like the UK; others because they do not know if they want to, like Denmark; and others who, though they do want to join, have not yet decided to take the plunge, like Poland.

The two European powers that have fought most with each other, who have gone to war three times as ambitious and sometimes expansive sovereign states, will proceed with this liquidation of sovereignty. No one else can do it. It is likely that only they can…

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

Finland Threatens to Leave Bailout Fund Over Unanimity Row

Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen on Friday said Finland would leave the EU’s bailout fund if decisions on it are no longer made unanimously. She said Finland will drop out if a Franco-German push to take decisions on future bailouts by a supermajority goes ahead.

Urpilainen said the government’s decision on the matter was unanimous.

Finland has maintained that it cannot agree to transitioning from decision making by unanimous consent to a system where voting rights are based on holdings in the European Central Bank. The Franco-German proposal would allow countries holding 85 percent of the European Central Bank’s capital to push through decisions on the bailout fund.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Greece: Athens Mayor Seeks Cheaper Christmas Celebration

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 8 — Athens mayor Yiorgos Kaminis has called on school children in the capital to decorate the city’s main Syntagma Square on Friday, to save money on Christmas expenses, as daily Athens News reports. Schools have been invited to decorate trees on the square between 11am and 1pm before Kaminis inaugurates the city’s holiday celebrations at 6 pm. The mayor said the city had been waiting for marches commemorating the police killing of teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos to end before the celebrations began. Athens’ main Christmas tree was torched during major riots in 2008 over the police shooting of Grigoropoulos. There will be no central Christmas tree on Syntagma this year. The city estimates the cost of this year’s celebrations at 200,000 euros, compared with 2 million euros three years ago.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Plan to Cut State Employees Fails

(AGI) Athens — The government plan that enables the temporary mobility of state employees in Greece has failed. The plan was prepared by the government for the upcoming negotiations with Troika inspectors. The aim of the Greek government was to cut 30,000 jobs in the public sector within the end of the year.

However, on the basis of the last government data, only 5,000 state employees have lost their jobs. Among these 5,000 state employees, only 515 have adhered to the scheme established by law, while about 4,000 have been able to obtain anticipated retirement by presenting a letter of request before the passing of the above-mentioned law or simply because they had worked for 33 years and thus were entitled to retire.

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

Greece: Parties Feuding Despite Serious Crisis

Pasok and New Democracy at daggers drawn over past

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Just as the European Union is experiencing the most serious economic crisis in its existence and with Greece on the verge of bankruptcy, the two major parties forming Greece’s national salvation government are taking every opportunity to clash and fire accusations at each other regarding respective government policy of the past. The situation is testing the strength of the executive led by the Prime Minister, Lucas Papademos, undermining its work and troubling its resolve and balance.

Two distinct stances exist within the centre-right New Democracy party led by Antonis Samaras. The first is that now is not the time for clashes with the Socialist Pasok party (led by the former Prime Minister, George Papandreou) and that New Democracy must clearly support the Papademos government without conditions in order to see through its aims. The opposite view, however, is that the party must speak out against Pasok and that opposition to the government is necessary, as “Samaras wanted early elections straightaway and the agreements reached only came around in view of the allocation of the sixth tranche” of international aid. A paradoxical situation now exists, whereby one party is opposing a government of which it is itself a component, with two deputy Prime Ministers and two ministers in key roles (Defence and Foreign Affairs). The Defence Minister, Dimitris Avramopoulos, told journalists that “opposition by a party to a government of which it is a part is an oxymoron”.

Pasok, meanwhile, is going through its most difficult time since the party’s foundation, as shown by rumours that a split in the party may not be far away. Even though the main issue is the succession of Papandreou, many difficulties still exist for the functioning of the government, not least considering that candidates to succeed the former PM are government ministers. Papandreou’s silence on the party’s future and on his intentions, however, have raised tension within the party, just as measures included in the party charter are launched, following the most recent political developments, to find a leader to take the party to the next elections. In the meantime, the first attacks on the former Prime Minister have already arrived. Michalis Chrisochoidis, the Minister for Development in the Papademos executive, but also in the previous government, has harsh words for Papandreou, telling the Mega television station that “given the problems that the country is experiencing, he could only be a candidate to lead the party in a third world country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Markets React Cautiously to EU Summit

Bond spread above 457 basis points

(ANSA) — Milan, December 9 — Financial markets on Friday reacted cautiously to attempts by a summit of European Union leaders to save the eurozone from the impact of the debt crisis.

The spread between Italy’s 10-year Treasury bond and the benchmark German bond was at 457.8 basis points early Friday, with a yield of 6.59%.

European leaders agreed to stricter budget guidelines for the eurozone in Brussels on Friday, but comprehensive changes to the EU treaty for the union’s 27 member states failed when the United Kingdom back them.

Milan shares were 1.5% higher in early trading after the market’s FTSE Mib index fell 4.29% on Thursday.

At least 17 European countries are expected to press ahead with an accord that will include strict penalties for those who break rules on deficits. The European Central Bank moved to slash interest rates to a record 1% on Thursday and markets across Europe fell after the bank’s President Mario Draghi discouraged hopes that the bank would increase its government bond-buying.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Austerity Package Will Depress Economy, Says BOI Chief

‘Measures will have negative effect on GDP’ says Visco

(ANSA) — Rome, December 9 — Italy’s already sluggish economy will be depressed by the government’s tough new austerity package if certain measures are not taken, Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco said Friday.

The austerity decree “will bring the tax burden up to around 45% (of national income),” Visco told the House. “The deficit-reducing measures will have a negative effect on gross domestic product, estimated to drop by half a percentage point over the next two years”. The bank chief said those effects could be corrected if the the yield on Italian bonds dropped further. After teetering above the 7% mark, long-term bond yields fell below 6% shortly after Premier Mario Monti announced the new austerity measures in a bid to balance the budget. The yield has since gone back above 6%. Visco called on the government to lighten the tax burden and to refrain from needless spending. He also stressed the importance of getting the economy to grow in order to save Italy from its massive debt, which is about 120% of GDP.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Would Have Preferred UK in New EU Treaty, Says Monti

Austerity budget contributed to solution

(ANSA) — Rome, December 9 — Italian Premier Mario Monti said Friday that he was sorry Britain has decided not to join the rest of the European Union in committing to a new treaty for closer fiscal union to stop the euro from collapsing.

“Italy and I personally would have preferred an amended treaty of the 27 (member states) but this was not possible,” Monti told a press conference in Brussels after the crunch EU summit in Brussels.

“I spent a lot of time during the night to try to mediate between Britain and the eurozone”.

Former European commissioner Monti said a package of hard-hitting austerity measures he presented on Sunday has contributed to the deal reached in Brussels to seek to solve the eurozone crisis.

“(The package) made it possible for Italy to face yesterday and today, which were so important, with greater serenity and make a more active contribution that was accepted by others to launch a systematic solution of the eurozone crisis,” he said. Monti took over the helm of government as the head of a team of non-political technocrat ministers after Silvio Berlusconi resigned as premier last month, with Italy’s debt crisis threatening to spiral out of control.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New EU Treaty Deal May Not Suffice to Save Euro, Says Monti

Premier insists summit far from a failure

(ANSA) — Rome, December 9 — Italian Premier Mario Monti said that the deal European leaders reached on Friday may not suffice to save the euro.

The premier stressed, however, that the Brussels summit was far from a failure even though Britain decided not to join the rest of the European Union in committing to a new treaty for closer fiscal union to stop the euro from collapsing.

“It’s possible that all this won’t be enough,” Monti told a press conference. “But it doesn’t seem to me that the summit was a failure.

“Decisions of a vast scale concerning the establishment of a more rigorous and better respected framework for the discipline of public finances were taken, although it remains to be seen whether they actually will be better respected”. Monti added that he was sorry it had proved impossible to find an agreement that Britain would commit itself to.

“Italy and I personally would have preferred an amended treaty of the 27 (member states) but this was not possible,” he said.

“I spent a lot of time during the night to try to mediate between Britain and the eurozone”. Former European commissioner Monti said a package of hard-hitting austerity measures he presented on Sunday has contributed to the deal reached in Brussels to seek to solve the eurozone crisis.

“(The package) made it possible for Italy to face yesterday and today, which were so important, with greater serenity and make a more active contribution that was accepted by others to launch a systematic solution of the eurozone crisis,” he said. “The Italian measures were welcomed by everyone, as (European Commission President Jose’ Manuel) Barroso said”. Monti added that the possibility of issuing eurobonds remained alive even though an agreement on this issue had not been reached in Brussels, largely because of German scepticism.

Many counties believe eurobonds would help ease the eurozone crisis by lumping together debts from states that are under fire on the financial markets with those considered secure.

Monti took over the helm of government as the head of a team of non-political technocrat ministers after Silvio Berlusconi resigned as premier last month, with Italy’s debt crisis threatening to spiral out of control.

He said that he will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a three-state summit in the middle of January.

Monti is also set to meet United States President Barack Obama at the White House some time in January.

The Milan stock market made big gains and the pressure on Italian bonds eased on Friday after the EU summit.

Milan’s benchmark FTSE Mib index climbed 3.37% to close at 15,483 points, with bank stocks performing especially well. The spread between Italy’s 10-year Treasury bond and the German equivalent, a key indicator of investor confidence in Italy’s ability to service its massive debt, stood at 421 points after closing at 444 Thursday and going over the 450 mark in early trading Friday. The yield dropped to 6.36% from 6.46% on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Economic Order That Inspires Merkel

Libération, Paris

Angela Merkel’s drive to impose discipline and sanctions in the Eurozone is not a bid to establish German hegemony, but simply an extension of the economic doctrine that provided the basis for Germany’s economic miracle: “ordoliberalism”.

Antoine Vauchez

Will the balance of European democracy have to be re-adjusted in the context of the current crisis? The question has been posed at a time when the sorcerors’ apprentices of European institutional engineering are once again preparing to revise community structures.

The political issue is as simple as it is crucial: budgetary discipline has become a priority, but who is to be the final authority that will act as the ‘guarantor’ of this discipline?

It is important to point out that the German government already has a significant headstart on this issue. Since September, when she announced the policy to Christian-Democrat MPs, Angela Merkel has not tired of repeating that member states’ budgetary policies should be placed under the authority of judges in Luxembourg with the power to sanction “fiscal sinners” [the compromise established on 5 December between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy has sidelined this solution]…

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


Gunman in VT Shooting Confirmed as 2nd Person Found Dead

Police are releasing several new developments in the investigation into the deadly shooting Thursday at Virginia Tech. A police officer was killed and another man, who police now say was the shooter, was found dead.

State police now say the gunman was the second person found dead in a parking lot. They believe he acted alone in the slaying of the campus officer before he turned the gun on himself.

This all started shortly after noon Thursday. State police say the gunman approached Virginia Tech Police Officer Deriek Crouse during a traffic stop, then shot and killed him. The gunman then ran to another building where he changed clothes.

About a half hour later, a Montgomery County sheriff noticed a man acting strangely near the “I” parking lot. That is where the sheriff found the gunman dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Investigators say dashcam video — that will not be released — captured the gunman’s identity and was instrumental in identifying him.

Virginia State Police Spokesperson Corinne Geller said, “We are very confident we know who this individual is. However, due to protocol, the medical examiners office must make that positive identification and then we notify the next of kin. And at that point we will be able to release his name. I can tell you at this point that he is not a Virginia Tech student.”

Investigators are still piecing together the gunman’s whereabouts leading up to the deadly shooting. They are also still trying to figure out why the gunman ambushed campus Officer Crouse.

Friday, officers are remembering him as a reputable man and a married father of five children.

Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flincham said, “You’ve heard or you’ve read Officer Crouse described as a spot officer, receiving awards and those type things, but Deriek was more than that. Deriek was a friend to many in the department. Deriek was a husband. Deriek was a father. Deriek was a son.”

So far, investigators have not found a connection between the shooter and Officer Crouse.

The Virginia Tech campus was locked down for nearly four hours Thursday. University officials say their alert system worked as planned and kept students and faculty out of harm’s way.

[Return to headlines]

Gunman Firing at Cars in Hollywood Killed by Cops

LOS ANGELES — A gunman who fired at cars and shouted “kill me” and “I’m gonna die!” was shot to death Friday by police after wounding a driver in the heart of Hollywood, authorities and a witness reported.

The unidentified man was pronounced dead at the scene. No officers were hurt, Los Angeles police Officer Cleon Joseph said.

Police had few details. However, witness Oscar Herrera told KABC-TV that he saw the gunman walking down the middle of Vine Street near Sunset Boulevard, firing at least nine shots into the air and at passing cars while shouting “Kill me!” and “I’m gonna die!”

“People were running all over,” Herrera said. “People was ducking.”

The 40-year-old male driver of a Mercedes-Benz was wounded in his upper body and taken to a hospital in unknown condition. A truck and another car were struck with bullets.

The gunman eventually ran out of bullets and pulled a knife before a policeman shot four or five times at the attacker, Herrera said.

Dave Pepper told KCAL-TV that he was in his car when the gunman attacked him.

“This guy came running across the street and he put the gun right up to this window,” Pepper said as he sat in the car. “Why he didn’t pull the trigger I don’t know … I thought maybe he was out of bullets.”

Investigators were trying to determine a motive for the attack. The area was cordoned off, snarling traffic in the heart of Hollywood, as the gunman’s body remained in the street under a white sheet for more than an hour after the attack.

[Return to headlines]

Monti to Meet Obama at White House in January

Date not yet established, premier says

(ANSA) — Rome, December 8 — Italian Premier Mario Monti will meet United States President Barack Obama at the White House in January.

“We will visit the White House in Washington in January on a date that has not yet been established,” Monti said Thursday after meeting US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for talks here before going to a major summit of European Union leaders on the eurozone crisis later in the day in Brussels.

Former European commissioner Monti took over the helm of government as the head of a team of non-political technocrat ministers after Silvio Berlusconi resigned as premier last month, with Italy’s debt crisis threatening to spiral out of control.

Monti presented a hard-hitting ‘Save Italy’ budget on Sunday that has eased the pressure on Italian bonds, although uncertainly remains about the future of the euro ahead of Thursdays’ summit.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Police Identify Gunman in Virginia Tech Murder-Suicide

BLACKSBURG, Virginia (Reuters) — The man who shot dead a campus police officer at Virginia Tech on Thursday before killing himself was a student at a nearby university who had stolen an SUV at gunpoint the day before, officials said.

Virginia State Police on Friday identified the gunman as 22-year-old Ross Truett Ashley, a part-time student at Radford University in Radford, Va.

Ashley had entered a real estate office in Radford on Wednesday and demanded the keys to an employee’s white 2011 Mercedes Benz at gunpoint.

He drove off in the vehicle and later dumped it on the campus of Virginia Tech some time before his deadly confrontation with 39-year-old Deriek W. Crouse, an officer with the Virginia Tech campus police.

The state police said they have not been able to establish any prior contact or connection between Ashley and Crouse and still do not know why the part-time student walked up to the officer and shot him before turning the gun on himself in a nearby parking lot…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anders Breivik Declared Insane: Who is Guilty? — Part 1

Everyone has heard the legal explanation of when free speech becomes a crime, “You must not cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” According to the findings of the Norway court-appointed psychiatrists who examined Anders Breivik, he believes there is an immigration fire in his native country, so he killed or wounded some 80 Norwegian youths whose parents belong to the political party he blames for the migration of Muslims into Norway.

Note that Breivik, as far as we know, did not gain a single Krone for his violent well-planned deed. And he risked his own life to do it, for had the police shown up before he ran out of bullets, or if anyone on Utoya Island had had a gun, Anders would likely have been shot down. As it stands, Breivik may be in a mental institution from a few years, or for the rest of his life.

Some good may come from the unfamiliar and seemingly overgenerous Norwegian law, because it will now bring focus on those who Breivik heard shouting “fire” and who influenced him to kill 74 youths. Unlike Anders, many of them are well paid and rewarded for promoting war.

We live in a war-based economy in a society trained not to know it. A brazen few make their living agitating for those who benefit from serial wars. The serial war on Islamic countries is now in its third decade, having started with Operation Desert Storm in January 1991, when the cold war thawed out after 50 years of artificial freezing. Among the anti-Islamic agitators are Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, two of many named in Anders Breivik’s Manifesto, some 1146 pages, titled European Declaration of Independence, published on the web just before his killing spree. It named and credited the people who inspired him. Geller and Spencer are in the business of shouting “fire, the Muslims are coming to take over America.” Their acts and voices aid and abet the call to war on Islam. They, and the nameless, faceless billionaires who see to their success, may be legally responsible for Andrew Breivik’s acts. In America a bartender can be held responsible for the acts of the drunk to whom he sold booze. Why not hold the purveyors of hate responsible for the acts of the guy who listened to their inflammatory words, and acted on and carried out these words? For the first time I wish I was a lawyer!…

[Return to headlines]

Black Market in Swedish Work Permits ‘Booming’

Non-Europeans hoping to come to Sweden to work often pay ten thousands of kronor to come to the country, in what is believed to be a widespread illegal trade with work permits.

According to Sveriges Radio (SR) the illegal trade in Swedish work permits today is booming.

Those who want to come to Sweden to work pay up to 100,000 kronor ($14,729) for travel expenses and a valid work permit.

The money is then shared by recruiters, Swedish employers and legal firms, handling the applications.

One lawyer claimed to have been approached by at least ten or fifteen people who said they had been promised work permits but never received them.

The money, they said, had gone to the lawyer’s superiors.

“In most cases they said they’d paid 50,000 or even 100,000 kronor,” the lawyer, told SR.

And most of the jobs only exists on paper. Those who have been granted a work permit will show up in the books of a company, without ever actually working there.

However, in order for the tax authorities not to notice anything untoward, the person is forced to pay their alleged employers their tax out of their own pocket.

In order to be able to do that they have to find work somewhere else, often cash-in-hand.

Alejandro Firpo at the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), said that the agency is aware of this practice and is working closely with police to try to combat it.

“What makes it extra hard is that when people are ready to pay instead of being paid, they are also willing to pay these fees for the tax agency. So when the police or someone else tip us off, we conduct checks. And these look good. It looks as if the person has been working and paid tax to the tax agency. Which leaves authorities like us quite unable to do anything,” Firpo told SR.

The rules were changed in 2008, making it possible for non-European citizens to get a temporary work and residence permit in Sweden, if they can show that they have secured a job within the country.

If one works in Sweden for four years, that person is then eligible for a permanent residence permit.

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

Greece: Poll Shows Increase in Support for ND and Left

According to a survey for Kathimerini and Skai TV.

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 9 — Center-right New Democracy party has widened its lead over Socialist PASOK but still does not have enough support to form a government on its own as there has been a substantial shift to the leftist parties, according to a new Public Issue poll for Kathimerini and Skai TV.

According to the survey, ND would garner 30% of the vote, 1.5% up on last month. While the rise indicates that the conservatives have not suffered from their participation in the interim government, as some ND members feared, support for the center-right party is still well short of what would be needed for a majority government. PASOK’s ratings have slid 4% to 15.5%. This would leave the Socialists with 50 seats in Parliament compared to the 160 it won two years ago. The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), the third member of the transitional administration, also experienced a dip in support. The nationalists saw their ratings fall 2.5 points to 6%. There were gains for all the leftist parties. The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) was up 2% to 14, ahead of the Communist Party (KKE), which rose 2.5% to 13.5. Backing for the Democratic Left, the more moderate part led by veteran politician Fotis Kouvelis, also rose to 9%. This means that the leftist parties’ combined share of the vote is an unusually high 37%. Two other parties, the Ecologist Greens and the liberal Democratic Alliance led by Dora Bakoyannis, also pass the 3% threshold to gain seats in Parliament, according to the poll. The proportion of those who say they plan to abstain remains high at 32.5%. Significantly, just over half of respondents want elections to be held soon and 38% like the idea of a coalition government. The approval rating for the current interim prime minister, Lucas Papademos, is at 60%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Photos Wrongly Suggested ‘Harem’ At Villa, Says Ex-PM

‘Totally different to reality’, says Berlusconi

(ANSA) — Milan, December 9 — Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi told a Milan court on Friday that photos showing him with female guests at his Sardinian villa had sought to depict them as “Berlusconi’s harem”.

The ex-prime minister was giving evidence at the trial of Pino Belleri, former editor of the popular gossip magazine Oggi.

Belleri is facing charges over the publication of photos showing Berlusconi with several women at his luxury Villa Certosa on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda in 2007.

“They were normal,” Berlusconi said of the photos. “The way they were presented as ‘Berlusconi’s harem’ was totally different to reality”.

He also defended holding hands with his female guests. “I am in the habit of taking my guests by the hand, it is normal behaviour for me,” Berlusconi told the court.

He also said the photos had deliberately excluded images of male guests because the photographer was looking for “an eventual sale”.

Berlusconi’s testimony lasted less than 30 minutes and he left the courthouse immediately without making any further comment to the media.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Violence as Protesters March on TAV Site

Stones hurled at perimeter wire. Gate torn down. Police respond with tear gas and fire hoses. Sixteen-year-old among casualties taken to hospital.

— The steam train that puffs around Susa has acquired an ironic overtone. In Val Susa, “the valley that resists”, they’ve been campaigning against the high-capacity Turin-Lyons railway line for years. And Susa was the starting-point for one of the three marches organised for a “new day of struggle”. In the end, the toll of casualties was high. Some sources reported fifteen demonstrators injured, including a minor and a man of about thirty, who were taken to hospital suffering from the effects of tear gas. Several police officers were hurt and three people were detained. The day started at around 11 am when the three marches set off. One headed for the autostrada to occupy it with barricades and tents. “We’re staying for the night”, protesters warned. The other two marches headed for the construction site, joining battle at the perimeter wire amid stones and tear gas. Fire hoses and plexiglass shields came out.

8 DECEMBER — The eighth of December is an important date for NoTAV protesters. “In 2008, we liberated Venaus. After 1 January, when compulsory land purchases to extend the construction site get under way, we’ll be fighting them over every metre”. That’s why this symbolic date was selected for a three-day protest to say no to the high-capacity rail line.

MARCHES — The no was shouted repeatedly. It was chanted on the woodland paths leading to Baita Clarea, the movement’s symbolic, and unlicensed, base. Police officers had already taken the precaution of erecting barbed wire and blocks along the paths as processions from Giaglione and Chiomonte converged on the site. Their aim was to cut the wire and during the hours of siege, some succeeded. A gate was torn down, despite the response of police, who strove to drive off the encircling protesters with fire hoses and tear gas. Some canisters (fired “at body height”, according to demonstrators) caused a fire. Clashes broke out on paths all over the area and at a certain point, police moved in to clear the Baita. There were wounded demonstrators inside and police have been accused of detaining them. The Turin police headquarters referred to “black bloc, organised groups” and a “paramilitary attack on gates 4 and 6”. DIGOS security police seized various fire extinguishers, hammers, axes, tear-gas masks, helmets, wire cutters and chisels. The violence wore on for hours before the marchers withdrew to the mountain paths and headed back to Giaglione…

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

Swiss Hair Scare: Italians Seek Bald Truth

Italian prosecutors said on Wednesday they were investigating a popular Swiss hair product, saying there was “no scientific evidence it helps hair grow back.”

The product — known as “Crescina” — is widely advertised and sold in pharmacies and cosmetic stores. One of its ads confusingly features football star Ronaldo, who used to shave his head but has now let his hair grow.

The alleged crime being investigated is commercial fraud as “Crescina” — the name is a play on the Italian word for “growth” — was being advertised in Italy as having hair-growing properties, prosecutors said.

Investigators said they had commissioned their own scientific research, pointing out that if it did work if would have to be classified as a “medicine” instead of a “cosmetic” and would therefore be subject to stricter controls.

“Crescina” is produced by the Swiss company Labo Cosprophar Suisse, which also makes supposedly anti-ageing products. It holds 75 trademarks and 17 patents and its Italian branch manages exports to 30 countries around Europe.

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

Vatican: Top Bishop Sees Jailed Priest Accused of Sex Abuse

Bagnasco holds ‘personal’ meeting with alleged pedofile

(ANSA) — Genoa, December 9 — Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), paid a visit Friday to Father Riccardo Seppia, in jail for suspicion of giving cocaine to young parishoners in exchange for sex.

“Cardinal Bagnasco met Don Seppia in Sanremo’s prison chapel for a personal meeting,” said a church spokesperson. Seppia is also accused of having attempted to molest an altar boy and of pursuing vulnerable minors. In May, investigators said they had recordings of tapped phone calls in which Seppia told a drug dealer to arrange the sexual encounters. “I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger.

Fourteen-year-olds are okay. Look for needy boys who have family issues,” he allegedly said.

In the wake of the allegations the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote to bishops worldwide reiterating that the Catholic Church must boost cooperation with civil authorities to prevent and punish paedophilia. The recommendations from the Holy See’s sex-crime watchdog followed a hardening of the Vatican’s line on paedophilia last July.

The statute of limitations for paedophilia was lengthened from 10 to 20 years in a new, updated version of a 2001 list of canon law Delicta Graviora (Major Crimes).

This had been a key demand from victims’ groups who say too many cases have been allowed to be ‘timed out’.

There is now the possibility of immediate defrocking in the “most serious” cases.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU: Croatia: Treaty Signed, 28th Member From 1/7/2013

Historic day, Van Rompuy

(ANSAmed)- BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 9 — EU State and government leaders have signed the treaty on Croatia’s accession. The Balkan country will join the EU by July 1 2013, making it the 28th member State. “Today is a historic day,” said EU President Herman van Rompuy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood, No Contact With US Over Israel

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 8 — The secretary general of Freedom and Justice, the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood, has denied reports in an Israeli newspaper that the movement has been in contact with the US over respect for the peace treaty with Israel.

Mohamed Saad El Kataany said that the comments reported by the Yedioth Ahronoth regarding close collaboration with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, were without foundation. Clinton is reported to have said that the US had reached an agreement with the Muslim Brotherhood over the respect of the treaty with Israel.

El Kataany said that no contacts are in place either with the US or with Israel. Quoted by the Muslim Brotherhood’s website, he said that the party had a “clear and firm stance based on the respect of international agreements as long as they reach pre-established targets. But Parliament retains the right to review any agreement that does not meet targets”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: ‘Don’t Trust Islamists’, Activist Says

Muslim brothers and salafists are similar

(By Remigio Benni) (ANSA) — CAIRO, Dec 8 -”Don’t trust the Islamists, they never keep the promises they make.’ This was the warning, accompanied by a careful examination of the reasons for the victory of the parties of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists (especially Al Nour) in the first round of legislative elections in Egypt, as well as the electoral failure of the Tahrir Square movement, that human rights activist Iman Bibars addressed to his countrymen and outside observers in an interview with ANSA.

Regional Director of Ashoka, a global organisation (based in Washington whose symbol is a big oak tree), which sees its role as a ‘social innovator’ to solve ‘the world’s most difficult problems’, as well as President of a local NGO (ADEW) for women’s rights, Bibars looks impressive, but calm like the big Indian in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ whose English is on a par with that of U.S. ambassadors.

“The Muslim Brotherhood say they are ‘centrist moderates’, but it is a definition that doesn’t mean anything — he claims — and their strategy is to win power, step by step. The problem is that they have neither a political vision, nor an economic one, and nor do they offer any social policies. In many years they have not founded a single company that would create jobs for young people, and what they have achieved is only the result of the charitable activities they have performed, often with the help of funds from Saudi Arabia, or donations from Arab supporters.” His view of the Salafists is very similar, with the difference that the Brothers are more astute and do not immediately reveal themselves for what they actually want: power, pure and simple.” The clear victory (over 36 percent for the Muslim Brotherhood and 24 percent for the Salafists) in the first round of elections Bibars believes to be also the result of clever slogans like “Don’t you want to vote for the Brotherhood? — then vote for Freedom and Justice” (their party). In the referendum of 19 March to change the constitution in their favour, they circulated leaflets saying “if you don’t vote yes, you’ll go to hell.” In Luxor, among poorer people, in this election the Salafists won the votes of Christians with images of ‘Umm al Nour’ (and Umm ‘mother’, was made to look like the Madonna, Al Nour for their party).

The movement of young and old people at Tahrir Square -”a moment of great vitality exploding against the frustrations of decades”- had no ideological fabric and just wanted the political downfall of Mubarak, who could not survive because he was fragile and his regime’s answers lacked imagination and intelligence.” For the future Bibars fears that the worst damage wrought by an Islamist regime “may come from the imposition of an educational system that will make everyone ignorant and by a religious monothematic culture, lacking in interchange with the outside world.” “It will take at least two parliaments — concluded Bibars, according to whom both the United States and Europe will have no difficulty in maintaining relations with an Egypt governed by Islamists — for the Egyptians to wake up again and for a new revolution. In this regard, I would like to clarify that this has not been an Arab Spring, but an Awakening after seven thousand years of deep sleep.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

ENI: Production in Libya Back to 70%, Iran No Problem

Sanctions no issue, but Tehran still owes 2 bln USD, Scaroni

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 9 — Production in Libya is back up to 70%, programmes in Mozambique are going ahead as planned, possible sanctions against Iranian oil is no source for concern, though there are some worries about the existing 2 billion USD credit to Tehran: Eni managing director Paolo Scaroni is optimistic about the future. Scaroni presented a positive picture of his company at the World Petroleum Congress in Doha, after a year in which the oil group’s account felt a serious impact of the events in Libya.

Production in the north-African country was halted in March with the start of the uprising against Gaddafi, and was resumed on September 26. Now it is back to 70% of its capacity, and Scaroni has announced that Eni is now producing almost 200 thousand barrels per day, against 280 thousand before the revolution. The output levels could rise further, if the contracts that were signed with the old regime are not brought into dispute. This risk, according to Scaroni, is “unthinkable”, because “all Libyan contracts, including those closed with Eni, are long-term agreements that are backed by international arbitration.”Therefore, he added, “I believe it is unthinkable that any oil-producing country, including Libya, could change these legal mechanisms,” also because it is Libya’s priority to resume full production as soon as possible.

Changing existing contract is therefore “in nobody’s interest.” The situation in Libya is returning to normal, but there are some concerns over Iran. Those concerns do not regard the possible European ban on oil from the Gulf country, which would not pose a problem for Eni. The problem, Scaroni underlined, is that Iran owes Eni 2 billion USD for oil it has produced in the past. However, the managing director of the oil company is convinced that “this type of transaction will be exempted from any sanction,” because “there is a difference between importing oil and paying in oil for previous activities.” Beyond the countries Eni has done business with for a long time, the group is now turning its attention to the large gas field in Mozambique. The company has in fact allocated 50 billion USD to the development of this field. Scaroni has said that production will start by 2018: “We believe that this is one of the most generous gas fields we have ever had,” he said, a site that is “well positioned to supply liquefied natural gas to Asia.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Qaradawi: Sharia “Gradualism” For Egypt—and Beyond

by Andrew Bostom

Yusuf al-Qaradawi (1926—) is a modern Muslim scholar and preacher best known for his popular Al Jazeera program “ash-Sharia wal-Hayat” (Sharia and Life), and his website Islam Online (now On Islam). He has also published some fifty books, including The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam and Islam: The Future Civilization. Al-Qaradawi was born in Egypt, and attended Al Azhar University. Qaradawi was a follower of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna during his youth, and was imprisoned first under the monarchy in 1949, then three times after the release of his Tyrant and the Scholar, poetic Islamic plays expressing political messages. He has also worked in the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments, has been the Dean of the Islamic Department at the Faculties of Sharia and Education in Qatar, and has been chairman of the Islamic Scientific Councils of Algerian Universities and Institutions. Qaradawi is the head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, and is considered the “Spiritual Guide” of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Friday February 18, 2011 marked Qaradawi’s triumphal return [2] to Cairo, which was sanctioned by the nation’s provisional military rulers, and punctuated the so-called “Arab Spring.” Just before the overwhelming electoral victory [3] for the Muslim Brotherhood and other mainstream Sharia-advocating [4] political parties in Egypt, Qaradawi issued a fatwa [5] (on November 24, 2011) revealing his traditional Islamic Weltanschauung about how Islam’s totalitarian religio-political legal code [6] should be fully re-applied, gradually—in Egypt, and beyond…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Democracy Strikes Back

Last Thursday, in an address before the Association for Public Law’s annual conference at the Dead Sea, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch launched an unhinged attack on the Knesset and the government.

Beinisch accused Israel’s elected officials of “inciting against the judges” through their proposed legislation that would place minimal constraints on judicial power.

In her words, “For the past few years a campaign has been waged that is gaining strength whose goal is to weaken the judicial system and first and foremost the Supreme Court. This is a campaign of delegitimization being led by a number of politicians, members of Knesset and even government ministers. They provide the public with incorrect and misleading information that has deteriorated into incitement directed against the court, its members and its judicial work.”…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Palestinians Do Not Exist, They Are Terrorists: Gingrich

(AGI) Washington — The Republican White House candidate Newt Gingrich has accused Obama of taking sides with the Palestinians. The former Speaker and election front-runner also said that the Palestinians are ‘an invented people.’ Gingrich said that were he to be impartial between a civil law-abiding society and a group of terrorists shooting missiles every day, this would not in fact constitute being impartial but would mean favouring the terrorists. Mr Gingrich does not differentiate between the ANP and Hamas. Interviewed on Israeli TV, Gringrich said ‘I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state,’ while ‘we have invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. [That’s why] they had a chance to go many places.’ .

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

‘War Winds’ Blowing, But Army Fights Waste of Money

Region tense, Iran’s shadow but economic priorities prevail

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — Regional unrest, recurring tension with Palestinians and even the echo of the potential beat of war drums with Iran do not wash away from the Israeli army’s horizons the priority of another battle: balancing its finances.

Last week the Israeli Armed Forces (Tzahal according to the Hebrew acronym, IDF according to the English one), said that it had to deal with a 2.5 billion-shekel deficit (equal to over a billion euros) and had asked the political world for assistance.

However, government authorities are currently involved in finding a way to solve intractable problems after the massive social protests held over the summer: and in times of austerity, managing to find extra state funding seems anything but easy. And not even if the one requesting it is the Army: an institution held to be — and not unreasonably — of vital important to almost all citizens and political representatives in Israel. And even more so in times of revolution, threats and multiple incognitos. According to some of the national press, the IDF’s financial position is ever worse than what the military publicly admits.

“The Army’s deficit is actually about nine billion shekels,” said Yossi Gurvitz, animator of the virtual ‘thinking room’ +972mag. The military allegedly estimated “only 5.2 since “this is the IDF’s debt with the military industry: a lobby which has its ‘spokespeople’ within Parliament and which could therefore push the government to cough up at least this figure”. Whether the real number is five or nine billion, it is in any case a debt of considerable proportions. Moreover, a number of items on the list of expenditure are top secret, making identifying possible waste very difficult, at times impossible. Even items not shrouded in military secret give rise to doubts and puzzlement in any case.

“Among the expenditure classified as unexpected by the military,” wrote Gurvitz, “are, for example, 18 billion shekels for the Iron Dome and Hetz missile defence systems. But in 2010 it had been said that the Iron Dome would only cost 1 billion. It is plausible that, alone, the other system costs 17 billion?” “Or perhaps,” hypothesised the analyst, “the Chiefs of Staff were cheating on the numbers and hoping that no one would notice?”.

In Israel many are asking themselves exactly this question: the media, the public, and deputies. “The defence budget must be transparent,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz reiterated once more in these days during a conference in Sderot. For months Steinitz — Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s staunch supporter and public finances ‘watchdog’ — has been to all effects waging a contest of wills with the powerful Defence Minister Ehud Barak. Despite regional tensions and the stormy winds blowing from Tehran due to the Iranian nuclear programme, the Finance Minister would like to tighten the purse strings and allocate elsewhere non-indispensable resources which up until now had been granted to the Army. “We could save up to 12 million shekels (2.4 million euros) every year of waste and allocate them to education and social aims,” Steinitz continues to repeat. Barak, on the other hand, puts up stiff resistance in the name of the refrain that any cut to the sector “would harm the efficiency of the Armed Forces”. And so: does Israeli society need butter or cannons? Should one heed the families protesting against high living costs (with the support of the weakest and the sectors of the middle class left on the sidelines of the GDP growth over the past few years) or the generals? For Israeli leaders — some commentators note — the time seems to have come to make a choice: ethics and strategy at the same time.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Turkey to Freeze Relations With EU From January

For 18 months due to Cyprus in EU troika

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 8 — The announced “freeze” on Turkey’s relations with the EU will start already at the beginning of the coming year, and not only in the second half of it, due to the fact that Cyprus will soon be taking on the EU’s rotating presidency. This was underscored in a Turkish daily after the position was announced yesterday by a high-level deputy in Ankara. The newspaper, Turkiya, also underscored that the boycott of the EU Council would last 18 months, since it was linked to the presence of Cyprus in the “troikas”, meetings chaired by the State currently holding the EU presidency but flanked by the countries holding the presidency in the previous and successive 6-month periods.

Cyprus — which represents only the Greek-Cypriot half, with the country divided in two since the 1974 invasion by the Turkish due to Greek Colonels regime’s aim to annex the island after they had taken power through a coup — will be taking on the EU presidency in the second half of 2012 and will therefore be present in the “troikas” from January 2012 until June 2013.

Turkey does not want to sit at the same table as Greek-Cypriot representatives, reports the newspaper in referring to the fact that Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus (which represents only Greek Cypriots) as a state.

“We will be freezing our relations with the Council” presided over by Cyprus, co-chairman of the Turkey-EU joint parliamentary committee Afif Demirkiran told journalists yesterday. The statement confirmed previous early announcements made by Ankara last summer when, even at the level of the prime minister, it had threatened to freeze relations with the EU if the rotating presidency were to be entrusted to Cyprus in July without a previous conclusion of the talks on the status of the divided island underway with UN mediation. Cyprus’s veto is one of the obstacles to Turkey’s bid for EU membership.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Work on First Nuclear Power Station to Begin in 2013

The announcement of a Russian manager at Akkuyu plant

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, 8 DECEMBER — Work on the first Turkish nuclear power plant in Akkuyu in southern Turkey is scheduled to start in 2013. Rauf Kasumov, the deputy director of the Russian company that will build and manage the plant, said that “the first reactor will be operational in 2019.” The manager of the Akkuyu NGS Corporation, speaking today at a press conference in the Turkish province of Mersin, assured that advanced accident-proof technology will be used in the site’s construction. The Turkish Anadolu agency reported Kasumov as saying that the work will be completed in 2022. The nuclear fuel for the plant in Akkuyu will come from Russia where it will return to be reused in a profitable manner. The waste could also stay in Turkey if Ankara wants to sell it.

The plant will have four VVER reactors of 1,200 megawatts each for a total of 4,800 MW The agreement between Russia and Turkey on Akkuyu dates from May 2010 and today’s announcement appears to represent an acceleration of plans as only last May a senior Russian manager Alexander Superfin, spoke of 2015 as the start date.

The power station project located near the city of Buyukeceli in Mersin province, on the Aegean, has been severely criticised by environmentalists — Turkish and others — who believe it is extremely risky to build the centre near the active Ecemis earthquake fault. The whole of Anatolia is considered a seismic zone and there have been over 220 strong earthquakes in the last century alone. However the Turkish government and Russian managers rule out any dangers in the Mersin area.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Kashmir: Sharia Court Summons Fr Jim Borst on Proselytising Charges

The 79-year-old Dutch missionary was almost expelled twice before from the state where he has lived for the past 48 years. Sharia courts have no jurisdiction on non-Muslims, but many fear a repeat of what happened to Rev K. M. Khanna, an Anglican clergyman who was summoned by a Sharia court, then arrested on allegations of forced conversions.

Srinagar (AsiaNews) — A Sharia court in Kashmir summoned Fr Jim Borst, a 79-year-old Dutch Catholic missionary, to appear tomorrow and answer charges of proselytising and forced conversions. For years, the Mill Hill missionary, who has been the principal of the prestigious St Joseph’s School, has been the target of Muslim scholars. Twice before, Kashmir state authorities ordered his expulsion (see Nirmala Carvalho, “Missionary forced to leave Kashmir because his schools are “too good”,” in AsiaNews, 12 July 2010, and ibid, “Deportation order for only Mill Hill missionary in Kashmir,” in AsiaNews, 30 March 2011), and both times the order was rescinded.

“The Sharia court has no jurisdiction over non-Muslims,” said Mgr Peter Celestine Elampassery, bishop of Jammu and Kashmir. “It cannot interrogate Fr Jim Borst, nor is he is under any obligation to appear.”

For some, envy and jealousy of Muslim scholars are behind the charges of proselytising against Fr Borst. The schools the Dutch missionary set up, including St Joseph’s in Baramulla and Burn Hall in Srinagar, are known for the quality of the education they dispense. What is more, their staff is 99 per cent Muslim.

Many Muslim leaders have attended these schools, including the current chief minister of the state, Omar Abdullah, one of his predecessors, Farooq Abdullah, and the founder of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.

However, local Catholics are concerned by the summons. In early November, the same court had summoned Rev Chander Mani Khanna to answer for baptising seven Muslims. Although the latter had freely chosen to convert, both they and the clergyman were arrested (see “Kashmir pastor arrested for baptising seven Muslims,” in AsiaNews, 21 November 2011).

Mgr Celestine spoke to Rev Khanna before he went to the Sharia court. “Such things should not happen,” he said. Muslims “should not manipulate the law. The Anglican and Catholic Churches work together for the good of society. Through our social and educational apostolate, we serve the entire population in a state where we are a tiny minority. We work for the common good and the development of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.

Meanwhile, new elements are emerging about Rev Khanna’s case. “All seven converts have explicitly declared that they had asked to be baptised,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

“One of them, a 25-year-old, said that he was arrested three days after the birth of his two twin daughters,” he added. Sadly, one of them died on Tuesday, less than 30 days after her birth. “The wife of another convert is suffering from a heart condition.”

“All the converts are prepared to say on camera that Rev Khanna is innocent and that they did not receive any money in order to be baptised,” George said.

After their arrest, the seven converts were beaten and tortured by police, their beard ripped out, and their feet beaten.

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

Pakistani Editorial Says Nuclear War With India “Inevitable” As Water Dispute Continues

by John Daly

Every now and again, one reads an editorial that stops the reader in his tracks.

On 8 December, with the headline “War Inevitable To Tackle Indian Water Aggression,” Pakistan’s Urdu-language Nawa-e Waqt, issued such a screed.

Nawa-e Waqt bluntly commented on India’s Kashmiri water polices and Islamabad’s failure up to now to stop New Delhi’s efforts to construct hydroelectric dams in Kashmir, “India should be forcibly prevented from constructing these dams. If it fails to constrain itself, we should not hesitate in launching nuclear war because there is no solution except this.”

Potential nuclear war over water rights — such sentiments ought to light up switchboards from New Delhi to Washington.

Needless to say, the fact that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers is cause for concern.

Nawa-e Waqt is a privately owned, widely read conservative Pakistani Islamic daily with a circulation around 125,000 and is heavily critical of the U.S. and India. To put Nawa-e Waqt’s circulation in context, consider that the conservative Washington Times has a current estimated circulation of 50,000.

So, what has the editorial board of the Nawa-e Waqt so excited?

Indian dam building in the disputed area of Kashmir. Compared with much of South Asia, Kashmir has many rivers and relatively few people.

Bashir Ahmad, a geologist in Srinagar, Kashmir commented grimly about the Indians’ future intentions, “They will switch the Indus off to make Pakistan solely dependent on India. It’s going to be a water bomb.” A more dispassionate report by America’s Senate last February offered still a similar assessment, noting, “The cumulative effect of (the dam) projects could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the growing season” before concluding that dams are a source of “significant bilateral tension.”


[Return to headlines]

Far East

Bill Gates to Build Nuclear Reactors in China?

by John Daly

Since the 11 March disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear power complex, when an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale was followed by a tsunami that destroyed the facility, the nuclear industry worldwide has been fighting back, arguing that new, improved reactor designs mean that nuclear power is still a valid option.

Surging economic incipient superpowers India and China remain committed to generating electricity with the atom as one of their best options to provide power to their populations’ surging demand.

And now Bill Gates is getting into the act in China, promoting a newer and reportedly safer reactor design, telling an audience at China’s Ministry of Science and Technology about a project supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “The idea is to be very low cost, very safe and generate very little waste. All these new designs are going to be incredibly safe,” Gates insisted, adding that “they require no human action to remain safe at all times.” In a bow to his hosts Gates added, “China has a lot to contribute because it’s solved many of the problems of poverty, not all of them but a lot of them, itself, and many Asian, south Asian and African countries are well behind, whether it’s agriculture or health.”

So, what’s Microsoft’s aging wonder boy promoting?

A “traveling wave reactor” (TWR) developed by Terrapower, a company he founded.

TerraPower says that its TWR reactor design could run for decades on depleted uranium and produce significantly smaller amounts of nuclear waste than conventional reactors.


[Return to headlines]


Schengen: For a Europe of Borders

Financial Times Deutschland, 8 December 2011

“EU countries are clinging to border controls”, writes the Financial Times Deutschland as it sums up the views most member states take on the proposal from Cecilia Malmström to limit the rights of Schengen area state to restore border controls, as France and Denmark did recently.

On 2 December the European Commissioner for Internal Affairs suggested that this right be granted only in emergencies and for a period of five days at most. Currently, states can re-impose border controls for 30 days in the event of a threat to their internal security.

According to diplomatic sources cited by the German daily, the other members of the Schengen area, with the exception of the Czech Republic, Italy and Lithuania, reject the idea of asking permission from Brussels to restore internal border controls. On the contrary, they demand more freedom in this area, particularly in the face of the influx of migrants, and want countries to have the ability to force their partners to restore controls.

According to an expert on immigration quoted by a German newspaper, such a move would be “a challenge to European integration”.

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

Culture Wars

France: Catholics Protest Against ‘Blasphemous’ Play in Paris

The Théâtre du Rond-Point’s staging of Golgota Picnic is the latest target in a wave of demonstrations across France

One of Paris’s most prestigious theatres was being protected by riot police and guard-dog patrols on Thursday after it became the latest target in a wave of Catholic protests across France against so-called “blasphemous” plays.

The head of the Théâtre du Rond-Point on the Champs-Elysées complained of death threats in the runup to Thursday’s premiere of the play Golgota Picnic by the Madrid-based, Argentinian writer Rodrigo García. Two men reported to have links to fundamentalist Catholic groups were arrested at the weekend while attempting to disable the theatre’s security system.

Several Catholic groups have called for peaceful demonstrations, prayer-vigils and the laying down of white flowers outside the building every night the play is shown, while the archbishop of Paris will lead protest prayers against the play at Notre Dame Cathedral.

The demonstrations over Golgota Picnic come after a rise in fundamentalist religious protest action against some of France’s most high-profile theatres, including pelting the audience with eggs, letting off stinkbombs and the invasion of the stage of Paris’s esteemed Théâtre de la Ville mid-performance by outraged Catholics carrying banners reading “Stop Christianophobia”.

Earlier this year, young French fundamentalist Catholics staged an unprecedented attack on a gallery in Avignon, slashing photographs including Piss Christ by the New York artist Andres Serrano. More peaceful Catholic protests outside theatres, including young people kneeling with wooden crosses outside venues from Lille to Toulouse, have led the French culture pages to question the rise in rightwing and nationalist feeling among hardline Christian groups.

Paris remains sensitive about Christian demonstrations since the fire-bombing of a cinema showing Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. Political commentators have speculated that some traditionalist Catholics in the demonstrations had broken off from the Front National after the leadership was taken over by Jean-Marie Le Pen’s daughter Marine.

Golgota Picnic, which takes place on a stage strewn with burger buns, has several religious references including readings and a crucifixion scene. But Paris theatre critics said it was absurd to call it anti-Catholic or blasphemous and questioned whether its religious critics had actually seen it.

Yet in a move that went further than the recent protests over Théâtre de la Ville’s staging of On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God by the Italian Romeo Castellucci, Paris’s archbishop, André Vingt-Trois, deemed Golgota Picnic, which he had not seen, “deliberately offensive” and said he would lead a protest prayer at Notre Dame.

Jean-Michel Ribes, head of the Théâtre de Rond-Point, appealed for calm. He said: “The Théâtre du Rond-Point isn’t an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish place.” But he said the role of artists was to fight against “suffocating dogma”. Theatregoers have been advised to arrive an hour early to get through the airport-style security before reaching their seats.

Paris city hall’s art supremos rushed to defend the theatre community against what it said was fundamentalists holding art to ransom, saying a “silent minority” of Catholics did not share the notion of making threats or stifling freedom of expression.

Civitas, a lobby group that says it aims to re-Christianise France, has called for a large, peaceful street demonstration “against Christianophobia” this weekend.

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

UK: For a Tolerant Society to Work, We All Need Thick Enough Skins

by Andrew Lilico

If I say: “Suicide is selfish”, or “abortion is wicked” or “most fat people should try to be less greedy”, I shall be widely upbraided and censured. People might concede that I can hold such an opinion, if I must, but they think I should restrict my expression of such views to private discussions with my friends and family. If, in the wrong context, I say: “Marrying someone of another skin colour is betraying your race”, or “a woman’s place is in the home” or “practicing homosexuality is sinful”, I could well find myself at an employment disciplinary hearing and might even be visited by a policeman investigating my alleged hate-crime. One might think the reason such statements are treated by our society with such disapprobation is because they involve an attack, of some sort, on an aspect or practice of people that those people hold central to their nature. So society reacts vigorously to the expression of such opinions as a means to protect those thus attacked.

But if that were really the reason, why would other kinds of controversial opinion be treated so differently. If someone says “Smacking should be illegal”, then they are proposing an assault on a deep aspect of many people’s nature. I could no more comply with a law that forbade me from smacking my children than I could obey a law that forbade me from kissing them. Smacking children is all of a piece with cuddling, rough-and-tumble, kissing, sleeping together, rubbing hurt limbs better, and so on. Yet saying “Smacking should be illegal” will not engender remotely the same degree of aggressive disapprobation as someone saying, say, “Suicide should be re-criminalised” or “practicing homosexuality should be re-criminalised”. (And if you say “That’s because those affected by suicide are more upset” or “For homosexuals, the ability to give physical expression to their love is central to their nature” then you are simply not grasping how as a parent I feel about the ability to touch my children.)

An odd case would be a statement such as “Islam is wicked”. In that case, the level of disapprobation would be rather less than if I said “Mr X’s suicide was a wicked thing to do”, but the likelihood of a visit from a policeman rather greater. We’re on safer ground with “Christianity is wicked”. If I say that, no-one will disapprove and no policeman will call. Indeed, I could even, with not much more than a few raised eyebrows, say “Christianity should be illegal”. Doubtless some people would think me eccentric, but I wouldn’t be attacked for the claim in anything like the same way I would in the case of the illegality of suicide or homosexuality. And that despite the fact that most people would understand that a Christian’s faith is an absolutely central and non-negotiable part of her nature.

There are many other such examples of comments one could make about fundamental aspects of people’s nature, or other such issues on which people would feel deeply, where it is considered largely okay or harmlessly eccentric to express an opinion, even in public. Perhaps you feel I’ve pointed at an inconsistency, or at least a tension of some sort. So, what to do about it? Perhaps we should be more aggressive about anti-Christian or anti-smacking or other such comments? Maybe we should all try to be much more sensitive about most things? Perhaps we should be wary of expressing any politico-ethical opinions in public at all — just stick to saying whom we think should win the X Factor or Big Brother, or who should be in the England team? Indeed, that last is precisely where our society has been going for some time. We fear giving offence and being attacked for doing so, so we try to stick to universal topics. (That’s not even a particularly new thought — remember the old chestnut about avoiding talking about sex, religion, politics or death?)

But I think that’s sad and impoverishing. I don’t want people to so fear that they will offend me and I will strike back that they are frightened to reveal their beliefs. I don’t want people whose tongues sometimes run ahead of their minds to be automatically social pariahs. I don’t want people to be unable to say they disapprove of smacking or they consider Christianity wicked. But if others are to tolerate such “attacks” on me (which they should), that will only be fair and sustainable if they also tolerate people saying: “Islam is wicked”, “practicing homosexuality is sinful”, “marrying outside your colour is betrayal”, or “suicide is selfish” — and of course those affected by such remarks to be prepared to put up with some offence and (just as with “Christianity should be illegal”) regard, say, those believing that “Practicising homosexuality is sinful” as the eccentric minority they doubtless are.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel able to disagree with such sentiments. Neither does it mean we should be unable to point out the feelings of those affected by them. But if we are to operate in a tolerant society, then smackers, homosexuals, relatives of suicides, Christians, Muslims, interracial spouses and others will have to have thick enough skins. Otherwise, if things are to be fair, we’ll all end up walking on eggshells, and be unable to discuss anything except who should win Big Brother. And I trust that no readers here really want that…

[JP note: Muslims — people with hypersensitive skins living in a sandpaper world.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


When Bin Laden Died, He Was No Longer at Al Qaeda Helm

(AGI) Washington — When Bin Laden was killed by US special forces on 2 May 2011, he was only nominally the leader of Al-Qaeda. This is what comes out of the analysis of documents seized in his hideout in Abbottabad, roughly 50 km North of Islamabad, where the “Sheikh of Terror” found his hiding place.

Sources of the US anti-terrorism service, which demanded to remain anonymous, reported that, after having analyzed approximately 200 documents including the notebooks, computer CDs, pen-drives and hard-disks recovered by the soldiers during the raid, they have reached the conviction that “it had been quite a while since he was involved in the day-to-day management of the organisation” that he had founded.

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