Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120724

Financial Crisis
»All Eyes on ECB to Come to Eurozone’s Rescue Once More
»Catalonia Applies for Spanish Aid
»Eurozone Crisis Worsens as Germany Warned on Top Rating
»Eurozone Government Debt at Record High
»France: Sorbonne for Rent This Summer
»Germany Eyes Athens; Fdp Wants Greece Out of Euro
»German Minister Criticized for Greece Comments
»Greece Scraps 200 Useless State Bodies Ahead of Troika Visit
»Italy: Govt Announces ‘Binding Plan’ To Avert Sicilian Default
»Juncker States ‘Strong Commitment’ To Euro’s Stability
»Latin Euro or German Rescue?
»Moody’s Cuts Germany’s Outlook to ‘Negative’
»Police Arrest Ex-Chief of Anglo Irish Bank in Fraud Probe
»Spain: ECB is Making Things Worse
»Spain’s Borrowing Costs Hit Record High
»Spiegel Interview With Finland’s Finance Minister: ‘Our Solidarity is Limited’
»Civilian Worker Set Fire to Submarine in Maine So He Could Leave Early, Navy Says
»GOP Readies August Suicide in Tampa
»Is Huma Abedin the Next Van Jones?
»Philadelphia Church Official Sentenced to 3 to 6 Years for Covering Up Child Sex Abuse
»China Push in Canada is Biggest Foreign Buy
Europe and the EU
»Albania’s EU Entry is a Priority for New President
»American Woman Detained for Demonstrating With Flemish Flag
»Bersani: Anyone Taking Money Out of Italy is a Traitor
»Bulgaria Prime Minister Blames Sophisticated Group of Conspirators for Israeli Attack
»EU Refuses Israeli Request to Blacklist Hezbollah
»Europe: Between East and West, A Gulf of Stereotypes
»France: Jeweller Kills Thief in ‘Self-Defence’ Shooting
»France: Young Woman Beaten for Being a ‘Bad Muslim’
»France: Fish Allowed to ‘Come and Go as They Please’
»Germany: Hunting for Fossils is Back-Breaking Work
»Italy: Locals Divided Over Fashion Magnate’s Plan for $1.9 Billion Skyscraper in Venice
»Munich Olympics Massacre: Officials Ignored Warnings of Terrorist Attack
»Muslims Integral Part of Europe, EU Commissioner Said
»Sweden: Seven Arrested for Brutal Gothenburg Diesel Theft
»Sweden: Malmö Sniper Peter Mangs Found Guilty
»UK Prosecutors Press Charges Against Former Tabloid Editors
North Africa
»Egypt’s Sixty Years of Misery
Israel and the Palestinians
»Divisive Draft Dogs Orthodox Jews, Israeli Arabs
South Asia
»India: Tribal-Muslim Violence is Senseless, Says Assam Bishop Who Calls for Peace
»India: Tens of Thousands Flee Violence in Assam
»Karzai Asks Berlin for Help With Taliban Talks
»Pakistan: NATO Convoy to Afghanistan Attacked, One Killed
Far East
»Beijing to Establish Military Garrison to Control South China Sea
»Commission Probes Italy Asylum Abuse Allegations
Culture Wars
»Italy: Milan’s Mayor: Church-State Respect in Civil Unions Case
»Swiss Hospitals Shun Zurich Circumcision Ban

Financial Crisis

All Eyes on ECB to Come to Eurozone’s Rescue Once More

(FRANKFURT) — The European Central Bank may have to ride to the eurozone’s rescue again very soon, analysts said Tuesday, as Spain looks set to be the next country sucked down by the never-ending debt crisis.

“Without substantial ECB action, the eurozone may soon lose the ability to control the market panic,” Berenberg Bank economist Christian Schulz wrote in a note to investors.

Spanish borrowing costs have soared to dangerously high levels and bailed-out Greece’s rescue programme appears to be on the rocks just as the the sovereign debt crisis took another turn when ratings agency Moody’s warned it could strip euro kingpin Germany of its coveted triple-A rating.

Moody’s argued that Germany — Europe’s biggest economy which has fared relatively well since the start of the crisis — faces increasingly incalculable risks in a possible Greek exit from the eurozone and soaring costs of potential bailouts for Spain and Italy.

After Greece, Ireland and Portugal were all compelled to seek aid from their European partners, the single currency area’s woes are showing no signs of abating, with Spain expected to be the next domino to fall.

Schulz at Berenberg Bank said Moody’s action laid bare “the limits of Europe’s current strategy” and the ECB, the only player currently capable of acting fast enough, will need to don its fire-fighting helmet once again.

With the eurozone’s public debt and deficit levels well below those of the United States and Japan, Europe has less of a debt problem than a confidence crisis, the analyst said.

And that was “largely because of the reluctance of its central bank to intervene forcefully in market panics. Moody’s rating action may bring the end to this reluctance a little closer,” Schulz argued.

Right from the start of the crisis, the ECB has not hesitated to launch a series of emergency measures.

The central bank quickly reversed last year’s rate hikes and earlier this month cut eurozone borrowing costs to an all-time low of 0.75 percent.

It embarked on a hotly contested programme of buying up the bonds of debt-mired countries, known as the Securities Markets Programme or SMP.

And in two long-term refinancing operations (LTROs) in December and February, it pumped more than 1.0 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) into the banking system in a bid to avert a dangerous credit squeeze in the 17 countries that share the euro.

ECB officials have never ceased to repeat that such measures are only temporary and merely meant to buy time for governments to tackle the root causes of the crisis — profligate spending.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Catalonia Applies for Spanish Aid

“We have no other bank,” Colell to BBC

(ANSAMed) — MADRID, JULY 24 — Catalonia will seek aid from the government’s 18 billion euro Liquidity Fund for ailing regions, Catalan government sources told El Mundo online newspaper on Tuesday.

Murcia and Valencia have already applied for aid from the same fund. “The current situation is that Catalonia has no other bank but the Spanish government,” Catalan Economics Minister Andreu Mas Colell told the BBC on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Crisis Worsens as Germany Warned on Top Rating

BRUSSELS — The euro-crisis is accelerating as Spanish borrowing costs continue rising and Germany, Netherlands and Luxembourg on Monday (23 July) were warned they may lose their triple A rating due to ‘rising uncertainty.’

Moody’s, one of the big three credit ratings agencies, said risks that Greece may quit the eurozone and an “increased likelihood” that Spain and Italy would need more financial assistance weighs down on the three top-rated countries, as Germany is the main contributor to the bailout pot.

Moody’s kept a triple A rating for France and Austria but warned that this may change by the end of September. Both countries were downgraded earlier this year by Standard&Poor’s, another major agency.

Markets fell across the world on Monday and investors dumped European assets, except for German government bonds, which are still considered a safe haven at record low interest rates of little over one percent. Spanish borrowing costs, however, rose above 7.5 percent — both for 10-year as well as 5-year bonds — a level which is considered bailout territory.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Government Debt at Record High

The ratio of government debt to GDP in the eurozone rose to 88.2% at the end of March, up from 87.3% at the end of 2012, eurostat figures showed Monday. Greece’s debts levels — the highest — are 132.4% of GDP followed by Italy at 123.3% and Portugal at 111.7%.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Sorbonne for Rent This Summer

French universities become film sets, summer schools

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — Cash-strapped French universities will become film sets or host special courses to make money this summer. Paris’ prestigious Sorbonne university is renting its interiors rich in history — the chapel is the resting place of Cardinal Richelieu — as a set for period movies and action films, French daily Le Figaro reports, saying one fourth of French universities is in the red. Such initiatives help bring money and publicity, the paper reported.

The university has already been the set of high profile movies including Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo Cabret’ and Luc Besson’s ‘Adele Blanc-Sec’. Rental can cost up to 19,000 euros a day and some productions can stay for a month with the filmmaker guaranteeing that the art and interior decoration is safeguarded while the crew is shooting.

Other universities hosting high profile productions include the Social Sciences department of the University of Toulouse in the South which will be the set of the ‘Nome de code Rose’movie produced by Besson.

‘This type of event is an exception and is not part of a real strategy by the university and that is why we asked for a high price’ director Michel Ramongassie said. Room rentals bring 10,000 euros a year in the university’s coffers.

Private lessons and summer schools are also a major source of income.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany Eyes Athens; Fdp Wants Greece Out of Euro

And Seehofer (CSU) rules out aid

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN, JULY 24 — Skepticism is growing in Germany over Greece’s ability to remain in the eurozone. A number of political members in the government majority, including the secretary general of the Liberal party, Patrick Doering, and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) MP Wofgang Bosbach believe Greece’s exit from the eurozone would be the best choice. Bavarian President Horst Seehofer, a Christian Social Union (CSU) ally of the Merkel government, ruled out fresh loans to Athens.

Doering was quoted as saying by German newspaper Passauer Neuen Presse that “markets could gain confidence if Athens were to leave the eurozone”. “Out of the euro, Greece could regain competitiveness and financial health more quickly”, he also said.

Bosbach said the past two years have shown Greece lacks competitive force, fiscal morals and an efficient administration and “for this reason promising loans and guarantees cannot change the situation”.

According to Seehofer, “we should not be talking about a new aid package, and the money in the rescue plans already approved should be granted only if Greece complies with its engagements”.

Europe has tested its limits with the aid promised to Athens, he also told Bild.

The vice chairman of the CDU parliamentary group, Michael Meister, declared he believes Greece could fulfill the objectives set by its anti-crisis programme in 2016 rather than in 2014. “If more time requires more money, I don’t believe this is feasible” he told the Rheinischen Post.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

German Minister Criticized for Greece Comments

German Economy Minister Philipp Rösler has been accused of being reckless and unprofessional after saying he is skeptical that Greece’s reform efforts will succeed and that a Greek exit from the euro had “lost its horrors.” But some senior members in Germany’s ruling coalition agree with him.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Scraps 200 Useless State Bodies Ahead of Troika Visit

First 20 now, the rest by end September, no layoffs

(ANSAmed) — Athens — Greece’s government is ready to announce a list of 20 useless state bodies that are to be scrapped over the next few days, the weekly Ethnos tis Kyriakis reported on Sunday. The move comes ahead of another mission to the country by representatives of the so-called troika — EU, IMF and ECB — scheduled for July 24. The Sunday paper reported that a further 200 bodies employing over 6,000 people would be abolished by the end of September. The minister for administrative reform Antonis Manitakis has said repeatedly that none of the employees will lose their jobs. In addition the government is to present the international creditors with a list of four major state-controlled companies that are to be privatised by the end of the year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt Announces ‘Binding Plan’ To Avert Sicilian Default

Region must do its own spending review, says Monti

(ANSA) — Rome, July 24 — The central government said on Tuesday that a meeting between Premier Mario Monti and Sicilian governor Raffaele Lombardo had produced a “binding” plan to reorganise the regional government’s organization and finances. The announcement came after Monti wrote to Lombardo earlier this month asking him to confirm his decision to quit as governor to help end Sicily’s political gridlock, stressed that the region risked defaulting on its debts. Lombardo, who is facing charges of colluding with the mafia, said he would step down by July 31 earlier on Tuesday.

Monti told Lombardo that Sicily must undertake a major spending review like the one the central government did to create its plan to save 26 billion euros over the next three years. A government statement on a meeting between the two men said Monti had welcomed the regional government’s recent commitment to reduce the number of regional staff, managers and companies, and the initial results achieved as part of its plan to end the regional health deficit.

“Nevertheless, the premier stressed the need, at the same time, to start a process of tough discussions at the technical level to analyse all the components of the regional budget to guarantee a framework of maximum openness and transparency of the data,” said the statement.

“On this basis, a programme of structural reforms and reorganisation of the regional public administration will be prepared that will be binding in its objectives and timeframes and constantly monitored by the technical bodies of the national government”. According to the Italian Audit Court, the region had debts of 21 billion euros in 2011, although Lombardo disputes these figures. The Italian media have run a series of stories reporting alleged waste in the running of the region. Articles have pointed out, for example, that the Sicilian regional government employs around 20,000 people, while Lombardy, the region around Milan’s financial capital Milan, employs a quarter of that number. These calculations do not include Sicily’s 26,000 forest guards. Lombardy has around 460 forest guards. Lombardo, however, has said the region’s finances are fundamentally sound and argues that the default alarm has been drummed up by the media. Prosecutors in April presented a request to try Lombardo and his brother Angelo, an MP for Lombardo’s Movimento per l’Autonomia (MpA) party, for allegedly swapping votes for favors with Vincenzo Aiello, a prominent member of the powerful Catania-based Santapaola clan. Lombardo has denied the accusations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Juncker States ‘Strong Commitment’ To Euro’s Stability

(LUXEMBOURG) — Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday stated his “strong commitment” to the eurozone’s stability after ratings agency Moody’s downgraded the outlook of three members including Germany.

Asserting that Germany, The Netherlands and Luxembourg have “sound fundamentals,” Juncker, who is also Luxembourg’s prime minister, said: “Against this background, we reiterate our strong commitment to ensure the stability of the euro area as a whole.”

“We take note of the rating decision of Moody’s, which confirms the very strong rating enjoyed by a number of euro area member states, as supported by the sound fundamentals which these (three) and other euro area countries continue to enjoy,” his statement said.

Moody’s on Monday cut the outlook for Germany, Europe’s largest and most pivotal economy, to “negative,” and did the same for The Netherlands and Luxembourg, saying that all three faced risks from Greece leaving the eurozone and from the need to stump up cash for potential bailouts for Spain and Italy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin Euro or German Rescue?

The Daily Telegraph, Handelsblatt

“The financial credibility of Spain is close to zero,” writes Ambrose Evans Pritchard in the Daily Telegraph

Fiscal credibility is zero. Political credibility is zero. The new government of Mariano Rajoy has squandered the advantages of its absolute majority in a matter of months, and completely lost the confidence of Europe’s institutions.

The Telegraph’s International business editor pulls not punches, blaming “Europe’s incompetent policy elite” and its “scorched-earth monetary, fiscal, and regulatory policies.” Reserving particular ire for the European Central Bank, he argues that —

It is time for Spain and the victim states to seize the initiative. They cannot force Germany, Holland, Finland, and Austria to swallow eurobonds, debt-pooling and fiscal union, and nor should they try since such a move implies the evisceration of their own democracies.

What they can to do is use their majority votes on the ECB’s Governing Council to force a change in monetary policy. Germany has two votes out of 23, with a hardcore of seven or eight at most. The Greco-Latin bloc can force a showdown. If Germany storms out of monetary union in protest, that would be an excellent solution.

The Latins would keep the euro — until the storm had passed — allowing them to uphold their euro debt contracts. There would be less risk of sovereign defaults since these countries would enjoy a pro-growth shock from monetary stimulus and a weaker Latin euro against the Chinese yuan, the D-Mark, and the Guilder.

This option is of no interest for Germany, writes the chief economist of the German business daily Handelsblatt. In an article entitled “Like a second reunification”, he recommends that critics of the government’s bailout policy read the latest reports by the German Council of Economic experts and the rating agency Moody’s —…

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

Moody’s Cuts Germany’s Outlook to ‘Negative’

Moody’s took the first step toward stripping Germany of its coveted AAA credit rating on Monday, cutting the outlook for Europe’s largest and most pivotal economy from “stable” to “negative.”

Delivering a stark warning that no country is immune from the eurozone’s rolling crisis, the ratings agency said all three faced risks from Greece leaving the eurozone and from the need to stump up cash for potential bailouts for Spain and Italy.

A similar move was announced for fellow AAA ranked economies, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

In Germany, the finance ministry immediately shot back by saying the country remained the “eurozone’s anchor of stability.”

The ministry said it had “taken note of Moody’s opinion” while stating the “estimate” put the focus “on short-term risks, while stability prospects in the long term are not mentioned.”

“The eurozone has initiated a series of measures which should lead to the durable stabilising of the zone,” the ministry said.

“Germany itself is in a solid economic and financial situation,” it insisted in a statement.

Moody’s rationale for the downgrade appeared to hinge on a likely deepening of the crisis, which seemed to reach a fresh denouement Monday as Spanish borrowing costs soared and Greek reforms were on the rocks.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Police Arrest Ex-Chief of Anglo Irish Bank in Fraud Probe

Irish police have arrested the former head of the Anglo Irish Bank as part of their investigation into fraud. The bank’s failure has become associated with the country’s financial meltdown.

Officers arrested Sean FitzPatrick, former head of Anglo Irish Bank, on Tuesday as part of a long-running operation.

The 64-year-old was arrested by members of the Irish police, the Garda, at Dublin Airport as he returned from holiday. Another two senior former Anglo executives were arrested in the Irish capital on Monday, charged on 16 fraud-related counts.

A statement from the Irish police said the arrest was part of “an ongoing investigation by Gardai from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement into alleged financial irregularities at a financial institution.”

FitzPatrick ran the bank during Ireland’s runaway property boom, which was followed by a banking collapse that precipitated the country’s financial crisis.

Police, along with Ireland’s Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, have been investigating the bank for more than three years.

The bank, recently renamed the Irish Banking Resolution Corporation, is being gradually wound down after its debts meant that the Ireland was left with a 30-billion-euro ($36-billion) bill to bail it out.

The amount was almost half that needed to prop up the country’s troubled financial sector as a whole. Ireland was forced to seek an 85-billion-euro rescue loan in November 2010 as a result of the banking crisis.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: ECB is Making Things Worse

ABC Madrid

What with market pressures, nationwide anti-austerity demonstrations and regional government on the brink of financial collapse: the Spanish government doesn’t have much room for manoeuvre. And the ECB seems to be doing everything to force a full bail-out with outside supervision, laments an ABC writer.

Ignacio Camacho

In the statement of the last European Council conclusions there is a paragraph that brings into force the agreement for the European Central Bank to intervene in extreme cases of the sovereign debt crisis.

This is no euphemism: it is written down in black on white in a paper that Rajoy carries in his briefcase as if it were a moral safe-conduct pass. It’s why the Prime Minister mulls over the financial indices with some perplexity and never ceases wondering in private at what he considers a flagrant breach on the part of the EU.

His anger is more than remarkable; he has the feeling that the European institutions do not take themselves too seriously. Perhaps now, with the premium and the bond rate on the verge of melt-down, he may already have grasped that the problem may not lie so much in the Community’s lack of seriousness as it does in an undeclared but firm intention to force the bailout of a state.

Draghi’s impassivity

The impassivity of Mario Draghi can only be strategic; beneath the gestures and even the official decisions there seems to be a taxation plan afoot that condemns Spain to a formal intervention under the threat of putting a stop to the payments.

If on Monday the ECB does not cool down the markets by a massive purchase [the prime rate today hit 6.40 percent, its highest, and there has been no announcement that the ECB will buy up Spanish bonds] it will be because Merkel has given the thumbs down in private while holding it up in public, defending before the Bundestag the need to shore up our financial system…

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

Spain’s Borrowing Costs Hit Record High

Spanish long-term borrowing costs jumped to record highs Monday amid fears about the state of its economy and banks. The yield — the rate of return — on the benchmark Spanish 10-year government bond jumped to 7.343%, reports AFP. Other euro countries received a full bailout at this benchmark.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spiegel Interview With Finland’s Finance Minister: ‘Our Solidarity is Limited’

Finnish Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen: “If we don’t receive guarantees we cannot pay into the rescue packages.”

Finland reached a deal with Greece and Spain to get collateral in exchange for its share in any bailout packages. The deals are controversial, with critics worried that they may herald a quiet Finnish exit from the euro. In a SPIEGEL interview, Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen, 36, defends the policy, saying her country wants to keep the euro intact.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Urpilainen, Finland is the only country in the euro zone that has secured a guarantee in exchange for billions in aid to Spanish banks. Can you now sleep more soundly?

Urpilainen: I feel safer, yes. We need collateral, because we as a government are bound by a coalition agreement on this. It is important to be careful with the money of the taxpayers. That is why we find it good that the taxpayers receive something in return for public loans.

SPIEGEL: What does the collateral you received from the Spanish for Finland’s part in European rescue package consist of?

Urpilainen: The collateral is given by the Spanish deposit guarantee fond. Its total amount is approximately €770 million ($933 million), in case the Spanish need €100 billion. That is 40 percent of our share and should therefore cover the risk for our taxpayers.

SPIEGEL: Finland will also get a guarantee if Grreece goes bankrupt. Have you received Greek islands as collateral?

Urpilainen: We have received bonds issued by solvent countries like Germany with a value of about €900 million as collateral. The mechanism is quite simple: whenever the Greeks request more money, our collateral increases.

SPIEGEL: How have other European finance ministers reacted to your initiative?

Urpilainen: Naturally my colleagues don’t find it especially good. But I have told them from the beginning that we have no room for maneuver. It is really simple: if we don’t receive guarantees we cannot pay into the rescue packages. That is in our government program.

SPIEGEL: Your critics argue that if Germany and other countries also demanded collateral, the euro would soon be dead.

Urpilainen: That is simply not true. Even less solvent banks can borrow money on capital markets if they put down collateral. That is why I find it so important that we talk about guarantee mechanisms for crisis countries as well.

SPIEGEL: Hundreds of billions of euros are being mobilized from solvent countries like Finland and Germany to save the euro. In spite of that the crisis is only growing. Can you imagine Finland leaving the euro?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Civilian Worker Set Fire to Submarine in Maine So He Could Leave Early, Navy Says

A civilian employee set a fire that caused $400 million in damage to a nuclear-powered submarine because he had anxiety and wanted to get out of work early, Navy investigators said in a complaint filed Monday.

Casey James Fury, 24, of Portsmouth, N.H., faces up to life in prison if convicted of two counts of arson in the fire aboard the USS Miami attack submarine while it was in dry dock May 23 and a second blaze outside the sub on June 16.

Fury was taking medications for anxiety and depression and told investigators he set the fires so he could get out of work, according a seven-page affidavit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland.

If convicted of either charge, Fury could face life imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 and be ordered to pay restitution, officials said. His federal public defender, David Beneman, declined to comment. A court appearance was set for Monday afternoon.

The Miami was in dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, for an overhaul when the fire damaged the torpedo room and command area inside the forward compartment. It took more than 12 hours to extinguish.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

GOP Readies August Suicide in Tampa

Back in June, I published a column demonstrating just how difficult it will be to unseat Obama in the 2012 election. In short, Obama will win a minimum of twenty states no matter what and those twenty states represent 242 of the 270 Electoral College votes Obama needs to win re-election. Obama is only one state away from winning at the starting gate, and that state is most likely Florida.

Romney could win twenty-nine of the fifty states and still lose the election. The states in his column at the start of the 2012 race represent only 146 Electoral votes, at best. He has a long way to go to victory.

But the game could end in August at the GOP Convention.

Led by Republican news site Newsmax, a growing number of Republican talking heads across the airwaves and blogosphere are promoting Marco Rubio for Vice Presidential running mate.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Is Huma Abedin the Next Van Jones?

Senator John McCain has become a left-wing media darling for defending Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin against truthful charges that she has family connections to the pro-terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. Andrew McCarthy notes there used to be a time when McCain was alarmed by the advance of the Muslim Brotherhood.

We commented on this new phase of McCain’s career when he showed up at a Washington event to praise and honor the Arab-funded Al-Jazeera, the voice of the Muslim Brotherhood., the website of the Muslim Brotherhood, has labeled Al-Jazeera “the greatest Arab media organization.”

Almost as curious as McCain’s flip-flop on this critical national security issue is Republican House Speaker John Boehner saying, “I don’t know Huma. But from everything that I do know of her, she has a sterling character, and I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.”

The “accusations” are questions about the kind of investigation that was made of her background. Boehner admits not knowing her but has already come to the conclusion that the “accusations,” which are questions, are somehow “dangerous.”

The issue here is the U.S. relationship with an organization that has spawned almost every major terrorist group in the Middle East and is taking control of Egypt and other nations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Philadelphia Church Official Sentenced to 3 to 6 Years for Covering Up Child Sex Abuse

Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Roman Catholic official in the United States to be convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision, was sentenced to three to six years in prison on Tuesday.

Monsignor Lynn, 61, a former Cardinal’s aide, was found guilty on June 22 of one count of endangering a child, after a trial lasting more than two months that revealed an effort lasting decades by the Philadelphia archdiocese to play down accusations of child sexual abuse and avoid scandal.

[Return to headlines]


China Push in Canada is Biggest Foreign Buy

Deal Could Help China Secure Oil And Gas Supplies

Cnooc Ltd. swept into Canada with China’s biggest overseas acquisition yet, a $15.1 billion deal to buy one of that country’s largest energy producers that reignites a debate over the role of Chinese state players in North America’s energy industry.

If completed, the deal for Canada’s Nexen Inc., would mark China’s most ambitious push into the continent’s oil and natural-gas fields. It would give Cnooc a key role in technologies reshaping the energy landscape and open the door for it to operate in North American fields alongside such oil-and-gas giants as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Statoil ASA.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Albania’s EU Entry is a Priority for New President

(TIRANA) — Albania’s new President Bujar Nishani, who is due to be sworn in later on Tuesday, wants to tackle stalled legal reforms and the ongoing political crisis which threatens the country’s EU integration.

“The justice system will be my priority. I have decided to fully engage in favour of the reform of the legal system which remains a key factor in Albania’s integration in the European Union,” Nishani told AFP in an interview before his inauguration.

Brussels has repeatedly slammed the “shortcomings” of the Albanian legal system in terms of “independence, transparency and efficiency”. Opinion polls show that a majority of Albanians see the justice system as one of the most corrupt sectors in society.

“There are many allegations of corruption, certain judges and prosecutors are accused of lacking professional and moral integrity,” Nishani, a former justice and interior minister, told AFP.

While Albania, population 2.8 million, is a parliamentary democracy with institutional power vested in the prime minister, the president is the head of the legal system and commander of the armed forces. In his function he appoints judges and prosecutors but also, upon a nomination of the prime minister, the head of the secret service.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

American Woman Detained for Demonstrating With Flemish Flag

Mon 23/07/2012 — 11:14 The president and founder of the organisation Expats For Flanders Mandy Bubier was detained along with a group of Flemish activists while demonstrating in Brussels city centre without permission on the National Day. The American-born woman from the Flemish Brabant village of Hoeilaart was among a number of people detained during Saturday’s National Day celebrations for demonstrating without permission on the National Holiday. She formed part of a group of five people handing out leaflets, brandishing slogans and carrying Flemish flags outside Central Station. Police spokesman Christian De Coninck told flandersnews that the woman was taking part in an unauthorised demonstration. The police spokesman noted that permission for all demonstrations needed to be sought from the local mayor and that in this case this had not been obtained. He also added that no demonstrations are allowed on the National Day. The police say that the slogans included “Democracy for all Belgians including VL” and added that there were sometimes also spelling mistakes in the English used. Ms Bubier is married to a Fleming and will be standing in this October’s local elections for the Flemish nationalist party N-VA in her municipality to the south of Brussels. The incident happened outside Brussels Central railway station on Saturday afternoon. Ms Bubier and the four other members of her group were detained by police for two hours before being released. She told flandersnews that she and her group had been advised by the Transport Police inside the railway station that they would be detained if the tried to unfold their flag at the military parade. With this in mind and coupled with the fact that their group was smaller than expected, they decided to return home, but first wanted to take a group photo with the flag outside the station. Ms Budier adds that before they had the chance to fold up the flag police swooped on them. Handcuffed, the group that included a 70-year-old woman, was led away to the nearest police station. “They could have just asked us to put the flag away rather than detaining us”, a shocked Ms Baubier told flandersnews.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Bersani: Anyone Taking Money Out of Italy is a Traitor

(AGI) Massa Lombarda (Ravenna) — “If you take your money out of the country, you are a no-good coward and traitor to your country,” said PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani criticizing those who, in order to avoid paying taxes, put their money in foreign accounts. He criticized the attitude of those who did not pay taxes, saying, “If you don’t pay your taxes out of good manners, I’ll send an ambulance to your house.” .

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

Bulgaria Prime Minister Blames Sophisticated Group of Conspirators for Israeli Attack

Bulgaria’s prime minister says a sophisticated group of conspirators were involved in the suicide bombing that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver, and that they spent a month in the country before the attack.

Boiko Borisov spoke alongside visiting U.S. Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan on Tuesday.

He says those involved used “leased vehicles, they moved in different cities so as not to be seen together, and no two of them can be seen in one place on any security camera.”

But Borisov did not say how many people were believed involved in the Wednesday attack. He also declined to back up Israel’s claims that Iran and militant group Hezbollah played roles.

Brennan also stopped short of blaming Iran or Hezbollah, both of which are U.S. nemeses.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

EU Refuses Israeli Request to Blacklist Hezbollah

(BRUSSELS) — The European Union turned down a request Tuesday by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to blacklist Hezbollah as a terror group after last week’s deadly bombing in Bulgaria.

“There is no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organisations,” said Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

Israel blames Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah for Wednesday’s suicide attack at the Black Sea airport of Burgas in which five Israelis and their Bulgarian driver died.

Sitting alongside the Cypriot minister at a news conference held after annual EU-Israel talks, Lieberman said: “The time has come to put Hezbollah on the terrorist list of Europe.”

“It would give the right signal to the international community and the Israeli people.”

But Kozakou-Marcoullis said Hezbollah was an organisation comprising a party as well as an armed wing and was “active in Lebanese politics”.

“Taking into account this and other aspects there is no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organisations,” she said.

The EU would consider this if there were tangible avidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terror, she added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe: Between East and West, A Gulf of Stereotypes

IQ The Economist Vilnius

In the Netherlands, Eastern Europeans have replaced Muslims as a target of the far right. The hostility is fed by cliche’s widespread throughout Western Europe, regrets a Lithuanian journalist, who admits that his own countrymen are not free from prejudice.

Rasa Navickaité

“Are you having trouble with immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe? We want to hear!” The website of the far-right Dutch party welcomes visitors with this question spiced with encouragement. Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party and known for his diatribes against Islam and Muslims, has discovered a new vein to mine for the backing of the average Dutch voter. In February his party launched a website designed to gather evidence on the problems caused by “the Poles, Bulgarians, Romanians and other eastern Europeans.”

According to the National Statistics Office of the Netherlands, about 200,000 eastern Europeans settled in the country legally in 2011. The 136,000 Poles make up the majority, followed by 2,708 Lithuanians, 1,885 Latvians and 665 Estonians. In a country of 17 million, this represents just over one percent.

It is intriguing that the far right’s hatred for immigrants who do not respect Western values has switched target. After September 11, Islam and Muslims became the scapegoats for all the ills of society; today, it’s the eastern Europeans who play this role.

A paradoxical situation

Simon Kuper, a Financial Times journalist originally from the Netherlands, sees several reasons for this phenomenon. Firstly, the Netherlands tend to limit immigration from outside the borders of the Union, and the number of Moroccans and Turks is decreasing…

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

France: Jeweller Kills Thief in ‘Self-Defence’ Shooting

A Paris jeweller has been charged with manslaughter after shooting dead a man who attempted to steal from his city centre shop last week.

The jeweller, named Alain, 60, shot the man last week after he entered the shop, in the seventh arrondissement of Paris, with a pistol in his hand.

It was the third time Alain’s shop had been burgled, with the thieves shooting at him on both previous occasions. An autopsy revealed the man had been shot twice, in the shoulder and the hip.

The jeweller, who had a licence for the gun he kept in his safe at the shop, has been released on bail and banned from keeping a firearm. Alain’s lawyer, Laurent-Franck Liénard, told news agency AFP his client would be claiming he acted in self-defence.

“He regrets the death of the man, but is sure he didn’t have any other choice. It was either him or the thief.”

The thief, 52, was not known to the authorities for similar crimes before the incident, and had never spent time in prison, according to a source close to the investigation. It was discovered after the incident that the thief’s gun was not loaded.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Young Woman Beaten for Being a ‘Bad Muslim’

Police in the south of France have launched an investigation after a woman claimed she was beaten up by seven men in Viviez for attending a party during Ramadan.

The young woman, originally from Morocco, was driving home from the party on Friday night when two other cars trapped hers, newspaper Midi Libre reports.

The men are reported to have beaten her up before leaving without saying anything. After they had left, the woman drove home. Shortly afterwards, she headed towards the local police station to report the attack.

On her way to the station, the seven men tracked her down again and assaulted her a second a time. According to the woman, the men issued threats and said: “You are a bad Muslim”, and “you bring shame to Islam because you went to a party on a day of Ramadan.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Fish Allowed to ‘Come and Go as They Please’

A court in Nantes has ruled that fish should have the right swim in rivers freely, outlawing the use of man-made devices to control their movements.

The ruling came after authorities in the Maine-et-Loire region allowed the restructuring of the Layon river in 2006, newspaper Ouest France reports. The restructuring involved the installation of devices to control the flow of the river, including two pathways for pike and other fish to come and go during migration seasons.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Hunting for Fossils is Back-Breaking Work

Heaving and splitting rocks are all in a day’s work for fossil diggers at Germany’s Messel pit. The pay-off is finding the world’s most exquisitely preserved fossils.

After unlocking an iron security gate, paleontologist Sonja Wedmann points her four-wheel-drive down a bumpy road. It leads to the bottom of the Messel pit. With its 48 million-year-old fossils, Messel is the richest site in the world. It is also possibly the best place if you want to understand a period called the Eocene when mammals started emerging after the extinction of the dinosaurs.

As we drive down the pit, Wedmann points out piles of bleached rock tailings left behind by a century of coal and oil shale mining.

Mining stopped at Messel in 1970 and the disused pit was then slated to be used as a garbage dump. But following a long and bitter fight by the scientific community and locals, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Area in 1995 and is now reserved exclusively for fossil research.

Wedmann parks her van next to a group of fossil diggers from the Senckenberg Research Institute. They have been hard at work since seven o’clock in the morning.

Messel is about 35km southeast of Frankfurt in central Germany. It was formed when a violent volcanic eruption created a crater that filled with water, creating a deep lake.

Tens of thousands of preserved plant and animal species — from water lilies to beetles, bats, birds, fish, hedgehogs and crocodiles — have been excavated from the sediment layers that once formed the bed of the ancient lake.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Locals Divided Over Fashion Magnate’s Plan for $1.9 Billion Skyscraper in Venice

DOES this tower give a new meaning to the phrase “a sight for sore eyes”?

Locals are divided about fashion magnate Pierre Cardin’s plan to build an usually-shaped skyscraper in Venice.

The Palais de Lumiere — or Palace of Light — skyscraper would cost $1.9 billion to build and would reach 244 metres into the sky.

Hailed by Luca Zaia, the head of the Veneto region, as Venice’s rival to the Eiffel Tower, the project was given the green light for development earlier this year but has since been weighed down by controversy.

The tower was set to be built in Porto Marghera, a former industrialised zone a few kilometres from the heart of Venice, and would provide thousands of much-needed jobs in the area.

However some locals fear the skyscraper would be a sight for sore eyes and ruin the city’s historic skyline. Fair point, considering the 60-storey glass and steel building would tower over the “symbol of Venice” — the famous bell tower in St Mark’s Square.

Critics say it’s more suited to the extravagance of a location such as Dubai, instead of Venice, with art historian Tomaso Montanari describing the tower as “an enormous finger pointing at the sky”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Munich Olympics Massacre: Officials Ignored Warnings of Terrorist Attack

Explicit warnings that a terrorist attack might take place at the 1972 Munich Olympics were ignored by German officials, according to previously classified documents seen by SPIEGEL. The new details also reveal efforts to cover up the extent of their failure to stop the brutal murders of Israeli athletes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslims Integral Part of Europe, EU Commissioner Said

Stop restrictive laws, anti-Muslim discrimination, Muiznieks

(ANSAMed) — STRASBOURG, JULY 24 — “The time has come to accept Muslims as an integral part of European societies, and to guarantee them dignity and equality,” EU Human Rights Commissioner Mils Muiznieks said on Tuesday. “Governments must stop anti-Muslim laws and policies, and reinforce bans on religious discrimination in all sectors,” Muiznieks said.

His statements come on response to recent surveys by institutions and NGOs showing that Muslims living in Europe want to interact with Europeans and participate fully in society, but that they are constantly marginalized by prejudice, discrimination, and violence. In some countries including Italy, restrictive anti-Muslim laws and measures are being introduced, while right-wing and populist parties use anti-Muslim rhetoric to sway voters, according to the surveys.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Seven Arrested for Brutal Gothenburg Diesel Theft

Seven men have been arrested on suspicion of aggravated robbery and weapons crimes after a truck driver was beaten and robbed of 450 litres of diesel fuel at a rest area north of Gothenburg. “No weapons have been found as of yet,” said police spokesperson Teresia Lagnefors to news agency TT.

The truck driver had been travelling south on the E6 motorway on Sunday evening at around 9pm when he stopped off at the rest area to use the bathroom, according to local Göteborgsposten (GP) daily.

“He was then approached by a number of men and three women who threatened him with a gun. They hit him over the head and siphoned off diesel from his vehicle into cans,” said Sven Persson of the police told GP.

The shaken truck driver managed to reach his vehicle and drive off. He stopped off at the next major service station and called the police.

“We sent patrols to the location where they discovered a number of people of the right description in possession of cans of diesel,” Persson said.

Seven men aged between 25 and 43-years-old were brought in for questioning on suspicion of aggravated robbery and six have now been officially arrested, while one is in hospital.

According to the police they found several cans containing diesel at the rest area, where there were also several women and children present.

“We have been told that they have been staying in the area, there were several mobile homes there,” said Sara Nyqvist of the local police to the Expressen daily. According to a photographer on the scene, the situation became heated when the police officers arrived.

“Overall it was a large group of people and those who remained were family and friends of those arrested. It was an unsettled atmosphere with people shouting and gesticulating,” said photographer Björn Andersson to Expressen. According to the paper, several police patrols were present and a police helicopter circled the area during the arrest.

The truck driver reportedly got away with minor injuries and didn’t need to seek medical attention after the incident.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Malmö Sniper Peter Mangs Found Guilty

Peter Mangs has been found guilty of two counts of murder and several other charges, Malmö District Court announced on Tuesday.

He will now undergo a psychological evaluation.

“Peter Mangs has ruthlessly ruined the lives of several people. These crimes have been committed in a terribly cold and cyncial way, completely devoid of any feeling. We argue that he had the clear intent to shoot foreigners,” said chief prosecutor Solveig Wollstad, according to news agency TT.

Mangs was facing 20 charges of which the court ruled that he was guilty of 13, among these two murders, four attempted murders and three cases of illegal threats.

“This is what we have been hoping for. Even if I have felt all this time that it must be so, this is the truth, seeing as the decision comes from the court,” said one victims’ mother to TT.

In one of the three murder charges against Mangs, the court didn’t feel that the evidence was convincing enough to find him guilty.

However, Mangs will now undergo a psychological evaluation lasting some four weeks.

The result of this evaluation will be presented in August when his defence lawyers and the prosecutor will argue what penalty he should receive.

“The penalty for these crimes should equate to life imprisonment,” Wollstad argued.

“He should definitely be punished, that is the consequence of what he has done. But to me it isn’t important, I won’t get my daughter back regardless. Never ever. We have to live with this for the rest of our lives,” the victim’s mother said to TT.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK Prosecutors Press Charges Against Former Tabloid Editors

Prosecutors in Britain have said they are charging the British prime minister’s former media chief and the ex-editor of a major British newspaper with phone hacking.

Prosecutors said on Tuesday that Andy Coulson, ex-media chief of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and former News International executive Rebekah Brooks would be charged with illegal phone hacking and the interception of voicemails.

Both suspects are former editors of the now-defunct News of the World, part of the newspaper empire of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Coulson and Brooks have both been linked to the interception of the voice messages of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in 2002.

That case in particular ignited the phone-hacking scandal that saw Brooks, who also edited the mass-circulation Sun newspaper, resign as chief executive of Murdoch’s British newspaper group.

Murdoch, 81, was forced to close the News of the World last July over the revelations.

Coulson resigned as Cameron’s media spokesman in January 2011, after he was questioned about the scandal.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt’s Sixty Years of Misery

This week marks 60 years since Egypt’s self-proclaimed Free Officers overthrew the constitutional monarchy of King Farouq — and the first anniversary when one can imagine the demise of the military despotism that so long has wounded the country. Sadly, its most likely replacement will bring on an even worse rule.

The era of monarchy had plenty of faults, from iniquitous income levels to violent movements (foremost among them, the Muslim Brotherhood) but it was an era of modernization, of a growing economy, and of increasing influence in the world. Industry had begun, women threw off their face coverings, and Egyptian soft power had a wide impact in Arabic-speaking countries. Tarek Osman recalls this time in his excellent Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak (Yale) as “liberal, glamorous, cosmopolitan.”

The dreary rule of generals and colonels began on July 23, 1952, led by the ambitious Gamal Abdul Nasser (r. 1954-70). The grandiose Anwar el-Sadat (r. 1970-81) followed him, then the pompous Husni Mubarak (r. 1981-2011). Nasser, much the worst of the trio, danced to the demons of anti-capitalist resentment and anti-imperialist frustration; his rule saw crippling confiscation of private property and inane foreign adventures (with Syria, against Israel, in Yemen), incurring costs the country still pays.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Divisive Draft Dogs Orthodox Jews, Israeli Arabs

Bitter schisms are emerging in Israel as political parties wrangle over rewriting the Tal Law, which dictates who is conscripted and who is exempt from military service at the age of 18.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday that Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin would delay the recess to enable the government to pass an alternative bill to the Tal Law.

The Israeli Supreme Court of Justice ruled the Tal Law was “unconstitutional” in February of this year, and the law expires in August. Failure to pass a new law could prove disastrous for the fragile coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and possibly force early elections.

Netanyahu’s Likud Party is haggling with coalition partner centrist party Kadima over the finer text of the bill. There is additional pressure within the coalition from the Shas Orthodox party to preserve the exemption on Yeshiva (educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional Jewish religious texts — the ed.) students studying at the Jewish seminary, and also from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s far right party Yisrael Beytenu, which has written its own bill requiring every 18-year-old in Israel to serve, including Israeli Arabs.

Aish Ha Torah Rabbi Shimon Hurowitz said the study of the Jewish holy books, the Torah and the Tanakh, was “extremely demanding,” and Yeshiva students shouldn’t be expected to interrupt their studies for army service.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Tribal-Muslim Violence is Senseless, Says Assam Bishop Who Calls for Peace

Mgr Thomas Pulloppillil, from the diocese of Bongaigaon, talks about the violence that broke out between tribal Bodos and Muslim settlers in Korajhar District. At least 17 people have been killed, and another 30,000 fled their villages out of fear.

Bongaigaon (AsiaNews) — “We are faced with senseless violence,” said Mgr Thomas Pulloppillil, bishop of Bongaigaon. “We can only offer survivors all our help.” Clashes between members of the Bodo tribe and Muslim settlers in Assam have created “a terrible situation,” he added. So far, 17 people have been killed, but hundreds of homes have been torched and destroyed and at least 30,000 have fled their villages.

Violence broke out Friday night when unidentified armed men killed four youths in Kokrajhar district, an area dominated by the Bodo tribe. Armed Bodos attacked Muslims in retaliation, suspecting them to be behind the killings, police said.

Since then, unrestrained violence broke out with various groups setting houses, schools, and vehicles ablaze, firing indiscriminately with automatic weapons in populated areas.

On Sunday and Monday, the violence is reported to have spread to other areas, including nearby Chirang district.

As soon as he was informed of events, Mgr Pulloppillil returned from his annual retreat.

“Many Catholics in my diocese are in the middle of the mayhem,” he said. “I have already given instructions to organise relief for the victims. We shall use all of the resources at our disposal to help these people, now and when it will be time to restart.”

“I want to express my deepest condolences for all those who lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy. We shall be agents of reconciliation and mediation as well as builders of bridges of peace.”

A local source, who preferred to be anonymous, told AsiaNews that the “situation is really serious. Everything is out of control and the police is unable to stop it.”

The violence, the source explained, “is economic in nature, exacerbated by ethnic divisions.” Religion does not come into it.

Tribal Bodos are Hindu or Christian, and the area has seen tensions in the past, especially in 2003, when the central government set up the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), a non-autonomous territorial body that administers the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD), which includes the districts of Kokrajhar, Baska, Udalguri and Chirang, where the Bodos are the majority.

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

India: Tens of Thousands Flee Violence in Assam

Troops have been deployed to remote areas of India’s northeast to quell ethnic violence that has killed 17.

At least 17 people, including a six-month-old child, were killed at the weekend and many more wounded in fighting between indigenous tribes and Muslim settlers in the northeastern state of Assam.

The authorities imposed a nighttime curfew to prevent more violence and federal troops were deployed to remote areas.

“The situation is tense and more security forces are being sent to far flung areas,” S.N. Singh, Assam’s inspector general of police told reporters on Monday.

According to a senior civil servant in Kokrajhar district, tens of thousands of villagers fled their homes and took shelter in relief camps, especially women and children looking for protection.

Some 37 such camps have already been set up and more will reportedly be opened if necessary.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Karzai Asks Berlin for Help With Taliban Talks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked Germany to act as a discreet go-between with the Taliban in the hopes of paving the way for eventual peace talks. It is a role that Germany has played before — in an effort that was ultimately torpedoed by Karzai himself.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: NATO Convoy to Afghanistan Attacked, One Killed

(AGI) Peshawar-Two men attacked a convoy carrying supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan, killing one of the drivers in north-western Pakistan. The assault is the first since the July 3 reopening of the Pakistani supply routes. A local official, Bakhtiar Khan, described the incident that took place in the city of Jarmud, in the outskirts of Peshawar. “Two gunmen on a motorcycle fired at a truck carrying supplies for NATO troops across the border and killed the driver,” Khan said. A man seated next to the driver was seriously injured .

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

Far East

Beijing to Establish Military Garrison to Control South China Sea

The base will be built at Sansha (Paracel Islands). So far no details about the size and timing of the move have been released. Defence, escort and military operations will be run from the town. Forty-five members were named to run local affairs and represent local residents. In Vietnam, protest against Chinese “imperialism” continues.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China has approved the formal establishment of a military garrison on South China Sea islands at the centre of a dispute with Vietnam and Philippines, state media reported today. The command will be based in Sansha city on Woody Island in the Paracels, a city formed in June to administer the area. The Chinese population numbers only a few thousand, mostly fishermen. On Sunday, 45 legislators were named to the new city’s congress. Although nothing is known about how many soldiers will be deployed and when, Beijing’s decision to set up a garrison is bound to raise tensions in an area that is strategically important for world trade, and rich in raw materials as well as oil and natural gas.

The Central Military Commission (CMC) authorised the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Guangzhou Military Command to “form a garrison command in” Sansha city, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

The troops would be “responsible for managing the city’s national defence mobilisation, military reserves and carrying out military operations”. The command will be “under the dual leadership of the Hainan provincial sub-command and the city’s civilian leaders”.

In Vietnam, protests against China’s imperialist policy in the Asia-Pacific region continue. About 150 Vietnamese protesters marched through Hanoi yesterday to assert Vietnamese claims over the Spratly and Paracel islands.

The demonstrators, including parents with toddlers and seniors, defied police requests to disperse and circumvented barricades aimed at preventing access to a square where the Chinese embassy is located.

The islands in the South China Sea are potentially rich in oil and are claimed by China, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Philippines and Malaysia. Attempts by some of them to claim one or more atolls have led to frictions.

The Philippines and Vietnam have slammed Beijing’s increased aggressiveness in asserting its sovereignty. In the recent past, incidents have occurred involving Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishing boats.

Manila and Hanoi have sought support in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) against China. However, a recent ASEAN meeting in Cambodia did not produce any results as member states failed to come up with a joint position against Beijing.

The opposition of the host nation was crucial. Phnom Penh’s stance is very much related to its close economic ties to Beijing.

China’s hegemonic aims have also raised concerns in the United States, which has beefed up its naval presence in the Pacific.

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


Commission Probes Italy Asylum Abuse Allegations

The European Commission is looking into allegations Italy is abusing the rights of asylum seekers by sending unaccompanied minors back to Greece. EU law requires member states to thoroughly process asylum claims and applications.

But according to a joint-report by the Greek Refugee Council and the German-based Pro Asyl earlier this month, Italy is returning undocumented migrants and asylum seekers to Greece without any proper checks.

“If appropriate the Commission will not hesitate to take action in conformity with the powers conferred to it in the treaties,” a spokesperson from the Commission told this website in a statement on Friday (20 July).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Milan’s Mayor: Church-State Respect in Civil Unions Case

(AGI) Milan — Milan’s Mayor Giuliano Pisapia wants to respect the differences between roles of the municipality and religion in the case of civil unions. “Everyone has his role,” he said “I understand the position of the Church and of some people in the Church, as I respect Church decisions in religious affairs.

“The Church must respect decisions by the city council, which is a city institution that speaks for all citizens. Everyone has his role, everyone respects of positions and ideas of the others.”

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

Swiss Hospitals Shun Zurich Circumcision Ban

A decision by a Zurich hospital to stop performing circumcisions is not finding any followers at other Swiss healthcare facilities.

The Zurich University Children’s Hospital announced last week it was halting the surgical procedure in non-medical cases while it considered legal and ethical concerns following a German court decision.

But Basel’s university pediatric clinic (UKBB) announced on Monday that it would continue to perform such surgery.

The clinic said it would only cease the practice if Swiss law makes it illegal.

The Zurich hospital’s decision followed a ruling last month by a court in Cologne, Germany that found a doctor who circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy had compromised the child’s physical integrity.

The case involved medical complications but the judgment sparked an angry response from Jewish and Muslim groups who claim it amounts to an attack on religious freedom.

Conrad Müller, director of UKBB, issued a statement that any interruption of such operations at the Basel hospital would be unacceptable to the families involved.

Religious circumcisions have been practised in Switzerland for decades.

But the Zurich University Children’s Hospital said its management wanted to receive advice from ethical and legal experts about such surgery.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]