Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/16/2014

Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, is coming under increasing criticism for his handling of the Ebola crisis. He told Congress that the disease does not pose a significant threat to public health. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization downplayed the possibility of a major Ebola outbreak in the West, citing the advanced Western health care systems.

In other news, hundreds of would-be asylum speakers attempted to storm the fence in the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla, hoping thereby to gain access to Spanish territory.

From Vlad: The massive explosion in Greely, Ontario — a suburb of Ottawa, Canada — has fallen down the media black hole. There has not been a single new report about it now this week. The last thing was on Sunday, when police said it was deliberately caused. Well, actually, they started referring to it as a ‘fire’, even though the explosion could be heard 25 kilometers away! That’s over 15 miles! The police also said it was not a marijuana “grow-op” or a meth lab. But it’s been radio silence ever since.

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

Thanks to C. Cantoni, DS, Fjordman, Insubria, Jerry Gordon, Vlad Tepes, 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
» Italian Economy Stagnant Since 2011, Warns ISTAT
» Italy: Labor Tax Break for New Hires Would Save Employers 7-10,000
» Italy: Regional Governments Up in Arms Over Renzi Budget
» Italy: Govt Tells EU it Will Cut Structural Deficit by 0.1%
» Oklahoma Woman Asked to Sign a Petition Telling Muslims to “Go Home”
» Republicans Slam Ebola Response That CDC Director Defends
Europe and the EU
» Book Highlights Pope Paul VI’s View of Muslim Martyrs
» Denmark: Lars Hedegaard Comments on the Release by Turkey of His Attempted Assassin
» EC Gives Italy Two Months to Deal With ILVA or Face Courts
» Eurosceptic Group in the European Parliament Breaks Up
» French Senate Passes Travel Ban on Suspected Jihadists
» Greece: Entire Golden Dawn Parliamentary Group Should Stand Trial, Says Prosecutor
» Grillo’s Eurosceptic Group in EP Collapses
» Iceland Closes Suspected IS Website
» Italy: Judge Accepts Plea Deal From Ex-Veneto Governor
» Italy: Ruby Sex Worker But Berlusconi Didn’t Know Her Age — Court
» Private Mars Colony Project May Not be Feasible, Study Suggests
» UK: Swiss Cottage Tesco Staff Tell Blind Woman to ‘Get Dog Out’
Israel and the Palestinians
» Qatar Paid for Hamas’s Rockets and Jihad Terror Tunnels
Middle East
» Australians Warned to Leave Iraq Immediately
» Blind Arab-American Policy of Bombing Boosting Islamic State
» Italy to Send 280 Instructors, Two Drones to Iraq
» Italy Allocates 300,000 Euros to Protect Fleeing Syria Kurds
» Ultimatum to Crimea’s Muslims: Three Months to Hand Over Banned Islamic Texts
South Asia
» Christian Woman Convicted of Blasphemy in Pakistan Loses Appeal Against Death Penalty
» India: Modi Government Slams Western Schools Says Hindu Schools Are Better
» Malaysia Islamic State “Recruiters” Arrested: They Include Internet Experts and Politicians
Far East
» China Moving Forward With Big Space Station Plans
» FBI Warns Tech Companies of State-Sponsored China Hackers
» Frontex Triton Operation to ‘Support’ Italy’s Mare Nostrum
» Hundreds of Migrants Storm Morocco-Spain Border: Govt
» Illegal Immigrants in Arizona Must Get Right to Post Bail, Federal Court Says
» In the Arab World Every Minute a Child Becomes a Refugee
» Indictments Sought for Enslavement, Extortion in Puglia
» Italy: Mare Nostrum Will End Says Alfano
» More Than 200 Would-be Migrants Attempt to Jump Melilla Border
Culture Wars
» Big Brother in Texas: Houston Demands Pastors Turn Over Sermon Notes, Private Communications
» Ebola Crisis: WHO Says Major Outbreak in West ‘Unlikely’

Italian Economy Stagnant Since 2011, Warns ISTAT

Weak global economic data knock financial markets

(ANSA) — Rome, October 15 — The Italian economy has been mired in an extended period of stagnation, showing no growth in annual data and only losses since the second quarter of 2011, national statistical agency Istat said Wednesday.

Its report came just hours before Premier Matteo Renzi was scheduled to put before cabinet an expansionary budget for 2015 with 30 billion euros in new adjustments to taxes and spending.

It also coincided with dramatic losses on financial markets around the globe, as weak economic statistics were reported in parts of Europe and the United States, spooking investors worldwide.

Renzi has leaked highlights of his budget plan, particularly 18 billion euros in tax cuts next year to try to kickstart growth, which he repeated in a Twitter post Wednesday morning. “The difference between the 2014 budget and 2015 is that there are 18 billion in lower taxes. That’s it. Restart Italy,” Renzi tweeted.

He appeared to be on course to clash with the European Union over his tax-and-spending plans which, unlike the EU’s emphasis on lowering debt, are instead aimed at boosting Italy’s lackluster economy.

Numerous agencies, from the International Monetary Fund to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, have forecast recession in Italy this year, and very modest growth in 2015.

Renzi’s own finance department has painted a similar picture forecasting an overall fall in gross domestic product (GDP) this year of about -0.3%, slightly less than the average of about 0.4% loss in 2014.

Istat injected a spark of good news Wednesday, reporting that its revised figures show that the economy was flat in the first quarter of the year, rather than falling by 0.1% as previously thought.

That suggests the country is technically not in recession, which is defined by two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

These revised figures show that GDP between January and March of this year was unchanged from the previous quarter, suggesting stagnation instead of outright recession.

Istat has been revising its measurements of the economy to take account of the impacts of illegal activities such as prostitution and drugs, in line with European standards.

Concerns about growth in Italy, Europe, and internationally weighed heavily on financial markets, with investors watching closely as all 18 members of the eurozone were due to submit drafts of their budgets to the European Commission by midnight Wednesday.

Milan’s major stock exchange fell by more than 4% in trading Wednesday, with the Milan FTSE Mib reaching 18,465 points shortly before closing.

Smaller sell-offs were also reported in other European markets, including a drop of 2.62% in Paris, 1.78% on London’s FTSE and a loss of 1.9% in Frankfurt’s leading Dax market.

Worse results were seen in troubled Greece, where the market dropped by more than 9% at one point, before recovering slightly to close about down by about 6.25%.

The spread between the Italy’s 10-year bond and its German equivalent widened by as much as 171.6 basis points before narrowing to 161 basis points near closing, up from Tuesday’s close of 147 basis points.

Investors became even more nervous after a trio of weak American data Wednesday showed falling inflation, reduced consumer spending and weaker manufacturing figures.

Some say that suggested the mighty US economy may not be able to withstand a global slowing, and such fears led the Dow Jones Industrial Average to open Wednesday sharply lower.

In early trading it plunged as much as 369 points in the first minutes of trading before regaining some ground.

Meanwhile in Italy, Istat also announced that its revisions show GDP fell in the second quarter of 2014 by 0.3% compared with the same time last year, and fell by 0.2% compared with the previous quarter.

Other statistics released from the agency painted a bleak picture, showing that Italian households’ purchasing power fell by 1.4% in the second quarter with respect to the first three months of this year and 1.5% in comparison with the same period in 2013.

However, household spending increased 0.2% in the second quarter with respect to the first three months of 2014 and rose 0.8% on the same period last year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Labor Tax Break for New Hires Would Save Employers 7-10,000

Renzi measure would also add 1,600 euros to monthly wages

(ANSA) — Rome, October 15 — If Premier Matteo Renzi’s tax break for new hires gets approved, employers will save between 7,000-10,000 euros in labor costs, a study commissioned by ANSA showed Wednesday.

The premier’s job-creation measure is contained in the country’s 2015 budget bill, which goes to the cabinet and then to the European Commission for approval later today.

It would give employers taking on new permanent full-time staff a three-year exemption from labor taxes.

If approved, the measure will save employers 7,500 euros on contracts paying gross annual salaries of 25,000 euros, and 10,600 euros on contracts paying 35,000 euros.

This will make permanent full-time contracts more convenient to employers than temp and freelance contracts. It would also put an extra 1,600 euros in net annual pay in employee pockets.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Regional Governments Up in Arms Over Renzi Budget

Confindustria says Italian document has long-awaited measures

(ANSA) — Rome, October 16 — The 2015 budget bill containing four-billion euros in cuts to regional budgets is “unsustainable” for Italy’s regions unless it includes healthcare cuts, Piedmont governor and chair of the Conference of the Regions Sergio Chiamparino said Thursday. He said the government’s budget decisions were “legitimate” but broke a pact between Rome and regional governments.

It will also hit families with an additional bill of 330 euros per year on average due to new levies as the government of Premier Matteo Renzi “inflicts yet another blow to the welfare state,” consumer groups said.

The “recessionary” measures in Wednesday’s budget “hide a sting on consumers,” by forcing regional and local government to raise levies on health care and other services, said a statement from Elio Lannutti, president of ADUSBEF, and Rosario Trefiletti, president of the Federconsumatori.

Renzi’s 36-billion-euro budget adjustment for 2015 contains 18 billion euros in tax cuts, including the continuation of a monthly tax bonus of 80 euros for low-income families, and 15 billion euros in spending cuts.

That tax bonus represents a “vain” hope of encouraging spending by consumers struggling to make ends meet, said the consumer groups.

Their struggle will be made worse as costs are shifted from the level of the national government onto local authorities, they added.

“The (national) government gives with one hand while…taking about eight billion euros in new taxes (through regional levies),” the groups said.

Renzi’s measures have “no proven ability to jump-start the economy and production processes,” they added. The measures “do not respond to a real emergency in the country which is to create jobs,” Susanna Camusso, the head of the CGIL trade union federation said.

Camusso said the CGIL would make its point at a major national rally planned for October 25, “north and south, together for jobs, equality, and dignity”. It also includes “wicked” cuts that will bring the public sector “to its knees” and lead to higher taxes at the local level, unions representing public-sector workers said.

Renzi’s “television shopping” measures are “the latest evidence of an inability to change,” they said.

The new Italian budget bill contains “a whole series of measures that firms have been waiting for, for years,” Giorgio Squinzi, head of Confindustria representing large industrial employers.

“We think it is very positive,” Squinzi said outside a business forum in Milan.

Among the tax measures were cuts to the unpopular IRAP regional business tax and pledges to eliminate social contributions for three years for new employees hired on permanent employment contracts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Govt Tells EU it Will Cut Structural Deficit by 0.1%

Renzi govt says adjusted deficit to come down 0.5% in 2016

(ANSA) — Rome, October 16 — Italy has told the European Commission that it will reduce its “structural” deficit by 0.1% of gross domestic product between 2014 and 2015 in the draft budgetary plan it sent Brussels after Premier Matteo Renzi presented his government’s 2015 budget bill Wednesday. According to some reports, the EC wants a much bigger reduction in the structural deficit, which, unlike the nominal budget deficit figure, is adjusted for the business cycle. The draft budgetary plan said that the structural deficit will come down by 0.5% of GDP in 2016.

Renzi’s government recently said in the revised version of its three-year economic blueprint, the Economic and Financial Document (DEF), that it will not be able to balance the budget in structural terms until 2017, one year later than its previous target.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Oklahoma Woman Asked to Sign a Petition Telling Muslims to “Go Home”

DEL CITY, Okla. — A metro woman says fear about her religion led to an unusual encounter this week.

The Muslim woman says a woman asked her to sign a petition asking that all Muslims “go home.”

The run-in took place this week outside a gas station in Del City.

“Muslims are a peaceful people,” said Deb Beneta. “I wish people would see us as humans and not this mythical Muslim monster.”

Unfortunately for Deb, fear of the religion may be near an all-time high.

ISIS, the group of Islamic extremists known for beheading Western hostages in the name of Islam, and a brutal attack at Vaughan Foods has many people on edge about the religion.

“Being Muslim doesn’t mean you’re from another country. I am an American,” said Beneta.

This week, Deb says a woman approached her and asked her to sign a strange petition.

“She said, ‘It’s to send Muslims back to where they came from.’ I said, ‘I am a Muslim, but I’m an American, so where do you plan to send me?” said Beneta.

The petition in question only had a couple of signatures, so Deb doesn’t think the petitioner was part of a larger effort…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Republicans Slam Ebola Response That CDC Director Defends

Republican lawmakers sharply criticized the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s response to the Ebola outbreak as agency director Thomas Frieden said the virus is not a “significant public health threat.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Book Highlights Pope Paul VI’s View of Muslim Martyrs

Put at the same level as Christian ones; to be beatified Sunday

(by Elisa Pinna). (ANSAmed) — ROME — During his trip to Uganda in 1970, Pope Paul VI put the blood of Muslim martyrs on a par with that of Christian ones.

The magazine ‘Mondo e Missione’ called the speech by the pope, born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, the “most open one ever by the Church towards Islam”.

The relations that Montini — the pope who will beatified this Sunday — had with Islam is one of the most unknown aspects of a papacy known mostly for debate surrounding the Second Vatican Council. A recent book published in Italy by EMI, ‘Paolo VI, Destinazione Mondo, i Viaggi di Montini Incontro ai Popoli’ (‘Paul VI, Destination: The World. Montini’s Travels Among the People’) provides a fresh outlook on the papacy. From 1964 to 1970, Pope Paul VI took nine international trips, visiting 19 countries on five continents. The book offers a surprising look at his relations with Islam, even though his trips to the Holy Land and the UN headquarters are well known. Pope Paul VI, the first missionary pope to leave Italy in 150 years and the first to ‘put the Church on a plane’ in the hope of thereby reaching out far and wide, met with Muslims on several of his trips abroad. His last international mission, in 1970, began with a stop — the first and only one of a Roman Catholic pope ever — in Shia Iran, which was in those times under Shah Reza Pahlevi. He continued with an “unscheduled” stop in Bangladesh to show Caritas solidarity with the victims of a natural catastrophe in a Muslim country. His third stop was then in Indonesia, where he publicly reaffirmed his “esteem for Muslims who adore a sole, living God”. “The text which was the most surprising — if seen through today’s eyes — is a speech he gave in front of Ugandan Muslims in which he extended the idea of a ecumenism of martyrs to them as well,” said one of the book’s authors, Giorgio Bernardelli. During that trip — from July 28 to August 2, 1969 — Montini, who already as Archbishop of Milan had been to Africa a number of times, wanted to pay homage to the first African Christian martyrs, who had been killed between 1885 and 1887 as part of persecutions by local tribal leaders. He went much further, however. “We are sure that we are in communion with you (Muslims, Ed.) when we implore the Highest to raise in the hearts of all African believers the desire of reconciliation, of the forgiveness so very often called for in the Gospels and the Quran,” he told the representatives of the Muslim communities met in the Kampala nunciature. “And how could we not associate with the nearing witness of piety and faithfulness of Catholic martyrs and Protestants,” he continued in a passage that sounds even more revolutionary today, “the memory of those confessors of the Muslim faith, whose history reminds us that they were the first, in 1848, to pay with their lives for the refusal to transgress what their religion prescribed?”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Lars Hedegaard Comments on the Release by Turkey of His Attempted Assassin

Yesterday, we posted on the news that “BH”, the attempted assassin of Lars Hedegaard President of the Danish and International Free Press Societies had been released by Turkey in an exchange of Jihadists for Turkish diplomats. “BH” had been arrested by Turkish authorities at Istanbul Airport in April 2014. He was alleged to have been employed in airport security in Denmark. We sent Hedegaard questions about these developments. In the midst of a hectic day in Copenhagen he found time to respond about the current circumstances and predicament he continues to face as an outspoken defender of free speech and critic of Islam.

Yesterday, we posted on the news that “BH”, the attempted assassin of Lars Hedegaard President of the Danish and International Free Press Societies had been released by Turkey in an exchange of Jihadists for Turkish diplomats. “BH” had been arrested by Turkish authorities at Istanbul Airport in April 2014. He was alleged to have been employed in airport security in Denmark. We sent Hedegaard questions about these developments. In the midst of a hectic day in Copenhagen he found time to respond about the current circumstances and predicament he continues to face as an outspoken defender of free speech and critic of Islam.

Gordon: Was your assailant “BH” arraigned by Danish Police following his attempted assassination of you?

Hedegaard: He was not arraigned by the Danish police but is believed to have escaped from Denmark on the day of the murder attempt, i.e., February 5, 2013.

Gordon: To your knowledge how was “BH” able to travel to Turkey?

Hedegaard: I don’t know if he went straight to Turkey. Before his arrest in Istanbul Airport in April this year, he had been moving between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. I believe he must have had helpers that got him out of Denmark.

Gordon: Was “BH” released by Turkey as part of the exchange of Jihadists for 49 Turkish Diplomats and their families held captive by ISIS after the fall of Mosul?

Hedegaard: That is widely believed, not only by me but by most Danish politicians. But despite many official requests, the Turks have declined to provide answers. The Danish government doesn’t even know if he has been released. All we know is that he cannot be contacted…

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

EC Gives Italy Two Months to Deal With ILVA or Face Courts

Polluting steel plant in southern city at centre of controversy

(ANSA) — Brussels, October 16 — The European Commission has given Italy two months to deal with the longstanding health and environment problems at the ILVA steel plant in the southern port city of Taranto.

If it fails, it risks seeing the case referred to the European Court of Justice, the EC warned Wednesday as it continued to press its case against Italy concerning Europe’s largest steel plant.

The European Union has been pressing Italy to ensure the ILVA plant complies with laws on industrial emissions and health standards, and said this week that some “serious shortcomings” have been resolved.

But other problems around management of waste, protection of soil, and groundwater are outstanding, the EU said. The plant still emits too much industrial dust “with potentially serious consequences for the health of the local population and the environment”.

Brussels had already sent Italy two previous letters urging action on ILVA, The ILVA plant has been at the center of controversy for years over serious health concerns, culminating in a Save ILVA plan by the Monti government at the end of 2012 that set out measures to help the plant survive and preserve as many as 20,000 jobs during environmental clean-up.

Part of the Taranto plant was seized by judges to cover some of the costs of cleaning it up and meeting damage claims related to high levels of cancer in the area, which have persisted into the present.

In July, prosecutors in Taranto said they were investigating concerns that carpenters working at the plant have suffered incidents of thyroid cancer.

On the same day a Taranto court found 23 former ILVA managers guilty in connection with a wave of asbestos and other carcinogen-linked deaths in the port city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Eurosceptic Group in the European Parliament Breaks Up

The eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group in the European Parliament, mainly consisting of the UK Independence Party and Italy’s Five Star Movement dissolved on Thursday after a Latvian MEP, Iveta Grigule, resigned from the group. Groups needs to have MEPs from at least seven different countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

French Senate Passes Travel Ban on Suspected Jihadists

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — The French Senate has passed one of the main and most heavily debated measures of an ‘anti-jihad’ draft law, which would prevent suspected jihadists from leaving the country by confiscating their ID cards and passport. The draft — which Parliament approved on September 18 — arrived in the Senate on Wednesday evening. The accelerated procedure calls for a single reading for each branch of the parliament and the measure is expected to be adopted on Thursday. The measure is one of the most heavily criticized.

French communists called it a ‘‘disproportional violation of individual liberties’’, while the Greens added that it was even ‘‘unlikely to be effective’’. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that ‘‘the ban on leaving the territory is temporary and targeted’’. The other measures in the draft law to be discussed include the introduction of the crime of ‘‘individual terrorism enterprise’’ and of blocking web sites that support terrorism.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece: Entire Golden Dawn Parliamentary Group Should Stand Trial, Says Prosecutor

All 16 MPs of the ultranationalist party Golden Dawn, as well as two deputies who have quit the party, should stand trial on charges of belonging to an running a criminal organization, prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos said on Thursday in a recommendation to a council of judges.

In a 700-page brief drafted after reviewing the weighty case failed against GD, Dogiakos argued that a total of 70 of the 85 members of the far-right party originally accused of criminal offenses ought to stand before a court and that every member of the party’s parliamentary group belongs or belonged to the “hard core” of Golden Dawn, a “criminal organization” that operated “under the party’s cloak.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Grillo’s Eurosceptic Group in EP Collapses

Latvian MEP Grigule leaves to head central Asian delegation

(ANSA) — Brussels, October 16 — The Eurosceptic group in the European Parliament (EP) that includes Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) led by Beppe Grillo collapsed on Thursday after a Latvian MEP withdrew.

The exit of Iveta Grigule from the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) reduced to six the number of countries represented in the group, one fewer than the statutory seven. The automatically dissolved EFDD accused the MEP of having been “blackmailed” by the European People’s Party (EPP) and the alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the largest formations in the EP.

The claims came after Grigule reportedly told the group secretary that she had been “forced” to resign in order to be elected president of the parliamentary delegation for central Asia. “(Speaker Martin) Schultz (of S&D) would be more adapt as parliamentary speaker of a banana republic,” the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage, another EFDD group member, said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iceland Closes Suspected IS Website

Iceland closes suspected IS websiteIcelandic authorities have shut down a website with a New Zealand-registered address suspected of being linked to the Islamic State jihadist group.

Internet in Iceland Inc. (ISNIC) revealed it had suspended the domains of a website “a known terrorist organisation” was using.

ISNIC said the website,, was being run by an organisation calling itself Islamic State, although they have little information on the New Zealand address used to register it. They managed to trace the address to an Iceland-based web hosting company at the weekend, but believe the site has been online for around a month.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Judge Accepts Plea Deal From Ex-Veneto Governor

Galan’s lawyers say they will consider a high-court appeal

(ANSA) — Venice, October 16 — A preliminary hearing judge Thursday accepted a plea-bargain deal from the legal team representing former Veneto governor Giancarlo Galan for his alleged role in corruption linked to the MOSE flood-protection system.

The deal sees Galan sentenced to 34 months imprisonment and a fine of 2.6 million euros.

However, Galan’s lawyers say they are considering an appeal to Italy’s highest court in an effort to have charges against him abolished because they said he is not guilty.

First, they want to “carefully read the judge’s comments,” said Niccolo Ghedini and Antonio Franchini, lawyers for Galan who has been under house arrest.

“We are not satisfied,” the lawyers said.

“We are convinced of the innocence of our client, but this (settlement) choice was made for reasons of health on the one hand and family on the other,” they said.

Prosecutor Carlo Nordio said that he and investigators in the MOSE affair were satisfied with the deal.

Galan, a center-right Forza Italia (FI) MP and former two-time Berlusconi government minister, was arrested in July on suspicion of corruption in the multi-billion-euro MOSE flood-prevention system in Venice.

Ghedini said the issue of whether Galan must forfeit his parliamentary seat will not be decided until any appeals have been completed.

A House committee has been preparing for a review of the immunity protecting Galan, gathering more than 160,000 pages of documents.

Some 35 people were initially under investigation for allegedly funneling 25 million euros in taxpayer money to political campaigns and away from MOSE, a system of retractable dikes set to be operable in 2016 after decades of delays.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Ruby Sex Worker But Berlusconi Didn’t Know Her Age — Court

Ex-premier didn’t threaten police to spring her

(ANSA) — Milan, October 16 — A Moroccan dancer called Ruby was a sex worker who plied her trade at Silvio Berlusconi’s bunaga bunga parties but the former premier didn’t know she was underage at the time, an appeals court said Thursday in explaining its July acquittal of the centre-right leader on charges of underage prostitution and abuse of office.

There is “no proof”, the court said, that Berlusconi knew Karima El Marough aka Ruby was under 18 when she took part in the sex parties at his home near Milan, the court said. It said the accusation that Berlusconi knew Ruby was underage was “not adequately supported by evidence”.

However, Ruby did engage in prostitution after the bunga bunga sessions, the court said.

There was “certain proof” it said, “ of prostitution at Arcore on the evenings when Karima El Mahroug too part (in the parties)” and “she stopped there overnight at least twice”. The court added that on the second, more serious charge of abuse of office, Berlusconi “did not threaten” Milan police in order to get them to release Ruby after she was detained over a theft accusation from a friend and alleged fellow callgirl, the court said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Private Mars Colony Project May Not be Feasible, Study Suggests

Organizers of a private Mars colonization effort may have to rethink their ambitious plans, a new study reports.

An analysis led by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has identified a few purported problems with the blueprint laid out by the Netherlands-based nonprofit Mars One, which aims to land four people on the Red Planet in 2025 as the vanguard of a permanent settlement.

“We’re not saying, black and white, Mars One is infeasible,” study co-author Olivier de Weck, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, said in a statement. “But we do think it’s not really feasible under the assumptions they’ve made. We’re pointing to technologies that could be helpful to invest in with high priority, to move them along the feasibility path.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Swiss Cottage Tesco Staff Tell Blind Woman to ‘Get Dog Out’

A blind woman was left “horrified” and “distressed” when staff at Tesco in north London shouted at her to get her guide dog out.

Maya Makri, 39, was in the Swiss Cottage shop 10 days after moving to the capital when she was told “never come back”.

She said three cashiers shouted “no pets allowed” and to leave the shop.

Tesco said: “This clearly should never have happened and we will contact Ms Makri directly to apologise.”

‘Very upsetting’

During the incident on Monday, Ms Makri said her guide dog of six years, Jemma, was wearing a high-visibility jacket and harness which is labelled “guide dog”.

“I got to the till and could sense there was an uncomfortable atmosphere then the man behind the till started shouting ‘no pets allowed’,” she said.

“I said it’s a guide dog and I’m registered blind, but his two other cashiers joined in the shouting match. It was very upsetting in terms of the language and the tone.

“Everyone in the queue kept saying ‘she’s allowed to have a dog’ but they (cashiers) were just completely adamant that dogs were not allowed in the store.”

Ms Makri, who is studying for a Masters degree at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, said she had specifically chosen the store because she could access it without having to cross the road…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Qatar Paid for Hamas’s Rockets and Jihad Terror Tunnels

In a recent speech, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor mentioned the central role of Qatar in supporting international terrorist organizations. Money flowing from Qatar to Hamas, for example, paid for the terrorist attack tunnels dug from the Gaza Strip under the security fence into Israeli territory, and for the thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilian targets in both the distant and recent past. In response, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf rushed to Qatar’s defense, claiming it had an important, positive role in finding a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Australians Warned to Leave Iraq Immediately

The Department of Foreign Affairs is warning hundreds of Australians still believed to be in Iraq to get out immediately while Baghdad airport “remains open”, underscoring the encroaching threat Islamic State fighters pose to the country’s capital.

With the militant group reported to be making gains west of the capital and isolated forces reaching the outskirts — putting them within artillery range of Baghdad airport — the Australian government appears to be grappling with the possibility the airport could close.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has long warned people not to travel to the strife-torn country and to leave if possible. But on Thursday it stepped up its warning, advising people to get out while they still could. It is understood there are about 180 Australians registered with the department as being in Iraq, though actual figures are likely to be higher.

“Australians in Iraq, including in Iraqi Kurdistan, should depart immediately while commercial flights continue to operate and airports in Baghdad and Erbil remain open,” the latest travel warning stated.

The Islamic State has been making gains in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. The New York Times cited local officials on Thursday as saying the militants were preparing to besiege a strategic rural town, 40 kilometres west of the capital, with tanks, armoured vehicles and heavy artillery.

They have also previously been reported to have a prominent presence in Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad.

But Acting Chief of the Defence Force, Ray Griggs, said on Thursday that reports of Baghdad’s imminent fall were overblown.

“People have been saying that Baghdad could be falling within a week for about three months … my understanding is it’s stable in terms of movements,” he told ABC Radio. “And in key parts of the area, the Iraqi security forces are holding their own.”…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Blind Arab-American Policy of Bombing Boosting Islamic State

More than a month of air strikes have not weakened militants. A ground operation is needed. Maps published in the media underestimate the real achievements of the Islamists. World leaders focus on Kobane, in Syria, where the true target is Assad. In the meantime, Iraq is ready to fall without much of a whisper. Two scholars provide their analysis, courtesy of L’Orient-Le Jour, translated by AsiaNews.

by Olivier Hanne and Thomas Flichy *

Beirut (AsiaNews) — Despite proclamations of principle and airstrikes against key positions of the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as Daʿesh) over the past month and a half, the latter does seem in any way weakened. Instead, multiple pressures have made no difference and the world is anxiously discovering that this proto-state will never be defeated without ground forces. The grand coalition appears paralysed by ineffectiveness of airstrikes.

Turkey is holding back to achieve gains in northern Syria, which the Kurds will soon pay. Eventually, Jordan may also be threatened, as Lebanon is now. As of September, the al-Nusra Front has ceased all attacks against IS, which raises fears about a possible reconciliation between the two movements. Locally, many Syrians continue to support al-Nusra against the airstrikes, and the tribes in the Iraqi province of al-Anbar do not seem ready to turn against the caliphate.

The study of the location of coalition airstrikes since August requires some reassessment of Daʿesh’s threat and harmfulness. Despite all the hype about the precision and scale of the airstrikes, a critical distance from the wealth of information provided by the United States Department of Defence as well as semi-private organisations such as the Institute for the Study of War leaves one wondering.

Between 8 August and 6 October, at least 250 strikes were carried out in Iraq and 90 in Syria. However, all they do is smash equipment, buildings far from urban centres and columns of vehicles that are too visible.

Jihadists mix constantly with civilians and no one really knows what western missiles actually destroy from 5,000 feet. Images tell false stories.

Of course, vital IS centres are targeted: Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor in Syria, or Mosul, Sinjar, Haditha and Fallujah in Iraq, places that have been under Jihadist control for several months. But nearly 30 per cent of US air operations are taking place in areas in Erbil, Kirkuk, Baghdad and Amerli, cities that were said to be Daʿesh free. Does this mean that is no longer the case?

Violent clashes with Kurdish peshmerga have taken place south of Kirkuk on 2 and 3 October. In this city, the buildings of the 12th Iraqi Army blew up on 6 October. The day before, the city of Hit, south of Haditha, came under Da’esh’s control without a whisper from the media.

Between 1 and October 7, pressure from IS fighters grew west of Baghdad, with US airstrikes failing to loosen their grip. The Islamic State is now firmly established some 40 km from the capital.

On 6 October, IS forces clashed with police and Shia militia near Balad Aziz, a few dozen kilometres north of Baghdad. Ramadi, the last town in the province of al-Anbar under central government control is expected to fall soon. The same goes for the al-Assad air base, near Hit.

Most maps showing the areas occupied by the Islamic State in French and American magazines are wrong (on purpose?). Indeed, they often present the relevant areas under three names: “areas controlled by the IS” (which are reduced to thin lines like a spider web); “areas under recurrent IS attacks” and “IS support areas”.

No one but Daʿesh exercises authorities over these two areas. These “support zones” are more than lands to conquer, they are de facto Daʿesh territory. Reducing them to simple lines along axes makes no sense. Such interstitial spaces belong neither Baghdad nor the United States, but only to the caliphate.

Does the media war launched by the United States and the United Nations against the Islamic state hide the power of this octopus that knows how to adapt to its enemy? In reality, this terrorist organisation is fully decentralised, each battalion having its own autonomy in terms of action, boosting peripheral operations without necessarily consulting others.

Against a West that is reduced to its old, unvarying and predictable tactic of air (above ground) war stands a multipolar, reactive and rooted Jihadism.

What is more, whilst the coalition’s military communication wants to focus the attention of world public opinion on Kobane and the Syrian issue, the situation is more serious in Iraq where 15 Kobane-like tragedies are likely to happen . . .

Why this choice? The United States prefers the Syrian theatre where for years it has sought to get rid of Bashar al-Assad, even bringing in Turkey by making promises, despite the latter’s unreliability. Kobane will fall anyway, even with the indecisive help Ankara.

Meanwhile, Iraq has dropped off the radar whilst the threat grows. All Western governments are now repeating the same excuse: without ground troops, we can do nothing. Public opinion in various countries are gradually getting used to what will be the next step: sending soldiers or commandos to Syria and not to Iraq.

Still without a political solution and stubbornly refusing to open the door to negotiations with Iran and Damascus, the United States is getting tangled up in a strategy that contributes to the crisis in the Middle East.

*Olivier HANNE, PhD in history, a researcher at the University of Aix-Marseille

FLICHY Thomas, PhD in law, researcher and professor at Saint-Cyr

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

Italy to Send 280 Instructors, Two Drones to Iraq

Italian military aircraft en route to Erbil

(ANSA) — Rome, October 16 — Italy is to send to Iraq a KC-767 in-flight refuelling plane, two Predator drones and 280 soldiers to train Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State (ISIS) militants and advise the Iraqi high command, Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti told parliament Thursday. This follows surplus machine guns from the Italian army and ex-Soviet style arms kept in a Sardinian storage facility since they were confiscated by law enforcement authorities in 1994, Pinotti told the foreign affairs and defence commissions of both houses of parliament. “It deals in particular with ammunition for heavy machine guns and ammunition for anti-tank systems of a type used by Kurdish forces,” Pinotti said.

Pinotti added that Italian military aircraft are currently en route toward Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

A law decree increasing funding for international military missions will cover transport costs and a gift of 24 Centauro combat vehicles to Jordan, “a country on the frontline in battling the Islamic State”. Italy will also send a KC-767 helicopter for in-flight resupply of Coalition aircraft; two Predator drones for regional surveillance; and a group of officers to help planning, the minister said. In addition, members of the Kurdish military are being flown to Italy for training in the use of arms that Italy has already given them.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Allocates 300,000 Euros to Protect Fleeing Syria Kurds

Mogherini says we are compelled to help Kobane population

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCT 16 — Italian Cooperation has allocated 300,000 euros to contribute to efforts undertaken by the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent to counter the tragic humanitarian emergency in the besieged Syrian town of Kobane and assist Kurdish refugees on the Turkish-Syrian border, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said Thursday. “The situation in Kobane is dramatic and we are compelled to help refugees” stressed Mogherini. “Italy, along with with the international community, is committed to the fight against Isis and engaged in relief-efforts to assist thousands of people living a dramatic ordeal. It’s a political and humanitarian obligation I believe we should all share” she added. The Syrian Red Crescent is undertaking the distribution of water, food, medecines and basic goods to the conflict-stricken population. The organisation is also entrusted with the transfer of the wounded from the conflict-stricken town of Kobane and the surrounding area to the Turkish border.

The Turkish Red Crescent provides medical care and first-aid to refugees crossing the border. The new Italian contribution follows previous relief-efforts by Italian Cooperation in reponse to the Syrian crisis: 38 million euros were raised in 2014.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Ultimatum to Crimea’s Muslims: Three Months to Hand Over Banned Islamic Texts

The pro-Moscow president suspends police searches in Muslim homes and gives a December deadline for compliance with Russian law: “Some religious texts are prohibited.” Meanwhile, the Tatars denounce the campaign. Since annexation to Russia at least 18 members of the community have “disappeared”.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The authorities of Crimea (now Russian) have given Muslims three months to voluntarily surrender the literature on Islam, authorized under Ukraine but outlawed by the Russian Federation.

“We call on Muslims in possession of this material to deliver it to the religious authorities over the next three months,” said the president of the Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, as reported by Interfax. Until the end of December the police will not confiscate the “forbidden literature”, but on the first of January, “everything must be in compliance with Russian norms”. He guaranteed that the list of banned books will be published in the press and there will be an awareness raising campaign among the local population.

Since September, several members of the Muslim community in different areas of the peninsula on the Black Sea have reported police raids in their homes in the hunt for “forbidden literature.” The same reason was given by the authorities of Simferopol in September to justify their raid and then closure of the office of the Majlis, the ‘representative body of Crimean Tatars.

This Muslim community represents 12% of the local population and from the beginning has strongly opposed to the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, confirmed after a controversial referendum. Aksenov has promised to suspend the raids and granted a ‘transition’ period to comply with Russian laws.

But the Crimean Tatars, who were victims of Stalinist deportations, are on their guard. In recent months, their representatives have denounced a real campaign of persecution, made up not only of raids and intimidation, but also of kidnapping and physical assaults.

The first of October a 25 year-old Tatar who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances on September 29 was found dead in an abandoned sanatorium in Evpatoria. One of the historical leaders of the Crimean Tatars, the former head of the Majlis Mustafa Zhemilev, denounced in front of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the disappearance of 18 Tatars “since the peninsula was united with Russia.”

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

Christian Woman Convicted of Blasphemy in Pakistan Loses Appeal Against Death Penalty

The Lahore High Court has upheld the death penalty against a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan four years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.

Asia Bibi has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about Islam during an argument with neighbours.

Ms Bibi consistently denied the allegations against her, saying they stemmed from an argument with a group of women over a pot of water.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

India: Modi Government Slams Western Schools Says Hindu Schools Are Better

The Interior Minister has criticized the school model introduced by the British and still in force today. Preferable to the only “Indian culture and its model of values” for the development of young people. In Gujarat the current Prime Minister of India had imposed textbooks of a radical Hindu intellectual. Catholic Bishop: “History is about facts, and facts must not be distorted.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The “western” school model introduced by the British during the colonial era, “has dealt a severe blow to the values and culture of India” according to Rajnath Singh, Minister of the Interior. He was speaking yesterday at the celebrations for the centenary of Chopsani School in Jodhpur. He blames the former “rulers”, for the Indian education system’s failure in achieving its main goal: the “full development of the person”. In contrast, “only the unmatched Indian culture and its rich and holistic model of values” is able to achieve this goal.

The statements by the Minister echo one of the election promises of the prime minister Narendra Modi. The leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), currently in government, has vowed to apply the “Gujarat model” nationwide. Many have interpreted this statement as refering exclusively to the economy, to make it more dynamic and open for business.

However, this model also covers other aspects including that of education. In the state that Modi led for over 10 years, government schools were forced to include a number of textbooks on the curricula written by Dinanath Batra, an intellectual who has devoted his life to revising Indian history through the prism of Hindutva, and radical Hindu nationalist ideology. In his works, for example, he instructs students to draw a map of “Akhand Bharat”, the great India, the boundaries of which include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Batra is also, among other things, the one who lobbied ofr and succeeded in getting a book by Wendy Doniger, off the market. The US scholar of Indian history is deemed “offensive” to Hinduism.

Contacted by AsiaNews, Mgr. Percival Fernandez, former secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), warns of the “dangers of distorting history in the impressionable minds of the young.” First of all, he explains, “History is about facts, and facts must never be distorted, because they can no longer be changed. No ‘partisan’ text should ever enter educational institutions, which are intended to help the development of minds, not to distort them”.

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

Malaysia Islamic State “Recruiters” Arrested: They Include Internet Experts and Politicians

In the group of 14 people arrested earlier this week there is a close associate of the Minister for Energy and an expert in social networking, active in the recruitment of fighters online. Since April 37 suspects arrested, at least 30 have left the country to fight in Syria, 15 victims on the ground.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) — There are the leading figures of the jihad in Malaysia and active members in the recruitment of fighters for the war in the Middle East, among those arrested earlier this week. This is according to authorities in Kuala Lumpur, pointing out that the list of those arrested include a close associate of a government minister, a former veteran of the Syrian conflict and an expert on Facebook and social networks where he targeted students. Added to these are a boy of only 14, a student in high school and an entire family of five.

The group of 14 people arrested earlier this week include personalities active in the recruitment campaign for the militias of the Islamic State (IS). Police sources explain that they were organizing the movement in Syria and used the internet to attract new (and increasingly younger) supporters. In particular, three of them played a very personal and individual role to promote, organize and finance trips to Syria.

Other members of the group include a close associate of the Malaysian Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, whose task was to finance the trips in Syria. He was linked to three Filipino fighters in the Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf, who are on the countries most wanted list. He is joined in prison by a 34 year old former jihad fighter in Syria and a 37 year-old Internet expert, in charge of propaganda.

As AsiaNews recently reported, fundamentalist movements and local Muslim leaders been inspired by the exploits of the Sunni fighters and intend to support the struggle for the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, which has now been extended also to Asia. Extremist cells and members active in recruitment are present as much in Indonesia, as in neighboring Malaysia; its members are already operating in the area in preparation for attacks and targeted attacks against pubs, discos and bars “dreaming of the Islamic caliphate.”

Since last April 37 suspects have been arrested, at least 30 citizens have left the country for Syria and about 15 have lost their lives in the ranks of the terrorist group.

Malaysia is a nation of over 28 million inhabitants, mostly Sunni Muslims (60%). In general a moderate view of Islam prevails and there have been no serious incidents of violence in recent years. However, there have been minor attacks on and violations of the religious freedom of the minorities, as seen recently following the controversy over the use of the word “Allah” by the Catholic weekly Malaysia Herald. Therefore concerns are growing about a possible escalation of tension in an area considered to be “fertile ground” for militant jihadist movement.

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

China Moving Forward With Big Space Station Plans

Space travelers from around the globe recently got a firsthand sense of China’s blossoming plans to explore Earth orbit and beyond.

At the 27th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), held in Beijing last month, China’s space industry leaders extended an open invitation for other nations to take part in China’s emerging space station program.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

FBI Warns Tech Companies of State-Sponsored China Hackers

Hackers affiliated with the Chinese government have heavily targeted makers of microchips, computer networking equipment and data storage services to steal company secrets, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

The FBI sent a warning to companies yesterday, telling them that “these state-sponsored hackers are exceedingly stealthy and agile” and have used customized malicious code that was undetected by security researchers and law enforcement.

The warning hints at an increasingly public confrontation in which the U.S. claims the Chinese government is conducting a long-term, widespread campaign of economic espionage. The alert also shows Beijing-backed hackers continue to operate even after the U.S. escalated its battle in May by indicting five Chinese military officials, accusing them of stealing trade secrets.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Frontex Triton Operation to ‘Support’ Italy’s Mare Nostrum

Funds in place, mandate to ‘control borders’, Frontex chief says

(ANSA) — Rome, October 16 — EU border agency Frontex’s Triton naval mission in the Mediterranean will not replace Italy’s Mare Nostrum migrant sea search-and-rescue operation, Frontex chief executive Gil Arias Fernandez reaffirmed Thursday.

“The agency and the European Union cannot be a substitute for member states’ responsibility in controlling their borders: we will provide support,” Arias said.

Last Thursday Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Operation Triton would “put an end to Mare Nostrum” after a meeting of European interior ministers in Luxembourg.

“We will not have two lines of defense of our borders,” Alfano said.

Italy has saved tens of thousands of migrant lives as a result of its Mare Nostrum mission, launched after two boat disasters killed about 400 people in October 2013 .

However the country has been struggling to cope with the increasing numbers of migrants arriving in Europe across its southern borders and called on Europe to help. Operation Triton “will begin on November 1 independently of what happens to Mare Nostrum: the decision whether to cut back or terminate this last operation falls to the Italian government,” Arias said. The Frontex chief went on to clarify the limits of its action: “Saving lives is always an absolute priority, but the Agency’s mandate is to control borders, we do not do search and rescue, even if a border control mission often becomes search and rescue,” he said.

Arias added that, following an appeal to EU member states two days ago, Frontex now has “more than sufficient” resources to fund the Triton operation, which will be coordinated by Italy. The mission has a monthy budget of 2.9 million euros and will make use of two ocean-going and two coast guard vessels, two motorboats, two planes and a helicopter. Meanwhile on Thursday the Italian section of Amnesty International said Mare Nostrum must be “in no way downscaled, but rather strengthened and supported by all EU member states” on the basis that this operation has a broader mandate than the Triton mission and thus is better placed to meet the real needs of migrants attempting the perilous sea crossing in pursuit of a better life in Europe.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Hundreds of Migrants Storm Morocco-Spain Border: Govt

About 300 African migrants stormed a border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish territory of Melilla on Wednesday, leaving at least 10 people injured, officials said.

It was the latest in a series of attempts by desperate migrants trying to reach European soil via the territory on Morocco’s northern shore.

The crowd of migrants charged to the six-metre (20-foot), triple-layer fence from encampments on the Moroccan side in the early morning, Spanish government delegates in Melilla said in a statement.

It accused the migrants of acting with “unusual violence”.

Five Spanish police officers were treated for injuries and five migrants were hurt, most of them when falling from the fence.

“About 140 of the migrants ended up perched on the fence” where they remained for several hours before being seized by Moroccan security forces

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Illegal Immigrants in Arizona Must Get Right to Post Bail, Federal Court Says

A federal appeals court on Wednesday struck down a voter-approved Arizona law that denies bail to immigrants who are in the country illegally and have been charged with a range of felonies that include shoplifting, aggravated identity theft, sexual assault and murder.

An 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law violates due process rights by imposing punishment before trial. The court said the law was a “scattershot attempt” at confronting people who flee from authorities and that there was no evidence the law dealt with a particularly critical problem.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

In the Arab World Every Minute a Child Becomes a Refugee

In the Arab world a new child becomes a refugee every passing minute and globally, this year witnessed the largest number of refugees and displaced people since the second world war. This data, along with proposals for a unified strategy to address the plight of child and adolescent-refugees in the Mena region, was presented during a conference in Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) called “Invest in the future: protection of child-refugees in the Middle-East and North Africa”. It’s the first international conference dedicated to the issue of child-refugees organised by the UN agency for refugees (Unchr) in cooperation with the association “The Big Heart”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Indictments Sought for Enslavement, Extortion in Puglia

Hundreds of Africans built solar panels in slavery conditions

(ANSA) — Lecce, October 15 — Prosecutors in the southern city of Lecce on Wednesday sought to indict 15 people on charges of enslavement, extortion, and aggravated fraud against the State.

The 15 suspects from a Spanish firm called Tecnova allegedly exploited 438 mostly African immigrants, making them work in conditions of near-slavery to build solar-panel parks in the Salento area of Puglia.

A preliminary hearing will be held in Lecce on December 17.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Mare Nostrum Will End Says Alfano

‘Won’t run in tandem with Triton’

(ANSA) — Rome, October 16 — Italy’s Mare Nostrum Mediterranean migrant rescue programme “will be closed” and will not, as the EU has suggested, run in tandem with Frontex’s new Triton operation, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Thursday. “An upcoming cabinet meeting will decree the conclusion of the operation” which has saved some 140,000 lives in a year, Alfano said. Mare Nostrum (The Roman name for ‘Our Sea’), was launched after 368 migrants drowned off the stepping-stone island of Lampedusa a year ago. Earlier Thursday the EU said Triton would “not replace” Mare Nostrum.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

More Than 200 Would-be Migrants Attempt to Jump Melilla Border

Around 200 would-be migrants tried to jump the border fence from Morocco into Spain’s North African exclave of Melilla in the early hours of Wednesday morning — the second such attempt in 24 hours.

Around 100 people remain trapped in the area between the two parts of fence that comprise the border, according to police sources quoted by news agency Efe.

On Tuesday, 100 migrants had tried to get across the frontier but only 10 successfully made it onto Spanish soil.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Big Brother in Texas: Houston Demands Pastors Turn Over Sermon Notes, Private Communications

by AWR Hawkins

After decades of warnings on the right about liberal politicians threatening religious liberty, a Democratic mayor in Texas is now subpoenaing pastors to turn over their sermons.

Houston city officials are demanding that city pastors opposed to Houston’s “Bathroom Bill”—”a law that allows members of the opposite sex into each other’s restrooms”—turn over sermon notes and “communications with church members” to ascertain which pastors have (or haven’t) “opposed or criticized the city.”…

           — Hat tip: DS [Return to headlines]

Ebola Crisis: WHO Says Major Outbreak in West ‘Unlikely’

A major outbreak of Ebola in the US and elsewhere in the West is unlikely given the strong health systems, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

US President Barack Obama also said the risk of Americans getting the virus was “extremely low”, although he ordered a “much more aggressive response”.

The US is investigating how a nurse infected when treating a victim in Texas was allowed to travel on a plane.

Officials are trying to trace the 132 people who flew with Amber Vinson.

The disease has killed about 4,500 people so far, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]