Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/12/2014

NB: Our internet went out last night just before midnight, delaying the posting of the news feed. I’ve back-dated it, but this was really posted on the morning of November 13th.

Philae, the European Space Agency’s robot probe, landed safely on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the first such landing in history. The harpoons that were to anchor the probe to the comet’s surface did not deploy properly, but this is expected to be a minor glitch.

In other news, nine alleged supporters of the Islamic State were arrested by German police in Cologne. Eight of the men were suspected of robbing schools and churches to pay for jihad fighters to travel to Syria.

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

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Green Infidel, Insubria, Jerry Gordon, 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
» EC Says Results of Italy’s Reforms Uncertain
» Gold to Find Solace From Negative Lending Rate: Chart of the Day
» Italian Treasury Sells 12-Month Bonds for 6.5bln Euros
» World Cannot Afford European Economic ‘Lost Decade’
 
USA
» ‘Basically Disarmed’: Border Patrol up in Arms Over Gun Recall
» Firefighters Try to Rescue Window Washers at One World Trade Center
» Takedown of Anti-Muslim YouTube Video Gets Appeals Court Rehearing
 
Europe and the EU
» 7,000 Attend Anti-Fur Demos Across Norway
» Anti-Islam PVV Catches Up With VVD in Poll of Polls But Remains Below 20%
» Bulgaria: Sofia Synagogue Ranked Among World’s Most Beautiful Temples
» Denmark: Surplus to Scarcity: Changing Tide of Sperm From Redheads
» ESA’s Philae Lander Successfully Touches Down on a Comet, But Harpoons Have Failed
» EU Urges Turkey to Respect Cyprus’s Sovereign Rights
» Europe Makes Space History as Philae Probe Lands on Comet
» Germany Arrests Suspected ISIS Supporters
» Grillo Says ECB Greater Enemy Than Islamic Militants
» Henry Graves Supercomplication Smashes Record, Sells for $24 Million
» If Rosetta Mission Succeeds, Finland Will be First to Land on Comet
» Islamism is Less Dangerous Than Islam
» Italy: European, U.S. Banks Hit With $3.3bn Fines in Forex Scandal
» Italy: Mediaset Shares Jump After Q3 Results Beat Forecasts
» Italy: Renzi: Berlusconi Reach Deal on Amending Election-Law Pact
» Italy: ‘Made in Naples’ Seeks to Enter New Markets
» Italy: Student Injured in Protest Against Draghi in Rome
» Italy: Boffo Back on CEI Payroll But Remaining Home
» Juncker ‘Regrets’ Luxembourg Tax Deals
» Juncker on Defense Over Grillo ‘Fiscal Paradise’ Attacks
» Military Deserters May Claim EU Asylum
» Norway: Oslo to Host Light Parade Protest to Beat Bullies
» One in Three Swedish Teachers Plans to Quit
» Philae Space Craft Not Securely Attached to Comet
» Philae Probe Reaches Comet, Makes Space History
» Robot Probe Philae Lands Safely on Comet
» Spacecraft Lands on Comet’s Surface
» Suspected Islamic State Supporters Arrested in Germany
» U.S. Official, Italy Spy Suspected in Moro Case
» UK: Nurse Was Killed by Jealous Asylum Seeker Ex-Boyfriend Who Stabbed Her in the Head 130 Times After Police Failed to Tell Her He Had a History of Violence Against Women
» Vatican: Pope Calls for Global “Mobilization of Consciences in Favor of Persecuted Christians”
» Why is the Rosetta Comet Landing So Exciting?
 
North Africa
» Benghazi: A City Going Up in Smoke
» FIFA Confirms Morocco as Club World Cup Host
» Libya: Italian FM Concerned by Escalating Violence
» Libya: Ansar Al-Sharia ‘Holding Tunisian Journalists’
» Several Car Bombs Continue to Wrack Eastern Libya
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Hamas Among Richest Terror Groups Worldwide — Second Only to ISIS
» Israel Launches ‘Iron Dome’ Development to Protect Its Electrical Grid Against Cyber Threats
» Palestinian Source Says Abu Mazen in Jordan to Meet Abdallah
 
Middle East
» ISIS to Mint Early Islam Dinars as ‘Caliphate’ Currency
» ISIS: “Caliph’s Death Would Not Prove Lethal for Group”
» Kurds Gain Ground But Not Control in Struggle for Syrian Border Town
» More Criticism for 2022 World Cup Hosts Qatar
» Radical Turks
» Russia ‘Proposes Syria Talks in Moscow’, Lebanese Media
» Saudi Arabia Leads OPEC Output Cuts Before Next Meeting
» US-Led Airstrikes Aainst ISIS Kill Over 850 in Syria Since Sept
» ‘We Have to Talk About Sweden’s ISIS Fighters’
» Why Deterrence Won’t Work With Iran
 
Russia
» Milan Mayor Launches Alliance With Moscow Before Expo
» Russian Defense Ministry Says Bomber Patrols Will Reach Gulf of Mexico
 
Caucasus
» Armenia Warns Baku After Helicopter Shot Down
 
South Asia
» Afghanistan Opium Harvest at Record High as NATO Withdraws
 
Far East
» China Predicted to Outspend the US on Science by 2020
» Chinese Pollution Data Censored During Climate Change Summit
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Ebola: African Cup in Chaos, To be Played Without Morocco
» Female Suicide Bomber Kills Students in Nigeria
 
Immigration
» Italy: Rome Prosecutors Probe Assault on Refugee Reception Center
 
Culture Wars
» KKK Rebrand: Blacks, Hispanics, Gays & Jews Now Welcomed by Ku Klux Klan
 

EC Says Results of Italy’s Reforms Uncertain

Warns government to guard against ‘bottlenecks’

(ANSA) — Rome, November 11 — The European Commission on Tuesday said the Italian government has been making a significant effort on reforms but the outcome of its planned changes is still uncertain.

In a report on Italy’s efforts to fix its macroeconomic imbalances, the EC praised the government’s ongoing structural reforms and spending review processes which are aimed at making significant changes to the economy in hopes of boosting growth while improving future prospects. However, “progress is uneven”, with many measures “still waiting for full approval or enabling decrees and therefore the results remain uncertain,” the Commission added in its report.

There were also “significant uncertainties” about the government’s review of public spending, added the Commission, which has been examining Italian efforts to fix macroeconomic imbalances.

Failure to do so could lead the EC to enact ‘macroeconomic imbalance’ procedures against Italy, the European Union’s third-largest economy. The progress that Italy makes in the next few months on structural reforms will be “crucial” to the commission’s assessment of whether Rome is addressing the country’s macroeconomic imbalances, it said. The government of Premier Matteo Renzi has introduced measures to reform Italy’s labour laws, has promised justice reforms and is pushing for changes to the country’s election laws.

All of the measures are aimed at getting the economy unstuck from years of economic stagnation that have led to high overall unemployment and soaring levels of youth joblessness.

At the same time, the rate of inflation remains around zero suggesting that the stagnation may remain a feature of the Italian economy, cutting off future prospects unless drastic measures are taken.

Renzi’s 2015 budget bill is moving through parliament with measures designed to boost growth, but he has complained that stimulative steps such as major infrastructure projects are difficult to implement without running afoul of European Union limits on debt and deficit measures.

His current budget bill is now being reviewed by the EC, and recently Renzi and his cabinet were forced to take about 4.5 billion euros in unexpected measures to cut its structural budget deficit by 0.3% of GDP in 2015 to satisfy the EC.

Tuesday’s report said the government must guard against “institutional bottlenecks” and “barriers” that may arise to slow implementation of reforms, said the report.

Yet reform is essential to deal with the country’s massive public debt of more than two trillion euros that weighs down economic growth, it added.

“The very high debt is a big weight on the Italian economy, a source of vulnerability in the current situation of inflation and low growth,” the report said.

“It is a brake on growth due to the high taxes needed to service it”.

Delays in Italy’s plans to sell off stakes in State assets are not helpful, the report said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Gold to Find Solace From Negative Lending Rate: Chart of the Day

Gold at a four-year low should find solace after rates at which bullion is lent for dollars turned negative, signaling tighter supply, Natixis SA said.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows the three-month gold forward offered rate has turned negative on a weekly basis. Prices rose in three of the past four times this occurred since last year. There’s now a “limited window” to bet on a gold rebound, Natixis economist Evariste Lefeuvre said in a Nov. 10 report.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Italian Treasury Sells 12-Month Bonds for 6.5bln Euros

(AGI) Rome, Nov 12 — The Italian Treasury auctioned 12-month bonds for 6.5 billion euros on Wednesday, with an interest rate of 0.335 percent, up from 0.301 percent in mid-October’s auction. It was the highest yield since July. The bid-to-cover ratio was 1.78.

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

World Cannot Afford European Economic ‘Lost Decade’

The United States warned Wednesday that the global economy cannot endure a “European lost decade,” criticizing “status quo policies” in the eurozone ahead of the G20 summit this week.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a speech that monetary easing by the European Central Bank is not enough to avoid a deeper slump across Europe.

And he said that other countries should not rely on the US economy to prop up global growth.

“The world cannot afford a European lost decade,” Lew said, according to the text of his speech at the World Affairs Council in Seattle.

“The ECB has taken forceful steps to support the economy through accommodative monetary policy.”

“But as recent economic performance suggests, this alone has not proven sufficient to restore healthy growth. Resolute action by national authorities and other European bodies is needed to reduce the risk that the region could fall into a deeper slump.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

‘Basically Disarmed’: Border Patrol up in Arms Over Gun Recall

BORDER PATROL OFFICIALS have been yanking thousands of rifles from field agents in a large-scale effort to refurbish the weaponry, prompting the rank-and-file to complain they’ve been left with the dangerous options of sharing guns or being disarmed altogether.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Firefighters Try to Rescue Window Washers at One World Trade Center

New York City police and firefighters were trying to rescue two window washers stuck on a scaffolding at the 69th floor of One World Trade Center on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

The workers were tethered to the scaffolding and hadn’t been injured as firefighters tried to find a way to bring them down, a Fire Department of New York spokesman said. The 911 call came in at 12:42 p.m.

“They are in a difficult spot,” a fire department spokesman said. “They are feeling the effects of hanging in there.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Takedown of Anti-Muslim YouTube Video Gets Appeals Court Rehearing

A federal appeals court agreed Wednesday to reconsider its February takedown order of the inflammatory YouTube video “The Innocence of Muslims.”

The move by the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals comes after digital rights groups and media outlets complained that the court’s 2-1 decision “arguably expands the concept of copyright ownership in a manner that could allow the subjects of news coverage to exercise veto power over unflattering broadcasts” (PDF).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

7,000 Attend Anti-Fur Demos Across Norway

Around 7,000 people across 15 cities in Norway turned out to protest against fur last weekend in Europe’s largest anti-fur event.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Anti-Islam PVV Catches Up With VVD in Poll of Polls But Remains Below 20%

Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV has drawn level with the ruling right-wing Liberal VVD in the latest Peilingwijzer poll of polls but still fails to gather more than 20% support.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Bulgaria: Sofia Synagogue Ranked Among World’s Most Beautiful Temples

The Sofia synagogue is ranked among the 19 most beautiful houses of worship in the world by the Architectural Digest magazine. The Sofia synagogue is in the company of temples of all major world faiths — both old and new — in classical and modern style.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Denmark: Surplus to Scarcity: Changing Tide of Sperm From Redheads

Four years ago the world’s biggest sperm bank, Cryos in Aarhus, was “drowning” in sperm from redheads, but now it is in short supply, Ekstra Bladet reports.

It is mainly heterosexual couples in which the man is redheaded, or lesbian couples in which one of the pair has red hair, who are keen to get their hands on sperm from a donor with the corresponding hair colour. “It can also be singles, but not nearly as often,” Ole Schou, the founder of Cryos, said.

“It’s about supply and demand, and non-anonymous redheads are especially lacking. They’re flying off the shelf and we can’t keep up,” Schou explained.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

ESA’s Philae Lander Successfully Touches Down on a Comet, But Harpoons Have Failed

The European Space Agency (ESA) has spent more than a decade planning for today, and it seems to have gone well. After traveling millions of miles through the solar system and slingshotting around a few planets, the Rosetta mission has successfully landed a probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at 11 AM ET (4 PM GMT). The live stream of the ESA control center showed mission managers celebrating several minutes later when the signal from Philae was confirmed on the surface.

According to the Philae Twitter account, the harpoons have not deployed correctly. This probably isn’t a huge deal yet, but the team is working on a fix.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

EU Urges Turkey to Respect Cyprus’s Sovereign Rights

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, NOVEMBER 12 — The European Union has called on Turkey to respect Cyprus’s sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as Kathimerini online reports.

Speaking at the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday, Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn urged Turkey to show restraint and avoid any more statements or actions that could fuel tension in the area. “It is very important that all parties de-escalate tension and act constructively,” Hahn said, adding that Brussels fully supports UN envoy Espen Barth Eide’s efforts to get the two sides in Cyprus to restart peace talks. Nicosia suspended the negotiations, which resumed earlier this year, in protest at Turkey’s failure to respect its EEZ. “We very strongly encourage all relevant stakeholders to contribute to a positive climate conducive to a Cyprus settlement for the benefit of all,” the Austrian official said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Europe Makes Space History as Philae Probe Lands on Comet

The European Space Agency (ESA) landed a probe on a comet on Wednesday, a first in space exploration and the climax of a decade-long mission to get samples from what are the remnants of the birth of Earth’s solar system.

The box-shaped 100-kg (220-pound) lander, named Philae, touched down on schedule at about 1600 GMT after a seven-hour descent from spacecraft Rosetta around half a billion kilometers (300 million miles) from Earth.

Scientists hope that samples from the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will help show how planets and life are created as the rock and ice that make up the comet preserve organic molecules like a time-capsule.

Comets come from the formation of Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old solar system. Scientists believe they may have brought much of the water in Earth’s oceans.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Germany Arrests Suspected ISIS Supporters

(AGI) Berlin, Nov 12 — Nine men suspected of supporting ISIS have been arrested by police in the Cologne area. Eight of the men, aged 22 to 35, were arrested on charges of robbing churches and schools to provide money for the militant group in Syria. Part of the money is believed to have been used to pay for fighters to travel to Syria. A 58-year-old Pakistani man was was also held.

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

Grillo Says ECB Greater Enemy Than Islamic Militants

M5S leader seeks support for anti-euro campaign

(See related) (ANSA) — Brussels, November 12 — The European Central Bank is a greater foe than Islamic militant group ISIS, said Beppe Grillo, leader of the 5-Star Movement (M5S), as he headed for a meeting Wednesday with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

“We are not at war with ISIS or with Russia, but with the ECB,” said Grillo.

The M5S leader was planning to present his campaign for a referendum on pulling Italy out of the single-currency euro to the European Parliament in Brussels.

“We are tired of the sacrifices, we want to regain sovereignty over our currency, (and) save our businesses,” said Grillo.

He also attacked Juncker over his time as prime minister of Luxembourg, a country that has drawn recent media attention for what some call legalized tax avoidance.

Multinational corporations have moved their headquarters, at least on paper, to the small state to avoid paying taxes in countries where they operate. “Who elected Juncker? He is the former minister of a tax haven,” said Grillo, using the term that many have applied for countries where businesses can find lower corporate tax rates.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Henry Graves Supercomplication Smashes Record, Sells for $24 Million

What many consider the most valuable and most famous watch in the world is now more valuable.

The Henry Graves Supercomplication sold Tuesday for approximately $24 million, smashing the $11 million record it established in 1999, at Sotheby’s Geneva sale of Important Watches.

The auction house said five bidders competed for the timepiece, which has gained a somewhat mythical status in the rarefied world of extremely complicated timepieces. It was sold to a buyer in the room, who requested anonymity, after 15 minutes of bidding. It fetched well above its $16.8 million estimate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

If Rosetta Mission Succeeds, Finland Will be First to Land on Comet

Finnish Meteorological Institute instruments on board the Rosetta space probe scheduled to land on Wednesday evening may make history as the first contact point with the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Islamism is Less Dangerous Than Islam

by Guillaume Faye

Islamist violence paradoxically causes an “anti Islamic” effect , that of creating an awakening of conscience against the same danger of Islamization and the true nature of Islam. Similarly, all the excesses of Muslims in France, in their conquest phase ( Dar al-Arb ) are creators of awareness: identity claims, provocations, attacks, fully veiled women, riots, anti-Jewish atrocities, websites and blogs Internet jihadists …

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Italy: European, U.S. Banks Hit With $3.3bn Fines in Forex Scandal

Allegedly attempted to manipulate foreign exchange markets

(ANSA) — Rome, November 12 — Banking authorities on Wednesday issued fines worth a total of about $3.3 billion against five major international banks after a probe into alleged manipulation of foreign exchange markets. HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Swiss bank UBS, and US banks JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup have been fined by regulators on both sides of the Atlantic.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Italy: Mediaset Shares Jump After Q3 Results Beat Forecasts

Broadcaster cut costs, losses less than same time in 2013

(ANSA) — Milan, November 12 — Shares in broadcaster Mediaset, owned by former premier Silvio Berlusconi, jumped by more than 7% in trading Wednesday morning after the company reported a third-quarter net loss that was better than expected.

Shares were trading as high as almost three euros each after the company said its losses in Q3 were 26.3 million euros — well below the loss of 57.3 million euros during the same period last year. The broadcaster said it has been cutting costs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Italy: Renzi: Berlusconi Reach Deal on Amending Election-Law Pact

Bill set to clear Senate by end of year

(ANSA) — Rome, November 12 — Premier Matteo Renzi reached an agreement on Wednesday with Silvio Berlusconi, the leader of the opposition centre-right Forza Italia party, during crunch talks on a new election law. “The structure of the deal is more solid than ever,” read a joint statement on the leaders decision to press ahead with the so-called Nazerano pact they agreed at the start of the year. They agreed to raise the threshold to get a winner’s bonus of seats to guarantee a working majority to 40%, the statement said. The statement added that differences over whether the bonus should apply to the party that comes first or the coalition would not stop the election bill being approved in the Senate by the end of the year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Italy: ‘Made in Naples’ Seeks to Enter New Markets

B2B agreements with Swiss, German and Romanian operators

(ANSA) — Naples, November 11 — “Made in Naples” fashion is walking down the catwalk this hoping to conquer European markets. The Italian Chamber of Commerce has invited operators from Romania, Switzerland and Germany to Naples to foster cooperation with local businessmen from the textile and clothing industry and promote trade. The idea was promoted by the Chamber of commerce through its Euro-desk, a special agency for international promotion and trade.

Twenty Swiss, German and Romanian importers selected by the Italian Chambers of Commerce in Switzerland and Germany and by the Italian Institute of Commerce in Bucharest watched “made in Naples” dresses, bags and bathing-suits walk down the catwalk.

The business-to-business meetings taking place in Naples are intended to facilitate product-exchange deals.

According to Bruno Indelicato, marketing supervisor of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Switzerland: “it’s important to be aware that German and Swiss businessmen are usually keen to explore Italian products. They are particularly drawn to Italian fashion and are familiar with the textile industry of the south of Italy and the Neapolitan one in particular. “Our objective is to make the products from these areas even more attractive and strike deals”. Anisoara Condeescu, market analyst at the Italian institute of commerce in Bucharest added: “it’s well-known that Romania is a big producer of textile and apparel. Production collaborations as well as commercial ones could be successful because made in Italy is renowned and Rumanians like to dress well too”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Italy: Student Injured in Protest Against Draghi in Rome

Protesters clash with police

(ANSA) — Rome, November 12 — One person was injured at the capital’s Roma Tre university on Wednesday during clashes between police and around 100 students protesting against European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who was giving a speech at the institute. The injured person, one of the students, had a bug cut on the head. Students threw paint, unfolded banners and sang chants including, “get bankers out of the university” and “the EU is in favour of clubbing students”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Italy: Boffo Back on CEI Payroll But Remaining Home

Former Avvenire editor famous for Berlusconi clashes

(ANSA) — Rome, November 12 — Controversial former Avvenire editor Dino Boffo, best known for editorials criticizing the lifestyle of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, has returned to the payroll of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) after his firing in February, ANSA has learned.

Boffo, who as editor of the CEI’s daily newspaper Avvenire created waves for his attacks on then-premier Berlusconi, won a contract dispute with the bishops association in late October but will remain at home until his retirement, sources said.

A clause in Boffo’s contract protected him from being dismissed, a point the 62-year-old has made during the past eight months and which the CEI now appears to have accepted.

Boffo is seeking damages from the CEI, including Secretary General Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, and a court hearing has been scheduled in Rome for February 3, 2015.

Boffo has had a high-profile career, due to his attacks on Berlusconi and subsequent counter-attacks on his reputation.

He wrote several harsh editorials criticizing then-premier Berlusconi’s allegedly immoral lifestyle after a series of news reports at the time alleged the former premier had been involved with prostitutes and threw lewd parties.

Boffo wasn’t alone in his criticisms. At the same time, Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana, sold in churches every Sunday, went even further than Avvenire, saying that Berlusconi had “overstepped the bounds of decency” with his “indefensible” behavior.

Boffo resigned as editor of Avvenire in September 2009 after allegations, which were later shown to be unfounded, that he had made obscene telephone calls and harassed a woman in the Umbrian city of Terni to leave her husband, with whom he was in a relationship.

It emerged, however, that Boffo had been fined in 2004 for allegedly harassing a woman in the winter of 2001-2002 — something the Berlusconi family-owned daily newspaper Il Giornale played up with such headlines as: ‘The Supermoralist Condemned For Harassment’.

It went on to publish an opinion piece suggesting Boffo was homosexual.

Earlier this year, Berlusconi was acquitted of charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute, as the courts ruled that he thought the infamous Moroccan dancer Ruby the Heartstealer was an adult when he paid for sex with her.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Juncker ‘Regrets’ Luxembourg Tax Deals

BRUSSELS — European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has broken his one-week silence on “Luxembourg Leaks”, with jokes, and with a new proposal on EU tax transparency.

Luxembourg Leaks saw reporters publish 343 “tax rulings” or “comfort letters” from the Luxembourg government to big firms helping them to minimise payments and depriving fellow EU countries of tax revenues.

There may have been many more.

The revelations pose questions on Juncker’s role in creating the tax avoidance regime in his time as Luxembourg PM.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Juncker on Defense Over Grillo ‘Fiscal Paradise’ Attacks

EC head says Luxembourg tax measures were ‘always legal’

(ANSA) — Brussels, November 10 — Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, defended himself Wednesday from criticism of the tax regime he oversaw in Luxembourg, saying processes there were “always legal”.

“In all my life, I have worked to promote tax harmonization in Europe,” Juncker said after attacks earlier in the day from Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) who was in Brussels for meetings.

Grillo attacked Juncker over his time as prime minister of Luxembourg, a country that has drawn recent media attention for what some call legalized tax avoidance.

Multinational corporations have moved their headquarters, at least on paper, to the small state to avoid paying taxes in countries where they operate.

Many corporations currently arrange their affairs to avoid paying taxes in jurisdictions where they earn millions in revenues.

“Who elected Juncker? He is the former minister of a tax haven,” said Grillo, using the term that many have applied to countries where businesses can find lower corporate tax rates.

Juncker expressed surprise at Grillo’s remarks, saying the tax practices in Luxembourg, where he was prime minister from 1995 to 2013, have been declared legal by the European Commission.

He added there was no conflict of interest as he became president of the Commission only a few weeks earlier.

“I do not (understand) the headlines,” and the resulting controversy, said Juncker.

Information about the tax deals reached in Luxembourg with major multinational corporations, accused of cross-border tax avoidance, were leaked several months ago.

As many as 30,000 documents were among the so-called ‘LuxLeaks’.

The broader issue of corporate tax avoidance drew scrutiny in September when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), working with the G20 nations, agreed on draft measures to deal with multinational firms seeking to circumvent taxes by moving some operations to low-tax nations.

The proposed measures were designed to ensure big multinationals shoulder a greater share of the tax burden.

Current international tax rules and treaties among nations have not kept pace with developments in the digital economy and innovations that have allowed tax avoidance, the experts say.

Work on combating tax avoidance began two years ago and in mid-2013, as part of the OECD project, the Italian government calculated that profitable multinationals including Amazon and Facebook had together paid just one million euros in taxes in 2012.

Google has also been frequently named as an organization that avoids paying taxes through an intricate series of holding companies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Military Deserters May Claim EU Asylum

BRUSSELS — Military personnel may claim asylum in the EU if they consider themselves to be at risk of prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service which might involve committing war crimes, according to an opinion by the EU’s top court

In a legal opinion released Tuesday (11 November), Eleanor Sharpston, the advocate general for the European Court of Justice, stated that it was “not necessary to establish beyond reasonable doubt that violations of international criminal law can be expected to occur.”

“What matters is the likelihood that the applicant risks committing war crimes,” she added.

The case focuses on Andre Shepherd, a US maintenance mechanic who worked on Apache helicopters after being enlisted in the military in 2003 and was sent to Iraq the following year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Norway: Oslo to Host Light Parade Protest to Beat Bullies

A 14-year-old Norwegian girl has organized a torchlight procession through the centre of Oslo to raise awareness to the suffering of victims of bullying, it was reported on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

One in Three Swedish Teachers Plans to Quit

Sweden’s teaching crisis will continue unless local authorities do more to encourage young people to stay in the profession, according to a new survey for Sweden’s teaching union, Lärarförbundet.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Philae Space Craft Not Securely Attached to Comet

The Philae space craft is not securely anchored to comet 67P and might eventually come loose, the European Space Agency reports, referring to telemetry results. The European Space Agency’s staff has tweeted that they are trying to understand why the space vehicle is not securely attached.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Philae Probe Reaches Comet, Makes Space History

The European Space Agency’s Philae lander has made space history by successfully reaching the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The landing, which took place at 11.03 AM ET, was accompanied by rapturous scenes at the ESA’s control room in Darmstadt, Germany.

Philae is the first probe to land on a comet.

“This is a big step for human civilization,” said ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, during a press conference in the Darmstadt control room.

About 40 minutes later, however, an official at the lander control room in Cologne, Germany, said that analysis of Philae’s telemetry data indicates that its “anchors did not shoot.”

“We cannot with certainty state that it is stable,” he added. “We may retry shooting out the anchors.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Robot Probe Philae Lands Safely on Comet

Robot probe Philae, controlled from Cologne, landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at 5:03 pm on Wednesday, the European Space Agency said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Spacecraft Lands on Comet’s Surface

The European Space Agency’s ambitious attempt to place a spacecraft on the surface of a comet succeeded when a signal arrived at the mission control center at Darmstadt, Germany, at 5:04 p.m. local time (11:04 a.m. Eastern time).

The lander, Philae, and its 10 instruments have now begun 64 hours of scientific operations before its batteries drain. Solar panels will then recharge the batteries, allowing intermittent operations over the coming months, about one hour every two days.

[Return to headlines]
 

Suspected Islamic State Supporters Arrested in Germany

Eight men have been arrested in overnight raids in Germany on suspicion of robbing churches and schools to fund Islamic State (Isil) and other jihadist groups in Syria.

The men, who are all German citizens in their 20s and early 30s, were arrested in Cologne and nearby towns, during raids which involved 240 police officers across Germany.

A ninth man, a 58-year-old Pakistani citizen, was arrested separately in connection with the raids.

It is the second time in over a week that German police have made multiple arrests in raids on the homes of suspected Isil supporters. Four men were arrested in Berlin last week after night vision devices were found in their apartments.

The men arrested in and around Cologne are believed to have broken into local schools and churches and sold what they stole in order to send funds to jihadist groups in Syria. Police have had the group under surveillance since May last year, according to Cologne’s local Express newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

U.S. Official, Italy Spy Suspected in Moro Case

Former premier killed by Red Brigades in 1978

(ANSA) — Rome, November 12 — A Rome prosecutor said Wednesday that he suspects a former United States official and a deceased Italian spy may have been involved in the murder of Italian premier Aldo Moro. The Christian Democrat (DC) leader, architect of the so-called Historic Compromise in the 1970s with the Italian Communist Party (PCI), was kidnapped by the Red Brigades (BR) extreme-left terrorist group on March 16 and killed 55 days later, on May 9, 1978.

His body was dumped in Rome midway between the DC and PCI headquarters.

Prosecutor Luigi Ciampoli told a parliamentary commission on the case that he believes agents from foreign secret service agencies were present in Rome’s Via Fani when Moro was kidnapped and five members of his security escort killed.

“Now we know that foreign secret service agents interested in destabilizing Italy were on the scene as well as the BR,” Ciampoli said.

Ciampoli added that there was “serious evidence” that Steve Pieczenik, a former US State Department official and Italian government consultant at the time of Moro’s kidnapping, was involved in the homicide. Ciampoli requested authorization to continue probing the alleged involvement of Pieczenik, 70.

He also said there were suspicions that Camillo Gugliemi, a deceased member of Italy’s SISMI intelligency agency, could have been involved in the kidnapping of Moro and the murder of his bodyguards.

There have long been suspicions that the Italian secret services may have known where Moro was being held by the BR, but failed to try to save him.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

UK: Nurse Was Killed by Jealous Asylum Seeker Ex-Boyfriend Who Stabbed Her in the Head 130 Times After Police Failed to Tell Her He Had a History of Violence Against Women

A nurse murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend was never told by police he had threatened to kill another ex-partner two years earlier in a series of planned arson attacks, a damning report revealed today.

Katie Cullen, 34, was stabbed 130 times in the head by Iranian-born asylum-seeker Iman Saeed Ghaefelipour, 28, who also gouged out one of her eyes in the murder in October 2009.

Ms Cullen, who first met her killer at a salsa class, had complained to police after he threatened to kill her when she broke off the relationship in 2008.

But she was never warned that in 2007 he had threatened to kill another ex-girlfriend who broke off with him, with ‘little doubt’ he was responsible for arson attacks on her car and home.

It led to ‘false reassurance’ and ‘increased vulnerability’ for Miss Cullen, an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report out today found.

Ghaefelipour was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 23 years before parole for the 2009 murder of Miss Cullen, who worked as a senior sister in cardiology at the Liverpool Heart and Chester Hospital and lived in Stockport, Greater Manchester…

           — Hat tip: Green Infidel [Return to headlines]
 

Vatican: Pope Calls for Global “Mobilization of Consciences in Favor of Persecuted Christians”

“They have the right to find peace and security in their own countries, to freely profess their faith”. “God forbid that a bishop, priest or deacon think they know everything, always have the right answer for everything and do not need anyone” or behave as if “the community was their property, their personal kingdom”, instead of “listening to the people,” even those who “may still be distant” from the faith.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) — The Pope has made a “heartfelt appeal” to “those who have political responsibilities at local and international levels, as well as to all people of good will, so that we undertake a large-scale mobilization of consciences in favor of persecuted Christians. They have the right to find peace and security in their own countries, professing their faith freely”.

At the end of today’s general audience Pope Francis expressed his “great trepidation” with which he follows “the dramatic events of Christians who in various parts of the world are persecuted and killed because of their religious beliefs. I feel the need to express my deep spiritual closeness to the Christian communities hard hit by an absurd violence that shows no signs of stopping, while I encourage pastors and the faithful to be strong and firm in hope”. And “for all persecuted Christians because they are Christians, I invite you all to pray with me now the Our Father ….”.

Before the appeal, continuing catechesis dedicated to the Church with to 25 thousand people gathered in St Peter’s Square on a cloudy day, the Pope, spoke of “what is required from the ministers of the Church, so that they can authentically and fruitfully live their service”. He warned: “Woe to a bishop, priest or deacon who think they know everything, that they always have the right answer for everything and do not need anyone” or those who behave as if “the community was his personal property, his personal kingdom”. Instead they should always “listen to the people”, even those who “may still be distant” from the community.

In the ‘Pastoral Letters’ sent his disciples Timothy and Titus, the Apostle Paul, “dwells at length on the figure of the bishops, priests and deacons” and “on a description of every Christian in the Church.” In particular, the bishops, priests, deacons “he lists some exquisitely human qualities: welcome, sobriety, patience, gentleness, reliability, goodness of heart. I repeat: welcome, sobriety, patience and goodness, trustworthiness, kindness of heart. This is an alphabet of the basic grammar of every ministry! It must be the basic grammar of every bishop, every priest, every deacon” because “without this beautiful and genuine predisposition, to get to know, to dialogue with, to appreciate and relate to our brothers and sisters in a respectful and sincere way, you cannot offer a truly joyful and credible service and witness”.

“There is a fundamental attitude that Paul recommends to his disciples and, consequently, to all those who are invested with the pastoral ministry,” “continually renew the gift that has been received.” “This means that we must always be keenly aware that we are not bishops, priests or deacons because we are smarter, more talented and better than others, but only by virtue of a gift, a gift of love bestowed by God, in power of his Spirit, for the good of His people”.

“The knowledge that everything is a gift, everything is grace, also helps a Pastor not to fall into the temptation of believing that they are the center of attention and to trust only themselves. These are the temptations of vanity, pride, arrogance. God forbid that a bishop, priest or deacon would think they know everything, always have the right answer for everything and have no need of anyone. On the contrary, awareness that he is the first object of God’s mercy and compassion should lead a minister of the Church to be more humble and understanding towards others. We are aware of being called to guard the deposit of faith with courage, listening to the people. We should always be conscious that we have something to learn, even from those who may still be distant from the faith and the Church. With his brothers, then, this must lead to assume a new attitude, one of sharing, co-responsibility and communion”.

In his greetings in Spanish, finally, Pope Francis recalled “the tragedy of the students kidnapped and killed” by drug traffickers.

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

Why is the Rosetta Comet Landing So Exciting?

#cometlanding is trending and we have a live stream of the momentous occasion. But why is the comet landing so exciting?

Very simply, if successful, this will be the first spacecraft ever to land on the surface of a speeding comet — a huge landmark in the history of space exploration. Because comets are remnants from the formation of the solar system it could unlock further clues about the origins of our solar system and the development of life on Earth.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Benghazi: A City Going Up in Smoke

The eastern Libyan city of Benghazi is the birthplace of the revolution that ousted Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and is considered by many to be Libya’s cultural capital. However, since mid-October, Benghazi has been transformed into a vast battlefield between the Islamist militias that control the city and the Libyan army, which is trying to push them out. With its deserted streets and buildings pockmarked by shells, Benghazi is hardly recognisable, says our Observer on the ground.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

FIFA Confirms Morocco as Club World Cup Host

Morocco, which last week declined to host the African Nations Cup in January because of fears over Ebola, will host the Club World Cup next month as planned, soccer’s governing body FIFA said on Thursday.

“The #ClubWC 2014 will take place in Morocco and all preparations continue as planned,” FIFA said on Twitter.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Libya: Italian FM Concerned by Escalating Violence

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 12 — Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Wednesday expressed ‘‘serious concern for the violent explosion that occurred today in Tobruk, which caused victims and injuries and is the last episode in a long series of violent acts damaging the stability and cause of national reconciliation’’. ‘‘The current situation is extremely delicate and actions like this can only cause a further escalation of tension’’, Gentiloni added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Libya: Ansar Al-Sharia ‘Holding Tunisian Journalists’

No news on the two First TV reporters since 8/9

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 12 — The Tunisian First TV reporters Sofiane Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari are reportedly in the hands of the Libyan jihadist group Ansar Al-Sharia.

There had been no news on the two since they were taken hostage while reporting in Sirte on September 8.

The news was reported by Libyan journalist Malek Cherif, an expert on terrorist groups operating in the country since the end of the Muammar Gaddafi regime. Cherif has said that Chourabi and Ktari have been moved to the Brigua region, considered a stronghold of jihadist groups. Despite mobilization in Tunisia, the case of the two missing journalists remains a mystery. First TV has stopped broadcasting since October 21 out of solidarity for the two reporters and their families.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Several Car Bombs Continue to Wrack Eastern Libya

Casualties in Tobruk and Bayda; Italian FM calls for dialogue

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Several cars loaded with explosives blew up in eastern Libya on Wednesday, killing at least five, while airstrikes continued on Ansar Al-Sharia bases in Derna, a city that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS). The decapitated bodies of two young human rights activists were found in Derna on Tuesday.

A car bomb exploded on Wednesday morning near the Labraq airport (the city is also known as Al-Abraq) near the eastern city of Bayda, killing at least four people. Another explosion, which Libya Herald reports killed two soldiers, occurred shortly thereafter in Tobruk, where the headquarters of the parliament resulting from June 25 elections is located. The parliament is not recognized by the General National Congress (GNC), which was recently reinstated by the the Islamist Libya Dawn militias in Tripoli.

The Libya Herald quotes military spokesman Mohamed Al-Hejazi as saying that two remotely detonated bombs had exploded in Tobruk and that a suicide bomber had blown himself up at the entrance to an air base in Labraq. Another bomb went off in the morning in Benghazi, where fighting has been raging for months between the jihadists of Ansar Al-Sharia on one side and the Tobruk government forces and those under former general Khalifa Haftar on the other. Another car loaded with explosives was found on Wednesday in front of a building of the prefect’s office in the Cyrenaica city of Ajdabiya, where the bomb squad defused it. The Libya Herald website reports that at least five soldiers were killed in the attacks in Bayda and Tobruk and an unspecified number of civilians injured. According to communique released by military sources, ‘three jihadist’ were killed in the explosion in Tobruk.

Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni has expressed concern over the latest wave of violence, noting that it “harms stability and national reconciliation efforts”.

“A cessation of attacks is the first step needed to resume dialogue between the parties involved, and is necessary now more than ever,” he said, noting that UN special envoy Bernardino Leon was active in efforts to achieve this, “with the full support of Italy and our representative office in Libya.” The Italian embassy is the only Western one still open.

Leon’s visit to Tripoli on Tuesday led to supporters of the Islamist Libya Dawn alliance to erroneously hold that this constituted a Western recognition of the GNC and the Tripoli government, after the Supreme Court recently invalidated the June parliamentary election results. Leon met with the GNC chief to be able to initiate dialogue between the parties in conflict, and had in previous days met also with the prime minister of the transitory government Abdallah Al-Thinni, supported by the Tobruk assembly.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Hamas Among Richest Terror Groups Worldwide — Second Only to ISIS

Forbes Israel ranks 10 wealthiest terror organizations; Palestinian group comes ahead of Hezbollah, Al-Qaida and Taliban.

Hamas is one of the two richest terrorist organizations in the world, second only to the Islamic State group, according to Forbes Israel.

To finance their operations, terrorist groups sometime use methods similar to those used by criminal organizations, such as drug trafficking, robberies and extortion, but also raise money through charities, donations and, in some cases, government agencies, according to the report. A terrorist organization, like any other large organization, has a business model to finance its activities: from maintenance, salaries and trainings, to acquiring of weapons and vehicles.

The richest terrorist organization today — and in history — is the Islamic State.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Israel Launches ‘Iron Dome’ Development to Protect Its Electrical Grid Against Cyber Threats

The Israel Electric Company (IEC) is concerned about protection of the Jewish nation’s electrical grid. The recent 50 day summer 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza witnessed more than 2,300 rockets reining death and destruction on Central and Southern Israel. Several hundred rockets headed towards major population centers in the State of Israel were detected and literally knocked from the skies by the Iron Dome system batteries. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets over the period from 2006 to 2014 have targeted the Rutenberg Power Plant of the IEC in Ashkelon. The power plant has also been subject to periodic outages. The vulnerability to physical attack was illustrated by Gaza’s sole power plant destroyed during the conflict.

Physical threats are only one aspect. There are also Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) and cyber attacks. Cyber attacks on critical operating systems, such as Siemens’ SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) are something that Israel may know about. There was the development of the Stuxnet malware that disrupted Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Israel to this day remains silent about any involvement in the malware’s development. Israel’s electrical network vulnerabilities led the IEC to partner with the Israeli firm of mPrest that had developed the critical sensor and detection software system at the core of the Iron Dome System. The objective was to develop a means of intercepting and deterring cyber threats to the national grid. On Tuesday, the Information Grid (IG) system was unveiled at a Homeland Security Conference in Tel Aviv.

The Times of Israel, Start Up-Israel technology publication reported this ground breaking development; Israel presents an ‘Iron Dome’ for ‘electricity terror’. Eugene Kaspersky of the eponymous cyber protection concern that discovered Stuxnet recently commented:

“We’ve seen numerous cases of attacks on industrial infrastructure — Stuxnet was far from the only one,” said Kaspersky. “There is an international army consisting of tens of thousands of engineers out there developing SCADA malware. One day, a terrorist organization is going to get the bright idea to acquire one of these tools and deploy it to make their ideological point. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s just a matter of time until it does.”

Because of the terrorist threat to Israel’s national grid, the IEC reached out to mPrest to develop a solution. The joint IEC-mPrest Information Grid cyber protection development should be of interest to FERC, NERC and EPRI given Congressional concerns over the vulnerability of the national grid to terrorists, EMP and cyber threats. This latest display of Israeli high tech ingenuity should raise interest in protecting currently vulnerable US, EU and other electrical grids.

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon [Return to headlines]
 

Palestinian Source Says Abu Mazen in Jordan to Meet Abdallah

To discuss situation in Territories, tension on Temple Mount

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, NOVEMBER 12 — The President of the Palestinian National authority (PNA) Abu Mazen is in Jordan to meet Abdallah over mounting violence in the Palestinian Territories and the situation in the Jerusalem holy site of Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif, a source of the Palestinian presidential office told ANSA.

According to Ma’an news agency, Abu Mazen could meet US secretary of State John Kerry who is travelling to Jordan to discuss with the Jordanian king about the situation in Syria and Iraq with ISIS, as well as tension on Temple Mount.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

ISIS to Mint Early Islam Dinars as ‘Caliphate’ Currency

Coins of pure gold and silver

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 12 — The Islamic State (ISIS) plans to bring back the dinar in pure gold and silver used in early Islam, reports the Daily Mail. The newspaper said that ISIS intends to circulate the new currency in the areas controlled by the ‘caliphate’ in the coming weeks. The original dinar first went into circulation in 634 AD, reports the daily.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

ISIS: “Caliph’s Death Would Not Prove Lethal for Group”

Yet analysts are divided. Names of potential successors

(by Lorenzo Trombetta) (ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 12 — Arab observers are divided between those describing the Islamic State (ISIS) as a monster with many heads, and thus able to regenerate leaders, or an organization relying entirely on its chief, “caliph” Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. They are also divided in figuring out the potential short and long-term repercussions of his possible death on the jihadist group present in Iraq and Syria.

So far allegations, re-launched yesterday by Egyptian daily al Ahram among others, that the leader has possibly been wounded or killed in US-led Coalition air raids have not been confirmed.

The air raids were carried out between last Friday and Saturday in northern Iraq, close to Mosul.

“It is reductive to state that ISIS can do without Baghdadi by simply replacing him at the helm of the organization”, wrote yesterday pan Arab daily al Quds al Arabi.

“It’s like saying the Islamic State is a group with several autonomous local leaderships, without considering the political and personal strength of Baghdadi”.

Measuring the relevance the self-proclaimed caliph has within ISIS has led many to wonder how the organization is structured after it turned, in just two years, from the Iraqi arm of al Qaida to a pseudo-State entity able to challenge regional and international powers.

“It is true that it is impossible to totally behead the leadership of ISIS”, wrote Abdennasser Mansur on Iraqi daily Zaman, “but we can’t forget that Baghdadi as a person has proven he has strong charisma and an ability to attract consensus”.

Mansur recalled that it was Baghdadi who transformed the Islamic State of Iraq — an al Qaida arm — into today’s Islamic State, through the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

And it’s the “caliph Ibrahim, a descendant of Mohamed’s clan” seen by many Arab-Islamic jihadist leaders as a global guide and reference point.

Other observers are wondering who could step into his shoes.

Under the “caliph”, ISIS is managed by a consultative council, which should appoint a temporary leader and then a new “caliph”, which in Arabic means successor, implicitly “of Mohamed”.

Over the past few hours, Syria’s Abu Muhammad al Adnani, current spokesman for ISIS, has been slated as a potential successor, though some consider him as too young a ‘shaykh’ to occupy such a key post.

Others pointed to military chief Abu Muslim Turkmani, an ex officer of the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein, who is however described as lacking charisma and, according to some sources, a casualty of Friday’s raids.

Analysts are also eyeing Abu Omar Shishani, the “Chechen”, described by many as the “war minister” of ISIS and the chief of the siege on Kobane/Ayn Arab, the Syrian Kurdish city at the border with Turkey.

But no name so far has convinced analysts nor Islamic State supporters who have been assuring on social media that “Baghdadi is alive and in charge”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Kurds Gain Ground But Not Control in Struggle for Syrian Border Town

(Reuters) — Syrian Kurds backed by fighters from northern Iraq have gained ground towards breaking the siege of the Syrian border town of Kobani but are drawing heavy fire from Islamic State insurgents and have yet to win back control.

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga, or “those who face death”, arrived with armoured vehicles and artillery more than a week ago to try to repulse a more than month-old siege that has tested a U.S.-led coalition’s ability to halt the Islamist insurgents.

Known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab, the town is among a few areas in civil war-ridden Syria where the coalition can coordinate air strikes against Islamic State with operations by an effective ground force.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

More Criticism for 2022 World Cup Hosts Qatar

Amnesty International says Qatar’s government is not doing enough for the country’s migrant workers. FIFA President Sepp Blatter meanwhile has confirmed that the country will host the 2022 tournament as planned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Radical Turks

Why Turkish Citizens are Joining ISIS

The past few weeks have seen a wave of Muslims from all around the world joining the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Although most of the attention has been on those coming from the United States and Europe, the bulk of foreign fighters has actually come from Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey.

The flow of jihadists from Turkey is particularly puzzling. For one, in the past, Turkish citizens have not joined jihadist groups such as al Qaeda in large numbers.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Russia ‘Proposes Syria Talks in Moscow’, Lebanese Media

For Assad-led transitional government; Egypt ‘not involved’

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 12 — A few hours after the end of UN envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura’s visit to Damascus, Russia is said to have proposed a ‘peace plan’ for the country.

The plan consists in talks between the opposition and the regime in Moscow and the formation of a transitional government in which President Bashar Al-Assad would remain at the head of the armed forces and the security services, reported Lebanese media linked to the pro-Iranian Shia movement Hezbollah on Wednesday. The Beirut-based daily Al-Akhbar said that the Russian foreign ministry and the Egyptian government were working together for talks to be held in Moscow between representatives of the regime and those of the oppositions in exile and still in the country. The daily quotes sources as saying that the talks would aim to set up a transitional government — including members of the regime and of opposition groups — tasked with creating a commission to modify the current constitution. Parliamentary elections would then be held within the two years following the formation of the government, followed by presidential elections in which Assad would be able to run. Egyptian diplomatic sources denied to ANSA that any new initiatives had been taken with Russia, after being questioned on the veracity of the news reported by Al-Akhbar “A political solution is the only way to get out of the current impasse in Syria,” Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said in meeting with UN envoy De Mistura in Cairo, calling for diplomatic efforts to go forward and for contact to be maintained with Egypt on the issue in order to achieve a solution.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Saudi Arabia Leads OPEC Output Cuts Before Next Meeting

OPEC said Saudi Arabia led declines in the group’s oil output last month, weeks before the 12 nations meet to decide whether to trim a global supply glut that drove crude prices into a bear market.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

US-Led Airstrikes Aainst ISIS Kill Over 850 in Syria Since Sept

Isis to mint Islamic dinars. Russia ‘proposes Syria talks in Moscow’.

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — Over 850 people have been killed in airstrikes by the US-led coalition on Islamic State (ISIS) positions in Syria since they began on September 23, reports the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Of those killed, 746 were ISIS jihadists and 50 were civilians, including 8 children. The SOHR has been able to verify 865 deaths, but it holds that the number of dead among ISIS ranks could be higher than 746 given the secrecy kept by the Islamic State on its losses and the difficulty to access many of the areas and villages hit. At least 68 fighters from the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra have also been killed.

Many of the civilians that lost their lives were killed in the bombing of oil fields and refineries in the Al-Hasaka and Deir Al-Zor provinces, as well as Raqqa and locations in the Aleppo and Idlib provinces. The SOHR condemned the killing of civilians and asked that their lives be spared “by all sides” in the bombings and fighting.

A few hours after the end of UN envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura’s visit to Damascus, Russia is said to have proposed a ‘peace plan’ for the country.

The plan consists in talks between the opposition and the regime in Moscow and the formation of a transitional government in which President Bashar Al-Assad would remain at the head of the armed forces and the security services, reported Lebanese media linked to the pro-Iranian Shia movement Hezbollah on Wednesday.

The Beirut-based daily Al-Akhbar said that the Russian foreign ministry and the Egyptian government were working together for talks to be held in Moscow between representatives of the regime and those of the oppositions in exile and still in the country. The daily quotes sources as saying that the talks would aim to set up a transitional government — including members of the regime and of opposition groups — tasked with creating a commission to modify the current constitution. Parliamentary elections would then be held within the two years following the formation of the government, followed by presidential elections in which Assad would be able to run.

Egyptian diplomatic sources denied to ANSA that any new initiatives had been taken with Russia, after being questioned on the veracity of the news reported by Al-Akhbar “A political solution is the only way to get out of the current impasse in Syria,” Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said in meeting with UN envoy De Mistura in Cairo, calling for diplomatic efforts to go forward and for contact to be maintained with Egypt on the issue in order to achieve a solution.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

‘We Have to Talk About Sweden’s ISIS Fighters’

After three young Swedes died fighting for the Islamic State (Isis) over the weekend, Ibrahim Bouraleh, the chairman of the Järva Islamic Association in Stockholm says that Swedish authorities must work harder to prevent other killings in future.

Statistics from Sweden’s Security Service suggest that 90 young Swedes have left Sweden to fight for Isis in Syria, Somalia, and Iraq — but that figure could be a lot higher.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Why Deterrence Won’t Work With Iran

by Michael Rubin

To assume the Iranian regime isn’t suicidal is all well and good, but there is a huge difference between a desire for self-preservation and stability. To ignore the Revolutionary Guards and to gamble millions of lives on the assumption that the Islamic Republic will last forever is negligent in the extreme. Alas, it increasingly seems such a description fits Obama and Kerry’s assumptions and actions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Milan Mayor Launches Alliance With Moscow Before Expo

Three-year deal for trade and tourism

(by Claudio Salvalaggio) (ANSA) — Moscow, November 12 — Three days in the Russian capital yielded numerous opportunities for the delegation led by Milan mayor Giuliano Pisapia and the Italian embassy to strengthen relations between the two cities and to promote Expo 2015.

A three-year, wide-ranging cooperation agreement between Milan’s Bicocca University and Russia’s International Tourism Academy, an agreement between the hospitality management institute Carlo Porta and Moscow’s State Institute for the Tourism Industry as well as a series of meeting between dozens of Russian and Milan businesses to result in partnerships and investments were the most concrete results. Over 200,000 Russians are expected to attend Milan Expo 2015, Pisapia told the Italian media on Tuesday. Russia will have a prominent role not only as a large agricultural nation — the theme of the Expo is ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ — but also on account of its 50-million-euro pavilion, one of the 10 largest. It is expected to be inaugurated in March. Pisapia said that he was not worried about a few problems that the Expo had, nor about ongoing corruption investigations, noting that “if the Mafia has tried to infiltrate it”, then “it has been defeated”.

The Milan mayor expressed satisfaction with the visit to Moscow and the three-year cooperation agreement signed on Tuesday with Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin. The agreement covers several different sectors including trade, promotional activities, protection of monuments and museums, tourism, social services, sport, urban development, education and advanced training. Pisapia noted that “there are many opportunities to cooperate at the institutional and entrepreneurial levels. The Milan town council can offer its wealth of experience in sustainable mobility, car-sharing and recycling, which we are ranked top in Europe for”.

He added that there are a great deal of opportunities “also for private enterprises, in a capital with an enviable budget to invest in an extension of the underground, new stadiums, shopping centers and districts.” This is why the delegation included numerous Italian companies — such as Mapei, Salini Impregilo, Sistema Moda Italia and Giugiaro Architettura — that spoke to some 100 Russian companies thanks to the Italian-Russian chamber of commerce and the Russian business owners association. The Milan mayor also got Moscow involved in the over 30 cities that have joined the Urban Food Policy Pact, a global accord for the right to safe food that will be signed at the end of the Expo.

The “diplomacy of the city”, he said, “does not replace national or European diplomacy but helps to maintain dialogue with Russia during a tense period”. Pisapia also brought to Moscow a taste of Milan, including an info point in the TSUM department store, young Accademia della Scala performers (who got onto the Bolshoi stage with their Russia counterparts), the photographic exhibition ‘Milan: City of the Expo 2015’, a friendly hockey match between Moscow’s Dynamo team and Milan’s Rossoblu, as well as a fashion show with 60 creations by young Italian and Russian designers from Milan’s five fashion design schools: AFOL, IED, Secolo and NABA, of the Istituto Marconi and the Domus Academy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Russian Defense Ministry Says Bomber Patrols Will Reach Gulf of Mexico

Russia’s defense minister says the military will conduct regular long-range bomber patrols, ranging from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Sergei Shoigu’s statement comes as NATO has reported a spike in Russian military flights over the Black, Baltic and North seas as well as the Atlantic Ocean. It reflects Moscow’s increasingly tough posture amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Armenia Warns Baku After Helicopter Shot Down

Aircraft downed in Nagorno-Karabakh

(ANSA) — Moscow, November 12 — Armenia said Azerbaijan would suffer the consequences of its actions after an Armenian military helicopter was shot down by Azeri forces in the troubled Nagorno-Karabakh region Wednesday. “The consequences for the Azeri side side will be very heavy” Armenian defence spokesman Artsrun Ovannisian said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Afghanistan Opium Harvest at Record High as NATO Withdraws

Cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan has hit new records this year as Nato pulls out combat troops.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said opium production was up by 17% since last year.

Its Afghan Opium Survey 2014 said the area under poppy cultivation had risen by 7% to cover 224,000 hectares.

UNODC head Yury Fedotov warned there was a serious risk Afghanistan could become a narco-state, following the withdrawal of foreign forces.

Most poppies are still grown in southern Helmand province, where British troops were stationed until October.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

China Predicted to Outspend the US on Science by 2020

Overview of world R&D spending shows China rising and other countries narrowing the gap with major powers.

China is on track to overtake the United States in research and development (R&D) spending by the end of the decade, according to a report on the global state of research spending. Other developing and middle-income countries are also narrowing their gap with the United States, Europe and Japan, the document finds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Chinese Pollution Data Censored During Climate Change Summit

As China and the U.S. agree a landmark deal on global carbon emissions, it has emerged that Chinese authorities have ordered air pollution monitoring websites and apps to remove American data on emissions.

The agreement struck by Barack Obama and his counterpart Xi Jingping in Beijing sees China, the world’s biggest emitter of CO2, agreeing to limit emissions for the first time. But authorities in Beijing were simultaneously suppressing data from the U.S. embassy that many Chinese citizens use to keep track of the level of pollution in the air outside, leaving them to rely on the much less reliable — and typically lower — official statistics.

Air pollution is a persistent issue for major Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, whose citizens are disproportionately prone to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Ebola: African Cup in Chaos, To be Played Without Morocco

The African Cup will be played but not in Morocco, and without Morocco. Rabat’s national team will be disqualified after its refusal to host the tournament over fears connected to the deadly Ebola virus which has already killed 5,000 worldwide, mainly in three West African countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]
 

Female Suicide Bomber Kills Students in Nigeria

(AGI) — Kano (Nigeria), Nov. 12 — Nigerian students have once again been the target of a terrorist attack likely organised by Boko Haram extremists. A female suicide bomber blew herself up in a school in Kontagora in the north west of the country. The explosion at the Federal College of Education in Kontagora has killed “at least 10 students and wounded many others.” The students were sitting exams when the women entered the library wearing an explosive vest hidden under her clothes.

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

Italy: Rome Prosecutors Probe Assault on Refugee Reception Center

‘80 masked, stick wielding assailants’ involved, police said

(ANSA) — Rome, November 12 — Rome prosecutors on Wednesday opened a probe after a violent attack on a migrant reception center in the city’s outlying Torre Sapienza neighborhood late on Tuesday in which two people were injured, including a police officer who was hospitalized with contusions. Some 80 enraged residents set cars and dumpsters on fire and threw stones and flares at police who stood guard throughout the night around the reception center, which houses some 40 underage kids who were rescued at sea by Italy’s Mare Nostrum immigrant search-and-rescue operation.

“Some 70-80 people, many of them with their faces covered and armed with sticks, attacked the center and our patrols with a clear intent to commit an assault, throwing blunt objects and flares at law enforcement and at the center itself,” police said in a statement.

The minors responded by hurling objects out the windows as police charged the attackers and threw tear gas to disperse them. Tensions remained high throughout the day Wednesday in the eastern suburb, where police remained on guard at the reception center.

The violence came after 400 people turned out to a public meeting Tuesday to call for more security after a local girl was harassed while walking her dog in broad daylight.

Residents also complained of car thefts, the lack of lighting in the neighborhood park, and a rash of house break-ins, which residents ascribe to foreigners living in the area, which also include Romanians and Albanians who reside in low-income housing and Roma people who live in an area encampment.

“We are exasperated, not because we are racists but because these people commit thefts and attacks. They are making our neighborhood unlivable,” one female resident said. “If no one will guarantee our safety and justice, we will have to provide it ourselves”.

City authorities were swift to slam the episode of gang vigilantism.

“We will not let citizens’ safety be endangered by a gang of violent extremists venting their fanaticism,” said Mayor Ignazio Marino, adding that the area will be policed “centimeter by centimeter” to prevent more violence.

“Rome rejects the ignoble anti-immigrant witch hunt (and) the attempted violence on defenseless kids,” Marino said.

“Some 70-80 people, many of them with their faces covered and armed with sticks, attacked the center and our two patrols with a clear intent to commit an assault, throwing blunt objects and flares at law enforcement and at the center itself,” police said in a statement.

The kids responded by hurling objects out the windows as police charged the attackers and threw tear gas to disperse them. Tensions remained high throughout the day Wednesday in the eastern suburb, where police remained on guard at the reception center.

The violence came after 400 people turned out to a public meeting Tuesday to call for more security after a girl was while walking her dog in broad daylight. Residents also complained of car thefts, the lack of lighting in the neighborhood park, and a rash of house break-ins, which residents ascribe to the foreigners.

“We are exasperated, not because we are racists but because these people commit thefts and attacks. They are making our neighborhood unlivable,” one female resident said. “If no one will guarantee us safety and justice, we are forced to provide it ourselves”.

City authorities were swift to slam the episode of gang vigilantism.

“We will not let citizens’ safety be endangered by a gang of violent extremists venting their fanaticism,” said Mayor Ignazio Marino, adding thearea will be policed “centimeter by centimeter” to prevent more violence.

“Rome rejects the ignoble anti-immigrant witch hunt (and) the attempted violence on defenseless kids”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

KKK Rebrand: Blacks, Hispanics, Gays & Jews Now Welcomed by Ku Klux Klan

A new branch of the group, traditionally known for its extreme-right views, will now be offering a wider membership, recruiting followers without discriminating against their religion, race or sexual orientation.

Founded by a KKK leader from Montana, the off-shoot is called the Rocky Mountain Knights. Encouraging its members’ diversity, the white-hooded man behind the branch says his Klan is “new,” as opposed to the “white supremacy” of the “old.”

“The KKK is for a strong America,” John Abarr of the Rocky Mountain Knights told The Great Falls Tribune newspaper. “White supremacy is the old Klan. This is the new Klan.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]