Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120429

Financial Crisis
»Agenda 21’s Role in America’s Financial Breakdown
»Britain Facing ‘Lost Decade’ of Slow Growth and High Unemployment Without Change of Course on Economy, Balls Warns
»Crisis, What Economic Crisis? Anger After £10m Private Jet Deal to Fly Eurocrat Chiefs to Engagements
»IMF Denied Bailout Funds by Canada
»Italians to Pay Extra 2,200 Euros in Household Expenses
»Italy: Yields Leap at Bond Auction
»Italy: Maroni Says EU Fiscal Compact is an “Imposition”
»Let the Germans Clean Up Europe
»Obama, The Austerity President
»Tunisia: Central Bank: Economy Slows Down in First Quarter
»U.S. Firms Add Jobs, But Mostly Overseas
»7 Reported Dead as Vehicle Falls From Parkway at Bronx Zoo
»Actually, Ron Paul is Secretly Winning a Lot More Delegates Than You Think
»CISPA, The New Enemy of the Internet
»Data Harvesting at Google Not a Rogue Act, Report Finds
»Florida Pastor Terry Jones Burns Copies of Koran Outside Church
»Forget Homeland Security, Now It’s About “Environmental Justice”
»Is New Cyber Security Bill (CISPA) An End-Run Around Privacy Restrictions?
»LAPD: Coroner’s Official May Have Died From Arsenic Poisoning
»The £115million US Navy Stealth Ship That Could be Yours for Just £60,000
»The Family Farm is Being Systematically Wiped Out of Existence in America
Europe and the EU
»Brussels Wants Safety From Greeks and Portuguese
»Greece: Athens Cancels Purchase of C-27 Aircraft
»Northern League Councillor ‘Kills Self Over Fraud’
»The Truth About the EU Court’s €70,000 Wine Cellar
»Turkey: Marriage of Sultan’s Grandson at 72
»UK: £9m Waste of High Court Computer That Doesn’t Work… So We’ll Have to Spend Another £9.5m on a New One
»UK: Brussels Orders EU Flag Must Fly Over Whitehall Every Day… And We Could be Fined if We Fail to Comply
»UK: Missiles Could be Stationed on Rooftops During London Olympics
»UK: Surface-to-Air Missiles on Top of Flats to Protect Olympics as Part of Huge Security Operation
»UK: Trial Halted as Policeman Refuses to Give Evidence Against Alleged Attacker Because He Prefers to Guard Olympic Torch
»Umberto Bossi: Lega Nord Hasn’t Stolen Money Like PSI Did
North Africa
»Egypt ‘Necrophilia Law’? Hooey, Utter Hooey.
»Egypt’s Women Urge MPs Not to Pass Early Marriage, Sex-After-Death Laws: Report
»Morocco at Cannes With ‘Les Chevaux De Dieu’ By Ayouch
»Spain: Arms Sold in North Africa During Arab Spring
»Tourists Rediscover Tunisia After Revolution
»Tunisia: Gov’t Rejects Project, General Strike in Tataouine
Middle East
»Sweden Gave the Saudis Secret Help for 25 Years
»Syria: Beirut Press: 2 Men From Al Qaeda-Inspired Group Killed
South Asia
»Monti Commits Italy to Afghanistan Beyond 2014 Pullout
Far East
»China: Bo Xilai’s Son Fined on a Porsche in the US
Australia — Pacific
»Bikie War: Meet the New Generation of Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Members
Sub-Saharan Africa
»21 Dead in Attacks on Christians in Kenya and Nigeria
»Loud Explosion and Gun Shots at Kano University in Nigeria
»Nigeria: 20 Bodies Found After Kano University Attacks
»One Worshipper Dies in Nairobi Sunday Grenade Attack
»EU Prepares Tighter Border Controls
»Norway: Immigration Breaks New Record
»With Five Billion Mobile Users in the World, Conference Calls for Research Into Potential Brain Cancer Risks

Financial Crisis

Agenda 21’s Role in America’s Financial Breakdown

For more than 20 years, now, the most powerful word in advertising has been “sustainable.” This term sells everything from toilet paper to spark plugs. This same term is even more powerful when applied to public policies such as: “sustainable” energy; transportation; agriculture; development; housing, and almost every other policy considered by government. When the term “sustainable” is used to sell a product, the product will be more expensive and less efficient than it has to be. When the term “sustainable” is used to sell a public policy, the policy will not only be more expensive and less efficient, it will be controlled by the government, and it will ultimately fail.

Before 1990, the term “sustainable” was rarely heard. Today, the term saturates all media every day. Everyone knows the term; few people know what sustainable development is, or the effect it is having on communities, or the ultimate goal of its proponents, or how it gets into public policy.

Agenda 21 is a document adopted by 179 nations at the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. Its 40 chapters contain specific recommendations, which, when adopted and implemented by governments, will result in sustainable development, according to its proponents. Since 1993, the federal government has been promoting and funding the implementation of Agenda 21 recommendations throughout the country.

The Obama administration has picked up where the Clinton administration left off, advancing the implementation of Agenda 21.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Britain Facing ‘Lost Decade’ of Slow Growth and High Unemployment Without Change of Course on Economy, Balls Warns

Britain is facing the prospect of a ‘lost decade’ of sluggish growth and high unemployment if the Government fails to change course on the economy, shadow chancellor Ed Balls has warned.

After shock figures showed the economy was back in recession, Mr Balls said there was a risk of prolonged stagnation in the UK like that experienced by Japan in the 1990s.

Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted there will be no change to the coalition’s programme of austerity and deficit reduction despite the double-dip.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Crisis, What Economic Crisis? Anger After £10m Private Jet Deal to Fly Eurocrat Chiefs to Engagements

Revelations about a deal to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on private jets to whisk the EU’s top officials around the globe in luxury was met with fury by one senior Conservative MEP.

The European Commission has just signed a contract costing more than €12 million (£10million) for private jets to ferry senior Commissioners such as Britain’s Baroness Ashton, President Jose Manuel Barroso, and their acolytes between meetings, reported The Sunday Times.

Only on Wednesday the Commission provoked fury by proposing an inflation-busting 6.8 per cent increase in the EU’s budget for 2013.

Martin Callanan, Conservative MEP for the North East, said: ‘Coming just days after Commission leaders put forward a preposterous set of budget proposals, claiming they were doing all they could to save money, this confirms that they really have no shame.

‘They have lost their moral and financial compass and they are prepared to ensure they get to live the high life, whatever the expense and whatever other people’s hardship.

‘They seem to live in their own little bubble where they are perpetually pampered and they have no thought for how things look to the outside world.’

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

IMF Denied Bailout Funds by Canada

TORONTO — Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty dropped the n-word last week and taxpayers across Canada should be glad he did.

The forum was an International Monetary Fund (IMF) meeting in New York. Its members had just tried, for the second time in eight weeks, to hit up Canada for a loan of, well, let’s just say it was something in the order of a lazy $7 billion or so.

True to his conservative financial instincts, Flaherty wasn’t having any of it. So he leaned forward and uttered a word now so rarely heard in global financial circles that many wondered if they’d heard him correctly the first time.

They had. He just said ‘no.’

In doing so he put Canada at odds with almost the entire membership of the G20. All members (bar the US) backed the IMF’s Christine Lagarde’s effort to raise more than $400-billion (U.S.) to build a financial buffer against the threat posed by the seemingly endless Eurozone debt crisis.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italians to Pay Extra 2,200 Euros in Household Expenses

New fees on electricity equal 21 euros per year

(ANSA) — Rome, April 27 — Italians are expected to pay an extra 2,200 euros in household expenses this year after the latest hike in electricity fees, consumer groups Federconsumatori and Adusbef said Friday.

The report looked at “dramatic” rising taxes and costs of fuel, energy, food, banking and public transportation, which altogether will cost the average Italian family an extra 2,201 euros in 2012. The latest new consumer expense was a 4.3% rise in electricity costs announced Friday by the Italian energy authority, set to go into effect Tuesday. The hike, which was added to offset renewable energy costs, will cost the average consumer an extra 21.44 euros on an annual basis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Yields Leap at Bond Auction

Rates on two-year paper up from 2.353% to 3.355%

(ANSA) — Rome, April 24 — Yields leaped at an Italian bond auction Tuesday in a sign of renewed concern for the euro crisis, analysts said.

The yield on two-year state paper rose to 3.355% from 2.353% at the last such auction in March.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Maroni Says EU Fiscal Compact is an “Imposition”

(AGI) Milan — “I hope the Italian parliament will not ratify it. We are ready to lead a huge battle against it”. That’s how Northern League top member Roberto Maroni commented the EU fiscal compact. During a public event, held at Palazzo Marino together with Milan mayor Giuliano Pisapia and Giorgio Squinzi, Maroni defined the fiscal compact “a real imposition by Europe on the member states”. It is a “disgraceful, iniquitious” deal, because it represents “not only the deletion of the member states’ capacity to manage the resources, it also takes away the people’s sovereignty”.

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

Let the Germans Clean Up Europe

26 April 2012 De Volkskrant Amsterdam

Instead of dreaming about a federal union which would be at the mercy of countries that are democratic and economic underperformers, a Dutch political scientist argues that we would do better to reinforce the role of more efficiently functioning states and allow them to take care of business..

Alfred Pijpers

Now that the financial crisis has been provisionally banished from the horizon, we have been treated to a number of prudently voiced ideas about the future of the European Union. This is particularly the case in Germany where the debate appears to be well underway. Angela Merkel wants to replace the Lisbon treaty and implement “major structural reforms”, while Minister for Foreign Affairs, Guido Westerwelle, has announced that he is in favour of a new “European constitution” with reinforced integration.

At the same time, in the columns of De Volkskrant, MEP Sophie in’t Veld [a member of the Dutch social-liberal party, Democrats 66] has argued for a “powerful political union”, an end to vetoes, and a European Commission president who is elected by direct suffrage.

All of these well-known recipes have been once again been whipped out of the old federalist suggestion box, at a time when it should really be stowed away in an attic somewhere. In the course of the financial crisis, Germany has effectively shown that that its economic and political might can be turned to Europe’s advantage. And it is for this reason that several of the principles which provided the basis for postwar European integration are largely outmoded.

The first of these is the idea that European integration is necessary to control Germany. This consideration was certainly legitimate in the immediate aftermath of the war; but we should also note that the control of Germany via supranational European institutions was primarily an expression of French economic interests.

Within the common market, the European treaties served to protect French agriculture and industry from the dynamism of German exports. For decades, in a bid to atone for its sins and under moral pressure from France, the Federal Republic consented to act as Europe’s purser.

Weaker member states

In the course of the financial crisis, it has been increasingly obvious that European leaders of national governments are the main decision makers in Brussels. In the European hierarchy, the European Council is Europe’s board of management, and Herman Van Rompuy is its secretary, while Commission President José Manuel Barroso is his assistant…

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

Obama, The Austerity President

One of the things that comes up every time we get a GDP report is that government, far from being the main driver of the economy, is actually a big drag on the economy.

Yesterday’s initial Q1 report confirmed that government spending cuts were a big drag (though at least the private sector is picking up the baton).

To appreciate the extent of the austerity under Obama, check out this chart from Naufall Sanaullah at Macrobeat, showing government spending in various categories going back through 2000.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Central Bank: Economy Slows Down in First Quarter

Exports decrease, imports increase, tourism recovers

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 25 — Tunisian economy slowed down in this year’s first quarter; according to the a survey carried out by the Central Bank, there was a decrease in consumption of high and medium voltage power (the voltage used by industrial consumers). The scenario is made even gloomier by a slowdown in the export growth rate, which this year totals +9.1% over last year’s +10.3%. Imports continued to increase at a faster rate, while exports decreased, especially in the mechanical and electric sector (-11.9%) and in the textile and clothing and leather and shoes industry (-29.6%), with a simultaneous net decrease in foreign demand. On the contrary, the tourism sector is recovering. The deficit of current orders increased to 1,624 mln dinars, that is, 2.3% of the Gross domestic product (it totalled 1.5% in 2011), with a broadening of the trade gap totalling 1,066 mln dinars. In the January-march period, inflation totalled +5.4%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

U.S. Firms Add Jobs, But Mostly Overseas

Thirty-five big U.S.-based multinational companies added jobs much faster than other U.S. employers in the past two years, but nearly three-fourths of those jobs were overseas, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

Those companies, which include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., International Paper Co., Honeywell International Inc. and United Parcel Service Inc., boosted their employment at home by 3.1%, or 113,000 jobs, between 2009 and 2011, the same rate of increase as the nation’s other employers. But they also added more than 333,000 jobs in their far-flung—and faster-growing— foreign operations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


7 Reported Dead as Vehicle Falls From Parkway at Bronx Zoo

As many as seven people were believed to have been killed after a vehicle went over the Bronx River Parkway Sunday afternoon and fell to the street below, just south of the Bronx Zoo, a spokesman for the Fire Department said.

Three of the dead are children, the spokesman, Jim Long, said. All the victims are believed to be have been in the vehicle, Mr. Long said.

[Return to headlines]

Actually, Ron Paul is Secretly Winning a Lot More Delegates Than You Think

As the rest of the political world’s attention shifts to the general election, Paul is still quietly amassing delegates at district and county conventions, and is now poised to take a real bite — or at least a big nibble — out of Romney’s delegate total.

In just the last week, Paul locked up 49 delegates, including five in Pennsylvania and four in Rhode Island, two states thought to be firmly on Romney’s turf. In Minnesota, Paul won 20 of the 24 delegates awarded at last weekend’s district caucuses, an impressive sweep that guarantees that Paul will control a majority of the state’s delegation at the Republican National Convention.

And despite staunch opposition from the state Republican Party, Paul took 20 of the 40 delegates awarded in Missouri last weekend, according to campaign chairman Jesse Benton.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

CISPA, The New Enemy of the Internet

A few months ago, the proposal of an anti-piracy bill by the name of SOPA caused a great deal of controversy and protest due to the fact that it allowed the snooping of web users while opening the door to the censorship of the internet. The proposal of this law caused companies and internet giants such as AOL, Facebook and Google to openly oppose the bill — some even went as far as making their sites “go dark” for a day as a form of protest. The bill was eventually shelved and internet users rejoiced. But it was a very temporary victory. A new law is set to make the internet a highly monitored place.

Were the anti-SOPA companies genuinely concerned about your privacy? Not really. SOPA simply went against their best interests as it placed the burden of internet surveillance on them.

Now, a new bill by the name of CISPA will be proposed this week and its unprecise wording will make legal all kinds of abuse against privacy and free speech. Is there outrage from internet giants or are there corporate websites going black? Not at all. In fact, several companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Intel, AT&T, Verizon openly support the bill.

[Comment: Good article. Recommended reading.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Data Harvesting at Google Not a Rogue Act, Report Finds

SAN FRANCISCO — Google’s harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households in the United States and around the world was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report.

The report, prepared by the Federal Communications Commission after a 17-month investigation of Google’s Street View project, was released, heavily redacted, two weeks ago. Although it found that Google had not violated any laws, the agency said Google had obstructed the inquiry and fined the company $25,000.

On Saturday, Google released a version of the report with only employees’ names redacted.

The full version draws a portrait of a company where an engineer can easily embark on a project to gather personal e-mails and Web searches of potentially hundreds of millions of people as part of his or her unscheduled work time, and where privacy concerns are shrugged off.

The so-called payload data was secretly collected between 2007 and 2010 as part of Street View, a project to photograph streetscapes over much of the civilized world. When the program was being designed, the report says, it included the following “to do” item: “Discuss privacy considerations with Product Counsel.”

“That never occurred,” the report says…

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Florida Pastor Terry Jones Burns Copies of Koran Outside Church

Dove World Outreach Center preacher fined for act as officials fear it may spark Muslim outrage

An Islamophobic pastor in Florida is playing with fire once again.

Terry Jones, who sparked international outrage in 2010 when he vowed to burn copies of the Koran, ignited copies of the Islamic holy book outside his Dove World Outreach Center Saturday night, according to the Gainsville Sun.

The pastor — who once promised he would “not ever” burn a Koran — also burned an image depicting the prophet Muhammad, the newspaper reported.

Jones carried out the incendiary act along with about 20 others to protest the imprisonment of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian jailed in Iran since 2009 for his religious beliefs, according to the Christian Post.

“Our end result is we would like to have these things brought in front of the United Nations,” Jones told the newspaper.

“We would like Islam-dominated countries to adapt at least some form of human rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion rights; individual rights [and] civil rights. That would be the outcome that we would desire.”

Terry Jones is seen burning during a demonstration in Afghanistan in April 2011. Protests erupted after the Florida pastor burned the Koran.Pentagon officials had asked Jones not go through with the Koran burning over fears it would endanger the lives of American troops in Afghanistan.

“The last time Pastor Jones burned a Koran, back in March of 2011, more than 16 people died and more than 90 people were injured from the resulting protests,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Bill Speaks told the U.K.’s Guardian. “We hope Pastor Jones will take into account the safety and welfare of deployed U.S. military personnel before engaging in such an activity again.”

Jones has denied his actions were responsible for any violence.

The Gainsville fire department and police quickly arrived after Saturday’s incident. Jones was fined nearly $300 when fire officials said he did not have the proper authorization to burn books, the Gainsville Sun reported…

[Return to headlines]

Forget Homeland Security, Now It’s About “Environmental Justice”

It is the nature of any government to seek to expand its authority. The Founding Fathers knew this and gifted Americans with a Constitution that limits authority devolving it to the states and to “the people.” Read the Tenth Amendment. It isn’t working.

The freedoms they sought to establish and preserve for future generations are being eaten away and we tend only to hear about in individual cases when, in fact, it is so widespread we accept the injustices, the inefficiencies, and the enslavement in increments.


I tell you this because I doubt you are aware that the Department of Homeland Security has added a whole new layer of authority to its portfolio. You thought it was about protecting the nation against acts of terrorism. Now it is about enforcing “environmental justice.”

The DHS has added Green Police to its concerns and, if you think this has nothing whatever to do with some jihadists trying to kill a lot of people as was the case on 9/11, you would be right.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Is New Cyber Security Bill (CISPA) An End-Run Around Privacy Restrictions?

Legislation intended to combat cyber threats may itself become a threat to civil liberties. On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) by a vote of 248 to 168.

The act would allow Internet companies, from service providers to Facebook, to monitor network traffic and user data (emails, Google searches, etc.) and turn it over to the federal government. The bill also would grant the companies immunity from being liable for disclosing this information to Washington. Supporters of the bill include Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, Verizon, Oracle, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, AT&T, the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Critics insist CISPA will authorize the government to skirt laws restricting privacy intrusions by “deputizing the tech sector to police the net and share everything,” wrote Steven Rosenfeld at AlterNet.

“I think our First and Fourth Amendment rights aren’t being adequately considered,” Anjali Dalal, resident fellow with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, told AlterNet. “Authorizing private surveillance of everything we do on the Internet with the understanding that government can be a recipient of that surveillance information threatens our right to speak freely, and to be free from unlawful search and seizure.”


Republic Report notes that two government contractors—Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and Sciences Applications International Corporation (SAIC)— have spent heavily to lobby for CISPA’s passage, as have Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. These companies and others stand to gain more work from intelligence agencies if the legislation becomes law.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

LAPD: Coroner’s Official May Have Died From Arsenic Poisoning

BURBANK (CBS) — An official with the Los Angeles County coroner’s office may have been poisoned with arsenic, police said Friday.

KNX 1070’s John Brooks reports investigators are taking a closer look at the death of 61-year-old Micheal Cormier.

Cormier, a respected autopsy and forensic technician who also was a photographer with the special operations response team, was rushed to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank from his North Hollywood home one week ago.

Hospital staff eventually advised police that there may be “suspicious circumstances” surrounding Cormier’s death, said LAPD Lt. Alan Hamilton.

“We have information that could potentially include foul play,” Hamilton said.

After Cormier’s body was back at the county morgue where he worked until last week, toxicology tests are being run to determine the cause of his death.

Police along with a hazardous materials team have also reportedly searched his home on Auckland Avenue.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

The £115million US Navy Stealth Ship That Could be Yours for Just £60,000

It’s not what you’d normally expect to find while scrolling through an online auction.

But bidders with deep pockets can buy themselves a real life U.S Navy stealth ship for a fraction of the $190 million (£115million) it cost to build.

In fact bidding on the experimental Sea Shadow — which inspired the ‘invisible boat’ captained by Bond Villain Elliot Carver in 007 movie Tomorrow Never Dies — has stalled at a cut-price $100,420 (£61,000).

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Family Farm is Being Systematically Wiped Out of Existence in America

An entire way of life is rapidly dying right in front of our eyes. The family farm is being systematically wiped out of existence in America, and big agribusiness and the federal government both have blood all over their hands.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farms in the United States has fallen from about 6.8 million in 1935 to only about 2 million today. That doesn’t mean that there is less farming going on. U.S. farms are producing more than ever. But what it does mean is that farming is increasingly becoming dominated by the big boys. The rules of the game have been tilted in favor of big agribusiness so dramatically that most small farmers find that they simply cannot compete anymore. Back in 1900, about 39 percent of the U.S. population worked on farms. At this point, only about 2 percent of all Americans now live on farms. Big agribusiness, the food processing conglomerates, and big seed companies such as Monsanto completely dominate the industry. Unless something dramatic is done, the family farm is going to continue to be wiped out of existence. Unfortunately, it does not look like things are going to turn around any time soon.

The way that the farming industry is structured today, it is simply not economically feasible to operate a small family farm. According to Farm Aid, every week approximately 330 farmers leave their land for good.


On top of everything else, the federal government and many state governments just keep endlessly piling more rules and regulations on to the backs of farmers.

Big agribusiness has the resources to deal with all of these regulations fairly well, but most family farms do not.

With each passing year, the farming industry becomes even more centralized. If current trends continue, big agribusiness will eventually control nearly all of it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Brussels Wants Safety From Greeks and Portuguese

Together with Poland countries have not applied EU directive

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 26 — Greece and Portugal are under fire from Brussels on the issue of safety in its nuclear sites. Together with Poland, the two EU countries have failed to inform the European Commission of their full implementation of the new directive, which was due to be applied in member states by July 22 last year.

If the countries do not comply with the regulations in the next two months, they could be hauled before the EU Court of Justice and the European Commission could impose fines.

With so-called “stress tests” still ongoing into the safety of European nuclear sites, Brussels says that it is important that all member states apply the measures currently in force. The regulations concern power stations, research reactors and storage warehouses for spent combustibles.

The directive includes basic principles and obligations to ensure and increase safety in the European Union, including a national framework for the management of responsibilities, increasing the role and independence of national authorities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Athens Cancels Purchase of C-27 Aircraft

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, APRIL 27 — The Greek Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA), that convened on Thursday afternoon under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, decided to cancel the buying of the remaining four Alenia C-27 transport aircraft. According to relevant government sources, as Athens News Agency reports, the 8 of the 12 that Greece has ordered from the Italian company have already been received, but only one is in full operational readiness.

Consequently, according to the same sources, a consultation is under way with the Italian Alenia company, so that instead of the four aircraft, Greece can obtain spare parts for the functioning of the seven that have been received, but for which there are not enough spare parts for them to function fully. It is estimated that about 58 million euros will be saved from this change. KYSEA also approved the new manual on the handling of crises based on the armed forces new structure, as well as Greece’s response to the obligation to provide officers for NATO’s rapid intervention forces.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Northern League Councillor ‘Kills Self Over Fraud’

Pier Angelo Ablodi leapt from house window

(ANSA) — Parma, April 27 — A politician from the scandal-plagued Northern League party killed himself for his role in an alleged voter-registration fraud, prosecutors in Parma said Friday. Pier Angelo Ablodi, a Parma provincial councillor who last week leapt to his death from his apartment window, allegedly committed suicide because he authenticated forged voter-registration signatures. The alleged rigging came to light shortly before the suicide when former professional volleyball player Claudio Galli reported to police that his name had been falsely registered. Parma Prosecutor Gerardo Laguardia confirmed that Ablodi, 58, confessed in a suicide note to “authenticating the signatures as a favor to a person he did not name”.

The Northern League is at the centre of multiple probes into alleged fraud by former treasurer Francesco Belsito that led to Umberto Bossi quitting as leader at the start of this month and other party heavyweights resigning from their posts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Truth About the EU Court’s €70,000 Wine Cellar

by Justin Stares

The European Court of Justice has built up a wine collection of almost 4,000 bottles worth at least €70,000 but denies claims judges are spending public money on their favourite vintages

Given the savage budget cuts across member states, it is not surprising that the European Court of Justice is reticent to reveal details of its Luxembourg wine cellar. According to the rumour mill, the 27 senior judges quaff quality vintages in a dining room to which mortals have no access. Some say they intervene personally to decide which wines should be purchased with public money every year.

Is this true? The initial responses from the court are non-committal. The institution has a “functioning wine cellar”, not a collection of fine and rare wines, the press and information unit underlines. “Like all the EU institutions, the court carries out a number of protocol activities, including welcoming various dignitaries, some of whom are provided with food and drink as appropriate,” the press department tells

It adds: “This wine is purchased in accordance with the EU’s financial regulations and the principal reason for the court having a wine cellar built up over the years is to allow the court to save money, as you can imagine buying the wine as and when needed from a supplier would cost considerably more.” There is evidently no court sommelier, merely staff well versed in wine.

After two months of gentle and then less gentle prompting, the court agrees to release further details. There are 3,729 bottles currently in the cellar, of which 2,920 are red and 809 are white. The average red was purchased at a price of €21.82, while the average white was worth almost €12. The entire collection, therefore, has a price tag of around €70,000, though some of the bottles are sure to have increased in value over time. Purchases are made via tender once a year. On one recent occasion, only white wine was required as the cellar was considered too heavy in reds. The court spends, on average, around €15,000 a year on wine.

Can we see the wine list? Unfortunately not. Making the list public, according to the court, is not possible as it would in some way compromise the tender process. Is this a satisfactory answer? We leave it to our readers to decide. As a compromise, court officials did agree to release details of what they say are the oldest bottles in the cellar. These include: two bottles of Rioja Marques del Romerol 1988; three bottles of Rioja Prado Enea 1991; 23 bottles of Pomerol Bordeaux Chateau Bellegrave 1998; 14 bottles of Nuits Saint George Bourgogne Les Vaucrains 1999 and eight bottles of an undefined “Barolo 1998”. Among the whites, the Bourgogne Puliguy Montrachet 2000 is said to be the oldest, of which there are also eight bottles.

The collection at first sight “does not look super impressive”, says Sylvain Bournigault, a wine trader consulted by The Marques del Romeral “seems to be more of a supermarket wine than a boutique selection”. The Prado Enea, on the other hand, is produced by Muga “which is one of the best in Rioja”. The Barolo 1998 “could be anything” given that no details were given. All of these wines, including the Pomerol, are probably past their peak and should have been drunk a while ago, Bournigault points out. Maybe the court does need a sommelier after all.

There is insufficient detail about the Vaucrains or the Puligny to make an assessment, given the numerous producers, says Bournigault. “I really would need a more detailed list to tick what seems outstanding,” he says, though given that it took two months of pestering to coax this much out of the court, more information is a tall order. The relatively high average bottle price means that there is likely to be “a few pearls” in the cellar, Bournigault says.

And what of rumours that the court’s judges pick their own wines? Gil Carlos Rodriguez Iglesias, a Spanish judge and former court president, wrote that this had taken place at least once. In a speech he gave in 1999, Iglesias praised a former British judge, the late Lord Slynn of Hadley, for the “contribution” the aristocrat had made to the cellar. “I can also vouch for the fact that Lord Slynn is quite an oenological expert,” Iglesias said as part of a presentation on Europe’s alcoholic beverages case-law. Iglesias continued: “It will therefore not be a surprise to learn that during his time in Luxembourg he made quite a contribution, not only to the court’s case-law but also to its wine cellar.”

Juan-Carlos Gonzalez, head of the the court’s press team, says: “No way is this true”. The judges did not and do not participate in the filling of the wine cellar, according to Gonzalez. Indeed, the image of highly paid judges meeting in a private lounge to discuss how to funnel public money into their favourite vintages would be a little hard to swallow in the current climate.

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

Turkey: Marriage of Sultan’s Grandson at 72

Media attention show interest in imperial past

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 24 — In a sign of public interest in an Ottoman past that colours Ankara’s current foreign policy decisions, Turkey’s media are reporting the re-marriage of a seventy-two-year-old grandson of Sultan Murat V. Osman Selahaddin Osmanoglu, one of the 24 still living male descendants of the Ottoman sultans — according to the online edition of Hurriyet — has embarked upon his second marriage in Istanbul today.

The bride is retired philosophy professor Hanife Candan Gunen. The “simple ceremony” took place in Ciragan Palace, today a five star hotel on the European bank of the Bosphorus, but formerly the palace where in 1903 his father Ali Vasib Efendi was born, son of the Sultan who reigned for three months in 1876 before being deposed on charges of insanity — or was it because overly inclined to introduce reforms? In a speech given during the ceremony, information on the bridegroom’s dynasty was supplied by Ilber Ortayli, Director of the Topkapi Museum, whose walls are enclosed by the former palace of the Ottoman sultans.

The Ottoman lineage is followed with interest by Turkey’s media. This month has seen the death of Fatma Neslisah Osmanoglu, the last member of the former imperial family to have been born into a reigning dynasty. Along with a series of exhibitions, including one on the Balkans during the reign of the pashas and one on archaeologist-artist Osman Hamdi Bey, interest for the Ottoman past has been testified even more on the small and large screens. Turkey’s film of the year is the epic “Fetih 1453” on the “conquest” of Constantinople in that year.

It is the first film to have sold more than five million tickets in the country. A strong runner on TV is the series ‘Magnificent Century’ (obviously an Ottoman one), retains its popularity despite having all its scenes of drunkenness and sexual excess cut. The pride of this strongly nationalistic people focuses on the conquests which saw its empire expand across “three continents” as has recently been pointed out by Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with a reference to dominions extending from Algiers to Baghdad and from Budapest to the Horn of Africa.

This historic map reflects the current political and diplomatic interests of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who rejects the label of “neo-Ottoman” for his strategy. But the minister has also argued that the creation of a kind of “Pax Ottomana” could help calm some of the turbulence in the region.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: £9m Waste of High Court Computer That Doesn’t Work… So We’ll Have to Spend Another £9.5m on a New One

A new £9.5million computer at the UK’s troubled High Court complex has been shut down because it does not work.

The ‘Electronic Working System’ will now be replaced with a new computer expected to cost taxpayers another £9.5million.

The new computer at the £300 million Rolls Building in Fetter Lane, Central London, was meant to speed up the flow of data across the Royal Courts of Justice by removing outdated manual tasks.

But a series of technical problems meant only a tiny number of court applications have been filed electronically since the system was launched in 2009.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Brussels Orders EU Flag Must Fly Over Whitehall Every Day… And We Could be Fined if We Fail to Comply

Eric Pickles reacted with fury last night after being ordered by Brussels to fly the EU flag continuously over Whitehall.

The Cabinet Minister said the demand showed a ‘deep sense of political insecurity’ and called on the European Union to ‘grow up’.

Mr Pickles is currently obliged to fly the flag — a circle of 12 golden stars on an azure background — for a week each year, starting from Europe Day on May 9.

But under the proposed change, drafted by the European Commission and due to take effect within the next two years, the flag would have to fly permanently outside any organisation which managed development funding from Brussels.


The new rules also demand that organisations should give ‘the widest possible media coverage’ to any activities funded by Brussels money and, on the internet, describe what is being done with the money in an EU language other than English.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Missiles Could be Stationed on Rooftops During London Olympics

Minstry of Defence says it is evaluating placing surface-to-air missiles on top of residential flats to protect against terror threats

The army is considering plans to station soldiers and high-velocity surface-to-air missiles on top of a block of residential flats to ward off any airborne terror threats during the Olympics. Residents in the private, gated flats in Bow, east London, have received a leaflet warning them that a team of 10 soldiers and police will be stationed at the building — home to 700 people — for the duration of the Games.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed ground-based air defence systems could be deployed as part of the Olympic security plan but says it is still evaluating the situation. Brian Whelan, a resident of the building, said the MoD leaflet said the missiles would only be fired as a last resort.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Surface-to-Air Missiles on Top of Flats to Protect Olympics as Part of Huge Security Operation

Ground-to-air missiles are to be sited on the roof of a block of flats near the Olympic site as part of a huge security operation to protect the Games.

The Army will station soldiers and high-velocity surface-to-air missiles on the residential block in East London to ward off airborne terror threats.

Residents in the private, gated flats in Bow have received a leaflet warning them that a team of ten soldiers and police will be placed at the building — home to 700 people — for the duration of this summer’s Games.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Trial Halted as Policeman Refuses to Give Evidence Against Alleged Attacker Because He Prefers to Guard Olympic Torch

A police officer has refused to give evidence against his alleged attacker because he would rather be guarding the Olympic torch.

Sgt Mark Ruston pulled out of attending a trial at Exeter Crown Court after he discovered it clashed with his Olympic duties.

His decision is said to have wasted thousands of pounds in costs investigating the incident.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Umberto Bossi: Lega Nord Hasn’t Stolen Money Like PSI Did

(AGI) Treviso- Umberto Bossi commented on the authorities’ investigation: “it’s best if the entire truth is uncovered” he stated. “Lega Nord isn’t like the PSI [Italian Socialist Party, Ed.] which stole money from electoral reimbursements and accepted bribes,” the party’s leader told a crowd of die-hard Lega Nord supporters during a rally in Conegliano, near Treviso. “Lega Nord didn’t steal anything, it wasted money and those who wasted it will pay it back,” he said. “There is nothing criminal involved, the punishment is negative news on television and newspapers,” he added, “but we didn’t take people’s money, this is Rome’s attempt to divide the party. But the North can’t be defeated, it’s useless for Rome to struggle; Padania will always be free.” .

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

North Africa

Egypt ‘Necrophilia Law’? Hooey, Utter Hooey.

‘Necrophilia law’? Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, kids. At least until there’s like, you know, some proof.

Today, Egypt’s state-owned Al Ahram newspaper published an opinion piece by Amr Abdul Samea, a past stalwart supporter of the deposed Hosni Mubarak, that contained a bombshell: Egypt’s parliament is considering passing a law that would allow husbands to have sex with their wives after death.

It was soon mentioned in an English language version of Al-Arabiya and immediately started zipping around social-networking sites. By this afternoon it had set news sites and the rest of the Internet on fire. It has every thing: The yuck factor, “those creepy Muslims” factor, the lulz factor for those with a sick sense of humor. The non-fact-checked Daily Mail picked it up and reported it as fact. Then Andrew Sullivan, who has a highly influential blog but is frequently lax about fact-checking, gave it a boost with an uncritical take. The Huffington Post went there, too.

There’s of course one problem: The chances of any such piece of legislation being considered by the Egyptian parliament for a vote is zero. And the chance of it ever passing is less than that. In fact, color me highly skeptical that anyone is even trying to advance a piece of legislation like this through Egypt’s parliament. I’m willing to be proven wrong. It’s possible that there’s one or two lawmakers completely out of step with the rest of parliament. Maybe.

But extreme, not to mention inflammatory claims, need at minimum some evidence (and I’ve read my share of utter nonsense in Al Ahram over the years). The evidence right now? Zero.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Women Urge MPs Not to Pass Early Marriage, Sex-After-Death Laws: Report

Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) has appealed to the Islamist-dominated parliament not to approve two controversial laws on the minimum age of marriage and allowing a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours of her death according to a report in an Egyptian newspaper.

The appeal came in a message sent by Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, addressing the woes of Egyptian women, especially after the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death.

According to Egyptian columnist Amro Abdul Samea in al-Ahram, Talawi’s message included an appeal to parliament to avoid the controversial legislations that rid women of their rights of getting education and employment, under alleged religious interpretations.

“Talawi tried to underline in her message that marginalizing and undermining the status of women in future development plans would undoubtedly negatively affect the country’s human development, simply because women represent half the population,” Abdul Samea said in his article…

           — Hat tip: Russkiy[Return to headlines]

Morocco at Cannes With ‘Les Chevaux De Dieu’ By Ayouch

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, APRIL 23 — Morocco will be at the 65th Edition of the International film festival in Cannes with the new film “Les chevaux de Dieu” (The horses of God) by director Nabil Ayouch. The film will compete in the “Un certain regard” section and talks of the attacks in Casablanca in May 2003.

The movie takes its inspiration from the novel “Les Etoiles de Sidi Moumen” by Mahi Binebine and tells the story of the terrorists behind the attacks in Casablanca, all from the same slum of Sidi Moumen and of how before being recruited by radical Islamists they had been conducting a life of chaos fuelled by drugs, violence, unemployment and desperation.

The production was shot in Casablanca and Fes with a budget of around to 3 million euros.

Nabil Ayouch who now has a number of internationally acclaimed works, expressed MAP news agency his great pleasure in being able to represent Morocco in “an official section of the festival and not an outside parallel one.” Moroccan cinema had been represented last year at Cannes by the film “La source des femmes” by Radu Mihaleanu and was officially competing along with “Sur la planche” by Leila Kilani, this time in a parallel section of the festival.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Arms Sold in North Africa During Arab Spring

NGO reports, risk of use for human rights violations

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 27 — Spain has continued to export arms and defence material to countries including Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia during the Arab Spring uprisings, Amnesty International, Intermon Oxfam and Greenpeace have claimed. The NGOs, who are all involved in the “Arms under control” campaign, drafted a report in collaboration with the Foundation for Peace and with technical assistance from the Institute of Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action. The document, which concerns the first six months of 2011, shows that Spain continued to export defence and dual-use material, hunting and sporting weapons and police equipment to the countries, despite control measures on arms trading to North Africa and the Middle East. The material “risked being used to commit human rights violations,” the report said.

Saudi Arabia’s armed forces received arms and dual-use material worth 3.5 million euros, while deals with the country for aircraft, bombs, missiles and rockets worth 29.6 million euros were also authorised. In the case of Bahrain, defence material worth 6.35 million euros and off-road vehicles and aircraft worth 79 million euros were sold. The NGOs released a statement expressing their “concern” for the case of Saudi Arabia, with reference to an operation that could lead to the sale of 250 Leopard combat tanks. The NGOs have asked the Spanish Secretary of State for Trade, Jaime Garcia-Legaz, to appear before Congress to explain the details of exports in the sector in the first 6 months of 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tourists Rediscover Tunisia After Revolution

Still few Italians but minister announces new plans

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — The casino of Hammamet is still closed but the cleanup of the luxurious hotels on the city’s promenade, the centre of nightlife and recreation of the north-African country, is in progress. Foreign visitors are returning to Tunisia after the Jasmine Revolution. The year 2011 was a nightmare for the tourism sector that employs 25% of the country’s population (generating 11% of GDP) and for allied industries. Since the spring of 2012 groups of Japanese tourists can be seen photographing the remains of Carthage on the Gulf of Tunis again. Groups of French tourists are visiting the Great Mosque of Kerouan again. The mosque is 1300 years old and is the first and oldest in the whole of Africa. Other North Europeans, also families with children, are enjoying the shoreline of Hammamet or drinking cocktails among the white houses with blue doors and windows in the art village of Sidi Bou Said near the capital.

But the Italians still have not returned. Before the Revolution, in 2010, around 350 thousand Italians spent their holidays in Tunisia. Last year, this number plunged to 120 thousand. “We have felt the impact of several factors,” Tunisia’s Minister for Tourism Elyes Fakhfakh told a group of Italian reporters in a press conference. Not only the effect of the Arab Spring, but also the civil war that broke out in the neighbouring Libya. For the Italian market in particular, the images of migrants landing in Lampedusa and the surrounding negative publicity did not help Tunisia reassure its economic and commercial partners. “But now the situation is much better, we are looking at the future with confidence. We hope that we will soon reach the number of Italian tourists of 2010 again, or even more,” the minister continued. Meanwhile, Tunisian Tourism Ministry is diversifying the tourism market: not only sea and low prices, but also culture, archaeological sites, history and desert adventures. “In June we will sign a new contract with Italy to make the most of our cultural and archaeological heritage,” the minister explained.

“Sixty percent of archaeological sites require work and we are counting on Italy’s help and experience,” the minister concluded. The head of Tunisair, Habib Ben Slama, told ANSAmed that the frequency of direct flights between Italy and Tunisia will soon be increased, and that direct connections between several Italian cities and the island of Djerba and the oasis of Tozeur in the desert will be opened this winter. “We are counting on an increase in demand,” he added. “All is calm” is the message repeated by all ministers, common people, shopkeepers and imams. Of course, there are still tanks in Avenue Bourghiba in Tunis, but foreign visitors do not notice any particular tensions or an atmosphere of fundamentalism.

“There are not many Salafis, a few thousand in total. The real problem is the economic crisis and unemployment. We need time and international assistance,” said Lassad, 51 years old, owner of an antique shop in the capital’s medina. “The beginning, as is true for all revolutions, was hard, that’s the price of freedom, but we are recovering slowly. Now you can come back without any problems. Ben Ali is no longer here, but the people of Tunisia are ready to welcome you,” said Mahmoud, who works in a sweet shop and offers green tea and chocolate-honey biscuits to people passing by.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Gov’t Rejects Project, General Strike in Tataouine

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 23 — The Tunisian government’s decision not to proceed with an industrial project in the Tataouine area has led civil society, parties and associations in the region to call a general strike tomorrow. The decision came after Industry and Trade Minister Mohamed Lamine Chakhari said that the government had rejected a project providing for the construction in Tataouine of a gas pipeline and a gas treatment plant since a cost analysis showed that the expenditure required was too high. These costs, said a government official, would be reduced by 700 million dinars (about 350 million euros) if the gas pipeline were to go directly from the Sahara to Gabes instead of going through Tataouine.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Sweden Gave the Saudis Secret Help for 25 Years

[machine translation]

Bergrum government and several agencies have more than 25 years helped Saudi Arabia to build up military capabilities in the Swedish parade branch of underground facilities. SvD can today reveal new details about the state’s secret cooperation with the dictatorship — FOI planned weapon system is just one of several projects.

[Return to headlines]

Syria: Beirut Press: 2 Men From Al Qaeda-Inspired Group Killed

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 25 — Two members of a terrorist group inspired by Al Qaeda have been killed in Syria, according to Lebanese press sources, who quote security reports in Beirut.

The local television station New TV says that Abdel Ghani Jawhar and Walid Bustani, who were killed in separate incidents, were members of Fatah al-Islam, a group accused in Lebanon of carrying out attacks against the Lebanese army, and which clashed with Beirut government forces in the summer of 2007 at the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, close to Tripoli, in the north of the country.

Local security sources quoted by New TV say that Jawhar, who was from a town in the north-east of Lebanon, died recently in Syria during clashes with the national army. He is said to have fought alongside anti-regime rebels.

Bustani, who was jailed in 2007 but escaped three years later, is said to have been killed by rebels from the Free Syrian Army after he was found stealing money from them.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Monti Commits Italy to Afghanistan Beyond 2014 Pullout

‘Will train Afghan forces’ says premier

(ANSA) — Rome, April 27 — Italian Premier Mario Monti said Friday that Italy plans to keep support forces in Afghanistan beyond the scheduled troop pullout in 2014.

“Italy intends to pursue efforts for the stability and security of the Asian country even after the troop pullout,” he said after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “This will happen through our support, either with funding or with men (on the ground), to train Afghan forces”. Rasmussen, who was in Rome ahead of a NATO summit in May in Chicago, said earlier in the day that Italy should stay in Afghanistan to train the Afghan army. “Current operations will end in 2014, and at that point the Afghan army will assume responsibility and we will stay on with training duties,” he told Italian news station SkyTg24. Monti said the length of the post-2014 training mission had yet to be determined. He added that Italy had not forgotten about the safety of its forces, especially as the spring and summer fighting season approaches in Afghanistan. “We are certainly worried about what tends to happen this time of year in Afghanistan, and the great contribution of Italy in these years reinforces that worry,” he said. Italy has 4,200 troops in Afghanistan and has lost 44 soldiers since the start of its mission in 2004.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Bo Xilai’s Son Fined on a Porsche in the US

(AGI) Washington — Perhaps he was not running on a Ferrari around Beijing, but he sure likes his Porsches. Bo Guagua, son of Bo Xilai and soon a graduate of the Kennedy School at Harvard, has been fined three times in two years for speeding while driving a powerful Porsche. According to CNN, this transpires from the documents at the Registry of Motor Vehicles of Massachusetts. The car is registered under the name of James Ju Cui .

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

Australia — Pacific

Bikie War: Meet the New Generation of Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Members

THEIR beards are greying, their tattoos fading and their influence waning.

The bikie old guard is being pushed aside by a violent new breed of steroid-pumped, amphetamine-taking young turks who are flexing their muscle in many of Queensland’s 14 outlaw motorcycle gangs, crime experts say.

Increasingly, the modern bikie is likely to be in his 20s or 30s and of Middle Eastern or Eastern European descent.

Some, like members of Sydney’s Lebanese-dominated Notorious gang who are starting to infiltrate the Sunshine State, do not even ride motorbikes.

Gone are the old-school leathers and long, straggly hair — today’s bikies are more likely to sport designer clothes and haircuts, trendy sunglasses and gangster bling.

Assistant police commissioner for the southeast region, Graham Rynders, said the bikie demographic was changing.

“The traditional long beard, long hair is going,” he told a media conference yesterday.

“We’re seeing more like a younger set — well-groomed, well-presented (and) trying to portray themselves as professional people.”

Police say the heavily tattooed man who opened fire in the Robina Town Centre on Saturday, wounding a female shopper and a senior Bandido, fitted the mould of the new breed of bikie — young, well-built, brazen and possibly Middle Eastern.

“The major problem with this new breed of bikie is that they simply don’t care,” a source told The Courier-Mail.

“Many combine steroid and amphetamine use and it makes them feel 10-foot tall and bullet-proof. Many of them think nothing of pulling a gun in public, but to actually discharge it in a crowded shopping centre is an extraordinary and frightening new escalation of bikie violence.”

The source said many older bikies who joined gangs mainly for brotherhood and a mutual love of motorbikes and partying were being replaced by younger members who used clubs as much for business as pleasure.

“That business revolves around the drug trade, extortion and standover,” he said.

“Over the last 10 years, the bikie gangs have seen an influx of young men from the Middle East and the Balkans. They are very tribal and many of them are extremely dangerous.”

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

21 Dead in Attacks on Christians in Kenya and Nigeria

(AGI) Nairobi — There have been new attacks against Christians in Africa where one person was killed ad ten wounded, four seriously, when a grenade was thrown at a Catholic church in Nairobi. Police sources have reported that twenty people died in an attack in Nigeria. According to the daily newspaper the Daily Nation, no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack during Mass at the international Church of God’s Miracles in Nairobi’s Ngara district. Six of those wounded have been hospitalized at the Guru Nanak Hospital while those most seriously injured are at the National Kenyatta Hospital. A number of witnesses have reported that the bomb may have been placed under the altar by one of those attending Mass, probably an accomplice. No one has yet claimed responsibility but it is thought that the attacks was carried out by the Somali militia Shabaab, linked to Al Qaeda and previously responsible for other attacks against Christians in Kenya. In March one person died in a similar attack in Mombasa and nine died in attack on a bus stop in Nairobi. Last week the American Embassy warned its citizens in Kenya that attacks were considered imminent. . ..

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

Loud Explosion and Gun Shots at Kano University in Nigeria

(AGI) Kano — A loud explosion shook up the Kano University campus in Northern Nigeria. This is the city that was targeted by the attacks by of the Boko Haram sect during the last few weeks The news was reported by sources of the security forces.

After the explosion, witnesses also heard the firing of gunshots. In the same area there is an outdoor theater which is attended by Christian students. .

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

Nigeria: 20 Bodies Found After Kano University Attacks

(AGI) Kano — Twenty bodies were recovered after the attacks by Islamic sect Boko Haram in recent weeks in the university area of Kano in northern Nigeria, a military source reported. At first a loud explosion was heard in front of a theatre hall used to celebrate religious Christian functions when the place was crowded with people. Witnesses said they later heardy heard gun shots, which suggests that the explosion opened the way to an armed comando .

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

One Worshipper Dies in Nairobi Sunday Grenade Attack

(AGI) Nairobi — A worshipper died and at least ten others were injured when a grenade exploded in a Catholic church in Nairobi on Sunday morning, police reported.

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


EU Prepares Tighter Border Controls

Berlingske Tidende, 25 April 2012

“EU to mobilise against illegal immigration”, headlines Berlingske. The daily reveals that Denmark, the current holder of the rotating presidency of the European Union, plans to present 90 measures to combat illegal immigration — a phenomenon which increased by 35 % last year — at the next EU Justice and Interior Ministers meeting on 26 April.

The range of measures will include: initiatives to develop better cooperation with refugee source countries, most notably with North African states; reinforce Frontex, increase surveillance of the Turkish-Greek border, and improve the management of migratory flows as well as more efficient procedures for deportations and to combat human trafficking.

The proposals have come at time when illegal immigration is the cause of growing concern in Denmark. However the newspaper also notes —…

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

Norway: Immigration Breaks New Record

Around 80,000 persons moved to Norway last year, the vast majority coming from other European countries where unemployment is high. The influx exceeded the numbers expected by researchers at state statistics bureau SSB, and marks the highest level of immigration ever.

More than 260,000 European immigrants now live in Norway, reported newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) just before the weekend. The total number of immigrants and children of immigrant parents in Norway now amounts to 655,170.

Newspaper Aftenposten followed up on Saturday with a report on how young Swedes also continue to flock to Norway in search of work. Around 80,000 immigrants from Sweden are believed to be living in Norway now, equal to the entire population of the southern city of Kristiansand.

Attracted by a strong economy

Norway’s total population surpassed 5 million last month, with the growth generated by a relatively high birth rate but mostly by immigration. Norway’s oil-fueled economy has remained strong and unemployment is low, prompting many more people from crisis-hit economies elsewhere in Europe to look for jobs in Norway.

“Immigration in 2011 was high,” SSB researcher Ådne Cappelen told DN. He makes prognoses on immigration based on macroeconomic factors and last summer he predicted that immigration would increase during the next several years. Cappelen didn’t think it would hit 80,000 in a single year, though, until 2015.

“The situation in Europe got much worse than expected last year, while things are actually quite cool (good) here in Norway,” Cappelen told DN. “The relative improvements in Norway were better than we’d expected.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


With Five Billion Mobile Users in the World, Conference Calls for Research Into Potential Brain Cancer Risks

A scientific conference starting in London today will urge governments across the world to support independent research into the possibility that using mobile phones encourages the growth of head cancers.

The Children with Cancer conference will highlight figures just published by the Office of National Statistics, which show a 50 per cent increase in frontal and temporal lobe tumours between 1999 and 2009.

The ONS figures show that the incident rate has risen from two to three per 100,000 people since 1999, while figures from Bordeaux Segalen University show a one to two per cent annual increase in brain cancers in children.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Beach Bum said...

It seems likely that the entry titled "Italians to Pay Extra 2,200 Euros in Household Expenses" has some kind of inaccuracy. Sentence number two reads "New fees on electricity equal 21 euros per year", and I fail to see how that explains anything. If it equals 21 Euros a week, that would at least explain half of the 2,200 Euros quoted in the title. Same claim repeated in the last sentence. I fail to see how an annual price hike of 21.44 Euros can do anything to explain the claim in the title.