Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120715

Financial Crisis
»France’s Hollande: No to Balanced Budget in Constitution
»Italy: Around 24,000 Italian Civil Servants Set to Lose Jobs
»Monti Reiterates Italy Has Not Requested Financial Aid
»Spain: Gov’t Nationalizes Bank of Valencia
»Spain: Record ECB Loans to Banks Worth 337 Billion
Europe and the EU
»Italy: Over a Third of Italian Families Have Cut Food Spending
»Italy at Risk From Nuke Plants 100 Km From Border
»Italy: Naples Mafia Suspects Arrested Over Gypsy Camp Blaze
North Africa
»Egypt: Mubarak’s Sons in New Corruption Trial for Insider Trading
»Libya: Sharia Should be Guiding Principle, NTC Says
»Protests as Clinton Holds Meetings in Egypt
»Secularists and Moderate Muslims Against Islamist-Backed Sharia
Middle East
»Soccer: Allowing Veiled Women to Play is ‘Seriously’ Wrong
»Turkey: 94.6 Million Inhabitants by 2050
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Mali: Drunks Get 80 Lashes
»Italy: Four Immigrants Wounded in Milan Machete Attack
Culture Wars
»Gay Iraqis Are Now Eligible for Asylum in the Netherlands

Financial Crisis

France’s Hollande: No to Balanced Budget in Constitution

(AGI) Paris — France will not adopt the “golden rule” of balancing the budget in the Constitution. The statement was made by French President Francois Hollande, who added that the budget rule will be incorporated into an “ordinary legislation”. The Head of the Elysee also revealed that his Government is evaluating the possibility of including a tax increase linked to welfare spending as an anti-deficit measure.

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

Italy: Around 24,000 Italian Civil Servants Set to Lose Jobs

Only 8,000 can retire

(ANSA) — Rome, July 9 — Around 24,000 Italian civil servants are set to lose their jobs in cuts outlined by the public sector spending review.

Around 11,000 of those employees work in government ministries and public bodies that do not have economic functions, while the other 13,000 work for local administrations, according to a technical report on the review. Only 8,000 of those employees have the requirements to obtain early retirement, the report said.

Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government approved measures contained in the spending review that aim to save 26 billion euros in public money over the next three years.

The package must now go before the House.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Monti Reiterates Italy Has Not Requested Financial Aid

(AGI) Aix en Provence — Speaking in Aix-en-Prevence where he met with France’s Finance Minister Pierre Moscovivi, Prime Minister Mario Monti said, “Northern Europe considers Italy has having debts but we have never asked the EFSF or the ESM for a cent”. Monti also added, “We have contributed to the bailouts for Greece, Portugal, Ireland and now also for the Spanish banks, to same extent as France has, and a little less than Germany, and yet we continues to be seen as a country with debts. We have asked for the implementation of a mechanism restricting the difference in spreads.” It was precisely on this issue that an agreement was reached with the French minister.

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

Spain: Gov’t Nationalizes Bank of Valencia

1 bln euro FOBR capital injection

(ANSAMed) — MADRID, JULY 11 — The state has taken over the Bank of Valencia, injecting it with 1 billion euros from the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FOBR), the Spanish National Securities and Exchange Commission said in a communique today.

The state now has 90% control of the bank. FOBR, a banking bailout program initiated by the Spanish government in June 2009, is carrying out an EC-authorized capital increase of 4.99 billion Bank of Valencia shares at 0.2 euros each.

Ex Bank of Valencia managers have been charged with fraud, mismanagement and embezzlement in operations that caused the bank losses of 137 million euros.

The FOBR on June 21 announced it would postpone the sale of Bank of Valencia and CaixaBank until independent auditors come up with a final figure on the total needed to bail out the failed savings and loan banking system in Spain.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Record ECB Loans to Banks Worth 337 Billion

Loans by the ECB multiplied by seven in a year

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — Spanish banks’ borrowing from the European Central Bank jumped by 17% in June compared to the previous month and loans were worth 337,206 billion euros, according to data published today by Bank of Spain.

Loans by the ECB to Spanish banks multiplied by seven in a year, from 14,777 billion euros to the 337,206 billion received in June, when the Spanish government announced its bailout request, the Bank of Spain said.

In the same period, the reliance of Italian banks on EBC loans, which is lower than Spain’s, remained stable.

ECB loans to Spanish financial institutes included 320,036 billion euros in long-term loans, 5 billion more than the previous month. Short-term loans rose from 9.2 billion to 45 billion.

In the same period Spanish banks reduced the volume of their ECB deposits from 36,829 billion to 27,792 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Over a Third of Italian Families Have Cut Food Spending

Spending at discount supermarkets rose in 2011

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JULY 5 — Over a third of families in recession-hit Italy cut their spending on food last year, Istat said on Thursday.

The national statistics agency said 35.8% of households reduced the quantity and-or the quality of the food products they bought in 2011 compared to 2010.

It said the proportion of families who bought their food at discount supermarkets in the less wealthy southern regions of the country went up to 13.1% in 2011, compared to 11.2% in 2010.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy at Risk From Nuke Plants 100 Km From Border

Must not lower our guard, avoid another Fukushima, ISPRA says

(ANSAMed) — ROME — Italy would be exposed to “serious problems” in case of an accident at one of the nuclear power plants near its northern borders, according to a report released today by the Italian Institute for Environmental Research and Protection (ISPRA). The report follows an ISPRA-organized international conference on the results of the stress tests conducted on their nuclear power plants by 15 EU countries, in the aftermath of last year’s meltdown at Fukushima, in Japan.

The nuclear plants nearest Italy are located within a range of 100-200 kilometers from the borders, “the same as the distance between Fukushima and Tokyo: enough to create serious problems in the case of an accident in combination with unfavorable climate conditions,” the report said.

Switzerland has 5 nuclear power plants, of which the closest one to Italy is Muehleberg, 98 kilometers from the border. It generates 320 MW and has been running since 1971. Slovenia’s sole nuclear power plant, at Krsko, is located 130 kilometers from the border and generates 600 MWe. France has 58 nuclear plants in 19 different locations, and its nuclear security agency, ASN, has issued “further recommendations on cooling of the core in the event of floods or earthquakes.” Nuclear power companies must make sure their plants have “a zone that is proof against external events” and a keep a task force ready to intervene within 24 hours at each site, the ASN said.

“The stress tests show that all the participating countries have taken significant steps to improve security at their plants,” ISPRA said, adding that “in spite of differences in national approaches, what emerged is the knowledge that we must never lower our guard on nuclear security” if another Fukushima on European soil is to be avoided.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Naples Mafia Suspects Arrested Over Gypsy Camp Blaze

Naples, 10 July (AKI) — Police in southern Italy on Tuesday arrested 18 Naples mafia suspects over an arson attack on a Roma Gypsy encampment.

The suspects face charges of attempted murder, mafia association, extortion and inciting racial hatred over the attack, police said.

The suspects allegedly set fire to the camp in Poggioreale on the outskirts of Naples on 2 December 2010 in a bid to stop Gypsy children attending local schools.

All the suspects are alleged members of the Naples mafia or Camorra’s Casella Circone crime family, known to police for an extortion racket targeting local businessmen, receiving stolen goods and trading in stolen vehicles.

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

North Africa

Egypt: Mubarak’s Sons in New Corruption Trial for Insider Trading

Cairo, 9 July (AKI) — The sons of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak appeared in a Cairo court Monday to face trial for manipulating the stock market after they were acquitted in another graft case.

Gamal, 48, and Alaa Mubarak, 51, were among nine men charged with violating stock market and central bank rules and making unlawful profits through dealing in Egypt’s Al Watany Bank shares.

Dressed in white prison outfits, the pair sat in a steel cage inside the courtroom. Both denied the charges against them.

The Mubaraks’ lawyer Farid el-Deeb asked for his clients to be released, arguing that as they were arrested for a misdemeanour and not a felony, they cannot be imprisoned for more than six months, which they have already served.

In a separate trial, the pair was in June cleared of corruption charges along with their father after the statute of limitations expired. In the same trial, their father was on 2 June jailed for life for complicity in the killing of protesters during the uprising that toppled him from power in February 2011.

Gamal, headed a powerful policy committee in the ruling party under his father and was widely seen as the heir apparent, a perception that stoked popular anger against Mubarak, who came to power in a coup in 1981.

Alaa, the older son, kept a lower profile but is said to have amassed a fortune using his father’s connections.

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

Libya: Sharia Should be Guiding Principle, NTC Says

24 hours ahead of first free elections in 48 years

(ANSAMed) — JULY 6 — Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) urged the constituent assembly that will be elected tomorrow to adopt Sharia law as its guiding principle, just 24 hours ahead of the first free elections in over 40 years.

“The Libyan people are linked to Islam as religion and as legislation,” the NTC said. NTC President Mustapha Abdel Jalil made similar comments in October, when Gaddafi fell, causing diverging reactions among the Western countries who had supported the Libyan insurgents, and Islamic fundamentalists, who judged his position to be too bland.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Protests as Clinton Holds Meetings in Egypt

Cairo (CNN) — Egyptian protesters threw tomatoes and shoes at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s motorcade Sunday and shouted, “Monica, Monica, Monica” as she left the newly reopened U.S. Consulate in Alexandria.

Clinton said she was in the city to answer critics who believe Washington has taken sides in Egyptian politics. There were already vocal protesters at the start of her visit to the consulate, forcing the ceremony to be moved inside.

“I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which, of course, we cannot,” Clinton said at the ceremony to reopen the consulate, which was closed in 1993 because of budget constraints.

“I have come to Alexandria to reaffirm the strong support of the United States for the Egyptian people and for their democratic future.”

The protesters threw the tomatoes, shoes and a water bottle as the staff walked to their vans after the ceremony and riot police had to hold back the crowd. A tomato hit an Egyptian official in the face.

Clinton meets with Morsy in Egypt Clinton’s van was around the corner from the protesters, and a senior State Department official said her car was not hit.

The chants of “Monica” refer to Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who had an affair with Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Earlier Sunday, Clinton held a closed-door meeting with the head of Egypt’s military leadership, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, whose military council is in a political tug of war with new President Mohamed Morsy.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Secularists and Moderate Muslims Against Islamist-Backed Sharia

In Egypt, Salafists want to include direct references to Islamic law in the constitution. Al-Azhar University, state institutions and moderate forces oppose them. Islamists are losing support among Egyptians who do not want to go back to the Middle Ages, Muslim scholar says. In Libya, progressive forces reject religious interference in politics.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Forced into hiding for more than 40 years, Islamists now want to impose their radical vision of Islam in the countries that experienced the Arab spring. In Egypt, Salafist members of the constituent assembly are pushing to change the first three articles of the constitution in order to add direct references to Sharia. If this is done, Egypt would become a religious state. In Tunisia, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali spoke at his party’s congress, Ennahda (Muslim Brotherhood), where he said that the new constitution would be inspired by Islamic principles but would remain secular and democratic. Libya is the exception. Progressives within Mohammed Jibril’s National Forces Alliance (NFA), which emerged as the first political force in recent elections to the constituent assembly, said emphatically that religion would be kept out of politics in order to build a secular and democratic state based on the rule of law, not judgements of religious authorities. Still even in Libya, the NFA’s position has proven divisive for some former members of the National Transitional Council (NTC). A few days ago, former NTC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil said that the new Libya would include refers to Sharia and the Qur’an anyway.

In all these countries, religious minorities, especially Christians, are quite concerned. If Sharia were to be enforced, they would become second class citizens. Muslims too would be at risk. In Egypt and Tunisia, a majority of voters backed the Muslim Brotherhood in reaction to the “secular” regimes of Mubarak and Ben Alì; nevertheless, they are deeply worried about radical shifts that might plunge post-Arab spring nations back into a Muslim Middle Age.

In an interview with AsiaNews, Wael Mohammed Farouq, a professor with the Arabic Language Institute at The American University in Cairo, said, “Islamists are in power, but Egypt has been a secular state for more than 200 years and it will not be easy for politicians to transform the country without clashing with popular opposition. No one wants to turn the country into an Islamic state.” The same goes for Tunisia.

The ongoing battle in Egypt’s constituent assembly centres on amendments to the first three articles of the 1971 constitution. Salafists, who have a big contingent in the assembly, were able to change the first article, adding ‘shura,’ a term used in the Qur’an to refer to consultative bodies, in the section that refers to the democratic basis of the state.

According to Wael Farouq, the real battle will be over the second article, which says, “Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Principles of Islamic law (Sharia) are the principal source of legislation.” Islamists from the al-Nour party want to replace ‘Principles’ with “rulings”, binding legislation to Qur’anic legal opinions.

“Although it refers to Sharia, that article was never applied in 30 years because the constitutional court only relied on general Islamic principles like democracy, justice and freedom. Now Salafists want to change the article and subordinate legislation to legal rulings made by 14th century imams. If that happens, Egypt will turn into a religious state, turning the clock back to the Middle Ages.

For the Muslim scholar, Salafists are facing the opposition of moderate forces, especially the leaders of Al-Azhar University, government institutions and until recently, even the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Al-Azhar is doing everything I can to prevent changes to Article 2,” Farouq said. “As the constitution itself says, it [al-Azhar] is the only institution that can interpret the principles of Islamic law. The Islamic university is respected by all Egyptians and represents moderate islam, but in the future the grand imam could be a Salafist. For this reason, many, including myself, want the article removed so that the state has no religious bases. Society can have a religion, not the institutions of the state.”

The debate that developed in the assembly shows how hard it will be for Salafists to impose their views on today’s moderate islam. “They might get a majority but without support from the various institutions, they will not be able to rule. Despite their power, I do not believe Islamists can get the changes they want. Without such support, the constitution will never be changed. This occurred in recent months, when the constitutional court dissolved the assembly. They same could happen again in the next few days.”

According to Wael Farouq, Libya appears to be an exception to the general rule, and this despite the presence of powerful extremist Muslim groups who rode on the coattails of the anti-Gaddafi revolution. “Progressive and moderate Libyan forces are lucky because they never cooperated with the Gaddafi regime.”

In Egypt, the opposite is true. Most moderates were involved with the regime or collaborated with Mubarak. People voted for the Islamists just to keep out cronies of the old regime. The presidential vote is a case in point. Islamists can claim 24 per cent of support, which is what they got in the first round of vote. About 66 per cent are moderate and want a modern and secular state.

The power of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists suffered a major blow following President Mohammed Morsi’s decision to convene parliament after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled it unconstitutional.

Ordinary Egyptians, who have great respect for the institutions of government, did not take gladly to the new president’s action, Wael Farouq explained. Many saw it as an attempt to hold onto to absolute majority in parliament and avoid a defeat in the next elections.

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

Middle East

Soccer: Allowing Veiled Women to Play is ‘Seriously’ Wrong

Rome, 6 July (AKI) — Allowing veiled women to play soccer is “seriously” wrong, said a groups of moderate Muslims in Italy in a joint letter sent to international soccer’s governing body.

“We express our deep dissent for the discriminatory choice which evidently was made to please some of the powerful of the future World Cup host country,” said the letter to Zurich-based FIFA, referring to Qatar, the host for the men’s and women’s 2022 World Cup soccer championship.

FIFA’s International Football Association Board (IFAB) on Thursday lifted a ban on women players using the Islamic headscarf, or hijab.

The scarf had been prohibited due to safety concerns and because it was not recognised in international soccer rules.

“It’s very serious that from a sports governing body…comes such a concession that shows little knowledge of reality about women Muslims,” said the letter signed by the Confederation of Moroccans in Italy, the OC Organisation of Pakistan, the Association of Moroccan Women in Italy , the Association of Arab Women in Italy , and other groups.

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

Turkey: 94.6 Million Inhabitants by 2050

19th most populous country in the world

(ANSAMed) — ANKARA, JULY 11 — Turkey’s population will grow by 20 million people, to 94.6 million inhabitants by 2050, making it the 19th country by demographics in the world, according to data released today by the Turkish Statistical Institute (Tuik).

Over the past decade Turkey has become the world’s 16th economic power, and aims to make the top ten by 2023. Half of its population is under 19 years old, according to Tuik.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mali: Drunks Get 80 Lashes

Timbuktu, 9 July (AKI) — A pair of young male Malians in Timbuktu were lashed 80 times each for being drunk, according to the local press.

The Ansar Eddine Islamist militants whipped the two early Sunday after they were caught drunk in the city in northern Mali, according to the Akhbar Mauritania news web site.

The militants said the two had already been whipped — albeit, fewer times — for a similar infraction.

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


Italy: Four Immigrants Wounded in Milan Machete Attack

Milan, 9 July (AKI) — Two immigrants were admitted to hospital with critical injuries and two more were in a serious condition after being hacked with machetes in a late-night attack in the northern Italian city of Milan.

Police and ambulance were called around 11.30 pm on Sunday when a violent fight broke out between immigrants in a neighbourhood on the outskirts of northwest Milan

The four immigrants wounded in the machete attack were transported to Milan’s nearby Niguarda hospital.

Reports did not state the nationalities of the victims or the alleged machete assailants.

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

Culture Wars

Gay Iraqis Are Now Eligible for Asylum in the Netherlands

The situation facing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Iraq is so serious that they do now qualify for asylum in the Netherlands, immigration minister Gerd Leers said on Thursday.

However, would-be refugees will have to prove they are from Iraq, the minister said in a briefing.

His decision follows the publication of a foreign affairs ministry report which was highly critical of the treatment of homosexuals in Iraq and said in some areas they are deliberately targeted by armed militias.

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