Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/14/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/14/2010A crowd of 150 angry Muslims in the village of Curug Mekar in West Java has prevented Protestant Christians from building a church in the village. The fury of the crowd persuaded the local authorities to discover “irregularities” in the congregation’s application for a building permit.

In other news, Egyptians in Milan staged a riot after one of their number was killed. In an unusual twist, the Egyptian immigrant was allegedly murdered by immigrants from South America.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, Insubria, JD, KGS, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Germans Say Euro Zone May Have to Expel Greece: Poll
Spain: Unions Take to Streets Against Rise in Pension Age
ACORN and Other Leftist Groups Eligible to Get Nearly $4 Billion in Obama’s Fiscal 2011 Budget
Ala. Prof Held in 3 Killings Shot Mass. Kin
Harvard-Educated Professor Who ‘Shot Dead University Colleagues Also Killed Her Brother’
Obama Names Envoy to Muslim World Body OIC
Obama Names New US Envoy to Global Islamic Body
Regulators Hired by Toyota Helped Halt Investigations
Europe and the EU
Dresden Forms Human Chain to Thwart Neo-Nazis
Human Rights Ignored at UK Prisons, Austrian Lobbyist Claims
Italy: Berlusconi Vows to Treat Kids Fairly in Divorce Accord
Italy: Govt Moves to Curb Mafia Witnesses
Italy: Florence Magistrates’ File on “Jelly-Like System” For Major Events
Italy: Archaeology: Largest Necropolis in Med Safe From Construction
Netherlands: Amsterdam Prostitutes Mainly Foreign
Portugal: Law Legalising Weddings Approved
Spain: First Detainee to Undergo “Chemical Castration”
Spain: Catalan Requirement for New University Professors
UK: ‘My Hell at the Hands of Ali Dizaei’: Victim of Corrupt Met Commander Tells of Campaign of Intimidation
UK: 10p Charge to Call Police on Revived 101 Number
UK: BNP Votes to Drop Whites-Only Rule
UK: Israeli Politicians May Provoke Arrest to Force Law Change in Britain
UK: Single Mother of Six Finds £2m Mansion on the Net… And Then Gets You to Pay £7,000 a Month Rent
Vatican Tempests. The Academy for Life Puts Its Neck on the Line
Middle East
Archaeology: Stolen Items From Iraq Intercepted in Dubai
Foreign Direct Investments, Weak Performance in MENA Area
How Do You Judge a Camel Beauty Contest?
Iran Protest Image Wins Top News Photo Award
Roman Statue to be on Display in Istanbul
Saudi Call for Boycott Against Men Selling Lingerie
South Asia
France and Germany Increase Investment in Bangladesh
Indonesia: West Java, A Crowd of 150 Muslims Block Construction of Protestant Church
Far East
Declining U.S. Navy Facing Chinese Challenge
Spain: 200,000 Chinese-Made Shoes Taken Off the Market
Crowded Malta Struggles to Cope With Illegal Immigration
Egypt: Italy Focussing on Training, Development
EU: Most Remittances Sent Home From Med Area
Greece: Papandreou, TV a Threat, Not Foreigners
Hammarberg Approves of Greece’s Receptiveness
Immigrants Riot in Milan After Egyptian Killed (2)
Immigrants Riot in Milan After Egyptian Killed (1)
Immigrants to be Taught the Fine British Art of How to Queue
UK: A Plan to Alter the Nation’s Soul
Climategate U-Turn as Scientist at Centre of Row Admits: There Has Been No Global Warming Since 1995
U.S. City Considers Surrender to ‘Green Police’

Financial Crisis

Germans Say Euro Zone May Have to Expel Greece: Poll

BERLIN (Reuters) — A majority of Germans want debt-ridden Greece to be thrown out of the euro zone if necessary and more than two-thirds oppose handing Athens billions of euros in credit, a poll published on Sunday showed.

Vocal opposition to aid for Greece from members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition also grew at the weekend with several senior politicians expressing skepticism, especially as Germany’s own recovery is fragile.

The Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed 53 percent of Germans asked said the European Union should, if necessary, expel Greece from the euro zone.

Athens has struggled to convince investors it is tackling its debt crisis and markets are nervous about a default.

EU leaders discussed the issue last week and offered words of support but failed to outline concrete steps, further unsettling markets. Euro zone finance ministers are expected to discuss Greece again on Monday and Tuesday.

Merkel has adopted a cautious stance on support, saying while Greece will not be left on its own, it is up to Athens to sort out its own problems.

The poll also showed 67 percent of Germans did not want Germany and other EU states to give billions of euros in credit to Greece.

“If we start now, where do we stop?” Michael Fuchs, deputy head of Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“I can’t explain to people on unemployment benefit that they won’t get a cent more but Greeks can draw a pension at 63.”

In her first term, Merkel raised Germany’s retirement age to 67 from 65 in an effort to rein in the deficit to meet EU goals.


Merkel’s coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) are even more resistant to helping Greece.

“Solving this problem cannot be about aid for Greece,” FDP budget expert Otto Fricke told Welt am Sonntag. “If anything, it’s about keeping any damage away from German tax payers.”

Germany suffered its sharpest post-war recession last year and the upturn in Europe’s biggest economy stalled in the fourth quarter, data showed on Friday.

Such data fuels economists’ warnings about helping Greece.

Former European Central Bank chief economist Otmar Issing, who has played a leading role in advising Berlin during the credit crisis, said financial support for Greece from euro zone countries would be misguided.

“That is the way to the whole building subsiding,” Issing told Welt am Sonntag, adding Greece had to take further steps itself, pointing in particular to the generous pension system.

Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff even warned Germany could face similar problems to Greece.

“Germany’s public finances are not on a sustainable path,” Rogoff told Welt am Sonntag. “There will come a time when Germany will have its own Greece problem … it won’t be as bad as in Greece, but it will be painful,” said Rogoff.

Germany’s budget deficit is forecast to grow to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 and Merkel has vowed to consolidate the deficit as soon as the recovery allows.

However Rogoff, a former International Monetary Fund chief economist, said helping Greece was unavoidable.

“As long as Germany isn’t ready to kick Greece out of the euro zone, it must help,” said Rogoff who also said an option would be for the Greek government to secure bridging credit.

[Return to headlines]

Spain: Unions Take to Streets Against Rise in Pension Age

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, February 12 — Spain’s main union organisations, Ugt and Ccoo, have today called a nationwide protest on February 23 to protest against the government’s proposed plans to raise the age of pension eligibility from 65 to 67. The protest, which intends to say a clear No to the administration’s intentions — according to a statement given by the Secretary of the Ugt, Candido Mendez — is to take place in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia as well as a further 67 municipalities. The two union organisations are criticising the government headed by José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for having focussed his anti-recession measures at cuts in spending and is calling on the executive to make an effort to raise fiscal pressure, which in Spain is 30.4% GDP against a industrialised-nation average ten points higher. They are appealing to the premier to step up the fight against tax evasion and the black economy and to increase fiscal pressure on high incomes and capital earnings. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


ACORN and Other Leftist Groups Eligible to Get Nearly $4 Billion in Obama’s Fiscal 2011 Budget

To add to the list of outrageous earmarks in Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget, it appears left-wing activist groups including ACORN, the embezzlement-prone, voter-registration-fraud-plagued community organizing group, are eligible to receive up to $3.99 billion in taxpayer-backed slush money.

The funds would come indirectly from the Community Development Block Grant, one of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s longest-running programs. The grant money goes to state and local governments. ACORN and other groups can apply for part of it directly from a local municipality in which an arm of their group is active.

“In that sense, ACORN gets lots of money from the CDBG program — but it is nearly impossible to track it because HUD doesn’t track all the money” after it has gone to local and state governments, said Matthew Vadum, a senior editor at Capital Research Center. “Nobody knows how much ACORN, which has hundreds of different affiliates, has actually received over the years in CDBG funding.”


Though the largely Democratic House Appropriations Committee voted against the block last December, it is a Bill Clinton-appointee, U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon, who has truly aided the corrupt ACORN cause. Also in December, Gershon issued a temporary injunction against the Congressional funding ban, crying that it ran afoul of the Constitution because under it, ACORN was “singled out by Congress for punishment that directly and immediately affects their ability to continue to obtain federal funding, in the absence of any judicial, or even administrative, process adjudicating guilt.”

In essence, Gershon has said ACORN can’t be punished now because the Obama administration failed to punish it earlier — through a long-overdue, much-needed criminal investigation into the group. But this is absurd, because ACORN is not entitled to such funding; it is a gift, not a right. Congress has the right to cancel contracts whenever it feels like it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ala. Prof Held in 3 Killings Shot Mass. Kin

BRAINTREE, Mass. — A University of Alabama professor accused of fatally shooting three colleagues at a faculty meeting this week shot her younger brother dead at their home in the Boston suburbs more than 20 years ago, but records of it are missing, police said Saturday.

Amy Bishop shot her brother in the chest in 1986, Braintree police Chief Paul Frazier said at a news conference. She fired at least three shots, hitting her brother once and hitting her bedroom wall, before police took her into custody at gunpoint, he said.

Before Bishop could be booked, the police chief back then told officers to release her to her mother, Frazier said.

The shooting of the brother, Seth Bishop, was logged as an accident, but detailed records of the shooting have disappeared, he said.

“The report’s gone, removed from the files,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Harvard-Educated Professor Who ‘Shot Dead University Colleagues Also Killed Her Brother’

Harvard-educated neurobiologist, inventor and mother Amy Bishop — who is said to have pulled out a gun when she was told she would not be getting tenure in the science department — shot her brother at their home in Massachusetts in 1986.

The incident was, at the time, logged as an accident. However, US authorities revealed yesterday that the record of this shooting had disappeared.

According to Paul Frazier, police chief in Braintree, Massachusetts, her brother — an 18-year-old accomplished violinist — was shot in the chest.

Bishop had just months left teaching at the University of Alabama in the United States when police said she opened fire with a handgun Friday in a room filled with a dozen of her colleagues from the school’s biology department.

The lecturer was charged with one court of capital murder which means she could face the death penalty. Three were killed and at least three others were critically injured, said police.

The neuro-scientist’s husband opened the door for his wife before she started shooting, according to local reports.

In all, ten people — all staff from the maths and science department — were said to have been wounded.

Bishop, 42, was taken Friday night in handcuffs from a police precinct to the county jail and could be heard saying, ‘It didn’t happen. There’s no way …. they are still alive.’

Police said they were also interviewing a man as ‘a person of interest,’ believed to be Dr Bishops husband.

Student Erin Johnson said she heard screams coming from the meeting at about 4pm.

The shooting happened at the Huntsville, Alabama, university’s Shelby Centre. University police secured the maths and science building and students were evacuated.

The three killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and two other faculty members, Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson.

The wounded were still recovering in hospitals early Saturday. Luis Cruz-Vera was in fair condition; Joseph Leahy in critical condition; and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo also was in critical condition.

Descriptions of Bishop from students and colleagues were mixed. Some saw a strange woman who had difficulty relating to her students, while others described a witty, intelligent teacher.

Students and colleagues described Bishop as intelligent, but someone who often had difficulty explaining difficult concepts.

There are about 7,500 students at the university. The shooting was the latest of a string of school and university shootings in the US in recent years, but the first involving a woman.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Names Envoy to Muslim World Body OIC

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday he was naming a special envoy to a top Islamic body to further Washington’s cooperation with the Muslim world.

Obama told a U.S.-Islamic World Forum in the Qatari capital Doha in a recorded video message that he was naming White House official Rashad Hussain as special envoy to the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.

“As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo,” Obama said.

In a speech in Cairo last June, Obama called for a “new beginning” in ties between the United States and Muslims, many of whom felt targeted by the “war on terror” launched by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Since then, my administration has made a sustained effort to listen. We’ve held thousands of events and town halls …in the United States and around the world … And I look forward to continuing the dialogue during my visit to Indonesia next month,” Obama said.

Obama told Muslims in his June 4 speech in Cairo that violent extremists had exploited tensions between Muslims and the West and that Islam was not part of the problem.

His speech was welcomed by many Muslims, though some said they wanted him to spell out specific actions to resolve long-running problems like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“And as a hafiz of the Quran, (Hussain) is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work,” Obama said in his message to the Doha meeting, using the term for someone who has mastered and memorized the Muslim holy book.

Hussain was named deputy associate counsel to Obama in January 2009. He has served as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice and as assistant on the House Judiciary Committee, where he reviewed legislation such as the USA Patriot Act.

Hussain, who has a master’s degree in public administration and in Arabic and Islamic studies from Harvard University, graduated from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Committed to two-state solution

Obama, who has made the elusive search for Middle East peace a top priority of his administration, also renewed his commitment to seeking a two-state solution for the Palestinians.

“We remain unyielding in pursuit of a two-state solution that recognizes the rights and security of Israelis and Palestinians,” he vowed.

But he acknowledged that the path ahead would not be easy, admitting that “the United States and Muslims around the world have often slipped into a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust that can lead to conflict rather than cooperation.

“Fully realizing the new beginning we envision will take a long-term commitment. But we have begun,” Obama said.

“Now, it falls to us all, governments and individuals, to do the hard work that must be done turning words into deeds and Writing the Next Chapter in the ties between us, with faith in each other, on the basis of mutual respect.”

A year into his administration, Obama has yet to achieve any significant momentum on stalled peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and Muslim audiences are now less receptive to his promise of a “new beginning” with the Muslim world.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Obama Names New US Envoy to Global Islamic Body

US President Barack Obama has named a new special envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Mr Obama said Rashad Hussain, a deputy associate counsel at the White House, had played a key role in developing partnerships with the Muslim world.

The OIC represents more than 50 states and promotes Muslim solidarity in economic, social and political affairs.

In June, Mr Obama said extremists had exploited tensions between the West and Muslims and called for a new beginning.

“Since then, my administration has made a sustained effort to listen,” Mr Obama told the US-Islamic World Forum in Qatar in a video message, in which he announced Mr Hussain’s appointment.

“We’ve held thousands of events and town halls… in the United States and around the world… And I look forward to continuing the dialogue during my visit to Indonesia next month,” he added.

Mr Obama said the new envoy had completely memorised the Koran and was “a respected member of the American Muslim community”.

Mr Hussein told the Reuters news agency that there was now an “unprecedented opportunity… for a comprehensive agreement with the Muslim world”.

In 2008, former President George W Bush named Sada Cumber, a Texan businessman, as the first US envoy to the OIC.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Regulators Hired by Toyota Helped Halt Investigations

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) — Former regulators hired by Toyota Motor Corp. helped end at least four U.S. investigations of unintended acceleration by company vehicles in the last decade, warding off possible recalls, court and government records show.

Christopher Tinto, vice president of regulatory affairs in Toyota’s Washington office, and Christopher Santucci, who works for Tinto, helped persuade the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to end probes including those of 2002-2003 Toyota Camrys and Solaras, court documents show. Both men joined Toyota directly from NHTSA, Tinto in 1994 and Santucci in 2003.

While all automakers have employees who handle NHTSA issues, Toyota may be alone among the major companies in employing former agency staffers to do so. Spokesmen for General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Honda Motor Co. all say their companies have no ex-NHTSA people who deal with the agency on defects.

Possible links between Toyota and NHTSA may fuel mounting criticism of their handling of defects in Toyota and Lexus models tied to 19 deaths between 2004 and 2009. Three congressional committees have scheduled hearings on the recalls.

“Toyota bamboozled NHTSA or NHTSA was bamboozled by itself,” said Joan Claybrook, an auto safety advocate and former NHTSA administrator in the Jimmy Carter administration. “I think there is going to be a lot of heat on NHTSA over this.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Dresden Forms Human Chain to Thwart Neo-Nazis

As many as 15,000 anti-Nazi demonstrators formed a human chain through Dresden Saturday afternoon to block right-wing extremists gathered to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the allied bombing of the city.

They forced the 6,400 neo-Nazis who gathered at Neustadt train station to abandon their plans to hold a “funereal march” through the city.

“We have for the first time succeeded in preventing the biggest neo-Nazi march in Europe,” said Lena Roth of the “Dresden without Nazis” alliance of politicians, artists and unionists.

Police, who deployed nearly 5,700 men, said late Saturday that clashes broke out on several occasions resulting in “at least 27 injured, including 15 policemen” as stones and bottles were thrown.

But they said the neo-Nazis were not able to stage the march as their opponents blocked highways, crossroads and railway lines.

About 30 people were arrested during the day from the two camps, police


A brawl erupted at a road stop near the Saxon town of Plauen between about 150 left-wing and 50 right-wing extremists, all of whom were on their way to respective demonstrations. Three neo-Nazis — one aged 16, the others both 24 — were injured in the brawl, a police spokesman said.

Police also had to deploy water cannon after they were attacked, a spokesman said, though he was unable to give details.

Neo-Nazis have for years marked the bombing of Dresden to show that Germans were the victims as well as the instigators of brutality during World War II. The 1945 bombing, which killed 25,000 people and destroyed most of the city, is widely considered to have been militarily unnecessary.

On Saturday, the left-wing demonstrators had blocked streets right through the old town, including the road between the main train station and the Neustädt station.

Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz, who took part in the human chain, told the crowd: “We stand against the attempt by old and young Nazis, to abuse this day of mourning.”

The memorial day was for Dresden traditionally a “quiet day of mourning,” she said. But it had to be remembered, she said, “who had started that accursed war.”

By forming the human chain, the city had “become a fortress against intolerance and stupidity,” she said.

Saxony Premier Stanislaw Tillich also took part in the chain. As the two ends linked to form a ring, the bells of the old city’s churches rang.

About 200 people — among them neo-Nazis including representatives of the far-right National Democratic Party — gathered in the Heidefriedhof cemetery to lay wreaths.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Human Rights Ignored at UK Prisons, Austrian Lobbyist Claims

An Austrian lobbyist who spent seven days in custody in London has accused UK officials of ignoring human rights.

Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly — who returned to Austria last Sunday after Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) dropped bribery and arrangement of corruption charges — said: “Custody in Austria happens in correct ways — if it’s possible to find positive attributes for such a measure. Things were at least correct there — unlike in London were human rights are not exactly respected.”

The Burgenland-based owner of several real estate properties, who spent five weeks in Viennese custody last year, claimed speaking to magazine News that officers took all medication he carried with him and only returned all drugs he needed on the last day of his arrest.

“I wasn’t given fitting underwear despite asking for it several times. And they didn’t give me a comb,” the 56-year-old said, adding: “I successfully asked for vaccination against Hepatitis B after I discovered the stubble in the used disposable razor I was given.”

Mensdorff-Pouilly is the husband of former Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Health Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat.

The SFO was investigating allegations that he had made illegal payments of around 12 million Euros in return for contracts to deliver Gripen fighter jets produced by British defence company BAE systems to Central and Eastern European countries.

According to the allegations, between 2002 and 2008 he had actively lobbied for the sales.

Mensdorff-Pouilly walked free after BAE Systems struck a deal with UK and US authorities over alleged bribery and corruption. The firm agreed to pay an overall 320 million Euros to authorities after admitting to criminal charges in response to long-standing corruption allegations in both countries.

The agreement was branded a “sale of indulgence” by Austrian Social Democratic (SPÖ) Defence Minister Norbert Darabos.

Mensdorff-Pouilly told News he was “just a ball in game” of officials to increase the pressure on BAE Systems. “They [the SFO] had got nothing on BAE but wanted to indicate they had by showing ‘We now even start to arrest people.’“

He also attacked Austrian politicians for commenting on the case as SPÖ and opposition party bosses appealed to Viennese prosecutors to carefully check whether there was a chance to re-launch investigations against the lobbyist which had started more than one and a half years ago.

Mensdorff-Pouilly claimed politicians had been making use of the fact “that I’m not very popular in public.”

He stressed his plan was now to cooperate with Austrian justice authorities to convince them that he had done nothing wrong. “I’m not guilty, and I’ll prove that,” he told News.

Darabos meanwhile attacked coalition partner the ÖVP.

“The ÖVP is apparently trying to protect Mensdorff-Pouilly. I feel affected by this as a citizen,” the minister said.

ÖVP Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner reacted saying: “It’s not the role of the justice ministry to comment or even to decide on future dealings in crime cases — and it certainly isn’t the role of the defence ministry.”

Austrian criminal law expert Helmut Fuchs said the exact wording of SFO’s decision had to be checked to find out whether an investigation could continue in Austria or whether Viennese prosecutors had to drop all charges.

Fuchs said paragraph 54 of the Schengen Agreement says someone investigated for the same crime by two European Union (EU) member states could only be sentenced or acquitted once.

Vienna state prosecution spokesman Gerhard Jarosch said the SFO had not yet sent the files.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Vows to Treat Kids Fairly in Divorce Accord

Milan, 10 Feb. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has told the children of his second wife that they will not be penalised in a his forthcoming multi-million dollar divorce settlement. Four of the billionaire’s children — all apart from his youngest son Luigi — had lunch with their father at his luxury villa Arcore outside the northern city of Milan on Tuesday, Italian media reports said.

“I do not want to harm anyone,” Berlusconi said, cited by Italian daily La Repubblica. “No one will be short-changed or discriminated against.”

Berlusconi has two children from his first marriage to Carla Dall’Oglio — Marina, 43, and Pier Silvio, 40 — and another three from his second marriage to Veronica Lario — Barbara, 25, Eleonora, 23, and Luigi, 21.

Marina is the president of Berlusconi’s Fininvest investment group and his publishing house Mondadori, while Pier Silvio is vice-president of his vast television empire, Mediaset.

Lario filed for divorce last May after revelations that the media tycoon had attended the 18th birthday party of an aspiring model who said she called him “Daddy”.

The move provoked a bitter dispute among his offspring with the children of his second marriage expressing concern that they would not get an equal share of his fortune, estimated to be around nine billion euros.

Berlusconi in late January met his estranged wife face to face for the first time since she demanded a divorce over his alleged relationships with showgirls and “escorts”.

Lario, a former actress, is reportedly demanding 43 million euros a year in maintenance, or just over 3.5 million euros a month.

Berlusconi’s lawyers have argued that this is too high and have proposed a maximum of 300,000 a month.

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

Italy: Govt Moves to Curb Mafia Witnesses

Rome, 11 Feb. (AKI) — The Italian government has announced measures to limit the admissibility of evidence given by witnesses in mafia trials. Under a bill tabled by a key senator from Italy’s ruling People of Freedom (PdL) party, evidence given by witnesses at mafia trials may not be admitted as evidence in court.

“We don’t want to stop people cooperating with the law, and these witnesses often make important contributions,” said the PdL chief whip in the Senate, Maurizio Gasparri.

“But we need to independently verify their statements,” Gaspari told the Berluconi-owned television Channel 5 on Thursday.

The bill, tabled by the PdL Senator Giuseppe Valentino, follows a series of sensational allegations made by witnesses in mafia trials, which have linked Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and other members of the party to organised crime.

Berlusconi and other PdL politicians have vehemently denied the accusations made against them, claiming they are slander.

“You can’t have people like Spatuzza making outrageous accusations against the premier, which are then denied by other witnesses,” Gasparri said.

He was referring to mafia turncoat Gaspare Spatuzza (photo), who last year testified to prosecutors that jailed Sicilian mafia boss Giuseppe Graviano told him in 1994 that Berlusconi was helping the mafia.

In his testimony, Spatuzza also made accusations about Berlusconi’s close political associate and PdL senator Marcello Dell’Utri.

“The person from whom we obtained everything was Berlusconi and also one of our countrymen, Dell’Utri,” said Spatuzza, who was Graviano’s assistant.

Dell’Utri, a native of the Sicilian capital, Palermo, was in 2004 convicted of mafia association and given a nine-year jail term, but plea-bargained a much lighter sentence of 2 years and three months for tax fraud.

The Berlusconi government had passed “tougher laws” against the mafia and carried out more arrests and expropriation of its assets than any of its predecessors, Gasparri said.

“Now we have Ciancimino, who on one day re-writes Italy’s history and on the next recants, adding ifs and buts,” he stated.

“We can’t admit testimony made in a court during the course of a morning that makes headline news and damages the reputation of people for years.”

Massimo Ciancimino testified this month that the party founded in the early 1990s by Berlusconi and Dell’Utri, Forza Italia, resulted from negotiations between the Italian state and the Sicilian mafia.

Ciancimino also claimed Dell’Utri was involved in secret negotiations with the Sicilian mafia after it murdered a top anti-mafia judge in 1992.

He is the son of late mafia member and mayor of Palermo, Vito Ciancimino, the first Italian politician convicted for being a member of the mafia.

His allegations are based on information he says he received from his father, who died in 2002.

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

Italy: Florence Magistrates’ File on “Jelly-Like System” For Major Events

Priest thought to have handed over 50,000 euros. Suspects obtained jobs and luxury cars

ROME — The “jelly-like system” set up to manage major events is the focus of the charges brought by Florence magistrates against the head of the civil protection agency, Guido Bertolaso. Benefits the influential junior minister is alleged to have obtained for awarding contracts to Diego Anemone’s group include “cash and sexual services”. Over two years, businessman Anemone, 39, managed to secure “the fourth, fifth and sixth lots of the G8 tender at La Maddalena”, work at the Foro Italico for the world swimming championships and a contract for Perugia airport in the run-up to celebrations for the anniversary of the unification of Italy. Angelo Balducci, nominated to manage major events, is alleged to have favoured Mr Anemone by providing jobs for his son and daughter-in-law, mobile phones, luxury cars, building work on flats and even domestic staff for the country house that the businessman had put at his disposal.

The priest’s money

The magistrates write: “It has emerged from telephone surveillance that Guido Bertolaso met Diego Anemone on a very frequent basis. At least one of these meetings was preceded by agitated telephone conversations from Anemone which were clearly intended to rapidly secure a substantial sum of money. On several occasions, Mr Anemone also took the trouble to inform Angelo Balducci and Mauro Della Giovampaola about these meetings in advance. He contacted them at the end of the meetings to provide cryptic reports of the outcome. This confirms their relation to the illicit shared interests that the Anemone group cultivates with the public officers”. The episode dates from 21 September 2008. Mr Anemone was due to meet Mr Bertolaso at 10.30 am. An hour earlier, Mr Anemone phoned Fr Evaldo, a priest for whom he was doing some building work.

Anemone: Sorry to bother you, Fr Evaldo, but I’ve got to see someone this morning at 10.30-11.00. How are you set?

Fr Evaldo: For money? Here in Albano I’ve only got ten. I could give it to you down in Rome. Then I’ve got to take it to Africa… let’s see, on Wednesday…

Investigators maintain that “the two agree for the next day”.

Anemone: But we can’t we manage today? Tomorrow, tomorrow morning I could pop round”.

Magistrates point out that in a phone call two days later, “Anemone appears to identify 50,000 euros as the sum requested and obtained from Fr Evaldo”. The magistrates’ report makes this comment on the episode: “Guido Bertolaso has direct relations with the businessman Diego Anemone, whom he often meets in person. In anticipation of these meetings, Mr Anemone made efforts to obtain cash. In consequence, investigators maintain that there is a certain basis for believing that the meetings may have had the purpose of handing sums of money to Mr Bertolaso”.

Women and relaxation

Phone taps reveal that Mr Anemone took trouble to provide gratification for Mr Bertolaso’s free moments…

English translation by Giles Watson

Article in Italian: Fiorenza Sarzanini

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Archaeology: Largest Necropolis in Med Safe From Construction

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, FEBRUARY 8 — The largest Punic-Phoenician necropolis in the Mediterranean will not be covered by concrete. The Council of State, reported L’Unità newspaper today, has repealed a concession granted by the City of Cagliari’s that would have authorised construction company Nuova Initiativa Coimpresa to build about 150,00 cubic metres of buildings, roads and squares on the archaeological site of Tuvixeddu, in the hills of the city. Blocking the initiative was the local Cultural Heritage Office, which disputed the legality of the 2000 agreement between the regional government and the company, based on authorisation granted by the City to build on the site. Chosen by the Carthaginians between the 3rd and 4th century B.C. to bury their dead, the Tuvixeddu hill, which also is the site of a Roman necropolis, has suffered numerous abuses over the years: it was used as a cement quarry by Italcementi, an air-raid shelter in WWII, and after the war, sheltered those who lost their homes in the bombings. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Amsterdam Prostitutes Mainly Foreign

Fewer than 100 of the 1,100 prostitutes identified by Amsterdam city council health workers are Dutch nationals, the Parool reported on Thursday.

And some 60% of women working in the city’s red light district brothels and clubs come from Eastern Europe, the report by the prostitute’s health centre said. The centre claims to reach about 30% of the city’s prostitutes.

The report also shows that some prostitutes are working over 100 hours a week behind the windows and in clubs.

‘This is irresponsible,’ city council executive Marijke Vos said. Vos plans involve prostitutes, brothel owners and health workers in making sure there are better sex industry guidelines on working hours and conditions.

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

Portugal: Law Legalising Weddings Approved

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 12 — Yesterday Portuguese Parliament approved a law that legalises same-sex marriages, but does not recognise the right to adoption. The regulation must now be ratified by the President, Anibal Cavaco Silva. In favour of the approval of the law, according to reports today in the press, were the Socialist Party (PS), Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), the Bloque de Izquierda (BE) and the Green Party; while centre-right parties voted against the new law, although six MPs of the conservative Social Democrata party (PSD) abstained and two independent PS representatives were opposed. The law eliminates the expression “different sex” from the Civil Code, which until now was associated with the definition of marriage, which is now defined as a “contract between two individuals who want to build a family through a full union of their lives”. To become effective, the law must be ratified by President Cavaco Silva, who has always said that he is against gay marriage, and therefore a veto has not been ruled out. The modifications introduced to the Civil Code rule out the right for same-sex couples to adopt children. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: First Detainee to Undergo “Chemical Castration”

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 5 — An inmate of a prison in Catalonia, serving sentence for sexual assault, will become the first detainee in Spain voluntarily to undergo “chemical castration”. The announcement was made by the regional Councillor for Justice, Montserrat Tura, to the media today. As Ms Tura explained, the detainee agreed to starting the drug treatment aimed at inhibiting sexual urges and reducing the production of testosterone. In this way, Catalonia, which has recently been empowered to run its own prison system, is a jump ahead of the announced reform of the Criminal Code, which is due to include voluntary chemical castration. Re-offending paedophiles, people found guilty of crimes of sexual sadism and detainees suffering sadistic personality disturbances, all of whom have more than one sentence for the same offence, may apply for the treatment. The drug treatment programme is applied three years ahead of the completion of three-quarters of the sentence and includes psychological treatment of the detainee ahead of the drug programme, which begins shortly before release. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Catalan Requirement for New University Professors

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 8 — A medium to high-level knowledge of Catalan will be a requirement for new professors at the University of Catalonia, with contracts of over two years, according to the draft of a decree being examined by the Generalitat, which has resulted in a debate in Catalonia’s universities, according to reports today in El Pais. Only professors that already hold a teaching post, emeritus professors, visiting professors and those that only hold an honorary role will be not be required to have a medium to high-level knowledge of the co-official language (a so-called ‘C-level’). Already in 2008, an agreement was signed on a C-level requirement of the Catalan language in the inter-university council of Catalonia, which includes the vice-chancellors and the regional government, but this is the first time that a knowledge of the co-official language will be acknowledged by a decree. An initiative that has led to controversy among university professors from outside of the region. According to some, making Catalan compulsory could make sense in required schooling, so that the students can socialise, but not at the university level, where part of the institution’s purpose is internationalisation and an exchange of teachers and researchers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘My Hell at the Hands of Ali Dizaei’: Victim of Corrupt Met Commander Tells of Campaign of Intimidation

Long before they were introduced, Waad Al Baghdadi had the measure of Commander Ali Dizaei. They frequented the same Persian restaurant in West London and Mr Al Baghdadi, then a 20-year-old website designer, was able to observe the officer’s behaviour at close hand.

He thought him bloated with self-importance. There was his swagger, his constant boasting, his habit of braying into his phone.


There was much about Dizaei that reminded Mr Al Baghdadi of the corrupt police chiefs in Tehran where the policeman was born. This, he acknowledges, should have served as a warning two years later when they met to strike a business deal.


Many might assume, then, that the guilty verdict gave Mr Al Baghdadi cause for celebration, that at the very least it drew a line under his ordeal and allowed him to resume his life. Yet as he reveals, he lives in fear and is planning to move abroad.

For what has never been disclosed until now is the extraordinary campaign of intimidation Mr Al Baghdadi says he endured after making his complaint against Dizaei. He firmly believes it was designed to scare and discredit him.

‘I am still being told by people in the Iranian community that I will pay for what I did for standing up to him,’ he said.

Most startlingly of all, a few months before Mr Al Baghdadi was due to give evidence against the officer, an Iranian man walked into the cafe he now runs and offered him £150,000 to change his evidence. He refused.

[Comments from JD: This harrowing account of intimidation is a must read.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: 10p Charge to Call Police on Revived 101 Number

The Government is planning to resurrect an alternative number to 999 that will charge members of the public 10p to report anti-social behaviour and non-emergency crimes to police.

The 101 number was introduced in 2006 to take pressure off the emergency line but was abandoned after pilot schemes showed it failed to significantly reduce the volume of 999 calls.

It also caused controversy at the time after it was revealed the Government had planned to include ‘people drug dealing’ as a non-emergency crime which the service could deal with.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: BNP Votes to Drop Whites-Only Rule

LONDON — The far-right British National Party voted on Sunday to drop its whites-only membership policy, following a threat of legal action.

Party leader Nick Griffin said he expected a “trickle, rather than a flood” of applications after race relations laws forced the party to amend its constitution to allow black and British Asian people to join.

“Anyone can be a member of this party. We are happy to accept anyone as a member providing they agree with us that this country should remain fundamentally British,” he told Sky News television.

The leader said he expected to welcome the party’s first non-white member, a Sikh called Rajinder Singh, soon.

“I will be absolutely delighted to shake his hand and give him his membership card,” said Griffin.

A London court had ordered the party to amend its constitution to comply with race relations legislation.

The court warned the BNP that it would face legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, an independent body set up by the government, if it failed to change its membership policy.

The commission said Sunday it had not yet seen the new constitution but added that it hoped “that the BNP’s revised membership policy is no longer discriminatory.”

It will receive the new constitution on Tuesday, and will have a week to respond before both parties head to court next month.

The rules in place before the vote said: “Membership of the BNP is strictly defined within the terms of, and our members also self-define themselves within, the legal ambit of a defined ‘racial group’, this being ‘indigenous Caucasian’ and defined ‘ethnic groups’ emanating from that race.”

The decision to change the rules was taken at an extraordinary general meeting just outside London, and the event was marred by the ejection of a journalist from the Times newspaper.

Explaining why the reporter was thrown out, Griffin said: “Because he is from The Times, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and it lies and it lies and it lies about this party.”

The BNP, which has no lawmakers sitting in the British parliament, warns that “the indigenous British people” face becoming an ethnic minority in their own country if current levels of immigration continue.

It also predicts the “overwhelming and extinguishing of Britain and British identity under a tsunami of immigration,” in comments on its website.

Griffin and fellow party member Andrew Brons were elected to the European Parliament in June, the first time the BNP had been voted into a legislature.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Israeli Politicians May Provoke Arrest to Force Law Change in Britain

A swift change to the law promised by ministers to prevent Israeli politicians and generals being arrested when they visit Britain is in doubt.

A Cabinet split over timing threatens to postpone any alteration of the rules until after the election, The Times has learnt, even though ministers assured Israel that it was a priority. Such a delay would leave visiting Israelis at risk and could worsen an already sour dispute with Jerusalem.

Tzipi Livni, the Israeli opposition leader whose threatened arrest sparked the dispute, indicated last night that she was prepared to travel to Britain and “take the bullet” if that was the only way to shame the Government into action. “Britain has obligated itself to me personally that this subject will be taken care of and fixed,” she said. “Now is the time.”

Ministers promised to act after a magistrate in London issued a warrant for the arrest of Ms Livni last year, for alleged war crimes in Gaza when she was Foreign Minister. The warrant was withdrawn after she cancelled her planned trip.

The issue embarrassed the Government, and David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said that ministers were looking urgently at changing the law so that Israeli leaders felt free to visit the UK.

It would mean rewriting the principle of universal jurisdiction, under which private citizens can secure arrest warrants for offences such as war crimes committed abroad. Under one proposal, the Attorney-General, rather than just a magistrate, would have to authorise such a warrant.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Attorney-General, went to Israel to reassure political and military leaders that the Government was taking the issue seriously. But it has now become snarled up in the end of the parliamentary session.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, is privately warning against remaking the law over such a fundamental issue in haste. He believes that it ought to be explored by a body such as the Justice Select Committee. That would delay any new law until the next Parliament.

Parliamentary counsel have drafted clauses that could be attached to the Crime and Security Bill currently before Parliament, for its Commons committee stage on February 25 or its report stage in March. But there are fears that it may fall victim to horse-trading at the end of the parliamentary session, which would be even more embarrassing to the Government in its relations with Israel.

A further complication is that 119 MPs, most Labour, have signed a Commons motion against any change, and some Labour strategists do not want to be dealing with a rebellion as the election campaign starts. Mr Miliband wants the issue to be resolved before the election, and officials insisted last night that much work was being done to that end.

Yigal Palmor, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “If Israeli dignitaries cannot travel unhindered to Britain, than they will not travel. Automatically the political dialogue between the two countries will be reduced. This is not something that London or Jerusalem wants.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

UK: Single Mother of Six Finds £2m Mansion on the Net… And Then Gets You to Pay £7,000 a Month Rent

A single mother of six is getting more than £80,000 a year from the taxpayer to live in a £2million mansion in an exclusive London suburb.

Essma Marjam, 34, is given almost £7,000 a month in housing benefits to pay the rent on the five-bedroom villa just yards from Sir Paul McCartney’s house and Lord’s cricket ground.

She also receives an estimated £15,000 a year in other payouts, such as child benefit, to help look after her children, aged from five months to 14.

The four-storey house in Maida Vale has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a double living room, large fitted kitchen-diner with French doors on to the landscaped garden and a state-of-the art buzzer entry system.

Astonishingly, it is understood Miss Marjam found the house on the internet through a private letting agency, rather than waiting for Westminster council to give her a vacant property on their books.

She then applied to the council for the £1,600-a-week benefit — the maximum amount the council allows.

Miss Marjam said: ‘I moved here at the beginning of the month as I’m entitled to a five-bedroom house.

‘I was in a three-bedroom council house but I needed a bigger place once my new baby came along. So the council agreed to pay the £1,600 a week to a private landlord as they didn’t have any houses big enough.

‘I’m separated from my husband. He’s a solicitor in Derby, but I don’t know if he’s working at the moment. He doesn’t pay anything towards the kids. Things are quite difficult between us.

‘The house is lovely and very big, but I don’t have enough furniture to fill it.’

She does, however, have two large flat-screen televisions and several leather sofas, plus a large amount of children’s toys scattered over the wooden floorboards.

During the week, vans from Argos and other home stores dropped off large purchases.

Miss Marjam does not work, as she spends all day looking after her children — Zekia, 14, Abdulhakim, 13, Jihad, 11, Hamza, ten, Ayman, two, and five-month-old Nasir.

The four eldest have the surname Benjamin, while the two youngest have the surname Khan.

Labour’s controversial Local Housing Allowance enables council tenants to receive such high benefits to pay private landlords.

The maximum that can be claimed is set by central government and the allowances can be huge, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill.

The Daily Mail has highlighted other outrageous examples, such as the single mother of eight receiving £90,000 a year to live in a £2.6million Notting Hill mansion.

Taxpayers are also picking up the £6,400-a-month bill to house Nasra Warsame, her seven children and her elderly mother in central London, with Westminster council also providing Mrs Warsame’s husband and their eighth child with a two-bedroom flat nearby.

In total, 16 families are living in million-pound-plus London properties funded by the Local Housing Allowance.

Phillipa Roe, a Westminster councillor, said: ‘We would like to see the entire system changed as the current rules are wrong and do not offer taxpayers value for money.

‘We want to have more control to limit the amount of money which is paid out. Local councils are far better placed to determine benefit levels than ministers in Whitehall who won’t know the facts on the ground.

‘The Government has repeatedly pledged to reform housing benefit but failed to do so. The whole system needs a radical review and ministers should stop dragging their heels and get on and do it.’

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: ‘It is not right that in London high rents have been able to distort the system, resulting in a small number of people getting excessively high payments.

‘We took immediate action and capped the Local Housing Allowance in April. The plans we published in December go even further and will exclude high rents from LHA rate calculations.

‘Only a very small minority of people receive such high rates of housing benefit. The average payment is £81 a week.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Vatican Tempests. The Academy for Life Puts Its Neck on the Line

Its president, Archbishop Fisichella, no longer has the trust of some of its members. All because of one of his articles published in “L’Osservatore Romano,” approved by the secretariat of state. The scholar Michel Schooyans’ broadside against the false “compassion” that justifies everything

by Sandro Magister

ROME, February 8, 2010 — In a few days, from February 11 to 13, a meeting will be held at the Vatican of the pontifical academy for life, the president of which is Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella (in the photo).

The meeting promises to be a stormy one. Some of the members of the academy are openly questioning whether Fisichella is fit to be president. Foremost among them is Monsignor Michel Schooyans, Belgian, professor emeritus of the Catholic University of Louvain, a respected specialist in anthropology, political philosophy, bioethics. He is a member of three pontifical academies: for social sciences, of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and — most relevant here — for life. Pope Joseph Ratzinger knows and admires him. In 1997, as cardinal prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, he wrote a preface to one of his books: “L’Évangile face au désordre mondial.”

In view of the meeting, Schooyans has written a scathing critique of the “trap” into which he believes also Fisichella has fallen: the deceptive use of the concept of “compassion.”

The critique is reproduced in its entirety further below. Fisichella’s name doesn’t appear in it. But there are detailed references to an article on abortion that he wrote for “L’Osservatore Romano,” which provoked a genuine uproar when it was published, and ultimately required the Vatican congregation for the doctrine of the faith to release a “Clarification.”


Fisichella’s article came out on March 15, 2009. And it concerned the case of an extremely young Brazilian child-mother in Recife, who was forced to abort the twins she was carrying.

In the days before the article was published, the girl’s situation had ignited bitter debate, not only in Brazil, but also in other countries, especially in France.

The French newspapers had lashed out against the Church’s “fanaticism” and “hardness of heart,” particularly that of the archbishop of Olinda and Recife, José Cardoso Sobrinho, who had condemned the double abortion, and had made a united front in defense of the girl and of those who had “saved” her by making her have an abortion.

The accusations that the Church had no “compassion” were extremely harsh, and were also aimed at Pope Benedict XVI himself, who had just weathered furious attacks over the Williamson case of a few weeks before.

Lucetta Scaraffia, a leading commentator for “L’Osservatore Romano,” was in Paris at the time, and alerted the director of the Vatican newspaper, Giovanni Maria Vian.

In agreement with his editor, secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vian gave Archbishop Fisichella the job of writing an article that would quiet the attacks on the Church and the pope.

Fisichella wrote it. Bertone examined it, and approved it word for word, without having it checked by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, as is usually done at the Vatican for position statements that touch on doctrine.

On the afternoon of March 14, the article was published on the front page of “L’Osservatore Romano,” bearing the date of the following day.

In it, Fisichella wrote that the case of the Brazilian girl “made the pages of the newspapers only because the archbishop of Olinda and Recife was quick to declare the excommunication of the doctors who helped her to interrupt the pregnancy.” Instead, “before thinking of excommunication,” the girl “should first of all have been defended, embraced, comforted” with that “humanity of which we churchmen should be expert proclaimers and teachers.” But “that’s not what happened.”

And he continued:…


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

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

Middle East

Archaeology: Stolen Items From Iraq Intercepted in Dubai

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 10 — Various pieces of Iraqi artwork, including three bronze statues and ancient coins, were intercepted and seized by the customs authority of Dubai, while they were being smuggled towards the international airport in the emirate. Among the objects seized were also vases and plates from the Hellenistic and Sassanian Ages -explained a statement released today by the customs authority- which were hidden in the stuffing of several chairs, which were travelling in a furniture container. Examined by an archaeologist, the items were identified as precious Iraqi artefacts that were stolen from the Mesopotamian country after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. In 2008, border police in the emirate had already seized 128 Iraqi archaeological artefacts hidden in the hold of a ship that was attempting to enter the emirate. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Foreign Direct Investments, Weak Performance in MENA Area

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, 10 FEB — Over 70% of the investment promotion intermediaries (IPI) in the world may be missing foreign investment projects because they do not respond to investors in an appropriate way. This is the main outcome of the Global Investment Promotion Benchmarking report published by the World Bank Group. According to the World Bank Group’s investment promotion specialists of Investment Climate Advisory Services (ICAS), the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), is one of the weakest performing regions in the world and is in danger of falling further behind. “In spite of the private sector’s growing role in regional economies, the rate of private investment in MENA countries is only about half that of many other countries that were able to achieve sustained high levels of growth,’ considers Mahmoud Mohieldin, Minister of Investment in Egypt, a press release reports. Most MENA governments are eager to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to diversify their economies, but a bureaucratic approach to investment facilitation too often stifles interaction with potential investors. Opportunities do exist as the MENA region is starting to benefit from a global recovery with GDP growth expected to accelerate to 3.7 percent in 2010 (from 2.9 percent in 2009). A recent Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) report suggests that global multinational enterprises maintain a positive FDI outlook with almost 40% intending to increase foreign investment over the next year and to shift their investments from developed to developing countries. The topic has been address during a seminar started yesterday in Cairo, entitled: “The makings of a good Investment Facilitator: lessons to be learnt from top performers”. Co-organised by the World Bank Group and ANIMA Investment Network in the framework of the EU Invest in Med programme, the seminar is hosted by Egypt’s General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI), which recently took over the presidency of the ANIMA network. As for the most recent trends of FDI in the area, according to ANIMA observatory the decline has been relatively strong: 541 FDI projects in 2009 vs. 863 in 2008 (- 37%); 56 billion euros in gross volumes, against 66 billion in 2008 (- 15%); 29 billion euros in net volumes (amounts corrected for the multi-stage projects), vs. 42 billion in 2008 (- 31%) The ANIMA data are on line with those of UNCTAD (decrease of 39% in global FDI flows in 2009). There are however strong signs of recovery: 10 projects ranging between 1 and 2 billion euros; 4 mega-projects higher than 2 billion euros (e.g. Barwa Real Estate in Egypt et al Maabar in Jordan). In terms of annoucements, the 4th quarter of 2009 by far is the best of the year: 182 FDI projects or one third of the annual total. The seminar will conclude tomorrow with a large conference titled ‘Mediterranean Investment Facilitators: New challenges ahead’. Mohieldin, who will be addressing the conference audience and making the closing remarks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

How Do You Judge a Camel Beauty Contest?

They’re tall, they’re blonde, they’re elegant, and at the height of their careers they can command millions of dollars. Supermodels? No, camels.

In the remote Western Region of the United Arab Emirates, 28,000 of the humped beasts gathered at the end of January for what was billed as the biggest camel beauty contest ever.

Normally, there’s nothing there but sand, but the al-Dhafra Festival filled the arid desert with breeders and their herds, some of which had been driven from as far as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The pens bustled with activity. Thousands of people from around The Gulf watched the action from the stands. A handful of judges sifted through the camel pens picking out the top talent.

“The head is the most important thing and this is what we look at first,” Mohammed Abdullah al-Mehairi, the head judge, told the BBC.

“We are looking for camels with big heads, firm ears, broad cheeks and big whiskers. There is no single important thing — the neck and body should be long, the hump and the back should be big, and we also look at the colour and posture of the camel.”

Bedouin tradition

Camels of different ages and types competed in 48 different categories — winning a total of $10m — during the 10-day festival, which ended on Monday.

“The most important competition is the al-Bayraq lap where breeders put forward their best 50 camels and parade them around the track,” Mr al-Mehairi explained.

“Most of the competitors are female because… females look better.”

Hamad Rashed al-Marri took a month to bring his camels from Saudi Arabia on foot.

His father was a camel breeder, as was his father’s father, and this has become the biggest event in the camel calendar for him. Fifty members of his family travelled with him.


“For the beauty camels I’m looking at the camel’s head and height,” says Hamad.

“For racing camels they should be thin with strong legs.”

Camel trader Khalaf Sari Al Mazrouei said he had sold one camel for $2.7m.

“The market this year is better because there are more people from the Gulf. The more there are, the more buying and selling there is. Today I bought a camel for $7,000 and I can sell it tomorrow for $10,000 or $14,000.


“I cannot lie to you. People want to be number one, everyone wants to be number one,” says Hamad.

“Why? Because you get the media coverage and you get the money and you get the satisfaction. It’s the best thing. People buy the camels, raise the camels, and spend money on the camels just to be number one.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Iran Protest Image Wins Top News Photo Award

An image of women shouting from the rooftops in protest at Iran’s presidential election last June won the top World Press Photo prize for news photography on Friday.

The photo is part of a series that Italian Pietro Masturzo shot on Tehran’s rooftops at night, when people were shouting their dissent over the election results as protests raged on the streets during

The black and white image by Masturzo, a freelance photographer, was used to illustrate a story on how Iranians shouted their dissent from rooftops and balconies in the days after the June 12 election last year.

Iran’s opposition has said the result was fixed to give President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad victory.


“The photo has a powerful sense of atmosphere, tension, fear — but also of quietness and calm, and in this sense was a challenge as a choice,” said Kate Edwards, a member of the jury.

“We were looking for an image that drew you in, took you deeper, made you think more — not just about showing what we already know, but something that asks more of us.”

Masturzo, 29, won one of the most prestigious international image awards after less than three years as a professional photographer. He will receive his €10,000 ($13,700) prize in Amsterdam on May 2.

The jury also gave a special mention to an image taken from a film put on the Youtube video sharing website which showed 26-year-old student Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot dead during the Iran protests on June 20.

AFP photographers Astrada, Laban-Mattei and Abed won their awards in the Spot News section for trouble-zone reporting.

Astrada won first prize for a series of pictures of unrest in Madagascar in February 2009 during an uprising against President Marc Ravalomanana. Last year he won the award for picture of election violence in Kenya in 2008.

Laban-Mattei won second prize for his images from the stormy Iran protests.

Abed was selected for his reporting from the Israeli offensive against Gaza in January 2009.

Sixty-three photographers from 23 nationalities won prizes in 10 categories in the annual awards. The 5,847 photographers who took part entered 101,960 photos.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Roman Statue to be on Display in Istanbul

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — A well-known Roman statue will be displayed in the Turkish city of Istanbul in February. The “Discus-thrower” (Discobolus) of Myron statue, one of the best known symbols of the Roman era which is a part of the collection of The British Museum, will be displayed at the Istanbul Archeology Museums as of February 12, as Anatolia news agency reports. Turkey’s Directorate General for Cultural Heritage and Museums, Istanbul Archeology Museums and The British Museum are jointly organizing the exhibition, sponsored by the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB). The statue will be on display at the Istanbul Archeology Museums till April 4. A statue of the 5th century BC from Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, Lazio, Italy, “Discus-thrower” is one of the most famous images from the ancient world. This marble statue is one of several copies of a lost bronze original of the fifth century BC which was attributed to the sculptor Myron (flourished about 470-440 BC). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Call for Boycott Against Men Selling Lingerie

Campaigners in Saudi Arabia have urged women there to begin a two-week boycott of lingerie shops with male staff.

They say it is a contradiction that in such a conservative, Islamic country, women have to give their underwear sizes to men they do not know.

Reem Asaad, an economics professor from Jeddah, organised the boycott through her Facebook page, as public protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia.

Islamic scholars have given their backing to the campaign.

“I am calling for salesmen to be replaced with saleswomen”, Ms Asaad was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

“I just hope that many respond and boycott,” she said.

Ms Asaad has been calling on officials to allow saleswomen in shops open to both male and female clients since 2008.

Religious police in the country have said they are not against women working in shops as long as they are in women-only malls.

Saudi Arabia’s Labour Ministry has previously said it would require that women were employed in lingerie shops, but the law has not been enforced.

Ms Asaad says the law is deliberately ambiguous and allows religious clerics to effectively uphold a ban on saleswomen.

The Wahhabi strain of Islam, which dominates the country, requires absolute separation of unrelated members of the opposite sex.

Parts of Saudi society are still very traditional and do not like the idea of women working — even if they are just selling underwear to each other.

Because of the strict segregation laws barring physical contact between the sexes, women also cannot be properly measured for their underwear.

The boycott campaign comes days before a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will hold a town hall meeting at Ms Asaad’s Dar al-Hekma College.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

South Asia

France and Germany Increase Investment in Bangladesh

With 2.1 billion dollars invested and an export growth of 17.4% in 2009, Germany is the second economic partner of Bangladesh after the United States. More than 200 million euros spent by France in projects against pollution. The textile industry remains the main industry of Bangladesh.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — 2009 saw increased investments by Germany and France in Bangladesh. A study by the German Federal Bureau of Statistics published last February 4, notes that Germany is now the second market for the Bangladeshi goods after the U.S. In 2009, German investment in the Asian country was 2.1 billion euros, growing by 17.4%. Instead, France is investing in technical innovation in the textile sector at a cost of over 200 million.

“I welcome the increase in trade between the two states — states Holger Michael, the German Ambassador in Bangladesh — the current traffic of goods amounts to about 1.6 billion euros, and I hope that relations between Germany and Bangladesh continue to grow”.

To date, over 90% of Bangladeshi products exported to Germany come from the clothing industry. This is confirmed as the main industry of the country, thanks to the low cost of labour. But in 2009 the trade relations also involved the shipping sector, with the start of construction of 30 vessels worth 250 million euros. Other exported products are: jute, leather, fish and seafood.

Besides the exploitation of cheap labour, the 2009 has also seen investments to improve the quality of products. France has in fact spent over $ 200 million in projects to limit the use of harmful and polluting materials in the realization of clothes. “We are friends of Bangladesh — says the French ambassador Laurent Estrade — France wants to assist the country in reducing pollution, particularly by limiting the use of arsenic in the industry.”

Despite the global crisis, the quantity of products exported by Bangladesh is growing. Between 2007 and 2009, total exports grew by 4.8%, while the projected increase for 2010 is 6.3%. In addition to Germany, France and the U.S., other trading partners are Great Britain, Italy, Japan and Holland.

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

Indonesia: West Java, A Crowd of 150 Muslims Block Construction of Protestant Church

Demonstration of extremists prompts authorities to revoke the building permits. Local official: the signatures collected are “irregular”. The final decision of waiting for today. The Conference of Bishops makes a formal protest in Parliament.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A crowd of over 150 Muslims in the village of Curug Mekar, in the sub district of West Bogor (West Java province), staged a protest against the building permit (IMB) of a Protestant church. The event has prompted local authorities to revoke the authorization, justifying the decision by alleged “irregularities” in the collection of signatures needed for the building of the place of Christian worship.

At the center of the controversy is the Protestant Church of Yasmin in the village of Curug Mekar. Yesterday Bambang Gunawan, executive secretary of local government, assured the protesters that “we need to review the process that led to the issuance of the building permit.” The issue will be discussed today before the mayor, who will decide whether to definitively confirm or withdraw the permit. The words uttered by the Executive Secretary unleashed demonstrators’ joy.

The document issued by the Indonesian authorities for the construction of buildings (IMB) requires a structured process, which is further complicated in the case of Christian places of worship. Governmental permits, must be approved “without prejudice” by collecting signatures of residents of the area affected by the project. It may take up to 10 years to get all the needed documents in order.

Bambang Gunawan said that the earlier granted permission has no legal status because “the signatures of the residents are irregular and some were falsified”. A statement welcomed by Muslims, who say they are “happy because the aim was reached.” The church, in fact, is currently locked and no one knows if it will be opened in the future. Imam Ahmad Hajj, a chief of the Indonesian Muslim Communication Forum (Forkami) in Bogor, is “sure” that “the IMB will be withdrawn.”

The Indonesian Bishops’ Conference has also intervened against the repeated and sudden revocation of building permits, making a formal protest in Parliament. A crowd of Muslims blocked the building of the Catholic church of Saint Mary at Purwakarta in West Java province. The faithful had obtained all permits, denounce the bishops, but the realization of the place of worship is still pending and the local authorities fail to protect the legitimate rights of minorities.

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

Far East

Declining U.S. Navy Facing Chinese Challenge

Fleet’s status creates door of vulnerability to other powers, terrorists

A growing Chinese fleet could keep the declining U.S. Navy out of the Western Pacific, according to an expert cited in a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The U.S. also could be faced with new military challenges around the globe because of the projection of power a growing Chinese navy would present.

Yet, the U.S. Navy has cut back the number and type of ships to the level it was prior to the Reagan administration. Indeed, the Navy hasn’t been as small since the administration of William Howard Taft, according to naval expert Seth Cropsey.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain: 200,000 Chinese-Made Shoes Taken Off the Market

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 12 — About 200,000 pairs of shoes made in China containing dimethyl fumarate, a toxic substance that causes serious allergic reactions, prohibited by Spanish and European regulations, were taken off the Spanish market in 2009, according to data issued by the national institute of consumption, cited today in the press. Of the shoes taken off the market, 114,173 pairs have been destroyed, while 87,876 were rejected by customs. The national institute of consumption ordered a precautionary ban in 2008 on selling items containing dimethyl fumarate, while in March of 2009, the European Commission ordered items to be pulled off the market. According to the association, there were about 300 cases of injuries, some serious, provoked by dimethyl fumarate, suffered by individuals who purchased shoes and couches containing the irritant, which acts on the skin and eyes and which, even in very small concentrations, can result in allergic reactions. About 2,000 “contaminated” couches were confiscated in Spain in 2009. In 2008, the EU made 2,875 warnings on potentially contaminated items, 15% more than in 2008, according to data from the EU rapid alert system for dangerous consumer products (RAPEX). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Crowded Malta Struggles to Cope With Illegal Immigration

Malta has difficulty coping with illegal immigrants from Africa. DW spoke with H.E. Dr. John Paul Grech, the Ambassador of Malta to Germany, on the issue, the role of the EU and the European Asylum Support Office.

DW: How has Malta coped with illegal immigration from Africa?

John Paul Grech: Malta has throughout the years received immigrants in a way that reflects its international obligations. It has done its best in order to adhere to its international obligations.

Given its limited resources, Malta refers this problem to the European Union and has been very active to put the question of illegal immigration on the agenda of the European Union. We have succeeded in that, and part of that work has been also the establishment of the pact for immigration and asylum within the European Union.

How can the EU help Malta tackle illegal immigration from Africa?

Malta has been working towards establishing the principle of burden-sharing. Malta considers this to be a phenomenon, which is of interest to Europe. Therefore, it has approached the issue from a two-pronged viewpoint. On the one hand, it is very much in favor of adhering to our international obligations and promoting legal migration; and on the other hand, it is very much aware that the European Union has to embrace its responsibilities in assisting Malta in the context of burden-sharing.

The EU has chosen Malta to host the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). What is the reaction in Malta?

We are extremely pleased that Malta has been chosen to host the EASO, which is an office meant to address the problem of illegal immigration, tackle the administrative side of it, and also work within the European Union in order to address this issue in a more constructive manner.

It is a point of satisfaction that Malta has been chosen because it reflects that the European Union sees Malta as being at the heart of the problem. It is receiving an enormous amount of immigrants, and therefore its experience and hands-on knowledge of what this is all about probably has been the reason why the European Union chose Malta to host the EASO.

Since 2004, Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned immigrant detention centers for being “overcrowded and characterized by poor hygiene and inadequate healthcare.” What is being done to improve the conditions?

Well, Malta has been very transparent. We have had several international authorities coming over to visit us to see the context of the problem as it is affecting Malta. We have always maintained that help was needed given our limitations.

In the context of international cooperation and assistance from the European Union, we have been doing our very best to improve conditions. We can safely say that we can address this issue even better if our pleas to the international community, in particular the European Union, are heard and the assistance is forthcoming.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Italy Focussing on Training, Development

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 12 — Guaranteeing Italian entrepreneurs truly qualified foreign workers, certifying their expertise with European standards, and acting so that bank remittances by immigrants contribute to the development process in their countries of origin, and do not just feed consumption. In Egypt, Italian Cooperation and the Italian Labour and Social Policies Ministry are working along these lines in collaboration with two projects of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) of Cairo. The first case involves the second phase of the Integrated System of Information for Migration (IMIS) project, which aims to update the database of Egyptian labourers that are ready to immigrate to Italy. In the last 10 years about 100,000 names have been entered into the IMIS database. These profiles are now being looked at to identify their actual abilities one by one, in collaboration with the European Training Foundation. The project, which will end in July, aims to guarantee business owners the possibility of finding the exact type of labour they need online. The IMIS instrument — at — intends to offer support, in collaboration with the Immigration Ministry in Cairo, to Egyptians abroad as well. “A instrument that is completely free of charge to allow supply and demand to meet,” said Luigi Carta of the IOM, “and which assumes particular importance before the projects of the 2015 Expo in Milan begin, for which a requirement of 70,000 workers has been calculated for the construction sector.” It has been estimatedthat there are currently about 110,000 Egyptians in Italy, 70,000 of whom are legal residents. Many are also ready to immigrate to Italy. Italy, which receives about 11% of Egyptian migrants, is the third destination for Egyptian immigrants, after the U.S. (about 40%) and Canada (13%). In the Bossi-Fini decree on migrant flows (which has actually been suspended since 2008) Egyptian migrants were given a quota of 8,000: 5,000 more than initially also thanks to the fact that Egypt is one of the countries that signed an agreement with Rome allowing illegal immigrants to be readmitted to their country. However, Italy is looking to Egypt also with the objective of training labourers both with the needs of Italian businesses and with possible projects for local development in mind. The informational campaign in defence of minors in the Fayoum Governorate works along these lines, aiming on one hand to warn against the risks of illegal immigration, and on the other to raise awareness on the need for language and professional training, which will be provided by a new school based on the model of the Don Bosco institutes. A campaign that sees a joint effort from the IOM, the Egyptian Family Ministry and the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, which has earmarked 2 million euros for the project. Training as an instrument to realise a life project in one’s home country. However, if migration must exist, observed Piera Francesca Solinas of the OIM, it should also be a motor for development. “Bank remittances by immigrants,” she specified, “are, after tourism, one of Egypt’s major sources of revenue. In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the country confirmed its position as the top country in the Middle East for the total value of bank remittances, which amounted to 7 billion dollars. It is necessary to act so that this money will be reinvested locally, and so that immigrants are able to transmit the technical knowledge that they acquired abroad in their countries of origin. In Mexico, for example — she concluded — for every dollar invested by an immigrant in their home country, another two are added by the government and the IOM. Italy and Egypt are also working along these lines in order to connect migration with development.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU: Most Remittances Sent Home From Med Area

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — In the European Union, most of the immigrants remittances (whether they are from within the EU or not), which were sent to their countries of origin in 2008, left from the Mediterranean area. Out of the total of 32 billion euros, the highest figures are for those transferred from Spain (7.8 billion, 25% of the total), Italy (6.4 billion, 20% of the total), France (3.4 billion, 11% of the total) and then Germany (3.1 billion, 10%). The figures were released by Eurostat, the European office of statistics, which has counted the funds that emigrant workers send home. The savings coming from immigrants in Italy went primarily to China, the Philippines and Romania, whilst those from Spain were destined for Columbia, Ecuador and Bolivia. Remittances from France primarily involved Portugal and Morocco, whilst those from Germany were sent prevalently to Turkey and Italy. From Greece, immigrants savings travelled in particular to Albania and Israel. Overall the flow towards countries outside the EU was 22.5 billion, whilst the flow within the EU was 9.3 billion. In Spain the money sent outside the EU in 2008 hit 6.35 billion euros, in Italy 5.1 billion and in France 2.17 billion euros. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Papandreou, TV a Threat, Not Foreigners

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 9 — Greek premier Giorgio Papandreou strenuously defended in Parliament the law that will grant citizenship to second generation immigrants, claiming that the inflow of foreigners is not what affected Greek culture and lifestyle, which suffer because of the 4 to 5 hours which “we and our children spend in front of the television”. The bill presented by the government, which has already been amended in part to account for criticism raised by the opposition, provides that the sons of immigrants may gain citizenship if they studied in the Country for at least six years. Their fathers who worked legally for five years in Greece will have the option of naturalisation. While speaking last night during a parliamentary debate requested by far right-wing party Laos, Papandreou pointed out that today in Greece there live some 550,000 legally recognised foreigners. He warned that “We cannot deny their participation in our society”, under the penalty of “inequality and corruption”. In answer to fears according to which the growing flow of foreigners is diluting the roots of Greek civilisation and culture, the socialist premier asked himself: “What does it mean to be Greek? Democracy, equality, humanity”. And he continued: “We believe so little in our strength, in the power of Hellenism? Our culture suffers more for the 4 to 5 hours which we and our children spend in front of the television” rather than the growing number of immigrants. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hammarberg Approves of Greece’s Receptiveness

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, FEBRUARY 11 — At the end of his three-day visit to Greece, Thomas Hammarberg, the Human Rights Commissioner for the Council of Europe, said that he approved of the willingness demonstrated by the Greek government to deal with the structural problems long associated with refugee policies and the poor conduct by police. If the planned changes are seriously implemented in a systematic manner and in conformity with international standards, Greece will be able to deal with their serious human rights challenges, said Hammarberg. The Commissioner expressed satisfaction about the decision by Greek authorities to establish an independent agency for asylum-seekers, which still, underlined Hamarberg, continue to face enormous difficulties in their attempts to access the procedures to have their refugee status recognised. The Commissioner also approved of the current reform whose purpose is to facilitate the acquisition of Greek citizenship for children born in Greece whose parents are not Greek and the introduction of the right to vote for long-term residents. In this way, Greece is moving towards a greater conformity with European standards, said Hammarberg. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Immigrants Riot in Milan After Egyptian Killed (2)

MILAN, Feb 14 (Reuters) — Dozens of immigrants from North Africa rioted during the night in a multi-ethnic district of Milan, smashing shop windows and overturning cars to protest at the knifing death of an Egyptian, Italian police said on Sunday.

It was the second episode of violence involving immigrants this year, after clashes in southern Italy in January brought about the worst racial violence in the country since World War Two and reignited a long-running debate on immigration.

The rioting began on Saturday evening after a 19-year-old Egyptian man, indentified by police as Hamed Mamoud El Fayed Adou, was killed, apparently by a group of immigrants from South America.

Police said the North Africans, most of them Egyptians, went on a rampage and some clashed with police in the northeastern neighbourhood where some 70 percent of shops are owned by immigrants.

Milan’s deputy mayor, Riccardo De Corato, called the area a “Wild West between north African and South American gangs.”

Police said they had identified more than 30 people involved, most of them Egyptian. Ten Egyptians did not have regular residence permits, and four have been detained.

They were still searching for the South Americans believed to have been responsible for the killing, which they said took place after an argument on a city bus.

The Northern League, an anti-immigrant party in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition, called for the immigrants responsible for the violence to be expelled.


One Northern League member called for stiff controls and “expulsions house by house, floor by floor”.

Milan, Italy’s financial capital, is run by a centre-right regional government and the opposition said that such riots showed that the government’s immigration policy was in tatters.

“They (the centre-right) govern the country, the (Lombardy) region and the city,” said Pierluigi Bersani, head of the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party. “They should accept the fact that their policy on integration and security has failed.”

Italy’s government last year approved tough legislation making it a felony to be an illegal immigrant or to help one. Immigrants without regular papers risk expulsion to their country of origin.

In early January, riots broke out in the Calabrian town of Rosarno when immigrants burned cars and broke store windows to protest against an attack on African farm workers by a gang of local white youths.

At least 53 people, including 18 policemen, were injured in the unrest in the town, located in Italy’s southern toe.

Authorities moved hundreds of people, mostly illegal temporary workers from sub-Saharan Africa, to immigrant centres in Italy for their protection.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Immigrants Riot in Milan After Egyptian Killed (1)

Dozens of immigrants from North Africa rioted during the night in a multi-ethnic neighborhood in Milan, smashing shop windows, overturning cars to protest the knifing death of an Egyptian, Italian police said on Sunday.

The rioting began in the early evening after a 19-year-old Egyptian man, indentified by police as Hamed Mamoud El Fayed Adou, was killed, apparently by a group of immigrants from South America.

Police said the North Africans, most of them Egyptians, went on a rampage and some clashed with police in the neighborhood where some 70 percent of shops are owned by immigrants.

A number of Egyptians were detained for questioning and police were still searching for the South Americans believed to have been responsible for the killing.

Police said most of the immigrants were in Italy legally. Nonetheless, the Northern League, an anti-immigrant party in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition, called for the immigrants responsible for the violence to be expelled.

It was the second episode of violence involving immigrants this year.

In early January, riots broke out in southern Italy when immigrants burned cars and broke store windows to protest against an attack on African farm workers by a gang of local white youths.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Immigrants to be Taught the Fine British Art of How to Queue

Immigrants are to be educated in one of Britain’s most important etiquettes — how to queue properly.

Foreigners applying to settle in the UK will have to learn about the revered British practice of forming an orderly line for everything from buses to sandwiches.

Ministers even want the art of queuing to be included in citizenship tests, which immigrants must pass before settling in the country.

They believe that queue-jumping is damaging social cohesion as the majority of Brits find such behaviour unacceptable.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas has claimed that a lot of tension in communities is caused by foreigners not understanding that they must wait in line for services rather than barging to the front.

Many foreigner cultures believe the only way to get access to necessities, is to jostle their way to the front, rather than form an orderly line.

But surveys have found that 91 per cent of British people strongly object to queue jumping.

Mr Woolas confirmed that he was pushing the idea as part of moves to ensure immigrants integrate properly.

He said: ‘The simple act of taking one’s turn is one of the things that holds our country together. It is very important that newcomers take their place in queues whether it is for a bus or a cup of tea.

‘It is central to the British sense of fair play and it is also better for everyone. Huge resentment is caused when people push in.

‘Most immigrants in my experience want to play fair.’

Jo Bryant, editor of Debrett’s, the publisher and leading authority on proper behaviour, said that patience was they key to well-mannered queuing.

She said: ‘Be patient. Remember that everyone’s in the same boat, so avoid displays of exasperation or aggression.

‘Be aware of other people’s personal space and don’t stand too close to the person in front of you. Even in the most disorganised of queues, there will still be an unspoken order.’

A recent survey found that after pushing in, the most objectionable behaviour in queues is pressurising the people in front followed by children behaving badly.

Two thirds of people say they get annoyed when people are not ready to pay when it is their turn or leave the checkout to get more shopping.

Other irritating behaviour in queues includes having too many items in a ‘10 items or less aisle’, chatting to check-out staff and talking on mobile phones.

Since 2005, foreign nationals applying for UK citizenship — which confers the right to a British passport — have been required to sit a written test at one of 90 centres across the country before taking part in a formal citizenship ceremony.

The 45-minute tests include questions on various aspects of the British way of life from politics to pop music.

The answers are all to be found in a 150-page book, Life in the UK, which applicants must study before sitting the exam. Topics covered veer from complicated matters of government procedure and welfare entitlement to the apparently banal.

The Home Office’s own Life in the UK handbook says: ‘Public houses or pubs, as they are known, are an important part of local life in many parts of Britain.

‘Groups of friends normally buy ‘rounds’ of drinks, where the person whose turn it is will buy drinks for all the members of the group. If you spill a stranger’s drink by accident, it is good manners (and prudent) to offer to buy another.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: A Plan to Alter the Nation’s Soul

The government’s policy of mass immigration was intended to remodel the social fabric of the nation, says Janet Daley

So now we know what Labour’s immigration policy was really about. The “open door” was not simply held ajar in order to admit a fresh workforce that would help to fill gaps in the growing economy. Nor was it just a gesture of hospitality and goodwill to those who were fleeing from repressive or inhospitable regimes in order to seek a better life. Both of those aims would have been credible — if controversial and not thought-through in all their consequences. And so would the longer-term view that dynamic, cosmopolitan societies are generally healthier and more productive than in-bred, isolated ones, or that immigrants who tend to be ambitious for themselves and their families could help to counter the passivity and defeatism that tend to be endemic in the British class system.

But as it turns out, the policy was motivated by something far more radical and fundamental than any of this. The full text of the draft policy paper composed in 2000 by a Home Office research unit — the gist of which had already been made public by a former Labour adviser — was released last week under Freedom of Information rules. Properly understood, it is political dynamite. What it states quite unequivocally was that mass immigration was being encouraged at least as much for “social objectives” as for economic ones. Migration was intended specifically to alter the demographic and cultural pattern of the country: to produce by force majeure the changes in attitude that the Labour government saw itself as representing.

Tony Blair’s “forces of conservatism” speech; his improbable presentation of Britain as a “young country”; the advocacy of a multicultural society which would have to reassess its own history, replacing traditional pride with inherited guilt: all of this could be facilitated by a large influx of migrants whose presence in the population would require the wholesale deconstruction of the country’s sense of its own identity.

This may all sound rather far-fetched now, but try to recall just how much hubris the New Labour tide brought with it in the beginning: the contempt for history and the Year Zero arrogance with which they set about “modernising” the nation’s institutions. It was, in this respect, a prime example of the new direction which Left-wing parties were forced to take in the wake of Marxism’s collapse. Having lost the great economic argument of the 20th century, the Left had to switch its focus to society itself: if humanity could not be transformed through the redistribution of wealth and the socialist command economy, then it would have to be transfigured by altering social relations.

The object of the exercise was still to produce, in the words of an old Left-wing protest song, a “new world” based on a “new man”. But now the new man (sorry, “person”) would be formed not by changes in the power of capital or the ownership of the means of production, but in cultural attitudes and behaviour. The revolution now had to be confined to what went on in people’s heads: to their values, their assumptions and their reactions to each other.

The phrase “altering consciousness”, which had once meant awakening the proletariat to its own economic enslavement, now referred to raising awareness of social injustices, such as intolerance of cultural differences, social inequality, or discrimination against minorities. But the subtext was always self-examination and personal guilt: the indigenous Briton must be trained (literally, by the education system) always to question the acceptability of his own attitudes, to cast doubt on his own motives, to condemn his own national identity and history, to accept the blame even for the misbehaviour of new migrants — whose conduct could only be a reflection of the unfortunate way they were treated by the host population.

Included in this programme for the newly constituted British psyche was a whole package of subliminal assumptions, which were adapted from the Old Left stable: international solidarity rather than national sovereignty, collective values rather than personal conscience, and “social equality” rather than individual achievement. It was a peculiarity of New Labour’s vanity that it actually tried to persuade the country that, under the miraculous Blair dispensation, it could have both sides of these dualities at the same time. But the full consequences of the new country that it envisaged, and the role that immigration was to play in the creation of it, broke the most basic rule of the democratic process: the electorate was never told it was voting for that.

The goal was a social revolution abetted by the influx of a huge variety of diverse cultures, which would provide both the need and the pretext for reshaping British life. It may have been relatively new (at least in Britain) as a specific political policy, but it was much of a piece with the conventional objective of Left-wing political movements, which is to transform human nature.

When you decide whether to give your support to a party of the Left or of the Right, you are actually making a judgment about what you think politics is for. If you believe that it is the function of government to alter or determine people’s perceptions and responses — their innermost feelings about themselves and others — then you will probably opt for the Left. If you take the view that the state should concern itself only with behaviour — with what people do, especially insofar as it affects other people, rather than what they think or feel — then you will be more likely to veer to the Right. So this is really a question of whether you want politics to be concerned with what goes on in people’s heads as much as with events in the objective world.

But of course, at least since the 1960s, when “raising consciousness” became the refrain of every group that sought change in any sphere, almost all parties have had to talk this way to some extent. It has become part of the politician’s acknowledged brief to suggest ways in which the internal lives and attitudes of voters can be influenced or directed. There is scarcely a party leader now who would dare to say that these matters are none of his (or any government’s) business.

Almost no one seems prepared to discuss the obvious danger: that if politics becomes a replacement for religion by taking upon itself the responsibility for transfiguring human nature then politicians, of all people, become the prophets and the priests. Just at the moment, I can’t think of a more absurd idea.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Climategate U-Turn as Scientist at Centre of Row Admits: There Has Been No Global Warming Since 1995

The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.

Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.

Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be’.

The data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph’ used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now — suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.

The admissions will be seized on by sceptics as fresh evidence that there are serious flaws at the heart of the science of climate change and the orthodoxy that recent rises in temperature are largely man-made.

Professor Jones has been in the spotlight since he stepped down as director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit after the leaking of emails that sceptics claim show scientists were manipulating data.

The raw data, collected from hundreds of weather stations around the world and analysed by his unit, has been used for years to bolster efforts by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to press governments to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Following the leak of the emails, Professor Jones has been accused of ‘scientific fraud’ for allegedly deliberately suppressing information and refusing to share vital data with critics.

Discussing the interview, the BBC’s environmental analyst Roger Harrabin said he had spoken to colleagues of Professor Jones who had told him that his strengths included integrity and doggedness but not record-keeping and office tidying.

Mr Harrabin, who conducted the interview for the BBC’s website, said the professor had been collating tens of thousands of pieces of data from around the world to produce a coherent record of temperature change.

That material has been used to produce the ‘hockey stick graph’ which is relatively flat for centuries before rising steeply in recent decades.

According to Mr Harrabin, colleagues of Professor Jones said ‘his office is piled high with paper, fragments from over the years, tens of thousands of pieces of paper, and they suspect what happened was he took in the raw data to a central database and then let the pieces of paper go because he never realised that 20 years later he would be held to account over them’.

Asked by Mr Harrabin about these issues, Professor Jones admitted the lack of organisation in the system had contributed to his reluctance to share data with critics, which he regretted.

But he denied he had cheated over the data or unfairly influenced the scientific process, and said he still believed recent temperature rises were predominantly man-made.

Asked about whether he lost track of data, Professor Jones said: ‘There is some truth in that. We do have a trail of where the weather stations have come from but it’s probably not as good as it should be.

‘There’s a continual updating of the dataset. Keeping track of everything is difficult. Some countries will do lots of checking on their data then issue improved data, so it can be very difficult. We have improved but we have to improve more.’

He also agreed that there had been two periods which experienced similar warming, from 1910 to 1940 and from 1975 to 1998, but said these could be explained by natural phenomena whereas more recent warming could not.

He further admitted that in the last 15 years there had been no ‘statistically significant’ warming, although he argued this was a blip rather than the long-term trend.

And he said that the debate over whether the world could have been even warmer than now during the medieval period, when there is evidence of high temperatures in northern countries, was far from settled.

Sceptics believe there is strong evidence that the world was warmer between about 800 and 1300 AD than now because of evidence of high temperatures in northern countries.

But climate change advocates have dismissed this as false or only applying to the northern part of the world.

Professor Jones departed from this consensus when he said: ‘There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not. The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia.

‘For it to be global in extent, the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions.

‘Of course, if the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today, then obviously the late 20th Century warmth would not be unprecedented. On the other hand, if the MWP was global, but was less warm than today, then the current warmth would be unprecedented.’

Sceptics said this was the first time a senior scientist working with the IPCC had admitted to the possibility that the Medieval Warming Period could have been global, and therefore the world could have been hotter then than now.

Professor Jones criticised those who complained he had not shared his data with them, saying they could always collate their own from publicly available material in the US. And he said the climate had not cooled ‘until recently — and then barely at all. The trend is a warming trend’.

Mr Harrabin told Radio 4’s Today programme that, despite the controversies, there still appeared to be no fundamental flaws in the majority scientific view that climate change was largely man-made.

But Dr Benny Pieser, director of the sceptical Global Warming Policy Foundation, said Professor Jones’s ‘excuses’ for his failure to share data were hollow as he had shared it with colleagues and ‘mates’.

He said that until all the data was released, sceptics could not test it to see if it supported the conclusions claimed by climate change advocates.

He added that the professor’s concessions over medieval warming were ‘significant’ because they were his first public admission that the science was not settled.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

U.S. City Considers Surrender to ‘Green Police’

Mayor’s panel pushes carbon taxes, subsidies, ‘meatless Mondays’

What would life in an American city look like if it required its residents go green to combat climate change? Would it be all trees and gardens and bicycles, or would it look more like oppression under Big Brother’s green thumb?

Cambridge, Mass., home of Harvard University, may be giving the country a glimpse of the answer.

Last May, the city officially adopted an order recognizing that there is a climate emergency; but after nearly a year, officials discovered the city’s carbon footprint was nonetheless growing worse.

Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons, therefore, brought together nearly 100 activists and concerned citizens under the endorsement of the city council to convene a “Climate Congress” to make recommendations on how Cambridge can meet its green goals.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]