Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120527

Financial Crisis
»Debt-Hit Greece ‘Running Out of Medication’
»Greece: Italian Banks Reassuring, We Are Hardly Exposed
»Greek Right Warns Against Euro ‘Catastrophe’
»IMF Chief Lagarde: Little Sympathy for Greece
»Italian Govt to Lighten Business-Debt Load, Monti Says
»New Signs of Global Slowdown
»Spain: EU Appeal for Greater Accounting Transparency
»Spain Pours Billions Into Bank
»Steeling for a Chinese Slowdown
»Tourists Also Tell Greece ‘No’
»Ex-Obama Aide’s Think Tank Hits Defense Budget
»Foreign Agents Creep Into U.S. & Canada Under Integration Scheme
»Interview: Elon Musk on What’s Next for SpaceX
»Naked Man Killed by Police Near Macarthur Causeway Was ‘Eating’ Face Off Victim
»The Outermost Ocean in the Solar System
Europe and the EU
»Anti-Muslim Dutch Teacher Sacked
»Austria: Medics’ First Aid Lesson Saves Boy
»Director of Vatican Bank Chooses Silence Over Profanity Following His Resignation
»Italy: EDF Controls Edison, Birth of Italian Edipower
»Italy: Libary Director Arrested in Precious-Book-Theft Case
»Italy: Armani Denies Plans to Sell as 2011 Profits Soar
»Italy: Tax Police Target Yachts at America’s Cup in Venice
»Italy: Man Threatens Bank Suicide Over Overdue Bills
»Prostate Cancer Drug Zytiga Rejected for Use in Ireland
»Recorded Rape Up 53% in London
»Vatican Announces it Has Caught Poison Pen Letter Writer
»Albania: Bossi’s Bought Degree Costs University Its State Recognition
North Africa
»Algeria: Population Now at 37.1 Million
»Food: Morocco: Halal Certification Regulation Ready
»Islamists Face Setback in Egyptian Presidential Election
»Top Mubarak Aide Slapped With Seven Years for Corruption
»Tunisia: Hundreds of Jobless Try to Reach Algeria
Middle East
»Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo: Foreign Forces Do Not Want Peace in Syria
»Iran to Build Two New Nuclear Plants
»Iran: Fiat ‘Suspends Business’ To Comply With Sanctions
»‘No Reason’ To Suspend Iran’s Enrichment of Uranium to 20%
»NYT: Obama Aims at a Yemen-Style Solution for Syria
»Syrian Government Denies Being Behind Massacre That Killed More Than 90
»Turkey: Trust in Army Declining But Secular-Islamist Rift Deepening
South Asia
»Afghan Women Leave the Country in Fear of Taliban Return
»India May Bar Europe Carriers in Climate Tax Row
»Lady Gaga’s Concert in Indonesia Cancelled
»US Cuts Pakistan Aid Over Conviction of ‘Bin Laden Doctor’
Latin America
»EU Appeal to WTO Against Argentine Import Restrictions
»Center of Gravity in Oil World Shifts to Americas
»Human Evolution Isn’t What it Used to be
»World’s Largest Radio Telescope to be Shared by South Africa, Australia

Financial Crisis

Debt-Hit Greece ‘Running Out of Medication’

Pharmacies in Greece were on strike earlier this week in protest at the government not paying them for medicines that should be free to customers. Many pharmacies now have huge debts to pharmaceutical companies for drugs they have handed out free of charge. Sky News spoke to one pharmacist who has not been paid by the state for over a year. Evaggelina Rousi, who runs a chemist in Athens, said: “The government owes us 30,000 euros but we have not been paid by them for a year and a half.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Italian Banks Reassuring, We Are Hardly Exposed

3.2 bln at end of 2011; but Fitch warns of insurance risks

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 24 — As governments and central banks prepare to face the consequences of Greece’s potential exit from the eurozone, Italian bankers are trying to reassure savers, claiming that Italian banks are not particularly exposed on the Greek market.

The exposure of Italian banks towards Greece “is not significant”, said the president of the Italian Banking Agency (ABI), Giuseppe Mussari. The chief executive of Unicredit, Federico Ghizzoni, meanwhile, has said that “the Italian banking sector is among the most immunized” if Greece exits the eurozone. Italian banks “effectively have no exposure towards Greece,” Ghizzoni added. “It is more a question of volatility on the markets, which has a direct impact”. But the Unicredit boss added that institutes are nevertheless bracing themselves because “the market expects everyone to reason in this way”. In this context, the deputy Finance Minister, Vittorio Grilli, said that “we must always be ready for all outcomes”, adding that the financial and monetary markets have an “awareness of the risks and problems” involved at the moment.

The latest figures by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) show that at the end of 2011, Italian banks had exposure (both direct and indirect) of around 3.2 billion euros, a fall on the previous quarter, and a share of under 2 billion euros held by insurance firms. The figure is some way from their counterparts in France (39 billion), Germany (13 billion) and the UK (17 billion).

Intesa SanPaolo had previously attempted to devalue its exposure (consisting of government bonds, Hellenic Railway shares guaranteed by the state and credits) in 2011 and, at March 31, after the partial swap of old shares against new ones issued by Athens, the nominal value stood at 445 million euros, with 93 million recorded on the budget. Unicredit’s overall exposure at the end of March had a budget value of 54 million euros (28 million of which among the financial activities held for negotiation and those assessed at fair value). Positions on credit derivatives, the bank has said, are essentially balanced.

Generali’s exposure has now been reduced, after a series of changes and agreements on a swap, to a level of 243 million euros. The exposure of Fonsai, Banco Popolare, Mediobanca and MPS is even lower or almost non-existent.

But while the banks appear to be safe, the insurance sector in Italy, but also in Spain, is more exposed to the impact of a Greek exit from the eurozone, according to the ratings agency Fitch, which has hinted that the contagion effect could have an impact on Italian and Spanish shares and on banks as well as having an effect on their ratings. The German and British insurance sectors, meanwhile, appear more covered.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek Right Warns Against Euro ‘Catastrophe’

(ATHENS) — Greek conservative party New Democracy Saturday formally launched its campaign for the June 17 election, warning a victory for the radical left would cause “catastrophe” and lead Greece out of the euro.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras laid into the radical left party Syriza, which has threatened to tear up a deal with international lenders that rescued Greece from bankruptcy.

“Everyone, centre-right, centre-left and green, whether they agree or not on the policies up to now on the loan agreement, all warn that opposing the loan agreement will lead Greece out of the euro,” Samaras told supporters at a televised party rally in Athens.

“That of course will be painful for the rest of Europe, but it will mean the end, absolute catastrophe for Greece,” said Samaras, whose party finished first during the May polls.

Latest opinion polls however show Syriza under its populist leader Antonis Tsipras, 37, could come on top in the next election after finishing second in an inconclusive vote on May 6.

Tsipras has said Greece could reject the bailout yet still stay in the euro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

IMF Chief Lagarde: Little Sympathy for Greece

LONDON — The Associated Press

AFP Photo

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund says she has more sympathy for poor African children than Greeks suffering under the country’s economic problems and austerity measures.

In an interview published in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper Saturday, Christine Lagarde said “I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger…sharing one chair for three of them. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens.” Lagarde also criticized Greek citizens “who are trying to escape tax,” and said the country needs to make more of an effort to solve its economic problems.

Greece’s economy is being kept afloat on international loans provided by the European Union and the IMF, along with a harsh austerity package that is deeply unpopular with the country’s electorate.


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

Italian Govt to Lighten Business-Debt Load, Monti Says

20-30 billion owed, often by small enterprise

(ANSA) — Rome, May 22 — Italian Premier Mario Monti announced a debt-relief plan Tuesday for Italian businesses, which collectively owe up to 30 billion euros in debt. “We have adopted four decrees that aim to reduce the burdens” owed by businesses to the government, said Monti after a cabinet meeting. The premier, whose caretaker government of non-political technocrats replaced the Berlusconi administration amid the tumult of the euro crisis in November, said the move sought to “give fuel to jumpstart productivity” in Italy’s businesses. “They are facing the crisis with determination,” he said, noting that business debts to the government, often owed by small enterprise, were already between 20 and 30 billion euros since the start of the year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New Signs of Global Slowdown

Weak Reports in U.S., Europe and China Suggest Economies Are Slipping in Sync

New signs of a global slowdown are darkening the economic outlook. On Thursday, the U.S. reported that businesses were slowing their orders of computers, aircraft, machinery and other long-lasting goods. Measures of business sentiment in Europe slipped, and reports from purchasing managers at manufacturers around the globe turned down. Among them, China, the world’s second-largest economy, registered its seventh straight drop in an important manufacturing index. With the latest reports, a new economic threat is emerging: That activity is slowing in sync around the globe and not just in a few markets with their own isolated problems.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: EU Appeal for Greater Accounting Transparency

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, MAY 21 — The European Commission has stressed the need for “greater transparency” in Spain’s public accounts, after the Madrid government announced a correction, raising its level of deficit in 2011 to 8.9% of GDP from the previously stated 8.5%. “Vice President Rehn has repeatedly stressed the need for greater transparency and good management of public accounts at all levels of administration, central government, regions and municipalities,” Amadeu Altafaj, the EU spokesperson for economic affairs told Europa Press. Mr Altafaj did not state any consequences that would follow from a further overshooting of last year’s deficit, caused by the three regions of Madrid, Valencia and Castilla y Leon. But he did refer to the audit of the economic situation of each country of the euro area, which will be presented by Brussels on May 30. This week the EU will send Eurostat experts to Madrid to check whether this last correction of the 2011 deficit was “exhaustive”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain Pours Billions Into Bank

Spain will pump €19 billion ($24 billion) into troubled lender Bankia SA, the bank said Friday, effectively nationalizing the country’s third-largest bank in a dramatic effort to assuage concerns about the stability of its financial sector. Worries about Spain’s banks, which are saddled with billions in toxic real-estate loans, have heightened in recent weeks as Greece’s political crisis has intensified and investors contemplate the knock-on effects of a potential Greek exit from the euro. Sentiments darkened Friday as Standard & Poor’s cut its ratings on the credit-worthiness of Bankia and four other Spanish banks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Steeling for a Chinese Slowdown

Ever tried eating steel? It is pretty tough to swallow. But that won’t stop Chinese exporters trying to force-feed it to you. China’s steel industry has churned out more than two million metric tons a day so far this month. That is 749 million metric tons on an annualized basis, or almost 10% above the country’s prior peak output, according to Steel Market Intelligence. Yet China doesn’t need it. With the economy slowing, there is excess supply and prices are dropping.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tourists Also Tell Greece ‘No’

Where to Escape? Drop in Summer Bookings Is Last Thing Ailing Economy Needs

Greece’s tourism season was supposed to be a ray of sunshine amid the country’s political crisis and depressed economy. Instead, the outlook is cloudy: Greek-vacation bookings from Germany and the rest of Europe are down sharply, as would-be tourists take fright at the prospect of strikes and street protests.

The political uncertainty dogging Greece ahead of its June 17 elections and fears the country could crash out of the euro zone has weighed on reservations in the past few weeks. Bookings in May for summer vacations are down by about one-third compared with May 2011, amid intense pan-European media coverage of Greece since its May 6 elections, which left the country without a stable government.

“We are definitely seeing an across-the-board decline in prebookings,” says Andreas Andreadis, president of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, known as SETE.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Ex-Obama Aide’s Think Tank Hits Defense Budget

By Rowan Scarborough

A Washington think tank founded by President Obama’s first Pentagon policy chief has issued a report criticizing the administration’s defense budget, which the think tank’s founder played a role in developing.

Michele Flournoy co-founded the Center for New American Security in 2007, then became under secretary of defense for policy in 2009. She left that post in February after aiding Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in writing the fiscal 2013 defense budget.

Ms. Flournoy has since rejoined the think tank as a member of the board of directors, and is mentioned in national security circles as a candidate for defense secretary in a second Obama term.

The Center for New American Security report released this week is pointedly critical of the Panetta plan, saying it does not go far enough in consolidating missions and functions, and in cutting back big weapons systems.

“The Pentagon still has not enacted the types of reforms that we believe are necessary to sustain U.S. military pre-eminence into the future,” says the report, written by four think tank scholars.

“Too many DOD structures, processes, programs and operational concepts are legacies of the past, which create unnecessary redundancies, waste valuable resources and encourage unproductive competition among the services rather than cooperation. These practices are no longer acceptable in the current fiscal environment.”

The report could give some insight into Ms. Flournoy’s thinking should she re-enter the Pentagon next year.

Responding to an inquiry for Ms. Flournoy’s comment, Sara Conneighton, the center’s spokeswoman, said: “This report only reflects the thinking of the four co-authors.”

The “Sustainable Pre-Eminence: Reforming the U.S. Military at a Time of Strategic Change” report was written by retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, Nora Bensahel, Matthew Irvine and Travis Sharp.

Deeper defense cuts

As output from a Democratic-leaning think tank, the report is notable for how often it disagrees with the Panetta defense budget.

Where Mr. Panetta calls for continuing the procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, the Center for New American Security report calls for deep cuts in the Air Force and Navy buys.

It says the Air Force should slash procurement from 1,763 to as few as 1,000 planes. The Navy should halve its buy of 369 F-35Cs, which it calls flawed, and keep purchasing the F-18 Hornet.

“Due to its short range, the F-35C requires aircraft carriers to get dangerously close to enemy coasts or necessitates frequent aerial refueling,” the report says. “While external fuel tanks can extend the F-35C’s range, such tanks compromise its stealth and thereby sacrifice an essential attribute. By buying fewer F-35s more quickly, the Navy will revitalize its strike fleet sooner.”

Shrinking the F-35 procurement would free up more money to invest in what might be the Navy’s future — the X-47 unmanned combat drone being developed by Northrop Grumman Corps, the report says.

It also calls for reducing the Navy’s active carrier fleet from the Panetta-endorsed 11, to 10, as the cost of operating flat tops and buying new ones continues to escalate.

In addition, the report says the Army’s 570,000 soldiers should be cut to 480,000, while Mr. Panetta recommends a reduction to 490,000 troops.

The center’s report also calls for delaying until 2021 procurement of one of the Army’s most cherished procurement prizes — the $40 billion Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) to replace the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

“The Bradley remains the pre-eminent infantry fighting vehicle in the world with no looming challenger, while the current requirements for the GCV are both unnecessary and expensive,” the report says.

Other outside experts have called on the Pentagon to put off the Ground Combat Vehicle.

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]

Foreign Agents Creep Into U.S. & Canada Under Integration Scheme

As the so-called trilateral North American “integration” process marches onward toward an ever-closer union between the governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, national law enforcement agents are slowly creeping across borders through a variety of shadowy schemes. Going forward, that trend is set to accelerate, according to officials, who say government functionaries may soon be able to chase and arrest suspects outside of their own nations. But critics of the controversial plan are fighting back with increasing urgency.

U.S. and Canadian authorities have already spent millions of dollars on “pilot projects” seeking to blur national borders in the field of policing. Almost 150 so-called “cross-border” officers have been trained so far, according to a report published this month byEmbassy magazine. Meanwhile, the Shiprider program — officially known as “Integrated Cross-border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations” — has been active since 2009, when high-ranking bureaucrats from the United States and Canada signed the agreement without even obtaining legislative approval.

“Shiprider removes the international maritime boundary as a barrier to law enforcement by enabling seamless continuity of enforcement and security operations across the border, facilitating cross-border surveillance and interdiction, and serving as both a force multiplier and, potentially, as a model for other U.S./Canadian cross-border (integrated) enforcement and security initiatives,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) says about the scheme on its website.

[Return to headlines]

Interview: Elon Musk on What’s Next for SpaceX

SpaceX has docked the first commercial spacecraft, the Dragon capsule, at the ISS. Just before launch, SpaceX founder Elon Musk discussed how he hopes to make a difference in orbit…and beyond.

NS: I gather that these hypergolic motors might have planetary landing applications?

EM: Yes. The escape system’s motors will allow the capsule to land anywhere in the solar system, whether it has an atmosphere or not — and that’s pretty cool. These motors can even fire supersonically which is important for Mars: in the higher altitudes of Mars the atmosphere is so thin that parachutes are completely pointless. So retro thrusters have to be able to fire when you are supersonic so they have to be very high thrust.

NS: What is it about you and your fellow internet entrepreneurs like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and the Google guys, that is attracting them to commercial spaceflight, with Sierra Nevada and Planetary Resources respectively?

EM: The common thread is that we all have a natural inclination to push the frontiers of technology. And space is a very high capital endeavour. So you need to have done something big to get you the capital to do something in space — you can’t just create a start-up with no capital, especially in the rocket business.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Naked Man Killed by Police Near Macarthur Causeway Was ‘Eating’ Face Off Victim

It was a scene as creepy as a Hannibal Lecter movie.

One man was shot to death by Miami police, and another man is fighting for his life after he was attacked, and his face allegedly half eaten, by a naked man on the MacArthur Causeway off ramp Saturday, police said.

The horror began about 2 p.m. when a series of gunshots were heard on the ramp, which is along NE 13th Street, just south of The Miami Herald building.

According to police sources, a road ranger saw a naked man chewing on another man’s face and shouted on his loud speaker for him to back away.Meanwhile, a woman also saw the incident and flagged down a police officer who was in the area.

The officer, who has not been identified, approached and, seeing what was happening, also ordered the naked man to back away. When he continued the assault, the officer shot him, police sources said. The attacker failed to stop after being shot, forcing the officer to continue firing. Witnesses said they heard at least a half dozen shots.

Miami police were on the scene, which was just south of The Miami Herald building on Biscayne Boulevard. The naked man who was killed lay face down on the pedestrian walkway just below the newspaper’s two-story parking garage. Police have requested The Herald’s video surveillance tapes.

The other man was transported to the hospital with critical injuries, according to police. Their identities were not released.

The incident, which came as crowds descended upon South Beach for the annual Urban Beach Week hip-hop festival, snarled traffic on the causeway for several hours.

In a text message, Javier Ortiz, spokesman for Miami police’s Fraternal Order of Police, said the officer who fired the fatal shots was “a hero.”

“Based on the information provided, our Miami police officer is a hero and saved a life,’’ he said.

Sergeant Altarr Williams, supervisor of Miami police’s Homicide Unit, said a man doesn’t have to be armed to be dangerous.

“There are other ways to injure people,’’ Williams said. “Some people know martial arts, others are very strong and can kill you with their hands.’’

Investigators believe the victim may have been homeless and laying down when the crazed man pounced.

Police theorize the attacker might have been suffering from “cocaine psychosis,” a drug-induced craze that bakes the body internally and often leads the affected to strip naked to try and cool off.

Miami Herald writers Alexandra Leon and Curtis Morgan contributed to this report.

Read more here:

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

The Outermost Ocean in the Solar System

But with a name like Triton — the messenger of the big sea in Greek mythology — this moon should really carry one more feature: is there an ocean hiding beneath its icy veneer? A new model suggests there could be. Understanding why requires a quick look at Triton’s unique history.

We know that Triton was captured by Neptune. Such captured bodies start in highly elongated orbits, but as they interact with their associated planet, Triton-sized worlds are quickly dragged into more circular orbits. The process releases energy, which heats up the moon. The temperature rise would have melted not just the icy outer layers of Triton, but also its 1900-kilometre-wide core. Then it would have cooled to its current frigid state.

Earlier models had suggested an ocean exists on Triton, but they were quite simplistic. Saswata Hier-Majumder of the University of Maryland in College Park, and his student Jodi Gaeman, have now developed a more detailed model that considers both radioactive decay of core minerals and the orbital interactions that would have heated the moon.

Although heating from radioactive decay is orders of magnitude larger than heating from tidal effects, heat from the core alone could not keep the outer layer from freezing over the 4.5 billion-year life of the solar system, they say.

However, Hier-Majumder and Gaeman have found that even a small amount of heating from orbital forces makes a huge difference because it is applied to the base of the ice covering the subsurface ocean. “It puts a warm blanket on top of the cooling ocean,” says Hier-Majumder. As long as the orbit is so circular that its 350,000-kilometre-radius varies by only a few kilometres, Triton should still have a substantial ocean beneath its icy surface.

That watery ocean contains a strong dose of ammonia, which keeps the liquid from freezing unless the temperature drops below about -90 °C. So, while it may be the outermost ocean in the solar system, it is not as cold as the -180 °C hydrocarbon lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Muslim Dutch Teacher Sacked

The Dutch press reports that Fioritti College in Lisse has suspended a teacher named Anand Soekhoe and will not be renewing his contract, after he posted anti-Muslim comments on Twitter.

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) — In a series of Islamophobic tweets Soekhoe declared his support for Geert Wilders and the PVV, warned that anyone considering voting for leftists, liberals or Christian Democrats should think of their grandchildren (“Otherwise future generations will speak Arabic!

And Islam will be the state religion), quoted the Hindu-supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party as saying “never trust Muslims”, adding that the BJP was increasingly shown to be right, and concluded with the observation that “Islam is not a religion but barbaric backwardness”.

Not unreasonably, the school board ruled that such public statements made it impossible for Soekhoe to continue teaching Muslim pupils..

The “counterjihadist” movement will no doubt adopt Soekhoe as another hero of free speech. Already PVV MP Harm Beertema has denounced the school board’s decision on the grounds that “You can’t sack him just because you think his opinion may be offensive to students”.


           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Austria: Medics’ First Aid Lesson Saves Boy

Austrian medics giving a first aid talk at a school managed to save an eight-year-old boy’s life after he was shot in the head by his dad.

The 37-year-old man who has a record for domestic violence had burst into the school in Sankt Poelten west of Vienna waving the gun — and dragged the boy into the cloakroom where he shot him in the head.

Police spokesman Oberstleutnant Alfred Schüller said police believe that the man wanted to get revenge on his wife. He said that he had recently been banned from entering the family flat where his wife and two children lived.

The man’s daughter, who was also at the school, escaped.

The man then fled but was tracked by his mobile phone — by which point he had already used the gun on himself after crashing his car on a remote farm road.

The four-man team of medics that had been teaching first aid were able to give the boy immediate first aid less than a minute after the shooting. The boy was given immediate artificial respiration.

His condition was described as critical and he was unconscious when he was taken by ambulance to hospital, but doctors said if the medics had not been on hand then the boy would have died.

Local education boss Hermann Helm said child psychologists from a crisis intervention team were at the eight-classroom school to give the children counselling.

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]

Director of Vatican Bank Chooses Silence Over Profanity Following His Resignation

Following yesterday’s resignation from the IOR, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi said he did not wish to make any comment lest he upset the Pope. His resignation comes after three years of service and the accumulation of a number of enemies

“I prefer not to speak, as all I would do is curse. Bear with me.” “I am still torn between a yearning to explain the truth and my concern for upsetting the Holy Father with these explanations. My love for the Pope prevails over every other sentiment, even the defence of my own reputation which is infamously being questioned.”

The mistrust that led to Ettore Gotti Tedeschi’s resignation from his post as President of the IOR, after less that three years in office, came as a shock but the banker had been considering the possibility for months. Gotti Tedeschi had decided to collaborate directly with Roman magistrates after they began an inquiry into money movements being made in certain IOR accounts by Italian and German banks. This marked the beginning of the misunderstandings between him and the Institute’s director general, Paolo Cipriani. At the time, Gotti Tedeschi who having been placed under investigation by public prosecutors received the public support of Benedict XVI who greeted him and his wife after one of his Angelus prayer in Castel Gandolfo. “We need to act as examples,” the Pope had reiterated. The new president, chosen by the Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, had continued the process towards renewal and a greater transparency which had already begun, closing dormant current accounts that were registered under names of figureheads.

One of the people Gotti Tedeschi was at loggerheads with, was Marco Simeon, the current director of RAI Vaticano, one of the offices of Italy’s largest television company RAI, who is linked to wheeler-dealer, Luigi Bisignani. Last summer, the IOR was involved in the rescue operation to salvage Milan’s Saint Rafael hospital, called for by Cardinal Bertone and supported by a number of Milanese businessmen and politicians. Gotti Tedeschi was initially in favour of the operation but then changed his mind, considering it a risky venture. This led to fall outs with Giuseppe Profiti, manager of Rome’s Bambino Gesù hospital and Bertone’s number one man in the field of healthcare. Meanwhile, Gotti Tedeschi’s relations with the Cardinal Secretary of State had also begun to cool, although they had improved recently.

But the point of no return for Gotti Tedeschi was the new transparency law which was supposed to get the Vatican onto the white-list of financially virtuous countries. The President of the IOR along with cardinal Attilio Nicora believed too many modifications had been made and, above all, that the role of the AIF, the Vatican’s financial information authority — which was established under the old law — needed to be cut down. Moneyval’s experts will sanction it this coming July, when the final report will be published on the Holy See’s adherence to international standards. Gotti Tedeschi sees yesterday’s gesture of mistrust as a score being settled. This score settling came as a result of the stances taken over the last year by a man who has gradually become more and more isolated in the Holy See, though still maintaining a link with the Pope’s personal secretary, Fr. Georg Gänswein.

The explanation given by the Holy See and the authoritative glosses that have filtered through from the Vatican paint a totally different picture. “The decision taken by the Board of the Vatican Bank was taken independently,” according to sources in the Secretariat of State, who denied rumours that Bertone was responsible for Gotti Tedeschi’s resignation. These sources said that this was not the ideal moment for a move of this kind, with the Vatileaks scandal (the leaking of documents, including some of Gotti Tedeschi’s correspondence) in full swing. One of the reasons given by those who passed the no-confidence motion against Gotti Tedeschi, was that he did not manage to cooperate with collaborators, with this having negative repercussions for the Institute’s management. Whichever side is right, the result remains the same: the Holy See’s leadership seems to have delved into an even deeper chaos.

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

Italy: EDF Controls Edison, Birth of Italian Edipower

The French group ends “Italian campaign” with 80% of capital

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MAY 25 — Control of Edison has officially been handed over to French EDF, while A2A, Iren and other shareholders in Delmi have taken charge of Edipower and its electrical production plants. Contracts were signed in the chambers of Clifford Chance in Milan, putting the seal on the laborious restructuring of Edison, following hard-fought negotiations that lasted a year and a half and saw the intervention of three ministers and a number of extensions of the shareholders’ agreement.

Ten years on from the entrance of what was then Montedison, the French group have ended their “Italian campaign” with the purchase of 80% of capital and exclusive control of the electricity group. They have not, however, taken up the 7,600 megawatts of Edipower, which will remain in Italian hands.

The former ENEL genco and its nine power stations are handed over to Delmi and will be consolidated by A2A, which becomes Edipower’s controlling shareholder, with 56% of company capital, and is flanked by Iren (21%).

Edipower could become the uniting hub around which to build a major Italian multi-utility company, though the means with which to do this is still up for debate and the patriotism characterizing the world of companies formerly owned by local authorities must be overcome. EDF’s purchase of Edison “is a decisive step towards a real gas strategy by the group,” said the chairman, Henri Proglio, who explained that the French group’s target is to make Italy a “gas hub”, given that the country “finds itself in a potentially ideal geopolitical location, at the crossroads of various supply infrastructures” that give the country a strategic role in the safety of supplies in Europe. It is no co-incidence, therefore, that “the headquarters for the gas hub for the whole of EDF will be in Milan”, Proglio added, with Italy set to play “a role” in liquefied gas too. Edison, he continued, will also benefit from “synergies” with the French through “access to international agreements, such as the deal recently signed with Gazprom”.

There were celebrations on the Italian side too, meanwhile, with the birth of the “new Edipower”. Delmi has put the finishing touches on the operation, completing 5-year financing worth 1.25 billion euros in support of the purchase (shares in the holding company and in Edipower have been handed over as security) and has signed agreements on governance, which include a way-out for Iren to be exercised in exchange for ownership of the production plants. “The partnership between Iren and A2A, together with the efforts of other shareholders, will give serious impetus to the improvement of Edipower’s competitiveness,” said Roberto Garbati, the chief executive of Iren and the new president of Edipower, who yesterday appointed a new board of directors.

With the advent of Edipower, A2A becomes “the second largest Italian electrical operator with around 12,000 megawatts of capacity installed and an efficient productive mix,” added Renato Ravanelli, the director general of A2A. “A significant part of this portfolio is made up of hydroelectric plants that will help to improve significantly the group’s industrial profitability,” Ravanelli added. The only element outstanding before the operation can be completed is the compulsory takeover bid by EDF on Edison’s floating capital at 0.89 euros per share.

The bid will be launched “at the end of June or in July,” said EDF’s chief financial officer, Thomas Piquemal.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Libary Director Arrested in Precious-Book-Theft Case

‘Girolami Libary seriously dismembered’ says Naples prosecutor

(ANSA) — Naples, May 24 — Police on Thursday arrested five suspects, including a prestigious library director, linked to hundreds of stolen antique books and manuscripts from one of Italy’s oldest collections. Marino Massimo De Caro, the director of the Girolamini Library, was among those in custody, as well as suspects from Argentina and Ukraine, police said. In April De Caro took a leave of absence from the position after reportedly notifying police himself of the theft from the library, known for a vast collection of writings on theology and philosophy. The library was subsequently impounded and temporarily placed under the auspices of the director of the Vittorio Emanuele III National Museum in Naples.

Investigators have asked for international help in locating the 257 missing volumes, which may turn up on the black market. First opened in 1586, the Girolamini Library contains roughly 160,000 volumes, 5,000 of which date back to the 16th century.

Naples prosecutor Giovanni Melillo called the collection “seriously and perhaps irreparably dismembered and mutilated” after the theft. Among various warrants in the investigation, a search was issued for property belonging to Maria Grazia Cerone, an assistant to Senator Marcello Dell’Utri, a former close aide of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. The library, which was famously frequented by 18th-century political philosopher Giambattista Vico, adjoins the Girolamini church complex and convent.

In addition to its trove of rare writings, the library is treasured for four well-preserved 18th-century rooms.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Armani Denies Plans to Sell as 2011 Profits Soar

Milan, 24 May (AKI) — Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani has no plans to sell his fashion empire, whose operating profit jumped 23 percent last year to 281.8 million euros, boosted by strong Asian growth.

“At the moment, I am resisting all overtures to sell, and certainly, these are there, but they don’t tempt me, “ 77-year-old Armani told Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore on Thursday when asked if would eventually sell to a French giant like beauty product partner l’Oreal.

The luxury goods group’s revenues grew 13.6 percent in 2011 to hit 1.8 billion euros and Armani said it would continue to focus on China, where sales surged 45 percent in 2011.

Of the 100 stores opened last year, 28 were in China — more than any other country — compared with 12 in Europe, 11 in North America and eight in Japan.

“The growth in revenue is extremely significant. But we are about to expand in Brasil, without forgetting traditional markets such as the United States,” he told Il Sole 24 Ore.

His group has continued to thrive in the first quarter of 2012, Armani said.

“Sales have seen double-digit growth both in wholesale and retail.”

Armani is the latest luxury goods company to report better profits last year. Prada’s net profit rocketed 72 percent in the year ending 31 January to 431.9 million euros and Versace returned an 8.5 million euro profit in 2011.

Armani and Versace are among a small group of Italian fashion houses that have shunned public share offerings to expand and pay off their debts, preferring to remain mostly in the hands of the founding families.

Armani’s comments come almost a year after Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo launched their own initial public share offerings (IPOs).

Armani, which sells clothing, eyewear, watches, cosmetics and furniture, had 643 million euros in net cash at the end of 2011, up from 604 million euros at the end of 2010.

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

Italy: Tax Police Target Yachts at America’s Cup in Venice

Venice, 25 May (AKI) — Tax police have targeted the owners of 1,414 yachts anchored in Venice this week during the America’s Cup — the worlds’ most prestigious regata.

The tax police have already carried out 135 raids aboard various vessels and found 11 owners whose declared earnings did not square with the value of their yachts.

The polic discovered 9 crew members who were being paid off the books and seized two uninsured yachts during the operation.

Police also detained three Romanians who allegedly stole engines and nautical equipment from boats moored in the lagoon city for the regata’s Venice leg.

Also on Friday, Italian tax police said they had nabbed two well-known Neapolitan folk singers for allegedly evading six million euros of tax. The pair had used several ruses to dodge the taxman including putting luxury vehicles and other assets in their mother’s names.

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

Italy: Man Threatens Bank Suicide Over Overdue Bills

(AGI) Avellino — A man barricaded himself inside a bank today, threatening suicide over his inability to pay overdue bills.

Giovanni Barbieri, a 41 year old owner of a small road haulage business in Irpinia, barricaded himself inside the Banco di Napoli in Viale San Modestino in Mercogliano, on the outskirts of Avellino this morning. He had taken a can of petrol with him, with the intention of setting fire to himself after dousing himself with its contents. After demanding that all staff and clients leave the premises, he was then persuaded to give up his plan by a Carabinieri officer of his acquaintance.

Barbieri is now at the barracks, while investigators weigh up his position.

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

Prostate Cancer Drug Zytiga Rejected for Use in Ireland

A new prostate cancer treatment has been rejected for use in Ireland. (On a cost to government basis)

Zytiga, which has been dubbed a ‘wonder drug’, can extend the lives of late-stage prostate cancer sufferers.

According to a report in the Sunday Business Post, the drug was approved for use in Britain this month.

However, the National Centre for Pharmaco-economics, which carries out cost-effectiveness studies on new medicines in Ireland, concluded that Zytiga did not represent value for money at €28,000 per patient.

One in eight men in Ireland will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, with approximately 500 dying from the disease every year.

About 150 men in Ireland with advanced prostate cancer would be eligible to take Zytiga.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Recorded Rape Up 53% in London

There has been a 53% rise in recorded rape in London over the last four years.

In the financial year 2008-2009, there were 2,177 reports of rape to the Metropolitan Police.

But by 2011-2012, that had jumped to 3,334 cases. Some 667 prosecutions have been completed, 369 of which were successful.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman claimed the rise was due to victims feeling more confident about coming forward.

He said: “We believe this rise in recorded crimes is partly due to an increase in victims coming forward to report rape and sexual assaults.”

The statistics are from the Crown Prosecution Service.

The CPS said a further 661 people have been charged from the year 2011-2012, with court cases yet to be completed.


Yvonne Traynor, chief executive of Rape Crisis South of London, said: “Women feel more confident they are going to be believed.

“There are more support services around and more a culture of doing everything we possibly can to get the bad guys off the streets.”

Meanwhile, a new poll suggests 41% of women in London aged 18-34 have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces over the last year.

The YouGov survey of 523 women, commissioned by the End Violence Against Women Coalition, asked about experiences of unwanted contact or attention, such as wolf-whistling, sexual comments, staring, or exposure of a sexual nature.

Some 21% of women of all ages reported unwanted attention, while 4% had experienced unwanted touching.

Coalition co-chairwoman Prof Liz Kelly said: “Our survey shows that sexual harassment in London is extremely common.

“We need investment in public campaigns on transport and elsewhere saying this behaviour is unacceptable.”

           — Hat tip: Derius[Return to headlines]

Vatican Announces it Has Caught Poison Pen Letter Writer

The culprit is allegedly the Pope’s butler, a layman. But doubts are growing in the Holy See

The Vatican Gendarmerie’s inquiry into the publication of secret documents “has allowed us to identify one person in possession of confidential documents.” Fr. Federico Lombardi stated this, explaining that this person “is now at the Vatican magistrate’s disposal for further questioning.”

The Vatican Gendarmerie, led by general Domenico Giani has allegedly identified the poison pen letter writer, who Italian newspaper Il Foglio has revealed is the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele: a layman working in Benedict XVI’s apartment, who had previously worked in the Pope’s anteroomfor for a number of years. He is currently undergoing a legal process.

The Vatican Gendarmerie found large wad of confidential documents in an apartment in Via di Porta Angelica, in Rome, where the Pope’s butler Paolo Gabriele lives with his wife and three children. This just over 40 year old man from Rome has been working in the Pope’s apartment since 2006, entering the Pope’s Family after a period serving Mgr. James Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household.

But is he really a poison pen letter writer or just a scapegoat to save the skin of someone higher up? This is the question many in the Vatican are asking since rumours have been spreading regarding the inquiries into the leaked documents. The butler is in fact considered by many in the Holy See as a simple, good person who is devoted to the Pope.

Behind the document leak is a refined mind who is au fait with ecclesiastical policy. It was particularly strange how he conserved “confidential documents” after months of controversies surrounding the Vatileaks that were passed on to the press. In less that 24 hours, the Vatican seems to have caught at least two poison pen letter writers, allowing news about them to filter through: one was the President of the IOR Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and the other, the Pope’s butler. Both of them laymen.

Gotti Tedeschi has been accused of being careless enough to allow the leak of a document sent to him by e-mail, without even deleting his e-mail address. The former president of the IOR has announced he will take legal action against anyone who tries to link him to the poison pen letter writer. Meanwhile, the Pope’s butler allegedly held on to “confidential documents” for months after the Vatileaks scandal broke out, before letting them out into the open.

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


Albania: Bossi’s Bought Degree Costs University Its State Recognition

Albanian ministry of education and science suspends enrolments for one year

MILAN — “As usual, it takes a westerner to make things in Albania better” is the most popular comment in the local newspapers and online forums. The sentiment is prompted by Sali Berisha’s government’s decision to suspend for at least one year state recognition of the privately owned Kristal University, the institution that gave Renzo Bossi a three-year degree in business management. Investigators in Tirana who have examined the relevant registers and certificates say the diploma awarded to “il Trota” [The Trout], as Umberto Bossi’s son is known was “bought”. The purchaser, they say, was someone “who did not know the local language”, “had not yet obtained a school-leaving certificate in Italy” and had never set foot in Albania. Renzo Bossi himself admitted never having been to Albania a few days ago…

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

North Africa

Algeria: Population Now at 37.1 Million

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 23 — On January first, there were 37 million and one hundred thousand people living in Algeria, according to official estimates by the national statistics office. A report by APS stated that the office is predicting the number of inhabitants to rise to 37,800,000 by January 2013. The last general census, conducted in April 2008, revealed a population of 34.8 million.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Food: Morocco: Halal Certification Regulation Ready

To enter world market growing by 12% a year

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MAY 22 — With growth of over 12 per cent per annum since 2004 and a turnover worth 455 billion euros — which is a 16 per cent slice of the global food market — the Halal product market (the word halal means “allowed” by Islamic law) is an attractive one to Morocco’s businesses.

However, access to exporting into this market lies through obtaining a label issued by an accredited organisation that is recognised by importing markets. Under pressure from the industrial sector, the Moroccan government has already begun to make moves in this direction by introducing at the end of 2010 a first regulation inspired by the Malaysian model. However, according to a report from a sector professional appearing in La Vie Eco, “the fact that Moroccan Ulemas did not take part in drafting the norm means that it never gained credibility. On the other hand, since it came into force, not one single business has attempted to have itself certified according to this norm”. Over recent months, Morocco has started once again on its quest for credible Halal certification: since December, a technical committee under a Moroccan assaying institute, (IMANOR), which is linked to the Ministry for Industry, has been holding meetings to review the current norm in depth.

This time round, Ulemas were also present at the consultations and broad concordance has been sought with the norm governing Halal products of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OCI), which is a synthesis of several national regulations. The new regulations, which will cover every production phase, should come into force over the coming days following approval by the Ministry for Industry and the first certificates should be issued during July. According to sources interviewed by La Vie Eco, the Moroccan subsidiary of Nestlé has already consulted IMANOR and is working towards having some of its products certified according to the new Moroccan regulation. Other large groups, such as Coca Cola, Kraft Foods and Sapak, are said to be similarly interested and should be applying for certification soon. Sector experts warn that it may take some years for Morocco to be able to compete with competitors like the Turkish companies that currently occupy the international Halal market segment.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Islamists Face Setback in Egyptian Presidential Election

By Barry Rubin

While the Brotherhood claims victory, the election was actually a defeat—at least temporary and possibly less important than it seems—for the Brotherhood and Islamism. Here’s why.

The Islamist Camp

Note that only about 44 percent of voters backed an Islamist candidate, compared to 75 percent in the parliamentary election, while only about 25 percent voted for the Muslim Brotherhood compared to about 47 percent in the parliamentary vote. Why?

To begin with, the two top Islamist candidates were removed by the election commission, the Brotherhood’s first choice and the only Salafist candidate. Presumably, many voters stayed home or opted for their second choice party. The question is whether those who crossed the line and voted for a non-Islamist will return to the Brotherhood in the second round.

A key question is the 25 percent who backed a Salafist in the parliamentary election but could not do so in this one. Did they stay home, or vote for the Brotherhood or the “moderate Islamist,” or for a secular party? And again, will most of them back the Brotherhood or a Mubarak era politician?

Clearly, the mistakes made by the Islamists were costly, and they do make many errors. The Salafists nominated a candidate who was vulnerable to vetting. He didn’t meet the qualifications of purely Egyptian citizenship for himself and his family.

On the Brotherhood’s part, victory in the previous elections made them more radical and more arrogant. They mistakenly cast off the cloak of pretended moderation too soon and too completely. So much for the “Turkish model!” This hubris scared some voters. Shafiq’s campaign managers warned voters that to elect Mursi would set off a battle for an “Islamic empire.”

But note this theme of radicalism going along with victory because it is going to be one of the most important of all. Let’s summarize it:

When Islamists win, they become bolder and more aggressive. Western observers who talk about moderating Islamism think the opposite.

An opposing camp, however, those who argue all Muslims “must” be Islamists and that political Islam inevitably sweeps all before it have also been proven wrong. As I try to explain, this is a political struggle that can go either way depending on circumstances.

Islamism is by no means immune to social conditions. The strongest support for Mursi is in Egypt’s poor, underdeveloped south; the weakest backing is in the cities.

Yet let’s also remember that the Islamists are still heading for control over Egypt…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Top Mubarak Aide Slapped With Seven Years for Corruption

Deposed Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak’s top aide has been sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of corruption. The sentence comes a week before Mubarak faces his own day in court.

One of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s closest aides has been convicted on charges of corruption, Egypt’s official news agency reported on Sunday.

Zakaria Azmi has been sentenced to seven years in prison and must pay a fine of 36.3 million Egyptian pounds ($6 million, 4.8 million euros). Azmi served as Mubarak’s chief of staff and was an influential figure in the now defunct National Democratic Party. Mubarak was rarely seen in public without Azmi at his side.

The official Middle East News Agency said the court had established that Azmi used his position to embezzle some 42.6 million pounds of public funds.

Azmi’s conviction comes just one week before Mubarak faces his own day in court. On June 2, the verdict is set to be handed down in the former president’s case. He faces charges of corruption and complicity in the killing of protesters during the 18-day revolt that led to his downfall on February 11, 2011.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Hundreds of Jobless Try to Reach Algeria

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 22 — Hundreds of young unemployed Tunisians from Ain Draham (in the region of Fermana) have tried to reach Algeria via the Babouche border crossing, hoping to find work. The attempt was halted by Algerian customs officers despite the fact that the young Tunisians had no trouble crossing the Tunisian border. It follows several demonstrations staged by jobless citizens in the past months, protesting against the lack of job opportunities and what they call the absence of government. The protests have also led to long blockades of the main roads in the area.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo: Foreign Forces Do Not Want Peace in Syria

Foreign militants from Libya, Tunisia, Turkey and Pakistan present in the country. Msgr. Nazzaro: they arrived in Syria to create chaos. Christians and Muslims live and face the pain of war together.

Aleppo (AsiaNews) — “There are foreign forces who do not want peace in Syria. The country is now the prey of fighters from Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, Pakistan and other Islamic states. Weapons and money are pouring across the borders to feed the spiral of violence”, Msgr. Giuseppe Nazzaro, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo tells AsiaNews. “The Western countries are not doing anything concrete to stop the conflict — he continues — they do not care about the fate of the Syrian people, who in addition to the war between the army and rebels also suffer an economic embargo.” Msgr. Nazzaro says that medicines, fuel, gas are beginning to run out across the country. In the provinces most affected by the fighting, basic necessities are lacking and it is difficult for the population to survive, especially if this tense situation continues for much longer.

The bishop says that the Islamic extremists continue to shoot and carry out attacks and have no interest in seeking a way out of the conflict. “Who is funding these militias? — asks the prelate — after the imposition of the cease-fire on 12 April, there were constant attacks targeted against which the army sadly responds with equal cruelty.”

For the past three weeks the Assad military have bombed the city of Rastan situated between Homs and Hama, the main stronghold of Islamist rebels. Opposition sources speak of 33 deaths over the past two days. There are also reports of abuses against the Christian community in the area. On 10 May in the village of Al Borj Al Qastal, not far from Hama, ten families were expelled by foreign fighters who used their homes for military purposes. Yesterday, some returned, after the area returned under the control of the Syrian army.

Bishop Nazzaro confirms that the struggle for control of the country is between the Alawites, a Shi’ite religious minority to which the Assad family belongs, and Sunni extremists. The clashes are mainly concentrated in areas where there is the largest presence of foreign militants.

In these days the conflict between the two religious factions has crossed the border into Lebanon. In Beirut there have been several clashes between the two communities, which have forced an army intervention. Today, hundreds of Shiites blocked roads in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley on the border with Syria, to protest against the kidnapping in Aleppo of 14 Lebanese pilgrims returning from Iran.

In the provinces not yet dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the situation is calmer and dissent against the regime is still more pacifist. “I just finished my pastoral visit to a parish — said Bishop — Christians do not have problems there and they can try to help the local Islamic communities. Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites Syrians, who respect them and have no reason to attack them” .

Meanwhile, in Damascus, the parliament created by the first ever general elections on May 7, today held its first meeting. Members were sworn-in to “defend the interests of the people’ and democracy in the four years of their mandate. Boycotted by opposition parties, the ballot was won by the coalition dominated by the Baath party, linked to the Assad regime, which won 183 of the 250 seats.

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

Iran to Build Two New Nuclear Plants

Tehran plans to build two additional nuclear power plants in the coming years despite suspicion by Western powers. The Iranian president has told parliament that the country is surrounded by “evils.”

The Iranian government announced on Sunday that it plans to build two additional nuclear power plants in the coming years, days after negotiations with world powers in Baghdad failed to produce compromise on uranium enrichment in the Islamic Republic.

“Iran will build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant in Bushehr next year,” Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told state television.

The Mehr and INSA news agencies both reported that Tehran was also planning a second new plant in the coming years. Iran currently has one operational nuclear power plant, the only one in the Middle East, which is located in Bushehr on the coast of the Persian Gulf.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran: Fiat ‘Suspends Business’ To Comply With Sanctions

Turin, 25 May (AKI) — Fiat, Italy’s biggest carmaker, said it has suspended business activity with Iran.

“Fiat supports the international efforts for a diplomatic solution of the issues relating to the relations with Iran,” the Turin-based manufacturer said Friday in a statement.

“In this respect, Fiat announces that effective immediately its subsidiaries will no longer carry out business activity related to products or components where the ultimate destination of such products is known to be Iran, other than to the limited extent required to fulfil already existing binding obligations.”

The United Nations and European Union have slapped sanctions on Iran for failing its nuclear programme that is believed to be developing nuclear weapons.

Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi on Thursday boasted of Italy’s leading role in getting tougher European Union sanctions approved against Iran. These include an oil embargo due to take effect on 1 July.

Fiat didn’t give a figure for the value of its business with Iran, only saying it is “totally immaterial in a quantitative and qualitative sense.”

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

‘No Reason’ To Suspend Iran’s Enrichment of Uranium to 20%

(AGI)Tehran-Iran has “no reason” to suspend its enrichment of uranium to 20%, said Tehran Atomic Agency’s Fereydoon Abbasi Davani. The issue of the 20% fuel was at the center of the 5+1 talks held on Wednesday and Thursday in Baghdad, where Tehran was asked to suspend this activity and hand in its stocks in exchange for a loosening of the embargo on the spare parts for civil aircraft. “We have no reason to cede on 20 percent, because we produce only as much of the 20 percent fuel as we need. No more, no less,” affirmed Fereydoon Abbasi Davani.

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

NYT: Obama Aims at a Yemen-Style Solution for Syria

(AGI) Washington — Barack Obama intends to propose a Yemen-style solution in Syria with a soft post-Assad transition. The news was reported by the New York Times in an article anticipating that a plan in this direction will be illustrated by the American President to his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin when they meed in June. Obama’s idea is supposedly to pressure the exit of President Bashar al-Assad although leaving part of his Government in power. This is a solution similar to the one found for Yemen where, after months of violence, President Ali Abdullah Saleh accepted to surrender power to his deputy, Agbdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, through an agreement mediated by neighboring Arab Countries. Hadi, who was subsequently confirmed in a public election, is now guiding the transition.

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

Syrian Government Denies Being Behind Massacre That Killed More Than 90

The Syrian government on Sunday denied responsibility for killings in a string of villages that left more than 90 people dead, blaming the killings on “hundreds of heavily armed gunmen” who also attacked soldiers in the area. Friday’s assault on the central area of Houla was one of the bloodiest single events in Syria’s 15-month-old uprising, and gruesome images of dozens of children killed in the attacks prompted a wave of international outrage.

The U.N. said 32 children under the age of 10 were among the dead and issued a statement appearing to hold the Syrian regime responsible. Persistent violence has cast doubt about the future of international efforts to halt 14 months of bloodshed between the regime and forces fighting against it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Trust in Army Declining But Secular-Islamist Rift Deepening

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey has seen sharp decrrease in the trust in military, that seems to be related to the Ergenekon case. “This is a good development for Turkish democracy,” says academic Yaprak Gürsoy. But the case also leads to polarization in the society, deepening the secular-Islamist cleavage, which harms democratic consolidation, Gürsoy adds

Public trust on Turkish military was around 89 percent prior to the begining of Ergenekon case, afterwhich it has dropped to 66 percent, Yaprak Gürsoy tells the Daily News speaking at Bilgi University’s campus. DAILY NEWS photos, Hasan ALTINISIK

The Ergenekon case has affeced the trust in the military, since the level of the Turkish public trust in the army has dropped, becoming at par with the European Union levels, according to an academic who has conducted a study on the public views towards the trial.

While this is a positive development for Turkish democracy, the case has also served to deepen rifts between people from the pro-Islamist and secularist camps, Yaprak Gürsoy of Istanbul Bilgi University recently told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview.

Gürsoy’s finding are part of a project titled “Armed Forces and Society in Turkey: An Empirical Approach,” which was launched by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK).

Using the findings of the 2011 survey from the project which was carried out under the leadership of Assistant Professor Dr. Zeki Sarigil from Ankara’s Bilkent University, Gürsoy has concluded that the Ergenekon trials are increasing polarization in society.

Give us a summary of your findings.

The Ergenekon investigation and trials are a double-edge sword for Turkish democracy. They are good in a sense that it’s possible to observe that with these trials, public attitudes toward the military have began to change. People have less confidence in the Turkish military. But it is also possible to observe that they are leading to polarization in Turkish politics, especially between supporters of political parties, and that’s not good for Turkish democratic consolidation.

In your research, you are talking about the paradoxical situation in the past, when those who supported democracy also had high levels of trust in the military.

Right; and this is problematic. The Turkish military has justified its interventions [into politics under the guise of] defending democracy. Basically, we can see that people mostly used to believe that Turkish military is a guardian of democracy; it is also possible to observe through previous survey analyses that those who trust the military do not have a liberal democratic conceptualization.

You call them superficial democrats.

Yes, because they see democracy as only about having regular elections. But we know that democracy have other components, such as the rule of law, freedom of speech and human rights. It seems that those who trust the military do not have these democratic values or did not use to have these democratic values. This was until the mid-2000s. Since around 2007, it has become possible to see a potential change in public attitudes and in people’s values both surrounding democracy and trust in the military. The level of trust in the military has started to decrease. If you look at Eurobarometer surveys, which started in the 2000s, we can see that there is a drop in the level of trust the public has toward the military. We had 89 percent, then it started to decline and it is now around 66 percent, which is on par with European countries.

And you believe that the Ergenekon case is behind this change?

I believe that the critical event must have been the Ergenekon case. I focused on this hypothesis, and I checked other factors that influence trust in the military, such as having trust in civilians, the belief that democracy is the best regime, gender, education, income; when you check all these variables, belief that the Ergenekon terrorist organization really exists contributes to different views on the military. Those who believe the Ergenekon terror organization exists do not trust the military. So the drop can be explained by belief in the Ergenekon trials.

This is positive for Turkish democracy not because Ergenekon directly changes attitudes toward democracy. Indirectly, however, a decrease in trust in the military is a good sign of democratic consolidation. We know in cases like Turkey that the military has intervened in democracy and these actions were seen as legitimate. It seems that people are now having a more liberal democratic attitude and believe that it is something that is not supposed to be supported.

Your study also suggests that there is also a negative consequence of Ergenekon case.

It leads to polarization. When you investigate which groups believe the Ergenekon terrorist organization exists, you can see a sharp difference between political party supporters. Those who voted for the AKP [Justice and Development Party] in the 2011 elections overwhelmingly think that the Ergenekon terror organization exists. Most of those who voted CHP [Republican People’s Party] think that Ergenekon does not exist and that the case rests on fabricated evidence. There is a sharp polarization between CHP and AKP supporters.

Why is that so problematic? Isn’t it normal to have a divergence of views on a specific issue?

It is problematic because polarization leads to mutual distrust [and the sense] that the other side is undemocratic. Of course, polarization doesn’t need to always lead to these questions, but in Turkey, we know that polarization corresponds to the belief that the other side is disloyal to democracy and that it can take actions against democracy.

When both sides think that the other is undemocratic, it is democratic consolidation overall that suffers. Because our definition of democratic consolidation entails attitudinal and behavioral support for democracy, it is not just about having liberal democratic institutions or a constitution that is liberal democratic, we need to have all significant actors in politics believe that democracy is what some scholars call the only game in town. Nobody can think of acting outside democratic institutions. When there is mutual suspicion that the other side is undemocratic and it could take action against democracy, everybody takes up their weapons so to speak to defend themselves and take undemocratic actions. This can lead to using authoritarian methods or to supporting coup plots; in the end, it is democracy that suffers.

Do you see signs that polarization in Turkey is leading the sides toward resort to non-democratic tendencies?

Maybe the sides are not necessarily taking those actions, but the sides are thinking that the other side is taking such an action. For instance, CHP supporters believe the AKP is moving toward authoritarianism; that belief in itself is a question for democratic consolidation.

AKP supporters accused the CHP of supporting Ergenekon suspects and of behaving undemocratically. Nobody has to do anything. These beliefs lead to situations where attitudinal support for democracy diminishes; in other words, people are culturally becoming undemocratic.

Are there any other categorizations on views on Ergenekon?

Those who are more pious seem to believe that Ergenekon is real. Those who are less religious think that Ergenekon is not real. This also corresponds to the pro-Islamist-secularist cleavage in Turkey. So the cleavage between the pro-Islamists and secularists seems to be deepening because of the Ergenekon case.


Yaprak Gürsoy received her PhD from the University of Virginia, Department of Politics. Her dissertation is a comparative study of Greek and Turkish political regimes, civil-military relations, and businessmen’s political attitudes.

Currently, Dr. Gürsoy is an assistant professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, teaching subjects such as Civil-Military Relations, Comparative Politics, Political Transformation in Europe, and the European Union.

Her research on regime change and civil-military relations have been published in international journals, including Democratization, South European Society and Politics, East European Quarterly, Journal of Political and Military Sociology, and Journal of Modern Greek Studies.


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

South Asia

Afghan Women Leave the Country in Fear of Taliban Return

The threat of a curtailment of women’s rights prompts many to quit before the 2014 handover

A brain drain of bright young women is already taking place in Afghanistan before the 2014 handover that many fear will mean a reversal of advances in women’s rights.

The lack of commitment by the Afghan government to equality and to tackling the high rates of ill-treatment of women in the home and in the workplace is raising real fears they will be at the bottom of the political agenda in the push for power after Nato forces leave the country.

Worsening security for civilians — casualties among ordinary Afghans have risen year on year for the last five years with 3,021 killed in 2011, and women are thought to be suffering disproportionately — has led to rising numbers of women and girls leaving education and the workforce and staying indoors, according to Guhramaana Kakar, a gender adviser to President Hamid Karzai.

Speaking to the Observer, Kakar said negotiations between the government and the Taliban and other insurgent groups were ignoring women’s rights. A recent survey by charity ActionAid suggested 86% of Afghan women were fearful of a return to Taliban-style rule. One in five worried about the education of their daughters but 72% said their lives were better now than a decade ago.

“Women do want the progress that has been made over the past 10 years to continue, but they are being kept away from the political processes,” Kakar said. “All Afghans, men and women, want a country without foreign troops, but I think the international community should be putting women on the agenda and making sure their security and freedoms are secured, directly and indirectly.”

She criticised the recent Nato conference in Chicago for completely ignoring the issue. “Women are regularly harassed in the workplace, they are exploited and credit for their achievements taken by men, while also being targeted by insurgents for going to work or school. They suffer the worst in the security situation and, even at home, they are subjected to violence and abuse which is tacitly sanctioned by the courts and the government.”…

           — Hat tip: WM[Return to headlines]

India May Bar Europe Carriers in Climate Tax Row

(NEW DELHI) — India said it may stop European carriers from flying into the country if the European Union bans airlines from the South Asian nation that boycott the EU’s new emissions fee system.

“We will take retaliatory actions to counter steps taken by the EU. If Europe bans our carriers we will ban theirs as well,” the senior government official, who did not want to be named, told reporters late Friday.

The EU in mid-May gave India and China a month to comply with the airline carbon emissions fee system across the 27-nation bloc, or face penalties for flights into and out of Europe.

EU Commissioner for Climate Change Connie Hedegaard said all EU airlines and “nearly all” world airlines had agreed to hand over emissions data required under the controversial carbon levy that took effect on January 1.

“There has been a very, very high level of compliance… the only exception is Chinese and Indian carriers,” she said earlier this month.

While some 1,200 airlines have complied with the EU requirements, eight Chinese and two Indian airlines representing less than three percent of aviation emissions in the bloc have refused.

India and China have attacked the EU scheme, calling it a unilateral trade levy disguised as an attempt to fight climate change. India in April barred its airlines from complying with the EU carbon fee, joining China in resistance.

The EU says the tax aims to help it achieve a goal of cutting emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and has said no airline will face a bill until 2013 after this year’s carbon emissions have been tallied.

It says the cost for the airlines is manageable, calculating that the scheme could force the carriers to add between 4.0 euros ($5.00) and 24 euros to the price of a long-haul round-trip.

European authorities have warned that the Chinese and Indian carriers could face penalties if they fail to submit data by an extended deadline of June 15. European authorities said that, as a final measure, banning repeat offenders could be considered.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lady Gaga’s Concert in Indonesia Cancelled

(AGI) Jakarta — Organizers announced that Lady Gaga’s concert scheduled for next Sunday in Jakarta has been cancelled. The decision was taken by the singer’s staff following the threat of Indonesian Islamic fundamentalists to unleash “chaos” in the world’s most densely populated Muslim Country in case the popstar performed in what they consider to be an “immoral” show. “Now in play is not only the security of Lady Gaga but also of anybody going to see her”, explained Minola Sebayang, the lawyer of the Big Daddy company that had promoted the event.

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

US Cuts Pakistan Aid Over Conviction of ‘Bin Laden Doctor’

One million for each year imposed on Dr Shakil Afridi is cut for a total of US$ 33 million. Afridi was convicted for “treason” because he ran vaccination programme to collect intelligence for the US. Secretary Clinton calls the conviction “unjust and unwarranted.”

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In a 30-0 vote, a US Senate panel cut US$ 33 million from its aid package to Pakistan in response to the conviction of a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama Bin Laden. The cut by the Senate Appropriations Committee to its US$ 52 billion US foreign aid budget was largely symbolic, one million dollar for every year of Shakil Afridi’s sentence.

On Wednesday, Dr Afridi was convicted for treason under a tribal justice system in Khyber district and fined US$ 3,500 for helping the United States find al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad near the capital Islamabad. Bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces in May 2011.

Dr Afridi, who is now in jail in Peshawar, was not present in court and so was unable to give his side of the story. He ran a fake vaccination programme to collect DNA samples that allowed US intelligence to find al Qaeda’s founder.

“The United States does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr Afridi. We regret the fact that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence,” Clinton said, calling his treatment “unjust and unwarranted.”

Analysts say the Pakistani establishment opted for such harsh treatment not only to defy the Americans but also to send a message to all Pakistani contacts of American diplomatic missions to desist from repeating Dr Afridi’s “mistake”.

The Pakistani doctor was arrested a few days after the US Special Forces raid in May last year that ended in bin Laden’s death. Pakistan slammed the US action as a violation of its sovereignty.

At the recent NATO meeting in Chicago, Pakistan and the United States failed to find an agreement to reopen supply routes for US forces in Afghanistan. Islamabad had closed them down after a US air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

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

Latin America

EU Appeal to WTO Against Argentine Import Restrictions

(AGI) Brussels — The EU presented a complaint today to the World Trade Organization in Geneva against Argentine import controls. This is the first concrete initiative taken by Brussels since the country’s expropriation of the Argentine activities of Spanish energy group Repsol, although sources state that the Commission’s appeal today “is not directly connected to the Repsol case” with regard to which Brussels is “examining all possible options.” .

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


Center of Gravity in Oil World Shifts to Americas

In a desertlike stretch of scrub grass and red buttes, oil companies are punching holes in the ground in search of what might be one of the biggest recent discoveries in the Americas: enough gas and oil to make a country known for beef and the tango an important energy player.

The environment is challenging, with resources trapped deep in shale rock. But technological breakthroughs coupled with a feverish quest for the next major find are unlocking the door to oil and natural gas riches here and in several other countries in the Americas not traditionally known as energy producers.

That is quickly changing the dynamics of energy geopolitics in a way that had been unforeseen just a few years ago.

From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.

“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”

Oil produced in Persian Gulf countries — notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq — will remain vital to the world’s energy picture. But what was once a seemingly unalterable truth — that American oil production would steadily fall while the United States remained heavily reliant on Middle Eastern supplies — is being turned on its head.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Human Evolution Isn’t What it Used to be

by Matt Ridley

Recent analyses of the human genome reveal a huge number of rare—and therefore probably fairly new—mutations.

So we’re evolving as a species toward greater individual (rather than racial) genetic diversity. But this isn’t what most people mean when they ask if evolution has stopped. Mainly they seem to mean: “Has brain size stopped increasing?” For a process that takes millions of years, any answer about a particular instant in time is close to meaningless. Nonetheless, the short answer is probably “yes.”

I say this for two reasons. First, it’s clear, from glancing around society, that clever people—who on average have slightly bigger brains—aren’t having more babies than less-clever people. Second, the fossil record strongly suggests that our brain size peaked at 1,500 cubic centimeters around 20,000 years ago and has since shrunk to 1,350 cc. This neither worries nor surprises me. We ceased relying upon individual brain power tens of thousands of years ago. Our civilization now gets all its inventive and creative power from the linking of brains into networks. Our future depends on being clever not individually, but collectively.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

World’s Largest Radio Telescope to be Shared by South Africa, Australia

The world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope will be shared by South Africa and Australia, project organizers announced today (May 25). Both nations had been vying to host the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), a future mega-scope that will connect 3,000 separate radio dishes, each about 50 feet (15 meters) wide. (The array’s name refers the dishes’ total collecting area, not how much ground they cover.)

But SKA officials have now decided to spread the project over both sites, rather than pick one over the other. “This hugely important step for the project allows us to progress the design and prepare for the construction phase of the telescope,” said Michiel van Haarlem, interim director general of the SKA Organization.

The SKA’s many receptors will be arrayed in spiral arms extending out at least 1,864 miles (3,000 kilometers) from a central core, officials have said. The 1.5-billion-euro (roughly $2 billion) construction project is slated to begin in 2016, with the SKA’s first science operations starting three years later. The array is expected to be fully operational by 2024.

The enormous array will have 50 times the sensitivity and 10,000 times the survey speed of the best current-day telescopes, SKA officials said. The instrument will allow scientists to investigate a variety of questions, including how the first stars and galaxies formed, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the universe and the nature of gravity.

“The SKA will transform our view of the universe; with it we will see back to the moments after the Big Bang and discover previously unexplored parts of the cosmos,” van Haarlem said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]