Friday, June 26, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/26/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/26/2009The G8 group is busy once again, lamenting corruption in Afghanistan, condemning North Korea, and telling Israel to put a stop to settlements in the West Bank.

In other news, former Prime Minister Agim Ceku of Kosovo was released again, after being arrested in Bulgaria on a Serbian war crimes warrant.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Steen, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
California, Here We Come!
China Decision to Buy $80 Billion of Gold, The Dragon’s Hoard
Italy: Fini, No Salary Restrictions But Contract Freedom
Obama’s Mistakes
U.S. Stocks Drop as Savings Rate Hits 15-Year High, Oil Falls
AP Sources: Obama Eyeing Order for Gitmo Detainees
Homeland Security and US Army Plan Invasion of States
House Passes Bill to Address Threat of Climate Change
House Passes Major Energy-Climate Bill
Obama Gets Billions for ‘Pandemic’ Swine Flu
Obama Wants to Let Those Pesky Geezers Die
Proposed Federal Law Would be a Hate Crime Against America
The NSA’s New Data-Mining Facility is One Component of a Growing Local Surveillance Industry
Europe and the EU
All the Denarii of Peter: Vices and Virtues of the Vatican Bank
Concentration Camp Bordellos
Danish Police Chief: Stop Supporting Rejected Iraqis
Denmark: Terrorism Conviction Upheld
Dutch State Plans Further 2.5 Bln Euros for Abn Amro
EU: We Want US Climate Bill to Succeed
Germany Seeks to Build Bridges With Muslim Community
Greenland: China Snubs Climate Minister After Lama Meeting
Hells Angels Win Another Dutch Legal Battle
Holocaust Assets Conference Opens in Prague
Italy to Up Women’s Retirement Age
Italy: Premier Unfazed by Media Storm
Italy: PM to ‘Respond’ To Sex Scandal Claims
Netherlands: CDA Wants to Put Teen Gangs in Camps Collectively
Netherlands: Sharp Increase in Armed Robberies
Netherlands: Go to Church, Minister Tells Wilders
Protesters Break Into Iranian Embassy in Sweden
Spanish Lawmakers Vote to Clip Judges’ Wings
The Genocide Britain Hushed Up
Too Much Time Online Strains Irish Marriages
United Arab Emirates to Open Embassy in Budapest
Kosovo Ex-Prime Minister Released From Detention
Serbia Charges Kosovo Ex-Rebels for War Crimes
North Africa
Algeria: Kabylie Remembers Matoub the ‘Rebel’
Algeria Wins Battle Over Golden Boy Khalifa Extradition
Israel and the Palestinians
G-8 to Israel: End Settlements, Open Borders
Israel: Tough Prison Terms for Two Ex-Ministers
Shalit: Rome Awards Honorary Citizenship
The Late Great State of Israel: How Enemies Without and Within Threaten the Jewish Nation’s Survival
Middle East
Ahmadinejad Promises to Shake the Planet
G8 to Iran: End Violence, Reflect Will of People
Iran: Cleric Calls for ‘Savage’ Punishment for Protesters
Lebanon: Berri, The Irremovable President of Parliament
Lebanon: ‘Silicon’ Tourism Boom in the Summer
Tariq Ramadan: “We Cannot Accept a Dogmatic Interpretation of Islam”
Terror Group: ‘No Shame in Being Poor’
Turkey May Block Iraqi Kurds’ Participation in Nabucco
Turkey to Buy Weapons From US to Fight PKK
Turkey: Verdict on Mor Gabriel Monastery Land Expected
Turkey: PM Erdogan Tries to Revitalize EU Bid
Turkey: ‘Keep Your Hands Off the Military’
Turkey: Police Report on Dink Toned Down
Russia Won’t Participate in Jewish Documents Suit
South Asia
Danes Support Afghanistan Ops
G8 Foreign Ministers Lament Afghan Corruption
Orissa: Nun Raped by Hindu Extremists Recognizes One of Her Assailants
Thailand: Separatist Fighters Recruited in Islamic Schools
Far East
Britain Considered Japan Chemical Attack: Records
G8 Countries Condemn North Korea’s Missile Tests
Latin America
Brazil Calls Off Search for Air France Victims
US Safety Board Probing a-330 Cockpit Malfunctions
1 in 5 UK Births is to a Mum From Abroad
47 Arrests as Calais Riot Fears Build Up
Obama’s Immigration Plot to Create More Illegal Immigration & One Party
Animal Fats Pancreas Cancer Link
For UN and Its Leader, Climate Deal Stakes High
Journalist Files Charges Against WHO and UN for Bioterrorism and Intent to Commit Mass Murder

Financial Crisis

California, Here We Come!

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — In just a few weeks time, California hits the wall.

And Americans should take a good, long look at the fiscal and social wreck of the Golden Land, because California is at a place to which all of America is heading.

In May, when five fund-raising proposals were put on the ballot, Gov. Schwarzenegger pleaded with the overtaxed Californians not to make their state “the poster child for dysfunction.”

As The Economist writes, “On May 18th, they did exactly that.”

Arnold went to the White House for U.S. loan guarantees for new state bonds. But with the president’s approval rating wilting because of a belief he is spending too much, the Obama-ites slammed the door.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

China Decision to Buy $80 Billion of Gold, The Dragon’s Hoard

“We’ve got a situation where Geithner is smiling and has no choice but to stress the credibility and stability of the US financial and economic system, while the creditors [such as the Chinese] smile back and say they believe him, while at the same time giving hand signals to their reserve managers to get rid of these things [U.S. Treasuries].” — Neil Mellor, Bank of New York-Mellon

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fini, No Salary Restrictions But Contract Freedom

(AGI) — Rome, 3 June — No to the old salary restrictions, yes to “more freedom on a regional and business level” based on productivity and employment. Speaker of the House Gianfranco Fini has opened the congress on Enterprise and Labour in the Constitution, in the presence of Confindustria president Emma Marcegaglia. He called for the need to reform the economic system. In this context Fini called a “renewed climate of collaboration between capital and labour”, “crucial”.

Regarding salaries, the Speaker of the House claimed: “personally I don’t believe that a return to the past of geographic diversification of salaries would have a positive impact on the country. It would separate the weaker regions of our country”. “We need more contractual freedom on a regional and business level, allowing all players to link salaries to productivity and the availability of manpower, wherever the company is located”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Mistakes

Chancellor Merkel Visits the Debt President

The occupant of the White House may have changed recently. But the amount of ill-advised ideology coming from Washington has remained constant. Obama’s list of economic errors is long — and continues to grow.

The president may have changed, but the excesses of American politics have remained. Barack Obama and George W. Bush, it has become clear, are more similar than they might seem at first glance.


US President Barack Obama has not been shy about public spending.

Ex-President Bush was nothing if not zealous in his worldwide campaign against terror, transgressing human rights and breaking international law along the way. Now, Obama is displaying the same zeal in his own war against the financial crisis — and his weapon of choice is the money-printing machine. The rules the new American president is breaking are those which govern the economy. Nobody is being killed. But the strategy comes at a price — and that price might be America’s position as a global power.

In his fight against terrorism, Bush had the ideologue Dick Cheney at his side. “We must take the battle to the enemy,” he said — and sent out the bomber squadrons toward Iraq on the basis of mere suspicion. The result of the offensive is well known.

Obama’s Cheney

Obama’s Cheney is named Larry Summers. He is Obama’s senior-most economic advisor, and like the former vice president, he is a man of conviction. The financial crisis may be large, but Summers’ self-confidence is even larger. More importantly, President Barack Obama follows him like a dog does its master.

The crisis, Summers intoned last week at a conference of Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society in Washington, was caused by too much confidence, too much credit and too many debts. It was hard not to nod along in agreement.

But then Summers added that the way to bring about an end to the crisis was — more confidence, more credit and more debt. And the nodding stopped. Experts and non-experts alike were perplexed. Even in an interview following the presentation, Summers was unable to supply an adequate explanation for how a crisis caused by frivolous lending was going to be solved through yet more frivolity.

Summers has no misgivings, and doesn’t recognize those held by others. The fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently gave a speech in which she was critical of the US economic stimulus program did not impress Summers. In our conversation, he said he thought Merkel’s position was a tactical one. “She only says that out of domestic concerns,” he said and rolled his eyes in disapproval. The battle must be taken to the enemy.

Just as the US public initially rallied behind the war President Bush — even to the point of re-electing him — Americans have now thrown their support behind the debt president Obama. The mistakes of the Bush administration are now widely accepted. The mistakes of the Obama administration are still not recognized as such. They are seen as the truth.

The Obama Administration’s Five Errors

Mistake number one: It’s not as bad as it seems. The US amassed much more debt during World War II, it is often said. That, though, is not true. According to conservative forecasts, Obama’s policies could end up being three times as expensive as US expenditures during World War II. If one calculates using today’s prices, America spent $3 trillion for the war. Obama’s budgetary calculations for the decade between 2010 and 2020 assume additional debt of $9 trillion.

Second: It is generally assumed that the money is part of an effort to resuscitate the crisis-plagued economy and is thus serving a good purpose. The truth of the matter is that the bulk of the borrowed money will be used to finance the normal US budget. American borrowing in 2009 comprises about half of Obama’s budget. The country is living beyond its means — and it still would have been even if it weren’t for the economic crisis.

The third error: Many believe that when the crisis ends, borrowing will automatically fall. The truth is that it could climb afterwards. The graying of American society creates a new fiscal policy challenge for the country that so far hasn’t been reflected in any budget plan. According to calculations by the International Monetary Fund, Washington would need to spend several times more than it is now just to service current pension entitlements and the free, state-funded medical care provided to senior citizens. In addition, Obama has promised to introduce healthcare coverage for America’s close to 46 million uninsured. That would be like adding a country the size of Spain to the US.

Lost Trust

Fourth: The world believes that the US is borrowing money from capital markets. It is often said that the Chinese and the Japanese will buy government bonds. But the truth of the matter is that trust in the gravitas and reliability of the United States has suffered to such a great degree that fewer and fewer foreigners are purchasing its government bonds. That’s why the Federal Reserve is now buying securities that it has printed itself. The Fed’s balance sheet has more than doubled since 2007, making the US central bank one of the world’s fastest-growing companies. The purpose of this company, though, is to create money out of thin air.

Fallacy No. 5: The additional money is harmless because the economy is starting to pull together again and there is no threat of inflation. The truth is that the quiet on the inflation front is deceptive. The hot money is accumulating in people’s savings accounts and in the balance sheets of banks that aren’t keen to lend money at the moment. The supply of money has increased by 45 percent in the last three years and there has not been a corresponding rise in hard assets or production. That imbalance will eventually make itself felt in the form of inflation.

The dollar, which has already lost 40 percent of its value against the euro since 2000, would then devaluate and its reputation would be further diminished. The world’s reserve currency could be pushed through the floor by the shockwaves. At that point, those waves would also wash over the rest of the world. Then people would have to look back and say that the means the US used to fight the economic crisis in fact paved the way for a currency crisis.

The German response to the excesses of the Bush era was refusal and obstinacy. Gerhard Schröder refused to go to war in Iraq with America and he organized a European resistance front the reached from Moscow to Paris.

Germany still hasn’t provided its response to the Obama administration’s fiscal policy excesses. Perhaps its time for Merkel to take her cue from Schröder.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

U.S. Stocks Drop as Savings Rate Hits 15-Year High, Oil Falls

June 26 (Bloomberg) — U.S. stocks fell and were poised for the first two-week decline since March after the highest American savings rate in 15 years spurred concern that consumer spending will slow and oil retreated. The dollar dropped after China’s central bank reiterated a call for a worldwide currency.

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Tesoro Corp. dropped as crude oil futures lost 1.3 percent to $69.32 a barrel. Eli Lilly & Co. led declines by health-care companies as Senator Max Baucus said an industry overhaul may be affordable for Congress. The dollar slumped 0.8 percent against the currencies of six trading partners as China sought to replace it.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index decreased 0.4 percent to 916.46 at 2:30 p.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 55.32 points, or 0.7 percent, to 8,417.08. The Russell 2000 Index of small companies dropped 0.2 percent. Russell indexes will undergo their annual rebalancing after the close of trading today to reflect changes in market value over the past year.

“The magnitude of that savings rate may have gotten some folks by surprise,” said Philip Orlando, who helps manage $409 billion as chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors Inc. in New York. Economic and earnings growth is “potentially not going to be as robust as some were thinking. That’s weighing on stocks.”

While the stock market has rebounded since March on optimism the deterioration in the global economy will slow, U.S. business activity is probably contracting for a fourth consecutive quarter, according to economists’ estimates. The S&P 500, which advanced 36 percent in 3 1/2 months through yesterday, has fallen 0.5 percent since June 19.

$1.95 Trillion

The Dollar Index fell 0.8 percent to 79.84. The restatement of Governor Zhou Xiaochuan’s proposal in March added to speculation that China will diversify its currency reserves, the world’s largest at more than $1.95 trillion. Chinese investors, the biggest foreign owners of U.S. Treasuries, reduced holdings by $4.4 billion in April to $763.5 billion after Premier Wen Jiabao expressed concern about the value of dollar assets.

“Long-term concern about the dollar is something globally we’re all worried about,” said Eric Teal, who oversees $5 billion as chief investment officer at First Citizens Bank in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Energy companies in the S&P 500 declined 0.8 percent as a group, the most among 10 industries. Exxon slumped 1 percent to $69.15. Tesoro decreased 2.2 percent to $12.74. Crude oil dropped after the Commerce Department said the savings rate among Americans rose to a 15-year high of 6.9 percent.

‘Deflationary Bias’

The income and spending data “reflects a deflationary bias in the economy,” said Kevin Caron, a Florham Park, New Jersey- based money manager at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. “Why pay 18 times earnings for an economy with a deflationary burden on its shoulders?”

The 40 percent rally in the S&P 500 from March 9 through June 12 pushed its valuation to almost 17 times its companies’ estimated operating earnings over the coming year, the highest since the index peaked in October 2007. The valuation fell to under 10 times estimated profit in November 2008.

Quarterly profits at the 495 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results since April 7 dropped 32 percent on average, according to Bloomberg data. Analysts expect annual earnings in the measure to decline 15 percent before rebounding 22 percent in 2010, estimates compiled by Bloomberg show.

Protests From Lawmakers

Health-care companies in the S&P 500 slumped 0.5 percent as a group. Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the cost of health-care options being weighed by his panel can be cut to $1 trillion over 10 years and won’t add to the deficit, citing the Congressional Budget Office.

The non-partisan budget office last week delivered an informal cost estimate of $1.6 trillion for the legislation to overhaul the health-care system, sparking protests from both Republicans and Democrats and prompting Baucus to say his panel may delay consideration of a bill until next month.

Eli Lilly lost 0.9 percent to $35. King Pharmaceuticals Inc. dropped 1.1 percent to $9.72. Pfizer Inc. slumped 1.5 percent to $15.10.

KB Home fell the most in the S&P 500, sliding 9.6 percent to $13.35. The Los Angeles-based homebuilder that targets first- time buyers reported a second-quarter net loss that was 53 percent bigger than the average analyst estimate, according to Bloomberg data.

Chip Glut

Micron Technology Inc. dropped 3.8 percent to $5.10. The biggest U.S. maker of computer-memory chips said its third- quarter net loss widened as slowing electronics demand and an industry glut kept prices below the cost of production.

UBS AG fell 6 percent to $12.19. The European bank with the biggest losses from the credit crisis raised about 3.8 billion Swiss francs ($3.5 billion) by selling shares and said it expects a second-quarter loss.

Led by financial companies seeking to rebuild balance sheets eroded by rising delinquency rates on mortgage-backed and other forms of debt, U.S. companies are creating new equity at the fastest pace on record, causing future earnings to be divided among a larger number of shares. During the second quarter, 195 public companies have raised $91.9 billion by selling additional shares.

Declines in U.S. banks were limited as a key lending rate fell below 0.6 percent for the first time as central banks increased lending to financial institutions and signaled official rates will stay at record lows.

The cost of borrowing dollars for three months in London, called the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, declined to 0.598 percent from 0.601 percent, extending its decline this year to 0.83 point. The rate, a benchmark for about $360 trillion of financial products around the world, peaked at 4.82 percent on Oct. 10 following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. on Sept. 15.

Palm Inc. surged 17 percent to $16.38. The maker of the new Pre phone reported a smaller fourth-quarter loss than analysts estimated after sales fell less than predicted.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


AP Sources: Obama Eyeing Order for Gitmo Detainees

WASHINGTON — Stymied by Congress so far, the White House is considering issuing an executive order to indefinitely imprison a small number of Guantanamo Bay detainees considered too dangerous to prosecute or release, two administration officials said Friday.

No final decisions have been made about the order, which would be the third major mandate by President Barack Obama to deal with how the United States treats and prosecutes terror suspects and foreign fighters.

One of the officials said the order, if issued, would not take effect until after the Oct. 1 start of the upcoming 2010 fiscal year. Already, Congress has blocked the administration from spending any money this year to imprison the detainees in the United States — which in turn could slow or even halt Obama’s pledge to close the Navy prison in Cuba by Jan. 21.

The administration also is considering asking Congress to pass new laws that would allow the indefinite detentions, the official said.

Both of the officials spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the still-tentative issue publicly. The possibility of an executive order was first reported by ProPublica and The Washington Post.

“A number of options are being considered,” said one of the officials.

Asked if the detainees would be indefinitely held overseas or in the United States, the official said: “There’s not really a lot of options overseas.”

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union Washington office, says the organization strongly opposes any plans for indefinite detention of prisoners.

“We’re saying it shouldn’t be done at all,” he said Friday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee just completed work on its FY-2010 defense authorization bill. It was silent on the matter of indefinite detentions, according to a Senate aide familiar with the bill.

Without legislative backing, an executive order is the only route Obama has to get the needed authority.

The order also would only apply to current detainees at Guantanamo — and not ones caught and held in future counterinsurgent battles.

There are 229 detainees currently being held at Guantanamo. At least 11 are expected to be tried in military tribunals, and several others have been transferred to United States for prosecution by civilian federal courts.

Still others, including four Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs who were transferred to Bermuda earlier this month, have been sent to foreign nations. The Obama administration is trying to relocate as many as 100 Yemeni detainees to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation.

Obama said last month he was looking at continued imprisonment for a small number of Guantanamo detainees whom he described as too dangerous to release. He called it “the toughest issue we will face.”

“I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people,” Obama said during a May 21 speech at the National Archives. “Al-Qaida terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture — like other prisoners of war — must be prevented from attacking us again.”

It’s not clear how many detainees could fall into that category. Defense and Justice Department officials have privately said at least some could be freed at trial because prosecutors would be reluctant to expose classified evidence against the detainees. Some of that evidence also might be thrown out because of how it was obtained — potentially by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

A Pentagon task force is currently reviewing every case to see which are eligible for transfer or release; which could face trial in civilian U.S. courts; which are best suited to some version of a military commission; and which are believed too dangerous to free.

Underscoring the difficulty of where to send the detainees before Guantanamo closes, a senior Defense official said some detainees who were picked up as enemy combatants cannot be charged with war crimes or terrorism even though they are believed to pose a threat. If no country volunteers to take them, traditional law of war authority allows the United States government to hold them till the end of hostilities, said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Civil rights advocates and constitutional scholars accused Obama of parroting the detention policies they used to lambaste former Republican President George W. Bush.

“Prolonged imprisonment without trial is exactly the Guantanamo system that the president promised to shut down,” Shayana Kadidal, a senior attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement Friday.

She added: “If the last eight years have taught us anything, it’s that executive overreach, left to continue unchecked for many years, has a tendency to harden into precedent.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Homeland Security and US Army Plan Invasion of States

The Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security recently hosted a teleconference for law enforcement agencies and associations such as the National Association of Chiefs of Police to discuss the Obama Administration’s interest in using the military during “emergencies.”


However, many law enforcement executives and organizations went on the record saying they did not appreciate the prospect of federal troops usurping the authority of local and state law enforcement agencies or the role of the National Guard unit currently under the control of governors.

“My initial reaction is: why are we allowing federal troops to basically invade the sovereignty of individual states when each state has its own law enforcement agencies and each state possesses an armed and trained National Guard and, in the case of some states such as New York, a trained militia?” according to New York police officer Edna Aquino.

“We have not used armed federal troops in New York since the Civil War when Union troops and Navy battleships attacked dissenters who opposed conscription by the Union Army,” she added.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

House Passes Bill to Address Threat of Climate Change

WASHINGTON — Overcoming deep divisions within its Democratic majority, the House passed legislation on Friday intended to address the threat of global warming and transform the way the United States produces and uses energy.

The vote was the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill intended to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change, and its provisions could lead to sweeping changes in many sectors of the American economy, including electric power generation, agriculture, manufacturing and construction. The House vote also establishes a marker for the United States when international negotiations on a new global climate change treaty begin later this year.

“This legislation will break our dependence on foreign oil, make our nation a leader in clean energy jobs and cut global warming pollution,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, a co-sponsor of the bill, adding that Friday’s vote was a “decisive and historic action” that would position the United States as a leader in energy efficiency and technology.

The bill’s provisions forcing reductions in the use of fossil fuel while increasing production of alternative energy sources would produce millions of new jobs, Mr. Waxman said.

But the legislation, a patchwork of compromises, falls far short of what many European governments and environmentalists have said is needed to avert the worst impacts of global warming. And it has pitted liberal Democrats from both coasts against more conservative Democrats from areas dependent on coal for electricity and heavy manufacturing for jobs.

Friday’s vote illustrated that rift: The bill passed by a seven-vote margin, with 44 Democrats voting against it.

As difficult as passage in the House proved, it is just the beginning of the energy and climate debate in Congress, since the issue now moves to the Senate, where political divisions and regional differences are even starker.

At the heart of the legislation is a cap-and-trade system that sets an overall limit on emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide while allowing utilities, manufacturers and other emitters to trade pollution permits, or allowances, among themselves. The cap grows increasingly tighter over the years, pushing up the price of emissions and presumably driving industry to find cleaner ways of producing energy.

While some environmental groups supported the legislation, others — Greenpeace, for example — vigorously opposed it. Business groups were also split. Republican leaders called the bill a national energy tax and predicted that those who voted for the measure would pay a heavy price at the polls next year.

“No matter how you doctor it or tailor it,” said Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, “it is a tax.”

Only eight Republicans voted for the bill, which runs to more than 1,300 pages.

Apart from its domestic implications, the bill is a show of resolve that American officials can point to when negotiating the new global climate change treaty, after years of American objections to binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions…

[Return to headlines]

House Passes Major Energy-Climate Bill

WASHINGTON — In a triumph for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed sweeping legislation Friday that calls for the nation’s first limits on pollution linked to global warming and aims to usher in a new era of cleaner, yet more costly energy.

The vote was 219-212, capping months of negotiations and days of intense bargaining among Democrats. Republicans were overwhelmingly against the measure, arguing it would destroy jobs in the midst of a recession while burdening consumers with a new tax in the form of higher energy costs.

At the White House, Obama said the bill would create jobs, and added that with its vote, the House had put America on a path toward leading the way toward “creating a 21st century global economy.”

The House’s action fulfilled Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s vow to clear major energy legislation before July 4. It also sent the measure to a highly uncertain fate in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was “hopeful that the Senate will be able to debate and pass bipartisan and comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall.”

Obama lobbied recalcitrant Democrats by phone from the White House as the House debate unfolded across several hours, and Al Gore posted a statement on his Web site saying the measure represents “an essential first step towards solving the climate crisis.” The former vice president won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work drawing attention to the destructive potential of global warming.

On the House floor, Democrats hailed the legislation as historic, while Republicans said it would damage the economy without solving the nation’s energy woes.

It is “the most important energy and environmental legislation in the history of our country,” said Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. “It sets a new course for our country, one that steers us away from foreign oil and towards a path of clean American energy.”

But Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, used an extraordinary one-hour speech shortly before the final vote to warn of unintended consequences in what he said was a “defining bill.” He called it a “bureaucratic nightmare” that would cost jobs, depress real estate prices and put the government into parts of the economy where it now has no role.

The legislation would require the U.S. to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent by mid-century. That was slightly more aggressive than Obama originally wanted, 14 percent by 2020 and the same 80 percent by mid-century.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are rising at about 1 percent a year and are predicted to continue increasing without mandatory limits.

Under the bill, the government would limit heat-trapping pollution from factories, refineries and power plants and issue allowances for polluters. Most of the allowances would be given away, but about 15 percent would be auctioned by bid and the proceeds used to defray higher energy costs for lower-income individuals and families.

“Some would like to do more. Some would like to do less,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in advance of the final vote. “But we have reached a compromise … and it is a compromise that can pass this House, pass that Senate, be signed by the president and become law and make progress.”

That seemed unlikely, judging from Reid’s cautiously worded statement. “The bill is not perfect,” it said, but rather “a good product” for the Senate to begin working on.

And there was plenty to work on in a House-passed measure that pointed toward higher electricity bills for the middle class, particularly in the Midwest and South, as well as steps to ease the way for construction of new nuclear reactors, the first to be built since the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979.

The bill’s controversy was on display in the House, where only eight Republicans joined 211 Democrats in favor, while 44 Democrats joined 168 Republicans in opposition. And within an hour of the vote, both party campaign committees had begun attacking lawmakers for their votes.

One of the biggest compromises involved the near total elimination of an administration plan to sell pollution permits and raise more than $600 billion over a decade — money to finance continuation of a middle class tax cut. About 85 percent of the permits are to be given away rather than sold, a concession to energy companies and their allies in the House — and even that is uncertain to survive in the Senate.

The final bill also contained concessions to satisfy farm-state lawmakers, ethanol producers, hydroelectric advocates, the nuclear industry and others, some of them so late that they were not made public until 3 a.m. on Friday.

Supporters and opponents agreed the bill’s result would be higher energy costs but disagreed vigorously on the impact on consumers. Democrats pointed to two reports — one from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the other from the Environmental Protection Agency — that suggested average increases would be limited after tax credits and rebates were taken into account. The CBO estimated the bill would cost an average household $175 a year, the EPA $80 to $110 a year.

Republicans questioned the validity of the CBO study and noted that even that analysis showed actual energy production costs increasing $770 per household. Industry groups have cited other studies showing much higher costs to the economy and to individuals.

The White House and congressional Democrats argued the bill would create millions of “green jobs” as the nation shifts to greater reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and development of more fuel-efficient vehicles — and away from use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.

It will “make our nation the world leader on clean energy jobs and technology,” declared Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who negotiated deals with dozens of lawmakers in recent weeks to broaden the bill’s support.

Pelosi, D-Calif., took an intense personal interest in the measure, sitting through hours of meetings with members of the rank and file and nurturing fragile compromises.

At its heart, the bill was a trade-off, less than the White House initially sought though it was more than Republicans said was acceptable. Some of the dealmaking had a distinct political feel. Rep. Alan Grayson, a first-term Democrat, won a pledge of support that $50 million from the proceeds of pollution permit sales in the bill would go to a proposed new hurricane research facility in his district in Orlando, Fla.

In the run-up to the vote, Democrats left little to chance.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., confirmed by the Senate on Thursday to an administration post, put off her resignation from Congress until after the final vote on the climate change bill. And Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., who has been undergoing treatment at an undisclosed facility, returned to the Capitol to support the legislation. He has said he struggles with depression, alcoholism and addiction, but has not specified the cause for his most recent absence.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Obama Gets Billions for ‘Pandemic’ Swine Flu

In the United States, the Obama Administration has strong-armed the US Congress to appropriate 300% more money for Swine Flu ‘preparedness’ than Congress planned. Responding to lobbying by the Obama administration, the US Congress has approved an eye-popping $7.65 billion for the non-proven pandemic influenza.

Curiously enough, the money was included in a $106 billion supplemental appropriation bill for funding the military wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war on pig flu now seems to rank alongside the Ware on Terror the war on Iraqis and Afghanis as US policy priority.

Most of the pandemic money is for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the bill includes $350 million to increase state and local capacity for responding to H1N1. The bill provides $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2009 money and $5.8 billion in “contingent emergency appropriations” for HHS and the CDC.

The funds are to be used for expanding surveillance, increasing federal stockpiles of drugs and medical supplies, and developing, buying, and administering vaccines.


Even the CDC and WHO admit that symptoms of swine flu are mild. But we are being bombarded with propaganda from WHO, CDC and now Robert Koch Institute telling us that this Swine Flu H1N1 ‘could evolve’ into something more aggressive.

Germany has a reported 275 ‘confirmed’ cases of H1N1. Yet there exists no test that confirms presence of H1N1 virus as even the WHO and CDC admit, so one might wonder how they have been confirmed for what? To her credit, at least to date Chancellor Merkel has chosen not to go berserk as has the Obama Administration to prepare billions of taxpayer dollars for a virus which to date has not even been confirmed as the sole cause of a single human death and whose effects otherwise are comparable to a bad cold and disappear within normally five days. Are we being taken for absolute idiots?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Wants to Let Those Pesky Geezers Die

In a rare moment of candor, President Obama explained to an audience how government-run healthcare would work in America.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

“President Obama suggested at a town hall event Wednesday night that one way to shave medical costs is to stop expensive and ultimately futile procedures performed on people who are about to die and don’t stand to gain from the extra care.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Proposed Federal Law Would be a Hate Crime Against America

“We’re not going to win this case, but that’s okay. Once we get ‘hate crime’ laws on the books, we’re going to go after the Scouts and all the other bigots.”

This was a remark made in the gallery by the Clinton White House liaison for “gay” issues during U.S. Supreme Court hearings on the Boy Scouts case in 2000. She had whispered it to the Rev. Rob Schenck, whom she mistakenly thought was one of those liberal clerics who think God is still making up His mind about sexual morality.

The point is that the proposed federal “hate crime” law before the Senate is less about righting wrongs than it is about elevating sexual preferences — all of them — to civil rights status so they can be used as a battering ram against people with traditional values.


Here’s how the law would work in practice: It would add penalties on top of those levied for criminal convictions, based on the perpetrators’ perceived beliefs or the victims’ group identification. In order to prove that the defendant holds particular beliefs, his or her speech, writing, reading materials and organizational memberships would become key evidence. “Have you now, or have you ever been involved with a homophobic organization (like, say, Catholic Charities)?”

Two paragraphs were inserted to mollify such concerns:

(3) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.

(4) “FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.”

But American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) attorney John Armor notes, “This is a head fake for citizens who don’t understand freedom of speech protections.”

Ken Klukowski, an ACRU senior legal analyst, explains, “Paragraph (3) is only a statement of the obvious, so it has no legal effect. No statute can abridge constitutionally-protected speech. If any speech is burdened, and the speaker files suit, then the process and the result is the same regardless of whether there is any paragraph such as (3). The court then looks to the speech in question, the nature of the burden on that speech, and what protection the First Amendment extends to that particular speech. The court does not look to language such as (3) in deciding the case. If the burden in the specific case is unconstitutional, then it’s impermissible whether the statute acknowledges the fact or not. So (3) is just there to help pass the bill by giving people a talking point to say ‘this law does nothing to violate anyone’s free speech rights.’ It makes no difference in court whatsoever.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The NSA’s New Data-Mining Facility is One Component of a Growing Local Surveillance Industry

[Comment from JD: old article, but still interesting.]

Surrounded by barbwire fencing, the anonymous yet massive building on West Military Drive near San Antonio’s Loop 410 freeway looms mysteriously with no identifying signs of any kind. Surveillance is tight, with security cameras surrounding the under-construction building. Readers are advised not to take any photos unless you care to be detained for at least a 45-minute interrogation by the National Security Agency, as this reporter was.

There’s a strangely blurry line during such an interrogation. After viewing the five photos I’d taken of the NSA’s new Texas Cryptology Center, the NSA officer asked if I would delete them. When I asked if he was ordering me to do so, he said no; he was asking as a personal favor. I declined and was eventually released.

America’s top spy agency has taken over the former Sony microchip plant and is transforming it into a new data-mining headquarters — oddly positioned directly across the street from a 24-hour Walmart — where billions of electronic communications will be sifted in the agency’s mission to identify terrorist threats.

“No longer able to store all the intercepted phone calls and e-mail in its secret city, the agency has now built a new data warehouse in San Antonio, Texas,” writes author James Bamford in the Shadow Factory, his third book about the NSA. “Costing, with renovations, upwards of $130 million, the 470,000-square-foot facility will be almost the size of the Alamodome. Considering how much data can now be squeezed onto a small flash drive, the new NSA building may eventually be able to hold all the information in the world.”


So just what will be going on inside the NSA’s new San Antonio facility? Bamford describes former NSA Director Mike Hayden’s goals for the data-mining center as knowing “exactly what Americans were doing day by day, hour by hour, and second by second. He wanted to know where they shopped, what they bought, what movies they saw, what books they read, the toll booths they went through, the plane tickets they purchased, the hotels they stayed in… In other words, Total Information Awareness, the same Orwellian concept that John Poindexter had tried to develop while working for the Pentagon’s [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency].”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

All the Denarii of Peter: Vices and Virtues of the Vatican Bank

Two hundred million dollars for the “pope’s charity.” Where does it come from? Where does it go? New revelations on the malfeasance of the Institute for Works of Religion. And on the obstacles posed to its rehabilitation

by Sandro Magister

ROME, June 15, 2009 — In early July, the Vatican will publish its financial report for 2008, as it does every year, in two chapters plus an appendix.

The first chapter will list the income and expenditures of the Amministrazione del Patrimonio della Sede Apostolica, APSA, which manages the fixed and current assets owned by itself, the curia, the diplomatic corps, the publishing house, the radio and television stations.

The second chapter will list the income and expenditures of the “governorate” of Vatican City State: land, services, museums, stamps, coins.

The appendix will present the total of the Peter’s Pence, the collection for the pope taken all over the world every year on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, plus the donations made directly to the pope over the course of the year.

In 2007, for example, the collection and donations totaled 94.1 million dollars, 14.3 million of which came from a single donor who wanted to remain anonymous.

This is what is published each year.

Nothing else. Not a line about the other income, apart from the Peter’s Pence, that feeds into the “pope’s charity.” And not a line about how this sum is used.

There is an office in the secretariat of state that deals with precisely this matter. It was directed for many years by Monsignor Gianfranco Piovano, who was replaced a few months ago by Monsignor Alberto Perlasca. Both men are career diplomats. In addition to the Peter’s Pence, its funding is provided by the contributions that the dioceses all over the world are required to make to the successor of Peter, according to canon 1271 of the code of canon law. Money is also sent by the religious congregations and foundations. In 2007, according to a confidential report that the Vatican sent to the dioceses, these contributions amounted to 29.5 million dollars, which together with the Peter’s Pence total 123.6 million dollars.

This money is earmarked for the “pope’s charity.” In a lecture to diplomats from various countries in the Middle East and North Africa, given in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University in May of 2007, the banker Angelo Caloia, president of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, IOR, the “Vatican bank,” described the use of this money:

“It is directed above all to the material needs of poor dioceses, to religious institutes and communities in grave difficulty: the poor, children, the elderly, the marginalized, victims of wars and natural disasters, refugees, etcetera.”

In that same lecture, moreover, Caloia referred to another funding source of the “pope’s charity”: the profits of the IOR. In March of every year, in fact, the IOR makes entirely available to the pope the difference between its income and expenditures during the previous year. This total is kept secret, but it is believed to be close to that of the Peter’s Pence. At least this was the case in the four years for which figures were leaked. It came to 60.7 billion Italian lire in 1992, 72.5 billion in 1993, 75 billion in 1994, and 78.3 billion in 1995. During those same years, the Peter’s Pence was just slightly above these amounts.

Given this state of affairs, 2007 should have brought Benedict XVI, for his “charity,” a sum total of about two hundred million dollars.

During that same year, the ledgers showed a deficit of 9.1 million euros for APSA, and a surplus of 6.7 million euros for the “governorate”. Chopped liver, by comparison.


Caloia said little about the IOR in his lecture to the diplomats. He emphasized that this “does not have a functional relationship” with the Holy See. And he stated that the only authorized depositors are “individuals or persons juridically endowed with canonical legitimacy: cardinals, bishops, priests, sisters, brothers, religious congregations, dioceses, chapters, parishes, foundations, etcetera.”

But the reality has not always corresponded to this description. When Caloia became head of the Vatican bank in 1990, it had just emerged from a terrible deficit connected to the name of Caloia’s predecessor, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, and to the reckless operations he undertook with the financiers Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi, both of whom later died violent deaths under mysterious circumstances.

Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the secretary of state at the time, had resolved the dispute by ordering that the creditors be paid 242 million dollars as a “voluntary contribution.” In an agreement with the Italian government, Casaroli appointed two specialists in finance and administrative law, Pellegrino Capaldo and Agostino Gambino, to investigate the operations of the Vatican bank, together with a prelate in the curia with his absolute trust, Monsignor Renato Dardozzi. Dardozzi was born in 1922 and became a priest at the age of 51. He received degrees in engineering, mathematics, philosophy, and theology, and was a telecommunications manager before finally becoming director and chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

From that time until a few years before his death in 2003, Dardozzi continued to oversee the operations of the IOR on behalf of the Vatican secretariat of state, with Casaroli and his successor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Dardozzi documented his work of oversight. And this documentation has now been made public in a book recently released in Italy, written by Gianluigi Nuzzi and published by Chiarelettere.

The documents cited and reproduced in the book are absolutely reliable. They demonstrate that the removal of Marcinkus and his replacement by Caloia in 1990 was not enough to purge the IOR of malfeasance right away.

In fact, Monsignor Donato De Bonis stayed in the key role of “prelate” of the Vatican bank until 1993. And during those years, he launched a sort of parallel shadow bank, under his exclusive command, that again risked plunging the IOR into deficit.

It was in the spring of 1992 that Caloia began to suspect that there were irregularities. He ordered a thorough investigation, and verified that in effect De Bonis controlled accounts attributed to fictitious foundations, which in reality concealed illegal financial operations, for tens of billions of lire.

In August, a detailed report on these fake accounts came to the desk of the secretary of John Paul II, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz.

De Bonis was removed from the IOR in March of 1993. No one replaced him in the post of the bank’s “prelate,” which remained vacant. De Bonis was consecrated bishop and appointed military chaplain of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a role that enjoys diplomatic protections.

But even after his departure from the IOR, De Bonis continued to operate through officials connected to him. Alarmed by this, at the end of July Caloia wrote to cardinal secretary of state Sodano:

“… It is increasingly clear that criminal activity is being conducted deliberately by those who, according to their chosen way of life and the role they fulfill, should instead have provided a strict critical conscience. It is becoming more and more difficult to understand the continuation of a situation such that the person in question [De Bonis] continues, from a no less privileged position, to manage indirectly the activities of the IOR…”.

The risk was all the more severe in that, precisely during those months, the Italian judiciary was investigating a colossal “bribe” paid illegally by the company Enimont to the politicians who had favored it. And the investigations also led to the IOR, as a concealed intermediary for these payments through the fake accounts operated by De Bonis.

In the autumn of 1993, the magistrates in Milan asked the Vatican, by rogatory, to provide information on the disputed transactions. The Vatican complied by providing the minimum required, less than what it had discovered in its own investigations. Some officials were replaced, the fake accounts were blocked, and De Bonis did not recover so much as a lira of the funds deposited in them.

Along with De Bonis, the cardinal in the Vatican who had been his biggest support also left the scene, José Rosalio Castillo Lara, president of both the APSA and the “governorate”.

In 1995 Caloia was confirmed for another five-year term as president of the IOR. And again in 2000. And yet again in 2006, after a year’s extension “ad interim” amid insistent demands that he be replaced immediately. In the summer of 2006, before leaving the secretariat of state to his successor, Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Sodano nonetheless restored the post of “prelate” of the IOR, assigning it to one of his own secretaries, Monsignor Piero Pioppo.

There are still occasional calls for a change at the head of the IOR. But Caloia, 69, with an English wife and four children, is holding an appointment that lasts until March 14, 2011.

Without a doubt, thanks to him the IOR is getting closer — more so than ever before — to the image of the virtuous bank described in the lecture two years ago to the diplomats from the Middle East and North Africa.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Concentration Camp Bordellos

‘The Main Thing Was to Survive at All’

Concentration camp brothels remain a hushed-up chapter of the Nazi-era horrors. Now a German researcher has probed the dark subject — and has revealed the meticulous cruelty of the so-called “special buildings.”

Kicking them with his boots, the SS soldier drove Margarete W. and the other women prisoners out of the train and onto a truck. “Move the tarpaulin, put the flap down. Everyone get in,” he yelled. Through the plastic window in the truck’s canvas side, she watched as they drove into a men’s camp and stopped in front of a barracks with a wooden fence.

The women were taken into a furnished room. The barracks were different from the ones Margarete W., then 25, knew from her time at the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp. There were tables, chairs, benches, windows, and even curtains. The female overseer informed the new arrivals that they were “now in a prisoners’ brothel.” They would live well there, the woman said, with good food and drink, and if they did as they were told, nothing would happen to them. Then each woman was assigned a room. Margarete W. moved into No. 13.

The prisoners’ brothel at the Buchenwald concentration camp opened on July 11, 1943. It was the fourth of a total of 10 so-called “special buildings” erected in concentration camps between 1942 and 1945, according to the instructions of Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. He implemented a rewards scheme in the camps, whereby prisoners’ “particular achievements” earned them smaller workloads, extra food or monetary bonuses.

Himmler also considered it beneficial to “provide the hard-working prisoners with women in brothels,” as he wrote on March 23, 1942, to Oswald Pohl, the SS officer in charge of the concentration camps. Himmler’s cynical vision saw brothel visits increasing the forced laborers’ productivity in the quarries and munitions factories.

“Especially Perfidious”

It remains one of the lesser known aspects of Nazi terror that Sachsenhausen, Dachau and even Auschwitz included brothels, and that female concentration camp prisoners were forced into prostitution. Berlin-based cultural studies scholar Robert Sommer, 34, has scoured archives and concentration camp memorial sites around the world and carried out numerous interviews with historical witnesses over the past nine years. His study, which will be published this month, provides the first comprehensive, scientific survey of this “especially perfidious form of violence in the concentration camps.” His research has largely informed a traveling exhibition “Camp brothels — forced sex work in Nazi concentration camps,” which will tour several memorial sites next year.

Sommer delivers plenty of evidence to counter the legend that the Nazis forbade or resolutely fought prostitution. In fact, the regime enforced total surveillance of prostitution, both in Germany and its occupied territories — especially after war broke out. A comprehensive network of state-controlled brothels covered half of Europe during that period, which Sommer says consisted of “civil and military brothels, as well as those for forced laborers, and at the same time they were even part of the concentration camps.”

Austrian resistance fighter Antonia Bruha, who survived the Ravensbrück camp, reported years ago that, “the most beautiful women went to the SS brothel, the less beautiful ones to the soldiers’ brothel.”

And the rest ended up in the concentration camp brothel. In the Mauthausen camp in Austria, in the 10 small rooms of “Barrack 1,” the very first camp brothel began operation behind barred windows in June 1942. At that point there were around 5,500 prisoners in the Mauthausen work camp, hammering out stone in granite quarries for Nazi buildings. By the end of 1944, over 70,000 forced laborers lived in the entire camp complex.

The SS had recruited 10 women for Mauthausen, following the government security agency’s guidelines for erecting brothels in forced labor camps. This meant between 300 and 500 men per prostitute.

Altogether some 200 women shared the fate of the Mauthausen prisoners in the camp brothels. In particular healthy and good-looking women prisoners between the ages of 17 and 35 caught the eye of SS recruiters. More than 60 percent of them were of German nationality, but Polish women, those from the Soviet Union and one Dutch woman were transferred into the “special task forces.” The Nazis didn’t allow Jewish women for “racial hygiene” reasons. First the women were sent to the camp hospital, where they were given calcium injections, disinfection baths, better food and a stint under a sunlamp.

Between 300 and 500 Men Per Prostitute

Just under 70 percent of the female forced laborers who were coerced into prostitution had originally been imprisoned for being “antisocial.” In the camps, the women were labeled with a black triangle symbol. They included former prostitutes, whose presence was supposed to guarantee the “professional” running of the camp brothels, especially at the start. It was very easy for a woman to be judged as “antisocial,” for example if she failed to comply with instructions at work.

To what extent the women knowingly volunteered for these “special task forces” is debated. Robert Sommer cites Spanish resistance fighter Lola Casadell, who was brought to Ravensbrück in 1944. She said the head of her female barracks threatened: “Whoever wants to go to a brothel should come by my room. And I warn you, if there are no volunteers, we’ll fetch you with force.”

Historical witness Antonia Bruha, who was made to work in the hospital area of the concentration camp, remembers women “who came in voluntarily, because they’d been told they would be set free afterwards.” That promise was rejected out of hand by Himmler, who complained that “some lunatic in the women’s concentration camp, while selecting prostitutes for the camp brothels, told the female prisoners that whoever volunteered would be released after half a year.”

The Last Hope of Survival

But for many of the women living under the threat of death, serving in a brothel was their last hope of survival. “The main thing was that at least we had escaped the hell of Bergen-Belsen and Ravensbrück,” said Lieselotte B., who was a prisoner at the Mittelbau-Dora camp. “The main thing was to survive at all.” Whatever made them go along with the regime, the suggestion that they did so “voluntarily” is one reason “why the former brothel women are still stigmatized today,” explained Insa Eschebach, head of the memorial site at Ravensbrück.

In keeping with the Nazi’s racist hierarchy in the camps, first it was only Germans were allowed to visit the brothel, then foreigners as well. Jews were strictly forbidden. It was predominantly foremen, heads of barracks and other prominent camp occupants who were given this “bonus.” And they would first have to have the money for a ticket which cost two Reichsmarks. Twenty cigarettes in the canteen, meanwhile, cost three Reichsmarks.

Brothel visits were regulated by the SS, as were the opening hours. In Buchenwald, for example, the brothel was open from 7 to 10 p.m. They remained closed at times of water or electricity shortages, air raid warnings or during the transmission of Hitler’s speeches. Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, a prisoner at Dachau, described the system in his concentration camp journal: “You wait in the hall. An officer records the prisoner’s name and number. Then a number is called, and the name of the prisoner in question. Then you run to the room with that number. Each visit it’s a different number. You have 15 minutes, exactly 15 minutes.”

Privacy was a foreign concept in the concentration camps — and the brothels. The doors had spyholes and an SS soldier patrolled the hall. The prisoners had to take off their shoes and were to speak no more than absolutely necessary. Only the missionary position was allowed.

Often it didn’t even get as far as intercourse. Some men were no longer physically strong enough, and according to Sommer, “some had a greater need to talk with a woman again, or to feel her presence.”

The SS was very afraid of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The men were given disinfectant ointments in the hospital barracks before and after each brothel visit, and doctors took smear samples from the women to test for gonorrhea, and tested their blood for syphilis.

Contraception, on the other hand, was one aspect that the SS left up to the women. But pregnancies rarely occurred since many women had been forcibly sterilized before their arrest and others had been rendered infertile through their suffering in the camps. In the event of an “occupational accident,” the SS would simply replace the woman and send her to have an abortion.

Those who withstood the hardship of brothel life did have more chance of escaping death in the camps, according to Sommer’s research. Almost all the women in forced prostitution survived the Nazis’ terror regime. It is largely unknown what became of them or whether they were ever able to recover from their traumatic experience. Most of them remained silent about their fate for the rest of their lives.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Danish Police Chief: Stop Supporting Rejected Iraqis

Activists, politicians and organisations are escalating the situation by supporting asylum-seekers, says deputy chief of police.

Giving support to rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers gives them false hopes and makes them hostages, according to Deputy Chief of Police Hans-Viggo Jensen who is calling for politicians, organisations and civilians who support the Iraqis, to stop their campaigns.

“I actually think they should stop it and refrain from making the rejected asylum-seekers believe that they have a future in Denmark. They are selling a product they cannot deliver and are thus contributing to an escalation of the situation,” says Hans-Viggo Jensen who is responsible for the repatriation of 244 Iraqis whose asylum requests have been rejected.


The first six Iraqis were flown quietly out of the country on Thursday of this week. Among them was 35-year old Mufsal al-Alji whose father, mother and siblings have residence permits and live in the city of Vejle.

Sixty other rejected Iraqis have sought refuge in Brorson’s Church in Copenhagen, with help flooding in to them from well-meaning Danes offering all kinds of assistance from dental care and massage to psychological support. But the Danes should be careful, says Hans-Viggo Jensen. The support makes repatriation more unpleasant for the individual refugee.

“When you fight the decision, you take away their opportunity to help prepare their repatriation. Instead of knowing their departure date and packing their cases, everything will now be taking place on police terms,” says the deputy police chief adding that “a political majority in Parliament” supports the repatriations.


Jensen’s warning has caused organisations and politicians to accuse police management of choosing sides.

Save the Children Secretary-General Mimi Jacobsen says police interference in the debate is “a new variety of democracy”.

“I can say for sure that the deputy chief of police cannot gag us. It is great that he cares about these people, but if the NGOs did not raise their voices when Denmark is doing something wrong, then I don’t know what we are here for,” she says.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Terrorism Conviction Upheld

One of the two men who had appealed a conviction for a planning a terrorist attack will serve an extra year in jail The Eastern High Court upheld the sentence of two men convicted last year of planning terror attacks…

The Eastern High Court upheld the sentence of two men convicted last year of planning terror attacks and increased the sentence of one man by a year.

Hammad Khürshid and Abdoulghani Tokhi were arrested in 2007 after domestic intelligence agency PET learned that one of the two had attended an al-Qaeda training camp.

Khürshid, of Pakistani background and Tokhi, of Afghan background, were sentenced in October to 12 and seven years respectively. Tokhi’s sentence was increased to eight years today.

The court also upheld Tokhi’s deportation to Afghanistan, ruling that that the seriousness of his crime outweighed his weak ties to his native country. He will be expelled from Denmark after serving his sentence.

The two are convicted of making explosives to be used in a terror attack. The men had admitted to making triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, which is commonly used in terrorist bombs, but claimed that the explosive was to be used for fireworks.

Video evidence obtained by PET showed Khürshid sitting on the floor of his Glasvej Street apartment in the city’s Nordvest district, allegedly mixing chemicals and singing songs about martyrdom.

Police had also recovered deleted photographs from a mobile phone, which showed him in the company of people holding automatic weapons, mortars and missiles.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Dutch State Plans Further 2.5 Bln Euros for Abn Amro

THE HAGUE (AFP) — The Dutch government proposed a further 2.5-billion-euro (3.5-billion-dollar) financial boost Friday for ABN Amro bank, in which it is a major shareholder.

The money was “to cover the immediate demand for 2.5 billion in capital,” the finance ministry said in a statement.

For 1.7 billion euros of the total, the government would take over the credit risk of ABN Amro’s Dutch mortgage portfolio, while the other 800 million would be in the form of a loan, a ministry spokeswoman explained.

Finance Minister Wouter Bos asked parliament to approve the proposal in a letter submitted on Friday.

The Dutch government nationalised the Netherlands-based activities of erstwhile Belgo-Dutch banking and insurance group Fortis for 16.8 billion euros in October last year, including its stake in ABN Amro.

ABN Amro had been jointly acquired by Fortis, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Spanish Banco Santander a year earlier under the joint mantle of RFS Holdings.

In December 2008, the Dutch state bought Fortis Netherlands’ share in RFS Holdings.

ABN Amro executive director Gerrit Zalm said in an interview published last month the bank was in dire need of a fresh capital injection from the government.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

EU: We Want US Climate Bill to Succeed

BRUSSELS — The Europe Union wants a U.S. climate change bill to succeed so the United States can move swiftly to curb greenhouse gas emissions, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Friday.

Barroso said Europe was closely watching U.S. lawmakers as they discuss the Waxman-Markey bill that would set up a cap-and-trade program to limit how much carbon dioxide power plants and other major polluters could release.

“We want the U.S. to go as far and as fast as they can on climate change,” Barroso said. “We want Waxman-Markey to succeed. … Rarely, perhaps, has U.S. domestic legislation been so carefully monitored internationally.”

“President Obama’s personal commitment … has amounted to nothing less than a sea-change in the U.S. position. His leadership means that the United States is now back at the table (at international climate change talks),” Barroso said.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have been increasing at about 1 percent a year and are expected to continue to go up if no mandatory reductions are required.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said that the heads of the G8 group of developed countries had “a great opportunity” at a July 8-10 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, to agree on deeper reductions in carbon dioxide emissions for a new global pact later this year.

“We need a breakthrough right now,” he said.

Neither the U.S., Japan nor the EU has so far committed to making cuts of between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020 that U.N. scientists say are needed to avoid a catastrophic rise in sea levels, harsher storms and droughts and climate disruptions.

Developing countries are calling on industrialized nations to promise major emission reductions when they discuss a new global climate change pact in Copenhagen in December.

The U.S. has not laid out any target so far but this week ruled out a 40 percent cut below 1990 levels.

The Waxman-Markey bill — proposed by Representatives Henry Waxman and Ed Markey — would launch a major U.S. effort to confront global warming and begin a shift away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy.

It would require the U.S. to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and about 80 percent by the next century.

It would potentially add costs to electricity generation and heavy industry because they would have to buy extra permits to pollute more than a certain amount. This aims to give them a financial incentive to use cleaner technology to reduce emissions.

A similar cap-and-trade program has been up and running in the EU since 2005 but failed initially to trigger major emissions cuts because too many permits were handed out. Tighter limits were set for the second phase of the program from 2008 to 2012.

The EU says it will reduce emissions by 20 percent — but step that up to 30 percent if other regions do the same. Japan has promised a 15 percent cut of its own emissions and pay for carbon offsets in developing countries to represent another 5 percent.

Australia — which is not part of the G8 group — says it will make a 25 percent cut, a major turnaround. Australia and the U.S. were the only two major industrialized nations not to agree greenhouse gas reductions at the last global climate deal struck in Kyoto in 1997.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Germany Seeks to Build Bridges With Muslim Community

Berlin — Germany took an historic step this week to find pragmatic answers to conflicts between its strict Muslims and the secular school system, over issues such as whether devout girls should wear headscarves.

Some public schools have tried to ban scarves in Germany, where teachers often believe their task is to keep religion out of school and shape children for modern life.

With Muslim women and girls sometimes deliberately adopting the scarf as a badge of identity, friction has grown.

Teachers have also largely rebuffed misgivings among conservative Muslim parents about explicit sex education or forcing girls to wear swimwear while boys watch.

The parents have not won much sympathy from the German media, which depicts observant families as a minority within a minority. But this week, an official document suggested a case-by-case exit from the conflicts.

In 2006, Berlin began three years of consultations, the ‘German-Islam Conference,’ with figures the government chose itself from the splintered Muslim community.

Many of them were liberal or lapsed Muslims who were not expected to support more devout views.

That makes the final, joint document issued this week all the more surprising. In the dry officialese of legal advisers, it sets out recommendations on accommodating Muslim parents while upholding secular policies.

The recommendations have not been adopted yet: they must be debated this autumn by state education ministers.

But a compromise is taking shape on issues that have bedevilled other European nations with large immigrant communities, particularly France, whose government has taken a confrontational approach.

Scarves covering the hair are banned in French schools as illegitimate religious symbols.

The German joint document suggests the state’s interest in educating the generation of tomorrow and the parents’ rights to shape their children’s religious values are of equal weight.

Where they come into conflict, schools and parents have to negotiate to find the ‘least painful’ outcome.

The document says face-covering veils ought to be banned, since they are obstacles to communication in the classroom.

But there was no legal basis for schools to ban scarves covering the hair, though schools could forbid pins, which could wound other children during games, or flammable fabrics, which could catch fire in chemistry class.

Berlin officials noted this week that when dealing with Muslims from 49 nations, ranging from Sunni Muslims to Shiites and Alawites, there was no united Muslim voice.

But schooling issues have resonated powerfully through the community of 4 million German Muslims.

At the conference, even liberal Muslims who regard faith practices as old-fashioned allowed the concerns of highly observant Muslims to rise up the agenda.

Yasemin Karakasoglu, a professor of education at the University of Bremen and leading researcher on integration, said two months ago the conference developed in ways the government never foresaw.

By giving Muslims a voice, it let a ‘genie out of the bottle,’ she said.

Many proposals in the document directly contradict long-standing policy in Germany’s co-educational schools.

Conservative Muslim parents also object to children taking part in school excursions where they might sleep in mixed dormitories, eat pork or be exposed to the alcohol abuse that is rife on school trips by older children.

A survey shows 10 per cent of Muslim schoolgirls in Germany use excuses to skip trips because of those issues.

The agreed document said children should have a right to exemption from these compulsory trips.

The document, negotiated with officials in Chancellor Angel Merkel’s government over many months, is not legally binding, but is described as a circular to the nations’ schools.

Mixed school swimming classes are another hot-button issue in Germany, with teacher unions and education authorities adamant that girls and boys must be cured of any embarrassment at seeing one another in swimsuits.

Conservative Muslims on the other hand object to their daughters revealing themselves to boys, and demand segregated lessons where girls can learn to swim.

The conference document appeals to schools to backtrack. It says that from the age of about 10, the religious rights of the girls themselves prevail over the school’s right to dictate any form of instruction.

It adds girls have a legal claim to be exempted from swimming lessons, but this is a ‘second-best solution.’

Schools could better fulfil their purpose by pragmatically organizing girls-only classes in the pool for all age groups if parents insist, the document said.

It also asks schools not to plan examinations during major feasts such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and routinely let Muslim children have those days off. Currently, not all of Germany’s 16 states allow this.

The give-and-take of the conference, in which government officials also demanded some trade-offs from the Muslims, is evident in other points where the document suggests it is up to Muslims to adapt.

It says for example that compulsory sex education in schools, including a demonstration of contraception, is not negotiable, but teachers should use language and movies that do not offend religious sensitivities.

Referring to the ordeal of Ramadan fasting, it appeals to schools to be considerate, but adds that there is no justification for younger children fasting.

It instead appeals to the parents to ensure during the fasting month that older children obtain adequate sleep.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Greenland: China Snubs Climate Minister After Lama Meeting

Meeting with the Dalai Lama may have been more problematic than first thought as China pull out of climate meeting in Greenland

China has declined to take part in an informal climate meeting in Greenland next week due to the prime minister’s decision to meet with the Dalai Lama, according to several experts in Chinese politics.

Both PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller met with the exiled Tibetan leader last month, despite protests from the Chinese government.

Next week’s meeting in Greenland has been organised by Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard as a precursor to the UN Climate Change Conference due to take place in Copenhagen this December.

Hedegaard believed that China’s participation in the Greenland meeting could have been an important step towards laying the foundations for the country’s agreement to considerable greenhouse gas reductions at the December summit.

But on 29 May the Chinese government indicated that Rasmussen and Møller’s meeting with the Dalai Lama had ‘destroyed the friendly and co-operative atmosphere between China and Denmark’. Experts now say China’s refusal to go to Greenland is the first repercussion from that meeting.

‘It isn’t costing the Chinese anything to not attend the Greenland meeting because they’ll just continue their bilateral negotiations with the US and the UN,’ Verner Worm, professor at Copenhagen Business School’s Asia Research Center, told Berlingske Tidende newspaper.’But for Denmark, as host of the UN climate conference, it’s a heavy blow.’

Clemens Stubbe Østergaard, China expert at Aarhus University, agreed.

‘It’s nerve-racking for us as the host that our relationship with the Chinese has been damaged so close to the conference,’ he said. ‘But they take the climate issue very seriously, so I don’t think this means they won’t fight for a good agreement in Copenhagen.’

Neither Hedegaard nor Rasmussen have commented on China’s declining to take part in the Greenland meeting.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Hells Angels Win Another Dutch Legal Battle

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch Supreme Court refused Friday to outlaw a local branch of the Hells Angles in the motorcycle club’s latest legal victory.

The country’s highest judicial panel said prosecutors failed to prove their claim that the Harlingen Hells Angels chapter in the northern Netherlands is a threat to public order and should be disbanded.

The Supreme Court’s ruling upheld two lower courts’ decisions.

It said the club may be involved in undesirable and possibly criminal activities, but they are not serious enough to merit a total ban.

A ban “is a serious infringement of the freedom to gather that is at the foundation of a democratic state,” the court said in its written ruling.

The court also rejected prosecutors’ attempts to link the Harlingen chapter to alleged criminal activity of Hells Angels elsewhere in the Netherlands and the rest of the world, saying links between the local chapter and other groups were not close enough.

Dutch Hells Angels have won a string of cases against prosecutors trying to ban them, but Friday’s was the first in the country’s highest court.

A parliamentary inquiry in 1995 found the Hells Angels was a criminal organization involved in the drug trade and smuggling women for prostitution, but no action was taken to ban the group.

The Harlingen chapter’s club house was raided in 2005 as part of a large-scale investigation into allegations of extortion, intimidation, weapons and drugs trafficking.

That investigation followed the murder of three members of the gang in the south of the Netherlands in 2004, allegedly by fellow bikers.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Holocaust Assets Conference Opens in Prague

PRAGUE — Holocaust survivors, Jewish groups and experts gathered in Prague on Friday to assess efforts to return property and possessions stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners or heirs.

The five-day conference, which brings together delegates from 49 countries, is a follow-up to a 1998 meeting in Washington that led to agreements on recovering art looted by the Nazis.

Stuart Eizenstat, head of the U.S. delegation, called it the most ambitious international meeting ever on the recovery of such stolen possessions or compensation for their loss.

One goal is to produce international guidelines on this, but they would not be compulsory for the governments involved.

“There’s no political will to have a binding treaty,” Eizenstat acknowledged.

But he said the voluntary principles that were approved in Washington are having an impact. “We have hundreds of pieces of art that have been returned,” he said.

During the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler and his followers killed 6 million Jews and seized billions of dollars of gold, art and private and communal property across Europe. But while countries such as Austria have stepped up restitution in recent years, critics claim some Central and Eastern European states still have a long way to go.

“Many governments in Central and Eastern Europe have not found a way to implement a process to resolve outstanding real property issues that is both consistent with national law and incorporates basic principles such as nondiscriminatory treatment of non-citizens and a simple, expeditious claims and restitution process,” said conference delegate Christian Kennedy, the U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues.

Kennedy said the U.S. wants the meeting “to provide an impetus for an expansion in social welfare benefits to survivors and lay the framework for further real property compensation.”

The Czech Republic, host of this week’s meeting, and other countries, have come under fire for legal hurdles and a lack of political will that critics claim make property restitution in some cases practically impossible.

For example, attempts by Maria Altmann of California to reclaim a castle north of Prague that once belonged to her uncle, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, proved futile since she is not a Czech citizen.

“As far as I know, there is no legal method for obtaining any recovery there at this time,” Altmann’s lawyer, Randol Schoenberg, said in an e-mail. Altmann had waged — and won — a seven-year legal battle in neighboring Austria for the return of five paintings by Gustav Klimt.

Efforts by the daughter of wealthy Jewish banker Jiri Popper to recover a building he once owned in Prague also have stalled.

Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes gave the building, which currently houses the Russian Embassy, to the Soviet Union in 1945. Last year, Popper’s daughter filed lawsuits against both the Czech Republic and Russia demanding restitution, but no trial date has been set because Czech authorities said they have failed so far to formally inform Moscow about it, said Irena Benesova, the family’s lawyer.

While the Justice Ministry declined to comment on the matter, Russian Embassy spokesman Alexandr Pismenny said Moscow was the “honest owner.”

Both Schoenberg and Benesova wanted to make their case at the conference but were turned away by organizers who said they did not want discussion of individual cases. The Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation claims that others also have not been allowed to have their say in setting the agenda for the conference.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dated June 19, the group expressed concern about “the lack of survivor involvement on the planning, priority setting and policy making roles in the conference.”

Still, the Czech Republic does appear to be taking some steps in the right direction.

A government fund created nine years ago with 300 million koruna (US$15.9 million) has paid out 100 million koruna (US$5.3 million) to 516 out of 1,256 requests from 27 countries. The requests came from people whose restitution claims did not meet the criteria set by law.

The country also has set up the Documentation Center of Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of WWII Victims, an institution that identifies artwork and other items in Czech collections and museums that were seized from Jews during the Nazi occupation.

According to Director Helena Krejcova, some 7,000 paintings and other works of art that originally belonged to Czech Jews have been found, and another more than 1,000 stolen pieces are believed to be abroad.

“There’s still a lot of work ahead of us,” Krejcova said, adding that sometimes efforts to restitute items are stymied by a lack of cooperation from other states and a change to that is nowhere in sight.

Case in point: Czech authorities have been waiting five years for a reply from Russia after Krejcova’s team traced a valuable collection of 500 porcelain pieces once owned by Holocaust victim Hans Meyer to St. Petersburg.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy to Up Women’s Retirement Age

Public- sector move to comply with EC gender parity norm

(ANSA) — Rome, June 25 — Italy plans to raise the pension age for women in the public sector from 60 to 65 in compliance with a European Union directive on gender parity, Civil Service Minister Renato Brunetta said on Thursday.

Responding to a European Commission move to start proceedings on the issue, Brunetta said women’s pension age would be gradually raised over a ten-year period to become the same as that of men.

He said the measure might be included in a financial decree to be examined by the cabinet on Friday.

Plans were already in place to bring the retirement ages into line, he said, and the EC had provided “further stimulus”. Earlier in Brussels the EC said it had opened proceedings against Italy for not complying with a recent sentence on making public-sector pension ages the same for men and women.

It said it would send a letter which Italy would have six months to reply to before action was taken.

EU Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla will discuss the matter with Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi in Rome Friday on the sidelines of a meeting to frame social policy debate at next month’s Group of Eight summit in l’Aquila.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Premier Unfazed by Media Storm

Berlusconi exchanges quips with workers while in L’Aquila

(ANSA) — Rome, June 25 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi appeared unruffled and confident on Thursday, taking time out from his schedule to exchange quips with workers over an ongoing media storm over his private life.

Speaking as he toured a construction site to build new homes for the quake-stricken residents of L’Aquila, the premier told workers: “Where are the girls? I don’t see any. In that case, I’ll have to bring them next time I come”.

The premier appeared visibly satisfied that work was proceeding according to the government’s announced timetable that before the end of the year all those living in tents will be given homes.

“Well boys, if all goes well, I’ll really bring the showgirls. Otherwise, we’ll all come across as gays,” said the premier. Berlusconi later told a news conference that the time-out with the workers was his way “of reacting to all the rubbish and falsehoods that are directed” against him. Berlusconi,72, has been at the centre of a media storm since a public divorce spat with his wife Veronica Lario, who accused him of “consorting with minors” after he attended the 18th birthday party of Noemi Letizia, an aspiring showgirl.

The media tycoon-turned politician has categorically denied any “steamy or more than steamy” involvement with teenagers, explaining there was nothing “spicy” about his attendance at Letizia’s party because he had a long friendship with her family.

He is now fending off flak over a new uproar over allegations that female escorts were paid to attend parties at his homes in Rome and Sardinia.

One of the escorts claims she spent the night at Berlusconi’s Rome home last November 4 but the premier has denied ever paying for sex, saying that press reports are “just rubbish”.

POPULARITY STILL HIGH, PREMIER SAYS. The premier was also upbeat during his address to an assembly of pharmaceuticals firms association Farmindustria in L’Aquila, telling the businessmen the media storm on his private life was having a negligible effect on his popularity with Italians.

“Despite everything that has been written and has been said (about me) over the last few days, I’ve just been informed that my personal popularity rating stands at 61%,” the premier said.

The media tycoon-turned politician did not say who provided the figure but, in the past, he has said that he commissions his own public opinion polls.

Speaking on a state-run Rai television talk show at the start of the month to explain the divorce, Berlusconi said his popularity was not waning and stood at 73%.

The premier has accused the left-leaning press of fomenting a smear campaign and on Wednesday repeated that he was in the grips of a “campaign, fed by hatred and personal jealousy, that certainly isn’t doing any good for the country”.

The scandals have shocked the foreign press and snatched considerable coverage in Italian newspapers, prompting the influential Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana to say that the premier had “overstepped the bounds of decency” with his “indefensible” behaviour.

Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party fared well in European and local elections earlier this month, though less well than expected.

Berlusconi has dismissed talk of resignation, saying he plans to complete the remaining four years of his term as premier and stressing that he had strong support from his Northern League party allies and within the PdL.

Referring to the escorts probe involving southern businessman Giampaolo Tarantini, Berlusconi said he “unfortunately invited the wrong guest” (Tarantini) who had in turn “invited the wrong guest’s guest”.

“But unfortunately these are things that happen with the hundreds of people I have around my table,” said Berlusconi, who described himself as “a great show-stealer and entertainer”.

Reacting to photographs taken by two of the women in bedrooms and bathrooms of his home, Berlusconi said: “I have never dreamed of asking a guest to give up their phone and everything that happens in my presence is nothing less than moral and normal”.

On Thursday, the left-leaning weekly L’Espresso said Berlusconi said Tarantini and Berlusconi had exchanged dozens to talk about women.

In an anticipation of a report which will be published Friday, L’Espresso, did not, however, provide details or a source.

The story of the friendship between Berlusconi and Tarantini broke last week when 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. According to L’Espresso, Tarantini, 34, “exchanged dozens of calls (with Berlusconi) at all hours of the day and night”.

The weekly said the premier allegedly “had no secrets or embarrassments” when talking to Tarantini, “ so much so as to describe in detail- from hair colour to the measure of their curves — the sort of women he wanted sent to Palazzo Grazioli (in Rome) or Villa Certosa (in Sardinia)”.

Judicial sources in Bari said last week that prosecutors had locked away audio tapes made by the woman who alleges she was paid to spend the night at the Berlusconi’s Rome home.

The sources said prosecutors 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.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: PM to ‘Respond’ To Sex Scandal Claims

Rome, 19 June (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to respond to allegations that women were paid to attend his private parties as further questions were raised about his personal behaviour on Friday.

“If they want war, let’s have it. I will respond blow by blow,” Berlusconi reportedly told his supporters privately.

Magistrates in Rome and the southern city of Bari on Thursday were reported to be examining airline tickets and hotel bookings in Rome where four women claim they stayed.

On Friday the Italian daily La Repubblica said that the magistrates’ inquiry had widened to include the use of cocaine and named the three other women who allege they were paid to attend parties hosted by Berlusconi.

Former model and escort girl, Patrizia D’Addario, has claimed that she and other women were paid to attend Berlusconi’s parties and that she had pictures showing her with the prime minister in his bedroom at Palazzo Grazioli in Rome.

D’Addario has given prosecutors audio tapes but also secretly recorded video footage of her encounters in the prime minister’s Rome residence.

The three other women allegedly involved in the scandal are Angela Sozio, a former Big Brother contestant; Italian MP for Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party Elvira Savino; and actress Sabina Began.

Sozio was photographed sitting in the prime minister’s lap at his Sardinian residence Villa Certosa in 2007.

Bari magistrates are conducting a probe into alleged corruption related to local hospital contracts in the Bari area by Tecnohospital, owned by brothers, Gianpaolo and Claudio Tarantini. The brothers are suspected of kickbacks in the health sector

The implication of the women reportedly emerged from tapped telephone conversations in which Gianpaolo Tarantini allegedly referred to payments for women at parties given by associates including Berlusconi.

Berlusconi’s spokesman, undersecretary Paolo Bonaiuti fiercely rejected the allegations against the prime minister as as “falsehoods”.

“It is scandalous that several newspapers continue to attribute to the prime minister things that in reality he never said,” Bonaiuti said.

“This is a campaign of falsehoods from the daily newspapers.”

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 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”.

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.

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]

Netherlands: CDA Wants to Put Teen Gangs in Camps Collectively

THE HAGUE, 26/06/09 — The Christian democrats (CDA) want to incarcerate immigrant youth gangs as a group in re-education camps. The biggest government party wants the cabinet to launch trial projects in a number of cities.

CDA made the proposal in the Lower House yesterday afternoon, but had already leaked it to De Telegraaf in the morning. “Putting a stop to this street culture by just tackling individuals does not work,” said CDA MP Van Toorenburg in the newspaper. She urged half a year of therapy to “break their violent group behaviour right down to the ground.”

Van Toorenburg’s intention is to apply the group pressure that reins in gangs positively via a system whereby the other members benefit from the good behaviour of their buddies. “Only by turning around the group pressure and purely rewarding the youngsters for good behaviour do you get results.”

CDA has come up with the plan in consultation with Hoenderloo Groep, a specialist in behavioural disturbances. “While we on the one hand tackle the perpetrators, on the other hand, such a district eventually gets a bit of peace,” says Van Toorenburg.

The youngsters, aged from 12 to 18 or 21, should go to De Sprint institute in Wezep, where they have developed special methods. Toorenburg is focusing on immigrant youngsters because more attention for culture-related problems will then be possible. “But it can also work for white or mixed youth groups.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Sharp Increase in Armed Robberies

THE HAGUE, 26/06/09 — The number of armed robberies in the Netherlands surged by nearly one-quarter in the period from January through April from the same period last year, Nederlands Dagblad newspaper reported yesterday based on as yet unpublished figures from the Council of Chief Commissioners.

In 2008, police figures show the number of robberies had already grown by 11 percent from 2007. The first four months of the current year saw a further increase of 23 percent to 1,056 cases. No figures have yet been released for May, but the newspaper was able to report that the police “are also heading for a record for that month.”

Thieves increasingly force their way into houses with threats with a weapon. The number of robberies in residential homes rose from 178 in the first four months of 2008 to 260 in the same period this year. The number of robberies of petrol stations also rose “explosively.”

The Council of Chief Commissioners is worried. “The impact is great,” said a spokesman to the newspaper. “Perpetrators primarily pick on older people as victims. That is absolutely traumatising.”

Conservative (VVD) MP Fred Teeven said in the newspaper he would ask Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin for an explanation. “I consider that this cabinet is simply allowing the plague of robberies to continue and leaving victimised citizens and businesses out in the cold. Meanwhile, Justice has coolly announced that eight prisons will be closed because serious crime is declining. These figures show the opposite.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Go to Church, Minister Tells Wilders

Social affairs minister Piet Hein Donner has become the latest prominent politician to launch a verbal attack on anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, without mentioning Wilders by name.

In a speech on Wednesday night, Donner said he found it disturbing that ‘Judo-Christian values’ were being used to justify excluding others and the use of violence.

Those who wanted to protect those values ‘should begin with going to church on Sunday where he will learn something else’, Donner said.

Wilders has said repeatedly that the Netherlands Judo-Christian values are under threat from Islam.

Housing minister Eberhard van der Laan has also recently challenged Wilders to a face to face debate.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Protesters Break Into Iranian Embassy in Sweden

STOCKHOLM — Angry demonstrators broke into the Iranian Embassy outside Stockholm on Friday, climbing in through shattered windows and injuring one embassy worker, police said.

More than 150 people had gathered outside the embassy to protest against the Iranian regime, when some of them attacked the building with rocks and tore down a fence to enter the embassy grounds, police spokesman Ulf Hoglund said.

“A few managed to climb through broken windows into the building,” Hoglund said. He said one member of the embassy staff was injured inside the building, but didn’t know how seriously.

Fifty police officers and an ambulance were dispatched to the scene. Hoglund said police had evicted the demonstrators from the building and arrested one person.

Organizers of the demonstration said a few of the protesters were injured in clashes with the embassy’s security officers.

“We want a regime change,” said Firouzeh Ghaffrpour, one of the organizers. “The Islamic system is not wanted by the people of Iran.”

The protesters, mostly Iranians, also demanded the embassy be closed.

Police said the situation was under control later Friday, but demonstrators continued to block the entrance, preventing embassy personnel from leaving.

The protest followed several peaceful demonstrations in Sweden after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in a June 12 vote that the opposition claims was marred by massive fraud.

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           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Spanish Lawmakers Vote to Clip Judges’ Wings

MADRID — Spanish legislators voted Thursday to change a law that let judges indict Osama bin Laden and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, narrowing its scope to cases with a clear link to this country and yielding to criticism that Spain should not act like a global cop.

The reform will not be retroactive, so the dozen or so cases now being investigated at the National Court will continue, the Justice Ministry said. These include investigations of alleged Chinese abuses in Tibet, an Israeli air force bombing in Gaza that killed 14 civilians, and alleged torture at the U.S. prison for terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Spain’s two main parties, which are at each other’s throats on just about everything else, joined forces to amend the law in a rare show of unity. The vote in the Congress of Deputies, or lower house of Parliament, was 341 in favor, two against and three abstentions.

The measure now goes to the Senate, where passage is expected because of the bipartisan support.

Under the so-called doctrine of universal justice, grievous crimes such as torture, terrorism and genocide could be prosecuted in Spain, even if they were alleged to have been committed in other countries and had no connection with Spain or its people.

Judges have used it to pursue alleged crimes with no connection to Spain. And countries such as Israel and China complained angrily, prompting the government to push for reform.

Under the new law, Spanish judges will only be able to pursue universal justice cases if the crimes involve Spanish victims or the alleged perpetrators are in Spain.

New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized the vote, saying Spain had been a model in this field of law and now “many victims of serious human rights violations will lose one of the few places they could turn in search of redress.”

“It is deplorable for the Spanish government to capitulate to diplomatic pressure,” said its spokesman, Reed Brody.

The International Criminal Court is the only global war crimes tribunal, but it can only prosecute crimes committed after its founding treaty, known as the Rome Statute, came into force in 2002 — which means it could not prosecute bin Laden or Pinochet. But even the ICC’s reach is limited. It can only launch investigations in countries that have ratified the Rome Statute or where it is ordered to by the Security Council. The United States has not ratified the statute.

The court has indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for atrocities in Darfur, but he does not recognize its jurisdiction and has traveled to several countries without being arrested.

Baltasar Garzon, Spain’s most prominent judge, grabbed world headlines in 1998 when he used the existing Spanish law to indict Pinochet on charges of genocide and torture during his rule and had him arrested during a visit to London. Britain ultimately refused to extradite Pinochet to Spain grounds he was too ill to stand trial.

Garzon also indicted bin Laden in 2003 over the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States, although in that case, besides terrorism, there was also a link to Spain: the judge argued that Spain had been used as a staging ground for the suicide airliner attacks against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Among other cases, Spanish judges also have launched a probe of alleged reprisal killings in Rwanda after the genocide of 1994.

The practical effect of the doctrine has been negligible because extraditions have been extremely rare, and there has only been one conviction, that of an Argentine dirty war suspect in 2005.

Momentum for change started to gather in January after a Spanish judge started probing an Israeli air force bombing in 2002 that killed a Hamas militant in Gaza City but also killed 14 civilians, some of them children.

Israel protested and has called the Spanish proceedings “ridiculous.” Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos responded by saying the government would amend the law.

When a Spanish judge started investigating six Bush administration officials in March for allegedly giving legal cover to torture at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. detention facilities, Spain’s attorney general, Candido Conde-Pumpido, said such an investigation should be carried out by the United States, if at all.

The chief justice of the Spanish Supreme Court, Carlos Divar, said last month “we cannot become the world’s judicial gendarme.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

The Genocide Britain Hushed Up

A new film tells the terrible story of Stalin’s own Final Solution — and Churchill’s shameful complicity

The whole world knew that a large group of Polish officers had mysteriously disappeared soon after the Soviet annexation of eastern Poland on September 17, 1939.

The invasion came after the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which allowed Germany and the Soviet Union to carve up Poland between them. But the fate of the officers remained unknown until the bodies were discovered after the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Even as the Nazis were liquidating Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, Goebbels’s propaganda machine trumpeted the atrocity as evidence of Bolshevik brutality. Stalin counterinsisted that the mass murders had been committed by the Nazis.

Churchill knew the brutal truth, but it made sense to keep quiet. Stalin was our ally in the epic fight against Nazism, and his nose was not to be put out of joint. British silence remains one of the worst stains on our country’s war record.

Even by the grisly standards of the 20th century, the Katyn Massacre was a crime of appalling enormity: a concerted attempt to wipe out an entire stratum of a great European nation. Behind the slaughter was a grisly piece of forward planning.

Stalin’s long-term intention was for Poland to become a friendly neighbour under the Soviet sphere of influence. The fewer bourgeois enemies of Communism to oppose him, the better. So he started liquidating those Polish officers who, in long, punitive interrogations, could not be coaxed into taking a pro-Soviet stance.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Too Much Time Online Strains Irish Marriages

Too much time spent on the Internet is causing increasing friction between couples in Ireland, a marriage counselling service said Friday.

Some seven percent of couples seen by ACCORD, the Catholic Church’s marriage care service, say too much time spent in cyberspace by one partner is their main problem, according to figures for the first half of this year.

John Farrelly, its director of counselling, said the problem had come virtually out of nowhere in the last three years.

The key areas causing conflict “are Internet gambling, infidelity and one partner spending too much time online rather than with their spouse and family,” he said.

The statistics also highlight the increasing pressure of financial difficulties on couples in recession-hit Ireland…

[Return to headlines]

United Arab Emirates to Open Embassy in Budapest

Plans by the United Arab Emirates to open an embassy in Budapest and potential areas of cooperation were discussed by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Balazs and his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at a meeting on Thursday.

Balazs said there were great potentials for cooperation especially in energy, mutual investment, tourism and culture. He added that the UAE is Hungary’s largest trading partner in the Arab world. He said he had asked his counterpart to simplify visa regulations affecting Hungarians and he was promised that the visa requirement would be lifted for holders of official and diplomatic passports.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed told MTI that he had discussed with Balazs measures to prevent dual taxation, protect investment and a planned agreement on cultural cooperation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Kosovo Ex-Prime Minister Released From Detention

SOFIA, Bulgaria — A Bulgarian court released Kosovo’s former prime minister Thursday, two days after he was detained on an international arrest warrant issued by Serbia for alleged war crimes.

The district court in the western city of Kyustendil decided to release Agim Ceku from custody. The ruling can be appealed within three days and, pending completion of the legal process, Ceku must remain available to Bulgarian authorities.

Upon his release, Ceku told reporters that Serbia’s arrest warrant lacked grounds and said Serbia has no jurisdiction over Kosovo and its institutions.

“The international institutions have probed the situation, must have examined Serbia’s claims against me and no charges have ever been pressed against me,” he said.

Ceku, a former rebel commander who was prime minister of Kosovo between 2006 and 2008, is wanted in Serbia for allegedly committing war crimes during the 1998-1999 fighting in Kosovo between ethnic Albanian rebels and Serb government forces. He was taken into custody while entering Bulgaria from Macedonia late Tuesday.

Serbian Justice Minister Snezana Malovic said Wednesday that Serbia has filed an extradition request for Ceku with the Bulgarian authorities.

Ceku was traveling to Bulgaria at the invitation of the Atlantic Club, a non-governmental organization, to lobby for NATO membership, the club’s honorary president and Bulgaria’s former Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said.

The Interpol warrant was suspended when Ceku gained immunity after being named prime minister in 2006, but was renewed by Serbia after Ceku took part in a conference on the demobilization of guerrilla movements in Colombia earlier this year.

He was held overnight in prisons in Slovenia in 2003 and Hungary in 2004 after his name appeared on lists of wanted persons.

Kosovo declared independence last year and was recognized by the United States and most European Union nations — including Bulgaria.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Serbia Charges Kosovo Ex-Rebels for War Crimes

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian prosecutors filed war crimes charges on Friday against 17 former Kosovo guerrillas for the alleged murder, rape and torture of Serb civilians.

The indictment said the suspects are charged in connection with the kidnapping of 159 Serbs and the deaths of at least 51 of them in the eastern Kosovo town of Gnjilane in the wake of Kosovo’s 1998-99 war.

They are charged with “murder, rape, detention, mutilation, torture and looting,” the indictment said. The charges carry up to 20 years in jail.

Nine of the 17 men were arrested in December in a predominantly Albanian-populated region of Serbia bordering Kosovo. Eight of the suspects are at large and were charged in absentia.

Defense lawyers for the suspects were expected to be appointed after the charges were filed. The families of those arrested have said they are innocent.

The war in Kosovo — then a province of Serbia — began with an ethnic Albanian separatist rebellion against the Serbian rule, and ended after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign which forced Serbia’s army and police to pull out of Kosovo.

After the war ended, the suspects allegedly launched retaliatory attacks against the Serb minority in Kosovo, where 90 percent of the population of 2 million is ethnic Albanian.

Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by 60 countries including the U.S. and most EU countries — but not Serbia.

In a related development, Serbian officials said Friday the release of Kosovo’s former prime minister Agim Ceku from detention in Bulgaria will jeopardize relations between the Balkan neighbors.

A Bulgarian court on Thursday released Ceku from custody, two days after he was detained on an international arrest warrant requested by Serbia for alleged war crimes.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said the release of Ceku “represents a serious blow for international justice.”

Ceku, who was prime minister of Kosovo between 2006 and 2008, is wanted in Belgrade for war crimes allegedly committed by the Kosovo rebels during the 1998-1999 fighting in Kosovo. He was taken into custody while entering Bulgaria from Macedonia late Tuesday.

Serbia had asked Bulgaria to extradite him.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Kabylie Remembers Matoub the ‘Rebel’

(by Laura De Santi) (ANSAmed) — ALGIERS — Taourirt Moussa, a small group of houses gathered in the mountains of the Kabylie region, has now become one of the places that symbolise the history of the Berber region, one of the many villages in Algeria scarred by armed Islamist group violence. This morning, thousands of people gathered in the shade of the cherry tree where 11 years ago Matoub Lounes, the ‘rebel singer’ was buried after his assassination by an armed group on January 25, 1998. Responsibility for the murder was shortly after claimed by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) which was responsible for numerous attacks and massacres during the 1990s. The attacks were aimed not only at civilians, but also at journalists, intellectuals and artists. Even today, however, there are many unanswered questions on the murder of the inconvenient poet, defender of democracy and the Berber cause “until the last breath which proved his commitment against the dictatorship and any other form of servitude that the theocrats and conservatives were preparing.” This is how the Berber paper, Depeche de Kabilye, paid tribute to the man, but also all the other Algerian papers, or at least most of them. There was also the emblematic cartoon published today by Liberte’, by the famous Algerian cartoonist, Ali Dilem, in which a general and an Islamist embrace a target between them saying “we adored his last album.” The legal proceedings against the presumed assassins of the singer, the members of AIG Malik Madjnoun and Chenoui Mehieddine, who have been in custody since 1999, have been obscured over the last 10 years, postponed in 2000, 2001, then again last December. Matoub was killed when he was 42. His car was riddled with bullets in broad daylight in Tala Bounane, not far from his home village. His wife, Nadia, and his two sisters were wounded in the attack. Even if the AIG had been threatening to kidnap the singer since 1994, his family and the majority of Berbers continue to press for the opening of a new independent investigation and accuse the authorities for being behind his death. On that June 25, 11 years ago, violent clashes occurred all over the region in which some young people were killed. “I am of the warriors’ race, they can kill me, but they will never keep me silent,” Matoub sang and today by the thousands they paid tribute to him, not only in Kabylie, but in many Algerian cities, as well as Paris, where in January a street was dedicated to him, in Marseille and in Canada. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria Wins Battle Over Golden Boy Khalifa Extradition

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 25 — The long legal battle started by Algeria for the extradition of ‘golden boy’ Rafik Khalifa, who escaped to London in 2003 when his empire — more than 1 billion dollars turnover per year — collapsed, seems to be coming to a conclusion. The court in Westminster, in the British capital, today approved his extradition but few people believe that the young Algerian will really return to Algeria. In a few years he has built up a new empire out of nothing: first Khalifa Bank, then a television network, an airline and tens of companies in many sectors. The London judge said he is convinced that “the diplomatic guarantees” made by Algeria regarding human rights are “reliable and sincere”. Khalifa’s defence, which has always claimed the existence of a political plot by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has announced he will fight a fierce battle with an appeal to the British High Court. Khalifa, son of a former head of the secret services and minister in the government of president Ahmed Ben Bella, has already been given a life sentence by default by the court of Blida (50 km west of Algiers) for criminal association and fraudulent bankruptcy in a trial with hundreds of witnesses and defendants, including ministers and former ministers, businessmen and bank managers. The empire built between 1998 and 2002 by the 42-year-old ‘friend of the stars’ — his parties with guests like Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve are famous — which seemed the incarnation of the country’s revival after the dark years of Islamic terrorism, started to show cracks in 2002. Not much later three of his assistants were arrested at the airport of Algiers with a suitcase containing two million euros. Khalifa, currently held in the UK after an arrest warrant was issued by France, has often threatened to reveal secrets which could embarrass the Algerian authorities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

G-8 to Israel: End Settlements, Open Borders

TRIESTE, Italy — A broad international coalition urged Israel on Friday to freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank and lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, backing U.S. President Barack Obama’s Mideast policy.

The Quartet of Mideast negotiators and foreign ministers of the Group of Eight industrialized nations took advantage of what the U.N. chief said was a “historic” opportunity with the new Obama administration in issuing nearly identical calls for the resumption of direct peace talks, an end to violence, and economic reconstruction for war-battered Gaza.

“We are now trying very hard to seize the very favorably created political atmosphere,” of Obama’s election to push the peace process forward, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a news conference.

Israel has rejected demands that it halt all settlement building, saying it must accommodate “natural growth” in the Israeli enclaves.

However both the G-8 and the Quartet — the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations — urged Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, with the quartet also urging it to dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

It was the first Quartet meeting since Obama came to office, held on the sidelines of a meeting of the G-8 foreign ministers in this picturesque Adriatic port on Italy’s northeastern coast. At the G-8 meeting, ministers also said they deplored the postelection violence in Iran and urged the Tehran authorities to ensure the will of the Iranian people is reflected in the electoral outcome.

The G-8 meeting was to tackle the Afghanistan situation later Friday and Saturday.

Originally, Iran had been invited to attend the Afghan sessions, part of host Italy’s aim to involve all regional players in discussions. But Rome rescinded its invitation following the crackdown on protesters, and the focus of the G-8 summit Friday shifted to criticizing the crackdown and pressing forward with Mideast peace.

The G-8 and Quartet called for an immediate and “sustained reopening” of Gaza’s crossing points to ensure a regular flow of people, as well as humanitarian and commercial goods into the isolated territory. While recognizing Israel’s “legitimate security concerns,” the Quartet said enabling movement of and access for Palestinians was “critical.”

Gaza’s borders were closed by Israel and Egypt after the takeover two years ago of the territory by Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the West. Hamas has repeatedly fired rockets from Gaza on Israeli border towns, setting off a three-week war by Israel on Gaza’s Hamas leaders in the winter.

Israel has allowed some humanitarian aid and food supplies into Gaza, but the reconstruction of Gaza’s war damage, including thousands of damaged or destroyed homes, is on hold because Israel won’t allow in cement or other building materials.

The call of both the Quartet and the G-8 for a settlement freeze signaled broad international support for Obama’s Mideast policy.

The Bush administration had accepted the need for some settlement growth, something the Palestinians long rejected.

But just last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated that the United States wanted a halt to settlement activity in the West Bank, saying no informal agreement that Israel may have reached with the Bush administration was valid. Clinton was speaking after a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said he wanted the Bush administration understandings to remain.

The United States and Israel have at least publicly given no ground in their opposing views, though Israeli officials say they are trying to find a formula agreeable to Washington that would allow at least limited construction.

The U.S. special Mideast peace envoy, George Mitchell, denied the United States and Israel were heading in opposite directions under Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The United States and Israel are close friends and allies,” Mitchell said Friday.

In discussions with Israeli officials as well as the Palestinians and Arab leaders, “there may be some difference of opinions, but we discuss them not as a controversy among adversaries but as a discussion among friends,” he said at a news conference after the Quartet meeting.

The settlement issue is a major obstacle both to the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to an eventual peace deal. Nearly 300,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, along with 180,000 Israelis in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. The Palestinians seek both areas, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as parts of a future state.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu grudgingly yielded to Obama’s demand that Israel endorse the idea of a Palestinian state, albeit with a host of conditions the Palestinians reject.

But he rejected U.S. pressure for a settlement freeze.

The Quartet’s special representative, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the political push for a two-state solution had to be accompanied by changes on the ground, including an end to settlements and economic reconstruction for Gaza.

“The best way to ensure that Gaza is part of the solution and does not remain the problem is that we help the people,” Blair said. “You can never separate the politics and the security and the economics. They go together.”

In the statement, the Quartet welcomed plans by Israel to promote Palestinian economic development and called for “robust and sustained” financial support of the Palestinian Authority. It demanded the Palestinians commit themselves to nonviolence and recognize Israel.

Ban, the U.N. chief, said there was a “historic” opportunity for Mideast peace, praising Obama’s “powerful, visionary” speech delivered in Cairo earlier this month. Obama called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims to confront violent extremism and to advance Mideast peace.

The European commissioner for foreign relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, concurred.

“With the new Obama administration … there is a new possibility of engagement. That has to be used. That is the way forward,” she said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Israel: Tough Prison Terms for Two Ex-Ministers

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 24 — Former Israeli Finance Minister, Avraham Hirschson, one of the leaders of Kadima party, has been convicted on charges of theft and fraud and sentenced to five years and five months in prison by the District Tribunal of Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Supreme Court has today convicted Shlomo Benizri, a rabbi and former minister of social welfare and health and a leader of the orthodox Jewish Shas party, on corruption charges, sentencing him to a 4-year prison term. Hirschson admitted stealing more than USD 500,000 from the union that he headed before being appointed Finance Minister by Ehud Olmert. His lawyer noted that he may appeal within one month. The three judges who signed the conviction of Benizri (Edmond Levy, Senan Meltzer and Yoram Danziger) said they had decided to issue an exemplary sentence “because corruption is spreading in Israel.” Judge Levy said that Benizri, “committed as he was to spreading religious teachings, was also willing to be take bribes.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Shalit: Rome Awards Honorary Citizenship

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 25 — The city council of Rome yesterday approved a motion in which Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Hamas on June 25 2006, is given honorary citizenship. After the vote, the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, accompanied by the president of the Jewish community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici, rolled out a poster of Shalit with the words “Rome wants its citizen Ghilad Shalit free” written on it. Alemanno said that “today’s decision is important. It was taken unanimously though the opposition refused to vote, an incomprehensible act of political obstructionism, even though it agrees with the motion”. Alemanno explained that “this is not the first step the Municipality takes in support of Shalit, but we are now part of all official requests made for his release”. “This man” he continued” has been in captivity for three years now, despite all the international negotiations. This is a strong condemnation of all forms of fundamentalism and intolerance”. On July 1 the soldier’s family will be in Rome, Alemanno concluded. “On that occasion we will be honoured to officially confer the honorary citizenship by handing over the parchment”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Late Great State of Israel: How Enemies Without and Within Threaten the Jewish Nation’s Survival

In his latest book entitled, The Late Great State of Israel, Aaron Klein, intrepid investigative journalist and Jerusalem bureau chief of presents an ominous portent of the future of Israel. This meticulously researched exegesis of the imbroglio that has come to define the state of affairs of Middle East politics graphically depicts the pernicious agenda of those forces conspiring to eradicate the Jewish state. As we know, the motto of the New York Times is, “All the News that’s Fit to Print” and this book is a thoroughly documented repository of “All the News That’s Fit to Print, that the New York Times Wouldn’t”, or any branch of the mainstream media for that matter.

In this eye-opening account of the global machinations that are predicated on the vilification of Israel and surreptitious actions leading to its potential demise, we recoil in horror to learn that in addition to the list of “usual suspects”, i.e. Iran, Syria and their proxies known as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, etc., we find that other such players in the Middle East cacophony are also busy striking their own chords. Despite their declarations of support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the ultimate two-state solution, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and other western governmental agencies, Klein informs us, have constructed their own end game as it concerns the viable future of Israel. What is most disheartening is the fact that Mr. Klein explores and spotlights in nuanced detail the sheer masochism of the powers that be in the government of Israel and the fact that it is they who are largely culpable for undermining Israel’s survival as a Jewish state.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Ahmadinejad Promises to Shake the Planet

In this video, Ahmadinejad promises his mentor and spiritual adviser “a great shake on the planet”. The video has been recorded in a secret meeting between several hardliners and the only one that speaks is Ahmadinejad.

From Wind Rose Hotel:

In his Facebook page French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Lévy has a video, which was clandestinely shot and brought out of Iran, showing “president-non-elect” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—as Lévy himselfcalls the Iranian despot—while announcing to his most loyal followers and in the presence of his mentor and spiritual adviser, ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, “un grand bouleversement sur la planète” (a great bouleversement on the planet). The speech was delivered on June 13, 2009. This is what BHL himself says about the video (in French):



Via Liberation

We’re going to need a translation on this. I’ll ask my friend Stogie to help.

Video: clandestine sortie d’Iran: Ahmadinedjad sans masques


I thank the Almighty for granting me the opportunity to be present in this dear and QOM holy mausoleum Massoumeh that god bless and your holy presence in the company of other friends here but also enjoy to say: Essentially, you rightly said aves the Islamic revolution can not be reduced to a place or a particular time or a defined space-time and if our efforts are used in the service of God and the movement in the orbit of the creation they persist and lead to all the dreams and hopes.

The fight against vice and the application of justice is joy. But the real joy will be there the day or the true desire to realize. And all of us, we must turn towards the realization of that desire essential. I think the revolution is finding its way. A new revolution has begun. Hard work has just ended a difficult period just ended, but a tougher period begins. Hard work has just ended, a period I hope that this difficult stage we finally leads to what we all expect.

A huge energy, also inside and outside the country, is being released is quickly

and she wants to meltre to serve the Islamic republic. The opportunity to realise what we said and wanted is within reach today.

This movement just needs a strong theoretical support and practical support strong.

And the best place, initially to support our movement is precisely here in Qom, in the midst of these ladies who live, breathe, studying for the realization of an Islamic government. They have put their lives in the service of the realization of an Islamic government. I think that right now the conditions are favorable, and myself I seek your help and am at your service as an individual whom, perhaps, has no importance in this movement.

The key is movement, a huge movement. This is a movement, as you pointed out, which is itself a grace, special attention Insh’Allah, these are the beginnings of a major upheaval on the planet.

As an individual who is a medium simiple in this case but on the shoulders which pese responsibility, I seek your help. We must mobilize all potentials and intellectuals executifs behind this movement for the realization of Islamic law, of Islamic justice and the establishment of a model Islamic society in our beloved homeland of Iran. It seems to me that this is possible.

Had that not been possible, we would not impose this task. It is understood and expected that the low-[a Teheran], an organization is ready. And here too, if your honor and friends come together to form a group responsible and follow the case using all potential and parallel to the university, the same task is proposed.

We can then go toward the operational points of view, and spread the Islamic culture. You know better than me, the light sentence of his holiness [the Imam Khomeini] is a reality, is a truth. Today the world is thirsty for the pure culture mahometaine.

We have seen examples OME in this incident, all these young people and their prayers and their hopes, these youths are not expected absolutely not the world is thirsty for that.

I see scenes, because I was in Teheran I voageais but also and moreover it was such. Some individuals who do not have the long view may think that other people have no light in them. But when you meet them closely, we see that it is not. It is true love. If we present it as it should, everyone will come. Everyone wants the vast majority of the people. The people as a whole is not mechant. But there is less light in those with pretentions of analysis and there is light, it is frankly not attractive.

The background of the people is good. They are in love. Last year we had a discussion with a religious as you all know. The discussion focused on how to respond to young people in the streets. I had an appointment and I wanted to have his opinion on a action I intended to conduct, he asked what I thought me meme.

I told him that this is a bad action. We have nothing gives youth. They never had a pure blast. Many have not heard such words in their family. A school or in the media either did not hear anything to understand the subject. But everywhere or breathing pure a blow on the people-in the Islamic Republic. the community has been educated to at least ca — he responded positively.

The people want to reach this pure culture [mahometaine] and I think the timing of the broadcast and is more conducive to a larger scope at this time, and [for that] I am at your service.

Esperons an organization will also follow through all the potential. We have little time. I had a critical interpretation of the movement of creation and two or three occasions, this happened is that my interpretation was proven correct.

I spoke with one of our grans teachers, he agreed with me. In general, those who do believe that the appearance for an event, all parameters should be ready beforehand.

Remember after the victory of the revolution, some said it was premature. We did not have sound. We did not have the necessary armed forces. We had no projects. Las Those are the parameters for the man who can only count on themselves.

The common logic does not apply to movements based on the divine will and divine mercy. When the human being reaches the threshold of this potential, it can support the weight and movement follows. Our revolution was. The Imam was “said the reason that led to the revolution has also preserved”.

The potential is there. I hope that what we believe and we believe that changes will come as soon as possible. The potential is offered by God, and I am at your service. Just as God protects us, the rest will come with extensive and spirituality.

For myself, as a Muslim Iranian, I benefited enormously from this wave of spirituality in our country that gives me your holiness coming directly from the scene of the event and the leader.

I thank the Taliban here, these ladies that do that for God and who lead this vast movement of truth. I know how much they pay themselves a Qom and elsewhere, 10:35 I know they have borrowed money, they put their lives in this service. Other bears have other difficulties.

I thank you even if you thank that everything is God. Today is the most joyous of days for believers and our beloved supreme guide. And forgive me, it’s all in my power.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

G8 to Iran: End Violence, Reflect Will of People

TRIESTE, Italy — Group of Eight foreign ministers criticized Iran’s postelection violence, and urged its ruling clergy on Friday to ensure the outcome of the disputed ballot reflects the will of the Iranian people.

A statement by the ministers from the industrialized countries also said the door must remain open to dialogue on Iran’s nuclear program but expressed “deep concern” over the proliferation risk.

The statement from the meeting in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste was the result of negotiations between countries such as Italy and France, which wanted to send a tough message to Iran to halt the postelection crackdown, and Russia, which has said it backs the results that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

The statement, issued on the second day of the three-day meeting, said the G-8 ministers deplored the violence that followed Iran’s June 12 presidential vote. At least 17 people have been killed during protests, in addition to eight members of the Basij militiamen, and hundreds of people have been detained in a clampdown on the opposition.

“We express our solidarity with those who have suffered repression while peacefully demonstrating and urge Iran to respect human rights, including freedom of expression,” the G8 ministers said, and they urged Iran “to guarantee that the will of the Iranian people is reflected in the electoral process.”

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said this appeal was a key part of the G-8 message but stopped short of demanding a recount in the election because outsiders would have no way of confirming it was legitimate.

“If today I were to say with great clarity who the victor of the elections is, I couldn’t, because I don’t have the elements in my hands that the Iranian government has,” Frattini said at a news conference, with other G-8 officials by his side. “On this, the G-8 agrees.”

Frattini pointed to “worrying elements” such as the fact that in some voting districts the number of ballots cast and counted was higher than the number of registered voters. “We aren’t in a position to control what happened,” he said. “The message is that the game as of today isn’t considered over.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, “Whether the election results as announced are correct is highly doubtful.” He called Iran’s crackdown “intolerable” and “brutal.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow wanted to express its “most serious concern” over the use of force by Iran and the death of peaceful protesters.

“At the same time, we will not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs. Our position is that all issues that have emerged in the context of the elections will be sorted out in line with democratic procedures,” he said.

Officials sought to balance the need to criticize Iran’s handling of the election with the effort to prevent it from slipping into further isolation, particularly regarding its nuclear program. Iran is enriching uranium that it says it wants only as nuclear fuel. The U.S. and other nations fear it could be used in nuclear weapons.

The statement recognized Iran’s right to a civilian nuclear program but urged it “to restore confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear activities” and to seize the opportunity to “give diplomacy a chance to find a negotiated solution.”

The G-8 talks at the 19th-century Palazzo in Trieste also are to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and peace in the Mideast.

Italy originally invited Iran to attend the three-day gathering as a special guest, arguing that it could play an important role in talks on Afghan stabilization. But Rome retracted the invitation after Iran failed to respond.

The G-8 statement said the Iran crisis “should be settled soon through democratic dialogue and peaceful means.”

President Barack Obama has condemned the violence against protesters and lent his strongest support yet to their accusations the hardline victory was a fraud. But the United States has been careful not to become a scapegoat for Iran’s cleric-led government.

“It is clear that there is a significant percentage of Iranians who have significant concerns about the fairness and legitimacy of the elections,” said William Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs.

“The United States is deeply troubled by the use of violence against innocent people,” said Burns, who replaced the injured Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as head of the U.S. delegation.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, whose government expelled two Iranian diplomats earlier this week after Iran did the same to two British envoys, said Iran’s claim that the protests were mobilized by Western powers is “completely without foundation.”

“I think now there are big questions being asked within Iran,” said Miliband. “We deplore violence, but we remain committed to engagement as a means to an end.”

Friday’s talks on regional security in Afghanistan and Pakistan were being attended by their foreign ministers and by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke.

Also meeting Friday on the sidelines of the summit is the Mideast Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — to try to help move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward. The participants included the U.S. Mideast envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

A range of Arab League nations will join in a follow-on session Friday afternoon. The Quartet decided not to invite Israel, Italy’s Foreign Ministry said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Iran: Cleric Calls for ‘Savage’ Punishment for Protesters

Tehran, 26 June (AKI) — One of the most powerful clerics in Iran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, has called for “ruthless and savage” punishment — implying the death penalty — for leaders of the protests that have erupted since the presidential election on 12 June. Khatami is very close to the re-elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

At a sermon broadcast nationally on Friday at Tehran University, Khatami said, “I want the judiciary to…punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson.

“Based on Islamic law, whoever confronts the Islamic state… should be convicted as a ‘mohareb’ [one who wages war against god]…They should be punished ruthlessly and savagely.”

Under Iran’s Islamic law, punishment for people convicted of being a ‘mohareb’ is execution.

Khatami considers Ahmadinejad the official winner of the disputed presidential election on 12 June.

Official election results gave a landslide victory to Ahmadinejad but supporters of the defeated candidates including Mir Hossein Mousavi have disputed the result and taken to the streets of Tehran and other cities in the thousands.

It is the most dramatic upheaval seen in the country in more than 30 years since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

The two reformist candidates demanded an annulment of the election.

But Iran’s top legislative body or Guardian Council said on Friday there would be no annulment of the election results because they found no evidence of fraud.

“After ten days of examination, we did not see any major irregularities,” Abbasali Kadkhodai, a council spokesman, told Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

“We have had no fraud in any presidential election and this one was the cleanest election we have had. I can say with certainty that there was no fraud in this election.”

The Guardian Council made the announcement as the White House exchanged insults with Ahmadinejad and accused him of trying to blame the US for unrest following Iran’s disputed election.

At least 17 people have reportedly been killed or injured in the nationwide protests following the presidential elections.

However, the figures are impossible to verify as the Iranian government has imposed severe restrictions on foreign media coverage.

In his sermon, Khatami said that protesters were responsible for the death of Neda Agha-Soltani, the iconic young woman killed during the clashes.

“By watching the film, any wise person can understand that rioters killed her,” he said, accusing them of murdering her for “propaganda” purposes.

He then turned his attention to United Nations’ secretary general, Ban-Ki Moon, who has expressed concern about the recent violence in Iran.

“You talk about human rights in Iran. What about those 400 innocent Palestinian children killed in Gaza, what about those killed every day by American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, what about those human rights (violations)?” he said.

The religious leader also proposed the formation of a new world organisation, to rival the UN, while suggesting that the UN is an assembly of “imperialistic powers”.

Khatami criticised Britain, France, and Germany for their “interference” in Iran and asked Iranians to add the slogan “death to England” to their usual “death to USA” and “death to Israel”.

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

Lebanon: Berri, The Irremovable President of Parliament

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JUNE 25 — Nabih Berri, Lebanon’s irremovable House Speaker, was re-elected today for the fifth consecutive four-year term despite that the Hezbollah-led political alliance of which he is a pillar lost the elections last June 7. Five people were wounded by stray bullets after Berri’s followers fired their machineguns in the air from rooftops in Beirut to celebrate their leader’s much anticipated re-election. Berri, 71, got 90 votes of the 128-seat assembly (64 Moslems, 64 Christians) as a “consensus” candidate to the post which Lebanon’s confessional political system allocates to a Shiite. For the victorious “March 14” majority, picking another Speaker would have been a “declaration of war” on the Shiites, whom Berri’s Amal movement and Hezbollah represent best. “March 14” leader Saad Hariri said that voting for Berri was to “preserve civil peace,” -a remark which barely veils concerns that angry Hezbollah and Amal might take their militiamen into Beirut streets, the way they did in May 2008 following a fallout with the government of Premier Fuad Siniora. Witty, sharp-tongued with a sense of humour accentuated by his southern Lebanese Shiite accent, Berri took the lead of then Amal militia in 1980 -at the height of the 1975-90 civil war. Amal — acronym in Arabic of Lebanese Resistance Battalions which also means “hope” — fought in the mid 1980s Palestinian guerrillas entrenched in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut and, later, battled Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. As Hezbollah grew more powerful and popular thanks to Iranian military and financial backing, the pro-Syrian Berri closed ranks with the “Party of God” which, in return, “rewarded” him with the post of Speaker of Parliament — an institution Berri turned into a rubber stamp under the Syrian hegemony that ended in 2005. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: ‘Silicon’ Tourism Boom in the Summer

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JUNE 22 — The summer holiday season in Lebanon is all sold out…not only in hotels, but also in cosmetic surgery clinics. Indeed, thousands of foreigners — and it is increasingly foreigners — from Europe, the Americas and the Gulf are set to spend their summer holidays having a few ‘re-touches’ done. “We have the best specialists in the world, who have come back to Lebanon after time abroad in Europe and the United States”, boasts Dr.Imad Kaddura, the famous Beirut surgeon who considers cosmetic surgery a real art. “Unfortunately there aren’t that many Picassos around”, he said: “that’s why you see all those ski-jump noses around”. Nose-jobs and boob-jobs are the most sought-after operation, continued Kaddura, adding that the number of male patients is getting closer to the number of women after a little nip and tuck. “They’re the best clients”, continued the surgeon, “because they come with clear ideas. Often they ask us for penis extensions — an operation I don’t really love doing… but it’s necessary to help these lads satisfy their partners!”, added the surgeon smugly. The success of Beirut as Middle Eastern capital of cosmetic surgery (16th place in the world rankings, with more than 14,000 operations in 2008, according to calculations by the International Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery) is also due to the bargains on offer. The website of Dr. Nizar Chehab, vice-president of the Miss Lebanon judging committee, provides a complete price list: 1,800 dollars for a ‘nose job’, 3,000 for a boob job, 10,000 for a “complete treatment” including operations to the face and body. “If they ask us, we also provide hotel accommodation”, Dr. Chehab told ANSA; he was keen to point out however that half of his clients are Lebanese anyway, adding that his compatriots are increasingly keen on the small, turned-up, French-style nose — which is becoming ever more easy to get, even for the less well-off, due to ad-hoc loans from the First National Bank (FNB) in Beirut, which since 2007 has been issuing reduced rate ‘mortgages’ for cosmetic surgery. “The average age of patients looking for this French profile is from 18 upwards, and sometimes even younger”, said Chehab, noting that most Lebanese people get the operations in Spring to be able to get ready for the summer’s ‘costume try-on’. So, are there any ‘enhanced’ girls among the aspiring Miss Lebanons? “Of course,” says the surgeon nonchalantly, “girls with a few touch-ups here and there are in the competition — as long as they don’t change all their characteristics”. And whilst on the beaches of Lebanon it is increasingly difficult to come across Arab profiles and ‘below C-cup’ busts, there are some people that have renamed the seafront of the country “the new Silicon Valley”…though definitely not for the technology!. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tariq Ramadan: “We Cannot Accept a Dogmatic Interpretation of Islam”

During the Resetdoc Istanbul Seminars (May 30th — June 4th) prominent Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan reacted positively to Giuliano Amato’s call to support the women demonstrating against the Shia Family Law in Afghanistan. Tariq Ramadan has been emphasising the issue of self-criticism for Muslim scholars and has been himself critical of a literal implementation of Shar’ia: “Giuliano Amato is right. We Muslims need to take a stand — he added in an exclusive video-interview with Resetdoc on June 2nd — I have been doing this for the last twenty years stating that we cannot accept the literal implementation and a dogmatic interpretation of Islam. Self-criticism is not only important for Muslims, it is important for all of us and we need a sense of humility within dialogue. Now that Obama is going to talk to Muslims (this interview took place just before Obama’s speech in Cairo, Editor’s Note), what we expect to hear is a degree of self-criticism in order to be heard and trusted by Muslims. The first step towards a debate includes opening up, being able to talk to scholars from different trends in Islam, even if there are conflicting views. The next step is to open this internal debate to the public, so they can listen and understand. We have to look forward and get more people as well as civil society involved in this critical discussion. This is important not only for Turkey and Muslim majority countries but also for the future of Europe.”

“In 2005 I called for a moratorium against corporal punishments, stoning and the death penalty in the Muslim world — he added at the Resetdoc Istanbul Seminars — When I say that we should open a discussion on this I mean that we need to stop this now, stop corporal punishments everywhere. I have never stopped criticizing literalist and violent interpretations of Islam, which do not respect human rights. Any country that does not respect human rights should be equally criticized. The fundamental right of choice, for example, should be respected everywhere, while at the moment this right concerning the veil is not respected in Iran but neither in France.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Terror Group: ‘No Shame in Being Poor’

Top jihadist responds to WND report that Iran has stopped support

JERUSALEM — There is no shame in being poor, Ziad Al Nakhala, the deputy secretary general of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group declared in an official statement yesterday.

Nakhala, based in Syria, was directly responding to a WND exclusive report from earlier this week stating the Iranian government, distracted with the country’s escalating protests, had failed to send regular payments to Islamic Jihad, causing a major financial crisis for the terrorist organization.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Turkey May Block Iraqi Kurds’ Participation in Nabucco

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 25 — Turkey does not want Iraqi Kurds to participate in the Nabucco natural gas project because of political concerns, daily Hurriyet reports quoting Newsweek magazine. The magazine suggests that since the inception of the project there have been doubts that Caspian countries will provide enough gas to the pipeline and to remedy this shortfall a consortium of gas companies from Austria, Hungary and the United Arab Emirates recently struck a USD 8 bln deal with Iraqi Kurds to source gas from northern Iraq. Earlier this month the Iraqi government vetoed the Kurds’ Nabucco agreement, according to Newsweek. Turkey has too expressed its discontent with the deal, the magazine reports. Turkey does not want Iraq’s Kurds to enrich themselves with gas money and it believes Azerbaijan will be able to supply enough gas for the pipeline, according to Newsweek. Just this morning energy minister Taner Yildiz reiterated that the intergovernmental agreement for Nabucco might be signed in half July the latest. Apparently the Turkish government and other parties have not reached an agreement over Turkey’s demand for a 15% of Nabucco natural gas at a discounted price yet. The Nabucco pipeline will transfer natural gas from the Central Asia and Middle East to Europe via Turkey, which will host the major part of the some 3,200 km long pipeline. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey to Buy Weapons From US to Fight PKK

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 24 — Turkey hopes the United States will agree to sell gunships and armed drones that the military would use to fight the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), daily Hurriyet reports. The two systems are the AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters and the sophisticated Reaper drones. Turkey hopes to receive a green light from the United States at the end of the year to buy the two critical weapons systems. The AH-1W gunships, made by Bell Helicopter Textron, are not currently being produced and the U.S. Navy command has some 170 of them. Turkey wants to buy a small number of these choppers presently in the U.S. Marines’ inventory and officials from both countries said they were looking for a solution. U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, James Jeffrey, said that if the United States found a way to transfer some of the Super Cobras to the Turkish military without hurting the front-line firepower capabilities of the Marines, it would. The other systems Turkey wants to acquire are the MQ-9 Reapers, an armed drone manufactured by General Atomics. Turkish officials are impressed by the performance of these unmanned aerial vehicles which the United States military has used in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Verdict on Mor Gabriel Monastery Land Expected

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 24 — A Midyat court will deliver its verdict today about a land dispute between a 1,600-year-old monastery and locals of a southeastern Anatolian town home to around 3,000 Syriacs, daily Hurriyet reports. The ruling is expected to be the final phase of a long-running court process. “The monastery is not a property for sale and branding Syriacs as invaders is a disgrace for Turkey”, Yilmaz Kerimo, a Swedish deputy of Syriac origin who has attended the hearings as an observer, said, hoping that “the court will recognize Mor Gabriel monastery’s boundaries”. Local officials of three nearby villages who contest the borders of the monastery argue that the monastery is bigger than any place of worship in the world. Concerned by the redrawn borders following land surveying proceedings in the area, officials from the monastery foundation appealed to the court and said they were not occupiers, as they had paid tax on the land since 1938. The court case is being closely followed by the European Union which is urging the government to provide its ethnic and religious groups with equal rights and freedoms. “Such cases are tarnishing Turkey’s image in Europe. I hope the court will deliver a fair verdict and the Syriacs, together with Arabs, Kurds and Circassians, will live peacefully and side-by-side”, Kerimo said. Syrians are not officially recognized as a minority in Turkey under the Lausanne Treaty. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: PM Erdogan Tries to Revitalize EU Bid

ISTANBUL — The Turkish prime minister sought Friday to revitalize Turkey’s EU membership bid, which has bogged down amid opposition from Paris and Berlin, along with historical differences over Cyprus.

“No other candidate nation has been subjected to this kind of treatment,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who traveled to Brussels with two senior colleagues for talks with European Union officials. “This situation has to change,” he added, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

“Some countries have adopted a political attitude in the negotiation process, and their efforts to slow things down upset us,” he told reporters. Erdogan dismissed proposals by Paris and Berlin to grant Turkey a “privileged partnership” that would offer it enhanced trade and other ties instead of full membership. “We cannot accept the positions France and Germany have taken,” Erdogan said. “There is no such type of [privileged] partnership. Our goal is full membership.”

French leader Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with their Austrian colleagues, favor some kind of special relationship with Turkey that falls short of full membership. The issue got a thorough airing during the campaign for the EU parliamentary polls, and reluctance to embrace Turkey as an EU member garnered support from certain quarters at the vote. Erdogan criticized some candidates’ use of Turkey as a poll card, calling such tactics “populist and wrong.”

Also on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reaffirmed Turkey’s commitment to becoming an EU member, saying speeding up the negotiations serves the strategic interests of the country. “Recent busy diplomatic traffic between Turkey and the EU shows Turkey’s increasing motivation about the country’s membership bid,” the Anatolia news agency quoted Davutoglu as telling a joint press conference after a meeting with EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

Long to-do list

Rehn made clear, however, that Turkey has to work harder. “In particular, there is a pressing need to reform the legal and constitutional framework governing the closure of political parties,” he said. “We simply cannot afford yet another unnecessary constitutional crisis stemming from outdated rules not in line with European standards.”

Ankara formally opened its EU talks in October 2005. Since then, it has managed to open up 10 of the 35 policy chapters, which all candidate nations must negotiate successfully prior to accession. EU and Turkish officials said that an 11th chapter, on taxation, would be opened in Brussels next Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Turkey: ‘Keep Your Hands Off the Military’

ANKARA — The political skirmish continues as Chief of General Staff Gen. Basbug returns fire for previous combative comments by Prime Minister Erdogan that supposedly second-guessed the sincerity of the military’s internal investigation into the source of alleged plans to dismantle the ruling party. Basbug says anti-AKP plan is just ‘a piece of paper’

The disagreement between the military and the government over an alleged plan that outlines ways to overthrow the ruling party is deepening as both sides issue contradictory statements.

While Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug described the plan “as a piece of paper” that has no legality and is part of another psychological smear campaign against the military, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his dissatisfaction with the military’s findings, saying “the civilian court will continue to handle the case.”

“Keep your hands off the military. Give up trying to politically identify yourselves through the Turkish Armed Forces [or TSK],” Basbug said at a press conference held at military headquarters with the participation of all force commanders and top military personnel. “Put an end to running such asymmetric psychological operations against the TSK through the media.”

Basbug’s press conference came two days after the military prosecutor ruled that there was no cause for the prosecution of Navy Col. Dursun Çiçek, as there was no evidence proving that he had prepared the plan at headquarters. It also came a day after Erdogan showed his dissatisfaction over the ruling.

The plan, which was first published two weeks ago by daily Taraf, details ways to break popular support for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and its influential supporter, the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the religious Gülen movement.

“As a result of the investigation, it has been revealed that there is no document, but just a piece of paper,” Basbug said. “Discussing such a paper for two weeks at a moment when there are so many regional global developments that concern us is really odd.”

Responding to Basbug’s remarks during a meeting in Brussels on Friday, Erdogan said the military prosecutor might have approached the document issue differently. “The process from now on belongs to the civilian prosecutor. The military judiciary decided that the document is not related to the military. The civilian judiciary will continue to investigate the matter,” the prime minister said. “We cannot permit the fraying of the rule of law, which is based on democratic, secular and social structure.”

Basbug’s words made it clear, however, that the military is not requesting a civilian prosecution that would determine whether the plan is real or fake. “Crimes allegedly conducted by military personnel in a military zone can only be prosecuted by the military prosecutor,” he said. “Therefore, what we ask from the civilian prosecutor is not to investigate whether the plan is real or fake, but [who are] its perpetrators. You may like or dislike the ruling of the military judiciary. But you cannot disrespect and underestimate it.”

Çiçek invited for testimony

Though the military judiciary ruled Col. Çiçek had nothing to do with the document, civilian Istanbul prosecutor Zekeriya Öz reportedly invited him to give testimony on Tuesday under the Ergenekon case, an alleged organization set to dismantle the government. It was not sure whether Col. Çiçek will accept the invitation or not when the Daily News went to print late Friday. The move of the Ergenekon prosecutors is seen as that the civilian judiciary does not share the same view of their colleagues at the military headquarters.

Emphasizing that the decision of the military prosecutor was not a final one and that the investigation could be re-opened if new evidence is found, Basbug said that the investigation would stay in the hands of the military prosecutor unless a civilian dimension of the plan was found.

Repeating several times that there was a constant, organized attempt to tarnish the military through the media and that “the army will no longer tolerate such campaigns,” Basbug called on the intelligence institutions and the civilian justice system to uncover the perpetrators and said he would bring the issue to the agenda of the bimonthly meeting of the national Security Council, or MGK, the state’s top security board, on Tuesday. “We believe these sort of acts will not harm the integrity of the Armed Forces, but also the existence of the country,” Basbug said. “It is very important for all of us.” Repeating his April statement that “the TSK will not harbor any of its personnel who have been engaged in anti-democratic movements,” Basbug ruled out engaging in a “witch hunt” within the army. “We have no any intention of sweeping these allegations under the carpet.”

Right after the plan was published in the media, the AKP filed a criminal complaint to the court, criticizing the content of the document as if it was real. Erdogan spoke harshly last week at a party meeting in the southeastern Anatolian town of Sanliurfa, indirectly slamming the army for intending to overthrow his government. When asked whether he felt ashamed when he heard Erdogan’s statement, Basbug said there was no cause for him to feel that way, but that he had expressed his opinions and thoughts on it to Erdogan. Without a direct reference to Basbug’s comment, Erdogan said Friday that he could not remain silent about such a plot.

Basbug also criticized the leaks of some documents to the media during the investigation process. “A criminal report prepared by the Gendarmerie and sent to the Police Department in Istanbul via a special courier June 17 was published by the media June 19 and 20. Another report was again leaked to the media a few days later,” he said. “How does it happen? Who leaks them? What is the purpose? Isn’t it our right to ask about it? We have filed complaints about these leaks.” Basbug also said though the alleged plan had no date on it, some media were reporting that it was prepared in April. “How can we find out the truth if you dynamite the legal process?” he asked.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Police Report on Dink Toned Down

ISTANBUL — A report on the threat to Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink’s life was tampered with and toned down before being sent to Istanbul. The sentence ‘Yasin Hayal will murder Hrant Dink whatever the cost’ was changed to ‘Hayal is planning to take action toward Dink’.

An intelligence report on the threat to the life of murdered Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was toned down before being sent to Istanbul, it has been reported.

The sentence “Yasin Hayal will murder Hrant Dink whatever the cost” was changed to “Hayal is planning to take action toward Dink.”

Dink, the former editor-in-chief of daily Agos, was gunned down Jan. 19, 2007 in front of his office in central Istanbul and the instigator is suspected to be Yasin Hayal.

The mentioned intelligence report, written by the staff of the Trabzon Police Department on Feb. 16, 2006 and sent to the Istanbul Police Department two days later, carries the signature of Ramazan Akyürek who was Trabzon’s chief of police at the time.

Akyürek is being blamed for “neglecting duty” in a report prepared by the Prime Ministry Inspection Board, which was approved by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Other records obtained

The daily Milliyet also obtained reports of meetings that show the statements made to justify the removal from duty of Erhan Tuncel, a former informant for the Trabzon Intelligence Unit. Tuncel was a source providing intelligence on Hayal. The report clearly indicates that Hayal was going to murder Dink, not “take action toward” him.

Ali Fuat Yilmazer, another security officer who is being blamed for “neglecting duty” in the same report, was the head of the C section of Trabzon’s Intelligence Unit at the time. Yilmazer’s office had received the report Feb. 17, 2006, and the Istanbul Intelligence Unit also received a memo on the same day. However, the memo is slightly different from the report as plans of murder were toned down to read “taking action.” “Hayal is planning to take action toward Dink and he will stay with his brother Osman Hayal” reads the altered memo.

The report signed by Akyürek includes intelligence provided by Tuncel. Tuncel says an accomplice of Hayal told him that Dink and the daily Agos were blackening the image of Turks and the Turkish Republic and for that reason they were planning to take action against him. However, Tuncel’s statements continued as such: “While I was convinced Hayal would do what he wanted to do for sure, I advised him not to do so. He told me that he would kill this person no matter the cost.”

The report also features the comments of two intelligence agents from the police department in its evaluation section. The agents pointed to former knowledge of Hayal speaking around of taking action and indicated that he was capable of doing such a thing.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Russia Won’t Participate in Jewish Documents Suit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia told a U.S. court on Friday that judges have no authority to tell the country how to handle sacred Jewish documents held in its state library that were seized by the Nazi and Soviet armies.

The documents are at the center of a lawsuit brought by members of Chabad-Lubavitch, which follows the teachings of Eastern European rabbis and emphasizes the study of the Torah. The group is suing Russia in U.S. court to recover thousands of manuscripts, prayers, lectures and philosophical discourses by leading rabbis dating back to the 18th century.

The case is being handled by the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, Royce Lamberth, who in January ordered Russia to preserve the documents over Chabad’s fears they are not being properly cared for and could be sold on the black market.

But Russia said in its filing Friday that even though it respects the U.S. court, it would not participate in the litigation to protect its sovereignty. Russia said the United States should use diplomatic channels to address any concerns it has about the collection and that Chabad can pursue claims in Russian courts.

“This court has no authority to enter orders with respect to the property owned by the Russian Federation and in its possession, and the Russian Federation will not consider any such orders to be binding on it,” said the Russian filing.

Lamberth agreed to take the case in U.S. court because he said both the Nazi seizure and the Russian government’s appropriation of the collection, which Chabad says totals 12,000 books and 50,000 rare documents, violated international law.

The collection was formerly held by Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, a leader of Chabad-Lubavitch who was born in Russia but forced by the Soviets to leave in 1927. He took the documents to Latvia and later Poland, but left them behind when the Nazis invaded and he fled to the U.S. The collection was seized and taken to Germany, then recovered by the Soviet Army in 1945.

Attorneys representing Chabad at the law firm Bingham McCutchen said after five years of litigation, Russia “is now acting like a child who has lost the game and wants to start all over on its home court.”

“Obviously, Russia cannot justify why it has refused to return Jewish manuscripts which were stolen by the Nazis and then looted by the Soviet Army during the Second World War,” the attorneys said in a statement. “The plundering of religious texts during war is contrary to the Hague convention and the norms of any civilized society.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Danes Support Afghanistan Ops

Despite attacks against and losses among Danish soldiers in Afghanistan, the Danes support operations in Afghanistan.

Despite the fact that three Danish soldiers have been killed and five wounded in Afghanistan in the past 10 days, Danes are positive towards operations in the country, according to a Megafon poll for Politiken and TV2 News.

The poll says that 50 percent of those asked want Danish soldiers to continue their presence in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, while only 39 percent want their forces home.

In comparison, only 24 percent of Britons want to keep forces in Afghanistan with a full 68 percent wanting a withdrawal. Danish troops are fighting alongside British troops in Afghanistan’s unruly Helmand Province.

Megafon also asked whether killed or wounded soldiers would have an effect on demands for withdrawal. Forty-two percent said this would only have a marginal effect.

Gender differences were apparent in the poll. Forty-five percent of women wanted troops home, while 40 percent supported operations. Among men, 32 percent wanted withdrawal while 60 percent wanted to keep troops in Afghanistan.

The only group to oppose Denmark’s operations in Afghanistan was the 50-59 age group of which 45 percent wanted to withdraw troops and while 40 percent wanted Danish troops to continue.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

G8 Foreign Ministers Lament Afghan Corruption

TRIESTE, Italy — Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight countries meeting in Italy lamented corruption and the lack of basic services such as health and water in Afghanistan, saying Friday that better cooperation among countries in the region was needed to promote stability.

The foreign ministers from the world’s industrialized nations endorsed Pakistan’s battle against Taliban insurgents and promised to work more with the country’s government “in the face of terrorism, extremism and militancy.” They called for better regional cooperation in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking in the region.

Improving security in the troubled region is a focus of the three-day meeting in this northeastern Italian city.

Italy, the host of the meeting, sought to broaden participation in the talks, arguing that Afghanistan is a problem that needs to be addressed regionally. As a result, the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan participated in Friday’s session, and a joint statement was issued.

In the statement, the ministers said that, despite some efforts by the Afghan government, “insecurity, widespread corruption and capacity shortfalls continue to complicate the delivery of basic services at the local level, including health, education and water.”

President Hamid Karzai has been criticized both at home and abroad for corruption in his administration but he is the favorite in the Aug. 20 vote in Afghanistan. The administration of President Barack Obama in its early days called Karzai’s government inefficient and corrupt, but U.S. officials have toned down criticism of a leader who may win a second five-year term.

The statement said the G-8 countries “acknowledge that the pursuit of peace, stability and development in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region are linked.”

“The G-8 remains committed to working with the Pakistani government as it endeavors to strengthen functioning democratic institutions, and its civil society in the face of terrorism, extremism and militancy,” it said.

The statement also looked at drug trafficking and the opium trade, which help fund extremists, saying that it was urgent to find alternative sources of income.

Italy had also invited Iran to attend the talks, arguing that it could play an important role in talks on Afghan stabilization. But Rome retracted the invitation after Iran failed to respond, and amid concerns over Iran’s violent crackdown on protesters.

Talks Friday were devoted to cultural cooperation, border management and illicit trafficking. On Saturday, the delegates will look at economic development, refugees and migrations, and food security, with other international players joining the discussions.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Orissa: Nun Raped by Hindu Extremists Recognizes One of Her Assailants

It is the third person recognized by the religious sister, among the first victims of the anti-Christian pogrom last August. Fr. Chellan who accompanied the nun to Choudwar prison in Cuttack, says: “The change in the political situation seems to have had a positive impact on how investigations are conducted.”

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) — Sr. Meena Barware, the religious sister raped by group of radical Hindus last August 25, has recognized another of her assailants.

Yesterday, accompanied by Fr Thomas Chellan to the prison in Choudwar, Cuttack, the 29 yar old was subjected to another Test Identification Parade (TIP), the second after that of January 5 last year where she identified two of the ring leaders of the violence.

Arriving at the prison at 13:30, for an hour or so she had to go through seventy people. Among them Sr. Meena indicated Sitaram Patra. Reached by AsiaNews, Fr Chellan says that he is “not the main culprit accused of the rape” which occurred in the pastoral center at Divyajyoti in K Nuagaon, in the district of Kandhamal (Orissa).

The priest, a witness and victim of assault in the centre he directed, had accompanied the sister to the first TIP. Fr. Chellan has not participated in the identification, but says that this time “the whole procedure was conducted in a dignified manner, with due attention to the sensitivity of the case.” At the beginning of the judicial investigation, Sr. Meena had refused to cooperate in the case because of lack of confidence in the police. Fr. Chellan says that “the change of political situation in the State, with the defeat of the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party,” seems to have had a positive impact on how to conduct investigations. “

The priest of the diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar believes that “since the case of Sr. Meena has assumed international importance, the authorities have been taking the investigation more seriously.” He added “now seems to be the political will to bring the perpetrators to justice, at least in this case. If the intention is sincere, then the authorities should arrest the main culprits in addition to the 17 already arrested on charges of being involved. “

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

Thailand: Separatist Fighters Recruited in Islamic Schools

The militants play on Malay nationalism and the sense of belonging to the old sultanate on the border between Thailand and Malaysia. The fighters do not have links with international fundamentalist groups, instead operating on a local level. Yesterday a command targeted a Buddhist temple in Narathiwat province, injuring eight people.

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Muslim separatists in the south of the country recruit new fighters in the Islamic schools, in efforts to raise the level of confrontation with the Thai government and the army. The alarm was raised by a report published yesterday on studies carried out by the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG) that states that recent attacks in the provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani are part of a separatist struggle and are not linked to other Islamic terrorist groups on a regional or international level.

Yesterday, an armed commando opened fire in a Buddhist temple in the province of Narathiwat in southern Thailand, injuring eight people. A government officer reports that the prompt response of security guards prevented more injuries or deaths. The attack on the temple, which was also used as a small camp by the military, is the latest in a long series of violence that in five years has caused the death of about 3700 people. Until the last century, the region on the border between Thailand and Malaysia was an independent Malay Muslim sultanate. The annexation of the ‘land of the elephant’ has given birth to a separatist struggle.

According to the study prepared by ICG experts the Muslim separatists are seeking guerrillas and playing on Malay nationalism and the sense of belonging to the old sultanate. “They tell the students of the [Muslim] schools that it is the duty of every Muslim to reclaim their land from Buddhist infidels” refers Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, ICG analyst for Thailand. The report defines the classes as “the first collection point” for fighters, who invite young Muslims to follow extra-curricular courses of indoctrination in the mosques.

The Thai government in recent weeks has focused attention on schools in the South, promoting better education and more opportunities for professional employment. The Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva considers education a “key weapon” in the fight against Muslim separatism.

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

Far East

Britain Considered Japan Chemical Attack: Records

LONDON (AFP) — Britain considered attacking Tokyo with chemical weapons almost a year before the US bombardments that ended World War II in Asia, declassified records revealed on Friday.

The records at the National Archives, which have remained hidden from public view for 65 years, revealed clear proposals to use gas on civilians in 1944.

Although the plan was never put into operation, a detailed memorandum laid out measures to ensure any attack would have the most devastating impact possible.

A Chemical Board note marked “secret” and signed by E.E. Haddon, Secretary, stated: “In his report on his discussions in America… Major General Goldnoy suggested that it might be worthwhile attempting to assess the probable effects of a C.W. (chemical weapons) bombing attack on Tokyo.

“Particulars of the population and layout and photographs of typical buildings and areas in Tokyo were kindly provided by the Director of Military Intelligence, War Office and those have now been studied by Professor Brunt.”

Blunt, in a memorandum attached to the document, suggested the initial bombardments should take place in areas of densely packed buildings, using incendiaries “sufficient to set the large areas involved on fire.”

Once the inflammable buildings of the Japanese capital have been destroyed, he suggested, a gas attack on the “more modern type of streets” could begin.

However, Blunt warned the military planners that the city’s layout could present obstacles to chemical warfare.

“In the densely built areas of Japanese-type buildings, where the streets are narrow, the flow of a gas cloud would be hindered by the narrowness of the streets,” he wrote.

The memorandum recommended attacking during the summer season because it said a cold winter could reduce the impact of mustard gas, although heavy rainfall was also highlighted as possibly leading to decontamination.

The memorandum concluded: “Persistent danger from mustard would only be achievable in the intervals between the summer rains.”

The document also said “very large numbers of small bombs” would be necessary in densely populated parts of the city.

Phosgene, mustard and incendiaries are all put forward as possible options.

“If mustard were used and it produced the effect of driving the population away from the densely built areas, attack with incendiaries should follow a few days later,” it said.

Mark Dunton, Contemporary History Specialist at the National Archives, said: “What is interesting about this file is that it shows we could have been ahead of America in our thinking.

“It seems shocking to modern eyes that the attempt to assess the effect of a chemical gas attack on civilians is described in such an objective way — the pressures of war brought their own terrible logic.”

The United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, killing more than 210,000 people.

Less than a week after the Nagasaki attack, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

G8 Countries Condemn North Korea’s Missile Tests

TRIESTE, Italy — Foreign ministers from Group of Eight countries on Friday condemned North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and urged the country to return to the negotiating table.

After its nuclear explosion last month, the United Nations slapped sanctions on Pyongyang.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the nuclear tests” in May, and the April launch using ballistic missile technology, “which constitute a threat to regional peace and stability,” the G-8 foreign ministers said in a statement during their meeting in Italy.

They welcomed the U.N. Security Council resolution calling on all 192 U.N. members to inspect North Korean vessels on the high seas, “if they have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo” contains banned weapons or material to make them, and if approval is given by the country whose flag the ship sails under.

The foreign ministers urged Pyongyang to abide by U.N. resolutions and “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs as well as ballistic missile programs.”

The ministers called on North Korea “not to conduct further destabilizing actions” and to return to six-nation disarmament talks.

Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said during a news conference that the tests conducted in April and May are “a challenge to the peace and the stability of the international community, and this is something that we cannot abide by.”

In Washington, officials said the White House will dispatch a career diplomat to Beijing and other capitals in coming days to coordinate implementation of the new U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

Philip S. Goldberg, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia and other countries, will lead a delegation representing other key U.S. departments, including Treasury, Defense and State. He also will be the administration’s full-time North Korea sanctions coordinator, according to two senior administration officials who discussed the plan on condition of anonymity because it has not been publicly announced.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazil Calls Off Search for Air France Victims

SAO PAULO (Reuters) — Brazil’s Air Force and Navy on Friday called off the search for additional victims and wreckage from Air France Flight 447, which crashed over the Atlantic on June 1 carrying 228 people.

French officials have given no indication they are ending their own search efforts. To date, authorities have recovered 51 bodies as well as 600 pieces of wreckage from the Airbus A330-200 jetliner.

Brazilian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Henry Munhoz said the military was unlikely to find additional bodies and wreckage in the search area so many days after the crash.

“It’s already been nine days without seeing any bodies,” Munhoz said in a televised news conference.

Brazilian Navy Captain Giucemar Tabosa said French navy ships will remain in the area looking for beacon signals from the plane’s voice and flight data recorders, the so-called black boxes.

The cause of the crash is unknown, and there is still no sign of the black boxes, which could give vital information about why the plane went down.

Weather and distance from the coast have complicated search efforts from the outset, and officials have said it will be difficult to find the black boxes.

(Reporting Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Reese Ewing; Editing by Will Dunham)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

US Safety Board Probing a-330 Cockpit Malfunctions

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US transport safety experts said they are looking into reports of key instrument malfunctions in the cockpits of the same type of aircraft as the Air France flight that crashed this month off the coast of Brazil.

Both incidents involved the airspeed indicator and altimeter on Airbus A-330s, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a statement.

“The first incident occurred May 21, 2009 when TAM Airlines flight 8091 flying from Miami, Florida to Sao Paulo, Brazil, experienced a loss of primary speed and altitude information while in cruise flight,” it said.

“Initial reports indicate that the flight crew noted an abrupt drop in indicated outside air temperature, followed by the loss of the Air Data Reference System and disconnections of the autopilot and autothrust, along with the loss of speed and altitude information.”

The flight crew switched to backup instruments and was able to safely land in Sao Paulo.

The NTSB is still gathering flight recorder data, information about weather conditions and statements from the crew of the other report of “a possibly similar incident” involving a Northwest Airlines A-330 flying between Hong Kong and Tokyo on Tuesday.

That flight was able to land safely in Tokyo.

No one was injured in either incident, and the aircraft sustained no damage, the NTSB said.

Investigators are still trying to work out what caused the Air France flight to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean around 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off Brazil’s northeast coast on June 1, as it was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people on board.

France’s Investigation and Analysis Bureau (BEA), which is leading the technical inquiry into the crash, said Thursday it will release an initial report on July 2 into what caused the disaster, the worst in Air France’s history.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


1 in 5 UK Births is to a Mum From Abroad

THE number of babies born in the UK to immigrant mothers shot up by almost two thirds between 2001 and 2007, according to official figures.

More than one in five of children born in Britain in 2007 had a mother born overseas — a total of 160,300 compared with 529,700 for British-born mothers.

In the London boroughs of Newham and Brent, 74..8 per cent and 72 per cent of all births were to foreign-born women.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

47 Arrests as Calais Riot Fears Build Up

FRENCH riot cops made 47 arrests yesterday following clashes with anarchists plotting to help asylum seekers smash their way into Britain.

Trouble flared in Calais when more than 100 migrants joined protesters at a makeshift camp.

Machetes, metal poles and a mace were seized and 17 people were held.

The rest were arrested after chaining themselves to a detention centre for UK-bound foreigners.

Several hundred people are massing for a “No Borders” march tomorrow.

Cops have intercepted protesters’ emails pledging to destroy wire fences and other security measures around the Channel Tunnel and ferry port.

Anarchist groups have also vowed to torch government offices.

A police spokesman said: “All vulnerable targets are being guarded. We can take no chances.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Immigration Plot to Create More Illegal Immigration & One Party

ALIPAC is rallying Americans against Obama’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform Amnesty plans that are being discussed with Congressional leaders in the White House today because a path to citizenship for millions of illegals would bring more illegal immigration to America and create a one party political system, both of which are opposed by a large majority of Americans.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Animal Fats Pancreas Cancer Link

Eating a diet high in red meat and dairy products is linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, a US study has suggested.

Researchers followed 500,000 people who had completed a food diary for an average of six years.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute paper found those who had the most animal fats in their diet had a higher risk of developing the cancer.

UK experts said cutting down on the fats was a way of reducing risk.

There has previously been confusion over whether there was a link between animal fats and pancreatic cancer, with different studies reaching opposite conclusions.

About 7,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK each year, with smoking being the biggest risk factor.

The prognosis is poor — the time between diagnosis and death is usually about six months.

‘Welcome addition’

This latest research was carried out by the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, which felt earlier studies had been too small to give reliable results.

The participants were being followed to see if they developed a range of diseases.

Of the half a million studied, 1,337 developed pancreatic cancer.

Men who consumed the highest amount of total fats had a 53% higher relative rate of pancreatic cancer compared with men who ate the least.

In women, there was a 23% higher rate of the disease in those eating the most fat compared with those who ate the least.

Overall, people who consumed high amounts of saturated fats had 36% higher relative rates of pancreatic cancer compared with those who consumed low amounts.

Writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the researchers led by Dr Rachel Stolzenberg-Solomon, said: “We observed positive associations between pancreatic cancer and intakes of total, saturated, and monounsaturated fat overall, particularly from red meat and dairy food sources.

“We did not observe any consistent association with polyunsaturated or fat from plant food sources.

“Altogether, these results suggest a role for animal fat in pancreatic carcinogenesis.”

In an editorial in the journal, Dr Brian Wolpin, of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and Dr Meir Stampfer, of the Harvard School of Public Health, said the study was a “welcome addition to the understanding of a disease that is in great need of new insights”.

Josephine Querido, senior science information officer for Cancer Research UK, said: “This large study adds to the evidence that pancreatic cancer is more common in people who eat too much fat, particularly saturated fat.

“Understanding ways of reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer is very important because it can be very difficult to treat.

“Apart from stopping smoking, the best way to reduce your risk of cancer is to eat plenty of fruit vegetables and fibre, and to cut down on fatty foods, red and processed meat and limit your intake of alcohol.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

For UN and Its Leader, Climate Deal Stakes High

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — For Ban Ki-moon, bringing about a new U.N. climate treaty by the end of this year is a must.

Ban decided from the moment he became U.N. secretary-general in January 2007 that “climate change should be the most important top-priority issue for the United Nations, for the entire world,” he said in an Associated Press interview this week.

Since then Ban says he has put “all my efforts and energy” into persuading nations to cut a new climate deal in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, replacing the Kyoto Protocol for reducing greenhouse gases that expires in 2012.

“From day one, I have been trying to visit all the places around the world, wherever and whenever I was able to see the consequences of climate change,” he said. “Now, the United Nations is leading this campaign, in close coordination with the … major players.”

That he’s the leader, or figurehead, for a campaign he’s personally and hugely invested in, isn’t in dispute. What’s harder to assess is his effectiveness. Ban isn’t exactly a household name, and some believe whatever happens is largely beyond his control.

“It will be decided by heads of states, not by ministers,” said Brice Lalonde, France’s chief climate negotiator. “We don’t have the Nelson Mandela of climate change — that’s a real problem.”

The U.N. General Assembly, which acts as a world forum for debate and sets the U.N. budget, agreed at its 3-day financial summit that ended Friday that the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s “must not delay the necessary global response to climate change and environmental degradation.”

Its members said they “acknowledge that the response to the crisis presents an opportunity to promote green economy initiatives” and also agreed to “encourage the utilization of national stimulus packages, for those countries in a position to do so” that include environmental and poverty-reduction measures.

Ban also says gaining commitments from rich nations to provide money and new pollution-control technology to developing countries is key.

“Otherwise, it will be very difficult,” he said. “We don’t have much time to lose. We have to seal the deal in Copenhagen. That’s my firm commitment.”

Much of the world is waiting to see what the biggest greenhouse gas polluters, the U.S. and China, can agree on.

In Washington, the House of Representatives has been debating whether to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent by the next century. Both the Obama administration and Democrats want the bill passed by the end of the year, when negotiations at Copenhagen get under way. Senate approval of a climate bill, however, is considered a long shot.

In May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with top Chinese officials and government advisers seeking a consensus on positions to take to the Copenhagen conference, but the outlook was unclear at best.

China says global warming is largely the responsibility of rich nations that should provide funds and technologies to developing countries to cut carbon emissions.

Copenhagen’s hosts have begun to worry.

Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s climate and energy minister, said after talks this month in Bonn, Germany, that “there is no doubt that things are moving too slow” — even backsliding.

But she called it “encouraging that more countries are presenting national climate efforts, latest Mexico, which I hope will inspire others to move as well. Now.”

Indeed, Western climate negotiators such as Lalonde say a consensus is emerging around new proposals put forth by Mexico and Norway.

Mexico proposes creating a global $10 billion “green fund” to which all but the very poorest countries would contribute that would provide funding for clean energy and environmental projects in developing countries. Norway suggests a fund financed by proceeds from auctioning emission permits.

Ban says one of his biggest accomplishments is that as recently as two years ago only “a handful of leaders” were truly interested in climate change, but now “more than 100 leaders” plan to attend a one-day climate summit he’s sponsoring on September 22.

“We will use this, the first and the largest, and also almost the last occasion at the summit-level, to prepare almost the final groundwork” for Copenhagen, Ban promises. “I really sent out a strong message to the world.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Journalist Files Charges Against WHO and UN for Bioterrorism and Intent to Commit Mass Murder

(NaturalNews) As the anticipated July release date for Baxter’s A/H1N1 flu pandemic vaccine approaches, an Austrian investigative journalist is warning the world that the greatest crime in the history of humanity is underway. Jane Burgermeister has recently filed criminal charges with the FBI against the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN), and several of the highest ranking government and corporate officials concerning bioterrorism and attempts to commit mass murder. She has also prepared an injunction against forced vaccination which is being filed in America. These actions follow her charges filed in April against Baxter AG and Avir Green Hills Biotechnology of Austria for producing contaminated bird flu vaccine, alleging this was a deliberate act to cause and profit from a pandemic.


In the U.S. since 2008, Burgermeister charges that those named in her allegations have implemented new and/or accelerated the implementation of laws and regulations designed to strip the citizens of the U.S. of their lawful constitutional rights to refuse an injection. These people have created or allowed provisions to remain in place that make it a criminal act to refuse to take an injection against pandemic viruses. They have imposed other excessive and cruel penalties such as imprisonment and/or quarantine in FEMA camps while barring the citizens of the U.S. from claiming compensation from injury or death from the forced injections. This is in violation of the laws governing federal corruption and the abuse of office as well as of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Through these actions, the named defendants have laid the groundwork for mass genocide.


She further charges that the complex of pharmaceutical companies consisting of Baxter, Novartis and Sanofi Aventis are part of a foreign-based dual purpose bioweapons program, financed by this international criminal syndicate and designed to implement mass murder to reduce the world’s population by more than 5 billion people in the next ten years. Their plan is to spread terror to justify forcing people to give up their rights, and to force mass quarantine in FEMA camps. The houses, companies and farms and lands of those who are killed will be up for grabs by this syndicate.

By eliminating the population of North America, the international elite gain access to the region’s natural resources such as water and undeveloped oil lands. And by eliminating the U.S. and its democratic constitution by subsuming it under a North American Union, the international crime group will have total control over North America.


The complete dossier of the June 10th action is a 69 page document presenting evidence to substantiate all charges. This includes:

Factual background that delineates time lines and facts that establish probable cause, UN and WHO definitions and roles, and history and incidents from the April, 2009 “swine flu” outbreak.

Evidence the “swine flu” vaccines are defined as bioweapons as delineates in government agencies and regulations classifying and restricting vaccines, and the fear of foreign countries that “swine flu” vaccines will be used for biological warfare.

Scientific evidence the “swine flu” virus is an artificial (genetic) virus.

Scientific evidence the “swine flu” was bioengineered to resemble the Spanish flu virus of 1918 including quotes from Swine Flu 2009 is Weaponized 1918 Spanish Flu by A. True Ott, Ph.D., N.D., and a Science Magazine report from Dr. Jeffrey Taubenberger

The genome sequence of the “swine flu”

Evidence of the deliberate release of the “swine flu” in Mexico.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


heroyalwhyness said...

re: The Genocide Britain Hushed Up

The movie "Katyn"

DVD, Polish with English subtitles to be released on August 11, 2009.

heroyalwhyness said...

re: Journalist Files Charges Against WHO and UN for Bioterrorism and Intent to Commit Mass Murder

Swine flu shot campaign could involve 600M doses

By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe, Ap Medical Writer Fri Jun 26, 5:47 pm ET
ATLANTA – A potential fall swine flu immunization campaign may involve an unprecedented 600 million doses of vaccine, though officials said Friday they haven't figured out how to administer so many doses or accurately track side effects if a seasonal vaccine is given simultaneously.

The swine flu campaign could far eclipse the roughly 115 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine distributed each year, officials said at a national vaccine advisory committee meeting.

No final decision has been made about whether a swine flu vaccination campaign will take place or whether all Americans would get immunizations. Health officials said that a swine flu vaccination campaign could be only a few months away, and that as many as 60 million doses could be ready by September. The timing depends on how fast a vaccine can be produced and tested, however.

However, health officials are clearly getting ready for a massive vaccination effort, and worry that illnesses could continue or even accelerate in the fall or winter. (read the rest at the link).