Lobbyists push use of deadly asbestos in developing nations

July 21, 2010

By Jim Morris | International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

WASHINGTON — A global network of lobby groups has spent nearly $100 million since the mid-1980s to preserve the international market for asbestos, a known carcinogen that’s taken millions of lives and is banned or restricted in 52 countries, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found in a nine-month investigation.

Backed by public and private money and aided by scientists and friendly governments, the groups helped facilitate the sale of 2.2 million tons of asbestos last year, mostly in developing nations. Anchored by the Montreal-based Chrysotile Institute, the network stretches from New Delhi to Mexico City to the city of Asbest in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Its message is that asbestos can be used safely under “controlled” conditions.

As a result, asbestos use is growing rapidly in countries such as China and India, prompting health experts to warn of future epidemics of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, an aggressive malignancy that usually attacks the lining of the lungs.

The World Health Organization says that 125 million people still encounter asbestos in the workplace, and the United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimates that 100,000 workers die each year from asbestos-related diseases. Thousands more perish from exposures outside the workplace.

Dr. James Leigh, the retired director of the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at the Sydney School of Public Health in Australia, has forecast a total of 5 million to 10 million deaths from asbestos-related cancers by 2030, an estimate he considers conservative.

“It’s totally unethical,” Jukka Takala, the director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and a former International Labor Organization official, said of the pro-asbestos campaign. “It’s almost criminal. Asbestos cannot be used safely. It is clearly a carcinogen. It kills people.”

Indeed, a panel of 27 experts convened by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer reported last year, “Epidemiological evidence has increasingly shown an association of all forms of asbestos … with an increased risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma.”

The asbestos industry, however, has signaled that it will fight to protect sales of raw fiber and finished products such as asbestos cement roofing and water pipes. Among its allies are industry-funded researchers who have contributed hundreds of articles to the scientific literature claiming that chrysotile — white asbestos, the only kind sold today — is orders of magnitude less hazardous than brown or blue asbestos. Russia is the world’s biggest chrysotile producer, China the biggest consumer.

“It’s an extremely valuable material,” argued Dr. J. Corbett McDonald, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at McGill University in Montreal who began studying chrysotile-exposed workers in the mid-1960s with the support of the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association. “It’s very cheap. If they try to rebuild Haiti and use no asbestos it will cost them much more. Any health effects (from chrysotile) will be trivial, if any.”

McDonald’s sanguine view of chrysotile assumes that employers provide proper dust controls, ventilation and protective equipment for workers, but public health experts say that such measures are uncommon in the developing world.

“Anybody who talks about controlled asbestos use is either a liar or a fool,” said Barry Castleman, an environmental consultant based near Washington who advises the WHO on asbestos matters.

Fire- and heat-resistant, strong and inexpensive, asbestos — a naturally occurring fibrous mineral — once was seen as a construction material with near-magical properties. For decades, industrialized countries from the United States to Australia relied on it for countless products, including pipe and ceiling insulation, shipbuilding materials, brake shoes and pads, bricks, roofing and flooring.

In the early 20th century, reports of the mineral’s lung-ravaging properties began to surface. By the century’s end, millions of people were sick or had died from asbestos exposure, and billions of dollars in compensation had been paid to claimants.

Ninety-five percent of all the asbestos ever used has been chrysotile.

This sordid history, however, hasn’t deterred the asbestos lobby, whose longtime leader is Canada. The federal government and the government of Quebec, where chrysotile has been mined for decades, collectively have given 35 million Canadian dollars to the Chrysotile Institute, formerly known as the Asbestos Institute.

Canada uses little asbestos domestically but it sent 168,000 tons abroad last year; more than half of that went to India. Canada has fought to keep chrysotile from being listed under Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, a treaty that requires exporters of hazardous substances to use clear labeling and warn importers of any restrictions or bans.

Despite mounting pressure from public health officials to stop asbestos exports, Canadian officials continue to defend the industry.

“Since 1979, the government of Canada has promoted the safe and controlled use of chrysotile and our position remains the same,” Christian Paradis, the natural resources minister in Canada’s conservative government and a former president of the Asbestos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in a written statement.

Amir Attaran, an associate professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa, calls the government’s position unconscionable. “It’s absolutely clear that (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper and his government have accepted the reality that the present course of action kills people, and they find that tolerable,” Attaran said.

The Chrysotile Institute’s president, Clement Godbout, said his organization’s message had been misinterpreted.

“We never said that chrysotile was not dangerous,” he said. “We said that chrysotile is a product with potential risk and it has to be controlled. It’s not something that you put in your coffee every morning.”

The institute is a purveyor of information, Godbout emphasized, not an international police agency.
“We don’t have the power to interfere in any countries that have their own powers, their own sovereignty,” he said.
Godbout said he was convinced that large asbestos cement factories in Indian cities had good dust controls and medical surveillance, though he acknowledged there might be smaller operations “where the rules are not really followed. But it’s not an accurate picture of the industry. If you have someone on a highway in the U.S. driving at 200 miles per hour, it doesn’t mean everybody’s doing it.”
The Chrysotile Institute offers what it describes as “technical and financial aid” to a dozen sister organizations around the world. These organizations, in turn, seek to influence science and policy in their own countries and regions.
Consider the situation in Mexico, which imports most of its asbestos from Canada. Promoting chrysotile use is Luis Cejudo Alva, who’s overseen the Instituto Mexicano de Fibro Industrias for 40 years. Cejudo said he was in regular contact with the Chrysotile Institute and related groups in Russia and Brazil, and that he gave presentations in Mexico and abroad on the prudent use of chrysotile.
Dr. Guadalupe Aguilar Madrid, a physician and researcher at Mexico’s federal Social Security Institute, said the Instituto Mexicano de Fibro Industrias had had a major influence on Mexico’s workplace and environmental rules, which remain weak. The nation is on the cusp of an epidemic of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases that could take 5,000 lives per year, the doctor said.
In Brazil, a state prosecutor is seeking dissolution of the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute, a self-described public interest group with tax-exempt status. The prosecutor charges in a court pleading that the institute is a poorly disguised shill for the Brazilian asbestos industry. The institute denies the allegation, saying it “ensures the health and security of workers and users.”
In India, where the asbestos market is growing at the rate of 25 percent per year, the powerful Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association, a trade group, has a close relationship with politicians and has received $50 million from the industry since 1985, according to government officials.
One of the group’s specialties is “advertorials,” faux news articles that extol the safety and value of asbestos products. An ad placed in The Times of India last December is typical. It said, among other things, that the cancer scourge in the West had come during a “period of ignorance,” when careless handling of asbestos insulation resulted in excessive exposure. Such exposures are long gone, the ad said. It neglects to note, however, that asbestos either has vanished from products or has been banned in industrialized nations.
The asbestos lobby’s argument hinges to a great extent on scientists who minimize the health risks of white asbestos.
Industry-funded science on chrysotile began in earnest in the mid-1960s, when damning studies on asbestos cast unwanted scrutiny on Quebec’s then-thriving mines. Minutes of the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association’s November 1965 meeting suggest that the group saw the tobacco industry as a paradigm: It “was recalled that the tobacco industry launched its own (research) program and it now knows where it stands. Industry is always well advised to look after its own problems.”
The studies have proved helpful to an industry that’s under growing pressure to disband. They’re disputed by other scientists, who argue that chrysotile is clearly capable of causing mesothelioma and lung cancer.
“Is there a legitimate scientific question as to whether white asbestos is less dangerous (than blue or brown)? Yes,” said Dr. Arthur Frank, a physician and professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia. “But is it safe? No.”

(This story is part of “Dangers in the Dust,” a joint investigation by the BBC’s International News Services and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The consortium is a collaboration of some of the world’s top investigative reporters. Launched in 1997 as a project of The Center for Public Integrity, the consortium globally extends the center’s style of watchdog journalism, working with 100 journalists in 50 countries to produce long-term, transnational investigations.)

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/21/97625/lobbyists-push-use-of-deadly-asbestos.html#ixzz0uSO3eDTY


JOSEPH founder Joseph Ettedgui dies

March 19, 2010

Sad news in the fashion world. Joseph Ettedgui, the charismatic, Moroccan-born owner of the Joseph boutiques passed away yesterday at the age of 74, after a battle with cancer.

Originally training as a hairdresser in the 1950s, he left his native Casablanca to work in London. In the Sixties, he travelled to Paris for the Shows and met the Japanese designer Kenzo, and Ettedgui started to sell the designer’s jumpers in the basement of his hair salon on the Kings Road.

With a sharp eye for young modern designers, Ettedgui established his first clothing store in Chelsea in 1972, selling Kenzo, Emanuelle Khanh and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

He launched his own line in 1983, starting with Joseph Tricot, a collection of chic knitwear – his ‘sloppy joe’ jumpers quickly became a must-have. The following year, tailoring was added, and Joseph’s incredibly flattering boot-cut stretch trousers became legendary, topping every stylish woman’s wishlist, (alongside a silk shirt by Equipment – the cult French label that Joseph brought to the UK, which is about to be revived by the line’s original creator – Christian Restoin, husband of French Vogue Editor Carine Roitfeld).

Joseph was always quick to spot the next big thing – from Azzedine Alaia, to Miuccia Prada, Katherine Hamnett, and John Galliano – Joseph stocked them all. And as the chain expanded in the 1980s, to Paris, New York and Tokyo, Ettedgui championed an urban minimalism aesthetic with his stark white concrete and steel stores, and grainy black and white adverts. His restaurant Joe’s Café, on the Kings Road was the coolest hangout on Kings Road, with lycra clad Sade-lookalikes perched at the steel tables.

He referred to his classic pieces as a supplement to the designers he stocked, saying ‘an entire wardrobe can’t be made up of only designer clothes. People need good trousers and good shirts that they wear all the time.’

Ettedgui finally sold the Joseph stores in 2005.

A much-loved figure in the fashion world, Joseph’s impeccable taste will be sadly missed.

Moroccan woman jailed 3 years

October 15, 2009

A Moroccan woman has been jailed for three years for violently abusing an 11-year-old maid. Outraged rights groups said they would appeal the sentence on grounds that it was too lenient.

The woman was also fined US $3,000 for her brutality against the little maid, Zineb Chetitezineboujda1, whose case attracted widespread attention in Morocco.

But several Moroccan rights groups say they would appeal on behalf of the country’s estimated 60 thousand to 80 thousand child labourers.

The chair of the Association, “Don’t Touch My Children”, Najia Adib, says the sentence does not regret the scale of the atrocities committed, because the little girl was locked up in a cellar.

Tribute to The Kingdom of Morocco and to The Moroccan People

October 15, 2009

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has resolved to pay tribute to the Kingdom of Morocco and to the Moroccan people

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is a global-reach NGO, with offices in New York, Berlin, Jerusalem, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Among its members are more than a hundred heads of state and Nobel Prize laureates, as well as distinguished personalities from all faiths.

Due to its interfaith nature, the Foundation is strongly supported by both the Catholic and Protestant Churches. In Berlin, it operates from the Vaterunser Evangelical Church. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, following an initiative of the Wallenberg Foundation, the Catholic Cathedral features a mural in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

The Awards Committee of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) has resolved to bestow the “Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award to the Kingdom of Morocco”.

This distinction will represent a token of appreciation to the Muslims from different countries who helped save the lives of Jews during the Second World War, and particularly to the Moroccan Royal Family and to the Mo roccan people for the blessed role that Morocco has traditionally played in favor of the dialogue and mutual respect between all creeds, religions and nations.

In a letter addressed to the IRWF, His Majesty, King Mohamed VI, expressed his being “deeply rewarded and honoured in this context to receive i n Morocco the special medal you have conceived for this occasion”.

This tradition was highlighted by Sultan Mohamed V (later known as King Mohamed V), who during the Vichy regime,expressed his unconditional support towards his Jewish subjects. According to verbal historical accounts, when a Nazi commander demanded to get a list of the Moroccan Jews, Sultan Mohamed V is believed to have retorted with the following phrase:

“We have no Jews in Morocco! Only Moroccan citizens”.

This is only one example of many which underscore the spirit of civic solidarity of the Moroccan monarchs and their subjects.

This same spirit of civic courage and solidarity was displayed by Muslims from other countries, such as Tunisia, Albania and Turkey, who made a difference and proved to the world that the values of solidarity know no religious boundaries.

The main mission of the Foundation is to research and divulge the feats of the rescuers of victims of the Holocaust, focusing on educational programs which underscore their legacies to the younger generations. This research encompasses stories of rescuers from all faiths, religions and nationalities.

Through this humble recognition, people from all creeds: Christian, Jews, Muslims; believers and agnostics will express their gratitued to one of the most outstanding royal families of the world, leaders of a country – Morocco – which has never stopped to protect its citizens during the Holocaust.

In preparation to this event, the IRWF is calling upon historians and people from all venues to provide our Research Department with historical evidences regarding the Moroccan tradition of mutually respected coexistence and to endorse this hommage by writing to irwf@irwf.org.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

yanni live at the taj mahal india – love is all

August 13, 2009

Morocco challenges Mideast Holocaust mind-set

August 9, 2009

By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU (AP) – Jul 25, 2009

RABAT, Morocco — From the western edge of the Muslim world, the King of Morocco has dared to tackle one of the most inflammatory issues in the Middle East conflict — the Holocaust.

At a time when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dismissal of the Holocaust has made the biggest headlines, King Mohammed VI has called the Nazi destruction of the Jews “one of the most tragic chapters of modern history,” and has endorsed a Paris-based program aimed at spreading the word among fellow Muslims.

Many in the Islamic world still ignore or know little about the Nazi attempt to annihilate the Jews during World War II. Some disbelieve it outright. Others argue that it was a European crime and imagine it to be the reason Israel exists and the Palestinians are stateless.

The sentiment was starkly illustrated in March after a Palestinian youth orchestra performed for Israeli Holocaust survivors, only to be shut down by angry leaders of the West Bank refugee camp where they live.

“The Holocaust happened, but we are facing a similar massacre by the Jews themselves,” a community leader named Adnan Hindi said at the time. “We lost our land and we were forced to flee.”

Like other moderate Arab leaders, King Mohammed VI must tread carefully. Islamic fervor is rising in his kingdom, highlighted in 2003 by al-Qaida-inspired attacks in Casablanca on targets that included Jewish sites. Forty-five people died.

The king’s acknowledgment of the Holocaust, in a speech read out in his name at a ceremony in Paris in March, appears to further illustrate the radically different paths that countries like Morocco and Iran are taking.

Morocco has long been a quiet pioneer in Arab-Israeli peace efforts, most notably when it served as a secret meeting place for the Israeli and Egyptian officials who set up President Anwar Sadat’s groundbreaking journey to Jerusalem in 1977.

Though Moroccan officials say the timing is coincidental, the Holocaust speech came at around the same time that Morocco severed diplomatic relations with Iran, claiming it was infiltrating Shiite Muslim troublemakers into this Sunni nation.

The speech was read out at a ceremony launching the “Aladdin Project,” an initiative of the Paris-based Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah (Holocaust) which aims to spread awareness of the genocide among Muslims.

It organizes conferences and has translated key Holocaust writing such as Anne Frank’s diary into Arabic and Farsi. The name refers to Aladdin, the young man with the genie in his lamp, whose legend, originally Muslim, became a universally loved tale.

The Holocaust, the king’s speech said, is “the universal heritage of mankind.”

It was “a very important political act,” said Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, director of the Shoah foundation. “This is the first time an Arab head of state takes such a clear stand on the Shoah,” she said in a telephone interview.

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often aggravates Arab sentiment toward Israel, Morocco has a long history of coexistence between Muslims and Jews.

The recent Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip has further inflamed resentment at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. But Ahmed Hasseni, a Casablanca cab driver, echoes a widely held view that it shouldn’t affect relations with Morocco’s Jews.

“We’re not dumb,” he said. “We don’t confuse the Israeli army with the Jewish people,” he said.

Jews have lived in Morocco for 2,000 years. Their numbers swelled after they were expelled from Spain in 1492, and reached 300,000 before World War II, when yet more fled the German occupation and found refuge in Morocco, then a French colony.

Today they number just 3,000, most having emigrated to France, North America or Israel, but they are free to come back to explore their roots, pray at their ancestors’ graves and even settle here.

Simon Levy heads the Jewish Museum in Casablanca, a treasure trove of old Torah scrolls, garments and jewelry illustrating the rich culture of Moroccan Jewry.

“That I still run the only Jewish museum in the Arab world is telling,” he said.

Andre Azoulay, a top adviser to the current king, is Jewish and one of six members of the king’s council in a monarchy that oversees all major decisions. Considered one of Morocco’s most powerful men, he views his country as “a unique case” for the intensity of its Jewish-Muslim relations. “We don’t mix up Judaism and the tragedy of the Middle East,” he told The Associated Press in an interview.

A founding member of the Aladdin project, Azoulay says part of the program’s goal is to show the West that Muslims aren’t hostile to Jews, and that Morocco was among countries that resisted Nazi plans to exterminate their Jewish populations. He points to king Mohammed V, the current ruler’s grandfather, who is credited with resisting French colonial anti-Semitic policies.

Such actions were rare, but not unique in North Africa during World War II. In Tunisia, the late Khaled Abdelwahhab hid Jews from the Nazis on his farm, and was the first Arab to be nominated as “Righteous Among the Nations,” a title bestowed by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, on those who risked their lives to save Jews in the Holocaust. His case is still under study.

The Aladdin project is only just beginning. Its work has yet to reach schools or bookstores in Morocco, although the Shoah foundation’s Revcolevschi said Anne Frank’s diary is among Holocaust memoirs available in Arabic and Farsi on the Internet, and is being sold under the counter in Iran.

“People speak of a clash of civilizations, but it’s more a clash of ignorance,” she said. “We’re countering this.”

Hakim El Ghissassi, an aide to the senior Islamic Affairs official who delivered Mohammed’s speech, said the king is uniquely positioned to promote Islam’s dialogue with Judaism, because his titles include “Commander of the believers” — meaning he is the paramount authority for Moroccan Muslims.

“What the king has said on the Holocaust reflects our broader efforts,” said El Ghissassi, listing such reforms as courses to reinforce Morocco’s tradition of tolerant Islam by familiarizing local imams with Jewish and Christian holy books.

“We want to make sure everybody can differentiate between unfair Israeli policies and respect for Judaism,” he said.

War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields

January 16, 2009


Who Owns the Gas Fields

The issue of sovereignty over Gaza’s gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine. 

The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza’s offshore gas reserves. 

British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields. 

The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine’s sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that “Israel would never buy gas from Palestine” intimating that Gaza’s offshore gas reserves belong to Israel. 

In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza’s offshore wells. (The Independent, August 19, 2003) 

The election victory of Hamas in 2006 was conducive to the demise of the Palestinian Authority, which became confined to the West Bank, under the proxy regime of Mahmoud Abbas.  

In 2006, British Gas “was close to signing a deal to pump the gas to Egypt.” (Times, May, 23, 2007). According to reports, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on behalf of Israel with a view to shunting the agreement with Egypt. 

The following year, in May 2007, the Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert  “to buy gas from the Palestinian Authority.” The proposed contract was for $4 billion, with profits of the order of $2 billion of which one billion was to go the Palestinians. 

Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Israeli Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority:   

Israeli defence authorities want the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services and insist that no money go to the Hamas-controlled Government.” (Ibid, emphasis added)

The objective was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat. 

Under the proposed 2007 agreement with BG, Palestinian gas from Gaza’s offshore wells was to be channeled by an undersea pipeline to the Israeli seaport of Ashkelon, thereby transferring control over the sale of the natural gas to Israel. 

The deal fell through. The negotiations were suspended:

 “Mossad Chief Meir Dagan opposed the transaction on security grounds, that the proceeds would fund terror”. (Member of Knesset Gilad Erdan, Address to the Knesset on “The Intention of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Purchase Gas from the Palestinians When Payment Will Serve Hamas,” March 1, 2006, quoted in Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza’s Coastal Waters Threaten Israel’s National Security?  Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 2007)

Israel’s intent was to foreclose the possibility that royalties be paid to the Palestinians. In December 2007, The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and in January 2008 they closed their office in Israel.(BG website). 

Invasion Plan on The Drawing Board

The invasion plan of the Gaza Strip under “Operation Cast Lead” was set in motion in June 2008, according to Israeli military sources: 

“Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June] , even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.”(Barak Ravid, Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air Force strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)

That very same month, the Israeli authorities contacted British Gas, with a view to resuming crucial negotiations pertaining to the purchase of Gaza’s natural gas:  

“Both Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler agreed to inform BG of Israel’s wish to renew the talks.

The sources added that BG has not yet officially responded to Israel’s request, but that company executives would probably come to Israel in a few weeks to hold talks with government officials.” (Globes online- Israel’s Business Arena, June 23, 2008)

The decision to speed up negotiations with British Gas (BG Group) coincided, chronologically, with the planning of the invasion of Gaza initiated in June. It would appear that Israel was anxious to reach an agreement with the BG Group prior to the invasion, which was already in an advanced planning stage.  

Moreover, these negotiations with British Gas were conducted by the Ehud Olmert government with the knowledge that a military invasion was on the drawing board. In all likelihood, a new “post war” political-territorial arrangement for the Gaza strip was also being contemplated by the Israeli government.     

In fact, negotiations between British Gas and Israeli officials were ongoing in October 2008, 2-3 months prior to the commencement of the bombings on December 27th.  

In November 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to enter into negotiations with British Gas, on the purchase of natural gas from the BG’s offshore concession in Gaza. (Globes, November 13, 2008) 

“Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler wrote to IEC CEO Amos Lasker recently, informing him of the government’s decision to allow negotiations to go forward, in line with the framework proposal it approved earlier this year.

The IEC board, headed by chairman Moti Friedman, approved the principles of the framework proposal a few weeks ago. The talks with BG Group will begin once the board approves the exemption from a tender.” (Globes Nov. 13, 2008) 

Gaza and Energy Geopolitics 

The military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law.

What can we expect in the wake of the invasion?

What is the intent of Israel with regard to Palestine’s Natural Gas reserves? 

A new territorial arrangement, with the stationing of Israeli and/or “peacekeeping” troops?  

The militarization of the entire Gaza coastline, which is strategic for Israel? 

The outright confiscation of Palestinian gas fields and the unilateral declaration of Israeli sovereignty over Gaza’s maritime areas?  

If this were to occur, the Gaza gas fields would be integrated into Israel’s offshore installations, which are contiguous to those of the Gaza Strip. (See Map 1 above). 

These various offshore installations are also linked up to Israel’s energy transport corridor, extending from the port of Eilat, which is an oil pipeline terminal, on the Red Sea to the seaport – pipeline terminal at Ashkelon, and northwards to Haifa, and eventually linking up through a proposed Israeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan. 

Ceyhan is the terminal of the Baku, Tblisi Ceyhan Trans Caspian pipeline. “What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel’s Tipline.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)



January 16, 2009


Child victims of Gaza

January 16, 2009


At least 300 children are among the more than 1,000 Palestinians who have died since Israel began to bombard the Gaza Strip on December 27.

Al Jazeera has obtained the names of 210 of the young victims, 44 of which were under five years old. 

Date Name Gender Age
27/12/2008 Ibtihal Kechko Girl 10
  Ahmed Riad Mohammed Al-Sinwar Boy 3
    Ahmed Al-Homs Boy 18
    Ahmed Rasmi Abu Jazar Boy 16
  Ahmed Sameeh Al-Halabi Boy 18
  Tamer Hassan Al-Akhrass Boy 5
  Hassan Ali Al-Akhrass Boy 3
  Haneen Wael Mohammed Daban Girl 15
  Khaled Sami Al-Astal Boy 15
  alaat Mokhless Bassal Boy 18
  Aaed Imad Kheera Boy 14
  Abdullah Al-Rayess Boy 17
  Odai Hakeem Al-Mansi Boy 4
  Allam Nehrou Idriss Boy 18
  Ali Marwan Abu Rabih Boy 18
  Anan Saber Atiyah Boy 13
  Camelia Al-Bardini Girl 10
  Lama Talal Hamdan Girl 10
  Mohammed Jaber Howeij Boy 17
  Nimr Mustafa Amoom Boy 10
29/12/2008 Ismail Talal Hamdan Boy 10
  Ahmed Ziad Al-Absi Boy 14
  Ahmed Youssef Khello Boy 18
  Ikram Anwar Baaloosha Girl 14
  Tahrier Anwar Baaloosha Girl 17
  Jihad Saleh Ghobn Boy 10
  Jawaher Anwar Baaloosha Girl 8
  Dina Anwar Baaloosha Girl 7
  Samar Anwar Baaloosha Girl 6
  Shady Youssef Ghobn Boy 12
  Sudqi Ziad Al-Absi Boy 3
  Imad Nabeel Abou Khater Boy 16
  Lina Anwar Baaloosha Girl 7
  Mohammed Basseel Madi Boy 17
  Mohammed Jalal Abou Tair Boy 18
  Mohammed Ziad Al-Absi Boy 14
  Mahmoud Nabeel Ghabayen Boy 15
  Moaz Yasser Abou Tair Boy 6
  Wissam Akram Eid Girl 14
30/12/2008 Haya Talal Hamdan Girl 8
31/12/2008 Ahmed Kanouh Boy 10
  Ameen Al-Zarbatlee Boy 10
  Mohammed Nafez Mohaissen Boy 10
  Mustafa Abou Ghanimah Boy 16
  Yehya Awnee Mohaissen Boy 10
   Ossman Bin Zaid Nizar Rayyan Boy 3
  Assaad Nizar Rayyan Boy 2
  Moaz-Uldeen Allah Al-Nasla Boy 5
  Aya Nizar Rayyan Girl 12
  Halima Nizar Rayyan Girl 5
  Reem Nizar Rayyan Boy 4
  Aicha Nizar Rayyan Girl 3
  Abdul Rahman Nizar Rayyan Boy 6
  Abdul Qader Nizar Rayyan Boy 12
   Oyoon Jihad Al-Nasla Girl 16
  Mahmoud Mustafa Ashour Boy 13
   Maryam Nizar Rayyan Girl 5
01/01/2009 Hamada Ibrahim Mousabbah Boy 10
   Zeinab Nizar Rayyan Girl 12
   Sujud Mahmoud Al-Derdesawi Girl 10
   Abdul Sattar Waleed Al-Astal Boy 12
   Abed Rabbo Iyyad Abed Rabbo Al-Astal Boy 10
   Ghassan Nizar Rayyan Boy 15
   Christine Wadih El-Turk Boy 6
   Mohammed Mousabbah Boy 14
   Mohammed Iyad Abed Rabbo Al-Astal Boy 13
   Mahmoud Samsoom Boy 16
   Ahmed Tobail Boy 16
   Ahmed Sameeh Al-Kafarneh Boy 17
   Hassan Hejjo Boy 14
   Rajeh Ziadeh Boy 18
   Shareef Abdul Mota Armeelat Boy 15
   Mohammed Moussa Al-Silawi Boy 10
   Mahmoud Majed Mahmoud Abou Nahel Boy 16
   Mohannad Al-Tatnaneeh Boy 18
   Hani Mohammed Al-Silawi Boy 10
01/01/2009 Ahmed Al-Meshharawi  Boy 16
   Ahmed Khodair Sobaih Boy 17
   Ahmed Sameeh Al-Kafarneh Boy 18
   Asraa Kossai Al-Habash Girl 10
   Assad Khaled Al-Meshharawi Boy 17
   Asmaa Ibrahim Afana Girl 12
   Ismail Abdullah Abou Sneima Boy 4
   Akram Ziad Al-Nemr Boy 18
   Aya Ziad Al-Nemr Girl 8
   Ahmed Mohammed Al-Adham Boy 1
   Akram Ziad Al-Nemr Boy 13
   Hamza Zuhair Tantish Boy 12
   Khalil Mohammed Mokdad Boy 18
   Ruba Mohammed Fadl Abou-Rass Girl 13
   Ziad Mohammed Salma Abou Sneima Boy 9
   Shaza Al-Abed Al-Habash Girl 16
   Abed Ziad Al-Nemr Boy 12
   Attia Rushdi Al-Khawli Boy 16
   Luay Yahya Abou Haleema Boy 17
   Mohammed Akram Abou Harbeed Boy 18
   Mohammed Abed Berbekh Boy 18
   Mohammed Faraj Hassouna Boy 16
   Mahmoud Khalil Al-Mashharawi Boy 12
   Mahmoud Zahir Tantish Boy 17
   Mahmoud Sami Assliya Boy 3
   Moussa Youssef Berbekh Boy 16
   Wi’am Jamal Al-Kafarneh Girl 2
   Wadih Ayman Omar Boy 4
   Youssef Abed Berbekh Boy 10
05/01/2009 Ibrahim Rouhee Akl Boy 17
   Ibrahim Abdullah Merjan Boy 13
   Ahmed Attiyah Al-Semouni Boy 4
   Aya Youssef Al-Defdah Girl 13
   Aya Al-Sersawi Girl 5
   Ahmed Amer Abou Eisha Boy 5
   Ameen Attiyah Al-Semouni Boy 4
   Hazem Alewa Boy 8
   Khalil Mohammed Helless  Boy 12
   Diana Mosbah Saad Girl 17
   Raya Al-Sersawi Girl 5
   Rahma Mohammed Al-Semouni Girl 18
   Ramadan Ali Felfel Boy 14
   Rahaf Ahmed Saeed Al-Azaar  Girl 4
   Shahad Mohammed Hijjih Girl 3
   Arafat Mohammed Abdul Dayem Boy 10
   Omar Mahmoud Al-Baradei Boy 12
   Ghaydaa Amer Abou Eisha Girl 6
   Fathiyya Ayman Al-Dabari Girl 4
   Faraj Ammar Al-Helou Boy 2
   Moumen Alewah Boy 9
   Moumen Mahmoud Talal Alaw Boy 10
   Mohammed Amer Abu Eisha Boy 8
   Mahmoud Mohammed Abu Kamar Boy 15
   Marwan Hein Kodeih Girl 6
   Montasser Alewah Boy 12
   Naji Nidal Al-Hamlawi Boy 16
   Nada Redwan Mardi Girl 5
   Hanadi Bassem Khaleefa Girl 13
06/01/2009 Ibrahim Ahmed Maarouf Boy 14
   Ahmed Shaher Khodeir Boy 14
   Ismail Adnan Hweilah Boy 15
   Aseel Moeen Deeb Boy 17
   Adam Mamoun Al-Kurdee Boy 3
   Alaa Iyad Al-Daya Girl 8
   Areej Mohammed Al-Daya Girl 3 months
   Amani Mohammed Al-Daya Girl 4
   Baraa Ramez Al-Daya Girl 2
   Bilal Hamza Obaid Boy 15
   Thaer Shaker Karmout Boy 17
   Hozaifa Jihad Al-Kahloot Boy 17
   Khitam Iyad Al-Daya Girl 9
   Rafik Abdul Basset Al-Khodari  Boy 15
   Raneen Abdullah saleh Girl 12
   Zakariya Yahya Al-Taweel Boy 5
   Sahar Hatem Dawood Girl 10
   Salsabeel Ramez Al-Daya Girl 6 months
   Sharafuldeen Iyad Al-Daya Boy 7
   Doha Mohammed Al-Daya Girl 5
   Ahed Iyad Kodas Boy 15
   Abdullah Mohammed Abdullah Boy 10
   Issam Sameer Deeb Boy 12
   Alaa Ismail Ismail Boy 18
   Ali Iyad Al-Daya Boy 10
   Imad Abu Askar Boy 18
   Filasteen Al-Daya Girl 5
   Kamar Mohammed Al-Daya Boy 3
   Lina Abdul Menem Hassan Girl 10
   Unidentified Boy 9
   Unidentified  Boy 15
   Mohammed Iyad Al-Daya Boy 6
   Mohammed Bassem Shakoura Boy 10
   Mohammed Bassem Eid Boy 18
   Mohammed Deeb Boy 17
   Mohammed Eid Boy 18
   Mustafa Moeen Deeb Boy 12
   Noor Moeen Deeb Boy 2
   Youssef Saad Al-Kahloot Boy 17
   Youssef Mohammed Al-Daya Boy 1
07/01/2009 Ibrahim Kamal Awaja Boy 9
   Ahmed Jaber Howeij Boy 7
   Ahmed Fawzi Labad Boy 18
   Ayman Al-Bayed Boy 16
   Amal Khaled Abed Rabbo Girl 3
   Toufic Khaled Al-Khahloot Boy 10
   Habeeb Khaled Al-Khahloot Boy 12
   Houssam Raed Sobeh Boy 12
   Hassan Rateb Semaan Boy 18
   Hassan Ata Hassan Azzam Boy 2
   Redwan Mohammed Ashoor Boy 10
   Suad Khaled Abed Rabbo Girl 6
   Samar Khaled Abed Rabbo Girl 2
   Abdul Rahman Mohammmed Ashoor  Boy 12
   Fareed Ata Hassan Azzam Boy 13
   Mohammed Khaled Al-Kahloot Boy 15
   Mohammed Samir Hijji Boy 16
   Mohammed Fareed Al-Maasawabi Boy 16
   Mohammed Moeen Deeb Boy 17
   Mohammed Nasseem Salama Saba Boy 16
   Mahmoud Hameed Boy 17
   Hamam Issa Boy 1
08/01/2009 Anas Arif Abou Baraka Boy 7
   Ibrahim Akram Abou Dakkka Boy 12
   Ibrahim Moeen Jiha Boy 15
   Baraa Iyad Shalha Girl 6
   Basma Yasser Al-Jeblawi Girl 5
   Shahd Saad Abou Haleema Girl 15
   Azmi Diab Boy 16
   Mohammed Akram Abou Dakka Boy 14
   Mohammed Hikmat Abou Haleema Boy 17
  Ibrahim Moeen Jiha Boy 15
   Matar Saad Abou Haleema Boy 17
09/01/2009 Ahmed Ibrahim Abou Kleik Boy 17
   Ismail Ayman Yasseen Boy 18
   Alaa Ahmed Jaber Girl 11
   Baha-Uldeen Fayez Salha Girl 5
   Rana Fayez Salha Girl 12
   Rola Fayez Salha Girl 13
   Diyaa-Uldeen Fayez Salah Boy 14
   Ghanima Sultan Halawa Girl 11
   Fatima Raed Jadullah Girl 10
   Mohammed Atef Abou Al-Hussna Boy 15


The Third Rail

January 16, 2009

John Morton

It is now two weeks into the Israeli war on the people of Gaza. 1000 Palestinian men, women and children, and no doubt some leaders of the militant group Hamas are dead, as compared with a handful of Israelis, some broken fences and flower pots in Israel.

While I do not normally like to comment or be drawn into the debate about the “Palestinian issue,” the brazen, wanton, criminal atrocities that are being committed in this sick business are simply too heinous to be ignored.

Firstly, we have reports of White Phosphorous being used in civilian areas to “flush out terrorists”, which following the fine example set by their leading supporter and amazingly gracious champion, George “retard” Bush Jnr, is officially a war crime. But what does the UN do about it, a big fat, US/Israel sponsored nothing!

We have all heard, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, about the terrible suffering of the Jews in WW2, and there is no question but that a people thus oppressed will return to fight fire with fire, but I simply cannot understand how murdering innocent women and children for the “crime” of voting for Hamas is somehow justified in the twisted logic of perpetual Jewish self pity. How is it that these myopic people simply do not understand that they are laying the seeds of their own self destruction by such acts of unrepentant aggression against their defenseless neighbours?

And, on a deeper level, what is it about the Israeli national character, the “siege mentality,” that violence and murder against civilian populations can be pursued with such inhumane and calculated precision? How can a culture that produced Jesus Christ be so immune to the cries of the dead, maimed and dying, in the prison camp they have created of what remains of the country they annexed from the Palestinians so long ago?

Well, one possible answer is to be found in the secret Jewish law/doctrine of the Talmud, which itself is every bit as racist and anti-human as anything written by their most recent nemesis and persecutor, Adolph Hitler. Quite clearly, not all Jews, both within the global extended diaspora, and within Israel itself, subscribe to such ideas, or indeed support this current, self destructive madness. But what does it say of us, the formerly “free west” that we have permitted the penetration, infiltration and virtual takeover of our formerly “Christian” national political systems by adherents of such racist and supremacist ideologies. Have we become so blind that we cannot see the enemy in our midst?

But leaving aside such complex cultural, religious and historical factors for now to focus on the strategic picture, it is clear that on this occasion, the inherent instinct for self preservation against all opposition or rationality has forced the Israeli leadership into a disastrous course of action that will lead to incalculable consequences if peace is not restored in very short order.

Even now, there are reports of Israeli troops massing on the border with Lebanon. Any such expansion of the conflict beyond Gaza can only be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to draw other regional powers into a growing and unstoppable conflagration. As such, the timing of these operations can no longer be considered to be accidental. With the change in government underway in the United States, forces are now in motion that are determined to force the hand of the incoming President Obama to guarantee that no alternative to a 100 years war between the “Western” powers and those of the “East”, vectored on a vicious and perpetual religious and sectarian conflict in the world’s major oil patch, were ensured. If there were any serious doubt or skepticism as to the truth of this statement, I refer you to the following blatant statement on the subject by the London Economist, the leading mouthpiece for the City of London financial oligarchy.

I will leave our readers to ponder these issues by way of a reminder from history, the following article by none other than Winston S Churchill, a perspective which we neglect at our direst peril.

Has it not always been the policy of the British Empire to (divide and) rule the world by such nefarious means?

Is not the existential threat to that Empire implied by the ongoing collapse of the extant global financial and monetary system the hair trigger upon which mortal conflict is assured?

Are we, but more importantly, the Israelis themselves, so foolish as to forget the lessons of two world wars, as the flames leap higher?


Kissinger calls on Obama to create a New World Order

January 16, 2009

Additional Arrests Made In Taxi Driver Murder; Five Suspects Now Charged

December 3, 2008


Newport News police have made two additional arrests in the murder of cab driver Mohammed Laktami.  Antonio Lamar Williams, 23, and Christopher Deangelo Holloman, 20, were arrested at the Americans Best Value Inn in Portsmouth on Monday night around 8:30.

Both individuals each have been charged with murder, robbery, conspiracy, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. 

The recent arrests now brings the total of individuals charged to five. 20 year-old Trevor Rashad Futrell, Shannon Denise Drewry, 20, and a 17 year-old male were all arrested on Sunday, November 30. All face several charges including murder and conspiracy.

Police say this crime was not a crime of opportunity but a planned event.  The five individuals involved initially planned to rob a delivery driver from a Chinese restaurant and a call was actually placed, however the business was closed.  A decision was made to then rob a Taxi driver.  Two of the males physically conducted the robbery, but after the robbery and murder, the money was split between all involved.

Mohammed Laktami was shot and killed on Sunday, November 22 while conducting business as a North End cab driver on Marshall Avenue in Newport News. Mr. Laktami was a legal resident alien from Morocco working in Virginia to support his family that were still in Morocco. He had been a cab driver for two months.


Hassan Belfkir passes away

December 3, 2008


by Mimi Bradley

Our Condolences to the Hassan Belfkir Family
Dear Friend ,
It is with deep sorrow and regret that the Moroccan Community in Central Florida announces the death of Mr. Hassan Belfkir. Hassan was the loving husband , devoted father , beloved brother . He is also the dear friend.
Hassan passed away from heart attack . He will be missed by all but will never be forgotten. Although he did not live a long life he lived a full one.

US masses naval-air-marine might in Arabian Sea opposite India, Pakistan, Iran

December 3, 2008

Three US aircraft carriers with strike groups, task forces and nuclear submarines have piled up in the waters of the Arabian Sea opposite the shores of India, Pakistan and Iran, and in the Persian Gulf.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the US began massing this formidable array of floating firepower at the outset of the Islamist terrorist attack on the Indian city of Mumbai last Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Tehran responded typically with a threat of retaliation should the Americans decide to use the Mumbai terrorist attack to hit Iran.

It is more likely, according to our military sources, that the Americans are on the ready in case the rising tensions between India and Pakistan over the New Delhi’s charge of Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai atrocity explodes into an armed clash on their border.

This is indicated by the units now deployed:

1. the USS John C. Stennis, which carries 80 fighter-bombers and 3,200 sailors and airmen and leads a strike group..

This carrier joins two already there, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which patrols the northern Arabian Sea, part of whose strike group cruises opposite Iran’s southern coast; and the USS Iwo Jima, which carries a large marine contingent on board.

2. New to these waters, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, is the Destroyer Squadron 50/CTF 55, which has two task forces: Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) for strikes against warships and the rapid deployment of marines to flashpoint arenas; and Mine Countermeasures Division 31, which stands ready to prevent New Delhi or Islamabad from mining the Arabian Sea routes connecting their ports. Those routes are vital waterways for US marine traffic supporting the war in Afghanistan.

3. To manage this armada, the command and control vessel, USS Mount Whitney, has been brought over from the Mediterranean.

4. Four nuclear submarines.

The arrival of the southwest Asian marine patrol carrier Stennis and the Mount Whitney to the Arabian Sea opposite Iran’s shores set alarm bells ringing in Tehran. Our Iranian sources note that the Islamic republic’s rulers remember that after al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, the Americans did not only invade Afghanistan, but also Iraq and they fear a similar sideswipe.

The Iranian chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Ataoallah Salehi sounded a warning when he stated Sunday, Nov. 30: The “heavy weight” of enemy warships provides the Iranian side with an ideal opportunity for launching successful counter-attacks.

a rapist in Marrakech

December 3, 2008


Polanski fled to Paris after being indicted in 1977 on six counts of drugging, raping and sodomizing 13 year old Geimer, whom he lured to Jack Nicholson’s  house.

Back in 2006,this notorious rapist was given the honor to head the Jury of the Marrakech cinema Festival and this year he was a guest of honor…

Morocco issues biometric ID cards

December 3, 2008


Sharia law SHOULD be used in Britain, says UK’s top judge

July 5, 2008

By Steve Doughty 

The most senior judge in England yesterday gave his blessing to the use of sharia law to resolve disputes among Muslims.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips said that Islamic legal principles could be employed to deal with family and marital arguments and to regulate finance.

He declared: ‘Those entering into a contractual agreement can agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law.’

In his speech at an East London mosque, Lord Phillips signalled approval of sharia principles as long as punishments – and divorce rulings – complied with the law of the land.

But his remarks, which back the informal sharia courts operated by numerous mosques, provoked a barrage of criticism.

Lawyers warned that family and marital disputes settled by sharia could disadvantage women or the vulnerable.

Tories said that legal equality must be respected and that rulings incompatible with English law should never be enforceable.

Lord Phillips spoke five months after Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams suggested Islamic law could govern marital law, financial transactions and arbitration in disputes.

The Lord Chief Justice said yesterday of the Archbishop’s views: ‘It was not very radical to advocate embracing sharia law in the context of family disputes’.

He added there is ‘widespread misunderstanding as to the nature of sharia law’.

Lord Phillips said: ‘Those who are in dispute are free to subject it to mediation or to agree that it shall be resolved by a chosen arbitrator. There is no reason why principles of sharia law or any other religious code should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of dispute resolution.’

Lord Phillips said that any sanctions must be ‘drawn from the laws of England and Wales’. Severe physical punishment – he mentioned stoning, flogging or amputating hands – is ‘out of the question’ in Britain, he added.

Lord Phillips’ speech brought protests from lawyers who fear women could be disadvantaged in supposedly voluntary sharia deals.

Barrister and human rights specialist John Cooper said: ‘There should be one law by which everyone is held to account.

‘Well-crafted laws in this country, drawn up to protect both parties including the weak and vulnerable party in matrimonial break-ups, could be compromised.’

Resolution, the organisation of family law solicitors, said people should govern their lives in accordance with religious principles ‘provided that those beliefs and traditions do not contradict the fundamental principle of equality on which Britain’s laws are based.’

Spokesman Teresa Richardson said religious law ‘must be used to find solutions which are consistent with the basic principles of family law in this country and people must always have redress to the civil courts where they so choose.’

Robert Whelan, of the Civitas think tank, said: ‘Everybody is governed by English law and it is not possible to sign away your legal rights. That is why guarantees on consumer products always have to tell customers their statutory rights are not affected.

‘There is not much doubt that in traditional Islamic communities women do not enjoy the freedoms that they have had for 100 years or more in Britain.

‘It is very easy to put pressure on young women in a male-dominated household. The English law stands to protect people from intimidation in such circumstances.’

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: ‘Mediation verdicts which are incompatible with our own legal principles should never be enforceable. One of the key aspects of our free society is equality. This should be understood and respected by all.’

The Ministry of Justice said: ‘English law takes precedence over any other legal system. The Government has no intention of changing this position. Alongside this, it is possible to resolve civil law dispute by other systems.’

World’s Scariest Ghosts Caught On Tape

July 5, 2008

Don’t bomb Iran, Bush warns Israel

July 5, 2008

Wednesday, July 2nd 2008, 9:47 PM

President Bush and the top U.S Military commander warned Israel Wednesday against bombing Iran, suggesting the U.S doesn’t want to get involved in a third war.

“This is a very unstable part of the world and I don’t need it to be more unstable,” Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman, said at a briefing.

Bush said, “I have made it clear to all parties [including Israel] that the first option is diplomacy,” in getting Iran to stop enriching uranium that could be used for a nuclear weapon.

The warnings came after the disclosure that Israel had conducted air operations over the Mediterranean that could simulate a strike on Iran.

Al Jazeera lawyers quit Rabat trial

July 5, 2008

By Ahmed El Amraoui in Rabat

The trial of Hassan Rachidi, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Morocco, has been adjourned, after the defence team walked out when their pleas were brushed aside by the presiding judge.

The marathon second court session opened, following a three-day recess, at the Rabat First Instance Court at 9am (0800GMT) on Friday in the presence of up to 50 defence attorneys who volunteered to defend Al Jazeera.

After 11 hours of stormy debate, and the collective walk out of the defence team, the trial was adjourned until July 11.

The judge rejected all the defence’s pleas and the team quit over a “lack of fair trial conditions”, accusing the judge of biased and dismissing the trial as political.

The presiding judge and the attorney general then addressed a few questions to Rachidi, who pleaded not guilty and insisted that he did his job as a professional journalist and provided both sides of the story in question.

The session was then adjourned at around 10pm (2100GMT).

Defence walkout

The defence attorneys began their argument by calling the charges brought against Rachidi void since the press code, under which Al Jazeera’s bureau chief was prosecuted, can be applicable only on the director of publication of the media organisation concerned.

“Since Rachidi is not the person in charge of the editorial policy of Al Jazeera and not the person to decide which story to be published or not, we call on your honour to drop all charges against our client,” Khalid Soufiani, leader of the defence team argued.

The lawyers submitted to the court a copy of Rachidi’s confiscated press accreditation, issued by the Moroccan communication ministry, which states the profession of Rachidi as reporter.

“As Mr Rachidi, according to the Moroccan official document, is a reporter and not the person in charge of publication in Al Jazeera, we say that this trial is illegal” another lawyer said.

The lawyers also criticised the main document submitted by the general prosecutor to the court – a news report that was run earlier by Morocco’s official news agency MAP.

But the judge rejected all defence arguments as unfounded.

He also turned down a petition to call for witnesses that included ministers, senior civilian and military officials to testify before the court on the events in the southern port city of Sidi Ifni that brought Rachidi to court.

They also demanded those in charge of the Reuters news agency and the Moroccan daily Al Ahdath – which both reported that people were killed in the Sidi Ifni protests – as well as heads of various human rights groups, stand before the judge as witnesses.

The defence’s cross-examination of a CD submitted by the general prosecutor was also turned down.

Court disruption

Earlier in the day, the proceedings were disrupted by Ali Lmrabet, a Moroccan journalist, who was sentenced by the same judge in 2003 to three years in prison and was suspended from practicing journalism in Morocco for 10 years.

“I am here to remind you Mohammed El-Alaoui, the presiding judge. My name is Ali Lmrabet, the journalist that you have suspended from practicing the profession of journalism in Morocco for 10 years that I am actually doing my job as a journalist in spite of your order. And you can do nothing about it,” Lmrabet shouted before he was dragged by the police out of the court room.

Ahmed Snousi, a Moroccan satirist, was also ejected from the court room for reciting slogans in support of Lmrabet, who spent seven months in jail before he was a granted a pardon by the king.

Lmrabet is now a reporter of the Spanish newspaper El Mondo.

Strained relations

Rachidi is charged with reporting that people were killed in clashes with security forces in the southwestern port city of Sidi Ifni on June 7 during a protest over poverty and rising unemployment.

Moroccan authorities have rejected as “false” and “absurd” reports of deaths, saying that 48 people were injured, including 28 police officers, but that no deaths occurred.

Although Al Jazeera reported the government’s denial, the Rabat chief prosecutor’s office ordered an investigation to determine how the false information was disseminated.

Rachidi was interrogated by the judiciary police for four hours and was charged on June 14 with publishing false information and conspiracy.

Minutes later, the Moroccan communication ministry withdrew his media accreditation.

Rachidi’s trial is the latest in a series of incidents that have seen the channel come into conflict with the kingdom’s authorities.

In May, Morocco suspended Al Jazeera’s daily television news bulletin covering the Maghreb countries – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania – from its studios in the Moroccan capital.

The decision, according to Khalid Naciri, the Moroccan communication minister and a spokesman for the government, was due to technical and legal issues.

Rachidi is facing prosecution under Article 42 of the country’s press code.

“The press code requires that two conditions be satisfied in order to convict someone for publishing false information under Article 42,” Soufiani, the lead defence lawyer, told Al Jazeera.

“The first condition is the publication of false information with the intention of bad faith and, second, that the publication disturbs the public order.”

If convicted, Rachidi could be sentenced to a prison term of between one and 12 months and a fine of up to $13,750.

Contract for Khalifa medical complex in Morocco signed

July 4, 2008
A contract for building the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed specialised medical complex in Casablanca, Morocco, was signed Wednesday between Abu Dhabi Municipality and French Jacob France Engineering Consultancy Group.

The US$ 100 million health facility will be built by a donation offered by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Director General of Abu Dhabi Municipality Juma Al Junaibi said the French consultant will undertake the works of architecture, design and supervision of the 65,000 square metre health facility where the built up area will be around 40,000 square metres.
”The centre will be completed in 30 months,”he said, adding that the project will also include commercial buildings whose revenues will be used to run the medical city to ensure high performance, operation and maintenance.
Construction work is expected to commence by year end.
A high level delegation from the Municipality has visited Morocco recently to select the location for the project in the city of Anfa, a future centre for urban expansions.
In addition to the specialised wards, the city will house a nursing school, a central laboratory, a radiology centre and a VIPs ward.


‘No death or rape cases documented’ in Sidi Ifni, FIDH chairman

June 30, 2008
Rabat, June 28 – “No death or rape cases were documented” in the southern city of Sidi Ifni, where recent clashes between police forces and demonstrators resulted in the injury of 20 demonstrators and 28 law enforcement officers, Chairman of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Souhayr Belhassen, affirmed on Friday.


    The statement was made at a press conference held in Rabat to present the results of FIDH head’s visit to Morocco and the 2007 FIDH report.

    Belhassen underlined, however, that investigations in Sidi Ifni revealed “torture cases”, a practice that, chairman of the Moroccan organization of Human Rights, Amina Bouayach said, “was not systematic.”

    “No cases of disappearance have been recorded during these events,” Bouayach noted.

    The Sidi Ifni incident took place when an unspecified number of youths had been, since May 30, besieging the port, preventing 89 trucks loaded with 800 tons of fish from leaving the facility, which prompted authorities to intervene.

    On the morrow of the June 7 clashes, the Moroccan House of Representatives (Lower House) announced the setting up of a parliamentary commission to probe the incident “following the contradictory information and rumors circulated about this incident.”

    The Qatari TV station, Al Jazeera, had reported that six to ten people died following the intervention of the police forces, whereas Brahim Sballil, a member of the Moroccan Human Rights Center (CMDH) reiterated “false accusations” concerning the Sidi Ifni events, citing cases of death, disappearance, and rape.

    Commenting on what happened before the Parliament, Interior Minister, Chakib Benmoussa made it clear that a total of 182 people were arrested, the majority of whom were released except for 10 people who were brought before justice.

Nine terrorists escape from Moroccan prison

April 7, 2008
  • guardian.co.uk,
  • Monday April 7 2008
  • Nine people convicted of offences linked to suicide terrorist attacks in Morocco in 2003 have escaped from prison.

    The country’s ministry of justice said a search was under way for the prisoners, who were found to be missing from the Kenitra prison, north of Rabat, this morning.

    The Islamist prisoner rights advocacy group Ennassir said the escape coincided with the beginning of a one-day hunger strike by about 1,000 Islamist prisoners at several prisons across Morocco.

    The bombings in Casablanca five years ago killed 45 people, including the 12 perpetrators. The five simultaneous bombings – at a Spanish restaurant, the Belgian consulate, a Jewish community centre, a cemetery and a hotel – injured a further 100 people.

    No one claimed responsibility for the May attacks, though Moroccan authorities believed they were the work of the banned Islamist group Salafia Jihadia, which security officials have accused of being linked to al-Qaida.

    Thousands were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the attack as authorities cracked down on suspected militants. About 700 people were put on trial for offences linked to the bombings. Four men were sentenced to death for their involvement in the attacks.

    The alleged mastermind, Abdelhaq Bentassir, died in custody, prompting an outraged response from civil rights groups.

    Most of the suspected bombers came from a Casablanca shantytown, with the attacks highlighting the lack of opportunities for poor Casablanca residents.

    The attacks were seen as a huge blow to the reputation of Morocco, one of the most liberal countries in the Arab world which relies heavily on revenues from western tourists.

    Husa Gains a Foothold in Morocco

    March 22, 2008

    481.jpgThe hotel chain Husa has recently signed an agreement with H. Partners, an investment fund created by Attijariwafa Bank and Banque Centrale Populaire, two local banks, with the aim of opening a hotel in Marrakech in 2010.

    Through the agreement, the Spanish-owned hotel chain will control 15% of the Palmeraie Hotel, with a total investment of two million euros. With an overall cost of 14 million euros, the hotel will have 200 rooms and will be marketed both as an event and holiday hotel. Husa Hotels will also be managing the new complex, located in one of Marrakech’s neighbourhoods with the greatest number of tourist attractions.

    This project is part of the chain’s expansion plan in Africa, where it already runs a hotel in Marrakech, and owns two other in El Cairo and Giza, the latter scheduled to be opened later this year.

    a present from a dear friend…enjoy

    March 19, 2008


    March 19, 2008

    fou.jpgFouad Mourtada, the Moroccan facebooker who was setenced  to three years in prison for creating a fake profile of the king’s brother on Facebook, has been freed .King Mohammed VI pardonned him on the occasion of AID al mawlid….

    Tourism projects propel Morocco’s success

    February 29, 2008

    As Morocco’s national tourism strategy, Vision 2010, begins to unfold and a whole new set of infrastructure improvements comes into play, the future is looking brighter than ever in Morocco. Investors choosing luxury property within any of the six King’s Resort developments, backed by HRH King Mohammed VI himself, are buying into a rock-solid and fast-growing tourist market.

    Morocco, the exotic land made famous by Hollywood’s “Casablanca”, welcomes tourists who seek that unmistakable Arabic culture, along with outstanding natural beauty where they can enjoy a wide variety of attractions and activities. It is easy to see why the likes of American millionaire Malcolm Forbes, founder of ‘Fortune’ magazine, amongst others, began to invest in the area in the 1970s. Today the palace Forbes purchased stands as the ‘Forbes Museum’ and holds an impressive collection of 120,000 lead soldiers as well as many other curiosities, right in the heart of Tangier.

    Today Morocco is seeing unprecedented growth, both in its infrastructure and visitor numbers, with tourism demand increasing by 6% in 2006, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The World Travel & Tourism Council predicts the country’s tourism will continue growing at a rate of 4% per annum, in real terms, between 2008 and 2017.

    The World Travel and Tourism Council concurs that Morocco’s market share of worldwide travel and tourism is generally increasing, the main market participants being the French (figures exclude Moroccan national residents abroad), although there has also been a colossal increase of British visitors to the country. Tourists from the United Kingdom were up 29% in 2007 compared with 2006, totaling 418,606 visitors to the country.

    Much of Morocco’s strong performance in recent times has been attributed to increased foreign investment. The country has been particularly successful at attracting FDI from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. A number of mega projects, part of the Vision 2010, are due to come into fruition within the next 5 to10 years and now, according to the UNWTO, “Efforts are being made to ensure that airline capacity into the country, including low cost airline services, increases in line with the growth in accommodation.”

    Sara Romera, product analyst at propertyshowrooms.com, explains why the country is becoming so tantalizing: “Morocco is still a unique location for property investors and offers the opportunity to purchase property early in an emerging market at very favorable prices. What is unique about the market for property in Morocco is the sense of security for investors: with tourism already improving at a fast rate and buy-to-let investors reporting 85% occupancy rates in prime locations during the high season, Morocco offers a strong arena in which to invest in property.”

    Property development may be booming in this North African country, but location continues to be key, particularly when buying property as an investment. Resorts in the Mediterranean are expected to see high rental returns, particularly as they are easier to access than some more southerly locations, and offer better climate and sea conditions. Projects such as Mediterrania Saidia’s “The Greens” and “The Fairways” are situated in what is to become one of Morocco’s most prestigious and ground-breaking of Mediterranean tourist destinations, being the first of the King’s Resorts to be launched. The complex caters for those in search of relaxation, tranquillity and sophistication, all set within the convenience of a purpose-built resort. The fact that the entire complex is backed by the King adds a welcome element of investor confidence and expectation, making Mediterrania Saidia arguably one of the best investment opportunities available in Morocco today.

    Protest against Judge’s decision to disallow Amazigh name for baby girl.

    February 7, 2008

    tifinagh_4.jpgThe refusal of a judge to allow the use of  Moroccan Berber name that parents wanted to give to their adopted daughter has aroused discontent among Moroccan organizations of human rights.
    on January 28th, The court in Larache, refused to allow a Moroccan girl to have the amazigh name “Illy”, a name chosen by her adoptive parents

    “The judge’s decision of Larache recalls the times that we thought had left, when the government decided what names the citizens of this country could give to their own children.  In the 90’s, the government had drawn up a list of names that were allowed to be used and a list of names, mostly amazigh, that were forbidden.

    Thus, the appellations of “Moulay” or “Lalla” that are traditionally given to the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad are now reserved for the royal family” Said Lawyer Aberrahim Jamai.

    For the lawyer, the judge’s decision revived old demons and committed a miscarriage of justice by violating the fundamental right of parents to freely choose the name of their child.

    “This sentence handed down by this court violates human rights and to the plural identity of Morocco , which has Amazigh roots” he said.

    The parents have appealed this decision that they consider “discriminatory”.
    According to them, the judge justified his decision on the fact that “Illy” in amazigh means “my beloved daughter,” Whereas the girl is adopted.

    Several organizations of human rights and child welfare, as well as Amazigh organizations expressed their support for the family.

    Namibian coach hits at his players

    January 22, 2008

    namibia_morroco.jpgArie Schans, head coach of the Namibian National Team has hit hard at his players, describing them as a group of school boys playing with professional players, hence the humiliating defeat suffered at the hands of Morocco.

    Namibia were beaten 5-1 by Morocco in the second game of Group A of the 26th Africa Cup of Nations at the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra on Monday.

    “I’m disappointed at the behaviour of my players and never expected them to play the way they did, especially in the first five minutes of the game”.

    Speaking at a post match conference, coach Schans said his boys played contrary to his instructions and that is why they conceded two quick goals in the first five minutes of the game.

    “I agree that my players do not have enough international exposure but that should not be used to justify their disappointing performance.

    “Their performance is unacceptable especially at an international level like this”. The Dutchman stated.

    The coach however said that the humiliating defeat would toughen his boys up for future assignments, since their mission in Ghana was to gain international exposure.

    According to coach Schans, the primary motive behind their participation in the competition was to make an impact and to prepare the boys for the qualifying series of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup in Angola and South Africa respectively.

    “I’m sure my team would be well prepared for these major tournaments after Ghana 2008”.

    Coach Schans said they would visit the drawing board to re-strategise for the next game against Ghana on Thursday at the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra.

    Henri Michel of Morocco expressed satisfaction with the performance of his team, adding that they would approach all matches with similar attitude.

    “We are not favourites in the competition and that is why we would take each match at a time to reach our goal in the competition”.

    to watch Alloudi’s goals, click on the link


    Heavy Metal to rock Morocco in February

    January 22, 2008


    If Metal Rock is your thing then head to Sidi Kacem on February 23.
    January 22, 2008 – The Sidi Rock festival is follow up to a 2005 initiative by BERBER Badr – a collaboration between the bands: Anaconda, Black Wolves, Imperium, Metal Inc. and Mercy Killing. The event in 2005 was described as only being moderately successful, but this has not stopped Maison d’Art animé, Badr and CHBIHI Amine getting together a second edition of the festival to showcase young talent and feed an audience they describe as “a public thirsty for creativity and originality.”


    The organisers say that “despite the many obstacles and drawbacks that represents such a consecration, organizers have taken action to advance the Moroccan Rock/Metal scene offering a chance for young people to develop this kind of music.” The event will take place in the province of Sidi Kacem on February 23, 2008 in Dar Echabab; Listed to perform are eight groups from different Moroccan regions: DESPOTISM (Casablanca), ATMOSPHEAR (Rabat), DAMNED CREATION (Sidi Kassem), KREMATORIUM (Kenitra), FLOOD OF HATE (Kenitra), EPHEMERAL PROMISE (Rabat), SAKADOYA (Settat) and HAMMER HEAD (Kenitra).

    As their press release says: “All hope and expect a support, be it local authorities or organims and media, in order to devote them a humble place in the Moroccan music scene.We invite you to come and live for many memorable moments that will forever mark our history.”

    (*) – ‘The View From Fez’: http://riadzany.blogspot.com/