Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120401

Financial Crisis
»EU Gives Madrid Hardest Time of All
»Greece is Our Vanguard
»Italy Must Adopt More Reforms, Barroso Says
»Italy: Monte Dei Paschi Di Siena Lost 4.69 Bln Euros in 2011
»More Greeks Drawn by Village Life, Survey Says
»Spain: We Are Building a “War Economy”
»World is Watching Italy’s Labour Reforms, Says Monti
Europe and the EU
»Detained Islamists in France ‘Planning a Kidnap’
»French Terror Group Await Charges
»Italy: Holy See Approved Criminal’s Burial in a Basilica
»Italy: API’s Rutelli Pledges Recovery of Lusi’s Embezzled Eur20m
»Observatory on Religious Freedom in Rome Against Fundamentalism and Relativism
»Spain: €500,000 in Damages After Barcelona Vandalism
»Unicorn Cookbook Found at the British Library
»Will a Cashless Society Lift All Boats, Or Will it Sink the ‘99 Percent’?
»Kosovo: Belgrade Protests Growing Arrests of Serbs
Mediterranean Union
»Turkey: Bagis Asks EU to Grant Visa Facilitation
North Africa
»Ceasefire Reached Between Rival Tribes in Libya’s South
»Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Nominates Presidential Candidate
»Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Names Presidential Pick
»Tunisia: $100 Million in Aid From USA
Israel and the Palestinians
»Qatar: Normal Life Tough for Palestinian Ex-Prisoners
»The UN Acts in Violation of International Law While Claiming to Uphold it
Middle East
»Iran’s Nuclear Attack Plan
»Lebanon: UNIFIL Anti-Riot Units/Lebanese Army Joint Exercise
»Syria: Mass Exodus of Refugees to Jordan
»Syrian Regime: Revolt Over, Gradual Withdrawal From Cities
»Turkey: Islamic School Reform Passed
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Tragedy of the Children Killed Just for Being Friends: Girl: 12, And Boy, 15, Murdered in Horrific Acid Attack
»Afghanistan: Hundreds of Women Jailed for ‘Moral Crimes’
»Burma: Suu Kyi Wins Landmark Seat in Parliament, Party Says
»Clashes Break Out Across Indonesia Over Rising Diesel and Gasoline Prices, Many Injured
»India Boat-Shooting Jurisdiction Ruling Put Off Again
»India: Karnataka: Protestant Clergyman Risks Jail, Attack Against Him Seventh Case in 2012
»Indonesia: The Diocese of Padang Challenges the Government Attempts to Stop the Building of a Church
»Italy Not Giving Up on Marines Incarcerated in India
Far East
»A Hidden Threat as Asia Tops the West in Centa-Millionaires
»Amid Rumors of Unrest, China Cracks Down on the Internet
»Monti and Italy’s Dream of “Chinese Investment” And Religious Freedom
»Dutch Hire Fewer Romanians and Bulgarians
»Greek Police Start Sweeping Athens of Illegals
»Italy ‘Responsible’ For 63 Migrant Deaths Says CE
»More Than 100,000 Spaniards Leave Country in One Year
»Refugee Boat Survivor Arrested in Netherlands
»‘Regularisation of Illegal Immigrants is a Mistake’
»Anthropocene — Age of Man

Financial Crisis

EU Gives Madrid Hardest Time of All

El País

“Brussels is imposing a larger cut on Spain than on Greece, Portugal and Ireland,” complains El País. The European Commission requires, in effect, that Madrid trim back its deficit from 8.5 percent to three percent of GDP in two years. This reduction is twice that demanded from Dublin and Lisbon — and higher than that required from Athens. According to El País —…


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

Greece is Our Vanguard

Hospodárské noviny Prague

The near-collapse of Greece is the scenario that awaits other countries if they fail to get their debt under control. The aid to Athens is a sign that the European Union is still alive, but without the discipline of the fiscal pact, it won’t be enough, says a Czech economist.

Tomáš Sedlácek

Economies look for differences, and they converge. By now we are so interconnected commercially that for us the fall of a minor economy threatens such a huge emotional and economic-financial shock that we will do anything to avoid it, so long as there is at least one straw to clutch at.

Because of the two world wars that pushed Europe into a Union — we’re not threatened by external attack, nor by famine, nor by “lack of living space” — we have begun to feel that we have lost the moral, political, economic, military and philosophical right to lead the world, and therefore to be a superpower.

Europe emerged from the dust and confusion of post-war reconstruction thanks to the substantial aid of the Marshall Plan. It was an American plan, to help the continent where the Second World War had broken out and from where it had spread across the whole world — and the aid came not as loans, but as gifts. Europe did get back on its feet and built something totally unprecedented out of its history: a free union of nations, which don’t go to war with each other, but negotiate and trade.

Increase in solidarity

Another precept, however, is more important: to ruin (or fail to help) economically stricken nations or regions is unwise. Once we thought that we could profit only at the expense of someone else. But today the opposite is true. We can profit best working together, not against each other…

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

Italy Must Adopt More Reforms, Barroso Says

‘New labor code by summer’ Schifani promises Brussels

(ANSA) — Brussels, March 30 — Italy must adopt more crisis-averting reforms despite the progress it has already made, European Commission President Jose’ Manuel Barroso said Friday. “It must rapidly adopt further reforms in order to restabilize faith in its competitiveness,” said Barroso after meeting with Italian Senate President Roberto Schifani. Schifani is in Brussels to discuss Italy’s role in fighting the euro crisis.

He also presented Premier Mario Monti’s proposed labor reforms to European Council Speaker Herman van Rompuy.

“By summer, there will be a shared labor reform,” he told van Rompuy. The government last week approved hotly contested labour reforms that include measures to make it easier for firms to fire workers and new benefits for people out of work.

Monti says the reform package will boost productivity and make it easier for young people and women to enter the job market, but trade unions and the center-left Democratic Party have demanded changes to the measure on worker dismissals.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monte Dei Paschi Di Siena Lost 4.69 Bln Euros in 2011

Siena, (AKI) — Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, said it lost 4.69 billion euros in 2011 after a string of writing down the value of acquisitions that were hurt by the European debt crisis.

“The reasons justifying the need for a reduction in goodwill lie primarily in the new macroeconomic scenario, which was penalized by the sovereign debt crisis, tensions in the main financial markets and persisting uncertainty about global economic recovery,” the bank said.

Italy’s third-biggest lender had writedowns worth 4.51 billion euros, the Siena-based company said on Thursday.

Under new management, the bank has launched a restructuring initiative which includes possible asset sales.

The Tuscan bank was founded in 1472.

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

More Greeks Drawn by Village Life, Survey Says

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 28 — More than 1.5 million Greeks are considering moving from the city to the provinces, daily Kathimerini reports quoting the results of a survey commissioned by the Agricultural Development Ministry that were made public Tuesday. The survey, conducted by polling firm Kapa Research on a sample of 1,286 respondents in Athens and Thessaloniki, found that seven out of 10 (68.2%) have considered leaving the city for a new life in the provinces while one in five (19.3%) has already made the initial moves to relocate. Three-quarters of the respondents who expressed a desire to move to the provinces are aged under 44. Around half said they were interested in going into farming — with most drawn to cultivating olives or producing olive oil — while 18.3% would like to work in the tourism or culture sectors. Cultivation was not the only pastime of interest to those eyeing the agricultural and food sectors.

Some said they would like to work in the processing or distribution of agricultural goods. Two-thirds of those who said they would like a new life in the provinces have been to college with a quarter of them boasting a postgraduate degree. The majority of respondents (70%) said they would accept a lower salary for a better quality of life. An initiative launched by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, which is renting out small parcels of farmland for a nominal fee to cash-strapped Greeks who want to grow their own fruit and vegetables, has already received some 4,000 applications, Skai TV reported earlier this month.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: We Are Building a “War Economy”

El País Madrid

In the midst of deep recession and massive unemployment, with a higher than expected deficit and a general strike round the corner, Spain — despite reforms and deep budget cuts — is struggling to emerge from the crisis and is causing new concern within the euro area.

Joaquín Estefanía

One hundred days after the inauguration of his government with its absolute majority, Mariano Rajoy can point to at least three major economic reforms: in labour, in finances, and in budgetary stability. Looking beyond the opinions that might be expressed on each of them (all point in the same direction: to satisfy the obligations imposed by Brussels and to reassure the markets) the PP government cannot be accused of inaction.

The result so far, however, has not been the intended one. The EU is suspicious, and Spain has overtaken Italy at the forefront of problems associated with risk premium, moving into the red zone of eurozone investor concerns. Moreover, in recent days, the Spanish economy has come in for the severest attacks from the main bibles of the global economic press, from various reports by investment banks and, most ironically, from the Italian prime minister himself, Mario Monti, who said “Spain is giving Europe serious concerns”…

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

World is Watching Italy’s Labour Reforms, Says Monti

Govt faces opposition to plans to make firing easier

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, March 30 — The progress of Italy’s contentious labour-market reforms is being keenly watched outside the country, Premier Mario Monti said on Friday.

Italy has moved out of the centre of the eurozone crisis after Monti’s emergency administration of non-political technocrats passed an austerity package and structural measures, such as liberalisations in the service sector and pension reform.

But former European commissioner Monti suggested Friday that parliament needed to approve his government’s labour reforms without watering them down in order to maintain the credibility gained with investors and international leaders.

“I have seen that abroad, especially in Japan, they are waiting to see the outcome of the fourth big group of reforms after the consolidation of the public finances, pension reforms and liberalisations,” Monti said in Tokyo during a visit to the Far East.

“There is a lot of attention on the proposal the government has made to reform the labour market and people are waiting to see what will happen in parliament”. One of the three main political parties backing Monti, the centre-left Democratic Party, and Italy’s biggest union, the leftwing CGIL, are demanding changes to the measures that will make it possible for firms to dismiss workers if they have economic grounds to do so.

The government says this measure is necessary as companies are reluctant to hire people on regular contracts at the moment because it is so hard to dismiss them.

It says the reform, which also includes new benefits for people out of work, will boost productivity and growth and make it easier for young people and women to find jobs. Monti added that there is “a strong residue of concern about the eurozone” around the world, with the situation of Spain now causing fears of contagion to other European countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Detained Islamists in France ‘Planning a Kidnap’

Seventeen people detained by French police in a crackdown on suspected Islamist networks might have been plotting a kidnap, the head of the police intelligence’s unit has said.

A French Muslim convert convicted in 2007 for planning an attack on an Australian nuclear plant is one of the suspected militants being held for questioning after a series of raids throughout France, a police source said on Saturday.

Willy Brigitte was arrested on Friday at his home in Asnieres, a northwestern suburb of Paris. Authorities found no weapons but seized his computer and a mobile phone, the source told Reuters.

The crackdown followed a pledge by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is three weeks away from the first round of presidential elections, to rid France of radical Islamists.

His public approval rating has edged up slightly due to what most French believe to be his able handling of this month’s killing spree by an al Qaeda-inspired gunman in Toulouse.

The latest raids by masked police commandos were not linked directly to the rampage in southwestern France, a police source has said, but they have still sent a strong message of force as security issues shot up to the top of agenda ahead of the vote.

On Saturday, authorities extended their detention of the 17 suspects, including Brigitte, held for questioning. A normal detention period of 24 hours under French law can be extended up to 96 hours in terrorism investigations.

The head of the DCRI domestic intelligence agency, Bernard Squarcini, told La Provence daily in an interview published on Saturday the suspected militants were planning a kidnapping.

“They appeared to be preparing a kidnapping. As regards their financing, we’re waiting for them to explain themselves,” he told the newspaper.

Brigitte was convicted by a French court in March 2007 for plotting an attack against the Lucas Heights nuclear research facility outside Sydney. He was sentenced to nine years in jail.

Australia, targeted by Islamist militants for its role alongside US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, had deported the Islamic convert, originally from the French territory of Guadeloupe, to France in October 2003 after he breached his tourist visa, before any attack could be carried out.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

French Terror Group Await Charges

THE 17 people held by French police, including Sydney man Willie Brigitte, will remain in custody for another day.

Friday’s arrests were made in connection with a probe into an alleged terror plot and under French anti-terror laws the suspects can be held without charge until tomorrow.

The head of France’s Central Directorate for Domestic Intelligence (DCRI), Bernard Squarcini, said yesterday that those arrested were “French nationals” involved in “collective war-like training, linked to a violent, religious indoctrination.”

Brigitte, who was extradited to France nine years ago to face trial for charges related to his membership of a terror cell which planned to bomb the Lucas Heights nuclear plant, was detained by French police on Friday in Asnieres, north of Paris

Some of the other people arrested belonged to a suspected extremist group called Forsane Alizza, Mr Squarcini said, and had been involved in paintball gun games.

The arrests took place in several cities, including Toulouse, where extremist gunman Mohamed Merah was shot dead by police last week after a series of cold-blooded shootings that left seven dead, including three Jewish children.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said the arrests were not directly linked to the Merah case, but he has called on police to increase its surveillance of “radical Islam” in what the opposition has described as a vote-catching move less than a month ahead of a presidential election.

Socialist Michel Sapin admitted that the arrests were “legitimate” but said that the presence of television news cameras during the roundup was not, after the footage was beamed into French homes.

“The presence of cameras at that moment to film the scene so that it can then be reproduced and comment on is not legitimate,” Mr Sapin told Radio J.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Italy: Holy See Approved Criminal’s Burial in a Basilica

(AGI) Rome — The Holy See approved a request to bury the leader of a criminal organisation in Rome’s Saint Appolinare basilica.

Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri wrote in a letter to Walter Veltroni that Cardinal Ugo Poletti approved the decision to bury the leader of the infamous Banda della Magliana, Enrico ‘Renatino’ De Pedis, in the basilica on March 10 1990, when he served as president of the Italian bishops conference (CEI).

The decision was also approved by the Rome city council. The documents mentioned by the minister in her letter includes one certifying that De Pedis’s family was authorised by municipal authorities, on April 24 1990, to transfer his body from Rome to the Vatican City. The lawyer of De Pedis’s relatives, Lorenzo Radogna, said they wouldn’t oppose “any decision by judicial or administrative authorities to transfer their loved one’s tomb”.

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

Italy: API’s Rutelli Pledges Recovery of Lusi’s Embezzled Eur20m

(AGI) Milan — Former Margherita Party leader, Francesco Rutelli, pledges to recover funds embezzled by treasurer Luigi Lusi. Speaking as the current president of the API party during an interview at popular weekend talk show “Che Tempo che Fa,” Rutelli pledged to “recover all funds embezzled by this man, and the Italian people will get their money back and more.” With Lusi accused of appropriating some 20m euro in party funds, Rutelli said sums recovered will directed at “a public concern.”

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

Observatory on Religious Freedom in Rome Against Fundamentalism and Relativism

The new institution is expected to collect, check and release information on violations of religious freedom in the world. It will be helped in its task by Italian and Vatican diplomats. Dangers to religious freedom are not only found in countries like Nigeria or Pakistan but also in Western nations where a dominant laicism has expelled God from society.

Rome (AsiaNews) — In a world of violent fundamentalisms and intolerant relativism, where atheistic and ultra-religious states marginalise and persecute minorities, it is important to have an institution that can assess religious freedom around the world. For this purpose, Italy and the Vatican have jointly set up an Observatory on Religious Freedom based in Rome.

The proposal was made public at a meeting held at the Italian Embassy to the Holy See in a room of the beautiful Borromeo Palace. Aid to the Church in Need Foundation President Card Mauro Piacenza, Secretary for Relations with States Mgr Dominique Mamberti, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata and Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno spoke at the event. Italy’s Ambassador to the Holy See Francesco Maria Greco acted as moderator.

Mayor Alemanno said that the idea of an observatory was first thought as an “ideal gift” to Benedict XVI back in 2009. For the mayor, Rome, in terms of religious freedom, is most qualified place because it is the “headquarter” of one the largest religious communities in the world, the Catholic Church. It is also one of the freest cities in the world, with Europe’s largest mosque and the world’s oldest diasporic Jewish community.

In his address, Foreign Minister Terzi spoke about what Italy’s diplomatic efforts on behalf of religious freedom in a number of countries, together with the European Union and in cooperation with the Vatican.

Card Piacenza explained the notion of religious freedom, indicating what risk factors may jeopardise it. Citing John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he described religious freedom as the “mother” of all freedoms, the litmus test to measure the state of human rights in a country.

To respect religious freedom, we need “reason and truth,” the cardinal noted. Without them, arbitrariness, which rules religious fundamentalisms, prevails as so does relativism, which leads us towards nothingness, with the danger of destroying the bases of democracy. “The prevailing relativism is the least favourable ground for religious freedom,” he said.

What concerns the prelate is the dominant culture of the West, which “has expelled God”, and tries to undermine further its social importance.

“Rediscovering the ‘public role of God’, i.e. the presence and role of God in history and society, is consequently the essential premise to exercise religious freedom. Society will more fully guarantee the religious freedom of its citizens when it will stop excluding God from the public sphere.”

Mgr Mamberti, who is just back from the papal trip to Mexico and Cuba, cited Benedict XVI, who emphasised to Cubans (and the government of Raul Castro) the importance of religious freedom as a source of creativity and social harmony.

The secretary for Relations with States expressed his concern not only for what is happening in countries like Nigeria and Pakistan, but also in the West.

In his view, intolerance can be seen at three levels, namely that of cultural hostility, legal discrimination (for instance, the presence of crucifixes in Italy) and violent crimes of persecution.

These levels stand on a slippery slope and people can easily go from one to the other.

For the full text (in Italian) of Card Mauro Piacenza’s presentation, click here.

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

Spain: €500,000 in Damages After Barcelona Vandalism

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 30 — At least half a million euros’ worth of damage was done to urban fixtures, 300 rubbish bins and numerous shop windows. This is the estimate given today by Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias of the damage caused by a group of violent individuals who yesterday wreaked havoc in some of the city’s central streets at the same time as protests during the national strike. In statements to the media, Trias announced that the town council would act as the complainant against those arrested for vandalism, and has called for a revision of the penal code to raise the fines inflicted on those responsible for the damage. The mayor then stressed the difference between the incidents involving isolated groups of violent individuals and the protest marches organised by unions as part of the general strike, which was carried out “in an exemplary manner”. About 45 people were arrested for yesterday’s incidents in the Catalan city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Unicorn Cookbook Found at the British Library

A long-lost medieval cookbook, containing recipes for hedgehogs, blackbirds and even unicorns, has been discovered at the British Library. Professor Brian Trump of the British Medieval Cookbook Project described the find as near-miraculous. “We’ve been hunting for this book for years. The moment I first set my eyes on it was spine-tingling.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Will a Cashless Society Lift All Boats, Or Will it Sink the ‘99 Percent’?

Sweden’s push to become the first nation to phase out physical bills and coins marks the next major evolution in the creation of the cashless society. In some areas of Sweden, people no longer need to carry bills or plastic cards, and payments for everyday items such as bus tickets and groceries are made by mobile devices. The ultimate point of arrival, of course, is the creation of the truly cashless society in which all payments are digital and mobile devices contain all the information we once entrusted to our wallets.

So will this new era of digital money lead to a rising tide that lifts the boats of America’s “99 percent” — or will it lead to a further chasm in the digital divide?

In addition to this economic effect, there are other positive social consequences to moving to a cashless society. Sweden’s proponents for the cashless society, for example, highlight the potential for lower crime rates and fewer cases of fraud and corruption. Intuitively, this makes sense. If fewer people are carrying around cash, it’s just not as easy to pull off robberies or make under-the-table cash payments. In 2011, there were only 16 bank robberies in all of Sweden — down from 110 just a few years ago.

Not all is rosy, however. A cashless society is also a society where there is no longer any anonymity. (Have you ever tried to give someone some “unmarked” 1’s and 0’s when you’re making payments online?) There are understandably concerns about privacy, especially when payments are made through social networks. At the end of the day, however, there is a direct correlation between becoming a cashless society and becoming a digitally innovative society. The end of money may just mean the beginning of prosperity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Belgrade Protests Growing Arrests of Serbs

Belgrade, 28 March (AKI) — Serbian authorities on Wednesday protested against growing arrests of Serbs in Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, saying it was a proof “that Serbs in Kosovo are exposed to terrible pressure”.

At least twelve Serbs have been arrested over the past week by Kosovo police on suspicion that they worked for Serbian institutions which Belgrade still operates in its former province, but Pristina claims they were “illegal”.

Four Serbs were arrested Tuesday evening at border crossing with Kosovo on charges that they carried election material for 6 May Serbian elections parliamentary and municipal elections, which Pristina opposes.

Five people were arrested on Monday for allegedly carrying Serbian political literature and for “fomenting national and ethnic hatred”.

Belgrade opposes Kosovo independence, declared by majority ethnic Albanians, but has agreed under international pressure to a joint border control, freedom of movement and on representation of Kosovo in international forums.

The European Union has tied Serbia’s bid for membership to normalization of relations with Kosovo, short of formal recognition, and pro-European president Boris Tadic is eager to please Brussels to achieve that goal.

“It is quiet clear that Pristina by such acts stultifies the agreement on freedom of movement and by frequent arrests of Serbs, who work for Serbian institutions, wants to intimidate Kosovo Serbs,” the ministry said in a statement.

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

Mediterranean Union

Turkey: Bagis Asks EU to Grant Visa Facilitation

EU court rulings in favour, govts should comply

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 29 — Another appeal has been made by Turkey to EU member states and the EU Commission to ease visa restrictions on Turkish nationals. The latest was made yesterday by European Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis, who based the appeal on principles of international law. “We ask member states,” Bagis said, “to comply with — in an unequivocal manner and without delay — the rulings by the European Court of Justice and national courts, in line with the Rule of Law principle.” Bagis holds that Turkish citizens do not need to request a visa from EU member states, referring to a clause in the so-called “Ankara Protocol”, an agreement on the customs union between the EU and Turkey. Supporting this view are recent judgments issued by courts in Germany and the Netherlands as well as one by the European Court of Justice.

“EU governments, added Bagis, “should abide by these rulings,” and comply with international agreements. The Turkish minister then addressed the EU Commission, “guardian of the treaties, which should take appropriate action.” The Ankara protocol is the same agreement that the EU wants to apply in Turkey, especially as concerns opening Turkish ports and airports to naval and air traffic from the Republic of Cyprus.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Ceasefire Reached Between Rival Tribes in Libya’s South

The National Transitional Council said it brokered a ceasefire between rival tribes in Libya’s south, as it struggles to maintain order in the fractious nation. Scores have died in tribal violence over the past week.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Nominates Presidential Candidate

Egypt’s most powerful Islamist organization on Saturday nominated one of its members for president, breaking a promise that it would not enter the race and angering critics who called the decision an attempt to control the country. The Muslim Brotherhood announced at a news conference that Khairat el-Shater, the group’s top financier and arguably its most influential member, would be the candidate of its political wing, as a rift grows between the Islamist group and the country’s ruling military leaders.

The group recently said it was considering fielding a candidate in the May election only because it was concerned that former regime figures backed by the ruling military council would win if it did not. The Muslim Brotherhood is the most powerful political force in Egypt, and its political wing won nearly half the seats in the newly elected parliament. But at least two other prominent Islamists are running for president, and the Brotherhood’s move could split the vote.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Names Presidential Pick

The Muslim Brotherhood has announced the candidate it will support in Egypt’s presidential election. The Brotherhood had originally said it would not field a candidate to allay fears that it sought a power grab.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: $100 Million in Aid From USA

Hillary Clinton announces to PM Djebali

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 29 — The US will donate 100 million dollars to Tunisia in order to reduce their current debt situation. This was communicated yesterday, as stated by a government press release, by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a long telephone conversation with Prime Minister Hamadi Djebali as part of recurring consultations.

This gift, according to the government statement, is part of the plans and permanent talks with our Tunisian friends”.

The American Secretary of State said that the US administration decided to donate the large sum of money in view of its support for a democratic transition in Tunisia and to consent the country to benefit from financial aid in order to tackle public debt. The initiative should also encourage other countries to donate to Tunisia after a number of nations have already stood forward in aid of the North African state.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Qatar: Normal Life Tough for Palestinian Ex-Prisoners

Freed in Shalit exchange, Hamas chief at collective wedding

(ANSA) — DOHA, MARCH 29 — Around 6 months have passed since 15 Palestinian prisoners convicted for murder and other serious terrorist crimes were freed and transferred to Qatar following a deal between Hamas and Israel that saw the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit freed in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. In the last few months, the lives of the Palestinian former prisoners has changed dramatically and the discovery of freedom has, in some cases, been devastating.

Many of the prisoners were arrested more than 20 years ago, when Internet and mobile phones had not yet been invented and now find themselves in a world with no points of reference. “I entered an Israeli prison when I was 25 and when I came out I was 50, I am learning everything now” says Hazem Osaily, one of the prisoners released, who now lives in Doha. “In prison, for some time there was not even television, but after an 18-day hunger strike they gave us a TV with 12 channels, including the Israeli ones. I feel like a child in front of the Internet and my wife is helping me to learn how to use a computer”. Osaily and another 12 of the 15 prisoners freed in Qatar got married in Doha shortly after their release in a collective ceremony celebrated in the presence of the exiled Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal.

Many of the former prisoners were university student when they were arrested and were unable to complete their studies. Zaher Jebreen, one of the founders and former leaders of Al Qassam, the armed wing of Hamas, went on hunger strike for 30 days, demanding the right to study in prison and managed to gain a degree in Political Science while behind bars. Many of them, however, say that political prisoners in Israeli jails are not allowed to study or to work. Majdi Amro, who was sentenced to 190 years in prison, is now 33, having spent a third of his life in an Israeli prison. As soon as he was freed, he enrolled at Qatar University to continue the studies he was forced to interrupt after being arrested.

None of the men will ever return to the Palestinian Territories.

The deal between Hamas and Israel stipulated a ban on repatriation. But none of them express any regret for their actions. On the contrary, they express a wish to continue the struggle for Palestine.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The UN Acts in Violation of International Law While Claiming to Uphold it

The acronym “OPT”stands for “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The Arabs no longer refer to Judea and Samaria as the “West Bank,”which was Jordanian nomenclature during its period of occupation from 1948 to 1967; they now prefer to brand it as Palestinian land which is occupied.

Not only is the land not “occupied,”but it is also not “Palestinian.”It never was “Palestinian”—i.e., subject to Palestinian sovereignty. Sovereignty of Judea and Samaria has never been allocated, nor has sovereignty been claimed. Israel refers to the region’s status as “disputed,”but I personally reject such a description because the Palestinians have no legal claim to this territory. Israel alone has the right to claim sovereignty over these lands.

During the first half of the last century until the State of Israel was declared in 1948, the Jews living under the Palestine Mandate were referred to as Palestinians and thought of themselves as such. The Arabs living there were generally considered Syrians or Jordanians or just plain Arabs. It was not until the sixties and seventies that they began calling themselves Palestinians so as to claim all of Mandated Palestine for themselves.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran’s Nuclear Attack Plan

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Hugh Cort, author of The American Hiroshima: Iran’s Plan for an Attack on the United States. Related to this interview, readers may listen to my interview with CIA agent Reza Kahlili, who agrees with Dr. Cort that a nuclear Iran cannot be deterred by the threat of Mutual Assured Destruction. According to Dr. Cort, “[D]eterrence will not work with the fanatical Islamic radicals that rule Iran. These rulers are like suicide bombers, who do not care if they die, as long as their victims get blown up as well.”

In his analysis of Islamist motivation, Dr. Cort follows the work of Reza Kahlili, who affirms that the leaders of the Islamic Republic believe in a ruthless ideology. “If you read [the] Koran, many verses talk about killing enemies of Allah and infidels,” Kahlili explained. “And there is no mercy, absolutely none, unless you convert to the religion. Nobody can say otherwise. Allah is a dictator… Many Muslims will be offended, but many do not even know what the Koran says.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: UNIFIL Anti-Riot Units/Lebanese Army Joint Exercise

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 30 — The Anti-Riot units of UNIFIL (the UN force under Italian command deployed in southern Lebanon along the Israeli border) have conducted a joint military exercise with Lebanese Armed Forces at the Shama base, the headquarters of the west sector command and where the mechanized Pinerolo brigade is based. For the first time since the implementation of the UNIFIL mandate by the United Nations in 2006, west sector units have conducted joint training exercises aiming to develop coordination on the field, in the case of intervention by UN peacekeeping troops to support the local armed forces to maintain order. Taking part in the exercise was a company with Italian training with troops from the Eighth Lancieri di Montebello Regiment and the Seventh Bersaglieri one, an Irish company and a Malayan one. After the activities, in thanking all the personnel who took part, General Carlo Lamanna (commander of the west sector) underscored that the presence of the Lebanese Armed Forces in the exercise had given a practical and legitimate sense to it, and stressed that every contingent — though endowed with diverse techniques and equipment — had shown itself able to achieve the target.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Mass Exodus of Refugees to Jordan

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 29 — Hundreds of Syrian families arrived in Jordan illegally on Thursday after crossing the border line with Syria to escape rising violence in their country. Jordanian officials said the exodus is the largest that the kingdom has seen since the Syrian uprising started a year ago.

Eye witnesses said the refugees arrived overnight and are in stable condition. The families have been given shelter and food by aid groups amid concern that an influx of refugees will start in the near future as security situation in the neighbouring Arab country is deteriorating.

Resident from Ramtha say the families come from Harak, Basr al Hareer and other parts of Deraa that have been witnessing difficult humanitarian situation since a month.

Activists say the Syrian army has sealed the villages and prevents aid to arrive as residents suffer from sever shortage of food and medical supplies.

Officials from UNHCR in Amman told ANSA Jordan is hosting tens of thousands of refugees from Syria, although the official number registered at the UNHCR is limited to less than 5000.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syrian Regime: Revolt Over, Gradual Withdrawal From Cities

(AGI) Damascus — Syria announced that it had defeated the armed revolt, but warned that the army’s withdrawal would be gradual.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad said that its security forces would only pull back from residential areas when ‘peace and security’ had been restored. ‘The attempt to overthrow the state is over, and the battle to consolidate stability and embark on the path towards a new Syria has begun,” said Jihad Makdis, a spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs.

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

Turkey: Islamic School Reform Passed

Erdogan uses parliamentary strength, vote preceded by protests

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 30 — Realising a decades-old objective amid protest from the secular opposition, Turkey’s moderate Islamic premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed through a reform today that favours the Koranic institutions, introduces an hour of Muslim religious instruction and exposes girls to danger of being kept at home away from school. Thanks to an overwhelming parliamentary majority thanks to a near 50% majority at last June’s general election, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has pushed through a controversial education law with 295 votes in favour and 91 against. Three days of street protest preceded this vote, two of them being supressed by the use of water cannon and tear gas and opposition parties raised banners before leaving the lower house. Known by the formula “4+4+4”, the reforms prolong compulsory schooling from eight to 12 years but divides this period up into three segments of four years: in this, opposition parties see a danger of promoting an exodus from schools and into child labour and above all into the “Imam Hatip Lisesi”, the Islamic religious schools such as the one attended by Erdogan and, according to sources, four out of ten ministers in his government. These schools are in the tradition of closed Madrases banned by the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, who gave Muslim Anatolia a modern, European direction. Although they returned, the Imam-Hatip were penalised by the generals following the anti-Islamic military coup of 1997, preventing the admission to them of children (boys) aged under fifteen. At his access to power in 2003, Erdogan obtained a reduction to 10 for boys studying to be Imams. The introduction of optional Islamic religious h (the Koran and the life of Mohammed) to secondary schools has also been criticised over the past week as further Islamisation, although opportunities for Christian, Hebrew and other religions are provided for. This alleged turn to religious schools was presaged by the premier in January in a speech speaking of “religious youth”. Until now, the 540 religious institutes have had around 300,000 children (just 2% of Turkey’s 18 million school children. The showdown in parliament has been so fierce that three weeks ago opposition MPs came to blows with those of Erdogan’s party. Also criticised by the lay wing of Turkey’s business community (Tusiad) is that part of the reform allowing for distance education, which poor or Islamic families could use to send boys out to work or keep girls veiled at home. The Prime Minister has rejected such criticisms over the past week, saying that this “historic” reform education-inspired reform was needed to heal the “wound” inflicted by “non-democratic forces”. This was a reference to the military coup of 1997 that ousted premier Necmettin Erbakan, Erdogan’s mentor.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Tragedy of the Children Killed Just for Being Friends: Girl: 12, And Boy, 15, Murdered in Horrific Acid Attack

A 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy have been killed in an acid attack because they were friends, it has been claimed.

A shocking photograph shows their fully clothed bodies lying on stretchers — the extent of the damage to their faces clearly visible.

The bodies of the youngsters were discovered on Friday in wasteland in the Ghazni province in southern Afghanistan.

Acid attacks are used as a form of religious and social persecution in the country.

Their bodies are now lying in a hospital and no families have come forward to claim them, AFP said.

People who discovered the bodies say the pair were probably killed for being friends with each other.

Despite the fall of the Taliban, the country still has a very conservative attitude towards women and relationships and anyone who opposes the traditional order often fear for their lives.

Up until 2001, women were not allowed to work and could not leave their homes without a male escort.

Last year, Afghan gunmen burst into a family home and poured acid over a father, wife and three daughters because they stopped their eldest from marrying an ageing warlord.

The attack was carried out in the belief that no-one would then want to marry them.

Officials said the oldest daughter Mumtaz, 18, had been pursued by a local gunman who the family considered a ‘troublemaker.’

With her parents support, she turned him down and instead got engaged to a relative.

In November 2008 extremists subjected schoolgirls to acid attacks for attending school.

Meanwhile, just a few days ago a Pakistani former dancing girl who was left heavily facially disfigured by an acid attack 10 years ago committed suicide.

Fakhra Younus, 33, leapt to her death from a sixth floor building in Rome 12 years after the acid attack which she said left her looking ‘not human’.

At the time of her attack in May 2000, her ex-husband Bilal Khar was the man accused of entering her mother’s house and pouring acid over Younus’s face as she slept.

The attack, which took place in front of Younus’s then five-year-old son, left her unable to breathe and fighting for life.

Her nose was almost completely melted and she has since undergone 39 separate surgical procedures to repair her disfigured face over the past decade.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: Hundreds of Women Jailed for ‘Moral Crimes’

Kabul, 28 March (AKI) — Afghanistan has jailed around 400 women for “moral crimes” according to Human Rights Watch.

The US-based organisation called for governments around the world to pressure the Afghan government to free the women detained behind bars mostly after fleeing domestic violence or forced marriage. Some were convicted of zina, or sex outside of marriage, after being raped or forced into prostitution, HRW said in a report released on Wednesday.

“No one should be locked up for fleeing a dangerous situation even if it’s at home. President Karzai and Afghanistan’s allies should act decisively to end this abusive and discriminatory practice,” HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said in a statement posted on the organisation’s website.

The situation for women in Afghanistan has generally improved since the Taliban were overthrown. A 2009 law boosts women’s rights making forced marriage and other acts crimes. But enforcement is weak, especially in rural areas where enforcement is largely up to conservative make tribal elders.

The report said jailed women struggled to find support amid a “dysfunctional criminal justice system.”

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

Burma: Suu Kyi Wins Landmark Seat in Parliament, Party Says

Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has won a seat in parliament following landmark by-elections, according to the opposition. The victory marks Suu Kyi’s first election to public office after decades of repression.

The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) confirmed the by-election results, which were displayed on a digital signboard at party headquarters in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon.

NLD supporters erupted in euphoric cheers after the announcement was made.

The elections were the first that Suu Kyi has contested, as she was under house arrest at the hands of Myanmar’s military junta during the past two ballots in 1990 and 2010.

Forty-five seats in the 664-member parliament were up for grabs in the nation-wide vote, with the NLD contesting 44 seats.

The chief of the regional bloc the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Surin Pitsuwan, said voting had been conducted “rather smoothly.” Observers from ASEAN were among those invited by Myanmar’s government to oversee the polls.

Suu Kyi, however, had complained of irregularities during the campaign, including alleged intimidation of candidates and the appearance of deceased people on election rolls.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Clashes Break Out Across Indonesia Over Rising Diesel and Gasoline Prices, Many Injured

The government raises fuel prices by 33 per cent without parliamentary approval. More demonstrations are planned for the coming days. More than 20,000 police agents are deployed in Jakarta, the highest number since Suharto’s regime.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Thousands of university students clashed violently with police at the Gambir railway stations in central Jakarta during a rally against fuel price hikes. Armed with Molotov bombs, wooden sticks and stones, protesters attacked security forces deployed along the main access road to the State Palace and the National Monument of Monas in Central Jakarta. Scores of people were injured.

Subsidised fuel is set to increase on 1 April by 33 per cent to US 65 cents, a decision the government took without parliamentary approval. Experts are concerned that it might push up the price of basic necessities and threaten the lives of millions of people scraping by on a few dollars a day.

The fear of an economic crisis caused by higher fuel prices has caused similar protests in Medan (North Sumatra), Makassar (South Sulawesi) and Gorontalo (North Sulawesi), where demonstrators torched the car of a local government official. More demonstrations against higher fuel prices are expected in the coming days.

From Seoul, where he is attending the nuclear summit, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono accused the opposition of fomenting the clashes in order to discredit the government and take power.

In order to quell the unrest, the government has deployed 20,000 police agents in central Jakarta, the largest number since 1998 when violent anti-Chinese protests left scores of people dead.

Higher gasoline and diesel fuel prices were the cause of that unrest as well, lasting for the whole of May, and eventually forcing then President Suharto to leave power after 32 years of dictatorship.

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

India Boat-Shooting Jurisdiction Ruling Put Off Again

Judge to decide Monday on where to try Italian marines

(ANSA) — Kochi, March 30 — An Indian judge on Friday put off until Monday a ruling on whether India or Italy should have jurisdiction in the case of two Italian anti-pirate marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen, judicial sources told ANSA.

It is the fourth time this month that the ruling on jurisdiction over last month’s incident has been postponed.

Italian Defense Minister Giampiero Di Paola met with his Indian counterpart A.K. Antony on Friday to work on a “friendly solution” to the dispute, echoing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s words in recent talks with Italian Premier Mario Monti on his Monday visit to the Indian capital. Italy says it should have jurisdiction for the case, not India, as the soldiers were guarding an Italian merchant vessel in international waters.

The Italian government also believes that, regardless of who has jurisdiction, the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India as they were military personnel working on an anti-piracy mission.

Italy has said the marines fired warning shots from the merchant ship they were guarding, the Enrica Lexie, after coming under attack from pirates.

It said they followed the proper international procedures for dealing with pirate attacks, which are frequent in the Indian Ocean.

The Indian authorities, on the other hand, said the marines failed to show sufficient “restraint” by opening fire after mistaking the fishermen for pirates.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who have been at the centre of a diplomatic row between the countries since being detained last month, are in jail in the city of Thiruvananthapuram.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

India: Karnataka: Protestant Clergyman Risks Jail, Attack Against Him Seventh Case in 2012

Hindu nationalists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) beat Rev Mallikarjun Sangalada and four of his parishioners, after accusing him of engaging in forced conversions. The five victims were coming home from a prayer meeting. The pastor has been the head of a community of 35 members for the past two years.

Mundargi (AsiaNews) — Rev Mallikarjun Sangalada could go to jail on false charges of forced conversions. The accusations levelled against him are the seventh case of anti-Christian action since January in the Indian state of Karnataka.

Two days ago, people from the Hindu ultranationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) attacked the pastor and four members of his congregation. They were coming back from a prayer meeting in Dhoni (Gadag District) and were handing out flyers.

After beating and insulting them, the RSS activists dragged the five Christians to the Mundargi police station, where they filed a complaint against them for forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity.

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) intervened quickly, gaining the release of three of the five people involved in the evening of the incident, Wednesday.

Meanwhile, police formally charged Rev Sangalada under Sections 107 (“abetment” and “conspiracy”) and 157 (“Harbouring persons hired for an unlawful assembly”) of the Indian Penal Code. But during the night, GCIC lawyers managed to get the clergyman and the other parishioner released.

However yesterday, the pastor went before the chief administrative officer (tehsildar) in Mundargy Sub-district (taluk) who will rule in the matter. If he goes against the clergyman, the latter could go to jail.

Speaking about the incident, GCIC president Sajan George lamented the fact that “Christians are the target of a violent propaganda campaign orchestrated by Hindu nationalists. Thanks to the Somasekhar report*, they feel encouraged to do whatever they want. We pray for Rev Sangalada’s life.”

Rev Sangalada, 37, has been in charge of the Sukrantham Samaja Seva Sangha Pentecostal Church in Mundargi for the past two years. He ministers to a congregation of some 35 people.

He and his wife Manjula, 33, have two daughters (1 and 5 years old respectively) and a seven-year-old son.

*On 28 January 2011, a report by the Justice Commission, chaired by formed judge BK Somasekhar, found that the Bajrang Dal and its coordinator Mahendra Kumar were not responsible for attacks against Christian churches and places of worship in Karnataka in 2008.

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

Indonesia: The Diocese of Padang Challenges the Government Attempts to Stop the Building of a Church

Local officials have blocked access to the site and require the removal of the sacred building, dedicated to St. Ignatius. The curia emphasizes that building permits are in order and defends respect for the legitimate rights. Diocesan Secretary: the Church “will never sell property to others.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The Diocese of Padang strongly defends the legitimate right to build the church of St. Ignatius in Pasir Pangarayan in the district of Rokan Hulu, Riau province, Sumatra island. In recent days, local authorities have decided to revoke the building permits and give notice to the Catholic community to transfer the place of worship to a different area. Fr. Kus Aliandu Pr, a priest in Padang, West Sumatra province, tells AsiaNews that the diocese “will never sell the property to others.” This stance follows a meeting of the Committee of construction of the church and local government officials.

“The district chief — says Fr. Aliandu Pr — told us that they will not remove the blocks that prevent access to the site of construction of the church. However, we told them that we are not willing to move the church to another site”. The secretary of the diocese also states that “we will provide an official response to the request for removal of the authorities after the Easter holidays.” The priest then adds that the local bishop, Mgr. Martinus Situmorang, “will never accept” a proposal for resettlement. “The construction site and the property — the prelate is reported to have said to the priest — in the future will belong to the Church.”

On 21 March, dozens of public officials raided the construction site located in the village of Sukamaju, sub-district Rambah. The authorities forced the workers to down their tools, to the distress of the faithful who have shown — in vain — the permits complying with applicable regulations. The area is fenced with barbed wire and has been impounded.

The faithful denounce the “blatant violation” of religious freedom and confirm the validity of the documentation allowing the construction. Local authorities respond that the land will be allocated for other purposes, because the Muslim community is no longer willing to accept the presence of a place of Christian worship.

In Indonesia, buildings that will serve as places of worship must approved by the Izin Mendirikan Bangunan (IMB), building permits granted by local authorities that enables the opening of a construction yard. In the case of Christian places of worship, the permission must include written authorization signed by at least 60 residents — Muslims — of the area where the place of Christian worship will be located.

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

Italy Not Giving Up on Marines Incarcerated in India

Envoy warns that jurisdiction debate sets dangerous precedent

(ANSA)- Rome, March 28 — Italian authorities remain “determined” to take the case of the two Italian anti-pirate marines incarcerated in India for the alleged killing of two Indian fisherman to the “highest level possible,” said envoy Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday.

“We are not giving up” and will do everything to bring the marines back home, he said. Rome is insisting on jurisdiction in the case and that India’s claim to maintain jurisdiction sets “a dangerous precedent” that could inevitably work against them, said de Mistura.

De Mistura said during a briefing at the Italian foreign ministry that what has happened to the Italian marines “could happen to military members from any country, including India”.

On Tuesday an Indian judge delayed a scheduled ruling until Friday on whether India or Italy should have jurisdiction in the case.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Far East

A Hidden Threat as Asia Tops the West in Centa-Millionaires

Is it actually bad news for Asia that it now trumps the West in individuals with over $100 million in disposable assets?

The east’s ultrarich boom looks like further proof that Asian economies are set to avoid Europe and America’s bumpy fiscal landing. But with the outlook closer to the base of the social pyramid not so rosy, a growing class of superwealthy might actually exacerbate class tensions at a moment when the promise of cherry-picking Western hypercapitalism could turn more sour than ever.

Consider how Asia’s wealthy are spending. Bloomberg reports that Citigroup’s new tally of the prestige stat augurs continued growth in eastern luxury markets, with wine, sports, and art among top investments: “Greater interest in art investments was expressed last year by a net 32 percent of the region’s holders of more than $25 million, and interest in wine rose 29 percent.” But The Wall Street Journal complicates this pretty picture.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Amid Rumors of Unrest, China Cracks Down on the Internet

After weeks of Internet-fueled rumors suggesting fissures in the top leadership ranks, Chinese authorities struck back this weekend, closing 16 Web sites and arresting at least six people in a broad crackdown on the freewheeling world of cyberspace.

Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said in a dispatch late Friday that the Web sites were closed, and the unnamed individuals detained, for “fabricating or disseminating online rumors.” For the past two weeks, the Internet has been filled with rumors of an internal power struggle after the largely unexplained March 15 ouster of the popular provincial Communist Party chief Bo Xilai.

Xinhua also said Saturday that the two most popular Twitter-like microblogging sites, “” run by Sina and “t. qq” run by Tencent, had suspended their comment functions, “after they were punished for allowing rumors to spread.” The suspension of the user comments function was said to last until next Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Monti and Italy’s Dream of “Chinese Investment” And Religious Freedom

Hu Jintao’s promises to invest in Italy not covered in Chinese newspapers. The need for structural reforms in China countered by Communist Party’s monopoly of power, which results in repression, government corruption, predatory economics heedless of the social and environmental issues with consequent revolts by peasants and workers. The pope’s invitation to defend religious freedom to create a “harmonious society”. Chinese newspapers exalt the end of Article 18: CGIL defeated by Mao’s heirs.

Rome (AsiaNews) — Italian newspapers devoted vast space, perhaps too much so, to Hu Jintao’s promises to Prime Minister Mario Monti to direct Chinese investment towards Italy. According to media reports, from sources in Monti’s staff, Hu Jintao “gave precise instructions to the heads of the financial authorities (including sovereign wealth funds) and the Chinese business community to return to investing in our country.”

Some experts have already identified the areas where these investments might go: ports, infrastructure, electronics, fashion, electrical appliances … Others swear that China is moving towards an ever greater economic success, that the middle class is growing, as well as their consumer power, that the next change at the top, with Xi Jinping as party secretary and president, marks the coming of a “ reformer “.

Some foundations in contact with Italy and China have foreseen a rosy future for China in 2012 and 2013

It strikes me that they are describing a dream-like scenario.

These are the reasons why:

Not one Chinese newspaper, not even Xinhua reported that phrase or quoted a line of dialogue between our prime minister and president of China. This suggests that perhaps the phrase is not as important for the Chinese, as it is for us, or they were just polite but meaningless words suited to the occasion. Remember the promises made by Wen Jiabao during his visit to Germany last February, in which he said that China “might” help Europe, provided that puts its accounts to rights… Of course we are open to see that maybe in Mario Monti’s upcoming visit to Beijing and Boai, Hu’s promises may be more precise. In this way, our hopes would not be just a dream, but something more concrete.

b) I’m no economist, but looking at graphs on imports-exports between Italy and China, we realize that our problem is that we do not export enough to that Eldorado in the East. Will the investments help increase these longed for exports or instead serve to wipe out and the Italian labor market? These are indeed the results of many Chinese investments in Africa, where the hand of Beijing has destroyed the local economies. I understand that Italy is better off than African countries, but this doubt still arises.

c) China’s current problem is the lack of domestic demand. And this will only grow the people who work are given higher salaries and a voice. On this point, just yesterday, the economist Minxin Pei pointed out that China has received some wonderful advice from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which calls for the Asian giant to launch structural reforms such as privatization and an increased reduction of state intervention in the economy. But the ever-sharp Pei points out that these reforms (which would allow a truly “harmonious society” as intoned for over a decade by Hu Jintao) mean reducing the power of the Communist Party. And on this it seems that no one will agree, neither the recently dishonoured Maoists, nor the “reformists”, nor Xi Jinping, who so far has played on both sides to keep all career options open .

d) How many times have we here at AsiaNews reported that, without these reforms, China is destined to a social and economic failure. The party’s monopoly power means repression, government corruption, predatory economics heedless of the social and environmental issues, which catalyze the many revolts which punctuate the geography of the country.

e) A further element is the issue of human rights and religious freedom. Two months ago, we dared to make the request to Hu Jintao and the Chinese Ambassador in Italy to release two senior bishops who have been imprisoned for 40 to 51 years. Without hoping for an answer, which of course never came. Apart from some rare cases, neither was there any support forthcoming from the political world (even though it is merely a “technical” government). Perhaps because this political class always hoped in this future Chinese investment. If Paris is worth a mass, two bishops in prison are well worth the (hypothetical) investment (in chorus the media cry: “Money. Lots of money”).

f) It is worth noting here what Pope Benedict XVI said yesterday in Cuba regarding religious freedom, a right which “manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimizes the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favourable conditions for peace and harmonious development, while at the same time establishing solid foundations for securing the rights of future generations”. In short, our politicians (even the “technical” ones) must push China to implement religious freedom even for economic stability.

g) A final note of “nemesis”: there is much talk on Xinhua and in Chinese newspapers regarding Italy’s labor reform in Italy and Article 18 in praise of Monti. Who knows: maybe this reform will push Beijing to make its much-needed investments in Italy, importing the form of labour typical in the Middle Kingdom. What a terrible revenge of history to see the CGIL defeated by Mao Zedong’s heirs.

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


Dutch Hire Fewer Romanians and Bulgarians

There has been a sharp drop in the number of work permits Dutch market gardners request for Romanian and Bulgarian workers.

In the first three months of this year the UWV employment agency received just 57 work permit applications, compared with 768 in the same period last year and 569 in 2010. Social Minister Henk Kamp last year urged market gardners to employ more temporary workers who do not need a work permit, such as jobless people or Polish workers.

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

Greek Police Start Sweeping Athens of Illegals

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 29 — Greek police intensified their sweeps targeting undocumented migrants and illegal street vendors in central Athens on Wednesday as authorities continued efforts to designate sites for temporary detention centers where migrants without papers are to be kept before being deported or, in a tiny percentage of cases, granted asylum. A crackdown by police outside the premises of Athens University Law School and the Athens University of Economics and Business resulted in the arrest of 21 illegal street vendors, all immigrants. Officers also evicted 26 undocumented migrants from a half-derelict building on central Marni Street and detained a foreign national alleged to have been charging the migrants rent to live in the squat. Sources told Kathimerini that police are to continue with their crackdown, adding that they have been instructed by their superiors to eliminate the illegal street trade in the city center within a week. During a meeting of top police officials chaired by Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis on Wednesday, it was decided that the ranks of the police would be boosted immediately with 200 special guards who have just completed their training. The aim is for an extra 1,100 officers to join the motorcycle-riding rapid-reaction squad DIAS soon.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy ‘Responsible’ For 63 Migrant Deaths Says CE

NATO also blamed for March 2011 incident during Libya war

(ANSA) — Strasbourg, March 29 — Europe’s top human rights body the Council of Europe (CE) on Thursday said Italy was indirectly responsible for the deaths of 63 migrants from war-torn Libya who were not rescued in the Mediterranean in March 2011.

“Italy, as the first State to have received the call for help and knowing that Libya could not meet its obligations, should have taken on the responsibility for coordinating the rescue operations,” the CE said in a report.

The report also blamed NATO and the countries making up the coalition blockading Libya at the time, “who had ships in the area”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

More Than 100,000 Spaniards Leave Country in One Year

Due to crisis, most moved out to South America

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 28 — The number of Spanish citizens who leave the country because of the crisis increased by 6.7% from January 1 2011 to the same date this year, according to the figures released today by the national statistical institute (INE). A total of 1,816,835 Spanish citizens live outside the country’s borders, 114,957 moved out in 2011. Most of the emigrants go to South America (83,763) and to other European countries, which have recorded the arrival of 26,222 Spanish citizens. The statistics indicate that most migrants actually return to their country of origin, particularly South Americans who have obtained the Spanish nationality. Only 36% of Spanish citizens living abroad were born in Spain, while 58.2% were born in their current place of residence and 5.1% in other countries.

Argentina, France, Venezuela and Germany are the countries that host the most Spanish residents.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Refugee Boat Survivor Arrested in Netherlands

One of the nine survivors of last year’s refugee boat tragedy, in which 63 refugees from Libya died, was arrested by the Dutch immigration police on Thursday morning. He is due to be deported to Italy, according to Dutch senator Tineke Strik.

The arrest of the 23-year-old Ethiopian Abu Kurke Kebato came only hours after a special committee of the Council of Europe investigating the incident had adopted a resolution recommending that “in view of the ordeal of the survivors, member states use their humanitarian discretion to look favourably on any claims for asylum and resettlement coming from these persons”.

At the time of his arrest Mr Kebato was staying with his wife at a refugee centre in the south-eastern village of Ter Apel. In accordance with European legislation, the Dutch immigration police want to send him back to his first port of entry, Italy.

Humanitarian discretion

Ms Strik, who was commissioned by the Council of Europe to investigate this refugee drama, thinks that Mr Kebato should be given permission to stay in the Netherlands on humanitarian grounds:

“He is traumatised and was sent back to Libya once before by Italy, where he ended up in prison. He also didn’t receive any medical care in Italy. After spending two weeks out on sea in the bright sunshine, his eyes are badly damaged. I think that, in this case, the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service should be lenient, even though it may have the law on its side.”

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

‘Regularisation of Illegal Immigrants is a Mistake’

Sat 31/03/2012 — 14:07 The Head of Belgium’s Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Fight Against Racism Jozef De Witte has attacked past regularisation campaigns for illegal immigrants. Speaking in an interview with the daily ‘De Standaard’, Mr De Witte said that regularisation of those living in Belgium illegally encourages other illegal immigrants to take extreme measures such as going on hunger strike in an effort to obtain leave to remain here.

Mr De Witte adds that regularisations give illegal immigrants the impression that they will be given papers if they hold out for long enough.

He says that the current hunger strike by a group of illegal immigrants in Brussels is a form of blackmail.

Mr De Witte told the VRT that “I understand that they are at the end of their tether, but you can’t obtain rights by going on hunger strike.

“Rights are rights and if you don’t have the right to live in Belgium, you should leave.”

Government policy is blamed for people taking such extreme measures to try and get leave to remain here…

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


Anthropocene — Age of Man

We must stand up to United Nations and to homegrown environmentalists’ quest to de-grow America, control our lives, and impose their “vision” of the world on the majority.

If you have not seen this word, it is because it was invented by the global warming crowd, supported by United Nations Agenda 21’s goal of total global control through environmental protection policies that will fundamentally alter the way humans exist.

According to a National Geographic article published in March 2011, “Age of Man,” the word “anthropocene” was conceived ten years ago by the Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen who said, “we are no longer in the Holocene, we are in the Anthropocene.” The Holocene was the period between the last ice age, 11,500 years ago, and present time. Paul Crutzen received a Nobel Prize for the discovery of ozone-depleting compounds. (Elizabeth Kolbert)


“Little Ice Age” (300 to 500 years ago) and “Medieval Warm Period” were climate events documented in Northern Europe via crystals found in earth’s layers. Lu and his team were able to ascertain that these two events reached Antarctica because they found and studied heavy oxygen isotopes in the ikaite crystals. “The water that holds the crystal structure together — called hydration water — traps information about temperatures present when the crystals formed.” (Ted Thornhill)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is still arguing that the “Medieval Warm Period” was limited to Europe.


“Man’s catastrophic damage to the environment and disparities between rich and poor head the daunting challenges facing the Rio +20 Summit in June, experts say. The summit must sweep away a system that lets reckless growth destroy the planet’s health yet fails to help billions in need.” (Agency France Presse)

Therein lies the true intent of the global warming scam and the United Nations Agenda 21 — fleecing developed nations, spreading the wealth to developing nations, population control, energy control, economic control, education control, confiscation of private property, control of the seas, commerce, military, and de-growing the biggest “offender,” the United States, to a primitive lifestyle.

The educational propaganda is getting more intense. Planet under Pressure has commissioned a 3-minute film “from the start of the industrial revolution to the Rio +20 Summit,” the world’s first educational web portal on the Anthropocene. The film exaggerates the growth of humanity in the last 250 years into such a global force “on an equivalent scale to major geological processes.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]