News Feed 20120519

Financial Crisis
» Italian Families Spending More for Day at the Beach
» Thai Living Standards Grows: Solidarity Against the Economic Crisis
» UK: Cuts? What Cuts? Ignore the BBC and the Left, Public Spending is Higher Than Under Labour
 
USA
» Demographic Tipping Point: Whites Now Less Than Half of US Births
» Murfreesboro Author: Extend Hand to Muslims
» Muslims Rally Against ‘Islamophobic Agenda’
» The Villification of CAIR
» Thomas Sowell: A Censored Race War?
 
Europe and the EU
» Difficult to Find More Resources, EU
» Islamic Finance Growing But Not in Italy
» Italy: Justice Undersecretary Quits Over Tax Investigation
» Italy: Wild Boars Roam Florence Neighborhood
» More Norwegian Media Lies to Support War Against Muslims!
» Pope Makes Appeal to Keep Sunday a ‘Day of Rest’
» Squirrel Wars: Italy Vows to Eliminate Its American Invaders
» Syriza, Nea Dimokratia Neck to Neck Ahead of Greek Vote
» UK: A Small Minority of Pakistani Men, Warns Syeedi Warsi, See Women as “Second Class Citizens” And White Women as “Third Class Citizens”
» UK: Ali Koc: Sadistic Killer is Jailed for Life After Battering Two OAPs to Death and Attacking Five Others in North London
» UK: Career Criminal With 100 Theft Offences Walks Free Again After Judge Fails to Enact Suspended Prison Sentence
» UK: Fighting Back
» UK: Hate Preacher Qatada Could be Walking Streets in a Month
» UK: Invisible Art Exhibition to ‘Set Imagination’s Alight’
» UK: Jessica Had a Loving, Very Middle-Class Upbringing. So How Did She Become a Victim of the Rochdale Sex Gang?
» UK: MP’s Wife Sent Dead Bird in Post
» UK: Pictured: Battered Face of Great-Grandmother, 64, Who Was Beaten and Left Unconscious by Schoolboys for Her £20 Ring
» UK: Samantha Tells Her Harrowing Story
» UK: The Queen’s Handshake and Kate’s Curtesy for a Despot as They Entertain Brutal King of Bahrain at Jubilee Lunch
» UK: Tory Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi Calls on Mosques to Act After Rochdale Grooming Gang Scandal
» UK: Warsi Condemns Sex Scandal Muslims
» Ukraine: Deputy Secretary General [Muslim Council of Britain, UK] At International Conference on “Global Winds of Change: Religion’s Role in Today’s World; The Challenges in Democracies and Secular Society”
 
North Africa
» Radical Mosques Invite Young Tunisians to Jihad in Syria
 
Middle East
» British Officers Could be Deployed to Syria to Increase Pressure on Assad Regime
» UAE: World’s Priciest Sunglasses on Auction for 300,000 Euros
» UAE: Dubai Mosque Hosts Quran Recital Contest
 
South Asia
» Afghanistan: Teenager Tells of How Man She Turned Down in Marriage Scarred Her With Acid
» Pakistan: Appeal for Christian Girl Kidnapped and Forced to Convert to Islam
 
Far East
» Blind Chinese Dissident Leaves on Flight for the United States
» China: Chen Guangcheng and Beijing’s Failure to Reform
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Kenya: Mombasa Muslims Protest Khan’s Killing
 
Culture Wars
» Cyprus: Few Rights for LGBTs in Society, Survey
» Less Than Half of Italians Support Gay Marriage, Says ISTAT

Financial Crisis


Italian Families Spending More for Day at the Beach

Fewer long vacations, more nearby outings

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — Italian families will be spending more for their days at the seaside this summer, said a report released on Wednesday by consumer group Federconsumatori.

A day at the beach will cost a family of two adults and two children 79 euros, approximately 4% more compared to last year.

Travel to the beach will also reflect the economic crisis, with gas prices up 19% since 2011.

The consumer watch-dog also noted that 66% of Italians will give up traditional, extended summer vacations and opt for city activities during the week and seaside outings at the weekends.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Thai Living Standards Grows: Solidarity Against the Economic Crisis

Recent statistics show that in Thailand the standard of living of the population is growing, but even if the poverty rate is one-fifth compared to 20 years ago, the problem of debt, insufficient income to savings, access to education basic social security and career opportunities are still factors in the lives of the poor.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) — Recent statistics show that in Thailand the standard of living of the population is growing, but even if the poverty rate is one-fifth compared to 20 years ago, the problem of debt, insufficient income for savings, ‘access to basic education, social security and career opportunities are still factors in the lives of the poor.

Compared to 20 years ago, the percentage of people living below the poverty line has fallen from 42% in 1988 to 8.1% in 2010. Nevertheless, about a fifth of Thai families do not own their home and about two thirds of households have debts and can not earn enough to create savings.

In February, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called 2012 “a year of challenge” and encouraged people to take action in the midst of the various challenges”. In this regard she has promised that the government will encourage the private sector to increase incomes to encourage spending. And Prasarn Triratvorakul, Governor of the Bank of Thailand, in May, revised the GDP upward of 6% from 5.7% and 4.9% respectively in March and January.

The latest statistics conducted by the National Research Committee indicate a population of 62,926,261 people in 77 provinces of the country. The quarterly figure for 2011 shows only 39,317,200 people employed, with household debt at 136,562 baht per year (about 4,600 dollars).

The two following stories are examples of how people in the economic crisis seek the cooperation and solidarity within their communities, using natural and intellectual resources to create a small “family business” with sincerity, energy, patience and honesty.

The first is Boonkum Barn, community leader of Baan Bua Doke, in the northern province of Phayao. The inhabitants are mostly farmers and craftsmen who work on bamboo. Barn Boonkum in 2009 won the award for best village chief. “I attended various training courses at the Department for Community Development — he says — and I have brought economic self-sufficiency to the actual practice of everyday life by getting the villagers to grow organic vegetables, and fish frogs and catfish. In addition to this, to increase in income we will use the bamboo to make baskets. Residents participate in decisions on the community board. “ Barn emphasizes that it is important that everyone in the community rely on each other, for authentic solidarity.

The second story is about Vicha Phromyong, known internationally as “Coffee Man”, but called “Ah Po” in Doi Chang, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, which means “Venerable elder.”

“Ah Po”, who is 60, recalled that the tribal people of the northern mountains — without the possibility of formal education — are traditionally dedicated to the cultivation of opium. “When the government launched a project to change the culture of economics, Ahdel came to me, a village chief and friend, to ask for advice. In the area there was an area of 500 rais (1600 sqm) cultivated for coffee, but the price was not good. “ He then began to study in detail how to make the production cost, before investing the initial 325 thousand Baht (11 thousand dollars). “We worked very hard”: “Young men helped build enough roads and schools for the children, everyone worked not for money but for the development of their communities.”

“On my own I could not do anything, but today our ‘Doi Chang’ is coffee is sold in Dean and Deluca in Harrods Department Store in England. Foreigners are amazed, because they have never seen such an operation performed by people who are both the farmer, the producer and the exporter”.

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



UK: Cuts? What Cuts? Ignore the BBC and the Left, Public Spending is Higher Than Under Labour

If we were to ask a hundred people in any High Street, 99 of them would say there have been significant cuts. How could it be otherwise when the whole world is telling them so? Some might say the cuts are painful, but necessary. Others would opine they are painful and destructive. Either way, there is virtual unanimity that the Government is slashing public expenditure.

The trouble is that it isn’t. Earlier this week, the City bond trading firm Tullett Prebon produced a report that confirmed what some of us have been saying for months. To all intents and purposes, there hasn’t been any overall cut in public expenditure in the two years since the Coalition came to power.

Spending rose 0.3 per cent in the first year and fell by 1.5 per cent in the second. That makes a tiny overall decrease of just more than 1 per cent over two years. To put it another way, the supposedly ‘savage cuts’ delivered by the Government amount to only fractionally more than £1 in every £100. Most household budgets have suffered far more dramatic cutbacks.

Meanwhile, our national debt — what we owe as a nation — continues to soar. According to International Monetary Fund projections, it will increase faster over the next two years than any other leading European country apart from Spain. Proportionate to the size of our economy, our debt is one of the two or three highest in the developed world. When the Coalition took over, it stood at a stonking £1,002 billion. By the time of the next election, it will have risen to an unbelievable £1,613 billion.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


Demographic Tipping Point: Whites Now Less Than Half of US Births

Bill Clinton once said that he looked forward to the day when whites were a minority in America. While he won’t live to see such a time, a demographic milestone that should send a tingle up Slick Willie’s leg was just reached. Writes The New York Times:

“After years of speculation, estimates and projections, the Census Bureau has made it official: White births are no longer a majority in the United States.

Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in the 12-month period that ended last July, according to Census Bureau data made public on Thursday, while minorities — including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race — reached 50.4 percent, representing a majority for the first time in the country’s history.”

Obviously, a big reason for this demographic shift is migration — and mainly the legal variety. As a result of Ted Kennedy’s Immigration Reform Act of 1965, the level of yearly immigration increased from approximately 250,000 prior to ‘65 to about 1,000,000 afterwards. And its nature changed also: 85 percent of our new arrivals now hail from the Third World and Asia. This radical departure from America’s traditional immigration patterns has created a demographic transformation possibly unprecedented in world history — except for cases of actual invasion.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Murfreesboro Author: Extend Hand to Muslims

NASHVILLE — Jerry Trousdale wants Christians to become friends with Muslims. After all, he says, that’s what Jesus would do. Trousdale, a former Church of Christ missionary and former executive at Thomas Nelson, is the author of a new book called Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus. He’s also the featured speaker at a seminar today at New Song Christian Fellowship in Brentwood, aimed at helping Middle Tennessee churchgoers share their faith with Muslims and other neighbors. It starts with prayer and being genuinely interested in your neighbors, he said.

[…]

[JP note: And ends when the fat lady sings.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Muslims Rally Against ‘Islamophobic Agenda’

About 25 Muslims attended a rally Friday at the Statehouse urging Gov. Sam Brownback to veto a bill banning “foreign laws” that they say is a thinly veiled attack on Islam.

Faizan Syed, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ St. Louis branch, said similar “American Laws for American Courts” proposals have been floated in almost half of the 50 states this year. He said proponents have made them purposely vague to avoid running afoul of the Constitution like a 2010 Oklahoma law that specifically targeted Islamic law, or sharia.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



The Villification of CAIR

By Rabia Chaudry

The is the first in a two-part series on the vilification of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and how the American Muslim community has responded.

There is only one national organization in the United States whose primary mission is protecting the civil liberties of American Muslims, and that is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, commonly referred to as CAIR. Since its inception in 1994, CAIR has battled countless smears and attacks against its work and reputation, which intensified after being named an unindicted co-conspirator in the notorious Holy Land Foundation case in 2007.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Thomas Sowell: A Censored Race War?

When two white newspaper reporters for the Virginian-Pilot were driving through Norfolk, and were set upon and beaten by a mob of young blacks — beaten so badly that they had to take a week off from work — that might seem to have been news that should have been reported, at least by their own newspaper. But it wasn’t.

“The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel was the first major television program to report this incident. Yet this story is not just a Norfolk story, either in what happened or in how the media and the authorities have tried to sweep it under the rug.

Similar episodes of unprovoked violence by young black gangs against white people chosen at random on beaches, in shopping malls or in other public places have occurred in Philadelphia, New York, Denver, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, Los Angeles and other places across the country. Both the authorities and the media tend to try to sweep these episodes under the rug as well.

In Milwaukee, for example, an attack on whites at a public park a few years ago left many of the victims battered to the ground and bloody. But, when the police arrived on the scene, it became clear that the authorities wanted to keep this quiet.

One 22-year-old woman, who had been robbed of her cell phone and debit card, and had blood streaming down her face said: “About 20 of us stayed to give statements and make sure everyone was accounted for. The police wouldn’t listen to us, they wouldn’t take our names or statements. They told us to leave. It was completely infuriating.”

[…]

Trying to keep the lid on is understandable. But a lot of pressure can build up under that lid. If and when that pressure leads to an explosion of white backlash, things could be a lot worse than if the truth had come out earlier, and steps taken by both black and white leaders to deal with the hoodlums and with those who inflame the hoodlums.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Difficult to Find More Resources, EU

European Union has moved East, political intent is more limited

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, MAY 16 — “Compared to 15 years ago, Europe’s centre has moved more towards Eastern Europe. It is difficult to mobilize many additional resources only for the Mediterranean because of the competition coming from the East”.

Fabrizio Di Michele of the European External Relations Service and Chairman of the Maghreb-Mashrek think-tank, reported yesterday in Palermo at the Third Interinstitutional Forum “United by the Mediterranean” in occasion of the International Al Idrissi Award 2012.

Di Michele added that “the ongoing negotiations in Brussels regarding the financial prospects for 2014-2020 should allow to increase the resources for territorial cooperation and at the same time improve the systems of management of these resources which are to be redefined by the European Commission. However, the effort which the European Union is putting forward is clashing with some evident commitments. Regarding funds, access to markets, mobility of people and university students, there are some very ambitious objectives but also some limits in Europe’s capacity to bring them to their completion.” He concluded adding that “No doubt there is a political will shared by the member states to make an extra effort for the Mediterranean and Maghreb countries. But we must always come face to face with the balance which has changed a bit and with the economic crisis within each single member state.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islamic Finance Growing But Not in Italy

Could help SMEs to capital, Abou Said (Al Baraka Banking)

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, MAY 16 — Islamic finance is growing at an annual rate of 20%. It has a global value of 1,600 trillion USD and counts 400 institutes with their offices. But the system is not breaking through in Italy, but according to Hatem Abou Said of Al Baraka Banking Group (Bahrain) “it could be useful also to support SMEs, which have limited access to credit through the traditional systems, with their internationalisation process.” Abou Said spoke during a conference in Milan on the issue, saying that the crisis in the West and the Arab Spring “there is complementarity”. It would be useful, in his view, to “attract the attention of Islamic finance to help Italian companies that could be active in the re-launch of the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.” “Islamic finance,” Abou Said continued, “is determined to help the European economies that are in difficulties. But I’m afraid that people in Italy have wrong ideas about these instruments, which are meant for everybody, not only for Muslims.” In this context, Pierfrancesco Gaggi, head international relations of Italian Banking Association ABI admits, “little has changed since a few years ago” and the debate that was opened to change regulations to allow the introduction of ‘sukuk’ and other Islamic instruments in Italy as well has been halted by the crisis. “The banking sector had to deal with more urgent issues,” Gaggi confirmed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Justice Undersecretary Quits Over Tax Investigation

Second junior member of Monti’s govt to step down

(ANSA) — Rome, May 16 — Justice Ministry Undersecretary Andrea Zoppini has resigned from Premier Mario Monti’s emergency government of non-political technocrats after being informed he was being probed for alleged tax irregularities.

Zoppini is the second member of Monti’s administration to be forced to step down after former cabinet undersecretary Carlo Malinconico resigned in January following a furore over hotel bills paid by a construction businessman under investigation for alleged corruption.

The fact that Zoppini is being probed does not necessarily mean he will be charged with a criminal offence.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Wild Boars Roam Florence Neighborhood

Police say the animals were looking for food

(ANSA) — Florence, May 17 — Residents of a suburban neighborhood in the central Italian city of Florence called police on Thursday after sighting a pair of wild boars running between parked cars.

Officers who managed to surround the boars and drive them back to the nearby countryside said that the animals were looking for food.

Wild boar, called cinghiale in Italian, is considered a Tuscan delicacy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



More Norwegian Media Lies to Support War Against Muslims!

Reports in Norway today have stated that I am asking Muslims abroad to take Norwegians hostage in return for the release of Mullah Krekar. This is simply not true but rather I have stated that western hostages are already in the hands of Muslims in various countries such as in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Somalia etc… and a decent option for both parties might be to consider exchanging hostages, the non-Muslims already being held for Muslim hostages held in the West such as Sheikh Abu Qatada and Mullah Krekar.

Moreover I have made it abundantly clear that Muslims living in the West live under a covenant of security and that in return for their life and wealth being secure they are not permitted to violate the life and wealth of those with whom they live.

In addition it is the Islamic position that Muslims are obliged to do all they can to release Muslim hostages wherever they are being held and this will usually involve helping with the legal fees, making awareness about their plight, exposing the oppression which they are facing at the hands of barbaric regimes such as the Norwegian, the US and British regimes etc… and if Muslims are able to spend money to release them then there is no amount of money which would be enough to effect the release of one Muslim being held by non-Muslims, indeed Muslims believe this is one of the best acts of worship in Islam.

The situation of Muslims being held by Western regimes is dire, with the use of torture being sanctioned by the US regime such as water-boarding, the use of extraordinary rendition being engaged in by the likes of the UK and sustained and brutal ritual abuse at the hands of the enemies of Islam and Muslims in places such as Guantanamo Bay, Bagram air base and Abu Guraib. The cases of Aafia Siddiqui, Babar Ahmad and Sheikh Omar Abdul Rehman remind us all about the sheer hypocrisy and duplicity of the US and their allies where on the one hand they call for freedom, democracy, human rights and civil liberties but on the other hand engage in oppression, dictatorship, degrading treatment and injustices of the highest scale.

Attempts by the Western media, such as this latest one by the Norwegians, is not uncommon where first a Muslim is tried and found guilty by the media and then ministers and police respond to the frenzy into which the masses are whipped. A person living in the West is today innocent until proven Muslim. Laws are specifically targeted just at Muslims, longer sentences are set aside for Muslims, Judges are picked who are already biased against Muslims and police and prosecution services are prejudiced against Muslims.

The latest obfuscation into which the case of Mullah Krekar has been thrown should not detract attention away from the fact that he is an innocent man who has lived in Norway for over two decades, that he is a political pawn in the hands of the Norwegians eager to please their masters the Americans, that he has merely stated the Islamic position relating to various matters as a scholar as he has done for decades and that the real criminals are not Mullah Krekar and those trying to seek his release but the Norwegian authorities, the Norwegian Courts, the Norwegian special police and of course their magicians, the Norwegian media!

Mr Anjem Choudary

Lecturer in Shari’ah Law

Manager of the Shari’ah Court of the UK

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Pope Makes Appeal to Keep Sunday a ‘Day of Rest’

Pontiff tells faithful to balance work and family life

(ANSA) — Vatican City, May 16 — Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday made an appeal during his general audience to keep Sunday as “a day of rest, dedicated to strengthening family ties”.

The pontiff referred to the May 15 celebration of the United Nations International Day of Families and underlined the need to balance “work and family life”.

Speaking in Italian from St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict reminded the crowd that work “should not be an obstruction to family, but support and unite it”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Squirrel Wars: Italy Vows to Eliminate Its American Invaders

Italy loves its indigenous red squirrels — so much so that it is waging a full on war, at a cost of millions of euros, to get rid of the American grey squirrels, which have invaded the northeastern region of Liguria

Italy is waging war on a group of American invaders that are threatening the existence of their European peers. American grey squirrels, which were first introduced into Europe in 1948, have thrived in the parks of the northeastern region of Liguria since the 1960s. With 10-inch-long bodies, equally long tails and a weight that can reach 21 oz., American grey squirrels are bigger than European red squirrels. These strong Americans invaders steal the Europeans’ food and carry diseases that are lethal to locals.

To defend the indigenous squirrel population, Liguria, Piemonte and Lombardia regions, as well as the Italian Environment ministry, have launched a project aimed at uprooting the estimated 300 American grey squirrels living in the Levante Genovese Park. The cost of the war against American squirrels — nearly 2 million euros — is partially covered by the European Union.

This squirrel war has its ‘general,’ Andrea Balduzzi, a professor of natural sciences at the University of Genoa. At dawn, the professor and his student troops go after the invaders, armed with traps and cages. Once caught, the animals are transferred to vets to be sterilized before being released in natural parks. And it seems all is fair in love and war: squirrels caught outside the park are executed by euthanasia.

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation.

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



Syriza, Nea Dimokratia Neck to Neck Ahead of Greek Vote

(AGI) Athens — With less than 1 month before early elections in Greece, the Radical Left and the conservatives are neck to neck. Opinion polls in Greece show that Alexis Tsipras’s Radical left party (Syriza) and Antonis Samaras’s Nea Dimokratia conservative party are neck to neck ahead of the June 17 early elections in the country. Two of the four surveys whose results were published today suggest that Syriza is the leading party while the other two put Nea Dimokratia in the front, with a small margin of less than 1.7%. Winning the elections will prove crucial, because according to the Greek electoral law, 50 seats in the Parliament out of 300 are reserved for the winner.

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



UK: A Small Minority of Pakistani Men, Warns Syeedi Warsi, See Women as “Second Class Citizens” And White Women as “Third Class Citizens”

by Tim Montgomerie

“There is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game and we have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first… This small minority who see women as second class citizens, and white women probably as third class citizens, are to be spoken out against.”

With these words the straight-talking Baroness Warsi, the co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, has entered the debate about the sexual grooming of young girls in Rochdale by men, mainly of Pakistani origin. If Muslim and other leaders fail to be “open and front-footed” she warns that extremists such as the BNP will fill the gap and peddle hate. Former Home Secretary Jack Straw had been the most senior politician to comment until now. He had stated “there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls” and see them as “easy meat”.

Read Baroness Warsi’s full interview in the London Evening Standard. Her comments follow tip-toeing and obfuscation by other public figures. The Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Steve Heywood, has for example denied race and origin as an important factor. “It just happens,” he said, “that in this particular area and time, the demographics were that these were Asian men.” Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner, had also tried to diminish the cultural factors in Rochdale. This is not the first time the Tory Chairman has tackled extremists within the Muslim and Asian communities. She did so two years ago after fanatics pelted her with eggs.

[Reader comment by Sandy Jamieson on 18 May 2012 at about 2300 hrs.]

I do find the term “small minority” rather obscure although I suspect we would not be able to be more precise and it seems the Pakistani community may have been in denial over this. It is not clear if any of the Pakistani community gave evidence for the prosecution. It is certainly the case that the actual police investigation was triggered by one of the victims (eventually) rather than individual iimigrants reporting their suspicions.

I accept the deeds were effected by a minority but rather like Catholic Priests in Ireland, it is no longer a community we can trust in our land. I am certainly disappointed that the Judge in the Case seems not to have issued any deportation orders against any of the guilty men so in ten, fifteen years time they will be back on the streets. If any of the them have joint citizenship then their British citizenship should be revoked.

As for others concerned, I am surprised that no investigation has been initiated into Rochdale Social Services. Many of these young girls were in their care and they seem to have been grossly negligent in their duties. I suspect their political left wing prejudices meant they were intellectually incapable of accepting the racist nature of the guilty men

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Ali Koc: Sadistic Killer is Jailed for Life After Battering Two OAPs to Death and Attacking Five Others in North London

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

A sadistic loner who went on the rampage after his benefits were cut, battering two men to death with a ‘caveman’s club’ and attacking five others, was jailed for 35 years yesterday.

Ali Koc, 30, spent a month stalking parks and woodland in North London pouncing on joggers and dog walkers.

He beat them with lumps of wood, head-butted, punched and kicked them after selecting them entirely at random.

Police fear the jobless Turkish immigrant, who lived on benefits and petty crime after his family came to Britain in 1990, may have attacked scores of others during his 26-day rampage in January last year.

The court heard Koc’s benefits were stopped in December 2010 and he was unable to draw out cash on January 5 last year. He fatally attacked his first victim, Mr Parsons, hours later.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Career Criminal With 100 Theft Offences Walks Free Again After Judge Fails to Enact Suspended Prison Sentence

A career criminal with more than 100 offences has again walked free from court, despite getting a ‘last chance’ from the same judge two years ago.

Judge Carol Hagen decided it was ‘not in the interests of justice’ to enact the suspended sentence drug addict Sundee Spaulding had been serving during her shoplifting spree.

The mother-of-one, 25, already has 33 convictions for more than 100 theft-related and dishonesty crimes.

But Judge Hagen gave her one ‘final chance’ and let her walk free — even though she had broken her supposed ‘last chance’ given after her last conviction.

Judge Hagen has previously been criticised for declining to send serious offenders to jail [long list follows]:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Fighting Back

Today, in our sister paper the Oldham Chronicle, Samantha Roberts bravely waived her right to lifetime anonymity as she urged David Cameron to bring about change following the Rochdale sex attacks. Samantha says she was “horrified” when her rapist, Shakil Chowdhury, was sentenced to only six years in prison in October 2007. Top judges refused to increase what was deemed a “lenient” sentence at the Court of Appeal, despite a plea by the Baroness Scotland. Chowdhury, 39 at the time of the crime, served only three years before being released on licence. As a youngster Samantha was lured into a car on Manchester Road, Oldham in October 2006 and taken to Chowdhury’s home in Chadderton where he subjected her to a sickening ordeal.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Hate Preacher Qatada Could be Walking Streets in a Month

HATE preacher Abu Qatada could be walking the streets of Britain again by the end of the month.

Qatada — described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe — will have an application for bail heard by a senior immigration judge on May 28, the Judicial Communications Office has revealed. If it is granted he could be freed on bail within weeks. The radical cleric is being held in a high security prison while he fights deportation to his home country, Jordan, over terror charges. A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We believe Qatada poses a real risk to national security and will continue vigorously to resist any application for him to be bailed.”

[…]

[JP note: Perhaps he could be appointed by Camden council as an Interfaith Harmony officer. This might help keep him out of mischief, and, more importantly, he would have to start paying taxes.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Invisible Art Exhibition to ‘Set Imagination’s Alight’

Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery, has promised it will “set our imaginations alight”.

And so his gallery’s latest exhibition will have to, considering the fact that every piece of art inside it will be invisible. From a bare plinth to a canvas painted entirely with invisible ink, the imagination of the paying public will play a decisive role in the success or failure of the show, the first of its kind in Britain. For £8 visitors will be able to marvel at — or search in vain for — 50 works of “invisible art” by leading names including Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and Yoko Ono. Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957 — 2012, which opens on June 12 and has been billed as “the best exhibition you’ll never see”, is designed to show how the goal of art is to stimulate people’s imagination rather than merely present interesting things for them to look at. Among the chief attractions is a bare pillar which Andy Warhol once briefly stepped on, which Mr Rugoff said would allow viewers to be in the presence of the artist’s “celebrity aura”.

[JP note: They pretend it’s art and we pretend to see it.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Jessica Had a Loving, Very Middle-Class Upbringing. So How Did She Become a Victim of the Rochdale Sex Gang?

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

As a child, Jessica loved playing in the tent in the garden, or walking her pet dog on the beach in sight of Blackpool’s famous tower, seven miles away up the Lancashire coast. She would go back to her family’s smart home for an early supper with her father Jim, a successful property developer, mother Jennifer, and her sister Melissa, who is three years younger.

The family moved to Rochdale, Greater Manchester, when Jessica turned 13, and it was the same story of happy family life. ‘The girls always came home for our evening meal together,’ remembers Jim today. ‘Even as young teenagers, they were not allowed to stay out after 7.30 in the evening. We set down rules, and they had a childhood full of ballet classes and wonderful holidays.’

Yet, to the bewilderment of her loving parents, Jessica’s behaviour suddenly changed. ‘By the age of 15, she wanted to be out late at night all the time. If we kept her in, she’d climb out of the upstairs window on to a flat roof above the porch, jump down and disappear into the streets. It was much worse than normal teenage rebellion.

[…]

For years, a dangerous myth has surrounded this type of sex crime. In this era of political correctness, it is a myth promoted by the police, the BBC, and many media commentators. They insist that the perpetrators come from every ethnicity and not, primarily, from the British Muslim Pakistani community.

In fact, almost all of the scores of men convicted of street-grooming schoolgirls for sex — and there have been at least 21 court cases since 1997 — have had exactly this ethnic background.

And now, a new myth is being peddled: that the girls themselves are somehow to blame. A picture has been painted of them as the wild progeny of feckless parents, or as girls lost in the care system who are prepared to sell themselves, as one male BBC Question Time panellist put it this week, ‘for a packet of crisps or a bit of credit on their mobile phone’.

But as Jessica’s parents prove in this haunting interview, that is not necessarily the case at all.

The Rochdale gang convicted last week beguiled naive girls, one barely out of primary school, with bottles of vodka, cigarettes and mobile phones. And then, these children were forced to have sex with the gang members and scores of their friends.

To silence their victims, many of whom came from decent homes like Jessica’s, the gang threatened to tell their families they were prostitutes, rape their little sisters or kill their parents with knives or firebombs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: MP’s Wife Sent Dead Bird in Post

A Labour MP’s wife has spoken of her shock after being sent a dead bird in the post. Newly-elected councillor Jo White, the wife of Nottinghamshire MP John Mann, discovered the decomposing bird at their home earlier this week. In a statement, Ms White said she was left shaken and frightened after finding the package on treturning home from her first official meeting at Bassetlaw District Council. “I came home and found a pile of post waiting for me,” she said. “While there was an unpleasant smell, I thought nothing of it until I began opening the last package, when the smell became so overwhelming I retched and felt really sick.” Ms White, who was elected to the Worksop East ward at this month’s local elections, added: “I put the package outside and called the police, who have been absolutely brilliant. They took away the bird along with the package for DNA investigation — I really hope they find whoever did this.” John Mann, who has represented the Bassetlaw constituency since 2001, said: “It’s appalling that a new councillor should have to deal with this in their first week.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Pictured: Battered Face of Great-Grandmother, 64, Who Was Beaten and Left Unconscious by Schoolboys for Her £20 Ring

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

This is the battered face of a great-grandmother who was savagely beaten by two schoolboys — for a £20 ring.

Patricia Thistleton, 64, was left unconscious in a pool of blood by the boys, as young as 14, outside an off-licence in Preston on Tuesday evening.

One of them even snatched the silver ring from her finger as she lay bleeding from a head wound in the quiet residential street.

A passerby came to her rescue and helped her back to her nearby flat. But the retired care worker, who has four children and eight grandchildren, has been unable to leave her home since.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Samantha Tells Her Harrowing Story

‘Everyone blames themselves at first, but then you realise it’s not your fault’

THINGS are looking bright for Samantha who after years of mental torture has turned a corner. Blissfully engaged to Steven Walker and making steps to achieve a career in teaching youngsters with disabilities, 2012 seems a world away from the dark days following the attack. “I knew I couldn’t let this, let them, beat me. I don’t feel like that was me anymore, but it feels a relief to finally speak about it,” she said. The five and a half years since the terrifying ordeal have been a rollercoaster for the girl, now 18. She said: “Everyone feels ashamed and everyone blames themselves at first but then you realise it’s not your fault.” She says she will never forget the day she was picked up in a car in Werneth and driven by Chowdhury to a house in Chadderton. After the ordeal she struggled to concentrate at school and became a pent-up prisoner in her home. While others were out with friends and having fun, Samantha was struggling to get back to some sort of reality. “I didn’t deal with it — I got to the point where I self harmed. I hit rock bottom,” she admits. As part of her mission to face up to what had happened, Samantha even went back to the house where she was attacked. “it wasn’t as scary as I thought, but that was an important moment for me,” she confessed. Now she is studying for her GCSEs, is planning her future and says she wants nothing more than to make a difference in her fight for tougher sentences.

The full version of this story can be read only in our print and eChron versions

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: The Queen’s Handshake and Kate’s Curtesy for a Despot as They Entertain Brutal King of Bahrain at Jubilee Lunch

(So who was at biggest gathering of world royals since the Coronation?)

The lunch for Sovereign Monarchs at Windsor Castle was almost certainly the largest gathering of crowned heads of state since the Coronation in 1953. All senior members of the Royal Family were present.

The seating plan detailed 24 kings and queens, one emperor, a grand duke and a sultan, along with eight princesses, an emir and an empress.

[…]

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell declared: ‘Queen Elizabeth II is hosting seven royal tyrants today: Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Brunei, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Swaziland.

‘Inviting these blood-soaked dictators brings shame to the monarchy and tarnishes the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It is a cruel betrayal of pro-democracy campaigners and political prisoners who are suffering under these totalitarian royal regimes.’

           — Hat tip: Egghead [Return to headlines]



UK: Tory Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi Calls on Mosques to Act After Rochdale Grooming Gang Scandal

Muslim cabinet minister Baroness Warsi today dramatically hit out at the ‘small minority’ of Pakistani men who see white girls as ‘fair game’ for sexual abuse.

In comments following the Rochdale grooming scandal involving nine Muslim men, the Conservative Party co-chairman admitted that race was a factor.

She urged Muslim leaders to address the issue and ensure that men who regard white women as ‘third class citizens’ are isolated by their communities.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Warsi Condemns Sex Scandal Muslims

Muslim cabinet minister Baroness Warsi has hit out at the “small minority” of Pakistani men who see white girls as “fair game”. In outspoken comments following the Rochdale grooming scandal involving nine Muslim men, the Conservative Party co-chairman acknowledged that race was a factor. She urged Muslim leaders to address the issue and ensure that men who regard white women as “third-class citizens” are isolated by their communities. Nine Muslim men, mainly of Pakistani origin, were found guilty last week of plying girls as young as 13 with drink and drugs so they could “pass them around” and use them for sex.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Ukraine: Deputy Secretary General [Muslim Council of Britain, UK] At International Conference on “Global Winds of Change: Religion’s Role in Today’s World; The Challenges in Democracies and Secular Society”

Friday 18 May 2012

The Deputy Secretary General of the MCB, Dr Shuja Shafi, attended a two day International Conference on “Global Winds of Change: Religion’s Role in Today’s World; The Challenges in Democracies and Secular Society” in Ukraine. The event was organised by the Kyiv Interfaith Forum and was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kyiv on 25th and 26th April 2012. The conference touched upon many important issues such as Religion in Global Society, Media and Religion in the 21st Century, Analysis of Contemporary Developments within Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the Modern World and Modern Religious Conflicts: Causes & Resolutions. Dr Shuja Shafi provided many recommendations at the conference, one of which was to establish an International Interfaith Committee on health issues. He suggested that Faith communities must work together to defend their religious rights with responsibilities. Imam Dr Abdul Jalil Sajid, Vice Chair of MCB’s Inter Faith Relations committee, also spoke at the event about the about value of faith communities and stressed on working together between different faiths and cultures on local, regional, national and International levels.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Radical Mosques Invite Young Tunisians to Jihad in Syria

Some of Tunisia’s radical mosques are calling on young people to fight in a jihad in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a religious affairs official said Friday.According to official estimates, about 400 of Tunisia’s approximately 5,000 mosques are now in the hands of radical Islamists. The number has grown since the Tunisian revolution, which started at the end of 2010 and led to the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine ElAbidine Ben Ali. “It’s a problem, and we are looking for solutions,” Ahmed Bergaoui, a religious affairs ministry official, said of the jihadi calls. On Thursday, Interior Minister Ali Larayedh also raised concerns over the issue, but provided no figures on how many had gone to fight in Syria. “We deplore these young people going on misadventures,” Larayedh said. “Some have been killed, others imprisoned and others continue to fight in Syria. We are watching these things closely.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East


British Officers Could be Deployed to Syria to Increase Pressure on Assad Regime

British military personnel could be deployed to Syria to increase pressure on the Assad regime over human rights abuses, David Cameron has signalled.

As unrest continued to spread in Syria, the Prime Minister last night told fellow world leaders that more must to done to stop Bashar al-Assad oppressing his own people. Britain is prepared to contribute officers to an enlarged international monitoring mission in Syria, Mr Cameron told a Group of Eight summit in the US. There are more than 200 United Nations monitors inside Syria, where more than 9,000 people have died since last year as the regime tries to suppress opposition to Mr Assad’s rule. There are more than 200 United Nations monitors inside Syria, where more than 9,000 people have died since last year as the regime tries to suppress opposition to Mr Assad’s rule. The monitors are in the country as part of a deal negotiated with Mr Assad by Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general. The Annan deal is supposed to lead to a ceasefire and talks between the regime and its opponents. However, Mr Assad’s allies “continue to show wanton disregard” for the Annan process, Mr Cameron told the Camp David summit last night, saying the regime must be put under much greater pressure.

[…]

[JP note: Britain continues to dance to the Muslim Brotherhood tune.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UAE: World’s Priciest Sunglasses on Auction for 300,000 Euros

Produced by Chopard, gold frames & 51 diamonds

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MAY 15 — On auction with a starting price of 300,000 euros, the most expensive sunglasses in the world are on display for the public today in Dubai. At Paris Gallery, a luxury retail store at Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping centres in the world, the public can admire these sunglasses produced by Chopard. Designed by De Rigo Vision, the frames are made of 60 grams of 24Kgold and feature 51 diamonds totalling four carats. Three collectors, including two Emirate-natives and one Russian, will bid on the expensive sunglasses, writes Dubai Gulf News. At the end of the first day of bidding yesterday, the offer on the item had reached 360,000 euros. The silent auction could continue for another one to two weeks, said the organisers. Last summer the same store was selling Bulgari’s Le Gemme collection, a sophisticated line of sunglasses costing between 34,000 and 80,000 euros, encrusted with semi-precious stones, believed at the time to be among the most expensive in the world.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UAE: Dubai Mosque Hosts Quran Recital Contest

DUBAI // One of the emirate’s most striking mosques is hoping to attract non-Muslims to an international Quran recital contest it is hosting. The five-day Dubai International Holy Quran Award begins tomorrow at Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque and Centre in Jumeirah. The competition is open to all and will include recitals by imams and children. “It’s a real honour for us to be chosen to stage this competition,” said Abdel Malek Abdel Khalek, the manager of the mosque and centre, which opened last July. “We are inviting non-Muslims to take a look and be part of the event. One of the key missions we have here is to encourage better understanding between East and West. The contest is being held in the mosque’s main prayer hall, with competitors from the Middle East, Asia and Africa.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: Teenager Tells of How Man She Turned Down in Marriage Scarred Her With Acid

An Afghan teenager has told of the horrific moment she was left scarred for life after the man she turned down in marriage attacked her with acid.

Mumtaz, 18, was the victim of a scorned man who decided if he couldn’t marry her, he’d make sure no one else would want to.

She said: ‘I feel so bad, I do not look at myself in the mirror anymore.’

The man had asked for her hand in marriage, but Mumtaz’s family declined the offer.

Then, she said one night several men showed up at their home and attacked her family.

Finally two armed men held her, pulled her head back, and let the man who had wanted to marry her pour acid all over her face.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Appeal for Christian Girl Kidnapped and Forced to Convert to Islam

To date, the police refuses to liberate the girl, despite the repeated requests of the family. Mary Salik (fictitious name) was kidnapped last May 4 near Faisalabad by an uncle who had converted to Islam. The girl’s father denounces conspiracy against his family: “My daughter has heart problems and was kidnapped by deception”.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — The family of Mary Salik (fictional name for security reasons) asks for justice for the 14 year old Christian girl, kidnapped last May 4 in Ali (Faisalabad, Punjab) and forced to convert to Islam. The author of the kidnapping is the uncle of the girl, who embraced Islam about a year ago and since then ended all contact with the family of origin. He kidnapped the young girl to marry her off with his son Kashif. The wedding was celebrated on 7 May.

The girl’s father, told AsiaNews that “my daughter is only 14 years old and suffers from the birth from heart problems and can not do heavy work. After converting my brother is conspiring against our family and kidnapped Mary with deception “.

Immediately after the seizure, the father of the young Christian girl turned to local police and demanded the immediate release of his daughter, but the agents refused to return Mary to her family. According to police, the girl converted of her own free will and submitted as evidence a written statement in which the girl says to “be mature and have embraced Islam without coercion or threats.”

To get their daughter back, the parents decided to find a compromise with the help of some influential people in the area and have filed a petition against the police officers.

Fr. Bonnie Mendes, priest and activist, former secretary of the Pakistan National Commission for Justice and Peace, speaks of the abuses suffered by the Christian community. “Although we are free to pray — he says — and to practice our religion, we are threatened when we try to defend our rights.” The priest denounces the problem of cases of forced conversions to Islam of young Christians, which together with the blasphemy law is one of the most severe violations of religious freedom to the detriment of minorities. For Fr. Mendes Mary’s case is against the teachings of Islam. In fact, those who want to convert require an iddat, a discernment period that must last at least three months. However, due to ignorance, illiteracy and social injustice, most Muslims do not observe this rule.

Each month between 25 and 30 young girls suffer similar abuses, for a yearly total of about 300 conversions and forced marriages. Hindu girls — but also Christian — who are torn from the family while very young and delivered into the hands of their husbands / torturers. One case recently made headlines when the Pakistani Supreme Court forced three young Hindu women to return to their Muslim husbands, despite the desire of the young girls to return to their family. The young women were kidnapped in February, forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. On March 26 Rinkle Kumari, one of the girls, told the judges of the Court that there “is no justice in this country only for Muslims, justice is denied Hindus. Kill me here, now, in court. But do not send me back to the Darul-Aman [Koranic school] … they will kill us. “ The other two young girls, Lata and Asha, had expressed, in vain, the desire to be reunited with their families.

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

Far East


Blind Chinese Dissident Leaves on Flight for the United States

BEIJING — Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal defender who made a dramatic escape from house arrest and whose decision to seek refuge in American Embassy jolted American-Sino relations, left China aboard a commercial flight bound for the United States, according to friends who have spoken to him.

Mr. Chen left Beijing on a United Airlines flight bound for Newark with his wife and two children at around 5:30 p.m. after facing earlier delays.

Earlier Saturday Mr. Chen told friends over a cellphone that he was excited to be leaving China but that he was also worried about the fate of relatives he leaves behind. “He’s happy to finally have a rest after seven years of suffering but he’s also worried they will suffer some retribution,” said Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, a Christian advocacy group based in Texas.

[Return to headlines]



China: Chen Guangcheng and Beijing’s Failure to Reform

Individuals activists are not China’s real challenge, social stability and keeping the Communist Party in power are. Chinese leaders run the risk however of losing control of the huge, expensive and ever-expanding security apparatus they are building. As illustrated by the Bo Xilai case, this could lead to unexpected and disastrous consequences. Here is the analysis of one of the foremost experts of modern China.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — The blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng’s plight, which piqued much of the world’s attention the past fortnight, has fully exposed the shocking failings of China’s law-enforcement apparatus. Chen was forced to seek shelter in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing due to the Chinese authorities’ systematic violations of his civil liberties. After having served a four-year jail term under the dubious charges of “obstructing traffic and destroying property,” Chen was kept under illegal house arrest in his native Dongshigu village, Shandong Province, from 2010 until his daring escape last month. Neither human rights activists nor reporters were allowed to visit him in Dongshigu. As a result of protracted negotiation between the Chinese and U.S. authorities, it seems Chen, who is now recuperating in a Beijing hospital that is heavily guarded by police, will be allowed to go to New York University as a visiting scholar later this year. Yet serious questions remain about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) labyrinthine zhengfa (“political and legal”) bureaucracy, which controls the police and judicial organs. Given the bad publicity that the Chen case has generated, will the new leadership that will be endorsed at the 18th CCP Congress this autumn overhaul this police-state establishment? Or is it more likely that, given the party elite’s obsession with wei-wen (short for weihu wending, or preserving stability), one of the party-state’s largest operations will continue to grow in clout and influence?

It is instructive to first take a look at how the law-enforcement apparatus, which is under the leadership of Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) member Zhou Yongkang, has amassed so much power in the past few years. The Central Political and Legal Commission (CPLC), or zhengfawei, which Zhou chairs, is in charge of the Ministry of Public Security (or police), the Ministry of State Security (or secret police), the Procuratorate (or prosecutors’ offices) and the courts. In tandem with the Central Military Commission (CMC), the CPLC also exercises control over the people’s militia as well as the People’s Armed Police, which is a paramilitary unit charged with tackling riots and disturbances. Additionally, there appears to be unofficial security forces hired by local governments and the center. The zhengfa system hires “informants,” citizens who are asked to provide information to the police when they spot suspicious characters or hear about “anti-government plots” in the neighborhood. No one knows how many informants there are, but one report suggested a high concentration. In Kailu, an Inner Mongolian county, public security recruited 12,093 informants out of 400,000 inhabitants (Hong Kong Economic Journal, February 24; News.China.com (Beijing), January 21; The Guardian, February 9, 2010).

The exact number of official, unofficial and informant personnel under the zhengfa apparatus is a state secret. Yet, it is well known that the budget, staff and power of the law enforcement establishment has grown substantially since 2008, which witnessed not only the Beijing Summer Olympics but also the worst outbreak of rioting in Tibetan areas since the end of the Cultural Revolution. It was also in the same year that CCP authorities employed Mao Zedong’s “people’s warfare” concept to boost internal security (See “Beijing Revives Mao’s ‘People’s Warfare’ to Ensure Trouble-Free Olympics,” China Brief, July 17, 2008). Wei-wen expenditures available to departments under the CPLC grew from 514.0 billion yuan ($81.3 billion) in 2010 to 624.4 billion yuan ($98.8 billion) in 2011-and to 701.7 billion yuan ($111.1 billion) this year. In both 2011 and 2012, the wei-wen budget exceeded even that of the publicized outlays of the People’s Liberation Army (Reuters, March 4; Ming Pao [Hong Kong], March 4). While Zhou has played a sizeable role in extending his zhengfa empire, he enjoys the support of other PBSC members, particularly President Hu Jintao. In numerous speeches the past few years, Hu has called upon central and regional cadres to “consider preserving stability as [their] foremost task” (China.com, March 15; CNTV.com, March 9).

Much of the expansion of the Zhengfa Empire has taken place in the localities. According to Chen Guangcheng, wei-wen expenditures for Dongshigu Village and its vicinity were 60 million yuan ($9.5 million) last year, double the 2008 budget of 30 million yuan ($4.8 million). A team of at least 200 police and informants were responsible for the “safety” of Chen (Hong Kong Economic Times, May 2; China Times [Taipei] May 1; Ming Pao, May 1). The apparent overzealousness of many grassroots wei-wen units might give rise to the impression that central authorities are not necessarily at fault: the local units might have given excessively draconian interpretations to instructions from on high. As Northwestern University political scientist Victor Shih pointed out, Beijing appears to give local zhengfa units some autonomy so that “if they make a mistake, all the blame can be put on local officials without jeopardizing the entire model” [1]. Yet given the national if not international fame of activists such as Chen, it is hard to believe that the CPLC has not explicitly authorized the extra-legal treatment that has been meted out to these thorns in the side of the authorities.

In fact, it is the zhengfawei-and its sister unit, the Commission for Social Management and Comprehensive Treatment of Law and Order-which has established a plethora of local-level units for the purpose of ensuring better implementation of central edicts. From the mid-2000s, offices for Upholding Stability and the Comprehensive Treatment of Law and Order began to be set up in every city district and every village town or township (Southern Weekend [Guangzhou], August 19, 2010; Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2009). That the zhengfawei has enhanced its control over grassroots offices-and at the same time expanded its overall national clout-is evidenced by the increasing number of regional law-enforcement chiefs who have been appointed deputy party secretaries of provinces and zhixiashi (provincial-level municipalities). In at least five of China’s 31 provinces, autonomous regions and zhixiashi, heads of zhengfa departments double as deputy party secretaries. These include the Tibet and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regions-which have high concentrations of ethnic minorities-in addition to Qinghai and Zhejiang Provinces and the Beijing municipality (Oriental Outlook Weekly [Beijing], April 16; Southern Metropolitan News [Guangzhou], February 18). In the interest of administrative streamlining, the number of deputy party secretaries of provinces and zhixiashi has been reduced to two. Without an exception, the governor or mayor occupies one of the two slots of deputy party secretary. That the second deputy party secretary is in charge of law-enforcement testifies to the importance that Beijing has attached to upholding stability. At least theoretically, this also makes it easier for the provincial or municipal zhengfa chief to exercise tighter supervision over wei-wen units within his or her jurisdiction.

While it is true that quite a number of grassroots zhengfa cadres may have exaggerated the dangers of “destabilizing elements” in their localities to get more funding from either the provincial capital or Beijing, many more local cadres are worried about losing their jobs should they be seen as failing to uphold law and order. In most provinces and cities, a grassroots official is liable to be summarily fired if a major destabilizing incident-for example, a riot involving thousands of protestors or the sudden disappearance of an influential human rights activist such as Chen-was to take place (Yangcheng Evening Post [Guangzhou] April 10; Chinanews.com, November 16, 2011).

By the same token, a cadre with the reputation of a tough law-and-order enforcer is seen as having a sure-fire ticket for promotion. Before his downfall in March, former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai became a national hero due to the apparent success of the dahei (“crack down on underground gangs”) campaign in his metropolis. Bo’s anti-triad operation, which was run as a Maoist-style political movement, fully illustrated the problems of China’s law enforcement model. Quite a number of the triad bosses were incarcerated on trumped up charges-and without due judicial process. Bo and his power wife, the lawyer-businesswomen Gu Kailai, had a reputation of subjecting their foes to extra-legal punishments such as torture or even murder. In early February, Bo’s former police chief Wang Lijun, the erstwhile “national dahei hero,” tried to seek political asylum at the U.S. consulate in nearby Chengdu due to fears that Bo had turned his ire on him (New York Times, May 6; Ming Pao, May 5; Wall Street Journal, April 8).

Not surprisingly, Beijing’s approach to upholding stability has attracted intense criticism from relatively liberal academics and public intellectuals. According to a recent report compiled by the social stability research group at Tsinghua University, the authorities are trapped in a vicious cycle of “society becoming even less stable even as more resources are being devoted to wei-wen.” The report added, “Various levels of government have earmarked massive human and material resources for upholding stability, yet the quantity of incidents relating to social contradiction and confrontation has ceaselessly increased” (People’s Daily, February 2; Southern Weekend, April 15, 2010). According to Wenzhou University social scientist Wang Yong, “wei-wen has exacted huge social costs to which we must pay attention.” For example, since the law-enforcement apparatus has often used political movement-style maneuvers to stamp out the seeds of instability, “normal administrative regulations and the rule of law has been damaged,” according to Professor Wang. Wang also wrote, “The [normal] voices of society have disappeared even as the private [social] sphere has shrunken even further” (Truth Seeking [Nanchang Journal], February 2012).

Zhou Yongkang, the CPLC chairman since 2007, has taken flak for the Shandong police’s failure to keep a blind man under house arrest. He also was exposed to ridicule and criticism for the overall lawlessness in Chongqing. There was even innuendo that the PBSC member had conspired with Bo to enable the latter to not only join the PBSC later this year but to eventually become CCP general secretary (Washington Post, April 21; Associated Press, April 19). Given that Zhou, age 69, is set to retire at the 18th Party Congress, will there be a restructuring of the zhengfa bureaucracy-as well as the wei-wen mindset-by the next leadership, or at least Zhou’s successor?

Northwestern University’s Shih thinks significant changes in either the clout or the approach of the law enforcement apparatus are unlikely. “The growth of the security apparatus has to do with the rising need of the regime to prevent ‘sudden incidents’,” Shih said, “Any major weakening of this capacity can bring unexpected consequences” [2]. Bo Zhiyue, a veteran analyst of Chinese elite politics at the National University of Singapore, said future developments hinged on which PBSC member would assume the zhengfa portfolio after the 18th CCP Congress. “Much depends on who will become the new head the CPLC-and how much this leader is willing to shake up the establishment,” he said. Bo speculated, “The expansion of the zhengfa apparatus has been partly due to the division of labor among PBSC members and partly due to the need to maintain stability. If Zhou has a lot of say in choosing his own successor and his successor is loyal to his policies, then there is no hope of fundamental changes. If Zhou’s successor is chosen to shake up the apparatus, there would be substantial changes” [3].

As things stand, there seems to be a strong consensus among the PBSC members-including Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, who are expected to form the axis of the upcoming Fifth-Generation leadership-that the leadership must pull out all the stops to boost security and stability. The urge to preserve the Maoist “one voice chamber” has grown in light of fissures at the CCP’s top echelons exposed by the Bo Xilai scandal (“Beijing’s Post-Bo Xilai Loyalty Drive Could Blunt Calls for Reform, China Brief, March 30). As was the case in 1989, the party leadership appears anxious to prevent dissidents from exploiting factional strife within the CCP to “make propaganda” for Western-style political reforms. This perhaps explains why, despite Beijing’s pledge to continue “human rights dialogues” with the United States and other Western countries, the wei-wen apparatus has been cracking down even harder on so-called destabilizing agents. Several public intellectuals and human rights lawyers who have helped Chen in the past few years have been subjected to brutal treatment. Globally famous activist Hu Jia and his wife have been put under house arrest. Attorney Jiang Tianyong, who tried to visit Chen in the hospital, was badly beaten up by police and prevented from leaving his apartment to seek medical care (Cable TV Hong Kong, May 6; Radio Free Asia, May 4). Even as the international media speculates upon whether Beijing would honor promises made to both U.S. officials and Chen about fulfilling his wishes to pursue further studies abroad, China’s zhengfa machinery continues in overdrive.

Notes:

Author’s interview with Victor Shih, May 2012.

Ibid.

Author’s interview with Bo Zhiyue, May 2012.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa


Kenya: Mombasa Muslims Protest Khan’s Killing

CLOSE to 500 Muslims in Mombasa yesterday took to the streets to protest the delay in the investigations into the murder of Muslim cleric Samir Khan and the disappearance of his colleague Mohammed Kassim. The Muslims began with prayers at the Baluchi Mosque along Makadara road from where they matched through Digo road, Nkrumah road into Serani road. Mombasa police boss Kipkemoi Rop was roughed up by the angry youth as he attempted to stop them from proceeding to the Urban police station. Rop had to take out his pistol to scare away the angry youth.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Cyprus: Few Rights for LGBTs in Society, Survey

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 16 — The Republic of Cyprus has proven to be close to the bottom of the list once again in rights for LGBT individuals (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender), according to the latest statistics reported today by Cyprus Mail.

ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map for 2012 puts Cyprus on the same rung as Latvia and Georgia in terms of laws that ensure the rights of these individuals. The association for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex rated 49 European countries.

Worse than Cyprus were countries such as Turkey, Russia and Belarus. The statistics were presented yesterday during a news conference by Cyprus association for LGBT individuals Accept-LGBT to mark International Day Against Homophobia tomorrow, with this year’s campaign being Voices against Homophobia. “Homophobia in Cyprus dominates many areas such as the media, schools and family,” said Giorgis Renginos, spokesman for Accept-LGBT. According to a survey carried out by Accept-LGBT and the Cyprus Family Planning Association, around 47% of LGBT individuals in Cyprus suffer psychological violence and in around 8% it happens repeatedly, with around 15% suffering some kind of physical attack.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Less Than Half of Italians Support Gay Marriage, Says ISTAT

Only 20% agree with homosexual couples adopting

(ANSA) — Rome, May 17 — Most Italians believe that gay couples living together should have the same rights as heterosexual ones, but less than half think they should be allowed to marry, Istat said on Thursday.

The national statistics agency said 43.9% of Italians agreed with gay marriage in the results of a study released on the International Day against Homophobia.

Same-sex marriages are not legal in predominantly Catholic Italy.

Istat added that only 20% of Italians thought gay couples should be allowed to adopt children.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

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