Sunday, April 05, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/5/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/5/2009The big news for tonight is that Anders Fogh Rasmussen is reported to be on the verge of an abject apology to Turkey for the Danish Motoons, as the price of his ascent to the position of secretary-general of NATO. The only news source for the story so far is the Dutch-language Elsevier, so I’ve left it out of the news feed. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Thanks to Aeneas, C. Cantoni, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JCPA, JD, Larwyn, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Obama Endorses Soros Plan to Loot America
S&P Reports Drop in Migrant Remittances
 
USA
PETA Under Fire Over Claim That it Kills Most Animals Left at Its US Headquarters
US Mint Unveils Quarter With Spanish Inscription
Will Bill Give Obama Control of Internet?
 
Europe and the EU
Boubakeur’s Pro-Israel Comments Anger France’s Muslims
Denmark’s Loekke Rasmussen Named Premier as Recession Deepens
EU: Spain Fully Supports Turkey’s Membership, Says Garrido
Italy: Kercher Suspects Joked of ‘Hot Sex’
Japanese Popstar Dressed as Pineapple Robbed in Malmö
UK: Archbishop of York Calls for St George’s Day to be ‘Unifying’ Public Holidayby Jonathan Petre
UK: Cartoon Strip Aimed at Under-12s Depicts Christian Boy as Islamaphobe Thug
UK: Fresh Row Hits Primary as Easter Bonnet Parade is Scrapped
UK: How Many Muslim Women Really Want to be ‘Firepersons’?
UK: Internet Records to be Stored for a Year
UK: My PC Lecture From Police on How to Tell a Joke — and Why it Makes Me Fear for Our Society
UK: Patients to be Banned From Deleting Their Records From NHS Database
UK: School Criticised for Encouraging 11-Year-Olds to Swear
UK: Social Workers Said Because I Was a Soldier, I Was More Likely to be Violent to My Own Children
UK: Top British Judge Accuses Human Rights Court of Creating ‘Federal Law of Europe’
UK: Trevor Phillips Accused of Police Whitewash
 
Balkans
Austria, Romania Support Serbia in EU
EU-Albania: Rehn, Association Agreement Opens New Phase
 
Mediterranean Union
Med: Eurostat, Monthly Employment Data of 9 Countries
Med: Eurostat, Agricultural Breakdown of the 9 Countries
 
North Africa
Algeria: Vote, Opposition Says Taking Part Undignified
Egypt: Orientaliste, Destination for Scholars for 70 Years
Egyptian Swingers Jailed for Sexual Perversity
Libya: USA, Consular Office Reopens in Tripoli After 29 Yrs
Morocco: UN, Vote Over Minurso Renewal in April
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel: Lieberman Interrogated by Police for Five Hours
Israel: Peres Wants New Gov’t to Work for 2 States
Netanyahu, Peace Problems and the Pope’s Visit
New Town May be Death Blow to Hopes for Israel Peace
The European Union Report on Jerusalem: Distortions and Omiss Ions
 
Middle East
Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium Escape Tax Blacklist
Defence: Turkey and Israel to Hold Joint Exercises
Israel: US OK With UK’s Overture to Hizbullah
Mecca Mosques ‘Wrongly Aligned’
Turkey: TRT Starts Radio Broadcasting in Kurdish, Armenian
 
Caucasus
Military Itching Won’t Do Georgia Any Good
Turkey-Armenia: Azerbaijan Worried About Reconciliation
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Italian Senate Speaker Vows Extra Troops to Monitor Polls
Emma Bonino Condemns the Afghan “Shia Family Law”
Indonesia: Muslim Group Says Election Delay Could Lead to Coup
President Karzai’s Taleban-Style Laws for Women Put Troop Surge at Risk
Terrorism: Gul, Karzai, Zardari Pledge Military Cooperation
Women Choose Exile as Taliban Laws Return
 
Far East
“Training Course” for Better Military Relations Between Beijing and Taipei
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa: Royal Navy May be Forced to Free Captured Pirates
 
Latin America
Qatar: Venezuelan President Offers to Take Guantanamo Prisoners
 
Immigration
316 Victims in March, Fortress Europe Says
Immigration: Crackdown on Illegals Produces Crime Decline
Tunisians Amongst Victims of Shipwreck
 
General
Mark Steyn: Feel Like Getting Nasty?

Financial Crisis

Obama Endorses Soros Plan to Loot America

At the G 20 summit in London, President Barack Obama won rave reviews from reporters, many of whom clamored like school kids for the chance to ask him a question at his news conference, but the official conference document proves that plans are being made for what can only be described as the further looting of American taxpayers in order to feed unaccountable and corrupt global entities.

This is not “global cooperation,” as so many in the media described it, but a massive new expansion of the power and authority of international agencies and institutions such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

[…]

The Special Drawing Rights proposal, which is a vehicle for further U.S. foreign aid to the rest of the world, was the brainchild of billionaire George Soros, who told CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo that the G 20 conference was a “success.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


S&P Reports Drop in Migrant Remittances

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 2 — A Standard & Poors’ study on immigration from North African and Middle Eastern countries has confirmed that one of the effects of the international economic crisis is a considerable drop in remittances from migrant workers. According to the study, the phenomenon affects Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco. According to S&P’s forecasts, the reduction was between “between 5% and 10%”, against 20.4 billion euros in 2008. Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt are allegedly “relatively less exposed” compared to Lebanon and Jordan. However, despite these negative data, S&P says the reduction in migrant remittances is having a “negligible effect” on the economies of these countries, given that they have economically stable prospects. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

USA

PETA Under Fire Over Claim That it Kills Most Animals Left at Its US Headquarters

But now Peta — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — is itself on the receiving end of angry words over its own treatment of animals after it emerged that the organisation put down 96 per cent of the animals handed into its American headquarters. Of 2,216 animals taken to its premises in Norfolk, Virginia, last year, 2,124 were put to sleep — almost six per day. Homes were found for just seven.

The high-profile charity, famous for its “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaigns, has euthanised more than 20,000 pets in the last decade, according to figures it has supplied to Virginia state officials.

[…]

Dave Shishkoff of the Friends of Animals pressure group claimed that he saw perfectly-healthy looking puppies and kittens killed at Peta when he worked there as an intern in 1991.

“Peta has a perverse definition of euthanasia — one that apparently demands that any animal with the slightest discomfort ought to be killed,” he said.

“The vast majority of the animals Peta kills are far from terminal or suffering from incurable conditions. Peta claims to have a $30 million annual budget, yet cannot find home for about 2,000 cats and dogs each year. Not with $30 million dollars, or millions of members and huge lists of email addresses. Literally an armful of cats and dogs somehow survive Peta’s ‘rescues’ each year.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


US Mint Unveils Quarter With Spanish Inscription

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The director of the U.S. Mint on Thursday unveiled the first U.S. coin with an inscription in Spanish, a quarter honoring Puerto Rico as the “Isla del Encanto” _ or “Island of Enchantment.”

The coin presented at a ceremony in the Caribbean territory’s capital is the latest in a series that already has recognized all 50 states and, like the others, it depicts the traditional profile of George Washington on one side.

But the reverse side shows a sentry box on a Spanish colonial fort and a hibiscus, the U.S. island’s official flower, along with the phrase: “Isla del Encanto.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Will Bill Give Obama Control of Internet?

Proposed new powers called ‘drastic federal intervention’

A pair of bills introduced in the U.S. Senate would grant the White House sweeping new powers to access private online data, regulate the cybersecurity industry and even shut down Internet traffic during a declared “cyber emergency.”

Senate bills No. 773 and 778, introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., are both part of what’s being called the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, which would create a new Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor, reportable directly to the president and charged with defending the country from cyber attack.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Boubakeur’s Pro-Israel Comments Anger France’s Muslims

Members of France’s Muslim community called for ousting the director of the Paris Grand Mosque after comments he had made in a French magazine that were interpreted as praising Israel and justifying its latest offensive in Gaza.

In an interview Wednesday with the tourist magazine SVP-Israel, the Paris Grand Mosque imam Dalil Boubakeur lashed out at Hamas for firing missiles at Israel and implied that Israel’s reaction was justified.

“Concerning the latest event in Gaza, I personally believe that when organizations like Hamas bomb Israel over several years, they essentially generate Israeli reactions and expose the Palestinian population to reprisals,” he told the magazine.

Demanding explanation

The mosque sought to distance itself from his comments Saturday and reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian people. The mosque has been inundated with calls, from religious organizations to prominent leftist politicians, about his statements, an official at the Paris Mosque told AlArabiya.net…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Denmark’s Loekke Rasmussen Named Premier as Recession Deepens

Lars Loekke Rasmussen was named Denmark’s prime minister as the country struggles through its severest recession in six decades after Anders Fogh Rasmussen resigned to become NATO secretary general.

Queen Margrethe II, Denmark’s figure-head monarch, appointed Lokke Rasmussen the country’s 40th premier an hour after Fogh Rasmussen handed in his resignation at the Royal Palace in Copenhagen. Loekke Rasmussen, 44, will head the Liberal-Conservative coalition with a parliamentary majority, enabling him to avoid general elections due to be held no later than November 2011.

“It’s a large task that’s facing me,” Loekke Rasmussen told reporters outside the palace. “Denmark is in the middle of an international financial crisis; we have a small, open economy that is very exposed to large storms blowing abroad.”

Loekke Rasmussen must tackle an economy that, according to Deutsche Bank AG, is in the middle of a three-year recession, the longest-such streak in at least six decades. Opinion polls show the Liberal-Conservative coalition is lagging behind the Social Democratic-led opposition, which is calling for increased spending on hospitals, schools and green energy.

“He’s facing a very hot political term,” Hans Engell, a political analyst and former head of Denmark’s Conservative People’s Party, said in an interview broadcast by TV2 News. “He needs to provide an ambitious and fresh agenda soon.”

Fogh Rasmussen, 56, was yesterday appointed the first Scandinavian chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, where he’ll succeed Dutchman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Aug. 1. Fogh Rasmussen, who like Loekke Rasmussen belongs to the Liberal Party, the parliament’s biggest, had been in power since 2001.

New Cabinet

Loekke Rasmussen said he will use the next few days to look into selecting a new Cabinet, until which time he will continue to hold the post of finance minister as well as prime minister.

Lene Espersen, deputy prime minister and leader of the Conservative People’s Party, and Pia Kjaersgaard, head of the Danish People’s Party which back the minority coalition in parliament, both support Loekke Rasmussen.

“Lars Loekke needs to live up to some very big expectations,” Kjaersgaard told TV2. “He needs to focus on domestic issues.”

The government and its anti-euro ally the Danish People’s Party would receive 86 seats in Denmark’s parliament, compared with 89 seats for the opposition, according to an opinion poll published by Borsen on April 3. Thirty-two percent support Loekke Rasmussen as prime minister, while 52 percent back Helle Thorning-Schmidt of the Social Democrats, according to the poll.

Job Losses

“I hope that the new prime minister will take the economic crisis more seriously than he has done previously,” said Thorning-Schmidt, whose party has proposed a 36 billion-krone ($6.5 billion) growth package to spur employment. “The biggest problem today is that we’re losing 1,000 jobs per week.”

Denmark’s unemployment rate advanced for a fifth consecutive month in February, rising to 2.5 percent from 2.3 percent the month before, Statistics Denmark said March 26.

Fogh Rasmussen said yesterday it will be up to Loekke Rasmussen to decide how to handle a referendum on adopting the euro, a vote the government has promised will be held before its term ends. Denmark currently pegs the krone to the euro in a 2.25 percent band. A narrow majority of 50.7 percent of Danes supports euro adoption, a poll published by Danske Bank A/S on Jan. 21 showed.

Loekke Rasmussen, who will be Denmark’s youngest premier in 60 years, has a degree in law from the University of Copenhagen. He started his cabinet career as minister for the interior and health in 2001 and switched to finance minister six years later.

Loekke Rasmussen will become the third Danish premier in a row to carry that surname. Fogh Rasmussen, 56, succeeded Social Democrat Poul Nyrup Rasmussen in 2001.

Denmark’s economy contracted 1.1 percent last year, Statistics Denmark said on March 31. The economy may shrink 2.3 percent this year and 0.5 percent in 2010, according to a Feb. 4 forecast by Deutsche Bank.

[Return to headlines]


EU: Spain Fully Supports Turkey’s Membership, Says Garrido

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 3 — A Spanish executive said that Spain fully supports Turkey’s accession to European Union (EU) in case necessary conditions are met. In an interview with the Anatolia agency in Madrid, Spain’s Secretary of State for the EU Diego Lopez Garrido said Turkey should record some progress by maintaining reforms, meeting obligations of Ankara agreement on Cyprus question and facilitating talks between two cypriot parties. Garrido said Spain was convinced that Turkey has a very open European perspective but did not set a definite time for Turkey’s EU accession. “What we should do is not to put forth artificial impediments,” he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Kercher Suspects Joked of ‘Hot Sex’

Knox and Sollecito overheard in shop a day after body found

(ANSA) — Perugia, April 3 — A couple on trial for the murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher joked about having “hot sex” as they shopped for underwear the day after Kercher’s body was found, a Perugia court heard.

American student Amanda Knox, 21, and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 25, went clothes shopping after the house she had shared with Kercher was cordoned off by police following the murder, with Knox’s belongings inside.

Shop owner Carlo Maria Scotto di Rinaldi told the court Knox had bought “a vest and a G-string” and that the cashier had noticed them kissing.

Sollecito was overheard telling Knox they would have “hot sex” when they got home.

Sollecito’s lawyers are suing the shop owner for defamation and violation of privacy after security camera images of the pair in the shop were released to the media.

The behaviour of Knox and Sollecito in the days after the murder has come under repeated scrutiny in the trial, which began in January.

Earlier in the day during a private hearing held without journalists present the court heard that Kercher had sex before she was killed.

Kercher family lawyer Serena Perna said pathologist Luca Lalli told the court that medical examinations had not revealed evidence suggesting the victim had been raped but that bruises on Kercher’s body suggested the encounter had been “non consensual”.

Kercher, 21, was found semi-naked and with her throat slit on November 2, 2007 in the house she shared in Perugia with Seattle-born student Knox and two Italian women.

Ivory Coast national Rudy Guede, 21, who was sentenced to 30 years for sexually assaulting and murdering Kercher in a fast-track trial in October, has always admitted to being present at the house on the night of the murder and claims he and Kercher had consensual sex.

However, he alleges he was in the bathroom when the murder took place.

The prosecution says Kercher was killed when all three defendants tried to force her to participate in “a perverse group sex game”.

Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito say the pair were at Sollecito’s house on the night of the murder and that the crime was committed by a single attacker.

Both defendants deny wrongdoing, while Guede lodged an appeal against his sentence last month.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Japanese Popstar Dressed as Pineapple Robbed in Malmö

Japanese popstar Hideki Kaji was beaten and robbed in the middle of a recording session in Malmö on Saturday, according to media reports.

Hideki Kaji, known for having a particular fondness for the Scandinavian countries, was in Malmö to record a music video.

The world-renowned popstar was recording on the street in the Kroksbäck area of the southern Swedish city when the robbers struck.

When the film team took a break and the cameramen left the site to photograph their children who had also accompanied the team, Hideki Kaji was left to guard the equipment, dressed as a pineapple.

“Three men then walked towards him, beat him up and robbed him. He was hit so hard that he lost a filling. He then passed out. When he woke up camera equipment worth a total of 20,000 kronor ($2,500) had been stolen,” Mattias Attin at Malmö police told local newspaper Sydsvenskan.

Police had by Sunday morning been unable to apprehend anyone in connection with the attack.

Hideki Kaji is a regular visitor to Scandinavia and has recorded an album in Sweden under the celebrated Tambourine Studios label. Some of his hits have included “My Favourite Tofflor”, “Suddenly Sibylla” and “Ramlösa”.

[Return to headlines]


UK: Archbishop of York Calls for St George’s Day to be ‘Unifying’ Public Holidayby Jonathan Petre

The campaign to make St George’s Day a national holiday gained further momentum yesterday.

The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said that it was time to reclaim our patron saint as an ‘all-embracing’ symbol of British unity.

Many in the Church of England have backed away from celebrating St George for fear of provoking a backlash from other religious and cultural groups in Britain.

But Ugandan-born Dr Sentamu, Britain’s first black archbishop, has been happy to lend his outspoken support for the campaign.

Both England’s patron saint and the national flag of St George have been associated with racists and the Far Right in the past.

But the Archbishop — who is second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England hierarchy — is perhaps uniquely placed to rebut critics who feel such a celebration would be seen as divisive by ethnic minorities and non-Christians.

He said that failure to support an English cultural identity could create a ‘twisted vision’ which could be exploited by firebrand politicians and Islamic extremists.

The Archbishop’s comments come as Boris Johnson has pushed for a greater celebration of England’s patron saint on his feast day, April 23.

The London Mayor said that St George has been neglected for ‘far too long’.

The revival of interest in St George has been boosted in recent years by devolution in Scotland and Wales, and through widespread use of England’s national flag, the Cross of St George, by fans of the national football team.

At a literary festival on Saturday, Dr Sentamu asked: ‘Has the time come to make the feast of St George, the patron saint of England, a public holiday?’

He added: ‘Whether it be the terror of Salafi-jihadism (the radical Islamic doctrine behind Al Qaeda) or the insidious institutional racism of the British National Party, there are those who stand ready to fill the vacuum with a sanitised identity and twisted vision if the silent majority are reticent in holding back from forging a new identity.’

The Archbishop was at pains to stress that his speech was not a critique of multiculturalism, but rather a call for different communities and religious groups to embrace their shared values.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas[Return to headlines]


UK: Cartoon Strip Aimed at Under-12s Depicts Christian Boy as Islamaphobe Thug

[See article for the cartoon]

A Government-funded charity was at the centre of a row last night after a magazine it publishes for children appeared to depict Christians as Islamaphobes who regard Muslims as terrorists.

In a cartoon strip, a boy wearing a large cross around his neck is shown telling a friend that a smiling Muslim girl in a veil looks like a terrorist.

He later confronts her and shouts: ‘Hey, whatever your name is, what are you hiding under your turban?’

She replies that the garment is called a hijab and it is part of her religion, ‘like that cross you wear’.

The girl is then shown standing up for another boy, who is being bullied, and her behaviour is contrasted with that of the boy wearing the cross.

The cartoon story, entitled Standing Up For What You Believe In, appears in the latest issue of Klic!, a quarterly magazine aimed at children in care aged from eight to 12.

Published by the Who Cares? Trust, a charity set up in 1992, it is described on the cover as ‘the best ever mag for kids in care’ and is widely distributed by town halls.

The charity received £100,000 from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, headed by Ed Balls, in both 2007 and 2008, and £80,000 this year.

Although the cartoon does not specifically refer to the boy’s religion, it has angered Christian groups and MPs who fear it sends out the wrong message.

Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, said: ‘What about Christian children in care who received this magazine? How will they feel to see themselves mocked as narrow-minded Islamaphobes?

‘It is a clumsy caricature, symptomatic of a culture which says it is OK to bully Christians in the name of diversity.’

Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering, said: ‘I think it is very unfortunate that the lad who is pointing the finger is wearing a cross.

‘You can hardly imagine anyone producing a magazine in which the roles were reversed and it was the Muslim girl who was behaving badly.’

Gary Streeter, the Tory MP for South West Devon, said the religious parody was ‘unacceptable’, adding: ‘If it is being done with public money, it should be investigated and the magazine withdrawn.’

           — Hat tip: Aeneas[Return to headlines]


UK: Fresh Row Hits Primary as Easter Bonnet Parade is Scrapped

A primary school at the centre of a row over separate assemblies for Muslim pupils faced further criticism yesterday after its Easter bonnet parade was cancelled.

The event has traditionally taken place every year at Meersbrook Bank Primary School in Heeley, Sheffield, on the last day of term before the Easter holiday. Yesterday parents were expecting to be invited into the school to see youngsters put on the seasonal show — but were told this year’s event had been scrapped.

In February headteacher Julia Robinson quit after she tried to stop separate assemblies for Muslim pupils, which had been held for several years. She wanted to hold assemblies for pupils of all backgrounds — a practice common in most schools — but was forced to backtrack after she was accused of being a racist.

The school set up a working party to examine the proposals, but Mrs Robinson was forced to take time off from her job. When plans were announced for her to return to work some parents protested, and Mrs Robinson resigned along with chairman of governors Sarah Browton.

Outside the school after the parade’s cancellation, one parent said: “It’s always something the parents have looked forward to so they can go in and admire their children’s work.

“Nobody is happy. It’s an absolute farce. I believe it’s all connected with what’s been going on earlier in the year.”

Another parent said: “We used to make Easter bonnets when I was at school and kids love it. This time it was cancelled with no explanation at all but obviously everyone thinks it is connected with the row over the assemblies.”

New chair of governors Rob Stephens denied the decision to axe the parade was linked to the assembly row. “It was a staff decision because there were so many things going on at once. Easter is still being marked at the school and children have been decorating eggs for a competition.” He said that while younger pupils had been enthusiastic about the parade older ones — particularly boys — were less keen.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


UK: How Many Muslim Women Really Want to be ‘Firepersons’?

[Comments from JD: Scroll down past the story on the poor fellow who was assaulted while standing in the queue at the grocery store.]

Ever wondered why there’s no campaign to have a quota of female dustcart workers, or dustpersons? Well, I have done the wondering on your behalf.

And the reason is simple. The mad ultra-feminist movement is only interested in attacking high-prestige bastions of conservatism, to make a political point.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Internet Records to be Stored for a Year

Details of every email sent and website visited by people in Britain are to be stored for use by the state from tomorrow as part of what campaigners claim is a massive assault on privacy.

A European Union directive, which Britain was instrumental in devising, comes into force which will require all internet service providers to retain information on email traffic, visits to web sites and telephone calls made over the internet, for 12 months.

Police and the security services will be able to access the information to combat crime and terrorism.

Government warns of nuclear terror threatHundreds of public bodies and quangos, including local councils, will also be able to access the data to investigate flytipping and other less serious crimes.

It was previously thought that only the large companies would be required to take part, covering 95 per cent of Britain’s internet usage, but a Home Office spokesman has confirmed it will be applied “across the board” to even the smallest company.

Privacy campaigners say the move to force telecoms companies to store the data is the first step towards the controversial central database at the heart of the Home Office’s Intercept Modernisation Programme, which will gather far more detailed information on Britain’s online activities.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas[Return to headlines]


UK: My PC Lecture From Police on How to Tell a Joke — and Why it Makes Me Fear for Our Society

As I walked to my local police station I felt anxious and puzzled. It was a journey I’d taken many times, as the Wolverhampton city councillor in charge of liaising with officers.

But this time the tables were turned. I was about to be questioned about that most modern of offences: homophobia.

I certainly didn’t want to be at that interview and neither, I suspect, did the police. I’m sure they would rather have been catching criminals. That they could not do so is worrying for British society and the future of policing.

[…]

The officers then pointed out that if anyone complained under anti-homophobia legislation, the police had to investigate. If they didn’t, the case could be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and then the police themselves would be investigated.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Patients to be Banned From Deleting Their Records From NHS Database

Patients will be banned from having their intimate health records deleted from the controversial new NHS national medical database.

The NHS is now uploading millions of people’s medical histories on to its Summary Care Record (SCR) system.

Within two years, GP surgeries, hospitals, pharmacies, ambulancemen and other NHS officials across the country will have instant access to everyone’s health records.

But last week Department of Health officials confirmed there was a blanket ban on information being removed at a patient’s request once it was on the database.

Campaigners say the system threatens patient confidentiality, is open to abuse and may be illegal.

[…]

The Department of Health says patients can opt out before their GP loads information from their existing medical file on to the database. But once this work, which is being carried out at individual surgeries across the country, has been completed the record will remain on the system whatever a patient’s objection.

Officials say it will be possible to ‘mask’ a patient’s record so that it cannot be viewed by clinical staff treating them. But senior Health Service officials will still be able to access records for ‘medico-legal evidential’ reasons.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: School Criticised for Encouraging 11-Year-Olds to Swear

A school has been criticised after children as young as 11 were encouraged to shout obscenities during a lesson discussing swearing.

Swear words were written on a blackboard before their meaning was explained to 30 Year Seven pupils in detail by a teacher.

Officials at St Laurence School in Bradford on Avon, Wilts., say the lesson was part of a sex and relationship education programme designed to ‘dispel’ the myths of swear words.

Parents however have said they were not informed about the content of the one-hour class and say their children were left “deeply upset” by the experience.

One parent, who asked not to be named, said: “This is a total disgrace. We send our children to school in good faith to gain an education — not qualifications in swear words.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Social Workers Said Because I Was a Soldier, I Was More Likely to be Violent to My Own Children

Sitting in his mother-in-law’s living room, Matthew Dean’s eyes widened in shock as he listened to what his social worker was telling him.

Because he was a man and a soldier — accustomed to fighting for Britain in war-torn countries — he was, they said, more likely to be of a violent disposition, and therefore more capable of abusing his baby son, Louie.

‘I was furious,’ says Matthew. ‘To be told that my occupation and gender should have any bearing on my parenting skills and sense of decency was absolutely beyond belief.’

It was only the latest in a string of traumas social services had subjected Matthew and his wife Katie to since decreeing they were a danger to Louie — and taking him away from them.

Perhaps the most poignant repercussion was the three-month pregnancy Katie later felt forced to terminate — having been told that she would have to hand that child over to social services too.

Katie says: ‘I was grieving twice — for the little boy I couldn’t care for and for the baby I would never see.’

The full story of the Deans’ ordeal can now be revealed for the first time after Matthew and Katie spoke exclusively to The Mail on Sunday about their treatment by social services — and the heartbreak of missing nine crucial months of their little boy’s life.

It is a sad and worrying saga — and one that seems to be becoming all too familiar — of overzealous social workers acting on a flimsy diagnosis and ultimately tearing an innocent family apart.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Top British Judge Accuses Human Rights Court of Creating ‘Federal Law of Europe’

One of Britain’s most senior judges has launched a fierce attack on the European Court of Human Rights, accusing it of straying beyond its role and seeking to create a ‘federal law of Europe’.

Lord Hoffmann, the second most senior Law Lord, said he supported the adoption of human rights legislation by Britain but stressed that it should be for this country’s courts to apply it, not judges in Strasbourg.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Trevor Phillips Accused of Police Whitewash

Equality commissioners are in revolt over a claim that institutional racism has ended

A CLAIM by Labour’s equality czar that the police are no longer institutionally racist has angered board members concerned that he is “whitewashing” the problem, insiders have alleged.

The statements by Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), are said to have contributed to the resignations of three board members, including the chief executive.

Walkouts had already been expected because of discontent about Phillips allegedly exploiting his post at the commission, which has a £70m budget, as a platform for his own ambition.

The EHRC, which opened for business 18 months ago, was created by the government as a merger of existing equality quangos. Its new Labour backers — many of whom support Phillips — hope its “fairness for all” agenda will ensure it is in tune with mainstream opinion rather than the preserve of lobbyists.

The chairman will have to fight hard, however, to ensure he is reappointed when his term expires in September.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Austria, Romania Support Serbia in EU

Austria and Romania have reiterated their firm support for Serbia’s eventual EU membership and have lined up their support to immediately de-block the EU trade agreement and a visa free travel.

After a meeting in Vienna with the Serbian Foreign Minister, Austria’s Foreign Minster Michael Spindelegger said that the relationship with Serbia and “close and encompassing”.

“We consider ourselves advocates of Serbia’s interests,” said the Austrian minister.

Austria made commitment that it will stay economically engaged in Serbia and that its banks, despite tough financial times, will remain in Serbia.

Jeremic said that he got assurances that Austrian banks “will not pull out their resources from Serbia, and they represent more then one third of resources of the financial sector after privatization.”

Austria’s Foreign Minster Michael Spindelegger on the right

The talks also focused on the development of the Danube corridor, the longest river stretch in Europe that connects Germany with the Black Sea.

The development of the corridor is a joint Austrian and Romanian initiative.

During his 2 day visit to Romania, Serbian President pointed out that the Romanian port of Constanza is of particular importance for Serbia, and said the Rhine should be linked with the Danube and the Black Sea.

Similarly to Austria, Romanian President Traian Basescu said that his country supports fast EU integration of Serbia.

In his talks with the Serbian President Tadic, Basescu reiterated his position that Romania will not recognize Kosovo.

The Political Sciences Department of the Dimitrie Cantemir University in Romania awarded an honorary doctorate on President Tadic.

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


EU-Albania: Rehn, Association Agreement Opens New Phase

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 1 — As of today Albania is closer to Europe as the stabilisation and association agreement (ASA) between the EU and Albania, which was signed in June of 2006, comes into force. Enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn believes that this marks the beginning of a new phase of relations between Tirana and Brussels. Rehn said that “The entry into force of the agreement marks the beginning of an era wherein both Albania’s international obligations and expectations of fulfilment by this country will be higher than before”. The Commissioner thinks that “the stabilisation and association agreement between Albania and the EU represents a binding agreement which entails mutual rights and obligations. The agreement hinges on the respect of democratic principles and on the basic elements of the European single market. An area of free trade with the EU and the application of European standards in the relative disciplines, such as competition, laws on state assistance or intellectual property rights, as well as reforms according to European standards in other sectors will allow Albania the chance of coming closer to the EU”. The Commissioner repeated the EU’s support to European integration, saying that “the EU is allocating, in the 2009-2012 period, more than 6.8 billion euro in funds to support reforms in Turkey and the western Balkans”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Med: Eurostat, Monthly Employment Data of 9 Countries

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 3 — The following is the employment data published by Eurostat for the 9 Mediterranean partner countries of the European Union, with Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Tunisia. Israel presents an employment situation that is closer to the European countries of the north shore of the Mediterranean. The analysis also includes data on Turkey, France, Greece, Spain, and Italy. — PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT: The numbers on the public sector can include administration, education, public services, or state agencies. In the Mediterranean countries the public sector is over 25% of the workforce, which is less than France (30%) where numbers also include agencies. — AGRICULTURE: The percentage of agricultural labour is over 15% in the majority of countries in the Mediterranean region with few exceptions (Israel, which has a modern system, and Jordan where production is limited due to a shortage of arable land). Morocco employs 42.3% of its workforce in this sector, followed by Egypt, 30.9% and Turkey 27.3%. In Europe, the percentage of the workforce employed in agricultural work does not exceed 5%. — ATYPICAL LABOUR: A series of informal businesses, autonomous work and mini-businesses exist in the western Mediterranean countries, specifically Morocco, where independent labourers and whose who work from home total over half of the workforce. This proportion is high also in Syria (30%) and Egypt (27%). Of the countries of the northern shore the Mediterranean, Italy and Turkey have a share of the labour force similar to these countries. — WOMEN: In the Mediterranean countries, there are also low employment levels for women. In all countries the level of female employment is under 30%, with the exception of Israel (58.7%). In Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Tunisia, there is over a 10% gap between the male and female unemployment rate. In the nine Mediterranean countries, there is a portion of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 that work and do not study, including 15% of men and 47% of women. Few women in the Mediterranean region are positioned on the job market: the percentage of those who are not active and do not study is higher and often double the percentage of men. — OVER 60: In most of the countries, the retirement age is 60, which results in a decline in the employment rate among people over the age of 60, which is greater in the northern countries than in the southern countries, where workers over the age of 65 continue to stay in the workforce. One reason for this is that many of the Mediterranean countries do not have a social security system for a large portion of the working population or are looking for a job to continue earning. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Med: Eurostat, Agricultural Breakdown of the 9 Countries

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 24- The following is an outline by Eurostat for the production of grain, rice, vegetables, potatoes, fruit, grapes, olives, and dates in the nine southern shore countries of the Mediterranean: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Tunisia. FRESH VEGETABLES: The most widely planted crops are tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. Since 2000, production has increased annually by 5.4% totalling 45 million tonnes in 2006. Among the nine countries, Egypt produces 46.3% of all vegetables, followed by Morocco (15%), Algeria (12%), and Syria (7.8%). GRAIN: Production continually increased by 9.6% per year, with a peak of 36 million tonnes in 2006. Egypt was the top producer with 46.8%, followed by Morocco (18.6%) and Syria (17.8%), then Algeria (9.6%), Tunisia (5.3%), then 1.9% for Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories combined. Production increased for all countries aside from Jordan, which basically remained stable, and the Palestinian Territories. Harvests in the Maghreb varied due to irregular rainfall and the absence of irrigation systems. Rice was cultivated mainly in Egypt and Morocco. FRESH FRUIT: Citrus was a major product (3.2 million tonnes in Egypt, 1.2 million tonnes in Morocco in 2006). 41% of fruit was produced by Egypt, 15.3% by Morocco, followed by 12.1% in Syria, 9.2% in Israel, 9.1% in Algeria, then 5.9% in Lebanon, 4.6% in Tunisia, and 1.7% in Jordan, and 1% in the Palestinian Territories. OLIVES: Production varied, with an average of 3.6 million tonnes per year. Used mainly for oil, Syria led production, with 25.8%, then Tunisia (24.3%), Morocco (18.2%), Egypt (10.4%), Algeria (8.3%), Jordan (4.2%), Lebanon (3.9%), the Palestinian Territories (3.6%), and Israel (1.3%). GRAPES: 3 million tonnes were produced in 2006, 1.4 million in Egypt, amounting to 47.7%, then Syria (13.1%), Algeria (10.8%), Morocco (10.6%), Israel (5%), Tunisia (4.8%), Lebanon (4.4%), the Palestinian Territories (2.4%), Jordan (1.2%). Cultivated for consumption while fresh, grapes were used in the production of wine and juice (38% in Tunisia and 36% in Israel). DATES: Dates were produced by all of the southern shore countries except Lebanon. The average production was 1.8 million tonnes per year, mainly by Egypt (64.2%), Algeria (25.3%), the Tunisia (6.3%), Morocco (2.9%), then Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Syria, which combined, produced 1.3%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Vote, Opposition Says Taking Part Undignified

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, APRIL 1 — Appeals to boycott the April 9 elections are growing in number, and Algeria’s two main and traditional democratic left-wing parties (FFS, the Socialist Forces Front, and RCD, the Rally for Culture and Democracy) stated that participating in the vote amounts to “an insult to the dignity” of the Algerian people. RCD, led by psychologist, Said Sadi, who ran for the 2004 presidential elections, issued a note today attacking “the election campaign which looks more and more like the November 12 coup each day”. November 12 is the day when the Constitution was amended to eliminate the double mandate limit for the president, which consequently allowed Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a third term in office. RCD, which has its roots in Kabylie, complained of “physical violence, trucks of the security services which assail the cities” during rallies held by the outgoing president, “political violence” used by leaders who ‘charge any citizens who reject compromise with treason”, and ‘property violence: public assets taken in for personal use”. RCD stated that “A habitual participant in military coups will never subjugate the Algerian nation” and announced that it will interrupt activities up to April 9. According to Algerian press, two FFS militants were arrested last Sunday in Tizi Ouzou, Kabylie’s capital city, while they were transporting leaflets objecting to the April 9 elections. After being held for some 4 hours one of the two militants is to be tried for disrupting public order. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Orientaliste, Destination for Scholars for 70 Years

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — CAIRO — Already in the ‘50s, Egyptologists like Jean Yoyotte, Serge Sauneron, and Sergio Donadoni were going to the old Sharia bookstore Kasrl El-Nil, just a few steps away from the Egyptian museum in Cairo. Today the top international names in Egyptology and others continue to visit the narrow and overflowing rooms of the Orientaliste. It is not a rare occurrence to run into Edda Bresciani, an Italian Egyptologist, who participated in digs in Medinet Madi, in Fayoum, intent on digging up the image of an impossible-to-find protome of a lion, or Luisa Bongrani, the first scholar in the world to found a professorship in Nubian Antiquities. ‘Au Bouquiniste Oriental’ was the name given in 1936 by Feldman, an Egyptian Jew, to this place, which was considered by researchers and collectors to be a precious mine of rare or untracable documents: reports from archaeological digs, written accounts and maps about tomb and temple findings in Egypt dating back to the early 1900s, but also volumes on Coptic, medieval and modern Egypt, which were accumulated slowly but surely by the three owners of the bookstore. Over 50,000 volumes in all, only partly catalogued and scattered everywhere on bookshelves, in the basement storage room, the second floor; thousands of prints and engravings done by English, German, and French orientalists (including the famed David Roberts) who in the 19th century travelled throughout Egypt, Nubia, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon. Hundreds of maps, some of which date back to halfway through the 16th century, and dozens and dozens of old cards and photographs dating back to the early 1900s, stacked in random piles. “In 1956, Feldman, like all of the foreigners who lived in Egypt at the time, including Italians, French, Greeks, and Armenians, had to flee the country,” said the current owner of L’Orientaliste, Nagwa Kamy, an affable woman who has been running the shop since 1989. “Continuing with this passion,” she added, “was Feldman’s assistant, a Coptic named Bahari who cleverly bought up entire libraries and prints from foreigners who were in a hurry to leave the country.” Many books that Bahari found were first editions by French, Italian, German, and English scholars, explained Ms. Kamy. “The westerners who were living here at the time were educated, had refined tastes, and many had ample time to dedicate to literature.” Some copies of manuscripts have covers with plates used by the engravers to produce illustrations. “Tiny masterpieces that have to be understood to be appreciated.,” said the owner. “Today,” she said, “it is not easy to find a discerning public. In 20 years, this market has also changed. There are more dealers and very few connoisseurs, even among collectors.” Now, like then, visiting the bookstore are mainly foreigners who live in Egypt. Very few Egyptians. “Ambassadors and members of their delegations are mainly are most prized clients. Ministers also enjoy stopping here,” concluded Kamy. The most recent visitor was Italy’s Minister of Economic Development, Claudio Scajola, who just a new days ago bought a valuable print. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egyptian Swingers Jailed for Sexual Perversity

Cairo Court ruled swingers offended Islam and humanity

An Egyptian man and his wife convicted of setting up a swinger’s club and organizing orgies and wife swaps were sentenced to a total of ten years in prison , local press reported Sunday.

Tolba Abdel Hafez, a 48-year-old civil servant, and his wife Salwa Higazi, a 37-year-old schoolteacher, were sentenced to seven years and three years respectively by the Agouza Criminal Court Saturday, the state-owned al-Gomhuria reported. The couple will be on probation after their release for the same time period.

In sentencing the pair, the judge described the case as “one of the worst crimes committed in the name of humanity,” adding that the crime was unique for its perversity and went beyond the taboos of extra-marital sex.

The Cairo couple, who have children, were arrested in October 2008 on prostitution charges and confessed to having sexual relations with three other couples.

The couple used the pseudonyms Magdy and Samira on a website and in emails to organize wife-swapping parties and orgies and managed to get 44 couples signed up for Cairo swinging sessions via the website.

Hafez had said he got the idea from a porn movie, and that his wife agreed.

Rights groups have criticized a 1961 law that can be used to prosecute suspects because it defines certain sexual acts as prostitution even if no money changes hands.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Libya: USA, Consular Office Reopens in Tripoli After 29 Yrs

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, APRIL 3 — From today, any Libyan wanting to go to the USA can apply for an entrance visa at the Consular Office of the US Embassy in Tripoli. The announcement was made to the press by the new US ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz. Previously, in order to go to the US, Libyans had to go to the consular office in Tunisia. 29 years have passed since the closing of the US Consulate in Libya. The opening of the office, which follows the appointment of the new ambassador, Gene Cretz, on December 27 last year, signals another step forward in US-Libyan relations. The previous US ambassador departed from Tripoli on November 7, 1972, when the US accused Libya of supporting international terrorism. The Visa Section’ was closed in 1980. ‘We are open for those interested in travelling for business, study or pleasure”, Ambassador Cretz said. He also announced the arrival of the new consul by the summer. The offices are nevertheless already operational and anyone fulfilling the requirements will be able to obtain a visa for the US. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Morocco: UN, Vote Over Minurso Renewal in April

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, APRIL 3 — The United Nations Security Council is to look at the Western Sahara issue in consultations which will take place on April 21 and 30, reports Moroccan news agency MAP citing the UN press office. The first of these meetings will be dedicated to the UN Secretary General’s report, which is based on the initial report by Ban-Ki Moon’s personal envoy, Christopher Ross. He replaced Peter Van Walsum in January, after the latter’s attempts at mediation were rejected by the Fronte Polisario, the representative body of the Saharawi which, with Algeria’s support, is demanding independence from Morocco. The fifteen members of the Security Council will vote on April 30 for the renewal of the Minurso mission, which is due to come to a close at the end of this month. The UN mission, which comprises 200 soldiers and around a hundred civilians from 25 countries, ensures the respect of the ceasefire between Morocco’s troops and Saharawi forces. Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, was annexed to Morroco in 1975. Since 2007 negotiations have been ongoing under the UN’s aegis in Manhasset, near New York. Rabat is proposing a broad autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, while the Polisario — backed by Algeria — is requesting the calling of a referendum in which the Saharawi people could choose between annexation to Morocco, autonomy, or independence. The fourth session of negotiations was concluded in March 2008 without making any progress. Morocco and the Fronte Polisario have independently come to an agreement to revive negotiations on a date to be decided. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: UN Inquiry on All Violations, Judge Goldstone Says

(ANSAmed) — GENEVA, APRIL 3 — The United Nations have named the South African former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Richard Goldstone, to head a difficult inquiry into “all violations” of human rights related to the recent Israeli ‘Cast Lead’ offensive in the Gaza Strip. The inquiry — set up in January through a resolution of the UN Human Rights Council — will have to evaluate “all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the December 27 2008 — January 18 2009 conflict”, affirmed today the President of the Human Rights Council, Nigerian Ambassador Martin Iheghian Uhmoibhi. Basically, it will not merely be limited to the violations “perpetrated” by Israel, reads the resolution approved by the Council. Judge Goldstone reckons that it is in the interest of all Palestinians and Israelis that the investigation into the accusations of war crimes and serious violations of human rights by both sides are undertaken impartially. “I hope that the mission’s conclusions will contribute to peace in the Middle East and give justice to the victims”, he added. The “fact-finding” mission was approved on January 12 in Geneva through a UN Human Rights Council resolution, at the end of a special meeting on the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. The team to undertake this task includes Professor Christine Chinkin (Great Britain), Hina Jilani — a lawyer from Pakistan, and retired Colonel Desmond Travers (Ireland). The team will hold meetings in the coming weeks before departing for the Middle East, but no date has yet been set. It is still unclear whether Israel will cooperate with the mission. Goldstone hopes to present the report within three months. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israel: Lieberman Interrogated by Police for Five Hours

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALM, APRIL 3 — The new Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was questioned again by police on charges of corruption, reported police sources, specifying that the interrogation — the second in two days after yesterday’s seven hour session — lasted for five hours. “Lieberman was interrogated for five hours by the police because he is suspected of corruption, fraud, money laundering and breach of trust”, said Micky Rosenfield, a police spokesman, adding that the new minister will be questioned again in the near future. According to the media, Lieberman, head of the ultra-nationalist party Israel Beitenu (IB), reportedly received “large sums of money from abroad” to finance his electoral campaign. These funds were reportedly channelled through fictitious companies and different bank accounts. In a statement from his office, Lieberman communicated yesterday that “he was in a hurry to end the current investigation which has been going on for the last 13 years”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israel: Peres Wants New Gov’t to Work for 2 States

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 1 — This morning Israeli premier Shimon Peres has said to the new prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu that it is now up to the new government to “make a supreme effort to make progress in the peace process on all fronts”, and reminded him that the outgoing government had adopted the two-state solution for two populations as a solution to the conflict with Palestinians, supported by most of the international community. Peres, who said this in the ceremony to mark the end of outgoing premier Ehud Olmert’s term and the investiture of the new government in the presidential palace in Jerusalem, added that “the Arab initiative for regional peace has been published. I know of no better alternative than that of peace in the region.” Shortly before, Olmert and the new premier Benyamin Netanyahu had arrived with their spouses at the presidential residence to a welcome of trumpet blasts and a guard of honour, while all the ministers of the past government and those of the incoming one awaited them in the reception hall. In his outgoing speech, Olmert said that he was ending his term in office “with pride and satisfaction”, but also with the regret of not having been able to finalise a peace agreement with the Palestinians,” even if we have made progress in this direction.” The new premier said that his government had taken on “a difficult task”, and that he fully trusted in its abilities. “Immediately after this ceremony,” he said, “we will have to roll up our sleeves and get down to work.” At the end of the speeches, the new government gathered around President Peres for the traditional photo op.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Netanyahu, Peace Problems and the Pope’s Visit

Israel’s new government, which takes offices today, is raising fears and concerns among Christians over entry visas and among average Israelis over relations with Iran and the Palestinians. The “peace process” seems now dead in the water. In May Benedict XVI will visit a land that appears to be sliding ever more into desperation and war.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) — Israel’s new government led by Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to take office this afternoon. For the Church, one fact in particular stands out about the new Israeli Government to be headed by Binyamin Netanyahu: The fundamentalist party Shas will once more control the Interior Ministry. Last time a Shas member was the Interior Minister, earlier this decade, there was a complete cessation of the issuance and renewal of entry and residence permits, “visas”, to Church personnel.

Visas for Church personnel

It took a very great deal of heavy international pressure to induce the Ministry to start issuing such visas once more, and when it did, it was on noticeably worse terms than ever before. Meanwhile scores of priests and men and women religious were reduced to the status of “illegal aliens”, several were stopped in the street by immigration police, and none could risk leaving the country, for whatever reason, for fear they might not be allowed back in. The “visa” question, a series of difficulties and recurrent “crises” has never actually been properly resolved, and now there is concern in ecclesiastical circles that it may become, once again, even more acute. The hope is, of course, that this will not actually happen, and that instead the issue will be settled by an agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel. Such agreement has been on the agenda of negotiators for the two sides since their 1993 Fundamental Agreement, but other issues have had to be dealt with first.

Israelis too, especially the well-educated and the more secular Israelis (the “elites”, as they are called by right-wing populists) are welcoming the new government with expressions of worry and not much expectation of progress on peace with Israel’s neighbours, particularly the Palestinians. Incoming Prime Minister Netanyahu has famously refused to speak of a Palestinian State, even as a long-term goal, let alone as a subject of actual peace negotiations with the Palestinians. This is why Israel’s largest party, Kadimah, the party of outgoing Prime Minister Olmert and outgoing Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni, has declined his invitation to join the governing coalition. Olmert and Livni have been speaking for some time now of the need to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories which began in 1967.

War or peace with Iran

Surprisingly, the once-dominant and now much-reduced Labour party (only 13 out of 120 members of parliament) has nonetheless joined Netanyahu’s coalition. The unnatural alliance between this social democratic party and the right wing parties, which form the rest of the new governing coalition, has been the subject of much comment, perplexity and even deploration.. Yet the presence of Labour’s ministers, alongside those of the extreme right and the fundamentalists, is also reassuring. The expectation is that they will be able to prevent the worst excesses that the ultra-nationalist and fundamentalist elements of the government might otherwise be capable of.

To many in Israel it is particularly reassuring that Labour’s leader, Ehud Barak, will continue to be at the head of the powerful Defence Ministry. This is especially so since many are saying that the most crucial task of the new government will be to decide what, if anything, to do about the perceived threat from Iran. The chief of military intelligence has recently warned that Iran would be able to build an atomic weapon within a year, and all Israelis, whether left or right wing, religious or secular, are extremely anxious about this prospect. There is wide-spread disgust with the insufficient determination of the West to prevent Iran’s military nuclearisation by effective sanctions. More and more is it being said that Israel will now be facing the terrible choice between simply resigning itself to living henceforth in the shadow of a nuclear threat from a country that is publicly committed to the annihilation of the Jewish State — or taking direct military action to neutralise Iran’s military nuclear capacity, with unforeseeable and possibly devastating retaliatory consequences to Israel itself. Labour party advocates of joining the government — and of ensuring General Barak’s place at the head of the Defence Ministry — have made much use of the argument that Israelis will feel much safer that way than if Netanyahu were left to his own devices. Israelis well remember Mr. Netanyahu’s worrying handling of national security matters when he was last the head of the government (1996-1999). It was then, for example, that he gave the order to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mesh’al in the streets of Amman, the capital of a friendly Arab State (Jordan), and then, when the assassination was botched, Mr. Netanyahu panicked at the reaction of King Hussein. Netanyahu went out of his way to appease the King: First Netanyahu sent to Amman the antidote to the poison injected by the failed agents into the body of Mr. Mesh’al, saving his life to continue to direct terrorism against Israelis; then he freed from prison the founder and ideologue of Hamas, Ahmad Yassin, who used his freedom to preside over even more terrorism against Israeli civilians. A failure of judgement in the matter of attacking (or not attacking) Iran could of course be much costlier, and Israelis will be less nervous about such a possibility with Mr. Barak in the government as Defence Minister. Or so the argument is being made.

Mr. Netanyahu is well aware of his image-problems at home and abroad, and has been working hard to deal with them. Bringing Labour into his government is an important part of his efforts. So is his talk of improving the daily lives of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, under the heading of “economic peace” (without political freedom). But he is certainly not helped by his choice as foreign minister, Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of a largely secular nationalist party, Israel Beiteinu, notorious for his extreme rhetoric against Israel’s Arab minority, and for aggressive statements about Egypt and its President Hosni Mubarak.

It is not certain though how long Mr. Liebermann will be able to remain at the foreign ministry. He is the subject of several police investigations on suspicion of corruption and money-laundering, and may well have to face criminal charges within weeks, or so the press reports.

Benedict XVI’s visit

The feeling in Israel is that the season of actively seeking peace, the “peace process”, which was inaugurated by the 1993 “Oslo accords” is now definitively over. This is reinforced by the renewed prospects, on the Palestinian side, of “reconciliation” between President Abu Mazen’s Fatah movement and the Hamas organisation, which rejects the “Oslo agreements” and with them, the possibility or desirability of a definitive peace with Israel.

This is the context in which the Holy Land is awaiting the arrival, in May, of Pope Benedict XVI. In 2000 John Paul II came into a Land that was believed to be on the cusp of a definitive end to the bloody conflict between the two Nations that call it home. Then was a time of great hope and high expectations. Very little of that remains. Yet precisely in this present time of disillusionment and anxiety, the Pope’s witness to Him Who is our Peace is surely more urgently necessary than ever.

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


New Town May be Death Blow to Hopes for Israel Peace

The sign in big, red Hebrew letters reads “Welcome to Mevasseret Adumim, the Harbinger of the Hills”. A three-lane road with roundabouts leads up the hill to a police station and street lamps line the flyover that links the new town to neighbouring Ma’aleh Adumim, one of the largest Jewish settlements in Israel.

There are no houses, cars or people in Mevasseret Adumim: it is a town laid out, waiting to be built. That is because international pressure has so far prevented construction from going ahead. The area is the last piece of open land linking Arab East Jerusalem to the West Bank and critics said that to develop it would bury the very notion of a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis.

According to reports in the Israeli media, the area has been earmarked for development under a secret accord between Binyamin Netanyahu, the new, conservative Israeli Prime Minister, and his ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Better known under its old British mandate name, E1, it is the most controversial development project in the region, one that diplomats and observers warn will trigger the collapse of the weakened Palestinian Authority, or drive it into armed resistance again.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas[Return to headlines]


The European Union Report on Jerusalem: Distortions and Omiss Ions

Nadav Shragai

  • An imbalanced EU position paper on Jerusalem written in December 2008, and recently leaked to the media, completely ignores Israel’s historical and legal rights to its capital. The EU attack refers primarily to the City of David, located just beyond Jerusalem’s Old City walls, an area identified by archaeologists and historians as the location of King David’s capital some 3,000 years ago. Archaeological excavations took place there during Ottoman rule, as well as under the ensuing British Mandatory rule, and they have continued under Israeli rule as well.
  • About 20 years ago a wave of new, illegal construction by Palestinians began on the site, causing significant and sometimes irreversible damage to the antiquities there. The Jerusalem municipality intends to offer the delinquent residents generous compensation and alternative land in the city.
  • Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority for the last 150 years — at least since 1864. Israel’s position in Jerusalem under international law derives from the Palestine Mandate, where the League of Nations recognized “the historical tie between the Jewish people and Palestine,” and called “for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.”
  • The 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan did not fix the final boundaries between the parties, but only the lines of military separation at the close of the 1948 war. At the demand of the Arab side, the Armistice Agreement stipulated that it did not serve to predetermine the rights of any party in the final resolution of conflict. In other words, upon the outbreak of the Six-Day War, the 1967 lines enjoyed no diplomatic status.
  • In 1967, Israel agreed to allow the Muslim Waqf to manage the Temple Mount area, with a view toward preventing inter-religious conflict at one of the world’s most sensitive sites. This was a huge concession on Israel’s part that has never been properly recognized. By doing so, Israel has underscored its intention to assure freedom of access to members of all faiths at all of the holy sites in Jerusalem…

           — Hat tip: JCPA[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium Escape Tax Blacklist

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — EU countries Austria, Luxembourg and Belgium, as well as non-EU member Switzerland, have not been put on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation’s (OECD) blacklist of non-co-operative financial centres..

Instead, they figure on a so-called “grey” list of eight countries that “have committed to the internationally agreed tax standard, but have not yet substantially implemented” it.

In addition, Andorra, Monaco, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Gibraltar, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands are listed among the 30 “tax havens” that also have yet to “substantially implement” the international tax standards.

Following mounting pressure from both sides of the Atlantic to crack down on non-cooperating tax zones that profit by taking in capital owned by companies and wealthy individuals from abroad, many of those territories had announced a relaxation of their banking secrecy laws in the last months.

Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Andorra all made declarations in March vowing to better comply with international standards.

The OECD put four countries — Costa Rica, Malaysia, the Philippines and Uruguay — on its blacklist, saying they had “not committed to the internationally agreed tax standard.”

The organisation made its lists public following the commitment of G20 leaders earlier on Thursday (2 April) to act against tax havens..

“We have agreed that there will be an end to tax havens that do not transfer information upon request,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was reported as saying at the end of the G20 summit.

“The banking secrecy of the past must come to an end.”

A final OECD “white list” named the 40 countries that have “substantially implemented the internationally agreed tax standard,” such as the US, Russia, China and Turkey, but also most EU states — including France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain.

“Recent developments reinforce the status of the OECD standard as the international benchmark and represent significant steps towards a level playing field,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria stated after the lists were released.

“I am confident that we can turn these new commitments into concrete actions to strengthen the integrity and transparency of the financial system,” he added.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]


Defence: Turkey and Israel to Hold Joint Exercises

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 2 — Despite months of tense relations between the two countries, Israel will take part in a joint naval exercise with Turkey in July, Hurriyet Daily reports. Israeli officials said the Israeli Navy would allocate at least one missile ship to participate in an exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. Other NATO members are expected to join as well. The possibility of a cancellation had been raised due to the strained relations between Turkey and Israel. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Israel: US OK With UK’s Overture to Hizbullah

The Obama administration is “comfortable” with the British government’s attempts to engage Hizbullah, a senior British diplomat asserts. UK Foreign Office Minister…

Bill Rammell, Britain’s minister of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, said in a brief interview late last week that despite protests to the contrary, the new US administration doesn’t object to the fledgling contacts with the “political win” of the Lebanon-based Shi’ite Muslim group, which also has a heavily armed militia.

Britain likens the attempt to engage Hizbullah, launched quietly this year, to London’s outreach to political leaders of the Irish Republican Army earlier — a move that helped quell the Northern Ireland conflict.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Mecca Mosques ‘Wrongly Aligned’

Some 200 mosques in Islam’s holiest city, Mecca, point the wrong way for prayers, reports from Saudi Arabia say.

All mosques have a niche showing the direction of the most sacred Islamic site, the Kaaba, an ancient cube-like building in Mecca’s Grand Mosque.

But people looking down from recently built high-rises in Mecca found the niches in many older mosques were not pointing directly towards the Kaaba.

Some worshippers are said to be anxious about the validity of their prayers.

There have been suggestions that laser beams could be used to make an exact measurement.

Tawfik al-Sudairy, Islamic affairs ministry deputy secretary, downplayed the problem in remarks quoted by the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.

“There are no major errors but corrections have been made for some old mosques, thanks to modern techniques,” he said.

“In any case, it does not affect the prayers.”

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]


Turkey: TRT Starts Radio Broadcasting in Kurdish, Armenian

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 2 — Turkey’s State run Television and Radio Corporation (TRT) began radio broadcasting in Kurdish and Armenian languages, Anatolia agency reports. Kurdish radio programs began on 1 April while Armenian radio programs started today, the TRT said in a press release. Armenian programs would be broadcast every day between 07.00-07.30 and 18.00-18.30 as part of ‘The Voice of Turkey’ radio. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Caucasus

Military Itching Won’t Do Georgia Any Good

According to Russia’s Defense Ministry report of February 4 top priority facilities of the 4th military base in Tskhinval are commissioned.

A training facility, a gym, a canteen, a sauna and a vegetable store were opened in the military town. Contract servicemen are accommodated in warm barracks compliant with modern requirements. The officers and their families have four apartment blocks to live in as was reported in accommodation and fit-out administration of the Defense Ministry to Interfax.

[…]

According to the local media the United States and Georgia are preparing a response to Russia’s decision to deploy military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In particular there is a version that Manas military base that the Kyrgyzstan leaders are going to withdraw from their country will be transferred to Georgia. Though it looks more like a dream than reality.

According to the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for European integration David Darchiashvili “no official negotiations with the USA are being held on the subject”. However he also says that in conditions “of Russia’s aggression” Georgia must first of all think about its own security. “It will be a very good thing for us if the USA deploy military bases in Georgia,”, — Darchiashvili says.

It is not for sure, however, that the opinion of the committee chairman is ultimate truth. As the recent events show military itching in Tbilisi’s top echelons of power can lead very far and it was already a bad turn to the ex Head of the White House. It is notable that Washington repeatedly stated: The United States are not going to deploy military bases in Georgia.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]


Turkey-Armenia: Azerbaijan Worried About Reconciliation

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 2 — Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, worried that the Turkish government might open its border with Armenia before reconciliation is reached, said that Baku would cut natural gas supplies to Turkey if Ankara reaches an agreement with Yerevan before substantial progress is underway on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, the Hurriyet daily reported today. As a sign of how serious Baku is, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan last week signed a memorandum of understanding with Russian Gazprom for long-term supplies of Central Asian gas to Russia at market prices, as Website Euractiv.com reported yesterday. According to a Gazprom’s press release, the parties committed to massive long-term cooperation after an agreement was reached March 27 to settle the terms of Azerbaijan’s gas sales to Russia. Turkey and Armenia have been holding talks to normalize ties, which would involve the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of borders. Although Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia in 1991, Ankara has no diplomatic relations with its neighbor. In 1993, Ankara closed its border with Armenia in an act of solidarity with Azerbaijan after Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey and Armenia are said to have come very close to an agreement on the timetable to normalize relations. As April 24 is approaching, the date each year when the United States issues a presidential statement on the World War I mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, expectations are high that Turkey and Armenia will announce an agreement. U.S. President Barack Obama had pledged to recognize the Armenian killings as “genocide” during his election campaign. A joint statement by Turkish and Armenian officials on the normalization of relations might prevent Obama from using the word “genocide.” This development in turn has upset the Azerbaijani government, which argues a decision to open Turkey’s borders with Armenia would leave Baku at a disadvantage in negotiating for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territory. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Italian Senate Speaker Vows Extra Troops to Monitor Polls

Herat, 4 April (AKI) — Italy’s senate speaker Renato Schifani on Friday pledged an extra 240 Italian soldiers to monitor key elections taking place in Afghanistan later this year. He also said Italy will double the number of Italian paramilitary policemen or Carabinieri deployed there to train Afghan security forces.

Speaking at a military ceremony in the western Afghan province of Herat, where NATO led international troops are under Italian command, Schifani praised Italian soldiers as “true professionals and contributors to peace.”

At Friday’s ceremony, the Italian army’s Julia Alpinist brigade handed over command in Herat to the ‘Lightning’ paratroopers.

Italy currently has about 2,350 troops serving in the NATO-led international force in Afghanistan ISAF, stationed in Herat and the Afghan capital, Kabul.

ISAF has a total 50, 000 troops from 41 countries, and the Italian continent is one of the largest. ISAF’s role is to help the Afghan government maintain security, and to support reconstruction and effective governance.

Schifani acknowledged that ISAF’s “said peace, stability and democracy were “fundamental values” to which Italy “will continue to remain strongly committed.”

But he said Italy “had paid a very high price” in Afghanistan, where 58 Italian soldiers have been killed and 57 injured since the mission began. “Italy must honour these heroes,” he said.

Afghanistan is due to hold crucial presidential elections on 20 August, which are being seen as a test of its ability to embrace democracy.

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


Emma Bonino Condemns the Afghan “Shia Family Law”

Emma Bonino, Vicepresident of the Italian Senate and former EU Commissioner, calls for the “Shia Family Law” to be abolished: “The Shia Family Law signed by President Karzai is a giant step back for women in Afghanistan. It entrenches the worst kind of discrimination by authorising violence against women. It denies Afghan women equal rights in education, employment, health care and custody matters. It is, in effect, a law that legalizes marital rape. The passage of this law is a crime against the women of Afghanistan and it must be repealed. We, the undersigned, call for: — the Parliament of Afghanistan to abrogate this law; — the President of Afghanistan and the Afghan authorities to repeal this law; — the international community and every individual concerned with the human rights of women to voice their opinion to the President and Parliament of Afghanistan”.

To sign the appeal write to: resetmag@tin.it

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


Indonesia: Muslim Group Says Election Delay Could Lead to Coup

Jakarta, 3 April (AKI/The Jakarta Post) — A coalition of Islamic-based groups in Indonesia, calling themselves the Team for a Successful Election, has urged the government and General Elections Commission (KPU) to adhere to the current election schedule on 9 April, saying that delays would create a power vacuum that could give the military the chance to step in to fill the void.

“This election has to be successful because if we fail it will spark chaos and the military will reclaim power. If that happens we will have to start democracy from scratch,” team leader Syarwan Hamid told the media Thursday.

According to Syarwan, a retired military general, the team was formed last month to monitor the 2009 general elections in the hopes of preventing possible conflict that could disrupt the polls on 9 April.

The team includes members of the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI), the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) and the Islamic Propagation Council.

The team will deploy its members at the grassroots level to assure that the elections run smoothly and fairly.

They will promote the importance of elections through mosques and the media and encourage people to exercise their right to vote.

The MUI previously issued an edict which bans Muslims from boycotting the elections.

Syarwan, who was home minister under President BJ Habibie between 1998 and 1999, said that monitoring was needed especially because the media had reported the systematic manipulation of voter list in East Java, Jakarta, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, Central Java and West Java, which would benefit a certain party.

“It is our duty to make sure there is no fraud or data manipulation in the elections. We have to prove to the international community that we are conducting democracy properly,” Syarwan said.

A number of new parties have demanded the KPU postpone the elections until the voter lists are fixed. The government and major parties, however, played down the concerns.

The KPU has vowed to hold the elections on 9 April nationwide despite logistical problems.

The East Nusa Tenggara regencies of East Flores and Lembata, however, have been permitted to postpone the elections until April 13 so as they don’t interfere with religious ceremonies which also fall on April 9th.

Syarwan and his team believe that free and fair elections will ensure better leadership for the country.

Secretary of the team Siti Nurbaya said that many regulations existed to support honest polls.

“I think the problem of eligible voter lists can be resolved by the regulation in-lieu of law recently issued by the president. What we need is the spirit to do that,” she said.

Siti is the current secretary-general of the Regional Representatives Council.

Syarwan said the team had met with KPU members and asked them to distribute the valid eligible voters lists to parties at least seven days before elections, in order to allow them to validate the rosters.

“Seven days may not be enough time for a thorough check, but at least we can use it for verification at polling stations,” Syarwan said.

He expressed optimism that the elections would result in legitimate representatives even though many expect violations and conflict will plague the event.

“The 1999 and 2004 elections proved previous dire predictions inaccurate. There was no chaos or conflicts during those two elections,” he said.

Although the country has the largest number of Muslims in the world, Indonesia has substantial Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities. The country’s constitution recognises five religions and allows all its citizens to run for public office.

Indonesia has a population of 235 million people and 90 percent of them are Muslim. Most practise a moderate form of the faith

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


President Karzai’s Taleban-Style Laws for Women Put Troop Surge at Risk

President Karzai of Afghanistan provoked international outrage yesterday with draconian Taleban-era restrictions on women and laws that explicitly sanction marital rape.

A leaked copy of the laws obtained by The Times details new strictures for Afghanistan’s Shia minority. Women are banned from leaving the home without permission. A wife has the absolute duty to provide sexual services to her husband, and child marriage is legalised.

Details of the legislation emerged as President Obama and other world leaders wrapped up the G20 summit to fly to a Nato summit marking 60 years of the alliance. Mr Obama is pushing for an increase in Nato troop numbers in Afghanistan, but many allies have already rebuffed his calls. The new laws may provide an excuse for remaining waverers to join them.

Canada, which is the third largest contributor of forces to the Nato mission in Afghanistan, has already warned that it may rethink its troop contribution if the law was not repealed.

Opponents of the Afghan President accused him of selling out basic human rights for women in return for the votes of hardline Shia conservatives for the presidential election in August. Although the Shia minority, which comprises 20 per cent of the population, is considered religiously moderate, their political leaders are conservative. Community leaders are relied on to deliver their people’s votes and women are presumed to vote in accordance with their husband.

International reaction has been slowed by secrecy surrounding the law, which was passed without a formal debate and signed off by President Karzai this week, but is yet to be made law.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, became aware of it only when it was raised by her Finnish counterpart at the Afghanistan conference in The Hague on Wednesday. She is said to have raised the issue with him but without the full text President Karzai was spared her opprobrium.

Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, said he was troubled by the law and would lobby other leaders to support him in seeking to have it repealed. “This is antithetical to our mission in Afghanistan,” he said. Stockwell Day, the Canadian Trade Minister, who is chairman of the Cabinet committee on Afghanistan, warned that if Kabul did not back down Canadian support for the Government could be imperilled. “If there is any wavering on this point, this will create serious difficulties, serious problems for the Government of Canada,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Terrorism: Gul, Karzai, Zardari Pledge Military Cooperation

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 1 — Army chiefs and intelligence officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by their presidents, pledged military cooperation against Islamist extremists in Turkish-sponsored talks in Ankara on Wednesday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai met his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, in a trilateral meeting hosted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul at Cankaya Palace in the Turkish capital. Gul, who chaired the summit, told a joint press conference that the participation of the respective chiefs of staff, land forces commanders and senior intelligence officials was “the most important” element of the talks, the third of their kind since 2007. A joint declaration said the representatives of the three countries agreed to continue contacts “in functional and comprehensive formats on various levels.” Military and intelligence officials will meet once a year as part of delegations led by foreign ministers, it added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Women Choose Exile as Taliban Laws Return

THE first Afghan woman to appear on television after the fall of the Taliban has fled the country, saying it is too dangerous, as her husband was shot dead outside their house.

Paween Mushtakhel, 41, and her two children left Afghanistan on Friday. Hours later, under intense pressure from critics worldwide, President Hamid Karzai promised to review new laws that are said in effect to legalise marital rape in the Shi’ite minority.

Those laws had angered Nato countries weighing up US calls for more troops. From London to Ottawa, officials questioned whether they should risk their soldiers’ lives to bolster an Afghan government that not only failed to protect women but was also planning to reverse their hard-won freedoms.

“When the Taliban went I thought things were getting better for women,” said Paween. “Now I think it won’t change for a long time.”

One of the country’s leading actresses, Paween is among a number of prominent Afghan women who have been forced to leave the country in recent months. Others include a leading policewoman who received a letter from the Taliban saying she had been sentenced to death. The letter said she would be next after Malalai Kakar, head of the crimes against women unit in Kandahar, who was gunned down with her son last September.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas[Return to headlines]

Far East

“Training Course” for Better Military Relations Between Beijing and Taipei

Senior officers from the two sides will participate in a forum on international security scheduled for August in Hawaii. Taipei will remove its anti-ship landing barricade from the Quemoy islands, which Beijing bombed for weeks in 1958, without succeeding in occupying them.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) -The military leaders of China and Taiwan will participate in the Transnational Security Co-operation forum scheduled to take place in August in Hawaii, organized by the U.S. Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, an institute under the U.S. Department of Defense. It will be the first official meeting between senior officers from the two sides since the division in 1949.

The news was leaked on March 30, from official sources on both sides. The occasion is also important because of the operational character of the meeting, which will involve exchanges of practical information for security and for the management of regional crises. Taiwan has participated in these encounters since 2002, but precisely for that reason China has shunned them until now.

Beijing has also mentioned the possibility of further exchanges on military matters before August, but without providing any details. Sources in Taiwan speak of possible collaboration against computer espionage and hacking at an upcoming meeting in Beijing.

Also on March 30, Taiwan announced its intention of removing, by August 1, part of the anti-ship landing barricade off the Quemoy (or Kinmen) islands, a defense against Chinese ships and submarines. In fact, a 6-kilometer swimming race is planned for that date, from China to the islands. in 1958, China bombed the Quemoy islands for weeks in an attempt to occupy them, because of their great strategic and military value.

Relations between the two countries have improved since Ma Yingjeou, leader of the Kuomintang Party, was elected president in 2008.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa: Royal Navy May be Forced to Free Captured Pirates

Ministers were warned last year over legal problems that mean criminal gangs cannot be prosecuted

Pirates captured by Royal Navy warships patrolling off East Africa may have to be set free because there is no international agreement over where they can be legally prosecuted.

Internal Foreign Office documents seen by The Independent on Sunday lay bare the behind-the-scenes wrangling that could neuter the UK-led effort against the growing problem of pirates terrorising vessels in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Qatar: Venezuelan President Offers to Take Guantanamo Prisoners

Doha, 2 April (AKI) — Venezuela’s leftwing president Hugo Chavez has said his country is prepared to receive suspected terrorists held in the controversial United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay Cuba, which US president Barack Obama has ordered to close.

“We would have no problems in taking human beings,” Chavez (photo) told Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera on Wednesday at a summit of South American and Arab countries in Qatar’s capital, Doha.

Chavez however, added that so far, his country has not been asked to assist in efforts to close the detention centre at Guantanamo — one of Obama’s first executive orders as president.

Obama has ordered the controversial camp — which holds around 240 prisoners — to close by next year.

Chavez expressed hope that Obama would release all the prisoners at Guantanamo “and return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba and do away with that miserable prison.”

The Venezuelan leader also expressed the hope that Obama “makes himself into the empire’s last president,” but said: “I don’t have much hope.”

Many observers are waiting to see if Obama and Chavez will meet at a summit of the Americas to be held in Trinidad and Tobago later this month following years of hostility between the US and Venezuela.

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

Immigration

316 Victims in March, Fortress Europe Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 3 — According to the latest monthly bulletin issued by the Fortress Europe observatory, in March there were at least 316 migration deaths along European borders. In addition to the 230 victims of the latest shipwreck off the coast of Janzur, in Libya, Fortress Europe reports 67 victims along the coasts of Sfax in Tunisia, 3 deaths along Spain’s Andalusian coast, and two victims in Italian ports of Venice and Ancona,and people hidden in trucks aboard Greek ferries arriving from Patras. Lastly, the Nigerian embassy in Algeria reports that 14 emigrants from western Africa were found lifeless in the Algerian desert. Fortress Europe (which this March is dedicating a special report on fishermen working with the Mazara del Vallo fleet and their maritime rescue missions) also reports that the 21 survivors of last Monday’s storm in Libya have been arrested and are currently held in the Tuaisha jail in Tripoli. Some will soon be sent home, but four of them risk months, if not years, behind bars in pitiful conditions because their countries of origin (Gambia and Cameroon) lack diplomatic offices in Libya capable of requesting their return. The full report is available on the Fortress Europe website. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Immigration: Crackdown on Illegals Produces Crime Decline

Report confirms aggravated assault down by 36.5%

Following a crackdown on illegal immigration, officials in Prince William County in northern Virginia are reporting their numbers reveal a significant decrease in violent crimes committed.

The violent crime rate in Prince William County plummeted 22 percent in 2008, according to new reports.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Tunisians Amongst Victims of Shipwreck

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, APRIL 3 — The French language daily newspaper, Le Quotidien, reports that there were fifteen young Tunisians among the victims of a boat carrying 350 people which was wrecked off the Libyan coast in the past few days. They were all from Al Metlaoui, a city in the Gafsa governorate, on the edge of the Sahara. The paper also reported that two of the victims’ bodies have been transported to their hometown. According to the paper, the 15 men, who were between the ages of 20 and 32, had moved to Libya two months before the tragedy in anticipation of their departure for Italy, each paying a sum of three thousand dollars. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

General

Mark Steyn: Feel Like Getting Nasty?

The G20 wants international regulation that will export their mistakes to the entire planet.

During the Obama administration’s foray to London this last week, officials provided a special telephone number to journalists interested in discussing foreign-policy issues in an “on-the-record briefing call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Jim Jones.”

Unfortunately, as part of the curious run of bad luck currently afflicting our new Secretary of State, upon dialing the number the gentlemen of the press were greeted by a honey-voiced seductress, presumably not Secretary Clinton, offering them “phone sex” and seeking their credit-card number if they “feel like getting nasty.”

No, it’s not a White House April Fool’s gag. This was April 2nd.

Alas, what with the collapse of the newspaper industry and major metro dailies filing for bankruptcy every 20 minutes, sticking phone sex on your expense tab isn’t as easy as it once was. So many of these big-shot correspondents were forced to hang up, call the White House Press Office, get given the correct number, and listen to Hillary droning on about the NATO summit for half an hour. The deputy press secretary, Bill Burton, insisted that the White House handing out sex-line numbers was no big deal and only Fox News would make a fuss about “a corrected phone number.”

I’m not sure why the White House needed to correct it. It’s the perfect radio ad for the administration. Call 1-900-OBAMA and Timothy Geithner will demand your credit-card number and ask whether you feel like getting nasty, because he certainly does. He’ll be wearing a steel-tipped basque, and the squeals in the background will be an AIG executive or the former CEO of General Motors hanging upside down in the Treasury Department basement while he feels the firm lash of government “regulation” from Barney Frank and Mistress Pelosi.

Well, we all hate “the rich,” don’t we? Last week, David Paterson, the governor of New York, said that if he’d known his latest tax increase would persuade Rush Limbaugh to sell his Manhattan apartment and leave the city, he’d have raised taxes earlier. Ha-ha. Very funny. In New York City, as Mayor Bloomberg has pointed out, the wealthiest 1 percent contribute 50 percent of municipal revenue. How tiny a number of people does Governor Paterson have to drive out before it causes significant shortfalls in the public coffers?

On the other hand, the rich can only be driven out if they’ve got somewhere to be driven to. At the ludicrous G20 summit in London last week, the official communiqué crowed over a “clampdown” on tax havens — those British colonies in the Caribbean and a few other offshore pinpricks in the map. “The era of banking secrecy is over,” the G20 proclaimed.

Does anyone seriously think a Swiss bank account or a post office box in the Turks and Caicos are responsible for the global meltdown?…

           — Hat tip: Larwyn[Return to headlines]

6 comments:

PatriotUSA said...

If Rasmussen apologizes it will be because he was "pressured" into doing so. How pathetically weak and sad. Exactly the type of weakness that islam feeds off of.And for what, to Secretary general of the united nations of islamofacism? Even more disgusting if he does this.

Unknown said...

A school has been criticised after children as young as 11 were encouraged to shout obscenities during a lesson discussing swearing.

Despicable.

Avery Bullard said...

In 1999 NATO bombed Serbia for the crime of defending itself, with Turkey being the most vociferous advocate of the NATO aggression. Ten years later NATO happily grovels to Turkey, the one and only Muslim country in the alliance. The USA and its lapdogs have no shame.

NATO should've been abolished after the Cold War. But large bureaucracies don't just abolish themselves. They always find a new excuse to continue on.

X said...

By NATO's own rules Turkey should have been expelled when it invaded Cyprus. I understand the historical reasons that Turkey was included in the organisation but I think it's safe to say those reasons are moot, and have been for some time.

That should be a campaign. Turkey should be required to recognise its obligations under the NATO charter, to return sovereignty to Cyprus - and NATO should be lobbied to throw them out for breaching the treaty. I know it won't be particularly effective but it might be worth raising the issue in public fora.

Avery Bullard said...

Some good news. Sarkozy rebuffs Obama on Turkish membership of the EU. Link

Dr. John Maszka said...

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http://www.johnmaszka.com/SURVEY.html


I would really value your opinion and the opinion of your readers. The long-term goal of this project is to facilitate a more diplomatic American foreign policy in the years ahead.
Thank you,

John Maszka