Friday, June 19, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/19/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/19/2009The success of right-wing nationalists in the recent EU elections in Hungary has caused some trepidation among more progressive Hungarians. Check out several stories on the topic in the European news section.

Oh, and by the way: Timothy Garton Ash says that “Obama is certainly a European”.

In other news, a bug in the Airbus computer system in is now considered the most likely cause of the Air France 447 crash.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Costin, Diana West, Fausta, Fjordman, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Fiat to Rationalise Production
Michelin Cuts 1,093 Jobs, Closes Factory in France
Bill Clinton: United States Growing More Diverse
CDC Sees “Something Different” With New Flu
Congress Passes Restrictions on Detainees
Hawaii Fortified Over N. Korean Threat
Insider: ACORN ‘Always Been Democrat Operation’
Minn. Lawmaker Vows Not to Complete Census
Obama’s Other Church: ‘We’Ve Always Been Activist’
Scientists: Obama Document is ‘Scare’ Tactic
US Joins UN Rights Body, Urges Cooperative Spirit
Why Socialism Makes Rights Dispensable
Europe and the EU
Agriculture: EU Cultivating More Citrus, Spain Leads
Diana West: Defying Sharia in Copenhagen
EU Agrees Irish Treaty Compromise
EU Leaders Reassure Irish to Revive Lisbon Treaty
French Muslim Council Slams Call for Burka Query
Hungary: Cooperation Contract Signed by Hungarian Extreme Right Groups
Hungary’s Youth Divided Over Kadar Era
Hungary: Socialist MP Calls for Joint Political Action to Fight Extremism
Hungary: National Security Office Part of Crackdown on Anti-Government Agitator
Hungarian Government Supports Extension of Barroso’s Term as EC President
Italy: Optimism on Obama Helicopter
Italy: Prosecutors Lock Away Recordings
Italy: Magistrates Quiz Women Over Berlusconi Party ‘Scandal’
Italy: The Plague of the Under Employed
Italy: MP in Court to Defend Herself Against Death ‘Fatwa’
Netherlands: ‘Christians Face Submission or Persecution’
‘Obama is Certainly a European’
Sarkozy Calls for ‘Strong’ EU President
Spain: Lleida Mosque Authorised in Industrial Centre
Swedish Politician Sings Hitler’s Praises
UK: Court Allows First Juryless Criminal Trial
UK: Parents Banned From Taking Pictures of Their Own Children at Sports Day
UK: The Pensioners Battered to a Pulp by Four Men for Clipping Another Car’s Wing Mirror
US Officially Requests Hungary Take Guantánamo Inmates
Vatican: Pope Rejects Ordination of New Breakaway Priests
Verheugen’s Stark Warning to Turkey About Cyprus
Mediterranean Union
Forum in Milan to Get it Run Again
North Africa
Libya-UK: Cooperation Accord in Social Sector
Israel and the Palestinians
“6% See US Administration as Pro-Israel”
Dutch Anti-Islam MP: ‘Israel is West’s First Line of Defense’
Middle East
Charles Krauthammer: Hope and Change — But Not for Iran
Lebanon: Hizbollah Wants an “Explanation” From Patriarch Sfeir
Tech Giants Rush Farsi Versions
Turkey: AKP Files Complaint Over Alleged Anti-Government Plot
Young Iraqi Gays Find Safe Haven in Turkey
South Asia
Afghanistan: La Russa Confirms Reinforcements for Elections
Far East
Shanghai Relaxes Residency Rules
Latin America
Airbus Computer Bug is Main Suspect in Crash of Flight 447
Fini to Libya, Monitor Human Rights
Libya: 6,000 Egyptians Held in Misratah
$196 Billion; Little Proof UN Health Programs Work

Financial Crisis

Fiat to Rationalise Production

Marchionne illustrates carmaker’s future to govt and unions

(ANSA) — Rome, June 18 — The global crisis in the automobile sector has forced Fiat to rationalise its automobile production, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said on Thursday.

Speaking at a long-awaited meeting with union and government representatives on Fiat’s long-term strategies, following its partnership with American automaker Chrysler, Marchionne said that “we are facing a challenge which I believe we can meet and overcome”.

Looking towards the future, Marchionne said it was “hard to imagine the Fiat Group without its roots in Italy. And if this is what we all want then everyone, the government and unions, must do their part in a responsible way so we can avoid painful consequences”.

“Maintaining a balance in employment levels during the current economic emergency has been no easy task and we are dealing with this situation with everything we have at our disposal. But the time has come for everyone to realise that we can no longer do this on our own,” Marchionne said.

In order to continue, the CEO explained, it was necessary for the government to maintain its green incentives to trade in old cars for new ones and ensure that funds are available for temporary layoff schemes.

It was also necessary to have a labor truce, he added, “so we can tackle necessary reorganization without any traumas and adapt production to demand”.

“Fiat is a part of this nation and an important part of its history and we want it to remain so also in the future. If we all share this goal — the company, unions and the government — then we must join our forces together to meet the challenges ahead,” Marchionne said.

Fiat’s plans includes changing production at two of its plants in Italy in order to rationalise overall domestic output.

The plants are in Termini Imerese, Sicily, and Pomigliano d’Arco, near Naples, which many observers thought would have been closed had Fiat succeeded last month in acquiring German automaker Opel from General Motors.

Termini Imerese will continue to produce automobiles to 2011, after which the plant will be converted to make other products. The Pomigliano plant will continue to produce Alfa Romeo models through next year, after which it will be given a new platform to produce one or more models. Fiat also intends to rationalise its CNH division which produces farm and earth-moving vehicles and adapt it to global demand.


Labor Minister Maurizio Sacconi said Fiat’s plan “demonstrated a strong desire to expand the group in a realistic framework” and said the decision to convert, rather than close, the two plants, “confirmed their objective validity”.

The first reaction of unions was relief over the fact that the plants in Sicily and outside Naples will not be shut down.

However, they now want to have more specifics on how Fiat’s future production capacity will affect employment levels and what social compensation the government intends to extend for expected redundancies.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi was also at the meeting and said that unions had nothing to fear because “we will not leave anyone behind in resolving this crisis. We all need to work to instill confidence and come to the aid of those in need”.

He went on to praise Fiat’s partnership accord with Chrysler, which he said had also received the compliments of US President Barack Obama.

“This was a very important accord which consolidated the group’s international vocation. We intend to be at Fiat’s side in all its initiatives,” Berlusconi said.

“I discussed the accord with Obama who was very pleased with it and said it will change the attitude of Americans,” on matters like green technology, he added. Berlusconi met with Obama this week at the White House ahead of next month’s Group of Eight summit, which Italy is hosting in its role as the current G8 rotating president.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Michelin Cuts 1,093 Jobs, Closes Factory in France

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JUNE 17 — Michelin announced a restructuring plan today, which calls for the elimination of 1,093 jobs without any lay-offs’ and the closing of one of the group’s factories in Noyelles-les-Seclin in northern France. The plan announced this morning by management also calls for 1,800 voluntary early retirements in three years, while the group will hire 500 new employees. The reorganisation will only take place in France, with job cuts at the group’s locations in Tours, Montceau-les-Mines and Noyelles-les-Seclin, said company sources to ANSA. Michelin also announced a 100-million euro investment to allow its research centre in Clermont-Ferrand, the historic headquarters of the group, “to accelerate the launch of new tires and services on the market and to develop innovative manufacturing processes”. According to a statement, the project demonstrates Michelin’s willingness to “strengthen France’s key role as the group’s strategic centre and heart of innovation, and to improve the level of competitiveness of its industrial business in an increasingly competitive international context.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Bill Clinton: United States Growing More Diverse

[Comment from Fjordman: Finally, some Western leaders are saying openly that demographically and culturally destroying people of European stock is the point of today’s immigration policies.]

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton said Saturday that Americans should be mindful of the nation’s changing demographics, which led to the election of Barack Obama as president.

He told an Arab-American audience of 1,000 people that the U.S. is no longer just a black-white country, nor a country that is dominated by Christians and a powerful Jewish minority, given the growing numbers of Muslims, Hindus and other religious groups here.

Clinton said by 2050 the U.S. will no longer have a majority of people with European heritage and that in an interdependent world “this is a very positive thing.”

Speaking in a hotel ballroom to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee during its annual convention, Clinton also praised Obama’s speech in Cairo, Egypt, that was focused on the Arab world.

Clinton told the audience that it’s important that they push government leaders for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He cited an experience in 1993 when he failed to persuade many Jewish-American and Arab-American business people to invest in the Palestinian areas because violence and bombings had deterred them.

“It just took one more bus bomb or one more rocket or one more incident and then people got scared of losing their money,” he said.

As the U.S. continues to push for peace in the area, “I think it’s really important to give the Palestinian people something to look forward to,” Clinton said to loud applause.

Clinton, who wasn’t paid for his speech, spoke in a wide-ranging 35-minute address that focused on people’s identity in an interdependent world. He said the U.S. can’t rely on its military might in global relations. “It has to begin by people accepting the fact that they can be proud of who they are without despising who someone else is,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

CDC Sees “Something Different” With New Flu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The new strain of H1N1 flu is causing “something different” to happen in the United States this year — perhaps an extended year-round flu season that disproportionately hits young people, health officials said on Thursday.

An unusually cool late spring may be helping keep the infection going in the U.S. Northeast, especially densely populated areas in New York and Massachusetts, the officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

And infections among healthcare workers suggest that people are showing up at work sick — meaning that workplace policies may be contributing to its spread, the CDC officials said.

The new strain of swine flu is officially a pandemic now, according to the World Health Organization.

So far the virus is causing mild to moderate disease, but it has killed at least 167 people and been confirmed in nearly 40,000 globally.

The United States has been hardest hit, with upward of 100,000 likely cases and probably far more, with 44 deaths and 1,600 hospitalized.

“The fact that we are seeing ongoing transmission now indicates that we are seeing something different,” the CDC’s Dr. Daniel Jernigan told a news briefing.

“And we believe that that may have to do with the complete lack of immunity to this particular virus among those that are most likely affected. And those are children,” Jernigan added.

“The areas of the country that are most affected, some of them have very high population densities, like Boston and New York. So that may be a contributor as well. Plus the temperature in that part of the country is cooler, and we know that influenza appears to like the cooler times of the year for making transmission for effective.”

Jernigan said in areas that are the most affected up to 7 percent of the population has influenza-like illness.


“The United States will likely continue to see influenza activity through the summer, and at this point we’re anticipating that we will see the novel H1N1 continue with activity probably all the way into our flu season in the fall and winter. The amount of activity we expect to be low, and then pick up later.”

One worrying pattern: healthcare workers are being infected, and most reported they did little or nothing to protect themselves, the CDC’s Dr. Mike Bell said.

People coming into emergency departments or clinics need to be checked right away for flu symptoms and anyone working with such a patient needs to wear a mask, gloves and eyewear, Bell said.

“We’re beginning to see a pattern of healthcare personnel-to-healthcare personnel transmission in some of the clusters, which is also concerning, because it gets to the issue of people showing up to work sick,” Bell said..

Doctors, nurses and technicians who have flu can spread it to vulnerable patients, Bell noted.

As of May 13, the CDC said it had received 48 reports of healthcare workers infected with swine flu.

Detailed case reports on 26 showed that 13 were infected in a healthcare setting such as a clinic or hospital and 12 caught it from infected patients, the CDC said in its weekly report on death and disease.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Congress Passes Restrictions on Detainees

WASHINGTON — Legislation to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year is on its way to President Barack Obama, but it provides no money for closing the Guantanamo detainee prison and sets tough restrictions on the transfer of its inmates.

The $106 billion emergency war bill is not all for war fighting. It includes many unrelated items, including a “cash for clunkers” incentive to swap gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles; and funds for UN peacekeeping, air service to rural communities, Gulf Coast housing for hurricane victims and the response to a flu pandemic.

Lawmakers sent Obama, who wants to close the prison, not one but two messages Thursday to prove they don’t like the idea.

In addition to the war fighting bill, which received final congressional approval, the House used the first spending bill for 2010 to deny the president money to close the prison next year. The legislation funds law enforcement and science programs.

Many lawmakers are upset at the possibility that alleged terrorists could end up in their states or districts.

The Iraq and Afghanistan war bill, passed 91-5 Thursday by the Senate and 226-202 the previous day in the House, may represent a milestone in paying for the two wars.

The White House and Democratic lawmakers say this will be the last time the war-fighting bill will be given special treatment as emergency legislation — allowing it to add to the deficit without funds to pay the cost.

Obama has said that in the future all war operation expenses will be incorporated in the Defense Department budget.

Several senators complained about the add-ons that gave the bill an extra $20 billion cost above the president’s request.

The bill includes about $80 billion to finance the two wars through this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. The Pentagon has predicted that the Army could begin running out of money for personnel and operations as early as July without the infusion of more money.

Other items include $4.5 billion, $1.9 billion above what the president requested, for lightweight mine-resistant vehicles, called MRAPs, and $2.7 billion for eight C-17 and seven C-130J cargo planes that the Pentagon did not ask for.

The Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, restrictions in the war funding bill would:

  • Prohibit detainees from being released in the United States.
  • Prevent prisoners being transferred to the United States, except to be prosecuted. Even then, a number of requirements would have to be met, including a plan showing the risks involved, the costs, the legal rationale and certification from the attorney general that the individual poses little or no security risk.
  • Stop detainees from being transferred or released to another country unless the president meets a separate set of requirements, including an assessment of risks posed and terms of the transfer agreement with the receiving country.

The House voted 259-157 for the $64.4 billion package to fund Obama’s law enforcement and science priorities in the budget year starting in October.

The bill passed by the House was the first of 12 spending bills Congress must pass for next year.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hawaii Fortified Over N. Korean Threat

WASHINGTON, June 18 (UPI) — Hawaii has been placed under heightened missile and other defense fortification to deter any North Korean attacks, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

Gates told a Pentagon news conference Thursday the deployment includes mobile and ground-based interceptors, The New York Times reported. Additionally, seaborne radar in the waters off the island will seek information to track and attack any North Korean missile.

In addition to Gates’ announcement, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned the military would “vigorously enforce” the latest United Nations Security Council resolution in response to North Korea’s May 25 underground nuclear test, the report said.

The resolution pertains to actions to be taken against North Korean ships suspected of carrying illegal weapons and nuclear technology or materials.

“We’re obviously watching the situation in the North with respect to missile launches very closely,” Gates said.

He said the military was concerned about North Korea’s ability to launch a missile “in the direction of Hawaii.”

“I’ve directed the deployment again of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missiles to Hawaii and the SBX (Sea Based X-Band) radar has deployed away from Hawaii to provide support,” Gates said. “Without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say I think we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect American territory.”

Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported North Korea has threatened to conduct further missile tests in retaliation for the U.N. Security Council resolution imposing more sanctions on it.

The developments come amid reports the U.S. military is tracking a North Korean-flagged ship in the Pacific Ocean. The vessel is suspected of carrying banned carrying cargo banned under the U.N. resolution.

[Return to headlines]

Insider: ACORN ‘Always Been Democrat Operation’

‘They’ve never made any secrets about who they support’

In 2005, Anita Moncrief began working in the Strategic Writing and Research Department of ACORN Political Operations and its affiliate Project Vote. She said she conducted voter fraud research and census research and worked with political organizers. Moncrief left the organization in January 2008.

“It has always been a Democrat operation,” she told WND. “They’ve never made any secrets about who they support. Their political action committees are usually set up to support these Democratic candidates.”

She said political action committees support Democrat candidates, and the at the same time voter registration drives were being conducted, the group was putting out propaganda in communities telling people not to vote for Republicans.

“They are registering you to vote and then telling you who to vote for and then they pick you up and take you to the polls to do it,” she said. “If you need an absentee ballot, they would get them for you. But there’s no guarantee that the ballots they were getting for the people were ever making it to them.”


Moncrief said Kathleen Barr, former communications director for ACORN, told her that on Election Day there were ACORN employees standing in front of 20 vans that were capable of holding 15 people each. The ACORN employees would send workers out into communities to pick people up and take them to the polls.

“She told me [an ACORN employee] was standing outside on the street corner with $8,000 with two bodyguards handing out money on Election Day,” Moncrief said. “She didn’t give me a lot of details. She was just telling me how weird it was to stand there as the organizers were coming up to her and she was handing them wads of cash at the end of the day for what they had been doing. They did a lot of stuff with cash operations in order to keep things from showing up on records.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Minn. Lawmaker Vows Not to Complete Census

Outspoken Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann says she’s so worried that information from next year’s national census will be abused that she will refuse to fill out anything more than the number of people in her household.

In an interview Wednesday morning with The Washington Times “America’s Morning News,” Mrs. Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, said the questions have become “very intricate, very personal” and she also fears ACORN, the community organizing group that came under fire for its voter registration efforts last year, will be part of the Census Bureau’s door-to-door information collection efforts.

“I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home,” she said. “We won’t be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.”

Shelly Lowe, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said Mrs. Bachmann is “misreading” the law.

She sent a portion of the U.S. legal code that says anyone over 18 years of age who refuses to answer “any of the questions” on the census can be fined up to $5,000.

The Constitution requires a census be taken every 10 years. Questions range from number of persons in the household and racial information to employment status and whether anyone receives social services such as food stamps.

Mrs. Bachmann said she’s worried about the involvement of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, in next year’s census.

“They will be in charge of going door to door and collecting data from the American public,” she said. “This is very concerning.”

ACORN has applied to help recruit workers to help conduct the census. Republican lawmakers and some public interest groups have expressed concern over their involvement.

ACORN staffers have ben indicted in several states on charges of voter registration fraud stemming from the organization’s efforts to register voters last year.

Mrs. Bachmann, who is in her second term in the House, has become a lightning rod for criticism from Democrats and liberal talk show hosts for her unapologetic conservative views.

She said she considers that “a badge of honor.”

“It’s clear when a person speaks out against those policies they become a target, and that should be concerning to everyone,” she said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Other Church: ‘We’Ve Always Been Activist’

Anti-military congregation in Hawaii tied to Ayers’ organization

While Obama’s membership as an adult in the controversial Trinity United Church of Christ has received widespread media attention, almost nothing has been reported about his Sunday school attendance at First Unitarian, a far-left activist church that may have helped provide the president’s initial political education.

First Unitarian, a member of the Unitarian Universalist denomination, served as a sanctuary for draft dodgers and was strongly tied to the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, during the time Weatherman radical Bill Ayers was a leader in that organization. The Weathermen was an offshoot of the SDS.

Andrew Walden, publisher and editor of the Hawaii Free Press, dug up newspaper clippings from that period as well as print editions of “The Roach,” an SDS publication describing the group’s draft-dodging activism, including at the Unitarian church.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Scientists: Obama Document is ‘Scare’ Tactic

Report cites imminent threats of 2-week winters, flooded roads

The forecast from a new report by the Obama administration on global warming warns North Carolina’s beaches could be swallowed up by the sea, New England’s long winters could last two weeks and Chicago? Watch out for deadly heat waves.

But scientists who have evaluated the warnings and forecasts says it is a “scare” report that has little relation to reality.

“This is not a work of science but an embarrassing episode for the authors and NOAA,” said meteorologist Joe D’Aleo, the former chairman of the American Meteorological Society’s Committee on Weather Analysis and Forecasting.

The scientist, who publishes the IceCap.US report, said the report “starts out DAY ONE being wrong on many of its claims. … They gave the administration the cover to push the unwise cap-and-tax agenda.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

US Joins UN Rights Body, Urges Cooperative Spirit

The United States joined the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday, a body widely criticized for failing to confront abuses around the world and for acting primarily to condemn Israel, one of Washington’s closest allies.

U.S. officials pledged to work constructively in the 47-member council, which has frequently been hampered by ideological differences between rich and poor countries.

“The United States assumes its seat on the council with gratitude, with humility, and in the spirit of cooperation,” said Mark C. Storella, who is for the moment the top diplomat at the U.S. Mission to U.N. organizations in Geneva.

The decision in May to seek a seat on the Geneva-based body after three years of giving it the cold shoulder represented a major shift in line with President Barack Obama’s aim of showing that “a new era of engagement has begun.”

Council members, U.N. officials and independent pressure groups applauded the move as a sign the only remaining superpower is prepared to debate human rights with the rest of the world.

Observers say the U.S. may succeed in breaking diplomatic deadlocks where European countries have failed because of grievances held by their former colonies in Africa and Asia.

“The U.S. has a unique capacity to counter some of the negative trends in the council,” said Felice Gaer, an independent human rights expert from the United States.

She cited the tendency in the council to eliminate the appointments of some human rights experts assigned to check on countries such as Cuba and Belarus. A vote to scrap the expert on Sudan, who has criticized the government for abusing human rights in Darfur, was narrowly averted, thanks in part to heavy lobbying by the U.S., diplomats said.

Gaer, a member of the U.N. Committee against Torture, said Washington will have to move swiftly if it wants to counterbalance Russia, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Egypt, China and Pakistan, who between them dominate the council.

But Geneva is still waiting for a U.S. ambassador, the main person on the ground to push U.S. positions; the post of assistant secretary of state for human rights remains vacant; and foreign diplomats and U.N. officials in Geneva report little contact with the State Department so far, though the council doesn’t return from its summer recess until September.

“The U.S. has diplomatic and economic levers it can pull more efficiently than the European Union can,” said Andrew Clapham, professor of international law at the Geneva Graduate Institute.

The U.S. is also nimbler when it comes to pressuring other governments than the 27-nation EU, which often operates as quickly as its slowest member, Clapham said.

Although the council is virtually powerless compared to the U.N. Security Council, its decisions carry considerable symbolic weight, particularly in the developing world, to which the Obama administration wants to reach out.

The U.S. made clear Friday that it considers human rights to be universal and urged other countries to pledge that they, like the U.S., won’t flinch from having their own records scrutinized.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Why Socialism Makes Rights Dispensable

Apparently the mayor of Shreveport, La., Cedric Glover, believes that when a police officer stops someone for whatever reason, that citizen’s rights are suspended. He said so in a telephone conversation with a concerned citizen.

In normal times, this kind of statement could be dismissed as fodder for a comedy bit on “The Tonight Show.” Unhappily, given the rapid pace of the Obama faction’s socialist transformation of America, the mayor may simply have articulated the understanding of rights characteristic of societies that have already undergone the transformation. I encountered it years ago in U.N. documents like the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to this understanding, rights are fabricated by government. This means of course that when the existence of a right interferes with some government action, the government’s prerogative prevails. The right gives way, or simply disappears.

Given, among other things, the implications of socialism for concepts like property rights, this perversion of the doctrine of rights is essential for the implementation of socialism. Ask the car dealers whose franchises have been hijacked in the course of the government takeover of GM. Before the Obama faction began its work of destruction, however, the G.W. Bush administration had already diverted our liberty down the road of this tyrannical doctrine in the name of national security.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Agriculture: EU Cultivating More Citrus, Spain Leads

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, 9 JUNE — The EU-27 is increasing production of citrus fruits, except for lemons, which are typical of the Mediterranean area. Spain is in the lead in this sector, since it has the largest area in the EU dedicated to the cultivation of oranges and smaller citrus fruits such as tangerines. A third of the EU-27 fruit orchards are located in Spain, where they take up 68% of the country’s land dedicated to the growing of fruit trees. This is the snapshot which emerges from the latest Eurostat survey on the cultivation of seven types of fruit in the EU-27 (apples, pears, peaches, apricots, oranges, lemons and small citrus fruits) on the basis of 2007 data. The Mediterranean countries are denoted by the concentration of citrus cultivations in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and France. According to Eurostat, there are a total of four nations which together account for three quarters of the total land area dedicated to fruit plants: Spain (459,524 hectares), Italy (279,120 hectares), Poland (176,730 hectares) and Greece (94,771 hectares). More specifically, Spain has the lead in the production of oranges (158,824 hectares) and lemons (39.859 hectares), as well as in the production of smaller citrus fruits (116.225 hectares). The Iberian peninsula has the largest area dedicated to peach trees (75,118 hectares), but is closely followed by Italy (63,754 hectares). Italy, which has the second largest area of land dedicated to fruit orchards, accounts for almost 30% of the EU area dedicated to pear trees, while Poland mainly produces apples. Single regions within the EU-27 specialise in certain productions. We have the Comunidad Valencianà, which accounts for the largest area in the EU dedicated to small citrus fruits (60%), along with 27.4% dedicated to orange orchards. It also has the third largest area dedicated to lemons within the EU. The Murcia region (Spain) accounts for 55% of the country’s apricot production, and is the largest area dedicated to apricots in the EU-27 (15.6%). In Italy, the Emilia Romagna region specialises in the production of pears, 60% of pear production is concentrated in Italy, and 18,2% in the EU. In Greece, 96% of the land dedicated to apricot production is located in Macedonia, which accounts for 15.9% of pear trees in the EU. According to Eurostat, in the long term in the EU-15, lemons excepted, there are clear signs of an increasing production of citrus fruits in the EU-27 as well, even though certain countries (such as Italy) are downsizing down their dedicated areas. Other countries (such as Spain), citrus fruits and peaches aside, are cutting down areas dedicated to other fruit trees. This trend could spread throughout the EU, but will have to be confirmed by data collected in upcoming years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Defying Sharia in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — I am being patted down by a female Danish security officer in the basement of the parliament building in Copenhagen and I have a thought. I have just triggered the metal detector — my heels, I’m sure — en route upstairs to the Landstingssalen, formerly the parliament’s upper house. There, I am scheduled to deliver a speech at the invitation of the Danish Free Press Society, or Trykkefrihedsselskabet. (Say that three times fast — or slow.)

Indeed, I am holding the text of my 20-minute address inside a folder in one of my hands, now rigidly outstretched as I am being searched. The speech is called “The Impact of Islam on Free Speech in the U.S.,” but as I am checked for bombs and knives and whatnot, my thought is of the impact of Islam on free society everywhere.

Such a thought surely tops the heights of “political incorrectness,” I know. But what should I do — not express it? Not think it? Not even notice that Western civilization, in skewing to accommodate the jihad threat of Islam within, has already traded away too much precious freedom?

As the security officer continues patting me down, I follow this forbidden train of thought to the realization that it is only due to the incursions of Islam into the West — Islam with its death penalty for criticism of Islam — that I am now standing here under guard. Here we are (for there is a long line behind me by now), participants in a conference to consider Islam’s censoring impact on free speech, and Danish security is doing its best to prevent Islam from censoring the speech of anyone here permanently. This strikes me as an exceedingly hard way to prove a point…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

EU Agrees Irish Treaty Compromise

EU leaders have agreed a deal they hope will secure the Lisbon Treaty a “Yes” vote in a second Irish referendum.

Ireland won legally-binding assurances that Lisbon would not affect Irish policies on military neutrality, taxes and abortion, diplomats said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said leaders had agreed to Irish demands that the guarantees would be given the status of a treaty “protocol”.

But he stressed it would not affect the other 26 member countries.

The leaders have also agreed in principle to a new framework of rules to oversee the EU’s financial sector.

On Thursday they backed Jose Manuel Barroso for a new term as president of the European Commission.

Smoothing concerns

Speaking at the end of the summit, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the agreed protocol was “specific to Ireland”.

“The protocol status is no different from any other clarifications in other states,” he said.

He said the new protocol would “only be subject to ratification at the time of the next accession treaty”.

He did not give further details, but it is thought it will likely be attached to Croatia’s EU accession treaty.

The Lisbon treaty has been ratified in most EU countries and the second Irish referendum — expected to be in October — was the biggest remaining hurdle.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen had said fears that the EU might be able to override Irish policies were among the factors that prompted voters to reject the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum last year.

“ This decision will not necessitate any re-ratification of the treaty “

Draft EU summit conclusion

Supporters of the treaty — a complex set of institutional changes aimed at making the enlarged EU more efficient — were keen to avoid any new round of referendums on it, after years of negotiations.

Sweden, the incoming holder of the EU presidency, was anxious to move forward over Lisbon, especially as Britain’s Conservative Party has pledged to hold a referendum on the treaty if elected to government.

Opponents of the treaty see it as part of a federalist agenda aimed at weakening national sovereignty.

Financial concessions

The EU leaders also backed a framework for enhanced oversight of the financial sector, after the UK won key concessions to the plans.

The UK had opposed proposals to give a new oversight body the ability to order national governments to use taxpayer money to bail out failing banks.

“Stronger cross-border supervision is in our interests,” Gordon Brown said. “UK taxpayers will be protected. The City of London will stand to benefit from this”.

The draft summit conclusions say the European Council — the assembly of EU leaders — “stresses that decisions taken by the European Supervisory Authorities should not impinge in any way on the fiscal responsibilities of member states”.

The leaders want the European Commission to deliver detailed proposals for the new supervisory bodies by early autumn, so that the new framework will be in place next year.

In another concession to the UK, a new European Systemic Risk Board will not automatically be chaired by the head of the European Central Bank (ECB).

The ECB will still elect the chair, but the new body will not be controlled by the 16-nation eurozone. The board’s job will be to spot any threats to financial stability across the EU.

On Thursday, the leaders unanimously nominated the conservative Jose Manuel Barroso for a second term as EU Commission president.

He had no rival — and even had backing from some centre-left leaders. His nomination now needs the approval of the European Parliament next month..

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

EU Leaders Reassure Irish to Revive Lisbon Treaty

European leaders tonight sought to revive the ill-fated Lisbon Treaty reforming the way the EU is run by delivering pledges shoring up Irish independence in the hope of securing a Yes vote in an Irish referendum in October.

But Brian Cowen, the Irish prime minister, told a summit of 27 government chiefs in Brussels that he would not win the referendum, expected on 2 October, unless the “guarantees” were legally enshrined in a new protocol that could cause problems for Gordon Brown and other European leaders by reigniting old feuds over the treaty.

In June last year, the Irish derailed the Lisbon project by rejecting the treaty in a referendum. The rest of the EU has agreed to assure Ireland that the new regime will not affect Irish military neutrality, ­abortion laws, taxation policy and the Irish are also guaranteed a seat in the European Commission.

The summit planned to issue a “legally binding” declaration on the promises to the Irish, on the assumption that they vote Yes to the treaty which would then come into force next January.

But Cowen told the European leaders bluntly that this was not good enough.

“I need to be able to come out of our meeting and state, without fear of contradiction, that the legal guarantees will acquire full treaty status by way of a protocol,” said the taoiseach. “I want to emphasise sincerely that this is necessary if I am to call and win a second referendum.”

Leaders had expected to resolve the Irish issue early tonight at the beginning of the summit. But the differences and the implications of the Irish demands saw the attempt to hatch a compromise drag on late into the evening.

With the Conservatives the fiercest opponents in Europe of the Lisbon treaty, Brown’s paramount aim is to avoid any changes to the document that might see it returned to the House of Commons.

“The issue for us is you don’t want to be in a position to re-ratify Lisbon,” said the prime minister. The chances are that the dispute will turn out to be a minor upset — that if the Irish vote Yes and Lisbon is put into effect in January, the wrangling will subside and be forgotten.

But diplomats were worried that the Irish demands could open a can of worms. Turning the Irish guarantees into a “protocol” may require convening a special conference of EU government officials at which other countries could raise extra demands and re-open the debates over Lisbon.

That would be anathema to Germany and France who are keen to see the new treaty implemented. They are also worried about the volatile political situation in Britain and the prospects for the Tories to make trouble.

The Irish dilemma aside, the leaders were also expected to support José Manuel Barroso, the centre-right former Portuguese prime minister, for a second five-year term as head of the European Commission.

But while Barroso faces no challenger for the post and is backed by key leaders like Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, and Brown, the attempt to sew up his second term as promptly as possible has backfired and risks degenerating into a humiliating ordeal that could run for weeks or months.

European leaders are split not over the Barroso candidacy, but over how quickly and on what basis to nominate the 53-year-old for a second term. Resistance to the leaders’ manoeuvres is mounting in the newly-elected European Parliament which has to endorse the new appointment of Barroso.

The leaders were expected to announce their “political” support for Barroso unanimously, but delay making the decision “legal” until a deal is struck with parliament leaders.

[Return to headlines]

French Muslim Council Slams Call for Burka Query

French MP describes burqa as new “green fascism”

France’s Muslim council hit out Thursday at a lawmakers’ call for an inquiry into women who wear the burka, the head-to-toe Islamic veil, warning not to “stigmatize” the country’s five million Muslims.

A group of 58 French MPs are asking for a parliamentary panel to look at ways to curb the wearing of the burka or niqab, which they describe as a “prison” and “degrading” for women and contrary to French secular principles.

The lawmaker spearheading the drive, Communist Andre Gerin, is mayor of the southern city of Venissieux, home to a large north African immigrant community, where he says the sight of fully-covered women has become commonplace.

“Green fascism”

“Our politicians need to stop acting so blind,” Gerin said, describing the burka as evidence of a new “green fascism” led by Islamic fundamentalists.

Housing minister Fadela Amara, a Muslim-born women’s rights campaigner, waded into the fray saying “we must do everything to stop burkas from spreading, in the name of democracy, of the republic, of respect for women.”

“The worrying thing is that we are seeing more and more of them,” she said, describing the burka as “a kind of tomb for women.”

But Mohammed Moussaoui, the head of the official French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), insisted full-body veils remain a rare exception among France’s Muslim community, Europe’s largest.

“To raise the subject like this, via a parliamentary committee, is a way of stigmatizing Islam and the Muslims of France,” he charged.

“We are shocked by the idea parliament should be put to work on such a marginal issue,” he said, saying lawmakers would do better to focus on the hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost in the economic crisis.

There are no figures on the number of women who wear a full-body Islamic covering in France — and whether it is on the rise — and lawmakers say that is one of the aims of the inquiry.

Gerin’s measure is backed by several dozen deputies from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party and is expected to come up for a vote in the National Assembly.

“A return towards Islam’s past”

France passed a controversial law in 2004 forbidding pupils from wearing veils and other religious symbols in state schools as part of the government’s drive to defend secularism.

The new row comes weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama made an apparent dig at France’s headscarf ban in a speech aimed at healing rifts with the Islamic world.

Sarkozy later said he agreed with Obama that Muslim women in the West should be free to wear the headscarf, prompting an outcry from French feminists.

Gerin charged that “under President Sarkozy we are taking worrying steps backwards on secularism.”

Immigration Minister Eric Besson warned Thursday against reigniting a row on the headscarf issue, saying “France has managed to strike a balance, and it would be dangerous to call that into question.”

Paris Mosque rector Dalil Boubakeur said he supports the proposal for a panel of deputies to look at the wearing of the burka “on the condition that they listen to what the experts on Islam have to say.”

Boubakeur said the burka marked “a return towards Islam’s past, in line with the preaching and vision of fundamentalists.”

But he also said many women chose to wear a full-body covering as a way of asserting their Muslim identity, faced with a mainstream society they feel to be hostile towards any kind of Islamic headscarf.

If the lower house agrees to set up the commission, it would draft a report to be released no later than Nov. 30, said Gerin.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Hungary: Cooperation Contract Signed by Hungarian Extreme Right Groups

Paramilitary groups are multiplying. First there was the Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda). Soon enough the Nemzeti Orsereg (National Garrison) came into public view, and just today I encountered the Betyársereg (Army of Outlaws). Because Jobbik has become so notorious and received such unexpectedly strong support at the European parliamentary elections it is easy to forget about the other right-wing groups. For instance, László Gonda and his Magyar Nemzeti Bizottság (Hungarian National Committee), Tamás Polgár (better known as Tomcat), or the young László Toroczkai with his Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom (HVIM or, in English, Youth Movement of the Sixty-Four Counties). Hungary today of course doesn’t have 64 counties. The Kingdom of Hungary, including Croatia-Slavonia, had seventy-two but Toroczkai is generous and let the Croats with their eight counties leave Hungary and remain independent!! György Budaházy needs no introduction. I talked about him just yesterday on the occasion of his arrest on charges of attempted murder and terrorist activity. Lately Gonda and Tomcat seem to have faded into the background; stealing the limelight is Toroczkai and his HVIM. Gábor Vona, head of Jobbik, specifically mentioned him and his movement as a great source of assistance in the campaign before the EP elections.

Last weekend the most important extreme right-wing groups got together in Szeged for a conference. Why Szeged? Because the Hungarian counterrevolutionary forces gathered in that town—then under French occupation—in the summer of 1919. It was there that Miklós Horthy, retired rear-admiral, became head of the National Army. After the fall of the Hungarian Soviet Republic this army, carefully avoiding the Romanians, moved through Transdanubia to Siófok on the shore of Lake Balaton. Hundreds if not thousands of Hungarians (communists and Jews) fell victim to the National Army’s sweep across western Hungary.

So who attended the Hungarian extreme right meetings in Szeged and later in the nearby Pusztaszer where according to legend the first parliamentary meeting of Hungarians took place in 895-896? (Legend indeed: a parliament in the year of the Hungarian tribes’ arrival in the Carpathian basin?) Some of the names are very well known: Gábor Vona, György Budaházy, and László Toroczkai. But there were others I wasn’t familiar with. For example, György Gyula Zagyva, who is the president of the HVIM and otherwise busies himself with the Szent Korona Rádió (Holy Crown Radio). More on that station here: Another name unknown to me was Balázs Sziva, the leader of a rock band known as the Romantikus Eroszak (Romantic Violence). He represented the numerous rock bands that specialize in spreading extreme nationalistic and Nazi messages. For example, Romantic Violence composed a song entitled “Fegyverbe! Fegyverbe!” (Call to Arms!) This particular song was so effective that on October 23, 2007, demonstrators led by Budaházy and Toroczkai physically attacked the police monitoring the demonstration. Another new name for me (but then I’m not searching the internet for extreme right groups) was Tibor Ágoston, head of the National Garrison group. He hails from Debrecen and has a web site ( in which one can read that “in our present situation it is our patriotic duty to be antisemitic.” He seems to have close ties with Jobbik if one can believe the site. The National Garrison is an organization of “traditionalists” (hagyományorzok) who seem to be fascinated by the traditions of Hungary. Unfortunately, some of these groups are guardians of traditions that would best be forgotten. I wrote about them on July 1, 2007 (Guardians of tradition). Also present were Róbert Kiss, head of Magyar Gárda, and Zsolt Tyirityán, head of the Army of Outlaws. In addition someone attended from the Össznemzeti Szurkolói Szövetség (All-National Association of Soccer Fans). In plain language, the football hooligans.

Because György Budaházy attended the gathering that forged cooperation among the various extremist groups Toroczkai immediately announced that the authorities arrested him not because of terrorist activities but because of his cooperation with Jobbik and other right-wing groups. In fact, the government is retaliating because of the excellent showing of Jobbik. This is the first move against this successful party. Toroczkai told the media today that if the NNI doesn’t release Budaházy within three days they will organize a huge demonstration for July 4.

Meanwhile Csanád Szegedi, the third man on Jobbik’s EP list and therefore heading soon to Brussels, proclaimed at a meeting organized by HVIM: “we are going to Brussels to topple the Trianon borders.” Wow! That will go over very well in the European parliament! He admits that changing Hungary’s borders won’t happen overnight. Even Szegedi says that it might take two or three generations. They will also demand complete autonomy for the territories where Hungarians are in the majority in Romania. And they have even more ambitious plans: they want to incorporate territories south of the Carpathian mountains belonging to Ukraine at the present.

After the EP elections political observers tried to guess what Jobbik’s policy would be in the wake of such an impressive victory. Some people hoped that they would be less belligerent. That doesn’t seem to be the case, as is evident from Csanád Szegedi’s rant about Trianon. László Toroczkai, a close ally of Jobbik, also has a few ideas about Hungary’s future that may not meet the approval of Hungary’s democratic neighbors or the European Union. Toroczkai was asked whether he would support a Hungarist (Nazi) government. The answer was yes. Their historical predecessors whom they proudly claim are Miklós Horthy, Ferenc Szálasi, and Adolf Hitler.

Meanwhile Fidesz is at a loss. Viktor Orbán and Zoltán Pokorny say a few nasty things about Jobbik while the second string—most likely with approval from above—build bridges to the neo-Nazi party and its allies. István Tarlós, not a Fidesz party member but head of the Fidesz caucus of the Budapest city council, attended a meeting where members of the Hungarian Guard were present and red and white striped flags could be seen. He made a speech which he ended with the official greeting of the Hungarian Guard: “Szebb jövot!” (Better Future). The origin of the greeting is not quite clear. According to some accounts it was the greeting used by the “levente mozgalom,” a paramilitary youth organization in Hungary between the two world wars by means of which the Hungarian government tried to circumvent the restrcitions imposed on the size of its army by the victors. Others associate the greeting with the far-right party of Béla Imrédy in the late thirties. Ferenc Szálasi’s Hungarist Nazi party definitely used it. Tarlós was severely criticized for sinking down to the level of this, let’s face it, Nazi paramilitary organization. His answer was that he didn’t know anything about this greeting and anyway there is nothing wrong with it because these words can be found in the Marseillaise. The French national anthem is very long and perhaps I missed it, but I couldn’t find “better future” in either the French or the English version. István Stumpf, the former right-hand man of Orbán in the prime minister’s office and a so-called political scientist, also tried to minimize the extremism of Jobbik. Another so-called political scientist but in fact a Fidesz propagandist described the relation between Fidesz and Jobbik as one of “rivals but not enemies.” Gábor Czene, a journalist for Népszabadság, summarized the situation between Jobbik and Fidesz as “an exciting but stomach turning political parlor game.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hungary’s Youth Divided Over Kadar Era

Hungarian youth are divided over whether today’s political system is better than the late Kadar era known as “Goulash Communism”. Just over half of respondents to the Social Policy and Labour Institute survey judged that the political regime today was better than under the Kadar era, but 49 percent had the impression that old regime was better, especially in terms of social security and employment opportunities.

Janos Kadar was the communist leader of Hungary from 1956 to 1988, and presided over a relative thaw from the 1970s, extending certain economic and social freedoms. This period is often seen with nostalgia by many Hungarians who felt both secure and relatively free.

Young people have seen their living standards and employment opportunities slipping over the past ten years, the institute said.

In October 2008, when the survey was conducted, 80 percent said their standard of living had dropped from ten years before, compared to 55 percent in the previous poll in 2004. Asked about the country’s economic situation, 84 percent of youth said it had deteriorated, up from 50 percent in 2004.

The biggest problem facing young people nowadays is unemployment and a sense of a bleak future, according to the poll. In 2004, the biggest problem was the perceived spread of drug abuse, the survey said.

Sixty percent of respondents said they were not interested in politics at all. On the left-right scale, 21 percent of youth said they were right-wing, 8 percent said they had leftist views and 53 percent identified themselves as neutral.

Among those with a political preference, main opposition Fidesz had 70 percent of support in this age group, the governing Socialists 16 percent, radical nationalist Jobbik 5 percent, conservative Democratic Forum 3 percent and the liberal Free Democrats 2 percent.

Young people said the biggest social conflict of the day was the left-right divide in politics and the gypsy-mainstream divide..

The survey was the third after ones carried out in 2000 and 2004.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hungary: Socialist MP Calls for Joint Political Action to Fight Extremism

Hungary’s governing Socialists and main opposition Fidesz must join forces to fight growing extremism, Socialist MP Zsolt Torok said on Friday.

Torok said parliament and the President’s office shared responsibility for the fact that Hungary did not have laws banning dishonoring the remembrance of others.

Torok noted that several failed attempts had been made to ban hate speech and to closely regulate the registration of extremist civil groups. He said that all democratic forces should join forces because legal regulations are insufficient for fighting extremism.

He noted that several thousand people had attended a protest on Thursday against the recent defamation of a Holocaust memorial on the Danube Bank in Budapest. Torok criticised those who remained silent because they think the extremism is no concern of theirs.

In response, a senior official of the main opposition Fidesz party, Peter Szijjarto blamed the governing Socialist Party for the growing support of extremist political groups. He said these groups drew support not on ideological grounds but because of a social crisis fueled by “desperation”.

“The fact that Zsolt Torok and the Socialists have become frightened is understandable, since a fierce fight is going on between them and the [radical nationalist] Jobbik party for second place,” he said, referring to the June 7 European Parliamentary elections, in which Fidesz garnered 56 percent and the Socialists 17 percent. Jobbik came in third with 14 percent.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hungary: National Security Office Part of Crackdown on Anti-Government Agitator

The National Security Office (NBH) had from the start closely co-operated with the National Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday’s arrest of György Budaházy, the Prime Minister’s Office’s National Security Bureau told MTI on Thursday.

Budaházy and several others are suspected of forming a group and attempting to influence parliamentary decisions through intimidation. The Hungarian Arrows National Liberation Army is suspected of involvement in bomb attacks and arson attempts on the homes of several public figures, as well as preparing a manslaughter, terrorist acts and abuse of explosives.

“Unless Budaházy is released within three days, a demonstration will be organised outside the Justice and Law Enforcement Ministry on July 4,” 64 Counties Youth Movement honorary president László Toroczkai told reporters outside the National Office of Investigations on Aradi utca in Budapest’s Sixth District yesterday.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hungarian Government Supports Extension of Barroso’s Term as EC President

The Hungarian cabinet supports the extension of the commission of European Commission President José Manuel Durao Barroso, Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai confirmed in Brussels on Thursday.

Bajnai underlined that it is necessary that someone completes the crisis management in the EU and that Barroso “has broad support from many countries, and does his job well”.

Bajnai told Népszava that Hungary, along with several other member countries, is putting forward an initiative that the member states have easier access to EU funds, and receive more subsidies.

Bajnai later told Kossuth Rádió that he supports the development of a European supervisory system and that the cabinet will formulate a new concept to upgrade the Hungarian supervisory system.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy: Optimism on Obama Helicopter

Berlusconi ‘confident, ‘ defence chief says

(ANSA) — Le Bourget, June 18 — Italy is optimistic that a stalled deal on new helicopters for United States President Barack Obama can be revived, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said on Thursday. Speaking at the Le Bourget air show, La Russa said Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who met Obama at the White House on Monday, was “confident” the contract involving Italo-British manufacturer AgustaWestland would be respected.

The minister said Berlusconi had created a rapport with Obama which reflected US-Italian cooperation in military theatres like Afghanistan.

La Russa said he was sure a letter he sent to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the new Marine One helicopters on May 28 would produce results. The Pentagon cancelled the Vh71 helicopter contract in March, saying the initial cost of some $6 billion had risen to more than $13 billion.

Obama called the Lockheed Martin-AgustaWestland project an example of military procurement “gone amok”.

“The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me,” Obama said at a White House summit on fiscal responsibility, adding in jest, “obviously I did not have a helicopter before”.

The new model is supposed to be developed in two phases.

Five helicopters in the first phase are scheduled for delivery by September 2010.

The second phase of the program would deliver 23 more high-tech helicopters, but that stage has now been scratched by Gates.

AugustaWestland, based in Italy and Britain, is a division of the Italian corporation Finmeccanica.

US helicopter maker Sikorsky has supplied the White House since the 1950s.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Prosecutors Lock Away Recordings

Premier’s lawyer dismisses problems over Bari escorts probe

(ANSA) — Rome, June 18 — Prosecutors have locked away audio tapes made by a woman who alleges she was paid to attend parties at Silvio Berlusconi’s Rome home, judicial sources said on Thursday as his lawyer dismissed talk the premier might face legal tangles in the case.

The sources said prosecutors in the southern city of Bari had not given the tapes to experts — who are routinely tasked with clearing up any background noise and transcribing contents — in a bid to prevent transcripts from being leaked to the press. The story broke on Wednesday after the Milan daily Corriere della Sera said Bari prosecutors investigating a kick-back scandal had wiretappings of a suspect who claimed to know the premier talking about the parties and paid escorts. On Thursday Corriere said Patrizia D’Addario gave prosecutors five or six audio recordings and a video “which shows her looking at a mirror in a bedroom”.

According to the daily “a photogram shows a picture frame with a photo of Veronica Lario,” the premier’s wife.

Berlusconi has been at the centre of a media storm since a public divorce spat with Lario and allegations of links with a teenage girl — Noemi Letizia — which surfaced after his wife accused him of “consorting with minors”.

But the premier, 72, has categorically denied any “steamy or more than steamy” involvement with teenagers, explaining there was nothing “spicy” about his attendance at the birthday party of 18-year-old Letizia because he had a long friendship with her family. Berlusconi blasted D’Addario’s interview to Corriere on Wednesday as “trash”.

“Once again, the papers are full of trash and lies. I will not be swayed by these attacks and will continue to work for the good of the country,” he said when asked about the report.

As political allies rushed to the premier’s defence, his lawyer Niccolo’ Ghedini dismissed speculation Berlusconi would run into judicial problems over the probe. “It certainly can’t be a problem for the premier because if someone takes a friend to a party and introduces her as his girlfriend it’s impossible to know what sort of relationship the two have,” Ghedini told a radio interviewer.

“The papers are printing news which has not been checked. There are statements (published) which I know are not true and we will decide on what action to take after talking to the judicial officials,” said Ghedini.

Ghedini also laughed at talk that Berlusconi would need to pay escorts to attend his parties.

“To believe that Berlusconi would be forced to pay a girl 2,000 euros (the sum D’Addauro claims she asked for) to keep him company is over the top. I think he could have a great deal of women, and for free”.


Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa rallied to the premier’s defence, saying that ongoing accusations over the premier’s private life were “slanderous lies”.

“These investigations on someone’s private life ….are a violation of individual rights. No one can be discriminated against for their private life,” said La Russa, accusing the opposition of fomenting the scandals for political ends.

Government Programs Minister Gianfranco Rotondi joined in, saying that “the gossip” would not harm the government and would fail to bring votes for the centre left. Daniele Capezzone, spokesman for the premier’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, claimed an “anti-democratic operation” had been whipped up by “power groups and the Democratic Party (PD)”.

He accused PD heavyweight and former premier Massimo D’Alema of masterminding the media operation because speaking from Bari on Sunday he warned that the premier would face a series of “jolts” to his government. D’Alema on Wednesday urged Berlusconi to respond to D’Addario’s accusations but he denied prior knowledge of the probe and threatened to sue whoever accuses him of scheming to defame the premier.

Speaking to a group of businessmen on Saturday the premier claimed there was “a subversive project” aimed at unseating him from power.

Berlusconi, who swept to power with a huge majority in general elections in April 2008, said he has every intention of staying on to complete the rest of his five-year term as premier, accusing his detractors of casting a “very negative image of the country abroad”.

The leader of the opposition Italy of Values Party and former graft-busting magistrate Antonio Di Pietro voiced fears on Thursday that the premier might “be subject to blackmail”.

Meanwhile, judicial sources in Bari said prosecutors were pursuing their investigations against local businessman Giampaolo Tarantini — who owns a hospital supplies firm — on possible corruption charges in their wider probe into supplies to the city’s hospitals.

Tarantini — who alleges he knows Berlusconi in several wiretapped conversations — is also being probed for abetting prostitution because prosecutors suspect he may have paid escorts to “ingratiate himself with powerful people to foster his business activities”, the sources said.

The prosecutors have reportedly interrogated three or four women suspected of involvement with Tarantini.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Magistrates Quiz Women Over Berlusconi Party ‘Scandal’

Rome, 18 June (AKI) — Italian magistrates are reported to be questioning four women who claim they were paid to attend parties at private homes in the capital, Rome, and on the island of Sardinia hosted by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Magistrates in Rome and the southern city of Bari are reported to be examining airline tickets and hotel bookings in Rome where they women claim they stayed, as well as other evidence.

One of the women, Patrizia D’Addario, has reportedly handed to magistrates audio recordings and videos of the parties as proof of her attendance.

She first made the claim in an interview with Italy’s most respected daily, Corriere della Sera.

The Italian newspaper reported on a probe by magistrates in Bari into alleged corruption involving contracts for the supply of equipment to hospitals in the Bari area by Tecnohospital, owned by two brothers, Giampaolo and Claudio Tarantini.

The brothers are suspected of kickbacks in the health sector.

Investigators said that in tapped telephone conversations Giampaolo Tarantini had referred to payments for women to attend parties given by associates, including Berlusconi.

Reports said Tarantini owned a villa at Porto Rotondo on the exclusive Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, close to Berlusconi’s seaside estate of Villa Certosa, and had known him “for some years”.

D’Addario, the only one of the women named in media reports, claims she received 1,500 euros to attend a party in October 2003 at Berlusconi’s private residence in central Rome, Palazzo Grazioli, and to have stayed there overnight.

She also claimed to have received an offer to stand as a candidate for Berlusconi’s conservative People of Freedom party in municipal elections in Bari and assured of help in getting planning permission to develop a plot of land belonging to her family.

Berlusconi has dismissed the reports as “aggression” and “complete rubbish and falsehoods,” vowing he will continue to “serve the country”.

Berlusconi late on Wednesday is believed to have met his lawyer and MP for his conservative People of Freedom party, Niccolo Ghedini, justice minister Angelino Alfano and regional affairs minister Raffaele Fitto.

The personal life of the media magnate turned politician has been under public scrutiny since late April when a newspaper report revealed he had attended the 18th birthday party of an aspiring model, Noemi Letizia.

Berlusconi’s wife, Veronica Lario, then accused him of “frequenting minors” and said she wanted a divorce.

Berlusconi has blamed a “media conspiracy” and denied having had “saucy” relations with Letizia.

Earlier this week, Rome prosecutors shelved a probe into allegations that Berlusconi had abused the use of government aircraft to transport guests to Villa Certosa.

The probe stemmed from pictures snapped by a Sardinian photographer of Berlusconi and his guests at the villa including a naked man and several topless women.

The publication of photographer Antonello Zappadu’s pictures of some of the guests was blocked after Berlusconi’s lawyers appealed successfully to the courts.

The Spanish daily El Pais published some of the photos and Zappadu said last week he had another 5,000 photos that he had taken.

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

Italy: The Plague of the Under Employed

(by Nando Piantadosi) (ANSAmed) — NAPLES, JUNE 18 — 17% of immigrants in Italy that are over the age of 18 are university graduates and the majority of them possess the equivalent of a high school diploma, even if their role in the workforce isn’t in line with the studies they completed. This is what was highlighted in recent research released by ISMU, an autonomous and independent scientific foundation which promotes studies, research and initiatives on Italy’s multi-ethnic and multicultural society. Immigrants, ISMU found, are generally ‘under-employed’: the most evident is the nurse from Eastern Europe, employed as a domestic assistant or the African engineers, who work as labourers or technicians. The cause of under-employment, however, isn’t the lack of formal recognition of education abroad, but a series of barriers like an inferior knowledge of the Italian language. Lesser knowledge on he access channels to the job market also weighs heavily, smaller social networks that are useful for finding a better job and lesser adaptation to social customs and unspoken rules. The portrait revealed by ISMU regarding Italian society highlights the growth in the number of marriages in which one of the spouses is of a foreign nationality. Italian men continue to have a preference for Romanian women, even if there was a brusque drop between 2006 and 2007. According to ISMU data, the number of unions went down from 4,000 to 2,300. After Romanian women, those from Ukraine, Brazil, Poland, Russia and Moldavia top the list of “desires”. Italian women on the other hand prefer Moroccan men, in steep growth compared to Albanians and Tunisians, who occupy second and third place. Romanian men have fallen in the rankings, who lost 8 places in a year to twelfth place. Mostly men find their twin soul in a nationality different to their own (18,000), down compared to 2006; while women that prefer a foreign husband have increased from 5,000 to 6,000 between 2006 and 2007. Substantially, however, three quarters of marriages involving foreigners in Italy see both spouses of the same nationality: these marriages regard Chinese, Senegalese and Albanians, while Poles , Ukrainians and Moldavians are the most open to marriages to people from other countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: MP in Court to Defend Herself Against Death ‘Fatwa’

Bologna, 18 June (AKI) — An Italian MP and Muslim women’s rights activist was due to give evidence to a court on Thursday over death threats allegedly made against her in a ‘fatwa’ or religious edict. Souad Sbai, MP for the ruling conservative People of Freedom party, was due to attend the court in the northern Italian city of Bologna as witness.

“I am today in Bologna to defend myself against a death ‘fatwa’ issued against me, for which I had to live in fear for quite some time,” said Sbai in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

Akrane H., is accused of having issued the death threat in 2007 and accused Sbai of taking advantage of immigrants for personal gain.

“I call on God to act against you, in a way that he will expose you. You are a very bad woman, begin to pray to God, leave work for men.

“I have heard very bad things about you and you have thus been exposed as a ‘massihia’ (Christian),” Akrane wrote in a letter to Sbai.

The claim by Akrane is an accusation of apostasy, which under Islamic law calls for the death penalty, which can be carried out by any Muslim at any time.

“You are an opportunist. You use immigrants for profit-making. You Souad, are nothing and you have nothing to do with Islam and have no knowledge of fikh (religious jurisprudence),” the letter stated.

“You have your hair uncovered in the sight of God, and a woman who does not cover her head must be hanged by the hair. God will punish you for the evil you do to people,” the letter continued.

Sbai, who is also president of the Moroccan Women’s Association in Italy, said she hopes the judge will understand the severity of the death threat.

“Today’s hearing could be the last hearing of the trial and I hope the judge understands the danger of this ‘fatwa’ and the seriousness of this issue,” she told AKI.

Sbai said she was worried that Bologna’s DIGOS or anti-terrorism police had no information about who she was, or her work in favour of abused Muslim women.

DIGOS also considered Akrane H. nothing more than an anarchist or an extreme-left political activist.

“This is not correct, because they are underestimating the ‘Islamic value’ of his words,” she concluded.

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

Netherlands: ‘Christians Face Submission or Persecution’

For ethnic Dutch it’s a frankly shocking opinion, but pastor H.G. Koekkoek dares to say it: we should not be surprised if within 25 years sharia, Islamic law, will be introduced in the Netherlands.

“Within 25 years Islamists are expected to be in the majority in the Netherlands. And whoever is in the majority, has the power, also in a democracy,” he says. “Introducing sharia everywhere is a goal of Islam. What remains to the Christians is submitting to Islam or persecution.”

This is rather what the baptist pastor from Alphen (aan den Rijn) says. It all appears in his recently published book “Mohammed, Islam, the Koran and the Bible” (‘Mohammed, de islam, de Koran en de Bijbel’). The rather boring title hides an explosive cargo. “But my book is certainly not meant to insult, I write with a lot of respect about Islam and about Mohammed, who I think is an honest man,” he says.

Dominee Koekkoek (70) studied the Koran in detail. He decided to write the book after a series of study evenings on this subject. “People came from all over the country for that. The subject of Islam attracts many. There is fear of Islam and of Muslims. That is on the basis of slogans that we hear, without knowing what Islam is. And also the government knows nothing about it,” he says.

“My goal is to tell what Islam is. Simply, put the facts side by side, look at what are our points of contact. Because there are such. Judaism is the oldest religion; Christianity originated from it. But we actually don’t know that also Islam originated from Judaism and Christianity. Therefore the God of Islam and the same as that of the Jews and the Christians. So there are more points of contact, but there are also clear points of difference. And I’m not going to avoid that in my book. I name the pretty things, but also the dangerous sides of Islam.”

According to the clergyman, the Jewish religion is not missionary, aimed at spreading. “Christianity is, and that was done with the sword. Islam is also missionary. The missionary urge in Islam differs however, that is aimed at the entire world. It is clearly the goal by means of Jihad — the holy war — to bring the whole world under Islam, if need be by strong means.”

Koekkoek doesn’t give any opinion about that in his book. “I draw attention, and whoever draws attention asks a question that he doesn’t answer. The reader answers the question.”…

           — Hat tip: Costin[Return to headlines]

‘Obama is Certainly a European’

Spiegel Interview With Timothy Garton Ash

Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash discusses the demise of Europe’s social democrats, threats to the European Union posed by populist nationalists, the imminent change of government in Great Britain and America’s rapid slide to the left.

SPIEGEL: Professor Garton Ash, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression voters have turned away from the social democrats and socialists in European elections. Isn’t this paradoxical?

Timothy Garton Ash: I think there’s an explanation for it. First, voters apparently feel that the conservatives and liberals are more competent when it comes to economic policy. Second, we are witnessing a return to nationalism as a reaction to the great crisis. And when that happens, voters tend to move to the right rather than to the left, in some cases quite far to the right.


Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (5 Photos)

SPIEGEL: It would seem that leftists, the critics of capitalism, would stand to benefit from a crisis of capitalism.

Garton Ash: In essence, you have two social democratic parties in Germany, just as we do in Great Britain — with some minor differences. David Cameron’s Conservatives are taking (former Prime Minister) Tony Blair’s approach, except when it comes to European policy. And there is no decisive difference between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats in Germany, at least not by the standards of the last century.

SPIEGEL: In other words, we lack ideological differences, and we are all social democrats?

Garton Ash: I think so…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy Calls for ‘Strong’ EU President

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — European institutions, especially the European Commission, should be given more power, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday (19 June), in a foretaste of his upcoming EU reform proposals.

“I am really for a strong European Commission, a strong Council [the institution representing EU member states] and a strong European Parliament,” Mr Sarkozy said at a press conference following a two-day meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

“For the parliament, it’s done. For the council, I hope that with the Lisbon [treaty] it will be done. I really think we can have a win-win system for the three big institutions.”

According to the president, the European Commission at the moment is too weak, mainly due to its size — it has 27 commissioners, one from each member state and a large number of “smaller portfolios.”

The commission president “does not have enough authority over his commissioners,” Mr Sarkozy said, stressing he was not referring to Mr Barroso personally, but rather to the presidential office in the organisation.

He said all three institutions should be equally strong in order to avoid “imbalance.”

“If there is one that is stronger than the other, this introduces imbalance into the system,” the French leader explained.

The remarks foreshadow Mr Sarkozy’s speech on Monday, when he is to address both chambers of the French parliament, outlining his vision for reforms in the EU in the aftermath of the European elections.

The president did not confirm French press reports that he supports former Spanish socialist prime minister Felipe Gonzalez to become the first EU president if the Lisbon treaty enters into force. The treaty creates the new position and may come into life after a second Irish referendum in autumn.

Mr Sarkozy declined to put forward any names, but said the person in the new job should be “strong and ambitious [for Europe].”

The candidate’s nationality and political affiliation would also play a part. “Whether he is from a small or a big member state, his experience and his European engagement,” will count, the French leader indicated.

“One political family cannot have all the posts,” he said.

Mr Sarkozy also expressed support for Polish ex-premier Jerzy Buzek to become the new European Parliament president. Mr Buzek is competing for the post with Italy’s Mario Mauro, but is believed to have greater support.

“I think he would be an excellent candidate,” the French president said. “[It would] send a very positive signal to our friends from eastern Europe.”

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

Spain: Lleida Mosque Authorised in Industrial Centre

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 17 — The regional government of Catalonia has given the go-ahead to build a mosque in the El Segre industrial centre in Lleida, located in the outskirts of the city. To build the mosque, the area — which had initially been intended for industrial use — will be upgraded and used for community-related buildings, informed sources in the regional department of territorial policy quoted by the press. The association in support of the El Segre industrial centres, made up of about 100 entrepreneurs, is opposed to building the mosque, saying that “it is inadequate, unsustainable, and unsafe” to build a site of worship next to businesses and factories, and has announced that it will appeal to the regional administrative courts. A change in zoning status of the public land was the final requirement to authorise the construction of the mosque by City Hall in Lleida, which is led by the Socialists’ Party of Catalonia. The Islamic Association for Union and Cooperation in Lleida has a project in the advanced stages for the construction of the new building. The two-floor building will be able to hold 555 people. The maximum capacity, however, will be insufficient for the 1,000 people of the local Islamic community who normally attend Friday prayers. The only condition for the authorisation to build the mosque is its compatibility with industrial activity. Local entrepreneurs who are against the construction of the mosque have posed the question as to whether the decision would have been the same if authorisation to build a school or hospital in the industrial area had been requested. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swedish Politician Sings Hitler’s Praises

A local Christian Democratic politician in northern Sweden is in hot water after praising Adolf Hitler for his skill in solving economic crises.

“Adolf Hitler built motorways and that turned around the German economy. But things got worse for some people,” said Karl-Göran Välivaara during a meeting of the Norrbotten County Council in Gällivare, according to the Norrbottens Kuriren newspaper.

The remarks came in the context of a debate about the council’s master plan for 2010-2012 and were meant to serve as an example of a successful economic stimulus measure.

Välivaara’s complimentary words about the former leader of Nazi Germany prompted a sharp rebuttal from Social Democratic council member Kent Ögren.

“You’re talking about a man who dedicated himself to ethnic cleansing,” said Ögren.

Välivaara then tried to defend his comments, arguing he was not trying to honour Hitler.

But Ögren was unimpressed.

“You’re commending Hitler for building roads instead of talking about the madness he perpetrated,” the Social Democrat replied, according to the newspaper.

Välivaara then accused Ögren of being a poor student of history.

“You don’t know your history. Hitler built the roads in 1935, but the war started in 1939,” said the Christian Democratic politician.

Defending his comments on Thursday in Aftonbladet, Välivaara explained he was simply citing historical examples of successful government spending initiatives.

“The building of the motorways was a good thing. We still drive on them today. What he did later could hardly have been worse. But he got what he deserved in the end,” he told the newspaper.

Välivaara also clarified what he meant by “things got worse for some people”.

“The Jews had it worse. They were oppressed throughout the 1930s and the oppression culminated in the Night of the Broken Glass in 1938,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: Court Allows First Juryless Criminal Trial

Lord chief justice says there would be a ‘very significant’ danger of jury tampering in Heathrow robbery case

The court of appeal today ruled that a criminal trial can be heard without a jury for the first time.

Three judges in London, headed by the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, gave the go-ahead because of a “very significant” danger of jury tampering. Lord Judge said the case concerned “very serious criminal activity” arising from a robbery at a warehouse at Heathrow airport in 2004.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Parents Banned From Taking Pictures of Their Own Children at Sports Day

Parents of children at a primary school have been banned from taking pictures of their own children at the annual sports day.

Mrs Ethelston’s Church of England Primary School, in Uplyme, Devon, prohibited photos and video filming, claiming it was due to changes in child protection and images legislation.

It is the first time the school has taken such measures.

Parents criticised the move and said they felt there was no legal reason why they cannot take photos for personal use.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Pensioners Battered to a Pulp by Four Men for Clipping Another Car’s Wing Mirror

This is the battered face of grandmother Beryl Bell who was beaten by a gang of sick thugs while trying to stop a brutal road rage attack on her husband.

Mrs Bell was left in a pool of blood, with two black eyes after the wing-mirror of the couple’s car clipped another vehicle.

After being tail-gated through town, Beryl’s husband Christopher, who takes 12 tablets a day for a heart condition, pulled over to speak to the driver of the pursuing car.

But as the 65-year-old approached the car four Asian men aged in their 20s got out and launched an unprovoked attack, repeatedly punching him in the head.

When brave Mrs Bell, 66, screamed at the gang to leave her husband alone the attackers turned on her, punching her to the ground and leaving her bleeding heavily and with painful, swollen eyes .

The retired shop owners were taken to hospital where Mrs Bell was unable to open her eyes for over an hour.

Describing their ordeal, Mrs Bell said the pensioners had been shopping when her husband’s car clipped the wing mirror of a black Audi A3, in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

She said: ‘They were parked in the middle of the road talking to someone else and we were waiting behind them.

‘We edged slowly around and brushed their mirror. They looked angry so we thought it best not to stop as there were four of them.

‘The fact that my husband didn’t stop the car straight away shows that he was worried at what might happen.’

After being followed for five minutes Mr Bell stopped near the couple’s home and got out to speak with the driver.

He said: ‘I got out of the car and the driver got out of his car. The other three got out of the car and punched me on my head a couple of times.

‘I turned round and saw my wife on the floor — blood was gushing out of a cut in her nose and a big bump on her head.

‘Someone shouted ‘get the police’ and all of a sudden they jumped in their car and off they went.’

Mrs Bell added: ‘I was scared but I just saw them all hitting him so I got out and tried to stop it and got punched in the face, then I was on the floor in a load of blood.’

The mother-of-two told how she was also mugged in March when a woman snatched her handbag containing her mother’s pension.

‘I can’t believe the stuff I’ve seen that has happened to old people,’ she said. ‘So many pensioners are getting attacked these days.’

Det ective Inspector Sean Duggan from West Yorkshire Police said: ‘This was a particularly violent attack on two vulnerable people going about their daily business.

‘Four people who are much younger than them and bigger in stature have got out of the vehicle and attacked them quite violently.’

He said the offenders in the June 9 attack were Asian but said nothing was said by them to suggest the attack was racially-motivated.

‘It’s just a violent, unprovoked, disgusting attack,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

US Officially Requests Hungary Take Guantánamo Inmates

US special envoy Daniel Fried officially asked Hungary to receive inmates from Guantánamo prison on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zsuzsanna Mátrai told state news agency MTI.

“The cabinet is ready to closely study any requests and options, but parliamentary consultations will be necessary before a final decision is made,” Mátrai said.

Fried, who arrived from Madrid, will also hold talks with representatives of the parliamentary parties. Spain was asked to receive four inmates on Wednesday.

US President Barack Obama ordered the closure of the prison facility within a year on January 22, and the US began talks with a number of European countries including Hungary on receiving inmates a few weeks later.

In all, 240 inmates, mostly citizens of Arab countries, are detained at Guantánamo.

Fried said Hungarian officials will have the opportunity to meet the inmates and that the US is willing to make a financial contribution toward their settlement, but added that this is “no market”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Pope Rejects Ordination of New Breakaway Priests

Vatican City, 17 June (AKI) — The Vatican says the ordination of any priests by a hardline Catholic fraternity would be illegitimate even though Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of the group’s leaders, including Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson this year. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Vatican reiterated that the traditionalist Fraternity of Saint Pius X had no status within the Catholic church.

The group announced earlier this month it planned to ordain three priests and three deacons on 27 June at a seminary in southern Germany.

The Vatican’s media office on Wednesday responded to questions about the ordinations with a statement referring to comments that Benedict made on 10 March.

“As long as the society (of St. Pius X) does not have a canonical status in the church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the church,” he said.

“Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the society has no canonical status in the church, and its ministers …. do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the church”.

In January, Benedict provoked outrage from Jews and Catholics worldwide by lifting the excommunication of the society’s four bishops, including Bishop Richard Williamson, who has denied the Holocaust.

German chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed concern about the move because Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany.

Benedict’s predecessor Pope John Paul II excommunicated Williamson and three other bishops. The move came after traditionalist leader and Fraternity of Saint Pius X founder Marcel Lefebvre ordained them as bishops of his separatist church in 1988.

Their fraternity rejected reforms passed by the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, including a declaration which ended a church doctrine under which the Jews were held responsible for killing Jesus Christ.

Williamson, who claims that no Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers, has apologised to anyone offended by his remarks but has refused to retract his claims.

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

Verheugen’s Stark Warning to Turkey About Cyprus

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, JUNE 17 — European Commission Vice President Gunter Verheugen has given a stark warning to Turkey, insisting that EU accession talks will not begin unless it extends recognition to Cyprus and opens its ports and airspace to Cyprus ships and aircraft. Verheugen told a meeting of the European Affairs parliamentary committee that if Turkey does not carry out its commitments, several chapters will be blocked and it will not be able to complete its accession process. He added that this position had been endorsed by all EU countries. Verheugen said that an evaluation of Turkey’s progress will take place by the end of the year and it remains to be seen what the result will be. The vice president said that there is now a window of opportunity for a solution to the Cyprus problem. He warned, however, that this window will not remain open indefinitely. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Forum in Milan to Get it Run Again

(ANSAmed) — PARIGI, JUNE 18 — Get the Mediterranean Union (UPM) up and running again, at the moment trapped in the political deadlock seen in the Middle East, offering governments and entrepreneurs in the Mediterranean area the chance to get involved in concrete projects: this is the goal of the Economic and Financial Forum for the Mediterranean, to be held in Milan from July 20-21. Yesterday Italian foreign ministry undersecretary Stefania Craxi spoke on the aims of the forum to French authorities and high-level figures. “It will be an informal forum,” Craxi told ANSA at the end of the Paris meetings, “with the precise aim of offering the economic world of the Mediterranean concrete projects. This choice was made in order to avoid two big risks: that some European Union partners, seeing the difficulties experienced by the UPM, might decide to invest elsewhere, and that private individuals interested in the Mediterranean Union might see their enthusiasm wane.” The forum, which will be held in Palazzo Mezzanotte in collaboration with the Milan City Hall and the Lombardy regional government, will be taken part in by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and the co-chairman of the UPM, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The topics to be discussed in the debates and round table discussions include: infrastructure, energy, and small and medium-sized enterprises. Other high-level figures expected to attend are the Italian economy minister, Giulio Tremonti, the Turkish premier, Tayyip Erdogan, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, the entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris and the Lebanese Fouad Makhzoumi. Final remarks will be made by the Italian and Spanish ministers for foreign affairs: Franco Frattini and Miguel Angel Moratinos. “It will be a chance to get the Mediterranean Union back on its feet again,” stressed Stefania Craxi, speaking once more on how — at a political level — the nascent institution “is suffering from the political stalemate in the Middle East. However, we believe that development will help this process” through concrete projects. To this end, the projects to be discussed in Milan will concern development, “a necessary corollary for any peace process.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya-UK: Cooperation Accord in Social Sector

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, JUNE 17 — The meeting between the Social Affairs Secretary of the General People’s Congress and the UK ambassador to Libya focused on social cooperation. According to the press agency JANA, during the meeting closer cooperation through an exchange of know-how in the social sectors of both countries was discussed, including council housing and the institution of bodies to assist disabled persons with special needs. The ambassador said that he was pleased with the positive progress in bilateral relations between his country and Libya, stressing the UK’s wish to strengthen ties with Libya in various sectors.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

“6% See US Administration as Pro-Israel”

Only 6 percent of Jewish Israelis consider the views of American President Barack Obama’s administration pro-Israel, according to a new Jerusalem Post-sponsored Smith Research poll.

The poll, which has a margin of error of 4.5%, was conducted among a representative sample of 500 Israeli Jewish adults this week, following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech in which he expressed his support for a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Another 50% of those sampled consider the policies of Obama’s administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli, and 36% said the policies were neutral. The remaining 8% did not express an opinion.

The numbers were a stark contrast to the last poll published May 17, on the eve of the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama at the White House. In that poll, 31% labeled the Obama administration pro-Israel, 14% considered it pro-Palestinian and 40% said it was neutral. The other 15% declined to give an opinion.

Israelis’ views of Obama’s predecessor in the White House, George W. Bush, are nearly the opposite. According to last month’s poll, 88% of Israelis considered his administration pro-Israel, 7% said Bush was neutral and just 2% labeled him pro-Palestinian.

One possible explanation for the Obama administration’s plummeting approval rating among Israelis is its opposition to building for natural growth in settlement blocs and its refusal to differentiate its policies regarding construction in unauthorized outposts, settlement blocs close to the Green Line and suburbs of Jerusalem.

The poll found that Israelis, by contrast, emphatically distinguish between outposts, isolated settlements and settlement blocs in the West Bank. Regarding outposts, 57% favor removing them, 38% are against, and 5% did not express an opinion.

When asked about freezing construction in “far-flung, isolated settlements,” 52% were in favor, 42% were against and 6% would not say. But when it comes to “large settlement blocs like Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel,” just 27% said they were in favor of stopping building, 69% were against and 4% did not express an opinion.

Netanyahu’s advisers and aides offered different explanations for Israelis’ negative opinion on Obama. One said the media had exaggerated its portrayal of a strained relationship between the administrations in Jerusalem and Washington, and that Israelis overwhelmingly sided with Netanyahu.

Another adviser said polls have consistently shown that Israelis believed the Arabs were at fault for the lack of Middle East peace and they reject perceived attempts by Obama to blame Israel or take an even-handed approach.

The advisers suggested that the positive atmosphere regarding Netanyahu after his speech also had an impact. They said polls have shown that an overwhelming majority of Israelis agreed with Netanyahu’s vision and believed he was speaking for a consensus of Israelis in his response to Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo.

Netanyahu’s external adviser Zalman Shoval, who was speaking for himself, questioned whether the Obama administration could mediate the Middle East conflict due to the numbers and its recent statements and actions.

“Some of the indications we have seen in the last few weeks make it more difficult for Israelis to see the US in its traditional role as an honest broker,” said Shoval, a former ambassador to the US, who will head a committee on Israel-American relations that national security adviser Uzi Arad will form soon. “The vast majority of Israelis don’t blame the prime minister for a confrontation with the US. They are putting the onus on the Obama administration.”

Shoval is in Washington as a guest of local think tanks. He will meet with top American officials in the National Security Council and the State Department — not as an emissary of Netanyahu, though he will report back to the prime minister.

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

Dutch Anti-Islam MP: ‘Israel is West’s First Line of Defense’

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel will be a major part of Geert Wilders’ next film on Islam, the rightist Dutch legislator said last week in an interview for Haaretz. He praised Avigdor Lieberman, observing “similarities” between Yisrael Beiteinu and the Party for Freedom — a small movement which has grown to become Holland’s second most popular.

Wilders, a controversial anti-immigration politician, rose to international fame last year when he released a 14-minute film entitled Fitna, which attempts to portray what he considers as Islam’s “violent nature.” The film, which has been viewed by millions online, provoked mass protests throughout the Muslim world…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Charles Krauthammer: Hope and Change — But Not for Iran

Millions of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.

And what do they hear from the president of the United States? Silence. Then, worse. Three days in, the president makes clear his policy: continued “dialogue” with their clerical masters.

Dialogue with a regime that is breaking heads, shooting demonstrators, expelling journalists, arresting activists. Engagement with — which inevitably confers legitimacy upon — leaders elected in a process that begins as a sham (only four handpicked candidates permitted out of 476) and ends in overt rigging.

Then, after treating this popular revolution as an inconvenience to the real business of Obama-Khamenei negotiations, the president speaks favorably of “some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election.”

Where to begin? “Supreme Leader”? Note the abject solicitousness with which the American president confers this honorific on a clerical dictator who, even as his minions attack demonstrators, offers to examine some returns in some electoral districts — a farcical fix that will do nothing to alter the fraudulence of the election…

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Hizbollah Wants an “Explanation” From Patriarch Sfeir

Hizbollah leader attacks cardinal for a statement the latter made ten days ago, on the eve of the elections, in which he expressed concern for Lebanon’s national and Arab identity. Nasrallah accuses Sfeir of not coming out against Israeli attacks and massacres.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — The leader of Lebanon’s Hizbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has launched an attack against Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, demanding he give an “explanation” for a statement the cardinal made on 7 June, eve of the elections, in which the prelate expressed concern for the Lebanese identity and Lebanon’s Arab character.

Our “national duty calls on all of us to be aware of what is being planned. We must work hard on thwarting all attempts that, if successful, could change the face of Lebanon,” Sfeir has said.

Speaking ten days later on Hizbollah’s TV network al-Manar Nasrallah called on the Christian religious leader to explain himself, accusing him of speaking out against Hizbollah, but not against Israeli attacks.

“Throughout the eighties and the years that followed, I never heard the patriarch talk about threats to the Lebanese entity,’ Nasrallah said.

He said that during Sfeir’s presence in Bkirki, “we have seen Israeli massacres and aggressions and he never spoke of threats against the Lebanese entity. We never heard the patriarch warning against Israeli attacks.”

“It is shameful that the patriarch did not view the Israeli dangers as a threat to the Lebanese entity,” Nasrallah added.

Regarding Lebanon’s Arab identity, Nasrallah went on to say, “I believe that the opposition, Syria and Iran are all Arabs,” stressing that Iran was no longer Persian.

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

Tech Giants Rush Farsi Versions

Search giant Google has stepped up work to release a tool that will translate Farsi into English and vice-versa.

The company told the BBC it was speeding up the project because of the huge interest in what was currently going on in Iran.

At the same time, the world’s biggest social networking site, Facebook, is launching a Persian version.

Both companies say they hope their efforts will improve access to information and communication.

“There is a huge amount of interest in events in Iran and people want to know what is going on inside and outside the country,” Google’s principal scientist, Franz Och, told the BBC.

“Providing access to information across language boundaries should be very helpful. It’s one more tool that Persian speakers can use to communicate directly to the world and vice-versa.”

Facebook announced that it had also accelerated work on its Farsi translation.

In a blog posting, the company noted that people around the world had been using Facebook to exchange information about the aftermath of the Iranian election, but that most of that had not been in English.

“Much of the content created and shared on Facebook related to these events has been in Persian — the native language of Iran — but the users have had to navigate the site in English or other languages,” it said.

As a result, Facebook has now made the entire site available in a test version of Persian, “so Persian speakers inside of Iran and around the world can begin using it in their native language”.


Both companies stress privately that there is no political motivation in what they are doing, and that their main goal is to facilitate communication and the flow of information.

Google’s stated mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. To that end, it is already available in 41 other languages from Arabic to Spanish and from Danish to Vietnamese.

Mr Och said he and his team had been working hard over the past few days to rush the Farsi service out. As a result, it was about 80% perfect.

“This is done using machine translation which, in general, is not as good as human translation and so, for some languages, the quality is mixed,” explained Mr Och.

“With Spanish to English we get a nice translation, but for others it’s much harder because we don’t have so much data from which we can build our systems.

“Farsi is one of those where the translation is not as good but we hope to make it better relatively soon.”

Likewise Facebook has said its translated site is not a polished product but “we felt it was important to help people communicate rather than wait”.

However the company said a lot of its success in being able to go live with what it has done is down to the more than 400 Persian speakers who submitted thousands of individual translations of the site.

Both companies are looking to perfect their work and said they welcomed help from Persian speakers.


Much has been written about the role of the internet and social networking sites in spreading news, video, pictures and information about the post-election chaos.

These latest moves to provide Farsi translations have been praised by the Personal Democracy Forum, which looks at how technological advances and global internet trends are reinventing politics, democracy, society and government.

“The ability to translate the information flow that is going on at the moment into Farsi will benefit everybody on both sides of this battle,” the Forum’s co-founder, Andrew Rasiej, told the BBC.

“What these efforts do is add to the bigger idea which is that as people are more and more connected, the basic human right of free speech spreads with it.

“This is another milestone in allowing human beings to communicate with each other and break down the barriers that might have prevented them from understanding each other due to language,” said Mr Rasiej.

“We hope we will have a positive impact,” said Google’s Mr Och.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Turkey: AKP Files Complaint Over Alleged Anti-Government Plot

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 17 — Two senior ruling Akp party members filed a criminal complaint with state prosecutors late Tuesday after a Turkish daily reported the military had drawn up a secret plan to discredit the AKP government. Deputy parliamentary group leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Bekir Bozdag, and the party’s general secretary, Idris Naim Sahin, yesterday evening submitted a petition requesting a probe into the allegation and legal action against anyone involved to the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The move comes days after Turkish newspaper Taraf printed a document, allegedly drafted by a military colonel, that contains efforts to fight fundamentalism, end the activities of religious movements, particularly the ruling AKP and the Gulen movement, which are accused of trying to undermine Turkey’s secular order and establish an Islamic state. The military has denied it has such a plan, vowed to purge any soldiers who fail to respect democracy and said it was investigating the authenticity of the document. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan earlier on Tuesday called on military and civilian judicial authorities to investigate the alleged plot. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Young Iraqi Gays Find Safe Haven in Turkey

Secular Istanbul provides respite to Iraq’s gays

Iraqi gunmen warned Ameer they would kill him for working with the United States military. Then he received a more chilling death threat — for being gay — so he sold his home in Baghdad and fled to Turkey.

Now the 28-year-old from a middle class family shares a small apartment in Istanbul with five other gay Iraqi men, exiles from a wave of intolerance, and says for the first time in his life he can express his sexual orientation in public.

Homosexuality is banned almost everywhere in the Middle East, but conditions for gays and lesbians in Iraq have become particularly dangerous since the rise of religious militias after U.S.-led forces removed Saddam Hussein six years ago.

“I could be tracked down and killed if I would say I am gay,” Ameer said. “But here in Turkey we are treated as humans and we have rights, which is not the case in my country.”

In Baghdad, he led his life in secret, without the knowledge of his family. In a country where homosexual acts are punished with up to seven years in prison, only his closest friends knew he was gay.

Ameer had stayed on after relatives fled Iraq’s sectarian violence, living in a Shiite Muslim district and working for the Americans in the capital’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.

Then the death threats started.

Sermons condemning homosexuality were given by clerics at Friday prayers in Sadr City, a sprawling Shiite slum, where six gay men were found murdered in March and April, four of them with Arabic signs reading “pervert” on their chests.

One local official, who declined to be identified, described the other two as “sexual deviants” and said the men had been killed by their tribes to restore their families’ honor.

Sadr City is a bastion of support for fiery anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia. The Mehdi Army has frozen its activities in the past year and Iraqi government forces have retaken control.

Many young men who might have cut their hair short and grown beards when religious gangs controlled much of Iraq now dress in a more Western style as government forces patrol the streets.

As a result, some are accused of being homosexual.

Ameer, who left Baghdad in June 2007, had an asylum request approved after three interviews at the United Nations headquarters in Ankara. He hopes one day to join relatives in the United States.

“Friends and cousins in the United States have told me I will enjoy the gay life there, and that I won’t be embarrassed by this issue any more,” he said.

For now, he is enjoying living in a secular Muslim country where he does not feel his life is at risk every day. He survives on the little money family members send him, while his flatmates earn about $500 a month washing cars.

“We have no more fears of threats here,” said one of Ameer’s friends, Safwan. “I would think 100 times before ever returning to Iraq.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: La Russa Confirms Reinforcements for Elections

(AGI) — Rome, 16 June — Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa has confirmed an “increase of forces in Afghanistan for the elections this summer as outlined already to the Parliamentary committee.” Speaking in the Chamber of Deputies, La Russa also said that he will be visiting in the coming days the different war theatres where Italian troops are deployed.

Some 400 extra Italian troops will be committed to Afghanistan, arriving at the end this month, to bolster security during the polls and remain until an eventual run-off election is held, he added. Deployment of Italian Tornado warplanes will be completed as well as two more transport aircraft and some 40 personnel and three helicopters for casualty evacuation work, he added. Also to be sent there are 56 Carabinieri police to help train the Afghan police. This temporary reinforcement was long since decided and has nothing to do with discussions between Italian Primem Minister Silvio Berlusconi and U.S. President Barack Obama “of which I have no details,” La Russa said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Far East

Shanghai Relaxes Residency Rules

Shanghai officials have unveiled plans to relax strict residency rules, making it easier for people from other parts of China to live there permanently.

But the new rules are only thought to benefit 3,000 of the city’s estimated six million migrant workers.

Applicants must be professionals who have lived legally for seven years in Shanghai, China’s most populous city.

Despite these restrictions many locals oppose the plan, saying Shanghai is already too crowded.

Shanghai is the first of China’s four municipalities — which also include Beijing, Chongqing and Tianjin — to relax its rigid registration rules.

Strict criteria

Shanghai wants to attract more skilled professionals, and it also wants more income from its temporary workers, to help pay for its welfare system.

One-third of the population are migrant workers who have come from other parts of the country.

These new regulations promise people permanent residency on the condition they contribute to the city’s coffers in the years to come, according to the BBC’s correspondent in Shanghai, Chris Hogg.

Currently most of the city’s migrant workers have no legal status at all.

About 270,000 are thought to have temporary residency, but even that does not confer many benefits.

Citizens need permanent residency status to access health centres and welfare facilities, or get cheaper tuition fees in the city’s childcare centres and schools.

The new rules will allow anyone with a temporary residency certificate who has been in the city’s social security system — working legally — for seven years to apply for permanent residency.

But they must also be able to prove they have paid their taxes, never violated family planning policies, have a clean credit rating and no criminal record.

They must also have obtained a vocational qualification.

Only about 3,000 people are thought to meet the criteria so far.

Despite this, opinion polls on news websites and blogs suggest the overwhelming majority of local residents oppose the new rules, saying the city is crowded enough already.

Others from outside Shanghai complain the criteria are too strict.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Airbus Computer Bug is Main Suspect in Crash of Flight 447

Faulty speed readings and electronic failures were cited by crash investigators yesterday as they said they were closer to understanding the loss of Air France Flight 447 on June 1, with the deaths of all 228 people on board.

Paul-Louis Arslanian, chief of the French accident investigation bureau, said that it was too early to pronounce on the events that led the Airbus A330 to crash into the Atlantic about 1,000km (600 miles) off Brazil, but added: “I think we may be getting closer to our goal.”His remarks strengthened suspicion among analysts that a bug in the computerised flight system of the Airbus could be the key to the disaster.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Fini to Libya, Monitor Human Rights

(ANSAmed) — ROME — A “monitoring group” from the Italian Lower House and the Libyan Congress and a “Parliamentary mission” in the Libyan camps to verify that human rights are being respected: this is what the Chamber of Deputies Speaker, Gianfranco Fini, proposed in a letter sent to his Libyan counterpart Emberek El Shamekh. “I desire to propose,” Fini wrote in the body of the text, “the creation of a specific group for monitoring, made up by representatives from the Libyan Congress and the Italian Chamber of Deputies. In this way a parliamentary mission could be employed in the Libyan immigrant camps to verify, with particular reference to the request for political asylum, respect of the fundamental rights drawn up in the UN Charter and the Universal Human Rights Declaration, that the Treaty of Bengasi refers to in Article 6.” A proposal that Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, judges “well-founded”, also considering that “the spirit of our relationship with Gaddafi is cooperative, not accusatory”. “We have to look into planning this visit, which locations to go to and most of all we have to think of how to strengthen the role of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which is already present in Tripoli”, said Frattini, explaining that “there already is a (UNHCR) office which has no diplomatic credentials. And this is a step that we should take”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: 6,000 Egyptians Held in Misratah

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, JUNE 17 — Around 6,000 Egyptian immigrants have been held in Libya, according to the pan-Arab newspaper Akhbar, in its online version, Akhbar Libya Online. The Arabic-language website reports that the Egyptian Swasia Centre for human rights and the fight against discrimination has asked the Libyan and Egyptian government “to intervene and resolve the case of 6,000 Egyptian workers, including women and children, who have been detained by the Libyan police authorities in Misratah for three days, for staying illegally in the country”. Moreover, the press agency of the Libyan government JANA underlines this morning that the General People’s Committee for Public Security, the local interior ministry, is again inviting foreigners in Libya “to regularise their residence permit before June 30 and to pay the taxes due”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


$196 Billion; Little Proof UN Health Programs Work

LONDON — In the last two decades, the world has spent more than $196 billion trying to save people from death and disease in poor countries.

But just what the world’s gotten for its money isn’t clear, according to two studies published Friday in the medical journal Lancet.

Millions of people are now protected against diseases like yellow fever, sleeping under anti-malaria bed nets and taking AIDS drugs. Much beyond that, it’s tough to gauge the effectiveness of pricey programs led by the United Nations and its partners, and in some cases, big spending may even be counterproductive, the studies say.

Trying to show health campaigns actually saved lives is “a very difficult scientific dilemma,” said Tim Evans, a senior World Health Organization official who worked on one of the papers.

In one paper, WHO researchers examined the impact of various global health initiatives during the last 20 years.

They found some benefits, like increased diagnosis of tuberculosis cases and higher vaccination rates. But they also concluded some U.N. programs hurt health care in Africa by disrupting basic services and leading some countries to slash their health spending.

In another paper, Chris Murray of the University of Washington and colleagues tracked how much has been spent in public health in the last two decades — the figure jumped from $5.6 billion in 1990 to $21.8 billion in 2007 — and where it’s gone. Much of that money is from taxpayers in the West. The U.S. was the biggest donor, contributing more than $10 billion in 2007.

They found some countries don’t get more donations even if they’re in worse shape. Ethiopia and Uganda both receive more money than Nigeria, Pakistan or Bangladesh, all of whom have bigger health crises.

Some experts were surprised how long it took simply to consider if the world’s health investment paid off.

Richard Horton, the Lancet’s editor, labeled it “scandalous” and “reckless” health officials haven’t carefully measured how they used the world’s money.

Experts said that in some cases, the U.N. was propping up dysfunctional health systems. “If you’ve got rotten governments, no amount of development aid is going to fix that,” said Elizabeth Pisani, an AIDS expert who once worked for the U.N., citing Zimbabwe as a prime example.

Murray and colleagues also found AIDS gets at least 23 cents of every health dollar going to poor countries. Globally, AIDS causes fewer than 4 percent of deaths.

“Funds in global health tend to go to whichever lobby group shouts the loudest, with AIDS being a case in point,” said Philip Stevens of International Policy Network, a London think tank.

In WHO’s study, researchers admitted whether health campaigns address countries’ most pressing needs “is not known.”

When Cambodia asked for help from 2003-2005, it said less than 10 percent of aid was needed for AIDS. But of the donations Cambodia got, more than 40 percent went to diseases including AIDS.

WHO acknowledged change was necessary, but insisted it needed even more money, warning fewer donations would jeopardize children’s’ lives.

U.N. agencies, universities and others working on public health routinely take from 2 to 50 percent of a donation for “administrative purposes” before it goes to needy countries.

Others said there is little incentive for health officials to commission an independent evaluation to find out what their programs have achieved.

“The public health community has convinced the public the only way to improve poor health in developing countries is by throwing a ton of money at it,” Stevens said. “It is perhaps not coincidental that thousands of highly paid jobs and careers are also dependent on it.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


rickl said...

Off topic:

My regular "home base" blog, Gulf Coast Pundit, was suddenly and unexpectedly shut down last week.

But we pulled together and got a replacement blog up and running. It's called Grouchy Conservative Pundits, and it's now open for business.

The site is still under construction, but I expect that Gates of Vienna will be on our blogroll once we get that set up.

(I haven't been reading or commenting at GoV as much as I used to, but that is only because I've been preoccupied with domestic American politics over the past year or so.)

heroyalwhyness said...

Mark Steyn on why the fascists are winning in Europe
In bad times, if the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain issues, voters will turn to unrespectable ones

heroyalwhyness said...

From the link to Netherlands: "Christians Face Submission or Persecution."

Quote from Pastor H.G. Koekkoek : ". . .the baptist pastor from Alphen (aan den Rijn) says. It all appears in his recently published book “Mohammed, Islam, the Koran and the Bible” (‘Mohammed, de islam, de Koran en de Bijbel’). The rather boring title hides an explosive cargo. “But my book is certainly not meant to insult, I write with a lot of respect about Islam and about Mohammed, who I think is an honest man,” he says.


Good heavens! Which qur'an could this pastor be referring to? Muhammad, an honest man? Not in any version of the qur'an I've become familiar with!

Write with Respect for Islam? NO Christian Pastor should ever write with respect about a call for submission to evil.

Fear. This pastor's pathetic disingenuousness can only add to politically correct white washed confusion about islam.
One could try very hard to understand the inherent forgiving nature of this Christian Pastor, but to characterize the muhammedan prophet as 'honest' is reprehensible.