Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120617

Financial Crisis
»Egypt: Fitch Downgrades Rating to B+ Amid Uncertainty
»Elections: Europe Trembles as Greeks Decide
»Greece: Tsipras Speaks Softly But Syriza Has Many Currents
»Greece: Healthcare Problems, Operations and Medicine Cuts
»Greeks Head to Polls in Critical General Election That Could Rattle Europe
»IMF: Spain: Outlook Uncertain, Unprecedented Recession
»Italy: Anti-Austerity Protesters Clash With Police at House
»Italy: Alitalia and Other Italian Airlines at Risk, Enac
»Italy: I Hope Greece Wants to Remain in Europe and Eurozone, Monti
»Monti: Italy Out of the Crisis by Itself
»Spain: Almunia Meets Rajoy After Bank Row
»Symbolic Cyprus, Country on the Edge to Lead Europe From July
»Thousands of Unionists Protest Against Austerity in Rome
»Conservative Bloggers Taking Precautions Over ‘SWAT-ing’ Attacks
»Hausman on Obama and American Jews: Eyes Wide Open But Shut on Israel
»Rodney King Dead at 47
»Syrian Rebels Went to Washington Asking for Weapons
»White House Adviser Rebuffs Questions on Leak Probe, Amid Warnings of Security Risk
Europe and the EU
»Finland: “I Will Try to be as Wise as King Solomon’, Quips Possible Presidential Candidate Soini
»France: FN in Parliament, Young Le Pen Ready to Return
»French Socialists Win Absolute Majority in Parliament
»Greece: Golden Dawn in Difficulty, Will Not Repeat Success
»Greece: A Fire Threatens Athens, Hundreds of Firefighters in Action
»Italy: Anarchist Suspects’ Arrest Hailed as Victory for State
»Italy: Fiat CEO Said Company Will Cut Europe Investments
»Italy: Maroni: Sack the Abusive and Disastrous Government
»Italy: Bossi: Sooner or Later We Will Begin Road Towards Secession
»Italy: Maroni Vows Padania to Care for Displaced Workers
»Nearly 2,000 Tons of Fake Organic Soy Seized in Italy
»Pope to Irish: Child Abuse by Clergy ‘A Mystery’
»Soccer: Croatia Fans ‘Threw Banana at Balotelli’
»UK: Why Try to Take Baby From EDL Mother But Not From ‘Terrorists’?
»US Deserter in Sweden Steps Forward After 28 Years
»Woman Killed by Pack of Wolves in Swedish Zoo
»Kosovo: Serbs Protest Against New Number Plate Law
North Africa
»Imam of Tunis Mosque, Blasphemous Artists Must Die
»Libya Deploys Troops to Stop Clashes in Western Region
»Sahara: CEN-SAD: Meeting in Rabat, Fight on Terrorism Priority
»Serbia: Treatment for Injured Libyans at Military Hospital
Middle East
»Cover-Up Campaign Hits Gulf Streets: Activists in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates Encourage Expatriates to Dress Modestly and Respect Local Culture
»Kuwait: Labour Minister Resigns, More Could Follow
»Saudi Arabia Wants More German Tanks: Report
»Syria: Russian Military Ship En Route to Tartus
»Russian Opposition Parties Form United Front Against Putin
Far East
»Chinese Exports Crushing German Solar Industry
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Several Victims as Blasts Hit Two Churches in Nigeria
»Austria: Immigrants Fight Beggars in Salzburg
»New Attack Against Immigrants in Israel Causes 1 Injured

Financial Crisis

Egypt: Fitch Downgrades Rating to B+ Amid Uncertainty

Negative outlook, insecurity over political transition

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK, JUNE 15 — The international ratings agency Fitch has cut Egypt’s rating to B+ from BB-, with a negative outlook. A statement claims that the downgrade reflects growing uncertainty over the political transition after the decision by the Constitutional Court.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Elections: Europe Trembles as Greeks Decide

Neck and neck between Syriza (left) and Nea Dimokratia (right)

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — Once again, in just over a month, decision time has come to Athens. This Sunday, around 9.7 million Greeks will decide which road their country should embark upon. To some extent, they are also deciding for the whole of the Euro Zone.

From the Greek result much of the well-being of the single currency over the coming months will depend: a victory for those parties that intend to fulfil the undertakings made with the international community — even with some toning down — or a victory for Syriza, the radical left party that wants to delete, or at least re-write, the so-called Memorandum.

The photo finish being predicted by some unofficial polls will be between Nea Dimokratia, the centre-right grouping of Antonis Samaras, and Syriza, led by the rising star of Greek politics, 37-year-old Alexis Tsipras. Despite their support for the technocrat government of Lucas Papademos, the conservatives are hoping for a clear victory that will enable them to re-negotiate the most unpopular parts of the Memorandum signed by the Papademos government: such as the cuts to minimum wages in the private sector, pension cuts, the end of collective wage bargaining. Their hopes come from what has been happening in Spain, a country that has received support without having to impose draconian austerity measures.

At the other end of the political spectrum is Syriza, seen as the nemesis by international financial circles and by many European governments. Although he has moderated his language over the latter stages of campaigning, Mr Tsipras basically wants to scrap the Memorandum and replace it with a national growth and development plan. This strategy would cancel most of the austerity measures. It is a plan that appears to ignore the emptiness of the nation’s coffers. Many fear that if Europe were to suspend payments of the loan guaranteed by the Memorandum, these coffers would empty out completely, making it impossible to pay public-sector wages and pensions. This would lead to a paralysis of public services and an explosion of social tensions. In this scenario, Greece would be bankrupt and would face exit from the euro.

But in his last election rally, Mr Tsipras promised that the country would remain “in Europe and in the euro”. Just as on the eve of the inconclusive poll on May 6, uncertainty is the order of the day. Come what may, and international pressures to one side, Greece will decide its own fate, while Europe looks on nervously.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Tsipras Speaks Softly But Syriza Has Many Currents

A dozen movements from pro-EU ‘moderates’ to ‘hawks’

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 15 — Syriza, Greece’s left-wing party that saw a quadrupling of its share of the vote in the May 6 elections, presents itself for Sunday’s vote with a position that is not just paradoxical, but frightening too, given the danger it represents for Greece’s continued membership of the euro zone. What is now the second-largest political force in Greece, led by Alexis Tsipras — a young political leader at just 37 — claims that it wants Greece to remain in the EU and within the euro, but is not willing to take on the burdens entailed by the two Memorandums signed by previous Athens governments. In the 2009 elections, Syriza attained just 4.60% of the votes and 13 MPs. In the May 6 vote, where it was still standing as the Coalition of the Left parties and not as the present single party, it obtained 16.78% of the vote and 52 members of parliament.

Over recent days, Mr Tsipras has moderated his position on the Memorandum substantially, and now comes down in favour of Greece’s membership of the euro area. He no longer supports the scrapping of the agreements, but will call for their terms to be revised. A demonstration of this new position is seen in market reaction to an article he penned for the Financial Times, in which he stated that the modifications he intended to make to the Memorandum will be conducted in a European context. Various local observers, however, are not optimistic about the possibility that Tsipras could enact Syriza’s programme and point out that there are at least twelve (maybe thirteen) component parts of his party. Between these the deepest political and ideological rifts exist. The most important of these fringes is the Ecological Renewal and Communist Left, perhaps the only party within Syriza having a Euro-Communist stance. This fringe derives from Greece’s old Interior Communist party as it used to be called during the Colonels’ Regime. Then there is Energi Polites (Active Citizens): this is the component calling for unity among the whole of the Greek left. Its leader, Manolis Glezos, is a symbolic figure of the Hellenic resistance against German occupation during the Second World War. Anentakti Aristeri (Left Independents) is made up of a group of people who do not belong to any other Syriza component. Then there is DEA (Internationalis t Workers’ Left), an internationalist and Trotskyist organisation, and Kokkino (Red). But there are also Maoist trends in Syriza, called KOE (Communist Organisation of Greece). To all of these various trends, the group that emerged from the socialist Pasok party has to be added, including some former government ministers. The chances of an electoral victory by Syriza — and therefore fears of Greece’s exit from the euro zone has over recent days induced many Greeks to run to their banks and transfer their savings abroad. Others have opted for safety deposit boxes or hidey holes in their homes. Despite all of this, there are many who have voted for, and will continue to vote for Syriza on June 17.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Healthcare Problems, Operations and Medicine Cuts

Pharmacists to be paid at end of the month

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 15 — Greek healthcare, which was not exactly a model of efficiency even before the crisis, can no longer hold up to the strain: cuts to medicine supplies, restrictions on non-essential operations, healthcare materials becoming scarce and doctors struggling to cover their shifts.

This is a brief glimpse of a healthcare system which not only has to deal with economic difficulties affecting the entire Greek society, but also a freeze on the few available funds due to political deadlock. The crisis of Greek public finance has prompted large pharmaceutical producers to draw up plans in order to prevent an interruption in supplies if Greece should go bankrupt and leave the eurozone, with a resulting, devalued drachma.

In any case, some good news did come in today: by June 25 the Greek national healthcare service EOPYY will have paid off what it owes pharmacie, the radio station SKAI was told by EOPYY chairman Gerasimos Voudouris. Over the past few months, the suspension of medicine on credit to beneficiaries by pharmacies (which are owed some 762 million euros, and which have repeatedly staged forms of protest) has also given rise to problems regarding tourism, since many foreigners have called off trips to Greece out of concern that if they were to suffer health problems they would not be able to buy any medication to treat them. The Greek healthcare system (where it is common practice to slip a few bribes — ‘fakelakia’ in Greek — to personnel to ensure good treatment) had until the crisis still been “generous” enough to welcome in all, despite widespread problems with its administration and the almost exclusively political appointments at the managerial level of the 133 public hospitals. Now many ill people are at risk of losing their lives, since the lack of funds is affecting healthcare services. In Chaidari (Athens suburb), hospital personnel report a lack of cotton, catheters, gloves and paper sheets to cover operating tables: and so the latter are reused, with serious risks for the resulting hygienic conditions. Meanwhile, examinations are growing shorter, since the lines are longer and doctors are forced to take on ever more gruelingly long hours. And some may not get the care they need in the time they need, or not be examined with the necessary care for a correct diagnosis. IMF recommendations are partially to blame for this: healthcare spending must remain under 6%, compared with the current 10%.

And how to do it involves not spending as much on medications, the costs of which have risen steadily over the past decade. The IMF claims it is necessary to cut 2 billion euros from the amount spent in 2010. Those critical of this hard-line stance say that lacking overall reform of the healthcare system, these cuts will only mean less medicine for those who need it. And amid the crisis and surging unemployment levels, many are not even able to pay the contribution required of them (which has risen to 20% of the cost of the medicine). Yet once more the Greek crisis has shown its true face: not the figures which remain at the abstract level in terms of finances and debt, but the real-life suffering of those who (the vast majority) are in no way to blame for the crisis but are being hit hard by it.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greeks Head to Polls in Critical General Election That Could Rattle Europe

Greeks voted Sunday for the second time in six weeks in what was arguably their country’s most critical election in 40 years, with the country’s treasured place within the European Union’s joint currency in the balance.

The political turmoil sparked by a two-year financial crisis has roiled markets across the world, with fears that victory by parties that have vowed to cancel the country’s international bailout agreements and accompanying austerity measures could see Greece forced out of the euro.

That in turn would likely drag down other financially troubled countries and rip apart the euro itself.

The last opinion polls published before a two-week pre-election ban showed the radical left Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras running neck-and-neck with the conservative New Democracy party of Antonis Samaras. But no party is likely to win enough votes to form a government on its own, meaning a coalition will have to be formed to avoid yet another election.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

IMF: Spain: Outlook Uncertain, Unprecedented Recession

Market confidence weak; ahead with reforms

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK, JUNE 15 — Spain faces a “very difficult” outlook. The economy is in the midst of a new recession that is “without precedent, with an unemployment rate already at unacceptable levels, public debt rapidly rising and a financial system in need of recapitalisation”.

“Despite its reforms and efforts,” in Spain “market confidence remains weak” and has to be revived by continuing along the road of reforms, the IMF continues in its article on Spain, which stresses how Madrid “has urgent need of growth in employment and further gains in terms of competitiveness”. Spain needs to do more to reduce its debt and its deficit.

According to the IMF, “despite its considerable efforts, the ambitious target of a 5.3% deficit in 2012 will not be met. “The outlook for Spain will be helped by further progress at a European level. There is an immediate need for the euro area to ensure sufficient funds to its banks and to prevent contagion.

But a lasting solution of the crisis will require persuasive and concerted action in the direction of a stronger monetary union”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Anti-Austerity Protesters Clash With Police at House

‘Penalty’ soccer balls kicked against police cars

(ANSA) — Rome, June 14 — An officer was injured when police clashed with protesters demonstrating in front of the House against worsening labor conditions and austerity measures on Thursday. Some protesters said they were clubbed and struck by officers as roughly 40 demonstrators approached a police barricade in front of the House entrance. A number of demonstrators responded by throwing smoke bombs and hurling street cobbles at police. Many identified themselves as part-time or temp workers, upset with Labor Minister Elsa Fornero and disgruntled by abysmal work opportunities in a country with a 35% youth-unemployment rate. Calling itself ‘Occupy Fornero’, the group at one point kicked soccer balls against armored police cars in defiance of government austerity programs, or ‘rigore’ in Italian, the same term used for a penalty kick in soccer. “We are against Monti’s austerity, we cannot pay for the crisis,” they said, waving banners that called for a “general strike”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Alitalia and Other Italian Airlines at Risk, Enac

Foreign low cost wins, Riggio; Doomed to disappear, Ragnetti

(ANSAmed) — ROME, 13 JUNE — For Italian airlines, the increase in the number of passengers (+6.5% in 2011) was not a harbour in the tempest of the financial crisis. The ENAC Chairman Vito Riggio warned that Italian airlines risk “disappearing” due to competition on prices, which continue to decrease steadily. For traditional airlines “the profit is cut”, while low-cost airlines “become stronger”. In Italy, the market was conquered by the Irish company Ryanair and by the English company Easyjet. The Alitalia CEO spoke out against the obstinacy in imposing “taxes and duties”; “sooner of later,” Ragnetti said,” Alitalia will either disappear of change its owner”.

The debate draws inspiration from the 2011 ENAC report: the number of passengers in Italian airports totalled 147.9 mln passengers, nearly 9 mln more than the previous year. However, “there are still critical issues in property, financial and economic terms”, a “general state of difficulty” for Italian airlines. “They are all suffering losses,” Riggio points out; regarding the crisis, the Alitalia CEO detected “further signals of loss in the first four months of 2012”.

The government is due to react with two long-awaited measures.

The national plan on airports is due to be launched by the end of the summer (the plan is aimed at making the airport network more rational, after the “actually excessive” increase in the number of small, non-competitive airports); by the end of this year, the remaining plan agreements with two airport management companies (Venice and Rome, the agreement on the Fiumicino airport is of a strategic nature) are due to be signed. This will allow the issue on tariffs to be solved and, therefore, significant investment plans encompassing the possible entry of foreign investors would be unblocked. The Minister of Development and Infrastructures, Corrado Passera, stated this, urged by the Chairman of Assaeroporti and ADR, Fabrizio Palenzona, who reminded the Minister that other times in the past a solution had seemed to be close but later ended up “lost in the labyrinth of an anti-Italian bureaucracy”. A letter from the Ministry of Infrastructure allegedly containing the first signs of openness arrived yesterday to Fiumicino; for the Leonardo Da Vinci airport, this could pave the way to an intermediate solution on airport fees over the EUR 3 per passenger increase required by Adr. According to experts working on the report, such solution might make all parties happy.

Also Riggio pointed his finger against the extra-costs, a real burden for airlines: the halt to State’s aids for ENAV’s services, for example, might cost Alitalia EUR 50 mln in 2013.

The airline’s CEO, Ragnetti, talks about irrational obstinacy.

“In the past two months, Alitalia had to face a sudden EUR 100 mln increase in structural extra-expenses and I can assure you that it is hard for us to understand the rationale behind them.

It appears to be mere obstinacy,” Ragnetti said. The CEO warned: “It’s hard to think about aggressive expansion plans, requiring significant investments, when you spend your time fighting against new taxes and duties.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: I Hope Greece Wants to Remain in Europe and Eurozone, Monti

(AGI) Bologna — “I hope that in tomorrow’s elections in Greece there will be a a vote in favour of strong relation of Greece with Europe and of the permanence of Greece in Eurozone”, as Mario Monti said during his intervention at the public debate “Repubblica delle Idee”, in Bologna. As the premier underlined, on the table is the “hypothesis to renegotiate softer conditions, which is something that should seem common sense, but it is already agitating the spirits of Ireland and Portugal: they are asking, why ‘yes’ to them and ‘no’ to us”.

“I am not saying that Europe should give in, but there is a modification of the Greek society, though imperfect, that normally would require a generation — he claimed — this brings me to the conclusion that Europe is extraordinarily good in improving people and states”.

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

Monti: Italy Out of the Crisis by Itself

(AGI) Bologna — Mario Monti proudly said that Italy is coming out of the crisis by itself. “We asked the country a major effort, but we will make it by ourselves” the Prime Minister during a visit in Bologna. The PM added: “We will make it, we are doing everything by ourselves. Obviously we gave up a part of our sovereignty a few years ago, just like France and other European countries did, but we have not been forced to act by a Troika”. Then, he told political forces: “I have to go to the EU council with a passed labour market reform in my hands otherwise Italy loses grounds”. The Prime Minister talked about the counter-corruption draft law that will “be passed very soon”.

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

Spain: Almunia Meets Rajoy After Bank Row

EU Commissioner accused by PP of betraying Madrid

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 15 — The Deputy President of the European Commission, Joaquin Almunia, has today met Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy on the day after the Partito Popolare called for the resignation of the European commissioner for betrayal of Spain. In a reference to three of the country’s nationalised banking institutes: Catalunya-Caixa, Novagalicia and Banca di Valencia, Almunia yesterday stated that “one of the three, in accordance with the intentions of the Spanish authorities, is heading for liquidation and not for maintenance following its restructuring as a company”.

Greece, Spain and debt pressures were just some of the items on the agenda for the meeting between Mssrs Rajoy and Almunia. On leaving Spain’s government offices, they noted that the premier had not referred to the requests for resignation stamming from certain PP figures. Deputy Premier Soraya Sanz de Santamaria, in her usual press conference following a Cabinet meeting, also refused to comment on the matter. She did however make an indirect reference to the Mr Almunia: “Each one of us, in carrying out our jobs, has the duty to be responsible and prudent in our statements,” Ms Sanz de Santamaria observed.

The Deputy Premier stressed the “positive tone” of the meeting between Rajoy and Almunia, which addressed “all of the themes we are following this week,” concerning financial markets, the tough times for the Spanish economy and the escalation in the bonos-bund ratio. Ms Sanz de Santamaria insisted that “Spain will get out of” it troubles. “We shall continue to carry out the reforms that have been positively assessed by the Euro Group and by the EU,” she added.

From Brussels, the spokesperson for the European Commission, Pia Ahrenkilde has been cited by Europa Press as today saying that the community’s executive “is an independent institution that does not act according to the wishes of national governments,” defending Mr Almunia and his remarks about the Spanish bank.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Symbolic Cyprus, Country on the Edge to Lead Europe From July

After rating cut, talks with Russia and China over 4 bln aid

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — Cyprus is in talks with Russia and China to obtain credit lines worth around 4 billion euros, a sum that it is denied by the international markets.

Therefore Cyprus could soon become the fifth eurozone country to request financial assistance from the EU.

The small Mediterranean island with a population of just over a million is the perfect metaphor for the political and economic crisis in which the European Union finds itself. After being divided in 1974 by a Turkish military invasion, the country is now on the verge of credit bankruptcy, but on July 1 will begin its 6-month period at the head of the EU’s rotating presidency and at the end of the year will have responsibility for the European agenda.

The chances of Cyprus following in the footsteps of Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal in resorting to European aid have risen dramatically following the decision by the international ratings agency Moody’s to cut the country’s rating by two notches, from BA3 to BA1, with a negative outlook that increases the probability of further downgrades in the future.

The growing risk of a Greek exit from the eurozone has had particular impact for Cyprus, which has very strong links with Greece. Cypriot exposure towards Greek banks is estimated to be around 23 billion euros, more than the value of the entire national economy, which totals around 17.3 billion euro. The country’s banks are on the verge of collapse and are in urgent need of an injection of fresh capital, but access to international credit markets has effectively been frozen for over a year.

Moody’s says that the rating cut is the result of new considerations of the amount that Cyprus will have to fork out to support its banking sector. Estimates suggest a contribution superior to what was previously predicted, a figure put at between 5 and 10% of GDP.

“For now the Cypriot authorities have not made any request for aid to Europe,” according to Amadeu Altafaj, the spokesperson for the EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn. As far as talks between Nicosia and Russia and China are concerned, Altafaj said only that the Commission “does not interfere in any way in the trade relations of a member state”.

The International Monetary Fund has also denied that Cyprus has requested its financial assistance. “No request for aid has arrived,” said the director of the IMF’s external relations, Gerry Rice. However, it is only a matter of time.

“All of the options are on the table,” the Cypriot Minister for European Affairs, Andreas Mavroyiannis, told the press, refusing to rule out that financing could come from a variety of sources, which as well as the “troika” of EU, IMF and ECB, could also include help from Beijing and Moscow.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Thousands of Unionists Protest Against Austerity in Rome

Italy’s prime minister has warned that he is fending off economic disaster just as tens of thousands of unionist protesters take to the streets of Rome to oppose austerity measures.

Prime Minister Mario Monti on Saturday warned of a looming financial crisis in Italy, while tens of thousands of unionists took to the streets of Rome to protest his austerity plans.

“We stepped away from the precipice before, but the hole is growing bigger and it may swallow us up. We are again in a crisis,” Monti said on Saturday in Milan.

Monti took over from discredited former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in November 2011. What he inherited, however, was a recession-plagued nation. To avoid a Greek-style default, Monti has passed a tough austerity package.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Conservative Bloggers Taking Precautions Over ‘SWAT-ing’ Attacks

Conservative bloggers are on heightened alert following a string of so-called “SWAT-ing” incidents and are taking precautionary measures to ensure they don’t fall victim to the potentially dangerous prank as the political blogosphere prepares for a heated election season.

“SWAT-ing” refers to a hoax in which an anonymous prankster falsely reports a violent crime at an unsuspecting person’s home, prompting a police team to respond to the location believing a dangerous situation is at hand.

The illegal practice has in recent months targeted well-known conservative writers and commentators, including Erick Erickson, founder of the blog — who claims he was eating dinner with his family in May when a SWAT team surrounded his home following such a false 911 call.

The growing trend, which some say could one day prove deadly, had conservatives on edge at the annual RightOnline conference of right-wing bloggers and activists in Las Vegas this weekend.

“What they’re clearly trying to do is dampen down free speech, but it goes beyond that — it’s putting people’s physical safety in jeopardy,” said Ali Akbar, who heads a group called the National Bloggers Club made up of conservative online writers.

Akbar told that he believes he is a target after he claims his mother’s home address in Texas was posted on various Internet sites to “incite someone crazy on the fringe left to do something absolutely awful to one of us for what we’re talking about.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Hausman on Obama and American Jews: Eyes Wide Open But Shut on Israel

Last week, the Gallup organization released poll results on a drop in support by American Jews for President Obama in the November 6th election. Support for Obama dropped 10 points to 64% among American Jews, while Governor Romney the presumptive GOP captured support of 29%. To Matthew Hausman this is still delusional given the facts of how President Obama’s policies have isolated Israel, the Jewish state. To his reckoning, more American Jews should have abandoned their traditional attachment to the Democratic party. Are they equivalent of people who have their eyes wide open but shut on Israel when it comes to American Presidential preferences? In an Israpundit article, “To Obama: Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me”, Hausman presents the evidence of Obama’s isolation of Israel. That raises the question of why American Jews still support President Obama. Hopefully this piece might change some minds.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon[Return to headlines]

Rodney King Dead at 47

Los Angeles (CNN) — Rodney King, whose beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 was caught on camera and sparked riots after the acquittal of the four officers involved, was found dead in his swimming pool Sunday, authorities and his fiancee said. He was 47.

Police in Rialto, California, received a 911 call from King’s fiancee, Cynthia Kelly, about 5:25 a.m., said Capt. Randy DeAnda. Responding officers found King at the bottom of the pool, removed him and attempted to revive him. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital, DeAnda said.

There were no preliminary signs of foul play, he said, and no obvious injuries on King’s body. Police are conducting a drowning investigation, DeAnda said, and King’s body would be autopsied.

“His fiancee heard him in the rear yard,” he said, and found King in the pool when she went outside.

Kelly was a juror in King’s lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles in 1994.

[Return to headlines]

Syrian Rebels Went to Washington Asking for Weapons

(AGI) London — Last week, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) met in Washington with high ranging officers of the Obama administration. According to Web site of the UK paper Daily Telegraph, the White House is under increasing pressure to authorize shipments of weapons, including the surface-to-air Stinger missiles, to fight against Bashar al Assad’s regime.

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

White House Adviser Rebuffs Questions on Leak Probe, Amid Warnings of Security Risk

A top White House official clammed up Sunday under questioning about the extent of President Obama’s involvement in investigating his administration’s security leaks — even as officials warned the leaks are so severe as to potentially trigger a cyber-attack by Iran.

Further, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., on “Fox News Sunday,” put added pressure on the administration over the leaks by breaking with the president and calling for a special counsel to investigate.

The two U.S. attorneys chosen from the Justice Department to investigate, Lieberman said, are “not enough” to avoid “any appearance of conflict of interest.”

The investigation — along with bipartisan concerns about that investigation — is getting underway going into the height of campaign season. To that backdrop, White House adviser David Plouffe claimed on “Fox News Sunday” that the back-and-forth amounts to a “game of distraction.”

He urged lawmakers to let the current Justice Department investigation run its course. Yet Plouffe also declined to answer two keys questions about that investigation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Finland: “I Will Try to be as Wise as King Solomon’, Quips Possible Presidential Candidate Soini

Interview with a rising star in Finnish political firmament

Nobody can deny that rather bad news for the Pope and the Vatican have been coming from Ireland for some time, a country that normally used to be known as a bastion of Catholicism. But this time here is a good news: a leading Finnish politician, Perussuomalaiset or (lit.: True) Finns Party’s chairman Timo Soini, started his path to conversion to the Catholic faith precisely in Ireland in 1987. Soini is on record for the exceptional surge of his party during the last general elections in April 2011, winning 39 seats (19%) as against their previous five on a platform based on “the right” for all members of society “to a life of human dignity”, as proclaimed in the English resume of the parliament’s official website. “We are an independent, nationally minded party that presents an alternative and serves as a counterweight to non-criticism of the EU”, the resume goes on, “standing on a foundation of Christian-social values”. But Soini is a bit more specific in his Finnish blog, when he says that he needs “nobody’s permission to be pro-life” and that “marriage should only be between a man and a woman”. No wonder that his party’s overwhelming success has revolutionized Finland’s political scenario, in the short term by virtually forcing an “unholy alliance” between the social democrats and the traditional right wing conservative Kokoomus National Coalition Party for Soini to be kept out of government, and in the medium term with regard to the January 2012 presidential elections, whose most polled candidates are at present Kokoomus Sauli Niinistö (60%) and Timo Soini himself (11%). For the first time, therefore, it would seem that no socialist candidate will have a chance to successfully stand for the 2012 presidential election.

Timo Soini kindly acceded our request for an interview.

Q. Are you a cradle or convert Catholic? And if you are a convert, can you tell something about the circumstances of your conversion?

A. I am a convert. I converted, or started my path to conversion, in Ireland in 1987 while I was interrailing there. I had an experience in a Church in the south east part of Ireland and after that I came back to Finland. But I had been thinking about conversion earlier, because John Paul II was very brave to talk of the sacredness of human life and against abortion. After this Irish connection I attended an eight month course here in Finland and was taken into full communion with the Catholic Church in May 1988.

Q. How is your Catholic faith impacting or influencing your political activity in a predominantly non-Catholic, Lutheran , secularist or even atheist context? Is it a facilitating factor or a hindrance?

A. No, it has not actually been an obstacle, or a hindrance as you say. Although we are only some 10 000 Catholics here and I have been openly Catholic and everybody knows where I stand on these moral issues, that I am against euthanasia and abortion, but it does not matter, because people think that if you are genuine in your faith, they don’t care.

Q. What implications, if any, is having the Norwegian tragedy on the Finnish political milieu?…

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

France: FN in Parliament, Young Le Pen Ready to Return

Disobedience by Socialist favours blond Marion

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — Half a century after the entry of a far-right MP into France’s lower chamber, by the name of Jean-Marie Le Pen, granddaughter of the grand old man of the right, Marion, could revive the family’s political traditional association with the Front National, France’s far right party.

In a vote that appears to ensure a comfortable majority for the left with the Socialist party verging on 289 seats, and with them the absolute control of the National Assembly, all eyes are on the party that, after its 35 MPs granted by proportional voting in 1986 — this time round could have just three seats in Parliament. Polls say that the Front National could get between nought and three seats. The three candidates in question are the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, controversial lawyer Gilbert Collard and the very young, smiling blond Marion.

Her aunt, who beat sworn enemy of the far left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, forcing him to give up, could not have done better.

Despite her 42.2%, the candidate faces the challenge of Socialist Philippe Kemel, in whose favour Mélenchon withdrew in a bid to win votes from across the left. The challenge facing Marine is a tough one, but not mission impossible, like that of lawyer Collard. Having come from the first round with smaller lead than that of his party leader, he is now wedged in a tight three-cornered race against Ump candidate, Etienne Mourrut, who could drain his support.

But the road ahead of the young Marion Maréchal-Le Pen seems to be free: she faces a three-cornered fight of her own in the South, in Vaucluse, but against an outgoing Ump MP, Jean-Michel Ferrand, and Catherine Arkilovitch, a Socialist candidate who refused to stand down as her leadership called for, in favour of a ‘republican front’. Ms Arkilovitch has confirmed herself for the second round, disobeying party bosses. The result can be seen in the most recent polls, that put Marion Le Pen as favourite. A final attempt by the Secretary of the Socialist party, Martine Aubry, to convince her candidate to step down, has failed today. 22-year-old law student Marion, who has a feisty character, is the daughter of Marine’s elder sister Yann and of Samuel Maréchal, a former Front Youth leader. Over recent years she has cut her political teeth at local elections in Saint-Cloud, the family power base on the outskirts of Paris, moving on to regional politics. But this is her debut on a national scale: “I have been in the Front National since I was 17: I can remember how they used to spit at me at school and lock me in the toilets” she recalls. Although very keen to distinguish herself from her family and show her independence, her ‘parachuting’ onto the family’s political patch has aided her task, while in the Carpentras constituency, which is part of Marion’s the Front beat its national record on April 22 in the first round of the presidential elections, with 31.5%. The road back to the lower house seems like a smooth one.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

French Socialists Win Absolute Majority in Parliament

French President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party and its allies won an absolute majority in the National Assembly, exit polls showed, paving the way for them to pass legislation without the aid of other members of parliament. The Socialist bloc won 320 out of the 577 seats, pollster CSA said, with 289 needed for a majority. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement party and its allies have 221 seats, CSA said, and the anti-euro National Front won two seats.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Golden Dawn in Difficulty, Will Not Repeat Success

Neo-Nazis got 21 seats on May 6, too many incidents since

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 15 — On Sunday the Greek far-right party Chysi Avgi (which translates as “Golden Dawn” and which many consider to be explicitly pro-Nazi) is unlikely to achieve as much success as it did in the May 6 elections, when it raked in 6.97% of votes and 21 seats in Parliament. Over the past month, Chrysi Avgi has been behind such a large number of attacks and bullying that it has alienated much of the support it had seen in the last elections.

This is the opinion held by a number of Greek analysts and political commentators, who say that the unexpected success of Golden Dawn came after what has been called the “elections of rage”, in which — as a reaction against traditional parties — voters opted for more extremist parties out of spite. For example, Chrysi Avgi surpassed by a wide margin on the right the party Laos (considered a bastion of the most reactionary right in Greece), which did not get past the 3% threshold to make it into Parliament, where in the 2009 parliamentary elections it had obtained 15 seats. The extreme, hard-line stance against crime, illegal immigration (with proposals to bury mines along the country’s borders) and the forced expulsion of clandestine migrants undoubtedly initially helped to attract to Chrysi Avghi’s lists the votes of a tired and confused electorate, and above all one angry with the parties seen as those which brought the country to collapse, whether out of incompetence or corruption. Dressed in black and with shaved heads and their Swastika-style logo, Golden Dawn militants collected their votes through patient and daily work in the areas of the city where criminality spreads undisturbed and inhabitants are exasperated.

For weeks they handed out food, clothes and shoes to the poor, sending a message based on security and cleanliness. However, the violence inherent in their ideology exploded immediately after the elections. On May 17, the group’s 21 MPs elected went into Parliament in military formation with their leader Nikos Michaloliakos in the lead. A few evenings before, pro-Nazi militants had thrown pamphlets on the sidewalks of the Athens neighbourhood of Gazi, where there are a number of clubs frequented by the capital’s homosexual community, with threatening messages to gay people. In an interview, Golden Dawn secretary general Stavros Theodorakis said that homosexuals are “a sick and abnormal part of Greek society.” A few days later, serious incidents broke out in Patras (a port city in western Greece) between policemen and inhabitants of the zone, where a 29-year-old Greek man had been killed by three clandestine immigrants of Afghan origins. Members of Chrysi Avgi blocked the entrance of an abandoned building where immigrants had sought refuge, throwing stones and other objects at the police who tried to disperse them. And on June 7, during a live television broadcast on the private TV station Antenna, Chrysi Avgi spokesman and MP Ilias Kasidiaris threw a glass of water at Rena Dourou, Mp from the SYRIZA party (radical left), and then slapped and punched Liana Kanelli, an MP from the Communist party. The footage was seen around the world via the internet, and all of Greece’s political world condemned the incident. The violent MP then — who immediately after the act of aggression had fled in order to avoid being arrested and sentenced in a summary trial — went on to file a report against his victims, saying that he had been defamed by them during the television broadcast.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: A Fire Threatens Athens, Hundreds of Firefighters in Action

(AGI)Athens-Hundreds of firefighters and volunteers are trying to extinguish the flames of a huge fire that is threatening Athens. The fire has already destroyed an extended part of countryside around Athens. Greece turned to Italy to ask for a reinforcement of fire-fighting aircraft and made the same requesto to France and Croatia. The flames are menacingly close to the capital where crucially important elections are being held today, like in all other Greek cities. The fire has already reached the suburbian district of Pallini, where it destroyed a school.

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

Italy: Anarchist Suspects’ Arrest Hailed as Victory for State

Big operation targets two extremist groups

(ANSA) — Rome, June 13 — Italian police on Wednesday arrested a number of people suspected of involvement in a series of attacks by anarchists in recent years in an operation that was hailed as a victory for the State.

Investigators said the big operation targeted the Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI) and another leftist group called the International Revolutionary Front (FRI).

They said eight people were arrested in Italy and two people already being detained abroad were also served arrest warrants.

The arrested people are suspected of involvement in numerous attacks, including letter bombs sent last year to Italian tax-collection agency Equitalia, Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt and the Greek Embassy in Paris.

The FAI also claimed responsibility for the May 7 shooting in the leg of Ansaldo Nucleare CEO Roberto Adinolfi in Genoa, an attack which sparked fears Italy risked seeing a return of the political violence it endured in the 1970s.

However, the investigators said that, for the moment, none of the 10 arrested people are suspected of involvement in that shooting.

“It (the operation) represents an important achievement for the State against the anarchist-insurrectionist threat obtained thanks to the precious investigative work of the police and magistrates,” said Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri. The minister added that she had called the police to congratulate them on a “brilliant operation”.

Her comments were echoed by the policeman in charge of the Perugia-based operation.

“It is a response from the State to the anarchist-insurrectionist aggression,” said Giampaolo Ganzer. He said that the investigation had uncovered the brains behind the attacks and the people who actually carried them out.

He added that officers had seized material that could be used to make explosives during searches of a number of homes.

He said the arrested people were suspected of belonging to a group that had the same “organisational nature” as the one behind the Adinolfi shooting, but stressed that the investigations were separate. The foreigners served warrants were a Swiss man already in jail in his homeland and a Spaniard being held in Germany. Ganzer said the investigation has uncovered strong links between Italian and Greek anarchist extremists. He said 24 people in addition to the 10 arrested were under investigation, including six Greeks who are already in custody.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat CEO Said Company Will Cut Europe Investments

Madrid, 15 June (AKI) — Fiat, the Italian carmaker which controls Chrysler, is cutting investments in Europe by 500 million euros on expectations that the region’s auto market won’t recover in the second half.

“The capital expenditure reduction is about half a billion euros from what we planned last year for 2012 in Europe,” Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said late Thursday in an interview in Madrid, where he’s heading the annual gathering of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA. A recovery in Europe “depends on many factors: first Greece, then the way in which the Euro currency will continue and what Europe will do to sustain growth.”

Fiat, which owns 58.5 percent in Chrysler, has stopped additional investments and postponed the introduction of new models in Europe. Marchionne, who also runs Chrysler, plans to eventually merge Fiat and the American carmaker in a bid to increase sales to more than 100 billion euros by 2014 and reduce the Italian manufacturer’s reliance on Europe.

Marchionne said that the new Grande Punto model, which was originally scheduled to be built beginning in 2013, “is one of the projects we are reconsidering in line with the changes” of the market in Europe. Fiat is discussing partnerships “with several people, and in some cases our architectures, including the one for the Punto, are involved in the talks,” he said.

European carmaker CEOs meeting in Madrid haven’t made any progress on a common plan to address the region’s overcapacity issues, Marchionne said.

“I think my proposal will just remain a Marchionne idea,” he said. “If there’s no coordination by the European Union,” every carmaker in Europe will “do it by itself,” he said before a gala dinner with the other executives.

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

Italy: Maroni: Sack the Abusive and Disastrous Government

(AGI) Verona — Roberto Maroni said the Lega Nord wants to ‘sack’ the Monti government, which is abusive and disastrous.

Speaking on the sidelines of the ‘No IMU day’ held by the Lega in Verona, he explained: “They should be fired starting with Fornero. We want to dismiss this government. We are not afraid of early elections, because the people, the sovereignty of the people, is always right.” Maroni said that the government “is abusive, disastrous, and is pillaging the north and is only interested in Salerno-Reggio Calabria.” This is a government that should be immediately removed,” he added, launching an appeal “to all northern MPs of the other parties to fight together with us against this government of lies and social disaster.” .

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

Italy: Bossi: Sooner or Later We Will Begin Road Towards Secession

(AGI) Verona — The Lega Nord party and citizens of northern Italy will soon set out on the road towards secession, the party leader, Umberto Bossi, has said to around a thousand supporters attending the “No IMU day” (a reference to the newly introduced property tax) in Verona. Bossi suggested a new motto — “I remember” — borrowed from activists in Quebec.

“Napolitano, Monti, we will all remember you,” Bossi said, explaining that “your shoddiness will not be forgotten” and that “nothing will be permitted to those who colonise the north”. Bossi continued: “These people say ‘secession will never happen’ but sooner or later we will all march together, me at the front and the others behind, and we’ll see whether or not it happens”. The Lega Nord leader then revealed that “you will receive big news in the next few days”, but refused to reveal what this would entail. “We’re not giving it to you today because there are journalists here and they don’t know how to write,” he said.

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

Italy: Maroni Vows Padania to Care for Displaced Workers

(AGI) Verona — Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto will carry out a common action to support the 330,000 displaced workers. This will constitute the proof that “the macro-region of Padania exists”. The announcement came from Roberto Maroni, speaking from the stage of “No IMU Day” with two governors, Luca Zaia and Roberto Cota present as well. “The regions will take on their load, that of these 330,000 families which the Monti government has put out on the street, either by mistake or perhaps because of a precise decision which is worse, because it is a social crime,” Maroni attacked. “We will take on the task, Padania will assume the job, the three regions together, the macro-region of Padania which is there and proves its existance with this initiative,” he added, explaining that, “the Northern League is the only force able to face and resolve these problems.” Continuing on the matter of displaced workers Maroni added that, “we have already sent a letter sacking Fornero, a no-confidence vote which will be discussed in the next few days,” but the League hopes that all of the government, “goes home, because they are dunces, not professors.” ..

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

Nearly 2,000 Tons of Fake Organic Soy Seized in Italy

‘Contaminated’ products contained twice the limit of GMOs

(ANSA) — Ravenna, June 14 — Police on Thursday seized over 1,700 tons of genetically modified soy that was advertized in Italy as organic. The products, which police said came from Eastern Europe, had twice the limit of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) reccomended by food authorities. Roughly 500 tons of what police called contaminated soy were found in the northern city of Ravenna, while 1,200 tons were seized elsewhere in the sweep.

Ravenna prosecutors said 12 people were under investigation for fraud, mainly in the northern Veneto and Lombardy regions. Italian farmers’ association Colidiretti advised consumers to “buy organic products directly from producers, from wholesale stands and farmers’ markets with the Campagna Amica mark, which guarantees the food’s national origin”. In the past 12 years, organic sales have tripled in Italy, up from one billion euros in 2000 to more than three billion today, growing at a rate of 9% per year, according to Colidiretti.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pope to Irish: Child Abuse by Clergy ‘A Mystery’

Pope Benedict XVI told Irish Catholics on Sunday it is a mystery why priests and other church officials abused children entrusted in their care, undermining faith in the church “in an appalling way.”

By describing the decades of child abuse in Catholic parishes, schools and church-run institutions and parishes in Ireland as a “mystery,” the pontiff could further anger rank-and-file faithful in Ireland.

Benedict commented on the scandals of sexual abuse and cover-ups by church hierarchy in a pre-recorded video message for an outdoor Mass attended by 75,000 Catholics, many from overseas, in Ireland’s largest sports stadium. Ireland’s prime minister and president attended the Mass, the final event of a Eucharistic Congress aimed at shoring up flagging faith.

The weeklong Eucharistic Congress, held by the Vatican every four years in a different part of the world, took place against a backdrop of deep anger over child abuse cover-ups and surveys showing declining weekly Mass attendance in Ireland, where church and state were once tightly entwined.

“How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?” said the pope, referring to church staff who abused children.

“It remains a mystery,” he said. “Yet evidently their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ. It had become merely a matter of habit.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Soccer: Croatia Fans ‘Threw Banana at Balotelli’

UEFA already probing Spain fans’ racist chants

(ANSA) — Rome, June 15 — Croatia fans allegedly threw a banana at Italy striker Mario Balotelli when he was substituted during a 1-1 draw with the Croats at Euro 2012 Thursday, the international media said Friday.

A photo of a match official picking up the banana was published across the world.

UEFA, which is already investigating alleged racist chants against the Italo-Ghanaian striker during the Azzurri’s opening 1-1 draw with Spain and has said it will come down hard on racism at the championships, has yet to comment on the banana incident.

In the run-up to the tournament the 21-year-old Balotelli said he would kill anyone who threw a banana at him in the street.

He also said he would walk off the field if he heard any racist chants against him, prompting coach Cesare Prandelli to say he would pull the Manchester City man off himself.

Balotelli was also targeted by the Neo-Nazi Web site Stormfront after it emerged during the Azzurri’s pre-tournament visit to Auschwitz that his adoptive mother has Jewish roots.

A BBC documentary aired shortly before Euro 2012 claimed racism was rife among Polish and Ukrainian fans.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Try to Take Baby From EDL Mother But Not From ‘Terrorists’?

SOCIAL workers want to seize a baby as soon as it is born because they are concerned about the mother’s violent links to the English Defence League.

Durham County Council has told Toni McLeod she would pose a “risk of ­significant harm” to the baby. Social workers fear the child would become radicalised with EDL views and want it put up for adoption immediately.

Mrs McLeod, who is 35 weeks pregnant, is a former leading member of the EDL, in which she was notorious as “English Angel”. The 25-year-old has a string of convictions for violence, including butting and biting a police officer after an EDL march in 2010 and she has been banned from owning dogs after setting a pit bull on a former partner.

However, her cause has been taken up by Lib Dem MP John Hemming who, despite his loathing for the EDL, raised it in the Commons. He contrasts her treatment with that of the extremist Islamic cleric Abu Qatada, who was allowed to remain with his ­children when he was briefly remanded on bail earlier this year as the Government tries to deport him.

He said: “It raises a curious question as to why Abu Qatada is allowed to radicalise his children but the state won’t take the chance of allowing Toni McLeod to look after her baby in case she says something social workers won’t like.

“I am very strongly opposed to the EDL, which I believe to be a racist organisation, but I do not think we should remove all of the children of the people who go on their demonstrations, however misguided they may be.”

Mrs McLeod has posted racist abuse on social networking sites but denies being racist. She claims she is no longer active with the EDL and has never been charged with violence against children.

Social workers have told her husband Martyn he would be unable to care for his child because he is a full-time soldier just back from Afghanistan.

Mr Hemming, who chairs the Justice For Families campaign group, said yesterday: “This case is one where the ‘thought police’ have decided to remove her baby at birth because of what she might say to the baby. I wonder what the baby’s father is thinking when he fights for a country which won’t allow him to have a child because of what the child’s mother might say.

“Toni now accepts she was wrong to have gone on EDL demonstrations but freedom of speech means nothing if people are not allowed to say things that are thought to be wrong.”

Mrs McLeod wants to move to ­Ireland for the birth to avoid England’s social services. Rifleman McLeod, 31, plans to request a transfer to Northern Ireland so he can be with his child.

Durham County Council told Mrs McLeod on Friday her unborn baby was being placed on its child protection register. Last month, a judge ruled that her three other children, who have different fathers, should be permanently removed from her care.

The Sunday Express is unable to give details of the judge’s explanation for legal reasons.

Documents seen by the Sunday Express reveal social workers are worried about Mrs McLeod’s previous alcohol and drug misuse, her “aggressive behaviour” and her alleged “mental health issues” .

They concede she is no longer involved with the EDL but believe she is now involved with a splinter group, the North West Infidels. The social worker’s report states: “Toni clearly needs to break away from the inappropriate friendships she has through either the EDL or break-off group in order that she can model and display appropriate positive relationships to the baby as he/she grows and develops.

“Toni has been a prominent member of the EDL. They claim they are a peaceful group, however, they have strong associations with violence and racism.”

Mr McLeod said: “Toni would never harm a child.”

The council said it was unable to comment.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

US Deserter in Sweden Steps Forward After 28 Years

Family is overwhelmed that he is still alive

STOCKHOLM — A U.S. Air Force deserter who has lived secretly in Sweden since 1984 has revealed his identity and contacted his family in the United States who were overwhelmed to hear he was still alive, a Swedish newspaper reported at the weekend.

Dagens Nyheter said David Hemler had deserted aged 21 while serving at a U.S. Air Force base in Germany, after getting involved with a pacifist church and becoming disillusioned with the policies of former President Ronald Reagan.

He hitchhiked via Denmark to Sweden where he settled down, living under an assumed name for the last 28 years and not revealing his true identity to anyone.

“I never planned on not telling the truth in the beginning. I intended to come to Sweden until I felt better (after his experience in the airforce), I expected a week or so,” Hemler told the newspaper in a video on its website.

Now aged 49, he is married to a woman from Thailand, has three children and works for a Swedish government agency, but would not let the newspaper print his assumed name.

After his desertion, he became one of the U.S. Air Force’s eight most wanted fugitives, according to the newspaper, and had expected at any time to be arrested by military police with both Interpol and Europol looking for him.

Hemler told the newspaper he had missed his parents after he deserted but went on to have a child and had not wanted to be separated from her.

He had decided to come forward after his third daughter turned two and could go to day care, so his wife would be better able to cope if he was arrested.

He first contacted his U.S. family four weeks ago, speaking to his brother Thomas who was in Massachusetts at the time on a business trip.

“I heard immediately it was David, even if he had a strange European accent after all these years,” Thomas Hemler, who lives in New Jersey, was quoted on Sunday as saying.

He said he had asked questions to confirm the man was indeed his brother David. Members of his family in the United States are now planning to visit him in Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Woman Killed by Pack of Wolves in Swedish Zoo

A female employee of the Kolmården zoo in central Sweden was mauled to death in the wolf enclosure on Sunday morning. A crisis group assembled to provide support for Kolmården’s employees, and the woman’s relatives have been notified, reported news agency TT.

The incident occurred just after 11 am on Sunday morning. According to eye-witness reports, the woman went into the enclosure, was surrounded and then attacked, wrote the Aftonbladet newspaper. Emergency services were alerted at 11.11 am, and were initially unable to approach the woman.

“You can’t just go in to a pack of wolves. Police and ambulance staff couldn’t get close to the victim until later,” said Norrköping’s emergency services coordinator Jan Tengeborg to the newspaper.

According to Aftonbladet, emergency services are currently attempting to sedate the other wolves nearby. “It’s very unusual for something like this to happen, but it has happened before,” Olof Liberg, wolf expert at Sweden’s University of Agricultural Sciences (Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, SLU) said to TT. “Zoo animals aren’t afraid of humans and accidents can happen,” he continued.

Liberg has yet to familiarize himself with this specific case, but said that accidents like this one often occur because of a breach in routine, and notes that wolves are especially dangerous when a zookeeper goes in alone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Serbs Protest Against New Number Plate Law

‘We don’t want to live in a ghetto’

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA/BELGRADE, JUNE 15 — Hundreds of Serbs have been demonstrating today in northern Kosovo against a ban on Serb number plates on cars registered in Kosovar areas. The Pristina authorities have imposed hefty fines and the seizure of vehicles on those who continue to drive with their old number plates, which were issued by the Serb authorities for the Kosovo region. In order to comply with the regulations, cars have to be re-registered at a central office and be issued with new plates containing the letters KS or RKS (Republic of Kosovo). A convoy of around 300 cars with Serb plates travelled to the border posts with Serbia of Jarinje and Brnjak, where protest letters were handed over to the representatives of the European Eulex mission and of the NATO Kfor contingent. The cars bore Serb flags and posters with slogans such as “Stop assimilation”, “We have Serb documents; we don’t want Kosovo ones”, ‘Respect UN Resolution 1244”. All of the vehicles had Serb plates or their KS and RKS symbols were crossed through. “We want Eulex and Kfor to be our partners, but we cannot accept that the Serb community be relegated to a ghetto. Kfor closes our roads and supports the Pristina government in its assimilation of the Serbs”. The words came from Radenko Nedeljkovic, head of the municipal assembly for the northern sector of Kosovska Mitrovica, a Serb enclave.

The protest passed off without incident. Local police report that so far ten duplicates of old plates have been seized, while five million Serbs, most of whom live in the North, have registered and put the new plates on their cars.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Imam of Tunis Mosque, Blasphemous Artists Must Die

Houcine Laabidi: Their blood must flow

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JUNE 15 — As the city of Tunis recovers amid tensions from the wave of Salafi violence of the past days, a video is doing the rounds of the web in which Cheich Houcine Laabidi, the Imam of the Zitouna mosque, the most important mosque in the Maghreb, states that artist who create blasphemous works are “infidel” and therefore should “be killed and their blood be spilled”.

The wave of Salafi violence was triggered by an exhibition in an art gallery in Marsa (a municipality in the North of the capital), of works considered to be insulting of Islam and an attack on correct behaviour. The request to kill the artists involved was reiterated three times by Mr Laabidi during a sermon he delivered yesterday.

The mosque of Zitouna has only recently been authorised to recommence its teaching activities, after its school was marginalised first by Bourghiba and then by Ben Ali.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya Deploys Troops to Stop Clashes in Western Region

The National Transitional Council has ordered the military to use “all means necessary” to end clashes in Libya’s west. Tripoli also called for the creation of humanitarian corridors and a fact-finding mission.

Libya’s transitional government on Saturday declared the west of the vast north-African country a military zone, deploying troops to impose a ceasefire on rival groups that have engaged in lethal clashes over the past six days.

The clashes between fighters from the town of Zintan and members of the El-Mashashia tribe have killed 14 people and wounded another 89 this week, the interim government reported on Wednesday. Last December, fighting between the two groups killed four people.

The tensions stem from the 2011 uprising that toppled former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was shot dead by rebels in October. While fighters in Zintan helped liberate Tripoli and captured Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam, the El-Mashashia tribe chose not to join the rebellion.

“As a result of the violence in the areas of Mizdah, Sheguiga and Zintan which has killed innocent people, the interim government… orders all parties to immediately stop their fire,” Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib’s office said in a release.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sahara: CEN-SAD: Meeting in Rabat, Fight on Terrorism Priority

Organisation looking for new sponsors after Gaddafi’s death

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, JUNE 12 — The absence of Gaddafi is felt these days in Rabat. After three days of talks in Morocco’s administrative capital, yesterday the community of Sahel-Saharan states (CEN-SAD) presented its new political agenda. The first point is the fight against terrorism, trans-border crime — drugs and arms trafficking in particular — and separatist movements that currently pose a risk to the stability of the entire area.

The community has also decided to form a security council as part of the African organisation. But how and where CEN-SAD will find the necessary funds to carry out its plans is an open question, where its main sponsor used to be Muammar Gaddafi.

“But now that the colonel is dead,” sources in the Moroccan foreign ministry told ANSAmed in confidence, “the question everybody is asking is, who is going to pay for this?”. The many African reporters present at the closing of the conference are skeptical, showing little faith in the re-launch of CEN-SAD. “People in Africa do a lot of talking,” said a reporter from Guinea, “but the word few people know is ‘concreteness”‘. Some have suggested that Morocco, which is trying to gain regional leadership, may become one of the organisation’s main sponsors. This idea was also suggested by the national and international press in the past days. The delegates united in Rabat have stressed the importance of the meeting in Morocco, which they see as “an important step” in the reformation of the organisation, still disoriented by the tragic death of Gaddafi.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Treatment for Injured Libyans at Military Hospital

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JUNE 14- Twenty-two injured Libyans are receiving treatment at the Military Medical Academy (VMA) in Belgrade, and the protocol signed between Serbian and Libyan medical corps also envisages various trainings for doctors from the two countries.

The protocol was signed during a visit paid by the delegation of the health care administration at the Libyan Defence Ministry and military hospitals in Tripoli and talks with representatives of the Libyan medical corps.

Head of the VMA Treatment Department Colonel Stevan Sikimic said that the Serbian authorities agreed with the Libyan side to facilitate participation of the VMA professionals in the treatment and organization of Libya’s health care centers.

“The protocol covered the treatment of Libyan patients, so it was agreed that those who suffered injuries in the recent war should from time to time come to Serbia in groups so as to receive an adequate treatment,” he specified.

“In addition to this, the protocol envisages that Libyan medical corps should receive various trainings at the VMA,” he noted.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Cover-Up Campaign Hits Gulf Streets: Activists in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates Encourage Expatriates to Dress Modestly and Respect Local Culture

The ‘One Of Us’ campaign aims to educate expatriates living in Qatar about wearing appropriate dress

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. That is the message of two campaigns started by local women in the Gulf countries of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Najla Al Mahmoud is a Qatari behind the “One of Us” public awareness push, which hopes to educate expatriates about appropriate dress. Specifically, she wants people — men and women — in her country to cover up between the shoulders and the knees. During the summer “the scene of exposed flesh increases”, Al Mahmoud said. “We are offended by this… but we are sure that people don’t know and we are sure that people will respect this. Why wouldn’t they? We want to educate them.”

Most local women in Qatar and the UAE wear an abaya, a black garment that covers most of the body. The men wear the kandura, which tends to be ankle-length and a shade of white.

The “UAE Dress Code” campaign, started by locals Hanan Al Rayes and Asma Al Muhairi, began out of disgust at the sight of foreigners dressed in what they deemed to be inappropriate attire, according to media reports. “Whether you like it or not, this country has its own culture that shd be respected & protected by its own people,” read one of their recent tweets…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Kuwait: Labour Minister Resigns, More Could Follow

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JUNE 13 — The government of Kuwait is hanging on a fine thread following the resignation of two ministers in just a few days and with the chance of more threatening to do the same: four months after the formation of the current cabinet, the fourth in six years following the anticipated elections in February, the Labour and social affairs minister Ahmad Al Rajib resigned yesterday. A week ago it had been the Finance minister, Mustafa Al Shamali.

Ready to follow in their footsteps, according to newspaper Gulf News, are apparently the minister of Petrol, of Water and electric resources, of Information, Commerce, Education, Communication, Justice and Islamic Affairs.

The spark which ignited this latest crisis has been the request to appear in court for eight ministers of the current parliament, in order to clear some issues regarding their work.

The requests could potentially end with a confidence vote to which as a tradition the ministers do not subject themselves to and avoid with their resignation.

The issues between legislative and executive powers, which many agree are the factor paralyzing reforms in the rich emirate, might be able to find a solution in agreeing to the opposition’s requests which dominate the parliament: to insert opposition members into the current government.

There was a failed attempt after the elections in February: while the government proposed four members in the ministers’ council, the opposition had asked for nine.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia Wants More German Tanks: Report

A German newspaper has reported that a controversial Saudi-German deal for Leopard battle tanks is more than twice as big as planned. Some in Berlin are said to have misgivings.

The German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag quoted government sources as saying Saudi Arabia now wants to buy 600-800 Leopard-2 tanks from Germany.

That’s more than double the number originally envisaged. Previous reports had said the Saudis wanted around 300 tanks.

The paper said the deal for up to 800 tanks would be worth 10 billion euros ($12.6 billion). That would make it one of the biggest ever for the German defence industry.

According to the report, a deal for a first tranche of 300 tanks is ready for signing. The paper quoted industry sources as saying that Saudi Arabia wants the deal concluded before July 20, when the Muslim festival of Ramadan begins.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: Russian Military Ship En Route to Tartus

(AGI) Washington- The US Pentagon is monitoring a Russian ship, Nikolay Flichenkov. The vessel left the Russian naval base of Sebastopolis in the Blask Seas on 7 June and is sailing towards the Syrian port of Tartus, the only one open to Russia in the Meditteranean. According to US intelligence, the vessels is carrying arms and a small contingent of troops.

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


Russian Opposition Parties Form United Front Against Putin

Members of the liberal opposition in Russia have entered into a political coalition to challenge President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power. They are calling for the release of political prisoners and new elections.

Two Russian opposition parties joined forces on Saturday hoping to create a united front against President Vladimir Putin, in the wake of the largest anti-Kremlin protests in over a decade.

The People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS) and the Republican Party of Russia (RPR) united to create a political coalition called the RPR-PARNAS. Both parties have been the target of President Putin’s crackdown on the political opposition in the past.

PARNAS was banned from participating in the December 2011 parliamentary elections, which ignited the current protest movement over allegations that electoral fraud handed the ruling United Russia party a legislative majority again. The RPR had lost its legal status in 2007 after a long court battle and was only allowed to re-register last May.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Exports Crushing German Solar Industry

Tough competition, price pressure and dwindling subsidies — these are the woes facing the German solar technology production sector. While the outlook seems grim, some believe that things will improve.

The golden era of the German solar energy sector is over. At its peak, Germany had a 20-percent share of the global solar energy market, but now the figure stands at just 6 percent. After a rapid decline in recent months, more job cuts are expected to hit the industry.

“It has never been this bad,” said German Solar Industry Association head Carsten Körnig at the opening of Intersolar, the world’s largest solar energy trade fair, in Munich. And this despite the fact that last year, more photovoltaic systems were installed around the world than ever before.

The main reason for these losses is a dramatic price decline.

“Despite growing demand in recent years, production capacity has increased even faster, and this of course leads to huge price pressure,” Körnig told DW.

China in particular has been rapidly developing its solar industry. In March 2011 it declared solar energy a key market in its five-year economic plan. As a result, Chinese companies in this sector receive affordable state loans and special privileges for purchasing raw materials and energy. In the last 10, years the country has increased its global solar market share from virtually nothing to more than 50 percent.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Several Victims as Blasts Hit Two Churches in Nigeria

(AGI) Kano- Blasts were reported at two different churches in Nigeria, according to the country’s authorities. The explosions, according to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, occurred in Wusasa and Sabon-Gari, in the Zaria district, locations which have recently become targets for the radical Islamist group Boko Haram. Some witnesses claim there were many victims in the Cristo Rey cathedral and Good News Church.

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


Austria: Immigrants Fight Beggars in Salzburg

Austrian police were called after a group of 20 young men all with an immigrant background and armed with sticks laid siege to an abandoned factory in Salzburg where a group of Gypsy beggars had taken up residence.

Police have not yet commented on the reason for the altercation but have confirmed that in general there is a rapidly increasing number of beggars arriving in Austria particularly from Romania.

Two people were lightly injured as the gang of young men tried to smash their way into the building and also threw stones at the windows. The Romanians all believed to be ethnic Roma attempted to stop the men getting in.

A police spokesman said they were investigating over charges of making threats, causing bodily harm and damaging property. He also confirmed that there were several Romanian beggar groups that had taken up residence around the city.

All of the men involved in the incident were from the Lehen part of Salzburg.

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

New Attack Against Immigrants in Israel Causes 1 Injured

(AGI) Tel Aviv — One person was injured in the Nth attack against African immigrants in Tel Aviv. Two people riding a motorcycle launched a powerful petard against a bar frequented by Eritreans that was already targeted last 23rd of May at the end of a protest demonstration calling for “death to Sudanese”.

Since then, the owner of the bar has been constantly threatened, including by people living in the neighborhood.

Tensions were fuelled even further by the irresponsible comments made by political officials who instrumentally associated cases of sexual harassment and rape with the presence of immigrants not holding a regular resident permit.

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