Italy

British ship embarks on migrant rescue mission

A British warship sailing in the Mediterranean Sea launched a mission on June 7 to rescue over 500 migrants stranded at sea, the Ministry of Defense (MoD)  said in a statement. A Royal Navy helicopter has found four migrant vessels in need of assistance so far. It was also reported by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and the Italian coastguard that on June 6 over 2,000 migrants were rescued from five wooden boats in the Mediterranean, and there have been reports of seven or more similar boats still currently out at sea.

Fortune magazine ranks top five global cartels

Well, this is really cute. With refreshing honesty, Fortune magazine on Sept. 14 issued a list of the "Fortune 5"—the biggest organized crime groups in the world, ranked by their annual revenue estimates. No sources are given, but the Fortune editors presumably relied on international law enforcement intelligence. The results are slightly surprising for those of us who grew up in the era of the Sicilian Mafia and Medellín Cartel. Brave new crime machines have long since eclipsed these entities from the global stage, and far outstripped their earnings from human trafficking, extortion, credit card fraud, prostitution and (above all) drug smuggling. In the number one slot, by a mile, is Yamaguchi Gumi, a wing of Japan's Yakuza, with revenue estimated at $80 billion. A distant second is Russian mafia group Solntsevskaya Bratva, with revenue at $8.5 billion. Three and four are two Italian outfits that have long superceded Sicily's Cosa Nostra: the Camorra, based in Naples, with revenues of $4.9 billion; and the 'Ndrangheta, based in Calabria, with revenues of $4.5 billion. Number five is Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, with revenues of $3 billion.

Diaspora Jews feel Gaza backlash —again

The Abravanel synagogue in central Paris is under police guard after more than 100 youths tried to storm the building July 13, chanting "Israel murderer!" The incident—near Bastille Place, on the eve of Bastille Day—followed a march protesting the Israeli air-strikes on Gaza. After the demonstration, a large group headed to the synagogue, where some 150 people had gathered for a memorial service for three Israeli teenagers murdered in the West Bank. Witnesses said the protesters grabbed chairs from a cafe nearby and used them as weapons as they tried to break through a police barrier outside the synagogue, where worshippers remained trapped for several hours. Six police and two members of the Jewish community were reportedly injured, and six protesters arrested. Some protesters were said to be armed with axes and knives. A private security unit employed by the synagogue was also engaged in the fighting. One day earlier, in the Parisian suburb of Belleville, a protest demonstration reportedly featured chants of "Kill the Jews!" The day before that, July 11, a firebomb was thrown at the synagogue of Aulnay-sous-Bois, another Paris suburb, causing damage to the building's facade. The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA) reports that on July 8, a, 17-year-old Jewish girl was assaulted on a Paris street near the Gare du Nord train station by a man who blasted her face with pepper spray. The girl, identified by her initials, JL, wrote in her complaint to police that the man shouted: "Dirty Jewess, insh'allah you will die." (The Guardian, EJP, July 14; JTA, July 13)

Ukraine, Thailand, Italy: hope and contradiction

This week saw an amazing turn of events in the current reprise of the inter-factional protests that shook Thailand three years ago: riot police in Bangkok yielded to the protesters they were ordered to disperse, in apparent defiance of their commanders. The police removed barricades and their helmets as a sign of solidarity. Disobedience of orders for repression is an incredibly hopeful sign; if this sets an example for similar situations around the world, the horizons of possibility for nonviolent revolution are broadened almost dizzyingly. What complicates it is that while in 2010 it was the populist Red Shirts that were protesting the government and the patrician Yellow Shirts that were rallying around it, today the situation is reversed. The Yellow Shirts are seeking the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister (and perceived puppet) of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 coup, and whose restoration to power the Red Shirts had been demanding last time around. (VOA, Dec. 13; Political Blind Spot, Dec. 6)

Italy begins trial in absentia of Egyptian cleric

Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr (AKA Abu Omar) has gone on trial in absentia in Italy on charges of criminal association with the goal of terrorism and aiding illegal emigration with the goal of terrorism, based on an investigation from 2002. Before the investigation could be concluded and charges filed, Nasr was kidnapped from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, through the US Central Intelligence Agency's "extraordinary rendition" program. Prosecutors requested a prison sentence of six years and eight months for Nasr's alleged role in organizing false documents in order to recruit people for a terror camp. A verdict is expected within the next month.

200 Palestinians in Malta shipwreck: report

A Palestinian group in Syria said Oct. 13 that over 200 Palestinians were aboard a boat which capsized off Malta's coast two days earlier. The Action Group for Palestinians in Syria said that at least 200 Palestinian refugees fleeing conflict in the country were aboard the boat, which left the Libyan port of Zwara on Oct. 10. Some 70 Palestinian refugees survived the shipwreck and are now in Malta, with the rest unaccounted for, the action group said. The boat was carrying up to 400 migrants, mostly Syrians. At least 33 people perished after the boat sank, a week after another shipwreck off Italy left at least 359 dead, prompting Malta to warn that the Mediterranean is becoming "a cemetery."

Ron Paul schmoozes clerical fascists

Ron Paul's connections to the neo-fascist right are already well established, for those who are paying attention. Now it seems his longtime connection to the John Birch Society has led him deeper into the radical right nexus. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog, Paul is scheduled to speak at a confab sponsored by a wing of the "Traditionalist" schism that literally claims to be more Catholic than the Pope and has long been a magnet for sinister reactionaries. In this case, one of the fellow luminaries on the bill is the Italian neo-fascist leader Roberto Fiore

Wanted by Italy, ex-CIA agent is released to US

After being detained for a day or two by Panamanian authorities on a request from Interpol, retired US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) station chief Robert Seldon Lady was released on July 19 and placed on a plane bound for the US. In 2009 an Italian court sentenced Lady in absentia to nine years in prison for the Feb. 17, 2003 kidnapping of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric and suspected terrorist also known as Abu Omar, on a street in Milan. Although 22 other US citizens were convicted in the kidnapping case, Italy has only been seeking Lady, who headed the CIA's Milan station; the others received lighter sentences that don't warrant extradition requests under Italian law.

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