Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/17/2013

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 to void an Arizona law that required voters to show proof of citizenship before voting. Among those voting with the majority were Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia.

In other news, a new opinion poll in Australia shows that if former PM Kevin Rudd were to replace the current prime minister, Julia Gillard, he could save the Labor Party from an otherwise almost certain defeat in the upcoming elections.

To see the headlines and the articles, click “Continue reading” below.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Insubria, JD, Jerry Gordon, Kitman, Steen, and all the other tipsters who sent these in.

Notice to tipsters: Please don’t submit extensive excerpts from articles that have been posted behind a subscription firewall, or are otherwise under copyright protection.

Caveat: Articles in the news feed are posted “as is”. Gates of Vienna cannot vouch for the authenticity or accuracy of the contents of any individual item posted here. We check each entry to make sure it is relatively interesting, not patently offensive, and at least superficially plausible. The link to the original is included with each item’s title. Further research and verification are left to the reader.

Financial Crisis
» Cyprus Could Head for Double-Digit Recession, Finmin
» Italy: Tax Turmoil Continues Within Letta Govt Alliance
» Italy: Berlusconi Tells Letta Govt to Break EU Budget Rules
» Spain Said to be Poised to Cut Renewable Subsidies
» Accident Rates Rise at Intersections With Speed Cameras
» California Allows Up to One Thousand Times More Glyphosate in Drinking Water Than Needed to Cause Breast Cancer in Women
» Catholic Bishops in Lockstep With Obama Attacks on Freedom
» Cyber Weapon: Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS)
» Don’t Ignore the Sebelius Scandal
» Federal Railroad Administration is Hindering American Transit
» How to Hold Washington Accountable Using the Racketeer Influence & Corrupt Organizations Act (Rico Act)
» Public-Private Partnerships Could Revolutionize American Roads
» Rotting, Decaying and Bankrupt — If You Want to See the Future of America Just Look at Detroit
» Say Goodbye to Attorney-Client Privilege
» Secret Service Invades Home of Obama Critic Over Twitter Followers
» The Next NSA Spying Shoe to Drop: “Pre-Crime” Artificial Intelligence
» Utah Best, Vermont Worst in Rich States, Poor States Report
» VA’s Unethical Mental Health Actions
» Voter Proof-of-Citizenship Law Voided by U.S. Supreme Court
Europe and the EU
» “Islamic Science” Or Islamic Propaganda?
» Belgium: Antwerp Jihadis to be Scrapped From Civil Register
» Denmark: Handshake Refusal Continues to Stoke Debate
» EU Chief Slams ‘Reactionary’ France
» EU-US Trade Talks: Europe’s Culture in Danger
» Fiat Raises Two Billion Euros for Merger, Says Bloomberg
» Finmeccanica CEO Calls for Italian and EU Defense Agenda
» Ireland: Suspected Rapist Had Tried to Lure Others Into His Flat
» Italian Govt Interested in Finmeccanica Ceding Civil Assets
» Italy: Afghan Fugitive Wanted for Norway Murder Arrested in Rome
» Italy: Mafia Earns 16.7 Billion Euros in Trash, Environment Abuse
» Italy: Business Union Chief Says Cutting Labour Costs Top Priority
» Italy: Governor of Valle D’aosta Probed for Abuse of Office
» Netherlands: Seven Jailed for Linesman Death: Tough Sentences Merited Says Court
» Netherlands: Military on Cultural Sensitivity Exercise in Amsterdam
» Netherlands: Upper House Speaker Resigns Over Wilders Affair
» Scottish Police Worry Breakup of 2 Muslim Paedophile Rings Will “Increase Community Tensions”
» Swedes Joining Rebels Can ‘Rarely be Stopped’
» UK: ‘Asylum Seekers Sparked Terror Alert on Flight’
North Africa
» Egypt: Morsi’s New Governors Increase Tensions with Opposition
» Tunisian Feminist Leader: ‘Femen, Please Leave US Alone’
Middle East
» Don’t Turn Syria Into a ‘Tesco for Terrorists’ Like Libya, Generals Tell Cameron
» Dutch Jihadists in Syria: We Miss Cheese Rolls
» Erdogan and Europe: Eleven Years of Misunderstandings
» Fighting Terrorism by Arming Terrorists
» Interview With Prince Turki Bin Faisal: ‘Saudi Arabia Wants Downfall of Assad’
» It is Madness to Get Caught in the Bloodshed in Syria
» Italian Photographer Arrested, Beaten During Istanbul Demos
» Leaked Emails Prove Obama Backed Plan to Launch Chemical Weapon Attack on Syria and Blame it on Assad
» The Great “Arab Spring” Hoax
» Turkey: Europe Closer With Taksim’s Revolt
South Asia
» Bangladesh Nationalist Party (And Islamists) Wins Municipal Elections
» Indonesia: Jakarta: Police Rejects Compulsory Headscarf for Female Officers
Far East
» China Demands France Act to Protect Citizens
» US Pork Producer Smithfield Foods to be Sold to China for $4.72 Billion — and This is Just the Beginning
Australia — Pacific
» Australia Poll Shows Edge for Rudd Over Gillard
» Immigration Agency Ordered to Name Felons it Has Released
» Seven Migrants Drown: Over 1,000 Flock to Italian Shores
Culture Wars
» Italian Minister to Propose Civil Unions Bill
» Marriage at Its Lowest Point in More Than a Century

Cyprus Could Head for Double-Digit Recession, Finmin

(ANSAmed) NICOSIA, JUNE 17 — The Cyprus’ Finance Minister has issued a grim warning about the state of the economy, saying it will be several years before Cyprus sees any kind of economic improvements, as Famagusta Gazette reports. In a newspaper interview, Haris Georgiades suggested that the island was heading for a double-digit recession. At the start of June the international agency Fitch sent Cyprus’ credit rating deeper into junk territory with a one-notch downgrade to B minus over heightened uncertainty gripping the debt-laden country’s economy. Fitch said there is a high risk that the 23 billion euros bailout could go off track. The agency added that Cyprus cannot cope with addition shocks to its battered economy and warned of another possible downgrade.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Tax Turmoil Continues Within Letta Govt Alliance

PD, Berlusconi’s party bickering over VAT, IMU property tax

(ANSA) — Rome, June 17 — The unprecedented left-right alliance supporting Premier Enrico Letta’s government continued to be hit by turmoil over taxes on Monday, feeding speculation the administration could be short-lived.

Letta was sworn in as prime minister in April after his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) reluctantly agreed to form a coalition with their bitter rivals in ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party to end two months of deadlock following February’s inconclusive general election.

But since then the PD and PdL have been bickering about several issues, above all tax.

The PdL has threatened to pull its support and sink Letta’s broad coalition government if it fails to scrap the unpopular IMU property tax and refund the revenues raised from it in 2012 to respect the key pledge Berlusconi made in the election campaign.

But the centre-right party also wants to avert a rise in the top band of value added tax (VAT), from 21% to 22%, that is scheduled for July after being put in place by former premier Mario Monti’s technocrat administration.

The PdL fears the VAT rise will further depress weak consumer spending and deepen the country’s longest recession in over 20 years.

But Industry Minister Flavio Zanonato said in an interview published in Monday’s edition of Rome-based daily La Repubblica that “it is very difficult to find the money” to not raise VAT.

He added that he hoped Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni manages to “pull off a miracle” and stop VAT increasing.

The PdL hit back with senior Senator Fabrizio Cicchitto saying that “Zanonato is a gaffe merchant or a (political) killer”.

Saccomanni, a former Bank of Italy director general who is not a member of a party, said last week that it would not be possible to avert the VAT rise and scrap IMU.

He was contradicted soon after by Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who is the PdL’s secretary.

In a separate interview with Corriere della Sera, Relations with Parliament Minister Dario Franceschini, another PD man, said combatting youth unemployment was more of a priority than IMU and VAT, with around four out of 10 Italians aged 15-to-24 out of work. There are media reports that part of the PD unhappy about being in government with the PdL may want to see Letta’s administration fall to make it possible to form a new executive with the left-wing SEL party and possible defector lawmakers from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Tells Letta Govt to Break EU Budget Rules

Say someone should have courage to confront Brussels

(ANSA) — Rome, June 17 — Silvio Berlusconi said Monday that Premier Enrico Letta’s government should not be afraid to challenge the European Union over its budget rules. “The government should go to the EU and say you can forget the 3% (deficit-to-GDP ratio) limit and the fiscal compact,” said the three-time Italian premier, whose centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party backs Letta’s left-right executive. “If you want to kick us out of the single currency, do so. “But remember that we pay in 18 billion euros and you only give us back 10.

“Someone should go to Brussels and have the courage to say that it is necessary to sort things out”.

Berlusconi campaigned hard against the European-mandated austerity adopted by former premier Mario Monti’s emergency technocrat government in the run-up to February’s general election, in which the PdL came a close second to Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party and prevented it from having a working majority in parliament.

However, Berlusconi himself made budget pledges to the EU that Monti was subsequently obliged to implement during his third stint as premier, which started in May 2008 and ending in November 2011 when the media magnate resigned with Italy’s debt crisis in danger of spiralling out of control.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain Said to be Poised to Cut Renewable Subsidies

Juan Antonio Cabrero is bracing for the savings he invested in a solar-energy farm in northern Spain to disappear into light.

In 2008 Mr. Cabrero put up his €20,000 ($26,200) life savings and took on a €80,000 bank loan to buy part of the solar farm, pledging his home in nearby Tafalla as a guarantee. Spain’s government was promising more than two decades of large subsidies to spur the growth of solar energy, and Mr. Cabrero thought his investment would safely provide a nest egg for his planned retirement in 2018.

Now, because of cuts in renewable-energy subsidies the government is said to be planning, the 60-year-old Mr. Cabrero may lose both his savings and his house.

“I feel cheated, misled and assaulted by my own government,” said Mr. Cabrero, who works in sales for a company that builds hybrid-electric buses. “I never would have done this if I had known what would happen.”

Under a broad energy-sector overhaul to be announced as early as June 21, Spain’s government will reduce subsidies to renewable-energy producers by 10% to 20%, people familiar with the plan said Thursday.

The move could drive tens of thousands of struggling solar-energy companies and individual investors like Mr. Cabrero into default at a time of deepening recession and eventually boost loan losses for banks that financed the projects.

A spokeswoman for the Energy Ministry declined to comment.

Spain’s renewable-energy sector includes wind- and solar-energy projects. The proposed cuts are a far bigger threat to solar-energy investors because their projects are more heavily indebted.

Deputy Energy Minister Alberto Nadal told representatives of Spanish and foreign banks late last month that the government was planning to cut the level of government-guaranteed revenue for renewable-energy production, a government-guaranteed payment that effectively acts as a subsidy because it is far above market rates, according to people briefed on the meeting.


Those government subsidies increase the costs for running the nation’s electrical system. For years, the subsidies and other overall costs of running the system have been higher than the amount of money generated by actual sales of power to households and businesses, resulting in a “tariff deficit.” …


Spain began offering large subsidies and other incentives in the late 2000s to promote the growth of solar-energy projects. In addition, banks loaned the renewable-energy companies an estimated €30 billion. As a result, the amount of solar-power capacity installed in Spain far surpassed official government targets, increasing the tariff deficit.


Spanish banks could refinance some of those loans, but they are already facing a rising tide of corporate defaults in other industries…

Mr. Cabrero said his loan payments total €10,000 a year. Under his original plan, the money he receives by selling the electricity his solar-panel investment generates would have covered it fully. He had planned to retire after he paid off the loan in 10 years, living partly off of the revenue from his solar-energy investment.

Instead, since 2011, when the government’s first renewable-energy cuts took effect, he has had to devote €3,000 a year from his salary to cover a gap between the debt and the solar-energy revenue. He said he had trimmed his spending on meals at restaurants and hasn’t taken a vacation since 2011.

So far he said he had been able to meet his obligations. But the expected cuts, he estimates, will take an additional €1,000 per year from his pocket.

“I don’t know what will happen next year,” he said, adding that he hopes to find a way to refinance his loan to keep his house.

[ED.NOTE: This ia a cautionary tale for anyone planning to gamble on “renewable energy” with his life savings. “Renewable energy” is for those who can afford to lose investments.]

[Return to headlines]

Accident Rates Rise at Intersections With Speed Cameras

They’ll tell you that those speed cameras help make the roadways safer but states and counties across the nation are reporting an increase in accident rates, instead. The only thing those speed cameras are really good for is raising revenue — and they’re not even very good at that.

In her June 6 report for, GiGi Erneta said, “Judge Robert R. Ruehlman of Hamilton, Ohio said that the Elmwood Place speed cameras were ‘just a case of three-card Monte, or a sham,’ and in Baltimore “one of these dependable speed cameras gave a speeding ticket to a motionless car.”

Speed cameras are generally installed at dangerous high-traffic intersections. As a way to pass the legislation and fund the project, lawmakers claim they’ll help reduce accidents because knowing there’s a camera in the intersection will cause people to stop, instead of speeding through the intersection before the light changes.

However, a study conducted by the New Jersey Department of Transportation shows that accident rates actually increase in intersections with cameras. Drivers are forced to make a split-second decision: speed up and hope the light doesn’t change before they make it through the intersection, or slam on the brakes and risk being rear-ended. Either way, there’s an accident just waiting to happen.

“Red light cameras are just another way for counties and cities to steal millions from citizens while denying due process of law,” says Erneta. But, according to reports, the cities aren’t even doing that well.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

California Allows Up to One Thousand Times More Glyphosate in Drinking Water Than Needed to Cause Breast Cancer in Women

(NaturalNews) Late last week, a story broke that revealed glyphosate — the chemical name of Roundup herbicide — multiplies the proliferation of breast cancer cells by 500% to 1300%… even at exposures of just a few parts per trillion (ppt).

The study, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, is entitled, “Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors.” You can read the abstract here.

There’s a whole lot more to this story, however, but to follow it, you need to understand these terms:

ppm = parts per million = 10 (-6) = number of parts out of a million

ppb = parts per billion = 10 (-9), which is 1,000 times smaller than ppm

ppt = parts per trillion = 10 (-12), which is 1,000 times smaller than ppb and 1,000,000 times smaller than ppm

The study found that breast cancer cell proliferation is accelerated by glyphosate in extremely low concentrations: ppt to ppb. The greatest effect was observed in the ppb range, including single-digit ppb such as 1 ppb.

This news, all by itself, sent shockwaves across the ‘net all weekend. Women were asking things like: “You mean to tell me that glyphosate residues on crops in just ppt or ppb concentrations can give me breast cancer?” It doesn’t exactly translate like that. It depends on how much you eat vs. your body mass (nanograms of glyphosate per kilogram of body weight). But with ridiculously small amounts of this chemical now being correlated to cancer cell proliferation, you don’t have to eat much at all in order to put yourself at risk.

But it’s not just eating glyphosate that’s the problem. You’re also DRINKING it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Catholic Bishops in Lockstep With Obama Attacks on Freedom

In response to the myriad statements made by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in support of the goal of President Barack Obama and lawmakers to further control firearms owned by law-abiding U.S. citizens, a well-known police advisor on firearms and the Second Amendment, spoke out over the weekend.

“Catholic bishops who support Obama’s anti-gun policies have been sucked into the administration’s attack on individual freedom,” John M. Snyder said from his office in Arlington, Va., on Sunday.

“The Obama attacks on religion and gun rights reflect the administration’s intolerance of individual freedom,” added Snyder, named the gun dean by the Human Events, and dean of gun lobbyists by the Washington Post and New York Times.

“Catholic bishops who foolishly support Obama’s gun control policies epitomize stupidity,” he stated.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Cyber Weapon: Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS)

by Jerry Gordon

At precisely 2:35AM on June 5, 2013, our New English Review website was maliciously and deliberately attacked in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) that shut us down. This DDoS occurred literally within hours after my last post on the NER blog, The Iconoclast, about a Manchester, Tennessee event sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee (AMACTN). An overflow crowd of more than 2000 Americans showed up on the evening of June 4th to demonstrate against the appearances of US Attorney for Eastern Tennessee, Bill Killian and Knoxville Special Agent Kenneth Moore. They were there to suggest that criticism of Islam might be a federal hate crime, a patent violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution for protected speech. The event was called by AMACTN in reaction to a Coffee County Councilman who put up a humorous picture with an inscription, “How to Wink at a Muslim”. One of the AMACTN speakers told the Manchester audience: “The Constitution must allow for change with Sharia Law”.

The rowdy capacity crowd of 600 inside the Manchester Coffee County Conference Center heckled the speakers peppering them with comments like “taqiyya” and “no Sharia here”. A group of military from Fort Campbell, Kentucky in Iraq and Afghanistan, but didn’t expect it to find it here.

Outside the Manchester Conference Center a protest rally featuring Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller of the American Federal Defense Initiative, Bill Warner of Political Islam, Jim Lafferty of Virginians against Sharia Task Force and my colleague Rebecca Bynum, publisher of the NER, spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 who couldn’t get inside the hall. Bynum noted in her remarks:…

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Don’t Ignore the Sebelius Scandal

Amidst all the other scandals capturing Washington’s attention at this moment, the forgotten one is also one of the most obviously egregious: Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s solicitation of donations from entities she holds enormous power over through the regulatory state.

Alana Goodman reports:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius solicited funding from a foundation that holds a significant share of its assets in Johnson & Johnson stock, a move that appears to run afoul of ethics rules, according to a former chief White House ethics counsel.

Sebelius told Congress on Tuesday that she asked the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to contribute to a nonprofit organization that is working to implement President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation holds 13 million shares of Johnson & Johnson stock valued upwards of $1 billion, making the foundation one of the pharmaceutical company’s largest shareholders.

Sebelius testified that she had asked RWJF and H&R Block for funds and had talked to Johnson & Johnson, Ascension Health, and Kaiser Permanente about the program but had not asked them for funds. She said she did not solicit funds from any entities under her regulatory authority.

However, former White House chief ethics counsel Richard Painter said RWJF’s large investment in Johnson & Johnson, a company under Sebelius’ regulatory purview, makes the foundation a “prohibited source” that she cannot solicit money from under government ethics rules.

“[The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation] might as well be Johnson & Johnson so far as the ethics rules on solicitation are concerned,” Painter, who served as President George W. Bush’s ethics counsel from 2005 to 2007, told the Washington Free Beacon. “The HHS secretary can’t ask them for money.”

On this, the rules seem clear enough:

According to Office of Government Ethics rules, federal employees cannot solicit money from a source that “does business or seeks to do business with the employee’s agency,” “conducts activities regulated by the employee’s agency,” “has interests that may be substantially affected by performance or nonperformance of the employee’s official duties,” or is “an organization a majority of whose members are described” by the preceding criteria. Many current and former RWJF board members were previously Johnson & Johnson executives or work in the healthcare industry.

The approach the administration has taken to the implementation of Obamacare has routinely led them to twist arms, use the IRS for the tough decisions, and advance demands of governors and agencies. But until this point, most of that just appeared to be hardball politics — now, Sebelius may find there’s a line even she can’t cross without sparking serious ethical inquiries. This sort of thing shouldn’t be allowed, and probably isn’t. It’s incumbent upon the representatives of the people to find out what really happened and whether Sebelius should be personally fined or reprimanded.

[Return to headlines]

Federal Railroad Administration is Hindering American Transit

Interest in passenger rail around the United States has increased in recent years. With its ability to bypass congested freeways and crawling city streets, new passenger rail lines on existing rights-of-way is one way to offer mass transit in metropolitan areas. Yet even if the physical infrastructure is largely in place, the high cost and low performance of trains made to suit American regulations has stifled innovation in this sector and needlessly increased costs, say David Edmondson and Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

If passenger trains are ever to attract ridership and become a viable part of the country’s transportation mix again, it is vital that operators have access to the best practices and the best, most cost effective trains available.

  • Yet presently, American passenger railways are forbidden from purchasing trains in the most cost-effective manner possible.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has strict crash safety regulations for passenger railcars that trains in Europe (where passenger rail is well established and remarkably safe) do not have to meet.
  • In order for railcars compatible with European regulations to meet FRA rules, they need to add significant bulk and weight, thus adding to both their manufacturing and operating costs.

A direct regulation-to-regulation comparison is impossible, given the different safety philosophies of the International Union of Railways (UIC), to which European rules conform, and the FRA.

  • Despite the cost imposed by the FRA on America’s passenger train systems, research into crashworthiness rules by the agency shows that they are less safe than European-style crash energy management technology.
  • A heavier train takes longer to decelerate, which makes crashes more likely to occur.
  • A reform of the rules, then, will be of exceptional importance not just for the sake of transportation authorities but also for the sake of passengers who will be involved in a crash.

The FRA has imposed a heavy burden on American passenger railroads. By mandating crashworthiness requirements fundamentally opposed to crashworthiness standards that have proven effective in Europe for years, the FRA has raised a large trade barrier between the European Union and the United States passenger railway markets. The argument that these rules are necessary to ensure passenger safety has been shown by the FRA itself to be invalid.

[Return to headlines]

How to Hold Washington Accountable Using the Racketeer Influence & Corrupt Organizations Act (Rico Act)

Has the U.S. government deprived you of your rights? If so, please do not think that you are helpless or at the mercy of the political justice system anymore. You have legal remedies to pursue. It’s RICO time.

Last week I told you that if you were looking for a political judicial solution, such as congress, the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), impeachment or a special prosecutor, to hold the corruption coming out the Obama administration accountable, including from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) and National Security Agency (NSA) for abusively targeting and harassing specific Americans, Christians and journalists, you were looking in the wrong place. What the IRS did tilted President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election in his favor. If you need additional proof, look no further than at FBI Director Robert Mueller’s testimony on the non-status of the IRS investigation. Reportedly the FBI has not even bothered to contact one Tea Party group yet. Once again, like Benghazi, The Fix is in. By their fruits you shall know them.

The bottom line is this. You can’t get justice within the political justice system in America anymore because the politicians own it. It is up to you now. What stopped the mob? The Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). What will hold the Obama administration and politicians on both sides of the aisle accountable? RICO.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Public-Private Partnerships Could Revolutionize American Roads

As governments across the United States wrestle with the challenge of providing high-quality transportation infrastructure, they should increasingly consider public-private partnerships. The record shows that such partnerships are more likely to be built on time and on budget, and that they offer greater value than conventional infrastructure projects, say Charles Lammam and Hugh MacIntyre of the American Enterprise Institute.

In the conventional way of providing infrastructure, the government manages and procures each phase of the project separately. Typically, the government hires a firm to build the infrastructure based on a prescriptive design and then assumes responsibility for operating and maintaining the infrastructure, perhaps outsourcing some aspects of care to private companies.

  • Public-private partnerships are a way for governments to cooperate with the private sector to share the risks and rewards of providing public infrastructure.
  • The government agency involved in the project establishes the project goals and desired outcomes (without being prescriptive about the means) while a consortium of private companies takes on the task of achieving them.
  • Risk-sharing occurs when the private partner takes on some project risks that would otherwise be borne by taxpayers.
  • Delays and cost overruns are common risks in constructing public infrastructure. In a conventional project, taxpayers pay these extra costs; in a public-private partnership, the private partner does.

Evidence from the United States is limited, but a study examining a small group of 12 North American public-private partnerships found that:

  • Ninety-two percent finished early or on time, while 83 percent were built on budget.
  • The same study found that the sample of partnerships outperformed a group of four conventional projects.
  • On average, partnerships finished 0.30 percent ahead of schedule while conventional projects finished 4.34 percent behind schedule.
  • In terms of costs, public-private partnerships had overruns averaging 0.81 percent, compared to 12.71 percent for conventional projects.

As long as governments are in the business of infrastructure, public-private partnerships are an important option that can help improve the quality and provision of our roads, bridges and railways.

[Return to headlines]

Rotting, Decaying and Bankrupt — If You Want to See the Future of America Just Look at Detroit

Eventually the money runs out. Much of America was shocked when the city of Detroit defaulted on a$39.7 million debt payment and announced that it was suspending payments on $2.5 billion of unsecured debt, but those who visitmy site on a regular basis were probably not too surprised. Anyone with half a brain and a calculator could see this coming from a mile away. But people kept foolishly lending money to the city of Detroit, and now many of them are going to get hit really hard. Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has submitted a proposal that would pay unsecured creditors about 10 cents on the dollar. Similar haircuts would be made to underfunded pension and health benefits for retirees. Orr is hoping that the creditors and the unions that he will be negotiating with will accept this package, but he concedes that there is still a “50-50 chance” that the city of Detroit will be forced to formally file for bankruptcy. But what Detroit is facing is not really that unique. In fact, Detroit is a perfect example of what the future of America is going to look like. We live in a nation that is rotting, decaying, drowning in debt and racing toward insolvency. Already there are dozens of other cities across the nation that are poverty-ridden, crime-infested hellholes just like Detroit is, and hundreds of other communities are rapidly heading in that direction. So don’t look down on Detroit. They just got there before the rest of us.

The following are some facts about Detroit that are absolutely mind-blowing…

1.   Detroit was once the fourth-largest city in the United States, and in 1960 Detroit had the highest per-capita income in the entire nation.
2.   Over the past 60 years, the population of Detroit has fallen by 63 percent.
3.   At this point, approximately 40 percent of all the streetlights in the city don’t work…
4.   210 of the 317 public parks in the city of Detroit have beenpermanently closed down.
5.   According to the New York Times, there are now approximately 70,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Say Goodbye to Attorney-Client Privilege

A shocking change in American labor relations is brewing at the U.S. Department of Labor, which is expected some time soon to alter a major regulation, says Diana Furtchgott-Roth, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute.

  • The change involves a new interpretation of the “advice exemption” of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.
  • Specifically, businesses would have to disclose the names of, and fees paid to, attorneys and consultants who advise them on union-organizing activities.
  • In turn, attorneys and consultants providing such advice would be required to disclose their client lists and the fees they receive.

In making this change, the administration would sweep away over a half-century of precedent and contravene both the clear intent of Congress and the law’s express language. This new regulation would:

  • Violate the attorney-client relationship.
  • Effectively strip employers of First Amendment rights.
  • Compromise companies’ ability to seek advice in complying with federal labor law.
  • Deny workers the information they need and to which they are legally entitled before they vote on whether to join a union.

The change has been accurately called a “gag rule.” The economic fallout of the proposed change, termed the Persuader Rule, would also be dramatic.

  • It would cost $3.2 billion to $4 billion for businesses to familiarize themselves with the new rule, and then annual expenditures in the range of $4.3 billion to $6.5 billion. This rule could cost the economy $60 billion over 10 years.
  • This potential cost would be tens of thousands of times greater than the administration’s $826,000 cost estimate, which was low-balled in order to escape the mandatory cost/benefit review that any new rule costing $100 million or more must undergo.

In sum, whether we consider the rule on grounds of fairness to employers and their advisers, or on economic grounds (where its costs are almost certain to be several orders of magnitude more burdensome than the administration’s disingenuous estimate) we find that it fails every test. Workers, employers and all Americans deserve better.

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Secret Service Invades Home of Obama Critic Over Twitter Followers

I am sick and tired of looking out the window to see if Old Glory is still flying to reaffirm my shaky belief that I still reside in America. Francois never threatened the president; he simply lambasts and lampoons his actions, facial expressions, and unconstitutional policies. The most thin-skinned president in the history of the Republic has proven once again that he has nothing but disdain for the First Amendment.

The Secret Service agents arrived at the home of Tom Francois and asked if they could come inside and take a look around. Noting that he had nothing to hide and not wanting to see his things tossed about if the agents were forced to wait for a warrant, the avid political cartoon creator let the men inside. Francois maintains that while he loathes Barack Obama’s policies, he has never threatened his being in any way, shape, or form. I scanned hundreds of Francois’ tweets (which were the cited reasons for the Secret Service agents arriving on the blogger’s porch), and saw nothing violent — just the same angst felt by millions of Constitution-loving patriots.

Francois was reportedly told by the Secret Service agents that his largeTwitter following was a concern. While Tom does have a sizeable number of followers, his numbers do not make him anywhere near a household name — perhaps that is what President Obama was trying to prevent.

The Secret Service agents asked Francois to sign an Authorization to Review Medical and Mental Health Records form after a search premises document was signed. Tom signed the forms simply to facilitate matters so future visits would not be necessary. While the decision was both pragmatic and understandable, an American citizen should not feel compelled to share their medical and mental health records with the government simply because they exercised their First Amendment rights in front of 11,692 Twitter followers.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Next NSA Spying Shoe to Drop: “Pre-Crime” Artificial Intelligence

NSA spying whistleblower Edward Snowden’s statements have been verified. Reporter Glenn Greenwald has promised numerous additional disclosures from Snowden.

What other revelations are coming?

We reported in 2008:

A new article by investigative reporter Christopher Ketcham reveals, a governmental unit operating in secret and with no oversight whatsoever is gathering massive amounts of data on every American and running artificial intelligence software to predict each American’s behavior, including “what the target will do, where the target will go, who it will turn to for help”.

The same governmental unit is responsible for suspending the Constitution and implementing martial law in the event that anything is deemed by the White House in its sole discretion to constitute a threat to the United States. (this is formally known as implementing “Continuity of Government” plans). [Background here.]

As Ketcham’s article makes clear, these same folks and their predecessors have been busy dreaming up plans to imprison countless “trouble-making” Americans without trial in case of any real or imagined emergency. What kind of Americans? Ketcham describes it this way:

“Dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protestors, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people.”

Do we want the same small group of folks who have the power to suspend the Constitution, implement martial law, and imprison normal citizens to also be gathering information on all Americans and running AI programs to be able to predict where American citizens will go for help and what they will do in case of an emergency? Don’t we want the government to — um, I don’t know — help us in case of an emergency?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Utah Best, Vermont Worst in Rich States, Poor States Report

For the sixth consecutive year, Utah’s economic outlook earned the top ranking in America, according to “Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer Economic Competitiveness Index.”

Like past editions, the report compiles and updates the results from the 50 state “laboratories of democracy,” and provides a clear account of how the nation’s top performing state economies have achieved impressive levels of economic growth. It is clear that limited regulation, low taxes, low debt, pension reform, a predictable tax climate, and balanced budgets all contribute to the success of America’s top-rated states.

One conclusion from these findings in Rich States, Poor States stands out. In general, states that value limited government and low taxes, particularly on productive activities such as working or investing, experience more growth than states that tax and spend more. Increasingly we are witnessing this economic “Balkanization” effect between states.

No Income Tax vs. Income Tax

One of the great, understated facts is that states do not enact policy changes in a vacuum. When a state changes policy, for better or worse, it immediately affects the incentive structure for individuals and businesses alike — and the change in incentives has a direct effect on the state’s competitiveness. In fact, over a 10-year period, the nine states without personal income taxes on wages have outperformed the nine states with the highest income taxes in growth in population, jobs and revenue. (see table 5 from book)

The stakes are high: More than $2 trillion in wealth has moved from one state to another in the past 15 years alone. Additionally, during that same time, 43 million Americans “voted with their feet” and moved across state lines for new opportunities.

Both investment and human capital are more mobile than ever. For instance, the nine states without personal income taxes have, on net, gained 2.9 million new residents from other states over the past decade. On the other hand, the nine states with the highest income tax rates have, on net, lost more than 3.8 million persons during that time. Americans continue to move toward more economic opportunity — and that opportunity continues to be greater in the states where economic policy is most competitive.

State lawmakers working to emulate Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Virginia (the top five states in this year’s economic outlook index), and diverge from Minnesota, California, Illinois, New York and Vermont (the bottom five states in this year’s economic outlook index), should look to embrace the free market, low tax, limited government principles described in Rich States, Poor States.

Income Tax Especially Damaging

Making sure income tax rates remain low is a centerpiece of sound tax and fiscal policy. As described above, the movement between the no income tax states and the highest income tax states is astounding. The research done by Rich States, Poor States and other professional observers of economic policy leads to the conclusion that personal and business income taxes are the most harmful to economic growth. Of course, all taxes affect economic growth, but it is worth noting that income taxes are the worst offenders when it comes to slowing this growth.



[Return to headlines]

VA’s Unethical Mental Health Actions

It is important to consider that upon arrival at VA mental health facilities, some new patients are verbally told that the twelve page form must be filled out in its entirety prior to receiving care. While researching this story, it was found that some VA staff admitted that the form is not mandatory, yet at the same time many staff are informing Veterans that the form is mandatory.

A few of the invasive questions include requests for information regarding the Veteran’s childhood such as history of child sexual abuse, educational history, employment history, military history and military related trauma, questions targeting the Veteran’s memory functioning, personal legal history, alcohol and substance use history, and religious type questions such as what church the Veteran attends. Some of the questions related to alcohol usage include explaining how many drinks containing alcohol that the Veteran had consumed during the past year. The form further requests information about the Veteran’s children and the developmental history of the children, and requests personal financial information such as the source of the Veteran’s income and the amount that the Veteran receives from any income sources per month.

In at least one current documented case, the questions directed toward a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patient by one of the VA’s psychiatric nurse practitioners were: “Do you own any guns?,” and “Have you ever killed anyone?” To date, all Veterans who have been interviewed concerning this new form and verbal questions as part of the intake practice and continued care practice, have expressed negative angry responses indicating that, “It is none of their f****** business.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Voter Proof-of-Citizenship Law Voided by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court threw out an Arizona law that required evidence of citizenship when people register to vote, in a victory for minority-rights advocates and the Obama administration.

The justices, voting 7-2, said Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship law runs afoul of a federal statute that sets out registration requirements.

The ruling limits the role played by the states in national elections and raises questions about similar laws in three other states — Alabama, Kansas and Georgia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

“Islamic Science” Or Islamic Propaganda?

By Bruce Bawer

Tomorrow, an exhibition entitled “Sultans of Science: Islamic Science Rediscovered” will open at the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology (an independent institution, but one that receives considerable financial support from the Norwegian state). According to the museum, “Sultans of Science” is “the largest science exhibition that has ever been seen in Norway.” Although, over the last few years, it has been on display in venues “in New Jersey, South Africa, Toronto, Edmonton, San Jose, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia,” this marks its first appearance anywhere in Europe. “We are proud to bring this exhibition to Norway and delighted to unfold the knowledge of a great civilization which will be an engaging and educating experience for our visitors,” museum director Hans Weinberger said in a press release.

On its website, the museum invites adults and children alike to come see “Sultans of Science” and thus “get acquainted with an important scientific legacy from Islamic culture.” Singing the praises of “the golden age of Islamic science,” during which “science was encouraged and supported” by “the great Islamic caliphates,” the museum’s website informs us that “the development of European culture was…directly influenced by Islamic culture,” but that the traces of this influence were eventually, and tragically, “erased.” Simply put, the purpose of this show is to acquaint Western audiences with the riches of Islamic science and its immense impact on Western science and technology.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Belgium: Antwerp Jihadis to be Scrapped From Civil Register

The Mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever (nationalist) has said that the young men from the port city that have gone to fight with Islamist rebels in Syria with be scraped from the civil register. This means that they will no longer have an official address here and with lose their right to benefits. Friday’s edition of the daily ‘Gazet van Antwerpen’ reports that the Federal Interior Minister Joëlle Milquet (Francophone Christian democrat) has no issues with the measure, although she does doubt whether they will be effective.

“Scrapping these people from the civil registers is something that falls under my brief as Mayor.”

“It’s a long drawn-out procedure that has already been started up. Several checks have shown that they no long live in the city.

The Mayor of Antwerp also calls on young Muslims not to head for Syria this summer.

“Don’t listen to the radicals. There is a big chance that you won’t come back from Syria. It’s hell over there”, Mayor De Wever told the paper.

Mr De Wever added that he didn’t believe that there was much chance that those already in Syria would return. “These Antwerp jihadis know that they will face prosecution. They will be detained if they show their faces here again.”

Bart De Wever says that there 22 jihadis from Antwerp currently in Syria. They all had ties with the now defunct Islamist group Sharia4Belgium.

“They are all adults. Some are even married with children and have often taken their families over to Syria. They probably intend never to return”, the Mayor of Antwerp told VRT radio news.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Handshake Refusal Continues to Stoke Debate

Muslim maths examiner agrees with school administration that he will not shake hands with any students but that has only further angered some critics

Debate this weekend continued over the refusal of Youssef Minawi to shake hands with female students taking maths exams in the Jutland town of Horsens.

Minawi was the external examiner for oral maths exams being administered to the town’s upper-secondary and adult education students and declined to shake women’s hands due to his Muslim beliefs. When a young woman set to take one of the exams last week read a notice on the school website that the examiner would not the hands of female students. The woman complained to the school that she felt she was being discriminated against and would not receive a fair chance during the exam.

The school’s administration said it was too late to find a new examiner, and the Education Ministry told the school it was up to them to find a solution.

As a compromise, headteacher Liv Tind Hauch agreed with Minawi that he would not shake hands with anyone, male or female, and greet all students verbally only.

But that decision only stoked the outrage in some quarters.

Dansk Folkeparti integration spokesperson Martin Henriksen called it “totally idiotic”.

“If the solution reached is to not shake hands with anyone, then the headtacher should be replaced,” Henriksen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Henriksen called on the government to get involved and challenged it and opposition party Venstre to “stop dodging their responsibilities in the name of political correctness”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU Chief Slams ‘Reactionary’ France

The president of the European Commission slammed France on Monday for its “reactionary” stance towards globalization. José Manuel Barroso’s comments follow marathon trade talks between EU member states over a potential EU-US free trade deal.

José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission branded France “reactionary” on Monday in reference to Paris’s position during crucial talks over a potential landmark free trade deal between EU and the United States.

During the fraught negotiations France insisted that its prized audiovisual sector must be exempt from what would stand as the world’s largest free trade agreement. The stubborn insistence on ‘cultural exception’ angered EU chiefs and Barroso vented his frustration in an interview with the International Herald Tribune.

“It’s part of the anti-globalization program that I consider totally reactionary,” Barroso told the Paris based newspaper.

“Some of those (who defend France’s ‘cultural exception’) say they are left but they are actually extremely reactionary,” he added.

“They do not understand the benefits brought by globalization, including from a cultural point of view, to broaden perspectives and give us the sentiment of belonging to same humanity,” the EU chief said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU-US Trade Talks: Europe’s Culture in Danger

Gazeta Wyborcza Warsaw

The “exception culturelle” is crucial to securing the future of European movies, warn filmmakers on the eve of talks on EU-US free trade. Without subsidies and and exemption from the deal, European cinema will cease to exist, warn filmmakers.

Pawel T. Felis

Unveiled at the beginning of the year, the EU-US negotiations on the establishment of a free trade zone have met with an enthusiastic response from some, but also with concerns from others. According to Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, the planned agreement will “help to create high-quality jobs and boost economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic without costing taxpayers any money. It will establish the world’s largest free trade zone and reinvigorate transatlantic relations.” Most EU economics ministers favour of the deal, which makes its signing highly likely. But if it is signed, culture may prove its first and greatest casualty.

In 1988, the European Commission introduced uniform rules, known as the “cultural exception”, under which films and audiovisual works are treated differently than other commercial products. This means, among other things, that they can be supported by member states through various mechanisms because the “promotion of culture is one of the EU’s main policy goals.” But if the EU-US free trade agreement enters in force, both films and music will be relegated to the role of ordinary commercial products. What does this mean?

In the first place, the closure of national film institutes, which provide funding for the majority of European film productions (in Poland this is the Polish Film Institute, or PISF). These are public institutions established precisely in order to implement cultural protectionism. But it is not the disappearance of the institutions themselves that would create a problem. It is the disappearance of the funds they secure for cultural promotion, by collecting charges from movie distributors and television broadcasters. Without these funds, the films of Polish directors such as Smarzowski, Jakimowski, Krauze or Holland, or European ones such as Haneke, the Dardenne brothers, or Mungiu, would never be made.

Differing views of culture

Also under threat are the so called European quotas, a regulation under which TV broadcasters in the EU are required to broadcast at least 50 per cent of European content. The current public media financing system, including a universal television licence, will not be possible under the planned agreement. Nor will be public support for small movie theatres showing European (and European-supported) film productions, or for European song writers. Under Poland’s current media law, radio broadcasters are required to broadcast at least 33 per cent Polish content. If the free trade agreement becomes law, this requirement will become null and void….

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

Fiat Raises Two Billion Euros for Merger, Says Bloomberg

Nine banks sign on to credit facility for Fiat-Chrysler birth

(ANSA) — New York, June 17 — Turin-based Fiat has raised two billion euros in credit from major banks to help fund its merger with Chrysler to create a global auto-making force, Bloomberg news reported Monday.

Nine banks, including Italian lenders Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit as well as Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Societe Generale, have agreed to participate in providing a three-year credit line, the sources told Bloomberg.

All are expected to sign onto the deal on June 21. It replaces a 1.95 billion-euro credit facility, the sources said.

Fiat already owns a 58.5% stake in Chrysler and is anxious to purchase the remaining shares to complete a merger with the American automaker, which Fiat rescued from bankruptcy in 2009.

At that time, the remaining 41.5% stake went to the United Autoworkers retiree health-care trust, called VEBA.

Analysts now value the VEBA stake at $3.5 billion to $4 billion US, Forbes magazine reported at the end of April.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Finmeccanica CEO Calls for Italian and EU Defense Agenda

Pushes for European programme to develop drones

(ANSA) — Paris, June 17 — The chief executive of the Italian defence and transport conglomerate Finmeccanica on Monday called for new policies and vision on Italian and European levels to develop the domestic and continental defense industry.

“We have confidence that our government is well aware and is working hard for a well-defined, serious Italian position” at December’s summit of European Union defence ministers, said Alessandro Pansa at the Paris Air Show. Pansa also laid out a checklist of policies he feels the Italian government needs to define.

“What will be our government’s defense policy? The position of our government regarding industrial relations? And the position of the cabinet toward other major producers?” Pansa queried, adding, “a fourth thing — to what extent will we see European governments wanting to pool resources for defense technologies”? High on his own list, Pansa pointed to developing a European programme for the development of unmanned drones. Pansa said Finmeccanica’s aerospace subsidiary Alenia “will do everything possible to develop” a European drone-development programme “but we cannot remain outside an important business for aerospace in the future”. Pansa was making reference to Finmeccanica’s joint effort with pan-European aeronautical company EADS — registered in the Netherlands — and French aerospace company Dassault, who have asked their respective governments to launch a joint programme for drone development.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Suspected Rapist Had Tried to Lure Others Into His Flat

A NUMBER of women have contacted gardai about a man who attempted to lure them into a ground-floor flat in the same area of Dublin where a young girl with special needs was raped last week.

Gardai have identified a suspect, believed to be a Pakistani national aged in his late 20s or early 30s, who is suspected of dragging the young woman off the street and raping her last Wednesday.

The young woman, who has Down Syndrome, was held prisoner for an hour and raped after being lured or dragged off a residential street near the Camden Street end of the South Circular Road.

Gardai have appealed to anyone who was in the South Circular Road end of the Portobello area — particularly around Lennox Street, Synge Street and Harrington Street — at the time to contact them.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Italian Govt Interested in Finmeccanica Ceding Civil Assets

Industry minister also speaks of potential partnerships

(ANSA) — Paris, June 17 — Italian Industry Minister Flavio Zanonato confirmed on Monday that the Italian government is interested in allowing new deals for the civilian industry assets of transport and defence conglomerate Finmeccanica. The Italian government remains the formerly State-owned giant’s largest single shareholder with a 30% stake.

“Not only does the possibility of selling assets exist, but also the possibility of finding partners to develop products and markets,” said Zanonato on the margins of the Paris Air Show, when he was asked if the government was interested in Finmeccanica’s ceding civilian industry assets. “It is a matter that is being discussed not only in my ministry but within the government. The main objective is to maintain a strong industrial presence in Italy”.

The government, Zanonato added, “does not want capital to move (abroad). The problem remains for us to make it so that when foreign capital enters, production does not get dislocated, and that not a market but a line of production is bought”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Afghan Fugitive Wanted for Norway Murder Arrested in Rome

Man accused of killing 17 yr old wife traced via cell phone

(ANSA) — Rome, June 17 — Rome police arrested a fugitive Afghan man accused of killing his 17-year-old wife and fleeing with their two-year-old daughter from Oslo, Norway, on June 12, investigators said on Monday. The alleged wife-killer immediately fled Norway and crossed several countries to go into hiding in Italy.

Investigators managed to locate the man, Noori Ahmad, by tracing a complex web of minimal computer traces left by his cell phone along his flight.

After fruitless efforts to locate his cell phone by its IMEI identity code — which had been furnished by Norwegian police — on Saturday afternoon Italian investigators found a phone number owned by an migrant living in Naples associated with the fugitive’s cell phone device.

The device, investigators then learned, was located in Rome. From there investigators began a feverish search for the fugitive, but efforts were complicated by the density of the neighborhoods where the phone number occasionally showed up.

What gave Ahmad away was the presence of his cell phone at an internet point in a neighborhood of southeast Rome.

Investigators were then able to follow the man in real time on Sunday morning, thanks to a couple of brief phone calls the fugitive made to Iran.

Noori Ahmad was arrested, in the company of his two-year-old daughter, at the same Internet point he had visited the evening before.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Mafia Earns 16.7 Billion Euros in Trash, Environment Abuse

‘Eco-gangs on the rise’ says Legambiente annual report

(ANSA) — Rome, June 17 — The mafia in Italy made an estimated 16.7 billion euros last year by illegally trafficking waste and exploiting the environment, a report released Monday said. According to environmental group Legambiente, over 34,000 environmental crimes were recorded in 2012, with 28,132 people charged and over 8,000 properties and accounts confiscated. The number of organized gangs involved grew from 296 to 302, while the number of city governments dissolved for mafia infiltration more than quadrupled on the year, from 6 to 25, said the 2013 Eco-mafia Report, which relied on police data. Also on the rise were instances of forest arson, unlawful building, and corruption, the later of which saw a two-fold increase.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Business Union Chief Says Cutting Labour Costs Top Priority

Scrapping IMU without raising VAT ‘preposterous’, says Minister

(ANSA) — Genoa, June 14 — Italy’s chief priority is cutting labour costs rather than scrapping a controversial real estate property tax IMU or averting a planned increase in a value-added tax, the president of Italy’s business union Confindustria Giorgio Squinzi said on Friday. “For us, this is the top priority”, Squinzi said, calling for a deduction of labour costs in the regional production tax IRAP and to cut down by 11 points a tax on labour. On Thursday, Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni said cutting the unpopular IMU property tax without raising a value-added tax by 1% was “preposterous” and would force massive spending cuts elsewhere. Saccomanni said scrapping IMU, a key issue for the center-right, would cost four billion euros. In addition, he said freezing a VAT increase scheduled next month, taking it from 21% to 22%, would cost another four billion euros.

Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, founder of the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party backing Italy’s unprecedented left-right government coalition, has said that if IMU isn’t scrapped, he will make the cabinet fall.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Governor of Valle D’aosta Probed for Abuse of Office

Rollandin investigated over parking-garage contract

(ANSA) — Aosta, June 17 — The head of the regional government in Valle d’Aosta is being investigated for abuse of office, prosecutors announced Monday.

Governor Augusto Rollandin is under investigation over the development of a new parking lot at the Umberto Parini hospital in the regional capital, sources told ANSA.

Valle d’Aosta is located in northwestern Italy, in the middle of the Alps.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Seven Jailed for Linesman Death: Tough Sentences Merited Says Court

Six teenagers and a 51-year-old man have been jailed for their role in the death of a football linesman who was kicked by a mob after a youth game in Almere last December.

The court in Lelystad ruled ‘tough sentences’ were merited for all the defendents because of the nature of the crime. Only three of the youths were in court to hear the sentences.

El-Hasan D, 51, was jailed for six years while his son Yassine, 16, was given 12 months in juvenile detention, two suspended.

The other suspects, aged 16, 17 and 18, were given 24-month sentences, six suspended for their parts in the attack. The youngest defendent, Daveryon B, 15, was given 30 days in youth custody, 17 days suspended. He was only guilty of attacking the keeper, the court found.


Lawyers for El-Hasan and some of the youths have already said they will appeal against the sentences.

Richard Nieuwenhuizen died in hospital the day after being attacked by a group of youths after a B youth match between Almere club Buitenboys and Amsterdam side Nieuwe Sloten.

The sentences were in line with the public prosecution department’s demands. The court said Nieuwenhuizen died as a direct result of the attack and although the youths may not have intended to kill him, they should have realised there was a risk this would happen.

The attack on Nieuwehuizen forced the Dutch football association KNVB to implement new measures, including a hotline, to try to stop off-the-pitch violence.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Military on Cultural Sensitivity Exercise in Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM, 15/06/13 — Soldiers are to visit immigrant districts in Amsterdam next week to exercise negotiating techniques in a multicultural society, De Telegraaf newspaper reported Friday.

With an eye to future missions in non-Western conflict areas, the defence ministry considers it important that soldiers in the battalion who specialise in communication with the local population during missions, train in a so-called ‘live environment’. The Amsterdam districts selected for the training are West and Nieuw-West.

Between Monday 17 and Friday 21 June, the districts will form a fictional mission area. Soldiers will learn to take diverse political, cultural, religious, social, economic and humanitarian aspects into account, according to the paper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Upper House Speaker Resigns Over Wilders Affair

THE HAGUE, 15/06/13 — Fred de Graaf has resigned as Speaker in the Upper House. He considers his position untenable because he apparently prevented Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders from being given a prominent role in the investiture of Willem-Alexander as king.

A statement on the website of the Upper House says: “Fred de Graaf has seen that the debate is persisting on the method of operation followed by him in the guidance committee for the investiture of the King on 30 April. As a result, his integrity is at risk. He therefore plans to inform the Upper House at its next meeting on Tuesday 18 June that he is resigning as Speaker.”

A number of sources in The Hague say the party leadership of the conservatives (VVD) pushed for the departure of De Graaf. “Naturally, there is contact with one another as VVD members at such a moment. But on the content of this, I cannot give any information,” said Premier and VVD leader Mark Rutte Friday. But it was De Graaf’s own decision to resign, he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Scottish Police Worry Breakup of 2 Muslim Paedophile Rings Will “Increase Community Tensions”

By Daniel Greenfield

There’s so much tiptoeing around this story that you might get the impression that you’re at the Bolshoi Ballet instead of reading an article about the breakup of two major paedo rings.

Unfortunately for the police, the paedos in question appear to originate from a religion whose prophet had a thing for little girls. Naturally the Scottish Express can’t bring itself to say this, the prophet part or the Muslim part. The closest it can come to saying that is to mention that there is an ethnicity involved that “extremist” elements will capitalize on.

And it’s a safe bet that it’s not the Welsh we’re talking of here.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Swedes Joining Rebels Can ‘Rarely be Stopped’

A Säpo official has suggested Sweden is powerless to stop citizens from joining Islamist rebels in Syria even though there is a risk they will return to commit acts of terror in Sweden.

At least 30 Swedish citizens have travelled to Syria to fight against Assad’s regime.

“We can rarely stop them,” Jonathan Peste, chief analyst at Swedish security service Säpo, told Sveriges Radio (SR) on Monday.

According to Peste, the Swedish citizens who have joined rebel forces in Syria are dangerous individuals.

“In Syria they are dangerous. Some have committed attacks against civilians,” he claimed.

“What we are concerned about is the experiences they receive over there. They increase their ability to commit acts of violence. Many return to Sweden and, according to al-Qaida’s ideology, Europe and even Sweden are legitimate targets,” said Peste.

He claimed that there are known examples of individuals who have planned to attack Sweden.

Among the Swedes who have gone to Syria, some, said Peste, “have been part of this violence-endorsing Islamist, or al-Qaida-inspired, environment for quite some time.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Asylum Seekers Sparked Terror Alert on Flight’

A TERROR alert which forced a packed passenger jet to land in the UK was sparked by desperate Syrians escaping the civil war in their homeland, police believe.

Senior officers investigating the drama which unfolded on Saturday are “utterly convinced” the note threatening to burn the plane in mid-flight was a ploy to have it diverted into a British airport.

The EgyptAir Boeing 777 was three hours into a flight from Cairo to New York’s JFK airport when a passenger found the words “I set this plane on fi re” and a seat number scrawled in pencil on a paper napkin.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Morsi’s New Governors Increase Tensions with Opposition

Seven from Brotherhood, one ex Gamaa Islamiya appointed

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JUNE 17 — Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Sunday appointed 17 new provincial governors, including seven members of his Muslim Brotherhood.

He also appointed Adel Assad el-Khayat, a member of the political arm of ex-Islamic militant group Gamaa Islamiya, which fought an insurgency war against deposed president Hosni Mubarak. In 1997, Gamaa Islamiya claimed responsibility for what became known as the Luxor massacre: in the ancient southern city of Luxor, a main tourist site, 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed. Tourist companies have called a strike tomorrow to protest the appointment of el-Khayat, who has been arrested several times for his political leanings, according to tourist guide union leader Wael Ibrahim. Another six army generals and police officers have been appointed to areas of unrest such as Port Said and Ismailia, where violent clashes took place at the beginning of the year. The seven Brotherhood appointments are “a challenge to the people” and a sign Morsi is stepping up confrontation ahead of the one-year anniversary of his presidency on June 30, according to opposition front spokesperson Khaled Daoud. “Instead of sending signals of detente, the Brotherhood adds fuel to the fire. The proof is that protests have already erupted in several governorates”, Daoud told ANSAmed. The liberal and secular Egyptian opposition has called for mass demonstrations against the country’s first Brotherhood president on June 30. The opposition Tamarod (“rebel” in Arabic) campaign has gathered 15 million signatures demanding early presidential elections, or 1.8 million more than the votes Morsi received. The Egyptian president would gain 30% of the vote if elections were held today, while another 50% of respondents said they would not reconfirm him in office, according to a survey by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisian Feminist Leader: ‘Femen, Please Leave US Alone’

European Femen activists have been sentenced to four months in prison for their topless protest in the Tunisian capital last month. Now the country’s opposition leader, herself a respected feminist, is asking Femen to leave, calling their actions counterproductive.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Don’t Turn Syria Into a ‘Tesco for Terrorists’ Like Libya, Generals Tell Cameron

David Cameron has been warned against sending arms to Syrian rebels amid fears they would end up in the hands of Islamist terrorists who target the West.

Up to 3,000 surface-to-air missiles have gone missing in Libya since the conflict — and spy chiefs say the state has become the ‘Tesco’ of the world’s illegal arms trade.

More than one million tonnes of weapons belonging to Colonel Gaddafi were looted from arms dumps after the dictator was toppled in October 2011.

MI6 agents fear large numbers of weapons — which included 22,000 shoulder-launched missiles capable of bringing down an aircraft — have been smuggled out of Libya to groups linked to Al Qaeda.

Security sources are said to fear that, if the rebels fighting tyrant Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria are armed by the West, a similar situation could arise there — with the weapons falling into the hands of Islamic extremists in the country.

Read more:

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Dutch Jihadists in Syria: We Miss Cheese Rolls

Fidaa writes that it ‘may seem strange’ but he has not seen anyone who has developed problems after killing Bashar’s soldiers or has seen dead bodies.

‘Stranger still, the brothers who have managed to kill one of Bashar’s soldiers have finally been given peace in their hearts. Protecting the people against murderous soldiers… gives satisfaction. Muslims in the west who are looking on helplessly need psychiatric help, not us. Jihad in Syria has a therapeutic effect.’

Asked about what they missed from home, Fidaa mentioned drop (liquorice) and a simple cheese roll. ‘And a mochachino iced coffee from the petrol station… but most of all we miss our mothers’ cooking.’

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

Erdogan and Europe: Eleven Years of Misunderstandings Paris

When he came to power more than ten years ago, Turkey’s prime minister made his country’s accession to the EU a priority. However, differences with the EU seem to have persuaded him to change his mind, a perception reinforced by his attitude towards recent weeks’ protests.

Ariane Bonzon

In 2002, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was on the campaign trail, and his party went on to victory in elections a few months later. He spoke in concrete terms of day-to-day life and freedoms of religion, culture, language and expression. The atmosphere was rather good-natured and less nationalistic than at the meetings of certain other parties.

Preparing to join the European Union was, he said, a necessary and useful step, and the best way to reform the country. To foreign audiences he explained that his new Party of Justice and Prosperity (AKP) had transformed and broken with its Islamist, anti-European past.

Eleven years later, during the night between Thursday 6 and Friday June 7, there was none of that talk to be heard. Erdogan’s references were to the Ottoman Empire. He called on Allah to make “brotherhood”, the “union” and Arab-Muslim solidarity “eternal”, and he played on the Turkish nationalist pride of thousands of his supporters, the “soldiers” who had come to welcome him and declare themselves ready to go “wipe out” the “Vandals”.

The Turkish prime minister had nothing to say about the protests against his government’s authoritarian excesses, against unbridled capitalism, for freedom of expression and lifestyle, of the tens of thousands youth who have been on the streets since May 31.…

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

Fighting Terrorism by Arming Terrorists

The Obama administration appears to be moving toward arming rebels in Syria, though the White House has only publicly confirmed an increase in the “scope and scale” of its military support.

By one estimate, seven of nine key rebel combatant groups are Islamist. “As the civil war has dragged on, the rebels have become more Islamist and extreme,” the Economist reports…

Arms shipments approved by the Obama administration have already ended up in the hands of jihadists in Libya. “The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya,” reported the New York Times, “allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Interview With Prince Turki Bin Faisal: ‘Saudi Arabia Wants Downfall of Assad’

Saudi Arabia has long urged the West to arm the Syrian rebels as they battle forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. In an interview with SPIEGEL, he explains why. He also says Europe should change its strategy in nuclear negotiations with Iran.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

It is Madness to Get Caught in the Bloodshed in Syria

A FORM of collective insanity seems to have gripped the Government over Syria. Disastrous meddling and self-indulgent posturing have replaced any respect for the British national interest.

In their irrational enthusiasm for the hardline rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, David Cameron and the Foreign Secretary William Hague are not only dragging us into dangerous conflict that has absolutely nothing to do with our country, but, even worse, they are giving support to the ideological enemies of the West.

Less than a month ago, in an atrocity that shook our nation, a pair of Islamist fanatics hacked to death Drummer Lee Rigby in broad daylight on a London street. Yet now, with almost lunatic perversity and contempt for Lee Rigby’s memory, senior ministers are effectively backing the Islamist cause in the Syrian civil war.

In interviews over the weekend, Cameron tried to justify his policy by arguing that the downfall of Assad would usher in “a free, democratic, pluralistic Syria.” But that is just pathetic self-delusion. President Assad might be a cruel dictator but many of his opponents appear to be even more brutal, fuelled by their fanatical Sunni Muslim extremist dogma, the same creed that inspires Al Qaeda. Rebel soldiers have reportedly massacred civilians and even eaten the organs of dead prisoners. In one appalling incident in the rebel-held city of Aleppo, anti-Assad militia twice shot a 14-year-old boy in the face and killed him, all for the crime of allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

These are not the people to establish a new era of freedom and tolerance in Syria. In fact, the rebels do not have any democratic basis whatsoever.

Even in Aleppo, supposedly one of their strongholds, 70 per cent of the population support Assad.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Italian Photographer Arrested, Beaten During Istanbul Demos

Daniele Stefanini rescued by human-right lawyer

(updates previous) (ANSA) — Ankara, June 17 — An Italian photographer was injured when he was struck on the head by police wielding riot batons who eventually took him into custody during riots in Istanbul, Italian embassy sources said Monday.

Daniele Stefanini, 28, was struck on Sunday and was later rescued by a human-rights lawyer who said he found the photographer “in a confused state” and took him to hospital.

He was later put in police holding where Italian consular authorities are assisting him.

“His condition is not worrisome,” said the foreign ministry in a statement. Stefanini was stopped by police in Istanbul’s district of Bayrampasha, while trying to reach the site of a demonstration. “My son is too passionate about photography,” said Stefanini’s mother after the photographer called to notify her of the incident. Since the beginning of protests in Turkey, three people have been killed and about 7,500 injured — at least 50 of those seriously hurt.

A police officer was killed during a fall from a bridge while chasing protesters, who began their demonstrations against a park demolition but have moved on to demand broader government reforms.

Lawyers are raising concerns about police violence against demonstrators, many of whom have been peaceful.

Journalists are also being targeted and several have been arrested and beaten.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Leaked Emails Prove Obama Backed Plan to Launch Chemical Weapon Attack on Syria and Blame it on Assad

Leaked emails have allegedly proved that the White House gave the green light to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could be blamed on Assad’s regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country.

A report released on Monday contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence where a scheme ‘approved by Washington’ is outlined explaining that Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons.

Barack Obama made it clear to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last month that the U.S. would not tolerate Syria using chemical weapons against its own people.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

The Great “Arab Spring” Hoax

The so-called “Arab Spring” has been growing since 2010 when a man in Tunisia burned himself to death in protest at his treatment by police. But it has little to do with Arabs and far more to do with Muslims. Most of the countries involved are not Arab countries at all.

The countries that really are Arabian have put down minor revolts and made some concessions to avoid the upheaval in neighboring countries. So why call the uprising in six countries the “Arab Spring”?

TUNISIA: Tunisians were originally Berber tribesmen who were invaded by the Muslim Arabs and others to form a mixed race. But Arabs — they are not.

EGYPT: Although Egyptians speak a form of Arabic they are proud to be Egyptians and are a mixture of Africans and many other races. They certainly do not look upon themselves as Arabs.

LIBYA: Libyans are not Arabs either. They are a mixture of Maghrebi tribesmen, Africans, and other invading armies.

TURKEY: Although some elements of the Turkish population have embraced the revolution to attempt a totally Islamic society, they certainly are not Arabs.

IRAN: Don’t dare refer to an Iranian as an Arab. They are of the early Persian Empire and feel themselves vastly superior to Arabs. They don’t even speak Arabic.

SYRIA: Again the Syrian race is far from being Arab. They never had anything to do with the Arabian Peninsula where the true Arabs came from. SO — WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE ABOUT AN “ARAB SPRING?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Europe Closer With Taksim’s Revolt

‘Western’ protest for more democracy and secular standards

(by Francesco Cerri) (ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 17 — Onlookers who watch images of the brutal crackdown on young protesters demanding more democracy and freedom in Turkey can perceive the country as moving away from Europe under the authoritarian leadership of ‘sultan’ Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, the context is different and the protest of ‘indignados’ in Istanbul and Ankara and the violence against them actually signals that Turkey, the country’s near future, is on the contrary closer to Europe. The tens of thousands of youths who took to the street to save yet another ‘crazy’ redevelopment project sponsored by Erdogan and then protested across the country against the brutal crackdown on the first demonstrations, demanding that the premier step down and a new democracy, are the same as their European peers.

The only difference is that they are mostly Muslim, at least by birth. But they are in love with freedom and justice just like the indignados of Madrid, London or Berlin.

This should assure those in Europe who fear the entrance of a Turkey-Trojan horse, monolithically Muslim, within the 27-member Christian club. The young students, graduates and workers demonstrating today without having any experience as activists, will be the future elite of a country which aims to become one of the world’s top ten economic powers in ten years and whose adhesion would strengthen Europe.

In Turkey the revolt of the young was not intercepted, as in the ‘Arab springs’, by Islamic movements. It is on the contrary secular and libertarian. But many of those protesting across Turkish cities are the offspring of Erdogan voters. Their mothers are preparing survival kits against tear gas used by police. In Taksim, the children of four lawmakers with the Islamic premier were also seen demonstrate. The tens of thousands of youths who became activists, the attention they grabbed from the media and international public opinion for their claims and the images of brutal repression highlighted the cracks, yet to be repaired, within Turkey’s peculiar democracy which is not yet ‘first rate’ as stated by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Criticism and questions to Erdogan are pouring in from Europe and the US. But as noted by Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, the EU should assess its position.

Membership talks with Ankara started in 2005. Since then, only one chapter concerning technology was closed out of 35. The rest is blocked over reservations from France and Germany, behind which many have hidden, and over Ankara’s rigid stance on Cyprus.

But the EU in the past eight years has not opened essential chapters for Turkey’s transformation — human rights, democracy and freedom. These would be key also to demand the cancellation of anti-terror laws under which hundreds of opposers, journalists, lawyers, politicians and union members have been jailed, banning repression measures which are certainly not European and guaranteeing freedom of expression. They would also be important to give an answer to that slice of the country which wants a ‘European’ Turkey and feels betrayed today. ‘Where is Europe while my country is being raped?’, a demonstrator , @Fulyacandas wondered on Twitter. ‘In the recent past the Turkish model was praised also beyond its limits’, observed Bonino. ‘Withdrawing Turkey’s European option just at a time when the country’s democratic standards needed to be consolidated was short-sighted: opening some blocked chapters would have welcomed the demand of many Turkish nationals who have now taken to the streets’. Now, Bonino says, the EU must take action because the ‘Turkish democracy’ is at stake.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (And Islamists) Wins Municipal Elections

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) wins 60% of the vote in Sylhet, Barisal, Khulna and Rajshahi. Heavy defeat for the ruling party, the Awami League. Victory thanks to support of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islamic party for months fomenting violence across the country.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has won the municipal elections in all four cities voting yesterday: Sylhet, Barisal, Khulna and Rajshahi. According to the National Election Commission, about 1.2 million voters, at least 80%, went to the polls. In general, the BNP candidate got 60% of the vote, against 40% of the ruling party Awami League candidates.

The clear BNP victory is a sign for both the country and for the AL. For months, the Nationalist Party has been supporting hartal (strikes) and events organized by the Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Party), which have often resulted in violence. Since February, the Jamaat has been battling the verdicts of the war crimes tribunals, created by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to judge the crimes committed by members of the Islamist party during the conflict that led to the independence of Bangladesh. Among the protagonists of these hartal, which have plunged the country and the population into almost constant tension, is Hefajat-e-Islam (“Protector of Islam”), one of Islamic fundamentalist groups that has sprung up like mushrooms in recent months, born within the numerous madrassas (Koranic schools) that are spread throughout Bangladesh.

In fact the “alliance” between the two opposition parties has favored the victory of the Nationalist Party. The Jamaat — who had no candidates in any of the four cities, ed — has proven it has a strong following among the population and that can exert influence in the upcoming general elections, scheduled for the end of the year.

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

Indonesia: Jakarta: Police Rejects Compulsory Headscarf for Female Officers

Islamists want to impose the jilbab on women police officers. Some human rights groups and lawmakers back the request. However, police spokesman said the force’s internal rules impose the same uniform on all officers and so the headscarf is inadmissible, except in Islamist-ruled Aceh province.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesia’s law enforcement authorities are resisting pressures from Islamic extremists to force female police officers to wear the jilbab, a traditional scarf that covers the head but not the face. Fundamentalist groups want all women to cover their head but police is adamant that all its officers respect the force’s rules, which require that all members wear the same uniform in every province and regency, except Islamist-ruled Aceh.

Sharia has been in place in autonomous province after a local separatist movement, the GAM, and the central government struck a deal to end three decades of civil war.

In Aceh, Islamic principles and social mores are enforced, which ban women sitting astride motorcycles or wearing jeans or miniskirts. A special police force, the morality squad, is dedicated to this type of violations.

The controversy over headscarves for women police officers has been brewing for weeks, and the police stand has drawn negative responses from some human rights groups like the National Human Right Commission (Komnas HAM) as well as lawmakers from a number of political parties.

Police spokesman Ronnie F Sompie cut the controversy short, stating that the force’s internal rules call for a single “official uniform” for all its members, including women. On the headscarf, the matter is clear, “wearing jilbab is not authorised” and “against the law”.

In 2009, East Java’s police chief was removed from office after two months because he had tried to impose a headscarf on women police officers.

In addition, many Indonesians rejected the “intrusion” by Komnas HAM and some lawmakers. In the first case, because the human rights commission should deal with the most serious rights violations like attacks against religious freedom (and Christians and Ahmadis). In the second, because politicians tend to intervene in order to attract support among extremist constituencies.

With a population of 231 million (2009), Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world. However, it is also home to large ethnic and religious minorities.

Muslims constitute 87 per cent of the population (mostly Sunni), Protestants are 6.1 per cent, Catholics are 4 per cent, whilst Hindus and Buddhists are 1 per cent.

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

China Demands France Act to Protect Citizens

Beijing has demanded that France take adequate measures to protect its citizens in the aftermath of a racist attack which saw six Chinese students beaten up in Bordeaux. A French minister said the violence had harmed France’s image abroad.

China has urged the French government to take action to protect its citizens in France after six students were beat up in an apparent racially motivated attack, the foreign ministry in Beijing said on Monday.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying expressed “strong condemnation” over the attack on the oenology students early Saturday in the wine-producing Bordeaux


“So far, the injured student has been properly treated,” Hua said at a regular briefing.

“At the same time China launched representation to France, asking it to properly handle the case, bring the perpetrators to justice and take effective measures to protect Chinese citizens’ safety and rights in France.”

Three youths, aged 19 and 20, were charged on Sunday with “acts of violence” with three aggravating factors: using or threatening to use a weapon, being drunk, and discrimination linked to race.

Racist insults were hurled during the assault early Saturday in which a female student was seriously hurt in the face by a glass bottle that was thrown at her, Le Foll said. She was hospitalized and underwent surgery.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

US Pork Producer Smithfield Foods to be Sold to China for $4.72 Billion — and This is Just the Beginning

(NaturalNews) Recent announcements about the acquisition of U.S.-based Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest pork producer and processor, by a major Chinese holding company has sent significant shockwaves throughout the American economy. According to new reports, Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. is in the process of pulling the trigger on purchasing Smithfield for $4.72 billion, a move that some say marks the beginning of a much larger takeover of American industry by the Far East.

Reports of a potential Smithfield acquisition have been surfacing here and there in recent months. But now it appears that the decision is all but complete, pending approval from Smithfield’s shareholders. As reported by, the deal was officially announced at the end of May, and part of its terms included shareholders receiving $34 per share, a roughly 31 percent premium from earlier share value, as part of the deal.

The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment still has to review the deal to assess any potential national security risks. But by the way the mainstream media is currently talking about the deal, it is essentially already a reality, which means a major segment of the American food economy will soon be controlled by a Chinese corporation. And not surprisingly, many of those paying attention to this development are completely outraged…

Is China finally cashing in on its U.S. debt holdings by buying up what’s left of the American economy?

The real crux of the issue here is that foreign buyouts of American companies have been picking up in recent years, and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The American economy, which has already been almost completely ransacked as far as the manufacturing sector goes, is now being slowly disassembled in the service and food sectors as well, which is a legitimate cause for concern.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Australia Poll Shows Edge for Rudd Over Gillard


Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s fragile leadership came under renewed pressure after an opinion poll showed rival and predecessor Kevin Rudd could save the government from an election defeat if he returned as leader of the ruling Labor party.

Ms. Gillard has already overcome two attempts by Mr. Rudd and his allies to unseat her, most recently in March, apparently smoothing her path to contest a Sept. 14 election. Now, a Nielsen poll published in Fairfax newspapers has indicated Labor needs to bring back Mr. Rudd if it wants to avoid a landslide defeat.

Under Ms. Gillard, popular support for the center-left Labor party has sunk to 29%, according to the latest poll, while backing for the conservative opposition, led by Tony Abbott, has climbed to 47%. On a two-party preferred basis—which factors in voters’ second preferences as in real elections—Labor under Ms. Gillard trails the center-right Liberal-National coalition by 43% to 57%…


If Mr. Rudd were leader, the poll suggested Labor’s primary support would rise to 40% while backing for the coalition would drop to 42%. On a two-party preferred basis, each party would get 50%, leaving the major parties to negotiate with otherlawmakers to decide who will form government, as occurred after the last election in 2010.


Today, Labor governs only with the support of the Greens Party and a clutch of nonparty lawmakers.

One of its most unpopular policies was the introduction last year of a carbon tax, drafted in consultation with the Greens, that the opposition blames for boosting energy prices and squeezing the resource-rich nation’s coal industry.


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Immigration Agency Ordered to Name Felons it Has Released

A federal judge has ordered the US Department of Homeland Security to disclose the names of thousands of criminal immigrants released in the United States because their homelands refused to take them back, handing the news media a rare victory against one of the most secretive agencies in the federal government.

US District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, ruling in New York on a lawsuit filed by The Boston Globe, rejected the Obama administration’s argument that providing the newspaper with the names of criminals freed since 2008 would violate the immigrants’ privacy. Instead, the judge ordered the agency to make public the first comprehensive list of criminal immigrants released in the United States since a crucial Supreme Court decision in 2001.

“The public has an interest in knowing how [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] handles aliens convicted of crimes who are required to be released,” the judge wrote in her ruling Thursday, noting that some of the released offenders go on to commit new violent crimes.

The decision comes nearly two years after the Globe initially requested the names through a Freedom of Information Act request with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

The agency provided a list of more than 6,800 criminals, nationwide, including 201 convicted of murder and other serious offenders, but refused to provide names.

‘This is a win for government transparency and common sense.’ — Thomas H. Dupree Jr., a former deputy assistant US attorney general

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

Seven Migrants Drown: Over 1,000 Flock to Italian Shores

Lampedusa holding centre packed to point of collapse

(ANSA) — Agrigento, June 17 — Seven migrants drowned Sunday as they attempted to cling to a tuna cage dragged by a Tunisian fishing boat south of Malta. The immigrants were among more than a thousand that have flocked to Italian coasts in the last two days, launched in boats from northern Africa across the Strait of Sicily. The flood of migrants has left the migrant holding centre on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa packed well beyond capacity.

Built to accommodate a maximum of 300 people, the centre is now packed with 855 people, with no transfers currently planned.

Italian Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini is set to meet a special representative from OECD for the fight against human-trafficking on Monday.

Thousands of migrants flood toward Europe across the Strait of Sicily each year as warm weather brings calmer seas, and the islands of Lampedusa, Pantelleria and Malta provide stepping stones to the continent.

Many come from Northern Africa looking for jobs, but also from further south and other parts of the globe. The latest landing occurred on dry land shortly before midnight on Sunday. Police stopped five Tunisians and two Bangladeshi citizens on Lampedusa’s Cala Pisana beach.

Another 121 immigrants were picked up Sunday night on a boat located 60 miles southeast of Lampedusa, containing eight women and at least 33 Sub-Saharan Africans.

One boat intercepted over the weekend contained a baby born at sea during the voyage.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italian Minister to Propose Civil Unions Bill

Idem ‘focusing on gay rights’ before Pride parade in Rome

(ANSA) — Palermo, June 14 — Italian Equal Opportunity Minister Josefa Idem on Friday said she would propose a bill legalizing civil unions, saying that an increasing number of citizens were calling for the measure.

“It is my intention to propose a law on civil unions, something that more and more citizens are calling for, rightly”, Idem said. She was speaking at the opening of Italy’s Gay Pride congress that took place on Sicily, announcing that she would be paying particular attention to gay rights issues in the nation. “I am here to bring a concrete sign of the government’s attention to the issues society has that cannot be ignored,” said Idem. “Someone asked me why I was focusing on gay rights given all the problems the country is facing. “And so what? Politics needs to give answers (to such questions)”.

Rome is hosting a national Gay Pride parade on Saturday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Marriage at Its Lowest Point in More Than a Century

The marriage rate is at its lowest point in more than a century, and the number of marriages across the USA fell more than 5% during the recession. But a new analysis projects that pent-up demand and the large population of marriage-eligible Millennials, ages 18-34, means more will be headed to the altar over the next two years.

Cultural changes about whether and when to marry, the fact that two-thirds of first marriages are preceded by cohabitation and the recession’s financial fallout — including unemployment and underemployment — fueled the wedding decline. Projections from the private company Demographic Intelligence of Charlottesville, Va., says the signs are right for a temporary boost in weddings.

The company projects a 4% increase in the number of weddings since 2009, reaching 2.168 million this year; 2.189 million in 2014. Depending on the economic recovery, the report projects a continuing increase to 2.208 million in 2015.

Although it finds marriage numbers are stagnant or declining among those with a high school education or less, younger Americans, and the less affluent, numbers are rising among women ages 25-34, the college-educated and the affluent, which is where “short-term increases in weddings will be concentrated,” says this analysis, released exclusively to USA TODAY. It’s based on a variety of measures, including unemployment and consumer confidence, which reflect the relationship between financial security and the transition to marriage.


“We’re anticipating that for both men and women, it (the average age) will continue to keep rising at least for the next decade,” says demographer Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence, which launched in 2010 with birth reports and fertility forecasts for consumer products. This is the company’s first foray into wedding forecasts.

He and other experts say it won’t be too long before the average marriage age for U.S. men reaches 30; it’s already 30 in some urban areas. In several European countries, the average age at first marriage is already in the 30s for both sexes.


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