Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/23/2014

A man named Zale Thompson staged a sudden unprovoked hatchet attack on four policemen in New York City today, injuring two of them, one of those critically. The two other cops responded by shooting Mr. Thompson to death. A woman who happened to be passing by was critically injured by a stray bullet. Mr. Thompson’s Facebook page was found to contain Arabic writing and an old photo of a mujahid. Nonetheless, New Yorkers will be relieved to learn that the incident had nothing to do with Islam.

In other news, the Canadian man who killed a soldier in Ottawa yesterday before being killed himself was reportedly kicked out of a mosque in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver, for acting strangely and being inappropriate. Meanwhile, the commander of Canada’s Atlantic forces has warned the men under his command not to wear their uniforms in public.

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

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Insubria, Jerry Gordon, Phyllis Chesler, 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
» Greece: Tax Debts to State Exceed 70 Billion Euros
» Greece: Tax Evasion Still Hounds Country’s Recovery
» Italy: Unions Oppose Change in State Pensions Pay Day
» Italy: Renzi Says EU Must Emerge From ‘Margins of Rigour’
» Italy: EU Still Suffering From Austerity Says Renzi
» Italy: Pensions Row Adds to Renzi’s Budget Headaches
» Colorado Girls Make Possible Bid to Join Militants
» Man Allegedly Attacks NYPD Officers With Hatchet Unprovoked
» Op-Ed: What Would Toscanini Do?
» Patient in New York City Tests Positive for Ebola
» Atlantic Commander to Canadian Soldiers: Avoid Wearing Uniform in Public
» Gunfire Reported Inside Canada’s Parliament
» Parliament Hill Shooter Kicked Out of Burnaby Mosque Two Years Ago
» Suspected Killer in Ottawa Shootings Had Religious Awakening
» Was it Terrorism or “Senseless Violence” That Occurred in Canada?
Europe and the EU
» Denmark to Once Again Look at Circumcision Ban
» French Entrepreneurs Launch Test to Detect Pork in Food
» Germany: Speculation Over US Girls Stopped in Frankfurt
» Italy: Labour Strike Oct 25 to be ‘Start of a Season’
» Italy: Contract Renewed for 1.2 Million Agricultural Workers
» Italy: Salvini Says Willing to Work With Anyone, Even Forza Nuova
» Italy: Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on Anti-German Prosecutions
» Italy: Grillo Presses for Euro Exit After ‘Migrants Out’ Call
» Microsoft Ditching the Nokia Name on Smartphones
» Poll: Majority of Poles Opposed to Euro
» Sweden: Stockholm Suicide Bomb Investigation Closes
Mediterranean Union
» EU-Algeria Cooperation Report Reveals Extent of Partnership
North Africa
» Egypt Sentences 26 People for Planning Terrorist Attacks
» Egypt: New Law to Lift Restrictions on Church Building, Says Catholic Church Spokesman
» Egypt: Government Promotes Christian Itineraries
» Four Jihadis Killed in Libya
Israel and the Palestinians
» Cyprus-Israel Exercise Onisilos-Gideon Successful
» EU Lays Down Red Lines to Israel Concerning Temple Mount
» Netanyahu for New Vote, Religious Government Allies
Middle East
» All 4 Former Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Iraq Shootings
» Baghdad Patriarch Calls on Muslims to Show More Courage in a “Common Front” Against Terrorists
» Five Britons a Week Travel to Iraq and Syria to Join ISIS, Says Met Chief
» ISIS: Iraqi Kurds Authorize Sending Peshmerga to Kobane
» Light Travel Restrictions Make it Easy for Teens to Travel to Syria
» Saudi Grand Mufti Against Twitter as Source of All Evil and Lies
» Yaalon Says Hamas Has Terrorism Command-Centre in Istanbul
South Asia
» 3-Yr-Old Raped at Her Preschool in Bangalore, India
» Opium Poppy Cultivation Hits Record-High in Afghanistan
Far East
» South Korea Dismantles Contentious Border ‘Christmas Tree’
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Nearly 10,000 Ebola Infections Says Who
» South Sudan Women Suggest Sex Strike to End War
» EU Forced Repatriations Topped 10,000 Between 2006-2013
» Greece Fined for Violating Asylum Seekers’ Rights
» Italy: Send Migrants Packing, Says Grillo
» Kenya to Denmark: Keep Your Refugees
» Lebanon Says Doors Closed to More Syrian Refugees
Culture Wars
» Italy: Marino May Take Gay Marriage Transcription to EU Court

Greece: Tax Debts to State Exceed 70 Billion Euros

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 21 — Tax debts to the Greek State hit a new record in September, reaching a total of 70.16 billion euros from 69.24 billion euros in August, daily Kathimerini online reports quoting the General Secretariat for Public Revenues as saying on Tuesday. New debts in the January-September period came to 9.68 billion euros, added to a total shortfall of 60.48 billion dating from before 2013. In September alone, taxpayers ran up debts of 923 million euros, the secretariat said. In the nine-month period from January to September, the state managed to collect 2.69 billion euros in arrears, or 14.16%, missing the target set by the troika for 2 billion euros in revenues from old debts by the end of the year and the collection of 25% of all new debts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece: Tax Evasion Still Hounds Country’s Recovery

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 21 — Tax evasion still hounds the Greek economic recovery, despite extensive measures taken by the Greek Ministry of Finance to reign in the problem. As GreekReporter website writes quoting data published by Imerisia newspaper, the turnover from tax evasion and illegal import-export of industrial products, fruits, vegetables and fuel has now become a 25 billion euro business. The champion of tax evasion is the retail market — more specifically, the clothing, footwear, gifts, accessories, CDs and DVDs and fuel industries. These sectors generally fail to pay the VAT that tracks their profits. From fuel smuggling alone, the Greek state loses an estimated 300-500 million euros annually. Greece fails to collect oil revenues due its failure to install an efficient input-output control system in gas stations throughout Greece.

With regards to shipping oil, large quantities of oil designated for ships are bleached and distributed to gas stations and various small businesses. Shipping oil is the main source of fuel smuggling in Greece. The unreported sale of fruits and vegetables amounts to 2.5 billion euros annually. Street vendors typically fail to issue receipts, allowing their profits to go unrecorded by the Greek government.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Unions Oppose Change in State Pensions Pay Day

Govt ‘complicating lives of elderly instead of helping’

(ANSA) — Rome, October 21 — Unions representing pensioners on Tuesday blasted a measure in the government’s 2015 budget law to change the day on which State pensions are paid from the 1st to the 10th of each month. “It’s a full-blown attack on the elderly,” the leaders of the SPI CGIL, FNP CISL and UILP UIL unions said in a joint statement. “The government has not planned any type of help or support for them, but instead has thought of a way to further complicate their lives.

“It’s simply unacceptable. We ask ourselves what the pensioners and elderly have done to be treated like this”. Consumer associations Federconsumatori and Adusbef also condemned the move.

“It’s an unjust, unacceptable move, an abuse against pensioners who are among the groups worst hit by the economic crisis,” the associations said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Renzi Says EU Must Emerge From ‘Margins of Rigour’

Debate on strategy to promote growth ‘cannot be delayed’

(ANSA) — Rome, October 22 — Premier Matteo Renzi said Wednesday that the European Union had to be less strict in applying budget rules to make room for growth-boosting measures.

“At the last EU council the word growth returned for the first time after a long debate with the Dutch and the other architects of rigour,” Renzi told the Senate ahead of this week’s EU summit. “A debate on how Europe must try to emerge from the tight margins of rigour to impose a strategy (of growth) cannot be delayed”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: EU Still Suffering From Austerity Says Renzi

‘Italy welcomes shift from austerity to investment’ says premier

(ANSA) — Rome, October 22 — Italy and the EU are still suffering from austerity policies, Premier Matteo Renzi told the Lower House on Wednesday ahead of an EU summit in Brussels Thursday and Friday.

We “are still suffering the consequences of a political line that in the last few years has privileged rigour and austerity over growth,” Renzi said.

The changing of the guard at the European Commission, whose new members were approved by the European Parliament earlier today and who take office on November 1, may usher in a shift in policies from austerity to growth, he added.

“Beginning next week in Brussels, policies may change…(towards the creation of) a non-bureaucratic Europe with Italy holding its head high,” he said. He said Italy is glad the EU has, in Rome’s eyes, shifted its focus from austerity to investments. “We are satisfied…that the tools for growth Italy proposed will be debated and are included in the final (European Council) document,” Renzi told MPs. Thursday’s European Union summit will be that of “the already and the not-yet”, Renzi told the Lower House as he outlined his program for this week’s meetings of European leaders with the outgoing as well as the incoming EC. “Tomorrow’s meeting will focus on…economics, international affairs, climate and energy, but we’ll be doing so with individuals who will see their task end in a few weeks,” the premier said.

In meetings later this week with other European Union leaders, Italy can be confident it has met its fiscal commitments and has made credible efforts towards reform. Italy has chafed at EU limits on deficit-to-GDP ratios but has presented a budget with a ratio of less than 3%, he said.

He also played down the importance of a letter that the EC is set to send his government, asking for clarification on its 2015 budget plan. “Verification is natural once you send your budget in,” Renzi told the Lower House. “It doesn’t mean we flunked”.

The European Union is not a wicked stepmother, the premier went on.

“We must leave that philosophy behind…because it would spark suspicion and we would always be looking for potential risk and danger,” Renzi said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Pensions Row Adds to Renzi’s Budget Headaches

European Commission may seek ‘clarifications’ on financial plan

(ANSA) — Rome, October 21 — Premier Matteo Renzi faced a number of budget-related headaches Tuesday, from unions blasting measures affecting pension paydays to questions and ‘clarifications’ sought from the European Commission.

Unions representing pensioners complained that a measure in the government’s 2015 budget law will sow confusion by changing the day on which State pensions are paid.

Instead of payments issued to pensioners on the first of each month, beginning next year, they will be paid on the 10th.

“It’s a full-blown attack on the elderly,” the leaders of the SPI CGIL, FNP CISL and UILP UIL unions said in a joint statement. “It’s simply unacceptable. We ask ourselves what the pensioners and elderly have done to be treated like this”.

Late in the day, the public pension agency INPS said it would implement the change gradually, adding the new measure will save millions by aligning public pension paydays with other pension paydays. Meanwhile, sources said that President Giorgio Napolitano’s office was conducting a “careful examination” of Renzi’s budget law, which the president must sign off on before it can begin its passage through parliament. The sources said careful study was needed as it was “a highly complex bill by its nature”.

The bill faced similar close scrutiny at the European Commission, where Economic Affairs Commissioner Jyrki Katainen warned that the EC was “in contact with the Italian authorities to have clarifications about some figures” in the budget law. His economic affairs directorate general was working on a letter of response to Rome’s budget plan, added Katainen.

However, Renzi’s government is not worried about the EC’s reaction, said Italy’s European Affairs Undersecretary Sandro Gozi.

There is speculation the EC may ask for Rome to make changes.

“We are relaxed,” Gozi told ANSA outside meetings in Luxembourg. “The budget is already compatible with EU rules and coherent with the commitments made, which also ensure growth”.

The budget features 18 billion euros in tax cuts as part of a drive to boost growth in the recession-battered Italian economy and create jobs, with unemployment over 12%.

Around 11 billion euros of financial coverage for the cuts will come from allowing Italy’s deficit-to-GDP ratio to drift up towards the 3% threshold allowed by the EU.

Italy has told the EC that the budget will enable it to reduce its “structural” deficit by 0.1% of gross domestic product between 2014 and 2015 in the draft budgetary plan it sent Brussels.

According to some reports, the EC wants a much bigger reduction in the structural deficit, which the draft budgetary plan said 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.

Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan says he hopes that Italy’s gross domestic product will increase by at least 0.6% next year, as his government has forecast.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Colorado Girls Make Possible Bid to Join Militants

DENVER (AP) — Three teenage girls from suburban Denver being investigated for possibly trying to join Islamic State militants in Syria aren’t radicalized jihadis but rather victims of an online predator, a school official said Wednesday.

At least one of the girls was communicating with someone online who encouraged the three to travel to Syria, said Tustin Amole, a spokeswoman for the Cherry Creek School District where the girls attend high school. The three were detained at an airport in Germany before being sent home over the weekend and returned to their parents.

The sisters are of Somali descent, and their friend is of Sudanese descent, community leaders said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Man Allegedly Attacks NYPD Officers With Hatchet Unprovoked

A Facebook page of man who gruesomely attacked New York police officers with a hatchet Thursday features a profile photo of a heavily-armed man and Islamic writing, although officials have not confirmed links to extremist documents or jihadi groups at this time.

NBC News, citing law enforcement sources, reported the Facebook page belongs to Zale Thompson, a 32-year old resident of Queens.

Thompson allegedly attacked four recent graduates of the NYPD Police academy unprovoked with a hatchet on Thursday, leaving one officer in critical condition. A law enforcement source says the officer is now out of intensive care.

NBC reported Thompson allegedly assaulted the officers at 2 p.m. when they were asked by a freelance photographer to pose for a picture. According to Police Commisioner Bill Bratton, the hatchet-wielding perpetrator assaulted the group from behind — “unprovoked and not speaking a word.”

“This matter has not officially been deemed an act of terrorism as the initial investigation is still ongoing and details are being developed,” the FBI said in a statement Thursday evening, NBC New York reports.

[Return to headlines]

Op-Ed: What Would Toscanini Do?

by Phyllis Chesler

Those who protested the performance of The Murder of Klinghoffer spoke at a press conference and at a rally outside the Metropolitan Opera House. One of their demands was that the opera not be shown.

Clearly, that demand was not met.

I, and many others, never called for a boycott although some people did. They are good people, they did not “rant” as one reporter described it. Mainly, they were people of a certain age whohave lived through the Holocaust (or their parents did); people who have also seen the effects of terrorism close-up in Israel, and in America, on 9/11.

Thus, they are genuinely frightened and angry. Most are principled people, they are not “tacky” as a reporter has described those who tried to disrupt the opera. In fact, the one man who actually did so was immediately surrounded by a large number of police and Opera House security officers, led away in handcuffs, kept in a holding cell for 90 minutes, then booked, charged, and released.

He was probably wearing a suit and a tie.

He and others were given free tickets at the rally by an unknown man—tickets which were not honored at the box office. Some people think that this was Peter Gelb’s way of tricking and separating out the potential dissenters. However, the man who got arrested simply bought another ticket on the spot…

           — Hat tip: Phyllis Chesler [Return to headlines]

Patient in New York City Tests Positive for Ebola

A doctor in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the Ebola virus Thursday, becoming the city’s first diagnosed case.

The doctor, Craig Spencer, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital on Thursday and placed in isolation while health care workers spread out across the city to trace anyone he might have come into contact with in recent days. A further test will be conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control to confirm the initial test.

While officials have said they expected isolated cases of the disease to arrive in New York eventually, and had been preparing for this moment for months, the first case highlighted the challenges surrounding containment of the virus, especially in a crowded metropolis.

[Return to headlines]

Atlantic Commander to Canadian Soldiers: Avoid Wearing Uniform in Public

A top military official Tuesday warned soldiers in Canada’s eastern provinces to avoid wearing their uniforms in public out of fear of being targeted in the wake of deadly attacks on personnel in Quebec and Ontario.

In an email titled “urgent measures,” Rear Admiral John Newton — who commands the Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic, a combined 23,000 personnel — tells soldiers “to restrict movement in uniform in public as much as possible.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Gunfire Reported Inside Canada’s Parliament

Multiple shots were fired within Parliament in Ottawa on Wednesday morning, and police officers rushed to secure the building and move occupants to safety.

It was not immediately clear who did the shooting, but at least one body, possibly a soldier, was seen slumped at the National War Memorial nearby.

Journalists covering Parliament were ordered by police officers at gunpoint to lie on the floor in the foyer in front of the House of Commons, The Globe and Mail reported on its website. The Globe and Mail’s correspondent, Josh Wingrove, said in a series of Twitter posts that the hallways were filled with the smell of gunpowder.

[Return to headlines]

Parliament Hill Shooter Kicked Out of Burnaby Mosque Two Years Ago

METRO VANCOUVER — Leaders at a Burnaby mosque had kicked out Parliament Hill shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau from its congregation two years ago.

“His behaviour was not normal,” said David Ali, vice-president of the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque, adding Zehaf-Bibeau used to trip the mosque’s fire alarms by trying to enter through the wrong doors. “We try to be open to everyone. But people on drugs don’t behave normally.”

Mufti Aasim Rashid, spokesperson for the B.C. Muslim Association, which runs the Burnaby mosque, said Zehaf-Bibeau was asked to leave the mosque, because he had “gotten a hold of keys and stuff from the mosque, and when he got out of jail, he just started sleeping there,” Rashid said.

“They discovered him one day. He would come late at night and leave early in the morning, before people came. And when they discovered him, they changed all the locks and asked him not to come back. That was like a year ago. We do not have any confirmations of him visiting that mosque after that.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Suspected Killer in Ottawa Shootings Had Religious Awakening

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the slain 32-year-old suspected killer of a Canadian Forces soldier near Parliament Hill, was a labourer and small-time criminal — a man who had had a religious awakening and seemed to have become mentally unstable.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was born in 1982 and was the son of Bulgasem Zehaf, a Quebec businessman who appears to have fought in 2011 in Libya, and Susan Bibeau, the deputy chairperson of a division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. The two were divorced in 1999.

Ms. Bibeau did not answer e-mails Wednesday, and staff at her offices declined to comment. No one answered the door at her Montreal townhouse. Mr. Zehaf also could not be reached.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau grew up in Eastern Canada, including Ottawa and Montreal, and had spent time in Libya before moving to Western Canada to become a miner and labourer, according to friend Dave Bathurst.

Mr. Bathurst said he met Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau in a Burnaby, B.C., mosque about three years ago. He said his friend did not at first appear to have extremist views or inclinations toward violence — but at times exhibited a disturbing side.

“We were having a conversation in a kitchen, and I don’t know how he worded it: He said the devil is after him,” Mr. Bathurst said in an interview. He said his friend frequently talked about the presence of Shaytan in the world — an Arabic term for devils and demons. “I think he must have been mentally ill.”

Mr. Bathurst last saw Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau praying in a Vancouver-area mosque six weeks ago. He spoke of wanting to go to the Middle East soon.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Was it Terrorism or “Senseless Violence” That Occurred in Canada?

At 9:52 AM EDT in Ottawa long haired 32 year old Michael Zehaf Bibeau wearing a black and white scarf and dressed in black equipped with a double-barreled shot gun, stormed Canada’s War Memorial on Capitol Hill in Ottawa. He shot and fatally wounded a member of The Honor Guard , 24 year old Pvt. Nathan Cirllio , a reservist with the Argyll and Sutherland Regiment who was on duty with a companion who was wounded in the attack, . According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, Zehaf-Bibeau was considered to have been “a high risk traveller and had his passport revoked”.Bibeau then drove to the Parliament building in a stolen black automobile with no license tags. He ran with weapon in hand into the Parliamentary center complex apparently running past a room where Canadian PM Harper was speaking. In the ensuing gun battle Bibeau was shot dead at approximately 10:30AM by Kevin Vickers, the Sergeant at Arms before he could barge into the Caucus room filled with various party delegation members.President Obama was interviewed in the Oval Office following a phone conversation with Canadian PM Harper. He conveyed the collective thoughts and concerns of this country for what Canada has endured this week. Choosing his language carefully to avoid any controversy over what motivates such actions , he condemned what he termed “senseless violence”. PM Harper said that “a terrorist murdered the soldier in cold blood”.

Mark Steyn, American-Canadian commentator and author of the recently released book Undocumented, was interviewed on Neal Cavuto’s Fox News program today. He said, “violence against the state isn’t “senseless”. Steyn thought the President’s “senseless violence” comment brought to mind the equivocating term “ workplace violence”, as in the Moore, Oklahoma beheading and Maj. Nidal Hassan’s murderous jihad rampage at Fort hood in 2009. Steyn instead put the blame for this week’s Montreal and Ottawa attacks squarely on Canada’s policy of multi-culturalism that tolerates Islamic theocratic doctrine supporting the barbarity of ISIS and similar Jihadist, Salafist groups. David B. Harris, former planning director for the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and columnist on counterterrorism , spoke by phone with Cavuto about Canada’s dilemma. He was asked if he thought the Ottawa event was a terrorist attack? He suggested that, while it required confirmation, it certainly had the appearance of one. However, Harris said that Canada may be unprepared for more such attacks in view of the significant number of Canadians who have left to join up with ISIS.They include some who have become prominent ISIS spokespersons, who may return to foster such domestic terrorism. He drew attention to a Canadian Senate testimony by Michel Coulombe the current head of CSIS, who indicated that Canada could be overwhelmed by such ISIS inspired homegrown terrorist threats lacking the resources and legal means to combat them…

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]

Denmark to Once Again Look at Circumcision Ban

A poll showing 74 percent support for banning male circumcision comes as parliament prepares for a new round of political discussion on male circumcision. Nearly three fourths of Danes are in favour of banning male circumcision, a new poll revealed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

French Entrepreneurs Launch Test to Detect Pork in Food

Two French entrepreneurs have launched a portable device to test for the presence of pork in food for use by Muslims who abide by dietary laws.

With France’s five million Muslims making up about eight percent of the overall population, the test, similar in size to a pregnancy test, aims to help consumers detect traces of pork not just in food, but also in cosmetics or medicines.

The kit comes with a small test tube in which a food sample is mixed with warm water. A test strip is then inserted into the water which delivers its verdict after a few minutes: one line means no trace of pork; two lines means pork is present.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Speculation Over US Girls Stopped in Frankfurt

The FBI has confirmed that three US teenagers were detained in Frankfurt over the weekend amid speculation they were on their way to join the “IS” campaign in the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Labour Strike Oct 25 to be ‘Start of a Season’

CGIL secretary says ‘game isn’t over’

(ANSA) — Genoa, October 22 — The national strike organized by labour union CGIL and set for Saturday, October 25 “is clearly not the end of a season but the start of a season,” said CGIL secretary Susanna Camusso at a union delegation assembly on Wednesday.

Camusso said the union’s platform is based on a starting point of wanting to change a controversial labour reform that is moving through parliament and stability laws, but added “we won’t give up the battle even if confidence multiplies for individual proceedings. The game isn’t over”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Contract Renewed for 1.2 Million Agricultural Workers

Pay increased by 3.9% in two stages, says Coldiretti

(ANSA) — Rome, October 22 — Agriculture workers in Italy will see a gradual pay increase of 3.9% in a renewed contract affecting 1.2 million people, farm organization Coldiretti said Wednesday.

The national collective agreement retroactive to January 1, 2014 says that workers will see pay increases in two tranches, amounting to an increase of 50 euros first, then rising to a 70 euro increase by 2017.

Coldiretti said the deal confirms the importance of agriculture to Italy and to the country’s economic recovery.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Salvini Says Willing to Work With Anyone, Even Forza Nuova

Attacks Renzi for collusion with ‘shameful, disgraceful,’ EC

(ANSA) — Strasbourg, October 22 — The Northern League is willing to work with anyone, even Forza Nuova, League leader Matteo Salvini said Wednesday.

The League, which was joined by Forza Nuova members at a recent demonstration against Italy’s Mare Nostrum migrant rescue program, will cooperate with anyone who has similar goals and a non-violent approach, Salvini said outside meetings of the European Parliament.

“I deal with the Fiom-CGIL (union federations) when it comes to saving a company, with environmentalists when it comes to protecting a river,” said Salvini. Similarly, organizations that oppose too much immigration, “from the right or left, who are in the streets in a democratic, peaceful and non-violent way, I’m happy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Salvini slammed Premier Matteo Renzi for his support of the European Commission, “which unfortunately is changing Italy and is destroying it with the complicity of Renzi”.

Earlier in the day, Renzi expressed approval for the incoming EC, which was formally approved Wednesday by a vote in the European Parliament.

“Today, the European Parliament approved a commission that is embarrassing, shameful and disgraceful,” said Salvini.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on Anti-German Prosecutions

Italian victims of Nazi war crimes can sue for reparations

(ANSA) — Rome, October 22 — Italy’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down a ban on civil prosecutions against Germany, in essence opening the door for Italian victims of Nazi war crimes to seek reparations.

The principle of state immunity from civil prosecutions lodged in other countries does not apply to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Court said.

This means Italian victims of Nazi war crimes can now sue for compensation from Germany.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Grillo Presses for Euro Exit After ‘Migrants Out’ Call

Spurs controversy with call for immigrant medical tests

(ANSA) — Rome, October 21 — Anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader Beppe Grillo on Tuesday kept up his campaign to get Italy to leave the euro after spurring controversy with an anti-immigrant rant that included a call for all migrants to have medical tests. Grillo said Italy must exit the euro to avoid a Greek-style financial meltdown. “Let’s take back monetary sovereignty and emerge from the nightmare of bankruptcy via default… to not end up like Greece,” Grillo, who has launched a drive for Italy to hold a referendum on the euro, said on his blog. “Out of the euro or default. There are no alternatives.

The interest on the public debt is killing the country and dismantling the welfare state”.

The comedian-turned-politician returned to his popular blog, which gave life to the Internet-based M5S in 2009, a day after causing a stir on it by calling for undocumented migrants to be expelled from Italy if they are not found to be genuine refugees.

“People who enter Italy on migrant boats are perfect strangers,” said Grillo, whose movement captured a quarter of the vote at last year’s general election.

“They should be identified immediately. The refugees should be accepted, the others, the so-called illegal immigrants, should be sent back to where they come from.

“People who enter Italy should be subject to an obligatory medical upon arrival to protect their health and Italian people’s health”.

The Democratic Party (PD) of Premier Matteo Renzi shot down the referendum proposal, saying such a ballot was proscribed by the constitution. “Over and above the value of the proposal, which is abstruse to say the least (…), we remind the Genoese comic and his distracted advisors that the Constitution does not allow referendums to be called on matters and subjects governed by international treaties,” said PD MP Federico Gelli. Grillo’s hard line on migrants has drawn parallels with the separatist, rightwing Northern League, which is also calling for Italy to drop the euro and to halt the arrival of undocumented migrants.

But Grillo recently knocked back an offer from League leader Matteo Salvini to meet for talks on the issues the two parties agree on.

Meanwhile another controversy continued, about Grillo’s latest batch of expulsions from a movement he periodically purges.

On Monday Grillo on Monday expelled four activists after they ‘occupied’ the stage at the movement’s recent Circus Maxiumus rally.

The four — Giorgio Filosto, Orazio Ciccozzi, Pierfrancesco Rosselli and Daniele Lombardi — “took advantage of their role as security officers to occupy the stage,” Grillo wrote on his blog.

The rebel group unfurled a banner saying #occupapalco (#occupy the stage) to protest Grillo’s allegedly high-handed leadership.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi reacted by saying the purge was “embarrassing”.

He said the four were not espousing “a different line but merely asking what the party leadership structure was”.

The M5S’s Deputy House Speaker Luigi Di Maio hit back by charging that Renzi “manipulates everything he can”.

The M5S heavyweight poured scorn on the government’s pledge Sunday to give a tax break of 80 euros a month to new mothers.

“Matteo Renzi manipulates everything he can, we know him very well,” Di Maio said, “he is a person who only makes announcements to cover the pigs’ mess that he has done, for instance with the stability law and the health cuts, and forcing the local authorities to increase taxes for Italian citizens”.

Renzi “is the person who announces the bonus to new mothers in a measure that doesn’t exist to cover the fact that Italian women will have to give birth in hospitals that have suffered more spending cuts”.

The people expelled from M5S “were four people who were not even elected to the 5-Star Movement who betrayed our trust and to whom we have prohibited the use of the party symbol”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Microsoft Ditching the Nokia Name on Smartphones

Microsoft is ditching the Nokia brand name from new devices, less than a year after acquiring the Finnish mobile firm.

New Nokia Lumia smartphones will instead by known as Microsoft Lumia, the company said.

Nokia’s non-mobile division, which is not owned by Microsoft, will continue to use the name.

The mobile operation was bought by Microsoft in April in a deal worth $7.2bn (£4.6bn).

Since then, Microsoft has quietly shifted away from the Nokia brand.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Poll: Majority of Poles Opposed to Euro

Three in four Poles (76%) are against joining the euro, according to a GfK poll published on Tuesday. Poland is obliged under the EU treaties to adopt the euro and will decide the concrete steps towards joining after national elections in 2015, president Bronislaw Komorowski said on Monday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Stockholm Suicide Bomb Investigation Closes

Sweden’s Security Service (Säpo) has announced that it will stop its core investigation into a suicide bombing in Stockholm four years ago.

28-year-old Taimour Abdulwahab blew himself up in central Stockholm in December 2010. Despite being surrounded by people doing their Christmas shopping, no-one else was killed.

Säpo has revealed that after four years investigating the crime, it is confident that he acted alone and it will therefore close its core investigation into the suicide bombing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU-Algeria Cooperation Report Reveals Extent of Partnership

A press conference was organised this week at the EU Delegation to Algeria to mark the publication of the new “EU-Algeria cooperation report” and the visit of two senior officials from the European Commission’s DG Development and Cooperation. Under the motto “let’s move forward together”, Mrs Navarro, Head of Cooperation Operations at the Delegation, presented the content of the report with examples of concrete results.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Egypt Sentences 26 People for Planning Terrorist Attacks

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, OCTOBER 22 — A high-level Egyptian court sentenced 26 people, including four in absentia, to sentences ranging from four years to life in prison on charges of forming a terrorist cell.

The group was found guilty of planning attacks on state institutions and operated from Nasr City, in the Egyptian capital.

The defendants yelled out ‘Allahu Al-Akbar’ (‘God is the greatest’) and raised placards with Osama Bin Laden’s photo after the sentences were announced.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: New Law to Lift Restrictions on Church Building, Says Catholic Church Spokesman

Father Rafic Greiche talks to AsiaNews about a draft bill that would remove restrictions on building Christian places of worship. Egypt’s parliament is expected to vote on the law in January and February 2015. Under the al-Sisi government Christian security and coexistence with Muslims have improved as “Egypt found itself.”

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Christians in Egypt may soon be free to build their own churches, this according to Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Catholic Church.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the clergyman said he was confident that parliament would pass over the coming months a bill that would remove all existing restrictions on Christian places of worship.

“At the request of the government, the leaders of the various Christian denominations drafted a proposal, which they had been pushing for a long while. Parliament will meet in January and February next year and we trust they will approve it.”

Adopted in 1934, the current law bans — among other things — church building near schools, canals, villages, railways, government offices and residential areas. This has meant that, in Upper Egypt and the more rural areas, whole towns or villages have no church.

“When President al-Sisi met the bishops of various denominations as well as Pope Tawadros II, he raised the issue, saying that every Egyptian is free to worship in his own place of worship,” Fr Greiche told AsiaNews.

President al-Sisi, a former general who ousted President Mohamed Morsi and ended the Muslim Brotherhood’ hold on power in June 2013, is a Muslim but from the beginning of his mandate gave his government a pluralistic basis. His cabinet for example has three Christian and four women ministers. At the same time, the general climate has changed in the country.

“In terms of security, life is much better than the year when the Muslim Brotherhood was in power,” said the spokesman of the Catholic Church. Indeed, “the country is becoming more confident and, in a sense, one can say that the ‘Egypt’ has found itself.”

“This is because the Islamist plan was not aimed at Egypt, but at an Islamic Caliphate, a glimpse of which can be seen in ISIS’s actions Syria and in Iraq.” Some violent incidents still occur, “but life goes on.”

In a sense, the Islamic state “is not a threat in itself. Its ideology is that of the Muslim Brotherhood. What really concerns us are the jihadist groups operating in Sinai and Libya. They are much closer to us, and this can cause tensions.”

The ‘Sisi’ effect is having positive repercussions in terms of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians, which, according to Fr Greiche, “is almost back to normal.”

“One has to distinguish between single individuals and what pertains to the state,” the priest told AsiaNews. “Sectarian conflict still occurs, especially in the villages and in the poorest areas; for example, when people from different religion fall in love.”

“This kind of conflict will always take place but under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood incidents related to this issue were frequent because the government itself fanned the fire. Now it is only a sectarian issue, which requires a solution on an ad hoc basis, not in terms of state policy.”

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

Egypt: Government Promotes Christian Itineraries

Premier and Pope Tawadros, we need peace and security

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — Ibrahim Mahlab’s government is underscoring Egypt’s Christian identity in a bid to relaunch Egypt’s religious tourism. The message emerging from Tuesday night’s inaguration cerimony , attended by Egyptian Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou and by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, is the promotion of itineraries linked to the presence of the Holy Family in Egypt. The government and religious authorities agree: “We need peace and security in Egypt”, both premier Mahlab and the Coptic patriarch Tawadros II said, while talking about the Coptic quarter of Cairo, “a symbol of the country’s identity”, Mahlab added, where next to churches you can find other places of worship for other monotheistic religions, such as the Jewish and the Muslim one. It’s a place “that speaks by itself” underlined Mahlab “of dialogue, peace and security” , the essence of Egypt. A country where, according to tradition, “also Jesus found peace and safety”.

Many ministers attended the inaguration with the prime minister: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, the Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour, the Minister of International Cooperation, Naglaa El Ahwani, the minister of Finance Hany Kadry and the Minister of Health, Adel Al Edawy. A striking ministerial presence that underlines a political shift. It’s the first time Egyptian authorities promote itineraries linked to Egypt’s Christian roots and in particular to the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt . The Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II uttered words of hope for the country’s future. “The voyage of the Holy Family in Egypt represents a blessing for the country — Tawadros II said — “Egypt is working to present itself to the world as a positive and peaceful country” and this itinerary represents “ a very important project not only for the country but for the rest of the world”. For Christians — he added — “it’s normal to talk about the places in which the Holy Family lived”, but what is extraordinary is for the government “to invite” people to discover them. “The call to discover the itinerary is addressed to all Egyptians not just to the Christian ones” underscored the minister, who has greatly invested in the project. “Thanks to this initiative, we are expecting to relaunch the economy of areas which have traditionally been excluded from traditional circuits and also hope to promote a more aware kind of tourism”. Many religious authorities representing different countries also attended the inaguration, among them the Secretary of the Pontifical council of Culture, Mons Barthélémy Adoukonou. “The Church — he said — is proud of what Egypt is doing. The cooperation between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Egyptian state represents a good message for the world”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Four Jihadis Killed in Libya

In east Benghazi

(ANSA) — Cairo, October 22 — Four jihadis belonging to the Ansar al Sharia group were killed by Libyan government troops in east Benghazi Wednesday.

Violent clashes continued in other parts of the city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Cyprus-Israel Exercise Onisilos-Gideon Successful

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, OCTOBER 22 — The armed forces of the Republic of Cyprus and the State of Israel conducted the exercise Onisilos-Gideon-2/2014 successfully, in the framework of their annual cooperation plan of joint exercises between the two armed forces as Cyprus News Agency reports quoting the Cyprus Ministry of Defense.

The exercise took place yesterday in Nicosia Flight Information Regions (FIR) and in the wider region of Paphos-Troodos with the participation of National Guard personnel and resources, as well as various types of Israeli air-force aircraft, an official press release issued by the Cyprus Defense Ministry said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU Lays Down Red Lines to Israel Concerning Temple Mount

‘No change to Muslim holy site or new settlements’

(by Massimo Lomonaco) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, OCTOBER 22 — The EU has warned Israel that tenders for and construction of new homes in the Palestinian Territories over the 1967 Green Line, or an attempt to modify the status of Temple Mount, would “would constitute one more grave ‘fact on the ground’ which would be liable to crucially prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations”.

This warning is part of a two-page document that Eu representative to Israel Lars Faaborg Andersen will be relaying to Israel’s foreign minister, reported Haaretz on Wednesday.

Crossing these red lines may lead to sanctions against Israeli settlements in the West Bank. On Wednesday in Berlin, by US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that the current status quo between Israel and Palestine must be maintained. Ramallah would like to change the situation — despite firm opposition from the US and Israel — through the presentation to the UN Security Council of a resolution to recognize Palestine as a State and for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory by 2016. If the US vetoes the move within the Security Council, many Palestinians — including chief negotiator Saeb Erekat — say it will be necessary to break off all collaborative security efforts with Israel and an immediate recourse to all UN agencies. The EU’s red lines reportedly apply to settlement building in Givat Hamatos, in the E1 zone between Maale’ Adunim and Jerusalem and in the Har Homa settlement near Jerusalem, which the EU feels would undermine any future Palestinian state and seriously compromise peace talks. Brussels also noted that it rejects Israel’s plans to “forcibly” move 12,000 West Bank Bedouins into a new city in the Jordan Valley. The document calls for Israel to halt the plan and to reassess the move alongside Bedouin and Palestinian Authority representatives. In reference to alleged, unconfirmed Israeli plans to divide Temple Mount to enable Jews to pray there, the EU said that any attempt to change the ‘status quo’ of the site would be dangerous and lead to higher tension and instability. Israel has not yet replied to the document.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netanyahu for New Vote, Religious Government Allies

Abu Mazen, jail for those selling land to ‘enemy State’

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — Premier Benyamin Netanyahu allegedly intends to call early elections by May to change his government’s majority coalition in order to include religious parties, according to a number of media reports.

Military radio reported on Tuesday that the premier has summoned the leaders in his government coalition for a meeting on Wednesday. The potential crisis could be sparked by the budget, as well as by the premier’s decision not to back a draft law proposed by centrist parties making conversions easier. The measure is disliked by rabbis.

The draft law has been presented by Justice Minister and centrist leader Tizpi Livni. Once approved, it would de facto abolish the key role played by the Chief Rabbinate in validating conversions.

In such an evolving political context, also marked by conflict over a budget draft law to be approved by December, a political source from Likud (Netanyahu’s party) was quoted by Ynet as saying that, “there are all the signs indicating the premier is gearing up for elections”.

The same source said Netanyahu allegedly decided to organize his party’s primary election, in spite of internal opposition.

After his likely investiture — given he apparently has no rivals — Netanyahu would subsequently head to a vote to change his majority coalition, which would include religious Orthodox parties rather than the centrist parties of Livni and Yair Lapid.

Allies expected to remain in the government coalition reportedly include Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Jewish Home party, close to the settlers, and Avigdor Lieberman’s conservative nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu.

Palestinian President Abu Mazen has issued a decree harshening penalties for those selling or renting land “to an enemy State or one of its citizens”, according to Palestinian press reports on Tuesday, which stressed that it referred to Israel. According to Wafa news agency, the presidential decree amends a previous measure, setting as a penalty now “life in prison with penal servitude” for transgressors. The previous measure only provided for penal servitude.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

All 4 Former Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Iraq Shootings

Four former Blackwater Worldwide contractors were convicted Wednesday on charges stemming from a 2007 shooting in Iraq.

Jurors found one defendant guilty of murder and three others of manslaughter and weapons charges, roundly asserting that the shooting was criminal.

[Return to headlines]

Baghdad Patriarch Calls on Muslims to Show More Courage in a “Common Front” Against Terrorists

Christians and Muslims must join together to defeat the Islamic State. So far, “fear has prevailed.” For Mar Sako, a strong “public rejection” is needed. For Advent and Christmas, he calls for visits to the families of refugees, bringing sweets for the festivity to show closeness and solidarity. He calls for a “long term strategy” to fight bigotry.

Milan (AsiaNews) — In order to defeat the mindless violence of the Islamic state, a “common front” of all Iraqis, Christians and Muslims, is needed. So far, only “fear has prevailed,” said Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Mar Louis Sako who is in Milan for a conference after attending the recent Synod on the Family and the Consistory dedicated to the Christians of the Middle East.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that on several occasions, “I called [on Muslims] to take to the streets to bear witness to the real Islam”. Since ISIS does not represent the religion of Muhammad, Muslims should show “that al Nusra and al Qaeda do not represent” the Muslim world. “We believe this, but it must be said openly.”

His Beatitude believes in the Muslim world, in religious leaders who reject terrorist violence. However, a “lack of courage” in disavowing jihadist attacks, barbarism and brutality does not help, he said.

What is needed is strong and clear “public rejection” and condemnation of violence against the “innocent, attacked only because they profess another religion.”

On 17 October, Pope Francis received in audience the patriarch of Baghdad who is also president of the Bishops’ Conference of Iraq. The meeting was centred on the plight of the Christian community in Iraq, where the militias of the Islamic State have captured large swathes of land, especially in the north, through bloodshed and violence.

In the context of the visit, the pope promised a letter of hope for Iraqi Christians, who had to flee their homes by the hundreds of thousands and now live in desperate conditions in shelters and temporary housing.

“There is an urgent need for housing and accommodations,” Mar Sako noted. “We have rented many units, but that is not enough, and the situation is likely to get worse with the arrival of winter, rain, snow and cold. . . . It is not possible to survive like this.”

Funds and donations for the refugees have come from the authorities, international organisations and Catholic groups around the world, including the ‘Adopt a Christian from Mosul’ campaign launched by AsiaNews.

For the Patriarch of Baghdad, what is now needed is an actual display of moral and spiritual closeness, because this is what people want and are looking for.

“For a long time, we have been an isolated church,” he said. “Now we need visits, examples of shared life. Groups of young people, nuns, lay people, priests in the West should visit Christian families in Iraq, go into their homes and among people. This can help more than money.”

As Advent and Christmas approach, Mar Sako wants to meet Iraqi refugees and “why not, bring a Christmas cake, seasonal sweets, to each family as an actual token of closeness and solidarity.”

Among the displaced, there is fear, disillusionment and distrust for a war that could last years according to US government statements.

“Airstrikes alone will not defeat the Islamic State, but cause other innocent victims,” the patriarch warned.

Hence, many families want to “go away” and “the attitude of some priests, who encourage this, does not help and must be condemned.”

Nevertheless, some small signs of hope are emerging in Iraq, scene of recent attacks and acts of violence that left dozens of people dead and injured in and around Baghdad.

“We are building schools with prefabricated material — four in Erbil and four more Dohok” in Iraqi Kurdistan,” His Beatitude noted. “However, the issue of the Nineveh Plain remains unsolved, jihadist militias continue to ravage the area, effectively preventing the return of displaced people.”

The patriarch of Baghdad said he hoped as much for “a quick solution “to oust extremist groups, as he was for “a long-term strategy” to fight fanaticism, involving imams in mosques, experts in Islamic law, and scholars who could “give a new interpretation to Islam.”

Terrorists take advantage of ignorance, Mar Sako said in concluding. They call for jihad against the West, which “is empty, devoid of religion, in which — according to them — Christianity has failed, and for this reason must be islamised.”

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

Five Britons a Week Travel to Iraq and Syria to Join ISIS, Says Met Chief

Five Britons are travelling to Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State (Isis) every week, the UK’s most senior police officer has revealed, after reports that a third jihadi from Portsmouth has been killed in the conflict.

The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said the figure was a minimum and the “drumbeat of terrorism in the UK” was now “faster and more intense”.

Speaking at a national security conference in London, he said militants’ activities were “not just the horrors of distant lands” and warned of the terrorist threat posed in the UK by returning fighters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

ISIS: Iraqi Kurds Authorize Sending Peshmerga to Kobane

After Turkey said it would let them cross its borders

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 22 — The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) parliament on Wednesday authorized the sending of Peshmerga forces to the Syrian city of Kobane to aid Kurdish militias defending the city against the Islamic State (ISIS).

Reports were from Al-Jazeera.

In recent days Turkey said that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish forces to cross its territory to get to the city.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Light Travel Restrictions Make it Easy for Teens to Travel to Syria

The teenage sisters told their father they were staying home sick from their suburban Denver school. Instead, they took $2,000 and their passports and headed off for Syria with a 16-year-old friend. They made it as far as Germany before border guards detained them for questioning.

The fact that adolescent girls could make their way across the Atlantic might come as a surprise to many parents, but a patchwork of laws and rules governing international air travel in many cases makes it easy for teenagers to travel with nobody’s permission but their own.

Airlines have a range of rules governing minors’ travel: Many major carriers including United Airlines and Scandinavian airline SAS place no restrictions on children over 12, while others let even young minors travel as long as they are accompanied by someone over 16. Yet others, including American Airlines, require a parent to accompany travelers under the age of 15 to the gate, while those 15 and over face no restrictions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Saudi Grand Mufti Against Twitter as Source of All Evil and Lies

On his ‘fatwa’ show, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, comes out against the microblogging site, blaming it for evil as well as moral and social devastation. Users are divided: some agree with the sheikh; others comment his views with sarcasm. In Saudi Arabia, Twitter has the highest number of active users.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Twitter is nothing more than “a source of lies” and evil, said Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric, on his popular ‘Fatwa’ (religious edict) television show, sparking a lively debate across the country between those his supporters and critics.

“If it were used correctly,” the sheikh said, “it could be of real benefit, but unfortunately it’s exploited for trivial matters”.

Indeed, Twitter is “the source of all evil and devastation”, the mufti said. “People are rushing to it thinking it’s a source of credible information but it’s a source of lies and falsehood.”

In the ultra-conservative, gender-segregated Wahhabi kingdom, where women are not allowed to drive, the social networking service is popular among both men and women.

Many have objected to the mufti’s views, some with sarcasm. One user said he would “repent, and close my account to distance myself from this great evil”. Another however was more straightforward, saying “Respected sheikh, how can you judge something without using it?”

According to the 2012 report of the Global Web Index, the Saudi kingdom has the highest percentage of active Twitter users in the world. More than half of all Saudi Internet users use it.

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

Yaalon Says Hamas Has Terrorism Command-Centre in Istanbul

Israeli Defence Minister also criticizes Turkey

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, OCT 22 — “Hamas has two terrorist command centres: one in Gaza and one in Istanbul” said Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon during a visit to the United States. “Hamas transferred its terrorist command from Damascus to Istanbul, in Turkey, a Nato country, where it is represented — Yaalon added — by Saleh Aruri who has organised terrorist activities against Israel and has also tried to foment an uprising against Pna President Abu Mazen in the West Bank”. Yaalon, who during his visit to the US, also met with Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, criticized Turkey because it “leads the Muslim Brotherhood axis” in the Middle East, “plays a cynical game” and “supports Hamas together with Qatar”. In a series of interviews Yaalon recognised the US ‘s support for Israel and while admitting there had been “differences of opinion” during the recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza, he stressed that those differences “had never cast a shadow on their relation and on the deep friendship between the two countries”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

3-Yr-Old Raped at Her Preschool in Bangalore, India

Third similar child rape reported in four months

(ANSA) — New Delhi, October 22 — A three-year-old Indian girl was raped at her preschool in Bangalore, TV Times Now reported Wednesday.

The attack on Tuesday marks the third child rape reported in the last four months in the city. The first two victims were girls aged six and eight, respectively.

The latest first told her parents she had been beaten by “a stranger” when they found her in tears after preschool. She then indicated sexual violence, which was confirmed by medical exam.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Opium Poppy Cultivation Hits Record-High in Afghanistan

Opium poppy production covers a record 209,000 hectares in 2013, providing nearly 90 per cent of the world’s supply. The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) calls into question the efficacy of the US$ 7.6 billion counter-narcotics strategy.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Afghan farmers grew a record 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, up from the prior record in 2007 of 193,000 hectares, this according to the latest data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The information provided US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), General John Sopko, the opportunity to write a letter Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, calling into question the efficacy of the US$ 7.6 billion counter-narcotics effort aimed at curbing the illicit trade

In his letter, General John Sopko said that Afghanistan’s opium poppy production was valued at US $3 billion in 2013 — a 50 per cent increase from the previous year — and that Afghanistan continues to produce nearly 90 per cent of the world’s supply.

Even worse, these figures are projected to climb as security deteriorates in rural Afghanistan and eradication efforts lose steam.

“In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the U.S. government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production,” General Sopko wrote.

“The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts,” he added.

Until 2009, Washington favoured a more aggressive eradication approach that frequently had the exact opposite effect as intended, fuelling corruption at the local level.

Since Afghanistan’s central government is so weak, eradication programmes were typically enforced or administered by the country’s powerful warlords, with the tiny fraction of crops that were eradicated usually belonging to their political enemies.

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

South Korea Dismantles Contentious Border ‘Christmas Tree’

South Korea has demolished a “Christmas tree” border tower that has long angered its northern neighbour, though denying the move was aimed at appeasing the North.

Officials in Seoul said the 43-year-old building was pulled down because it was unsafe. South Korea intends to build a park in its place.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Nearly 10,000 Ebola Infections Says Who

Nearly 5,000 dead but Nigeria, Senegal Ebola-free

(ANSA) — Rome, October 22 — The number of people infected with the deadly Ebola virus has reached 9,936, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.

WHO officially declared Nigeria and Senegal free of Ebola but said the virus is still “persistent and diffuse” in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The report said 4,877 have died from the virus.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Sudan Women Suggest Sex Strike to End War

A group of South Sudanese women peace activists has suggested that men in the civil war-torn country be denied sex until they stop fighting.

The suggestion emerged after around 90 women, including several members of South Sudan’s parliament, met in the capital Juba this week to come up with ideas on how to “to advance the cause of peace, healing and reconciliation”.

A key suggestion was to “mobilise all women in South Sudan to deny their husbands conjugal rights until they ensure that peace returns,” organisers said in a statement Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU Forced Repatriations Topped 10,000 Between 2006-2013

EU ombudsman opens investigation into Frontex procedures

(ANSA) — Brussels, October 22 — Immigrants to European Union countries who were subjected to forced repatriation between the years 2006 and 2013 totaled 10,855, said European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly on Wednesday.

The repatriations came as a result of 209 joint operations undertaken in those years by EU and European border management agency Frontex.

O’Reilly has opened an investigation into Frontex to ensure the agency is respecting immigrants’ fundamental human rights during forced repatriation to their countries of origin.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece Fined for Violating Asylum Seekers’ Rights

Asylum seekers in Italy and Greece are a step closer of having their rights vindicated following a verdict on Tuesday (21 October) at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

While the judgment is not final, the decision signals an important development in a case that stems back to 2009 when Italy is said to have intercepted 32 Afghan nationals, two Sudanese nationals and one Eritrean national at its border and immediately sent them back to Greece.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Send Migrants Packing, Says Grillo

M5S leader calls for obligatory medicals for all new arrivals

(see related) (ANSA) — Rome, October 21 — Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), has caused a stir by calling for undocumented migrants to be expelled from Italy if they are not found to be refugees.

“People who enter Italy on migrant boats are perfect strangers,” Grillo said on his popular blog, which gave life to the Internet-based M5S in 2009.

“They should be identified immediately. The refugees should be accepted, the others, the so-called illegal immigrants, should be sent back to where they come from.

“People who enter Italy should be subject to an obligatory medical upon arrival to protect their health and Italian people’s health”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kenya to Denmark: Keep Your Refugees

Kenyan officials slam suggestions from the Danish People’s Party and Liberal Alliance that Denmark should stop accepting refugees and instead get other countries to host them.

Two opposition parties’ proposals to send refugees back to where they came from has been slammed by Kenyan officials as “condescending and ridiculous”, according to Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation.

“It almost borders on racism. Why would they want to bring there here from their country?” Mwedna Njoka, a spokesman for Kenya’s Interior Ministry, told the paper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Lebanon Says Doors Closed to More Syrian Refugees

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon announced on Thursday it will not accept any more refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria, except in what authorities deem to be “exceptional” cases — a move that could prevent tens of thousands of Syrians from escaping the civil war.

Information Minister Ramzi Jreij said Lebanon can simply not handle any more refugees.

The tiny Mediterranean country has 1.1 million officially registered Syrian refugees, although the number is believed to be far higher. They make up almost a quarter of the country’s population of 5 million.

The refugees have stretched the country’s already fragile infrastructure and compete with Lebanon’s poorest for low-paid jobs, causing tensions. Tens of thousands of Syrian children are out of school because there is nowhere to place them.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Marino May Take Gay Marriage Transcription to EU Court

Says city hall lawyers studying juridical aspects

(ANSA) — Rome, October 22 — The mayor of Rome said he would respond “when I know the cards” when asked Thursday whether he planned to take controversial gay marriage issue to the European Court of Human Rights.

“In this moment, the legal office of city hall is studying the juridical aspects, but what counts more for me as mayor are the aspects my community’s life,” Ignazio Marino added, speaking from the margins of a school inauguration in Rome. Marino walked into contested, administrative no-man’s land earlier this week when he transcribed 16 same-sex marriages legally performed abroad at the Rome prefecture.

Marino made the move in defiance of a mandate issued by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano banning the official acknowledgement by city mayors in prefectures across the country.

In Italy, civil unions between same-sex partners are not yet nationally recognized, much less marriage, which is defined as a union between a man and a woman. However the recognition of same-sex marriages performed abroad, especially in countries with which Italy is bound by treaties, the question is subject to debate.

“Certainly, I performed an act that is not revolutionary, but a transcription of documents that were written in other countries of the European Community or in North America. The prefect is responding to an invitation by the interior minister,” said Marino. Roman Prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro on Tuesday formally “invited” Marino to withdraw the gay marriage transcriptions to “avoid irregularities on the civil status registry” and explained that the prefecture would have to impose state norms in the case. Pecoraro and Marino shook hands Tuesday as it was generally acknowledged that the validity of the transcriptions would undergo formal scrutiny if Marino did not withdraw them.

Marino in his defiance of the interior minister joins a number of mayors across Italy, including those of Milan, Bologna, Udine and Grosseto. He has received support from gay activists and lawyers of couples whose marriages were transcribed, but the Catholic political movement Italia Cristiana on Tuesday registered a formal complaint against Marino for contravening State law. The movement also called for the centre-left politician to be removed from his post.

“Transcribe gay marriages? No, it’s a farce because it doesn’t mean anything,” said Giovanni Toti, a centre-right EMP for the Forza Italia party and political advisor to ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. “Marino is doing a political maneuver with couples that lend themselves to it. Like Alfano, who is playing with the skins of people who are waiting for a law, however,” added Toti, speaking to the Radio 24 programme Zanzara (mosquito). “We’re waiting for text, but I am in favour of a law on civil unions,” said Toti.

Premier Matteo Renzi has announced that a bill regarding same-sex unions and family rights will be presented by the end of October.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

2 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/23/2014

  1. The meme “nothing to do with Islam”: my suggestion is to enhance it. Islam encourages believers to murder non-believers; yet when that happens “it has nothing to do with Islam”. What is missing here is the unavoidable conclusion: it is just a coincidence. So the meme should be “it has nothing to do with Islam, this is just a coincidence”. It adds bite, and reduces the risk that the meme is taken at face value, which would be counterproductive.

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