Daily Archives: November 16, 2008

Royal Garters, Thistles, Maltese Crosses and Golden Fleeces come out of the closet

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Amassed over decades by Italian financier Antonio Benedetto Spada (pictured), now in his 70s, some 600 rare bejewelled insignia once strung around the necks of royalty, knights, and other VIPs, go on show at Paris’ prestigious Legion of Honour museum from November 19. Here Spada looks over a uniform worn by the Knights of Malta. (AFP/File/Jacques Demarthon)

Outing of ‘born collector’s’ rare Garters, Thistles, Fleeces and more

AFP | Nov 15, 2008

PARIS (AFP) — Garters, Thistles, Golden Fleeces and even the Thai Order of the White Elephant: priceless orders amassed by the world’s probably biggest such private collector come out of the closet at a Paris museum this week.

Amassed over decades by Italian financier Antonio Benedetto Spada, now in his 70s, some 600 rare bejewelled insignia once strung around the necks of royalty, knights, and other VIPs, go on show at Paris’ prestigious Legion of Honour museum from November 19.

Spada, who describes himself as “a born collector”, began hoarding old books and prints at only 16 before progressing to silverware, antique clocks, stamps and art, until he stumbled and stopped on his first handcrafted order, or decoration, at the Paris flea-market in the 1960s.

Though not a particularly ancient piece — a plaque from a Spanish military order under 20th century King Alfonso XIII — “it was of exceptional beauty and quality, I studied it, and then began my collection,” he told AFP.

A wealthy man able to feed his passion, Spada in the next two decades went on to collect 2,000 pieces in his 15th-century Avogadro-Spada castle in Brescia, Italy.

But in 1984, “six men armed with pistols and baseball bats kidnapped my entire collection. They demanded ransom for its return but then got scared and melted it down for the mere value of the jewels and gold. It was a drop in the ocean compared to the historical value,” he said.

Among pieces lost for ever to history were a 19th century medal from the kings of Savoy, and Napoleon’s Golden Fleece, he said.

“But the next day I began collecting again,” he said in an interview. “I have around 3,000 pieces now.”

“I don’t collect military medals — only decorations and orders of chivalry,” he stressed.

Modern decorations find their origins in medieval orders of chivalry, which by the Renaissance had often been acquired by European monarchs who added a few extra of their own. Current high honours such as the Order of the Golden Fleece, England’s Order of the Garter, Denmark’s Order of the Elephant or Scotland’s Order of the Thistle date back to the Middle Ages or before.

Such orders, said Spada, are fascinating not only because of their extraordinary quality of craftsmanship and use of precious stones but because each one has a particular history.

“While orders of chivalry have strict rules, a king may award a bigger one encrusted with a diamond to a general who won a decisive battle, or decide to make one in gold rather than in silver,” he said.

“There are 1,000 variations on a single theme. That is what I find amusing. I have always sought uncommon pieces.”

Precious metal-worked decorations first surfaced around the 18th century in Europe, Spada said, as up until then knights from the Order of Malta for example sewed white cloth crosses on their robes.

A world expert on the matter with several reference works under his wing, Spada said France’s Legion of Honour Museum, “one of the few specialist museums”, appeared to be exactly the right place to show his collection for the first time.

Among treasures on show are a papal Golden Rose offered in 1881 to Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil, for abolishing slavery, as well as some 30 Golden Fleeces, the order founded in 1430 by Duke Philip III of Burgundy to celebrate his marriage to Portuguese princess Isabel of Aviz.

But pieces from Japan, India, Thailand and elsewhere are also on show.

“I feel I don’t own these pieces but am only their guardian,” said Spada, who is mulling their fate once he passes away.

Related

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Collar of the Royal Order of the Two Sicilies

National Museum of the Legion of Honor – Paris

57,000 demand total handgun ban in Finland

Agence France-Presse | Nov 12, 2008

HELSINKI — A petition signed by more than 57,000 people demanding a ban on handguns was on Tuesday presented to the Finnish government, just weeks after the second school massacre in a year sent shockwaves through the Nordic country.

The petition, calling for a total ban on private ownership of guns with barrels shorter than 600 millimeters (23.6 inches), was handed over to Interior Minister Anne Holmlund.

Finnish defense minister Elisabeth Rehn was among those who signed the petition.

“The discourse in our society needs this kind of activity,” Holmlund said in an address to parliament after accepting the petition.

The government planned to present a bill in early 2009 that would among other things “limit the availability of small caliber handguns,” she added.

The petition came less than two months after a 22-year-old culinary arts student, Matti Juhani Saari, marched through his vocational school in the southwestern town of Kauhajoki in a ski mask and black outfit, shooting dead 10 people before turning his gun on himself.

The massacre was the country’s deadliest school shooting and followed another shooting in November 2007 at a Finnish high school in Jokela, north of Helsinki, in which 18-year-old student Pekka-Eric Auvinen shot six students, the headmistress and a school nurse before killing himself.

“We are still recovering from the shock after the tragic events of Jokela and Kauhajoki,” Holmlund said Tuesday, pointing out that witnesses to the massacres and the loved-ones of those who died might “never be free from the nightmarish burden of these events.”

Following both massacres, government officials vowed to tighten gun laws in Finland, which has one of the world’s highest gun ownership rates, ranking third behind the United States and Yemen, according to a study last year.

Holmlund said she had set up three work groups to revise Finland’s gun laws.

She did not divulge the details but said the focus would first and foremost be on introducing stricter requirements for obtaining gun permits.

But “in the case of some arms, even their total prohibition will be considered,” she said.

Obama held secret meeting with Hillary Clinton

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U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Senator Hillary Clinton with outstreached arm (D-NY) attend a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, in this file image from October 20, 2008.

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Former first lady being considered as Obama’s secretary of state

CBC | Nov 14, 2008

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has met with his former rival Hillary Clinton, who Democratic officials have confirmed is a possible candidate to become his secretary of state.

Clinton met with Obama at his transition office in Chicago Thursday, Democratic officials said Friday, but the meeting was kept secret until after it was finished.

Unnamed Democratic sources have been quoted saying the two discussed the position. Clinton walked away from the meeting under the impression that it was hers for the taking, should she be interested, multiple sources told CNN.

Other sources have suggested that where she stands amongst other candidates for the job, or whether she would even accept it, isn’t yet clear.

Speaking in Albany, N.Y., Friday, Clinton was coy about the reports.

“I’m not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect’s incoming administration. And I am going to respect his process and any inquiries should be directed to his transition team,” Clinton said.

Officials in Obama’s transition office refused to comment.

Both NBC and the Washington Post reported Thursday that advisers to the New York senator said she was under consideration by Obama to replace Condoleezza Rice as the United States’ top diplomat. If she took the post, Clinton would be the third woman to hold it after Rice and Madeleine Albright.

Obama also met Friday with New Mexican Gov. Bill Richardson, who is reportedly under consideration for the position of secretary of state as well.

Richardson was the former ambassador to the United Nations under Hillary’s husband, former U.S. president Bill Clinton. He has also done diplomatic work in his role as governor in places such as Sudan and North Korea.

Others who have been named as potential candidates for the job include 2004 presidential contender John Kerry, who was defeated by incumbent George W. Bush, and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who threw his weight behind Obama over McCain in the recent election.

Meanwhile, news emerged Friday that Obama had selected his longtime friend Valerie Jarrett to become his White House senior adviser — a post once held by Karl Rove in the administration of current president George W. Bush.

Jarrett, who hired Michelle Obama to work in the Chicago mayor’s office years ago, has a background in real estate and politics.

She was chosen as senior adviser after being considered for several high-level administration positions, according to a person said to be close to Obama who didn’t want to be named in advance of the official announcement.

Obama, who beat his Republican opponent handily in the Nov. 4 election, is due to be sworn in Jan. 20, 2009. The Illinois senator is scheduled to resign his senate seat on Sunday.

Obama told to expect “spectacular” attack during transition

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U.S. President George W. Bush greets U.S. President-elect Barack Obama as he arrives at the White House in Washington, DC, November 10, 2008.

Barack Obama is warned to beware of a ‘huge threat’ from al-Qaeda

The Times | Nov 15, 2008

Security officials fear a ‘spectacular’ during the transition period

By Tom Baldwin and Michael Evan

Barack Obama is being given ominous advice from leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to brace himself for an early assault from terrorists.

General Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, this week acknowledged that there were dangers during a presidential transition when new officials were coming in and getting accustomed to the challenges. But he added that no “real or artificial spike” in intercepted transmissions from terror suspects had been detected.

President Bush has repeatedly described the acute vulnerability of the US during a transition. The Bush Administration has been defined largely by the 9/11 attacks, which came within a year of his taking office.

His aides have pointed to al-Qaeda’s first assault on the World Trade Centre, which occurred little more than a month after Bill Clinton became President in 1993. There was an alleged attempt to bomb Glasgow airport in Gordon Brown’s first days in Downing Street and a London nightclub attack was narrowly thwarted.

Lord West of Spithead, the Home Office Security Minister, spoke recently of a “huge threat”, saying: “There is another great plot building up again and we are monitoring this.”

Intelligence chiefs on both sides of the Atlantic have indicated that such warnings refer more to a general sense of foreboding than fear of an imminent or specific plan.

Referring to the attacks in 1993 and 2001, General Hayden told a Washington think-tank on Thursday night: “For some people two data points create a trend line. For others, there may be more hesitation to call it that.” He said that the chief danger comes from remote areas in Pakistan that border Afghanistan.

“Today virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas. Whether it’s command and control, training, direction, money, capabilities, there is a connection to the Fata [Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas].”

General Hayden said that al-Qaeda remained a “determined, adaptive enemy” operating “from its safe haven in Pakistan”. He added: “If there is a major attack on this country it will bear the fingerprints of al-Qaeda.”

He said that the border region remained the base of al-Qaeda’s leadership, which had developed a more durable structure and a deep reserve of skilled operatives. “AlQaeda, operating from its safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas, remains the most clear and present danger to the safety of the United States,” General Hayden said.

The hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden “is very much at the top of CIA’s priority list,” he added. “Because of his iconic stature, his death or capture clearly would have a significant impact on the confidence of his followers.”

The CIA chief also suggested that the terror group was seeking to recruit Western-looking operatives who would not cause attention if they were standing in airport screening queues.

Hours after he spoke, a suspected US missile attack killed 12 people in Pakistan, including five foreigners. Such strikes are hugely controversial, with Islamabad claiming that they fuel anti-American extremist groups. But Mr Obama has been clear that he wants to pursue al-Qaeda aggressively across the Afghan border.

In Britain, security officials say that there is genuine concern that alQaeda will attempt a “spectacular” in the transition period, but suggest that it may be aimed more at Mr Bush than Mr Obama.

“As far as we know there is nothing from the intelligence world to indicate that anything has changed dramatically in recent months to put us on alert for an attack at the moment,” a source said. The present threat level is “severe”, which is the second-highest alert status. But a senior counterterrorism official suggested last month that this should be regarded as “the severe end of severe”. This would point to Britain facing a terrorist threat nearly as high as the period in the summer of 2005 when terrorists killed 52 people on London’s transport network on July 7 and attempted a similar attack on July 21.

Britain and the US are sharing all intelligence on suspected terrorist activity because of the high risk of a plot involving transatlantic flights. Al-Qaeda is understood still to be obsessed with mounting an attack using passenger airliners. There have also been warnings of al-Qaeda interest in developing a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) device. The US has anti-CBRN units on constant patrol in main cities.

Al-Qaeda is known to be experimenting with biological agents, particularly anthrax, which they acquire from dead animals and then create cultures. The key man involved in these experiments is Abou Kabbah al-Masri, who was engaged in the biological trials including tests on rabbits that were uncovered in Afghanistan when the Taleban were overrun after the US invasion in 2001.

James Lewis, a security expert with the Centre of Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that al-Qaeda may wish to provoke a reaction from the next US Administration designed to show the rest of the world that “America is still the evil crusader”.

Last month Joe Biden, the Vice-President-elect, told campaign donors: “Watch, we’re going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle [of Mr Obama].”

Mr Lewis said that many Muslims were intrigued by Mr Obama’s arrival in the White House and “there may be political downsides” in attacking America too early. “It is hard to fathom the level of sophistication of their operatives and whether the chatter we intercept is dissent or intent. If they are gong to do something, they may wait until after the inauguration.

“At present there are policemen standing on policemen at possible targets. That won’t be the case three months into the new administration.”

The arms race

1945 US drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

1953 Russia tests its first atomic bomb

1962 US discovers Soviet Union building a nuclear missile base in Cuba. After seven days of intense talks a naval quarantine is placed around Cuba and is only removed once President Khrushchev agrees to dismantle the base

1983 President Reagan launches the Strategic Defensive Initiative – Star Wars. This would allow the US to detect a nuclear weapon being launched and, by using laser technology, give it time to launch its own weapon to destroy the enemy missile

1986 President Gorbachev proposes a 50 per cent reduction in the nuclear arsenals of both sides. The discussions finally dissolve with no agreement reached

2008 US strikes deal with Poland and Czech Republic on Missile Defence Shield. Russia retaliates on day that Barack Obama is elected US President by threatening to station missiles in Kaliningrad, near its border with Poland

Russia wants ‘strategic partnership’ with the U.S.

“All of us here at the policy making level of the foundation have at one time or another served in the OSS or the European Economic Administration, operating under directives from the White House. We operate under those same directives…The substance of the directives under which we operate is that we shall use our grant making power to so alter life in the United States that we can be comfortably merged with the Soviet Union.”

– Rowan Gaither, President of the Ford Foundation to Congressional Reese Commission investigator Norman Dodd, 1954

FINANCIAL/SUMMIT

U.S. President George W. Bush (R) greets Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev upon arrival at the G20 Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy at the National Building Museum in Washington, November 15, 2008.

AFP | Nov 15, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Russia has a “strategic partnership” with China and wants to have similar relations with the United States, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday.

Medvedev, speaking at a public forum in Washington, described Russia’s relations with China as a “strategic partnership” that is “a very good, full-fledged, friendly exchange.”

“Of course I want to have the same kind of relations with the United States,” he said in Russian, according to a translator.

The event, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, followed a financial crisis summit of the leaders of the Group of 20 major industrialized and emerging economies, which Medvedev attended.

Medvedev said he would meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao immediately after the public forum.

The Russian president noted the two countries’ strong economic ties, evidenced by bilateral trade of approximately 50 billion dollar this year.
Russia, rich in oil and gas, and China, with its booming economy, late last month signed a deal to build an oil pipeline from Siberia to China after talks between Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

“We should deepen cooperation in the energy sphere. Long-term cooperation will help economic development and stability on world markets,” Wen said at the opening of a Russia-China business conference with Putin in Moscow.

Even after lengthy negotiations on energy ties between the two neighbours, Russia is still only the fifth-largest exporter of crude oil to energy-hungry China, despite being the world’s number two producer after Saudi Arabia.
Amid lower energy prices, analysts say China is now seizing its chance.
During his visit, Wen also said that Russia and China could help boost global economic stability through greater cooperation.

“Russia and China are growing economies with major influence in the world … They can help strengthen the world economy,” Wen told investors in Moscow.

“We should strengthen ties, look together at anti-crisis measures and coordinate macroeconomic policy,” he added.

China and Russia have been hit by the global financial crisis, with slowing demand in a faltering global world economy pressuring key industries such as construction and energy. But both countries are expected to continue to post strong, although somewhat weakened, economic growth.

Putin’s presidency could be extended to 20 years

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If presidential terms are extended to six years as expected, that could set Putin up for another 12 years in office for a total of 20 years as Kremlin leader including his previous terms.

Russian lawmakers back extending presidential term

AP | Nov 15, 2008

By MIKE ECKEL

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian lawmakers gave preliminary approval Friday for extending presidential terms from four years to six — a move observers say could pave the way for Vladimir Putin to return to the presidency.

The popular Putin, now prime minister, was barred constitutionally from seeking a third straight term as president. His protege, Dmitry Medvedev, resoundingly won the post in March elections.

But analysts speculated Medvedev could resign early, propelling Putin into the role of acting president and triggering elections in which Putin could run and would likely win.

If presidential terms are extended to six years as expected, that could set Putin up for another 12 years in office for a total of 20 years as Kremlin leader including his previous terms.

The lower house of parliament, the State Duma, voted 388-58 to pass the constitutional change Friday in the first of three readings, with opposition coming from the Communist faction. The legislation must also be approved by the upper house of parliament and by a majority of regional legislatures. The Kremlin-backed United Russia party dominates all of the legislative bodies.

Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky voiced support for the measure, saying it would bring Russia “into conformity” with other nations, such as France, where the president serves for six years.

But he suggested legislators were failing to think for themselves, and instead were rubber-stamping Kremlin legislation. “The only thing that makes me upset is that had the president offered to cut the term to three years, we would have applauded and voted the same way,” he said.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov railed against measure, suggesting it was designed to vest even more power in the presidency.

“He has more power than the general secretary (of the Soviet Union), the czar and the pharaoh altogether,” Zyuganov said. “If tomorrow you choose the person, who is controlled by no one, for a six-year term, it will be an even bigger tragedy and danger for the country” than the economic crisis.

Lawmakers also voted to extend Duma legislators’ terms from four to five years.

Sneaky plan for mandatory ID cards in the works

Sunday Times | Nov 16, 2008

by David Leppard

Ministers have been accused of trying to introduce compulsory identity cards through the back door, despite promises that people will not have to carry them.

Lawyers at Liberty, the civil liberties group, say that little noticed clauses in the draft immigration and citizenship bill introduce new powers to make people produce identity documents or face arrest. The bill is expected to be in the Queen’s speech next month.

At issue is a clause in the bill which says that anyone who is to be examined by an immigration officer “must produce a valid identity document if required to do so”. Failure to produce an identity card or otherwise prove identity will become a criminal offence. At present, producing a passport counts as proof of identity.

It had been thought the clauses applied only to people entering the UK at ports.

But Liberty says a separate clause in the bill extends powers of examination to new categories of people. They include anyone in the UK — whether a British citizen or not — who has ever left the country.

Isabella Sankey, Liberty’s policy officer, said: “Immigration law is being used as a cloak to introduce measures that would effectively compel us all to carry ID cards. Under these paranoid proposals if you have ever set foot outside the UK you could be required, at any time, to prove your identity and nationality.”

The Home Office disputed Liberty’s reading of the bill. A spokesman said: “The bill does not contain legislation that will require UK citizens to be issued with compulsory ID cards. It clearly states that valid identity documents must be produced on request to maintain effective immigration control.”

Launch of the ID cards scheme begins next week when marriage visa holders and non-European Union students will be the first recipients.

Airside workers at some airports will then be issued with cards — a move opposed by pilots’ unions and related groups.

The cards were proposed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America. Opponents say they are expensive, unnecessary and infringe on human rights.

Cards will carry a picture and security chip containing biometric data.

Health ministers render teenage girls infertile to cut pregnancies

Teenagers to receive jabs to cut abortions

Sunday Times | Nov 16, 2008

By Marie Woolf

Ministers want to double the number of girls using contraceptive jabs and implants to cut down on teenage abortions.

Under reforms, youngsters considered at risk of unplanned pregnancies will be advised by their GPs to use these methods of contraception, which could render them infertile for three years.

In addition, abortion clinics will be required to offer immediate contraceptive advice to women after their pregnancies have been terminated.

Those who decline to take the advice will be recalled and asked to consider having implants or injections.

Dawn Primarolo, the public health minister, said she was concerned that almost a third of terminations were repeat abortions and that there was a “spike” in unplanned pregnancies among girls aged 16-18.

Ministers want to double the number using the so-called Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (Larcs) after being told by regulators that they could save around £100m a year if 15% of women used the methods.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence estimated the move would cut unplanned pregnancies by 73,000 a year. In total, 20,289 abortions were carried out last year on girls under 18.

Currently, only around 7% of women have contraceptive jabs or implants, which are more widely used in America.

The policy of offering them to teenagers is likely to prove controversial. In the past, some doctors have been criticised for offering them to poorer women and those from ethnic minorities without explaining possible side-effects, which include headaches and weight gain.

In Britain girls as young as 13 have received the treatments, despite warnings that they should be used cautiously in young teenagers.

Primarolo is to begin talking to health trusts this week to ensure that when they negotiate contracts with abortion providers, the new rules on contraception are introduced.

“We are encouraging GPs to put them on long-acting contraceptives – the pill is not the only form of contraceptive that suits women,” said Primarolo.

The Department of Health is also to provide funding for teenagers to be sent mobile phone text messages containing contraceptive advice and to take part in confidential video conferences with sexual health advisers in an attempt to cut abortions.

A health department spokesman said: “We know that almost a third of abortions in England and Wales are repeat abortions.

“This makes it even more important that these women are given timely advice on the full range of contraceptive choices available. Currently, such advice can be limited only to a supply of condoms or the pill.

“Larcs have virtually no failure and are therefore particularly suitable for women with a high risk of unintended pregnancy.”

For the Mafia, business is booming

Irish Times | Nov 15, 2008

There’s no downturn for Italy’s four major crime organisations, and if shops and businesses in Naples or Palermo don’t pay the ‘pizzo’, they’ll feel the crunch, writes Paddy Agnew in Rome

A FEW YEARS ago, this correspondent paid a visit to the handsome and much visited Sicilian tourist resort of Taormina. Such was the mild, sunny weather on a Sicilian springtime day that we were able to eat a splendid meal, sitting out on the terrace of a little beach restaurant that nestled in a pretty cove just down the hill from Taormina.

Whilst we were paying for our meal, we complimented our waiter on both the food and the location, enquiring if he was the owner or part-owner of the restaurant. Surely, we reasoned, this is a thriving little business. Our interlocutor, a Sicilian, cut us short. He told us that not only was he not the proprietor of the establishment but also that he had no intention or desire to ever become the owner of this or any other Sicilian establishment.

“What would I do that for? You’d be working your ass off only to have the ‘lads’ [members of the Mafia] turn up every month looking for the ‘pizzo’ [protection money]. Why should I work for them?”

Our waiter in Taormina has a point. In its annual SOS Impresa report, The Hands Of Organised Crime On Business, Confesercenti, the Italian retailers’ confederation, this week suggested that Mafia business is booming. Between them, Italy’s four major crime organisations – the Mafia in Sicily, the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, the Camorra in Campania and the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia – have a combined turnover of €130 billion, whilst their annual “profits” for the year 2007 were approximately €70 billion. Put it another way, organised crime is Italy’s number one business, weighing in at 6 per cent of Italian GDP.

In their report, Confesercenti even draw up a hypothetical annual statement from “Mafia Inc” in which they point out that organised crime’s major earnings come from drug trafficking (€59bn), garbage and industrial waste disposal (€16bn), money lending (€12.5bn) and protection rackets (€9bn). On top of that, the arms trade, the trafficking of clandestine immigrants, prostitution rings, agriculture and, of course, public works contracts are all healthy earners for the “lads”.

As a retailers’ confederation, Confesercenti is obviously preoccupied with the flourishing racketeering business. They reckon that retailers in Italy pay out approximately €250 million daily by way of protection money. They point out too that paying the “pizzo” in cities such as Naples and Palermo simply becomes part of the culture, an everyday reality that comes complete with its own price list, as confirmed by a series of “pay registers” that have been seized over the years during anti-Mafia raids.

In other words, a normal shop in Palermo could be paying up to €500 per month protection, whilst a city-centre, upmarket shop could be paying upwards of €1,000. For a supermarket, the price is higher at €5,000 per month while a Palermo building site could be asked for as much as €10,000 per month.

Traditionally, organised crime uses protection money to look after the families of “lads” currently in prison, with a Mafia wife being paid up to €2,000 while her man serves time. One restaurant owner in Gela, Sicily, tells a revealing little tale. When he asked his “exactor” for a delay on the payment of that month’s “pizzo” of €1,500, saying that business had been slow, he received a chilling reply: “What do you think, that all our guys in prison are dead?”

Whilst the request for protection money might be made in an understated way, it remains menacing and inexorable. The various mafia organisations have all got thousands of “lads” on the books and they have all got to be paid their monthly “mesata” (wage). Even here too, Confesercenti estimates salary levels which go from €25,000 for a hired killer to €40,000 per month for a family godfather. “Soldiers” on the ground, such as pushers and the guys who collect the “pizzo”, earn up to €2,000 per month.

ORGANISED CRIME, of course, exists in a specific socio-economic context. Whilst the Italian unemployment level for 2007 was 6.1 per cent nationwide, that figure was doubled in the “mezzogiorno” (the south, including Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicily) where it registered 12.2 per cent. In parts of those four regions, too, unemployment is actually much higher, for example registering more than 40 per cent in certain zones of Naples. Not for nothing, then, organised crime flourishes in Italy’s poorest regions.

In a recent article in the daily newspaper Il Riformista, magistrate and former lower house speaker Luciano Violante tells the story of a Neapolitan grandmother who went to visit her local godfather, taking him a handsome present and asking him to find her grandson a job: “There was a time when you went looking for a job for a boy to keep him out of harm’s way. Today, you go looking for a job so that finally the boy will find himself in harm’s way, on the only road which in that context can offer him both a role and survival,” comments Violante.

If organised crime flourishes in (and indeed greatly contributes to) the relative poverty of certain regions, it has, of course, always relied on an alarming level of infiltration of the judiciary, the police forces, the media and, last but not least, the political class: “While I was on the run, I often met deputy Nicola Cosentino. He told us quite clearly that he was at our service for whatever . . . We had helped the deputy get elected and he was at our service for whatever we wanted to ask him. If we were to ask him for a certain contract, there was no way that he could refuse.” The speaker is Dario De Simone, a member of the crime organisation the Camorra, who made the above accusations in a detailed statement to police on September 13th, 1996. In the 12 years since then, four other men, three members of the Camorra and one businessman, have confirmed these accusations, claiming that not only did Cosentino help the Camorra win various contracts in return for electoral support but also that he had carried messages from the imprisoned Camorra boss, Francesco “Sandokan” Schiavone, to his “soldiers” outside.

None of these accusations, however, seem to have done Cosentino much harm since his political star has, in the intervening years, risen and risen and he is now a junior minister at the Italian department of finance. Cosentino has been defended by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and when his case came up in a parliamentary question last month, the minister for relations with parliament Elio Vito pointed a finger at those media sources (in particular weekly magazine L’Espresso) which had highlighted the case, saying that they had threatened “the credibility of state institutions”. In the meantime, however, Neapolitan mafia investigators have opened an enquiry into Cosentino.

Full Story

Legal challenges spring up across U.S. demanding Obama’s proof of eligibility for office

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Obama camp: Lawsuits by citizens are ‘garbage’

WorldNetDaily | Nov 13, 2008

By Chelsea Schilling

More than a half-dozen legal challenges have been filed in federal and state courts demanding President-elect Barack Obama’s decertification from ballots or seeking to halt elector meetings, claiming he has failed to prove his U.S. citizenship status.

An Obama campaign spokeswoman told WND the complaints are unfounded.

“All I can tell you is that it is just pure garbage,” she said. “There have been several lawsuits, but they have been dismissed.”

WND is tracking the progress of many cases across the U.S., including the following:

Ohio

David M. Neal of Turtlecreek Township, Ohio, filed suit in Warren Common Pleas Court in October to force Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to request documents from the Federal Elections Commission, the Democratic National Committee, the Ohio Democratic Party and Obama to show the presidential candidate was born in Hawaii, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Warren County Magistrate Andrew Hasselbach denied Neal’s request, saying, “The onus is upon one who challenges such public officer to demonstrate an abuse of discretion by admissible evidence – not hearsay, conclusory allegations or pure speculation.”

Connecticut

Connecticut resident Cort Wrotnowski challenged the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate on Oct. 31, and asked the court to order Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz to verify Obama’s citizenship before allowing the candidate to appear on the state ballot. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers threw out the case for lack of jurisdiction within a half hour of reviewing it.

“I have not seen the ruling yet,” Wrotnowski told WND. “So, in reality, the case was not heard on its merits. … Currently, we are assembling information for another and better try.”

Washington

As WND reported earlier, Steven Marquis of Fall City, Wash., filed suit Oct. 9 in Washington State Superior Court, calling for Secretary of State Sam Reed to determine whether Obama is a citizen before Election Day. Marquis released a statement saying the state has the authority to “prevent the wholesale disenfranchisement of voters” who might have otherwise had the opportunity to choose a qualified candidate should records show Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen.

Marquis said Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate isn’t evidence that the president-elect is a natural-born citizen because it doesn’t reveal the hospital where Obama was born, a doctor’s name or the baby’s footprint, the Associated Press reported.

Superior Court Judge John Erlick dismissed the lawsuit, claiming the secretary of state does not have authority to inquire about Obama’s birth certificate. He also said Marquis failed to name Obama as a party to the lawsuit.

New Jersey

In Leo C. Donofrio v. Nina Mitchell Wells, Secretary of State of the State of New Jersey, retired attorney and New Jersey resident Leo. C. Donofrio asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay on Nov. 3 prohibiting three candidates from appearing on New Jersey’s ballots: Republican candidate John McCain, Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Socialist Worker’s Party candidate Roger Calero.

Donofrio claimed the candidates are not “natural born citizens” as enumerated in Article 2, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States, which states, “No person except a natural born citizen of the United States, at the time of adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President.”

He wrote, Obama is not eligible for the presidency “even if it were proved he was born in Hawaii, since … Senator Obama’s father was born in Kenya and therefore, having been born with split and competing loyalties, candidate Obama is not a ‘natural born citizen’ …”

“Republican candidate John McCain was born in Panama,” the request states. “Socialist Workers Party candidate Roger Calero was born in Nicaragua. And the birthplace of Democratic candidate Barack Obama has not been verified by Respondent.”

Donofrio said Panama has never been considered U.S. soil, and that McCain is merely a citizen at birth by statute, and not a “natural born citizen.”

With three ineligible presidential candidates on ballots, Donofrio warned, New Jersey voters will “witness firsthand the fraud their electoral process has become.”

Justice David Souter denied Donofrio’s application on Nov. 6. However, his case is still pending as an emergency stay application. Donofrio is resubmitting his request for an emergency stay of the national election results and Electoral College meeting to Justice Clarence Thomas.

Pennsylvania

As WND reported earlier, prominent Pennsylvania Democrat and attorney Philip J. Berg filed suit in U.S. District Court three months ago claiming Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen.

Berg claimed that by failing to respond Obama has legally “admitted” to the lawsuit’s accusations, including the charge that the Democratic candidate was born in Mombosa, Kenya.

U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick dismissed Berg’s argument on Oct, 24, ruling that he lacked standing to bring the case. He said Berg’s allegations were “too vague and too attenuated.”

“This is a question of who has standing to uphold our Constitution,” Berg told Jeff Schreiber of America’s Right blog. “If I don’t have standing, if you don’t have standing, if your neighbor doesn’t have standing to question the eligibility of an individual to be president of the United States – the commander in chief, the most powerful person in the world – then who does?”

Berg filed a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct.30, to force Obama to produce his birth certificate. Justice David Souter rejected an emergency appeal on Nov. 3, for the court to halt the tabulation of the 2008 presidential election results until Obama documented his eligibility to run for office. However, Souter set a schedule for a response from Obama, the DNC and all co-defendants on or before Dec. 1.

“I look forward to receiving Defendant Obama’s response to the Writ and am hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court will review Berg v. Obama,” Berg wrote in a Nov. 7 statement. “I believe Mr. Obama is not a consitutionally-qualified natural-born citizen and is ineligible to assume the office of the President of the United States.”

Georgia

Rev. Tom Terry of Atlanta, Ga., appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court the day before the election to determine authenticity of Obama’s original birth certificate and his qualifications to be president.

“I bear no personal ill will against Barack Obama,” Terry, an independent, said in a statement. “In fact, his election solely on the basis as the first African-American president-elect is a very positive thing for our nation. However, as an American, I have very grave concerns about Mr. Obama’s possible divided loyalties since he has strenuously and vigorously fought every request and every legal effort to force him to release his original birth certificate for public review and scrutiny. I think that is significant.”

On Oct 24, Georgia Superior Court Judge Jerry W. Baxter denied Terry’s request for an injunction against Secretary of State Karen Handel.

“I don’t think you have standing to bring this suit,” he said. “I think that the attorney general has argued the law. I think he is correct. I think you are not a lawyer.”

Terry is appealing his suit even though Obama didn’t win Georgia because he said he wants to set an example for other states. He is asking the court to direct Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel to decertify all votes for Obama.

“Hopefully, this action will be noticed by other states and they will also take a serious look at the meaning of Georgia’s Supreme Court’s actions,” he said. “It is apropos that the Latin motto in the Georgia Supreme Court is interpreted: ‘Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.’ I think if the Court rules in my favor, that motto will come alive with meaning and impact.”

Hawaii

On Oct. 17, Andy Martin filed a writ of mandamus in Hawaii’s Supreme Court to compel Gov. Linda Lingle to release a certified copy of Obama’s vital statistics record. His request to expedite the circuit court was denied on Oct. 22.

Martin now has a pending case seeking access to Obama’s original 1961 typewritten birth certificate. The circuit court hearing is set to begin Nov. 18.

The saga continues …

Several unconfirmed reports also indicate that citizens of Utah, Wyoming, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Texas, California and Virginia have also filed lawsuits or requested court orders to verify Obama’s citizenship status.

As reported earlier, WND senior investigative reporter Jerome Corsi traveled both to Kenya and Hawaii to investigate issues surrounding Obama’s birth.

But his discoveries only raised more questions.

The governor’s office in Hawaii said he had a valid certificate but rejected requests for access and left ambiguous its origin – leaving some to wonder if the certificate on file with the Department of Health indicates a Hawaiian birth or whether it was generated after the Obama family registered a Kenyan birth in Hawaii.

The Obama campaign posted a certification of live birth, a document stating the baby was born on Aug. 4, 1961. However, according to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, there is a difference between the two documents. A certification of live birth is not an authentication of Hawaiian birth, and critics say the procedure could have allowed Obama’s mother to have the baby elsewhere, return to the U.S. and obtain the document in Hawaii.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands makes a distinction between the two:

In order to process your application, DHHL utilizes information that is found only on the original Certificate of Live Birth, which is either black or green. This is a more complete record of your birth than the Certification of Live Birth (a computer-generated printout). Submitting the original Certificate of Live Birth will save you time and money since the computer-generated Certification requires additional verification by DHHL.

However, Andy Martin has specifically requested verification of the original 1961 type-written certificate of live birth – or, as the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands describes it, the “more complete record” of Obama’s birth.

Further adding to complications, Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro, has named two different Hawaii hospitals where Obama could have been born. In a November 2004 interview with the Rainbow Newsletter, Maya told reporters her half-brother Sen. Barack Obama was born on Aug. 4, 1961, at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu; then in February 2008, Maya told reporters for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that Obama was at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.

But a video posted on YouTube features Obama’s Kenyan grandmother Sarah claiming to have witnessed Obama’s birth in Kenya.

Seeking to settle the issue, Hawaii Department of Health Director Director Chiyome Fukino released an Oct. 31 statement saying, “State law (Hawai’i Revised Statutes §338-18) prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record. Therefore, I as Director of Health for the State of Hawai’i, along with the Registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawai’i State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.”

The statement does not clarify whether “the record” is a certification of live birth or a Hawaiian certificate of live birth.

Before the election, WND retained a top private investigator in Hawaii with extensive FBI training and tasked him with visiting both the Queens Medical Center and the Kaliolani Medical Center to investigate claims that Obama birth certificates existed at either hospital.

However, the private investigator reported that sheriff’s deputies were stationed at both hospitals to fend off press inquiries about Obama’s birth certificate.

When WND asked the Obama campaign spokeswoman why Obama simply hasn’t released the original 1961 certificate of live birth to make the lawsuits go away, she replied, “I have no idea. I think they released what they chose to release, and Hawaii has confirmed that he was born in Hawaii, so I don’t know what else you want.”

Related

Obama Birth Certificate Fraud Proof

A presentation from “The Truth about Barack Obama Part 5”

I am not the only one questioning his birth certificate.

This man also has the same questions. Another video to make the Obama supporters wake up and look at their candidate.

Matter of fact the law firm that Obama hired is from CAIR. Council on American-Islamic Relations. Why would Obama hire a muslim lawyer IF he was a christian? Of the 1,143,358 resident and active attorneys in the United States, Obama selected Joe Sandler, of the Washington law firm Sandler, Reiff, and Young to represent him in this filing.

Posted by: syc1959

Obama Birth Certificate Fraud Proof

Obama’s Birth Certificate on his web-site and FactChech are forgeries.

Here is proof.

A comparison of an actual LEGAL Birth certificate and scan results.

The Berg Lawsuit is factual and this proves it beyond a reasonable doubt.

The State of Hawaii considers a Certification of Live Birth is a secondary source of identification for the purpose of establishing Hawaiian ancestry; a Certificate of Live Birth is considered a primary source. To respond to challenges as to his eligibility for POTUS, BO first posted and then removed from his web site, a Certification of Live Birth, claiming this was his Birth Certificate. But such Certification is only issued when a birth certificate cannot be located in the records.

THERE IT IS, THE CERTIFICATION WAS ISSUED, BECAUSE THE RECORDS COULD NOT BE LOCATED.
Because they don’t exist.

Posted by: syc1959

Obama Kenyan Birth Certificate

More on the Obama Birth Certificate.

More evidence of forgery on his Birth Certificate that is posted on his web-site.

Could his possible adoption to Lolo Soetoro in Indonesia as a child be the reason Obama refuses to release his “Vault” long form? The ONLY witnesses who have come forward to say they were at his birth, are HIS relatives from Kenya, who state he WAS born there.

Hence, if adopted his origional birth certificate would have been sealed and a new one issued with his legal name, Barry Soetoro.

The State of Hawaii considers a Certification of Live Birth is a secondary source of identification for the purpose of establishing Hawaiian ancestry; a Certificate of Live Birth is considered a primary source. To respond to challenges as to his eligibility for POTUS, BO first posted and then removed from his web site, a Certification of Live Birth, claiming this was his Birth Certificate. But such Certification is only issued when a birth certificate cannot be located in the records.

Posted by: syc1959