News Feed 20130103

Financial Crisis
» American Cities Drown in Debt
» Continent in Crisis: China Overtakes Sluggish Europe in Car Sales
» Crony Capitalist Blowout
» European Stock Markets Fall Amid Concerns Over U.S. Economy
» Italy: Monti Chides PD Leader Bersani Over Employment Reforms
» Italy: Spread on 10-Year Bonds Closes at 283 Basis Points
» Italy: Eurozone Bond Record; Portugal Enjoys a Boom
» Portugal Seeks Court Inquiry Into ‘Unjust’ Debt Deal
» President Obama Continues to Drive America Towards European-Style Decline
» Red Cross to Help Southern Europe Amid Euro Crisis
 
USA
» Al Jazeera Buys Current TV, Aims to ‘Conquer’ America
» Egyptian Magazine: Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrates Obama Administration
» How Much Longer Can America Afford to be the World’s Policeman?
» Python Purge: Florida Contest Turns Public Loose in Everglades
 
Europe and the EU
» Boeing Soars Past Airbus in Deliveries
» Career Criminality Drains Millions From Sweden
» France: ‘Comic Bio’ of Muhammad Risks Muslim Ire
» France: Depardieu: Court Tax Ruling ‘Changes Nothing’
» France: Gaddafi Allegedly Financed Sarkozy Campaign
» Greece: Government Braces for Clash Over ‘Lagarde List’
» Iceland Teen Known Legally as ‘Girl’ Fights for Right to Name
» Italian PM Monti Hits Back at ‘Volatile’ Berlusconi
» Italy: Berlusconi Says He Suffered ‘Monstrous’ Defamation by Courts
» Italy: Berlusconi Says Has ‘Cordial Relations’ With Pope
» Italy: Berlusconi Says Centre Right PDL Could Win
» Italy: Soccer: Milan Friendly Racist Chants Spark Outrage
» Italy: Fiat to Take Chrysler Stake Up to 65.17%
» Monti Tells Italy’s Centre Left to Silence Anti-Reformists
» Scotland: £5m Collection of Islamic Artefacts to Go on First Public Display
» Sweden: Fourfold Jump in Emergency Room Wait
» The Islamization of France in 2012
» UK: Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Cleans Up the Streets of Croydon on New Year’s Day
» UK: Fighting Back Against the Left-Wing Guerrillas
» UK: Mark Pritchard MP: Party Must be a Party of Merit, Not Tokenism
» UK: Mayor Lutfur as Hitler in Downfall parody
» UK: White Working Class Boys Could be Treated Like Ethnic Minorities by Universities, Says Minister
 
North Africa
» Libya: Key Benghazi Suspect Remains at Large
» Tunisia: Support Committee of Ayoub Messoudi Considers His Trial ‘Purely Political Case’
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Israeli Military Court Indicts Mastermind Behind Explosion on Tel Aviv Bus
» Territories: Army-Palestinian Clashes
 
Middle East
» Christians Persecuted This Christmas
» Is Jailed Saudi Dissident Raid Badawi Alive?
» Turkey: Mosque to Distribute Tablet PCs to Children Who Pray
» Turkey: Ex-Army Chief Detained in Postmodern Coup Probe
» UAE: Karama Mosque in Dubai Incorporates Plastic Extruders Heronrib Matting
 
Russia
» Putin Makes Depardieu Russian Citizen
 
South Asia
» Anti-Piracy Marines Return to India Friday
» Danish Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
» India: Muslims to Witness RSS ‘Ekatrikaran’ Programme
» Indonesia City to Ban Women ‘Straddling Motorbikes’
» Iranian MPs Due in Myanmar to Examine Rohingya Muslims’ Situation
» Malaysia: OIC to Address Religious Intolerance Against Muslims
» Pakistan: US Drone Strike Kills Taliban Commander Mullah Nazir
» Pakistan: Bigotry That Kills
» Top Pakistani Militant Commander Killed in US Drone Strike
» Violence Against Women: Despite Progress, A Long Way to Go in Afghanistan
» Why the Rise of ‘Good Taliban’ In Afghanistan Worries India and Iran
 
Far East
» Catastrophic Eruption is Brewing in Japan
» Hong Kong: Mosques Needed in New Territories, Says Islamic Expert
 
Australia — Pacific
» Australian Scientists Discover Deep Sea Corals
» Giant Rubber Duck Swims Through Sydney Harbour
» Suspicious Fire Destroys Melbourne Mosque
» ‘Tsunami Bomb’ Tested Off New Zealand Coast
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Ethiopia: Members of an Al Qaeda-Affiliated Terror Cell Arrested
» Somalia: Roadside Bomb Hits Amisom Patrol in Merka Town
 
Latin America
» Argentina: Argies in Falkland Ads Blast at Britain
» Falkland Islands Row: Argentina’s Understanding of History is ‘Laughable’
 
Immigration
» 45 Migrants Picked Up in Puglia
» Immigrants Flooding Into Ireland Despite Bad Economic Times There
» Italy Grants Public Healthcare to Illegal Immigrant Minors
» Revealed: 3 in 4 of Britain’s Danger Doctors Are Trained Abroad
» Turkish Limbo Pushing Afghan Refugees to EU
» UK: 4,000 Foreign Murderers and Rapists We Can’t Throw Out. . . And, Yes, You Can Blame Human Rights Again
» UK: Councils Refuse to Reveal Number of Homes They Give to Foreigners: Authorities Stop Giving Figures Amid Worries Over Impact of Immigration
 
Culture Wars
» France’s Censorship Demands to Twitter Are More Dangerous Than ‘Hate Speech’
» Italy Hospital Drops ‘Father’ Bracelets for Lesbian Parents
» UK: Archbishop Nichols Ends ‘Soho Masses’ After Six Years
» UK: Are Christians Being Persecuted in Britain?
» UK: Guardian: Paedophiles Are ‘Ordinary Members of Society’ Who Need Moral Support
 
General
» Cloud of Atoms Goes Beyond Absolute Zero

Financial Crisis

American Cities Drown in Debt

San Bernardino, California, has gone from being the birthplace of McDonald’s, one of the world’s most successful companies, to a mound of unpaid debts. It’s a sad example of what a lack of infrastructure investment and an almost religious aversion to higher taxes have done to cities across the United States.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Continent in Crisis: China Overtakes Sluggish Europe in Car Sales

While European consumers spent much of 2012 fretting about the economic crisis, China managed to surpass the Continent in automobile sales for the first time. Given China’s growing middle class, the trend looks set to continue. China will probably outpace Europe in vehicle production this year, too.

It’s no secret that Europe’s automobile industry isn’t exactly booming. Several carmakers on the Continent are struggling as demand has fallen off during the euro crisis, particularly in southern European countries, where austerity programs have taken a bite out of prosperity.

In China, however, more and more cars are flying off the lots. And in 2012, for the first time ever, Chinese consumers purchased more automobiles than did buyers in Europe, according to the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, citing an unpublished report by Germany’s VDA automobile industry association. The report indicates that whereas 13.2 million cars were registered in China in 2012, in Europe, the total fell from the previous year’s 13.6 million to just 12.5 million.

The reasons, of course, are many. On the one hand, China’s middle class continues to swell rapidly, even as the economy there grew more slowly last year than it had in previous years. For the increasing number of those who can afford them, cars offer both greater mobility and an important status symbol.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Crony Capitalist Blowout

A tax increase for everyone but the favored wealthy few

In praising Congress’s huge new tax increase, President Obama said Tuesday that “millionaires and billionaires” will finally “pay their fair share.” That is, unless you are a Nascar track owner, a wind-energy company or the owners of StarKist Tuna, among many others who managed to get their taxes reduced in Congress’s New Year celebration.

There’s plenty to lament about the capital and income tax hikes, but the bill’s seedier underside is the $40 billion or so in tax payoffs to every crony capitalist and special pleader with a lobbyist worth his million-dollar salary. Congress and the White House want everyone to ignore this corporate-welfare blowout, so allow us to shine a light on the merriment…

           — Hat tip: DS [Return to headlines]

European Stock Markets Fall Amid Concerns Over U.S. Economy

Investors worry budget deal won’t resolve us fiscal deficit

(ANSA) — Milan, January 3 — Markets fell across Europe on Thursday amid concerns a recent budget accord reached in the US will fail to address the fiscal deficit of the world’s largest economy.

Milan’s FTSE MIB index and London’s Ftse-100 stock market index bucked the trend.

The yield spread between 10-year Italian bonds and the German benchmark one, a barometer of Italy’s borrowing costs in the eurozone crisis, closed at 275 points, the lowest since August 2011. Italian 10-year bond yields were at 4.2%.

The Frankfurt Dax bourse dropped 0.3% at 7,756 , while the Paris Cac 40 Index fell 0.3% to 3,721 points. Madrid’s Ibex index declined 0.5% to 8,403 points.

London’s Ftse-100 stock market index rose 0.3% to 6,047 points, while Milan’s FTSE MIB index gained 0.1% to 16,909 points.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Chides PD Leader Bersani Over Employment Reforms

Campaigning premier suggests he favours job creation

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — Outgoing Premier Mario Monti chided political opponent Pier Luigi Bersani over job creation measures Wednesday.

Monti told a radio talk show that although he is in favour of job creation, the position of Bersani and his Democratic Party is harder to understand.

“Bersani says, ‘I’m for reforms to make Italy more competitive and create more jobs’, but it is difficult to understand where he really stands,” Monti said during an election campaign interview on the RAI radio show Radio Anch’io.

In mid-2012, the Monti government was forced to water down its controversial employment reform package — including measures that would make it easier for firms to hire and fire workers — after objections from the PD and Italy’s trade unions.

Early elections were called for February 24-25 after former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s party withdrew its support from Monti’s technocratic government in parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Spread on 10-Year Bonds Closes at 283 Basis Points

Spread between Italian, German bonds closes below Monti’s goal

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — The spread between Italian 10-year bonds and the German benchmark — the key gauge of market confidence in Italy’s ability to pay down its huge debt — closed Wednesday at 283 basis points.

That was just below a landmark policy goal of a 287-point spread set by outgoing premier Mario Monti — a figure exactly half the level of the spread (574) in November 2011, when Monti took over from Silvio Berlusconi.

At that time, Italy was at the centre of the eurozone debt crisis, and confidence in the Italian economy was very low.

At close of trading Wednesday, the yield on 10-year Italian paper fell to 4.27%, its lowest since at least December 2010.

When economist and former European commissioner Monti took the helm from Berlusconi the yield was stuck at the long-term unsustainable mark of 7%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Eurozone Bond Record; Portugal Enjoys a Boom

ECB pumps new life into Italy. 2013 looks promising

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Investors with the courage to bet on Eurozone bond markets can slap themselves on the back: the eurozone sovereign bonds index is up +12%, its biggest spike since the birth of the Euro, and Treasury titles are up 21%. This is the first increase since 2009 and comes on the back of 2011’s “Annus Horribilis”.

Ireland’s bonds rose 29%, and Portugal’s a booming +57%: the biggest increase since 1994. The European Central Bank (ECB) is credited with pumping new life into the Eurozone. But the turning point, analysts unanimously agree, was when ECB President Mario Draghi pledged in July to do “anything it takes” to save the Euro. The subsequent development of an anti-spread shield, as well as banking supervision and budget policies, helped put the brakes on market panic and encouraged investors in the last part of the year to buy up Italian and Eurozone debt. Among these investors were Pacific Investment Management, which manages the largest bond fund in the world, and the financial giant Blackrock whose assets total 3.7 trillion dollars.

Looking ahead, 2013 seems to be fertile ground for buying and selling government securities. Investors are now looking towards the imminent elections in Italy as well as those in Germany in September. Meanwhile the markets await the return of Ireland and Portugal and already seem focused on an antispread shield request from the ECB by Spain. “Madrid will request aid in the first half of the year,” a source at Axa Investment said.

At auction on January 10 12 month treasury bonds for 2013 will go under the hammer, though requirements will be about 20 billion lower than those of 2012, while total gross issuance will be $60 billion lower.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Portugal Seeks Court Inquiry Into ‘Unjust’ Debt Deal

BRUSSELS — Portugal’s President has called into question the viability of his country’s austerity programme.

Cavaco Silva said in his New Year’s speech this week that he would request an inquiry from the country’s top court on whether planned spending cuts as well as a new supertax on pensions above €1,350 a month were constitutional.

He said his country would “honour its international obligations,” even though a negative court ruling could force the government to rewrite its 2013 budget.

He also said “there are well-founded doubts over whether the distribution of sacrifice (in the bailout terms) is just.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

President Obama Continues to Drive America Towards European-Style Decline

by Nile Gardiner

The United States has not gone over the “fiscal cliff”, but it has taken another major step towards EU-style decline. The fiscal cliff deal pushed by President Obama and subsequently ratified by the Senate and House of Representatives (with 151 House Republicans and eight Senators bravely opposing it on principle) raises taxes by roughly $600 billion, without introducing any significant cuts in government spending. Incredibly, for every $1 in spending cuts there are $41 in tax increases…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Red Cross to Help Southern Europe Amid Euro Crisis

The International Committee of the Red Cross plans to adopt a strategy for southern Europe amid the eurozone crisis, director general Yves Daccord has told Danish daily Politiken: “Our analysis is that the next two to four years will be very difficult in Europe. We must stay ready for this.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA

Al Jazeera Buys Current TV, Aims to ‘Conquer’ America

AJ America will be seen in 40 mln homes. Challenge to Cnn, Fox

(ANSAmed) — Rome, JAN 3 — Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera is preparing to conquer America with its latest acquisition — Current TV, the network founded by former US Vice President Al Gore.

It is planned that the network, which will be specifically moulded to an American audience, will be beamed into 40 million households. At present only 4.7 million American households have access to Al Jazeera English. Now, according to AJ’s website, Al Jazeera America — the new brainchild which has headquarters in New York, will start transmitting in 2013.

It will be independent from the international English network and will supply US and world news, of which 60% will be produced in America, and 40% taken from sister provider Al Jazeera English.

Analysts estimate the cost at around 500 million dollars though so far expenditure has remained secret. Al Jazeera already has offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles but plans to expand deep into the American heartland with an ‘all American’ schedule and news feed. The network’s US staff is set to be doubled to 500 and includes journalists and technicians. Although Al Jazeera is already seen by 260 million households in 130 countries its presence is modest in the US. Now the network is pitching itself head to head with mammoth American broadcasters such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox.

“For many years, we understood that we could make a positive contribution to the news and information available in and about the United States and what we are announcing today will help us achieve that goal,” Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera, said in a statement.

“By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the US, as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America” Current TV was founded by Al Gore seven years ago. Despite problems with ratings it has been seen by 60 million US households, according to Current TV research.

Gore and his business partner Current TV Ceo Joel Hyatt said in a statement Wednesday night that “Current Media was built based on a few key goals: To give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling”. “Al Jazeera has the same goals and, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us”, Gore and Hyatt said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egyptian Magazine: Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrates Obama Administration

An Egyptian magazine claims that six American Islamist activists who work with the Obama administration are Muslim Brotherhood operatives who enjoy strong influence over U.S. policy.

The Dec. 22 story published in Egypt’s Rose El-Youssef magazine (read an IPT translation here) suggests the six turned the White House “from a position hostile to Islamic groups and organizations in the world to the largest and most important supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The story is largely unsourced, but its publication is considered significant in raising the issue to Egyptian readers.

The six named people include: Arif Alikhan, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for policy development; Mohammed Elibiary, a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council; Rashad Hussain, the U.S. special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Salam al-Marayati, co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); and Eboo Patel, a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships.

Alikhan is a founder of the World Islamic Organization, which the magazine identifies as a Brotherhood “subsidiary.” It suggests that Alikhan was responsible for the “file of Islamic states” in the White House and that he provides the direct link between the Obama administration and the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

Elibiary, who has endorsed the ideas of radical Muslim Brotherhood luminary Sayyid Qutb, may have leaked secret materials contained in Department of Homeland Security databases, according to the magazine. He, however, denies having any connection with the Brotherhood.

Elibiary also played a role in defining the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy, and the magazine asserts that Elibiary wrote the speech Obama gave when he told former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave power but offers no source or evidence for the claim.

According to Rose El-Youssef, Rashad Hussain maintained close ties with people and groups that it says comprise the Muslim Brotherhood network in America.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

How Much Longer Can America Afford to be the World’s Policeman?

How much do you think it costs the US to maintain its military presence around the world? According to David Vine’s report for Huffington Post, the official figure is surprisingly modest…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Python Purge: Florida Contest Turns Public Loose in Everglades

If you have 30 minutes and $25, and you can make your way to the Everglades, you can be a snake wrangler.

The Sunshine State is hosting a month-long “Python Challenge” beginning Jan.12 with cash prizes of up to $1,500 for the biggest snakes caught. Wildlife officials urge caution, but beyond the online course and the fee, there are no other requirements to hunt down the Burmese pythons, which can reach nearly 18 feet in length and have devastated much of the southern Florida ecosystem.

“Aside from the obvious goal of reducing the Burmese python population in the Everglades, we also hope to educate the public about Burmese pythons in Florida and how people can help limit the impact of this and other invasive species in Florida,” said Carli Segelson, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We are also using the Challenge to gauge the effectiveness of using an incentive-based model as one tool to address a challenging invasive species management problem.

The unorthodox approach is evidence of Florida wildlife officials’ desperation as much as their innovation. Since the Southeast Asian species was introduced to the region by irresponsible pet owners, the population of wild pythons has exploded. Experts believe there could be tens of thousands of the giant snakes living in an 8,000-square-kilometer region of southern Florida. The voracious predators have devastated the native species like deer, bobcats and raccoons.

Just last summer, researchers euthanized the largest python ever found in the Everglades — a 17-foot snake that was carrying nearly 90 eggs — proving that the reptile species has a strong foothold in the Florida swampland.

The commission’s website includes tips on how to identify Burmese pythons — and how to kill them. Recommended methods for dispatching the animals include hacking off their heads with a machete or shooting them with a gun.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Boeing Soars Past Airbus in Deliveries

For the first time in a decade, Boeing has surpassed Airbus in deliveries of passenger jets. Experts blame strategic errors and the influence of politics at the US planemaker’s European competitor.

At the last Farnborough Air Show in Britain in July, Boeing came up with a unique idea. For almost 30 years, the company had always left its passenger planes on the ground at major air evebtss where industry representatives meet. At Farnborough, though, a Boeing 787 with Qatar Airways’ livery droned over spectators’ heads. The performance jibed nicely with Boeing’s overall performance, and the company stole the show from Airbus, securing billions of dollars worth of orders.

In fact, 2012 went so well for Boeing that the American company has now surged ahead of its European rival Airbus in deliveries. According to analysts’ calculations, Boeing now carries the prestigious title of being the world’s largest deliverer of passenger jets. The reason for the success is the 787, or Dreamliner, which had been plagued for years with development and production problems.

With its high share of carbon fiber, particularly in the tail, the 787 was meant to revolutionize aircraft construction. But the first Dreamliners were delivered in 2011, after a three-year delay. Then engine trouble and loose parts on the tail resulted in negative headlines for the company. In December 2012, the American air safety regulatory agency, the FAA, ordered that all US Dreamliners be inspected for fuel leaks.

Now it appears that Boeing has ironed out the initial glitches in its Dreamliner program, though. Between July and September 2012 alone, the company managed to increase its production capacity to deliver 12 of the aircraft. “Boeing has resolved most of the problems it was having with the Dreamliner,” said Heinrich Grossbongardt, an independent German aviation expert, and now the company is working hard to fulfill its long list of orders. Boeing has also increased production capacity on its mid-haul 737 jets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Career Criminality Drains Millions From Sweden

Career criminals cost society so much that the government needs to take youth criminality seriously not only for the individual’s sake but to stem costs, say two economists in a new review.

Ingvar Nilson and Anders Wadeskog used the town of Södertälje, one hour south of Stockholm, for their research because it has in recent years been plagued by criminal networks.

“We confirmed what we suspected, that the costs are enormous, but you can’t see them at once because there are so many different actors involved,” Nilson told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

The review took into account the costs of social services, police and courts costs, and other state-financed safety networks such as social security.

A robbery costs Sweden 226,000 kronor ($35,000)

Assault costs 203,000 kronor.

Aggravated assault, if it leaves the victim with permanent disabilities, can end up with a price tag of 50 million kronor ($7.7 million).

The result of the study, which was commissioned by the anti-youth violence NGO Akta huvudet (Watch Your Head), illustrates the need for more preventative work, the report authors argued.

“The sums of money that now go into preventative work are very modest compared to the costs of crime,” Nilsson said.

He and Wadeskog looked closely at young Swedes, mostly boys, who risk slipping into chronic criminality.

Only in Södertälje, they said, there are 600 boys who risk dabbling in crime. Of them, about 50 may slip into a life of crime.

The researchers calculated that if they do, each one will cost society 80 million kronor ($12.3 million) before they turn 40.

“To put a stop to this when the boys are 10-years old is cheap compared to what they’ll cost later,” Nilson said.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

France: ‘Comic Bio’ of Muhammad Risks Muslim Ire

A French magazine, which sparked international protests and saw its offices firebombed after it printed cartoons mocking Muhammad, on Wednesday published a “halal” cartoon biography of Islam’s founder.

The editor of Charlie Hebdo weekly insists that “The Life of Mohammed”, whose cover shows a goofy-looking prophet leading a camel through the desert, is an educational work prepared by a Franco-Tunisian sociologist.

“It is a biography authorised by Islam since it was edited by Muslims,” said Stéphane Charbonnier, who was also the illustrator of the book which comes complete with academic footnotes.

“I don’t think higher Muslim minds could find anything inappropriate,” said Charbonnier, whose magazine has repeatedly enraged some Muslims with satirical depictions of the prophet, including showing him naked.

He said the idea for the comic book came to him in 2006 when a newspaper in Denmark published cartoons of Mohammed, later republished by Charlie Hebdo, that sparked angry protests across the Muslim world.

“Before having a laugh about a character, it’s better to know him. As much as we know about the life of Jesus, we know nothing about Muhammad,” he told AFP last week.

He said the book was “perfectly halal”, a joking reference to meat that is deemed fit for Muslims to consume.

Despite Charbonnier’s insistence that the book is well-intentioned and inoffensive, the depiction of the Muslim prophet in any visual form is deemed sacrilegious by many Muslims.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France: Depardieu: Court Tax Ruling ‘Changes Nothing’

French film celebrity Gérard Depardieu said a decision by France’s highest court to strike down a 75% tax rate on millionaires would change nothing in his highly publicised decision to relocate to Belgium.

“We should let them talk,” the usually outspoken Depardieu said of politicians who have helped turn the actor’s decision to flee France’s highest tax rate into a heated national debate.

“I don’t care about any of this. This changes nothing,” Depardieu said referring to the high court decision.

The government has vowed to push ahead with the tax rate, which would apply to incomes over a million euros ($1.3 million) a year, and propose a new measure that would conform with the constitution.

The tax rate, due to take effect next year, had angered business leaders and prompted some wealthy French citizens to seek tax exile abroad, including Depardieu, who made his decision known in a vitriolic editorial published earlier this month.

The move to annul the law was welcomed by the French Football League (LFP), which had expressed concern at the impact on top footballers such as Paris Saint Germain’s Swedish star striker Zlatan Ibrahomovic.

LFP chairman Frederic Thiriez said that if the measure had reached the statute books there could have been an “exodus of the best players” in the French league.

The 75 percent tax rate was a flagship promise of the election campaign that saw Hollande defeat right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in May.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France: Gaddafi Allegedly Financed Sarkozy Campaign

50 mln euros before and after elections, arms dealer says

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 2 — The toppled Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi funded the 2007 campaign of former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, Le Parisien daily paper reported Wednesday.

Arms dealer Ziad Takieddine, who is under investigation for alleged kickbacks connected to arms sales to Pakistan and a 2002 attack in which 11 French citizens were killed, told Judge Renaud Van Rymbeke that Gaddafi contributed 50 million euros to the Sarkozy campaign.

This financing continued after Sarkozy was elected, through then-Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who allegedly gave Gaddafi’s personal secretary “the necessary banking coordinates in order to make the payments.” The former Libyan prime minister is willing to prove the transactions took place, Takieddine said. Mediapart news site in April 2011 reported the former Libyan secret service chief as saying that as far back as 2006, Gaddafi had planned to give French presidential candidates up to 50 million euros, which then-candidate Sarkozy denied.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece: Government Braces for Clash Over ‘Lagarde List’

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 3 — The war of words between the Greek coalition government and SYRIZA (radical left) over the alleged doctoring of the ‘Lagarde list’ of over 2,000 Greek depositors with Swiss bank accounts intensified on Wednesday, with government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou accusing the leftist opposition of “political opportunism” and SYRIZA officials suggesting that a parliamentary probe should not be restricted to former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou.

The comments by Kedikoglou, who also accused SYRIZA of “trampling over the fundamentals of rule of law,” came amid rumors that the party’s proposal for the creation of a parliamentary committee would look to the indictment of socialist PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos, who succeeded Papaconstantinou, as well as the latter.

The leftists, who are expected to unveil their proposal tomorrow, are also expected to criticize current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iceland Teen Known Legally as ‘Girl’ Fights for Right to Name

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Call her the girl with no name.

A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means “light breeze” in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

In Blaer’s case, her mother said she learned the name wasn’t on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.

“I had no idea that the name wasn’t on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from,” said Bjork Eidsdottir, adding she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973. This time, the panel turned it down on the grounds that the word Blaer takes a masculine article, despite the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland’s revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness.

Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland that in many other countries: Everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name. Even the president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed simply as Olafur.

Blaer is identified as “Stulka” — or “girl” — on all her official documents, which has led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country’s bureaucracy.

Her mother is hoping that will change with her suit, the first time someone has challenged a names committee decision in court.

Though the law has become more relaxed in recent years — with the name Elvis permitted, inspired by the charismatic rock and roll icon whose name fits Icelandic guidelines — choices like Cara, Carolina, Cesil, and Christa have been rejected outright because the letter “c” is not part of Iceland’s 32-letter alphabet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italian PM Monti Hits Back at ‘Volatile’ Berlusconi

Media magnate accused outgoing premier of lacking credibility

(see related story) (ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti hit back on Thursday after being accused of lacking credibility by his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi.

“Berlusconi has been volatile in both his personal and political affairs recently,” Monti, who is standing to retain office on a reform platform in next month’s general elections, told Rai television.

Berlusconi has alternated of late between furious criticism of Monti and praise for the former European commissioner.

Last month Berlusconi offered to withdraw his bid for a fourth term as premier if Monti agreed to lead a broad centre-right coalition at the elections.

On Wednesday, however, he accused Monti of breaking a vow not to enter the political fray that when he was appointed premier in November 2011 after Berlusconi’s was forced to resign as prime minister by Italy’s debt crisis.

“Monti does not have credibility any more,” Berlusconi said. “He was put at the head of a technocrat government with a promise — he said he would not take advantage of the promotion”.

Berlusconi has also accused Monti’s emergency government of unelected technocrats of being too “German-centric” in pursuing austerity policies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says He Suffered ‘Monstrous’ Defamation by Courts

Milan courts ‘defamed friendship with Ruby’

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — Silvio Berlusconi says he has suffered “monstrous” defamation and character attacks by a Milan court that is hearing charges against the former premier of hiring an underage prostitute.

“It has been a monstrous defamation operation mounted by the Milan court,” to justify a major investigation, Berlusconi told TV station Sky TG24 on Wednesday.

“It has has gone beyond the limits of the possible”.

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

He insisted during the television interview that Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, told him that she was a relative of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Berlusconi has said he interceded with police when Ruby was arrested for shoplifting because he was trying to avoid a diplomatic incident, and it was not an abuse of office.

“It was an invention of the newspapers,” he said. “She (Ruby) told me that she was a daughter of a family close to president Mubarak”. In this case, as in several previous trials, Berlusconi has denied any 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, as previous verdicts were either timed out or overturned on appeal.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says Has ‘Cordial Relations’ With Pope

Monti endorsed by L’Osservatore Romano, not Vatican, says ex-PM

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi boasted Wednesday that he has good relations with Pope Benedict XVI in the latest in a long series of TV appearance ahead of next month’s general elections in Italy. Berlusconi was forced to resign as prime minister in November 2011 when the country’s debt crisis threatened to spiral out of control and his government was replaced by an emergency administration of unelected technocrats led by outgoing Premier Mario Monti.

Several Italian Catholic publications have strongly criticised the media magnate, who has been hit by a series of sex scandals and was given a four-year prison sentence in October in relation to tax fraud in the trading of film rights for TV broadcasts by his Mediaset media empire. But the 76-year-old media magnate said he has a warm relationship with the head of the Church.

“I’ve received telephone calls and made visits to pontiffs,” three-time Italian premier Berlusconi told Sky television.

“There is also absolute devotion on my part with the current pope and absolute cordiality with me on his part”. Berlusconi also said that the recent endorsement of Monti’s bid for office by Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano did not mean the former European commissioner had the backing of the Holy See.

“It wasn’t an endorsement from the Vatican but from L’Osservatore Romano, and that is very different,” Berlusconi said. “We have excellent relations (with the Church). We are liberals and we think there should be freedom of conscience, but we always behaved a certain way with issues regarding the Church in government and we always received praise from the Vatican and the Church”.

Berlusconi said the fact that he had dropped plans to retire from frontline politics to lead the centre-right at the upcoming elections did not necessarily mean he would be the coalition’s premier if they won.

He said coalitions only name a premier candidate after the elections, as well as a candidate to be the next Italian president, a post he is thought to hold ambitions of holding.

He also accused Monti of breaking a vow not to enter the political fray made when the former European commissioner was appointed premier with the backing of Italy’s three biggest mainstream political groups, including Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party. “Monti does not have credibility any more,” he said. “He was put at the head of a technocrat government with a promise — he said he would not take advantage of the promotion. “He promised all the Italian people and now we find him as the leader of a coalition of fellow travellers”. Berlusconi also expressed confidence he could revive the PdL’s long-standing alliance with the Northern League, which ended after Berlusconi’s third government collapsed.

The League were staunch opponents of Monti’s government from the time it took over power, while the PdL backed it until last month.

Northern League leader Roberto Maroni recently told Berlusconi that the alliance would not be resumed if the ex-premier were to run for office again.

“The alliance is in a phase in which the details are being addressed,” Berlusconi said.

“I’m convinced that we will be allied like we were for many years”.

The PdL is behind in the polls and has little chance of winning next month’s elections without the support of the League.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says Centre Right PDL Could Win

(AGI) Rome, Jan. 3 — Silvio Berlusconi said his centre right PDL could win given that it has now risen from 14 percent to over 20 percent in the polls: “We have more than 20%, up from the 14% where we had after I had been silent for a year. To this we should add Ignazio La Russa’s ‘Brothers of Italy’ and then we are already over 22%. We expect to reach 40%.” Berlusconi was talking on Radio Radio. The former Prime Minister said: “We can do it, I believe it.” MONTI? IF I GO ON TV IT’S A SCANDAL, IF HE DOES SO IT ISN’T Silvio Berlusconi commented on Radio Radio about Mario Monti’s presence as a guest on Uno Mattina on Thursday morning: “If he does it, it isn’t a scandal. If he does it, it’s right. If I do it, it’s a scandal.” .

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

Italy: Soccer: Milan Friendly Racist Chants Spark Outrage

FIGC vows action, police identify culprits

(ANSA) — Milan, January 3 — Italian soccer was outraged Thursday when AC Milan’s friendly at fourth-tier side Pro Patria was abandoned after the Serie A giants’ black players were the target of racist chants from home fans.

The match at Busto Arsizio north of Milan was first interrupted and then scrapped altogether after Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini led his teammates off the pitch.

Milan midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng kicked the ball towards fans who were directing abuse at him before the action stopped.

M’Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari were also targeted.

Italian football has been battling racism in the stands for a number of years after several shameful high-profile incidents.

The head of the Italian soccer federation (FIGC), Giancarlo Abete, voiced solidarity with the players and club, calling the incident “an indecent ruckus that offends the whole of the soccer world”.

He also said FIGC prosecutors would be looking into the case.

In a statement, FIGC said: “No sanction or penalty can erase the disdain for an unjustifiable and intolerable episode”.

“We need to react with strength and without silence to isolate the few delinquents that transformed a friendly match into a mess that offends all of Italian football,” it said.

Italian players’ association president Damiano Tommasi applauded Milan’s decision to walk off.

“It was a good signal, even if a sporting event should never be placed in doubt by acts like these,” said the former AS Roma and Italy midfielder.

“Pulling out was the right decision when faced with something like this,” said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri.

“These uncivilised gestures must stop. Italy must improve and become more educated and more intelligent”.

“We promise to return (to replay the game), and we are sorry for the club and players of Pro Patria, but we could not make any other decision. I’m sorry for the families and children who had come here to enjoy a beautiful day. I hope this can be an important signal.” Ambrosini said: “We were annoyed from the beginning. We wanted to give a strong signal…we could not continue the game in an atmosphere like this.” Boateng tweeted “It’s a disgrace that things like this are still happening while star striker Stephan El Shaarawy, also on Twitter, said: “I’m really speechless, it was a shameful afternoon. I’m sorry for the intelligent people present at Busto but it was right to leave”. Barbara Berlusconi, daughter of owner Silvio Berlusconi and a club director, said: “You need zero tolerance for episodes like this.

“Matches must be stopped straight away, even in the (Serie A) championship…You can’t always pretend not to see or hear”.

Pro Patria said the chanters were a “stupid bunch of three or four”, adding it might try to take legal action against them.

Milan, returning from its holiday break, is preparing to play Siena on Sunday.

Meanwhile police from nearby Varese, the provincial capital, said all the offending fans had been identified.

Racism has been a problem in Italian soccer at least since the 1980s, when Milan’s Dutch star Ruud Gullit spoke out against it.

Messina’s Ivory Coast defender Zoro threatened to halt a Serie A game in Italy in November 2005 after suffering racial abuse from visiting Inter Milan supporters. A decade earlier, Aaron Winter, a native of Suriname of Hindustani extraction, was subject to attacks at Lazio involving cries of ‘Niggers and Jews Out’.

The popularity of Italy striker Mario Balotelli spurred hopes racism could be stamped out, at least in the domestic league.

Former Inter Milan forward Balotelli, now at Manchester City, has repeatedly been subjected to racist taunts playing for club or country outside Italy.

Anti-Semitism has also been a recurring problem in the top flight.

In 1989 Israel striker Ronnie Rosenthal, was unable to play even one game for Udinese because of massive pressure from neo-Fascist circles.

Lazio supporters, who include a neo-Fascist hard core, were linked to a brutal assault on Tottenham supporters, a London club with a Jewish heritage, in a Rome pub in November.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat to Take Chrysler Stake Up to 65.17%

Turin carmaker will exercise 3.3% option from VEBA

(ANSA) — Turin, January 3 — Fiat will exercise an option to raise its stake in American carmaker Chrysler by 3.3% to 65.17%, the Turin giant said Thursday.

The second chunk to be taken from Chrysler’s union retirement trust fund trust (VEBA) — after a first 3.3% share acquired in July — will cost $198 million, it said. Fiat took control of Detroit No.3 Chrysler after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 and it has since increased its stake from 20% after meeting a series of performance targets agreed with the American government.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Monti Tells Italy’s Centre Left to Silence Anti-Reformists

Outgoing premier hints at possible post-vote pact with PD

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti on Thursday called on the Democratic Party (PD) to silence the anti-reform elements within its ranks and hinted that an alliance with the centre-left party may be possible if next month’s general elections do not produce a clear winner.

“(PD leader Pier Luigi) Bersani should be brave and silence the conservative part of his party a little,” Monti, who has been at the helm of an emergency technocrat government since November 2011 and is standing to retain office on a reform platform, told Rai television. Monti said his government’s attempts to introduce structural economic reforms had been hampered by opposition from Italy’s biggest trade union confederation, the left-wing CGIL, and from Stefano Fassina, the PD spokesman on economic affairs.

He also mentioned the left-wing SEL party, with which the PD has formed an electoral alliance.

Monti suggested that he might be able to govern with the PD after the elections if the centre-left party dropped its coalition with the SEL. “Cutting off the (extreme) wings is a good thing,” Monti said when asked about a possible post-election pact with Bersani.

“The real contest is between those who want to conserve existing structures and those who want to innovate a little more”. The former European commissioner said a possible name for his election platform could be Con Monti per l’Italia (With Monti for Italy).

He added that he hoped Bersani will present convincing arguments in election campaign but still lose.

Monti also hit back at Fassina’s claim that he would be at the helm of a list of elitist “Rotary Club” candidates.

“I don’t know what the Monti list will be yet. Anyway I’ve always fought against lobbies,” Monti said. “I suggest Fassina updates himself a little”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Scotland: £5m Collection of Islamic Artefacts to Go on First Public Display

Ancient pieces of art that have been hidden from public view for decades are to be shown in a new exhibition.

Bonhams in Edinburgh is about to reveal 650 items worth an estimated £5m which date from the days of the “Silk Road” trade route which once linked Europe and Asia. And in true Indiana Jones fashion, the collection belongs to an anonymous Russian doctor, who has collected the items with his family over the past 30 years…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Fourfold Jump in Emergency Room Wait

Staff shortages and limited work areas have contributed to Malmö Hospital overflowing with patients, with employees declaring the situation a “catastrophe”.

“These conditions could put patients’ lives at risk,” a nurse told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

“It’s a catastrophe,” said another. “We’ve had to fetch beds so the patients don’t have to lie waiting on stretchers.”

The emergency ward of the southern Sweden hospital does not have enough closed-off areas with private bathrooms, nor does it have enough medicine or staff, according to the several nurses who chose not to disclose their names in the paper.

At least one other hospital in the Skåne region is facing similar shortfalls.

The main hospital in the nearby academic town of Lund is also overflowing, in part because several sections of the hospital have been closed off, a nurse told Sydsvenskan.

“The emergency ward has nowhere to put the patients. They are not getting any of the attention they need,” the anonymous nurse told the paper.

The nurse added that over 40 people were left in the waiting room on Tuesday night, compared to the usual number of about ten.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Islamization of France in 2012

by Soeren Kern

Opinion surveys show that to voters in France — home to an estimated 6.5 million Muslims, the largest Muslim population in the European Union — Islam and the question of Muslim immigration have emerged in 2012 as a top-ranked public concern. The French, it seems, are increasingly worried about the establishment of a parallel Muslim society there.

But government efforts this year to push back against the Islamization of France were halting and half-hearted and could be described as “one step forward, two steps back.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Cleans Up the Streets of Croydon on New Year’s Day

More than 50 volunteers took to the streets of Croydon on New Year’s Day to clean up following the winter festivities. On Tuesday, volunteers from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association worked their way across the borough sweeping and litter picking after leaving their early morning prayers at the Croydon Regional Mosque on St James’ Road…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Fighting Back Against the Left-Wing Guerrillas

Foes of public sector reform are waging war at a local level — they must be roundly beaten

Two and a half thousand years ago, the legendary Chinese general, Sun Tzu, developed the first recorded system of guerrilla warfare, involving fast-moving local infiltration and resistance tactics. Many conflicts since have proved its effectiveness, but the model is not limited to military struggles…

[Reader comment by cargill55 on 3 January 2013 at about 10 am.]

Labour increased the public sector from 5 million to 6 million, put left wing placemen in most of the charities and quangoes, insisted on political correctness and multiculturalism infecting the public sector [lots of diversity coordinators around], allowed local councillors to get public sector pensions, allowed public sector workers to do trade union work full time. It is about time the coalition dismantled this oppressive and destructive left wing apparatus within the state.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Mark Pritchard MP: Party Must be a Party of Merit, Not Tokenism

Tory MP Mark Pritchard says it would be misguided if his party’s hierarchy were again tempted to ‘set itself on a collision course with Conservative Associations’ by trying to fast-track ethnic minority candidates.

The Conservative parliamentary party should be more representative of the population. It is good news that in recent years the Conservative Party has made steady progress in increasing the number of its ethnic MPs. In 2005 just two Conservative MPs were from Britain’s ethnic minorities, in 2010 the figure had risen to eleven. This increase is a trend that is likely to continue as the high calibre of these MPs is appreciated by Conservative Associations, many of whom will soon be replacing their retiring MPs with new parliamentary candidates…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Mayor Lutfur as Hitler in Downfall parody

Just when I thought those Hitler Downfall parodies were becoming a bit passé, some genius has come up with a Lutfur Rahman/Tower Hamlets version. It has Mayor Lutfur as Hitler ranting about the Boundary Commission’s proposal to drop the Banglatown ward name. Lutfur’s Three Stooges, Gulam Robbani, Ohid Ahmed and Maium Miah, all get it in the neck for failing their master. And I love that at 2mins in Lutfur reveals one of the roots of his rage, that he will become a laughing stock on this blog, a blog run by a working class wannabe-upmarket-urban-rat-low-life…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: White Working Class Boys Could be Treated Like Ethnic Minorities by Universities, Says Minister

White working class boys are so under-represented at universities that they may need to be treated like ethnic minorities when it comes to recruiting students, a government minister has suggested.

The number of boys applying to university courses has fallen dramatically and more must be done to ensure they sign up, David Willetts argued. The universities minister said there was no reason why white working class boys should not be targeted in the same way as other disadvantaged groups by the Office for Fair Access (Offa)…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: Key Benghazi Suspect Remains at Large

Casablanca — Although Ahmed Boukhtala is the main suspect in the September 11th terrorist attack on US consulate in Benghazi as well as a suspect in assassination of Libyan rebel commander Major General Abdelfattah Younis, he continues to live freely in Benghazi. Conflicting reports have claimed that Boukhtala was imprisoned while others have said he escaped from prison and is now a fugitive. However, sources in Benghazi told Magharebia that Boukhtala remains at large and that the Libyan authorities have not arrested him…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Support Committee of Ayoub Messoudi Considers His Trial ‘Purely Political Case’

Tunis — The support committee of Ayoub Messaoudi, former media adviser to interim President of the Republic Moncef Marzouki, estimates that his trial, referred to the military justice, is a “purely political case”.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Military Court Indicts Mastermind Behind Explosion on Tel Aviv Bus

JERUSALEM, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) — The Israeli military court on Wednesday indicted Ahmed Moussa, 26, from the West Bank village of Beit Lakiya for masterminding a bomb on a Tel Aviv bus in November of last month, local news outlets reported. The Judea military court charged Moussa with a list of charges, including an attempt to intentionally cause death, conspiracy to cause death, dealings in weapons and explosives and their construction. The bus bombing occurred at a time when armed conflict was ongoing between Gaza militant groups and Israel. A total of 28 people were wounded by the explosion. Following an interrogation by the Shin Bet Security Agency, the indictment established that Moussa headed a militant cell in the West Bank which was behind the attack, which had links with the Islamic Jihad and Hamas…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Territories: Army-Palestinian Clashes

During special Israeli operation, yesterday vandalism

(ANSAmed) — Tel Aviv, January 2 — Dozens of Palestinians were wounded by rubber bullets and intoxicated with tear gas following clashes in the village of Tamun near Jenin, West Bank, between the local population and Israeli army units.

The incident, which took place as al-Fatah was celebrating its 48th anniversary, follows increasing violence between the two sides including anti-Palestinian vandalism by settlers and attacks by Palestinian demonstrators against Israeli vehicles along the main roads of the Palestinian Territories.

Violence in Tamun occurred late in the morning when Israeli troops were found to be posing as fruit vendors as part of an operation to capture local Islamic militant Murad Bani Odeh.

Israel’s secret services believe he was organizing a terror attack. Local sources said the Israeli officers had to call in help and the village was at the centre of violent clashes for hours. Some 30 Palestinians were wounded and Israeli soldiers also used real ammunitions, according to the Wafa news agency.

Three Israeli soldiers were wounded, though not seriously, and Bani Odeh captured.

Yesterday and today settlers were also behind anti-Palestinian vandalism in two West Bank areas. Many olive trees were cut in one instance while in another a car was burnt while on a wall nearby someone wrote ‘A good Arab is a dead Arab’ in Hebrew. Meanwhile yesterday someone fired against an Israeli bus in Hebron while another Israeli bus was also attacked by Palestinians. Nobody was wounded.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Christians Persecuted This Christmas

by Douglas Murray

I hope all readers had a happy and peaceful Christmas. As this is the first day back at the office for most of us, I thought I would cheer everyone up with how Christians around the world experienced the period. Here is what Christians in Indonesia had to put up with. In Egypt a prominent cleric issued genocidal threats against the country’s Christians, and taunted them:

‘What do you think — that America will protect you? Let’s be very clear, America will not protect you. If so, it would have protected the Christians of Iraq when they were being butchered!’

Meanwhile, in post-Arab Spring Tunisia, the locals were warned by a hard-line preacher of increasing popularity: ‘Sharing the feast days of the infidel or even sending them greetings to mark them is a big sin,’ Sheikh Beshir Ben Hassine said in sermon posted on Facebook, ‘Wishing someone a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year is forbidden by Islam.’

[…]

[Reader comment by James Strong on 2 Januarty 2013 at about 5 pm.]

Islam is a totaltarian political system that is more than happy to use violence. It should be opposed vigorously at every opportunity. Its true attitudes and behaviours should be publicised to all those in the UK, and elsewhere who are still under any delusion that it is the ‘Religion of Peace’. Those parts of the mainstream media who refer to ‘Asian’ gangs of men abusing young girls for sex are knowingly peddling untruths. Those men don’t do it because of their race, they do it because of their beliefs. We need to oppose Islam vigorously now with all the words at our disposal,we need to stop its advance, because if we don’t we face a very violent future.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Is Jailed Saudi Dissident Raid Badawi Alive?

Italian MP calls on EU to mobilize, 7,000 signatures gathered

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, JANUARY 3 — Saudi dissident editor Raif Badawi is in imminent danger of execution and may already have lost his life, Italian People of Freedom (PdL) Party MP Souad Sbai told reporters on Thursday. “His relatives and friends are in anguish, because they have not heard from him for days. The fear is that he has been silenced for good,” said Sbai, calling on the European Union, which recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, to mobilize against the “extremely grave human rights violations” taking place not far from its borders.

Badawi, editor of Saudi Liberals website, was arrested in June, according to Human Rights Watch. “Almaghrebiya.it daily was the first to report the news of his arrest, and has collected 7,000 signatures so far to free Raif and save him from certain death,” Sbai said. “Silence is the death of any hope of salvation for dissidents. So I have written to EU Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muinieks.” Badawi was arrested for allegedly insulting Islam on his website, “threatening general security” and ridiculing the religious police in his articles, one of which was published on Saint Valentine’s Day, which is banned in Saudi Arabia. Badawi also allegedly refused to remove articles written by others from his website. The charges were changed on December 17 to apostasy, which is a capital crime in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International has also called for the liberation of Badawi, saying he is a prisoner of conscience who was arrested and put on trial solely for making an online social and political debate possible.

Another Saudi dissident intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, has been incarcerated since December 24 on charges of insulting the Prophet Mohammed because of a tweet in which he suggested Islam might need reform.

One of the world’s major oil exporters, Saudi Arabia is among the West’s allies on many issues. Its dominant religion is Wahabism, a fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Mosque to Distribute Tablet PCs to Children Who Pray

Children whom come 180 times for prayer will be given a free tablet PC, according to the imam of a mosque in the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat. “We wanted to attract the attention of youngsters and encourage them to pray by capitalizing on their enthusiasm for technology and the Internet,” said Cebrail Öztürk, the imam of the Dayýlý Mosque in Yozgat’s Akdaðmadeni district…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ex-Army Chief Detained in Postmodern Coup Probe

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 3 — Turkey’s former army chief Ismail Hakki Karadayi has reportedly been detained as part of an investigation into February 28, 1997 postmodern coup. Turkish Hurriyet daily reported on Thursday that retired Gen. Karadayi was detained by police in Istanbul.

On February 28, 1997, the Turkish military forced the coalition government, led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP), out of power, citing allegedly rising religious fundamentalism in the country. The February 28 coup introduced a series of severe restrictions on religious life, including an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of headscarves by women. The military was also purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups or officers who were simply observant Muslims. In addition, a number of newspapers were closed down based on a National Security Council (MGK) decision calling for closer monitoring of media outlets.

There is an ongoing investigation into the suspected actors behind the coup, with approximately 60 individuals already arrested on coup charges.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UAE: Karama Mosque in Dubai Incorporates Plastic Extruders Heronrib Matting

Karama Mosque in Dubai has used a slip-resistant matting named as the Heronrib matting from the UK-based Plastic Extruders Limited to keep the devotees offering prayers in the mosque safe.

Specified by Intercare Ltd, Plastex distributor in the UAE, the Heronrib matting has been installed over the tiled floors in the mosque’s several ablution areas. Here, the ablution, ‘Wudu’, is performed five times a day, the ceremony which involves washing the head, hands, face and feet before walking barefoot into the prayer areas. Ensuring hygiene for bare feet, the slip-resistant, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal Heronrib matting reduces the risk of cross-contamination. Featuring embossed surface, the Heronrib matting provides a comfort element to the bare feet.

Manufactured from hard wearing non-porous vinyl with a two layer open grid construction, Heronrib is widely used in swimming pools, changing rooms and showers. Providing safety solution for the wet areas, Heronrib matting features channeled underbars to help water drain away easily in all directions, which keeps the embossed surface relatively dry and slip- resistant. Available in several colours, the Heronrib matting is normally supplied in 10m long rolls with widths of 50cm, 1m and 1.22m.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Russia

Putin Makes Depardieu Russian Citizen

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday granted fast-track citizenship to France’s Gérard Depardieu after the movie star complained about his Socialist government’s proposed 75 percent tax on the rich.

The decision appears to give Depardieu — already a frequent guest of the Moscow celebrity circuit — a chance to pay the flat 13 percent income tax levied in Russia on everyone from billionaires to the poor.

“Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to France’s Gerard Depardieu,” the Kremlin said in a brief statement.

The decree cited an article of the 1993 constitution extending presidents the right to issue citizenship or to grant political asylum.

Depardieu said on Sunday that a decision by France’s highest court to strike down the proposed rate on millionaires changed nothing in his highly publicised and much debated decision to move out of France.

The French government has vowed to push ahead with the tax — applicable to anyone who makes more than a million euros ($1.3 million) a year — and propose a new measure that would conform with the constitution.

Putin at his end-of-year press conference in December said he was ready to offer the 64-year-old cinema veteran a Russian passport to resolve the row.

His comments initially generated snickers from reporters. But the Russian strongman quickly made clear that he was entirely serious.

“If Gerard really wants to have a residency permit in Russia or a Russian passport, we can consider this issue resolved positively,” Putin said at the time.

The 60-year-old Russian leader referred to Depardieu both as a successful businessman and a friend who loved his country and would therefore be unlikely to leave France for good.

Yet Putin also added that the French prime minister’s famous remark about Depardieu being “pathetic’ for threatening to leave his country had hurt that star’s feelings and may eventually force him to move.

“An artist is easy to offend,” Putin remarked.

Depardieu had previously mentioned moving to Belgium — where the tax on millionaires is 50 percent — and had reportedly purchased a new home near the French border for the specific purpose of avoiding the tax.

The hulking actor has been a star in Russia since the Soviet era and still retains cult status among many movie buffs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Anti-Piracy Marines Return to India Friday

Latorre and Girone leave Italy after Christmas permit expires

(ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — The attorney for the two Italian marines facing trial in India for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen during an anti-piracy mission said that they will land in the Indian city of Kochi on Friday at 8:30am local time.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are in Italy after being given a two-week permit to return home for the Christmas holidays by an Indian court. They will be flown back to the state of Kerala on an Italian military aircraft then be driven to the city of Kollum three hours away where they will hand their passports back to Indian authorities.

The pair have been at the centre of a diplomatic row between Italy and India after they allegedly shot fishermen Jelestine Valentine and Ajesh Binki off the southern Indian coast last February.

They face homicide charges.

The marines were released from detention on bail in June, but were confined to Indian territory until they were granted the permit for Christmas.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Danish Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — An elite Danish soldier has been killed in southern Afghanistan by an explosive device, military officials said Thursday. The blast is said to have happened late Wednesday or early Thursday and came as members of Denmark’s Ranger and Frogmen units were on a joint patrol with an Afghan police’s elite unit…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

India: Muslims to Witness RSS ‘Ekatrikaran’ Programme

INDORE: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh seems to have taken a step to reach out to Muslims by allowing 100 Muslims from different parts of the country to witness its ‘ekatrikaran’ or ‘gathering’ programme. The programme will be addressed by the RSS sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat on January 6. Mubarak Khan of Muslim Rashtriya Manch confirmed that around 100 Muslims would be present at the function in traditional attire and skull cap. “We sought permission for 150 Muslims but got permission for only 100,” he said, adding that apart from the Rashtriya Muslim Manch members, there would be representatives of maulanas, businessmen, professors and doctors…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Indonesia City to Ban Women ‘Straddling Motorbikes’

A city in the Indonesian province of Aceh province which follows Sharia law has ordered female passengers not to straddle motorbikes behind male drivers.

Suaidi Yahya, mayor of Lhokseumawa, says it aims to save people’s “morals and behaviours”. Leaflets have been sent out to government offices and residents to inform them about the regulation. Aceh is the only Indonesian province that follows Sharia law…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Iranian MPs Due in Myanmar to Examine Rohingya Muslims’ Situation

An Iranian parliamentary delegation will soon visit Myanmar to examine the latest situation of the ethnic Rohingya Muslims and find out ways to help the minority in the Southeast Asian country.

The representatives of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Imam Khomeini’s Relief Committee and the Iranian Red Crescent Society will accompany the lawmakers in their two-day visit, which is scheduled to start on January 9, deputy chairman of the Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy Mansour Haqiqatpour said on Thursday…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Malaysia: OIC to Address Religious Intolerance Against Muslims

KUALA LUMPUR: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will hold a meeting with legal and human rights experts to address religious intolerance against Muslims, it said in a statement Thursday. The meeting, to be held in Istanbul on Jan 6 and 7, will be opened by OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, it said, adding that in November 2012, the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) had met in Djibouti, and the council had decided to have a meeting this year. In a resolution passed at the CFM meeting, Ihsanoglu was required to form a panel of eminent people to advise OIC member states on international law and to combat discrimination and intolerance against Muslims…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: US Drone Strike Kills Taliban Commander Mullah Nazir

A US drone strike has killed a Taliban commander, his deputy and eight others in northern Pakistan.

Maulvi Nazir Wazir, also known as Mullah Nazir, an important commander from the Wazir tribe, was killed on Wednesday night when missiles struck a house in Angoor Adda, near the capital of Wana, South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, seven intelligence sources and two residents from his tribe said. His deputy, Ratta Khan, was also killed, three sources said. He preferred attacking American forces in Afghanistan rather than Pakistani soldiers in Pakistan, a position that put him at odds with some other Pakistan Taliban commanders…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Bigotry That Kills

The Taliban murdered innocent aid workers in Pakistan because of a paranoid conspiracy theory about polio vaccine

Pakistan’s Islamist radicals are willing to kill teenage girls for going to school, or cast acid in the faces of their teachers. The murder of seven local aid workers on New Year’s Day shows that vaccinating children against polio has entered their litany of capital crimes. Even by the depraved standards of the Pakistani Taliban and its allies, the cold-blooded execution of these innocent people — six of them women — was a profoundly wicked act.

If anyone believes that conspiracy theories are harmless fantasies, consider why this outrage took place. The Taliban and its friends think that polio vaccines are a Western plot designed to make Muslims infertile — or perhaps give them Aids. This peculiarly paranoid conspiracy theory, which tends to vary with the teller, has taken hold in areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and northern Nigeria. Consequently, these countries are the only places where polio remains endemic…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Top Pakistani Militant Commander Killed in US Drone Strike

An American drone strike in Pakistan has killed top Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir, a senior intelligence official confirms to FoxNews.com.

Nazir, along with five close associates, was killed in a US drone strike, which took place near the town of Wana in Sar Kanda area of Birmil of South Wazristan Agency, one of seven federally administered tribal areas where militants thrive.

“The information we have received from our ground sources confirmed the death,” a senior Pakistan Army Intelligence official told FoxNews.com. “The vehicle in which the key Taliban war lord was traveling in was struck by two missiles.”

The Pakistani official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

The U.S. rarely comments on its secretive drone program, and Pentagon spokesman George Little said he could not confirm Nazir’s death, but he added that if true, it would be “a significant blow” to extremist groups in the region.

He said it would be helpful not only to the U.S. and to Afghanistan but also to Pakistan, because “this is someone who has a great deal of blood on his hands.”

At least four people were killed in a separate drone strike Thursday in the North Waziristan tribal region.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Violence Against Women: Despite Progress, A Long Way to Go in Afghanistan

In June 2012 a woman from Parwan province, Afghanistan was publicly executed following allegations of adultery made against her by the Taliban. In July, the head of the Women’s Affairs Department in Laghman province was assassinated and her successor, Najia Seddiqui was murdered just a few months later, in December.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Why the Rise of ‘Good Taliban’ In Afghanistan Worries India and Iran

by Rajeev Sharma

The importance of Iran for India cannot be over stated. Iran is a vital cog in the wheel of the Indian scheme of things for reaching out to Afghanistan. But the question is: whether both India and Iran are about to lose their leverage on Afghanistan? The good news is that Iran is as uncomfortable as India on the back-room developments with regard to Afghanistan as the United States-led international community seems hell bent on “good” Taliban taking over the land-locked country in the post-2014 scenario of withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Far East

Catastrophic Eruption is Brewing in Japan

One of the most seismically active countries in the world and home to more than 100 active volcanoes, experts say Japan is at risk of a major volcanic eruption that would cause chaos across the nation.

Thin wisps of smoke and ash continue to seep from the vast crater atop Sakurajima, as they have done more or less uninterrupted for nearly half-a-century. Once in a while, a minor eruption will release a small flow of lava and a towering column of debris that is taken by the wind.

This is nothing compared to the eruption in January 1914 that shook what was then an island off the southern tip of Kyushu and the city of Kagoshima. The blast was the most powerful eruption in Japan in the 20th century, flows of lava bridged the narrow straits between the island and the mainland and the surrounding countryside and Kagoshima City were covered with a thick layer of ash.

Fortunately, indications that the volcano had emerged from a period of dormancy had been noted and most local residents had been evacuated, but a series of earthquakes in the hours and days leading up to the eruption caused at least 35 deaths.

That event was nearly 100 years ago, but Yoichi Nakamura, a professor of volcanology at Utsunomiya University, north of Tokyo, believes that an eruption on a similar scale is imminent. And a blast with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) reading of four would cause havoc across large areas of this densely populated nation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Hong Kong: Mosques Needed in New Territories, Says Islamic Expert

HK’s Islamic population has quadrupled in five decades, but no new mosques have been built

Hong Kong should build more mosques and community centres for its growing Muslim population, an Islamic organisation said yesterday. Khan Muhammad Malik, chairman of the Federation of Muslim Association in Hong Kong, noted that while the Islamic population had grown five-fold in the past five decades the number of mosques in the city had remained the same. Furthermore, there were too few public places where Muslims could gather as a community, he said at a press conference. The city has five mosques, four on Hong Kong Island and one in Tsim Sha Tsui. Malik said new mosques should be built in the New Territories, where many Muslims live in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long without easy access to a place of worship…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australian Scientists Discover Deep Sea Corals

Australian scientists mapping the Great Barrier Reef have discovered corals at depths never before thought possible, with a deep-sea robot finding specimens in waters nearly as dark as night.

A team from the University of Queensland’s Seaview Survey announced the unprecedented discovery 125 metres (410 feet) below the surface at Ribbon Reef, near the Torres Strait and at the edge of the Australian continental shelf. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, chief scientist on the project, told AFP on Thursday that coral had previously only been shown to exist to depths of 70 metres and the finding could bring new understanding about how reefs spawn and grow…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Giant Rubber Duck Swims Through Sydney Harbour

A giant rubber duck took to the waters of Sydney Harbour on Thursday in a dawn rehearsal for a Sydney Festival event which organisers say will turn the harbour into a “giant bathtub”.

The 50-foot duck will sail through Darling Harbour to be part of the launch of the Sydney Festival on Saturday with the aim of opening the event to new audiences. “People will see it from the highway, will see it from the harbour, it’s five storeys high, and it’s just a very quirky way to say ‘the festival is on, please join us in the party’“, Sydney Festival director Lieven Bertels said. The rubber duck, designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman , is made out of PVC material and took three weeks to make, according to Sydney Festival officials.

Hofman said his giant duck “brings people together”. The duck will remain moored in Darling Harbour for the duration of the Sydney Festival which ends on January 23.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Suspicious Fire Destroys Melbourne Mosque

Police are investigating a suspicious fire which has destroyed a mosque in Melbourne’s north. Police and firefighters were called to the blaze on Somerton Road in Greenvale at around 2.30am (AEDT). Fire crews are still damping down the fire.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

‘Tsunami Bomb’ Tested Off New Zealand Coast

The United States and New Zealand conducted secret tests of a “tsunami bomb” designed to destroy coastal cities by using underwater blasts to trigger massive tidal waves.

The tests were carried out in waters around New Caledonia and Auckland during the Second World War and showed that the weapon was feasible and a series of 10 large offshore blasts could potentially create a 33-foot tsunami capable of inundating a small city.

The top secret operation, code-named “Project Seal”, tested the doomsday device as a possible rival to the nuclear bomb. About 3,700 bombs were exploded during the tests, first in New Caledonia and later at Whangaparaoa Peninsula, near Auckland.

The plans came to light during research by a New Zealand author and film-maker, Ray Waru, who examined military files buried in the national archives.

“Presumably if the atomic bomb had not worked as well as it did, we might have been tsunami-ing people,” said Mr Waru.

“It was absolutely astonishing. First that anyone would come up with the idea of developing a weapon of mass destruction based on a tsunami … and also that New Zealand seems to have successfully developed it to the degree that it might have worked.” The project was launched in June 1944 after a US naval officer, E A Gibson, noticed that blasting operations to clear coral reefs around Pacific islands sometimes produced a large wave, raising the possibility of creating a “tsunami bomb”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopia: Members of an Al Qaeda-Affiliated Terror Cell Arrested

The National Security and Intelligence Agency announced on Wednesday (January 2nd) that fifteen members of a terrorist cell affiliated with Al Qaeda’s network in East Africa had been arrested. Military training manuals, jihad war videos and a variety of weapons were also found. The fifteen 15 suspects were arrested after the National Task Force for Counter-Terrorism, drawn from members of the Federal Police and the National Security and Intelligence Agency, secured a warrant for the arrests…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Somalia: Roadside Bomb Hits Amisom Patrol in Merka Town

Merka — A roadside bomb has hit a Burundian contingent of African union forces who were on a patrol in the beachside town of Merka in southern Somalia, according to residents in the town. Eyewitnesses say that three civilians have been wounded in the explosion but residents could not confirm any casualty on the side of Amisom troops, who were the target of the attack…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Argentina: Argies in Falkland Ads Blast at Britain

ARGENTINA’S president today launches a fresh attack on Britain by declaring her nation was “forcibly stripped” of the Falkland Islands.

Cristina Kirchner has put an advert in UK and US newspapers demanding David Cameron restores power to the South American country. The ad, set to appear in some broadsheets on the 180th anniversary of the alleged takeover, takes the form of an open letter to the PM. She says Argentines were “expelled by the Royal Navy” on January 3, 1833, “in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism”. Britain then began “a population implantation process”. Britain rejects that version of events, saying no civilians were expelled. Islanders face a March referendum on whether they want to stay British.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Falkland Islands Row: Argentina’s Understanding of History is ‘Laughable’

Argentina’s demand that David Cameron ‘hand back’ control of the Falkland Islands is based on a ‘laughable’ understanding of history, an academic has said.

Cristina Kirchner, the Argentine President, has been left “frustrated” by the refusal of other Latin American nations to back Argentina’s long-standing claim to the Islands, Klaus Dodds, Geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London, said. An emotional open letter from Kirchner to David Cameron demanding the return of the Islands which she claims were “forcibly stripped” from her country, published today in the Guardian newspaper, is a sign of “profound weakness,” Prof Dodds said. The Islands had no established Argentine population at the time the British took control — and Mrs Kirchner’s country was itself an ambitious colonial power in the nineteenth century, he added. The Argentine junta invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, at a cost of 659 Argentian lives and 258 British. In the letter, Kirchner called on Mr Cameron to honour a United Nations resolution dating from 1965 and start negotiations about handing over the islands…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Immigration

45 Migrants Picked Up in Puglia

‘Of various Asian nationalities,’ police say

(ANSA) — Lecce, January 3 — Italian police on Thursday picked up 45 migrants walking along a coastal road in southern Puglia.

Police said the migrants, “of various Asian nationalities”, had just landed from a boat near the port of Leuca.

They were taken to a reception centre.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Immigrants Flooding Into Ireland Despite Bad Economic Times There

Over 80,000 approved for visas despite massive unemployment, emigration

Though Ireland’s economy remains in poor shape, there is no shortage of foreigners from around the world seeking legal residency and citizenship there, new Irish government figures show.

The Journal.ie reports that there was a six percent rise in the number of foreigners applying for visas last year compared to 2011. Out of the roughly 88,000 visa applications received, 91 percent were approved, with the biggest number going to natives of India (16 percent), followed by Russia, China, Nigeria, and Turkey.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter’s office revealed that the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service received some 165,700 applications for a number of services, including visas, residency, protection and naturalization.

The figures show that nearly 115,000 non-European nationals received permission to remain in Ireland. Again, natives of India represent the highest number at 11 percent of this total, followed by Brazil, Nigeria, China, the U.S. and the Philippines.

More than 25,000 citizenship cases were decided last year. Also, more than 31,000 non-European foreign students are registered for study in Ireland.

Asylum applications have fallen drastically from a peak of 11,600 in 2002. Last year there were only 950 requests for asylum. Almost 2,700 people were deported from Ireland last year.

“Reform of the immigration system will be sustained in 2013 and I will be focusing on major legislative and procedural measures such as the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill and further civilianization of Immigration Officer functions at Dublin Airport,” Shatter said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]

Italy Grants Public Healthcare to Illegal Immigrant Minors

Health coverage and residency extended for pregnant mothers

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — Underage illegal immigrants are now covered by the Italian national healthcare system thanks to an agreement reached in recent days at a conference for national and regional government relations, Italian Health Minister Renato Balduzzi said in a note published Wednesday.

The concession covers foreign minors holding a social security number but not a residency visa. In Italy, foreigners can obtain a social security number simply by presenting identification, but must meet far more rigorous requirements to obtain a residency visa. The new accord also extends health coverage and residency for undocumented immigrants who are pregnant. Women can now reside in Italy and receive public healthcare for up to one year after the birth of their babies. Previously, undocumented mothers were expelled from the country when their babies reached six months of age. Balduzzi wrote that the initiative supports “article 32 of the (Italian) Constitution” which mandates that “no one is excluded from assistance with a view on equality and justice”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Revealed: 3 in 4 of Britain’s Danger Doctors Are Trained Abroad

The vast majority of doctors who have been struck off in the past five years were trained abroad, new figures from the General Medical Council show.

The full extent of the danger presented by foreign doctors working in the health service can be revealed.

New figures from the General Medical Council (GMC) show that the vast majority of doctors who have been struck off were trained abroad.

The revelations will add to concerns that NHS patients are not adequately protected from health professionals from countries where training is less rigorous than in the UK, and from those who are unfamiliar with basic medical practices in this country.

The figures, disclosed for the first time and obtained by The Sunday Telegraph using freedom of information laws, show:

Three quarters of doctors struck off the medical register this year were trained abroad.

Doctors trained overseas are five times more likely to be struck off than those trained in the UK. The country with the biggest single number of doctors who have been removed or suspended from the medical register, is India, followed by Nigeria and Egypt.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Turkish Limbo Pushing Afghan Refugees to EU

Istanbul — Refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan in Turkey are caught in a legal limbo, pushing some into the arms of smugglers.

Turkey does not give refugee status to anybody from Afghanistan or outside Europe.

The situation arose as far back as 1951, when it opted for a “geographical limitation” in its adoption of a UN refugee convention, which reserves the status only for “persons who have become refugees as a result of events occurring in Europe.”

Even if the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, takes somebody under their wing, when they get to Turkey they have to pay for their own temporary residence.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: 4,000 Foreign Murderers and Rapists We Can’t Throw Out. . . And, Yes, You Can Blame Human Rights Again

Nearly 4,000 foreign murderers, rapists and other criminals are roaming the streets, free to commit new crimes.

The Government wants to deport them but admits that many cannot be kicked out because of their human rights.

A Parliamentary answer reveals that 3,980 foreign criminals who should have been sent back to their country of origin are ‘living in the community’.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Councils Refuse to Reveal Number of Homes They Give to Foreigners: Authorities Stop Giving Figures Amid Worries Over Impact of Immigration

Councils are trying to cover up the number of taxpayer-subsidised homes they are handing to foreigners, it was claimed yesterday.

Local authorities have stopped giving figures for how many houses and flats they have given to foreign citizens amid rising worries over the impacts of immigration, a report said.

Councils in London, where one in five publicly-financed homes are already known to be occupied by foreigners, are among those no longer supplying the figures.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

France’s Censorship Demands to Twitter Are More Dangerous Than ‘Hate Speech’

Few ideas have done as much damage throughout history as empowering the government to criminalize opinions it dislikes

Writing in the Guardian today, Jason Farago praises France’s women’s rights minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, for demanding that Twitter help the French government criminalize ideas it dislikes. Decreeing that “hateful tweets are illegal”, Farago excitingly explains how the French minister is going beyond mere prosecution for those who post such tweets and now “wants Twitter to take steps to help prosecute hate speech” by “reform(ing) the whole system by which Twitter operates”, including her demand that the company “put in place alerts and security measures” to prevent tweets which French officials deem hateful.

This, Farago argues, is fantastic, because — using the same argument employed by censors and tyrants of every age and every culture — new technology makes free speech far too dangerous to permit.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy Hospital Drops ‘Father’ Bracelets for Lesbian Parents

Tags changed to ‘partner’ in maternity ward

(ANSA) — Padua, January 2 — The maternity ward at the Padua Hospital in northeastern Italy has stopped issuing bracelets that read ‘father’ in favor of ones that read ‘partner’ in order to accomodate lesbian parents. According to local media, the change was put into effect after a woman last month was waiting to visit her female companion who had just given birth.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Archbishop Nichols Ends ‘Soho Masses’ After Six Years

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has announced that Masses in Soho organised for gay people are to end. He also revealed that the church where the Masses took place will be entrusted to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The fortnightly “Soho Masses” at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick Street were established by the diocese almost six years ago. They were intended to be “particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, their parents, friends and families”. Archbishop Nichols said today that, while the Masses will stop, pastoral care of the community will continue at the Jesuit Farm Street church in Mayfair on Sunday evenings…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Are Christians Being Persecuted in Britain?

by Isabel Hardman

Douglas Murray makes a striking point on his Spectator blog about the violent persecution that many Christians face across the globe, while the Church of England fights over gay marriage and women bishops. Christians in this country do fear that they are being persecuted, too, with a case making the headlines at the weekend about a Baptist who had unsuccessfully sued her employers for forcing her to work Sundays…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Guardian: Paedophiles Are ‘Ordinary Members of Society’ Who Need Moral Support

by Damian Thompson

Britain most persecuted minority have found a new advocate. An article this morning in the Guardian by feature writer Jon Henley addresses misconceptions about paedophiles, quoting one “expert” who believes that: “It is the quality of the relationship that matters”. No, this is not not some sick send-up on my part. “If there’s no bullying, no coercion, no abuse of power,” says Tom O’Carroll, “if the child enters into the relationship voluntarily … the evidence shows there need be no harm.” O’Carroll is a former chairman of the Paedophile Information Exchange with a conviction for distributing indecent photographs. The Guardian acknowledges this, but gives him a respectful hearing and points out that “some academics do not dispute” his views…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

General

Cloud of Atoms Goes Beyond Absolute Zero

Nothing is colder than absolute zero, so it seems nonsensical to talk about negative temperature — but now there is a substance that must have just that. The revelation could shake up our ideas about temperature and help us understand strange entities such as dark energy, as well as the interactions of subatomic particles.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20130102

Financial Crisis
» Italy: New Taxes Give Buy-to-Rent Homes a Boost
» Red Cross to Focus on Southern Europe Amid Eurozone Crisis
» South Korea: Seoul: Government Lowers Economic Forecasts for 2013
» UK: Workers Forced to Rely on State Handouts as Three Quarters of Small Firms Can’t Afford to Run a Pension Scheme
 
USA
» Billboards Stress Commonality of Religions
» Disaster Movie
» Frank Gaffney: Hold John Kerry Accountable
» Hillary Rodham Clinton Discharged From Hospital After Treatment for Blood Clot
» NASA Mulls Plan to Drag Asteroid Into Moon’s Orbit
» Pressure Builds to Nix Gift of Tanks, F-16s to Egypt
» Top 5 Islam-Bashing Republicans to Watch in 2013
» VU Law Professor Among World’s Most Influential Muslims
 
Canada
» The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist
 
Europe and the EU
» Arabs Brutally Attack US Yeshiva Student in Italy
» Bat Ye’or and the Coming Universal Caliphate
» Belgian Hema Store Wrong to Sack Headscarf-Wearing Worker
» Dutch Man Injured in Car Accident Dies
» European Union: Is Europe Standing on Its Head?
» French Weekly Publishes ‘Life of Mohammed’ Cartoons
» Hundreds of Cars Torched in French New Year ‘Tradition’
» Is Slavoj Zizek a Left-Fascist?
» Netherlands: Three Youths Arrested After Train Fire
» UK: Extremism Unchecked in Schools, Secret Briefing Reveals
» UK: Labour Questions TPims as Terror Suspect Absconds
» UK: Mohammed Islam Caught Burgling Southampton Home on Video
 
North Africa
» Eight Million Dog Mummies Found in Saqqara
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Publisher of British Textbook That Erased Israel From Map: “We Are Taking This Matter Extremely Seriously”
 
Middle East
» Erdogan Dreams of Full Sharia Law in Turkey
» More Than 60,000 Killed in Syria Conflict, UN Says
» New Report on Iranian Bio-Toxin Developments Corroborates Syrian Bio-Warfare Threat Assessment
» Turkish Fighter Jets Hit Over 20 PKK Targets in Northern Iraq
» Wrestling is Prohibited in Islam: Saudi Scholar
 
South Asia
» Afghan Woman Killed on Conjugal Visit to Prison
» Afghanistan: The Family That Protects One of Islam’s Sacred Relics Braves Politics, Violence
» Afghan Warlord’s Interview is ‘Encouraging’ Sign of Political Engagement
» Britain — and Prince Harry — Are Failing in Afghanistan, Says Warlord
» India: Elite-Backed Sterilization “Safaris” Meet With Growing Resistance
» Prince Harry is a ‘Jackal’ Killing Innocents, Says Feared Afghanistan Warlord
» Two Killed, 35 Injured in Bomb Attack in Pakistan’s Karachi
 
Far East
» China Ejects New York Times Journalist
 
Australia — Pacific
» The Bat: A Long-Lived, Virus-Proof Anomaly
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Nigeria Denies Killing of 15 Christians in Northern State
 
Immigration
» White House Eases Path to Residency for Some Illegal Immigrants
 
Culture Wars
» Christian Doctors Call for Ban on NHS ‘Bribing’ Hospitals to Put More Patients on Controversial Death Pathway
 
General
» Hunting the Unicorn of Moderate Islam
» What’s Islamophobia, And Do I Have it?

Financial Crisis

Italy: New Taxes Give Buy-to-Rent Homes a Boost

When and how investing in property is still a bargain, despite IMU and TARSU taxes

As with all averages, Trilussa’s warning still holds true [According to the Roman dialect poet Trilussa, if one person has a whole chicken and another has none, they have half a chicken each on average — Trans.] but IMU is in effect a wealth tax ranging from zero (for homes with a low assessable value), to 0.2% for first homes and 04% to 0.6% for properties that are ineligible for the lower rate. What is less easily calculated is the new tax’s psychological impact on buyers. However there is no doubt that IMU is significantly depressing a property market that, if we take the official figures for the first nine months of the year, will close 2012 more than 20% down.

But it is not just IMU to cast doubt on the wisdom of investing in bricks and mortar at the present time. There are at least two other reasons for caution. The first is that the short-term prospects for the property market are anything but rosy. Property professionals do not expect prices to stabilise, let alone recover. The second factor is competition from government securities, which guarantee tempting medium-term returns and are far easier to liquidate than property. The table illustrates four different purchase scenarios for the same property, estimating the return compared with renting or investing in securities. We have considered a property costing €280,000 in a good residential area of Milan or Rome, which could be rented for €800 a month. Bear in mind that, as always when making comparisons of this kind, we are looking at a theoretical case, let’s see what emerges. All the comparisons involve a time horizon of eight years, the legal duration of a non-controlled rent contract for residential properties.

Cash

A home costing €280,000 entails a further €5,000 in expenses (lower-rate taxes and notary’s fees). The actual investment should therefore be calculated as €285,000. The cost to the purchaser is represented by interest on the sum invested that is forgone over the eight years (we have have calculated this at 25% of the total cost in all four cases) plus expenses for extraordinary maintenance of the property, which the investor would not pay if he or she were renting. Ordinary condominium expenses and waste disposal taxes are not relevant because they would be still due even if the investor were a tenant. In this scenario, the purchaser would see a return after eight years if the home could be sold for at least €284,000. In other words, the owner would be happy if the property were to maintain its initial value.

Mortgage

In the second scenario, the potential purchaser has to take out a mortgage. We have assumed that the sum borrowed is half of the purchase price and that the loan is at a variable rate averaging 4%. The amount paid in cash is €147,000 (€7,000 for taxes and notary’s fees, including mortgage charges). Obviously, the income from interest forgone on government securities needs to be taken into account. In view of the fact that after eight years, the owner will still have debts of almost €97,000, the property will have to be sold for at least €317,000 to produce a return. In practical terms, the home would have to increase in value by 15% over eight years, and this already makes a return less certain. It should however be noted that the mortgage is partially deductible from income tax. We have not included this figure in our calculations (at current values, the tax benefit would be about €6,000) because of uncertainty over tax deductions next year.

Buy to rent

Little changes from a financial point of view if we look at a cash purchase in order to rent the property. The initial expenses are higher (if the lower-rate transference taxes are not applicable, taxes and notary’s fees will come to at least €15,000). The impact of IMU and the flat-rate cedolare secca tax that shaves off 21% of rent collected must also be factored in. In theory, the property only has to gain 2% per annum in value to keep the books balanced but in practice the buyer will have to find a reliable tenant who pays for the entire eight years and vacates the property without problems. The news columns tell us that this is not always the case. We have not considered the case of a purchaser who also takes out a mortgage because this rarely happens in real life, the loan is subject to a heavier tax regime and there is less likelihood of obtaining the mortgage.

Buying as an investment

Finally, we come to a scenario that today looks entirely theoretical: buying a property simply to hold onto it in the hope of a capital gain in the medium term. In this case, as well as paying all the ordinary and extraordinary expenses, and IMU at the top rate, we have to consider the income forgone in the form of six-monthly dividends on government securities. Today, this operation can be classified as high risk because the property in question would have to increase in value by at least 42%. Performances of this order are recorded in rising markets but today the investment looks more than anything else like an out-and-out punt.

Gino Pagliuca

19 dicembre 2012 | 17:59

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

Red Cross to Focus on Southern Europe Amid Eurozone Crisis

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it plans to adopt a strategy for southern Europe over the eurozone crisis, which has made millions of Europeans struggle to get food.

Yves Daccord, the director general of the ICRC, said in an interview on January 1 that the world’s largest humanitarian organization will equip itself especially for southern Europe.

“We are now seeing for the first time that the Red Cross in several European countries need to focus on the poor in their own country, much more than on external missions outside Europe,” Daccord stated.

In Spain, for example, about two million people are receiving help from the Red Cross, including approximately 300,000 who are “extremely vulnerable” by having no chance to support themselves, he added.

Daccord also warned that the developments in Europe, where the “gap between the social needs of the people and their ability to help has increased,” will lead to violent riots.

The European Commission sees the eurozone crisis to be so severe that it has projected a new poverty fund with about 18.6 billion euros ($24.7 billion) to help the most vulnerable.

Jonathan Todd, the spokesperson for the EU social affairs commissioner, said, “We need new mechanisms if we are to help all the poor people who in many cases are now living in a real social emergency.”

New figures released by Eurostat statistical agency showed that nearly 120 million EU citizens are living below the European poverty line.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

South Korea: Seoul: Government Lowers Economic Forecasts for 2013

Before leaving office, the government led by Lee Myung-bak is forced lower economic estimates for next year: Korea will grow by 2.1% this year against the forecast of 3.3%. Possible “improvements” by next fiscal year.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Despite the best efforts last year, the new government of South Korea will be faced with an economic situation far worse than that of five years ago. Before handing over office to Park Geun-hye, in fact, the government led by Lee Myung-bak has sharply revised growth forecasts for 2012 and 2013 downward.

According to economic analysts in the Blue House, the main cause of this situation is due to the debt crisis in Europe and the budgetary problems in the United States, factors that are weighing heavily on global demand. The Ministry of Finance of the Fourth Asian economy has forecast a growth of 2.1% in 2012 (against the previous forecast of 3.3%) and 3% in 2013 (down from 4.3%).

“The economy continues to slow down — the ministry said in a statement — while global demand is hampered by the ongoing crisis in the euro zone and the still present uncertainties.” The growth of the gross domestic product of South Korea should continue to be limited in the first half of 2013, but “could improve slightly” in the second half, thanks to the expected recovery in key markets.

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

UK: Workers Forced to Rely on State Handouts as Three Quarters of Small Firms Can’t Afford to Run a Pension Scheme

Three-quarters of small businesses have no pension scheme and most of the rest are not contributing enough to provide a decent retirement income for staff, a shocking study reveals today.

The stark survey by the Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA) suggests most small firms can no longer afford to fund decent pensions, leaving millions of workers facing dependency on benefits in old age.

It underlines the so-called ‘pensions apartheid’ between the private sector and the more cosseted public sector.

[Return to headlines]

USA

Billboards Stress Commonality of Religions

Local Muslim organizations have started a media campaign stressing the commonality of Christians, Muslims and Jews. The billboards proclaiming “Same family, Same message” sprouting throughout the Orlando and Daytona Beach areas are sponsored by the Longwood-based American Muslim Community Centers, the Islamic Center of Orlando and the United Muslim Foundation in Lake Mary…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Disaster Movie

When struggling actor Tim Dax was hired to star in a swords-and-sandals movie titled Desert Warrior, he was just happy to have the job. One year later, Dax and the rest of the film’s cast and crew would look on in horror as The Innocence of Muslims—a crudely dubbed version of the movie they thought they were making—ignited protests across the Arab world and controversy at home. Speaking with many of the film’s principals, Michael Joseph Gross reports on a story as old as Hollywood itself: a pursuit of fame and fortune that ended in tears…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Hold John Kerry Accountable

Members of the United States Senate are surely tempted to give their insufferably arrogant colleague from Massachusetts a pass in confirmation hearings for his nomination to become the next Secretary of State. Quite apart from the tradition of senatorial courtesy practiced in the exclusive club once known as “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” most of them must be anxious to see John Kerry leave it.

There are, however, compelling reasons to resist this temptation and ensure that Sen. Kerry is subjected to rigorous scrutiny with respect to his past conduct, his judgment and his policy predilections.

Conventional wisdom holds that he is certain to be confirmed. Whether that proves to be the case or not, Senators have a duty to serve as the Framers had in mind— as a means of ensuring quality control with respect to cabinet-level and other senior presidential appointments and with respect to the treaties that a secretary of state in particular is wont to promote…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Hillary Rodham Clinton Discharged From Hospital After Treatment for Blood Clot

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was released from a New York hospital on Wednesday, three days after doctors discovered a blood clot in her head.

Mrs. Clinton’s medical team advised her on Wednesday evening that she was making good progress on all fronts and said they are confident she will fully recover, said her spokesman Philippe Reines. Doctors had been treating Mrs. Clinton with blood thinners to dissolve a clot in a vein that runs through the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear.

Mr. Reines said details of when Mrs. Clinton will return to work would be clarified in the coming days.

[Return to headlines]

NASA Mulls Plan to Drag Asteroid Into Moon’s Orbit

Who says NASA has lost interest in the moon? Along with rumours of a hovering lunar base, there are reports that the agency is considering a proposal to capture an asteroid and drag it into the moon’s orbit.

Researchers with the Keck Institute for Space Studies in California have confirmed that NASA is mulling over their plan to build a robotic spacecraft to grab a small asteroid and place it in high lunar orbit. The mission would cost about $2.6 billion — slightly more than NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover — and could be completed by the 2020s.

For now, NASA’s only official plans for human spaceflight involve sending a crewed capsule, called Orion, around the moon. The Obama administration has said it also wants to send astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid. One proposed target, chosen because of its scientific value and favourable launch windows for a rendezvous, is a space rock called 1999 AO10. The mission would take about half a year, exposing astronauts to long-term radiation beyond Earth’s protective magnetic field and taking them beyond the reach of any possible rescue.

Robotically bringing an asteroid to the moon instead would be a more attractive first step, the Keck researchers conclude, because an object orbiting the moon would be in easier reach of robotic probes and maybe even humans.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Pressure Builds to Nix Gift of Tanks, F-16s to Egypt

Later this month, the new government in Egypt is scheduled to begin taking delivery of 10 F-16 fighter jets and 200 Abrams tanks — courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

The $213 million deal is part of a foreign aid package signed when American ally Hosni Mubarak was president, but a growing chorus of critics say the Obama administration should pull the plug. They cite Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood government’s mixed signals to the U.S. and Israel, as well as America’s fiscal problems, as reasons for rescinding the deal.

“A Shariah dictatorship on Israel’s border — armed with American weapons — is a deadly threat to Israel and America,” reads a petition being circulated by The American Center for Law and Justice. “All U.S. funding to Egypt must be cut off until we can certify that aid to Egypt will help the national security interests of the United States and Israel.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Top 5 Islam-Bashing Republicans to Watch in 2013

While some prominent haters were booted out of office, there are still plenty of Islamophobes hanging around American politics.

When Muslim-American organizations and activists concerned with Islamophobia woke up the day after the election, on November 7, they were elated. Key members of what had been dubbed the House Republican “Islamophobia caucus” had been voted out of office…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

VU Law Professor Among World’s Most Influential Muslims

VALPARAISO | A Valparaiso University assistant law professor has been named to a list of the world’s most influential Muslims. Faisal Kutty, 44, is among “The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims,” compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan. The publication is part of an annual series that highlights how Muslims impact the world. Kutty, who teaches comparative law, Islamic law and legal writing and reasoning at VU, appeared on the list two times previously. A native of Toronto, Canada, he specializes in human rights, national security law, business, community advocacy and Islamic law. Kutty’s interest in human rights was strengthened by a 2003 incident that happened to his father, Ahmad Kutty. Ahmad, an imam who teaches at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, flew to the United States for a conference. U.S. immigration officials jailed him in Fort Lauderdale and interrogated him for 16 hours, suspecting him of being connected to terrorist-related organizations. Though the elder Kutty was eventually released, the incident fueled his son’s resolve to protect the civil rights of all individuals…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Canada

The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist

On the morning of July 30, 2012, an accountant named Michel Gauvreau arrived at the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve, housed in a huge red brick warehouse on the side of the Trans-Canadian Highway in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, about two hours northeast of Montreal. Inside, baby-blue barrels of maple syrup were stacked six high in rows hundreds deep. Full, each barrel weighs about 620 pounds. With grade A syrup trading at about $32 per gallon, that adds up to $1,800 a barrel, approximately 13 times the price of crude oil.

The fiscal year was coming to a close, and the Federation of Québec Maple Syrup Producers had hired Gauvreau’s company, Veragrimar, to audit its inventory. Québec dominates the maple syrup market, and since 2002 the Federation has operated as a legal cartel, setting production quotas and prices, authorizing buyers, and stockpiling syrup. There were around 16,000 barrels here, about one-tenth of Québec’s annual production. The gap between the rows was barely wide enough to walk through, and the rubber soles of Gauvreau’s steel-tip boots stuck to the sugar-coated concrete floor.

He scaled a row of barrels and was nearing the top of the stack when one of them rocked with his weight. He nearly fell. Regaining his balance, he rattled the barrel: It was light because it was empty. He soon found others that were empty. After notifying the federation’s leaders and returning with them to examine the stockpile, they unscrewed the cap on a full barrel. The liquid inside was not goopy, brown, or redolent with the wintry scent of vanilla, caramel, and childhood; it was thin, clear, and odorless. It was water.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Arabs Brutally Attack US Yeshiva Student in Italy

A gang of Arabs brutally attacked an American yeshiva student visiting with his family in Venice, Italy. Jewish community: This is rare.

A gang of Arabs brutally attacked an American yeshiva student visiting with his family in Venice, Italy, in what local community leaders said was a rare instance of anti-Semitism.

The student was knocked unconscious on Tuesday when he strolled late at night in the center of the city. A band of 15 Arab youth pounced on him, dragged him into a dark corner and pummeled him, using sharp weapons.

The student lost consciousness, and the attackers fled when a passerby spotted them and called police and medics.

The police are investigating, but have but have not caught the attackers.

The Milan-based Center for Jewish Documentation’s Observatory on Anti-Jewish Prejudice reported last month that the number of anti-Semitic episodes in the country soared last year.

The incidents ranged from street insults and swastika graffiti to physical aggression.

“We observed approximately 70 cases so far this year, most of them graffiti and online attacks, over 40% more than last year,” said Observatory researcher Stefano Gatti. “The boom might be due partly to more efficient data-gathering, but the episodes have undeniably increased,” he added.

Gatti also pointed out that Italian pundits and politicians “such as Silvio Berlusconi, Beppe Grillo or Piergiorgio Odifreddi” are now writing discriminatory posts and telling racist jokes. “Making certain issues seem normal, even funny, is one of the root causes of the rise in anti-Semitic episodes in Italy,” Gatti said.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Bat Ye’or and the Coming Universal Caliphate

by Richard L. Rubenstein (January 2013)

A review essay of Bat Ye’or, Europe, Globalization, and the Coming of the Universal Caliphate (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2010). This essay was first published as “Coming Attractions: Caliphates?” in the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, December issue Vol 4 #2.

In the past few years, it has become all too apparent that the nations of the European Union (EU) have made a catastrophic mistake when they created a common, one-size-fits all currency, the euro, ignoring the vast differences in productive capacity, financial resources, work habits, and culture of the member nations. The full consequences of this mistake have yet to unfold, but the instability in the world’s financial markets may be a foretaste of darker troubles ahead.

While the financial crisis has been recognized, a far worse error of judgment has yet to be recognized, at least by Europe’s leaders, the surrender of Europe’s cultural identity as a consequence of the introduction of a largely unassimilable Muslim population into the EU. According to the U.S. Department of State’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, 2005, the EU’s Muslim population numbered 23.2 million and has continued to increase since then. In France alone, the Report estimated that there were between five and six million Muslims, about ten percent of the population. Moreover, as Harvard Historian Niall Ferguson has pointed out, the fundamental problem facing Europe’s indigenous population is “senescence.”1

This is not true of Europe’s Muslim population. With or without further immigration, it is expected to increase considerably. Moreover, as Bat Ye’or points out in her new book, Europe, Globalization, and the Coming Universal Caliphate (Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2011) the rising number of Muslims constitute only a part of the problem. Far more problematic have been the political, economic, and cultural motives that led to Europe’s fateful decision to permit this unprecedented mass immigration.

To explain that decision, Bat Ye’or begins with a discussion of the concept of dhimmitude, a term she characterizes as “concealed knowledge.” Although “few terms are as significant for the understanding of current events,” she reports that the term is “unknown by the general public and taboo in academia.” Dhimmitude, she argues, designates the civilizations “conquered by jihad and subject to sharia law.”

It is her conviction that the nations of the European Union (EU) are in the process of submitting to that subordination at the present time. Alternatively, as she demonstrates, dhimmitude can be understood as arguably the most effective and enduring system of religiously legitimated domination human beings have ever created.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Belgian Hema Store Wrong to Sack Headscarf-Wearing Worker

A Belgian branch of Dutch department store Hema was wrong to sack a woman worker for wearing a headscarf, a Belgian industrial tribunal ruled on Wednesday.

The woman had worked for the store in Genk for two months wearing a headscarf but was then sacked for refusing to remove it after complaints from customers.

The tribunal ordered Hema to pay the 21-year-old woman six month’s salary — €9,000 — in compensation.

The company has since drawn up formal clothing requirements for its Belgian stores, news agency ANP said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Dutch Man Injured in Car Accident Dies

THE HAGUE, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) — A 59-year-old man who got seriously injured in a car accident on Tuesday in the Frisian village Raard passed away, said the municipality Dongeradeel on Tuesday evening. On Tuesday, a 42-year-old woman drove into a group of people surrounding a bonfire celebrating the new year in Raard. Seventeen people were wounded, of which one died on Tuesday evening. Currently at least twelve injured are still in the hospital, some of them in a very bad condition. What exactly happened on is still not clear, but the incident does not seem premeditated…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

European Union: Is Europe Standing on Its Head?

Dagens Nyheter Stockholm

Born to give a political dimension to the common values ??of Europeans, the Union, with the complicity of the member states, has acquired power and skills that have weakened the people it was supposed to defend, argues the Irish writer Colm Tóibín.

Colm Tóibín

The European Union seems like a strange dream we had; it was a way of shaping and crafting a set of political values into a complex system which would place human values, a rich culture and ideas of equality at the very centre of our concerns. It turns out that as a system the European Union could withstand anything except a crisis.

Now, under the stress of a financial crisis, every country is sure of one thing only — that its own borders and its own interests matter more than any common good. While the old currencies may have gone, or most of them have, the old ways of thinking remain.

In our loyalties, once the pressure is on, we live in nation states, even though our banks function under a new global dispensation. Money moves now in the same way as air does, utterly free, being blown back and forth by the wind, unregulated, unstable, uncertain. It is ideas which have remained under lock and key. And with ideas, identities. We are sure now who is German and who is Greek; we are sure that we are Irish and you are Swedish.

Remember the dream

It is important to remember what the dream meant. It is important now at the periphery of Europe where I live to begin again to use the language of political and cultural idealism, to take the language which has been debased by our political masters and see if certain (or uncertain) words or concepts might mean something, even if only to offer us the comfort than poetry does, language used sonorously and responsibility, in a time of private hardship…

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

French Weekly Publishes ‘Life of Mohammed’ Cartoons

A French weekly published Wednesday a comic book biography of the Prophet Mohammed that it says is a well-researched work by a Franco-Tunisian sociologist. Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published cartoons of the prophet.

A French satirical magazine, whose offices were fire-bombed after it published cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed, on Wednesday published a comic book biography of Islam’s founder.

The editor of Charlie Hebdo weekly has insisted that the new book, titled “The Life of Mohammed”, was a properly researched and educational work prepared by a Franco-Tunisian sociologist.

“It is a biography authorised by Islam since it was edited by Muslims,” said Stephane Charbonnier, who was also the illustrator of the book whose front page shows the prophet leading a camel through the desert.

“I don’t think higher Muslim minds could find anything inappropriate,” he told AFP last week.

Charbonnier said the idea for the comic book came to him in 2006 when a newspaper in Denmark published cartoons of Mohammed, later republished by Charlie Hebdo, drawing angry protests across the Muslim world.

“Before having a laugh about a character, it’s better to know him. As much as we know about the life of Jesus, we know nothing about Mohammed,” he said.

Satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has on several occasions published cartoon versions of Islam’s prophet in a declared effort to defend free speech, to the fury of many Muslims who believe depicting Mohammed is sacrilegious.

In September Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of a naked Mohammed as violent protests were taking place in several countries over a low-budget film made in the United States that insults the prophet.

In 2011 Charlie Hebdo’s offices were hit by a firebomb and its website pirated after publishing an edition titled “Charia Hebdo” featuring several Mohammed cartoons.

Charbonnier, who has received death threats, lives under police protection.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Hundreds of Cars Torched in French New Year ‘Tradition’

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday that 1,193 vehicles were torched by French youths overnight in what has become a dubious New Year’s Eve tradition.

Hundreds of empty, parked cars go up in flames in France each New Year’s Eve, set afire by young revelers, a much lamented tradition that remained intact this year with 1,193 vehicles burned, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday.

His announcement was the first time in three years that such figures have been released. The conservative government of former President Nicolas Sarkozy had decided to stop publishing them in a bid to reduce the crime — and not play into the hands of car-torching youths who try to outdo each other.

France’s current Socialist government decided otherwise, deeming total transparency the best method, and the rate of burned cars apparently remained steady. On Dec. 31, 2009, the last public figure available, 1,147 vehicles were burned.

Like many countries, France sees cars set on fire during the year for many reasons, including gangs hiding clues of their crimes and people making false insurance claims.

But car-torching took a new step in France when it became a way to mark the arrival of the New Year. The practice reportedly began in earnest among youths — often in poor neighborhoods — in the 1990s in the region around Strasbourg in eastern France.

It also became a voice of protest during the fiery unrest by despairing youths from housing projects that swept France in the fall of 2005. At the time, police counted 8,810 vehicles burned in less than three weeks.

Yet even then, cars were not burned in big cities like Paris, and that remained the case this New Year’s Eve. Minister Valls said the Paris suburban region of Seine-Saint-Denis, where the 2005 unrest started, led the nation for torched cars, followed by two eastern regions around Strasbourg.

For some, the decision to tell the public how many cars have been burned on New Year’s Eve is a mistake.

Bruno Beschizza, the national secretary for security matters in Sarkozy’s UMP party, said on iTele TV that publishing the numbers motivates youths to commit such crimes. “We know that neighborhoods compete,” he said. Gang rivalries center on who can torch the most cars, with claims made on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Is Slavoj Zizek a Left-Fascist?

by Alan Johnson

Liberals always say about totalitarians that they like humanity, as such, but they have no empathy for concrete people, no? OK, that fits me perfectly. Humanity? Yes, it’s OK — some great talks, some great arts. Concrete people? No, 99 per cent are boring idiots. (Slavoj Žižek)

Zeev Sternhell’s study of inter-war French fascism was — or rather should have been — paradigm-shifting because he showed that fascism was “neither Left not Right.” Rather, the ostensibly opposed extremes were united in their hatred of what they called “the established disorder” of materialism, parliamentary democracy and bourgeois society, as well as in their “distaste for the lukewarm,” and their fascination with “the idea of a violent relief from mediocrity”. These ideas, or more precisely, prejudices, gained influence and created an intellectual climate that was able to erode “the moral legitimacy of an entire civilisation,” and foster an inchoate ideology of revolt based on spirit and will…

Another point of kinship with left-fascism — one thinks of the Baader-Meinhof gang in 1970s West Germany — is Žižek’s spiritualization of the self-sacrificial death. The intellectual historian Richard Wolin tells us that the inter-war left-fascist (and father of post-structuralism) Georges Bataille “effusively praised Italian Fascism’s morbid iconography — mortuary symbols, black pennants, and death’s heads”, believing that “[a] living man regards death as the fulfillment of life; he does not see it as a misfortune.” Exactly the same morbid attraction to self-sacrificial death can be found in Žižek’s writings, and nowhere more so than In Defence of Lost Causes, his 500-page warrant for Left-wing totalitarianism released in 2008…

[JP note: Happy daze for psychos and perfectly in tune with the Muslim Brotherhood’s “The Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our path and death in the name of Allah is our goal.” ]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Three Youths Arrested After Train Fire

Three youths have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in a fire in a train, possibly caused by fireworks, Utrecht local television reports.

The fire appears to have started in the area between two compartments on an intercity train travelling from Breukelen to Abcoude.

The train, which was carrying around 90 people, was evacuated and no-one was injured. Photographs of the fire show heavy black smoke belching across the countryside.

The track between Utrecht and Amsterdam has been closed because of the fire and trains are being diverted via Hilversum.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Extremism Unchecked in Schools, Secret Briefing Reveals

More than 100 independent faith schools may be radicalising students, the Department of Education has warned in a secret memo which admits that officials are struggling to tackle extremism in state and private schools.

Michael Gove, the education secretary, was one of the key voices calling for a ban on support for non-violent extremism when it published its Prevent strategy to fight radicalisation last year. But behind closed doors there are concerns about 118 “socially conservative” independent faith schools — the vast majority of them Muslim — where pupils may be encouraged to cut themselves off from mainstream society. Ministers have been told they do not have “detailed information” about the religious orientation of the groups and movements behind all independent faith schools. And officials have privately admitted that they also have no system in place to identify institutional extremism in state schools, the Daily Telegraph has learned. They say there is also “a gap between what we think we know and what we can prove” because they cannot use undercover methods open to journalists…

[Reader comment by petefish on 31 December 2012 at 8:16 am.]

promoting a highly conservative version of Islam and spreading extremist views, particularly against non-Muslims.

there is no such thing as a (version of Islam) there is just islam and what they are teaching is not extremism it’s main stream islam it’s what it says in the koran all this talk of extremism is just an attempt to separate islam from all this, there is no such thing as moderate islam there may be moderate muslims but there is no such thing as moderate islam

(Edited by author 1 day ago)

[Reply by mikevienna on 31 December 2012 at 8:33 am.]

careful petefish or they will throw you in jail as in the case of Tommy Robinson. I find it strange that not one single MSM has even run a small story on that fact. The wall of silence is deafening. I am not promoting the EDL or their agenda but I am very concerned that the leader of a populist movement has been arrested, imprisoned and not a squeek from the press. We heard a lot about “pussy riot” imprison in Russia but this case gets zero coverage. Why? Have we now progressed to political prisoners or people simply made to disappear because that is worrying.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Questions TPims as Terror Suspect Absconds

The government has “important questions” to answer over how a terror suspect absconded while under an anti-terror control measure, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has said.

Police are continuing to search for Ibrahim Magag, who disappeared from Camden, north London on Boxing Day. He was previously subject to a control order but they were replaced by TPim control measures last January…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Mohammed Islam Caught Burgling Southampton Home on Video

EVERY picture tells a story, none more so when intruders were caught on camera. Fed up at being previously burgled Mark Avery installed his own close circuit television camera in the living room at his Southampton house. And his initiative bore fruit…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Eight Million Dog Mummies Found in Saqqara

During routine excavations at the dog catacomb in Saqqara necropolis, an excavation team led by Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo (AUC), and an international team of researchers led by Paul Nicholson of Cardiff University have uncovered almost 8 million animal mummies at the burial site.

Studies on their bones revealed that those dogs are from different breeds but not accurately identified yet.

“We are recording the animal bones and the mummification techniques used to prepare the animals,” Ikram said.

Studies on the mummies, Ikram explains, revealed that some of them were old while the majority were buried hours after their birth. She said that the mummified animals were not limited to canines but there are cat and mongoose remains in the deposit.

“We are trying to understand how this fits religiously with the cult of Anubis, to whom the catacomb is dedicated,” she added.

Ikram also told National Geographic, which is financing the project, that “in some churches people light a candle, and their prayer is taken directly up to God in that smoke. In the same way, a mummified dog’s spirit would carry a person’s prayer to the afterlife”.

Saqqara dog catacomb was first discovered in 1897 when well-known French Egyptologist Jacques De Morgan published his Carte of Memphite necropolis, with his map showing that there are two dog catacombs in the area.

However, mystery has overshadowed such mapping as it was not clear who was the first to discover the catacombs nor who carried out the mapping, and whether they were really for dogs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Publisher of British Textbook That Erased Israel From Map: “We Are Taking This Matter Extremely Seriously”

The British publisher of a textbook that featured a map that labelled Israel as “Occupied Palestine” has apologized for the error. A message posted to the Garnet company’s website read in part, “This was a serious editorial error and was subsequently corrected. The book in question has not been in print for several years.”

In a further twist, The Commentator revealed that the company is owned by the Tahseen Khayat Group of Lebanon. The Tahseen Khayat Group also owns Garnet’s “sister group” Ithaca Press, which describes itself as a ‘leading publisher of academic books on Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, most recently featuring the ‘Great Books of Islamic Civilisation’ and books such as ‘Through the Wall of Fire’ which documents, “the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians beginning in 1948.”

Nicky Pratt, Publisher of Garnet Education, who didn’t work at Garnet when the book was published in 2003, wrote in an email to The Algemeiner that he “cannot with any confidence determine why it happened,” and added that “Garnet Education has never had a political agenda and as a publisher that sells globally would never seek to alienate any client. Please be assured that we are taking this matter extremely seriously, and will ensure that such an error is not repeated in the future.”

He further added in the email: “Since this course has been out of print for some time, and the ‘life-cycle’ of educational materials tends to be relatively short (normally a maximum of five years), it is unlikely that very many institutions will be using the 2003 edition. It’s not easy to identify who these people might be, as all publishers have a system of third-party distribution, and our main distributor has changed in the last few years. Our Sales team are currently trying to track down as many people as possible who have been in receipt of these books, in order to either replace them with the corrected edition or offer a more up-to-date alternative. In the meantime, we are more than happy to do the same for anyone who contacts us over the issue.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Erdogan Dreams of Full Sharia Law in Turkey

by Daniel Pipes

THE menu for meals on my Turkish Airlines flight this month assured passengers that food selections “do not contain pork”. The menu also offered a serious selection of alcoholic drinks, including champagne, whisky, gin, vodka, raki, wine, beer, liqueur and cognac.

This oddity of simultaneously adhering to and ignoring Islamic law, the sharia, symbolises the uniquely complex public role of Islam in today’s Turkey, as well as the challenge of understanding the Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish abbreviation, AKP) which has dominated the country’s national government since 2002…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

More Than 60,000 Killed in Syria Conflict, UN Says

At least 60,000 people have died in Syria’s almost two-year-long conflict, the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said on Wednesday, referring to an exhaustive study that compared death reports from seven different sources.

At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war, with monthly casualty figures steadily increasing since the conflict began almost two years ago, according to a new analysis released Wednesday by the United Nations.

The death toll is a third more than the figure of 45,000 given by activists opposed to the regime of President Bashar Assad — the first time that the global body’s estimates are higher.

It comes as activists report that a Syrian warplane blasted a gas station near Damascus on Wednesday, killing and wounding dozens of people and igniting a huge fire in what could be one of the bloodiest attacks in weeks during the 22-month conflict.

Independent experts compared 147,349 killings reported by seven different sources — including the government — for the study, which was commissioned by the U.N. human rights office.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

New Report on Iranian Bio-Toxin Developments Corroborates Syrian Bio-Warfare Threat Assessment

Our NER interview with Dr. Bellamy van Aalst and this latest Kahlili report should start a new conversation among national security echelons in Israel and US on how to eliminate these deadly bio-warfare weapons of mass destruction. The conversation would define the breadth of the bio-warfare threats from Iran and Syria, and how to reduce them . .As Dr. Bellamy van Aalst noted in her NER interview: Middle East threat reduction requires a far more aggressive and comprehensive approach to deter the proliferation of biological weapons. In my view, any new threat reduction paradigm must have a component wherein ultimately we take out those scientific teams. BW is heavily underpinned by knowledge transfer and we need to be prepared right now to target and take out their scientific teams as has been done in Iran with several of their nuclear scientists. This must be a component of a total threat reduction plan. Once again Iran’s Supreme leader and his more radical echelons in Tehran have conned us with taqiyya, diverting our attention from their real intentions, developing an arsenal of virtually untraceable deadly bio-weapons that could result in tens of millions of deaths. All while Israel, the US and the P5+1 at the UN are contending with the Islamic Republic approaching looming ‘red lines’ of nuclear enrichment and weapons development. The unleashing of bio-warfare agents against Israel and the US, as Kahlili said in his report , could bring both countries to their knees. The threat from these deadly bio-toxins developments is both breathtaking and frightening. These deadly bio-toxin programs in both Iran and Syria must be stopped

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Turkish Fighter Jets Hit Over 20 PKK Targets in Northern Iraq

ANKARA, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) — Turkish fighter jets bombed over 20 targets of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq late Monday, private Dogan news agency reported on Tuesday. Eight Turkish F-16 fighter jets hit the targets, after a Turkish army’s unmanned aerial vehicles detected some moving PKK groups in Zap, Avasin and Baysan regions in Northern Iraq, according to the report. Turkish army targeted PKK members for two hours and destroyed targets including anti-aircraft batteries and hideouts which was set up by the PKK militants for winter conditions, said the report. The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms in 1984 in an attempt to create an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey. Since then, more than 40,000 people have been killed in conflicts involving the group.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Wrestling is Prohibited in Islam: Saudi Scholar

A prominent Saudi Islamic scholar was reported on Wednesday as saying wrestling and other dangerous games are prohibited in Islam because they harm the body. Sheikh Ali Al Hikmi, a member of the 7-man Supreme Scholars Authority in the Gulf Kingdom, said Muslims are not permitted to hurt themselves under any circumstances. “Therefore, dangerous games such as wrestling and other fighting duels are not permitted in Islam since they cause unnecessary harm to oneself and the opponent,” he was quoted as saying by the Arabic language daily Alhayat…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Woman Killed on Conjugal Visit to Prison

An Afghan prisoner murdered his wife during a conjugal visit, allegedly because she had been unfaithful after he was jailed for killing her relatives, police said Wednesday.

Din Mohammad was sentenced to 20 years in prison two years ago for killing his mother-in-law, and his wife’s brother and sister in the northern province of Samangan. Mohammad’s wife, whose name has not been disclosed, visited him in jail in the provincial capital Aybak on Monday and was found dead in a small private room used for inmates to see their wives, police said. Mohammad confessed to her murder, Samangan police chief Ikram Nikzad told AFP…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: The Family That Protects One of Islam’s Sacred Relics Braves Politics, Violence

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN—For 250 years, Masood Akhundzada’s family has protected Afghanistan’s most sacred artifact: a cloak said to have been worn by the prophet Muhammad. Its power drew Afghan kings and presidents and Taliban leaders to a small, blue shrine in a city conquered by Alexander the Great and contested ever since. By the time Akhundzada inherited the guardianship in 2008, it was an honour that came at a high price. Five previous guardians — his father, brothers and cousins — had been assassinated, shot in their offices, in markets and airports. They were hunted, most believed, for their connection to a piece of Islamic history that the insurgency wanted desperately to reclaim. When Akhundzada, a large man with a wild beard and an easy smile, accepted the keys to the shrine, he also bought a gun. There’s no law, he said, that prevents a mullah from being armed if his life is in danger…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Afghan Warlord’s Interview is ‘Encouraging’ Sign of Political Engagement

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar may promise a bloody denouement for coalition forces in Afghanistan, but by explaining his position to The Telegraph he indicates that his party is open to dialogue, says Peter Oborne.

One of the world’s most wanted men has predicted that Afghanistan will collapse into murderous civil war after Nato troops withdraw in 2014 — and expressed his determination to kill more British troops “so they could never make the mistake of coming again to this region.” Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also launched a full frontal attack on Britain, accusing this country of being dragged “into this baseless and useless conflict to please Washington.” However, the warlord also signalled that his Hizb-i-Islamia party was prepared to fight in the 2014 presidential elections, which will precede the final withdrawal of British and American troops from Afghanistan. Hekmatyar insisted that he wanted a “peaceful transition” from the present Afghan government to a new administration based on “free and fair elections.”…

Analysing the interview, The Daily Telegraph‘s chief political commentator, Peter Oborne said: “It’s very interesting to hear what Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has to say about the political situation after an Allied pullout because he is one of the few major players who will determine what Afghanistan looks like.” He added that he was also encouraged that the warlord was “prepared to give an interview, to talk, to engage in dialogue.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Britain — and Prince Harry — Are Failing in Afghanistan, Says Warlord

One of Afghanistan’s most feared and wanted warlords has warned that the country could collapse into a murderous civil war after the withdrawal of Nato troops next year.

In the bleakest assessment yet of Afghanistan’s future, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar called for a “peaceful transition of the government” to democracy. But, in a wide-ranging interview arranged with The Daily Telegraph, he added that he feared a descent into chaos and anarchy similar to that which followed the withdrawal of the Russians in the 1980s…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

India: Elite-Backed Sterilization “Safaris” Meet With Growing Resistance

The Telegraph out of Calcutta India reports that resistance grows in India’s rural areas to a government scheme deploying sterilization vans.

Deputy director of India’s Health Department’s family planning division Subodh Jaiswal said that women in rural Bihar “are very conservative and it is difficult to convince them to take part in a sterilisation programme.”

The article mentions that the department launched a mobile sterilization van “to promote sterilisation for women in Patna district.” Jaiswal stated that “only 200 women have been sterilised through this project.”

“Bihar”, the article goes on to say, “needs rigorous family planning measures to check the unbridled growth of the population.”

“(…) women in rural parts of the state are very conservative. To convince them of our sterilisation programme was very challenging.”, Jaiswal said.

“The van has two nurses who administer the process. They try to convince women who have at least one child to opt for the sterilisation.”

According to the officials, the mobile sterilization van was part of a government scheme attempting to “motivate female sterilization”. They admitted that the project has failed miserably because of “conservative” sentiments among women.

“There has been a sharp decline in the number of people who availed of the scheme in the last fiscal.”, they told the Telegraph.

“In 2010-2011, 10,367 women had availed of the benefits of the Adarsh Dampati Yojana; in 2011-2012, only 7,700 women took advantage of the service,” Jaiswal stated.

These numbers prove that these sterilization vans are meeting with resistance from women in rural areas. The use of such mobile sterilization units is not the invention of overzealous health officials in India. It has been developed by World Bank- and UN personnel worrying about population growth in developing (and developed) nations. As early as the 1980s, the World Bank world_bank_mobile_van suggests using “sterilization vans” and “camps” to facilitate its sterilization policies for the third world. The 1984 World Development Report also threatens nations who are slow in implementing the bank’s population policies with “drastic steps, less compatible with individual choice and freedom.”

[Return to headlines]

Prince Harry is a ‘Jackal’ Killing Innocents, Says Feared Afghanistan Warlord

One of Afghanistan’s most feared warlords has launched a withering attack on Prince Harry, who has spent Christmas serving in the country, labelling the prince a ‘jackal’ who was ‘drunk’ while hunting innocent Afghans.

In a rare and exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has been designated a global terrorist by the United States, heaped insults on the British Royal and vowed to kill as many troops as possible before the UK’s withdrawal in 2014…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Two Killed, 35 Injured in Bomb Attack in Pakistan’s Karachi

ISLAMABAD, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) — At least two people were killed and 35 others injured on Tuesday evening as a bomb went off in a busy area in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi.

The blast took place near the Karimabad Bridge when a large crowd were leaving after a public gathering. Spokesman of the police department, Imran Shaukat, told local media that the bomb was planted in a motorcycle that was parked on the roadside…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Far East

China Ejects New York Times Journalist

A New York Times journalist has been expelled from China for two months after his paper published a report on the family wealth of Premier Wen Jiabao. The issue highlights the strict media controls in the country.

China has started the new year by expelling an experienced New York Times journalist from its shores. In October the US newspaper had published a report about the family wealth of State Council Premier Wen Jiabao.

Australian reporter Chris Buckley has lived in China for 15 years, spending 12 of those as a reporter. He flew out of Beijing on Monday with his wife and 12-year-old daughter.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

The Bat: A Long-Lived, Virus-Proof Anomaly

Bats are pretty impressive critters. They are notorious for carrying viruses like Ebola and SARS, but somehow avoid getting these diseases themselves. They are the only mammal that can fly, and they live far longer than other mammals their size. What’s their secret? Researchers in Australia sequenced two different bat genomes and found that these unique bat characteristics are not only genetically linked, but may help in the treatment of human diseases.

Flying takes a lot of energy, and the free radicals produced by burning energy are damaging to DNA. Bats, however, have evolved a suite of proteins to not only get rid of these toxins, but also detect and repair damaged DNA. This keeps the bats healthy and allows them to live longer.

The surprises don’t stop there. When researchers looked at bats’ immune response to the viruses they carry, they found something quite novel. When mammals, including humans, die from a virus, it is usually due to an extreme immune reaction called a cytokine storm. It’s the body’s attempt to save itself, but it can actually do the opposite. Bats, however, are missing the genes that trigger this reaction—they don’t experience a cytokine storm, allowing them to carry the viruses unharmed. Understanding how they do this may eventually allow researchers to create drugs that suppress cytokine storms in people or to develop gene therapies to prevent them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria Denies Killing of 15 Christians in Northern State

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) — The Nigerian government on Tuesday denied reports claiming that 15 Christian worshipers were killed in an outskirt of northeast Borno State on Sunday. Local media had on Monday quoted a rescue officer as saying that attackers stormed a church service in Kiyak village in the outskirts of Chibok, killing another set of 15 worshipers.

Spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Yushau Shuaib said in a statement that though some of the reports claimed a source from the agency provided the information, the agency not only contacted the same officer who denied it in its entirety, it also assigned a special team to investigate and verify the allegation which was later found to be unsubstantiated and untrue. He said the team however discovered that two people were killed by unidentified gunmen around the area on Sunday and whose bodies had been deposited in a hospital. The victims were a security man and a bystander, he said, noting that the agency could not classify the victims as Muslims or Christians because most of the attacks in that northeast axis are nondiscriminatory between religion, tribe or section of the victims.

Borno State, located in Nigeria’s northeastern region, is a Boko Haram flashpoint, where the Nigerian government had declared and lifted some curfews due to wave of attacks.

Waves of attack believed to be perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect have been reported in the northern and central parts of Nigeria. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its latest report that more than 1,500 people, including women and children, had been killed in various attacks by the Boko Haram sect since 2009.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Immigration

White House Eases Path to Residency for Some Illegal Immigrants

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration eased the way Wednesday for illegal immigrants who are immediate relatives of American citizens to apply for permanent residency, a change that could affect as many as 1 million of the estimated 11 million immigrants unlawfully in the U.S.

A new rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security aims to reduce the time illegal immigrants are separated from their American families while seeking legal status, immigration officials said.

Beginning March 4, when the changes go into effect, illegal immigrants who can demonstrate that time apart from an American spouse, child or parent would create “extreme hardship,” can start the application process for a legal visa without leaving the U.S.

Once approved, applicants would be required to leave the U.S. briefly in order to return to their native country and pick up their visa.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Christian Doctors Call for Ban on NHS ‘Bribing’ Hospitals to Put More Patients on Controversial Death Pathway

An influential group of Christian doctors yesterday called for an end to financial ‘bribes’ that encourage hospitals to place dying patients on the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway.

The Christian Medical Fellowship said judgments about whether to withdraw treatment from terminally-ill patients should be made solely on clinical grounds.

The CMF, which represents more than 4,000 doctors, said financial incentives for hospitals to use the system — thought to run at more than £10million a year in total — should be ‘eradicated’ immediately.

It also urged ministers to tighten controls to end the ‘undoubted abuses’ of a system designed to ensure patients die with dignity.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

General

Hunting the Unicorn of Moderate Islam

by Glenn Fairman

In hunting the unicorn of moderate Islam, the West has occupied itself by passing through a mental gauntlet of Herculean moral contortions in separating the proverbial sheep from the goats. As I see it, those “moderate” voices of Islam, which have been protesting the violence of their brethren by thundering at the volume of a hushed whisper, will diminish even more fully as the Islamicist ascendency moves towards its apex. Who can doubt that in time the faint defiant murmurs of “peaceful Islam” will ultimately become qualitatively indistinguishable from the bloody rancor of the vox bellicose?

[…]

Barack Obama gave the Arab Spring his forked blessing, and in the bargain was instrumental in igniting the House of Islam in a firestorm that will swallow what little peace remains in the world. The Myth of Islamic Moderation will soon pass the way of all naive pipe dreams — like the utopian Kellogg-Briand Pact that theoretically should have outlawed the powers of the earth from any longer waging war. Both this pact and the Arab Spring shared two things in common: they both made the coming conflagrations inevitable and in turn made the Spirit of the West incapable of adequately answering the inhuman mutating visage of unrelenting and unapologetic tyranny.

Glenn Fairman is retired and has taken to writing to fulfill his lifelong dreams of immense wealth and rubbing elbows with Katie Couric. He blogs as the Eloquent Professor at www.palookavillepost.com or can be contacted at arete5000@dslextreme.com.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

What’s Islamophobia, And Do I Have it?

by Haroon Moghul

An answer in eight parts

A closed mind is a terrible thing to behold. But it’s a far worse thing to have to engage. And yet we must. This Saturday, the woman who murdered a complete stranger by shoving him into the path of an arriving subway train was arrested. Her name? Erica Menendez. Her target? Hindus and Muslims. Why? Because of 2001…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20130101

Financial Crisis
» EU’s Directed History Grinds on
» Greek Shops to Get Online Link With Finance Ministry
» House Passes Fiscal Deal, Averting Tax Increases and Spending Cuts
» How to Restore the West
» The Truth About the Fiscal Cliff in Simple Terms
» What We Can Expect: Ten Top Elite Memes for 2013
 
USA
» CCHR Says Federal Investigation Into Psychiatric Drugs & Violence Long Overdue
» Gun Owners Mad as Hell and Will Not Take It!
» Obama Seizing Control of the US Military — Potential Cataclysm Ahead
» On Modern Musketry
» The 2013 Anxiety Meter
» Video: Going for the Guns: Possible Martial Law in Early 2013?
 
Europe and the EU
» Blood of Guillotined French King ‘Authentic’
» French Muslims Celebrate New Year by Torching 1,193 Cars
» Italy: Berlusconi Fingers ‘Criminal Use of Spread’ For Downfall
» Italy: Berlusconi Calls Judiciary ‘A Cancer’
» Monumental Deceit: How Politicians Lied About the True Purpose of the European Behemoth
» Sicily Doesn’t Need 21 Press Officers, Says Crocetta
» UK: Last Words of Teenager Knifed to Death Protecting Younger Brother From Phone Muggers
» UK: Police Hunt for Dangerous Serial Rapist Who Walked Out of Open Prison
 
North Africa
» Egyptian Satirist Accused of Undermining Mohammed Morsi
» Israel Will Cease to Exist Within a Decade, Says Muslim Brotherhood Official
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» The Bennett Threat — And Why the Pols Are Scared
 
Middle East
» 2013: The Start of Israel’s Energy Independence
» Education: Egypt and Turkey Carry Out Cooperation Protocol
» Saudi Arabia: Website Editor Could Face Death Penalty
» Sesquicentennial Comparisons: Black Slavery in America and Ottoman Turkey
» They Cut His Ears Off and Tied Him Upside Down — Harrowing True Story of Being Kidnapped by Somali Pirates
» Video: The Syrian Diary: Unimaginable Crimes Committed by Terrorists
 
South Asia
» Gunmen Kill Seven Pakistani Aid Workers
» Indian Gang Rape Victim Was Thrown Under Bus After Attack But Her Fiance Saved Her From Being Crushed Under Its Wheels
» Islamic Militants Massacre Five Women Teachers Travelling to Primary School in Protest at Female Education in Pakistan
 
Far East
» Fear the Russia/China Alliance
» North Korean Leader Calls for End to “Confrontation” With South
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» South Africa Vanishes With Its Gold?
 
Culture Wars
» Homophobia: What Does it Really Mean?
 
General
» NGOs Plot Wave of Criminal Referrals to Legitimize International Criminal Court
» Now UN Wants to Control Tourist Behavior … For the ‘Greater Good, ‘ of Course
» Succour for the Vain and Vacuous: Why I Loathe Twitter

Financial Crisis

EU’s Directed History Grinds on

EU summit to consider ‘reform contracts’ for all euro states … Draft ideas ahead of next week’s EU leaders summit foresee reform contracts for all euro states, political agreement on a full banking union and, post-2014, a budget for the eurozone. The still-to-be finalised conclusions, seen by EUobserver, envisage progress towards profound economic and monetary union — the lack of which is considered to have led to the eurozone’s current crisis — in three phases. By March next year, EU leaders are supposed to agree the “operational framework” for a single European banking supervisor, the first of three planks necessary for full banking union. The proposed second phase (2013-2014) is where the EU leaders are likely to start haggling over language. It suggests that legislative proposals for a bank resolution directive and an EU-wide deposit guarantee scheme are made. If this passes there will “in essence be political agreement on a full banking union,” said one contact. — EU Observer

Dominant Social Theme: We need bigness. We crave it.

Free-Market Analysis: As we and others have documented, EU officials decades ago anticipated an economic crisis that would yield a political union. That plan obviously remains unchanged.

We can see from the above article excerpt that what was plotted long ago is blossoming today. While the dominant social theme is surely one having to do with bigger being better, the subdominant social theme predictably involves the strengthening of the EU’s financial sphere.

But was the lack of a “monetary union” the real reason for the EU’s current troubles? Of course not. It is simply more directed history. Create a crisis. Make numerous attempts to “solve it.” And finally, generate the solution you intended to inflict from the beginning. Here’s more from the article:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Greek Shops to Get Online Link With Finance Ministry

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 31 — Greece’ company cash registers will be connected to the Taxisnet electronic system of the Finance Ministry in the first three months of 2013, daily Kathimerini reports quoting ministry officials as saying. The online link between shops and enterprises to the ministry’s database means that payment and receipt of value-added tax will be conducted in real time, putting an end to the VAT statements that companies currently have to submit at regular intervals.

The new system will allow VAT to be credited directly to the state’s account and once the process begins, authorities hope it will bring an end to the issuance of bogus invoices and will curb VAT payment evasion. They say that this technology constitutes a much more effective tool for combatting tax evasion than anything that has been used to date, as it allows the ministry to be informed in real time of a transaction at the same time as a receipt is issued by an enterprise.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

House Passes Fiscal Deal, Averting Tax Increases and Spending Cuts

Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late Tuesday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avert tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs.

The measure, brought to the House floor less than 24 hours after its passage in the Senate, passed 257 to 167, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in voting to allow incomes taxes to rise for the first time in two decades. The bill is expected to be signed quickly by Mr. Obama.

[Return to headlines]

How to Restore the West

By any political, cultural or economic measure the nations of the West are in total decline. The historic virtues of hard work, free-market thinking and a common cultural integrity as well as religious and historical principles are gone. They have been subverted and replaced by an emphasis on rampant materialism and a consumer driven society that exceeds 70 percent of GNP in addition to private and public debt. Furthermore, a kind of parasitism has laid claim to Western culture by which sports stars, politicians, media darlings and financial scam artists get recognition and exorbitant incomes while real workers find their incomes falling and promised benefits curtailed.

Western society has lost its way. The main reason is the former political leadership of individual European nations and America, as imperfect as they were, have been co-opted and taken over by a corrupt power elite that uses its control over mob rule democracy and massive financial contributions to buy controlling influence over the “representative” governments of most Western nations.

This control has meant the political leadership and central bankers do not represent the citizens or the best interests of the nation at large. Instead, politics works to advance the financial and global governance interests of a small, secretive power elite. This takeover has bankrupted most nation-states and now threatens all existing fiat paper currencies as well as public and private wealth and retirement savings.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Truth About the Fiscal Cliff in Simple Terms

Many either don’t know what the “fiscal cliff” is, or believe this problem is something that it’s not.

Although America ‘s economic crisis is not rocket science, the media and politicians have done a good job of keeping the truth hidden so that our focus isn’t on the real problem. After all, if we, the people, understood the real problem, we would demand that they fix it and we are smart enough to know the real fix that’s needed.

To prevent this from happening, politicians and media conjured up this catchy phrase called “the fiscal cliff.” Then they established a narrative that gave us a false target to blame — the so-called “rich.”

In other words, keeping the people’s attention on class warfare directs our anger and rhetoric onto the false target they’ve fed us and off of ‘what’ and ‘who’ created the problem in the first place. This distracts us from formulating and voicing the real solution to the true problem.

So, what is the real problem that created this crisis?

In a nut shell, our elected politicians have continued to spend trillions more in the past four years than taxpayers have given them. Thus, they have brought America ‘s economy to the point of near collapse. It’s that simple.

Three of the broader consequences of what they’ve done are:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

What We Can Expect: Ten Top Elite Memes for 2013

What a year it’s been, marked mainly by increasing worldwide chaos, senseless wars and economic upheaval, all leading inevitably to increased “chaos” out of which shiny, new global government can be born — along with new, more global currencies.

The top elites — the ones we think control central banking and money creation — created an EU sovereign crisis, from what we can tell, and wasted the world’s time this past year in intense and fruitless negotiations to “resolve it.” There can be no resolution, of course, and that’s just the point. The EU mess is to continue until every aspect of that pitiful union is further centralized and bureaucratized.

In the US, phony economic crises struck with increased urgency, one after the other, finally leading to the largest of all, the so-called Fiscal Cliff. The Cliff will be resolved, of course, leading to a round of self-congratulation covered by the bought-and-paid-for mainstream press.

And then, promptly, there will be another crisis. The United States is being brought down with one phony crisis after another. The idea apparently is to place the US in a position where it can merge economically with countries like Mexico and Brazil. In order for this to happen, the US economy has to be reduced, and that is well underway.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA

CCHR Says Federal Investigation Into Psychiatric Drugs & Violence Long Overdue

CCHR’s website documents that at least fourteen recent school shootings were committed by those taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs, resulting in 109 wounded and 58 killed. It also lists 22 international drug regulatory warnings that have been issued on psychiatric drugs causing side effects of mania, psychosis, aggression, hostility, violence and even homicidal ideation, yet there has never been a federal investigation into psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a mental health watchdog, is calling for a federal investigation into the link between psychiatric drug use, school shootings and other acts of senseless violence, calling the investigation long overdue, and citing the supporting evidence.

On Dec. 17th, the Los Angeles Times article, “Adam Lanza’s family had kept a watchful eye on him,” cited sources who say Lanza had been ‘medicated’ as early as age 10. WFSB Eyewitness News, a Connecticut CBS affiliate, reported on Dec. 19th in the article, “Adam Lanza underwent psych evaluations in years past,” that Adam Lanza “had some disorders” and Eyewitness News learned that Lanza “did undergo some sort of psychiatric evaluation sometime within the past few years.”

The questions that need to be answered are what “medications” was Adam Lanza prescribed, when was he prescribed them, and for how long.

The importance of answering these questions, as well as the need to launch a federal investigation into psychiatric drugs prompting acts of violence, are based on the following:

[…]

CCHR’s site also documents that 22 international drug regulatory warnings have been issued on psychiatric drugs citing effects of mania, hostility, violence and even homicidal ideation. Dozens of high profile shootings/killings have been committed by teenagers under the influence of psychiatric drugs, and there has yet to be a federal investigation on the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Gun Owners Mad as Hell and Will Not Take It!

This is about far more than guns and who has them. This is about slavery to the state. Pure and simple.

There is a purge of Congress in the offing. It will be historic in its magnitude.

Allow me to be as clear as I possibly can about this because the disconnect between the people of America and their government has become so complete, the distance between the citizen and the government has become so broad, that Washington is hearing only a faint whisper (If they hear anything at all!) coming from those of us outside the beltway.

So let me say this clearly, loudly, and in a declarative manner: Attention Senators and US Representatives: If you vote for the new Assault Weapons Ban your political career in the US Congress is OVER. That is O V E R! Complete, finished, ended, kaput!

For the past few days I have been going over and over Senator Diane Feinstein’s proposal for a new Assault Weapons Ban and it reads like some sort of “edict” handed down from the politburo in old Soviet Socialist Russia. (The politburo is the chief executive and political committee of the Communist Party.)

It IS as bad as I had suspected— but it is much, much, worse!

[…]

All this is bad enough, but consider this: If the Congress refuses to pass Feinstein’s bill into law, isn’t it reasonable to expect that Obama will issue the necessary Executive Orders to do much the same thing by way of rules and regulations, which have the force of law, and those rules and regs will be executed by the alphabet agencies under his control such as BATFE and the DHS, and even the agency, or agencies, charged with the supervision of Obamacare.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Seizing Control of the US Military — Potential Cataclysm Ahead

Barack Obama has worked with pro-Moscow Marxists including Frank Marshall Davis and Alice Palmer, and pro-Cuban radicals like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, his entire life.

Their number one priority has always been the destruction of the US military, the only significant block remaining, to global revolution.

Now that the Davis/Palmer/Ayers/Dohrn protege has the reins of power, President Obama is working hard to destroy US military superiority, consciously or unconsciously, to the advantage of the Russia/China/Cuba/North Korea/Iranian/Islamic alliance.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

On Modern Musketry

Accentuated by the recent heinous events at Sandy Hook, I have lately heard an increase in the never-really-absent mantra of “ban them, ban them, ban them all,” where the “them” referred to is a poorly defined item with a politically made up name which capitalizes on a semantic nuance of the poor (or at least marginal) translation of a German word, co-opted into a bogeyman term used to frighten some, shame others, and generally interdict rationality and reason so that emotion reigns, while logic lies wounded at its feet.

The Sandy Hook incident was a gut punch for many, some of us more than others, and for reasons that varied across the spectrum of emotion. It hit me at three distinct nerve centers: a) it happened near my family home, less than thirty miles from where I was born, b) it involved the senseless and wholly preventable slaughter of young children, and c) it served as a spark to the tinder of the political arsonists who have waited impatiently for just the right “tragedy” to provide the plausible “outrage” to put the torch to the Second Amendment.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The 2013 Anxiety Meter

Obama is the center of his own Marxist universe.

All through 2012 I kept telling myself that, if I could just wait it out until the elections, a majority of Americans would surely set things right by electing Mitt Romney, but we have since learned that he was a reluctant candidate who, if we are to believe his son—and I think we can—really didn’t want to get in the race, but thought the others in the primaries had little chance of winning.

I won’t blame Romney for the loss. Running against an incumbent President has rarely yielded victory. He had all the right qualifications, but he always struck me as just “too nice” and, as we know, Republicans were reluctant to tear into Obama’s appalling record on the economy and other issues. Like Romney, they are “too nice” despite being up against political thugs.

I think 2013 is going to be a very unlucky year for the United States and it has a lot to do with the fact that Barack Hussein Obama is now free to finish off his destruction of America because he does not have to run again for office.

[…]

Here again, 2013 will not bode well if Obama’s choice for the next Secretary of State, John Kerry, is confirmed as is expected. America first became aware of Kerry when, as a young veteran of Vietnam, he accused his fellow soldiers of offenses that were later proven to have no basis in fact. He threw away his combat medals. In the 1980s, Kerry campaigned for a nuclear freeze and the Obama administration has been reducing our nuclear arms arsenal at the worst possible time. Iran is just months away from having its own nuclear arms and, after that, no one can predict what they will do with them, but you can be sure they will use them. Obama’s promises to ensure they do not are worthless.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Video: Going for the Guns: Possible Martial Law in Early 2013?

A 31-years of service NC police lieutenant calls into a pastor’s radio show to tell what he has heard from the inside- and he says they are training for civil unrest.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Blood of Guillotined French King ‘Authentic’

Scientists have established the authenticity of a piece of cloth dipped in the blood of France’s last king Louis XVI (pictured) after his execution during the French Revolution.

Scientists have authenticated that a rag believed to have been dipped in the blood of France’s monarch Louis XVI is the genuine article.

The discovery also proves the authenticity of a mummified head which was believed to be that of 16th century French king Henri IV — which was used to make the DNA comparison.

Louis XVI was executed by guillotine on January 21, 1793, the first victim of the “Reign of Terror” that followed France’s infamous revolutionary uprising.

As was the habit at the executions of French aristocrats, spectators dipped their handkerchiefs in the gore of the decapitated victim as a morbid keepsake.

One such rag found its way into a calabash — a form of squash that is dried and used as a bottle — on which was inscribed: “On January 21, Maximilien Bourdaloue dipped his handkerchief in the blood of Louis XVI after his decapitation.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

French Muslims Celebrate New Year by Torching 1,193 Cars

By Daniel Greenfield

The good news is that the French insurance industry is getting a lot of repeat business. The bad news is that 1,193 cars were torched, three police officers and four gendarmes were injured. And 339 arrests were made. But it’s just another way that Islamic traditions are becoming part of France in a great multicultural mix of petrol, fire and ruin.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Fingers ‘Criminal Use of Spread’ For Downfall

Reiterates need to investigate Napolitano’s role

(ANSA) — Rome, December 31 — Italian ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi declared on Monday that “a criminal use of the spread” was instrumental to the demise of his leadership in November 2011. Speaking on Radio Capital, Berlusconi also reiterated his announcement in recent days that, if he is elected, a parliamentary commission will investigate Italian President Giorgio Napolitano’s role in the ex-premier’s ouster and the formation of the Mario Monti-led technical government that followed.

“Certainly there was a criminal use of the spread. On the role of Napolitano, I will not make any judgements. The commission will clarify the roles each person played,” Berlusconi said.

The spread — the difference between interest rates on Italian bonds and the German benchmark — is an important gauge of the market’s confidence in Italy’s ability to pay down its enormous debt.

Berlusconi was forced to step down in November 2011 as interest rates — and the spread — threatened to send Italy into a catastrophic sovereign-debt crisis.

Berlusconi says he believes conspiracy and market manipulation were responsible for his downfall, rather than the market’s diffidence in his political leadership.

In the Monday radio interview, Berlusconi also dismissed the importance of opinions against him among political leaders of other European countries.

“The support of certain government leaders for Monti? It is clear that the other countries defend their interests,” Berlusconi added. “Premier Berlusconi did not please them. I was not mocked but feared in Europe.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Calls Judiciary ‘A Cancer’

(AGI) — Rome, Dec 31 — Silvio Berlusconi, speaking to Teleradiostereodue said, “That of the judiciary is a cancer which afflicts our democracy, because the use of politics in the justice system is something which cannot be allowed in a true democracy.” The former prime minister also attacked Antonio Ingroia saying, “If you think about these magistrates like Ingroia, who take advantage of the popularity they have had as judges, and then become candidates and enter into politics — these things are unacceptable.”

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

Monumental Deceit: How Politicians Lied About the True Purpose of the European Behemoth

At first it should be presented as just a trading arrangement, the ‘Common Market’ set up in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome. But the essence of that treaty was to create the core institutions of what Monnet always intended should one day be the ‘Government of Europe’.

The idea was to work for ‘ever closer union’.

Treaty by treaty, it would take over more powers from national governments, based on the sacred principle that once power to make laws was handed over to Brussels it could never be given back.

Ever more countries would be brought into the net, until the project reached its ultimate goal as a super-government, with its own president and parliament, its own currency and armed forces, its own flag and anthem — all the attributes of a fully-fledged nation state.

Thus, stealthily assembled over decades, would this new ‘country called Europe’ finally take its place on the world stage. What we found most shocking in researching this story was that, when Britain’s leaders first considered joining the project, they were made fully aware of this hidden agenda.

As we see from Cabinet papers and other documents of the early Sixties, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his ‘Europe Minister’ Edward Heath were put completely in the picture about the secret ‘grand plan’. But in June 1961 the Cabinet formally agreed that it must not be revealed to the British people.

In Macmillan’s words, to admit ‘the political objectives’ of the Rome Treaty would raise ‘problems of public relations’ so ‘considerable’ that they should be kept under wraps. It was vital to emphasise only the economic advantages of British entry.

Thus did Macmillan and Heath become drawn into complicity with that same web of deceit which was driving the ‘project’ itself

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Sicily Doesn’t Need 21 Press Officers, Says Crocetta

(AGI) Messina — President of Sicily Region Rosario Crocetta said the Region doesn’t need 21 journalists with the job title of editor in chief.

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

UK: Last Words of Teenager Knifed to Death Protecting Younger Brother From Phone Muggers

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

A teenager was stabbed to death protecting his younger brother from a gang that had stolen a phone.

Dogan Ismail, 17, died after being knifed in the chest on Sunday afternoon at a block of flats in Walworth, south-east London.

The sixth-form student and his younger brother Orhan, 15, had gone to retrieve a stolen BlackBerry when they were confronted by up to four youths and a row broke out.

The mobile phone had previously been stolen by a trio of pupils — that Orhan recognised from his school — as he walked home from playing football.

Two days later he received a message saying: ‘If you come here we will give it back to you,’ according to The Sun.

The pair headed to Latimer House to retrieve the phone, but instead one of the boys pulled out a knife and stabbed Dogan in the chest at the top of a stairwell.

The teenager bled to death as his younger brother tried desperately to save his life.

Orhan later told his family: ‘He made to give back the phone, but instead brought a knife from behind his back and stabbed Dogan in the chest.

‘His last words were, ‘Oh my God, you have stabbed me!’ The guy just calmly walked away.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Hunt for Dangerous Serial Rapist Who Walked Out of Open Prison

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

A serial rapist is being hunted by police after walking out of an open prison.

Sean Cawthray, 41, was jailed indefinitely in 2002 after attempting to kidnap a 14-year-old girl by dragging her away from a bus stop.

He was last seen at Leyhill Open Prison in south Gloucestershire at 5.30pm on Sunday and is believed to have left the unit before 8.30pm.

Police are warning the public not to approach Cawthray and to dial 999 immediately if they see him.

[…]

Leyhill Open Prison is a 508-man Category D prison which holds men re-classified to a lower risk who are often being prepared for release back into society.

It has no perimeter fence and was once dubbed ‘The Savoy of Slammers’ for its cushy regime.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Satirist Accused of Undermining Mohammed Morsi

An Egyptian satirist who made fun of President Mohammed Morsi on television has been accused of undermining his standing and will be investigated by prosecutors, according to a judicial source.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel Will Cease to Exist Within a Decade, Says Muslim Brotherhood Official

A senior Muslim Brotherhood official has said that Israel will cease to exist within a decade, the latest in a series of inflammatory comments by figures close to Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

The Bennett Threat — And Why the Pols Are Scared

By Moshe Dann

Bennett is different. He doesn’t play by the rules that have characterized the ruthless political game. Regardless of the party, with only some variance of dress codes and colorful attachments, twittering and texting, the candidates are all the same.

Naftali Bennett is a product of Israeli society; articulate and smart, a Sayeret Matkal veteran, he’s an insider that understands what’s going on.

He is also a financial success. But that is not what makes him dangerous to the establishment. The threat he poses stems not so much from his ideology, but rather from the fact that that he actually has one, that he articulates what he believes and stands for.

As refreshing as that sounds, it is a world away from most other politicians and so-called “leaders,” who pirouette on a shekel, or savage their opponents, depending on which way the winds of political success seem to be blowing. Bennett represents a kind of honesty and integrity that has not been seen in Israeli politics since Menachem Begin.

ISRAELI ELECTORAL campaigns and politics are all about personalities. Forget about ideology, forget about what they did or did not do, just “read my lips.”

Except that there are no lips…

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Middle East

2013: The Start of Israel’s Energy Independence

The mainstream media has neglected to inform the American public of Ha Shem’s great gift to Israel, the huge offshore natural gas fields about to begin production and the pilot tests of in situ oil extraction from the shale formation in the Shefla basin in 2013. Those Israel oil shale reserves might even rival those of Saudi Arabia. The development of these energy resources may enable Israel within this decade to become energy independent. Those offshore gas and on-shore oil shale developments have the potential of making Israel an energy independent political power in the Middle East and player in the world energy markets. The energy developments could pour billions of royalty revenues into a newly authorized Sovereign Wealth Fund that might significantly enhance the country’s high tech driven growth. Most importantly it would also provide the funds to enable the IDF to meet the threats arrayed against it.

The Tamar partners starting production of offshore natural gas in 2013 should boost the prospects of the IEI/Genie Energy pilot test and the future of oil shale development in the Shefla Basin. The combination of offshore natural gas production coupled with on-shore oil shale extraction is a geo-political game changer for Israel and the world energy markets. These developments in late 2012 marked the beginning of Israel’s long sought energy independence further enhancing the country’s economic growth and stability.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Education: Egypt and Turkey Carry Out Cooperation Protocol

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 28 — The Suez Canal University of Egypt announced that they have started the student exchange program in scope of developing cooperation with Turkey in the education field. Prof. Muhammad Mohammadayn, the president of Suez Canal University, said the student exchange program was initiated as part of the protocol prepared to develop cooperation in areas of tourism and higher education between two countries. Mentioning that the student exchange would encourage reciprocal visits and cultural exchange, Mohammadayn said that 2014 would be Egyptian year in Turkey and Turkish year in Egypt as Anatolia news agency reported.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Website Editor Could Face Death Penalty

With many recent discussions here on ATS pertaining to Freedom of Speech and talk of repressive/oppressive control over people, I felt this would be an interesting example to show that a greater degree of freedom is allowed (at least here in the west).

A Saudi man created a website to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia and was later arrested in June of 2012. Now his case is being passed to the higher courts in Saudi Arabia.

He faces a possible death sentence as he has several charges levied against him: blasphemy, insulting Islam through electronic channels, and apostasy.

The judges of this matter are said to base their decisions on their own interpretaion of religious law instead of any written legal code or precendent.

Apostasy and blashemy, according to the article, both carry automatic death sentences.

Here is the site [url] — translated to English by Microsoft’s Bing.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sesquicentennial Comparisons: Black Slavery in America and Ottoman Turkey

By Andrew G. Bostom

marks the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which set the United States firmly on the path toward the abolition of slavery.

Frederick Douglass, in his autobiography, Life and Times, described how, in his view, Lincoln’s proclamation morphed the Civil War beyond a struggle to preserve the Union, into a transcendent war against slavery:

The first of January, 1863, was a memorable day in the progress of American liberty and civilization. It was the turning-point in the conflict between freedom and slavery. A death blow was then given to the slaveholding rebellion

During a January 13, 1865 speech in New York City, Douglass had elaborated:…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]

They Cut His Ears Off and Tied Him Upside Down — Harrowing True Story of Being Kidnapped by Somali Pirates

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

Whipped with electrical cable, thrown into the sea and having an ear chopped off were just a few of the torturous ordeals 22 hostages endured when being kept captive by Somali pirates.

Only released earlier this month, the men lived in fear for nearly three years, but have now spoken out about their harrowing experience.

The Panama-flagged MV Iceberg One cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates as it set off in March 2010 on a voyage to Britain with a cargo of electrical goods.

But the men were left to endure the longest pirate hijacking in modern maritime history, after the Dubai-owners of the ship refused to pay the $10 million ransom they demanded.

And when the ransom money did not arrive, the torture sessions were increased.

‘They cut the ears off of one old Yemeni sailor. He is OK now but will need a few operations.

‘They also shot over their heads, hit them so hard that many have lost their teeth, whipped them with sticks and wires and tied them up and left them in the sun,’ said Mohamad Abdirahman, the Puntland Maritime Police Force director to The National.

The hostages’ health deteriorated quickly after only being fed one meal a day of rice and dirty drinking water, reported The Telegraph.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Video: The Syrian Diary: Unimaginable Crimes Committed by Terrorists

This exclusive documentary by Russian TV station, Rossiya 24, is a “must watch” as it gives a very good insight on the events that have been taking place in Syria since 2011. It shows how both the Syrian Army and the Syria people are defending their country Syria from the unimaginable crimes committed by extremist terrorists who operate with massive international media, military, intelligence, and financial support, a situation that no one would ever want to be in.

Warning: Contains graphic footage, 18+, not for shock, aimed only at documenting events in Syria and crimes of FSA terrorists.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Gunmen Kill Seven Pakistani Aid Workers

Shooting of six female aid workers and a male doctor appears to be latest attack by militants on public health teams

Gunmen have killed six Pakistani female aid workers and a male doctor in what appears to be the latest attack by Islamic militants on teams involved in public health campaigns.

Recent days have been violent in the troubled country, with dozens dying in a string of terrorist attacks. Analysts blame many of the strikes on militant groups keen to demonstrate their ability to cause casualties and destruction after the government rejected the Taliban’s call for ceasefire negotiations late last month.

“They are signalling to the people that the pain they are suffering is in fact the government’s fault because their offer of peace was rejected,” said Ejaz Haider, of the Jinnah Institute, a thinktank in the capital of Islamabad. “There is likely to be more violence as they ramp up their campaign in coming weeks.”

The militants have been stung by a loss of public support following indiscriminate attacks last year, a lack of economic development in the areas where they are strong, deals concluded by the authorities with some major local extremist commanders, and ongoing strikes by US drones.

Tuesday’s attack came in Swabi district, about 45 miles (75km) north-west of Islamabad, and was the first attack on aid workers in the area.

In Karachi, a bomb exploded near the headquarters of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), a political party in the city, killing at least one and injuring dozens.

The city has been the site of a growing number of gunfights, bombing and assassinations in recent months as ethnic, sectarian and political factions, as well as criminals, struggle for power and influence. Leaders of militant religious groups have threatened to target the MQM which has vocally opposed extremism…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Indian Gang Rape Victim Was Thrown Under Bus After Attack But Her Fiance Saved Her From Being Crushed Under Its Wheels

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

The gang of men who attacked an Indian woman who later died from her horrific injuries tried to run her over with the bus she was brutally raped in, it emerged today.

The 23-year-old was tossed out of the moving vehicle only for her fiance to battle to pull her from under its wheels, police in Delhi have said.

‘They tried to drive the bus over the rape victim and her male friend. Her friend pulled her to safety, just in time’, an officer close to the investigation claims.

Neighbours said the couple were planning to marry in February but the woman, who remains anonymous, died on Saturday despite treatment at a Singapore hospital — two weeks after she was attacked.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Islamic Militants Massacre Five Women Teachers Travelling to Primary School in Protest at Female Education in Pakistan

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

Five female teachers in Pakistan have been slaughtered by Islamic militants bent on keeping women and girls away from education.

They were murdered in a New Year’s Day ambush on the van carrying them home from their jobs at a community centre and primary school in the north-west of the country.

The teachers and two health workers — one man and one woman — were killed this afternoon in the conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Far East

Fear the Russia/China Alliance

If Americans think of national security at all, its usually of Islamic terrorism or Iran, maybe North Korea.

Few are saying this, but what they should really be fearing is the growing Russia/China alliance.

From the Communist Party of China, International Department website:…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

North Korean Leader Calls for End to “Confrontation” With South

In the first televised New Year address by a North Korean leader in 19 years, Kim Jong-un called for the end of “confrontation between the north and the south” of the Korean peninsula. The two Koreas never signed a treaty to end the 1950-1953 war.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa Vanishes With Its Gold?

Last week’s shocking announcement by Statistics South Africa that the nation’s gold production had hit a 90-year low was met with token media coverage and surprisingly, hardly any outrage from labour unions, civil society or indeed the country’s population at large … The legacy of hatred and bitterness incited by the Anglo-Boer war and its cruel aftermath stimulated a toxic and destructive Afrikaner nationalism that eventually took hold of the country, with repercussions lasting almost a century. Throughout this period, gold provided an underpin to the nation’s economy. It contributed handsomely to tax coffers and generated valuable foreign revenue. What followed was spectacular wealth for a few and employment for thousands of desperate, marginalised people under despicable conditions at a very low wage. — Daily Maverick

Dominant Social Theme: Everything is still okay. Once apartheid died, the future became bright in both Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Free-Market Analysis: We never believed that either Zimbabwe or South Africa would work out as countries with a shared black and white heritage. Our fears have already been borne out in Zimbabwe and soon, we fear, the same sort of destruction will be visited on South Africa.

Within this context, gold production can serve as a sort of metaphor or barometer of national health. Now that gold production has hit a 90-year low, we wonder if South Africa itself is beginning to descend into the kind of vicious racism that has so scarred Zimbabwe.

Certainly black people in South Africa and Zimbabwe are justified in harboring a certain bitterness in their hearts over what occurred. But as circumstances change, so should those feelings. To continue to hate white people for apartheid in South Africa is ultimately self-defeating. It will likely contribute to lower South African living standards and diminished wealth. This has already happened in Zimbabwe.

The African National Congress (ANC), Africa’s dominant political party, is having a good deal of trouble proceeding and reports are that it might break up into several factions. One of the ways ANC leaders are attempting to salvage their political fortunes is by whipping up black-on-white resentment. This has the predictable effect of putting psychological pressure on white people in South Africa. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article on South Africa and a potential white exodus:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Homophobia: What Does it Really Mean?

How should we describe or interpret the savagery of people who physically, verbally, and psychologically abuse innocent people because of their sexual identity or orientation? Most people interpret such actions as homophobia. Yet the same label is pinned on a person who simply believes it is not good for men to have sex with men, or even to one who believes, despite his own sympathies, that marriage should not be redefined to include same-sex couples.

The power of that one word, homophobia, has been a significant feature of the same-sex marriage debate. Homophobia, the term, was invented in the 1960s by psychologist Dr George Weinberg to challenge the prevailing view that homosexuality was a psychological disorder. Weinberg effectively turned the tables on the prevailing view, alleging through his medically-inspired term that hostility to homosexuality was itself a psycho-social problem.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General

NGOs Plot Wave of Criminal Referrals to Legitimize International Criminal Court

Dominant Social Theme: The International Criminal Court fights for you and me — and worldwide justice against those who disobey our perception of what is correct with impunity.

Free-Market Analysis: We don’t usually pursue sourced stories because we analyze memes. But regular readers are well aware that a dominant social theme is not merely a hypothetical elite suggestion. Such themes can generate their own reality via something we call directed history.

When it comes to manmade enterprises like the International Criminal Court, directed history can be enlisted to provide legitimacy. And in this case, sourced prognostications of NGO support for the ICC in South America are borne out by articles like this one, excerpted above.

We’ve learned from sources that NGOs throughout South America and Africa are conducting an organized effort to identify crimes against humanity that can be referred to the ICC.

While there has been considerable pushback against the ICC in the West, such concerns are not so predominant in various developing countries. Here’s some more from the article:

[…]

In such a manner is international criminal law being erected, by creating a phony demand for an illegitimate judicial system. The crimes don’t really matter, nor are they necessarily valid ones except from the perspective of the larger powers-that-be that want certain enemies punished and specific “atrocities” illuminated.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Now UN Wants to Control Tourist Behavior … For the ‘Greater Good, ‘ of Course

We can see from the above how relentless UN officials are when it comes to stressing “sustainability.” This is a nonsense word, of course. The planet IS sustainable. It is a hunk of rock. It’s not going anywhere nor are the processes that make it what it is.

There is little if anything humans can do to “sustain” the planet’s current facilities. Air, water, weather, geological processes … all were put in place long before humans trod the Earth.

Sustainability is a phrase popularized by a power elite that wants to run the world and needs to control large populations in order to do so. Only by controlling human consumption of energy and other “resources” can the top elites hope to generate the kind of all-encompassing world government they seek.

This is the reason the elites focus so heavily on sustainability and use every tool at their disposal to emphasize it. World Tourism Day is just another opportunity to deliver the message.

The Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai, made the point that “sustainable energy in the tourism sector can also help reduce energy poverty by implementing the objectives of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative… “

According to Rifai, conservation creates jobs and opportunities for “millions.” But this is just another unprovable bromide. It is hard to see how foregoing something creates employment.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Succour for the Vain and Vacuous: Why I Loathe Twitter

The clue, perhaps, is in the name. Write a blog and you’re a blogger. Hack into a computer and you’re a hacker. So it’s safe to say that when they came up with ‘twitter.com’, they weren’t expecting much in the way of intelligent discourse. And so it has proved.

David Cameron may have got into trouble in 2009 when he joked: ‘The trouble with Twitter … too many twits might make a tw*t.’ But he was spot on.

In the three years since the Prime Minister made the remark, Twitter has elevated inanity to a global art form.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20121231

Financial Crisis
» Executives at Collapsed Iceland Bank Jailed for Fraud
» Greece: Cash Payments Ceiling to Drop to 500 Euros
» The Values Economy
» Why We Are on the Brink of the Greatest Depression of All Time
» With a Sluggish Economy, Japan Waits for Abe’s Solutions
 
USA
» Dianne Feinstein: “I Carried a Concealed Weapon”
» Media Ignores Shooting Stopped by Law-Abiding Gun Owner
» Nine-Months-Pregnant Daughter of Top Doctor and Her Occupy Wall Street Organizer Boyfriend Arrested After Police Find ‘A Bomb and Weapons’ In Their New York Apartment
» Obama to Put “Full Weight” Behind Feinstein Gun Confiscation Plan
» Russian News Outlet Pravda Prints Surprising Opinion Column Warning USA: ‘Never Give Up Your Guns’
» Sandy Hook: How Television Takes Your Guns
» ‘These Guys Are Truly, Truly Animals’…
» Video: Dianne Feinstein Says Her Goal is to Disarm All Americans
 
Canada
» Woman Dies: Three Fall Ill Aboard Toronto-Bound Via Rail Train
 
Europe and the EU
» Austrian Prof: Global Warming Deniers Should be Sentenced to Death
» Belgian Jewish Girls School Forced to Admit Sons of Holocaust Denier
» Centre and Centre Left Polarize in Italian Election
» Church Minister Warns Witchcraft is Thriving — In Wales (Home to 83 Witches, 93 Satanists and the Site of an Exorcism)
» Dutch Ask Irish Government for Answers on Safety Standards at Ryanair
» French Paper Charlie Hebdo to Publish Comic Book Life of Mohammed
» French Magazine Charlie Hebdo to Publish Comic of Mohammed’s Life
» Germany: Language Trouble Behind Many Medical Mishaps
» Greece: Lagarde List: Parliamentary Inquiry for Ex Minister
» Italy: Transsexual Thrown From Balcony, Three Arrests Made
» Swiss Freeze Mubarak Sons’ Assets: Report
» UK: Cam ‘n Have a Go if EU Think You’re Hard Enough
» UK: Far-Right Vacuum Could Trigger ‘Lone-Wolf’ Attacks
» UK: Man Critically Ill in Hospital After ‘Trolley Rage Attack’ At M&S Breaking His Hip and Wrist
» UK: Pakistani Journalist Arrested in London
» UK: Police Launch Manhunt for ‘Terror Suspect’ Who Went Missing on Boxing Day… While Under Close Surveillance
» UK: Police Seek 15-Year-Old Over Murder of Teenager Who Was Stabbed in Front of His Brother After ‘Refusing to Give His Phone to Muggers’
» UK: Three-Quarters of Doctors Who Are Struck Off in Britain Are Trained Abroad
» UK: Taxpayers Are Handing Nearly £500,000 a Week in Legal Aid to Prisoners to Help Them Make Human Rights Claims.
» UK: Taxpayers Fork Out £150million a Year for ‘Benefit Brood’ Families With More Than Five Children
» UK: Wind Turbines ‘Last for Half as Long as Previously Thought’ As Study Shows They Show Signs of Wearing Out After Just 12 Years
 
North Africa
» Algeria: ANP Troops Kill Boumerdès Terrorist
» Egypt Still Under Blackout Due to Fuel Shortage
» Egyptian Atheist’s Jail Sentence Blow to Religious Freedom
» Libya: Obama Admits “Huge Problem” In Security of Benghazi Consulate
» Tunisia: Attounssia TV Chief Hospitalised After Hunger Strike
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Fred Taub: the Israel Boycott and Bigotry
» On the Weaponizing of Lethal Narratives …
» PNA Condemns Israeli Order to Evacuate Palestinians From Jordan Valley
 
Middle East
» Al Qaeda Offers Reward for Killing US Ambassador in Yemen
» Al-Qaeda Offers $160k Bounty for Assassination of US Ambassador to Yemen and $23k for Killing American Soldiers
» At Least 13 Killed in Series of Attacks in Iraq
» Bishop Attacked in Lebanon’s Tripoli
» British Public Wants to ‘Keep Out of Syria’
» No Votes to be Had in Syria
» Russian Warships Head to the Syrian Port of Tartus
» Syria: ‘Facing 100,000 Deaths in Next Year’
 
Russia
» Muscovite, Making it — and Muslim
 
South Asia
» Afghanistan: Scrap Draft US Army Manual That Appeases Islamic Doctrine
» Afghanistan: The West Should ‘Change Its Approach to Failing States’
» Afghanistan: Local Government Reform ‘Success’ In Helmand
» Ordeal of Indian Gang Rape Victim in Her Own Words as She Lay Dying
» Sri Lanka: MP Adds Voice to Campaign Against Muslims
» Taliban Kill 21 Security Personnel Kidnapped by Them in NW Pakistan
 
Far East
» China Buying Tu-22M3 Production Line
» Philippines: Muslim Rebel Group Completes 8 Nominees to Transition Commission
 
Australia — Pacific
» Australia’s Grand Mufti Meets Hamas
» NZ: Spectacular Photo Captures Moment Great White is Gobbled by an Even Bigger Shark as It’s Hauled Into Fisherman’s Boat
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Kenya: 90 Kuria Girls Saved From FGM
» Nigeria: How We Averted Bomb Attacks at Christmas — Jonathan
» When Rwanda Won the UN Security Council Seat
 
Immigration
» Muslim Immigration to Russia Increases Dramatically
 
Culture Wars
» UK: 60,000 Patients Put on Death Pathway Without Being Told But Minister Still Says Controversial End-of-Life Plan is ‘Fantastic’

Financial Crisis

Executives at Collapsed Iceland Bank Jailed for Fraud

Two former executives at an Icelandic bank which collapsed in the 2008 financial meltdown were sentenced to jail on Friday for fraud which led to a 53 million euro loss, in the first major trial of Icelandic bankers linked to the crisis.

All three of the small North Atlantic island’s top banks collapsed in quick succession in October 2008 due to big debts incurred during a rapid overseas expansion.

Glitnir was the first to fall after the collapse of Lehman Brothers caused international credit markets to freeze up.

A Reykjavik court sentenced Glitnir’s former chief executive, Larus Welding, and former head of corporate finance, Gudmundur Hjaltason, each to nine months in jail, of which six months were suspended for two years. They had denied the charges.

Prosecutors said the two approved a loan to a company which owned shares in Glitnir so that the company could in turn repay a debt to Morgan Stanley.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Greece: Cash Payments Ceiling to Drop to 500 Euros

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 31 — In Greece any transaction in excess of 500 euros will soon only be allowed via credit or debit card or by check, daily Kathimerini reports citing a plan by the Finance Ministry aimed at combating tax evasion. The ceiling for cash transactions is to be lowered from 1,500 euros today to 500 euros and could be reduced further over in the course of 2013. Ministry sources say that in the first quarter of the new year all companies and certain self-employed individuals will have to obtain the POS (point-of-sale) terminals that provide for card transactions. This forms part of the government’s plan to contain tax evasion and increase state revenues. Ministry officials stress that public revenues can only grow through beating tax evasion, as there can be no more cuts to expenditure except for procurements.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Values Economy

There are two types of things that we put money into; the things that we need and the things that we don’t. The former represent our physical needs and the latter our spiritual needs. Food for the body and food for the mind. We need to eat, but we don’t need to see a movie. We need a house to live in, but we don’t need a house of worship. We need a car to get to work, but we don’t need a painting on our wall once we get there.

Culture isn’t a luxury, even the poorest of the poor have it. It doesn’t mean a night at the opera, it can just as easily mean sitting under a tree while the village elder explains where fire came from. But it is optional in the sense that we choose where to put our money or pine cones and those choices are our values economy.

The values economy consists of the culture you support. It’s the books you buy and the movies you see, it’s the paintings on your wall and the house of worship you attend. It’s the concerts and games you buy tickets to and it’s the colleges you attend. It’s all the intangible investments in the intangible things of aesthetics, faith and cultural knowledge.

In a healthy culture, these things mirror your values. In an unhealthy culture they do not. Not only do they not, but they don’t even mirror any stable set of values that can go the distance. Instead they’re a species of insanity, confused and convoluted bits of specialist jargon, perpetual revolutions against good taste, ideas without ideas and taboo hunters with no more taboos left to break.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Why We Are on the Brink of the Greatest Depression of All Time

Everywhere from FoxNews.com to CNBC.com, I suddenly see commentators warning of pending doom, economic collapse, and a new Great Depression. Welcome to my club. Perhaps America’s politicians and economists should have paid attention to an entrepreneur and small businessman that has been warning of economic collapse and a new Great Depression publicly for over two years.

More importantly, none of the current commentaries mention the “why’s” of this slow motion economic collapse…beyond the obvious — mountains of deficit and debt. None of them mention the dysfunctional structure of the current U.S. economy and the massive changes in the work ethic and mindset of the average American.

[Return to headlines]

With a Sluggish Economy, Japan Waits for Abe’s Solutions

November economic data show greater deflation and slower industrial output. The new prime minister and his Economy minister slam the Bank of Japan for not doing enough against the crisis.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) — The economy remains the main challenge for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new, more hawkish administration. With industrial output falling in November, the world’s third largest economy will find itself in a dire situation, like that followed the Second World War, unless the government cuts public debt.

Last month, industrial production fell 1.7 per cent from the previous month, said the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (which are together in Japan, whilst the Finance Ministry was given to Taro Aso, a Catholic) with auto production, electronics and telecommunications contributing to the overall decline.

Automobile production in November dropped by 8.4 per cent from 838,128 a year earlier to 767,530 units, down for the third straight month, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) said on Thursday, as a result of lower domestic demand and exports.

New auto sales edged downward by 0.4 per cent in November from a year earlier to 393,942 units following the end of a government’s subsidy programme.

Auto exports in November decreased 13.5 per cent to 382,778 units against 442,672 a year earlier, down for the fourth consecutive month because of a strong yen.

Deflation is another problem. For Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s central bank, the Bank of Japan, has not been doing enough. Low demand for goods and services is reducing prices.

Like his minister, Mr Abe called on the central bank to print “unlimited” yen to help increase consumer prices. However, this could stoke inflation.

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

USA

Dianne Feinstein: “I Carried a Concealed Weapon”

The hypocrisy of gun-grabbers knows no bounds

Despite calling in the same year for an outright ban on all firearms, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is set to introduce legislation that would gut the second amendment, said in 1995 that she carried a concealed gun in order to protect herself against terrorists.

Speaking at a US Senate hearing on terrorism one week after the Oklahoma City Bombing, Feinstein spoke about how she responded to an attempt by terrorists from the New World Liberation Army to bomb her home.

“I know the sense of helplessness that people feel. I know the urge to arm yourself because that’s what I did. I was trained in firearms. I walked to the hospital when my husband was sick. I carried a concealed weapon and I made the determination if somebody was going to try and take me out, I was going to take them with me,” said Feinstein.

The hypocrisy of Feinstein choosing to arm herself in self-defense while in the very same year calling for an “outright ban” on all guns is another reminder of rampant hypocrisy on behalf of would-be gun grabbers that has prevailed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Media Ignores Shooting Stopped by Law-Abiding Gun Owner

On Sunday December 17, 2012, 2 days after the CT shooting, a man went to a restaurant in San Antonio to kill his ex-girlfriend. After he shot her, most of the people in the restaurant fled next door to a theater. The gunman followed them and entered the theater so he could shoot more people. He started shooting and people in the theater started running and screaming. It’s like the Aurora, CO theater story plus a restaurant!

Now aren’t you wondering why this isn’t a lead story in the national media along with the school shooting?

There was an off duty county deputy at the theater. SHE pulled out her gun and shot the man 4 times before he had a chance to kill anyone. So since this story makes the point that the best thing to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun, the media is treating it like it never happened.

Only the local media covered it. The city is giving her a medal next week. Just thought you’d like to know.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Nine-Months-Pregnant Daughter of Top Doctor and Her Occupy Wall Street Organizer Boyfriend Arrested After Police Find ‘A Bomb and Weapons’ In Their New York Apartment

The daughter of a prominent New York doctor and her Occupy Wall Street-organizer boyfriend were arrested after police discovered an explosive used for making bombs and a cache of weapons in their upscale New York City apartment, it was claimed.

Morgan Gliedman, 27, and Aaron Greene, 31, were taken away from their home in Manhattan’s pricey Greenwich Village on Saturday.

Gliedman, who is nine months pregnant, is the daughter of a top Brooklyn cancer doctor and was educated at the Dalton School, an exclusive New York prep school attended by the likes of Anderson Cooper and Claire Danes.

Greene went to Harvard University for his undergraduate degree and did graduate work at the Kennedy School of Government there, as well.

The New York Post reports that police found seven grams of HMTD, a high explosive powder that was reportedly used in the 2005 London Underground bombings.

Police evacuated the building and several others nearby as the bomb squad removed to highly-unstable material from the apartment.

Officers also found a flare gun that could be used as a grenade launcher, a modified Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun, nine high-capacity rifle magazines and ammunition, according to the Post.

Police confiscated several notebooks with instructions for making boobytraps and makeshift submachine guns and several sheets with handwritten chemical formulas.

Greene is an activist with Occupy Wall Street and friends told police his political views are ‘extreme,’ a source told the newspaper.

The NYPD told MailOnline they are investigating whether Gleidman has ties to the protest group, as well.

The NYPD allegedly found the dangerous material after they went to Gliedman and Greene’s apartment to question Gliedman, who was wanted for credit card theft, the Post reports.

Gleidman’s father is Dr Paul Gleidman, the Columbia University-educated director of radiation oncology at Beth Israel Hospital’s Brooklyn division.

Her mother is Susyn Schops Gliedman, a top New York real estate agent.

Morgan Gliedman grew up in an upscale apartment on Park Avenue.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Obama to Put “Full Weight” Behind Feinstein Gun Confiscation Plan

President Obama went on Meet the Press Sunday and said he will put his “full weight” behind passing new restrictions on the Second Amendment in 2013.

“I’m going to be putting forward a package and I’m going to be putting my full weight behind it,” he said. “I’m going to be making an argument to the American people about why this is important and why we have to do everything we can to make sure that something like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary does not happen again.”

During the interview with David Gregory, Obama focused on “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines. Second Amendment foes routinely describe semi-automatic weapons with cosmetic military features as assault weapons.

“I’ve been very clear that an assault rifle ban, banning these high capacity clips, background checks, that there are a set of issues that I have historically supported and will continue to support,” said Obama.

Obama stressed that he will push legislation within the first year of his second term. “I’d like to get it done in the first year,” he said. “I will put forward a very specific proposal based on the recommendations that Joe Biden’s task force is putting together as we speak. And so this is not something that I will be putting off.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Russian News Outlet Pravda Prints Surprising Opinion Column Warning USA: ‘Never Give Up Your Guns’

Back in November, the Russian news outlet Pravda (formerly the official press of the USSR), surprised everyone when it published a scathing opinion column labeling President Obama a “Communist without question promoting the Communist Manifesto without calling it so.”

And they appear to have done it again, this time weighing on in the gun control debate currently gripping the United States.

Written by Stanislav Mishin, the opinion piece, titled “Americans, never give up your guns,” begins:

These days, there are few few things to admire about the socialist, bankrupt and culturally degenerating USA, but at least so far, one thing remains: the right to bare arms and use deadly force to defend one’s self and possessions.

Mishin has rocked the boat before, writing in 2009 about American capitalism being “gone with a whimper.” Like the current article, it was originally published on the author’s personal blog before being picked up by Pravda.

By and large, he uses Russian history as a warning for what could occur in a worst-case scenario:…

           — Hat tip: JLH [Return to headlines]

Sandy Hook: How Television Takes Your Guns

Somebody has to write about these things. Since I’ve worked as a reporter for 30 years, I know enough about how the game is rigged. photo

I’m talking about the big mass tragedies. Sandy Hook, the Aurora theater, Hurricane Sandy, Katrina.

Many of the interviews with survivors are done on the spot, with no prep. But the biggest interviews are done in a television studio or a home, by a recognized anchor. The setting is arranged beforehand and lit well. A mood and a framework are established.

[…]

If after watching a number of these tragedies play out on television, you are completely reprogrammed into some grotesque version of “love everybody all the time and forgive everything,” and you need an outlet, a way to vicariously and subconsciously experience what you REALLY feel, you can always:

Go to the movies. The movies give you a different slant. You can be Mel Gibson killing people to get his kidnapped daughter back. You can be Charles Bronson wiping out street scum to avenge the loss of his wife. You can be Stallone or Arnie. You can roam the countryside spilling blood at every street corner.

The movies give you vicarious license to destroy evil. Television news takes it away.

It’s called the whipsaw effect, and it’s modern mind control, and it puts you in the “excluded middle,” where nothing happens and you remain locked up and passive.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

‘These Guys Are Truly, Truly Animals’…

Attack continued despite woman repeatedly vomiting on captors

Three teenage boys have been arrested for allegedly kidnapping, robbing and raping a woman in a five-hour ordeal on Christmas day. The incident took place in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania when a woman came out of a bar for a cigarette. As she sat playing with her mobile phone while waiting for her boyfriend to join her, the three teenagers allegedly forced their way into her vehicle…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Video: Dianne Feinstein Says Her Goal is to Disarm All Americans

Dianne Feinstein: “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States, for an outright ban, picking up [every gun]… Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ‘em all in.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s ultimate plan has always been to have Mr. and Mrs. America turn in their guns to the government, period. Feinstein has admitted that the bill is about gun confiscation.

She tells us a gun ban is about saving the children and reducing crime, but her comments on 60 Minutes in 1995 reveal her true plan is to disarm the American people.

On Thursday, Feinstein will introduced her dream bill to disarm the American people. The legislation is open-ended and includes provisions to re-register firearms and submit the fingerprints of law-abiding Americans as if they’re sex offenders.

Feinstein’s bill will also include a buy-back provision that will allow the government to confiscate all firearms. Both Feinstein and New York governor Andrew Cuomo have said that is their plan.

It is a gun confiscation bill.

The proposed bill is open declaration of war on the Second Amendment.

It’s no coincidence that the communist Chinese, the biggest holders of U.S. debt, have demanded the American people be disarmed. It is the simple action of the authoritarian.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Canada

Woman Dies: Three Fall Ill Aboard Toronto-Bound Via Rail Train

An elderly woman is dead and three other passengers were taken to hospital Saturday after developing flu-like symptoms on an eastbound VIA Rail train.

The train, headed to Toronto from Vancouver, was stopped in Parry Sound, Ont., for six hours starting at 5 a.m. after an 86-year-old woman was reported to be unconscious and unresponsive. Emergency crews boarded the train and confirmed the woman had died.

The two compartments occupied by the passengers were quarantined, and the train arrived in Toronto just before 4 p.m.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austrian Prof: Global Warming Deniers Should be Sentenced to Death

Richard Parncutt, Professor of Systematic Musicology, University of Graz, Austria, reckons people like Watts, Tallbloke, Singer, Michaels, Monckton, McIntyre and me (there are too many to list) should be executed. He’s gone full barking mad, and though he says these are his “personal opinions” they are listed on his university web site.

For all the bleating of those who say they’ve had real “death threats”, we get discussions about executing skeptics from Professors, wielding the tyrannical power of the state. Was he paid by the state to write these simplistic, immature, “solutions”? Do taxpayers fund his web expenses? (And what the heck is systematic musicology?) Prof Richard Parncutt says:

“I have always been opposed to the death penalty in all cases…”

“Even mass murderers [like Breivik] should not be executed, in my opinion.”

“GW deniers fall into a completely different category from Behring Breivik. They are already causing the deaths of hundreds of millions of future people. We could be speaking of billions, but I am making a conservative estimate.”

Consequences

If a jury of suitably qualified scientists estimated that a given GW denier had already, with high probability (say 95%), caused the deaths of over one million future people, then s/he would be sentenced to death. The sentence would then be commuted to life imprisonment if the accused admitted their mistake, demonstrated genuine regret, AND participated significantly and positively over a long period in programs to reduce the effects of GW (from jail) — using much the same means that were previously used to spread the message of denial. At the end of that process, some GW deniers would never admit their mistake and as a result they would be executed. Perhaps that would be the only way to stop the rest of them. The death penalty would have been justified in terms of the enormous numbers of saved future lives.

Recant you foolish deniers or we’ll kill you! Yeah. Welcome to modern scientific debate.

Who should die? Anyone named on Desmog:

Much more would have happened by now if not for the GW deniers. An amazing number of people still believe that GW is a story made up by scientists with ulterior motives. For a long list of climate change deniers and their stories see desmogblog.

So the denier database becomes the “death list”. The list decided by PR experts on a funded smear site, who profit from marketing Green corporations.

But it’s ok, he includes a caveat where he says he didn’t say what I quoted above, so he can later pretend he isn’t discussing real deaths of real people:

Please note that I am not directly suggesting that the threat of execution be carried out. I am simply presenting a logical argument. I am neither a politician nor a lawyer. I am just thinking aloud about an important problem.

And we all feel so much better don’t we?

[Return to headlines]

Belgian Jewish Girls School Forced to Admit Sons of Holocaust Denier

3Rabbi Moshe Friedman, infamous for his participation with the Neturei Karta at the anti-Zionist & Holocaust-denial conference in Teheran in ‘06, has again placed himself in the middle of a disgraceful controversy, but this time in Antwerp.

By JTA

A Belgian court ordered a Jewish school for girls to admit two boys or face heavy fines.

The Benoth Jeruzalem school for Jewish girls

A Belgian judge ruled on Dec. 21, that because yeshivas are subsidized by the Flemish community, Benoth Jerusalem must admit the boys or face a $2,600 penalty per child for each day the boys are not permitted to attend, according to the Gazet van Anwerpen, a local paper.

Rabbi Freidman hugging & passionately kissing Iranian president at the Holocaust denial conference

Joods Actueel, a Belgian-Jewish monthly, reported that the father of the boys was Moshe Friedman, an anti-Zionist Orthodox Jew who participated in a conference of Holocaust deniers in 2006 in Tehran, Iran. The paper said no school in Antwerp would admit his children. Friedman sued citing a recent decision from the Commission on Students’ Rights which held that a child cannot be denied admission to a school on the basis of gender.

In an interview with ATV, a Belgian television station, Friedman said the refusal to inscribe his boys into a school for girls was an act of “revenge” by the Jewish community because of his “opinion and good contacts with world leaders.” He added he had no choice but to enroll the boys there because he needed them to go to a Jewish school.

The report did not say why Freidman chose a school for girls instead of one of Antwerp’s many schools for boys.

The director of Benoth Jeruzalem school told Gazet van Anwerpen that a decision on how to proceed will be made next week.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Centre and Centre Left Polarize in Italian Election

Bersani and Casini widen the distance between them

(ANSA) — Rome, December 31 — Political leaders of Italy’s centre left and reformed centre coalitions threw down the gauntlet over the weekend, defining each other as rivals seeking a parliament majority in elections on February 24, and polarizing two forces that had supported Premier Mario Monti’s technical government over the course of its one-year rule. “To not set the goal of (winning a) majority means accepting subordination,” leader of the centrist UDC party Pier Ferdinando Casini told the newspaper Il Messaggero in an interview published on Monday.

“We will not be subordinate to the (centre-left) PD,” Casini added, “We will not be a centre of convenience.” Mario Monti’s policy agenda forms the centrepiece of the reformed centrist coalition Casini represents, and serves as a platform for rallying political support around a political faction that, until now, has drawn meagre voter interest. Meanwhile, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) Luigi Bersani openly challenged Mario Monti’s agenda on Sunday, a barb intended for Casini, with whom Bersani’s differences lately have mounted.

The PD was the largest opposition party before Monti took over from Silvio Berlusconi in November 2011 and has been favored to win the largest number of seats in the upcoming elections given a dramatic erosion of support for the centre right. “Now it is our turn to indicate the way. It is a responsibility that we must take,” Bersani said on Sunday in the northern Italian city of Piacenza, where he is home celebrating the holidays.

“I do not make controversies,” Bersani continued, “I am very respectful. I have an excellent rapport with Monti. Now he has chosen to be a political player and so I pose political questions. When one goes before the voters, clarity is needed.” Monti is promoting a political agenda in the current election campaign, and has invited any party to embrace it.

Monti also made clear that he is open to becoming premier once more should the parties supporting his agenda win an elected majority.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Church Minister Warns Witchcraft is Thriving — In Wales (Home to 83 Witches, 93 Satanists and the Site of an Exorcism)

A church minister has revealed witchcraft is very much alive and well in his Welsh rural parishes as he warns against becoming involved in the occult.

Reverend Felix Aubel has spoken of how he as come across witches, the use of effigies and the ‘evil eye’ during his career in the Welsh countryside.

He has detailed a number of spine-tingling chilling tales after the latest figures in the 2011 census revealed 83 witches and 93 satanists are living in Wales.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Dutch Ask Irish Government for Answers on Safety Standards at Ryanair

Junior transport minister Wilma Mansveld has asked the Irish government to clarify reports that airline Ryanair is ordering pilots to fly with as little fuel as possible, Nos television reported on Saturday.

Ryanair flies to a wide range of destinations from Dutch airports Eindhoven, Maastricht and Eelde.

Current affairs show Reporter on Friday featured four pilots who claimed they had been forced to fly with as little fuel as possible in order to save on costs.

The Irish government is responsible for controlling safety standards at Ryanair, a spokesman for Mansveld is quoted as saying by Nos. The minister has also asked for a copy of an Irish report into Ryanair.

Own investigation

Depending on the outcome of these inquiries, Mansveld will decide whether or not to start her own probe into safety standards at the airline. The Dutch pilots’ association has called for such an investigation.

Reporter said that three Ryanair flights have been forced to make an emergency landing in Valencia because they did not have enough fuel.

In her reaction to the claims, Mansveld points out that the three incidents have already been investigated and no further action was considered necessary.

The four pilots told the show there is a ‘deeply rooted culture of fear’ at Ryanair. Other former officials described the company as a dictatorship.

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

French Paper Charlie Hebdo to Publish Comic Book Life of Mohammed

A French weekly known for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to the ire of conservative Muslims said Sunday it plans to release a comic book biography of Islam’s founder that will be researched and educational. Satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has on several occasions depicted Islam’s prophet in an effort to defend free speech and defy the anger of Muslims who believe depicting Mohammed is sacrilegious…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

French Magazine Charlie Hebdo to Publish Comic of Mohammed’s Life

Satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo plans to release a comic book biography of Mohammed’s life.

The weekly magazine has previously published cartoons featuring Mohammed, sparking violent protests by conservative Muslims.

The special edition comic book depiction of Mohammed’s life is due to be published on Wednesday, according to AFP.

Charlie Hebdo’s publisher said it would be educational and was an attempt to defend free speech.

“It is a biography authorised by Islam since it was edited by Muslims,” said the publisher, Stephane Charbonnier, who is known as Charb.

“I don’t think higher Muslims could find anything inappropriate.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Language Trouble Behind Many Medical Mishaps

Chief medical officers can only communicate with one-third of their staff in German and more patients are complaining about many physicians’ poor command of the German language, the head of the Berlin Medical Association said on Monday.

Günther Jonitz, in an interview with Deutschlandradio Kultur, said these communication problems are negatively affecting doctor-patient relations and are the main reason when things go wrong.

Physicians who speak fluent German are increasingly removed from patient care and put in charge of writing reports, he said. “The risks are growing,” he told the programme.

The main culprit is economics and a “truly lousy healthcare policy” that puts too much emphasis on numbers and economic profit and forgets people in the system. German physicians and nurses however are no longer willing to put up with this, Jonitz said.

“Whoever can, leaves for other countries and works where a doctor or nurse is well regarded — in Switzerland, Scandinavia, England, France (and) Holland.”

Their places are being filled with doctors from countries where working conditions are even worse than in Germany,” Jonitz said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece: Lagarde List: Parliamentary Inquiry for Ex Minister

Suspected of doctoring alleged tax evaders list

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 31 — Greece’s three governing coalition parties are due to submit to Parliament on Monday a proposal for MPs to investigate former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou over allegations that he tampered with the so-called Lagarde list of Greek depositors at HSBC in Switzerland. According to reports — as daily Kathimerini reports -, New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left will suggest that Papaconstantinou needs to face a parliamentary inquiry to answer charges of doctoring an official document and breach of duty, offenses which carry sentences of up to 20 years in jail. The proposal needs just 30 MPs’ signatures to be put to a vote, where a majority decision will be enough to prompt the setting up of an investigative committee. The panel’s findings will be used to decide whether Papaconstantinou should stand trial. In an interview with Ethnos newspaper on Sunday, repeated his claims that he did not tamper with the list, which was given to him by the then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde in 2010. Papaconstantinou also raised questions about the role of PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who succeeded him as finance minister in 2011. The radical leftist party SYRIZA, meanwhile, is pressing for George Papandreou, who was prime minister when the alleged doctoring took place, to face an inquiry. The fact that details of three accounts from just over 2,000 were missing from the list prosecutors had been investigating was discovered after Greek authorities obtained from the French government the original version of the list two weeks ago. The three accounts belong to Papaconstantinou’s two cousins and their husbands, according to prosecutors who checked the two versions of the list with the help of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Transsexual Thrown From Balcony, Three Arrests Made

(AGI) Rome, Dec. 29 — Two Romanians have been charged with attempted homicide after allegedly committing violent assault on a transsexual on Christmas night. While the police were carrying out the arrests, information emerged regarding another Romanian who is thought to have been their accomplice. The man was traced and is being held by judicial police. The victim, beaten up and thrown from the balcony, suffered serious injuries and may not survive.

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

Swiss Freeze Mubarak Sons’ Assets: Report

Swiss authorities have frozen €300 million dollars sitting in Credit Suisse accounts in Geneva held by the sons of deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the newspaper Le Matin Dimanche reported on Sunday.

The funds are held in accounts belonging to Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, sons of the ex-president who are currently being held in an Egyptian prison.

The brothers are accused of using their position as scions of Egypt’s longtime ruler to help themselves to villas, luxury cars and stakes in the country’s key companies.

According to the newspaper, the funds were deposited at the Credit Suisse in 2005, which was after Switzerland tightened rules governing transactions by politically exposed depositors.

A Credit Suisse spokesman refused comment, citing the bank’s secrecy policy.

The paper said Egypt-linked funds had also been frozen at the Swiss office of French banking giant BNP Paribas.

Switzerland has opened a probe targeting 14 people close to the Mubarak regime who are suspected of embezzling public funds and widescale corruption.

Earlier this month, Swiss authorities refused to provide their Egyptian counterparts with access to their findings so far, citing concerns for the “institutional situation” in Cairo.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Cam ‘n Have a Go if EU Think You’re Hard Enough

by Trevor Kavanagh

THE biggest story of 2012 was the long, painful EU slide into economic meltdown — and its impact as a drag anchor on UK recovery.

It will remain the story of 2013 and every other year until poverty, unemployment and social uproar put paid to an economic gamble that was doomed before it began. Tomorrow marks 40 years since Britain joined the EEC, a trading block transformed by trickery into a failed experimental superstate. We joined on January 1, 1973, after lying premier Ted Heath insisted the UK would lose no sovereign powers. We know he was lying because official records reveal he was warned in stark terms by his most senior government lawyer. We have been lied to pretty much ever since. Every treaty has undermined Westminster democracy and given away power to unelected and unaccountable Brussels officials.

[….]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Far-Right Vacuum Could Trigger ‘Lone-Wolf’ Attacks

Warning about potential for a ‘British Breivik’

The fragmentation of the far right could spark a new wave of political violence and Anders Breivik-style lone-wolf acts of terrorism, according to the head of the UK’s first research centre into contemporary fascism. The warning comes as new figures reveal that there have been nearly 500 anti-Islamic attacks since March, with more than half linked to supporters of far-right groups. Professor Nigel Copsey told The Independent that the electoral decline of the British National Party (BNP) and the splintering of street-based protest organisations such as the English Defence League (EDL) had created a potentially dangerous political vacuum on the far right…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Man Critically Ill in Hospital After ‘Trolley Rage Attack’ At M&S Breaking His Hip and Wrist

A 60-year-old man is critically ill in hospital after being injured in a trolley rage incident at Marks & Spencer during the Christmas rush.

The man suffered a broken hip and wrist after the altercation on December 22 in Bromley.

A female shopper is alleged to have rammed into him with her trolley in the busy food section of the store in The Glades shopping centre.

The elderly man was taken to a hospital in Kent for treatment.

On Boxing Day, the Metropolitan police arrested 30-year-old woman on suspicion of GBH.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Pakistani Journalist Arrested in London

LONDON: Senior Pakistani journalist Muhammad Sarwar has been arrested by the Metropolitan Police on sexual assault charges after a woman believed to be of Pakistani origin registered a complaint at an East London Police station.

Sarwar, chief editor of weekly newspaper The Nation and Kashmir News, was arrested from outside the Lee Bridge Road mosque, administration of the mosque confirmed. In a statement, Scotland Yard said: “On 29th of December, police in Waltham Forest arrested a 56-year-old man on sexual assault charges. He was arrested because a female made allegations of sexual assault. The man is in custody at an East London police station. We will investigate this serious matter.”

More than 200 people had gathered in the Ghausia Mosque on Lee Bridge Road for the chehlum of Liberal Democrat Councillor Farooq Qureshi’s wife when two policemen approached the mosque administration and told them that they were looking for a person named ‘Sarwar’. The mosque then made a public announcement that the police was looking for some “Sarwar” and that whosoever he is should cooperate with the police. The mosque administration feared that the police may enter the mosque to force their warrant. A member of the mosque administration told this newspaper: “After the announcement was made three people left the mosque hall, presumably all of them shared the name Sarwar but we saw that it was M. Sarwar of The Nation who was taken away by the police. It is only an allegation as far as we are aware.”

“The police were respectful and didn’t enter the mosque. They arrested M. Sarwar from the pavement outside after telling him what the allegations against him were. Everyone at the mosque was shocked as what had happened. We thought it was some kind of allegation relating to fight or altercation but the charge of sexual assault is very serious and when we heard the news about the charge we were all very shocked. We don’t know what the facts of this case are. Its unfortunate what happened,” said a mosque committee member, who requested his name not be published…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Launch Manhunt for ‘Terror Suspect’ Who Went Missing on Boxing Day… While Under Close Surveillance

A terror suspect who was under close police surveillance has gone missing, it emerged this evening.

Counter terrorism detectives today appealed to the public for help in tracing 28-year-old Ibrahim Magag who was last seen on Boxing Day.

He is believed to have absconded from a terror control order known as a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures notice (TPIM).

Counter terrorism detectives urged anyone who sees Magag to ring 999 immediately. He was last seen in north London.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Seek 15-Year-Old Over Murder of Teenager Who Was Stabbed in Front of His Brother After ‘Refusing to Give His Phone to Muggers’

Detectives want to trace a 15-year-old boy in connection with the murder of a teenager who was stabbed to death in the street.

Sixth form student Dogan Ismail, 17, bled to death in front of his older brother after he was stabbed following ‘an altercation’ outside a block of flats on the Aylesbury Estate, in Walworth, south east London, yesterday.

Police have now taken the unusual step of naming a youth wanted for questioning in connection with Mr Ismail’s death.

Dawda Jallow, 15, from the Peckham area, is described as black, clean shaven with cropped black afro hair, 5ft 5in tall and of slight build.

He has brown eyes and speaks with a London accent, although he is a Gambian national.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Three-Quarters of Doctors Who Are Struck Off in Britain Are Trained Abroad

Three out of four doctors struck off the medical register this year were trained abroad, figures show.

It means that those who qualified overseas were over five times more likely to be struck off than British graduates.

The data comes amid growing alarm that many foreign doctors are simply not up to scratch, putting the safety of patients at risk.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Taxpayers Are Handing Nearly £500,000 a Week in Legal Aid to Prisoners to Help Them Make Human Rights Claims.

In four years, convicts have been given more than £93million to help them demand early release from jail, compensation or softer treatment behind bars.

The bill has spiralled from £1million a year before the Human Rights Act came into force to more than £25million in 2010.

Since then prisoners addicted to heroin have used legal aid to win thousands in compensation for being forced to go ‘cold turkey’ when locked up.

In another notorious case, a rapist was given legal aid to claim his rights were breached by having to ‘slop out’ because there was no lavatory in his cell.

And in May 2011 burglar Wayne Bishop was released from jail after the Court of Appeal ruled that locking him up breached his family’s human rights.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has ordered a review of legal aid payouts over the damaging ‘compensation culture’ gripping jails.

Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Britain’s legal aid bill has become unsustainable and must be reformed.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

UK: Taxpayers Fork Out £150million a Year for ‘Benefit Brood’ Families With More Than Five Children

Families with more than five children are costing the taxpayer an astonishing £150million in child benefits every year.

At least one parent in 40,000 families with five or more children is claiming jobseeker’s allowance, incapacity benefit, disability allowance, pension or another income boost as well as child benefit.

It is estimated that the total cost to the public of these super-sized families comes to at least £350million a year.

The families claiming extra benefits include 180 with ten or more children and ten with as many as 13.

[…]

Stephanie Fennessy-Sharp, 29, and her partner Ian Sharp receive £50,000 a year in benefits to support their ten children and live in a five-bedroom detached house in Kent.

Neither she nor 56-year-old Ian work. Instead, they claim the equivalent of a £72k salary before tax — and it’s all down to a skewed benefits system that discourages unemployed claimants from going out to find work.

Ian suffers debilitating headaches that he says prevent him from working. But Stephanie is perfectly healthy — and confesses she could work, but chooses not to because she is better off on benefits.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Wind Turbines ‘Last for Half as Long as Previously Thought’ As Study Shows They Show Signs of Wearing Out After Just 12 Years

Wind farms have just half the useful lifespan which has been claimed, according to new research which found they start to wear out after just 12 years.

A study of almost 3,000 turbines in Britain — the largest of its kind — sheds doubt on manufacturers claims that they generate clean energy for up to 25 years, which is used by the Government to calculate subsidies.

Professor Gordon Hughes, an economist at Edinburgh University and former energy advisor to the World Bank, predicts in the coming decade far more investment will be needed to replace older and ineffective turbines — which is likely to be passed on in higher household electricity bills.

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: ANP Troops Kill Boumerdès Terrorist

The Algerian army killed a terrorist around midnight on Friday (December 28th) in the village of Dar Bouni, 50km east of Boumerdes, El Watan reported. He was ambushed while trying to visit his family. Since the beginning of the year, military operations have eliminated some fifty terrorists in the region.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Egypt Still Under Blackout Due to Fuel Shortage

15 power stations shut down yesterday, half of country at risk

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 28 — Over 15 power stations have not produced energy since yesterday due to a lack of fuel (diesel, natural gas and mazut), according to the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC).

For the first time ever, the electricity distributor announced, “the drastic decrease in available fuel has reduced productive capacity by about 3,000 megawatts per day”.

According to sources quoted by Al Ahram Online, if the situation is not resolved soon, “over half of Egypt’s governorates might be left with no electricity whatsoever”.

As a result of the halt to energy production in the plants, yesterday the governorates of Suez, Baharia, Alexandria and Cairo suffered a blackout lasting several hours.

In the attempt to meet electricity demand and deal with the lack of fuel, in October the Egyptian government signed an agreement to import gas from Algeria and started talks for the same with Qatar.

In August the authorities announced that two power plants would be built in Damietta and Abukir with an overall capacity of 1,800 megawatts when fully operational.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egyptian Atheist’s Jail Sentence Blow to Religious Freedom

Saber speaks to ANSAmed, they arrested me instead of attackers

(By Shelly Kittleson) (ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 31 — When a furious mob attacked Alber Saber’s house in September, calling for his death and accusing him of burning the Koran and promoting the film The Innocence of Muslims on social networks, his mother phoned the police. On arriving, the police arrested him instead of his attackers, forced him to sign documents he hadn’t read and left him alone with other detainees at the police station after inciting violence against him, Saber told ANSAmed.

A few days after his release on bail pending appeal of the December 12 conviction for insulting religion, for which he has been sentenced to three years in jail, Saber granted an interview to ANSAmed in the offices of Egypt’s Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE). Slimmer than in photos taken previous to his detention, head shaven and face haggard and pale, the twenty-six-year-old showed a reddish-brown scar on his neck which he claims is from detainees who cut him with a sharp object at the police station he was taken to after the police officer in charge incited them and then locked him in as they attacked him. In the uproar sparked in September after the Egyptian Islamist television station Al-Nas broadcast part of the amateur film The Innocence of Muslims, which portrays the Prophet Mohammed in a negative light and was made by an Egyptian Copt living in the US, Saber was accused by a number of people in his neighbourhood — who he describes as “thugs” — of posting the video, running an atheist website and burning the Koran.

Although he denies the accusations (the police reportedly did not find any evidence of the original charges, but did find information on comparative religion and related subjects when they searched his home), Saber is from a Coptic Christian family and is an avowed atheist. Confessing to not believing in God is an extreme rarity in Egypt, where identity cards must state whether the holder is Muslim, Christian or Jewish. He says he came to this decision after “years of studying religion and philosophy” at Beni Suef University, before he decided to switch to a computer science degree programme in Cairo, which he was to have finished this year.

Politically active though not at the forefront during the 2011 uprising against the Mubarak regime, he was arrested briefly on 26 January 2011 at a protest in front of the Journalists’ Syndicate. He then had his home searched and computer, CDs and other materials confiscated when police raided his home in January of this year, most likely due to comments made on Facebook questioning religion.

Saber is not the first to have been sentenced on similar charges over the past year. In April an Egyptian juvenile court sentenced the Coptic teenager Gamal Abdou Massoud to three years in prison for posting cartoons mocking Islam on Facebook, while Coptic schoolteacher Bishoy Kamel was sentenced to six years in prison in September for sharing Innocence of Muslims on Facebook and for “insulting the president” and two Coptic boys (aged 9 and 10) were arrested in October for “defiling the Koran”. The two children were later released but “will remain under investigation”.

In any case, Saber continues to deny all charges. Both his conviction and the general climate surrounding freedom of religion and expression in Egypt has raised concern among human rights groups. With the recent approval of the referendum on the Islamist-drafted constitution, insulting religion is no longer just a violation of the criminal code but also one of the nation’s charter itself. Alber Saber had very much wanted to have his say on the matter, but did not get the chance. Although he should have been released as soon as his bail was posted immediately following the December 12 sentence, he was held for unexplained reasons until December 17: too late to cast his ballot in the December 15 round of the referendum in Cairo. His appeal trial has been scheduled for January 26.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libya: Obama Admits “Huge Problem” In Security of Benghazi Consulate

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) — President Barack Obama said Sunday he won’t dispute the findings of a recent probe that showed a huge security manage problem in the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi of Libya. “We’re not going to be defensive about it. We’re not going to pretend that this was not a problem. This was a huge problem,” Obama said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. “My message to the State Department has been very simple. And that is, we’re going to solve this,” he said, vowing to implement “every single recommendation” put forward by the investigation report. In the interview, Obama cited “some sloppiness, although not intentional,” on the part of the State Department with respect to how the U.S. diplomatic missions are secured in places where local governments are not able to provide sufficient protection…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Attounssia TV Chief Hospitalised After Hunger Strike

Attounssia TV director Sami Fehri was transferred from Mornaguia prison to a Tunis hospital on Thursday (December 27th), TAP reported. According to his lawyer, Fehri’s health worsened as a result of a hunger strike launched on December 18th. Fehri was arrested in August for “illegal use of Tunisian state television resources”, days after his station aired a satirical puppet show that mocked members of the Ennahda-led government.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Fred Taub: the Israel Boycott and Bigotry

his brings us back to the two things racists have in common — they blame others for their own shortcomings and claim superiority because other people are worse. While the BDS crowd blames Israel for the woes of others, they also tell Israel what to do out of a sense of moral superiority based on their own self-esteem. Effectively, therefore, the Israel boycotters are by definition bigots. Of course they will deny being bigots and then claim Zionists are the real bigots, which brings up the topic of the Arab techniques used in their boycott of Israel — the trend among Arabs is to blame Israel for their shortcomings. For example, while Jews and Christians are forbidden from entering Mecca and Medina, the BDS claim is that Arabs are discriminated against by Israel. Of course the Arabs don’t tell their BDS recruits that Arabs vote in Israel and have been in every Knesset since day one; nor do they tell their BDS recruits that Israelis can’t enter most Arab nations, nor can any Jews vote in Arab nations. The Israel boycotters also fail to mention that Arab women can’t vote or drive under Islamic rule, yet are free to do both in Israel. The list goes on and on. Simply stated, the Arab world likes to claim Israel denies the very basic human rights the Arab world actually imposes on its own people, thus blaming Israel and Jews in general for the Arab world’s own shortcomings. There is one truism I have learned in the fifteen years I have been studying boycotts: It is easy to make a false claim and scream boycott in response. However, when you shine a light on the actions of the claimants, you may then be exposing the truth, including who the real bigots are.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

On the Weaponizing of Lethal Narratives …

by Richard Landes

Working again on the Al Durah affair (which goes to court again on January 16, 2013, I came across this article which I had saved but forgotten. It offers a fascinating insight into the skill displayed by al Qaeda in turning Palestinian lethal narratives into weapons of Jihad. I’ll bet that all the key footage (including, according to most, but not all those who have viewed the available evidence, the al Durah footage) belongs to the “Staged” category of Pallywood…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

PNA Condemns Israeli Order to Evacuate Palestinians From Jordan Valley

RAMALLAH, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) — The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) strongly condemned Monday the Israeli decision to evacuate about 1,000 Palestinians from their homes in the Jordan Valley for military training purposes. “This is an ethnic cleansing and a new war crime committed against the Palestinian people,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Xinhua. Erekat urged the international community to intervene to stop such policies practiced against the residents of the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. Aref Daraghma, head of Wadi Maleh village council in the Northern Jordan Valley, told Xinhua that the Israeli military handed around 1,000 Palestinians evacuation orders to leave their houses for two days as of Wednesday. According to the evacuation orders, the residents of the village will be able to go back to their homes after two days when the military maneuvers are over…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Al Qaeda Offers Reward for Killing US Ambassador in Yemen

SANAA // Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen has announced that it will pay tens of thousands of dollars to anyone who kills the US ambassador in Sanaa or an American soldier in the country…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Al-Qaeda Offers $160k Bounty for Assassination of US Ambassador to Yemen and $23k for Killing American Soldiers

Al-Qaeda has placed a $160,000 bounty on the head of the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen and $23,000 for the assassination of any American soldiers in the country.

An audio produced by the group’s media arm, the al-Malahem Foundation, and posted on militant websites Saturday said it offered three kilograms of gold for the killing of Ambassador Gerald M. Feierstein.

The bounties were set to ‘inspire and encourage our Muslim nation for jihad,’ the statement said.

[Return to headlines]

At Least 13 Killed in Series of Attacks in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) — At least 13 people were killed and 47 wounded in a series of bomb and gunfire attacks in central and eastern Iraq on Monday, the police said. In one attack, three roadside bombs went off at three houses in the town of al-Mussayab, some 60 km south of Baghdad, in the early morning hours, killing seven people and wounding four others, a local police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Separately, a mortar round landed near a procession of Shiite pilgrims in the town of al-Latifiyah, some 40 km south of Baghdad, wounding three of them, a local police source said. Both towns are part of the once restive area dubbed Triangle of Death, which is a cluster of towns scattered between south of Baghdad and north of Hilla city, the capital of Babil province, some 100 km south of Baghdad…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Bishop Attacked in Lebanon’s Tripoli

BEIRUT: A Lebanese bishop was attacked Sunday by a group of young men in the northern city of Tripoli, security sources told The Daily Star. The group of young men attacked Bishop Abdullah Skaf and his son after the bishop asked them to move away from the area outside the Roman Catholic church in Tripoli’s al-Zahriyeh neighborhood. The sources said the young men were suspected to be either drunk or on drugs. An urgent meeting was held after the incident between local religious figures, both Muslim and Christian, and other dignitaries. Bishop Skaf asked for a complaint his son filed against the young men to be withdrawn and said he forgives them. The bishop also refused to make any statements to the media, so as to avoid provoking any strife in the northern city.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

British Public Wants to ‘Keep Out of Syria’

ComRes survey reveals resistance to Prime Minister’s plan to aid anti-Assad units

While David Cameron is rallying support among EU leaders to send arms to the rebels opposing the Assad regime in Syria, he also faces a battle to persuade the British public to back the plan. According to a survey for The Independent, people do not believe Britain should provide military supplies to the rebels. By a margin of 48 per cent to 35 per cent, people do not believe Britain should provide military supplies to the rebels — even if the UK did not send in any armed forces — while 18 per cent replied “don’t know”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

No Votes to be Had in Syria

Almost two years on from the first protests against Bashar Assad’s regime, in late January 2011, Western leaders, David Cameron among them, are desperate for the civil war in Syria to end. Deeply hostile to the regime in Damascus, but alarmed by the growing prominence of al-Qa’ida supporters in the ranks of the opposition, they yearn for Mr Assad to go before the Islamists become unstoppable.

However, a poll conducted for this newspaper, which we publish today, shows that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, face an uphill struggle in trying to persuade the public of the merits of siding with the rebels, even to the extent of relaxing sanctions on sending them military aid. The figures show that on Syria, as on many other issues, the Prime Minister is out of step with his own party as well as the country. Tory voters are more opposed to arming the Syrian rebels than their Labour counterparts…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Russian Warships Head to the Syrian Port of Tartus

(AGI) Moscow, Dec 30 — The Kremlin is sending a warship to Syria. The Novocherkassk, a large landing ship, left the Black Sea port of Novorossiiskisto for the Syrian port of Tartus, Navy sources reported. The warship, together with other combat ships, is expected to go through the Bosphorous into the Mediterranean Sea on January 1 where other Russian warships will converge to conduct drills.

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

Syria: ‘Facing 100,000 Deaths in Next Year’

Lakhdar Brahimi, the international envoy to Syria, has warned that as many as 100,000 could die in the next year if a way cannot be found quickly to end the civil war.

Mr Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy for the Syrian crisis, told reporters in Cairo that if the crisis continues Syria will not be divided into states “like what happened in Yugoslavia” but will face “Somalisation, which means warlords, and the Syrian people will be persecuted by those who control their fate.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Russia

Muscovite, Making it — and Muslim

MOSCOW // Timur Bulgakov has a black belt in karate, two university degrees, a powerful SUV and a small yet thriving construction company. The 28-year-old’s success is impressive for a Muslim migrant from Uzbekistan whose first job in Moscow 10 years ago was as a delivery boy…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Scrap Draft US Army Manual That Appeases Islamic Doctrine

We have written about the dangers of delusional political correctness intruding on conduct of alleged counter-insurgency doctrine in Afghanistan. We have thought that the so-called Human Terrain Studies, promoted by defamed former CENTCOMM Commander and ex-CIA Chief Gen. Petraeus, with its appeasing of Islamic culture would only hobble US operations in the faltering war in Afghanistan. In fact it also violates the field commanders’ first priority, which is force protection, and verges on gross negligence, as argued by Stephen Coughlin, Army Reserve Major and former Pentagon Consultant on Jihad war doctrine. You would have thought the spike in murderous green-on-blue attacks against US and Coalition ISAF forces by Afghan security personnel, the US Army’s Combined Arms Command, Army Lessons Learned Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas would have gotten the message that Coughlin and others have warned about. Apparently not…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: The West Should ‘Change Its Approach to Failing States’

Ahmed Rashid, one of the world’s foremost experts on Afghanistan, once welcomed US intervention in the failed state. But in a SPIEGEL interview, the Pakistani journalist says the West’s model for development is fundamentally flawed and must be changed.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Rashid, in 2014 the West will withdraw from Afghanistan. To what extent have they failed?

Rashid: In my view, the Western model of influencing the development of third world countries is doomed to failure. The West does not understand how to deal with states that no longer have any authority and are threatened by dissolution. Their efforts failed in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. They are simply not capable of promoting the indigenous economy. Neither USAID nor Germany’s international technical cooperation agency, the GIZ, are able to get a grip on it. They provide temporary assistance, no more than that. Many billions of dollars flooded into Afghanistan, but without any significant effect…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Afghanistan: Local Government Reform ‘Success’ In Helmand

When foreign combat troops pull out of Afghanistan in 2014, Afghan troops will try to fill the gap. In the troubled province of Helmand in the south-west, the security effort has been backed up by local government reform, one of the more significant successes of western intervention. It has been so successful that the British officials who introduced it have been asked to take it to other provinces. David Loyn reports…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Ordeal of Indian Gang Rape Victim in Her Own Words as She Lay Dying

[WARNING: Disturbing content.]

The Indian woman who died after a horrific rape by a gang of men told her family as she lay dying in hospital that she tried as hard as she could to fight off her attackers.

The 23-year-old told her younger brother she bit and kicked the men as they raped her on a bus in Delhi. As they assaulted the student the men said they would kill her.

The woman died on Saturday despite treatment at a Singapore hospital.

Following her death her brother paid tribute to the strength and courage she showed following her ordeal.

He said: ‘She was very strong. She always said one should never bear atrocities but fight against it.

‘While she was admitted in hospital, she told me that she fought back as hard as she could. She was defending herself by beating and biting them.

‘She thrashed them and kicked them too. They were boiling in anger by her defence so they decided to kill her. She told me that they were murmuring ‘maar do ise’ (kill her). They threw her considering she was dead.’

He also paid tribute to the woman’s friend, who was also attacked on the bus as they were returning home from a cinema trip.

Neighbours said the couple were planning to marry in February.

Her brother said: ‘The boy was equally courageous like my sister. She told me that he guarded her until he became unconscious.’

He added that he hadn’t slept since the incident occurred.

‘I’m missing her voice. She was my best friend. Whenever I had a problem, I talked to her over the phone for hours. She used to give me the best advice,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: MP Adds Voice to Campaign Against Muslims

Actor turned politician Ranjan Ramanayake is in the eye of a storm after he criticised Islamic Sharia laws and its so-called ill effects on Sri Lankan women workers in West Asia.

“I have come here after discussing you for 25 minutes at our high command meeting,” Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem, who is also leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) told Ramanayake. He met him at a wedding on Friday night. Groups that have started e-mail campaigns against Muslim activities in the country, particularly the practice of halal meat products etc., have drawn the attention of the Muslim community in recent times.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Taliban Kill 21 Security Personnel Kidnapped by Them in NW Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) — Pakistan Taliban have killed 21 security personnel kidnapped by them during an attack on a checkpoint in NW Pakistan several days ago, reported local media Geo on Sunday. The dead bodies of the killed have been found in the Hassan Khel area near Peshawar, said the report, adding that all of them were shot dead. Pakistan Taliban have claimed responsibility for the killing of the 21 kidnapped security personnel, it said. On late Wednesday night, an estimated 30 heavily armed Taliban militants launched an attack on two checkpoints south of Peshawar, killing two security personnel, wounding another and kidnapping 23 others. Two of the kidnapped security personnel later escaped from Taliban custody, said local media.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Far East

China Buying Tu-22M3 Production Line

For the third time in 7 years (first one being in 2005, second earlier in 2012) several websites in China (link in Chinese) are reporting that China and Russia have agreed for Beijing to buy the production line for the Tupolev Tu-22M3 bomber at a cost of 1.5 billion USD.

Once in service with the Chinese Naval Air Forces the Tu-22M3 will be known as the “H-10”.

The deal struck with Russia comes with 36 aircraft (and engines): an initial batch of 12 followed by a second batch of 24 aircraft are thought to be on order.

The Tu-22 will be employed in the maritime attack role and will be used to attack targets from low level (to avoid radar detection).

[Return to headlines]

Philippines: Muslim Rebel Group Completes 8 Nominees to Transition Commission

MANILA, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front ( MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in southern Philippines, is now ready to transmit to the Malaysian facilitator the names of its eight nominees to the Transition Commission (TC) that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a rebel official said Monday. Muhammad Ameen, chairperson of the MILF Secretariat, said that the MILF Central Committee has already completed the list of the eight nominees to the TC, but their identifies were still withheld pending the transmission to the Malaysian facilitator, who will officially communicate the list to the Philippine government through its peace panel. “In choosing the nominees, the MILF has set three stringent pre- qualifications: sincerity to the Bangsamoro cause, capability to discharge the task, and geographical or sectoral consideration,” he said.

Included in the nominees were one woman, one member of the indigenous peoples (IP), one senior military commander of the MILF, and one aleem (learned in Islam), Ameen said.

The government peace panel has yet to recommend its seven nominees to be part of the 15-man TC. The creation of the TC was provided in the framework agreement that the government and the MILF recently forged.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia’s Grand Mufti Meets Hamas

AUSTRALIA’S Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed has met with the hierarchy of Hamas, the Palestinian party listed by the Gillard government as a terrorist organisation.

Last week Dr Mohamed led an Australian delegation of Muslim scholars to the Gaza Strip, where they met Hamas senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Mr Haniyeh, who has been pushing for the US and the EU to remove Hamas from its terrorist watchlist, last year described former al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden as “a Muslim and Arabic warrior” while condemning the US for killing the terrorist leader.

Dr Mohamed, who has been styled as a moderate since taking the top Australian Muslim post, last week expressed his happiness at being in Gaza, describing it as the land of pride and martyrdom.

“I am pleased to stand on the land of jihad to learn from its sons and I have the honour to be among the people of Gaza where the weakness always becomes strength, the few becomes many and the humiliation turns into pride,” he told local news agencies.

“We came here in order to learn from Gaza. As I said in my speech, we will make the stones, trees, and people of Gaza talk, in order to learn steadfastness, sacrifice, and the defence of one’s rights from them.

“We feel like we are on cloud nine. We feel like we are on top of the world.” Images of the visit were shown on local TV and hailed as a PR coup by Hamas, the fanatical ruling party in Gaza.

Attempts to contact Dr Mohamed, who has insisted radical Muslim extremists in Australia need to be corrected, were unsuccessful.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Australia has listed Hamas as a terrorist entity subject to financial sanctions since 2001.

The military wing of Hamas is also listed as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code Act 1995.

In July 2009, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, then deputy prime minister, said: “Hamas obviously is a terrorist organisation that has been engaged in violent actions against the Israeli people.”

Ms Gillard was unavailable to comment.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said through a spokesman that the trip had nothing to do with the government.

“It’s up to them to explain their own views and travel plans,” the spokesman said.

“We have no diplomatic engagement with Hamas.”

Last week’s delegation, described by the media as one of several “delegations of solidarity”, also visited the Ministry of Islamic Endowments and met with religious scholars and sheikhs.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

NZ: Spectacular Photo Captures Moment Great White is Gobbled by an Even Bigger Shark as It’s Hauled Into Fisherman’s Boat

The fisherman, whose Reddit name is Mancubus, was probably pretty chuffed with his catch and daydreaming about a fish and chip dinner, with the shark firmly on the end of the line.

But that was before he had competition.

The Kiwi didn’t even have time to haul his catch onto the deck before the smaller shark was in the jaws of the monster predator.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: 90 Kuria Girls Saved From FGM

More than 90 teenage girls in Kuria East and West districts have been rescued from Female Genital Mutilation. The girls fled their homes after their parents and villagers told them they would be circumcised this ‘season’…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Nigeria: How We Averted Bomb Attacks at Christmas — Jonathan

Abuja — President Goodluck Jonathan, Sunday, said but for the effective role of the security agencies, the Boko Haram sect would have carried out deadly bombings during the Christmas celebration. The president spoke on Sunday at the church service of “Ekklisiyar Yaruwa a Nigeria”, EYN, (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), Utako, Abuja. According to the President, his administration is working round the clock to address the challenges of insecurity in the country…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

When Rwanda Won the UN Security Council Seat

Tomorrow, January 1, 2013, Rwanda takes her seat at the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member, replacing South Africa. The country was elected to the all-powerful 15-member Council on November 18, just days after the release of a highly controversial report linking Kigali to a rebellion in Eastern DRC. Today is the last day of 2012, a year which, by no means, was a quiet one for Rwanda. By and large, it is a year to remember. Across the board, the country made leaps and bounds and will be seeking to further these gains in the New Year…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Immigration

Muslim Immigration to Russia Increases Dramatically

Russia’s Federal Migration Service estimates that about 9.1 million foreigners arrived in Russia to work in 2011. More than a third came from three impoverished Central Asian countries that were once part of the Soviet Union: About 2 million from Uzbekistan, 1 million from Tajikistan and more than 500,000 from Kyrgyzstan. Local experts say the number of Central Asian arrivals is at least twice as high. And hundreds of thousands of Central Asians have already acquired Russian passports and are off the migration services’ radar.

The Central Asian migration has been the driving force in boosting Russia’s Muslim population to more than 20 million, from some 14 million 10 years ago _ a phenomenon experts call one of the most radical demographic makeovers Russia has ever seen.

“Today, we’re standing on the verge of a powerful demographic explosion, a great migration period equal to the one that took place in the first centuries A.D.,” said Vyacheslav Mikhailov, a former minister for ethnic issues and a presidential adviser on ethnic policies.

Muslims are expected to account for 19 percent of Russia’s population by 2030, up from 14 percent of the current population of 142 million, according to the U.S. government’s National Intelligence Council report on global trends published this month.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: 60,000 Patients Put on Death Pathway Without Being Told But Minister Still Says Controversial End-of-Life Plan is ‘Fantastic’

Up to 60,000 patients die on the Liverpool Care Pathway each year without giving their consent, shocking figures revealed yesterday.

A third of families are also kept in the dark when doctors withdraw lifesaving treatment from loved ones.

Despite the revelations, Jeremy Hunt last night claimed the pathway was a ‘fantastic step forward’.

In comments that appeared to prejudge an official inquiry into the LCP, the Health Secretary said ‘one or two’ mistakes should not be allowed to discredit the entire end-of-life system.

But Elspeth Chowdharay-Best of Alert, an anti-euthanasia group, said: ‘The Pathway is designed to finish people off double quick. It is a lethal pathway.

‘Mr Hunt has made a nonsense of the claim of his ministers that there is going to be an independent inquiry.’

The review follows a public outcry over a string of disturbing cases, highlighted by this paper, in which patients or their families were ignored.

The pathway involves withdrawal of lifesaving treatment, with the sick sedated and usually denied nutrition and fluids. Death typically takes place within 29 hours.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20121230

Financial Crisis
» Day of Seesaw Talks Produces No Accord on Fiscal Crisis
» Italian Treasury Sells 5.88 Million in Five-, 10-Year Bonds
» Less Than 1/2 of Italian HS Degree Holders Employed
» Talks on Fiscal Crisis Face Setback That Threatens Deal
 
USA
» Bravo to Real Inventor
» Former CINCPAC Commander Adm. Jones: Scrap Draft US Army Manual That Appeases Islamic Doctrine
» Government Employee Unions Robbing Taxpayers
» Merry Christmas and Happy Gun Control, Chicago
» Muslim-Hating Woman Pushed Hindu Man Onto Subway Track Because of ‘9/11’
» Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is Hospitalized With Blood Clot
» Two Alleged Terrorists Extradited From Canada to Brooklyn by DOJ
 
Europe and the EU
» Italy Captures 11 Billion Euros in Missing Tax Money
» Italy: Bersani Says No to Monti Ministers in Election List
» Italy: Former PM Berlusconi Wants Inquiry Into Monti ‘Conspiracy’
» Merkel Earns Too Little, Says Steinbrueck
» Ryanair Pilots Say the Airline Keeps Them ‘Short on Fuel’
» Sweden: Most Sterilizations Performed on Women
» Sweden: Dementia Bigger Killer Than Heart Attacks
» UK: Two Lone Women Were Stabbed in Potentially Linked Incidents
» Woman Hurt in Acid Attack in Germany
 
North Africa
» Church Explosion in Libya’s Misrata Claims Lives of Two
» Fighter Jets for the Muslim Brotherhood — A Gift We Shouldn’t Give
» First Plane Out of Benghazi
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Naftali Bennett Catches a Wave in Israel’s January 2013 Knesset Elections
» Why is Suha Arafat Back in the Spotlight?
 
Middle East
» Iraq: Iraq: Hundreds of Thousands of Sunnis on the Streets Against the Shiite Government
» Saudi Wahhabi Preacher Issues Fatwa Allowing Jihadis to Rape Syrian Women
» Syrian Rebels ‘Beheaded Christian and Fed Him to Dogs’
 
Russia
» The Greatest Subversive of Our Times
 
South Asia
» India: Karnataka: Anti-Christian Attacks Even on Christmas
 
Far East
» China’s Coral Reefs Nearly Gone, Study Finds
» The Princelings, Descendants of the Party’s ‘Immortals’, Are China’s New Masters
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Boko Haram Militias Murder 15 Christians in Nigeria
 
Immigration
» EU Lifts Visa for Turkish Citizens Providing Service in Germany, Netherlands and Denmark
» Immigrant Traffickers Arrested
» Nobel Winner Slates Britain’s ‘Stupid’ Immigration Reforms
» Switzerland: SVP Piles on the Pressure Over Foreign Criminals
 
Culture Wars
» Do Not Underestimate the Value of Culture as a Power of Change
» Italy: Top Bishop Calls ‘Femicide’ Priest’s Comments ‘Sad’
» The New Outlaws: How Same-Sex Marriage Suffocates Freedom
» UK: Christians Have No Right to Refuse to Work on Sundays, Rules Judge
» What is Marriage?
» Wicca, Raelism, Animism, Christianity

Financial Crisis

Day of Seesaw Talks Produces No Accord on Fiscal Crisis

Senate leaders on Sunday failed to produce a fiscal deal with just hours to go before large tax increases and spending cuts were to begin taking effect on New Year’s Day, despite a round of volatile negotiations over the weekend and an attempt by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to intervene.

Both sides moved toward each other on the central issue of how to define the wealthy taxpayers who would be required to pay more once the Bush-era tax cuts expire. But that progress was overshadowed by gamesmanship. After Republicans demanded that any deal must include a new way of calculating inflation that would lower payments to beneficiaries of programs like Social Security, Democrats halted the negotiations for much of the day.

The Republican minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, made an emergency call to Mr. Biden in hopes of restarting negotiations, and the White House dispatched the president’s chief legislative negotiator to the Capitol to meet with Senate Democrats. Soon after, Republicans withdrew their demand and discussions resumed, but little progress was made.

[Return to headlines]

Italian Treasury Sells 5.88 Million in Five-, 10-Year Bonds

Bond auction draws slightly less attention than usual

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — The Italian Treasury sold 5.88 billion euros worth of its five- and 10-year bonds Friday, slightly less than its target of six billion.

It was also forced to offer a slightly higher interest rate than at a similar auction in November.

The yield rose to 3.26% from 3.23% on the five-year paper while yield on the 10-year bonds rose to 4.48% from 4.45% a month ago.

As trading opened Friday morning, the spread between Italy’s 10-year benchmark bond and its German counterpart was slightly higher than Thursday close of 313 points, at 326 basis points and an average yield of 4.56.

The spread is a good barometer of financial markets’ confidence in Italy’s finances.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Less Than 1/2 of Italian HS Degree Holders Employed

Istat 2011 data shows 82.3% still live with their parents

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Just 45.7% of Italians who graduated in 2007 have found a job, a 2011 survey by the national statistics bureau Istat showed.

A previous survey of 2004 graduates showed more than 50% had found jobs three years after leaving school, Istat said.

Unemployment is highest among secondary school graduates, those with fine arts degrees and those with teaching certificates (34%), against 22.4% for those with technical diplomas and 21.4% of those with degrees from professional institutes.

Of those who did find a job in spite of the crisis, 37.8% has a full-time job, 27.3% has a short-term contract, 7.3% works under project-based contracts, and 19% has occasional or seasonal employment.

Many high school graduates work, study, and look for new employment at the same time, the Istat data showed. Just over 9% works and goes to school, and about 4% don’t work and don’t study.

Of 2007 high school graduates, almost 64% went on to university, while just 2.5% pursued a fine arts or musical degree. Of those who attended university, just under 14% obtained their degree, while another 9% interrupted or abandoned their studies. At least 82.3% still lived with their parents and 5.5% lived on their own, with few having formed families of their own.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Talks on Fiscal Crisis Face Setback That Threatens Deal

Negotiations to reach a last-ditch agreement to head off large tax increases and sweeping spending cuts in the new year broke down, at least temporarily, on Sunday after Republicans requested that any deal include a new way of calculating inflation that would lower payments to beneficiaries programs like Social Security and slow their growth.

A Senate Democratic aide with knowledge of the talks cautioned that they could restart. And Republican officials hinted that the Republican position is not set in stone. But for now, the Democratic aide said, talks have stopped.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, went to the Senate floor a little to say that Republicans had made their last offer at 7:10 the night before and had yet to receive a reply.

“I’m concerned about the lack of urgency. I think we all know we’re running out of time,” he said.

To that, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, declared, “at this stage, we’re not able to make a counter offer.”

[Return to headlines]

USA

Bravo to Real Inventor

By Phyllis Schlafly

For more than 200 years, our U.S. rule about patents has been, as required by the U.S. Constitution, that the person who first invents something has a right to patent it. Patent rights attach to the inventor, not to paper-pushers who may rush to a government office and try to file first with papers about the invention. But lobbyists for big corporations have long wanted to change our rules, and the current Congress passed a law that gives the corporations what they want. Congress passed what is called the America Invents Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2011. Patent rights are now based on who files documents first with the Patent and Trademark Office. This new law rewards paper-pushers rather than real inventors.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Former CINCPAC Commander Adm. Jones: Scrap Draft US Army Manual That Appeases Islamic Doctrine

We have written about the dangers of delusional political correctness intruding on conduct of alleged counter-insurgency doctrine in Afghanistan. We have thought that the so-called Human Terrain Studies, promoted by defamed former CENTCOMM Commander and ex-CIA Chief Gen. Petreaus appeasing Islamic ‘cultural anthropology’ would only hobble US operations in the faltering war in Afghanistan. In fact it violates the field commanders’ first priority of force protection verging on gross negligence argued by Stephen Coughlin, Army Reserve Major and former Pentagon Consultant on Jihad war doctrine You would have thought the spike in murderous green- on- blue attacks against US and Coalition ISAF forces by Afghan security personnel, the US Army’s Combined Arms Command , Army Lessons Learned Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas would have gotten the message that Coughlin and others have warned about. Apparently not.

The Washington Times (WT) this New Year’s weekend published what one commentator called “a concise and thoughtful criticism of this myopic Army Manual. The WT op ed, authored by former Commander of the US Pacific Fleet (CINPAC), ret. Admiral James A. Lyons, is entitled, “Draft of new U.S. Army handbook must be scrapped”. Former CINPAC Commander Adm. Lyons has in the opinion of this former US Army intelligence officer nailed it.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Government Employee Unions Robbing Taxpayers

By Phyllis Schlafly

On my Saturday radio talk program, I recently interviewed Mallory Factor, the author of a new book called Shadowbosses. Shadowbosses is a term he invented for government employee unions. We’ve only had government-employee union in recent years, and they are very different from private sector unions because government employee unions are paid by the taxpayers and the taxpayers are never at the bargaining table. Many government employees are forced to pay union dues in order to get and keep their jobs. Union bosses admit that much of the dues money goes to buy political influence to get what the unions want in pay and benefits. But the government employee unions don’t exercise their influence only to increase benefits for their members. These unions are also big players in promoting leftwing and Democratic Party governmental policies of all kinds.

Nationwide, only 7% of private companies are unionized. However 41% of government employees are unionized. Together they collect $14 billion annually in dues. The government union officials are very well paid, with individual compensation ranging up to $300,000 per person in annual salaries. One of the major government employee unions is the National Education Association, which exerts tremendous influence on education policies and spending.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Merry Christmas and Happy Gun Control, Chicago

Chicago, one of America’s most Nazified, anti-gun cities, has just recorded its 500th homicide. This is another banner year for Rahm Emanuel’s tightly controlled non-gun “paradise.” Breitbart recently reported that Chicago’s own stats show that 440 school age children were shot in 2012 in Chicago’s paradise. Breitbart’s Awr Hawkins writes:

These numbers are well above those for the 2011-2012 school year, in which 319 Chicago students were wounded and another 24 were killed.

And yet, it has long been reported that the school where Rahm’s children attend to their education has an armed security guard. Additionally, his children also have an armed escort to get them to and from school, just like those Hollywood celebrities who clamor for gun control while they enjoy full-time, armed bodyguards. And yet, the citizen gun control puppets continue to lap up the “wisdom” of their Masters and spew their hyper-emotional pleas to be controlled and enslaved.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Muslim-Hating Woman Pushed Hindu Man Onto Subway Track Because of ‘9/11’

A Muslim-hating woman was charged with murder as a hate crime for senselessly shoving a Queens man to his death in front of the 7 train, officials said today.

Erika Menendez, 31, was hit with a second-degree murder charge after confessing to killing Sunando Sen, 46, following her arrest this morning.

“She is accused of committing a subway commuter’s worst nightmare,” Queens DA Richard Brown said. “(He was) suddenly and senselessly pushed into the path of an oncoming train, shoved from behind with no chance to defend himself.

“She told police that she pushed a Muslim off the train tracks. She said, ‘I’ve hated Hindus and Muslims since 2001 since they put down the Twin Towers. I have been beating them up since.’“

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is Hospitalized With Blood Clot

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was hospitalized on Sunday with a blood clot stemming from a concussion she suffered earlier this month, a State Department spokesman said.

Mrs. Clinton, who canceled most of her public events in recent weeks because of her concussion, was at a follow-up exam Sunday when doctors discovered a blood clot, according to Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton.

“She is being treated with anticoagulants and is at New York-Presbyterian Hospital so that they can monitor the medication over the next 48 hours,” Mr. Reines said in a statement.

[Return to headlines]

Two Alleged Terrorists Extradited From Canada to Brooklyn by DOJ

BY JIM KOURI Two alleged operatives of the Sri Lanka-based terrorist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a designated foreign terrorist organization popularly referred to as the Tamil Tigers, were arraigned Thursday before United States Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., following their extradition from Canada.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy Captures 11 Billion Euros in Missing Tax Money

Crackdown on tax evasion earns windfall of billions

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — Italy’s tax collectors seized 11 billion euros in unpaid taxes from evaders as of early December, the national revenue agency announced Friday.

That’s a bit less than the amount recovered in 2011’s fight against tax evasion, the agency admitted. During the same period last year, 12.7 billion euros in unpaid taxes were collected.

In 2013, the agency says it will be applying new rules to help in the fight against tax evasion.

In one major case this year, it said, a group of companies in the Marche region issued false invoices worth 226 million euros that created 32 million euros in unreported — and untaxed — income. As a result, seven people have been charged with criminal conspiracy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Bersani Says No to Monti Ministers in Election List

(AGI) — Rome, Dec 28 — Pier Luigi Bersani has said he will not be using ministers in Mario Monti’s government in the election list. “One year ago, with the participation of everyone, we put together a transitional, technical, so-called non-partisan government. Now, I would not want this choice and this government to be torn apart, a little by one side and a little by the other, in an electoral competition,” the PD Secretary said at a press conference.

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

Italy: Former PM Berlusconi Wants Inquiry Into Monti ‘Conspiracy’

(AGI) Milan, Dec. 29 — Asked whether he regretted supporting the creation of the Monti government, former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi called it a “conspiracy”. In his words, “let’s be frank: at that time there was a de facto conspiracy. If we win, we will immediately set up a commission to look into what exactly happened.” .

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

Merkel Earns Too Little, Says Steinbrueck

(AGI) Berlin — Angela Merkel’s Social Democrat challenger for the Chancellorship, Pier Steinbrueck, has let slip that the Chancellor earns too little.

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

Ryanair Pilots Say the Airline Keeps Them ‘Short on Fuel’

(AGI) Brussels, Dec 29 — Four Ryanair pilots said the airline “makes us fly short on fuel” .

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

Sweden: Most Sterilizations Performed on Women

In Sweden, more women are choosing to get sterilized than men, according to figures from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

Out of the 4,800 Swedes who chose to get sterilized in 2010, two thirds were women.

According to relationship experts the disparity could be down to women traditionally taking greater responsibility for both reproduction and pregnancy prevention.

“Many guys think that if we skip using a condom she’ll sort out the pregnancy prevention… So I’m thinking if the woman doesn’t want to be on the pill, then one option is to get sterilized,” Robert Jakobsson, a social worker and sexologist, told Sveriges Radio (SR).

Since Swedish county councils are no longer obliged to report the number of sterilizations carried out, the National Board of Health and Welfare figures are not conclusive.

However, there is information about the cost of carrying out the operation, and it varies significantly around the country.

In 11 out of Sweden’s county councils the patient fee for a sterilization is 300 Swedish kronor ($45), which is the prize of a regular doctor’s visit.

In eight of the councils, sterilizations cost over 2,000 kronor. In the southern region of Östergötland the prize is a hefty 13,200 kronor.

Two county councils do not offer the procedure at all.

Sveriges Radio (SR) spoke to a 26-year-old woman who said she knew already as a teenager that she did not want to have children.

At age 19 she found out that she could get sterilized, but the age limit is 25.

“When I turned 25 I immediately went to the health centre because I knew that’s what I wanted,” she said.

She added that she could always adopt if she ever changes her mind about having children.

“There are lots of children in the world who need parents. I don’t see a need to have your own, genetic children just because you want them. It’s better to take one that already exists and to take care of it,” she said.

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

Sweden: Dementia Bigger Killer Than Heart Attacks

For decades, heart attacks were the most common cause of death in Sweden, but now more Swedes are dying from dementia diseases.

Improvements in healthcare and healthier lifestyles have led to a fall in the number of heart attacks, as well as a fall in death rates among heart attack victims.

That is according to broadsheet Dagens Nyheter (DN), which has analyzed statistics from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

In 2011, a total of 6,874 Swedes died from heart attacks. That is 4,300 fewer cases than in 2001.

The same year over 8,000 Swedes died from some form of dementia, including senility. That is a 32 percent jump compared to 2001. Alzheimer’s is high one the list of deathly dementia diseases in Sweden.

An ageing population could be one explanation behind the jump.

At the same time, there has also been a fall in death rates for some of the most common diseases in Sweden.

For instance, the number of people dying from the flu or pneumonia has decreased by 25 per cent in 10 years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Two Lone Women Were Stabbed in Potentially Linked Incidents

Both victims were attacked as they walked through a park area known locally as Wapping Woods, off Garnet Street.

The suspect is described as an Asian man

The first attack occurred at around 6.25pm on Tuesday

The suspect approached her holding a knife and stabbed her before taking a digital camera from her bag and running off towards The Highway.

A second similar incident happened at around 12.25pm today in Wapping Woods in which the victim was a 26 year-old woman.

She was approached by a man holding a knife and forced into bushes where she was stabbed three times in the chest. It is not believed that anything was taken before the attacker ran away towards The Highway

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Woman Hurt in Acid Attack in Germany

GERMAN police have arrested two suspects after a young woman of Turkish origin suffered serious burns in an acid attack in western Germany.

The 20-year-old victim opened the door of her home in the town of Hilden early on Saturday when one of the suspects doused her with sulphuric acid from a tin can.

The victim immediately felt strong burns in her face and called rescue services who identified the liquid as an acid.

The woman was taken to a hospital. Her grandmother was also slightly hurt in the attack.

One of the suspects, a 22-year-old man of Turkish origin, was arrested and remanded in custody on Saturday.

He told investigators he had asked an acquaintance to carry out the attack, police and the public prosecutor’s office in the state capital of Duesseldorf said in a joint statement.

The other suspect, who is aged 18 and thought to have carried out the attack, turned himself in to the police on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Church Explosion in Libya’s Misrata Claims Lives of Two

(AGI) — Tripoli, Dec 30 — At least two people were killed and two were injured after a bomb exploded at a Coptic Christian church in Libya’s Dafniya, some 30km west of Misrata. According to Egyptian consular sources in Tripoli, all the victims were Egyptian.

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

Fighter Jets for the Muslim Brotherhood — A Gift We Shouldn’t Give

With a continuing moral crisis in America, the fight over whether we continue to spend taxpayer money we don’t have, it is unthinkable that the Obama Administration would be willing to spend $213 million to give arms to Egypt.

Yet, the United States is poised to give the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Egypt 200 M1A1 Abrams battle tanks and 20 F-16 fighter jets. These represent some of America’s best, most sophisticated weaponry — used today by our men in women in uniform. This gift will increase Egypt’s M1A1 tanks by 20% and represents nearly a 10% increase in Egypt’s F-16 fighter jets.

This is not an insignificant award of firepower or finances, costing American taxpayers $213 million for the fighter jets alone. But it is also extremely important to know to whom we are giving these highly sophisticated weapons.

[Return to headlines]

First Plane Out of Benghazi

When madmen in the Middle East shoot up American consulates and embassies, [Obama] blames movies and calls for film control.

It took some 22 hours for American help to arrive in Benghazi after all the t’s had been crossed and the i’s had been dotted, and the body of America’s ambassador to Libya had been dragged through the streets by “rescuers” stopping along the way to pose for cell phone pictures with his corpse.

By way of comparison it takes about 16 hours for a boatload of Libyan illegal immigrants to row to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Support for the Americans under fire in Libya would have arrived sooner if a few former members of the Harvard Rowing Team had gotten in one the many rowboats beached on the shores of Lampedusa and pushed the oars all the way to Benghazi.

It says something about the current state of asymmetrical warfare that not only can Al Qaeda throw together a coordinated string of attacks on American embassies around the region without anyone being the wiser for it, but boatloads of migrants from Libya can reach Europe faster on muscle power than American forces can reach a mission under attack while equipped with jet power.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Naftali Bennett Catches a Wave in Israel’s January 2013 Knesset Elections

Bennett’s rise in Knesset election polls has caught a wave of interest in both Israel and the mainstream media in the US and aboard. That was signified by articles on him that appeared this week in The Daily Beast, The New York Times and AFP. Ted Belman of Israpundit drew attention in a blog post to an article in the Israeli left wing publication +972 (the area code for Judea and Samaria) that designated the settler movement as their’ Person of The Year’. +972 had this to say about the Bennett ‘phenomenon’: The traditional focus on the center seems somewhat irrelevant, as a new role model of the Israeli Sabra emerges in figures like Bennett, who has been receiving quite a bit of publicity lately, including a feature in the New York Times. . . .Bennett, the Zionist patriot, recently said in a television interview that as an army reserve officer he would refuse orders to evacuate settlements. Refusing orders has long been a red line that few dared to cross; politicizing one’s army service was considered a taboo in mainstream Israeli society that many thought made one unelectable. The New York Times profile on Bennett noted how Netanyahu’s reaction to this taboo may have had the opposite effect. The NYT article, “Dynamic Former Netanyahu Aide Shifts Israeli Campaign Rightward,” noted: Mr. Stern of the Israel Democracy Institute said that while Mr. Bennett tries to convince voters that they can vote Jewish Home for identity reasons without threatening Mr. Netanyahu’s re-election, the prime minister is making the opposite case: that Mr. Bennett is an extremist and not a reliable partner. Hence, days of headlines filled with the refusal spat. “Our biggest problem before this was name recognition,” said a top Jewish Home figure, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of seeming to make light of a serious issue. Mr. Netanyahu, he added, “fixed that for us.” Bennett’s Stability lnitiative entails annexation of Area C which he estimates at 350,000 Jewish Israeli residents and 48,000 Palestinians. The proposal would give the option to the minority Palestinians in Area C to become Israel citizens, akin to that offered to Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Increasingly Palestinians in East Jerusalem have elected to seek Israeli citizenship. This has given rise to what Ha’aretz this weekend called a “process of surprising “Israelization”. Bennett’s Stability lnitiative would assure Israel control over 50 percent of the nation’s water supply and it would provide security for the hills overlooking the Jordan Valley.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Why is Suha Arafat Back in the Spotlight?

In a Dubai TV interview on December 16, 2012, Suha Arafat, the widow of Yasser Arafat , revealed in a MEMRI translation that her late husband had perpetrated the Second Intifada in September 2000 that lasted until 2005. More than 3,000 Palestinians, 1,000 Israelis and 64 foreigners were killed in the armed uprising. The Palestinian myth created was that the visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque by then Israeli Prime Minister (PM) Ariel Sharon, triggered the Intifada. Arafat had rejected a US deal brokered by Former President Clinton with Israel at Camp David. In November 1999, Suha and then First Lady Hillary Clinton were photographed embracing during a visit to Ramallah. Clinton’s espousal of a Palestinian state was complicated by Suha’s accusations against Israel at the time:

Our people have been subjected to the daily and extensive use of poisonous gas by the Israeli forces, which has led to an increase in cancer cases among women and children.

Jerusalem Post and Daily Caller articles on New Year’s weekend drew attention to MEMRI’s translation of Suha’s revelations from the December 2012 Dubai TV interview:

Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return… Camp David had failed, and he said to me, ‘You should remain in Paris.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because I am going to start an intifada. They want me to betray the Palestinian cause. They want me to give up on our principles, and I will not do so.’

I do not want Zahwa’s [Arafat’s daughter’s] friends in the future to say that Yasser Arafat abandoned the Palestinian cause and principles. I might be martyred, but I shall bequeath our historical heritage to Zahwa and to the children of Palestine.

Suha Arafat is playing the media to gain sympathy and revenge as an alleged grieving widow against PA political and security leaders for not providing adequate security that might have prevented her husband’s demise. That might deflect accusations of financial irregularities arising from alleged mishandling of donor funds. Her recent confirmation of Yasser Arafat’s premeditated Second Intifada should give no comfort to Israel, given that she continues to accuse Israel of despoiling Gaza. In the Ynet.com article she rationalized the Paris birth of her daughter Zahwa in 1995: My father was on his deathbed and in hospital and that is why I made the decision. I refused to give birth in Israel — I told them (the Israelis) — You ruined the whole of Gaza, you were the ones who destroyed our hospitals, not us.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iraq: Iraq: Hundreds of Thousands of Sunnis on the Streets Against the Shiite Government

For the past week the main roads of the country have been blocked. In Ramadi, more than 100 thousand people have built barricades on the road leading to the Syrian border. Protests also in Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul and Samarra. The Sunnis demand an end to anti-terrorism laws and accuse the Shiites of keeping them on the margins of society.

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims are protesting against the government of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the anti-terrorism laws and the police. In Fallujah (50 km west of Baghdad), about 60 thousand people blocked the main road leading to Baghdad. Protesters burnt flags and effigies of Shiite Islam, shouted slogans against the government accused of being manipulated by Iran. The Sunnis have expressed their support for the Syrian rebels who for the past 20 months have been fighting President Bashar Al — Assad who belongs to the minority of Alawites close to Shiite Islam.

According to local media people want to emulate the “Arab Spring” which in 2011 led to the fall of governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. The climax of the protests was reached yesterday in Ramadi, with more than 100 thousand people along the road that leads to the border with Syria and Jordan. Other protests have taken place after Friday prayers in Mosul, Kurdistan, Samarra and Tikrit. Riots were sparked by the arrest in Anbar province (western Iraq) of 10 bodyguards of Rafia al-Issawi, Minister of Finance, one of the main leaders of the Sunni faction of the government.

The Sunnis were the dominant faction in Iraq for decades during Saddam Hussein’s regime, guilty of the genocide of the Shia minority. With the fall of the dictator in 2003, the international forces opted for a rise to power of the Shiite faction that gave way to a gradual marginalization of its opponents. The contrast between the two groups, however, has also led to a real conflict involving al-Qaeda terrorists and various extremist movements from neighbouring Iran, regarded as the main supporter of the government of al-Maliki.

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

Saudi Wahhabi Preacher Issues Fatwa Allowing Jihadis to Rape Syrian Women

A Wahhabi religious cleric in Saudi Arabia, Muhammed al-Arifi, who is very influential in Jihadi circles, has recently issued a fatwa (religious edict) that permits all Jihadist militants in Syria to engage in short-lived marriages with Syrian women that each lasts for a few hours in order to satisfy their sexual desires and boost their determination in killing Syrians. He called the marriage as ‘intercourse marriage’. It requires that the Syrian female be at least 14 years old, widowed, or divorced.

Is this the Western-promoted “freedom and democracy” that Syrians want?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Syrian Rebels ‘Beheaded Christian and Fed Him to Dogs’

He has just got married and his wife was about to give birth but this did not save Andrei Arbashe, a young Christian, from a horrific fate at the hands of rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime earlier this month.

“They beheaded him, cut him into pieces and fed him to the dogs,” said Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, mother superior of the Monastery of St James the Mutilated between Damascus and Homs.

Forget the familiar Arab spring narrative about down-trodden masses taking on the forces of evil: the Syrian conflict appears to have entered a darker phase in which the rebels are committing atrocities against innocent civilians. It does not bode well for peace.

The people who chopped up Arbashe did not seem to need much of a motive: his brother had apparently been overheard complaining about the rebels behaving like bandits.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Russia

The Greatest Subversive of Our Times

by Michael Ledeen

December 30th is Vladimir Bukovsky’s seventieth birthday. He is the only Russian barred by special law from running for president, a tribute to his immense popularity and force of character. Among the great generation of democratic dissidents—the generation that punctured the monstrous Soviet bubble and produced the celebrated sucking sound that ended the Soviet Empire and gutted the world Communist movement—Bukovsky is arguably the most important.

Otherwise that law wouldn’t be necessary.

Bukovsky has a rare combination of toughness, common sense, and good humor. He never compromised with his oppressors, even though he was subjected to the KGB’s infamous psychological and biochemical torments during his years in prison and the camps. His unrivaled courage and tenacity inspired a generation, and his standing was dramatically demonstrated when the Kremlin traded him for the Chilean Communist leader Luis Corvalan in 1976.

His memoir, To Build a Castle, is one of the masterpieces of the period, and his subsequent works document the crimes of the Soviet state, the complicity of Western leaders who played useful idiots to the evil empire, and the survival of the Soviet vision in the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Karnataka: Anti-Christian Attacks Even on Christmas

Hindu nationalists from the Bajrang Dal get banner dedicated to the 25 years of Our Lady of Velankanni removed. Christian leader tells AsiaNews that police “are silent spectators when it comes to violence against Christians.” The latest is the 40th attack against Christians this year.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — Police are “quick to respond to the demands of Hindu nationalists,” but are “silent spectators when it comes to violence against Christians,” said Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) as he spoke about the 40th anti-Christian attack in Karnataka this year.

On Wednesday, activists from the Bajrang Dal forced the parish priest of the Stella Maris Church in Kalmady (Udupi District) to remove a banner dedicated to Our Lady of Velankanni, whose silver jubilee it is this year. The banner showed an image of Our Lady and a Brahmin with a vase in his hands.

According to tradition, various Marian appearances have been recorded in the area since the 16th century. In the first case, the Virgin, her son in her arms, asked a Hindu boy for some of the milk he was carrying.

Fr Alban D’Souza raised the banner on 8 December, to mark the 25th anniversary of the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Velankanni. However, for Anil Bangera, a local Bajrang Dal leader, the banner “hurt the religious feelings of the Hindu community of Kalmady.”

After informing the police, Hindu nationalists told the parish priest to remove the banner and apologise for the insult. To avoid violent reactions during Christmas celebrations, Fr D’Souza removed the banner saying that “the Church had no intention of hurting anyone’s belief.”

For Sajan George, the incident “is an act of intolerance that deserves to be strongly condemned because it sows the seeds of mistrust and suspicion within the community; the more some since the apparition of Our Lady of Velankanni is part of the history and culture of this area, and the chapel is visited by believers of every religion.” (NC)

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

Far East

China’s Coral Reefs Nearly Gone, Study Finds

Coral reefs are under siege worldwide, and now a team of Australian and Chinese researchers has made an alarming discovery in the waters near China: The teeming coral reefs once found off the shores of the Asian giant have shrunk by an astonishing 80 percent over the last 30 years.

Biological surveys in the South China Sea and off mainland China revealed that losses of living coral reefs, especially in the past 10 to 15 years, present a “grim picture of decline, degradation and destruction,” said the research report, according to AFP.

Pollution, overfishing and coastal development are blamed for the disappearance of the coral reefs. “China’s ongoing economic expansion has exacerbated many wicked environmental problems,” the report authors said, as quoted by AFP.

In addition to environmental causes, regional politics also plays a part in the reefs’ destruction, the AFP reports. Several countries in the area, including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, have competing claims on territorial waters in South Asia, making management of the area’s resources difficult.

China’s remarkable growth has been accompanied by widespread environmental destruction throughout the country, the AFP reports. The economic powerhouse suffers from some of the worst air, water and land pollution in the world, despite the government’s efforts to lead the nation toward a more sustainable growth model.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Princelings, Descendants of the Party’s ‘Immortals’, Are China’s New Masters

They own private companies and manage state corporations, with properties abroad or offshore. The descendants of the Party’s founders are China’s new ‘red aristocracy’ and have created one of the most unjust societies in the world with the gap between haves and have-nots reaching a danger level. At least 500 episodes of social unrest occur each day. Xi Jinping is urged to fight corruption and implement reforms; however, the study that reveals the princelings’ assets is blocked.

Beijing (AsiaNews) — The descendants of eight party founding fathers are sitting on assets worth dozens of billions of dollars. Such a connection between politics and economics undermines the fight against corruption pursued by Xi Jinping and the country’s new leaders. At the same time, such concentration of wealth is generating anger and outrage among ordinary Chinese.

A study released by Bloomberg News yesterday, which includes a number of pieces and an interesting graph, maps the breadth and history of China’s ‘red aristocracy’, describing the assets of 103 individuals, all of whom are the direct descendants and spouses of the so-called ‘eight immortals’, i.e. Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun, Yang Shangkun, Wang Zhen, Bo Yibo, Li Xiannian, Peng Zhen and Song Renqiong.

These eight are among the founders of the Communist Party who, following Mao Zedong’s death, tried to save the country from the economic disaster caused by Mao’s policies by opening it up to foreign investments.

At the same time, to prevent the party from losing power, their loyal descendants were chosen to run new state-owned conglomerates. By the 1990s, the latter began investing in real estate, steel and coal. Eventually, they diversified into rare earths and international finance.

Bloomberg’s study shows that 26 of their heirs ran or held top positions in state-owned companies that dominate the economy. Three children alone-Wang’s son, Wang Jun , Deng’s son-in-law He Ping and Chen Yuan , the son of Mao Zedong’s economic tsar-headed or still run state-owned firms with combined assets of about US$1.6 trillion last year. That is equivalent to more than a fifth of the mainland’s annual economic output in 2011.

In the 1980s, Wang Jun and He Ping got into the arms industry, selling weapons to Iran, Myanmar, and Pakistan. They also set up a joint-venture with Ferrari, the princelings’ favourite car.

At least 43of the 103 ran their own businesses or became executives in private firms. Using family connections and their foreign education, they went to work for banks like Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. Many own or run entities linked to companies registered offshore, many in jurisdictions that offer secrecy, like the Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Liberia.

Although their fathers ostensibly disliked the ‘bourgeois individualism” of capitalist nations, at least half of their descendants lived, studied and worked abroad.

At least 23 of their descendants and their spouses studied in the United States, including three at Harvard University and four at Stanford University. At least 18 worked for US entities, and 12 owned property in the US.

For some analysts, the Tiananmen massacre of 4 June 1989 was carried out to stop criticism from Chinese students against the princelings’ privileges (visas and funding) to study in the best universities in the world in England and America, at a time when no Chinese could do so. As long-time critic Bao Tong noted, the massacre silenced pro-democracy voices but also anti-corruption critics.

By examining thousands of pages of documents and conducting dozens of interviews, Bloomberg traced the holdings of the Immortals’ 103 direct descendants and their spouses, highlighting China’s greatest problem, social inequality.

Over the last three decades, Communist China’s leaders have claimed that more than 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty; yet they have also built one of the world’s most unequal societies.

A recent study shows that China’s Gini coefficient is 0.6. This index measures inequality and levels of instability in society. Experts believe that a coefficient higher than 0.4 can lead to social unrest.

In China’s case, episodes of social unrest due to corruption of party officials or environmental problems number at least 500 a day.

By releasing the study on China’s ‘red aristocracy’, Bloomberg is sending signals to China’s future president, Xi Jinping, that social reforms and the fight against corruption are needed if he wants to stop the rot inside the party and its potential demise.

However, Bloomberg is blocked in mainland China, and Chinese bloggers planning to post the study have been warned that they would be in trouble with the law if they did so.

Already in June, Bloomberg was blocked after it released data on the assets own by Xi Jinping and his family, estimated to be around a billion dollars.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Boko Haram Militias Murder 15 Christians in Nigeria

(AGI) Kano, Dec 30 — Boko Haram militias have cut the throats of 15 Christians in yet another attack in the Nigerian village of Masuri in the mainly Muslim north-east of the country.

Witnesses and NGO sources in the area have reported that based on information available, “the attackers broke into a number of specifically chosen homes and killed 15 people while they slept.” The Nigerian authorities had reported an attack in Musari without providing details and said that only five people had been killed.

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

Immigration

EU Lifts Visa for Turkish Citizens Providing Service in Germany, Netherlands and Denmark

The European Union Commission announced it would life visa requirements for Turkish citizens who provide service to Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, asking that the booklets handed out to border officials in those countries be changed accordingly, Anatolia news agency has reported.

The new change allows for Turkish citizens providing service to stay for 2 months in Germany, and 3 months in Netherlands and Denmark without holding a visa.

The EU Commission recalled the European Court of Justiceâ€(tm)s 2009 resolution ordering Turkish citizens residing and exercising their activities in Turkey and wishing to enter the territory of a member state to provide services there, would be exempted from visa in a written statement on the upgrading of the Schengen booklet to Germany, Netherlands and Denmark.

The commission detailed the guidelines on the movement of Turkish nationals crossing the external borders of EU member states in order to provide services within the EU. According to that statement, the visa exemption for Turkish citizens applies only to Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark among the 26 Schengen countries.

Turkish architects, builders, lawyers, computer scientists, commercial agents, scientists and lecturers, artists, fitters and instructors installing or repairing machinery or informing of the use thereof, professional athletes and trainers, truck drivers and others established in Turkey are considered to be employed in jobs that provide services. They must prove their status with written statements at the borders.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Immigrant Traffickers Arrested

Three allegedly landed 35 near Agrigento at Xmas

(ANSA) — Agrigento, December 28 — Italian police on Friday arrested three suspected Moroccan immigrant-traffickers.

The three were part of a group of five picked up on Christmas night near the Sicilian city of Agrigento, telling police another 30 had been with them.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Nobel Winner Slates Britain’s ‘Stupid’ Immigration Reforms

A Nobel prize-winning scientist whose discovery at a British university will help the UK economy become more competitive launched a blistering attack yesterday on the Government’s “stupid” immigration policy.

Russian-born physicist Professor Sir Andre Geim said new restrictions on non-European Union immigrants, including minimum salary requirements of at least £31,000 and tighter student visa rules, are blocking the brightest academics from working at British institutions.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: SVP Piles on the Pressure Over Foreign Criminals

Swiss ministers came under renewed pressure on Friday to pass a law to expel foreign criminals, after far-right party the SVP brought a new referendum on the issue a step closer.

The party has brought forward a new popular initiative, signed by 154,982 people, calling on the government to honour the result of a referendum held in November 2010, newspaper 20 Minutes reports. In that vote, 53 percent of voters backed the compulsory expulsion of foreigners who had committed crimes in Switzerland. The SVP accuses the government, which is obliged to implement the measures, of dragging its feet.

The government put two detailed proposals forward in May, but both of these were significantly more lenient than the original proposals — something the government said was necessary to make them compatible with international law.

The new initiative is far more detailed than the original, and if passed would give the government less room for manoeuvre. The text specifies that expulsion of foreigners who committed murder, robbery or rape would be automatic, even on a first offence. Others facing expulsion would include “notorious and incorrigible” offenders whose actions “seriously affect order and public safety,” according to Le Matin.

“It is high time to act severely against foreign criminality,” the party claims in the initiative. “Criminality remains a potent problem. The number of robberies and burglaries is literally exploding in several cantons,” it says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Do Not Underestimate the Value of Culture as a Power of Change

Hope and Change, Hope and Change, Hope and Change… Millions of Americans were chanting totally mesmerized. Change at the speed of light is here and accelerating. Hope is fading away. How did we get here so fast? It did not happen overnight. We just failed to pay attention.

We underestimated the value of culture as a power of change, irreversible change. We were too busy building nations and democracy in countries living by seventh century rules written in one book to notice that our culture was being changed from within and without, partly by theocratic and totalitarian cultures, partly by globalists, and their human tools and institutions, and partly by illegally-domiciled cultures.

You cannot change “hearts and minds” in a culture that values death more than life; you cannot absorb a banana republic culture with “family values” of God and the pursuit of happiness in which happiness is not self-generated but expected from a benevolent government…

W. C. McGrew defined culture as a six-step process:

1.   A new pattern of behavior is invented, or an existing one is modified.
2.   The innovator transmits this pattern to another person.
3.   The form of the pattern is consistent.
4.   The one who acquires the pattern retains the ability to perform it long after having acquired it.
5.   The pattern spreads across a population: families, clans, troops, or bands.
6.   The pattern endures across generations.

Language, a very important element of culture, is the direct expression of a people’s national character. Johann Gottfried Herder said, “Denn jedes Volk ist Volk; es hat seine National Bildung wie seine Sprache” (Because every people is a People, it has its own national culture expressed through its language). We do not have our own official language — the government and necessity have forced the use of two languages. Immigrants, who have entered other cultures through time, have formed their own sub-cultures within the primary culture:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Italy: Top Bishop Calls ‘Femicide’ Priest’s Comments ‘Sad’

Bagnasco says Corsi’s stance also ‘serious’

(ANSA) — Genoa, December 28 — Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) said on Friday that comments posted by a priest who stirred a nationwide row by suggesting women were responsible for violence against them was a “sad and serious thing”.

A flyer displayed on the San Terenzo church bulletin board this week in the northern town of Lerici by Father Piero Corsi has caused an uproar for allegedly “encouraging” violence against women.

The priest entitled the leaflet “Women and femicide — healthy self-criticism. How often do they provoke?”. Corsi on Thursday said his archbishop had advised him to take some time off for “reflection and rest”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The New Outlaws: How Same-Sex Marriage Suffocates Freedom

Advocating gay marriage as a way of enlarging the American sphere of liberty are profoundly — and deceptively — misrepresenting their aims.

Those advocating the radical social innovation, which they label “same-sex or gay marriage,” typically claim that they are fighting for freedom, championing a basic liberty. “Freedom to Marry” is indeed the name of a national organization devoted to the advocacy of same-sex marriage. Established in 2003 by civil-rights advocate Evan Wolfson and headquartered in New York City, this group takes “We All Deserve the Freedom to Marry” as its slogan. So effective has it promulgated this perspective that even former First Lady Laura Bush endorsed homosexuals’ right to marry as a matter of basic freedom when she appeared on the Larry King Show in May 2010.

But those who advocate homosexual marriage as a way of enlarging the American sphere of liberty are profoundly — and deceptively — misrepresenting their aims. Their real aim came to light in the public controversy over remarks attributed to Queen Sophia of Spain in criticizing her country’s invention in 2005 of a homosexual right to “marry.” “If those people [homosexuals] want to live together,” commented the Spanish monarch, “dress up as bride and groom and get married they can do so, but that should not be called marriage because it is not.” Widely reported by the media, the furor over these remarks forced representatives of the Queen to issue a statement claiming that the published remarks “do not exactly match the opinions expressed by Her Majesty the Queen” and apologizing for the “ill-feeling and upset” her comments had caused. The pressures compelling this semi-retraction and apology prompted one media commentator to ponder the “interesting question” of whether on the issue of homosexual marriage, the Queen still had “the right… to express her opinion like any other citizen.”

This commentator had glimpsed the fundamental aim of those advocating homosexual marriage: it is not at all about giving homosexuals a new freedom to participate in ceremonies that they regard as weddings. It is entirely about denying freedom of public speech to anyone who would criticize such ceremonies or the sexual behaviors such ceremonies legitimize. The muzzle that homosexual activists tried (largely successfully) to put on an outspoken monarch represents only the beginning. Homosexual activists in this country deeply desire to place first thousands, and then millions, of even tighter muzzles on all who disagree with them about the nature of homosexual behavior. They well understand that enactment of laws authorizing homosexual marriage will give them sweeping powers to bind those muzzles very tightly on their fellow citizens.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Christians Have No Right to Refuse to Work on Sundays, Rules Judge

A new ruling by a High Court judge — the first on the issue in nearly a decade — says that Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a “core component” of their beliefs.

The judgment — which upholds an earlier decision — means that individual Christians do not have any protection from being fired for not working on Sundays.

Campaigners said the decision puts Christians at a disadvantage to other religions and means the judiciary are deciding what the core beliefs of Christians can be, which they say is an interference in the right to practise religion.

The judgment was issued by Mr Justice Langstaff as he ruled on an appeal brought by a Christian woman who was sacked after she refused to work on Sundays at a care home.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

What is Marriage?

A defence of man-woman marriage combining the precision of scientists with the clarity of good journalists makes for essential reading.

One reason why supporters of traditional marriage are losing elections is that they are losing the war for intellectual credibility. They are too often mired in facile arguments about “tradition”, Bible passages, and bleeding heart litanies about children. Supporters of gay marriage have succeeded in ridiculing these fumbling attempts at a rationale as ignorant and homophobic.

So a robust intellectual defence of the traditional view of marriage by a group of authors which includes Princeton law professor Robert P George is a welcome addition to the debate. Labelled by the New York Times as “America’s most influential conservative Christian thinker”, George, a convert from the ranks of the Democrats, is responsible for the interdenominational manifesto The Manhattan Declarationsigned by a number of Christian leaders in support of traditional marriage, sanctity of life and religious liberty. Sherif Girgis is a Ph.D. student in philosophy at Princeton and a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School. Ryan T. Anderson, who is William E. Simon Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and editor ofthe Witherspoon Institute’s journal Public Discourse, is a Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University and a Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Altogether a formidable team.

In 2010 they published a controversial article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, putting forward a philosophical defence for the conjugal view of marriage. It gained many responses from all sides of the debate and has proved so successful that they have expanded it into a book to further flesh out their claims and answer their opponents.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Wicca, Raelism, Animism, Christianity

All must be accorded absolute respect, according to a draconian mandate from Quebec’s education junta.

Until 2008, the curriculum of Montreal’s (private) Catholic Loyola High School included a course called “Morals and World Religions” (MWR). MWR taught students the basic history and tenets of other major religions from the Catholic perspective, which is presumably what the students’ parents were paying for.

In 2008, however, Quebec introduced a province-wide program called Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) running throughout elementary school, and all but one high school year. Every Quebec student — even the homeschooled — is obligated to take this state-composed program. And teachers, whatever their beliefs or religious affiliation, must teach it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20121229

Financial Crisis
» Fear of Global Recession Germany Urges US to Resolve Budget Dispute
» France’s Constitutional Council Overturns 75 Percent Super-Rich Tax
» Top French Court Overturns 75 Percent Tax Rate
 
USA
» Bronx Woman Charged With Murder as a Hate Crime in Subway Attack
» Obama’s “Wise Latina” Upholds Religious Freedom for Muslims, Not Christians
 
Europe and the EU
» French Surgeon Arrested for Alleged Extortion
» From France to Greece, Going Back to the Land
» Germany: Extremism in Bonn Student’s Tongue Cut in Possible Islamist Attack
» Italy: Former PDL Leader in Lazio Region Released to House Arrest
» Italy: State Insurance Recovers 100 Million in False 2012 Claims
» Italy: Democratic Party Welcomes Grasso as Candidate
» Italy: Berlusconi and Ex-Wife Reach Settlement
» Italy: Petrol Costs Up to 13 Cents Less at Liberalized Pumps
» Italy: Work on Rome Holocaust Museum to Start Next Spring
» Martin Amis: Islam and the Limits of Permissible Thought
» Norway: A Press Conference in Oslo With Haitham Al-Haddad
» Opponents Mock Monti After Vatican Newspaper Endorsement
» Sweden: Centre Party Split Over Radical Proposals
» UK: City’s Oldest Mosque Hoping to Expand
» UK: Councillor Calls for Calm as a House in Elswick is Attacked
» UK: New Mosque for Rotherham Plan
» UK: Revised Plans Drawn Up for New Accrington Central Mosque
» UK: Tally Ho! Let the Hunt Remind Us Who We Are
» UK: Widow of Organist Murdered on Way to Midnight Christmas Service Calls for ‘Justice Not Vengeance’
 
North Africa
» Algeria Readies for ‘Guerrilla’ Warfare
» Egypt: 150 Members Resign From Salafi Al-Nour Party
» Tensions Rising in Egypt as Opposition Leaders Are Investigated for High Treason
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing for Goods to Gaza
» ‘Suha Arafat Admits Husband Premeditated Intifada’
 
Middle East
» Hidden US-Israeli Military Agenda: “Break Syria Into Pieces”
» UN Syria “Peace Plan” A Fraud
 
Russia
» Innocence of Muslims Officially Banned in Russia
 
Caucasus
» Seven Militants Killed in Russia’s Dagestan
 
South Asia
» Breton Pancake Makers Spoil French Visit to Afghanistan
» Delhi Rape Death Sparks Indian Press Rage
» India: A Year of Protests, Corruption and Anger
» India: Akbaruddin in Trouble for Hate Speech
» Live: Peaceful Protests Across India; Sheila Dikshit Heckled
» Paintings Outrage Islamic Hard-Liners in Pakistan
» Pakistan: Muslim Societies Go Beyond Borders: US Scholar
» Pakistani Mob Beats to Death Muslim Accused of Blasphemy
» Pakistan Police Murders: 21 Cops Found Shot to Death in Peshawar
 
Australia — Pacific
» Knitting Overcomes Cultural Barriers
» New Year, Butt Out as On-the-Spot Smoking Fines Take Effect
» Obligation to Respect, Not Share, Our Faiths
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Angola: Official Calls for Humanisation of Prisons
» Kenya: Snake Disrupts Campaign Rally in Kilifi
» Nigeria: Gunmen Kill 25 in Adamawa, Borno
 
Immigration
» UK: Gavin Barwell MP: Four Reasons Why the Conservative Party Must Win More of Britain’s Growing Ethnic Vote
 
Culture Wars
» France: Gov’t Cracks Down on Racism, Homophobia on Twitter
 
General
» Aisha’s Cushion: Religious Art, Perception and Practice in Islam by Jamal J Elias — Review
» First ‘Alien Earth’ Will be Found in 2013, Experts Say

Financial Crisis

Fear of Global Recession Germany Urges US to Resolve Budget Dispute

All eyes are on Washington where US President Barack Obama and lawmakers are due to launch last-ditch talks Friday to avert automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that could plunge the country into recession. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle reminded all sides that they have a responsibility not just to the US, but to the global economy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France’s Constitutional Council Overturns 75 Percent Super-Rich Tax

France’s constitutional council on Saturday overturned a 75 percent tax rate on earnings higher than a million Euros. The policy was introduced by Socialist President Franois Hollande, who was elected in May.

The upper income tax rate sparked outrage amongst business leaders and led some of France’s richer citizens to request tax exile abroad. Among them was renowned actor Gerard Depardieu who was recently granted residence in Belgium.

The Constitutional Authority found the temporary two year rate to be unconstitutional since most types of income tax are applied to entire households, not individuals. The council therefore ruled that the proposed tax rate “failed to recognise equality before public burden.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Top French Court Overturns 75 Percent Tax Rate

France’s highest legal body, the Constitutional Council, announced on Saturday it was overturning the Socialist government’s flagship 75 percent income tax rate for high earners, marking an embarassing setback for President François Hollande.

French President François Hollande was dealt an embarassing blow on Saturday when the country’s highest legal body scrapped his controversial 75 percent upper income tax rate.

The Constitutional Council announced it was overturning the 75 percent bracket on income over 1 million euros ($1.32million) because it was “excessive” and represented a “breach of equality of taxes.”

The French government responded to the decisions by insisting it would push on with plans to impose the reform and would be submitting a revised proposal for the 75 percent upper rate in its 2013 budget.

“The government will propose a new system that conforms with the principles laid down by the decision of the Constitutional Council. It will be presented in the framework of the next Finance Act,” Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement.

The council’s decision to ditch Hollande’s flagship tax reform came after members of the opposition UMP party had asked it to review whether the levy was legal under the constitution.

The Council members, known as “the sages” decided that the way the upper tax rate was set to be imposed was unfair in the way it would affect different households.

The Council is concerned the tax would hit a married couple where one partner earned above a million euros but it would not affect a couple where each earned just under a million euros.

The tax rate, which was passed by France’s National Assembly in October, had infuriated high earners including acclaimed actor Gerard Depardieu, was due to be introduced in 2013.

Depardieu caused uproar earlier this month when he revealed he was moving to Belgium to seek tax exile status, blaming the government’s tax policies. The council’s decision may now make the actor think twice about selling his Paris mansion and upping sticks.

To opponents of the seven-month-old Socialist government, Depardieu’s move confirmed their fears that the 75 percent tax rate would spark a mass exodus of France’s most wealthy.

The measure, which Hollande insisted would only be a temporary move to help reduce public deficit, would only have to be paid by an estimated 1,500 people.

The tax reform was viewed as a symbolic move with Hollande keen for the rich to help the country during hard times. It is estimated the levy would have provided the government with an extra 210 million euros per year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

USA

Bronx Woman Charged With Murder as a Hate Crime in Subway Attack

A 31-year-old woman was being held by the police on Saturday in connection with the death of a man who was pushed onto the tracks of a Queens subway station and crushed by an oncoming train.

The woman, Erica Menendez of the Bronx, is being charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, according to the Queens district attorney’s office. Ms. Menendez was taken into custody by the police early Saturday morning and made comments implicating herself in the crime when questioned by detectives, according to Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department.

A law enforcement official said that Ms. Menendez had “told the cops it was an act against Muslims,” and cited the Sept. 11 attack.

[Return to headlines]

Obama’s “Wise Latina” Upholds Religious Freedom for Muslims, Not Christians

by Daniel Greenfield

While Obama’s Justice Department has set a record for the number of cases it filed on behalf of Muslims, particularly in defense of the discriminatory Hijab, the same administration has not only failed to stand up for religious freedom of Christians, it has actually taken the lead in attacking the religious freedom of Christians…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

French Surgeon Arrested for Alleged Extortion

Patient asked to pay unnecessarily for hernia operation

(ANSA) Bologna, December 27; A French orthopaedic surgeon practising in the city of Bologna was arrested on Thursday for allegedly extorting payment from a patient who was covered by the national health system. The doctor was taken in custody by law enforcement officers. The surgeon, who is a practising professional in Italy working in a Bologna hospital structure that receives partial funding from the state health system had allegedly forced the patient suffering from cervical hernia to pay him for surgery when the structure he works for was also being reimbursed by the national health system.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

From France to Greece, Going Back to the Land

French collective gardens; Greek church offers farming plots

(by Patrizio Nissirio) (ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 27 — In recession-battered Europe, governments are not the only ones responding to the crisis with top-down policies, be they austerity or growth measures: the grassroots has also come into play, following the back to the land concept.

Called Incroyables Comestibles, the French version of the Incredible Edible movement, which began in the UK in 2008, involves planting collective vegetable gardens in easily accessible public spaces, such as school yards and in front of police stations, from which each can pick for free, according to his or her own need. In France, this movement began in the spring of 2012, and has spread to the four corners of the Republic, thanks in part to social media.

In Greece, now in its fifth consecutive recession year, the powerful Orthodox Church, which owns about 40% of the country’s land, is offering lots to anyone willing to farm them. “We want you to know that whoever is willing to work Greek land, to contribute to the country’s food security and to the development of a modern and exportable agriculture and animal farming model, has what is left of the church’s land at their disposal,” the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, said in his traditional Christmas address to the nation. He did not, however, specify if the land is for free or for rent.

The Greek government has already started a successful program, with almost 10,000 lots of public domain land assigned to young farmers at cut-rate rental prices: 5 euros per acre per season, with a maximum of 100 acres per person. In Greece in 2008-2010, agriculture was one of the country’s few growth sectors, with 32,000 jobs created, according to the New York Times.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Germany: Extremism in Bonn Student’s Tongue Cut in Possible Islamist Attack

An Indian man in Bonn claims to have been attacked and had his tongue lacerated by Islamists. He told police that a pair of perpetrators demanded that he convert to Islam before the assault. Police believe his story to be credible.

Police in Bonn are investigating a possible attack on a 24-year-old Indian man who claims to have been the victim of an assault by two Islamists on Christmas Eve. The man, a university student had to be treated at a local hospital for a lacerated tongue following the attack.

According to the victim, he was approached by two men who asked him what his religion was before demanding that he convert to Islam. Otherwise, the men said, he was an infidel and his tongue would have to be cut out. Then, as the man tried to walk away, the two assailants attacked him from behind, the victim told police. A passerby happened across the bleeding victim and called an ambulance. He was treated at the hospital and then released.

Police investigators believe the man’s story to be credible and also believe that the incident could indeed have been the work of Islamists. He described the perpetrators as having long beards but no moustaches, a style often preferred by Salafists. There were, however, no witnesses to the attack and police are currently searching for suspects.

It is not the first time this year that Bonn has hit the headlines as a result of possible Islamist activity. In May, a Salafist was arrested after stabbing two police officers during a counter-demonstration against a display of Muhammad caricatures by a local right-wing populist party. Earlier this month, another member of the orthodox Muslim group threatened to take a hostage in order to force the perpetrator’s release from prison.

Also in Dember, a bag full of explosives was found on a platform in Bonn’s main train station in an apparent attempted bomb attack. While no charges have been filed in that case, clues reportedly lead to the Salafist community.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Former PDL Leader in Lazio Region Released to House Arrest

Fiorito faces charges of embezzling 1.3 million euros

(ANSA) — Rome, December 27 — The former caucus leader of Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party in Lazio region, Franco Fiorito, was released from jail and placed under house arrest on Thursday as he awaits trial on charges of embezzlement and inappropriate use of electoral funds.

Fiorito was arrested on October 2 for allegedly pocketing over 1.3 million euros in State-subsidized party funds. Fiorito’s arrest came amidst a swirl of political scandals and criminal charges across the political spectrum but especially involving the PdL.

Proceedings against Fiorito, who headed the PdL in Lazio region, where the capital city of Rome is located, are scheduled to begin March 19.

Similar charges have also been laid against Fiorito’s former chief secretary Bruno Galassi and Pier Luigi Boschi.

Fiorito was released on house arrest because there seemed little risk that he would repeat any offence, the court said. That contradicts a ruling earlier in December, when Italy’s highest appeals court said that Fiorito must stay in jail because he had been caught destroying evidence.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: State Insurance Recovers 100 Million in False 2012 Claims

Over 9,000 people investigated, 20 convicted for benefits fraud

(ANSA) — Rome, December 26 — Italy’s national insurance body INPS said on Wednesday that it had investigated over 9,000 suspected claims’ scams and recovered over 100 million euros from fraudulent benefits since the beginning of 2012.

The state insurance money was recovered from fake pensions, benefits claims for the deceased being withdrawn by others, pensions for inexistent disabilities and fraudulent poverty assistance.

Forty people were arrested in 2012 and 20 convicted based on reports by INPS.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Democratic Party Welcomes Grasso as Candidate

Outgoing anti-Mafia prosecutor to campaign for election with PD

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — The Democratic Party is welcoming outgoing national anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso as a candidate in February’s election, party leader Pier Luigi Bersani announced Friday.

“We chose to put two words — morality and work — before the legislature and the rule of law as a top priority for our country,” said Bersani, whose party is currently leading polls, after meeting with Grasso.

The participation of Grasso — who announced his resignation from the judiciary Thursday — would help drive a “civic resurgence”, Bersani said, while Grasso urged a “gradual revolution” of the justice system.

Formerly Palermo chief prosecutor, Grasso was named head of Italy’s Anti-Mafia operations in 2005 replacing Pier Luigi Vigna.

As Palermo prosecutor, Grasso tracked down a string of top mobsters and moved ever closer to the biggest catch of all, Bernardo Provenzano, a fugitive who had been running the Mafia for most of his 42 years in hiding.

Grasso worked on anti-Mafia cases in the early ‘90s and coordinated investigations into the 1992 bombs that murdered Italy’s top two anti-Mafia invesigators Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino and, a year later, attacked cultural and religious targets in Rome and Milan.

Grasso is the second anti-mafia prosecutor planning to run for office following an announcement by ex-Palermo prosecutor Antonio Ingroia last week saying he will lead leftist representatives of civil society.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi and Ex-Wife Reach Settlement

Ex-PM to pay 3 mln euros a month

(ANSA) — Milan, December 28 — Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi has reached a settlement with his ex-wife Veronica Lario, from whom he is legally separated but yet to obtain a final divorce, Corriere della Sera newspaper reported Friday.

The media magnate and centre-right politician will give Lario three million euros a month or 36 million a year but will keep sole possession of his luxury villa outside Milan and his vast business empire will be unaffected, the daily said.

The “non-consensual” sentence, ending a three-year legal tussle, was handed down on Christmas Day “in great secret”, Corriere said.

Lario filed for divorce in May 2009 claiming her husband was frequenting minors.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Petrol Costs Up to 13 Cents Less at Liberalized Pumps

Antitrust watchdog calls for new entrants to boost competition

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28; Petrol costs as much as 13 euro cents less at the 2,000 liberalized pumps and the 86 specialized sale centers in Italy compared with prices at the distribution chains of large oil companies, according to a recent report by Italy’s antitrust authority. The competition watchdog called from the strengthening of new entrants in the petrol distribution market in order to boost competitiveness and change the current market conditions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Work on Rome Holocaust Museum to Start Next Spring

Mayor Alemanno says final hurdles cleared

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — Work on Rome’s new national Holocaust Museum, to be built in the former luxury residence of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, will get under way early next year, Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said Friday.

Alemanno said the last key city council vote would take place in mid-January and the tender would be issued two weeks afterwards, at the end of the month.

The contract would then be awarded about two months later, in early spring, he said.

“Then, unless there are legal challenges from the firms who lost out, the work can go ahead,” Alemanno said.

Work on the 22-million-euro project has been delayed several times.

The Shoah museum, seven years in the making, got a long-awaited final green light from the Italian parliament on this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 7.

But it was then hit by further uncertainty because of financial restrictions in the government’s stability pact.

The project envisages a conference room, library, video-archive and exhibition room carved out in the grounds of Villa Torlonia.

The museum will be built in the landscaped gardens of the villa, the grand neoclassical residence where Mussolini and his family lived between 1925 and 1943.

Designed by Italian architects Luca Zevi and Giorgio Tamburini, the museum will be in the form of a black cuboid with the names of Italian Jews deported to Nazi concentration camps during WWII etched on the walls.

Its centerpiece will be a huge plaster reproduction of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

More than a million people were killed there under the Nazis. Six million Jews died in all the death camps.

It was during the 20-year Fascist era that Italy adopted the 1938 “laws for the protection of the Italian race”. They were drawn up along the lines of the anti-Semitic laws passed earlier in Germany and were in part responsible for more than 7,000 Italian Jews being sent to their death in Nazi concentration camps.

Rome council has also approved the laying of a plaque at the city’s Tiburtina rail station to commemorate the date when thousands of Jews were deported from the Ghetto, on October 16, 1943.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Martin Amis: Islam and the Limits of Permissible Thought

by Mira Sethi

Martin Amis, the celebrated and pilloried British novelist, on freedom, terror and moving to America.

Modern Britain might have been the expected focus of conversation with Martin Amis following the publication of his latest novel, “Lionel Asbo.” After all, the book comes with the subtitle “State of England,” and the state of the place, in his eyes, rather differs from the country on glorious display during the Summer Olympics and, months before that, in the queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The England in Mr. Amis’s withering portrait is a cultural dystopia where an irredeemable thug is catapulted to national prominence after winning the lottery. Thus does modern Britain reward lethal criminality and proud ignorance with unearned riches.

But when Mr. Amis, one of the most celebrated and pilloried British novelists of recent decades, sits for an interview in his Brooklyn brownstone—he is a recent émigré from the land he so relishes anatomizing—the buzz about all things British has long faded in the news, supplanted by the autumn miseries of the Middle East. After the Arab Spring washed through the region, he says, “I was talking to my younger son. He speaks Arabic.” A hint of paternal pride passes over his face. “He’s about to do a third degree—the first one was history at Oxford, the second one was on the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s lived in Jordan as well as in Egypt. “I said to him, it seems like Islamism doesn’t look like a ubiquitous threat anymore. But he said, ‘Ah, their hour will come. They’re in government now. That’s what’s happened now. Some clever people have realized you can’t stay out of the system.’ “

Is Mr. Amis skeptical now of the “clever people” emerging from the shadows of the Arab Spring? “Well,” he says, looking lost in thought. “There’s Tunisia”—where a moderate government is establishing itself—”but it does seem the weight of the past is enormous. Egypt is 4,500 years old. It’s unbelievably ancient. And Egypt has never had democracy. Would that you could, with a snap of the finger say, ‘This is better,’ and everyone agrees it is better. But it’s going to be difficult.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Norway: A Press Conference in Oslo With Haitham Al-Haddad

I watched this so that you don’t have to! Here are a few quotes with approximate times: “I agree that I hold views that might seem odd to the Western liberal society” (10:20)

Views like this perhaps? “from my angle it does make perfect sense” (on the death penalty for apostasy in the context of an Islamic state) (13:25)

But that’s fair enough because … “treason is a capital punishment (sic) in most European countries” (14:25)

Why has he been misrepresented by so many? “There is a group of maybe Zionists who are trying to spoil my reputation” (15:30)

And finally: “I am not promoting anything that is not part of the mainstream Islam” (27:30)

Haitham al-Haddad complains (about 17:50) that it has been implied that he supports hudud punishments in the West, right now. Of course there is some difference between calling for such punishments in the UK and saying they should be practiced in an Islamic state — but it still means that Haddad’s ideal is a horrific theocracy…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Opponents Mock Monti After Vatican Newspaper Endorsement

But Italy’s top bishop praises PM

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — While opponents on Friday mocked the endorsement by the Vatican daily newspaper of Premier Mario Monti’s bid for election, others said they understood the move.

Italy’s top bishop Angelo Bagnasco said the endorsement built upon the fact that Monti’s administration has improved Italy’s reputation and standing internationally.

“The honesty and ability of Mont has been commonly recognized,” said Bagnasco, president of the CEI, the official assembly of Catholic bishops in Italy.

However, some church fundamentalists said the newspaper went too far because the technocrat premier could make dangerous alliances if he were elected in February.

“(There is) too much silence and too many uncertainties,” surrounding who would accompany Monti into government, warned Antonio Mazzocchi, president of the conservative Christian Reformers movement.

“As a Christian Reformist, I want to say that (the endorsement) is out of place, not to mention in bad taste”.

Monti’s political allies could include politicians who support gay marriage, warned the group.

On Thursday, the Vatican’s daily L’Osservatore Romano backed Monti’s bid for a second term at the helm of a centrist Catholic coalition.

The newspaper said Monti had launched “an appeal to restore the highest and most noble sense of politics which is still…care of the common good”.

Pier Luigi Bersani, head of the Democratic Party, which is leading in opinion polls, said he found it amusing and surprising that L’Osservatore Romano found Monti had “a strong appreciation of the nobility of politics”. Italian media has commented that the daily paper’s backing is practically a papal endorsement for Monti and a rejection of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi.

His relationship with the Vatican was damaged by an alleged affair with the Moroccan-born belly dancer ‘Ruby’ whom Berlusconi is accused of having paid for sex when she was 17.

The Vatican has said it is “troubled” by Berluscsoni’s affair, dubbed Rubygate, and L’Osservatore Romano wrote last January that it “caused a dent in Italy’s image that will be hard to repair”.

Pope Benedict XVI in his Christmas greeting urged Italian voters to keep high values in mind when making choices.

The Vatican continues to hold significant sway in Italian politics.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Centre Party Split Over Radical Proposals

Open borders, polygamy, and an end to compulsory schooling are some of the proposals outlined in the controversial new Centre Party programme which has caused rifts in the already troubled party.

As support for Centre Party leader Annie Lööf plummets, the proposed programme risks splitting the party, which is part of the centre-right coalition government.

The radical programme has drawn harsh criticism from within the party ranks, with leading members in Skåne in southern Sweden deciding to draft a counter proposal ahead of the party convention in March.

They claim that there is a great rift between a neo-liberal “Stockholm Centre” and “the classic core voters in rural areas”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: City’s Oldest Mosque Hoping to Expand

PLANS to expand Derby’s oldest mosque to develop teaching rooms and a library have been backed by hundreds of locals. The committee in charge of the Jamia mosque in Dairyhouse Road want to convert a vacant house next door to use for lectures. And more than 200 people living nearby have signed a petition backing the proposals, which have been submitted to Derby City Council…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Councillor Calls for Calm as a House in Elswick is Attacked

A COUNCILLOR is calling for calm after the home of a man charged with raping a schoolgirl came under attack.

Windows were smashed at the house of 19-year-old Abdul Zalal Miah in broad daylight on Christmas Eve.

The incident at Hull Street, Elswick, came just hours after police officially released Miah’s name and as he made his first appearance at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court.

The 19-year-old is charged with three counts of rape, possessing an offensive weapon, threats to kill and robbery after a 15-year-old schoolgirl was attacked on Tuesday, December 18.

Two teenagers aged 17 and 18 have been arrested by Northumbria Police on suspicion of aggravated burglary.

Race and human rights campaigner Dipu Ahad, who also represents the Elswick ward for Newcastle City Council, now fears targeted attacks at the Miah family home on a predominantly Bengali street could escalate over the holiday period.

“There has been a lot of police activity around the house. We are worried that this is stirring up racial tension,” he said.

“Calm now needs to be in the community. We need to support this woman first and foremost, and people shouldn’t use this to create more tension. We are now appealing to everyone for calm.”

Miah was arrested on Sunday following a six-day manhunt by Northumbria Police.

He appeared at the city’s magistrates’ court on December 24, where he was formally charged with three counts of rape, kidnap, possessing an offensive weapon, threats to kill and robbery.

He was remanded in custody by magistrate Trevor Walton until January 4 when he will appear at Newcastle Crown Court.

Miah, who spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth, was dressed in a dark blue sweat shirt and trousers. Two female members of his family sat in the public gallery.

His alleged victim reported she had been threatened with a knife and raped as she walked along Elswick Road eight days ago.

The attacker is alleged to have taken her to a secluded area between Park Close and Gloucester Terrace.

A spokesperson for Northumbria Police, said: “Police received a report of a window being broken at an address on Hull Street, Newcastle. Officers attended and two men aged 17 and 18 were arrested on suspicion of aggravated burglary.”

Read More

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

UK: New Mosque for Rotherham Plan

ROTHERHAM could be about to get a new £3 million mosque to replace the one on Chapel Walk. The Rotherham Mosque Trust has applied for planning permission to build the mosque which will be twice the size of the current place of worship. The planned building, next to Centenary Way, would have a minaret 33.8 metres tall and facilities to display calls to prayer and other messages on electronic screens which would be placed around the tower. The plans, which have taken two years to complete, also include an IT suite and study area and car park improvements.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Revised Plans Drawn Up for New Accrington Central Mosque

COMPROMISED plans to resite a controversial new central mosque in Accrington have been drawn up by Hyndburn council. The borough’s ruling cabinet will be asked next month to approve a revised plan to locate the large Islamic worship and community centre in Grimshaw Street rather than Steiner Street as originally proposed in 2009. The new proposal has been branded ‘a fudge’ by Tory group boss Peter Britcliffe, leader of the council when the original plan was agreed at a special cabinet meeting three years ago. Current council leader Miles Parkinson rejected that claim saying it was ‘a fantastic compromise’…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Tally Ho! Let the Hunt Remind Us Who We Are

Hound, horse and human come together today in an activity as vital as our heartbeats, says Roger Scruton.

This morning hundreds of hunts across the Kingdom will be assembling for the Boxing Day meet. My family and I will appear in our polished uniforms on polished horses to stand ceremonially among our neighbours in Cirencester Park. With us will be a crowd of thousands who have come to enjoy the spectacle. For an hour, three species — hound, horse and human; carnivore, herbivore and omnivore — will stand peacefully side by side in a little patch of meadowland, radiating tranquillity. One of the local bands will be playing. The Royal Agricultural College Beagles will be there, along with people from every walk of life, who have come to gladden their eyes on the spectacle before going for lunch in the town…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Widow of Organist Murdered on Way to Midnight Christmas Service Calls for ‘Justice Not Vengeance’

The widow of a church organist who died after being brutally beaten on his way to a midnight service on Christmas Eve has insisted she wants “no vengeance” for his killers.

Alan Greaves, 68, an Anglican lay reader, was set upon just 200 yards from the door of St Saviour’s Church in High Green, Sheffield, where he was due to lead the worship at the late-night Eucharist. He was found by a passing pizza delivery driver lying on kerbside on a main road, close to the local primary school, after sustaining severe brain damage. His wife Maureen, a Christian outreach worker, spent Christmas praying at his bedside where he was on a life support machine. He passed away late on Thursday night. The family’s parish priest described the killing as a “senseless and evil” act on a night when the church was “celebrating light coming into the darkness”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria Readies for ‘Guerrilla’ Warfare

The Algerian military is running combat simulation exercises on rocky terrain, ahead of possible confrontations against armed Islamists and terrorist brigades from northern Mali.

Since al-Qaeda and the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) are well-armed with weapons smuggled from Libya and stolen from within Mali, the Algerian army is taking an unconventional approach similar to guerrilla warfare. Algerian army, air force, national gendarmerie and special operation forces have trained all month in ways to conduct large-scale battles against armed groups, El Khabar reported on Sunday (December 23rd). These drills, which involve the use of modern communication devices and strategies, will run for a whole year…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Egypt: 150 Members Resign From Salafi Al-Nour Party

Another party to be formed ‘under Sharia’, says former spokesman

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 27 — One hundred and fifty representatives from Egypt’s Salafi Al-Nour party from 23 governorates have resigned in mass. The resigning members cited the “soft” positions taken by the party over the past few months as the reason for the split.

According to Al Ahram Online, among them is Mohamed Nour, former spokesman of the Salafi party, who noted that the resignation from the party was amicable. He said that “we wish our former fellow party members success”. Some members of the Shura (upper house of Parliament) and several former members of the People’s Assembly (dissolved lower house) were among those resigning.

They have said that their future will be in the new political formation. “We decided to found our own political entity,” Nour said, “ open to any Egyptian citizen who wants to work for the Sharia.” It therefore seems clear that the former members of the Salafi party will not join the party under the ultra-conservative Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail. But it was by no means a hard blow, Al-Nour spokesman Nadar Bakkar stressed, saying that he wished his former fellow party members the best of luck, “wherever they intend to work politically” The exodus from Al-Nour (which means “The Light”) is not coming entirely out of the blue. For the past few months, the two extremes of the party — one more hardline and the other more open — have been facing off in a contest of wills which in late September almost led to a split in the party.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tensions Rising in Egypt as Opposition Leaders Are Investigated for High Treason

Hamdeen Sabahi, Amr Moussa and Mohammed ElBaradei, founders of the National Salvation Front, are accused of incitement against the state and betraying the ideals of the Revolution because they led mass protests against the Islamist constitution. Controversial Morsi-appointed Public Prosecutor Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah orders the inquiry.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Egypt’s public prosecutor, Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah, has ordered an inquiry into the leaders of the National Salvation Front, Hamdeen Sabahi, Amr Moussa and Mohammed ElBaradei. Appointed by President Mohammed Morsi, Abdallah wants the three opposition leaders, the last two former presidential candidates against Morsi, investigated on charges of “incitement” to overthrow the government and high treason. All three have led mass demonstrations against Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s new Qur’an-based constitution.

The legal action against the three main pro-democracy leaders comes amid criticism against the constitutional referendum, deemed invalid because of a low turnout (one third of the electorate) and numerous cases of electoral fraud by Islamists.

Unconcerned by the prevailing atmosphere of tensions, President Morsi signed the constitution on 26 December. Shortly, he will also announce the official date for new parliamentary elections.

The decision by the pro-Islamist prosecutor is further exacerbating tensions between Egyptians in favour of a secular state and defenders of a Sharia-based government, bringing the country that much closer to a civil war.

In an article published today al-Ahram online, some diplomats close to the opposition said that they had come under pressures from their superiors who want to silence all criticism against Morsi.

According to one diplomat, Egypt is now turning into a dictatorship. “I was summoned into the office of the assistant (foreign) minister,” he said. The latter “asked me to be ‘careful’ and not to confuse my role as a diplomat with that of an activist.” Another official “was told that his overt opposition to the president would undermine his chances to go a good post”. (S.C)

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing for Goods to Gaza

GAZA, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — Hamas-run government in the Gaza strip announced a shipment of construction materials will enter the territory from Egypt through the Rafah crossing for the first time. “Twenty truckloads of construction materials will enter Gaza today for the Qatar-financed reconstruction projects,” Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Zaza told Xinhua…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

‘Suha Arafat Admits Husband Premeditated Intifada’

In interview, Palestinian leader’s widow says Arafat decided to launch Intifada after Camp David, according to research institute.

Yasser Arafat’s widow Suha admitted that the late Palestinian leader premeditated the Second Intifada, in an interview with Dubai TV earlier this month, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“Immediately after the failure of the Camp David (negotiations), I met him in Paris upon his return.… Camp David had failed, and he said to me: ‘You should remain in Paris.’ I asked him why, and he said: ‘Because I am going to start an Intifada. They want me to betray the Palestinian cause. They want me to give up on our principles, and I will not do so,’“ the research institute translated Suha as saying.

Arafat’s comments run contrary to claims that former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s infamous visit to the Temple Mount triggered the Intifada, which was launched in September 2000.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Hidden US-Israeli Military Agenda: “Break Syria Into Pieces”

A timely article in the Jerusalem Post in June brings to the forefront the unspoken objective of US foreign policy, namely the breaking up of Syria as a sovereign nation state —along ethnic and religious lines— into several separate and “independent” political entities. The article also confirms the role of Israel in the process of political destabilization of Syria. The JP article is titled: “Veteran Kurdish politician calls on Israel to support the break-up of Syria’ (by Jonathan Spyer) (The Jerusalem Post (May 16, 2012)

The objective of the US sponsored armed insurgency is —with the help of Israel— to “Break Syria into Pieces”.

The “balkanisation of the Syrian Arab Republic” is to be carried out by fostering sectarian divisions, which will eventually lead to a “civil war” modelled on the former Yugoslavia. Last month, Syrian “opposition militants” were dispatched to Kosovo to organize training sessions using the “terrorist expertise” of the US sponsored Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in fighting the Yugoslav armed forces.

Sherkoh Abbas, President of the US based Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNA) has “called on Israel to support the break-up of Syria into a series of federal structures based on the country’s various ethnicities.”

[Return to headlines]

UN Syria “Peace Plan” A Fraud

(LD) — UN “peace envoy” Lakhdar Brahimi is attempting to broker a transitional government ahead of proposed elections in Syria. For Brahimi, his efforts are not only in vain, they are entirely disingenuous. The proposal of a “transitional government” in the midst of what is in fact a foreign invasion, funded, armed, and perpetuated openly by foreign interests violates both Syria’s sovereignty and the UN’s own founding charter. It would be not unlike a UN envoy visiting Poland at the beginning of World War II, and proposing a transitional government in the midst of the Nazi invasion. The UN would clearly be a facilitator of injustice, not a broker of peace.

The LA Times reports in their article, “Lakhdar Brahimi works to revive Syria peace plan”:

“Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi made a new push Thursday to draw Syrian officials and rebels into negotiations, aiming to revive a plan for a transitional government and elections that faltered because of disagreements over the future of President Bashar Assad.”

The UN has categorically failed to delineate between legitimate opposition inside of Syria, and bands of roving armed terrorists committing wide scale atrocities against the Syrian people — many of whom are not even from Syria, all of whom are heavily armed by the US, NATO, and its regional allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar as part of a long standing plan to effect regime change in both Syria and Iran. The Western press is not only supporting the UN’s disingenuous efforts, it has gone through great lengths to delegitimize any opposition in Syria that refuses to pick up arms, or that speaks out against foreign intervention.

While the LA Times attempts to make the UN plan seem reasonable, with only Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia standing in the way of peace, in reality, the plan is yet another effort to frame the conflict as a political struggle instead of the foreign invasion it actually is.

Syria is Being Invaded by Foreign Terrorists

The armed “rebels” the UN is refusing to condemn, constitute foreign Al Qaeda fighters, including the US State Department, United Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed international terrorist organization, the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), Al Nusra also known as “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood extremists. None of these terrorist factions would be negotiated with by Western nations if by some means their weapons turned from Syria and back toward the West. Yet the West demands that they not only be recognized and negotiated with, but indeed handed the entire nation of Syria to rule over.

[Return to headlines]

Russia

Innocence of Muslims Officially Banned in Russia

Amateur American film “The Innocence of Muslims” has been recognized an extremist material in the Russian Federation on December 26, 2012. The film has been added to the list of extremist materials in accordance with the ruling of the Tverskoy Court of Moscow. “The Innocence of Muslims” is listed as the 1,589 item on the list, GTimes reports. Google, which owns YouTube, has already expressed its willingness to block access to the film in the Russian Federation…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Caucasus

Seven Militants Killed in Russia’s Dagestan

MOSCOW, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — Seven militants were killed during a special operation in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, the Russian Investigative Committee said Saturday. Law enforcement officers searched an apartment in Makhachkala, capital of the republic, where the suspected gunmen were hiding, and seized pistols, submachine-gun as well as other weapons on the scene. Six militants were killed inside the apartment and one was shot dead outdoors, according to the committee. “All those killed are presumably members of the Kizil-Yurt sabotage and terrorist group. The examination is continuing,” a spokesperson from the committee’s regional department told reporters. Violence is common in Russia’s North Caucasus, especially in the republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, with militants frequently mounting attacks against police officers and authorities.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Breton Pancake Makers Spoil French Visit to Afghanistan

Breton pancake makers were left with egg on their faces after revealing that the French defence minister will be taking thousands of crepes with him to give to French troops in Afghanistan during a “surprise” New Year’s visit.

Apparently over-eager to trumpet its publicity coup, the Paysan Breton brand breached confidentiality rules to let slip that it will be supplying 8,000 crepes for 800 French troops still in Afghanistan to coincide with the visit by Jean-Yves Le Drian, the defence minister, on New Year’s Eve…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Delhi Rape Death Sparks Indian Press Rage

A sense of anger pervades the Indian press on Saturday after the 23-year old victim of a gang-rape in Delhi died of her injuries while receiving treatment in Singapore.

News of the attack on 16 December was greeted with fury in the capital, as demonstrators took to the streets to voice their frustration at the authorities. This frustration is reflected in the words of newspaper commentators who link the incident and its fallout to prevailing cultural shortcomings and a general failure of governance in India…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

India: A Year of Protests, Corruption and Anger

If 2011 was characterized in India by a string of corruption sandals and an economic slowdown that buffeted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure, 2012 was not much different.

Having barely recovered from the consequences of the multi-billion-dollar Commonwealth Games and telecom spectrum scams, the Indian government was again in a spot when yet another political scandal broke. The audit watchdog body, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India discovered that 210 billion US dollars of the country’s revenue has been lost in a coal scam — also known as “coalgate” — of enormous proportions…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

India: Akbaruddin in Trouble for Hate Speech

HYDERABAD: Akbaruddin Owaisi, the firebrand leader of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), was on Friday taken to court over his disparaging remarks against Hindus in a hate speech, the main content of which was that Muslims would need just 15 minutes without the police to show 100 crore Hindus who is more powerful…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Live: Peaceful Protests Across India; Sheila Dikshit Heckled

Singapore: The 23-year-old girl, who put up a brave battle for life after she was gang-raped and brutally assaulted in a Delhi bus on December 16 that had created a nationwide outrage, died on Saturday morning in a hospital here. The girl, who was admitted to the well-known multi-organ transplant facility Mount Elizabeth Hospital here on Thursday morning in an extremely critical condition, breathed her last at 4:45 am (2:15 am India time). She was earlier treated at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Paintings Outrage Islamic Hard-Liners in Pakistan

Pakistan’s leading arts college has pushed boundaries before in this conservative nation. But when a series of paintings depicting Muslim clerics in scenes with strong homosexual overtones sparked an uproar and threats of violence by Islamic extremists, it was too much.

Officials at the National College of Arts in the eastern city of Lahore shut down its academic journal, which published the paintings, pulled all its issues out of bookstores and dissolved its editorial board. Still, a court is currently considering whether the paintings’ artist, the journal’s board and the school’s head can be charged with blasphemy.

The college’s decision to cave to Islamist pressure underscores how space for progressive thought is shrinking in Pakistan as hardline interpretations of Islam gain ground. It was also a marked change for an institution that has long been one of the leading defenders of liberal views in the country.

Pakistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, and the majority of its citizens have long been fairly conservative. But what has grown more pronounced in recent years is the power of religious hardliners to enforce their views on members of the population who disagree, often with the threat of violence.

The government is caught up in a war against a domestic Taliban insurgency and often seems powerless to protect its citizens. At other times it has acquiesced to hardline demands because of fear, political gain or a convergence of beliefs.

“Now you have gun-toting people out there on the streets,” said Saleema Hashmi, a former head of arts college. “You don’t know who will kill you. You know no one is there to protect you.”

The uproar was sparked when the college’s Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture over the summer published pictures of a series of paintings by artist Muhammad Ali.

Particularly infuriating to conservatives were two works that they said insulted Islam by mixing images of Muslim clerics with suggestions of homosexuality, which is deeply taboo in Pakistan.

One titled “Call for Prayer” shows a cleric and a shirtless young boy sitting beside each other on a cot. The cleric fingers rosary beads as he gazes at the boy, who seductively stretches backward with his hands clasped behind his head.

Mumtaz Mangat, a lawyer who petitioned the courts to impose blasphemy charges, argued the image implied the cleric had “fun” with the boy before conducting the traditional Muslim call for prayer.

A second painting shows the same cleric reclining in front of a Muslim shrine, holding a book by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho in one hand as he lights a cigarette for a young boy with the other. A second young boy, who is naked with his legs strategically crossed to cover his genitals, sits at the cleric’s feet. The painting has caused particular uproar because verses from Islam’s holy book, the Quran, appear on the shrine…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Muslim Societies Go Beyond Borders: US Scholar

When India is reckoned as a villain in the national discourse in an overly charged environment, one dimension of bilateral relations is missing by and large: religious. Having taught politics, comparative ethnicity, and Muslims of South Asia for 30 long years at State University of New York at Albay, Professor Theodore P. Wright has aptly brought out this dimension. He was talking to ‘The News’ after a seminar on Muslim Societies in Islamabad the other day. It is stating the obvious to say that all religions advocate peace and welfare for humanity in general. Scholars of different religions, however, place more focus on well being of their coreligionists as there is an avowed conviction among all of them that they are ‘chosen’ or superior to the rest. But the hate mongers seem insensitive of even this fallacy of self-welfare, perhaps because it has a shadow of welfare. And their mania is put the world’s third largest population of Muslims — living in India — in danger…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Pakistani Mob Beats to Death Muslim Accused of Blasphemy

A mob in Pakistan has stormed a police station and beaten to death a Muslim man accused of desecrating the Koran.

The victim’s body was then set alight, according to witnesses.

The unnamed victim had earlier been handed over to the police after burnt pages of the Koran were found in a mosque in Dadu district, 330km (200 miles) north of Karachi, where he had been staying overnight.

Hours later a mob went to the police station, seized the man and killed him.

The district police chief, Usman Ghani, told the BBC the gruesome incident was filmed on mobile phones. He said the footage was being reviewed to identify culprits.

Thirty people have so far been detained in connection with the attack.

The local police chief and five of his officers have been arrested for failing to protect the man.

The BBC’s Shahzeb Jillani says blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where scores of people have been killed by mobs or vigilantes.

Our correspondent in Karachi adds that the controversial laws are often misused to persecute minorities or settle scores.

Most recently, international attention focused on the case of Christian teenager Rimsha Masih, who was held over blasphemy allegations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Pakistan Police Murders: 21 Cops Found Shot to Death in Peshawar

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Twenty-one tribal policemen believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban were found shot dead in Pakistan’s troubled northwest tribal region early Sunday, government officials said.

Officials found the bodies shortly after midnight in the Jabai area of Frontier Region Peshawar after being notified by one policeman who escaped, said Naveed Akbar Khan, a top political official in the area. Another policeman was found seriously wounded, said Khan.

The 23 policemen went missing before dawn Thursday when militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons attacked two posts in Frontier Region Peshawar. Two policemen were also killed in the attacks.

Militants lined the policemen up on a cricket pitch late Saturday night and gunned them down, said another local official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban, who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for the past few years. The tribal region is the main sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan.

On Saturday, an explosion ripped through a passenger bus at a terminal in the southern city of Karachi, killing six people and wounding 52 others, some of whom were in critical condition, said Seemi Jamali, a doctor at the hospital where the victims were being treated.

Police were trying to determine whether the blast, which reduced the bus to a charred skeleton, was caused by a bomb or a gas canister that exploded, said police spokesman Imran Shaukat. Many buses in Pakistan run on natural gas.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Knitting Overcomes Cultural Barriers

The age old art of knitting is helping overcome barriers between Muslim and non-Muslim women, in an innovative cultural program in Brisbane. Women from a range of generations meet every week to share their sewing tips and experiences of life in Australia.

[JP note: See also blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100195076/australia-you-are-so-totally-gay/ ]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

New Year, Butt Out as On-the-Spot Smoking Fines Take Effect

HAPPY New Year — now stub out that cigarette.

Smoking near playgrounds and public swimming pools will be punished with a $550 on-the-spot fine as part of new state government laws to take effect in 2013.

Car registration stickers are dead while taxi drivers will be forced to wear seatbelts.

Bus, train or ferry commuters will pay between 10c and 20c more for single trips.

Grandstands and sportsgrounds, railway platforms, ferry wharves, bus stops and cab ranks will become smoke-free from January 7.

It will also be illegal to smoke within 4m of the entrance of a public building.

The ban will extend within three years to commercial outdoor dining areas and within 4m of a pedestrian entrance or exit from licensed premises, restaurants and cafes, making NSW virtually smoke-free.

The few public spaces where smoking will continue include the high rollers room at Sydney’s Star casino.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the tough stance was taken in a bid to reduce the number of people with a smoking-related illness.

“Smoking-related illness accounts for about 5200 deaths and 44,000 hospitalisations per year in NSW,” she said. “This costs about $8 billion annually.”

NSW Health will be relying on its own officials and council rangers to catch smokers breaking the law.

Erskineville’s Tim Hiley, who has three children aged between two and six years, welcomed the ban. He does not smoke and does not think the rules are intrusive.

“We do live in a highly regulated society, but the health of our children is very important,” he said.

The days of registration stickers will also be a thing of the past and police and road traffic authorities will rely on number plate recognition technology to determine if motorists have paid their rego.

Police have raised concerns that the change will place extra pressure on already stretched resources…

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Obligation to Respect, Not Share, Our Faiths

by Joseph Wakim

Each Christmas, my family receives more greetings and gifts from my Muslim friends than from fellow Christians. We treasure many handmade cards by Muslim children who do not celebrate Christmas. We cannot trivialise these efforts as tokenistic as they are annual and original. They are well-worded messages of peace in English and Arabic. I only wish we took the time to reciprocate this goodwill gesture at the two Islamic Eids each year

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Angola: Official Calls for Humanisation of Prisons

Dundo — The Prison Service should work on the implementation of prisons humanisation process. This was said to Angop on Friday in Dundo city in the eastern Lunda Norte province by the local delegate of the Ministry of Interior, Gil Famoso Sebastião da Silva. The official, who witnessed the Christmas of the inmates of Cacanda prison, promoted by Ministry of Interior, said that the process aims to improve the living conditions, medical assistance and technical professional training of the prisoners…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Kenya: Snake Disrupts Campaign Rally in Kilifi

A rally organised by Fisheries Development minister Amason Kingi at the Rea Vipingo Grounds was on Monday disrupted after a snake crawled into the main dais. The incident, which occurred at around 3pm, forced all the guests seated at the dais, including the minister and retired Justice Stewart Madzayo, to run for safety. Others got on top of the tables as the crowd tried to kill the serpent…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Gunmen Kill 25 in Adamawa, Borno

No fewer than 25 people were allegedly killed Friday in separate attacks in Maiha Local Government Area of Adamawa State and Musari area of Borno State by unknown gunmen suspected to be members of the Islamic religious sect, Boko Haram. The attacks which came as people were almost celebrating a stress free Yuletide led to 20 deaths in Maiha where the terrorists also attacked offices and lodges of the Customs and residents as well as the Divisional Police Headquarters, which they set ablaze. However, out of the 35 inmates freed by the attackers from the Maiha prison, the police said have re-arrested 11. The terrorists entered a Musari within the hours of 1 am and 3 am and surreptitiously killed five people in their houses…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Immigration

UK: Gavin Barwell MP: Four Reasons Why the Conservative Party Must Win More of Britain’s Growing Ethnic Vote

In yesterday’s Independent it was reported that David Cameron believes that the Tory Party faces an existential threat if it does not increase support among voters from minority communities. In a two-part series of articles Gavin Barwell MP examines the nature of the challenge facing the Conservatives and, tomorrow, some possible solutions. Gavin is Tory MP for Croydon Central. Follow him on Twitter.

At the last General Election, more than two thirds of voters from Britain’s black and ethnic minority (BME) communities supported Labour; only 16% voted for us (source: Ethnic Minority British Election Study (PDF)). As Lord Ashcroft has observed, not being white was the single best predictor that somebody wouldn’t vote Conservative. This wasn’t solely down to ethnicity. BME voters are more likely to live in safe Labour seats where there may not be an active Conservative Party and statistically they are over-represented in lower socio-economic groups, so you would expect them to be more likely to vote Labour. But the scale of the disparity should leave us in no doubt that ethnicity is a factor…

[Reader comment by Sandy Jamieson on 28 December 2012 at about 8 pm.]

I spent a good part of Boxing Day evening in the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford and was shocked. White people were in a clear minority and if that’s the way Gavin Barnwell envisages Britain, I don’t want to be part of it. Add on to that the large number of Eastern and Southern Europeans and it was like being in a foreign country. I just spent most of the evening sitting in the food area, reading the Telegraph and playing Spot the White Man […]

[Reader comment by Cassandra79 on 29 December 2012 at about 9 am.]

I agree. This is the same catch 22 position conservatives find themselves in the States and it’s coming to Britain. In California for example in order to appeal to the vast majority of ethnic minorities, the Republicans would also have to be the party of more public services, more multiculturalism, more ‘Affirmative Action’ entitlements for minorities and high taxes for their White base. And as a result of last year’s election, the Democrats now have a super-majority in the Calif. State Legislature, meaning that they can raise taxes as much as they please. This means White middle class Californians have now become cash cows basically, to be milked at will until they leave the state altogether. California is a small scale version of what the entire country will look like soon. So in order to appeal to hispanics, Republicans will have to not only agree to be soft on immigration as the media keeps telling them (i.e. to win you have to let in more Democrat voters!!), they also have to be gung ho on raising taxes and jacking up benefits. This is not even remotely a vision that even a moderate ‘‘Rhino Republican’’ could accept. It is basically complete surrender to the left on all fronts and would be strongly resisted by its core base. As for the claim that Hispanics “are natural values voters” there is very little evidence for this claim. Identity politics trumps all and whatever family values they support rarely extends beyond their OWN communities. This is the same for Asian and Muslim voters who are always trumpeted as model minorities who “ought” to be voting Republican but always vote overwhelmingly Democrat. I think the reason you see an upswing in the number of people supporting secession is that its slowly dawning on people that nothing is going to work to attract more ethnic votes and seccession is the only realistic alternative if conservative politics is to have a hope of surviving in the current demographic tsunami. Unfortunately in politics demographics are infinitely more important than ideas, debate or election campaigns. Conservatives who think they can somehow ‘manage it’ are only fooling themselves.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

France: Gov’t Cracks Down on Racism, Homophobia on Twitter

Antisemitic tweets; minister wants security procedures set up

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 28 — The French government has declared war on the racism, anti-antisemitism and homophobia spreading on Twitter.

Twitter’s French timeline has recently born witness to ever more disturbing hashtags, such as #SiMonFilsestGay (if my son were gay) and #SiMaFilleRaméneUnNoir (if my daughter brought a black man home) and #unBonJuif’ (a good Jew), which has led to particularly shocking antisemitic tweets. The situation worries Francois Hollande’s Socialist government, which now would like to begin consultations with the associations involved and Twitter executives. “I hope that we can work together with the associations most closely involved to set up an alert and security system making it possible to prevent such regrettable episodes as those seen over the past few weeks from reoccurring,” government spokesperson and Women’s Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem wrote today in the Le Monde paper. “This work will start on January 7, 2013. I hope, in particular, that Twitter will be able to look into the conditions to set up mechanisms making it possible to counter violations involving incitement and insult,” added Vallaud-Belkacem. The minister also underscored that these hate messages “are morally reprehensible and illegal. The fact that they are published online does not make the person committing the crime any less accountable in legal terms.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

General

Aisha’s Cushion: Religious Art, Perception and Practice in Islam by Jamal J Elias — Review

Does Islam forbid images of Muhammad or not? By David Shariatmadari

In a simple house in 7th-century Arabia, a woman drapes an embroidered curtain with pictures of living creatures on it across a doorway. When her husband returns, he is displeased and pulls it down. But the material isn’t wasted: the woman turns it into cushions, which remain in sight without causing further conflict…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

First ‘Alien Earth’ Will be Found in 2013, Experts Say

The first truly Earth-like alien planet is likely to be spotted next year, an epic discovery that would cause humanity to reassess its place in the universe.

While astronomers have found a number of exoplanets over the last few years that share one or two key traits with our own world — such as size or inferred surface temperature — they have yet to bag a bona fide “alien Earth.” But that should change in 2013, scientists say.

“I’m very positive that the first Earth twin will be discovered next year,” said Abel Mendez, who runs the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20121228

Financial Crisis
» 46,000 Greeks Under Investigation for Pension Scams
» Italy: ‘Households Face 1,500-Euro Expense Rise in 2013’
» Obama ‘Optimistic’ On Two-Party Deal; Will Press Vote in Senate Without it
 
USA
» Fast and Furious
» Losing Our Sons
» Man Pushed to His Death on New York Subway
» Record 74 Percent of Americans Oppose Arms Ban
» Regulating the Militia
» Savage Behavior
» The Sharia Threat to America
 
Canada
» Supreme Court Ruling on Niqab Smacked of Cowardice
 
Europe and the EU
» Berlusconi Says Could Tour Italy if TV Appearances Limited
» Dutch Right-Wing Politician Puts “Anti-Islam Policy Priority in 2013”
» Edvard Munch at Pains to Win Favour in Norway
» Ex-CIA Spy: Watch Out for 1/11, 2/11, 3/11
» Greece: Athens — The EU Capital City Without a Mosque
» Italy: State Broadcaster RAI to Increase Annual Fee by 1.50 Euros
» Italy: Taxi Drivers in Milan Rally Around Destitute Businessman
» Sweden: Dental Drill Fell Into Patient’s Lung
» Sweden: Police Baffled After 69 Cows Disappear
» UK: ‘Highly Respected’ Organist, 68, Dies Days After Brutal Attack as He Walked to Church to Play at Christmas Eve Midnight Mass
» UK: Disregard Muslims They’re All Labour Supporters on Benefits, Peer Tells Tories
» UK: Fury as Bury Market Boss Tells Halal Curry Maker: Sorry, You Can’t Have a Stall
» UK: Henry G Manson Asks: Can Cameron Win Ehtnic Minority Votes With Candidates Alone?
» UK: Most Tories Think Labour Will Win in 2015
» UK: Murderers and Drug Dealer to Get IVF in Prison and You’ll be Paying! Criminals Using European Human Rights Laws to Start Families at Taxpayers’ Expense
» UK: Nearly 1,000 Doctors Could Still be Practicing Despite Convictions for Possessing Child Porn and Drug Trafficking
» UK: Pig’s Head Left Outside Centre Used by Muslims
» UK: Shocking Moment Motorist, 62, Is Ambushed and Pistol-Whipped by Pair of Masked Robbers for Keys to His Range Rover
» UK: That Was Mac’s Year That Was: From the Bradley Wiggins Effect to Abu Hamza and Leveson, The Mail’s Cartoonist Picks His 2012 Favourites
 
North Africa
» Egyptian Opposition Leaders Under Investigation for ‘Plot to Topple Morsi’
» Egypt: Rights Groups Denounce Fatwa Banning Congratulation of Christians
» Libya: How Obama’s Policies Led to Benghazigate
» The Not-So-Bad Constitution of Egypt
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Why is the US Building a Secret $100 Million Underground Facility Outside Tel Aviv?
 
Middle East
» Turkish Courage Award to 13-Yr Old Palestinian Girl
» Washington’s Misplaced Support for Turkey’s Erdogan
 
South Asia
» Afghan Bombing Victims Sue German Government
» Mansfield Man Killed in Afghanistan
 
Far East
» 1 Killed, 2 Injured in S. Philippine Grenade Attack
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Central African Republic Appeals for French Help to Halt Rebel Advance
» Gambia: Imam Baba Leigh Still in Detention …
» MCC Selects Countries Eligible for New Programs
» Nigeria: Army Kills 5 Gunmen, Discovers Bomb Factory in Kaduna
» Owning a Dog ‘Is Not African’, Declares Jacob Zuma: Racism Row After South African President Says Black People With Pets Are Just Copying White Culture
» South Africa: Zuma Comments Cause Canine Chaos
 
Culture Wars
» Italy: Femicide Row Priest Says Not Quitting But Time Off
» UK: And So it Goes?

Financial Crisis

46,000 Greeks Under Investigation for Pension Scams

Swindlers cost Greek taxpayers 320 million euros a year

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 27 — Almost 46,000 Greek citizens are under investigation for alleged pension fraud, Labor Minister Yannis Vroutsis made known Thursday.

The government in October 2011 uncovered massive fraud at the Greek social security fund (IKA), which over the preceding decade had paid out 7-8 billion euros in false pensions to relatives of 60,000 deceased retirees.

“We will get our money back, down to the last cent,” promised then IKA Director Rovertos Spyropoulos, and the time of reckoning has come for the 45,997 names on the government’s list of alleged scam artists.

Swindlers cost Greek taxpayers an estimated 320 million euros a year, with disability and farm pension fraud as the most prevalent strategies for ripping the government off.

Perhaps the most notorious example is the Ionian island of Zakynthos, where the government in August 2011 noticed it was paying out 6.4 million euros a year in scam disability payments to 700 people, or 2% of the population: they said they were born blind, earning Zakynthos the nickname of “Island of the Blind”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Households Face 1,500-Euro Expense Rise in 2013’

‘Unsustainable’ wave of hikes say consumers

(ANSA) — Rome, December 27 — Italian households will see their expenses rise by a whopping 1,500 euros each in 2013, consumer groups said Thursday.

Hikes in train tickets, car insurance, household bills, bank and postal charges, waste-disposal levies and the new IMU property tax will be “unsustainable” for the countless households already struggling to make ends meet, said Adusbef and Federconsumatori.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Obama ‘Optimistic’ On Two-Party Deal; Will Press Vote in Senate Without it

President Obama said Friday evening that progress was made in make-or-break talks on the fiscal crisis and pronounced himself cautiously “optimistic,” as Senate leaders worked furiously toward an agreement to avert the worst of the economic punch from landing Jan. 1.

But after a one-hour meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House, Mr. Obama warned that if the two sides don’t agree on a bill, he will urge the Democratic-controlled Senate to put forward a measure anyway, in essence daring Republicans in the House and Senate to block a floor vote on tax cuts.

“I believe such proposals could pass both houses with a bipartisa n majority as long as both leaders will allow it to come to a vote,” Mr. Obama said. “If members want to vote no, they can.”

[Return to headlines]

USA

Fast and Furious

The U.S. government’s botched “Fast and Furious” gunwalking operation is leaving a deadly legacy in Mexico where weapons related to the operation regularly show up at crime scenes. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley said two guns linked to the operation were found last month after a gun battle between Sinaloa drug cartel members and the Mexican military.

“Fast and Furious” was an ATF operation based in Phoenix that allowed gunwalking, in which federal law enforcement agents allowed suspected criminals to buy weapons, with the hopes they would eventually lead them to Mexican drug leaders.

Some 2,000 weapons were lost under “Fast and Furious” and not one seizure was made, nor were any drug leaders arrested, officials said. The weapons are believed to still be moving back and forth across the U.S.-Mexican border and will likely show up at crime scenes for years, the Los Angeles Times reported.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Losing Our Sons

by Bruce Bawer

It is, in my view, the defining exchange of our time. It took place, not inappropriately, on Pearl Harbor Day of 2011, at one of the joint House-Senate hearings called by New York Congressman Peter King and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman to examine the radicalization of American Muslims. As seen in the You Tube video, Congressman Dan Lungren of California poses a simple, straightforward question to a witness, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Stockton. “Secretary Stockton,” he asks, “are we at war with violent Islamist extremism?”…

It’s a simple concept: know your enemy. After 9/11 there should have been a major educational effort to explain to American citizens the motives behind the attacks — to help them, just for starters, to understand jihad and its centrality to Islam. Instead what was set in motion under Bush, and intensified under Obama, was a comprehensive disinformation effort — an attempt to whitewash Islam, and to brand as Islamophobes all those who dare to speak the truth about it. As a result of this cowardice, two American fathers lost their sons — one of them transformed into a jihadist by hooligans who should never have been allowed into the country, and the other gunned down in an act of terrorism that officials high and low, trained in the post-9/11 Newspeak, refuse to call by its real name. In presenting its moving account of these sons and fathers, the film is, of course, also telling the story of America today — and of how our leaders’ Big Lie, perpetrated in the name of a misbegotten sensitivity, not only caused the death of Andy Long, but is, right before our eyes, strangling the very freedoms he signed up to defend.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Man Pushed to His Death on New York Subway

A woman has pushed a man to his death in front of a subway train, the second time this month someone has been killed in this way.

The man, who has not been named, was standing on the elevated platform of a 7 train in the borough of Queens at about 8pm when he was pushed by the woman, who witnesses said had been following him closely and mumbling to herself, New York Police Department chief spokesman Paul Browne said. It didn’t appear the man noticed her before he was shoved onto the tracks, police said. The woman fled, and police were searching for her. She was described as Hispanic, in her 20s, heavyset and about 5ft 5in…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Record 74 Percent of Americans Oppose Arms Ban

(AGI) Washington — A record 74 percent of Americans are firmly opposed to a ban on guns or carrying arms.

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

Regulating the Militia

The Second Amendment is about protecting ourselves from the state.

My friend Brett Joshpe has published an uncharacteristically soft-headed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle arguing that in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook, conservatives and Republicans should support what he calls “sensible” gun-control laws. It begins with a subtext of self-congratulation (“As a conservative and a Republican, I can no longer remain silent . . . Some will consider it heresy,” etc.), casts aspersions of intellectual dishonesty (arguments for preserving our traditional rights are “disingenuous”), advances into ex homine (noting he has family in Sandy Hook, as though that confers special status on his preferences), fundamentally misunderstands the argument for the right to keep and bear arms, deputizes the electorate, and cites the presence of teddy bears as evidence for his case.

Brett, like practically every other person seeking to diminish our constitutional rights, either does not understand the purpose of the Second Amendment or refuses to address it, writing, “Gun advocates will be hard-pressed to explain why the average American citizen needs an assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine other than for recreational purposes.” The answer to this question is straightforward: The purpose of having citizens armed with paramilitary weapons is to allow them to engage in paramilitary actions. The Second Amendment is not about Bambi and burglars — whatever a well-regulated militia is, it is not a hunting party or a sport-clays club. It is remarkable to me that any educated person — let alone a Harvard Law graduate — believes that the second item on the Bill of Rights is a constitutional guarantee of enjoying a recreational activity.

There is no legitimate exception to the Second Amendment for military-style weapons, because military-style weapons are precisely what the Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear. The purpose of the Second Amendment is to secure our ability to oppose enemies foreign and domestic, a guarantee against disorder and tyranny. Consider the words of Supreme Court justice Joseph Story — who was, it bears noting, appointed to the Court by the guy who wrote the Constitution:…

[Return to headlines]

Savage Behavior

Gun ban (the real reason) — Michael Savage and the link between the First and Second Amendment

Have you noticed that anyone who has recently voiced support for an American’s Second Amendment rights has been systematically vilified by those in opposition, such that it is virtually impossible to have an honest, intelligent conversation about the issue? This is not an accident, but an agenda. It is an agenda of vilification, of the planned prohibition of not only “scary guns,” but of “scary talk.” It is characterizing vocal resistance to a government agenda as a prohibited behavior. It is forcing tolerance to fit a very specific, government sanctioned ideology, beyond which becomes not only an exhibit of intolerance, but of an intent intolerable to the government.

The issue of banning weapons is only the visible part of the magic act where the weapons are only the props. The real act is taking place behind the smoke onstage, where a legitimate and rational opinion that happens to be at odds with the government’s agenda is the real target. It is the plight of Dr. Michael Savage in living color.

As the rights bestowed upon Americans by the First and Second Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are inextricably linked, the government is not only intending to prohibit our possession of certain weapons, but of certain opinions. This is not merely an attack on our Second Amendment rights, but a method to take away our ability to exercise those granted to us by the First Amendment. It is YOU they are after, if your opinions don’t conform to their purpose.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Sharia Threat to America

by Fred Grandy

There is a great deal of misinformation circulating with regard to sharia and the threat it poses to America and Western Civilization. Some misinformed observers and members of the Muslim Brotherhood liken concerns over sharia to prejudice and bigotry, but the facts say otherwise. Terrorism experts in the law enforcement, military and intelligence communities have cited sharia as the Jihadists’ enemy threat doctrine in an intensive study called “Shariah: The Threat to America,” a scholarly, 352-page book based on authoritative sources of sharia, or Islamic law. While sharia does include “prayer and fasting” and “worship,” sharia is also an all-encompassing legal and political code that covers aspects of life that have nothing to do with religion. Perhaps most importantly, unlike other forms of religious law, such as canon law and Jewish law, sharia is the only form of religious law extant that is also meant to apply to people of other faiths, i.e. non-Muslims. The threat from sharia has nothing to do with prejudice or bigotry. The threat from sharia is real and multifaceted…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Canada

Supreme Court Ruling on Niqab Smacked of Cowardice

TORONTO — Depending on one’s viewpoint, the Supreme Court’s decision on veiled women testifying in court was a wise compromise — or something of a disaster.

It wasn’t quite a cop-out, but it smacked of cowardice.

Sending the issue of whether face covering should be acceptable in Canadian courts back to the discretion of trial judges hearing cases seems a sorry decision by the Supremes.

Two of the nine Supremes — Justices Louis LeBel and Marshall Rothstein — got it right when they opined that the niqab violates the principle of fair and open trials, where witnesses’ faces are in the open and not hidden behind veils.

Four others, led by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, felt that the religious “sincerity” of the niqab wearer should be taken into account by the trial judge hearing the case, and he can decide if the veil should be worn.

Good Lord!

What on earth does “religion” or “sincerity” have to do with “justice?”

The niqab — or veil, or burka — has nothing to do with religion. It is a cultural adaptation at best, a cultural affectation at worst.

Common sense dictates that a witness or central figure in a court case should not be masked, or invisible to the court.

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Europe and the EU

Berlusconi Says Could Tour Italy if TV Appearances Limited

Former premier speaks to regional Alto Adige channel

(ANSA) — Bolzano, December 28 — Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said he could take to the roads of Italy to seek direct contact with his potential electorate in the lead-up to the February general elections if he is forced to reduce the number of his television appearances. “I am concentrating on my television appearances”, Berlusconi said. “If these are reduced to a small number of transmissions, I think I will make a small tour of Italy”. Berlusconi made the comments during a phone interview with a journalist from Tca-Alto Adige television on whether he planned to visit the Alto Adige region during his electoral campaign. Earlier this month Italian state broadcaster RAI said it had granted Berlusconi airwave space on a series of channels in the past few days, and that it would be offering similar media exposure to other political candidates for the upcoming elections. RAI and other Italian broadcasters are committed to offering the most important political parties in the nation relatively equal visibility under the so-called “Par Condicio” or “Fairness” (equal time) rule.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Dutch Right-Wing Politician Puts “Anti-Islam Policy Priority in 2013”

THE HAGUE, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) — Dutch politician Geert Wilders, leader of the right wing populist Party of Freedom PVV, said on Thursday that anti-Islam policy will be his top priority in the forthcoming year, local media reported. “Next to all things about Europe and the economic situation the people will hear from our resistance against the ‘Islamization’ of the Netherlands,” Wilders told Dutch TV channel NOS in an interview. “I will intensify this battle, both in the Netherlands, but also internationally from Australia to America to Switzerland, or anywhere else,” he added. He said the fight was a life mission for him. He also noted a “Moroccan problem,” referring to the recent death of a soccer linesman who was attacked by some young people of Moroccan origin, and one of Antillean descent.

In 2010 the PVV won 24 seats in the Dutch parliament, partly as a result of its anti-Islamic rhetoric. As a supporting party the PVV contributed the minority cabinet of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte which fell in April 2012, after Wilders quit negotiations on austerity measures. In the parliamentary elections held in September 2012, PVV saw its seats reduced to 15.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Edvard Munch at Pains to Win Favour in Norway

He may be acclaimed in the art world and coveted by thieves but Edvard Munch is starved of recognition in his native Norway, where squabbles have delayed a new museum worthy of his oeuvre.

Next year will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the expressionist master, who painted the now iconic “The Scream”. But the anniversary is clouded by the city of Oslo’s inability to provide a proper setting for the art gems the painter left in his will.

Munch, who died in 1944, bequeathed an enormous collection to the Norwegian capital, including 1,100 paintings, 3,000 drawings and 18,000 etchings.

But the current Munch Museum, constructed cheaply after World War II in a rather rundown Oslo neighbourhood, does not do justice to the priceless trove.

“It’s time to have something more modern that would enable us to better welcome the public and exhibit Munch’s work from other perspectives, in broader contexts, both his and ours,” museum director Stein Olav Henrichsen said.

While all agree on the need for a better museum, there are divisions over where to place it.

Oslo’s city council agreed in 2008 to erect a building near the new, futuristic opera house on the shores of the Oslo fjord, but those plans were scrapped three years later when the populist right suddenly withdrew its support without a concrete explanation.

The move was a shock and an embarrassment: a Spanish architecture firm had already been hired and had drawn up plans for Lambda, a super-modern leaning glass building, to great expense.

The issue has been at a standstill ever since, and Oslo has been unable to come to an agreement on any of the current options.

Those include a return to the Spanish concept; or a move to the ageing main building of the National Gallery downtown; or perhaps a total renovation of the museum’s current location just outside the city centre. All are estimated to cost around 1.6 billion kroner ($285 million).

Failure to reach agreement could be interpreted as a Norwegian cold shoulder to the country’s most famous artist, in sharp contrast to his huge international appeal.

A million people recently visited a Munch exhibit that toured Paris, Frankfurt and London. And one of the four versions of “The Scream” — the only one in private hands — was sold this year at a New York auction for the record sum of $119.9 million.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Ex-CIA Spy: Watch Out for 1/11, 2/11, 3/11

Expert warns of Iran, al-Qaida teaming up for massive attacks

One of the absolute journalistic treasures WND brings you exclusively are investigative reports from Reza Kahlili, former CIA operative as a spy in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Kahlili, a pseudonym to protect his identity, is a counterterrorism expert and currently serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, an advisory board authorized by Congress. He is the author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray.”

Here’s part of his most recent exclusive report in WND:

Al-Qaida is teaming up with Iran to stage massive terror attacks on French and German targets in the next three months, according to an inside source.

Those targets include French Socialist Party headquarters, commerce centers and the Paris Metro rapid transit system…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Greece: Athens — The EU Capital City Without a Mosque

At Friday prayers and across Athens, Muslims gather in underground, cramped prayer rooms.

The makeshift facilities are illegal but this huge community faces no other option. Athens, a metropolis on the edge of the Muslim world, is the only EU capital without a mosque.

Since Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, no government has allowed a mosque to be built in the city. It was seen by many as “un-Greek” — out of place in a country in which much more than 90% of the population are Orthodox Christians…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Italy: State Broadcaster RAI to Increase Annual Fee by 1.50 Euros

Tax deemed the most detested in Italy

(ANSA) — Rome, December 26 — State broadcaster RAI announced on Wednesday that the annual television licence fee for 2013 will be increased 1.50 euros compared to 2012, specifying that the hike was issued by the Italian economic development ministry.

Italians owning televisions are now required to pay 113.50 euros yearly for the public television subscription, to be paid by 31 January 2013.

The obligatory annual TV licence fee to help finance RAI is the country’s most unpopular tax, a survey revealed last year.

The study by the Censis research agency showed that 47.3% of Italians deemed the fee to be the tax they most detested.

RAI obtains about half of its funding from the licence fee, with the rest coming from advertising and other sources of revenue, such as sales of the overseas rights to broadcast the TV shows and films it produces.

The broadcaster is criticised on a wide variety of grounds by Italians, being blasted as too commercial by many, while others complain the schedule is not entertaining enough and there should be more Hollywood blockbusters.

Another frequent gripe is that there is too much political interference in its output, especially news shows.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Taxi Drivers in Milan Rally Around Destitute Businessman

‘Tramp’ faces 3,000-euro fine for small street sales

(ANSA) — Milan, December 28 — Taxi drivers in Milan have rallied around a former businessman who faces a 3,000 euro fine for selling cigarette lighters, small flashlights, and other items to make ends meet.

Renato Moda, who spoke over lunch at a Milan soup kitchen, says he was charged with running a business in a public area without a licence, and fined by authorities at the city’s Linate airport.

And he has no money to pay the fine.

Taxi drivers from that airport are defending the former textile salesman who lost his stores, his house, and then buried his wife.

“I had nothing more,” until he found a cell-phone charger laying on the ground, sold it to a taxi driver for three euros and began a new life as a very small-scale businessman, Moda recalled.

“At that moment, my life changed”.

At 53, Moda is a blue-eyed, handsome man who lives on the street, hanging in coffee bars to avoid the cold. “Then, on Saturday and Sunday, if I have enough money, I’m going to a hotel that costs 40 euros a night”. The taxi driver’s union says it admires Moda and mocks the police who charged him for trying to earn some wages.

“Renato is trying to rebuild his life without stealing, he is a good person for a pleasant chat and is never intrusive,” says Marco Marani, vice president of Unica FILT-CGIL.

Quipped union president Giovanni Maggiolo: “I congratulate the local police who completed this ‘bright’ operation”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Dental Drill Fell Into Patient’s Lung

A dental implant surgery turned into a nightmare as the dentist’s drill came unstuck, fell down the patient’s throat and landed in her right lung, an accident which has now been reported to the authorities.

The patient, a 60-year-old woman, was having dental implant surgery at Västmanland County Hospital in Västerås, in central Sweden.

During surgery, the drill came loose from the grip and fell into her mouth. She was quickly pulled into a sitting position, but it was too late.

“She tried to spit it out, and was made to cough, but she’d already swallowed,” the hospital’s medical chief Per Weitz told The Local.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Police Baffled After 69 Cows Disappear

Local police remain stumped after 69 cows disappeared without a trace from a farm in eastern Sweden — on the exact day they were due to be slaughtered.

Claes Roempke, the 47-year-old owner of the cattle, is also baffled at his loss, which he values at around 700,000 kronor ($107,600).

“When I opened the gate I saw the animals were gone,” Roempke told the Expressen newspaper.

“I have no idea where they’ve been taken. I hope they are alive and are ok.”

Police officers visited the farm in Stjärnhov on Thursday, but were unable to figure out how almost 70 cows were able to leave the farm without anyone noticing.

“We have the ID number of all the cows and will match them with the Jordbruksverket (the Swedish Board of Agriculture) register,” explained Thomas Tellebro of the Katrineholm police to the paper.

“But it is hard to get hold of people during the Christmas holiday period.”

While it remains unclear whether the cows were stolen or whether they simply fled, one thing is known for sure — on the day of the disappearance, Roempke was about to send them to the slaughterhouse himself.

The farmer is now urging the public to help by sending in any information to the police.

Meanwhile, the police are focusing on what may have happened to the cattle now.

“It’s not easy to get rid of cows. If someone comes with 69 cows to a typical slaughterhouse, the cows must be registered and that’s how the slaughterhouse sees where the cows came from,” Tellebro told the paper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Highly Respected’ Organist, 68, Dies Days After Brutal Attack as He Walked to Church to Play at Christmas Eve Midnight Mass

A ‘highly respected’ organist has died after being subjected to a random brutal attack that left him with horrific head injuries.

Grandfather Alan Greaves, 68, was on his way to Midnight Mass at St Saviour’s CoE church in High Green, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, on Christmas Eve when he was set upon with an unknown weapon.

He was found by a pizza delivery worker collapsed on the pavement outside a primary school just 300 metres from the church in what appears to be a motiveless attack.

He was rushed to hospital with severe head injuries and underwent a four-hour emergency operation but has since passed away.

Police have launched a murder investigation and are appealing for witnesses to Mr Greaves’ assault.

This afternoon, detectives said they were reviewing footage from CCTV cameras in the nearby area.

They added that it was an ‘isolated incident’ and said there would be an increase in the number of officers in the area to reassure the community.

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UK: Disregard Muslims They’re All Labour Supporters on Benefits, Peer Tells Tories

Former Conservative peer Baroness Shreela Flather has sparked outrage by claiming that all British Muslims live on benefits, prompting Britain’s largest Muslim umbrella group to brand her statement “ignorant”, “irresponsible” and “offensive”. The latest in a series of anti-Muslim outbursts by the 78-year-old cross-bench peer came as she endorsed the alleged comment by the newly appointed Tory campaign chief…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Fury as Bury Market Boss Tells Halal Curry Maker: Sorry, You Can’t Have a Stall

A curry maker was left stunned after being refused a market stall — because his products were halal. Jeff Thomson, founder of Curried Away, asked for a plot on Bury’s Artisan Markets. But he was shocked when Paul Barrah, who operates the markets on behalf of the town’s council, replied to his email simply saying: “Hi, I’m sorry but my markets don’t use halal products. Regards, Paul.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Henry G Manson Asks: Can Cameron Win Ehtnic Minority Votes With Candidates Alone?

According to reports yesterday the Conservative Party wants to increase its efforts to woo ethnic voters ahead of the election. This, alongside gay marriage, appears to be the second lesson George Osborne took from the recent US Presidential election. The Independent understands the initial aim seems to be to increase the number of minority parliamentary candidates. Conservatives currently have 11 MPs from an ethnic minority background compared to Labour who have 13. The Liberal Democrats, somewhat incredibly, have zero. It is worth reflecting on the fact that the Labour Party only has 2 more MPs than the Conservative Party despite taking pride itself on historically receiving much support from ethnic minorities and leading the way in new MPs in the late 1980s. Over the last 15 years Labour has concentrated on All Woman Shortlists in which black and Asian women have often lost. Attempts to rectify ethnic under-representation of MPs have stalled and there is a sense the party has been complacent in this area…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Most Tories Think Labour Will Win in 2015

Two-thirds of Tory members expect Ed Miliband’s Labour Party to win the next election, a poll has found.

Only 12% of Conservatives think David Cameron will secure his longed-for Commons majority when the country next goes to the polls in 2015. The findings, in a survey conducted by the website ConservativeHome, mark a gloomy end to the year for the Prime Minister, who has overseen a slump in his party’s ratings in the last 12 months. Most opinion polls now put Labour at least 10 points ahead of the Tories, with the Liberal Democrats a distant third. ConservativeHome said its findings, based on a survey of 2,500 people, showed the extent of the “pessimism” in the Tory ranks over the fortunes of the government. George Osborne’s “omnishambles” budget in March and the rise of the UK Independence Party were blamed for compounding the party’s difficulties…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Murderers and Drug Dealer to Get IVF in Prison and You’ll be Paying! Criminals Using European Human Rights Laws to Start Families at Taxpayers’ Expense

Four murderers and a drug dealer are in line for taxpayer-funded fertility treatment so that they can father a child from behind bars.

The killers are demanding to be allowed to take part in IVF treatment despite serving life sentences. Ministers may be powerless to refuse because of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights concerning the right to a private and family life.

Turning down the prisoners’ demands could lead to court action and compensation claims running into tens of thousands of pounds.

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UK: Nearly 1,000 Doctors Could Still be Practicing Despite Convictions for Possessing Child Porn and Drug Trafficking

Up to 927 doctors could still be practicing despite being convicted for crimes such as possession of indecent child images, trafficking drugs, kerb crawling and causing death by dangerous driving.

Medical chiefs claim they cannot ban all sex offenders from working because it might breach their human rights.

But patients are not being told about the disgraced physicians, surgeons and GPs, who are still working in surgeries and hospitals across the country.

Those doctors, who have not been struck off the medical register and who have been found guilty of possessing child sex images are even thought to still be treating children.

The GMC insisted it enquired about an automatic ban on doctors who are on the sex offenders’ register but ‘advice was obtained from a leading QC who concluded that an automatic bar, without exceptions, would not be compatible with human rights legislation’.

Among those practicing with a criminal record is Benjamin Obukofe, who was found guilty by a court last year of sexually assaulting two colleagues at Spire Hospital in Leicestershire, including a girl of 17.

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UK: Pig’s Head Left Outside Centre Used by Muslims

Three people arrested in Leicester where Islamic group faces protests over plans to open centre in disused Scout hut

Three people have been arrested after a pig’s head was left outside a community centre used for prayers by Muslims in an area of Leicester that has seen heightened far-right activity in recent months.

The head of the pig, which is offensive to Muslims who consider the animal unclean and are forbidden from eating pork, was discovered by worshippers from the As Salaam group at the Thurnby Lodge centre at 7.30am on Boxing Day. A 40-year-old woman and two men, aged 37 and 46, were arrested on Wednesday.

The incident came amid tension over the group’s plans to open an Islamic centre in a disused Scout hut neighbouring the community centre. There have been months of protests, including involvement by the English Defence League and the British National party, whose leader, Nick Griffin, visited the area in August.

The As Salaam imam Mohammed Lockhat told the Guardian that the incident had only increased the group’s commitment to stay: “We were shocked and saddened by this development. It’s deeply discriminating and religiously offensive … Every single day we have got people standing outside, protesters hurling insults, racist abuse. We weren’t expecting this to happen but it was only a matter of time.”…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

UK: Shocking Moment Motorist, 62, Is Ambushed and Pistol-Whipped by Pair of Masked Robbers for Keys to His Range Rover

This is the shocking moment two masked thugs brutally attacked a 62-year-old man with a gun moments after he arrived home.

The footage shows how the man, who had just driven up to his house and parked his Range Rover, was punched to the floor before being repeatedly hit with the weapon.

The balaclava-clad attackers then stole the victim’s car keys and sped off in a stolen Seat Altea but left the Range Rover behind.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: That Was Mac’s Year That Was: From the Bradley Wiggins Effect to Abu Hamza and Leveson, The Mail’s Cartoonist Picks His 2012 Favourites

It was the year that saw the Olympics come to Britain, doctors and surgeons strike, and Prince Andrew abseiling down Europe’s tallest building, the Shard. Here, the peerless Mac revisits his choice cartoon moments from 2012…

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Opposition Leaders Under Investigation for ‘Plot to Topple Morsi’

Egypt was facing renewed political tensions on Thursday after three leading opposition figures, including a former head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, were placed under investigation for allegedly plotting to topple Mohammed Morsi, the Islamist president.

A judge is to investigate Mohammed El-Baradei, the ex-head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, along with the former foreign minister and Arab League chairman, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi, a former presidential candidate, over accusations that they campaigned to unseat Mr Morsi during a recent outbreak of unrest. The announcement by the new chief prosecutor, Taalat Ibrahim Abdallah, who was appointed by Mr Morsi last month, will heighten concerns that the president and his Muslim Brotherhood backers intend to scapegoat political opponents…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Rights Groups Denounce Fatwa Banning Congratulation of Christians

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) denounces the Fatwa, Islamic opinion, issued by the Religious Commission for Rights and Reforms that bans congratulating Christians in their festivals and holidays. It is worthy to mention that the commission includes a group of Islamic legislators and scientists representing all the Islamic groups. The fatwa comes as a religion contempt crime directed against Egyptian citizens. EOHR also stated that this fatwa comes under the umbrella of the discrimination based on race and religion, which is a crime, leads to dividing the Egyptian community. This opinion is also a violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, signed on September 28, 1966. In this regard, EOHR stresses on refusal of all the forms of racial discrimination and calls for taking those who issued this fatwa to accountability.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Libya: How Obama’s Policies Led to Benghazigate

by Daniel Greenfield

It took some 22 hours for American help to arrive in Benghazi after all the t’s had been crossed and the i’s had been dotted, and the body of America’s ambassador to Libya had been dragged through the streets by “rescuers” stopping along the way to pose for cell phone pictures with his corpse. By way of comparison it takes about 16 hours for a boatload of Libyan illegal immigrants to row to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Support for the Americans under fire in Libya would have arrived sooner if a few former members of the Harvard Rowing Team had gotten in one of the many rowboats beached on the shores of Lampedusa and pushed the oars all the way to Benghazi…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

The Not-So-Bad Constitution of Egypt

EGYPTIAN POLITICS over the past nine months has not been an edifying sight, but the new constitution does not spell the end of democracy in Egypt. It scares the 36 per cent of Egyptian voters who rejected it, but their fears are probably misplaced.

The revolution was made in the big cities, mostly by people who were secular in outlook. However, most Egyptian voters live in rural areas that are devout and deeply conservative, so three-quarters of the votes in the first free election went to Islamic parties…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Why is the US Building a Secret $100 Million Underground Facility Outside Tel Aviv?

Leave it to legendary Walter Pincus from the Washington Post to flesh out a Request for Proposal construction project planned for Israel called Site 911.

The oddly named project will cost up to $100 million, take more than two years to complete, and can only be built by workers from specific countries with proper security clearances. Palestinians need not apply.

When complete the well-guarded compound will have five levels buried underground and six additional outbuildings on the above grounds, within the perimeter. At about 127,000 square feet, the first three floors will house classrooms, an auditorium, and a laboratory — all wedged behind shock resistant doors — with radiation protection and massive security.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Turkish Courage Award to 13-Yr Old Palestinian Girl

Ahed Tamimi challenged Israeli soldiers in West Bank

Ahed Tamimi, 13, challenged an Israeli patrol in the West Bank last month

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH — Ahed Tamimi, a 13-year-old Palestinian girl who gained international notoriety for standing up to an Israeli patrol in the West Bank last month, was welcomed with great honors in Turkey, where she was awarded with ‘Handala Courage Award’ in Istanbul on Wednesday, Palestinian media reported.

Video footage of Tamimi, the daughter of a Palestinian human rights activist, showing her fists to the Israeli soldiers that had arrested her brother went around the world.

Visiting Turkey as being the guest of Basaksehir Municipality of Istanbul, Ahed Tamimi attended a series of events ahead the award ceremony and opened an art exhibition titled ‘Being children in Palestine’, Anadolu Agency reported.

Handala Courage Award, handed out by the Basaksehir Municipality, was named after the cartoon character Handala created by Palestinian artist Naji al-Ahli. Handala, a 10-year-old boy, has become one of the symbols of the struggle against Israeli occupation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Washington’s Misplaced Support for Turkey’s Erdogan

For over a decade now, US administrations have hailed Turkey’s Islamist AKP government led by Prime Minister Erdogan as a model of democracy and “moderate” Islam. In the wake of the Arab Spring, Prime Minister Erdogan traveled to Libya, Egypt and Tunisia as an extension of American “soft power” to encourage fledgling governments to adopt the Turkish version of Islamic democracy.

The problem here is that Washington is again allowing pragmatism to trump principle. The US is apparently so eager to find alternative vehicles of political expression to combat radical Islam in the Middle East that it is willing to gloss over the gross violations of basic human rights being perpetrated in its chosen “model” for the world of Islam.

It is no secret that Erdogan and his chief advisors are ardent admirers of the Ottoman state, the vast empire ruled by the Turks for 600 years. This open admiration coupled with the government’s foreign policy strategies indicate that Erdogan’s government is seeking to regain a similar type of influence in the region. The question is which Ottoman Sultan Erdogan is trying to emulate.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Bombing Victims Sue German Government

Families of victims of a deadly air strike in Afghanistan that killed more than 90 people in 2009 have filed a multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against Germany, a lawyer said Friday.

Karim Popal, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the 10 lawsuits were claiming €3.3 million ($4.4 million) in damages from the German government.

“Many orphans and widows lost their providers due to this barbaric war crime, and many mothers their young children,” Popal said in a statement. “Nearly all the survivors are traumatised and are not receiving psychological treatment.”

Around 80 people are represented, according to news agency DPA.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Mansfield Man Killed in Afghanistan

Mansfield resident Joseph Griffin, 49, was killed on Christmas Eve in Kabul, Afghanistan by a policewoman who reportedly shot him when she decided her plans to kill the governor, police chief or an investigator would be too difficult. Griffin once worked as a deputy with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, first from 1996 until 2000 and again in 2007. He was in Afghanistan as a military veteran advising the Afghan National Police when he was murdered by the policewoman, identified as Sgt. Nargas, a mother of four in her early 30s who joined the police force five years ago and had a clean record, according to the Associated Press…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Far East

1 Killed, 2 Injured in S. Philippine Grenade Attack

MANILA, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) — One man died while another was arrested on Thursday night after they lobbed a grenade at the house of a town mayor in southern Philippines, police confirmed Friday. Supt. Junry Buenacosa, chief of Tacurong city police in Sultan Kudarat province, said the identity of the slain suspect was not immediately known. The other suspect, Mohammad Hadji Marandin, 39, was arrested by policemen. Police were able to corner the two suspects who tried to escape after they lobbed a grenade at the house of President Quirino town mayor Emilio Salamanca in Poblacion village. The explosion injured two people including a security escort of the town official. Police have launched an investigation into the incident to determine the motive behind the attack.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central African Republic Appeals for French Help to Halt Rebel Advance

The President of the Central African Republic has called on France and the United States to help push back advancing rebel fighters, but the idea has been flatly rejected by the French President. The rebels, known as the Séléka alliance, took up arms early this month and are closing in on the capital, Bangui, after taking large swathes of the country’s north and east with little resistance from the army…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Gambia: Imam Baba Leigh Still in Detention …

Imam Baba Leigh, the Imam of Kanifing Layout Mosque was reported to have been arrested by two National Intelligence Agency Personnel at his compound in Kanifing on the 3 December 2012 but until now the Imam is nowhere to be found…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

MCC Selects Countries Eligible for New Programs

Washington — At its quarterly meeting December 19, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) board of directors selected Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Morocco and Tanzania as eligible to develop proposals for new compacts, and Guatemala as eligible for a Threshold Program. “This year’s selection decisions are a testament to the ‘MCC Effect,’ the ability of MCC to provide incentives for countries to adopt policy reforms and strengthen institutions in order to become eligible for an MCC compact,” said Daniel W. Yohannes, MCC’s chief executive officer. “Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone have worked hard for several years to meet MCC’s rigorous eligibility standards, and the board is pleased to recognize these efforts by selecting them as eligible to develop compact proposals.”…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Army Kills 5 Gunmen, Discovers Bomb Factory in Kaduna

Operatives of the Nigerian Army yesterday killed five and injured two suspected members of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Ladda’awatih Wal-Jihad, also known as Boko Haram, following a shootout between the two groups in Kaduna. And in Abuja, there were feelers that men of the Nigerian Army foiled an attempt to attack Abuja, just as gunmen were reported to have killed six people in Riyom, near Jos, in Plateau State.

LEADERSHIP gathered that the Army operation, which lasted about five hours, took place at Namadi Road in Rigasa district of Igabi Local Government Area (LGA) in Kaduna metropolis when the men of the Nigerian Army stormed a bomb making factory in the area following a tip-off. The Army operatives, LEADERSHIP further gathered, demolished the bomb factory after hours of gun battle, arrested some suspects and also discovered already made Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Owning a Dog ‘Is Not African’, Declares Jacob Zuma: Racism Row After South African President Says Black People With Pets Are Just Copying White Culture

He is not afraid to voice controversial opinions on anything from same-sex marriage to teenage pregnancy.

But now South African president Jacob Zuma has taken the bizarre step of warning black Africans against owning a dog.

President Zuma said that owning and walking a dog, and even taking one to the vet, were not African activities, and was just copying white culture.

The president, 70, who faces investigation by the country’s anti-corruption watchdog over an upgrade to his country home, is a proud Zulu and adheres to traditional practices — including polygamy. He has six wives and believed to have fathered 20 children.

Speaking at an event in KwaZulu-Natal province, he described people who love dogs more than humans as ‘having a lack of humanity’, Durban newspaper The Mercury reports

President Zuma reportedly told an audience of black South Africans on Wednesday to stop adopting the habits of other cultures. ‘Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair you will never be white,’ he said.

[Return to headlines]

South Africa: Zuma Comments Cause Canine Chaos

Johannesburg — It was a dog-eat-dog world on Twitter on Thursday as people argued over President Jacob Zuma’s comments that caring for a pet dog was part of “white” culture.

While a flurry of users seemed indignant that Zuma didn’t name Jock of the Bushveld his favourite four-legged South African or ask Lassie to come home, many others agreed with the president’s sentiments. One user, YanelaJ, said Zuma’s comments were accurate: “How many blacks vs whites do u c walking/running dogs.don’t count domestic worker?”

Young Communist League spokesman Khaya Xaba tweeted that a “rich man’s dog gets more in the way of vaccination, medicine and medical care than do the workers upon whom the rich man’s wealth is built.”

The Star reported on Thursday that Zuma, in a speech given at Impendle in KwaZulu-Natal, had said that spending money to buy a dog and taking it to the vet and for walks, belonged to “white” culture. He was also reported to have said that those who loved dogs more than people had “a lack of humanity”. The presidency later sent out a statement in which it explained that Zuma was only trying to “decolonise the African mind” with his statements…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Femicide Row Priest Says Not Quitting But Time Off

Email ‘fake’, just ‘period of rest and reflection’

(ANSA) — Genoa, December 27 — A priest who stirred a nationwide row by suggesting women “provoked” men to rape or murder on Thursday said he was not quitting but taking a “period of rest”.

“The email saying I was stepping down was a fake,” said Father Piero Corsi.

Father Corsi said his archbishop had advised him to take some time off for “reflection and rest”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: And So it Goes?

In the December 11, 2012 issue of The Telegraph, it was reported that the number of Christians in England and Wales has fallen by four million since 2001. At the same time, the number of nonbelievers has almost doubled—one in four now self-profess as a nonbeliever.

Meanwhile, the number of nonbelievers in the United States has also grown, although not in such a drastic fashion. If the trend continues, however, one in every six Americans will soon claim no faith.

There are many factors contributing to the situation in the UK, but it is clear that the root of England’s secularization lies with the Church of England’s leadership.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20121227

Financial Crisis
» Egypt: S&P Downgrades 3 Major Banks, From B- To C
» Italy: Spread Down to 315 After Good Bond Auctions
» More Tax on Wealth: Less on Employment and Enterprise
» Purchasing Power of Italian Families Dropped by 4% in 2012
» UK: Feeling Poor? Who Took All Your Money? Not Capitalist Bastards?
 
USA
» E.P.A. Chief to Step Down
» Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Commander in Persian Gulf War, Dies at 78
» Local Authorities Cave to USDOJ, Approve Norwalk, Connecticut Mega-Mosque
» The 10 Most ‘Ridiculous’ Lawsuits of 2012
 
Europe and the EU
» Foreign Aid: EU Money Only Benefits the Corrupt
» France: Clashes Over Mont-Saint-Michel Embankment
» Italy: Two Public Health Officials Arrested for Taking Bribe
» Italy: Monti, Berlusconi on Collision Course, Says Financial Times
» Italy: Priest Calls Women to ‘Self-Examination’ For Femicide
» Netherlands: Number of Sexually Exploited Girls Underestimated, Says Official Report
» Swiss Mull Slashing ‘Fat-Cat’ Salaries
» The Press in Europe (1/5): El País: Delusions of Grandeur
» The Sniffer Dog and the Money Mules
» Up to 70,000 British Jobs ‘Are at Risk From Brussels Climate Change Law’
» Vatican Daily Osservatore Romano Endorses Monti
» Wilders to Step Up International Anti-Islam Campaign
 
North Africa
» Egypt: Salafist El Nour Party Will Not Abort Beach Tourism
» Egypt’s Islamists Still Have the Upper Hand
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Hamas Holds Rallies in Judea and Samaria: Raising Security Concerns in Knesset Elections
» Israel Putting Up New Barrier in Golan Heights
 
Middle East
» Iran’s Only Female Cabinet Minister Dismissed
» Why is America Midwiving a Muslim Brotherhood-Ruled Syria?
 
Russia
» New India-Russia Billion-Dollar Arms Deals Signed
» Putin Says He Will Sign Bill Banning Americans From Adopting Russian Children
» Russian Anti-Putin Blogger Navalny Accused of Fraud
 
Far East
» Chinese Satellite Navigation System to Compete With GPS
» Korean Unification May Cost South 7% of GDP: Finance Ministry
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Jacob Zuma Says Owning a Dog ‘Is Not African’
» South Africa’s Jacob Zuma in Dog Ownership Row
 
Immigration
» Italy: Human-Trafficking Charges Brought Against Moroccan Women
» Pope Says Attitude Toward Migrants is Main Moral Question
» Switzerland: Top Businessman Calls for Immigrant Quotas
 
Culture Wars
» Denmark: Govt. Wants to Rename Christianity Studies
» Facebook Purges Pro-Gun Accounts
 
General
» Customized Mass Production Using 3D

Financial Crisis

Egypt: S&P Downgrades 3 Major Banks, From B- To C

Downgrade subsequent to Egypt’s slide from B to B-

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 27 — Standard & Poor’s has lowered the credit rating of three of Egypt’s most important banks from B- to C. The agency feels that the number of state bonds held by the two publicly-owned banks, the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) and Banque Misr (BM), and one private one, the Commercial International Bank (CIB), results in a higher risk level. Earlier this week S&P lowered Egypt’s rating from B to B- “due to the political tensions” dividing the country over the past few weeks. “The downgrade of NBE, BM and CIB reflects the negative outlook expressed on Egypt,” according to statement released by the agency, raising serious concerns over the country’s solvency. Over the past two years, notes Al Ahram Online, the Egyptian government has borrowed huge amounts of money from the domestic market in order to cover the immense deficit that, according to the latest outlook, is likely to top in at around 33 billion dollars by the end of the 2012/14 fiscal year (12% of the country’s economic output). In the eyes of S&P, things will only get worse. “From our standpoint, the political and social tensions in Egypt are growing at a constant rate and will remain high at least over the medium term.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Spread Down to 315 After Good Bond Auctions

Yield 4.52%

(ANSA) — Rome, December 27 — The bellwether spread between Italian and German 10-year bonds edged down to 315 points Thursday after two good auctions of short-term State paper.

The yield on Italian 10-year bonds fell to 4.52%.

In the first auction, the Treasury had no problem offloading 8.4 billion euros’ worth of six-month bonds, although the yield edged up to 0.949% from 0.919% at the last such auction on November 28.

In the second, the Treasury sold 3.25 billion euros’ worth of CTZs and the yield fell to 0.884% from 1.923% on November 27.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

More Tax on Wealth: Less on Employment and Enterprise

Aim is to reduce overall tax levy while safeguarding weaker groups and middle class

The slim document — just twenty-five pages — went online late yesterday on a dedicated site: www.agenda-monti.it. Inside is a list of policy actions, some to be implemented in the first hundred days of the next government. As many have observed, the agenda presents a clutch of macro-economic data that constitute a litmus test indicating Italy’s current situation and lay down the boundaries within which the upcoming executive will have to act: structural budget balancing (written into the Italian constitution) and reducing public debt by one twentieth every year (currently debt is more than 120% of GDP) to move towards compliance with the UE wishlist, enshrined in the Fiscal Compact.

INTRODUCTION — The document gets straight to the point, perfectly mirroring the character of its author. The observation “as soon as general conditions permit” recalls the anthropological distance that separates Mr Monti from the crowd-pleasing smoke and mirrors of the professional political hype merchants who promise much and deliver little. The call for a commitment “to reduce the overall tax levy giving priority to labour and business” indicates an effective passage to Stage Two, the one the premier failed to implement because of parliamentary resistance and the brevity of his tenure at the helm.

PUBLIC ACCOUNTS — The text reflects Mr Monti’s high regard for the enormous sacrifices made by Italians to get the country back on track: “This year’s tax adjustment, made at the cost of such sacrifice by Italians, marked a turning point. With the primary surplus achieved, debt is on a path of steady reduction from next year. This means that if the roadmap is adhered to, it will be possible to reduce taxes”. The document says: “In the upcoming legislature, commitment to reducing the tax levy on labour and business will be required. This will involve transferring the relevant burden onto significant wealth and onto consumption that does not impact the weak or the middle class”. What follows is a possible gradual reduction of the tax wedge on workers and businesses, which could perhaps be effected through a hard-to-implement wealth tax at the — huge — risk of capital flight abroad…

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

Purchasing Power of Italian Families Dropped by 4% in 2012

Consumer group warns households face rising costs ahead

(ANSA) — Rome, December 27 — Italian families saw their purchasing power drop by 4% while prices rose in 2012, a consumer group warned Thursday.

And there is little chance of improvement in 2013, added Codacons, using data collected by the national statistical agency Istat.

“The economic situation is extremely bad,” said the consumer group.

It blamed new and increasing taxes, higher retail prices and frozen salaries for a significant fall in their purchasing power in the year now ending.

For the average family, purchasing power fell by 4% or about 1,398 euros for a family of three, or 1,540 euros for four people.

“This is a real blow, worse than in 2009, the black year of the economic crisis,” said Codacons president Carlo Rienzi.

All this suggests there is little hope for an economic recovery in 2013, he added.

Consumer groups also warned Thursday that Italian households will see their expenses rise by a whopping 1,500 euros each in 2013.

Hikes in train tickets, car insurance, household bills, bank and postal charges, waste-disposal levies and the new IMU property tax will be “unsustainable” for the countless households already struggling to make ends meet, said Adusbef and Federconsumatori.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Feeling Poor? Who Took All Your Money? Not Capitalist Bastards?

Actually it was nurses and firemen and teachers

Comment Lies, damned lies and statistics: we all know the saying, but you’d be surprised just how many of these “facts” manage to enter the national consciousness, emerging as Guardian headlines and stories on Radio 4’s Today.

Allow me to tiptoe through the process as to how this happens.

Let’s start with this lovely little chart:…

[Return to headlines]

USA

E.P.A. Chief to Step Down

Lisa P. Jackson is stepping down as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency after a four-year tenure that began with high hopes of sweeping action to address climate change and other environmental ills but ended with a series of rear-guard actions to defend the agency against challenges from industry, Republicans in Congress and, at times, the Obama White House.

[Return to headlines]

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Commander in Persian Gulf War, Dies at 78

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the American-led forces that crushed Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf war and became the nation’s most acclaimed military hero since the midcentury exploits of Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, died on Thursday in Tampa, Fla. He was 78.

[Return to headlines]

Local Authorities Cave to USDOJ, Approve Norwalk, Connecticut Mega-Mosque

As night follows day we have the latest example of the Mega-Mosque campaign backed by US Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the US Department of Justice. As noted by Ryan Mauro in a Radical Islam.org article, “DOJ Forces Mega-Mosque on Norwalk, CT Community”, the local protesters alleged traffic and safety issues, as well as an 80 foot minaret dominating the 27,000 square foot $3.5 million, Al-Madany Islamic Center complex. This Connecticut Long Island Sound community is located within commuting distance of New York. The Islamic Center has less than 100 family members. The new structure would have capacity for 1,000. The playbook takes a leaf out of what happened with the Murfreesboro Mosque that we have chronicilled . It is the same modus operandi. Small Islamic center acquires land makes filing to build large complex, locals squawk about size, adjacent traffic and safety issues, Mosque leaders complain to their protectors at the USDOJ civil rights division about Islamophobia and USDOJ steps in threatening suit on grounds of denial of freedom to worship and protections under the arcane Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), see here. With an 80 foot minaret, the local protesters might have inveighed Connecticut and EPA noise pollution standards, assuming they exist, with muezzin calls several times day. But no matter. As in the instances of Murfreesboro, Temecula California and Brookfield, Wisconsin Mega- Mosques , among a dozen or more Mega-Mosques popping up across America, local planning commissions kowtow to Federal lawyers waiving warnings about violation of First Amendment freedom to worship and the RLUIPA exemptions.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

The 10 Most ‘Ridiculous’ Lawsuits of 2012

Yes, there was a Dallas Cowboys fan who sued the team over a “hot bench,” and a woman who wanted $5 million for leftover gas. These and more are the winners in the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform’s Top Ten Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2012, released Thursday and based on a year’s worth of online votes.

“Abuse of our legal system is no joke, and these examples range from the outrageous to the absurd,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of the organization. “This poll reminds us that as a society, we sue too much. In turn, these abusive lawsuits inflict harm on lives, jobs, and our economic growth.”

And the top 10 are:

  • An intoxicated Florida driver pleads guilty to manslaughter, then sues the victim.
  • A Michigan woman files a $5 million suit for the leftover gas still in her repossessed car.
  • A 13-year-old Little Leaguer is sued by spectator who got hit with a baseball.
  • A maximum-security inmate who went to jail with five teeth sues the prison for dental problems.
  • Anheuser-Busch is sued when a long-neck bottle is used as a weapon in a bar fight.
  • A National Football League fan sues the Dallas Cowboys over a hot bench.
  • A California restaurateur is sued for disabilities act violations in a parking lot he doesn’t own.
  • A Colorado man wins $7 million blaming his illness on inhaling microwave popcorn fumes.
  • A $1.7 billion suit claims the city of Santa Monica, Calif.’s wireless parking meters cause health problems.
  • San Francisco Bay Area parents sue a school after their son was kicked out of an honors class for cheating.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Foreign Aid: EU Money Only Benefits the Corrupt

De Standaard Brussels

According to the European Court of Auditors, it’s almost impossible to check how EU aid money is spent by developing countries. As a major EU aid fraud scandal hits Uganda, commentators in Kampala wonder why European donors continue to funnel cash into a corrupt country.

Mark Schenkel

Timothy Kalyegira has a simple piece of advice for his government: steal as much aid money as possible. If European countries “have nothing better to do with their taxpayers’ money than give it to a government with a proven track record of corruption,” then it is “only logical” that corrupt government officials will spend the money on houses and expensive cars.

Timothy Kalyegira is a well-known political commentator in Uganda. He regularly voices his opinion in the independent newspaper Daily Monitor. Kalyegira’s sarcastic comment is a reaction to one of the larger scandals concerning aid in his country.

The European Union, Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Germany have suspended €225 million in aid to Uganda. Donor countries are responding to the theft of at least €10 million that was intended for northern Uganda, an area that is recovering from armed conflict. They demand that those funds are recovered before they resume their aid programme.

Citizens sleeping on the streets

Commentators, journalists and newspaper readers in Uganda have retorted with scorn, ridicule and disbelief. Of course, primary responsibility lies with the Ugandan government officials who have pocketed the money, but are the European countries not also partly to blame? They continue giving to a government that has, all too often, proven its inclination to steal donor funds. “Somehow, though,” says Kalyegira, the European governments plagued by recession would “rather see their own citizens sleep on the streets and starting to get their meals from soup kitchens,” than see Africans get by without western aid…

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

France: Clashes Over Mont-Saint-Michel Embankment

Beauty vs. safety, conservationists vs. government

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 27 — UNESCO World Heritage site Mont-Saint-Michel will be an island once more by 2015, but conservationists and the government are clashing over the height of the embankment that is to connect it to the mainland.

The Society for the Preservation of French Landscapes and Esthetics (SPPEF) and the Friends of Mont-Saint-Michel say the structure must be no more than 6.80 meters high, or the historic and esthetic integrity of the island will be violated. The government says the embankment has to be at least 7.30 meters high to allow firefighters and other emergency rescue services access to the island 365 days a year. The conservationists have called on UNESCO to block the government’s plan, sacrificing safety in the name of esthetics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Two Public Health Officials Arrested for Taking Bribe

An envelope containing hundreds of euros found as they leave bar

(ANSA) — Milan, December 24 — Italian finance police arrested two public health officials in Lodi, near Milan, for taking a bribe from a local cafe-bar on Monday.

The public health officials, employed by ASL — which has a food hygiene and nutrition division — were arrested as they left the bar. An envelope containing several hundred euros worth of 50 euro bills was found on one of the officials.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti, Berlusconi on Collision Course, Says Financial Times

Bersani ‘will bid to balance EU fiscal discipline with growth’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 27 — Centrist politicians in Italy are “rallying behind” Premier Mario Monti’s offer to lead an alliance into February elections, Britain’s respected Financial Times newspaper reported Thursday.

And that, it says, is setting the stage for a confrontation between Monti and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi in his attempt to return to power.

The newspaper, quoting political sources, says that Monti, who was appointed technocrat premier 13 months ago, was scheduled to meet with prospective coalition partners on Thursday to discuss strategy and candidate lists.

Monti, who is already assured a seat in parliament as a life senator, published a 25-page political manifesto on the Internet during the Christmas holidays.

It has drawn endorsements from a civic movement led by Ferrari chief Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and small centrist parties, including Pier Ferdinando Casini’s Catholic UDC, says the newspaper.

A few other politicians from mainstream parties have also backed Monti, who is expected to be joined by several of his cabinet colleagues including Corrado Passera, his industry minister.

The Financial Times is also watching Democratic Party chief Pier Luigi Bersani closely for clues about what kind of government he might form after the elections on February 24-25.

In recent articles, it describes Bersani, who leads the main centre-left party, as the front runner in the campaign.

And it quotes Bersani as saying he would be willing to give more power to Brussels over Italian government spending in exchange for greater freedom from the European Union to give key Italian economic sectors a boost.

“I am ready to discuss — if it will be my turn to run the country — how to strengthen the mechanism of fiscal discipline to monitor national budgets in exchange for new policies aimed at stimulating the economy,” Bersani told the Financial Times.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Priest Calls Women to ‘Self-Examination’ For Femicide

‘How often do they provoke?’ asks flyer posted in church

(ANSA) — Turin, December 26 — A flyer displayed on a church bulletin board by a priest in the northern region of Liguria, and then subsequently posted on the social network Facebook by outraged members of the congregation, has caused an uproar for allegedly “encouraging” violence against women.

The priest from the San Terenzo church in the town of Lerici, father Piero Corsi, entitled the leaflet “Women and femicide — healthy self-criticism. How often do they provoke?”.

The lengthy discussion written by Corsi asks if men are just “randomly crazy, or are they pushed?”.

“The fact is that women are increasingly the cause…and end up exacerbating tensions by leaving children to themselves, keep dirty houses, put cold dishes on the table, buy fast food and provide filthy clothes. So if a family goes to the dogs and is pushed to crime (violence must be condemned and punished firmly) often the responsibilities are shared”. The bulletin also examines sexual violence against women, noting that women and girls often “go around dressed provocatively”.

Maria Gabriella Carnieri Moscatelli, president of the Italian emergency hotline Telefono Rosa said on Wednesday that the flyer was a “true instigation to violence against women” and called for both Premier Mario Monti and Pope Benedict XVI to speak out against the message.

According to the association, sexual violence causes more fatalities among women in Italy than cancer and is most often committed by a spouse or former partner.

“Italy has the highest percent of femicide in Europe…a message like this (by Corsi) is unacceptable,” Moscatelli said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Number of Sexually Exploited Girls Underestimated, Says Official Report

The number of under-age girls forced into prostitution has been underestimated, according to a new independent report due out later on Monday, Nos television reports.

Last year, some 195 out of the 1,200 officially-registered victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking were under age, the report’s author Corinne Dettmeijer told the broadcaster.

But this is an underestimation because youth social workers and other organisations fail to report all cases to CoMensha, which collates cases, Dettmeijer’s report into the trafficking and sexual violence against children says.

Pimps

In addition, Dettmeijer expects that many young victims — those aged 18 to 23 — were also forced into prostitution when they were minors.

Some 60% of under-age prostitutes have Dutch nationality and are often the victims of sweet-talking young pimps, known as loverboys in the Netherlands, Dettmeijer said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Swiss Mull Slashing ‘Fat-Cat’ Salaries

Attention all high-flying executives in Switzerland: go ahead and splurge on diamonds, fine art and vintage champagne this holiday season because next year you may be tightening your belts.

The Swiss will vote on an initiative in March that could put an end to the big pay hikes of top managers at publicly-listed companies in the country.

If the “rip-off salary” initiative is approved, shareholders would have an annual binding vote on the total compensation of a company’s board of directors and management. Executives would also bid adieu to other perks like compensation paid in advance or golden parachute rewards upon departure.

Executive compensation has become a topic of heated discussion and ample hand wringing around the world since the financial meltdown of 2008. A “yes” to the initiative would instantly thrust Switzerland into the international spotlight as one of a handful of countries taking concrete steps to rein in rocketing executive pay.

“This is not a Swiss issue,” Thomas Minder, a small businessman in Schaffhausen and a senator, tells The Local. “All over the world, there’s the same discussion.”

It hasn’t been easy getting to this point. Minder embarked on his odyssey to change executive pay when he handed in his initiative nearly five years ago. He blames the delay on intense lobbying by pro-business groups and a drawn-out political debate in the capital of Bern.

The current executive pay system is rotten, Minder says. To start with, he says, the salaries of top managers have increased dramatically and don’t necessarily reflect the performance of their companies.

Top executives at companies such as drug maker Novartis and the big banks UBS and Credit Suisse have come under fire in recent years for multi-million-franc pay-outs to their top leaders. Minder believes it’s time that executives are paid according to their performance, whether measured by profits or share price.

Big pay packets should not be a given every year, he says. “Not one (publicly-traded) company, not in Switzerland, not in the world, knows a minus,” Minder says. “I wouldn’t have launched the initiative if there would be a minus system in compensation.”

Payments granted to executives before they start work, along with severance payments awarded to departing managers, also stoke Minder’s ire. “There is no meaning or no explanation why a guy getting kicked out should get a golden parachute.”

Many of his fellow Swiss citizens are also fed up with soaring executive pay. According to a GfS Bern poll in May, 77 per cent of people questioned said they were definitely or somewhat for the initiative.

Although Switzerland is clearly prosperous, those making up its large middle class are increasingly unhappy and uncertain, according to a recent study from the Avenir Suisse think tank. The study points to a source of their discontent: income gains among the highest earners have outpaced those of the middle class during the past two decades.

The “winner takes it all” mentality has left the middle class feeling like they’re falling behind, the report said. Still, not everyone thinks Minder’s initiative is a wise idea.

Business lobby group Economiesuisse says there are isolated excesses. But in general, the pay ratio between executives and employees in Switzerland is smaller than in other countries, Meinrad Vetter, the group’s head of regulatory affairs and competition, tells The Local.

He acknowledges that salaries for top managers have increased in recent years thanks to globalization and the subsequent “internationalization of management.” Higher salaries in Anglo-Saxon countries put pressure on compensation in other parts of the world, he says.

Vetter says a better solution would be parliament’s counter proposal, supported by Economiesuisse, among other organizations. This proposal would let shareholders decide for themselves if they want to have a binding vote on executive pay.

Vetter worries that the rip-off initiative, if passed, could damage Switzerland’s attractiveness as a good place to do business for firms around the world. The increased bureaucracy could make companies think twice about coming, he says.

“It’s the wrong solution,” Vetter says. “It threatens the success of the Swiss export model and gambles with Swiss jobs.”Some heads of Swiss companies, including Nestlé chief executive officer Paul Bulcke and Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez, have spoken out against the initiative and warned about the long-term consequences for the Swiss economy.

The initiative isn’t yet on the radar of executives who talk to Guy de Brabois, country manager at recruitment firm Robert Walters in Zurich. The fallout would be limited, as only Swiss-listed companies would be affected and there would be no actual cap on executive salaries, he tells The Local. “I see it more as a corporate governance rule…than a real intention to push salaries down.”

Minder insists, perhaps optimistically, that the initiative will serve as proof to the business world that their money is safe in Switzerland.

Besides, the Swiss won’t be the first, as he points out: Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands all have binding votes on shareholder pay, and the European Union is reportedly drawing up similar plans…

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

The Press in Europe (1/5): El País: Delusions of Grandeur

Mediapart Paris

A success story of the transition to democracy and a showcase for Spanish journalism, today the left-wing daily is struggling to cope with huge losses, which have even affected its editorial line — a crisis exacerbated by the newspaper’s managers who have refused to take responsibility for their actions. Excerpts.

Ludovic Lamant

When Juan Luis Cebrian, the all-powerful boss of El País, outlined the main elements of a restructuring plan to his staff in October, he justified himself with an argument that brooks no contradiction: the newspaper, which is the leading daily in Spain, could no longer “continue to live so well” with too many overpaid journalists.

His reasoning was reminiscent of conservative government leader Mariano Rajoy’s message to the Spanish people, who, with every new austerity plan, assumes a contrite air and announces that the country can no longer afford “to live beyond its means”.

Is what is happening at El País emblematic of the economic stagnation in the rest of the country? The crisis which has struck the jewel of the Spanish-speaking press, owned by the PRISA media group, has much in common with the collapse of the country.

Record-breaking indebtedness caused by colossal investments, control in the hands of magnates from the world of finance, little or no concern for the interests of the press, bosses on multi-million euro salaries, summary layoffs which may prove to be counterproductive; “It is a metaphor for what Spain is experiencing today,” remarks Miguel Mora, the newspaper’s Paris correspondent.

Some 129 journalists have now been shown the door. That is close to a third of a total workforce of 466 employees, and the list of those who have been let go includes some of the major names associated with the newspaper. Four local editions of El País (including the Valencian and Andalucian editions) are to be closed down, while the journalists who have escaped the restructuring plan are to have their salaries cut by 15 per cent.

Union fury

The announcement of the “ERE” (a Spanish acronym for a restructuring) prompted a number of violent shocks within the company. For three days in November, virtually all of the staff went on strike, and the newspaper, which is the sole centre-left daily in Spain, had to make do with publishing news agency reports. And the struggle between Cebrian and the committee of journalists formed in response to the restructuring is not over yet…

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

The Sniffer Dog and the Money Mules

Amateur money traffickers on Italian-Swiss border

COMO — The classic hiding place is a lined belt, used mainly by those crossing the border on foot or by train. Some prefer body belts with ultra-thin pockets that swallow up €500 notes. Female mules tuck the cash into their bra or pants, perhaps thinking that financial police will refrain from making intimate searches. But they are wrong. Many of the customs officers are female and the smugglers also fail to reckon with Tango, a money-sniffing Labrador who never misses a banknote.

Housewives, business people, pensioners, shopkeepers and office workers make up the army of amateur mules who take currency into, but also out of, Switzerland, defying financial police controls without recourse to the cars with hidden compartments used by their professional counterparts. Money trafficking is taking on growing proportions. In the past twelve months, financial police officers at the Ponte Chiasso border crossing have gone into action 650 times, intercepting €54.4 million in banknotes (€13 million) and bearer bonds (€42.4 million), and issuing on-the-spot fines for €500,000.

Lieutenant Colonel Alessandro Luchini, commander of the financial police’s Gruppo Ponte Chiasso, points out that “People think that most of the money is going into Switzerland. But that’s not the case. Fifty per cent of the money intercepted is coming into Italy and this year there has been an increase in the overall amount”. On Tuesday alone, officers winkled out €400,000, without the assistance of Tango, who had the day off.

The first victim was a lady from Siena who withdrew €36,000 from a bank in Lugano and hopped onto the Milan train. She was stopped by financial police at the border, where checks brought to light the banknotes that were hidden in her belt. Officers issued her with an on-the-spot fine of €3,900. A few hours later, a mum and her two kids attempted to drive into Italy at Ponte Chiasso. The trio had split among them the €30,000 they had withdrawn from a bank a few metres into Switzerland, convinced that they were in the clear (the limit is €9,999 per person). While customs officials were writing up the fine, plainclothes officers stopped a 45-year-old commercial graphic designer from Brescia who was driving across the border without declaring the €20,000 he had tucked away in his jacket. He had to cough up a €500 fine.

After lunch, a 60-year-old pharmacist from Molise stepped onto the train bound for Italy with €80,430 in large-denomination banknotes crammed into her pants, jacket and bra. “I need the money to pay my taxes in Italy”, she told officers. Then in the evening, officers pulled off the day’s coup. They stopped an Alfa Romeo Giulietta at the Brogeda crossing. At the wheel was a Denmark-based Australian financial adviser whose case contained a carefully folded pair of jeans with €270,500 in undeclared notes. Officers made a precautionary seizure of €130,000 on the spot until the ministry decides what penalty to impose.

Luigi Corvi

20 dicembre 2012 | 13:02

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

Up to 70,000 British Jobs ‘Are at Risk From Brussels Climate Change Law’

Up to 70,000 British jobs are at risk as a direct result of European carbon reduction targets, according to a report.

The policies have pushed up the cost of energy, threatening the vital mineral industries which deal in materials such as cement, chemicals, glass, ceramics and steel, the study claims.

It says the aluminium industry has been ‘virtually eradicated’ after closures in Anglesey and Northumberland, and blames policies which penalise ‘energy-intensive’ industries for emitting too much carbon dioxide.

As a result, firms in such industries, which employ 70,000 people, could be driven abroad where there are less stringent targets, costing jobs on our shores with no overall environmental benefits.

The study by think-tank Civitas claims the only way to save the £400billion-a-year industry is to scrap plans to fine firms which produce too much carbon dioxide.

Ministers should exempt such companies from the climate change levy — a tax on industries which do not use renewable energy — to the maximum extent permitted under EU directives.

And it says the Coalition should abandon its ‘unachievable’ target of generating 20 per cent of electricity by renewable methods by 2020 — the most far-reaching target in the EU.

[Return to headlines]

Vatican Daily Osservatore Romano Endorses Monti

Church appeals ‘to restore noble’ sense of politics

(ANSA) — Rome, December 27 — The Vatican’s daily on Thursday backed caretaker premier Mario Monti’s bid for a second term at the helm of a centrist Catholic coalition. L’Osservatore Romano said Monti had launched “an appeal to restore the highest and most noble sense of politics which is still, also etymologically, care of the common good”. Italian media has commented that the daily paper’s backing is practically a papal endorsement for Monti and a turn away from ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi whose relationship with the Vatican was damaged by an alleged affair with the Moroccan-born belly dancer ‘Ruby’ whom his is reported to have paid for sex when she was 17. The Vatican has said it is “troubled” by the affair, dubbed Rubygate, and the Osservatore Romano wrote last January that it “caused a dent in Italy’s image that will be hard to repair”.

Pope Benedict XVI in his Christmas greeting Tuesday urged Italian voters to keep high values in mind when making choices. The Vatican continues to hold significant sway in Italian politics.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Wilders to Step Up International Anti-Islam Campaign

PVV leader Geert Wilders is to step up his campaign against Islam in 2013, the parliamentarian told Nos television in an interview.

The fight against Islam is a mission for life, Wilders told the broadcaster.

Wilders said he would step up his fight against ‘the biggest sickness’ the Netherlands has had at home and internationally, ‘from Australia to America, from Switzerland to wherever.’

Wilders also again renewed his statement that the Netherlands has a ‘Moroccan problem’. It is Moroccan racism that they rarely rob each other, Wilders said.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Salafist El Nour Party Will Not Abort Beach Tourism

Minister, 10.5 million visitors till November, up 17.4 than 2011

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, December 27 — Salafist El-Nour Party spokesman Nader Bakar denied the party will seek to abort beach tourism in the country, MENA reports. “Beach tourism is a major part of the country’s whole tourism industry, “ Bakar said. “No official can halt an active and important industry like tourism.” Tourism accounted for 10 per cent of Egypt’s economic activity during the final years of the Mubarak era. Egypt’s tourism minister said 10.5 million tourists visited Egypt till end of November of 2012, up 17.4 percent than 2011, injecting 9.37 billion dollars into the economy. According to MENA, Hisham Zazou said there is still a demand on the Egyptian tourist destination but certain measures should be adopted to develop tourism industry. Zazou made the remarks during a meeting with the Egyptian Tourism Federation late on Wednesday that was followed by a national dialogue with political parties in Egypt. He said 25 percent of occupancy in different tourist destinations were lost over the latest political developments in Egypt prompted by the constitutional declaration and the referendum on the new constitution that were met by angry protests and clashes that left some protesters dead. Though December is traditionally considered the start of Egypt’s peak season, many foreigners preferred to stay away because of the televised scenes of protests and clashes on the streets of Cairo in the battle over a controversial constitution. Zazou made clear that services offered to tourists and their quality should not be affected by low prices given to them to encourage them come to Egypt, calling on all staffers in the tourism sector to coordinate with travel agencies to reach suitable price compatible with excellent services they offer. Security, high unemployment rate and declining investments are the most important challenges to tourism sector, he said. He called for improving security, launching many campaigns to promote for Egyptian tourism abroad and facilitating visa procedures for tourists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Islamists Still Have the Upper Hand

The Islamist-dominated Shura Council received the authority to legislate in Egypt until a new lower house of parliament is elected. For lack of other legal means, the opposition pins its hopes on upcoming elections.

Egyptian journalist Ahmed Esmat said the mood among Egyptians was “calm on the surface, but it’s boiling underneath.” But there could be mass demonstrations again soon, he told DW. “It all depends on the Shura Council’s decisions.”

The Shura Council is Egypt’s upper house of parliament. Two-thirds of its 270 members are elected, the others were appointed by President Mohammed Morsi. According to the new constitution signed into law by Morsi on Tuesday (25.12.2012), the Islamist-dominated body is to legislate in Egypt until a new lower house is elected in about two months’ time. Official reports say about 64 percent of the Egyptian electorate voted in favor of the constitution. Voter turnout was a mere 33 percent.

Officially, at least, Morsi has lost part of his power. Following the dissolution of the lower house in the summer by a court order, he had assumed the legislative tasks now delegated to the Shura Council. Esmat said he was convinced the body dominated by Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood will maintain Morsi’s course.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas Holds Rallies in Judea and Samaria: Raising Security Concerns in Knesset Elections

While the PA security is monitoring these rallies, doubtless Israel’s security services may be concerned about rising support in the disputed territories for Hamas and its charter that seeks destruction of the Jewish state. Israel also has to be concerned about the homegrown version of Hamas, the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement whose leader, Sheik Raed Salah has called for the establishment of a mini-Caliphate in Jerusalem. What may also concern Israel is whether the PLO-Fatah/ Hamas marriage of convenience might foster the eruption of possible Third Intifada in the disputed territories. [. . .] The emerging conservative shift may also be reflected in Israeli PM Netanyahu’s campaign message emphasizing dealing with Iran, and the Islamic Republic’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. That campaign message focuses on Israel’s “long arm” reach preventing achievement of Iran’s nuclear weapons program possibly crossing red lines of nuclear enrichment in 2013. So far, the Iranian Islamic Republic has not been deflected by US and EU sanctions, or P5+1 negotiations. This despite reports that Iran’s economy may be in meltdown. This come amidst new reports of another Stuxnet malworm attack on Iran’s commercial oil and uranium processing facilities at Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf. As Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Washington, DC- based Foundation for Defense of Democracy, said on Fox News “Happening Now” yesterday, that US and Israeli resolve to counter Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons must be backed by a credible military option — watch here. That bolsters Netanyahu’s electoral campaign message of putting security first.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Israel Putting Up New Barrier in Golan Heights

Concerns over possible attacks from Syria

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — Construction of a new barrier along the line of demarcation between the Golan Heights (occupied by Israel in 1967) and Syria has been stepped up, according to the Israeli commercial television station Channel 2. The barrier was rendered necessary after decades of calm by several border incidents over the past few months in the Golan Heights. The broadcaster noted that Israel is concerned that Islamic groups working in Syria to bring down Bashar Al-Assad’s regime might in future launch attacks also at Israeli objectives in the Golan Heights. The old border fences are being replaced by a much higher and more solid structure, similar to the one along the border between Israel and Egypt. So far, Channel 2 notes, four kilometres of the barrier have been completed near the Druze city Majdal Shams, the capital of the occupied Golan Heights.

Over the coming months another 54 kilometres will be put up between the zones of 54 Kuneitra (northern Golan) and Mevo Hama, in the south. “The situation is still calm,” Col. Tamir Heiman, military commander of the zone, told the broadcaster. “But we must be ready to deal with even the worst case scenario.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran’s Only Female Cabinet Minister Dismissed

Iran’s president has dismissed the only female minister in his cabinet. Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi was the first and only woman to have held a ministerial position in the Islamic Republic’s 34-year history.

According to Iranian state television, Ahmadinejad sacked his health minister on Thursday, after she called for the price of certain medicines to be hiked. Dastjerdi had proposed the hikes in response to the sharp depreciation of the Iranian currency, the rial, as a result of Western sanctions related to Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

The president, who has sought to downplay the economic effects of the sanctions, had fiercely opposed any price hikes. In a short statement he said he had appointed Mohammad Hassan Tariqat Monfared as interim head of the ministry.

Dastjerdi was appointed in 2009 as the only female government minister to have served since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Trained as a gynecologist, she became an advocate for women’s rights in Iran.

Last month she criticized authorities for failing to provide funds to import vital medicines. She said only a quarter of the $2.4 billion (1.8 billion euros) earmarked for medicine imports had been provided in the current year and there was a shortage of foreign currency for the shipments.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Why is America Midwiving a Muslim Brotherhood-Ruled Syria?

By Andrew G. Bostom

Following significant military [1] successes [2] and diplomatic [3] gains by Syria’s anti-Bashar Assad Sunni Muslim insurgency over recent weeks, Moscow, a key Assad regime ally, announced [2] Tuesday 12/18/12 its preparations for an evacuation of Russian citizens living in Syria.

While the Assad regime’s ruling Alawite minority sect retained a firm hold [2] on their indigenous base in the coastal Syrian provinces, the predominantly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels have seized [2] the northern and eastern border zones, near Turkey and Iraq, respectively, and dominate [2] wide swathes of rural Syria. The continued rebel assault is even advancing on Assad’s seat of power, Damascus, near the western frontier of Lebanon, having just seized [2] the pro-Assad Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, on the southern edge of the Syrian capital.

By Wednesday, the rebels had reportedly [4] captured at least six towns in the central Hama governorate (Latamneh, Helfaya, Kfar Naboudah, Hasraya, Tibat al-Imn, and Kfar Zita), with skirmishes erupting in the city of Hama itself. As of Friday, the Sunni insurgents were besieging [5] Morek, an Alawite stronghold in Hama governorate, a province which contains dozens of Alawite and Christian villages among Sunni towns, igniting fears [5] of increased sectarian violence…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]

Russia

New India-Russia Billion-Dollar Arms Deals Signed

(AGI) New Delhi, Dec 24 — India and Russia have signed weapons and helicopter deals worth several billion dollars, further bolstering ties between the two countries.

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

Putin Says He Will Sign Bill Banning Americans From Adopting Russian Children

President Vladimir V. Putin said Thursday that he will sign into a law a ban on adoptions of Russian children by American citizens, retaliating against an American law that punishes Russians accused of violating human rights and dealing a potentially grave setback to bilateral relations.

[Return to headlines]

Russian Anti-Putin Blogger Navalny Accused of Fraud

(AGI) Moscow — The Russian lawyer and blogger Aleksei Navalny, a leading opposition figure, is facing his third set of criminal charges in five months.

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

Far East

Chinese Satellite Navigation System to Compete With GPS

China’s new Beidou satellite navigation system has started offering services to users across the Asia Pacific region. Beijing hopes the technology will eventually have the potential to compete with the US’ GPS.

China announced on Thursday it had started making services of its own Beidou satellite navigation system available to Asian users outside the country.

The network would offer services including positioning, navigation, time and text messaging to people in the Asia Pacific region, Beidou spokesman Ran Chengqi said during a press briefing.

Beijing expected the satnav system to generate a 400-billion-yuan (48-billion-euro, $63-billion) market for services to the transport, meteorology and telecommunications sectors.

In October of this year, China launched a sixth satellite in 2012 to join an already existing array of navigation technology forming the Beidou network. According to the Global Times newspaper, Beidou will eventually consist of over 30 satellites.

China’s own satnav system is expected to provide global services by 2020, but looks unlikely to completely replace the US’ Global Positioning System (GPS) in the country. Experts said there was a greater likelihood of both systems being used simultaneously.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Korean Unification May Cost South 7% of GDP: Finance Ministry

Unification of the two Koreas could cost the South up to 7 percent of annual GDP for a decade though the South would benefit in various ways such as cheap labour and the North’s resources, South Korea’s Finance Ministry said on Wednesday.

Korea has been divided since the end of World War Two and the Stalinist North and capitalist South have been fierce rivals since the 1950-53 Korean war.

But both Koreas see themselves as the rightful leaders of the Korean people and while there would appear to be no chance of unification in the immediate future, people in both Koreas harbour that hope.

The Finance Ministry said in a report on mid- to long-term policy-making strategy that if the two Koreas unified within the next eight years, South Korea would likely pay from one to seven percent of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) every year for 10 years.

“Unification will contribute to the expansion of the economy’s potential growth through increased labour, investments, production and economic cooperation,” the ministry said in the report.

Seven percent of South Korea’s GDP last year of 1,237 trillion Korean won ($1.15 trillion) would be 86.6 trillion won ($80.62 billion).

The estimates reflect the costs as seen in the short-term, or until 2020.

Though relations between the North, which has twice tested a nuclear device, and the South have been particularly bad over the past few years, they could soon improve.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Jacob Zuma Says Owning a Dog ‘Is Not African’

South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, has declared that having a pet dog is not African, and that black South Africans who buy a dog, take it for walks and to the veterinarian are copying white culture.

Mr Zuma, 70, was speaking at a traditional event in KwaZulu-Natal province, his first public appearance since being re-elected president of the African National Congress a week ago.

He described people who love dogs more than humans as “having a lack of humanity”, Durban newspaper The Mercury reported.

Black South Africans should stop adopting the habits of other cultures, Mr Zuma told an audience of thousands on Wednesday: “Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair you will never be white.”

Mr Zuma, a proud Zulu who adheres to traditional practices such as polygamy, said in an August interview that it was “not right” for women to be single, and that having children is “extra training for a woman”.

In November, he endorsed traditional courts in South Africa, saying that problems should be resolved “the African way, not the white man’s way”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma in Dog Ownership Row

The South African government has sought to clarify remarks by President Jacob Zuma that angered dog lovers. Mr Zuma was quoted as saying at a rally on Wednesday that having pet dogs was part of white — not African — culture. But presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said Mr Zuma was simply warning against loving animals more than humans beings.

He said Mr Zuma’s main message was the need to “decolonise the African mind” in South Africa, where white-minority rule ended in 1994. South Africa’s Mercury newspaper reports that Mr Zuma told thousands of supporters at a rally in KwaZulu-Natal province that people who spent money on buying a dog, taking it to the vet and for walks belonged to white culture. There was also a new generation of young Africans who were trying to adopt the lifestyles of other race groups, Mr Zuma said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Immigration

Italy: Human-Trafficking Charges Brought Against Moroccan Women

Sisters brought teenagers to Bologna, claimed as own children

(ANSA) — Rome, December 27 — Human-trafficking charges have been brought against two sisters from Morocco accused of bringing two teenagers into Italy and claiming them as their children.

Police arrested the two women at the Marconi airport in Bologna after they arrived Wednesday evening on a flight from Casablanca with a boy aged 12 and a girl of about 15.

Police say the women, 37 and 47 years old, produced documents to support their claims that these were their children and all were returning to their home in the northwestern Piedmont region.

Police became suspicious because the photos on the children’s documents didn’t quite match their features.

The women may have been planning to put the children up for illegal adoption, police said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Pope Says Attitude Toward Migrants is Main Moral Question

(AGI) Vatican City, Dec 26 — In his homily during Christmas Eve mass, Pope Benedict XVI focused on migrants and refugees. “The great moral question for us is our attitude toward the homeless, toward refugees and migrants,” he said .

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

Switzerland: Top Businessman Calls for Immigrant Quotas

Rolf Dörig, the chairman of Swiss Life and staffing company Adecco, is calling for quotas on Europeans working in Switzerland to ensure only those needed by the country are allowed in.

Unrestricted mobility of workers between the European Union and Switzerland combined with an “unconditional multicultural attitude” threatens the country’s social stability, Dörig said in an interview with the Nordwestschweiz newspaper.

“Switzerland needs a controlled free mobility (of workers) with the entire world so that we receive the workers we really need,” he said.

Dörig, who is also a member of the executive board of Economiesuisse, an umbrella group for Swiss business, said he did not believe that Switzerland should abandon its freedom of movement of workers agreement with the EU.

But the agreement “should be applied in as restrictive a way as possible within the framework of the existing accord” — and that means quotas, he said.

Switzerland has experienced a strong influx of foreigners into the country since the free movement of persons agreement with the EU came into effect in 2002.

An estimated 75,000 net immigrants are expected in the country this year, while foreigners account for 22 percent of the population.

The population growth has put pressures on housing availability and affordability and driven development in urban areas.

Switzerland cannot continue to expand without curbs freedom of persons deals with other countries and regions of the world, Dörig said.

The danger is, “if we do not succeed in becoming more restrictive on immigration, citizens will sooner or later massively limit Switzerland’s openness to the rest of the world at the polls (in a referendum),” he said.

Unrestricted immigration also threatens, he said, to bring additional costs to the country to pay for extra infrastructure and social plans.

Dörig acknowledged that the Swiss economy has benefited in recent years from the labour mobility deal with the EU…

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

Culture Wars

Denmark: Govt. Wants to Rename Christianity Studies

The government wants to change the name of Christianity classes in schools. Opposition disagrees.

The government’s proposals for a school reform include a proposal to rename the subject Christianity to Religion, although the content of classes will remain the same, according to Kristeligt Dagblad.

“We find ‘religion’ covers the syllabus content better and is more modern. Christianity will still be central to content because we live in a country in which Christianity has been our cultural fulcrum for centuries,” Social Democratic Education Spokesman Troels Ravn tells Kristeligt Dagblad.

“But at the same time we have to modernise the subject because we now have a society in which other religions play a role,” he adds.

Ravn says that the name change is not a main issue in the reform, but will be part of the negotiating process that follows the publication of the government’s reform proposals.

The current government parties have previously suggested a name-change for the subject, with Education Minister Christine Antorini (SocDem) telling Kristeligt Dagblad a year ago that “it is important that the subject is called Religion”.

Centre-right education spokesmen are surprised at the proposal, with Conservative Spokeswoman Mai Henriksen saying she is sceptical.

“It is important for us to keep the original name. It is important because it signals what the subject is about and because it affects the way it is taught,” Henriksen tells Kristeligt Dagblad.

The Danish People’s Party is even more adamant.

“Denmark is a Christian country; Christianity is the foundation of our society and must therefore be weighted most… A name change will send the wrong signal and put all religions on the same footing,” says Alex Ahrendtsen.

FACEBOOK — Follow Politiken’s News in English

Edited by Julian Isherwood

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

Facebook Purges Pro-Gun Accounts

Facebook is purging accounts that carry pro-second amendment and pro-liberty information in a censorship purge that has accelerated over the past few hours, with innumerable pages being disappeared merely for posting legitimate political content.

NaturalNews.com’s Mike Adams contacted us to alert us to the fact that “Facebook banned our account for posting this,” with an attached image of a Gandhi quote about how the British disarmed the citizenry during their rule in India.

The following is a list of Facebook accounts operated by individuals in the alternative media that have been shut down by Facebook staff over the past 24 hours. Infowars writer Aaron Dykes and political dissident Brandon J. Raub have also had their accounts deleted. Raub was snatched by police and forcibly imprisoned in a psychiatric ward earlier this year for posting political content on Facebook. Infowars editor Kurt Nimmo also had his account suspended this morning.

As we have previously highlighted, Facebook occasionally deletes images and posts that it claims violate “Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” yet constitute little more than political conjecture or a healthy skepticism of official narratives on current events.

[Return to headlines]

General

Customized Mass Production Using 3D

Until now, products printed using 3D have mostly been prototypes. But the technology can also be applied to serial production, and is set to revolutionize industry, the nature of production, and consumption.

New components — T-girders and mechanical casings — sit in a heap of powder. The Voxeljet company is printing them using a 3D machine. On the other side of the powder mound, a slider moves back and forth. It’s fitted with an extrusion head, like that of an ink-jet printer, which shoots an adhesive into the powder. This is the way components are manufactured using 3D technology: layer by layer.

The technology for printing components in 3D form has already been available for several years. Until now, it has mainly been used for manufacturing rare or expensive prototypes for the research and development departments of major companies. But the technology has advanced enough to be put to use elsewhere, and is now increasingly being used in serial production. The big advantage of this technique is that each component can still be different, even as part of a series.

All sorts of objects can be printed directly using 3D technology. The most common process involves selective laser melting (SLM), which works in a similar way to the adhesive process described above. First a laser beam fuses the contours of the object into an extremely thin layer of plastic and metal powder. Then the machine pushes fresh powder over it, and the laser melts on another layer. Layer for layer, a new component is created.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20121226

Financial Crisis
» Austerity-Hit Southern Europeans Flock to Switzerland
» Greek Doctors Looking for Jobs in UAE and Sweden
» Italian Olive Oil Production Drops 12%
» Italy Heading Towards ‘Disaster’ If Taxes Not Lowered
 
USA
» Congress, at Last Minute, Drops Requirement to Obtain Warrant to Monitor Email
» Experimental Private Rocket Makes Highest Test Hop Yet
» Toyota Settles Lawsuit Over Impact of Acceleration Recalls
 
Europe and the EU
» German Parliament Denied Access to Inspect German Gold Reserves Due to ‘Lack of Visiting Rooms’
» Germany: Dead Passenger Found Riding in Berlin Underground
» Italian President Commutes Editor’s Libel Jail Term
» Italy: Centre Leaders Endorse Monti Agenda
» Italy: Alleged Berlusconi Pimp Convicted for Puglia Healthcare Scam
» Italy: Rain and Snow in Northern Italy But Sicily Stays Warm
» Italy: Alfano Notes IMU, Income Tax and VAT Rise in Monti Agenda
» Seized Italian Fishing Boat Returns to Sicily
» ‘Straight Out of a Western Film’: European Bison Return to Wild in Germany
» Survey Shows Merkel’s Coalition Now Has 41 Percent Support
» Two Magical Centuries: How the Grimms Cast a Spell on the World
» UK: Thug Who Blinded Student Gets Off With a Reprimand: So What Does it Take to be Jailed for Assault?
» UK: Unique 2,000-Year-Old Roman Theatre Discovered in Back Garden of Archaeological School
 
North Africa
» Egyptian Forces Intercept French Made Rockets in Sinai
» Libya: An Inside Look at Misrata, The City That Won the War
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» David Ha’ivri: Anti-Israel Propaganda Foiled by the Facts
 
Middle East
» As Gaza Simmers, Qatar-Hamas Alliance Comes Under Scrutiny
» Fortress in the Sky: Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam
» Iran Pays Russian Women Working at Nuclear Plant to Wear Hijab
» Joint Saudi-Emirate Operation Uncovers Al Qaeda Cell
» Talking Turkey
» Turkey Increases 24% Lira Use in Foreign Trade
» United Arab Emirates Breaks Up Alleged Terror Cell
» Yemeni Tribal Leaders Asked to Search for Kidnapped Finns
 
Russia
» Russian Senate Approves Law Banning Adoptions by Americans
» Russia Hopes US Will See “Sense” Over Adoptions Row
 
South Asia
» Suicide Bomber Attacks US Base in Afghanistan Killing 3
 
Far East
» China’s New MIRV Ballistic Missile is a Big Deal
» World’s Longest High-Speed Rail Line Opens Connecting Beijing With Southern China
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Erratic Environment May be Key to Human Evolution
» Pirates Hijack Italian Ship Off Nigeria
 
General
» United Nations Global Warming Propaganda Exposed

Financial Crisis

Austerity-Hit Southern Europeans Flock to Switzerland

After losing one public sector IT job and then another in austerity-hit Spain, Thierry Perello decided to seek his fortune in one of the few remaining bright spots on the European map: Switzerland.

“I just didn’t want to stay in Spain anymore. I was really afraid the whole country would go just go up in flames,” the 41-year-old Spaniard told AFP, explaining why he had made his way to Switzerland last August.

While at the heart of a continent plunged in deep crisis, Switzerland is experiencing economic growth and enjoys a mere 3.1-percent unemployment rate, compared to 11.7 percent in the neighbouring eurozone.

“I thought Switzerland was not only a good country for finding work, but also for my kids and their future,” said Perello, whose three- and five-year-old children are still in Spain with their mother waiting for him to find work before making the move.

Perello is not alone. According to Swiss statistics, there has been a recent surge in the number of southern Europeans, especially from Portugal and Spain, settling in the country.

Alberto Gomez, a 36-year-old salesman who moved to Switzerland in May after losing three jobs in Spain over the course of as many years, has a blog for new arrivals from his country that gets more than 1,000 hits a day.

“Everyone says they have come because of the crisis… All the young people want to leave Spain. There are no jobs and virtually no unemployment benefits,” he told AFP.

And while soaring unemployment and slashed benefits have for several years been pushing private sector workers out of hard-hit countries, observers say public sectors that once offered prosperity and lifelong security have become increasingly affected.

“The migration of public sector employees is rising,” Daniel Vaughn-Whitehead, an economist with the UN’s International Labour Organization, told AFP.

“Before, public sector employees were well-protected and they had higher wages… They had life-long employment. Now that is not the case,” he said.

In fact, “the picture emerging (in many European countries) is quite shocking,” he said, describing how “austerity packages” have led to employment cuts and wage cuts across public sectors, including healthcare and education.

In a report in September, the ILO for instance mentioned the case of a 50-year-old Portugese woman, only identified as Ana B., who had taken one-year leave from a good job as a secretary at a government agency in Porto to work as a cleaning lady in Switzerland.

Although the shift was tough in terms of falling social status and comfort levels, she said she received more than double the pay, which allowed her to pay off bills back home.

“I would certainly rather stay at home,” she confided, “but I want my son to be able to graduate from university.”

Perello meanwhile is staying with a friend on the French side of the border as he looks for work in Switzerland, since “it is too expensive to live in Geneva when you’re unemployed.”

Yet he dreams of settling in the wealthy Alpine nation with his family.

“Switzerland has a very participatory democracy. There is a lot of transparency in politics… I would like to live in a place like that,” he said, adding that in Spain, “we feel like we’re being had every day.”

“There is no future in Spain,” agreed Gomez, who is living with his brother in Geneva while he looks for work.

He said he had immediately thought of Switzerland when he decided to leave his home country, “because everyone knows there is work in Switzerland (and) because the salaries are so much higher there than in other countries.”

According to a report published by Swiss bank UBS in September, Zurich and Geneva are two of the cities with the highest salaries and the best purchasing power in the world.

Vaughn-Whitehead said Switzerland is definitely one of the most attractive destinations for austerity-hit Europeans.

“There is such a gap between the average wage in Switzerland and for instance Portugal now that it really motivates migration,” he said.

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

Greek Doctors Looking for Jobs in UAE and Sweden

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 24 — A growing number of Greek doctors, seeing their pay cut constantly and sometimes going unpaid for months by the government, are heading abroad to practice medicine and make a living. Britain, Sweden and many other rich European countries as well as United Arab Emirates (UAE) are some of the countries of their list as GreekReporter website writes. This year especially, with more austerity measures being imposed and affecting all professionals, doctors are giving up on Greece and leaving their homeland. One of the favored destinations is Dubai, where jobs abound and where many rich Europeans and Arabs visit to receive high quality medical care and services. According to an announcement released by the Medical Association of Athens, in recent months more than 300 doctors and dentists have filled applications to move abroad in countries such as the UK, Sweden and the UAE. In 2011, the Medical Association of Athens issued 1,500 certificates to residents (doctors in training) in order to work abroad and the first six months of 2012 there were more than 1,000.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italian Olive Oil Production Drops 12%

Production costs jump 38% in 12 years, trade bodies say

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21; Italian olive oil production is set to fall 12% in the 2012-2013 season to just under 4.8 million tonnes compared with 5.5 million last season, according to data released on Friday by a group of trade associations. Production costs have increased some 38% in the past 12 years, whilst prices remained weak, a situation which ate into producers profits, the Ismea, Aifo, Cno and Unaprol bodies said.

The decline in volume was the result of bad weather this year, including droughts and high temperatures and floods.

The regions of Puglia and Calabria, which together make up almost two thirds of total production, have respectively lost 12% and 15% of their production this season. Sicilian oil production gained 5%. Tuscan production was little changed whilst that of Lazio fell 3%.

Production in the Marche region gained 15% whilst that in the regions of Liguria and Lombardy jumped 20%. The Veneto region, meanwhile, suffered a 30% decline.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Heading Towards ‘Disaster’ If Taxes Not Lowered

Berlusconi says that Monti’s agenda is like a ‘lesson’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi said on Monday that taxes needed to be lowered and an unpopular housing tax scrapped in Italy to avoid a “disaster”.

Speaking on the Italian news program Tgcom24, Berlusconi said that caretaker premier Mario Monti’s insistence that the country cannot afford to eliminate the property tax, or IMU, that was reintroduced with his administration reforms was “devoid of any foundation and far from true”. Italy amended its property tax code in December as part of an austerity package to restore health to the country’s public finances.

Berlusconi’s 2008-2011 government abolished a similar tax.

Berlusconi has often said that his party, People of Freedom (PdL) will abolish IMU.

Monti posted an agenda of reforms on the Web Sunday after saying he might lead forces who endorse it in Italy’s upcoming general election.

“I have not read Monti’s agenda, I have been busy, but my team has explained it to me,” Berlusconi said in the interview. “The agenda has made clear that our fears were well founded and that it is driven by more austerity and taxes. There are no innovative elements, just the vision of a professor teaching a lesson,” Berlusconi said.

The technocratic premier brought in last November amid turmoil in the financial markets to replace Berlusconi is an economics professor and European commissioner.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA

Congress, at Last Minute, Drops Requirement to Obtain Warrant to Monitor Email

The federal government will continue to access Americans’ emails without a warrant, after the U.S. Senate dropped a key amendment to legislation now headed to the White House for approval.

Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amendment attached to the Video Privacy Protection Act Amendments Act (which deals with publishing users’ Netflix information on Facebook pages) that would have required federal law enforcement to obtain a warrant before monitoring email or other data stored remotely (i.e., the cloud).

The Senate was set to approve the video privacy bill along with the email amendment, which would have applied to a different law, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. But then senators decided for reasons unknown to drop the amendment.

Currently, the government can collect emails and other cloud data without a warrant as long as the content has been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more. Federal agents need only demonstrate that they have “reasonable grounds to believe” the information would be useful in an investigation.

[Return to headlines]

Experimental Private Rocket Makes Highest Test Hop Yet

A privately built rocket prototype that could lead to a completely reusable spaceflight system has passed its biggest test yet — a 12-story hop and smooth landing.

The experimental reusable rocket, called the Grasshopper, made its highest and longest flight yet on Dec. 17, marking the prototype’s third successful test by the private spaceflight company SpaceX.

In the latest test at SpaceX’s proving grounds in MacGregor, Texas, the Grasshopper rocket flew for 29 seconds and reached a height of more than 130 feet (40 meters). A video of the Grasshopper test flight shows the rocket soaring up into the Texas sky, then smoothly descending to land on four spindly legs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Toyota Settles Lawsuit Over Impact of Acceleration Recalls

Toyota Motor said on Wednesday that it would spend $1.1 billion to settle a sweeping class-action lawsuit by owners of millions of vehicles that were recalled for problems with unintended acceleration.

The agreement, filed in federal court in California, was called one of the largest product-liability settlements in history.

If the agreement is approved by the court, Toyota would compensate current and former owners for loss of value on vehicles recalled because of faulty floor mats and other conditions that could cause sudden acceleration.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

German Parliament Denied Access to Inspect German Gold Reserves Due to ‘Lack of Visiting Rooms’

German Federal auditors handed in a report slamming the Bundesbank for not inspecting their foreign held gold reserves to verify their book value. The report says the gold bars “have never been physically checked by the Bundesbank itself or other independent auditors regarding their authenticity or weight.” Instead, it relies on “written confirmations by the storage sites.” The lion’s share of Germany’s gold reserves (nearly 3,400 tons estimated at $190 billion) are housed in vaults of the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of France since the post-war days, when they were worried about a Cold War Soviet invasion. The Bundesbank stated, “There is no doubt about the integrity of the foreign storage sites in this regard”.

In contrast with best industry practices Germany’s gold reserves do not seem to be independently verified by a third party. Philipp Missfelder, a politician from Merkel’s own party, has asked the Bundesbank for the right to view the gold bars in Paris and London, but the central bank has denied the request, citing the lack of visitor rooms in those facilities, German’s daily Bild reported.

The Bundesbank won’t let German parliament members inspect the German gold vaulted abroad because the central bank vaulting facilities supposedly lack “visiting rooms.” And yet one of those vaults, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, offers the public tours that include “an exclusive visit to the gold vault”.

[Return to headlines]

Germany: Dead Passenger Found Riding in Berlin Underground

(Reuters) — A 65-year-old man thought to be sleeping while sitting upright on a Berlin underground train as it cross-crossed the German capital was actually dead, police said on Sunday.

“It’s tragic,” a Berlin police spokeswoman said. “We don’t know how long he was sitting dead on the train nor do we know the exact cause of death yet. There are no indications of foul play. He seems to have died of natural causes.”

The man was found in the U-8 underground train line that runs all night at the Weinmeisterstrasse station at 5:45 a.m. when a rail worker tried wake the man up by gently shaking him. Medics were called in but could only pronounce the man dead.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italian President Commutes Editor’s Libel Jail Term

Napolitano called for ‘better balanced’ legislation

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21 — Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday commuted a controversial 14-month jail term handed to newspaper editor Alessandro Sallusti. The case has provoked widespread alarm about the fact that it is possible for an editor to go to prison for libel in Italy.

“By commuting the prison sentence, the president intended to remedy an evidently delicate situation prompt a reflection to achieve better balanced legislation,” read a statement by the president’s office. A court in September ruled the editor of Silvio Berlusconi’s family’s daily Il Giornale was guilty of printing libellous remarks made by an anonymous reader about a judge in Libero, the right-wing paper he edited in 2007.

The comments concerned a ruling to grant a 13-year-old the right to have an abortion.

A bill in parliament to change the law so that this is no longer possible was rejected in the Senate following amendments that meant it would have still been possible for journalists to be sent to prison for defamation .

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Centre Leaders Endorse Monti Agenda

Montezemolo, Casini, Riccardi hold summit

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Centrist Italian business and political leaders expressed full support for outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti’s reform agenda after reviewing the document in a summit on Monday. The group consisted of Ferrari Chairman Luca de Montezemolo, Minister of International Cooperation and Integration Andrea Riccardi — a member of Premier Mario Monti’s technical cabinet and the founder of the Sant’Egidio Catholic activist and crisis-resolution association — and the head of the small centrist Catholic UDC party, Pier Ferdinando Casini.

The leaders of the “new centre” had already expressed full support for Monti’s Sunday speech, in which the technocrat premier delivered a two-hour account of progress made over his tenure, and stated his intention to promote a platform rather than his own candidacy — without ruling out standing if enough support was mustered — in upcoming elections slated for the end of February.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Alleged Berlusconi Pimp Convicted for Puglia Healthcare Scam

Gianpaolo Tarantini gets 4 yrs, 3 mths for bribery

(ANSA) — Bari, December 24 — A Puglia businessman accused of recruiting escorts for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s sex parties was on Monday convicted of bribing officials in the southern Italian region for healthcare contracts.

Gianpaolo Tarantini, whom Berlusconi is also accused of paying to hush up the alleged procurement, received a jail term of four years and three months.

Also convicted was the former deputy regional governor of Puglia, Sandro Frisullo, who got two years and eight months.

Frisullo is a former member of the centre-left Democratic Party, which has a 15-point lead over Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party going into the February 25-25 general election.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Rain and Snow in Northern Italy But Sicily Stays Warm

(AGI) Rome , Dec 26 — Italy is split with temperatures of 20 degree centigrade in Sicily but rain and snow lashing the north.

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

Italy: Alfano Notes IMU, Income Tax and VAT Rise in Monti Agenda

(AGI) — Rome, Dec 26 — Mario Monti’s agenda is: “One agenda, three certainties: IMU [town tax], income tax and a rise in VAT,” said PDL Secretary Angelino Alfano on Twitter.

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

Seized Italian Fishing Boat Returns to Sicily

(AGI) Palermo, Dec 24 — The Italian fishing ship, Flori, which was seized on Oct. 7, arrived in the harbour of Mazara del Vallo in Sicily on Monday morning.

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

‘Straight Out of a Western Film’: European Bison Return to Wild in Germany

For the first time since the 18th century, the European bison is returning to Germany to live in the wild. The wisent, as it is also known, has been brought to the country by a famous prince. Although the creatures’ survival is uncertain, the project has already attracted considerable attention.

With nothing but spruce trees for entire square kilometers at a time, this managed forest isn’t exactly what you would call a wilderness. Nevertheless, the forest, together with its ponds and meadows, provides shelter to many a rare species.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Survey Shows Merkel’s Coalition Now Has 41 Percent Support

(AGI) — Berlin, Dec 26 — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU coalition has increased its support by three points to 41 percent of voters, the highest level since March 2006, according to a survey reported by Stern magazine on Wednesday.

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

Two Magical Centuries: How the Grimms Cast a Spell on the World

Exactly 200 years ago, the Grimm brothers published the first edition of their fairy tales. Many of the originals were brutal and there was no lack of blood, gore and carnality. But thanks to a bit of clean-up work, they have gone on to enrapture people around the world. What is the secret to their success?

Once upon a time, two centuries ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm set out to gather folk stories for posterity. Little did they know that the collection of tales they published would become one of the most widely read works in history, capturing the popular imagination around the world for generations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Thug Who Blinded Student Gets Off With a Reprimand: So What Does it Take to be Jailed for Assault?

The father of a student blinded in one eye in an unprovoked attack by a teenager yesterday condemned police for letting him go with just a telling-off.

The latest shocking example of ‘soft justice’ occurred after Matthew Noblett, 20, intervened to protect a female friend who was being verbally abused by a gang of teens.

One lashed out at him, resulting in horrific injuries which caused his right eyeball to deflate. Despite a five-hour operation involving 170 stitches, his sight could not be restored, and he may lose the eyeball altogether.

The father of a student blinded in one eye in an unprovoked attack by a teenager yesterday condemned police for letting him go with just a telling-off.

The latest shocking example of ‘soft justice’ occurred after Matthew Noblett, 20, intervened to protect a female friend who was being verbally abused by a gang of teens.

The let-off emerged days after figures revealed that more than 500,000 criminals have been given cautions for serious crimes — including almost 8,000 violent assaults — in the past 15 years.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Unique 2,000-Year-Old Roman Theatre Discovered in Back Garden of Archaeological School

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Roman theatre — dating back 2,000 years.

Dr Paul Wilkinson, founder of the Kent Archaeological Field School, believes it is the first of its kind to be found in Britain.

The theatre with a nearly circular cockpit-style orchestra, which would have seated 12,000 people. It was found in Faversham, Kent — just behind Dr Wilkinson’s back garden where his field school is based.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Forces Intercept French Made Rockets in Sinai

The Threat Matrix blog of the Long War Journal had as report about Egypt intercepting 17 French Made rockets near El Arish in the Northern Sinai, “Egyptian forces intercept 17 rockets headed for Gaza.” The SNEB 68 MM (Multi-Dart) rockets can be launched from aircraft or helicopters. Could the rockets have originated in Libya where they may have been part of the Gaddafi arsenal that been raided in the past to smuggle weapons to Hamas in Gaza? Or was it part of the Bedouin smuggled arms shipment from Iran via the Sudan? Live Leak had a report on December 12, 2012 showing an SNEB 68 MM (Multi-Dart) rocket fired by Syrian Islamist opposition forces clearly heard shouting “allahu alkbar”. Perhaps the SNEB rockets fired by Free Syrian Army militias may have been liberated from Syrian Air Force caches.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Libya: An Inside Look at Misrata, The City That Won the War

‘Lybian Stalingrad’ wants to move forward. An ANSA reportage

(by Stefano Polli) (ANSAmed) — MISRATA, DECEMBER 21 — Misrata’s wounds will heal eventually, but right now they’re still visible to the naked eye. They are visible in the wrecked, gutted, violated buildings along Tripoli Street, the long avenue bisecting the city where the last, decisive battle for the liberation of the so-called Libyan Stalingrad took place, in May 2011.

They are visible in the eyes of its residents when they talk about the new road Misrata has taken, one that looks forward to life and to the future: the gleam of hope mingles quickly with expressions of sadness and rage when talk turns to the past, to the two long months of siege and blood, in which the bombs of the infamous Khamis Brigade, led by one of Gaddafi’s sons, dictated the times of life and death.

“Welcome to Misrata” it says in fresh paint on the bridge just before the dusty highway junction taking travelers towards the “martyred city,” which lies 190 kms from Tripoli. There are also hundreds of flags from the new Libya — three stripes in red, black and green, with a crescent moon and a star, representing the post and the pre-Gaddafi Libya — and, littering the roadside, the carcasses of about 50 tanks: these were Gaddafi’s, and were wiped out by NATO air strikes carried out mostly by French Mirage warplanes.

At the entrance to the city, where a checkpoint is held by callow youths sporting Kalashnikovs, the old and the new appear to superimpose. A Japanese car dealership displays its brand-new wares in white, uniform rows, followed by ruined buildings interspersed with newly-built ones, construction workers fixing a facade, two pick-ups with machine guns at a couple of street corners, three home appliance stores spreading their wares on the sidewalk, kids running happily in a playground.

Halfway down Tripoli Street, facing the remains of two blackened, bombed-out buildings, is the Museum of the Revolution. It documents the battle of Misrata, which lasted from February 17-May 15, 2011, and which analysts said was the battle that won the war against Gaddafi. Here are the anti-personnel mines that killed dozens, the Libyan army rifles and weapons, and, most importantly, the exhibit of 1,400 photos of “martyrs” of the anti-Gaddafi revolution. While the exact death toll is not known, at least 1,700 insurgents are estimated to have lost their lives in what was the longest and bloodiest battle of the Libyan civil war.

The museum gives visitors an unsparing look at the realities of the conflict. There are pictures of the dead, with their horrifying wounds and indescribable mutilations. There is a picture of a boy with bandaged eyes, blinded in the conflict, pushing a legless soldier in a wheelchair.

“One is useful to the other, and vice versa. They are fated to go on together,” comments one of the museum guides, who is an ex-combatant. Misrata is a city that wants to move forward, but without forgetting the past. It is also having a hard time trusting: security is a big issue here, the pick-ups with machine guns are on constant patrol, and people will need more time before they can truly feel and digest the fact that normality has been restored.

The situation here is nowhere near that of Cyrenaica, the eastern coastal region of Libya, where Salafist and other extremist Islamic groups with more than one link to al-Qaeda are taking advantage of a flawed security system to act with impunity: the prime example being the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and other staff members were killed.

Cyrenaica and its turmoils seem far away. That is where the uprising against Gaddafi began, but it was won here in the Libyan Stalingrad, which is just now coming back to life.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

David Ha’ivri: Anti-Israel Propaganda Foiled by the Facts

Social media, university campuses and newspapers around the world overflow with statements by self-proclaimed “human rights activists.” They tweet day and night, labeling Israel as a racist apartheid state which discriminates against Arabs based on their ethnic background.

They call Israel’s security barrier an “apartheid wall,” in spite of the fact that both Jews and Arabs live on both sides of it. They call roads in Judea and Samaria “apartheid roads,” in spite of the fact that both Jews and Arabs drive on them freely. They call on Jewish residents of the region to move out, while at the same time, they accuse Israel of racist policies. Is there a better definition of hypocrisy and lies? From their disinformation, you would never learn that Israel manages constant security threats from internal and external terrorist operations. Israel goes to great effort to ensure security considerations don’t affect the lives of the civilian population, regardless of those citizens’ ethnic affiliation.

This past week, Jerusalem witnessed a new level of this hypocrisy. Egyptian blogger/dissident Maikel Nabil came to Israel to give a speech at the Hebrew University. This invitation, in itself, should challenge to the racism claim. But there is more. Nabil, who has been jailed in Egypt for being a conscientious objector, when asked by the press if he came to Israel in support of Netanyahu, said that on the contrary he “came to Israel to convince people not to vote for Netanyahu.” He refused to be interviewed by Israel’s army radio, posting to his Twitter timeline: “I refused to give interview to IDF Radio today; I want soldiers to leave the army and become farmers and artists.” If you think that that might put into question claims that Israel limits freedom of expression to Arabs who oppose its policies, consider the following.

News services reported that Palestinian students at Hebrew University staged a protest against Nabil’s talk there. They heckled his speech by shouting out that he brings shame on the Egyptian revolution by calling for peace with Israel. So much for the “apartheid” claim. It turns out that during the time Palestinian students achieve their academic accreditation at Israel’s flagship university (while enjoying Israeli subsidies for their studies), they are free to not only openly criticize the policies of the State of Israel, but to openly mock those who call for peace between Israel and the Arab states…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

Middle East

As Gaza Simmers, Qatar-Hamas Alliance Comes Under Scrutiny

Among the many billboards that line Gaza’s grim seafront is a prominent image of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani seated alongside Hamas’ Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Underneath is the phrase: “Shukran Qatar” (Thank You Qatar).

This picture appeared two months ago, taking the place of a serious photo of the then recently elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, the man who turned the Arab Spring into real political leadership.

Earlier this week, as the families in the northern Gazan city of Beit Lahiya huddled in the gym of the Rimal School to take shelter from Israeli air raids, their longterm future appeared ever more to be in the hands of Qatar. Since the end of October, when the ambitious Qatari Sheik became the first Head of State to officially visit Gaza, the Palestinians have begun to realize the swiftness of the decline of the political, ideological and financial influence of Iran, until recently a seemingly existential ally to Gaza.

“Before the Arab Spring, there were two camps in Gaza,” political analyst Yalal Okal begins to explain over the roar of an Israeli F-16. “On one side, the moderates; and on the other was the front of Iran, Qatar, Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, sustained by Libya and Algeria.”

The 2011 popular uprisings across the Arab world shuffled the cards again. “Libya and Algeria took autonomous roads, Syria is in chaos, Egypt put itself as the guide of change. So Hamas and Qatar need to reposition themselves,” says Okal.

At least judging from the enormous posters and graffiti of Yasser Arafat and Hamas founder Sheikh Yassin back in Doha, as well as the pro-Palestinian coverage from Qatari-owned Al Jazeera, Qatar is committed to Hamas.

In 2009, after the failed attempt to accommodate the various Palestinian factions, the Sheikh opened a diplomatic office in the Gaza City neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa, an elegant building with the Qatari flag flying overhead. Still, without the investment promise of $400 million to Gaza and a check of $10 million for injured Palestinians, the impression is that the people here aren’t really enthusiastic about the extravagant Qatari.

Trust issues

“At the meeting with the Sheikh, there were Hamas leaders, but all the other parties were missing: Fatah, PFLP, Islamic Jihad,” confides a businessman who prefers to remain anonymous. “I was invited to the dinner, but I gave an excuse. The soft power of Qatar can conquer the minds but not the hearts of the Palestinians.”…

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

Fortress in the Sky: Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam

Archeologists are studying the ruins of a buried Christian empire in the highlands of Yemen. The sites have sparked a number of questions about the early history of Islam. Was there once a church in Mecca?

The commandment “Make yourself no graven image” has long been strictly followed in the Arab world. There are very few statues of the caliphs and ancient kings of the region. The pagan gods in the desert were usually worshipped in an “aniconic” way, that is, as beings without form.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Iran Pays Russian Women Working at Nuclear Plant to Wear Hijab

Iran is paying female Russian technicians working at the Bushehr nuclear power plant to wear the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab.

An Iranian lawmaker has griped that female Russian technicians working at the Bushehr nuclear power plant are not respecting the country’s dress code despite being paid to wear the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab.

Seyyed Mehdi Mousavi Nejad, a member of parliament from Dashtestan in the southern Bushehr Province, said that while female Russian employees working at the nuclear power plant receive a “hijab payment”, they do not fulfill their “commitments” or “properly observe” what is required by their contracts, the ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

He alleged that female workers often appear in markets and streets without the hijab or with a “poor hijab”, adding that he is unaware of how much money is being paid or how many female technicians are employed at the site.

One day after the report, however, Iran denied the claims that it is paying the employees to wear the traditional headscarf, the Fars news agency reported.

“Based on the reports we got from our local office and the governor’s office in Bushehr, hijab payment for Russian women is absolutely not true,” Hassan Ghashghavi, deputy foreign minister in charge of consular affairs, was quoted as saying.

“There is no mention of such issue in the contract between Russia and Iran’s atomic energy organization or any local contracts. There is no hijab payment to the Russian women nor to any foreigner working in Iran,” he stressed.

Ghashghavi added that the Russian women adhere to the “moral codes and norms of the religious people of Bushehr.”

Russia took over as the main contractor at Bushehr in the 1990s.

All women in Iran, regardless of their nationality or religion, are required to cover their hair and much of their body, in accordance with strict Islamic laws.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Joint Saudi-Emirate Operation Uncovers Al Qaeda Cell

(AGI) Dubai — A joint Saudi-Emirate operation has uncovered a terrorist cell linked to al Qaeda. The cell had obtained “materials and equipments with the aim of executing terrorist operations” according to a report from the WAM agency in the UAE. Those detained were reportedly both UAE and Saudi nationals and were members of what was termed a “deviant group” ..

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

Talking Turkey

by Daniel Pipes

The menu for meals on my Turkish Airlines flight earlier this month assured passengers that food selections “do not contain pork.” The menu also offered a serious selection of alcoholic drinks, including champagne, whiskey, gin, vodka, raki, wine, beer, liqueur, and cognac. This oddity of simultaneously adhering to and ignoring Islamic law, the Shari’a, symbolizes the uniquely complex public role of Islam in today’s Turkey, as well as the challenge of understanding the Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish abbreviation, AKP) which has dominated the country’s national government since 2002.

Political discussions about Turkey tend to dwell on whether the AKP is Islamist or not: In 2007, for example, I asked “what are the AKP leadership’s intentions? Did it … retain a secret Islamist program and simply learn to disguise its Islamist goals? Or did it actually give up on those goals and accept secularism?”

During recent discussions in Istanbul, I learned that Turks of many viewpoints have reached a consensus about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: they worry less about his Islamic aspirations than his nationalist and dictatorial tendencies.

Applying the Shari’a in full, they say, is not a feasible goal in Turkey because of the country’s secular and democratic nature, something distinguishing it from other Muslim-majority countries (except Albania, Kosovo, and Kyrgyzia). Accepting this reality, the AKP wins ever-greater electoral support by softly coercing the population to be more virtuous, traditional, pious, religious, conservative, and moral. Thus, it encourages fasting during Ramadan and female modesty, discourages alcohol consumption, attempted to criminalize adultery, indicted an anti-Islamist artist, increased the number of religious schools, added Islam to the public school curriculum, and introduced questions about Islam to university entrance exams. Put in terms of Turkish Airlines, pork is already gone and it’s a matter of time until the alcohol also disappears.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Turkey Increases 24% Lira Use in Foreign Trade

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, DECEMBER 24 — The use of Turkish Liras in foreign trade increased 24% in the first 10 months of the year compared with the same period in 2011, reaching USD 11.1 billion. Lira use in exports was the main driver of the trend, with trade with Germany and Iran leading the transactions. The lira was used in USD 3.7 billion of Turkey’s total USD 126.3 billion exports in the January-October period, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute data gathered by Anatolia news agency. The total value of liras used in exports was USD 2.9 billion for the same period last year, so the amount has risen 31%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

United Arab Emirates Breaks Up Alleged Terror Cell

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced the arrests of several UAE and Saudi Arabian citizens who are suspected of planning terror attacks. Saudi Arabian authorities assisted with the arrests.

Wednesday’s announcement from UAE’s official WAM news agency said that a “cell of deviant people from both countries” had been arrested.

A “deviant group” is a term used in Saudi Arabia to describe people affiliated with al Qaeda.

“(The suspects) were planning to carry out operations harmful of national security of the two countries and some other sisterly states,” WAM reported. There was no mention of how many people had been arrested.

The station added that the suspects had “imported material and equipment with the aim of committing terror acts.”

Prosecutors in UAE are expected to question the suspects ahead of a trial.

Unlike many of its Arab neighbors, UAE has been spared attacks by al Qaeda in the past. Earlier this year, authorities there detained around 60 Islamists who were thought to pose a threat to state security and have ties to foreign groups.

The United Arab Emirates comprises seven sheikdoms and is known for its oil wealth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Yemeni Tribal Leaders Asked to Search for Kidnapped Finns

Officials in Yemen have asked local tribes for help in the search for a Finnish couple and an Austrian man who were kidnapped in Sanaa on Friday.

Top officials of the Yemeni Interior Ministry have met with tribal leaders in the areas around the capital to ask for help in finding the three Westerns abducted by gunmen on Friday.

Despite a major search by government forces, the location of the three is still unknown. According to unconfirmed reports, their captors are demanding a ransom of 4-7 million dollars for their release.

An Interior Ministry representative told the Yemen Post on Wednesday that the local tribes could be a help in the search because “tribal leaders have their eyes in most of the area “.

The official declined to give any information about possible progress in finding the hostages. He did say, however, that the Yemeni authorities so far do not have precise information on where the three are being held.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Russia

Russian Senate Approves Law Banning Adoptions by Americans

(AGI) Moscow, Dec 26 — The Russian Senate has approved a law banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens which has already been passed by the Duma.

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

Russia Hopes US Will See “Sense” Over Adoptions Row

(AGI) Moscow, Dec 24 — Russia has let it be known that it hopes “good sense” will prevail in its dispute with America over adoptions.

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

South Asia

Suicide Bomber Attacks US Base in Afghanistan Killing 3

(AGI) Kabul, Dec 26 — A suicide car bomber attacked a US base killing three Afghans in the city of Khost in eastern Afghanistan.

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

Far East

China’s New MIRV Ballistic Missile is a Big Deal

During the nuclear honed days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union developed a uniquely dangerous missile able to strike anywhere in the U.S.

Loaded with multiple maneuverable warheads (MIRVs), while carrying decoys and chaff to keep from getting struck down, the technology undermined the entire balance of power between the two superpowers and struck fear into hard hearts at the Kremlin and the Pentagon alike.

It was a difficult era, fraught with When China successfully tested its DF-31A missile several days ago, it confirmed another country now has proven nuclear ability reach any city in the U.S. with precisely the type of missiles that troubled the U.S. decades ago.

The DF-31A is believed to have three warheads per missile and a range of about 7,000 miles, which allows it to target anywhere in the U.S. While that ability isn’t new, China’s CSS-4 has that capability as well, that missile requires a stationary launch pad and contains but one nuclear warhead.

[with help from Clinton by allowing export of guidance technology.]

[Return to headlines]

World’s Longest High-Speed Rail Line Opens Connecting Beijing With Southern China

BEIJING, China — China on Wednesday opened the world’s longest high-speed rail line that more than halves the time required to travel from the country’s capital in the north to Guangzhou, an economic hub in southern China.

The opening of the 2,298 kilometre (1,428 mile)-line was commemorated by the 9 a.m. departure of a train from Beijing for Guangzhou. Another train left Guangzhou for Beijing an hour later.

China has massive resources and considerable prestige invested in its showcase high-speed railways program.

But it has in recent months faced high-profile problems: part of a line collapsed in central China after heavy rains in March, while a bullet train crash in the summer of 2011 killed 40 people. The former railway minister, who spearheaded the bullet train’s construction, and the ministry’s chief engineer, were detained in an unrelated corruption investigation months before the crash.

Trains on the latest high-speed line will initially run at 300 kph (186 mph) with a total travel time of about eight hours. Before, the fastest time between the two cities by train was more than 20 hours.

The line also makes stops in major cities along the way, including provincial capitals Shijiazhuang, Wuhan and Changsha.

More than 150 pairs of high-speed trains will run on the new line every day, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the Ministry of Railways.

Railway is an essential part in China’s transportation system, and the government plans to build a grid of high-speed railways with four east-west lines and four north-south lines by 2020.

The opening of the new line brings the total distance covered by China’s high-speed railway system to more than 9,300 km (5,800 miles) — about half its 2015 target of 18,000 km.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Erratic Environment May be Key to Human Evolution

At Olduvai Gorge, where excavations helped to confirm Africa was the cradle of humanity, scientists now find the landscape once fluctuated rapidly, likely guiding early human evolution.These findings suggest that key mental developments within the human lineage may have been linked with a highly variable environment, researchers added.

Olduvai Gorge is a ravine cut into the eastern margin of the Serengeti Plain in northern Tanzania that holds fossils of hominins — members of the human lineage. Excavations at Olduvai Gorge by Louis and Mary Leakey in the mid-1950s helped to establish the African origin of humanity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Pirates Hijack Italian Ship Off Nigeria

Three Italians taken hostage along with another crewmember

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Pirates hijacked a tug crewed by three Italians and another man whose nationality is unknown off the oil-rich southern Nigerian region of Bayelsa Sunday, the Italian foreign ministry said Monday. Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi is personally following the case and the ministry’s crisis unit is monitoring developments “carefully”, it said, with the safety of the hostages the top priority.

Contacted by ANSA, the ministry said the ship was the Mv Asso Ventuno, owned by Naples-based Augusta Offshore. The pirates hijacked the tug on Sunday about 40 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast.

Hijackings of ships are frequent in Nigerian waters but unlike Somali pirates who always hold crews for ransom, their Nigerian counterparts are usually more interested in the cargo. According to the International Maritime Bureau, no crew member was harmed while the ship was steered ashore without being damaged.

The Nigerian navy said a search for the four crewmembers had started immediately.

Last year Nigeria and neighbouring Benin began joint naval patrols in an effort to combat the threat of pirates.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

General

United Nations Global Warming Propaganda Exposed

A new study published by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has concluded that the impact of Global Warming on Earths natural resources is much less than predicted and is in fact responsible for improving plant growth and development.

The study argues that the United Nations has lied to the public about claims that current temperature levels and changing precipitation patterns are beginning to stress Earth’s natural and agro-ecosystems by reducing plant growth and development.

The study also argues that the United Nations has misled the public with its claims that the world needs to drastically reduce the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content because crops will fail, food shortages will become commonplace, and many species of plants (and the animals that depend on them for food) will be driven to extinction.

[Return to headlines]

News Feed 20121225

Financial Crisis
» Barack Obama ‘Eager’ To Fall Off Fiscal Cliff, Says Senior Republican Senator
» Chilling Economic Report Strikes Fear Into CEOs
» Christmas: Greece: Traditions Respected, In Spite of Crisis
» European Markets Decline Amid U.S. Fiscal Cliff Concerns
» Greek Exodus Abroad in Search of Work
» Italy: Monti Ready to Give ‘Leadership’ To Next Government if Necessary
» Italy May Sell Less Debt in 2013, Finance Ministry Says
» Italy: Europe: Conflict of Interest, Cuts, Growth Top Monti Agenda
» It’s Not a “Fiscal Cliff” … It’s the Descent Into Lawlessness
 
USA
» A Son of Anarchy Returns
» Caroline Glick: Hagel, Obama and the Israeli Elections
» Legal Gun Owners in New York Outed Like Sex Offenders
» Tawana Brawley Found 25 Years After Rape Hoax
 
Europe and the EU
» Census Finds Italian Residents Are 43 Years Old on Average
» France: 40% of French ‘Understand’ Depardieu’s ‘Exile’
» France: Muslims Hail Mohammed Merah as “A Hero”: “He’s a Martyr of Islam”
» Germany: Ancient Bloodletting Practice Making a Comeback
» Greece: Some Companies Duck the Property Tax
» Italians Spend 10% More on Christmas Feasts
» Italy Lags Behind EU Countries in Research Spending
» Italy: Xmas Weather Split Between Cold North and Warm South
» Italy: Deputy Senate Speaker Among Lombardy Funding Probe Suspects
» Italy: Berlusconi Attacks Monti on Sunday TV Program
» Italy: Berlusconi Voices Epp’s ‘Leftist’ Monti Fears
» Italy: Monti Launches Twitter Account to Push Economic Agenda
» Italy: Berlusconi Promises to Repeal Property Tax on First House
» Italy: Face-Off Between Berlusconi and Fini: “Nightare”, “Mayhem”
» Sweden: Brussels: Hands Off Our Snus!
» UK: Suspect Charged With Attempted Murder After Woman Was Attacked in the Street With 2ft-Long Samurai Sword
 
Mediterranean Union
» Italy FM Working for EU Funds to Med Nations
 
North Africa
» 50,000 Muslims Led by Sword-Wielding Men March Through Christian Areas, Shouting Egypt is “Islamic, Islamic, Despite the Christians”
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Gaza Militants Violated Laws of War, HRW
» Netanyahu Tweets in Arabic to “Intensify” Dialogue
 
Middle East
» Russian Troops Man Assad’s Anti-Aircraft Defenses
» Suliman: ‘Al Jazeera Plays the Piper, But Qatar Calls the Tune’
» Syria: Orthodox Patriarch Urges Christians to Remain
» Syria Warns Swedes: Don’t Join Rebels
 
Russia
» Putin Says Russian Passport for Depardieu ‘A Done Deal’
 
South Asia
» A Dark Christmas for Pakistani Christians
» Afghan Police Officer Kills Five Colleagues
» Afghan Taliban Raise Bounty on UK Prince Harry’s Head
 
Far East
» Chianti Gets a New Name for Chinese Market
 
Australia — Pacific
» Female Circumcision is a Right, Says Imam
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Mali: Islamists Take Pickaxes to Timbuktu’s Ancient Mausoleums
 
Immigration
» Migrants Take Italy’s Population Up to 59.4 Million
» We’re on Our Way to Britain: A Year From Now Up to 29m Bulgarians and Romanians Will Have the Right to Settle in Britain and Claim Benefits.
 
Culture Wars
» Netherlands Against Quota of Women for Companies
 
General
» How Blasphemy Laws Are Stifling Free Expression Worldwide
» ‘Muslim Comedian’ Is an Oxymoron
» The Rise and Possible Fall of SMS Text Messaging

Financial Crisis

Barack Obama ‘Eager’ To Fall Off Fiscal Cliff, Says Senior Republican Senator

President Barack Obama has been accused by a senior Republican of being eager to take the US over the fiscal cliff for political gain, as Washington edges closer to a year-end deadline with no deal in sight.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Senator John Barrasso, the third-highest ranking senator in the GOP, suggested that the president “sensed victory at the bottom of the cliff”.

Earlier, Obama called on Congress to “cool off” over the holiday break, amid rising rhetoric on both sides. On Friday, the White House raised the prospect of settling for a stopgap measure to avert the punitive tax rises and swingeing spending cuts which are due to come in effect on 1 January. The president had previously pushed for a grand compromise to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

[Return to headlines]

Chilling Economic Report Strikes Fear Into CEOs

The CEO said he had been reading a new paper from Boston Consulting Group headed “Ending the era of Ponzi finance”. The lessons he had taken from it were miserable.

The West was not going to find its way to the right economic path with a little tweaking at the edges, the CEO said. What is needed is a wholesale overhaul of the economic system to tackle record levels of public and private debt. Was anyone brave enough to do it, he wondered aloud.

I asked him to send me the report. He did.

The BCG study by Daniel Stelter which is doing the rounds of corporate C-suites does not pull its punches. In fact, its punches are really just a softening-up exercise for a barrage of kicks and painful blows aimed at anyone who thinks that kicking the can down the road is a suitable substitute for radical action.

At the heart of the analysis is the issue of debt. A report by the Bank of International Settlements, the study notes, found that the combined debts of the public and private sector in the 18 core members of the OECD rose from 160pc of GDP in 1980 to 321pc in 2010.

[Return to headlines]

Christmas: Greece: Traditions Respected, In Spite of Crisis

Ancient rites, traditions revisited for holidays celebrations

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 24 — In spite of the economic crisis battering the country, Greeks are ready to celebrate Christmas, each according to his or her means. Cities and villages are decked out as people dust off deeply rooted customs in an attempt to forget their daily problems, at least for a few days. Mairi Panagakou, an expert in popular Greek cuisine and traditions, told Ana-Mpe news agency about some little-known rites. In some parts of Greece, people sing “Ta Kalanta” (the calends), or nursery rhymes with religious content. They are named after the January calends, when friends and relatives exchange visits and gifts of honey, dried figs, dates, and small coins.

On Christmas day at dawn in the central Greek region of Thessaly, village girls go in silence to the nearest fountain to “steal mute water”. The girl who reaches it first, will be the luckiest in the coming year. Having “stolen” the water, they spread butter and honey on the tap so that well-being will run through their homes just like water does. They add three pebbles and a briar leaf to the water in their pitcher, symbolizing optimism, good news and protection against evil, and return home in silence. There, every family member must drink the “mute” water. Whatever is left over, is spread in the four corners of the house, along with the three pebbles. Also in Thessaly, upon returning home after church on Christmas day, boys put cedar branches on the fire and girls, wild cherry branches. These represent youthful hopes for a happy life. The branch that burns first is of good omen to the person who placed it there, as it predicts a marriage will take place soon.

In some villages near the northern city of Edessa, on Christmas Eve, villagers take a piece of wood from a tree with a female name and another from one with a male name, preferably a thorny plant such as briar, and place them together in the chimney in a “marriage by fire”. The way the wood burns determines the weather and the harvest in the coming year.

According to popular tradition, thorny plants chase away evil spirits. On the island of Crete, women prepare “Jesus’ bread” (Christopsomo), a blessed bread that will sustain the entire family in the year to come. The women sit around the dough made out of the best flour and rose water, honey, sesame, cinnamon and cloves, singing religious songs as they wait for it to rise.

Then they make a cross-shaped incision, placing a walnut in its center to symbolize fertility. The head of the family then blesses the bread, slices it and distributes it around as Jesus shared bread with the apostles.

In Macedonian villages a few days before Christmas, the head of the family, generally a man, searches the fields for a large piece of olive or pine wood, while his wife cleans the old ashes out of the chimney and the vent, thus preventing any evil spirits from descending into the house. On Christmas Eve, the head of the family places the wood in the fire, where it will burn slowly through to the Epiphany. Tradition has it that this slow-burning “Christmas wood” (Christoxylo) provides heat for baby Jesus in the manger, while its ashes will protect the house and land from evil. On the small northern Aegean island of Skiathos, old people say that beginning on December 1, evil spirits begin preparing their ship to sail to the island, leaving on Christmas Eve and arriving on Skiathos on Boxing Day. From Christmas to the Epiphany, the islanders stay indoors at night to avoid being deafened by the chattering spirits. But the day before the Epiphany they leave the island in hurry, to avoid being burned by the priest’s holy water.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

European Markets Decline Amid U.S. Fiscal Cliff Concerns

Milan, London, Paris, Frankfurt drop, Madrid bucks the trend

(ANSA) — Milan, December 21 — Markets fell across Europe on Friday, paced by Milan’s FTSE MIB index, as investors shied away from markets after a key vote relating to the upcoming budget talks was cancelled. The cancellation of a vote allowing an increase on high-income taxes means US congress is not slated to vote on the end-of-year budget for the world’s largest economy after the Christmas festivities. This leaves US authorities little time to draw up an accord ahead of the $600 billion of tax hikes and public spending additions that will be automatically executed from January. Italy’s FTSE MIB index fell 0.4 % to 16,333 points. The yield spread between 10-year Italian bonds and the German benchmark state debt, a barometer of Italy’s borrowing costs in the eurozone crisis, closed at 310 points with 10-year yields at 4.5%.

The Frankfurt Dax bourse dropped 0.4% to 7,640, while the Paris Cac 40 Index declined 0.2% to 3,661 points. London’s Ftse-100 stock market fell 0.3% to 5,939 points. Madrid’s Ibex index bucked the trend, gaining 0.1% to 8,272 points.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greek Exodus Abroad in Search of Work

49% of the working population looking to emigrate

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 21 — With September unemployment hitting a record 26% high (55.4% among those aged under 25), 49% of Greeks are looking for work abroad, according to a survey released Friday by Adecco employment agency. The survey of 400 respondents showed 39% are unemployed, 48% have a job, and 13% work part-time. Of the total, 30% said at least one family member is looking for work overseas; 36% said they are doing so because of difficulties re-entering or entering the Greek job market for the first time, and 29% said they want to move because they feel they have no future at home while the recession lasts. Of those considering the expat life, 70% said they want to find work in a “developed” European country like France, Germany or the UK. Another 45% said they would consider other “developed countries” such as Australia and the US, and 12% said they are looking for work in the Middle East.

The Adecco findings are echoed by a recent University of Thessaloniki survey, showing that a vast majority of Greek expats and aspiring emigrants are under 25, and that they are looking for work in countries including Australia, China, Iran, and Russia. The elements holding them back, according to the survey, are fear of the unknown and attachment to the family.

Now in its fifth consecutive recession year, the Greek economy will contract by 4.5% by year’s end and unemployment will rise, according to a central bank December 3 forecast. Families have been especially hard-hit due to government-imposed austerity measures, such as tax hikes and wage cuts, dictated by the country’s international creditors, while scores of small and medium businesses have failed throughout the country, leaving thousands out a job.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Ready to Give ‘Leadership’ To Next Government if Necessary

Participation depends on coalition’s ‘commitment to reforms’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Italian Premier Mario Monti said on Sunday that he would would be ready to “give advice, encouragement and if necessary leadership,” to the future government.

Monti underlined that for now he is not siding with any party but his possible participation in the upcoming administration depended on the coalition’s commitment to reforms outlined in his agenda published online Sunday.

The premier, who resigned on Friday after the key vote on the 2013 budget law in parliament, urged Italian parties not to destroy what his government had achieved to “overcome the financial emergency”.

Monti and his administration of technocrats was sworn in after Silvio Berlusconi quit as premier last November when Italy’s debt crisis was threatening to spiral out of control. He has passed painful austerity measures of tax hikes and spending cuts to put the country on track to balance the national budget.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy May Sell Less Debt in 2013, Finance Ministry Says

Public debt guidelines document released on Friday

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21; Italy may sell a lesser amount of state debt in 2013 than in 2012, the Italian Finance Ministry said on Friday. The ministry publication ‘Guidelines for the Management of Public Debt in 2013’ released on Friday citing a lesser need to replenish its state coffers as well as the lengthening of the average lifespan of its debt.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Europe: Conflict of Interest, Cuts, Growth Top Monti Agenda

Caretaker PM offers agenda to parties he could lead

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Boosting growth along with Europe, cutting taxes and political costs, and resolving the conflict of interest that has dogged public life since media magnate Silvio Berlusconi won power in 1994 were among the priorities set by caretaker premier Mario Monti in an agenda he posted on the Web Sunday after saying he might lead forces who endorse it in Italy’s upcoming general election.

Changing Italy, Reforming Europe was the title of the keenly awaited agenda posted on the specially created site www.agenda-Monti.it.

It was accompanied by a letter to Italians in which the economist and former European commissioner, credited with saving Italy from a Greek-style crisis in a 13-month term dating from Berlusconi’s enforced resignation in November 2011 to Berlusconi’s withdrawal of support earlier this month, urged political parties to follow up on the structural reforms his emergency technocrat government achieved, including to the pension system and in two other areas where his moves were watered down: the labor market and deregulation.

He also called for a radical overhaul of Italy’s expensive political system and much-criticised electoral system as well as stiffer protection against misuse of public funds, in the wake of a string of scandals, in a manifesto whose slogan was ‘Less Caste, Fewer Costs’.

Here are the main points of the agenda, which also proposes a minimum wage and a tax on large portfolios of property and assets:

– EUROPE: Monti underscores the need to build a “more integrated” European Union, “against all populism” and with “more solidarity” between stronger and weaker members.

Italy “must fight for a more inter-governmental, more united Europe” and against members making moves “at various speeds”.

To count more in Europe and boost Rome’s credibility, he stresses, “there is no need to bang the table”. With this approach, he says, Italy can ask Europe for more “growth-oriented policies” after the austerity that is improving finances but deepening recessions in Greece, Spain, Italy and other peripheral members.

– GROWTH: Growth cannot be achieved by increasing Italy’s public debt, which at 126% of GDP is the second highest in the eurozone after Greece’s. Monti reiterates the goal of balancing the budget in structural terms in 2013 and cutting debt by one twentieth per year starting in 2015.

– TAXES: Cutting debt “makes it possible to cut taxes” on labour and business. Levies on large property and asset portfolios and luxury goods will help balance the books.

– DEREGULATION: Monti, a pro-competition trust-buster during his time at the European commission, urges further moves to “intensify the opening of markets” and make the civil service more efficient by better-targeted spending. Spending reviews must become permanent.

– BUSINESS: Negotiation of labour contracts must become “decentralised” and no longer confined to deals at the national level. Energy costs must be cut and firms’ access to credit facilitated. The level of foreign investment in Italy must be raised to the EU average.

– LABOUR: The Monti government’s reforms to the labour market to make hiring and firing easier must be preserved, and improved by further simplification and concentrating on getting young people working, with incentives for employers who hire under-30s.

– FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY: Monti envisages “minimum” benefits for job seekers or those who have lost their jobs as long as they take training courses.

– ELECTORAL LAW: the “first act” of the next parliament must be a reform of the electoral law to allow voters to pick their MPs rather than voting candidates selected by party bosses.

– ‘THE CASTE’: With the slogan, ‘less caste, fewer costs,’ Monti proposes a drastic reduction of public funding to parties and caucuses, with an obligation to have transparent budgets and a ceiling on private contributions.

– TAX EVASION AND CORRUPTION: “Zero tolerance for corruption, tax evasion and off-the-books activities”. Monti advocates stiffening laws on fraudulent accounting and beefing up punishment for bribery and corruption. The statute of limitations on these crimes should be shortened.

– CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Monti calls for “more robust norms to prevent conflicts of interest”

– STOPPING CRIMINALS FROM STANDING FOR OFFICE: One of the last laws passed by his government, preventing those with definitive convictions of two years or more from standing for office, must be strengthened with “more stringent” norms.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

It’s Not a “Fiscal Cliff” … It’s the Descent Into Lawlessness

The “fiscal cliff” is a myth.

Instead, what we are facing is a descent into lawlessness.

Wikipedia notes:

In many situations, austerity programs are imposed on countries that were previously under dictatorial regimes, leading to criticism that populations are forced to repay the debts of their oppressors.

Indeed, the IMF has already performed a complete audit of the whole US financial system, something which they have only previously done to broke third world nations.

Economist Marc Faber calls the U.S. a “failed state”. Indeed, we no longer have a free market economy … we have fascism, communist style socialism, kleptocracy, oligarchy or banana republic style corruption.

Let’s look at some specific examples of our descent into lawlessness. Lawless Looting and Redistribution of Wealth

The central banks’ central bank — the Bank for International Settlements- warned in 2008 that bailouts of the big banks would create sovereign debt crises … which could bankrupt nations.

That is exactly what has happened.

The big banks went bust, and so did the debtors. But the government chose to save the big banks instead of the little guy, thus allowing the banks to continue to try to wring every penny of debt out of debtors.

Treasury Secretary Paulson shoved bailouts down Congress’ throat by threatening martial law if the bailouts weren’t passed. And the bailouts are now perpetual.

Moreover:

The bailout money is just going to line the pockets of the wealthy, instead of helping to stabilize the economy or even the companies receiving the bailouts:

  • Bailout money is being used to subsidize companies run by horrible business men, allowing the bankers to receive fat bonuses, to redecorate their offices, and to buy gold toilets and prostitutes
  • A lot of the bailout money is going to the failing companies’ shareholders
  • Indeed, a leading progressive economist says that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”
  • The Treasury Department encouraged banks to use the bailout money to buy their competitors, and pushed through an amendment to the tax laws which rewards mergers in the banking industry (this has caused a lot of companies to bite off more than they can chew, destabilizing the acquiring companies)

And as the New York Times notes, “Tens of billions of [bailout] dollars have merely passed through A.I.G. to its derivatives trading partners”.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

In other words, through a little game-playing by the Fed, taxpayer money is going straight into the pockets of investors in AIG’s credit default swaps and is not even really stabilizing AIG.

Moreover, a large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks (and see this). And so did a huge portion of the money from quantitative easing. Indeed, the Fed bailed out Gaddafi’s Bank of Libya), hedge fund billionaires, and big companies, but turned its back on the little guy.

[Return to headlines]

USA

A Son of Anarchy Returns

[See url for entertaining story…]

So that was it — the point is though that my old self came to the fore, and I felt good. Throughout, and afterward too. I felt like my old self again. That was a good feeling — oh yes. But it also reflected my philosophy of life nowadays too. I take no sh*t from anyone, under any circumstances, ever. Life’s too short to bend the knee to anyone.

Especially some silver-spooner like David Cameron or that closet muslim sitting in the White House…

Of course if the idea of Barry O rogering you over the kitchen table appeals to you, then I have nothing to say to you. But for all morally sane people, here’s what I think after seeing two of my friends die of cancer recently and spending a year in and out of hospital myself: Each of us has an obligation to ourselves to find out the truth about the world we live in, and to use that knowledge to make the best moral choices we can. In the most profound philosophical sense, that is what freedom is, and that is what our freedom is for.

That means that each of us needs to take the time to educate ourselves about what islam actually teaches, to consider whether its doctrines are compatible with our own hard-gained freedoms and to study the history of the islamic religious movement in order to see what it’s current adherents will try to do in the future. And having done that, we each need to act, to the best of our ability, in order to preserve our own freedom, our own religion, and our own way of life…

[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Hagel, Obama and the Israeli Elections

Today the National Journal reported that Obama is reconsidering his decision to appoint Chuck Hagel Secretary of Defense. As I wrote in my previous post, there is no chance that Obama will appoint a supporter of a strong Israel to any senior foreign policy post because he wouldn’t appoint someone who doesn’t share his basic animosity towards Israel. But in Hagel, he chose someone even more outspoken in his animus towards the Jewish state than Obama.

Hagel’s looming appointment provoked angry responses from many leading Jewish voices in the US. Whether this opposition made a difference in driving Obama to reconsider his choice is unclear. Plenty of other influential groups — including senators, members of the military and lobbyists for homosexual rights — expressed their discomfort and opposition to the prospect of having Hagel serve as Defense Secretary. Still it is notable that Hagel’s possible appointment sparked an outcry among prominent American Jews and that this outcry had some unknown impact on Obama’s possible decision to cancel Hagel’s appointment.

If Obama indeed scuttles Hagel’s elevation to Defense Secretary, it shows that it is possible to fight Obama on foreign policy even in his second term, and win, at least sometimes. This is important information for Republicans, American Jews, and the Israeli government.

Obama will have multiple, massive domestic challenges to contend with in his second term. If he wishes to focus on advancing his domestic agenda, he may well punt on foreign affairs.

The US President’s inbox is always overflowing. One of the hardest things for a president to do is take control over his own agenda…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]

Legal Gun Owners in New York Outed Like Sex Offenders

Corporate media website posted names and addresses of pistol permit holders in three counties.

[Return to headlines]

Tawana Brawley Found 25 Years After Rape Hoax

Her silence is deafening.

Twenty-five years after the spotlight first glared on Tawana Brawley — a black woman who as a teen claimed she was raped by a gang of white men, smeared with feces and stuffed in a garbage bag — she’s desperately struggling to stay hidden from public view.

“I don’t want to talk to anyone about that,” Brawley, 40, said recently after The Post found her in Hopewell, Va., where she lives in a neatly kept brick apartment complex with signs warning of video surveillance cameras.

By all appearances, her life — so chaotic a quarter-century ago — now seems normal…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Census Finds Italian Residents Are 43 Years Old on Average

People are younger in south

(ANSA) — Rome, December 19 — Italian residents are, on average, 43 years old, Italian statistics agency ISTAT announced on Wednesday, citing findings of the 2011 Italian census.

Aging of the population is particularly noticeable in the Liguria region, which includes Genoa, and in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the Italian region located next to the Slovenian border.

The average age of residents in these two regions is 48 and 46, respectively. People are younger — an average of 42 years old — in the southern regions of Calabria, Puglia and Sicily, as well as in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige. The youngest average age is found in the southern region of Campania, which includes Naples and has an average age of 40.

In Tuscany, Umbria, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, the average age is 45 years old.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

France: 40% of French ‘Understand’ Depardieu’s ‘Exile’

Govt weighing measures to tax expats

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — According to an IFOP survey conducted for Le Figaro, 40% of the French (mostly from the right end of the political spectrum) side with Gérard Depardieu, saying they “understand” his preferring to move to Belgium to pay fewer taxes. On the other hand, 35% (mostly from the left and of an older generation) say they are “shocked” by this self-imposed exile for fiscal purposes. “This behaviour shows a link with the country that varies according to generation,” noted Jérome Fourquet, head of the IFOP opinion poll department. “Older people have a more demanding view of rights and duties towards one’s own country.” Moreover, 8 out of every 10 French citizens say that “given the difficult economic situation in France”, it is “legitimate to ask the richest part of the population to put forth greater effort”, but for most of them is is “understandable” that some might opt to move abroad. Fourquet went on to say that “the figures seen in the survey highlight a form of solidarity of the upper middle classes with the wealthiest to protest against taxes which they are consider intolerable.”

In recent statements to the press, Depardieu said that he had paid 85% of his income on taxes in the year about to end. The figures are difficult to verify, but should be attributed not only to the tax on wealth in force for a number of years but also to the “special wealth contribution” introduced by the Avrault government for 2012.

Meanwhile, today the government has put forward the idea of taxing expats. Budget Minister Jérome Cahuzac spoke of this idea as a “way to prevent those deciding to live outside of France from enjoying exemption from the fiscal burdens that they have towards the country in which they were born, raised and educated, and oftentimes made their fortune — a country to which these people owe much and from which it seems wrong to want to escape from to avoid paying taxes.” Cahuzac concluded by saying that “President Francois Hollande has suggested revising fiscal conventions, and I believe that this is the only way to prevent expatriation for tax-related reasons.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

France: Muslims Hail Mohammed Merah as “A Hero”: “He’s a Martyr of Islam”

Under Islam, a mass murderer who opens fire on children in their classrooms in a martyr and a hero.

If Adam Lanza had said the shahada before he died, he’d have been hailed as a hero in a large part of the world. If they could dance in the streets of Gaza (and Queens, NY) on 911 ……

Muslims in neighborhood of Toulouse jihad mass murderer: “Mohammed Merah, you know, he’s a hero, he’s a martyr of Islam” Jihadwatch

We’re always told that the Vast Majority of Muslims abhors and rejects violent jihad. Yet again and again we see stories like this one. Apparently Les Izards is full of misunderstanders of Islam. “Neighborhood Is Torn Over a Killer’s Legacy,” by Scott Sayare in the New York Times, December 19 (thanks to Block Ness):

TOULOUSE, France — In the spring, shortly after her son’s murder, Latifa Ibn Ziaten took a taxi to Les Izards, a hard-up immigrant neighborhood here, hoping to understand. She approached a group of young men to ask, “Do you know Mohammed Merah?”

Mr. Merah, a 23-year-old French-Algerian who claimed to have ties to Al Qaeda, had killed Ms. Ibn Ziaten’s son Imad, a sergeant in the French Army, with a gunshot to the head. Before dying in a police raid in March, Mr. Merah admitted that killing and those of two other soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children. He spent much of his short life in Les Izards.

“Mohammed Merah, you know, he’s a hero, he’s a martyr of Islam,” the men said, Ms. Ibn Ziaten recalled. “You haven’t seen what it’s like to live here?” they continued, gesturing toward their neighborhood of beige housing projects and gravelly concrete. “At least he showed the French what power is.”

[Return to headlines]

Germany: Ancient Bloodletting Practice Making a Comeback

Old medical practices, like bloodletting, are typically seen as reminders of a time when the human body was misunderstood. But some of these practices are now being revived — with scientific backing.

Scientists at the Charité Hospital in Berlin recently undertook a clinical study to test the benefits that bloodletting can have on obese people suffering from the metabolic syndrome, with symptoms including high blood pressure, high blood-sugar levels and excessive iron in their blood.

After withdrawing two vials of blood from patients with the syndrome, scientists compared the samples with patients from a control group, according to head researcher Andreas Michalsen. They noticed “a significant reduction of blood pressure” among the participants after four to six weeks, he told DW.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece: Some Companies Duck the Property Tax

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 24 — While working Greeks are lining up to pay a doubled property tax being put into their electric bills, critics are arguing that some businesses and the wealthy are avoiding it as GreekReporter website writes. The levy is being called a “haratsi,” after a Turkish tax that was hated by Greeks during the Ottoman Occupation. The tax is being collected under the threat of having power turned off for non-payment and the Public Power Corporation (PPC) is reporting shutting off the lights for thousands of households each month.

Trade unions are charging that favored businesses are paying a lower rate or not paying at all and being protected by government interests. Among those getting favorable rates, it was reported, was SKAI TV, whose management said it was due to an oversight. While officials of the major opposition party the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) have demanded answers, the government said it is doing its utmost to collect revenues and is acting fairly.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italians Spend 10% More on Christmas Feasts

2.5 billion euros spent on food and wine — Coldiretti-SWG

(ANSAmed) — Rome, December 24 — Italians will feast on 2.5 billion euros worth of food and drink for the combined meals of Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch, according to figures released Monday by Coldiretti and SWG, a food business association and a polling company, respectively. The figure represents a 10% increase over last year.

The study found 92% of Italians are spending the holiday with friends or relatives. Roughly 3% of Italians plan to to to a restaurant or tavern, while 1% will seek out regional Christmas specialties at a rural hospitality option known as an agriturismo. Most meal-preparing respondents — a total of 59% — said they would put Italian-made ingredients on their tables.

Fully 23% said they were sticking to locally-sourced products.

Organic food will grace the tables of 11% of the responding cooks, while 18% sought out deals and discounts. Traditional Italian Christmas options like lentils, seasonal fruit, Italian sparkling wine and cotechino — a sausage-like, fatty pork dish — have increased in popularity by 14%, 15%, 20% and 8%, respectively over last year.

Xenophile options like unseasonal or imported fruit are down. Plans for pineapple, caviar and champagne fell by 3%, 2% and 1%. Italians are not only showing loyalty to locally produced versions of the Italian Christmas bread panettone, but also resurgent interest in obscure local holiday-breads or dishes like the panone di Natale in Emilia Romagna, piccilatiedd in Basilicata, the panpepato in Umbria, and the rintrocilio in Abruzzo.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Lags Behind EU Countries in Research Spending

Istat reports that Italy spent less than 20 million euros 2009

(ANSA) — Rome, December 18 — Italy has been one of the most sluggish spenders on research in the European Union, the national statistical agency Istat said Tuesday.

Italy spent the equivalent of 1.26% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) on research, compared with an EU average of 2.01% of GDP, according to 2009 data compiled by Istat in a chapter of its “Research, Innovation and Technology Information Italian Statistical Yearbook 2012”.

Overall in 2009, Italy invested just 19.209 million euros on research, including funding from business, public institutions, non-profit institutions and universities.

Italy wasn’t the worst at research investments: following it were Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania and Latvia. Among investment leaders were Finland, Sweden and Denmark, which were all well above the EU average, with investments of more than 3% of GDP.

The average investment of around 3% of GDP were made by Germany and Austria, followed by France, Belgium and Slovenia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Xmas Weather Split Between Cold North and Warm South

(AGI) Rome, Dec 24 — The weather in Italy over Christmas will be divided between 20 degrees in Sicily and the chilling effect of fog in the Po Valley in the north.

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

Italy: Deputy Senate Speaker Among Lombardy Funding Probe Suspects

Rosi Mauro long linked to Northern League ex-leader Bossi

(ANSA) — Milan, December 20 — Deputy Senate Speaker Rosi Mauro of the regionalist Northern League is among the 62 people under investigation for suspected misuse of public funds, judicial sources said Thursday.

Mauro is a long-time confidante of League founder and former leader Umberto Bossi, who stepped down after a funding scandal earlier this year.

Prosecutors said only four of the regional councillors elected in 2005 and 2010 for the Northern League and its ally, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, were not under investigation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Attacks Monti on Sunday TV Program

Swipes at Fini and Ingroia, too, then threatens TV host

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Italian ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi brutally retaliated on Sunday against criticism voiced by Italian Premier Mario Monti in a Rome press conference earlier that day. “I had a nightmare…Monti again in Palazzo Chigi, (Gianfranco) Fini in the sewers, (Antonio) Ingroia in charge of justice,” Berlusconi said on the RAI television program Domenica In. The one-liner pierced the idea of Monti occupying government headquarters once more — a prospect Monti said on Sunday he would consider if invited back. Monti’s tenure as the head of Italy’s technical government was interrupted this month when Berlusconi used his influence to undermine the government’s political majority and declared he would run again for premier. Days later, Berlusconi said he would withdraw if Monti would head up a centrist coalition. This autumn, Berlusconi has vacillated publicly between seeking Monti’s leadership as an ally and spurning Monti when he declined.

On Sunday, Monti said he had “difficulty” following the “linearity” of Berlusconi’s thinking recently. In his televised comment, Berlusconi also cut down his former coalition-ally Gianfranco Fini, who broke ranks with the former Berlusconi-led government, but remained president of the Chamber of Deputies after Berlusconi was forced to resign in November 2011. Antonio Ingroia is an Italian prosecutor and constitutional editorialist who asked for the indictment of one of Berlusconi’s long-term collaborators, senator Marcello Dell’Utri, among roughly a dozen figures in an investigation into alleged mafia association by the state. Ingroia has since transferred from the Palermo court to Guatemala for a year to spearhead a United Nations investigation into drug-trafficking. Later in the television transmission, Belusconi threatened to walk off the program because program host Massimo Giletti interrupted with too many questions for Berlusconi’s liking.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Voices Epp’s ‘Leftist’ Monti Fears

(AGI) Rome — In statements issued on Sunday, Berlusconi pointed to Monti’s likely political future as lying with third-way parties .

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

Italy: Monti Launches Twitter Account to Push Economic Agenda

(AGI) Rome — Are you interested in Prime Minister Mario Monti’s programme? All you have to do is go to agenda-monti.it.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Promises to Repeal Property Tax on First House

(AGI) Rome — Silvio Berlusconi told CNBC TV he would repeal IMU, or the tax on a first home, at the first cabinet meeting .

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

Italy: Face-Off Between Berlusconi and Fini: “Nightare”, “Mayhem”

(AGI) Rome — “Last night I had a nightmare and I woke up screaming; there was another Monti Government with Ingroia Justice Minister” ..

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

Sweden: Brussels: Hands Off Our Snus!

Aftonbladet, Expressen

The proposed revision of the European directive on tobacco, presented on December 19 in Brussels, has provoked strong reactions in Sweden. In effect, the text upholds the prohibition on tobacco for oral use, or snus, which is highly popular with Swedes, declaring that “health warnings” similar to those imposed on cigarette packets must be visible on the boxes, and also keeps in place the prohibition against adding flavours. Although Sweden benefits from a exemption from the ban on producing and selling snus, it still cannot export the product — the flagship of its tobacco industry.

Aftonbladet accuses the Swedish government of failing to protect the exemption on snus, “occupied as it has been in trying to get permission to export,” under pressure from the tobacco lobby.

Fredrik Reinfeldt will now go down in history as the prime minister who has taken their snus away from the Swedes. If Swedish politicians want more success in the future, they must change their strategy. The priority must be the protection of the Swedish exemption. The desire of the tobacco industry to open up new markets must drop into second place.

In Expressen the philosopher Lars Gustafsson attacks the “authoritarian language of the European Commission”, which wants to dictate “what flavour snus will have and to where it will be exported.” It is even, he says, “a crucial issue for democracy…. But that is not the issue.” He writes —

It is no longer a philosophical question about whether an organisation incapable of coming up with a coherent policy to stop global warming should intervene in how consumers in member states should take their snus. No. What matters is to tell Barroso [President of the European Commission] that he is nothing more than a lackey. And that he cannot ignore our trade minister, who, unlike him, does have democratic legitimacy. Where does Barroso draw his legitimacy from?

“Pierre Schellekens is the head of the European Commission office in Stockholm. And he takes snus”, the daily writes in its editorial

M. Schellekens will soon be sending a report to Brussels on the growing scepticism in Sweden towards the EU and the negative image of the EU bureaucrats who want to regulate our snus in detail and prohibit its flavouring.

In many ways, European cooperation is a fantastic invention. But it is precisely this type of stupid proposal that erodes popular commitment to the Union — this outstanding incapacity to distinguish between big and small matters.

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

UK: Suspect Charged With Attempted Murder After Woman Was Attacked in the Street With 2ft-Long Samurai Sword

A man has been charged with attempted murder after a woman was attacked with a samurai sword.

Ahla Timofei, 25, of Marylebone, central London, was charged today with two counts of attempted murder.

He will appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court tomorrow. Police were called to Holloway Road early yesterday to find the woman bleeding heavily on ground.

Detective Superintendent Steve Wallace said: ‘This was a vicious unprovoked stranger attack on a defenceless woman and if it had not been for the officers bravery and quick thinking the woman and other members of the public could have been killed.

‘It takes a very brave officer to tackle a man who you know wants to inflict serious injuries to you with a samurai sword.

‘Courage such as this is above and beyond the call of duty and I can’t commend the officer highly enough.

‘The fact that the officer was unarmed and alone when he tackled the man only underlines his bravery.

[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy FM Working for EU Funds to Med Nations

For 2014-2020, anti-terrorism and clandestine immigration

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) and Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi (R) at the Ambassadors Conference in Rome

(ANSAmed) — ROME — France and Italy are working so that, from the EU within the 2014-2020 Financial Framework, “the allocation of resources in quantitative and qualitative terms will be consistent with the importance that the Mediterranean holds in the EU.” This was said by Italy’s foreign minister Giulio Terzi during a meeting at the Italian foreign ministry with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius. “Italy and France share the need to relaunch partnership policies with third countries, beginning with the southern Mediterranean,” Terzi said. “Many expectations have been placed in the ability of these countries to consolidate their young democracies and cooperate with the European Union for more effective anti-terrorism and anti-clandestine immigration activities.” The minister also underscored, however,the awareness that these expectations are actively supported by the EU. “Our joint efforts have also resulted,” said Italy’s foreign policy chief, “in an agreement as part of the group for reflection on the Mediterranean, which has made it possible to identify strategic initiatives in which to entrust the ambitious task of a global Euro-Mediterranean partnership, in part through such experiences as that of the Union for the Mediterranean.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

50,000 Muslims Led by Sword-Wielding Men March Through Christian Areas, Shouting Egypt is “Islamic, Islamic, Despite the Christians”

More of Obama’s catastrophic foreign policy failures. And still the enemedia covers up this historical, epic failure as democracy! Arab spring! Four more years!

There is little media coverage of the true nature of this rise of the savage and the devastating reversals for religious minorities under Islamic rule.

Four more years of Obama and I assure you, the world will be unrecognizable. But the enemedia (channeling Baghdad Bob) will make sure the American people are painfully unaware until …

Egypt: 50,000 Muslims led by sword-wielding men march through Christian areas, chanting that country would be “Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians” Jihadwatch

And making sure the Christians didn’t vote in the referendum. More on this story. “Fear keeps Egypt’s Christians away from polls,” by Hamza Hendawi for the Associated Press, December 18 (thanks to Betsy):

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza Militants Violated Laws of War, HRW

‘No legal justification’ for targeting civilians

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 24 — Gaza militants who fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians between November 14-21 violated the laws of war, Human Rights Watch (HRW) made known on Monday.

Of the 1,500 rockets fired, 800 hit their targets, including 60 that landed in residential areas, HRW quoted the Israeli army as saying. “The armed Palestinian groups clearly stated they intended to harm civilians,” said Middle East HRW Director Sarah Leah Whitson. “There is no legal justification for firing rockets at residential areas.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netanyahu Tweets in Arabic to “Intensify” Dialogue

(AGI) — Jerusalem, Dec 24 — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken everyone by surprise by tweeting in Arabic.

The aim of the first tweet in the language of his “enemies” is to “intensify” the dialogue with Israel’s neighbours.

Netanyahu’s new account in Arabic was launched without much clamour on 13 December and has attracted slightly more than 550 followers up to now, mostly in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon, compared to the more than 57,000 followers on his English account.

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

Middle East

Russian Troops Man Assad’s Anti-Aircraft Defenses

(AGI) London — Russian troops are manning Syria’s air defenses, The Guardian reported. It makes the setting up of a no-flyzone “impossible”.

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

Suliman: ‘Al Jazeera Plays the Piper, But Qatar Calls the Tune’

The long-time Berlin correspondent for Al Jazeera, Aktham Suliman, recently resigned from his post. The journalist tells DW that the Qatari government is exercising undue influence on Al Jazeera’s reporting.

DW: You’ve criticized Al Jazeera as lacking in professionalism, and you’ve quit your post as the broadcaster’s Berlin correspondent. Is Al Jazeera following a specific agenda?

Aktham Suliman: I have to say that professionalism is now lacking at Al Jazeera. When I started in 2002, I didn’t have that impression — quite the contrary. Of course there were fundamental, long-term problems, but in the last two years Al Jazeera has really let itself go in terms of professionalism.

It’s possible that it does have an agenda, but of course no one makes it clear. The thing is that, if you’re professional, you can deal with an agenda. If the employees, the editors or the owners had one and tried to impose it, professionalism would ensure that this didn’t happen at the cost of high quality journalistic product.

But that’s precisely what didn’t happen when efforts were obviously being made to impose on Al Jazeera the agenda of the state of Qatar. The problem is that the organization lacks internal structures that would immunize it against what was presumably an attempt by the owner or by the editors to interfere politically in things that should have been handled in a journalistic manner.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Syria: Orthodox Patriarch Urges Christians to Remain

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, DECEMBER 24 — The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Syria has urged all Christians to remain in the war-torn country and called for those on both sides of the civil war to accept each other and reach a compromise. Making his first address in Damascus since taking over from the late Ignatius IV, John X (Yazigi), the patriarch of Antioch, said it was vital for Christians to refrain from leaving Syria. “We Christians are in Syria and will remain here,” he said as reported by daily Kathimerini. “We believe Christ is always present in this area, which is the birthplace of Christianity.” It is estimated that the Orthodox community in Syria numbers some 1.8 million people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syria Warns Swedes: Don’t Join Rebels

Syria News, a regime-run television station, has warned Swedes against fighting in the Syrian civil war, reports Sweden’s TV4 News.

The Syria News clip warns that Swedish “mercenaries” will meet a “fate darker than the night” and will be “crushed on Syria’s noble ground”.

The statement is seen as a response to a recruitment video that appeared on YouTube in November 2012.

The video encouraged Swedish Muslims to join the fight against the Syrian regime.

It was posted on YouTube by a group calling itself the Swedish holy warriors in Syria (Svenska Mujahideen Fi Ash Sham). The group also emailed a link to the video to the TT news agency.

“Jihad is obligatory for any and all who believe in Allah, his prophet and doomsday. It is obligatory in Sweden and in the rest of the world,” a man speaking in fluent but slightly accented Swedish says in the clip.

Swedish security service Säpo confirmed that Swedes have travelled to Syria to fight in the civil war but did not say how many have gone.

The YouTube video shows several persons holding automatic weapons and assembling outdoors. The landscape appears to be Mediterranean.

However, experts at Säpo were unable to confirm whether the video was recorded in Syria.

It was also unclear why the group chose to use an older Arabic name for Syria — Sham.

Nor is there information on whether the men in the video have any ties to larger militant networks or have acted alone in producing the amateur clip.

Experts also questioned the extent of the Swedish connections of those behind the video.

“You see one person who speaks Swedish, so it’s hard to say anything about how many who are behind the film have ties to Sweden,” terror expert Lars Nicander of the Swedish National Defence College told the Expressen newspaper at the time.

This is not the first time that Swedes have been called to arms by groups claiming it is a religious obligation.

“(Somali Islamists) al-Shabaab did something similar two years ago and filmed it in the sports arena in Mogadishu,” said Nicander.

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

Russia

Putin Says Russian Passport for Depardieu ‘A Done Deal’

Soon-to-be tax exile Gérard Depardieu can have a Russian passport if he wants it, the country’s President Vladimir Putin said after the French film star announced he would return his French one.

French actor Gérard Depardieu, under fierce criticism for going into self-imposed tax exile in Belgium, would be more than welcome in Russia, the country’s President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

“If Gérard really wants a residency permit or a Russian passport, it’s a done deal,” Putin said at a press conference. “We have very friendly relations (with Depardieu), but I know that deep down he feels French.”

The scandal surrounding Depardieu’s move to a Belgian village a stone’s throw from the French border escalated earlier in December when French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described the actor’s decision as “pathetic”.

In an open letter last Sunday the Cyrano de Bergerac star said he could not bear the “insult” and would be returning his French passport.

He also claimed that he had paid 85% tax in the last year, amid news that he had put his Paris mansion on the market for a reported 50 million euros.

Putin said he was certain the French authorities “didn’t want to annoy” one of France’s biggest film stars and said the spat between Depardieu and Ayrault was “unfortunate”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

A Dark Christmas for Pakistani Christians

Christians celebrate Christmas amid growing fear of persecution and rampant economic and social discrimination in Muslim-majority Pakistan. The year 2012 was one of the worst years for them in the country.

In many parts of the world, Christmas means a time of celebration. But for Christians in Pakistan, who live under constant fear of persecution by the state and majority Sunni Muslims, there is not much to celebrate.

Christians make up about two percent of the 180 million people living in Pakistan. Rights organizations say that like any other religious minority, they face legal and cultural discrimination in the Islamic Republic.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Afghan Police Officer Kills Five Colleagues

(AGI) — Mazar-i-Sharif, Dec 24 — An Afghan police officer shot dead five of his colleagues on Monday in the latest attack by members of the security forces on their own colleagues. The attack was carried out by Dur Mohammad, the head of a police post in the northern province of Jawzjan.

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

Afghan Taliban Raise Bounty on UK Prince Harry’s Head

(AGI) London — Britain’s armed forces fear for the safety of Prince Harry, with the bounty on his head being raised after he reportedly killed a Taliban commander.

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

Far East

Chianti Gets a New Name for Chinese Market

Consortium registers label meaning ‘health to the emperor’

(ANSA) — Florence, December 20 — Tuscany’s world-famous wine Chianti has had a name change for the Chinese market, President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Giovanni Busi said on Thursday.

“To avoid mistakes or fraud we decided to register the trademark in China with a Chinese name,” Busi said.

Starting last week the Chinese character reading ‘Kang Di’ in Mandarin, meaning ‘health to the emperor’, became the name that will grace the bottles of Chianti ready to line the shelves for local consumers.

“This idea was born after we realized that Chianti labels in Chinese often showed up with very different translations and were causing confusion among consumers,” Busi said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Female Circumcision is a Right, Says Imam

A MUSLIM leader and outspoken opponent of female genital mutilation says female circumcision, which he defines as the partial removal of the clitoral hood, is not only an utterly distinct practice, but the “divinely ordained right of a woman” under Islam.

Sydney-based Al-Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences and Human Development founder and president, Imam Afroz Ali, appeared on the ABC’s 7:30 program in October, condemning female genital mutilation and saying he had been told by community members of its occurrence in Australia.

But Imam Afroz defines female circumcision and female genital mutilation as “two very different, and unrelated, kinds of acts; the former being permissible and the latter completely forbidden under Islamic law”.

The imam, who was yesterday unable to be contacted, made the argument in a paper entitled Mutilating Facts: Setting the Record Straight About Female Circumcision & Genital Mutilation, published this year on his SeekersGuidance website…

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mali: Islamists Take Pickaxes to Timbuktu’s Ancient Mausoleums

Armed groups occupying Timbuktu in northern Mali have used pickaxes to smash up any remaining mausoleums in the ancient city.

The rebels’ ruthless implementation of their version of Islamic law comes just days after the United Nations approved a military force to wrest back control of the conflict-ridden area.

“Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu, Allah doesn’t like it,” Abou Dardar, leader of the Islamist Ansar Dine group, told AFP. “We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area.”

Witnesses confirmed the claims.

Anything that doesn’t fall under Islam “is not good. Man should only worship Allah,” Mohamed Alfoul, a member of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said.

The vandalism of the Muslim saints’ tombs in the UNESCO World Heritage site came a day after other Islamists in the northern city of Gao announced they had amputated two people’s hands.

[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Migrants Take Italy’s Population Up to 59.4 Million

Over four million foreigners living in Italy

(ANSA) — Rome, December 19 — Italy’s population has grown 4.3% over the last decade to climb to 59,433,744 thanks to arrival of migrants, Istat said Wednesday as it presented the definitive figures from the nation’s last census. The rise from a population of 56,995,744 in 2001 is exclusively down to migrants, the national statistics agency said.

Indeed, the number of foreigners in Italy has trebled, increasing 201.8% from 1,334,889 to 4,029,145.

The number of native Italians fell in the same period by 250,000, a drop of 0.5%. Two out of three foreigners live in Italy’s wealthier northern regions, with almost a quarter of the total concentrated in the Lombardy region around Milan, while 24% live in the centre and 13.5% are based in the south. Women make up 53.3% of Italy’s foreign population. Istat said Rome is still Italy’s biggest city with a population of 2,617,175, followed by Milan (1,242,123), Naples (962,003), Turin (872,367) and Palermo (657,561).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

We’re on Our Way to Britain: A Year From Now Up to 29m Bulgarians and Romanians Will Have the Right to Settle in Britain and Claim Benefits.

And these gypsies in the slums of Sofia can hardly wait…

Olympic boxer Bobby George stands on an icy street in the Bulgarian shanty town where he grew up.

A cruel wind whips his dark hair as snow falls on the chaotic rows of shacks which are home to 50,000 of the European Union’s poorest inhabitants.

Plunging his freezing hands into his thin leather jacket, he says despairingly: ‘There is nothing for my gipsy people here.

Their eyes are turning to England where they can have a better life. Hundreds of families want to go to the UK because they have no future in my country.’

George is lucky. Five years ago, he changed his name from Boris Georgiev and left the seedy slum of Fakulteta, on the outskirts of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, to settle in Luton, Beds, with his wife, Tina, and daughter, Gergana, now six.

They have since had another daughter, one-year-old Mari.

More…

A couple of weeks ago he returned on a cut-price flight for Christmas and found nothing much has changed.

Growling stray dogs chase each other down alleyways, rats scamper over piles of rubbish, and children in slippers, long outgrown with their backs cut out, dodge horse-drawn gipsy carts as they run to the few shops for a 40p loaf of bread.

The Sofia bus route does not reach Fakulteta because the drivers refuse to go there, as do the rubbish collection men. At night, the place is pitched into darkness because there is no street lighting.

The only indication that the city authorities recognise the huge gipsy town’s existence is the electricity meter boxes bolted tightly to the tops of telegraph poles so they cannot be tampered with by residents.

The main supermarket — the owner is himself a gipsy — has stopped all credit because of the debts racked up for unpaid groceries.

No wonder that in a year’s time, when a total of 29 million Bulgarians (and Romanians) gain the right to live, work, and claim state benefits in Britain under EU ‘freedom of movement’ rules, a great many families from Fakulteta plan to decamp the 1,250 miles to the UK.

‘The gipsies have no jobs because ordinary Bulgarians do not like or trust us,’ explains Bobby George.

‘We are discriminated against as gipsy people. In Britain it is different. You treat everyone, black, white, brown or yellow, just the same. Of course, they will want to go.

‘But there will be a day when your country is full up, when you cannot afford to give benefits to any more people from Europe and the rest of the world, too. They hope to get there before that moment happens.’

Bobby, a good-looking 30-year-old with a pugilist’s nose, is probably right about Britain nearing its limits.

The latest Census, published this month, reveals how mass immigration has dramatically changed our country. Since EU borders were opened up in 2004, 1,114,368 Eastern Europeans have uprooted to live in England.

Last year, 40,000 Bulgarians and Romanians moved to the UK, joining 130,000 of their countrymen who have settled here during the past decade.

But these numbers are nothing compared with the flood of migrants expected when the rules change in a little over a year’s time.

Until now, migrants from the two former communist nations (officially barred from working or claiming benefits in Britain until the freedom of movement rule comes in on January 1, 2014) have neatly exploited a gaping loophole in the EU rules.

It allows Bulgarians and Romanians claiming to be self-employed to get a British national insurance number and a raft of hand-outs, including housing and child benefit.

Many of the new arrivals have worked hard, cornering the market in car-wash companies, for instance.

But others are less industrious, and include Roma gipsies who, remarkably, now sell a third of all copies of the Big Issue.

Even selling one copy a week of the magazine (created to help the British homeless) miraculously gives them self-employed status and allows them to beg with impunity outside shops and on street corners.

Bulgarian and Romanian incomers have been blamed by police in their own countries and in Britain for a massive rise in organised crime, including the trafficking of children to Britain to beg, pickpocket, milk state benefits and even enter the sex trade.

It is estimated that 2,000 children from Romania and Bulgaria are under the control of modern-day Fagins in our major cities.

According to Scotland Yard, a skilful child thief can make up to £100,000 a year ‘working’ on the streets, buses and Tubes in London — cash that is sent back to Roma villages and towns at home.

So critical is the problem that Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister visited Britain earlier this month to meet Home Secretary Theresa May to discuss how child trafficking and other organised crimes can be controlled when the UK doors swing open yet more widely.

Meanwhile, Antoaneta Vassileva, head of Bulgaria’s National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, warns that the UK is now the EU hot-spot for Roma child pickpockets from her country — a problem that will almost certainly get worse when the rules change in a year’s time.

In Sofia, she explained to me: ‘The children are trained by their parents, or another relative, to be thieves…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Netherlands Against Quota of Women for Companies

THE HAGUE, 20/12/12 — A large majority in the Lower House is against the European Commission´s proposal to set a quota of women for the leadership of companies.

The House also pulled out a so-called ‘yellow card’, a warning addressed to European Commissioner Viviane Reding. She watered down her original proposal for making a quota obligatory, so that this is now put as something to aim for. But The Hague considers that Brussels should not interfere with this sort of thing at all.

National parliaments can make objections to proposals from the European Commission if they think that a question can be better resolved by the member states themselves. If one-third of the European parliaments have made such an objection, the Commission must reconsider or withdraw the proposal.

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

General

How Blasphemy Laws Are Stifling Free Expression Worldwide

As a recent Pew Forum study reveals, blasphemy laws are widespread, with laws penalizing blasphemy, apostasy, or defamation of religion (including religious “hate speech”) present in 94 countries. While in most countries, laws criminalizing certain types of speech apply to the Internet, some countries have recently crafted specific laws to ban or criminalize online expressions of blasphemy. Still others have cracked down on online speech using existing laws. Here’s a roundup of some of the worst offenders in 2012:

Saudi Arabia

It should come as no surprise that ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is strict on speech, but this year the country outdid itself when it extradited Hamza Kashgari, a young journalist who had penned an earnest letter to the Muslim prophet on Twitter, from Malaysia. A few months later, the country began mulling over new laws to “combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic sharia” online.

Kuwait

In nearby Kuwait, the Information Minister announced in May plans to pass new laws regulating the use of social networking sites amidst growing tensions between the country’s Shi’a majority and Sunni minority. The proposal came after writer Mohammad al-Mulaifi was detained for “insulting the Muslim Shi’ite majority” on Twitter.

Bangladesh

In March, a Bangladesh court blocked access to five Facebook pages deemed to be blasphemous to Islam, while also demanding that content hosts and creators be brought to justice over “uploading indecent materials.” The court order also stated, chillingly, a desire to find ways of easily facilitating future blockages of websites and pages.

[Return to headlines]

‘Muslim Comedian’ Is an Oxymoron

Frankly, I used to enjoy some of the Muslim comedians in this video, for their mildly self-deprecating brand of humor. But, no more. Lately, they are on a mission to wipe out ‘Islamophobia’ via comedy. Trouble is, they are no longer funny, instead they come off as rather condescending toward non-Muslims.

[Return to headlines]

The Rise and Possible Fall of SMS Text Messaging

SMS text messaging has revolutionized mobile phone communication, ever since it was launched 20 years ago. But more modern, Internet-based technologies appear poised to bring an end to its dominance.

“Come later, still busy. CU XOXO”: a typical message written using the SMS (short message service), complete with well-known abbreviations. The service has become a convenient part of daily communication ever since it was launched on December 3, 1992.

These days, SMS abbreviations like these have become a common part of everyday speech, with most everyone now knowing that “CU” means “See you” and “XOXO” standing in for, of course, “hugs and kisses.”

Keeping it concise is an essential element of the SMS: text messages may not be longer than 160 characters, and for good reason. When the technology was still in its early stages in the 1980s, SMS inventors were guided by analog predecessors like the postcard and telex-newswires, the latter of which were restricted to less than 160 characters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20121223

Financial Crisis
» ECB Advises Italy to Help Monte Paschi by Taking Up Shares
» The Lie That Prosecuting Bank Fraud Will Destabilize the Economy is What is Really Destroying the Economy
 
USA
» “Swedes” Charged With Terrorism in US Court
» Agenda 21 is Being Rammed Down the Throats of Local Communities All Over America
» Big Business and Marxist Collusion — Bourgeois Socialism
» Egypt Adopts a Sharia Constitution — Americans Can Prevent it From Happening Here
» Teachers — it is Time to Arm Yourselves Regardless of the Law
 
Europe and the EU
» Austria: Three Churches Burned at Same Time
» Belgium: Man Killed in Brussels Stabbing
» Doubts as to CCTV Efficacy in Big Brother Britain
» France: Alps Murder: Truth About Saad Al-Hilli’s ‘Family Feud’
» German Websites Gain Ground at Home
» Germany: The Long Path From Forest to Living Room
» Germany: Brit 7/7 Widow ‘Plotted Station Horror’
» Italy: Monti Poll Rating Up But 60% Don’t Want Him to Stand
» Italy: Berlusconi Says ‘Forced’ To Lead Centre Right Again
» Italy: Over 70% of Homeless Are in Rome and Milan
» Sweden: Court Upholds Sentence for Subway Robber
» The Most Violent Country in Europe: Britain is Also Worse Than South Africa and U.S.
» ‘Ugly’ Metal Christmas Tree Roils Many Belgians
» UK: Koran-Ripping Case Jury Discharged at Leicester Crown Court
» UK: Lib Dem President Tim Farron Says the Tories Could “Go Off to the Far Right”
» UK: Mother Overhears Her Daughter, 15, Being Raped at Knifepoint as She Calls Her Mobile During Attack
» UK: The Truth is That Politicians Are Telling Lies
» UK: The Persecution of Sheikh Mo Dawah
 
North Africa
» Egypt’s Constitution Approved in Vote, Say Rival Camps
» Egyptian Govt Denies Central Bank Governor Resignation
» Egyptian President Appoints 90 Member of Upper House
» Egypt Votes ‘Yes, ‘ Unofficial Results Show
» Ennahda Activists Besiege Opposition Rally in Tunisia
» Quenching ‘Sharia Thirst’ On the Nile
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Christians in Bethlehem Will Celebrate Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, But Dream of Living Elsewhere
 
Middle East
» Christianity ‘Close to Extinction’ In Middle East
» Saudi to Open Human Rights Offices in Prisons
» Sunni-Shiite Barriers Stall Bahrain’s Arab Spring
» Syrian Muslim Rebels Threaten Two Christian Towns
 
South Asia
» Afghanistan: Fire Sweeps Through Kabul Market
» Indonesia: As Minister Resigns in Jakarta Over Corruption Inquiry Storm Hits Yudhoyono and Democrats
» Rape Protest Ban Fails to Stop Crowds in India
» US Wants Immunity for Pakistanis Implicated in Attacks That Killed 166
 
Far East
» S. Korea Lights Christmas Tree at Northern Border
» Vietnam’s Fragile Middle Class
 
Australia — Pacific
» Man Stabbed — Canley Vale
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Crew Freed From Somali Pirates After Three Years
» UN Helicopter Shot Down in South Sudan
 
Latin America
» Argentina: Bringing Bikes to the Streets of Buenos Aires
 
Immigration
» ‘Foreign Infiltration is a Myth’
 
General
» Online Translation Breaks Language Barriers

Financial Crisis

ECB Advises Italy to Help Monte Paschi by Taking Up Shares

Issuing more debt would burden bank further, ECB says

(ANSA) — Rome, December 20; The European Central Bank has suggested Italy should take ownership of new shares in Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, as opposed to issuing more debt to help the troubled lender. The Italian government earlier this month approved a 3.9 billion euro salvage package for the Siena-based bank after Monte dei Paschi had been forced to remedy the weakness in its capital base. The issuance of additional debt could create further difficulty to the lender as it would increase its repayment obligations, the ECB said, adding that it was preferable the bank issue new stock to raise capital instead.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Lie That Prosecuting Bank Fraud Will Destabilize the Economy is What is Really Destroying the Economy

The Departments of Justice and Treasury are pretending that criminally prosecuting criminal banksters will destabilize the economy.

The exact opposite is true.

Failing to prosecute criminal fraud has been destabilizing the economy since at least 2007 … and will cause huge crashes in the future.

After all, the main driver of economic growth is a strong rule of law.

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that we have to prosecute fraud or else the economy won’t recover:…

[Return to headlines]

USA

“Swedes” Charged With Terrorism in US Court

Two Swedish citizens appeared in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York on Friday on charges that they had trained and fought with al-Shabaab, a Somali group designated as terrorists by the United States.

“The defendants are not aspiring terrorists, they are terrorists. They did more than receive terrorist training: they used it in terrorist operations with al-Shabaab,” said George Venizelos of the FBI in New York.

The two Swedes, aged 27 and 29, along with a 23-year-old defendant, are accused of participating in weapons and explosives training with al-Shabaab, a United States-designated terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda, during a four-year period beginning in 2008.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Agenda 21 is Being Rammed Down the Throats of Local Communities All Over America

Have you ever heard of Agenda 21? If not, don’t feel bad, because most Americans haven’t. It is essentially a blueprint for a “sustainable world” that was introduced at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Since then, it has been adopted by more than 200 counties and it has been modified and updated at other UN environmental summits. The philosophy behind Agenda 21 is that our environmental problems are the number one problem that we are facing, and that those problems are being caused by human activity. Therefore, according to Agenda 21 human activity needs to be tightly monitored, regulated and controlled for the greater good. Individual liberties and freedoms must be sacrificed for the good of the planet. If you are thinking that this sounds like it is exactly the opposite of what our founding fathers intended when they established this nation, you would be on the right track. Those that promote the philosophy underlying Agenda 21 believe that human activity must be “managed” and that letting people make their own decisions is “destructive” and “dangerous”. Sadly, the principles behind Agenda 21 are being rammed down the throats of local communities all over America, and most of the people living in those communities don’t even realize it.

So how is this being done? Well, after Agenda 21 was adopted, an international organization known as the “International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives” (ICLEI) was established to help implement the goals of Agenda 21 in local communities. One thing that they learned very quickly was that the “Agenda 21” label was a red flag for a lot of people. It tended to create quite a bit of opposition on the local level.

As they try to implement their goals, they very rarely use the term “Agenda 21” anymore. Instead, they use much more harmless sounding labels such as “smart growth”, “comprehensive land use planning” and especially “sustainable development”.

So just because something does not carry the Agenda 21 label does not mean that it is not promoting the goals of Agenda 21.

The goals of Agenda 21 are not only being implemented in the United States. This is a massive worldwide effort that is being coordinated by the United Nations. An article that was posted on RedState.com discussed some of the history of Agenda 21…

[Return to headlines]

Big Business and Marxist Collusion — Bourgeois Socialism

The Occupy Movement, as we all know, was and is a tool of the elite. Skilled in projection and deflection, they screamed that big business was the enemy of the people and Marxism was the cure. No sane American would fall for that tripe. What the lame movement, if they had been honest, would have railed against was big business in collusion with big government. A marriage made in hell and brought to you by Barack Obama and the bourgeois socialists.

Listen to what Andrew Wilkow has to say on bourgeois socialism (there are no images — only audio):

We now have many, many examples of these elitists who have crawled into bed with the Marxists… From Warren Buffet, to Jeffrey Immelt of GE, the list is long and inglorious. These are wealthy and powerful businessmen and women looking for security in the arms of Comrade Obama while keeping the proletariat riffraff (that would be you and me) in check and busily working for them and their luxuries in a slavish society that is forcefully equal in misery, except for the upper levels of the bourgeois socialists. GE is probably the worst of the worst. Immelt praises the Chinese communists:…

[Return to headlines]

Egypt Adopts a Sharia Constitution — Americans Can Prevent it From Happening Here

Here is what Americans can do to stop Assistant US Attorney General Perez and other advocates of adoption of OIC Blasphemy Codes here.

We can get behind the movement to pass the American Law for American Courts (ALAC) state legislation that has been enacted in Rep. Franks’ home state of Arizona, as well as in Louisiana, Tennessee and Kansas. The 2012 Republican Convention adopted an anti-Sharia ALAC plank sponsored by Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach.

The American Public Policy Alliance website contains background information on the model law developed by David Yerushalmi, Esq. The website notes the purpose of ALAC: ALAC was crafted to protect American citizens’ constitutional rights against the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, especially Islamic Shariah Law.

We need to make a New Year’s resolution to form a grass roots movement to enact ALAC in as many states as possible.

Here in Florida, we nearly achieved that in the 2012 legislative session in Tallahassee, when the ALAC legislation, which passed the House resoundingly, failed to be brought up for a final vote by outgoing Florida Senate President, Mike Haridopolos. Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz had indicated his support for ALAC in the last session. The objective in the 2013 session will be to seek Senator Gaetz’s and Florida House Speaker, Will Weatherford’s commitment to press for passage of ALAC. We need to enlist Floridians and others to meet with State Senators and Representatives seeking their support informing them that Florida’s legal system needs the protections of ALAC to stop insinuation of Sharia and bolster Constitutional First Amendment Free Speech guarantees.

[Return to headlines]

Teachers — it is Time to Arm Yourselves Regardless of the Law

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding teachers and teaching in America, one of them holds that in order to be a public school teacher; you are required to become a progressive dolt. This, however, is not necessarily true. While the mainstream educational system is engineered to encourage socialism and dependency in our children, it also has a tendency to condition staff and administration with a collectivist mindset as well. For those who seek out teaching positions, it may feel like joining in with the socialist / globalist ideal makes life in our federalized educational system far easier to cope with. After all, teachers who stray from the establishment curriculum and who break conventions by offering individualist and anti-state views are very often subject to in-house persecution. This peer induced conformity creates a Petri dish of inbred thinking, but ultimately, the final decision of what to believe falls to the teacher and no one else.

While some educators might feel that gun ownership is counter to the yuppie culture they have immersed themselves in, and may fear standing out as the “lone conservative nut” at their workplace, they are going to have to accept that there are far bigger concerns than being a part of the herd. As the events in Newtown, Connecticut reveal, teachers need to start considering their own survival and the survival of their students.

The shooting in Newtown by itself is not the primary issue. The event will be forgotten within a few weeks by a majority of people, just like the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and the Aurora Theater Massacre. That might sound cold, but it is reality. The tragedy itself will only stay with the victims and their families. The debate over what to do in the aftermath of the tragedy, though, will plague the rest of us for quite some time, and perhaps this is the root of the problem…

Establishment politicians (Neo-Lib and Neo-Con) and the useful idiots they employ have drawn out the debate on practical solutions beyond all reason. What they have done, time and again, is to exploit the deaths of innocents in order to push the political agenda of control, rather than looking at the hard facts and implementing a strategy that would truly work. If you want to actually fix a problem, you look at the fundamentals and apply what works, not what you WISH would work based on your biased worldview. To get to this point, we have to be willing to admit to those methods which DO NOT WORK. In the wake of the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School, what do we know about the environment on the ground and how it was exploited by the gunman?

1) Federal Laws Guaranteed A Gun Free Zone For The Attacker

Federal laws, including the Gun Free School Zones Act and the Gun-Free Schools Act, prohibit the possession of firearms within 1000 feet of school grounds (some states allow carry with the possession of a CCW, but this does not stop schools from firing teachers who do decide to carry if discovered). The Gun-Free Schools Act imposes a federal requirement on school districts to adopt a gun-free schools position that demands zero-tolerance policies and minimum one-year expulsions from school for gun possession in exchange for federal funds for district schools, meaning, the Feds are paying off school districts to entice them to go along with gun regulation:

www.smartgunlaws.org/federal-law-on-guns-in-schools/

Of course only law abiding citizens care about this regulation, and so, in the midst of an attack by a criminal element, teachers, staff and students will be the only disarmed people present. Most violent and mentally disturbed perpetrators still have a deep desire to live, which is why they rarely if ever go on a rampage at a gun range, or a federal building with armed guards, or an NRA convention. These men don’t want to die, at least not until they have finished their heinous act, and so it only makes sense that they would choose movie theaters in cities that have laws against conceal carry or elementary schools that are filled predominantly with progressives who are going to avoid gun ownership and yield to federal dictates. A school is an easy target, nothing more.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Three Churches Burned at Same Time

by Cheradenine Zakalwe

www.krone.at/Oesterreich/Feuer_in_3_Kirchen_Amstetten_sucht_den_Brandstifter-Phantombild_erstellt-Story-345385

Three churches in the Austrian town of Amstetten (pop: 21,000) were burned this morning. All of the indications point to arson. Several eye-witnesses saw a suspect. As is their custom, the police and newspapers have given a detailed account of his stature and clothing, but fail to mention his skin colour. Amstetten has a large Mohammedan population.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Belgium: Man Killed in Brussels Stabbing

A young man has been stabbed to death just metres away from Brussels Central Railway Station. The Brussels Judicial Authorities report that that his suspected assailant, a teenage boy, has been detained. The boy is reported to be a member of a gang and has a criminal record.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Doubts as to CCTV Efficacy in Big Brother Britain

Perhaps Germany should look to the UK — the CCTV center of the world — as the former debates whether to use more public cameras after a murder in Berlin and a bomb plot in Bonn. In both cases, no footage was on hand.

Police in Bonn looking for terrorists who planted a potentially devastating bomb at the city’s main train station don’t have an image of who did it because no closed-circuit television (CCTV) captured the event. In Berlin a man was savagely beaten to death in a main square, again with no camera footage to help police catch the perpetrator.

Now German government ministers are calling for more and up-to-date surveillance equipment in the country’s public spaces, while critics warn of a knee-jerk reaction infringing on civil liberties.

The arguments echo those that have long been bouncing back and forth between supporters and opponents of CCTV in the UK — the country with the highest CCTV density in the world, according to some statistics. One recent report estimates there are just under two million surveillance cameras in the UK — one for every 32 people.

“In Britain we seem to have seen CCTV as an end in itself, when in reality it’s a very, very small part of the overall approach to policing,” Nick Pickles, head of Big Brother Watch, a pressure group fighting for the protection civil liberties, said in an interview with DW.

“Despite the millions of cameras, Britain’s crime rate is not significantly lower than comparable countries that do not have such a vast surveillance state,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France: Alps Murder: Truth About Saad Al-Hilli’s ‘Family Feud’

The Iraqi family of Saad al-Hilli, the Briton murdered in the French village of Chevaline, tell Colin Freeman that their relative was not a money-launderer for Saddam Hussein.

Hussain al-Hilli’s final memories of his cousin Saad are of an anxious, desperate man, burdened with a secret that may have taken him to the grave. Last February, six months before Saad and his family were murdered, the pair were having one of their regular Facebook chats, normally a chance to swap notes on two very different lives. While Saad would bring news from leafy Surrey, Hussain would bring talk of life — and sometimes death — in Baghdad, the war-torn Iraqi capital from which Saad’s side of the family had left decades before. This time, though, Hussain noticed something odd straightaway…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

German Websites Gain Ground at Home

For the first time in years German — and not American — websites have shown the most dynamic growth in Germany, a study commissioned by the Focus news magazine showed.

Results published on Sunday showed that Gutefrage.net, Deutsche Telekom, the retailers C&A and Otto, Check 24 and savings bank websites showed the strongest growth. The study was conducted by the market research firm Comscore.

The only US companies to make it into the top 10 were Ask Network, Ebay and Amazon. Last year six of the top eight websites with the most dynamic growth were from US companies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: The Long Path From Forest to Living Room

For most families, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a Christmas tree. They didn’t become a widespread tradition until the 19th century, but decorating trees has been going on for longer than you might think.

A 30-meter, eight-ton crane was needed to set up the Bavarian spruce in downtown Frankfurt. There on the Römerberg, the historic heart of banking capital, in front of the town hall, the city’s Christmas tree can be admired by visitors to the Christmas market in the square.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Brit 7/7 Widow ‘Plotted Station Horror’

Terror bomb failed

SECURITY chiefs fear an al-Qaeda cell funded by the British “White Widow” plotted to bomb a German railway station, The Sun can reveal.

The attack in Bonn would have resulted in a massacre like the one in the Spanish capital Madrid in 2004 which left 191 people dead.

But the device failed to explode and was disarmed before it could detonate. Intelligence sources in Germany say that al-Qaeda was behind the conspiracy — which encompassed “many operatives” overseas, including wanted Brit Samantha Lewthwaite…

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Poll Rating Up But 60% Don’t Want Him to Stand

Monti-led ticket would get 15.4% says poll

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21 — The approval rating of Premier Monti has risen from 33% to 38% over the last week but 60% of Italians don’t want him to stand in the upcoming general election, the SWG polling agency said Friday. If he does decide to lead a group of centrist forces wanting him to stand, the ticket would get 15.4% of votes, SWG said.

The technocrat premier, life Senator and former European commissioner is expected to say on Sunday whether he will run in the election, expected on February 24.

The centre-left Democratic Party is currently leading polls with more than 30% ahead of former comedian Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement with 19% and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party with 17%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says ‘Forced’ To Lead Centre Right Again

Will rally forces to beat left, ex-premier says

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21 — Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday said he had been forced to re-enter the political fray and take on the job of uniting Italy’s centre right to defeat the left.

The media magnate repeated that he would have been willing to let outgoing Premier Mario Monti play that role “but I didn’t even get one phone call from Monti”.

Speaking on Italian radio in his sixth media foray in as many days, Berlusconi reiterated his claim that Monti’s technocratic governme