NEWS STAND: Obama Says No to Ford, New Orleans Power Shift, Racism in Italy

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The Vatican newspaper has condemned Italian racism in the aftermath of a race riot that led to dozens of injuries and the evacuation of more than a thousand African immigrants from the Calabria region. L’Osservatore Romano declared that “for once, the press is not exaggerating… We have never been a shining example of openness, we Italians north and south.”  The paper’s editorial followed a sharp condemnation of the treatment of immigrants on Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI during his Sunday sermon. “The American example,” the paper said, citing the election of Barack Obama, “has come to naught.”

The violence left 67 people injured and much of Europe stunned. The clashes began last week after a roving band of white youths fired pellet guns at African immigrants in the town of Rosarno, where many Africans are brought in to pick fruit in the region’s citrus groves. Angry Africans blamed racism and burned cars and smashed windows in a number of stores. Large numbers of Italians retaliated. Officials say a dozen Africans and locals were arrested. Many of the immigrants were rounded up and sent to detention centers elsewhere in southern Italy. The Italian daily La Repubblica compared the situation to Ku Klux Klan violence in the United States in the 1960s.

Human rights workers say the immigrants, many in Italy illegally, are often lured to Italy with promises of good pay by mafia gangs, locked in facilities with few amenities and paid as little as 30 euros a day ($45) to do work Italians won’t do. With a population of 60 million, Italy has 4 million legal immigrants and an unknown number of undocumented immigrants. Major political parties, including that of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have expressed strong anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years. Recently, a legislator from a right-wing party proposed limiting the number of immigrant children in any class to 30 percent of the students. A newspaper owned by Berlusconi said immigrants were ideal targets because they are “poor and weak, ugly and dirty.”Instead, the paper urged citizens of Rosarno to turn their wrath on the Mafia who control so much of the region’s economy.


Togo’s national soccer team has been officially disqualified from the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Angola. The organizers of Africa’s biggest regular sports event made the announcement after the team flew home to bury its dead and missed the first game in its qualifying group.

Three members of Togo’s delegation, including an assistant coach, a team spokesman and a bus driver, were killed and nine, including a reserve goalie, were wounded last weekend when their bus was attacked while traveling to Cabinda, an oil-rich region of Angola that has long struggled with a separatist movement. The team had been scheduled to open its first round of matches against Ghana.

“They are disqualified. This group (B) is a three-team tournament,” Confederation of African Football (CAF) coordinator Yaouba Amoa told reporters on Monday. Some players had hoped to return and resume play later, but Togo Prime Minister Gilbert Huongbo made it clear it would not happen. “We have simply withdrawn our team, it is not a matter of withdrawing for the mourning period.” he said. “We withdrew our team on the basis they have been the victim of a terrorist attack.”

A journalist for a Togo weekly who traveled with the team says the CAF and the Angolans put tremendous pressure on the team to stay in the tournament. Dimas Dzikodo, publisher of Loma’s Weekly Forum told the French paper Libération that pressure even came from South Africa, which will host soccer’s World Cup this summer and worried about the repercussions from the incident. A rebel group, FLEC, claimed responsibility. Angola announced late Monday that two men had been arrested in connection with the attack.

The Africa Cup is played every two years and the top African players in Europe, Africa and Asia are called home to play with their national teams. Togo failed to qualify for the World Cup this year and had set its hope on the Africa Cup.