Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/20/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/20/2009I didn’t try to go back and reclaim material from the tips that came while I was gone. There’s just too much material. But everything that came in today was put to use.

Notice all the stories about Joe Biden’s visit to the Balkans. If I have time, I’ll blog about it tomorrow.

Thanks to AG, Babs, C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Swine Flu Martial Law Bill Clears Massachusetts Senate
Europe and the EU
Eurabia Has a Capital: Rotterdam
Italy: Milan Judge Says CIA Trial Continues
Skelton: Stop Bilderberg’s Nightmare Future at All Costs
Spain: Police Arrest 17 Al-Qaeda Suspects in North
UK Labour Party Faithful Want Brown to Quit -Poll
UK: 1300 Girls Harmed by HPV Vaccine
UK: MI5 ‘Overstretched’ Before 2005 Bombings
Balkans: US, Biden on Mission for Dialogue With Belgrade
Biden Warns Bosnians About ‘Old Patterns’
Vice President Biden Offers Serbia ‘New’ Relations
VP Biden Slams Bosnian Leaders Over Tensions
North Africa
Cinema: Egypt, History of Muslim Brotherhood Becomes TV Show
Egypt: Court’s Approval Revokes Israeli Spouse Citizenships
Israel and the Palestinians
Audio: MP3 Interview With Aaron Klein — Part 1
Audio: MP3 Interview With Aaron Klein — Part 2
First Details of Obama Peace Plan in Israeli Press
Obama’s Peace Plan ‘Misleading’, Says Hamas Spokesman
Middle East
Frattini to Press Iran on Afpak
Obama’s Stance on Two-State Solution Heartens EU
Russia-Syria: MiG Supply Cancelled for Political Reasons
Big Names and Bucks Back Nuclear ‘Bank’
Russian Commission to Guard Against False History
South Asia
Another Blow to Indonesia Aviation
Pakistan: Clinton Says Policy in Last 30 Years ‘Incoherent’
Pakistan: Army and Taliban Battle it Out in “The Most Dangerous Nation in the World”
Swat Valley: Two Million Refugees on the Run, as Caritas Pakistan Provides Assistance
Australia — Pacific
Doctor Uses Household Drill to Bore Into Boy’s Skull to Save His Life After Accident Swelled Brain
Sudanese Youths in Court Over Cop Attack at Rugby Union Club
Italy Hands Over 3 Patrol Boats to Libya
Soy Protein Used in “Natural” Foods Bathed in Toxic Solvent Hexane
UK: MI5 Had 7/7 Ringleader on ‘Radar’ 12 Times… But MPs’ Report Still Fails to Point the Finger


Swine Flu Martial Law Bill Clears Massachusetts Senate

It took corporate media swine flu hysteria to ram through a martial law bill in Massachusetts. S18 gives the Governor the power to authorize the deployment and use of force to distribute supplies and materials and local authorities will be allowed to enter private residences for investigation and to quarantine individuals.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Eurabia Has a Capital: Rotterdam

Here entire neighborhoods look like the Middle East, women walk around veiled, the mayor is a Muslim, sharia law is applied in the courts and the theaters. An extensive report from the most Islamized city in Europe

by Sandro Magister

ROME, May 19, 2009 — One of the most indisputable results of Benedict XVI’s trip to the Holy Land was the improvement in relations with Islam. The three days he spent in Jordan, and then, in Jerusalem, the visit to the Dome of the Mosque, spread an image among the Muslim general public — to an extent never before seen — of a pope as a friend, surrounded by Islamic leaders happy to welcome him and work together with him for the good of the human family.

But just as indisputable is the distance between this image and the harsh reality of the facts. Not only in countries under Muslim regimes, but also where the followers of Mohammed are in the minority, for example in Europe.

In 2002, the scholar Bat Ye’or, a British citizen born in Egypt and a specialist in the history of the Christian and Jewish minorities in Muslim countries — called the “dhimmi” — coined the term “Eurabia” to describe the fate toward which Europe is moving. It is a fate of submission to Islam, of “dhimmitude.”

Oriana Fallaci used the word “Eurabia” in her writings, and gave it worldwide resonance. On August 1, 2005, Benedict XVI received Fallaci in a private audience at Castel Gandolfo. She rejected dialogue with Islam; he was in favor of it, and still is. But they agreed — as Fallaci later said — in identifying the “self-hatred” that Europe demonstrates, its spiritual vacuum, its loss of identity, precisely when the immigrants of Islamic faith are increasing within it.

Holland is an extraordinary test case. It is the country in which individual license is the most extensive — to the point of permitting euthanasia on children — in which the Christian identity is most faded, in which the Moslem presence is growing most boldly.

Here, multiculturalism is the rule. But the exceptions are dramatic: from the killing of the anti-Islamist political leader Pim Fortuyn to the persecution of the Somali dissident Ayaan Hirsi Ali to the murder of the director Theo Van Gogh, condemned to death for his film “Submission,” a denunciation of the crimes of Muslim theocracy. Fortuyn’s successor, Geert Wilders, has lived under 24-hour police protection for six years.

There is one city in Holland where this new reality can be seen with the naked eye, more than anywhere else. Here, entire neighborhoods look as if they have been lifted from the Middle East, here stand the largest mosques in Europe, here parts of sharia law are applied in the courts and theaters, here many of the women go around veiled, here the mayor is a Muslim, the son of an imam.

This city is Rotterdam, Holland’s second largest city by population, and the largest port in Europe by cargo volume.

The following is a report on Rotterdam published in the Italian newspaper “il Foglio” on May 14, 2009, the second in a major seven-part survey on Holland.

The author, Giulio Meotti, also writes for the “Wall Street Journal.” Next September, his book-length survey on Israel will be published.

The photo above is entitled “Muslim women in Rotterdam.” It is from an exhibition in 2008 by the Dutch photographers Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek.

In the casbah of Rotterdam

by Giulio Meotti

In Feyenoord, veiled women can be seen everywhere, darting like a flash through the streets of the neighborhood. They avoid any sort of contact, even eye contact, especially with men. Feyenoord is the size of a city, and there are seventy nationalities coexisting there. It is an area that lives on subsidies and residential construction, and it is here that it is most obvious that Holland — with all of its rules against discrimination and all of its moral indignation — is a completely segregated society. Rotterdam is new, having been bombed twice by the Luftwaffe during the second world war. Like Amsterdam, it is below sea level, but unlike the capital it does not enjoy an image of reckless abandon. In Rotterdam, it is the Arab shops selling halal food that dominate the cityscape, not the neon lights of the prostitutes. Everywhere are casbah-cafes, travel agencies offering flights to Rabat and Casablanca, posters expressing solidarity with Hamas, or offering affordable Dutch language lessons.

It is the second-largest city in the country, a poor city, but also the economic engine with its huge port, the most important in Europe. Most of the population are immigrants, and the city has the tallest and most imposing mosque in Europe. Sixty percent of the foreigners who arrive in Holland come here to live. The most striking thing when one arrives in the city by train are the enormous and fascinating mosques framed by the vibrant green, luxuriant, wooded, watery countryside, like an alien presence compared to the rest. They call it “Eurabia.” The Turkish Mevlana mosque is imposing. It has the tallest minarets in Europe, even higher than the stadium of the Feyenoord soccer team.

Many of the neighborhoods in Rotterdam are captive to the darkest, most violent form of Islamism. Pim Fortuyn’s house stands out like a pearl in a sea of chador and niqab. It is at number 11 Burgerplein, behind the train station. Every now and then someone comes to put flowers in front of the home of the professor who was murdered in Amsterdam on May 6, 2002. Someone else leaves a card: “In Holland everything is tolerated, except for the truth.” A millionaire named Chris Tummesen bought Pim Fortuyn’s house so that it would remain intact. The evening before his murder Pim was nervous, and had said on television that a climate of demonization had been created against him and his ideas. And his fears came true, when he was shot in the head five times by Volkert van der Graaf, a militant of the animal rights left, scrawny, head shaved, eyes dark, dressed like an environmental purist in a handmade shirt, sandals, and goat’s wool socks, a strict vegetarian, “a guy impatient to change the world,” his friends say.

Not long ago in downtown Rotterdam, funerary photos of Geert Wilders were placed under a tree, with a candle to commemorate his upcoming death. Today Wilders is the most popular politician in the city. He is the heir of Fortuyn, the homosexual, Catholic, ex-Markist professor who had formed his own party to save the country from Islamization. At his funeral, only the absence of Queen Beatrice kept the farewell to the “divine Pim” from becoming a funeral fit for a king. Before his death they made a monster of him (one Dutch minister called him an “untermensch,” an inferior man in Nazi parlance), afterward they idolized him. The prostitutes of Amsterdam left a wreath of flowers in his honor beneath the National Monument in Dam Square, a memorial to the victims of World War II.

Three months ago, “The Economist,” a weekly publication far from Wilders’ anti-Islamic ideas, spoke of Rotterdam as a “Eurabian nightmare.” For most of the Dutch who live there, Islamism is now a threat greater than the Delta Plan, the complicated system of dikes that prevents flooding from the sea, like the flood in 1953 that killed two thousand people. The picturesque town of Schiedam, part of the greater Rotterdam area, has always been a jewel in the Dutch imagination. Then the fairy tale glow faded, when in the newspapers three years ago it became the city of Farid A., the Islamist who made death threats against Wilders and Somali dissident Ayaan Hirsi Ali. For six years, Wilders has lived under 24-hour police protection.

Muslim lawyers in Rotterdam also want to change the rules of the courtroom, asking to be allowed to remain seated when the judge enters. They recognize Allah alone. The lawyer Mohammed Enait recently refused to stand when the magistrates enter the courtroom, saying that “Islam teaches that all men are equal.” The court of Rotterdam has recognized Enait’s right to remain seated: “There is no legal obligation requiring Muslim lawyers to stand in front of the court, insofar as this action is in contrast with the dictates of the Islamic faith.” Enait, the head of the legal office Jairam Advocaten, has explained that “he considers all men equal, and does not acknowledge any form of deference toward anyone.” All men, but not all women. Enait is well known for his refusal to shake hands with women, and has repeatedly said he would prefer them to wear the burqa. And there are many burqas on the streets of Rotterdam.

The fact that Eurabia has arrived in Rotterdam has been demonstrated by an episode in April at the Zuidplein Theatre, one of the most prestigious in the city, a modernist theater proud of “representing the cultural diversity of Rotterdam.” It is located in the southern part of the city, and receives funding from the municipality, headed by a Muslim, the son of the imam Ahmed Aboutaleb. Three weeks ago, the Zuidplein Theatre allowed an entire balcony to be reserved for women only, in the name of sharia. This is not happening in Pakistan or in Saudi Arabia, but in the city from which the Founding Fathers set out for the United States. It was from here that the Puritans disembarked in the Speedwell, which they later exchanged for the Mayflower. This is where the American adventure began. Today, it has legalized sharia.

For a performance by the Muslim Salaheddine Benchikhi, the Zuidplein Theatre agreed to his request to have the first five rows set aside for women only. Salaheddine, an editorialist for the website, is known for his opposition to the integration of Muslims. The city council has approved this: “According to our Western values, the freedom to live one’s own life by virtue of one’s convictions is a precious possession.” A spokesman for the theater has also defended the director: “It is hard to get Muslims to come to the theater, so we are willing to adapt.”

Another man who has been willing to adapt is the director Gerrit Timmers. His words are fairly symptomatic of what Wilders calls “self-Islamization.” The first case of self-censorship took place in Rotterdam, in December of 2000. Timmers, the director of the theater group Onafhankelijk Toneel, wanted to stage a performance about the life of Mohammed’s wife Aisha. The play was boycotted by the Muslim actors in the company when it became evident that it would be a target for the Islamists. “We are enthusiastic about the play, but fear reigns,” the actors told him. The composer, Najib Cherradi, said that he would withdraw “for the good of my daughter.” The newspaper “Handelsblad” gave the story the title “Tehran on the Meuse,” the name of the gentle river that passes through Rotterdam. “I had already done three works about the Moroccans, so I wanted to have Muslim actors and singers,” Timmers tells us. “Then they told me that it was a dangerous issue, and they could not participate, because they had received death threats. In Rabat, an article came out saying we would end up like Salman Rushdie. For me, it was more important to continue the dialogue with the Moroccans, rather than provoke them. For this reason, I see no problem if the Muslims want to separate the men from the women in a theater.”

Let’s meet the director who has brought sharia to the Dutch theaters, Salaheddine Benchikhi. He is young, modern, confident, and speaks perfect English. “I defend the decision to separate the men from the women, because here there is freedom of expression and organization. If people can’t sit where they want to, that is discrimination. There are two million Muslims in Holland, and they want our tradition to become public, everything is evolving. Mayor Aboutaleb has supported me.”

One year ago, the city was buzzing when the newspapers published a letter by Bouchra Ismaili, a Rotterdam city councilman: “Listen up, crazy freaks, we’re here to stay. You’re the foreigners here, with Allah on my side I’m not afraid of anything. Take my advice: convert to Islam, and you will find peace.” Just a walk through the streets of the city, and you know right away that in many neighborhoods you are no longer in Holland. It is right out of the Middle East. In some schools, there is a “room of silence” where Muslim students, who are in the majority, can pray five times a day, with a poster of Mecca, the Qur’an, and a ritual washing before the prayers. Another Muslim city councilman, Brahim Bourzik, wants signs placed in various parts of the city showing the direction to Mecca.

Sylvain Ephimenco is a Franco-Dutch journalist who has been living in Rotterdam for twelve years. For twenty years, he was the “Libération” correspondent in Holland, and is proud of his leftist credentials. “Even though I don’t believe in that anymore,” he says, welcoming us to his home overlooking one of Rotterdam’s little canals. Not far from here is the al Nasr mosque of the imam Khalil al Moumni, who when gay marriage was legalized described homosexuals as “sick people worse than pigs.” From the outside, it can be seen that the mosque is more than twenty years old, having been built by the first Moroccan immigrants. Moumni has written a pamphlet that is circulating around the Dutch mosques, “The path of the Muslim,” in which he explains that the heads of homosexuals should be cut off and “hung from the highest building in the city.” Next to the al Nasr mosque, we sit down at a cafe for men only. In front of us is a halal Islamic slaughterhouse. Ephimenco is the author of three essays on Holland and Islam, and today is a famous columnist for the leftist Christian newspaper “Trouw.” He has the best perspective for understanding a city that, perhaps even more than Amsterdam, embodies the tragedy of Holland.

“It is not at all true that Wilders gets his votes from the fringes, everyone knows that, even though they don’t say it,” he tells us. “Today educated people vote for Wilders, although at first it was the lower class Dutch, the tattoo crowd. Many academics and people on the left vote for him. The problem is all of these Islamic headscarves. There’s a supermarket behind my house. When I arrived, there wasn’t a single headscarf. Now it’s all Muslim women with the chador at the register. Wilders is not Haider. His positions are on the right, but also on the left, he’s a typical Dutchman. Here there are even hours at the swimming pool set aside for Muslim women. This is the origin of the vote for Wilders. Islamization, this foolishness with the theater, has to be stopped. In Utrecht, there is a mosque where they provide separate city services for men and women. The Dutch are afraid. Wilders is against the Frankenstein of multiculturalism. I, who used to be on the left but am no longer anything, I say we’ve reached the limit. I feel the ideals of the Enlightenment have been betrayed with this voluntary apartheid, in my heart I feel the death of the ideals of the equality of men and women, and freedom of expression. Here the left is conformist, and the right has the better answer to insane multiculturalism.”

One of the professors at Erasmus University in Rotterdam is Tariq Ramadan, the famous Swiss Islamic scholar who is also a special adviser for the city. Some of Ramadan’s statements against homosexuality were uncovered by Holland’s most famous gay magazine, “Gay Krant,” directed by a talkative journalist named Henk Krol. On a videocassette, Ramadan calls homosexuality “a disease, a disorder, an imbalance.” On the tape, Ramadan also has comments on women, “they should keep their eyes on the ground when they’re on the street.” Wilders’ party asked for the city council to be disbanded, and for the Islamic scholar from Geneva to be sent packing, but instead he was renewed in his post for two more years. This was happening while across the sea, the Obama administration was confirming the ban on Ramadan entering United States territory. The tapes in Krol’s possession include one in which Ramadan tells women: “Allah has an important rule: if you try to attract attention through the use of perfume, or your appearance or gestures, you do not have the correct spiritual orientation.”

“When Pim Fortuyn was killed, it was a shock for everyone, because a man was murdered for what he said,” Krol tells us. “That was no longer my country. I’m still thinking about leaving Holland, but where can I go? Here we have been criticized by everyone, by the Catholic Church and by the Protestants. But when we criticized Islam, they answered us: you are creating new enemies!” According to Ephimenco, the street is the secret of Wilders’ success: “In Rotterdam, there are three enormous mosques, one of them is the largest in Europe. There are more and more Islamic headscarves, and an Islamist impulse coming from the mosques. I know many people who have left the city center to go to the rich, white suburbs. My neighborhood is poor and black. It is a question of identity, on the streets Dutch is not spoken anymore, but Arabic and Turkish.”

Let’s meet the man who inherited Fortuyn’s column in the newspaper “Elsevier.” His name is Bart Jan Spruyt, a robust young Protestant intellectual, founder of the Edmund Burke Society, but above all the author of Wilders’ “Declaration of independence,” and his coworker from the beginning. “Here an immigrant no longer has to struggle, study, work, he can live at the expense of the state,” Spruyt tells us. “We have ended up creating a parallel society. The Muslims are in the majority in many neighborhoods, and are asking for sharia. This isn’t Holland anymore. Our use of freedom has turned back against us, it is a process of self-Islamization.”

Spruyt was one of Fortuyn’s close friends. “Pim said what the people had known for decades.” He attacked the establishment and the journalists. It was a great relief for the people when he went into politics, they called him the ‘white knight’. The last time I spoke with him, one week before he was killed, he told me he had a mission. His killing was not the act of a lone madman. In February of 2001, Pim announced that he wanted to change the first article of the Dutch constitution, on discrimination, because in his view it kills freedom of expression, and he was right. The following day in the Dutch churches, which are mostly empty and used for public meetings, the diary of Anne Frank was read as a warning against Fortuyn. Pim was truly Catholic, more than we think, in his books he spoke out against modern society without fathers, without values, empty, nihilist.”

Chris Ripke is a well-known artist in the city. His studio is near a mosque in Insuindestraat. Shocked in 2004 by the murder of director Theo Van Gogh by an Dutch Islamist, Chris decided to paint an angel on wall of his studio and the biblical commandment “Gij zult niet doden,” thou shalt not kill. His neighbors at the mosque found the words “offensive,” and called the mayor of Rotterdam at the time, the liberal Ivo Opstelten. The mayor ordered the police to erase the painting, because it was “racist.” Wim Nottroth, a television journalist, camped out on the spot in protest. The police arrested him, and his film was destroyed. Ephimenco did the same in his own window: “I put up a big white sheet with the biblical commandment. Photographers came, and the radio. If you can no longer write ‘do not kill’ in this country, then you are saying that we are all in prison. It is like apartheid, whites living with whites and blacks with blacks. There is a great chill. Islamism wants to change the structure of the country.” For Ephimenco, part of the problem is the de-Christianization of society. “When I arrived here, during the 1960’s, religion was dying, a unique event in Europe, a collective de-Christianization. Then the Muslims brought religion back to the center of social life. Aided by the anti-Christian elite.”

Let’s go for a stroll through the Islamized neighborhoods. In Oude Westen there are only Arabs, women clothed from head to foot, ethnic foods shops, Islamic restaurants, and shopping centers with Arabic music. “Ten years ago, you didn’t see all these headscarves,” Ephimenco says. Behind his house, in a flourishing middle class area with two-story houses, there is an Islamized neighborhood. There are Muslim signs everywhere. “Look at all of those Turkish flags, over there is an important church, but it’s empty, no one goes there anymore.” In the middle of one square stands a mosque with Arabic writing outside. “That used to be a church.” Not far from here is the most beautiful monument in Rotterdam. It is a small granite statue of Pim Fortuyn. Beneath the gleaming bronze head, the mouth saying his last words on behalf of freedom of speech, there is written in Latin: “Loquendi libertatem custodiamus,” let us safeguard the right to speak. Every day, someone places flowers there.

           — Hat tip: Babs[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Judge Says CIA Trial Continues

MILAN — The trial of 26 Americans and seven Italians accused of orchestrating a CIA-led kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric will proceed despite an Italian Supreme Court ruling that barred key evidence as classifed, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The two-year trial is the first by any government over the CIA’s so-called extraordinary rendition program of transferring suspects overseas for interrogation. Human rights advocates charge that renditions were the agency’s way to outsource torture of prisoners to countries where it is permitted.

Successive Italian governments have denied any involvement in the Feb. 17, 2003 abduction of Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street. Prosecutors say Nasr was transported in a van to a joint U.S..-Italian base in northern Italy, flown to a U.S. air base in Germany and onward to Egypt where he said he was tortured. He has since been released without charge.

Judge Oscar Magi rejected defense motions aimed at stopping the trial, and said it will proceed next week with the classified evidence expunged from the proceedings as ruled by Italy’s Supreme Court.

Defense lawyers predicted speedy proceedings as the ruling Wednesday also disallowed most of their witnesses — including Premier Silvio Berlusconi and his predecessor Romano Prodi — because their testimony would inevitably touch on classified data. The prosecution has closed its case.

Prosecutor Armando Spataro welcomed the decision to continue the trial, though he disagreed in principle with the high court’s decision to remove evidence. The prosecution has argued that it did not violate any state secrets in gathering evidence, and that any evidence relating to a criminal act cannot be considered classified.

“We need to verify if the obstacles that the Supreme Court placed can be overcome to arrive at the truth,” Spataro said, adding that certain evidence will have to be “surgically removed.”

Spataro said, for example, that the ruling will allow the inclusion of most of a statement by Luciano Pironi, a carabinieri officer who acknowledged participating in the kidnapping. The ruling strikes Pironi’s tesimony any reference to how the CIA and Italian intelligence operated, but leaves untouched his statment that the CIA Milan station chief Bob Seldon Lady asked him to join the operation, Spataro said..

Defense lawyers were mixed in their reaction. Luigi Panella, a lawyer for the former deputy chief of Italian military intelligence Marco Mancini said the exclusion of the evidence dealt a fatal blow to the prosecution’s case.

But the lawyer for Mancini’s former boss, Nicolo Pollari, said the ruling made it impossible to prove his client’s innocence.

Pollari’s defense wanted to call Berlusconi, Prodi and other top officials “demonstrate incontrovertibly that Pollari had nothing to do with the presumed kidnapping,” lawyer Nicola Madia said.

“The trial is a dead end,” Madia said. “It will continue only as a formality.”

Spataro said that it was already established earlier in the case that diplomatic immunity does not apply because the potential penalty of up to eight years in jail exceeds the five-year maximum on invoking diplomatic privileges in Italy.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Skelton: Stop Bilderberg’s Nightmare Future at All Costs

London Guardian journalist Charlie Skelton, who began his coverage of the 2009 Bilderberg conference in a jovial and mocking manner, is now warning that the horrendous treatment dished out to him by both police and undercover spies is just a taste of what we can expect in our daily lives if we allow Bilderberg’s agenda, and specifically ID cards and implantable microchips, to be implemented.

Initially setting out to cover the event in a satirical way, Skelton left Greece yesterday chilled to the bone about how he had been harassed, detained and stalked for days on end by authorities merely for taking photographs of the hotel where Bilderberg members were staying.

“My experience over the last several days in Greece has granted me a single, diamond-hard opinion,” writes Skelton, “That we must fight, fight, fight, now — right now, this second, with every cubic inch of our souls — to stop identity cards.”

Skelton adds that the ID card turns the citizen into a suspect and would be “the end of everything,” noting that plans are also afoot to replace the ID card with an implantable microchip for greater efficiency and tracking of the population, a subject that was up for discussion at last year’s Bilderberg Group conference.

[Return to headlines]

Spain: Police Arrest 17 Al-Qaeda Suspects in North

Bilbao, 20 May (AKI) — Spain’s police on Wednesday have arrested at least 17 suspects alleged to be members of an Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb cell in the northern city of Bilbao. The arrests were followed by raids in various neighbourhoods throughout the city.

The arrested — mostly Moroccan and Algerian nationals — are alleged to have financed Al-Qaeda by falsifying credit cards, as well as through drug trafficking and theft, Spanish media reported. A minor was also arrested in the raids.

The anti-terrorism operation was ordered by judge Eloy Velasco of the National Court of Spain, a senior court which hears cases related to terrorism and organised crime.

The arrests and raids took place early on Wednesday and continued throughout the morning.

The Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb evolved from the Salafite Group for Preaching and Combat, initially formed to create an Islamic state in Algeria, but is now believed to have more widespread goals.

Spain suffered a major Al-Qaeda-inspired terror attack in the capital Madrid in 2004, when a total of 191 people were killed and 2,000 were injured when 10 rucksack bombs exploded in four crowded commuter trains.

Twenty-one people, including a number of North Africans, were sentenced to over 40,000 years in jail for their roles in the attack.

It was carried out by a loosely knit group of Al-Qaeda-inspired Muslim militants and occurred three days before the country’s general election.

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

UK Labour Party Faithful Want Brown to Quit -Poll

LONDON (Reuters) — Prime Minister Gordon Brown should step down as leader of Britain’s ruling Labour Party before the next election, according to a majority of party members and supporters questioned in a poll published on Tuesday.

Six out of 10 of those polled by the independent Labour website said the party must have a new leader before the next parliamentary election, due by June 2010.

Support for Brown has crumbled in a growing scandal over expenses claimed by members of parliament for everything from bath plugs and pornographic films to nappies and horse manure.

For the poll, LabourList questioned 1,060 people between Monday and Friday last week.

Alex Smith, editor of LabourList, said it was a further sign of “grassroots dissatisfaction” with Brown, a former finance minister who replaced Tony Blair in June 2007.

“Brown will need to show clear and decisive action if he is to win back support,” Smith said in a statement.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson, a former trade union leader, is the favorite to replace Brown, according to the poll. He was the top choice for 38 percent of those questioned, with deputy party leader Harriet Harman and Foreign Secretary David Miliband tied in second place on 10 percent.

Critics have accused Brown of showing a lack of authority over the expenses furor and allowing his rival David Cameron, leader of the opposition Conservatives, to set the agenda on restoring public confidence in the system.

However, both parties have lost support in the past month. A poll for the Daily Telegraph newspaper showed support for the Conservatives had fallen six points to 39 percent, with Labour down four on 23.

Support for the smaller parties, such as the anti-European Union UK Independence Party and far-right British National Party, rose by nine points compared with the previous month.

Political analysts will be watching to see if those increases are translated into votes at local and European elections in Britain on June 4.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: 1300 Girls Harmed by HPV Vaccine

1300 Girls Harmed by HPV Vaccines in UK; Bizarre Side Effects Like Paralysis and Epilepsy

The MHRA reports show a total of 2,891 adverse events reported in 1,340 girls. The majority were minor and short-lived problems, such as swelling, rashes, pain or mild allergies to the vaccine. A number of cases were more severe, however, including 20 cases of blurred vision, four cases of convulsions, one case of seizures and one epileptic fit. Five cases of partial paralysis were reported, including Bell’s palsy (face), Guillain-Barre syndrome (legs), hyopaesthesia (loss of sense of touch) and hemiparesis (severe weakening or paralysis of half the body).

[Return to headlines]

UK: MI5 ‘Overstretched’ Before 2005 Bombings

LONDON (AFP) — Security services lacked the resources to carry out extra checks on the man who would go on to lead the 2005 suicide bombings of London’s transport system, an official report said Tuesday.

But lawmakers on the Intelligence and Security Committee cleared the domestic security service, MI5, and Special Branch police officers of failing to link Mohammed Sidique Khan to the plot that left 52 people dead.

The report, which was heavily censored for security reasons, said lawmakers “cannot criticise” decisions made by investigators despite the fact Khan came to their attention several times.

Lawmakers said it had been correct for officers not to dig further into his background despite observing him meeting extremist plotters because there was no evidence at that stage that he posed a threat to national security.

The report reveals that a police surveillance unit filmed Khan in 2001 as part of an operation to track suspected extremists.

However, he was not identified from the images and his significance was only realised after the suicide bombings.

But the report said it was “astounding” that MI5 could only provide “reasonable” surveillance coverage of about one in 20 terror suspects in 2004 and it disclosed that 54 “essential” targets went completely unobserved.

Committee chairman Kim Howells said MI5 could not be blamed for not stopping the attacks, and following people like Khan who had no previous convictions for extremism could have diverted resources from other key inquiries.

However, campaigner Rachel North repeated her call for a full public inquiry into the bombings, saying Tuesday’s report “didn’t deliver” what survivors and relatives of those who died were looking for.

“Watching the faces of some of the families this morning, watching the ISC press conference and reading the report, and finding so little had changed over such a long period of time, was indeed heartbreaking,” she said.

“It does look a lot like MI5 ran rings around the MPs.”

Khan and three other British Muslim suicide bombers blew up three underground trains and a bus in central London on July 7, 2005.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Balkans: US, Biden on Mission for Dialogue With Belgrade

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 18 — US Vice-President Joe Biden will begin a visit to the Western Balkans tomorrow with the principal objective of restarting relations with Serbia after a long period of ice-cold diplomacy and tension provoked by NATO’s bombings ten years ago as well as by Washington’s entusiastic support for Kosovo’s independence, proclaimed in February last year. Biden, who will be the White House’s first high-level official to visit Belgrade since President Jimmy Carter in June of 1980, will make clear the Obama administration’s desire to reaffirm the US commitment in the Balkans to Serb leaders. The US was highly active in the region in the 90s to put an end to the bloody conflict that led to the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. Biden, who was chosen by Obama due to his foreign policy experience, will make his first stop tomorrow in Sarajevo where he will be accompanied by the EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana. In the Bosnian capital the American Vice-President will meet with the leaders of the two entities that make up Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as leaders from the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. On Wednesday, Biden will go to Belgrade for a delicate meeting with Serbian President Boris Tadic and Premier Mirko Cvetkovic. His trip to the Balkans will end on Thursday in Pristina, where Biden is expected to have a triumphant reception. The city is already celebrating the arrival of their American guest today, since he is considered “a great friend and supporter” of Kosovo’s independence and freedom. For days the media and diplomats in Belgrade have stressed the significance that Biden’s visit may have in thawing relations between Serbia and the United States, even if Biden’s arrival is not looked upon positively by ultra-nationalist Serbs who accuse him of having supported NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999 and favouring Kosovo’s independence. Andreja Mladenovic of Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), said that Joe Biden should take advantage of the visit to Belgrade to apologise to Serbia and the Serbs. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Biden Warns Bosnians About ‘Old Patterns’

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued a strong rebuke on Tuesday to lawmakers here in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina to fight back against signs of a renewal of the kind of nationalism and ethnic divisions that led to civil war here in the 1990s.

Mr. Biden warned against “the sharp and dangerous rise in nationalist rhetoric” in recent years, calling it “tempting to fall back on old patterns and ancient animosities.” It was an unusually sharply worded address for a high-ranking foreign official before another country’s legislature.

“Forgive me for saying this in your Parliament, but this must stop,” Mr. Biden said, in a country where talk of secession and even of war threaten a fragile, ethnically divided country.

Mr. Biden met with top Bosnian leaders on Tuesday, on the first day of a trip through the Balkans that is intended to draw attention to the unfinished business in the region and the Obama administration’s commitment to helping the countries move beyond their recent history of violence and into the European mainstream.

The Balkans all but fell off the American agenda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We are back,” Mr. Biden said. “We will stand with you.”

By sending the vice president, Mr. Obama dispatched not only the second highest elected official in the United States, but also a leading foreign policy expert from his service in the Senate.

Mr. Biden has also been engaged on the Balkan issue since the early 1990s, when he was an outspoken advocate of the Bosnian cause. During his speech, Mr. Biden recalled his trip to the country in 1993, and how, flying in at the time, his plane was fired upon, and bombed-out homes with snipers inside could be seen.

Yet that very engagement on Bosnia’s behalf could make his job more difficult when he travels to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, on Wednesday. Belgrade still shows the scars of attacks by United States warplanes in the bombing campaign during the Kosovo war in 1999, and where the American Embassy there was set on fire last year by demonstrators outraged over Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

Kosovo, a year-old country, will be the final stop in the vice president’s visit to the region.

“The United States wants to build a new, healthy relationship with Serbia,” Mr. Biden said. But Mr. Biden called Kosovo’s independence “irreversible.”

It is Bosnia, however, where 100,000 people, a majority of them Muslims, were killed in three and a half years of fighting, that is once again the most vexing Balkan nation for American policy makers and their allies in Europe. The cease-fire known as the Dayton Accords, brokered by the United States in 1995, may have ended the bloodshed, but it did not create a cohesive state for the future.

Instead, the agreement left behind a country divided into a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serb Republic. Bosnian Serb leaders have at times threatened to secede. A force of some 2,000 European Union peacekeepers still provides security.

The visit is Mr. Biden’s third to Europe since the January inauguration. “This early emphasis on Europe is no accident,” Mr. Biden said. “We’ve chosen to spotlight the importance that the United States of America places on our European partners and to hopefully energize those partnerships to address the challenges we all face together.”

And, at a time when the administration is trying to win over Muslims alienated by the military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, the trip also serves to remind the world of the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo, where NATO intervened on behalf of Muslim populations with neither oil nor nuclear weapons programs.

“After years of, not neglect, but maybe disregard, it seems to me a good sign that there is such high-level involvement,” said Cornelius Adebahr, an expert on the Balkans at the German Council on Foreign Relations, though he added that it also demonstrated “the dimension of the problems that need to be dealt with.”

In his speech to lawmakers here in Sarajevo, Mr. Biden held out Albania and Croatia, which both joined NATO this year, as examples of the opportunities available to countries in the region. “The door is open for the countries of this region for the first time in history to be an integral part of a whole and free Europe,” Mr. Biden said. “And the United States will help you walk through that door.”

           — Hat tip: AG[Return to headlines]

Vice President Biden Offers Serbia ‘New’ Relations

BELGRADE, Serbia — Vice President Joe Biden offered Serbia “a strong, new relationship” with the U.S. on Wednesday, along with help in its European Union membership bid, despite deep differences over independence for Kosovo.

Biden said after his talks with Serbia’s pro-Western president Boris Tadic that the U.S. wants to see the Balkan country take its place in Europe “as a strong, successful democratic state” playing a constructive role in the still-volatile region.

Biden arrived from Bosnia, the first stop in a three-day tour of the Balkans meant to demonstrate renewed U.S. interest in the region where bloody ethnic wars were fought in the 1990s, which the West accused Serbia of fomenting..

“I came to Serbia on behalf of the Obama-Biden administration with a clear message: the United States wants to, likes to, deepen its relations with Serbia,” Biden said.

“Serbia is central to the southeast European future,” he said. “The region cannot fully succeed without Serbia playing a constructively leading role.”

Tadic said Biden’s visit “could set the stage for the formulation of a new American policy toward Serbia and the Balkans.”

Unprecedented security measures were in place in the Serbian capital for the visit by the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since former President Jimmy Carter was here in 1980.

Police banned all anti-American protests planned by nationalists during the visit. In February 2008, angry protesters set fire to the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade to protest U.S. support for Kosovo’s statehood.

However, a few hundred Radical Party supporters staged a small protest in a Belgrade suburb, and their lawmakers carried anti-Biden leaflets during a parliament session Wednesday.

Many here still view America as anti-Serb. The mistrust stems from the 1999 U.S.-led NATO bombing of Serbia that ended the country’s rule in Kosovo, the southern province that declared independence last year with Washington’s backing.

Nationalist parties have opposed Biden’s visit, saying it amounts to a “humiliation” of the country. They accuse Biden of being the chief advocate of the 1999 bombing over Kosovo.

Biden said in Sarajevo Wednesday that he was a strong critic of late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of triggering the Balkan conflict.

Biden conceded that Serbia and the U.S. disagree on Kosovo, the predominantly ethnic Albanian-populated region considered by Serbs the medieval cradle of their statehood and religion.

Kosovo’s declaration of independence has received strong backing from the United States and major European Union nations and 59 countries have so far recognized Kosovo’s statehood.

“The United States does not, and I emphasize, does not expect Serbia to recognize the independence of Kosovo,” Biden said. “It is not a precondition for our relationship, or our support for Serbia becoming a part of the European Union.”

He said, “In return, we expect Serbia to cooperate with the European Union and other key international actors” in Kosovo “and look for pragmatic solutions that would improve lives of all the people in Kosovo, both Serbs and Albanians, and avoid making them the victims of political disagreement.”

Tadic reiterated that Serbia would never recognize Kosovo’s statehood and that it would try to retain it by peaceful, diplomatic means. Serbia has the backing of Russia in the U.N. Security Council.

On Thursday, Biden’s last stop on his Balkan tour will be Kosovo, which he said is expected to remain committed to protecting all communities, including the minority Serbs.

In Bosnia on Wednesday, Biden sharply rebuked Bosnia’s leaders and warned that continued ethnic divisions threatened to return the country to the chaos of the wars of the 1990s.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

VP Biden Slams Bosnian Leaders Over Tensions

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Vice President Joe Biden sharply rebuked Bosnia’s leaders Tuesday and warned that continued ethnic divisions threatened to return the country to the chaos of the bloody Balkans conflicts of the 1990s.

Biden told lawmakers that the US was worried about the direction that Bosnia was taking which he said threatened to keep it as one of the poorest nations in Europe — or plunge it back into violence.

The ethnic rivals that make up the leadership of Bosnia have squabbled for years since the 1995 peace agreement that ended three years of war amid the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The feuding has halted prospects of joining the European Union.

Biden criticized what he said was years of nationalist rhetoric that had split communities and blocked reforms demanded by the EU as part of its membership process.

“God, when will you tire of that rhetoric?” Biden said in a speech to Bosnia’s parliament.

“This must stop,” he said. “Let me be clear: Your only real path to a secure and prosperous future is to join Europe,” Biden said, adding that “right now, you’re off that path.”

He urged Bosnia’s leaders to work together across ethnic and party lines — or face economic hardship or even “descend into ethnic chaos that defined the country for the better part of a decade.”

“The choice is yours,” Biden said. “If you make the right choice, we will stand with you.”

Biden landed in Sarajevo on Tuesday, making the first stop in a three-day tour of the Balkans meant to demonstrate renewed interest in the region.

He met with Bosnia’s three-person presidency, talked with the governing coalition and spoke — separately — with Bosnia’s staunchest rivals, Bosniak leader Haris Silajdzic and Milorad Dodik, head of the country’s Serbs.

Bosniaks are eager for the U.S. to get involved more deeply in Bosnia. But Serbs want Washington to back off.

The US-brokered peace agreement at Dayton, Ohio, in 1995 preserved the country’s international borders but divided it into two ministates — one for Bosnia’s Christian Orthodox Serbs, the other to be shared by Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats.

The two ministates are linked by some common institutions.

The agreement stopped the fighting but failed to create a functioning country.

For years, Bosnia’s path toward European Union membership has been blocked, primarily by quarrels among Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats over how to enter the 27-nation organization — as a unified country or one that is ethnically divided, as is currently the case.

Serbs say Bosnia can enter only as a loose federation of two or three ethnically based ministates. But Bosniaks and Croats are pushing for unification.

For years, the EU dangled the carrot of EU membership in return for reforms but Bosnian Serbs rejected the proposals.

Biden said the U.S. was back to help. “The door is open for the countries of this region for the first time in history to be an integral part of a free Europe,” Biden said. “The U.S. will help you walk through that door.”

To underline the close cooperation between the U.S. and the European Union, Biden is traveling through the region with Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief.

Across Bosnia’s Serb region, several hundred protesters lit candles Tuesday to show their dissatisfaction with U.S. plans to get more involved in the country’s affairs.

“Joe Biden arrived to tear apart Serbia and the Republika Srpska,” said Bogdan Subotic, a former Bosnian Serb general, using the official name of Bosnia’s Serb Republic. Subotic was protesting in Banja Luka, the country’s second-largest city.

On Wednesday, Biden will fly to Serbia, where he said he will tell Serbian President Boris Tadic that the United States wants to build a “new, positive relationship with Serbia” and to see Serbia take its place in Europe.

But many people in the country still view America as anti-Serb. The mistrust stems from the 1999 U.S.-led NATO bombing of Serbia that ended the country’s rule in Kosovo.

“This independence, while young, is irreversible,” Biden said, adding that the U.S. does not expect Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence any time soon.

However, it does expect Serbia to cooperate with the EU and look for pragmatic solutions that would better the lives of both Albanians and Serbs living there.

Nationalist parties in Serbia have opposed Biden’s visit, saying it amounts to a “humiliation” of the country. His last stop will be Kosovo, which he said is expected to remain committed to protecting all communities, including the Serbs.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Cinema: Egypt, History of Muslim Brotherhood Becomes TV Show

(ANSAmed) — CANNES, MAY 20 — The history of the Muslim Brotherhood, from its creation until the present day, is to be turned into a television series. The programmes are to be written by the screenwriter of Palazzo Yacoubian (out now in Cairo), Waheed Hamed, and directed by Adel Adeeb, who is also the patron of the show’s production company, Good News Group — one of the most audacious in Egyptian cinema. At the Cannes Film Festival, Adeeb announced that filming would begin in Egypt in a little over a month and that this ‘delicate and ambitious and project” will last longer than the two months usually set aside for Egyptian series which are often put together in parallel. “We are working on the casting, and we are looking for actors from across the Arab world. There are more than 700 parts to decide and we are looking for new faces”, said the producer-director, also noting the important task that pre-production is facing in recreating a Cairo which no longer exists. The Brotherhood, which is not recognised (but in tolerated) in Egypt, was founded in 1929 by Ismailia da Hassan el Banna and is known for its fundamentalist stances, frequently being accused of nurturing Islamic terrorism. In Cannes, Good News held a private screening to present Ibrahim Labyad — the final film of Marwan Hamad which takes place in the capital’s shantytowns and shows the darkest side of Egyptian society. “It is a violent, provocative film which shows what really goes on in modern Egypt”, explained Emad Adeeb, President of Good News, whilst the Arab critical press has been left unconvinced by the film’s protest motives, saying that the film is in fact mostly aimed at making money. Ibrahim Labyad will soon come out on general release in Cairo and Adeeb hopes that in Cannes the film has attracted the attention of selectors for the Venice and Toronto film festivals. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Court’s Approval Revokes Israeli Spouse Citizenships

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 20 — Egypt’s State Council has requested that Egyptian men married to Israeli women have their citizenship revoked, as requested in an appeal by fundamentalist lawyer Nabih el Wahsh, reported the local press today. Legal sources say that this type of marriage, often performed in order to obtain Israeli residency and work, could threaten national security. “Children with Israeli mothers,” explained Cairo English language daily The Egyptian Gazette, “have Israeli citizenship and serve in the Israeli military. However, these children, with Egyptian fathers, are still Egyptians.” “This is an historic sentence,” said El Wahsh, “and I hope that it is immediately applied. This marriage violates the Egyptian Constitution, especially in light of Israel’s aggression against Arabs and Sharia (Koranic Law).” The lawyer urged the Interior Minister to make a quick decision to “avoid young Egyptians from committing this crime.” On more than on occasion, El Wahsh has filed charges against alleged offences against Egypt and Islam. He did so against writer and psychiatrist Nawal El Sadawi, unsuccessfully attempting to have a court declare her apostate. The lawyer also wanted to force her husband to divorce her for writings and statements considered offensive to religion. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Audio: MP3 Interview With Aaron Klein — Part 1

John Batchelor interviews Aaron Klein on the dangers facing Israel and the West.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Audio: MP3 Interview With Aaron Klein — Part 2

John Batchelor interviews Aaron Klein on the dangers facing Israel and the West.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

First Details of Obama Peace Plan in Israeli Press

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 20 — US President Barack Obama is readying himself to present his own peace initiative for the Middle East on June 4 in Cairo, which has been worked out with King Abdullah of Jordan based on the Saudi peace initiative of 2002. Israeli press today published the first details of the proposed initiative, also quoting information from the al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, which so far has not yet been confirmed. Apparently, the plan provides for the constitution of an independent, democratic and demilitarised Palestinian State, which will have territorial continuity between the West Bank and Gaza (due to border changes) and will have East Jerusalem as its capital. It is thought that the plan also includes the idea that the United Nations flag would fly in the Old City of Jerusalem — where holy sites for the three monotheistic religions are concentrated. The Arab world will be expected to proceed with the normalisation of diplomatic relations with Israel, whilst Israel would have to open ‘offices of interest’ and later diplomatic quarters in every Arab capital, where Israeli tourists would have total freedom to travel. The plan also provides for parallel peace negotiations between Israel on one side and Lebanon and Syria on the other. Lastly, Palestinian refugees would be offered the choice of whether to remain in the country they currently reside in and receive citizenship, or to return to the new Palestinian state. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Peace Plan ‘Misleading’, Says Hamas Spokesman

Gaza City, 19 May (AKI) — US president Barack Obama’s proposals for a new regional peace initiative are “misleading”, according to a key spokesman for the Islamist Hamas movement, Fawzi Barhoum. Obama on Monday met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is in Washington on his first official visit.

“Obama’s statements and messages of hope are meant to mislead global public opinion regarding the continued existence and conduct of the racist and extremist Zionist entity,” said Fawzi Barhoum, quoted by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

Obama has foreshadowed a new initiative to be announced during his visit to the Egyptian capital Cairo in June.

Barhoum said Netanyahu neglected to mention the rights of the Palestinian people but emphasized the demand to have Hamas recognise Israel as a Jewish state. He said Obama failed to pressure Netanyahu on this issue.

During talks with Obama, Netanyahu also stopped short of mentioning support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and instead said he would begin negotiations with the Palestinians “immediately”.

“Therefore, the stance of the American president does not bode a better future for our people. What we have seen is a continued development of the Zionist-American relationship at the expense of our people and our rights,” said Barhoum.

He also called on the West Bank-ruling Palestinian Authority not to renew negotiations with “the Zionist enemy.”

Barhoum concluded by saying that “any return to the negotiating table presents a grave danger to the Palestinian people and its interest, and could enable the racist Jewish state to continue hurting our people.”

However, a presidential aide to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, led by the more secular Fatah movement, said Obama’s words were “encouraging”, while Netanyahu’s were “disappointing”.

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

Middle East

Frattini to Press Iran on Afpak

Visit to spotlight need for regional stabilisation

(ANSA) — Rome, May 19 — Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini plans to impress on Iranian authorities the importance of stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan (AfPak) when he visits Tehran Wednesday.

Frattini said he would be looking for “a concrete commitment” on cross-border issues when he talks to Iranian counterpart Manoucher Mottaki.

He recalled that Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Eight, has invited Iran to take part in a G8 ministerial conference on the region in Trieste, June 25-27, which will see the participation of other countries in the area.

Italy hopes Iran will be ready to cooperate in regulating border issues, combating drug trafficking and reconstructing Afghanistan.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhoundzadeh said earlier this year that Tehran was ready to help the international community in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and in projects to combat drug trafficking.

On Tuesday Frattini also said that during his visit to Tehran he would reiterate to Iranian authorities Italy’s positions on Iran’s nuclear programme and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Stance on Two-State Solution Heartens EU

BRUSSELS — The European Union on Tuesday welcomed President Barack Obama’s appeal to Israel to commit to a two-state solution — Jewish and Palestinian nations living side by side — calling it the “way forward” to peace in the Middle East.

A day after Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the EU presidency was clearly heartened by the American president’s insistence that Israel abide by peace commitments it has made in the past.

Obama told Netanyahu in Washington to respect Israel’s past commitment to an independent Palestinian state. He spoke of “a historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue. That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they have previously agreed to.”

That language from Obama is what the 27-nation EU wanted to hear.

Officials of the bloc have been insisting for weeks on the need for a two-state solution, to the chagrin of Israel. With Obama now taking the same line, the EU foreign ministers will reconfirm their view at their meeting in June.

“The two-state solution will remain the basis of the policy of the EU” toward Israel, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, whose country holds the EU presidency, told The Associated Press.

The notion of Israel living next to a Palestinian state was a centerpiece of a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November, 2007. It came about with broad international support, including from Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Kohout said Obama’s reiteration of the two-state solution means that it remains very much “the general feeling of the international community. That is the way forward.”

The EU’s relationship with Israel has been in turmoil in recent months.

In December, the EU agreed in principle to a broad “upgrade” of relations with Israel in political, economic and trade terms.

But the war in Gaza changed all that, especially because of Israel’s ‘no’ to repeated EU demands for free access to the area for humanitarian deliveries. Upgrading relations with Israel is now such a divisive issue in the EU that talk of it has been suspended altogether.

Additionally, Washington’s new outreach to Iran and the emergence of a more hawkish government in Jerusalem have became significant new realities.

In recent weeks, senior Israeli officials have fanned out across Europe to spread the word that Iran’s nuclear ambitions must take precedence over talk about a two-state solution — a point Netanyahu stressed in his talks with Obama.

The Israeli view is that the international community must deal with Tehran first, saying it poses a threat not just to the Jewish state but also to Arab nations in the region.

That view is not finding much support in Europe.

A senior EU diplomat said Israel’s assessment of Iran was right but its solution was wrong

While all Mideast governments agree Iran is a potential threat to peace, it must “not be used as an excuse not to talk about a two-state solution,” said the official who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

If there is a two-state solution, the official added, Arab nations will likely sign peace with Israel. “That will not only have a positive impact on stability in the region but also be a signal to Iran (which now) only has an interest in creating instability in the Middle East.”

Before Obama urged Israel to commit to a two-state solution, EU relations with Israel nosedived and Jerusalem warned that the Europeans risked forfeiting their role as Mideast peace broker unless they eased up on their criticism of Jerusalem.

The EU is one of four members of the so-called Quartet — the international body charged with promoting an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The other members are the U.S., Russia and the United Nations.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Russia-Syria: MiG Supply Cancelled for Political Reasons

(ANSAmed) — MOSCOW, MAY 20 — Russian state import-export monopoly Rosoboronexport’s plan to supply Syria with eight MiG-31 aircrafts has been cancelled, wrote Russian daily Kommersant. The cancellation of the contract is reportedly due to political reasons, and more specifically due to pressure from Israel. However, economic reasons cannot be excluded, since the order for eight MiG-31s signed in 2007 is valued at between 450 and 500 million dollars. Damascus already owes Moscow 3.6 billion dollars after 70% of its debt to Russia was forgiven in 2005. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Big Names and Bucks Back Nuclear ‘Bank’

VIENNA — Buffett’s bankroll, Obama’s clout and the partnership of a savvy ex-Soviet strongman may turn the steppes of central Asia into a nuclear mecca, a go-to place for “safe” uranium fuel in an increasingly nervous atomic age.

The $150 million idea, with seed money from U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett, must still navigate the tricky maze of global nuclear politics, along with a parallel Russian plan. But the notion of such fuel banks is moving higher on the world’s agenda as a way to keep ultimate weapons out of many more hands.

Decisions may come as early as next month here in Vienna.

The half-century-old vision, to establish international control over the technology fueling atom bombs, was resurrected in 2003, when Iran alarmed many by announcing it would develop fuel installations — for nuclear power, it insisted. Mohamed ElBaradei, U.N. nuclear chief, then said the time had come to “multinationalize” the technology, to stop its spread to individual countries.

Last month, the new U.S. president gave the idea its biggest boost.

In a historic speech to tens of thousands in Prague, the Czech capital, Barack Obama detailed an aggressive plan for arms control, including setting up an international fuel bank, “so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation.”

That’s the fear: The centrifuges that enrich uranium with its fissionable isotope U-235, to produce power-plant fuel, can be left spinning to enrich it much more, producing fissile, highly enriched uranium for nuclear bombs.

Only a dozen nations have enrichment plants, but ElBaradei’s Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) foresees nuclear-power use almost doubling in the next 20 years. More and more governments may want the fuel-making capability.

“The real risk is that highly enriched uranium could be acquired by, say, terrorist groups,” Russian government adviser Alexander Konovalov told a conference in Rome on nuclear dangers. “All they need is 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of enriched uranium. All the rest (to make a bomb) can be found on the Internet.”

The IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors is expected to address the issue at its June meeting. A raft of proposals has surfaced, including a German idea to build an IAEA enrichment plant on “internationalized” soil somewhere, to sell fuel to countries committed to nuclear nonproliferation.

“Assurance” is the byword — a desire to assure future Irans there won’t be politically motivated cutoffs of nuclear fuel supplies, and so they needn’t build, at huge cost, their own enrichment plants.

Only one proposal has upfront money behind it, however — the idea advanced by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a Washington-based organization founded by philanthropist Ted Turner and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn.

Calling it an “investment in a safer world,” investor and NTI adviser Buffett, considered America’s richest man, pledged $50 million to such a bank, provided governments put up an additional $100 million. That threshold was passed in March, most of the money coming from the U.S. and the European Union.

The $150 million would buy enough low-enriched uranium to fuel a 1,000-megawatt power plant, jump-starting a constantly replenished fuel stockpile that would be owned and sold by the IAEA at market prices and on a nondiscriminatory basis.

On April 6, the day after Obama’s address, another piece of that picture fell into place nearly 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) from Prague, when another president spoke in Astana, capital of the ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.

“If a nuclear fuel bank for nuclear energy was created, then Kazakhstan would consider hosting it,” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced to reporters.

The ex-communist Nazarbayev, a canny political survivor from Soviet times who has led Kazakhstan for two decades, is eager to develop his nuclear industry, based on Soviet-era facilities and Kazakhstan’s large uranium deposits. Nazarbayev regularly reminds the world that he gave up leftover Soviet nuclear weapons in 1995.

“It has a lot of qualifications,” Nunn said of Kazakhstan. “It would be highly symbolic to put the fuel bank in a country that got rid of nuclear weapons.”

The NTI co-chairman told The Associated Press he first approached the Kazakh leader about hosting a fuel bank “a couple of years ago.” By this May 5, Nazarbayev’s foreign minister was in Washington discussing the plan with Gen. James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser.

Most intriguing, perhaps, was the fact that Nazarbayev’s announcement came with Iran’s visiting president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, standing at his side.. The Iranian called the fuel bank “a very good proposal.” In fact, Tehran has suggested that an international consortium might also enrich uranium on Iranian soil.

Iran isn’t likely to give up its controversial fuel facilities, which some fear could lead to an Iranian bomb. But Nunn said a Kazakh or other multinational fuel bank, by involving Iran in an enterprise with international oversight, “could be a very useful tool, not the whole answer but part of an answer” to what he called “the Iranian challenge.”

First, however, the tool must win IAEA approval — something far from guaranteed, say sources familiar with the debate within the agency board.

Countries as diverse as Italy, Egypt and South Africa, none of which enrich uranium, have balked at the notion of an international stockpile — not in itself, but because such a framework would raise suspicions about any country that then chooses to enrich on its own, even if that remains legal under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Many who object to the treaty’s “have and have-not” regime on nuclear weapons, which legitimizes only five nations as nuclear powers, don’t want to see the same evolve on energy technology.

“We cannot have divides where some own nuclear technology and others not,” Egyptian diplomat and nonproliferation expert Mohamad Shaker complained at the Rome conference. “Have-nots” must have an equal role in any technology consortiums, he said.

The NTI proposal may be put on hold until September while IAEA governors next month consider a Russian plan that is more developed and less ambitious, since it doesn’t put the IAEA into the fuel sales business.

Instead, the Russians would maintain their own fuel stockpile at a Siberian enrichment plant, which they would make available via the IAEA, “depoliticizing” sales by leaving it to the U.N. agency to certify buyers.

The agency’s ElBaradei, meanwhile, views these as early steps in a longer process that eventually would bring all new enrichment facilities under some multinational control, and then internationalize older, existing plants, including those of the U.S. and other nuclear powers.

“It’s a bold agenda,” he told a nuclear industry meeting in March. “It’s going to take some time, but I think we need to start.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Russian Commission to Guard Against False History

MOSCOW — Russia announced Tuesday it has created a commission to fight what President Dmitry Medvedev says are efforts to hurt his country by falsifying history — part of a campaign to promote the Kremlin’s views and silence those who question them.

Bitter disputes over events of the past century — including a World War II-era massacre of Polish officers, a Stalin-era famine in Ukraine and the relocation of the graves of Soviet soldiers in the Baltics — have damaged Russia’s relations with former Soviet and Eastern bloc neighbors.

Russian leaders tend to cast the Soviet Union as a force for good that defeated Nazi Germany and liberated Eastern Europe. Critics say such arguments gloss over the decades of postwar Soviet dominance seen by many in the region as a hostile occupation, and some say Russia must do more to acknowledge Soviet-era crimes.

Medvedev earlier this month warned against questioning the primacy of the Soviet Union’s role in the World War II, in which at least 27 million Soviet citizens were killed. The costly victory over fascism is a source of immense pride for Russians, and is central to Moscow’s vision of 20th Century European history.

“We will never forget that our country, the Soviet Union, made the decisive contribution to the outcome of the second world war, that it was precisely our people who destroyed Nazism, determined the fate of the whole world,” Medvedev said May 8, on the eve of celebrations commemorating the Allied victory in Europe.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party is drafting legislation to make it a crime to belittle the Soviet contribution to what Russians call the Great Patriotic War. The bill, yet to be submitted to parliament, equates criticizing the Soviets’ role with rehabilitating Nazism, and makes it punishable by up to three years in prison.

The new 28-member commission, created by a presidential decree, will investigate “the falsification of historical facts and events aimed to disparage the international prestige of the Russian Federation,” according to an addendum to the decree signed Friday and announced Tuesday.

The decree said it would also recommend measures to counter alleged falsifications, but Medvedev’s press service declined to comment what those measures might entail.

The commission will be headed by Medvedev’s chief of staff, Sergei Naryshkin, and include foreign and domestic intelligence officials as well lawmakers, historians and officials from government ministries.

Some analysts said Russia was trying to prevent any effort to equate the actions of the Soviet regime with the crimes of the Nazis.

“Something had to be done about it, because the arbitrariness and falsifications have become intolerable, contradicting not only science but common sense,” said Makhmut Gareyev, president of Russia’s Academy of Military Sciences and former deputy chief of the Soviet general staff.

Liberal Kremlin critics said, however, that Medvedev’s commission amounted to an effort to airbrush Soviet history. Author Yulia Latynina said it plays into the hands of “mastodons in epaulets” — ultraconservatives among Russia’s historians and politicians.

“The whole idea was copied from Orwell’s ‘1984’ and from the famous phrase about Russia as a country with unpredictable past,” she told The Associated Press. “This commission will finally turn Medvedev into a laughing stock.”

For years, Russia has fought efforts by former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact allies, many now in NATO and the European Union, to remove or relocate WWII monuments and Soviet grave sites.

Russia’s leaders have accused the Soviet republics of Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia of honoring those who fought alongside the Nazis by allowing them to hold commemorations.

Moscow has mounted a campaign against Ukrainian claims that a 1930s famine that killed millions was an act of genocide engineered by the Soviets.

It also denies that the 1940 killing by Soviet agents of some 20,000 Polish officials, intellectuals and priests near the western Russian town of Katyn constituted genocide.

Historian Heorhiy Kasyanov from Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences accused the Kremlin of trying to whitewash Soviet history in order to justify the rollback of democratic rights in Russia.

“It’s part of the Russian Federation’s policy to create an ideological foundation for what is happening in Russia right now,” he said in Kiev.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Another Blow to Indonesia Aviation

A C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed and exploded in East Java yesterday, killing at least 98 people, injuring 15, and sparking soul-searching in Indonesia about the degraded state of its military.

It was the second fatal military aviation accident in six weeks. In April, 24 special forces trainees and crew were killed when a Fokker 27 ploughed into a hangar and exploded.

Only 10 days ago, another Hercules transport plane crash-landed in West Papua, destroying its landing gear and injuring one soldier.

The Hercules was ferrying troops and their families, including 10 children, when it clipped homes and smashed into the ground close to its destination, the Iswahyudi military air base. Conditions were calm. The plane exploded into a fireball after crashing, with footage taken soon after the accident showing only the inverted, torn-off tail as flames engulfed the aircraft.

At least 97 people died in the accident, according to an air force spokesman, Bambang Sulistyo. There were 98 passengers and 13 crew on the aircraft but at least two of those killed were on the ground.

The Vice-President, Jusuf Kalla, who is running for president against the incumbent, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, blamed the accident on the depletion in military funding. “It’s because we don’t allocate sufficient budget for our military equipment,” he said.

President Yudhoyono, a former general, has cut the defence budget but insisted yesterday that only spending on new equipment was affected, not money for aircraft maintenance.

However, Dudi Sudibyo, an aviation expert and editor of Angkasa magazine, said maintenance and pilot training alike were affected by the “limited budget” for the military.

“There will be more accidents if they don’t do something. They need to increase funding for the air force, and quickly,” he said.

The finances of the armed forces have also taken a hit from Dr Yudhoyono’s crackdown on military businesses. Much of the proceeds of such activities have lined the pockets of generals and senior officers but also supplemented government funds and helped pay for military salaries and other expenses.

Mr Sudibyo said the repeated accidents were sapping the morale of Indonesian troops.

“They are flying unsafe planes from one tip of the country to the other … they rely on these planes to move troops, provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid.”

Indonesia’s deep-seated aviation problems extend to the civilian industry.

The country’s flagship aviation company, Garuda, has been banned from flying to Europe since the crash in Yogyakarta in 2007 that killed 21 people, including five Australians.

This year there have been fatal crashes, engine failures and haphazard landings involving civilian aircraft. Indonesia, an archipelago with poor roads, relies heavily on air transport.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Clinton Says Policy in Last 30 Years ‘Incoherent’

Washington, 20 May (AKI/DAWN) — The United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Washington had not been consistent in its dealings with Islamabad.

Talking to the media at the Foreign Press Centre in the White House on Monday, Hillary Clinton said “It is fair to say that our policy towards Pakistan over the last 30 years has been incoherent. I don’t know any other word”.

About the military operation underway in Pakistan to root out Taliban militants, Hillary Clinton said the US was working with Pakistan to determine and disrupt the route for supplying weapons to the militant group.

“Yes, we know that the extremists are being supplied,” she said when asked why the US was unable to disrupt the Taliban supply route.

The secretary recalled that in the 1980s, the US partnered with Pakistan to help train the Mujahideen.

“Their security service and the military were encouraged to go after the Soviets in Afghanistan and when they withdrew in 1989, we said thank you very much”.

Clinton said while it was fair to apportion responsibility to Pakistan, but the US also shared the responsibility for what happened during and after the Afghan war.

“What President Obama is doing is qualitatively different from anything done before. We support the elected government … it is a relationship very clear, honest to each other.”

Clinton also said the US was assisting the new government in Islamabad to be “as successful as possible in delivering, we believe the future of Pakistan is extremely important for the US … the advance of extremism is a threat to our security”.

She underscored America’s strong support for the effort by the Pakistan army for defeating the terrorists.

Clinton said the Al-Qaeda and their allies were intent upon harming not only US friends and allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan but also in the US homeland and to American citizens.

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

Pakistan: Army and Taliban Battle it Out in “The Most Dangerous Nation in the World”

Commandos assault Piochar where 4 thousand militants are entrenched. Ten dead, among them a six year old girl, in a suicide attack. Rocket attacks on girl’s schools and the sanctuary of a Pashtun poet. A Canadian Minister describes Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal “the most dangerous nation in the world”.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — The Pakistani army has begun closing in on the Taliban in the Swat Valley: Army helicopters dropped commandos into the remote Piochar area in the upper reaches of the valley. Officials identified it as the rear-base of an estimated 4,000 Taliban militants entrenched in Swat’s main towns. It is seen as possible hiding place of Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah. A military spokesman declined to give details of the Piochar assault, but a senior government official expressed optimism that the battle for Swat might prove short.

Despite the military crackdown Taliban attacks continue: yesterday a suicide car bomber killed 10 people in an attack on a checkpoint in Darra Adam Khel. A six-year-old girl was among those killed. Seven people were injured. May 10th last the shrine of renowned Pashto poet Ameer Hamza Shinwari, a girls’ college and a girls’ school were attacked. President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attacks; Interior Minister Rehman Malik adds the security forces have killed 700 Taliban in four days of military operations. Twenty security personnel have also been killed, and nineteen others injured.

But government data on the numbers killed are countered by independent sources; all journalists have abandoned the area for security reasons. Yesterday the very last TV reporter, Shireenzada, abandoned the area, saying “working as a journalist is extremely difficult in the present situation”. Twenty-two journalists were registered with the Swat Press Club until the military action against the Taliban began on May 7. Now there are none. Swat Press Club President Salahuddin Khan confirmed “thousands of residents were still stranded” and could face shortages of food and drinking water in absence of electricity; the wounded and sick could not go to hospitals because of the curfew.

The escalation in conflict between the army and Taliban is also concerning the international community. Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay defined nuclear-armed Pakistan as ‘the most dangerous country in the world”. Mackay said the Taliban’s recruiting and rearming in Pakistan is also harming NATO efforts to rout insurgents in neighbouring Afghanistan, where Canada has deployed some 2,800 troops. “As long as insurgency is allowed to foster and to incubate inside Pakistan — he said — the problem remains very real, very difficult”.

On the humanitarian side the drama of displaced people unfolds: North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain, counts 700,000 displaced from Swat, Buner and Shangla. The local government is seeking at least 90 billion Rupees in aid (equal to 800 thousand euros); The United States said that it would provide 4.9 million dollars for families displaced by the current anti-Taliban offensive. Today the UN High Commissioner for Refugees began airlifting 120 tonnes of humanitarian aid and camp materials.

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

Swat Valley: Two Million Refugees on the Run, as Caritas Pakistan Provides Assistance

The Catholic NGO is providing essential items, planning a sustained effort with the assistance of international partners. Bishop Coutts stresses the need for caution to avoid offending the sensibilities of people of various religions but slams the victimisation of minorities. Christian families are forced out of refugee camps.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — Caritas Pakistan, with the help of various international partners, is providing mattresses, fans, field tents and mobile clinics for the two million refugees who, according to the latest United Nations figures, have fled the fighting between Pakistani military and the Taliban in the Swat Valley

Mgr Joseph Coutts, bishop of Faisalabad and national director of Caritas Pakistan, talks about the work performed by Catholic volunteers, stressing the caution they must display because the area in which they operate is not secure and because they must show extreme discretion given the sensitivities of the various people from different faiths.

“Our mission,” said the prelate, “is to provide, aid, love and assistance to all those in need, as Jesus Christ taught.”

About 300 mattresses and 25 fans were brought to refugee camps in Mardan North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), home to people who fled mountain areas. As temperatures rise (up to 50 degrees C) the emergency situation is getting worse.

Outside the city of Mardan the government has set up two large relief camps, Sheikh Shahzad and Sheikh Yaseen, holding about 20,000 people, a number that is increasing every day.

“With the support of its international partners Caritas Pakistan is sending 2,000 tents to these camps in Mardan to increase capacity. Each tent is enough for a small family. Our international partners will also arrange mobile clinics for these internally displaced people,” the prelate said. .

Problems in the affected area are not recent but date back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. As Afghan refugees poured across the border the Taliban come to the NWFP. Local Taliban groups emerged in the area, and eventually took it over, creating an emergency situation that deteriorated as soon as the Taliban began enforcing Sharia. After that then open warfare broke out with the Pakistani military.

Religious minorities are among the most vulnerable groups because in addition to the war they have experienced harassment and abuse.

Recently Sikhs have been forced to pay the Jizya, a poll tax imposed on non-Muslims for the benefit of Muslims. In other instances Christian families have been forced out of refugee camps because Muslims did not want them around.

For this reason Caritas Pakistan is acting with extreme caution.

In the meantime, fighting continues between the army and Taliban in various parts of the Malakand division.

In Islamabad the Pakistani cabinet met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani; on the agenda: the law and order situation in tribal areas, the ongoing military operations in Swat and Malakand, and what steps to take in favour refugees.

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

Australia — Pacific

Doctor Uses Household Drill to Bore Into Boy’s Skull to Save His Life After Accident Swelled Brain

A doctor in a small Australian town has saved a young boy’s life by using a household electric drill to bore into the youngster’s skull to relieve pressure from his brain.

Medical experts agree that if Dr Rob Carson had not carried out the bizarre emergency operation, 12-year-old Nicholas Rossi would have died within a short time.

‘There were only minutes to spare,’ Dr Carson revealed.

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Sudanese Youths in Court Over Cop Attack at Rugby Union Club

FOUR Sudanese nationals seriously injured two senior off-duty police officers at a Brisbane football club after having first threatened to rape their wives and children, a jury has been told.

A Brisbane District Court jury was told the four also allegedly assaulted the manager of the Southern Districts Rugby Union Club at Annerley about 12.30am on November 24, 2007.

Magid Santino Agwaig, 25, Marier Majur Amour, 22, and brothers Doctor Martin and Hakuma Martin Mirich-Teny, 21 and 25, all yesterday pleaded not guilty to two counts each of grievous bodily harm and one of common assault.

Prosecutor Catherine Birkett said off-duty officers Senior-Sergeant David Ewgarde and Inspector Stephen Munro, who is also the football club’s president, were at a Christmas party on the evening of November 23.

Ms Birkett said the officers and manager Donald Godfrey had been standing on the clubhouse veranda when they heard loud banging sounds nearby.

The court was told Godfrey and Munro went to investigate and found a group of men kicking metal signs.

Ms Birkett said Godfrey and Munro asked the group to desist and move on, but were then subjected to a string of loud expletives and racial slurs.

The jury said members of the group made comments such as “you white pieces of s***”, “get back on the boat” and “go back to England”.

Ms Birkett said one comment heard was: “We are going to rape your children.”

She said when Godfrey tried to entice them to leave he had liquid, possibly cheap wine, thrown in his eye and was then repeatedly hit. The jury was told both Ewgarde and Munro were then assaulted by one or more of the group.

Ms Birkett said Munro later required surgery for several fractures to his eye-socket, while Ewgarde required dental treatment to remove teeth smashed in the alleged attack.

Munro testified he was “king-hit” when he tried to move the youths off the club’s grounds.

“The next thing (I know) I am king-hit straight into my right eye,” he said.

Munro said he later required 13 stitches for three lacerations around his left eye and required surgery to correct his eye-socket fractures.

The trial before Judge Michael Forde is unfinished.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Italy Hands Over 3 Patrol Boats to Libya

(ANSAmed) — GAETA (LATINA), MAY 14 — Italy has given three patrol boats to the Libyan authorities to be used by Tripoli in carrying out patrols to fight illegal immigration. The ceremony, which took place at Gaeta, was attended by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, Libyan Ambassador Gaddur and Italian Financial Police Chief Cosimo D’Arrigo. Forty-one Libyan servicemen have been trained to use the boats over the last two weeks. Three more patrol boats are set to be transferred to the Libyan authorities at a later date. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Soy Protein Used in “Natural” Foods Bathed in Toxic Solvent Hexane

These laboratory results appear to indicate that consumers who purchase common soy products might be exposing themselves (and their children) to residues of the toxic chemical HEXANE — a neurotoxic substance produced as a byproduct of gasoline refining.

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UK: MI5 Had 7/7 Ringleader on ‘Radar’ 12 Times… But MPs’ Report Still Fails to Point the Finger

MI5 was cleared of failing to prevent the July 7 bombings yesterday, despite 12 contacts with the ringleader dating back more than ten years.

The long-awaited — and heavily-censored — report of a committee of MPs exposed an ‘astounding’ lack of manpower, shoddy record keeping and poor communications between the security service and police before the attacks.

Yet the Intelligence and Security Committee said it ‘cannot criticise’ the judgments the agencies made, based on what they knew at the time.

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