News Feed 20121220

Financial Crisis
» 20 Signs That the U.S. Poverty Explosion is Hitting Children and Young People the Hardest
» Berlin Dismisses Possibility of Italy Leaving Euro
» G.O.P. Leaders in House Pull ‘Plan B’ Tax Bill, Citing Lack of Votes
» Greece: State Company Wages to be Cut by 25%
» Monti Says Italy’s Reforms Have Only Just Begun
 
USA
» $10, Cell Phone and a Bullet to Head
» 2012 Person of the Year: Barack Obama, The President
» Connecticut School Shooting: Blogger Says More Men Could Have Stopped Killings
» Four California Men Plead Not Guilty to Plotting to Support Al Qaeda
» If Obama is Opposed to Guns, Why Did His Administration Just Purchase 1.6bil Rounds of Ammo?
» Knowing Chuck Hagel From His Supporters and Opponents
» Minnesota Muslims Prepare for Different Activities at Christmas
» Pro-Israel Groups Want to Block Appointment of Chuck Hagel as New US Defence Secretary
» Stampeding Gun Control Through Crisis
» The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek
 
Canada
» How Science Can Deceive You About Your Cell Phone
 
Europe and the EU
» Italy: Daily Wages for Women in Italy 28% Less Than for Men
» Italy: Campania Councillor Arrested for Suspected Embezzlement
» Italy: One-Year Jail Term Requested for Berlusconi for Wiretap Case
» Italy: Extra 37 Councillors Being Probed in Lombardy Investigation
» UK: Apparently Tory Backbenchers Rather Than the Tory Leadership Are Responsible for the Party’s Difficulties
» UK: David Cameron Deserves Better Than This Ghastly Backbench B-Team
» UK: Eric Pickles Tells Councils to Stop Spending Money on Expensive Leadership Courses
» UK: Muslims in East End Hold Xmas Party-for Their Christian Neighbours
» UK: Mr Cameron Must Not Pander to the Shrill Voices on the Right and Remember UKIP is Still a Party of Pub Bores
» UK: Mosque Makes Donation to Met Police’s Leyton Custody Centre
» UK: Mosque Scheme Hailed a Success
» UK: Row Over Brighton and Hove Council Prayers
» UK: What Does it Take to Get Jailed? Father Who Abused and Punched a Headmistress Only Has to Pay £100 as Thief With 9,000 Victims Walks Free
 
North Africa
» Egyptian President to Visit Washington in February 2013
» Egypt: Brotherhood, Salafis Call for Mass Protest in Alexandria
» Jihadi Leader to Christians: Convert to Islam or Die
» The Wretched Absurdity of the Benghazi Report
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Israeli Settlements Leave U.S. Odd Man Out at U.N. Security Council
» US Condemns ‘Provocative’ Israel Settlement Building
 
Middle East
» Al Qaeda Grows Powerful in Syria as Endgame Nears
» Did Israel’s Air Force Strike Hezbollah Chemical Weapons Sites?
» Iran’s Middle East Neighbours ‘Would Not Join a Nuclear Arms Race’
» Jihadist Leaders of Obama-Backed Libyan Rebellion Fought Against U.S. In Iraq
» Kuwait: One Held in Pro-Assad Rally
» Kuwait: Hunt for Mom as Baby Dumped Near Mosque
» Syria: Belluomo Kidnappers Demand €530,000 Ransom
» Turkey: Incest to be Defined as Crime, Minister Says
» UN: Violence Escalating in Syria, Rebels Must Not be Armed
 
South Asia
» Four Police Poisoned, Shot Dead in Southern Afghanistan
» Malaysia Removes Restrictions on Christian Pilgrims to Holy Land
 
Far East
» China: A Splendid Mosque, A School for Muslims
» Chinese Universities Urged to Fight Back Against Foreign Religion
» Criticism in China of Failure to Report Vicious School Attack on Same Day as Newtown Massacre
» MPRP Decides to Remain in Mongolian Coalition Gov’t
 
Australia — Pacific
» Australia You Are So Totally Gay
» Police Hunt Woman Who Racially Attacked Two Indian Women on Melbourne Bus
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Ghana: Port Authorities Release Argentine Ship
» Ghana: Muslims Must Pursue Peace — Chief Imam
» In Sierra Leone, Usu Boie Constructs New Mosque in Kaningo
» Kenya: Police Hold Over 20 in Connection With Nairobi Twin Blasts
 
Immigration
» Kenney Says Screening Immigrants for ‘Islamism’ Not Part of Plan
» Security Expert: Canada Should Keep Eye Out for ‘Islamist’ Immigrants
 
Culture Wars
» UK: Shock at CofE School Where Mr Upton Will Return After Christmas as Miss Meadows

Financial Crisis

20 Signs That the U.S. Poverty Explosion is Hitting Children and Young People the Hardest

The mainstream media continues to insist that the economy is “getting better”, but the poverty numbers for children and young people just continue to explode. For example, did you know that the poverty rate for families with a head of household under the age of 30 is a whopping 37 percent? Children and young people sure didn’t cause our recent economic downturn, but they sure are getting hit the hardest by it. According to the U.S. Department of Education, for the first time ever more than a million U.S. public school students are homeless. That seems like an impossible number, but it is actually true. How in the world could the “wealthiest nation on earth” get to the point where more than a million children can’t count on a warm bed to sleep in at night? Sadly, a huge number of American children can’t count on a warm dinner either. About a fourth of them are enrolled in the food stamp program. What do you do if you are a parent in that kind of situation? How do you explain to your kids that you can’t afford a nice home like everybody else has or that you can’t afford to go to the grocery store and buy them some dinner?

Young people are experiencing very rough times right now as well. If you are under the age of 30, it is really, really difficult to get a job in America today. The competition for the few decent jobs that seem to be available is absolutely crazy. Unemployment among young people is at a level that we have not seen since World War II, and this is causing major problems.

Even if you do have a college degree, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get any type of a job. In fact, more than half of all college graduates under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed last year. There are millions of very talented college graduates that are waiting tables, making sandwiches or stocking shelves down at the local branch of a global retail conglomerate. Meanwhile, they are saddled with record breaking amounts of student loan debt.

This is easily the worst economic environment that we have seen for young people since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The number of good jobs continues to decline. Many young people are faced with the choice of taking a bad job or having no job at all.

[Return to headlines]

Berlin Dismisses Possibility of Italy Leaving Euro

Ex-premier Berlusconi suggested return to lira may be necessary

(ANSA) — Rome, December 19 — The German government on Wednesday said there was no question of Italy leaving the eurozone after ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi suggested a return to the lira might be necessary.

“There is no sign that responsible institutions think a fanciful and negative scenario for Italy like an exit from the euro is possible,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert. Berlusconi, who this month said he had dropped plans to retire from front-line politics and would run for a fourth term as premier in general elections expected to take place in February, said Italy may be forced to leave the eurozone if the European Central Bank is not given more powers to ensure lower borrowing costs.

“If Germany does not accept the fact that the ECB must be a real central bank and if interest rates don’t come down, we will be forced to leave the euro and return to our own currency in order to be competitive,” Berlusconi said on a chat show on state broadcaster Rai on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

G.O.P. Leaders in House Pull ‘Plan B’ Tax Bill, Citing Lack of Votes

House Republican leaders abruptly pulled their fallback tax bill from the floor Thursday night, conceding that they did not have the votes to pass it.

“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass,” Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement. “Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.”

The decision was a major setback for the speaker, who was pushing his so-called Plan B to prevent lower tax rates from expiring on most Americans. It came after the House had narrowly approved a plan to suspend planned Pentagon cuts.

[Return to headlines]

Greece: State Company Wages to be Cut by 25%

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 18 — As of January 1, none of some 120,000 civil servants working at public enterprises, known as DEKOs, will earn more than 2,200 euros per month due to a new pay structure that will lead to all workers at such firms suffering wage reductions of up to 25%. As daily Kathimerini reports, the new pay scale means employees will need at least 20 years’ experience and to hold a top managerial position to qualify for the maximum monthly pay of 2,200 euros. An employee with basic education but at least 22 years of experience will earn 1,633 euros a month. All employees at DEKOs will be paid 12, rather than 14, monthly salaries from next year. The same applies to civil servants earning so-called “special salaries,” such as policemen, doctors, soldiers, academics and judges. Municipal workers will also see their wages reduced to 12 installments. The strike by municipal employees protesting efforts to place hundreds of colleagues in a labor mobility scheme is due to end on Tuesday but their union, POE-OTA, has said it will take part in a 24-hour strike by civil servants tomorrow.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Monti Says Italy’s Reforms Have Only Just Begun

Premier says country needed ‘bitter medicine’

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Melfi, December 20 — Premier Mario Monti said on Thursday that Italy has only made a start on the structural economic reforms it needed to revive its economic fortunes.

Monti’s emergency technocrat government has introduced a series of reforms aimed at liberalising the economy, which has suffered a decade of sluggish growth, and making the labour market less rigid since taking power last year.

“We are only at the start of the structural reforms,” Monti said.

The former European commissioner also justified the tough austerity measures his government had passed to help move Italy from the centre of the eurozone crisis as necessary.

“Italy had a fever 13 months ago and an aspirin was not enough,” he said.

“It needed a bitter medicine that was not easy to digest but which was necessary to root out the illness”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA

$10, Cell Phone and a Bullet to Head

Blacks targeted white who was ‘bound to have money’

(Editor’s note: Colin Flaherty has done more reporting than any other journalist on what appears to be a nationwide trend of skyrocketing black-on-white crime, violence and abuse. WND features these reports to counterbalance the virtual blackout by the rest of the media due to their concerns that reporting such incidents would be inflammatory or even racist. WND considers it racist not to report racial abuse solely because of the skin color of the perpetrators or victims.)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The links in the following report may contain offensive language.

People who say racial violence is “random” either do know what the word means, or they are not telling the truth.

The latest “random” attack — that wasn’t random — happened earlier this month in downtown Wilmington, N.C.

Four black people decided they needed some money for marijuana and travel, so they decided to look for a “white person in a good neighborhood (because) they’re bound to have money lying around,” said one of the suspected killers to the Wilmington Star News.

They tried to break into a home but ran away after they discovered someone was there. So they moved to the downtown area, where three of the group followed a woman for several blocks while the fourth trailed in their getaway car.

Such attacks are part of an epidemic of hundreds of cases of black mob violence in more than 80 cities over the last three years, as documented in the book “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The return of racial violence to America and how the media ignore it.”

The woman escaped. And almost, but not quite, dialed 911.

Joshua Proutey was next, sitting nearby in his truck eating a sandwich when this mob found the 20-year-old white college student. They demanded money. He gave them all he had, $10. They took his cell phone.

Then they shot him in the head.

[Return to headlines]

2012 Person of the Year: Barack Obama, The President

Twenty-seven years after driving from New York City to Chicago in a $2,000 Honda Civic for a job that probably wouldn’t amount to much, Barack Obama, in better shape but with grayer hair, stood in the presidential suite on the top floor of the Fairmont Millennium Park hotel as flat screens announced his re-election as President of the United States. The networks called Ohio earlier than predicted, so his aides had to hightail it down the hall to join his family and friends. They encountered a room of high fives and fist pumps, hugs and relief…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Connecticut School Shooting: Blogger Says More Men Could Have Stopped Killings

A conservative American pundit has provoked shock and ridicule with an article suggesting that the Sandy Hook massacre could have been prevented if there had been more men present at the school.

Writing in the National Review Online, Charlotte Allen argued that the “feminised” culture of American schools has led to a situation where “helpless passivity is the norm”.

“Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel,” she argued.

Ms Allen suggested that some of the 26 deaths could have been avoided “if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza”.

“All the personnel — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the ‘reading specialist’ — were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees,” she lamented.

[Return to headlines]

Four California Men Plead Not Guilty to Plotting to Support Al Qaeda

Four California men accused of plotting to join al Qaeda militants for training in Afghanistan appeared together in federal court for the first time on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to charges they conspired to support terrorists.

The Afghan-born accused ringleader, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 35, was captured in Afghanistan last month, a day after three younger co-defendants were arrested by federal agents outside of Los Angeles.

The group, all U.S. citizens or permanent residents, are accused of planning to unleash a campaign of “violent jihad” against U.S. military forces and other Americans overseas, in a case based largely on the work of a paid FBI informant.

[Return to headlines]

If Obama is Opposed to Guns, Why Did His Administration Just Purchase 1.6bil Rounds of Ammo?

“An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland.” — Adolf Hitler, 1922.

In the aftermath of the recent Sandy Hook shooting, Obama and his cohorts are screaming about how they all despise guns and ammo. Guns are the problem in America today, we’ve been told from every corner of the media, and so the only solution is to get rid of all the guns.

But not exactly. There’s one organization in America that’s loading up on masses of assault rifles and enough ammunition to run a 10-year shooting war. That organization is, of course, the U.S. federal government and its Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has purchased a total of 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition to be used domestically, inside the United States.

It begs the question: Why does the Department of Homeland Security — named after Hitler’s “Office of Fatherland Security” — need 1.6 billion rounds of ammo?

[Return to headlines]

Knowing Chuck Hagel From His Supporters and Opponents

by Ron Radosh

A little over a week ago, the Obama administration floated the name of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as a potential nominee for Secretary of Defense. Obviously, his name was publicly put out to give the administration forewarning of what, if any, opposition they might receive to the possibility. It would be but a matter of days before both conservatives and centrist Democrats made known their serious opposition to Hagel’s appointment to such a major post.

Opposition began with a searing column by Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. Stephens noted that like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, Hagel is among those who rant about the undue influence of what Hagel called “the Jewish lobby,” which he went on to say “intimidates a lot of people up here.” As Stephens writes, the word “intimidates” has the effect of ascribing “to the so-called Jewish lobby powers that are at once vast, invisible and malevolent; and because it suggests that legislators who adopt positions friendly to that lobby are doing so not from political conviction but out of personal fear.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Minnesota Muslims Prepare for Different Activities at Christmas

When already-busy office computers start buzzing with Christmas songs, clouds burst with snowflakes and some department stores spin Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock,” then you know it’s the holiday season unfolding. Millions of Minnesotans prepare for Christmas celebrations that will highlight caroling, feasting and gift-giving. Many will decorate their homes with adorned trees of colored lights and ornaments. The overflowing mailboxes of Christmas cards inked with messages of prayers and wishes punctuate many of the December traditions…

This, however, is not the case for thousands of Muslim families in Minnesota. The usual holiday sights and sounds are not present in community social hubs, business centers or houses. “Muslims see Christmas as a religious holiday for Christians,” said Abdisalam Adam of the Islamic League of Somali Scholars in America. So they tend to shy away from its practices…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Pro-Israel Groups Want to Block Appointment of Chuck Hagel as New US Defence Secretary

Pro-Israel groups have tried to derail a possible plan for the White House to appoint a former Republican senator as the next US secretary of defence, saying his comments on Jewish influence in American politics “border on anti-Semitism”.

Critics said Chuck Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, had failed to support Israel in the US Senate, had voted against sanctions on Iran and seized on his use of the phrase “Jewish lobby” in a 2008 interview. Barack Obama has not formally nominated Mr Hagel to take over at the Pentagon but he is understood to be a front-runner and the White House is carefully gauging the level of opposition before making an announcement…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Stampeding Gun Control Through Crisis

Never let a crisis go to waste — especially when it is an opportunity to abridge our Constitutional rights. This week, a sociopath went on a killing spree in Newtown, Connecticut. A 20-something-year-old whackadoo slaughtered 20 First Graders and 6 adults, before blowing his own brains out. The loss of those little angels and the heroes who died protecting them is unimaginable. But the spilled blood had not even dried when the Left started screaming for gun control. Bloomberg and others instantly screamed for massive gun control. Clamors to change the Second Amendment, to invoke an Executive Order and even to kill the leaders of the NRA abound. No one ever points out that the vast majority of these deviants are on meds and under a psychiatrist’s care.

I am appalled. Yes, I am appalled that a monster killed children and teachers, but I am more appalled that the first response from the professional control freaks — the political animals across the nation — is to initiate the long-planned campaign to stampede Americans into surrendering their rights, to disarm all the people who didn’t murder anyone, and — most importantly — to eliminate the ability of the citizens to defend themselves from a whole spectrum of evils ranging from common bad guys to government tyranny. Senator Feinstein has pledged to submit new “assault weapon” legislation, even more draconian than the last completely useless ban, the one that had no effect on crime other than to create new classes of victims. Senator Feinstein, evidently in an effort to avoid accusations that this new bill is a knee jerk response to the shootings, assures us that she has been working on this bill for a year.

Contemplate that for a moment. This “new” bill has been poised to launch for months, waiting only for the (hopefully) inevitable next horrific incident, an appropriate tragedy, to whip this “solution” out while stampeding a frightened, sad and disoriented populace into accepting yet another “DO SOMETHING!” law that constrains honest people while addressing the actual problem not at all. The senseless slaughter of 20 little ones is the perfect political platform for shoving fascist policies down our throats. The media will trot out every profile of every child and teacher who died, to engender guilt, horror and remorse and bully Americans into letting go of their guns. Newsflash, asshats… we aren’t that gullible and stupid. We certainly aren’t that weak.

[Return to headlines]

The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

A group of world-class skiers and snowboarders set out to ski off the backside of Cowboy Mountain in the Cascades last February. Then the mountain moved.

John Branch’s reconstruction of what happened to those 16 people that day in Washington State mixes words, graphics, video, photography, scientific simulations and emergency response recordings.

[Return to headlines]

Canada

How Science Can Deceive You About Your Cell Phone

In an interview with ElectromagneticHealth.org, Magda Havas, PhD, associate professor of Environment & Resource Studies at Trent University, Canada shares many of the deceptions surrounding cell phone science.

As an expert in radiofrequency radiation, electromagnetic fields, dirty electricity and ground current, she is uniquely qualified to shed light on why it may appear as though cell phones are perfectly safe, when in fact the science itself shows the radiation cell phones emit is anything but …

Deception Apparent at All Levels of the Scientific Process

Deception starts even before a study begins, as soon as the funding source is determined. If it’s an industry-funded study, the results are likely to overwhelmingly favor industry. And if they don’t, confidentiality agreements typically have been signed that prevent the research from ever seeing the light of day.

What this means is that even if you scour the scientific literature to determine what the consensus is on any given health topic, what you’ll find is an overwhelming preponderance of data in favor of the industry that in no way, shape or form reflects the reality of what the empirical results of the scientific investigation that went into that specific product actually revealed. “No Risk Found” might be the message, when significant risk was found.

Havas notes research by Dr. Henry Lai, a University of Washington scientist in cellular and molecular engineering, who reviewed 85 papers on the DNA-damaging effects of the type of microwave radiation that comes from cell phones. Seventy-five percent of the studies that showed no genotoxic effects were funded by the wireless industry or the military, while 80 percent of those that showed a connection were not.

In reality, only university researchers who are not beholden to industry funding are technically “free” to share and report their science, but even then, many are harassed if they attempt to do so. As TIME reported:…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Daily Wages for Women in Italy 28% Less Than for Men

Highest daily earnings in northwest of country

(ANSA) — Rome, December 18 — Men and women in Italy continued to earn significantly different amounts in 2011 according the the annual report on social cohesion presented by the Italian statistics agency Istat on Tuesday. Last year workers — with the exception of domestic workers — earned an average of 85.80 euros a day, the study said.

However, there was a 28% difference between average men’s and women’s wages, respectively at 96.90 euros and 69.50 euros per day.

The highest daily earnings were to be found in the northwest of the country, with an average for men and women of 93.90 euros, and the lowest in the south, at 73.20 euros, and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia at 71.90 euros. Wages varied hugely according to age group, with those under 24 earning around half as much as workers over 50 years old, and according to qualification, with managers earning on average around four times as much as apprentices.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Campania Councillor Arrested for Suspected Embezzlement

Regional probe latest in series of fund scandals

(ANSA) — Naples, December 20 — Naples police arrested Campania Regional Councillor Massimo Ianniciello, a member of the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party, Thursday for suspected embezzlement of public funds.

The regional offices are being searched by finance police and investigators are also probing the alleged involvement both an ex-regional councillor and local party treasurer.

The arrest is the latest in a series of public-funds scandals that have hit regional and local governments involving parties across the political spectrum.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: One-Year Jail Term Requested for Berlusconi for Wiretap Case

Opponent’s phone conversation was published in brother’s paper

(ANSA) — Milan, December 20 — A Milan prosecutor on Thursday requested ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi be sent to prison for one-year for involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap in his brother Paolo’s conservative newspaper Il Giornale. The prosecutor requested a jail term of three years and three months for Paolo Berlusconi. The wiretap concerned a conversation in 2005 between a political opponent, Piero Fassino, the head of the former centre-left Democratic Left (DS) party, and Giovanni Consorte, the former chairman of Unipol, an association of insurers historically linked to the DS, the heir to Italy’s Communist Party.

At the time Unipol came close to taking over one of Italy’s leading banks, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), and Fassino was recorded as saying “we have a bank!”.

Fassino, now mayor of Turin, was widely criticised for the comment, especially among the rank and file of the DS, which has since turned into a larger centre-left group, the Democratic Party.

Before being indicted, Berlusconi told a Milan court that he had never heard the wiretap, adding “otherwise I would have remembered”.

Earlier this year Berlusconi, who is set to stand for a fourth term as premier as the candidate for his centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party, was sentenced to four years in jail in relation to tax fraud in the trading of film rights for TV broadcasts by his Mediaset media empire.

His appeal against that sentence, which also banned him from holding public office for five years, is set to start in March.

In Italy convictions for non-violent crimes do not usually become effective until the double appeals process has been exhausted.

Due to a 2006 amnesty law, Berlusconi will not have to serve three of the four years of that jail sentence if the ruling is upheld.

Berlusconi is also on trial for allegedly having sex with an underage alleged prostitute nicknamed Ruby during his third stint as premier and and using his position to allegedly try to hush it up.

In the ongoing and several other previous trials, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly left-wing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons.

Berlusconi has been tried some 30 times but has only been convicted three times — verdicts that were either timed out or overturned on appeal — prior to the Mediaset fraud verdict.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Extra 37 Councillors Being Probed in Lombardy Investigation

Total being probed for misuse of public funds is now 62

(ANSA) — Milan, December 20 — An additional 37 regional councillors have been placed under investigation in Milan, adding to the many already being probed as part of an expenses investigation being carried out by local magistrates.

The total number of people under investigation is 62.

Prosecutors on December 14 had started probing dozens of other regional politicians for alleged misuse of public funds.

The investigation follows a series of corruption probes that led Governor Roberto Formigoni to dissolve his executive in October. Formigoni is suspected of wrongdoing related to health-sector contracts in one of those cases. He denies any wrongdoing. The suspects could face charges of embezzlement over the alleged misappropriation of party funds, including for personal use. One councillor is reported to have spent 750 euros on ammunition for hunting.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Apparently Tory Backbenchers Rather Than the Tory Leadership Are Responsible for the Party’s Difficulties

by Tim Montgomerie

It’s blame-and-bash-b-b-b-b-backbenchers week on Fleet Street. Matthew Parris kicked it off last Saturday with his attack (£) on the “spittle-flecked” “Rabid Right”. Ian Birrell joined in in yesterday’s Evening Standard. And in today’s Telegraph Peter Oborne throws his keyboard at lots of Tory MPs with surnames beginning with ‘B’…

“The backbench rebels (an unfeasibly large number of whom have surnames which begin with the letter B — Binley, Bray, Burns, Baker, Baron, Bingham, Bone, Bridgen, Burley, Bebb, Blackman, Blackwood, Brady, Brazier, Brine, Byles) appear to have fallen for the illusion that if only the Conservatives move sharply to the Right before the next election, all will be well and a tremendous victory will be won.”

In reality a good number of Mr Oborne’s Bs are largely very loyal to the Tory leadership but it’s not so much fun to let facts get in the way of a bit of alliteration…

[Reader comment by Beverly on 20 December 2012 at about 10 am.]

While any preacher of hate remains resident in this country, housed by us, re-housed by us out of our taxes, with a family supported by us, there is nothing much to say about backbenchers. Just one example of helpless disdain inflicted on our people.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron Deserves Better Than This Ghastly Backbench B-Team

by Peter Oborne

The Tory leader David Cameron can do nothing to satisfy his selfish MPs. The only winner is Ed Miliband

Last Christmas, the outlook was rosy for David Cameron. He ranked highly at the polls. It was widely assumed that he would be re-elected. Almost everyone agreed that Labour’s Ed Miliband was useless. This year, everything changed — starting with the Budget in March. The Coalition has started to disintegrate. Mr Miliband now looks likely to become the next prime minister, while authority is draining away from Mr Cameron. He has suffered two massive Commons defeats, thanks to mutiny by his own party. There is even some talk of a Tory leadership contest…

[Reader comment by allotment on 20 December 2012 at about 10 am.]

Maybe Dave does not deserve us, the English people. Maybe we are just too stupid & racist for such a well intentioned Liberal Gentleman. Maybe that is why he is continuing with Labour’s plan to eliminate us & replace us with good god fearing muslims

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Eric Pickles Tells Councils to Stop Spending Money on Expensive Leadership Courses

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has called for councils to stop spending money on expensive leadership courses at a time when frontline services are stretched.

The advice was contained in a booklet, 50 Ways to Save, which features ideas from Mr Pickles on how to make deeper cuts without affecting public services, a newspaper reported. It singled out courses run by Common Purpose, a charity which encourages networking among its graduates and has been described by critics as “the Left’s version of the old boys’ network”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims in East End Hold Xmas Party-for Their Christian Neighbours

Hundreds of council tenants have kicked off the festive season in London’s multi-cultural East End by celebrating a faith that’s not their own.

The local authority’s housing wing, Tower Hamlets Homes, asked families on housing estates in Bethnal Green and Wapping to help organise parties to improve interfaith understanding. Groups run by non-Muslims organised three Eid parties earlier this year, with residents from all backgrounds joining in. Muslim groups returned the invitation this week with Christmas celebrations, when the Dorset Community Association in Wapping held a joint event with Bethnal Green’s Columbia Tenants’ Association. Youth worker Angela Brown, who held the shindig in Wapping, said: “We had 200 children and their families joining Santa which made it a Christmas to remember.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Mr Cameron Must Not Pander to the Shrill Voices on the Right and Remember UKIP is Still a Party of Pub Bores

by Ian Birrell

Despite Ukip’s recent surge in the polls, its simplistic policies would be a blind alley for the modern Tory party.

Nick Clegg has made a lot of noise this week, celebrating his fifth anniversary as Liberal Democrat leader with a defiant defence of his record in government. For all his fine words, all he really achieved was to underline again the painful tragedy of ensnarement in the trap of coalition, his unloved party slowly bleeding away in front of an uncaring electorate. Meanwhile, David Cameron notched up seven years at the helm of the Conservatives. Unlike his deputy he did not make a fuss about the anniversary, for he too displays the deep wounds of coalition politics. Latest polling puts his party at just 29 per cent in the polls, the lowest level under his leadership…

[Reader comment by pub bore on 19 December 2012 at about 11 pm.]

This is a very poorly thought out article. UKIP are becoming ever more popular, yet apparently the subjects they major on — immigration, crime, the EU — are not important to voters, when they are asked, according to Mr Birrell. Interestingly, there are two articles in the same paper today which state that Homeless Link workers “are increasingly meeting Eastern European migrants who have no recourse to benefits”, and another describing how the West End has seen “a major influx of Romanian gangs” and that the Met Police have put up signs in Romanian warning these people off hot spots like Oxford Street. Disgruntled elderly pub bores like myself are not fearful of the future, as Mr Birrell states, but, rather, in despair about the recent past — our country has changed enormously and let’s hope the next generation can cope with concerns about integration, housing, and social deprivation that this generation of politicians have decided we must endure.

[JP note: See also Birrell’s recent article on why we have nothing to fear from Muslims for the fulsome flavour of his modern thought. http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/ian-birrell-we-have-nothing-to-fear-from-our-muslim-citizens-8405793.html ]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Makes Donation to Met Police’s Leyton Custody Centre

A MOSQUE has donated prayer mats and copies of the Qur’an to police for the use of suspects detained at the Met’s custody centre in Leyton. It is part of efforts by police and Muslim leaders to improve their relations in Waltham Forest. The donation was made by management at Noor Ul Islam Mosque in Leyton High Road, which is close to the custody centre in Hainault Road. Noor Ul Islam Chairman Yusuf Hansa said: “Noor Ul Islam is committed to building a positive relationship with other agencies especially the Police Service to improve the community…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Scheme Hailed a Success

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has visited around 1,000 mosque members in the Wardleworth area over the past couple of months. Community Safety Advisors (CSAs) have been using Friday Prayers to highlight to the community the importance of working smoke alarms and Home Safety Checks (HSC). The campaign — which has been running since September — has now concluded and more than 150 HSCs have been completed, with many more arranged, as a direct result of the initiative. Staff also visited homes in the streets surrounding the mosques offering free HSCs to residents and encouraging people to swap their chip pans for deep fat fryers — and 35 chip pan exchanges were carried out…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Row Over Brighton and Hove Council Prayers

It was introduced as a way to promote harmony, respect and be inclusive of all religions, but councillors have claimed they were “concerned and baffled” when Islamic prayers were sung before a town hall meeting. All elected members on Brighton and Hove City Council are invited to bow their heads before meetings of the full council. Usually prayers are led by a Church of England priest. For the first time, mayor Bill Randall has invited religious leaders from other faiths to lead the moment of reflection. After an imam delivered a prayer in Arabic in the council chamber last week, independent councillor Christina Summers said she felt it was “exclusive”. Last night some questioned her commitment to diversity in the city, which according to most recent census figures has 6,095 Muslims…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: What Does it Take to Get Jailed? Father Who Abused and Punched a Headmistress Only Has to Pay £100 as Thief With 9,000 Victims Walks Free

A thug who launched a violent assault on a headmistress when she told off his son for racial abuse walked free from court yesterday.

Paul Stratford punched and swore at Zita McCormick after she told him his eight-year-old son Brendan would be excluded for a day.

Flanked by colleagues, the teacher told the 31-year-old to calm down. Instead he made for her, punching her and pushing her backward.

Despite the gravity of the offence, magistrates decided to impose only a community sentence, telling Stratford to pay his victim £100. In another astonishing case yesterday, a Romanian thief who ran a £3million cashpoint scam with 9,000 victims also escaped jail.

Leonid Rotaru was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence.

Last night, an education expert said law and order seemed to have ‘gone out of the window’. Another said Stratford, who already had a conviction for violence, should have been jailed to deter others from attacking teachers.

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian President to Visit Washington in February 2013

CAIRO, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) — Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is scheduled to pay a visit to the United States next February, official news agency MENA quoted Wednesday one of Morsi’s assistants as saying. “President Morsi was invited to visit the United States on Dec. 17, but he had to apologize due to the current circumstances the country is going through, and it was agreed that he would visit America next February,” said Essam al-Haddad, Morsi’s assistant for foreign affairs. Haddad said that post-unrest Egypt was no longer treating the United States as superior. “No one can deny the United States is a big power, but Egypt is also a big regional power with a great status, history and people, “ he added.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Brotherhood, Salafis Call for Mass Protest in Alexandria

The Muslim Brotherhood and several Salafi parties on Wednesday declared their intention to stage a million-man demonstration in front of Alexandria’s al-Qaed Ibrahim mosque next Friday. The demonstration comes in response to what they called the trespassing of “the Popular Current and the Constitution Party militias” on the mosque and the besieging of Sheikh Ahmed al-Mahallawy inside the mosque last Friday…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Jihadi Leader to Christians: Convert to Islam or Die

Says their women, daughters may legitimately be regarded as wives of Muslims

(YNetNews) Jihadi leader Ahmad Al Baghdadi Al Hassani referred to Christians as polytheists and “friends of the Zionists.”

In a recent Egyptian TV address, the extremist leader stressed that Christians must choose “Islam or death,” while their women and daughters may legitimately be regarded as wives of Muslims.

[Return to headlines]

The Wretched Absurdity of the Benghazi Report

Only if this report was written with the blood of the dead Americans could it be more insulting to their memory, their families and to the intelligence of the American public.

Under the cover of the Newtown school shooting, an “independent” five member investigative panel quietly released an unclassified, 39-page report Tuesday night, detailing their findings of the attack that led to the murder of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. The report cites five main reasons for the loss of life, all primarily related to inadequate security for U.S. personnel. However, the independent panel found that no “U.S. Government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities, and, therefore, did not find reasonable cause to believe that an individual breached his or her duty so as to be the subject of a recommendation for disciplinary action.” Stated another way, no one is to blame nor will be held accountable for the murders of Americans Sean Smith, Glen Dougherty, Tyrone Woods, and Ambassador Chris Stevens, so just continue with your business.

The report was released in advance of closed-door congressional testimony scheduled for today by two senior panel members, retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also scheduled to testify this week, but has declined to do so as a result of her recent fainting spell. Others are unavailable to testify or have not been asked, which is a common tactic when the outcome of an investigation is fixed from the beginning, and this, based on an extensive review of all available evidence, most certainly was.

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Settlements Leave U.S. Odd Man Out at U.N. Security Council

(Reuters) — In a rare move on Wednesday, all but one of the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council made statements at the United Nations opposing Israeli plans to expand Jewish settlements around Jerusalem after the United States repeatedly blocked attempts to take stronger action.

India’s U.N. ambassador, Hardeep Singh Puri, described the four separate statements — made by the eight council members from the Non-Aligned Movement, the four European members, Russia and China — as a “Plan B” after it was clear the United States, was likely to veto a legally binding resolution on the issue…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

US Condemns ‘Provocative’ Israel Settlement Building

The Obama administration called Israel’s settlement-building programme “provocative” and a threat to peace in one of its harshest condemnations yet of Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy.

Israel rebuffed the criticism however, by announcing plans for 3,600 homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank on land claimed as part of a future Palestinian state. Plans for a new 2,600-home development in Givat Hamatos — the first new settlement approved in east Jerusalem for 15 years — were given the go-ahead. Permission was also given for another 1,048 houses in several existing settlements. It was the latest in a spate of decisions to expand settlements on the Palestinian side of the of the pre-1967 “green line” border since last month’s United Nations vote granting de facto recognition to Palestinian statehood.

On Monday, approval was given to build 1,500 homes in another east Jerusalem neighbourhood, Ramat Shlomo. The project had earlier been shelved after it provoked a diplomatic crisis with Washington when it was first announced during a visit of US vice-president Joe Biden to Israel in 2010. Its revival prompted the state department to accuse Mr Netanyahu’s government of sabotaging the chances of a peace agreement…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Al Qaeda Grows Powerful in Syria as Endgame Nears

Having seen its star wane in Iraq, al Qaeda has staged a comeback in neighbouring Syria, posing a dilemma for the opposition fighting to remove President Bashar al-Assad and making the West balk at military backing for the revolt.

The rise of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, which the United States designated a terrorist organisation last week, could usher in a long and deadly confrontation with the West, and perhaps Israel.

Inside Syria, the group is exploiting a widening sectarian rift to recruit Sunnis who saw themselves as disenfranchised by Assad’s Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam that dominates Syria’s power and security structures.

[Return to headlines]

Did Israel’s Air Force Strike Hezbollah Chemical Weapons Sites?

According to a recent Algemeiner report, in both October and late December 2012, there were mysterious explosions at Hezbollah arms depots in Baalbek and South Lebanon. The Kuwaiti website al Jaridi reported that Israel may have bombed the Southern Lebanon site because “Syria had transferred missiles there that were capable of being equipped with chemical warheads. The missiles had been moved into Lebanon from Syria in the last several months.” David Ignatius writing in the Washington Post earlier this week noted the threat of these unconventional weapons transfers from Syria to Iranian proxy Hezbollah: What should we make of these reports? First, the Syrian chemical-warfare capability may be even more dangerous than people had thought, because the weapons can be moved to other locations and mixed en route. And, second, there’s a significant risk of proliferation to other groups, such as Hezbollah, which could pose a global terrorist threat. Israel Hayom today had this comment from the chief of Israel’s Air Force, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel:…

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Iran’s Middle East Neighbours ‘Would Not Join a Nuclear Arms Race’

Iran’s Middle East rivals have nothing to gain from a nuclear arms race triggered by the Islamic Republic acquiring a nuclear bomb and could be stopped from going nuclear by Western pressure, new research claims.

The assumption that states such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt would hastily push to acquire a nuclear deterrent if Iran emerged as an atomic weapons power has underpinned diplomatic efforts to stop Tehran’s nuclear programme. But Looking Beyond a Nuclear Iran, a new paper from Centre for Science and Security Studies at Kings College London, claims that all three states are in no position to unilaterally acquire nuclear weapons

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Jihadist Leaders of Obama-Backed Libyan Rebellion Fought Against U.S. In Iraq

The special Accountability Review Board that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set up to investigate the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, says that among the leaders of the 2011 Libyan revolution that President Barack Obama backed with U.S. military force—but without congressional authorization—were Benghazi-based jihadists who had fought against the United States in Iraq.

The report describes post-revoluationary Benghazi as a “a lawless town … in reality run by a diverse group of local Islamist militias” that had a long history of violent antagonism toward the United States.

“Jihadis from Benghazi engaged in Afghanistan against the Soviets and took up arms against U.S. forces in the post-2003 Iraq insurgency,” says the report. “Many of them reemerged in 2011 as leaders of anti-Qaddafi militias in eastern Libya.”

“Benghazi, the largest city and historical power center in eastern Libya, was the launching point for the uprising against Qaddafi and a long time nexus of anti-regime activism,” says the report.

[Return to headlines]

Kuwait: One Held in Pro-Assad Rally

Syrian hurt in fight

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 19: A group of Syrian nationals on five vehicles organized a rally in support of Bashar Al-Assad recently on Damascus Street. One among the participants were arrested. According to security sources, the suspects were seen holding the Syrian national flag and pictures of Bashar Al-Assad and shouting slogans against the Free Syria Army. A group of passersby threw stones at them in protest against their slogans…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Kuwait: Hunt for Mom as Baby Dumped Near Mosque

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 19: Police are looking for an unidentified mother for allegedly dumping her new-born baby in front of a mosque in Al-Rai, reports Al-Rai daily. Worshippers alerted the Operations Department of the Ministry of Interior after they found the baby wrapped in cloth. Police have handed over the baby to the Farwaniya Hospital.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Syria: Belluomo Kidnappers Demand €530,000 Ransom

Russia cooperating to secure release of all 3 hostages

(ANSAmed) — MOSCOW, DECEMBER 20 — The kidnappers of Italian engineer Mario Belluomo and two of his Russian colleagues in Syria have demanded a 530,000 euro ransom for their freedom, according to sources quoted Thursday in Russian newspaper Kommersant.

On Tuesday Russia’s foreign ministry discussed the ransom — made to Hmisho, the private steel company where the three are employed. “It’s around 50 million Syrian pounds” a source told Kommersant. “Moscow is cooperating with major Western countries including Italy and the United States to secure the release of the engineers abducted by a Syrian rebel group”, the newspaper added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Incest to be Defined as Crime, Minister Says

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 20 — The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Family and Social Policy are working together to have incest defined as a sexual abuse crime in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), with a prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, as WB website reports. The TCK does not currently include a separate definition of incest, and this has proven to be a problem in every phase of legal processes concerning such cases. Consequently, there is no system to prevent incest or protect the victims of incestuous relationships. Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Sahin met with representatives of nongovernmental organizations on Tuesday to discuss the matter, according to the Haberturk daily. The announcement to define incest as a crime under the TCK was made by Sahin in response to criticism that parents who sexually abuse children receive minor punishment because incest itself is not currently punishable by law. The new regulation seeks to change Articles 103, 104 and 105 of the TCK to define incest as a crime. Data released by the Gazi University Child Protection Center revealed 498 cases of the rape or sexual abuse of minors reported to just one child protection center in Ankara this year. Of these cases, 332 were defined as sexual abuse, with 71 perpetrators claimed to be the biological fathers and 48 to be the biological mothers of the victims. According to data released by the National Police Department recently, around 400,000 children have been sexually abused by family members in the last 20 years. Statistics released as part of a collaborative effort by a number of civil society organizations in Turkey in 2009 suggest that 4% of all children in Turkey have been subjected to sexual abuse, with 70% of the victims younger than 10. The biggest risk faced by children who run away and live on the streets is sexual exploitation. Additionally, many children kidnapped in the southeastern provinces are forced into prostitution in western Turkey.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UN: Violence Escalating in Syria, Rebels Must Not be Armed

Conflict has become ethnic, politics only viable solution

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 20 — “The war in Syria has brought untold destruction and suffering to civilians. Warring parties have become increasingly violent and unpredictable and they increasingly flout international laws. The only way to stop the conflict is via a political solution and by not giving weapons”, a UN commission inquiry into Syria has found. The inquiry continued: “the conflict in Syria, which is nearing the end of its second year, has become increasingly divided along ethnic lines between Alawites and Sunnis, with other ethnic minorities forced to take up arms to defend themselves, and with many fighters coming from other countries”.

The latest report from the inquiry covers the period from 28 September — 16 December 2012 and was compiled without entering the country from more than 1,200 witness and victim statements.

“A military solution to the conflict in Syria doesn’t exist and it won’t end with the continued use of arms”, president of the commission inquiry Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Four Police Poisoned, Shot Dead in Southern Afghanistan

KANDAHAR — Four Afghan policemen were shot dead and three wounded after being poisoned by a colleague in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said.

The attack happened in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province and is the latest in a series of insider attacks by Afghan security forces on their local and foreign colleagues.”There were eight border police in Shero area check post, one of them poisoned the others’ food and then shot them,” provincial spokesman Jawid Faysal told AFP…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Malaysia Removes Restrictions on Christian Pilgrims to Holy Land

The ceiling on the number of pilgrims is removed; it was 700. The number of days is extended to 21 days from 7. Before, each Church could only bring f 40 people. For Catholic priest, the change brings happiness ahead of the festivity.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agenzie) — Malaysian authorities have lifted quotas and other restrictions on Christians who want to travel to Israel and the Holy Land. The decision was taken in November but was made public only as applications for travel to Jerusalem went up. It comes after a long feud between the government and minority Christians and might affect next year’s election.

Predominantly Muslim Malaysia bars travel to Israel but the government has previously allowed Christians to travel to the historic city regarded as holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

According to the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the government imposed a quota of 700 pilgrims per year, with any one church only allowed to send a group of 40.

But a letter sent from Prime Minister Najib Razak’s office to CFM president Ng Moon Hing on 28 November said these limits no longer applied save that visits could be for a maximum 21 days.

Following the controversy over the use of Allah also for the Christian God, a case decided in Christians’ favour in court, Malaysia’s Christian minority has had to face a period of difficulties, tensions and violence, including attacks against its churches and buildings.

With restrictions gone, some peace of mind has come to them on the eve of Christmas celebrations.

“We are grateful we can once again go to worship in the Holy Land,” said Fr Lawrence Andrew, former Herald Malaysia editor of Malaysia’s only Catholic weekly.

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

Far East

China: A Splendid Mosque, A School for Muslims

Originally built in the 14th century, Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque, the largest mosque in Lanzhou, northwest China’s Gansu province is much more than a place of worship. In addition to welcoming almost 4,000 Muslims to Jumu’ah, a congregational prayer that Muslims hold every Friday afternoon; it is also a school providing both higher and primary education for Muslim girls and for cultivating male Muslim clerics and talents. As the city’s first religious girls’ school, it consists of more than 400 faculty members, including 16 female teachers. The school enrolls women from teenagers to middle-aged alike and customizes their courses, said Ma Zhong, Imam of the Lanzhou Xiguan Mosque in an interview with reporters from China Radio International…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Chinese Universities Urged to Fight Back Against Foreign Religion

Chinese leaders have urged universities to fight back against a foreign “plot” to use religion to “westernise and divide” their country.

In an official directive, apparently distributed last year by officials from China’s powerful Central Committee and leaked to a US-based Christian group, the government compares foreigners preaching religion in China to a “disease” that must be treated.

Universities must give “absolutely no opportunity for foreign use of religion to infiltrate” their campuses, it says.

“With China’s rapid economic and social development and the steady growth of China’s comprehensive national strength, the US-led Western countries are ceaselessly increasing the intensity of their containment of China,” reads one section of the 16-page document in a translation published by the Washington Post.

“Foreign hostile forces have put even greater emphasis [on] using religion to infiltrate China to carry out their political plot to westernise and divide China.” Chinese students are being “lured into taking part” in religious activities and “forceful measures” are required to counter this “plot”, the document claims.

[Return to headlines]

Criticism in China of Failure to Report Vicious School Attack on Same Day as Newtown Massacre

Chinese state media’s failure to properly report an attack on a school in central China — on the same day as last week’s Newtown massacre in Connecticut — is sparking online criticism of official media, with commentators asking why the lives and well-being of Chinese children did not merit prominent coverage.

State news outlets gave extensive coverage of the Newtown shooting on December 14, but hardly referred to a crazed attacker’s rampage at a school in Henan the same day, in which 23 children were hurt.

“On the same day as the US shooting, 23 children were slashed at the school in Henan, but mainstream media were virtually mute on this. Are the lives of Chinese children worthless to them?” Reuters quoted one blogger as protesting, in what it said was one of many such posts.

It said that China Digital Times, a website following social and political developments in China and run by the University of California, was reporting that the Chinese government’s central propaganda department ordered all official media to downplay the Henan attack.

[Return to headlines]

MPRP Decides to Remain in Mongolian Coalition Gov’t

ULAN BATOR, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) — Gankhuyag Shiilegdamba, secretary general of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, says the MPRP has decided to remain in the country’s coalition government. Shiilegdamba said Wednesday that the MPRP’s executive bureau has decided to cancel a previous decision to withdraw from the coalition to maintain its stability, and to curb social injustice from within the government…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia You Are So Totally Gay

by James Delingpole

I mean “gay”, of course, in the offensive, playground, politically incorrect sense of the word. As in: “Your Dad’s car is totally gay.” Or: “That shark was so gay he didn’t even manage to take your whole leg off.” This is the kind of usage that would you have you arrested in Australia these days, such is the gag-making political correctness of the land they once called the Lucky Country but which now ought more properly to be named the Haringey of the Southern Hemisphere…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Police Hunt Woman Who Racially Attacked Two Indian Women on Melbourne Bus

POLICE are searching for a woman following a racial attack on two Indian women in Melbourne’s CBD.

The mystery woman, believed to be in her 30s, threatened the two women — both aged in their 20s — and slapped one across the face after they got off the bus at the corner of Queen and Collins streets.

Police said the incident was sparked after one of the victims accidentally bumped her bag into the attacker when getting on the Bay Street bus in Port Melbourne at 12.30pm on December 12.

She turned to apologise but the woman launched a racist verbal attack on her.

After continued abuse the victims left the bus but were followed by the angry woman and a friend.

The attacker slapped one woman across the face and knocked a phone from the hand of the other victim, who was trying to call police.

As the phone smashed on the ground, the attacker warned the two women not to call police before fleeing in a taxi.

Police have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

The offender is described as being about 160cm tall, of a very solid build, with short, spiky blonde hair. She was wearing three-quarter length blue pants and a black, short-sleeved T-shirt with Burberry written on the front.

The offender’s friend was also believed to be in her 30s, Caucasian, about 162cm tall, of a small, skinny build with dull blonde hair tied into a ponytail.

She was wearing a white collarless shirt and a black skirt below her knees.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit their website at www.crimestoppers.com.au

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ghana: Port Authorities Release Argentine Ship

ACCRA, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) — The Argentine naval vessel -ARA Libertad — detained at the Tema Port since October has finally been released, Ghanaian port authorities confirmed to Xinhua on Wednesday. Director for the port of Tema Jacob Adorkor told Xinhua via telephone that the vessel sailed out of the Ghanaian port at 4:20 p.m. on the orders of the shipping agent, Map Shipping Limited. The naval training vessel, which arrived in Tema on Oct. 1 on a goodwill mission to train Ghanaian naval personnel, was impounded on the orders of a High Court over unpaid debts…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Ghana: Muslims Must Pursue Peace — Chief Imam

The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Dr. Osmanu Nuhu Sharabutu on Wednesday urged Ghanaians, especially Muslims to pursue the cause of peace and ensure fellow-feeling to all manner of people. He said Muslims should also be steadfast in their prayers and promote peace in whatever conditions they found themselves…

[JP note: Fine words butter no parsnips.]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

In Sierra Leone, Usu Boie Constructs New Mosque in Kaningo

A senior political figure in the All People’s Congress (APC) party, Alhaji Usman Boie Kamara has constructed and commissioned a new Mosque at the Kaningo Community in Lumley, Freetown. Hundreds of Muslims and community elders at the weekend assembled at the newly constructed Masjid (Mosque) to thank Alhaji Boie Kamara for his gesture to Muslim worshipers in that part of the capital city. The mosque construction project started over a month ago during the visit of Alhaji Usman Boie Kamara to the community where he promised to assist in the construction of a mosque…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Kenya: Police Hold Over 20 in Connection With Nairobi Twin Blasts

NAIROBI, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) — Kenyan police have arrested more than 20 suspects in connection with Wednesday’s twin blasts in which at least two people were injured. Regional police commander Moses Ombati on Thursday said the suspects were arrested in the crackdown on those behind the heinous act near Alamin Mosque in the Somali-dominated Eastleigh. “We will conduct more swoops in Eastleigh to ensure peace returns there. We have launched investigations to establish exactly what is happening there,” Ombati told Xinhua by telephone on Thursday…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Immigration

Kenney Says Screening Immigrants for ‘Islamism’ Not Part of Plan

OTTAWA — Responding to calls from a security expert that Canada needs to better screen prospective immigrants for “Islamism”, Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney says Canada doesn’t build bias into its immigration system. Kenney pointed to several recent changes to the immigration system — including the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act and a biometric screening program that comes into effect Jan. 2 — as improving the screening process. “Whatever kind of extremism it may be, we’ll be in a much better position to ensure that people who may pose a threat to Canada’s security do not get in and if they get here, get removed more quickly,” he said. On Tuesday, the MacDonald-Laurier Institute published an interview with Scott Newark, former Crown prosecutor in Alberta, in which he calls on the Canadian government to do more to keep “Islamists” out…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Security Expert: Canada Should Keep Eye Out for ‘Islamist’ Immigrants

OTTAWA — A security expert says Canada needs to go beyond screening for terrorists landing on our shores and consider the religious beliefs of some prospective immigrants.

Scott Newark says Canada should be concerned about “Islamist” immigrants. Newark served as executive officer of the Canadian Police Association and also worked as a security and policy advisor to both the Ontario and federal Ministers of Public Safety. “We need to think hard about what I would call ‘Islamism’, the political Islam that has absolutely no interest whatsoever in integration, that is intolerant and unyielding and absolutely committed to eradicating Western values,” he said in an interview. Newark says if Canada did a better job screening prospective immigrants, Omar Khadr might not be household name. Canada knew of Omar Khadr’s father’s fundraising activities for al-Qaida, for example, and of his father’s taking his children to spend time with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, Newark says. “But we ignored that,” he said. “And that is contrary to what’s in our own national security interest.” Newark, unsurprisingly, is a fan of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who has made significant changes to the immigration system to keep more undesirables out.

[….]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Shock at CofE School Where Mr Upton Will Return After Christmas as Miss Meadows

It was not your average Christmas newsletter for a Church of England primary school.

Marked ‘staff changes’, it began conventionally enough, informing parents that Mrs Metcalfe was leaving for a new teaching position in Spain.

It explained that ‘Miss Wharmby will be teaching Year 1 full-time’ and that ‘Mrs Kelly will be reducing her hours’.

But the sixth paragraph came as a bit of a shock.

‘Mr Upton has recently made a significant change in his life and will be transitioning to live as a woman,’ it read.

‘After the Christmas break, she will return to work as Miss Meadows.’

It then said the school was ‘proud of our commitment to equality and diversity among our staff and children’.

Yesterday parents at St Mary Magdalen’s Primary School in Accrington, Lancashire, were coming to terms with the fact the popular Year 6 teacher previously known as Nathan Upton — a father-of-one who until recently was married — is now Lucy Meadows.

They told how pupils had been informed that the 32-year-old felt he had been ‘born with a girl’s brain in a boy’s body’.

However some complained that their children were too young to understand how ‘Sir’ could become ‘Miss’ almost overnight and were confused and upset.

Mr Upton married Ruth Smith in 2009 and the couple had a son, now aged three.

He joined the school around the same time and, according to parents, began growing his cropped hair and dying it purple, painting his nails pink and wearing sparkly headbands.

A crayon drawing of Mr Upton by a pupil posted on the school’s website shows him with hair swept back over his shoulders.

‘At first we thought he was just borrowing his wife’s headbands to hold his hair back,’ said one parent.

‘I saw what I thought was Mr Upton dressed as a woman in town one weekend, but I decided I’d imagined it.’

[Return to headlines]

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