Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/29/2014

Pope Francis visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul today in the company of Grand Mufti Rahmi Yaran. Inside the mosque, His Holiness bowed his head in silent prayer while facing Mecca.

In other news, schoolchildren in England were evacuated from a playground and sent back inside the building after they were threatened by an unusually aggressive grey squirrel.

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

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, Insubria, Mark H, Papa Whiskey, 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.

» Ex-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, 82, Hospitalized
» Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson Resigns
» Police: Boy Missing 4 Years Found Hidden in Georgia Home
» R.I. Man Caught Driving 127 MPH on N.H. Highway
Europe and the EU
» Austria Arrests for Recruiting Syria Fighters
» Austrian Police Arrest 13 in Mass Raids Against Jihad Recruiters
» Bern Museum to Accept Gurlitt Nazi Art
» Italian Woman Named Most Active TripAdvisor User Worldwide
» Italy: More Than 2,000 People Queue to be Cast in Ben Hur Remake
» Italy: Pisa Awards Lifetime Pension to Zakir Hossain Widow, Kids
» Italy: Lion Air Commissions 40 ATR Planes Worth 1bn
» Italy: Zibibbo Vineyards Voted in UNESCO World Heritage List
» Italy: M5S Launches Expulsion Procedure for Two Party MPs
» Italy: Ice-Skating: Four-Year Ban Requested for Kostner
» Italy: Stolen Artefacts ‘Of Inestimable Value’ Seized From Lawyer
» Malta: V18 Director Apologises for Rant on Islam
» Spain: Podemas Shifts Towards Social Democratic Proposals
» Theresa May Says Tens of Thousands Held as Modern Slaves in Britain
» UK: School Playground Evacuated During Breaktime After ‘Unusually Aggressive’ Grey Squirrel Threatened Children
» Why Islamist Extremism Perplexes Our Security Services
» Agon the New Channel “Made in Albania” Wooing Italian Stars
» Serbia: EU Parliament: Draft Motion Condemning Seselj
North Africa
» Egypt Judge Drops Murder Charges Against Mubarak, Acquits on Illicit Gains
» Moroccan Female Traffic Police Join Motorcycle Unit
Israel and the Palestinians
» Tourists Flock to Converted Galilee Kibbutz
Middle East
» Arab Countries Face Challenge to Address Food Security
» Arab World Grieves Lebanese Diva Sabah’s Death
» Islamic State: Fighting Intensifies in Syrian Town of Kobane
» Pope Francis Prays Alongside Grand Mufti in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque
» ‘They Are Attacking From Four Sides’: Activists Say ISIS Moves to Kobani From Turkey
South Asia
» Hindu Leaders Against Christian Missionaries: “They Corrupt Indian Culture”
» India: Pakistani Agencies Backing Terror Groups
Far East
» China Uncovers Gang Who Sell Burmese Women “As Brides” In the Countryside
» Tibetans Sentenced to 13 Years for Protesting Against Police Role in Drango Massacre
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Ebola Outbreak: West Africa Death Toll Nears 7,000
» Harper Calls on La Francophonie to Put an End to Forced Marriages
Culture Wars
» Italy: Special Ed for Disabled Kids Mandatory Says Cassation Court

Ex-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, 82, Hospitalized

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, has been hospitalized, officials said Saturday.

The elder Cuomo is being treated for a heart condition, the governor’s office said Saturday.

The 82-year-old former three-term governor is in good spirits and is thankful for the best wishes and support he’s received, a gubernatorial spokeswoman said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also spent the Thanksgiving Day holiday at the hospital with his father.

[Return to headlines]

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson Resigns

Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed teenager Michael Brown in a confrontation in August, has resigned from the Ferguson Police Department nearly four months after the confrontation that fueled protests in the St. Louis suburb and across the nation.

Wilson, 28, had been on administrative leave since the shooting on Aug. 9. His resignation was announced Saturday by one of his attorneys, Neil Bruntrager. The resignation was effective immediately, Bruntrager said.

“I have been told that my continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance that I cannot allow,” Wilson said in a resignation letter released late Saturday.

“It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me. It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal,” the letter read.

[Return to headlines]

Police: Boy Missing 4 Years Found Hidden in Georgia Home

(CNN) — A 13-year-old boy who was reported missing about four years was reunited with his mother Saturday after being found behind a false wall in an Atlanta-area home, police and CNN affiliate WXIA reported.

Clayton County police arrested the boy’s father, Gregory Jean, 37, and stepmother, Samantha Joy Davis, 42, and charged them with false imprisonment, cruelty to children and obstruction, WXIA reported. Three other people also were charged in connection with the incident, WXIA said.

The boy was reunited Saturday morning with his mother, who lives out of state, police Sgt. Kevin Hughes said.

Neighbors told WXIA they were suprised by the arrests.

“They were really nice people, very open, they said come over anytime you want,” Julie Pizarro, who lives across the street, told WXIA. “The young man didn’t seem under any distress. I guess you never know what’s behind closed doors.”

Police said they went to the home in Jonesboro twice to look for the boy starting Friday night after someone — police didn’t say who — asked them to check the home.

They didn’t find the boy during the first visit, and several people there told officers that they didn’t have any information about him, police said in a press release.

But for reasons police didn’t immediately explain, officers eventually returned…

[Return to headlines]

R.I. Man Caught Driving 127 MPH on N.H. Highway

NORTHFIELD, N.H. (CBS) — A Rhode Island man was arrested Saturday morning after allegedly driving at speeds up to 127 mph on a New Hampshire highway, according to New Hampshire State Police.

Police were conducting traffic enforcement with the State Police aircraft when its aircraft detected a car driving northbound on Interstate 93 in Northfield, N.H. at high speeds. The flight officer notified ground Troopers who pulled the car over.

The driver of the car, Ryan Quinn, 19, of Newport, R.I. was charged with reckless driving and possession of a controlled drug.

[Return to headlines]

Austria Arrests for Recruiting Syria Fighters

Thirteen suspects arrested in raids on homes, prayer rooms and mosques for trying to recruit fighters.

Austrian police have arrested 13 people suspected of recruiting fighters for Islamic groups in the Middle East.

The state prosecutor’s office said the suspects were arrested early on Friday in a sweep covering homes, prayer rooms, and mosques in Vienna, the southern city of Graz and Upper Austria province.

The operation reportedly involved 500 police officers, the largest raid in Austria since World War II.

The suspects were allegedly trying to recruit young people to fight in Syria. A Bosnian preacher was reportedly the main suspect.

They said the arrests followed two years of observation of the suspects that included monitoring their telephone calls.

A statement says searches yielded “terroristic propaganda material,” an unspecified amount of cash and stored computer data.

Dylan Whiting, a Vienna-based journalist, told Al Jazeera that the raids were carried out after authorities discovered “concrete proof” of recruitment.

The suspects were not identified, in line with Austrian privacy laws.

Beyond recruiting fighters, local daily news paper Kronen Zeitung said that the suspects were under investigation for helping to finance the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

The Interior Ministry says that about 150 people have joined Middle East groups from Austria…

[Return to headlines]

Austrian Police Arrest 13 in Mass Raids Against Jihad Recruiters

Police seize ‘terrorist propaganda,’ digital files and cash in sting operation on suspected Islamic State financers

Austrian police arrested 13 people and raided homes, prayer rooms and mosques around the country early Friday in a mass operation targeting suspected jihad recruiters, prosecutors said.

The operation in Vienna and the cities of Graz and Linz was reportedly one of the biggest ever for the country, involving some 900 police officers.

It followed a two-year investigation into several people suspected of recruiting young people to fight in Syria, the prosecutors said.

Media reports said a Vienna-based Serbian preacher, who was the main suspect, was among those arrested in the raids which began at 4:00am (0300GMT).

Police also seized “terrorist propaganda,” computer files and money in various homes, said prosecutors in Graz, who were coordinating the operation.

Beyond recruiting fighters, the daily Kronen Zeitung said that the suspects were under investigation for helping to finance the Islamic State group.

The operation “confirms our clear message to all jihadists in Austria: you are not safe here,” Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said, praising the dawn operation.

A press conference was scheduled for later Friday.

Austria, a majority Catholic country, has seen dozens of its citizens join the jihadist cause in Syria or Iraq, sparking concerns on the national security threat posed by those who returning from the war-ravaged countries.

Some 150 people have so far travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside jihadists, or have been stopped while trying to do so, according to the interior ministry.

The case of two Austrian teenage girls who left for Syria in April, telling their parents that they wanted to “fight for Islam” there, especially grabbed headlines here.

According to the interior ministry, most of the recruits have an immigrant background from the former Yugoslavia or Chechnya.

About 60 are believed to have returned home from Syria or Iraq, and 30 killed in the fighting.

The government has proposed a package of measures aimed at preventing its citizens from joining the jihad cause.

They include stringent controls of minors traveling abroad, and a ban on symbols linked to the IS group, Al Qaeda and other similar organizations. Citizens with dual nationalities who have fought for a terror group abroad would also have their Austrian citizenship revoked.

The package of measures goes to a parliamentary vote in December.

[Return to headlines]

Bern Museum to Accept Gurlitt Nazi Art

Son of Hitler’s art dealer had collection of 1,400 masterpieces

(ANSA) — Berlin, November 24 — The Bern Art Museum in Switzerland will accept a German Nazi-era art collection bequeathed by Cornelius Gurlitt, a spokesman said Monday.

Gurlitt, who died in May at age 81, named the Bern museum as his sole heir, donating a collection of over 1,400 masterpieces he had inherited from his father Hildebrand, Adolf Hitler’s art dealer.

The collection includes pieces hidden for years, featuring such artists as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

The museum will cooperate with German investigators to give back to the legitimate owners pieces that were looted by the Nazis in the Second World War, the spokesman said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italian Woman Named Most Active TripAdvisor User Worldwide

Italians third highest posters for second consecutive year

(ANSA) — Rome, November 24 — An Italian woman from the north-eastern city of Trieste was the most active user worldwide in 2014 of online travel review site TripAdvisor.

Rita Gavagnin contributed a total of 7,928 posts, reviews, comments and photos to the forum.

Overall, Italians ranked third in 2014, for the second consecutive year, in the number of comments posted to the site, after users from the United States and Britain.

TripAdvisor is the world’s largest such travel site, claiming it has 315 million monthly visitors and more than 190 million reviews and opinions.

Meanwhile, three Italian cities — Rome, Milan and Florence — were among the top ten most reviewed destinations worldwide this year.

Rome was the second most-reviewed city after London.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: More Than 2,000 People Queue to be Cast in Ben Hur Remake

Search for 1,000 extras in Matera, setting for new blockbuster

(ANSA) — Matera, November 26 — More than 2,000 people queued outside a shopping mall in the picturesque southern town of Matera Wednesday, hoping to be cast as extras in the remake of blockbuster 1959 film Ben Hur.

Only 1,000 extras were to be chosen to play Roman soldiers in the new film, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston. The search will continue until the end of the week, with producers also looking for child actors for the film that will see Matera stand in for Jerusalem.

Filming is set to begin in February against the iconic backdrop Matera, well known for the ancient cave dwellings known as Sassi in the city’s historical centre.

The Sassi have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and have become famous as the setting for films including 1964’s The Gospel According to St Matthew by Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Mel Gibson’s 2004 The Passion of the Christ.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Pisa Awards Lifetime Pension to Zakir Hossain Widow, Kids

Bangladeshi waiter beaten to death on way home from work

(ANSA) — Pisa, November 26 — The Tuscan city of Pisa will confer a lifetime pension of 2,000 euros a month to the widow and three children of a Bangladeshi waiter who was beaten to death on his way home from work in April this year, sources said Wednesday.

Zakir Hossain, 34, was violently punched for no apparent reason by a 26-year-old Tunisian national after leaving the Indian restaurant where he worked as a waiter around 1 a.m. on the night between April 13 and 14. Police released CCTV footage of the fatal attack, in which Hossain was hassled by a group of four men and then assaulted by one of them.

The four suspects fled the scene aboard a car, and later attempted to attack two more people in two different central Pisa locations, police said.

They have since been identified as Tunisian national Hamrouni Hamza, 27, who threw the fatal punch and stands accused of voluntary manslaughter.

He flew out of Milan’s Malpensa airport two days after the attack, and remains a fugitive in his native Tunisia.

Italian national Simone Tabbita, 22, and a 16-year-old Tunisian who is a relative of Hamza were charged with aiding and abetting the elder Hamza.

Another 20-year-old who was part of the group was not charged because he did not participate in the assault and did not intervene to free Hamza when witnesses tried to stop the attack on Hossain.

Hamza’s punch sent Hossain into a 36-hour coma from which he never recovered, and after his death shops lowered their shutters or turned off their lights in signs of mourning as some 1,000 people marched through downtown Pisa in memory of Hossain.

The march was led by Pisa Mayor Marco Filippeschi, Bangladeshi Ambassador Shahdat Hossain, and the mayor of the town of Cascina, where the four attackers lived.

Meanwhile, the Pisa section of the National Workmen’s Comp Institute (INAIL) has classified Hossain’s death as a work-related injury because it happened on his way home from work, awarding his widow and children the lifetime pension.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Lion Air Commissions 40 ATR Planes Worth 1bn

‘Italian industry has a future not just a past’ says Renzi

(ANSA) — Rome, November 27 — Indonesian airline Lion Air signed a one-billion-euro contract Thursday with Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia Aermacchi and French manufacturer Airbus SAS to buy 40 planes from their jointly owned subsidiary, ATR. The biggest ATR commission in 20 years was signed in Rome in the presence of Premier Matteo Renzi and Finmeccanica CEO Mauro Moretti. The deal “continues the consolidation of Finmeccanica and is a small, significant step proving Italian industry has not just a past but also a future,” Renzi said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Zibibbo Vineyards Voted in UNESCO World Heritage List

First time an agricultural tradition is recognised

(ANSA) — Rome, November 26 — UNESCO on Wednesday unanimously voted to include a grape cultivation technique used on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria on its prestigious World Heritage list. Pantelleria growers use the “alberello” technique to grow their prized Zibibbo or Alexandrian Muscat grapes, which are used to make the volcanic island’s prized Passito wines.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: M5S Launches Expulsion Procedure for Two Party MPs

Artini and Pinna allegedly broke rules over returning excess pay

(ANSA) — Rome, November 27 — The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) on Thursday launched procedures to expel two Lower House MPs for allegedly violating party rules concerning the return of the excess of their parliamentary stipend. M5S members are asked to vote for or against the expulsion of Massimo Artini and Paola Pinna on the blog of the movement’s firebrand leader Beppe Grillo. The blog is Grillo’s key communication tool.

However, Pinna lashed out at the move, saying that the charges against her were “false”. “Not to mention what is a full-blown suspension of the rule of law,” Pinna wrote on her Facebook page.

“The survey on expulsion violates the rules because it does not go through the assembly, because it gives false information and because there is only one account,” she said.

“It is not true that I kept the money, but I paid the set amount into a guarantee fund for small and medium enterprises and (the Catholic relief agency) Caritas,” she concluded. M5S MP Patrizia Terzoni and Parma Mayor Federico Pizzarotti — himself threatened with expulsion from the party earlier this year — came out in her defence but M5S Senator Vito Petrocelli was less understanding.

“There are still many ‘casual tourists’ among M5S elected representatives and so-called activists,” he wrote in a message on his Twitter account.

“The door is there, ready”, M5S has always been strongly critical of the high salaries received by Italian MPs and made the pledge to cap its own representatives’ wages part of its 2013 election manifesto.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Ice-Skating: Four-Year Ban Requested for Kostner

Ex-world champ accused of helping Schwazer break doping rules

(ANSA) — Rome, November 28 — Sporting prosecutors on Friday requested that an Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) tribunal ban former ice-skating world champion Carolina Kostner for four years, three months. Kostner is accused of helping her former boyfriend, 2008 50km walk Olympic champion Alex Schwazer, break anti-doping violations. The 27-year-old, who won gold at the 2012 figure-skating world championship and bronze at this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, is also charged with failing to report doping offences to the authorities. Schwazer has been banned from competition until January 2016 after testing positive for the illegal blood-booster EPO just before the London Olympics.

CONI prosecutors opened a case against Kostner after media reports that she confessed to criminal prosecutors that she helped Schwazer dodge a surprise doping test in July 2012.

She also reportedly told prosecutors that on occasions Schwazer slept all night in a facemask attached to a mysterious white machine and that she had to use earplugs to block out the noise.

Prosecutors reportedly suspect that Schwazer used illegal techniques to alter oxygen intake levels, including prior to his 2008 Olympic victory. Doping is a criminal offence in Italy and Bolzano prosecutors investigating the case have uncovered an alleged network of people who were allegedly complicit in Schwazer’s illegal drug use.

Two doctors and an official from the Italian athletics federation are being probed by the criminal prosecutors, along with Schwazer himself.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Stolen Artefacts ‘Of Inestimable Value’ Seized From Lawyer

Marbles, paintings, tapestries deriving from at least 24 thefts

(ANSA) — Rome, November 25 — Police on Tuesday seized stolen archaeological and cultural artefacts of “inestimable value” from the home of a civil lawyer in Rome.

The material, dating from ancient Etruscan times to the Baroque period, came from at least 24 separate thefts carried out across the regions of Lazio, Umbria, the Marches, Abruzzo and Tuscany over the course of years, police said.

The booty included marble slabs, murals, paintings, bibles, crucifixes, tapestries, statues and artefacts stolen from archaeological excavations and burial sites. Investigators claim the lawyer, 60, knew the items were stolen as newspaper clippings and photographs pertaining to the thefts were also found at his home in Grottarossa on the northern outskirts of the capital.

The man faces charges of possessing stolen goods.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Malta: V18 Director Apologises for Rant on Islam

V18 director to be Mario Philip Azzopardi this morning apologised for statements he made on Facebook possibly insulting people’s sentiments with his writings.

Culture Minister Owen Bonnici yesterday took issue with the comments, written in August, claiming “all Islam is Sharia law”. He said they were “unwarranted” and did not tally with the government’s position.

Mr Azzopardi is expected to take over the artistic directorship of the V18 Foundation in January.

V18 artistic director Mario Philip Azzopardi. Photo: Matthew MirabelliIn one such comment Mr Azzopardi says he would treat any Muslim who believes in Sharia law with the same contempt he would reserve for Nazis, Klu Klux Clan members and slave traders, reiterating that anyone who does not practise Sharia law is not a Muslim.

In a statement this morning, the V18 said what Mr Azzopardi wrote or said before taking over the directorship was not in any way related to the foundation, with which he had no connection.

Moreover, what he wrote was his personal opinion and he was sorry if he was not clear or if what he said could be taken to mean he was against cultural diversity…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Spain: Podemas Shifts Towards Social Democratic Proposals

No ‘wages for all’, debt cancellation or eurozone exit

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 28 — The anti-establishment party Podemas has watered down some of its more radical proposals found in the program presented in the last European elections on the issues of a guaranteed minimum salary, cancellation of public debt and an exit from the eurozone. It is thus putting itself forward as a “social democratic option”. The definition was provided by party chief Pablo Iglesias in presenting the summary of the program drafted by the economists Juan Torres and Vicenc Navarros released on Friday on the Podemos website. According to the website, the cancellation of public debt is no longer one of the party’s goals. Podemos is instead aiming for “the restructuring, as orderly as possible, of European and Spanish debt”. The proposal for a guaranteed minimum salary, proposed during the May elections, has given way to “aid to all those with no income”. The principle, said Torres, is “guarantee income” on the lines of the social democratic tradition in northern Europe. The economists have not repeated the demand to lower the retirement age from 65 to 60, as suggested by Podemos leaders in the past.

Podemos also calls for: a reduction in weekly working hours to 35; a reintroduction of property taxes; the creation of a public bank; reform of the official credit institute (ICO) so that it can get credit from the Central European Bank (which should be turned into a “democratic institution to foster development”) as public banks can and facilitate credit access for families and SMEs; and the separation of commercial banks from deposit ones to reduce risks to savers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Theresa May Says Tens of Thousands Held as Modern Slaves in Britain

The shocking number of people held in conditions of slavery in modern Britain has been revealed by the Home Secretary

As many as 13,000 people in Britain are being held in conditions of slavery, four times the number previously thought, it has been revealed.

In what is said to be the first scientific estimate of the scale of modern slavery in the UK, the Home Office has said the number of victims last year was between 10,000 and 13,000.

They include women forced into prostitution, domestic staff and workers in fields, factories and fishing boats.

Data from the National Crime Agency’s Human Trafficking Centre had previously put the number of slavery victims in 2013 at 2,744.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said the scale of abuse was “shocking”.

Launching the Government’s modern slavery strategy, she said: “The first step to eradicating the scourge of modern slavery is acknowledging and confronting its existence. The estimated scale of the problem in modern Britain is shocking and these new figures starkly reinforce the case for urgent action.”

The Modern Slavery Bill, currently going through Parliament, aims provide courts in England and Wales with new powers to protect people who are trafficked into the countries and held against their will. Scotland and Northern Ireland are planning similar measures.

But outlining the strategy for government departments, its agencies and partners, Home Secretary Theresa May said legislation was “only part of the answer”.

The “grim reality” is that slavery still exists in towns, cities and the countryside across the world, including the UK, she said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: School Playground Evacuated During Breaktime After ‘Unusually Aggressive’ Grey Squirrel Threatened Children

Schoolchildren were forced to evacuate a playground after a rampant squirrel caused havoc during breaktime.

A teacher at Chater Infants School in Watford, Hertfordshire, had to herd the youngsters back into the safety of the building after an ‘unusually aggressive’ grey squirrel disrupted their afternoon playtime.

[The same thing happened in a rural English village a few years ago with a rampaging pheasant. Within living memory these people held dominion over palm and pine — now they get pushed around in their own country by Muslims, game birds, and rodents. — PW]

           — Hat tip: Papa Whiskey [Return to headlines]

Why Islamist Extremism Perplexes Our Security Services

The report into Fusilier Rigby’s death shows that the intelligence did, in fact, fail

On May 22 last year, Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered. This week, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of Parliament reported on the intelligence relating to the murder. Almost all media attention has concentrated on its revelation that one of the murderers had spoken in very “graphic” terms about his desire to kill a soldier. This took place in a Facebook conversation with an extremist codenamed FOXTROT. The committee’s report asks why Facebook did not report this to the authorities.

It certainly matters what duties should fall on communications service providers (CSPs), particularly ones, like Facebook, that are outside British jurisdiction. But in the grim Fusilier Rigby story, I feel that this can be a distraction, even an excuse.

The ISC report says that the murder was “first and foremost a great personal tragedy for his family”. It sounds callous to say so, but I do not agree. Sadly, there are families shattered by murder every week in this country. The “first and foremost” issue about the Rigby killing is a wider one. It is about why such a thing happened and could easily happen again. How did it come about that two British citizens could go out, in broad daylight, in their own country, and butcher a soldier of their own country? What made them so bloodthirsty and so bold? What made them want to do such a thing at all?

Rightly, the ISC investigated a narrower question: did the intelligence fail? In its answers, however, it leads us nearer to the main issue. It shows that something important was missing, and still is.

Almost unnoticed in public comment, the report is quite tough on the intelligence services, much more than in its previous reports. It also contains unprecedented amounts of telling detail. While not exaggerating blame, it clearly shows that the intelligence did, in fact, fail. The future killers were noticed a bit, but not enough…

           — Hat tip: Mark H [Return to headlines]

Agon the New Channel “Made in Albania” Wooing Italian Stars

Programmes to begin on December 1. Ferilli, Capranica, enlisted

(ANSA) — Milan, November 25 — Italian journalists and assorted entertainment stars have been flocking to the Albanian capital of Tirana to take part in Italian entrepreneur Francesco Becchetti’s new broadcaster, Agon Channel Italia.

Becchetti, who became a media mogul after successfully patenting a technique to generate energy from trash, said he is proud to have created employment in Albania.

“Entrepreneurs can either stand by and watch or they can take the plunge and invest,” he said. “They might lose a little sleep but they feel fulfilled, as I do after creating jobs for 500 young people in a year”.

Becchetti, who invested 40 million euros in Agon Channel Italia, said he expects to attract a 1% share and 20 million euros in advertising within the first year of programming. Broadcasts begin December 1, to be preceded by a preview on Wednesday with a gala featuring Oscar-winning Australian actress Nicole Kidman.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Serbia: EU Parliament: Draft Motion Condemning Seselj

Text developed by Croatian deputies, to be voted

(ANSA) — BELGRADE — The EU Parliament has come up with a draft resolution condemning hostile statements made by the Serbian ultranationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, and inviting at the same time the authorities in Belgrade to dissociate themselves from these words.

This draft resolution, drawn up on the initiative of Croat MEPs, will be voted upon at the EU Parliament on November 27. The document strongly condemns “the words of hatred spoken by Vojislav Seselj and the insults sent to the victims of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, including some shameful statements made in conjunction with the Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims fallen in Vukovar”. Seselj is on trial for war crimes at the Hague Tribunal (ICTY) and has been temporarily released for health reasons.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt Judge Drops Murder Charges Against Mubarak, Acquits on Illicit Gains

Failure to convict ousted president Mubarak, sons and police chiefs have been criticised by some rights analysts and political figures

A Cairo criminal court dropped charges Saturday against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for responsibility in the killing of protesters in the January 2011 uprising.

The judge said he would drop the murder case against Mubarak because the prosecution’s earlier decision on 23 March 2011 to charge the 86-year-old lacked the legal basis to bring a criminal case against the ousted president.

The judge also ruled that the statute of limitations had expired on the charges against Mubarak, his two sons and businessman Hussein Salem on charges of profiteering from illegal gifts of villas.

In addition, Mubarak was acquitted of charges of collaborating with his minister of petroleum to profit from Hussein Salem’s company by giving Salem the rights to export Egyptian natural gas to Israel at below market rates.

Salem was also acquitted of the charges…

[Return to headlines]

Moroccan Female Traffic Police Join Motorcycle Unit

21 finish training course, 3 working in Rabat

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 26 — Women have for the first time joined motorcycle units of Moroccan traffic police. The first contingent has begun operating in Rabat and answers to a female police officer. Previously, only male officers had been authorized to watch over Moroccan traffic — which, as is often the case in North Africa, suffers from many problems. Female motorcyclists will from now on be patrolling the country’s major roads, especially at peak traffic hours. The decision was made by the directorate general of national security. The entrance of women into the position was preceded by a difficult and selective training course that the women attended at the Royal Police Institute in Kénitra, which most of their male colleagues graduated from. Some 21 female motorcycle police have now successfully completed the training and are waiting to be integrated into the various deployments across the country, with a focus on the largest cities. Three are already working in Rabat and their presence has been welcomed by car drivers. Over the next few weeks, the other 18 will bolster units in Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fez, Tangiers, Tétouan and Agadir.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tourists Flock to Converted Galilee Kibbutz

Luxury resorts crowds mingle with Christian pilgrims

(ANSAmed) — TIBERIAS (GALILEE), NOVEMBER 24 — The dream of a land of kibbutzim — the plural of kibbutz in Hebrew — filled with proud, rebellious young pioneers abiding by socialist collectivism faded long ago.

Nevertheless, many kibbutzim along the shores of lake Tiberias have been converted into tourist resorts attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and is yet another reason — alongside the many religious ones — for trips to the Galilee. The first kibbutz to be transformed into a hotel was Ginofar, a few kilometers from Magdala, in 1964. The inhabitants bade farewell to the collective life, shared dorms for children and atheism to open a resort offering kosher food for business motives, ANSAmed was told by the current director of the complex, 62-year-old Roni Manor. Ginofar is now a luxury hotel boasting 135,000 guests per year including 6,000 Italians. Employees include Arabs, Druze, Bedouin and Israelis. Around the lake, penned in by basalt hills to the west and the Golan Heights to the east, are tourist resorts dotting the areas between churches and monasteries marking where Jesus is said to have preached. The Kinneret kibbutz, where many of Israel’s founding fathers were born, has gone so far as to open a new site for the place of Jesus’s baptism on the River Jordan, since the historic one lies in Palestinian territory and is inaccessible due to military reasons. The facilities resemble a luxury recreational center with showers, dressing rooms and white robes for the hundreds of pilgrims — especially Evangelists and Protestants — wading into a section of the River Jordan. There is also a restaurant and an enormous souvenir shop that sells everything from wooden crosses to Golan wines and Dead Sea products. For those who would instead like a taste of the socialism of earlier years there is the Sha’ar Hagolan kibbutz, where egalitarian, secular principles are followed and in which members receive monthly budgets and not diversified budgets.

Rabbis are strictly prohibited from entering, though after much debate the guesthouse has agreed to serve kosher food. Surrounded by palm, banana and eucalyptus tress, as well as huge, mysterious South African plants, visitors pay for their stay instead of working the fields or cleaning bathrooms, as guests once did. Kibbutz tourism flanks and mingles with the large numbers of Christian pilgrims that come from around the world to relive memories of Jesus’s life in Caparnaum, said to be Peter’s birthplace, Tabgha, where the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is said to have occurred, and the Mount of Beatitudes, among other religious sites. On the eastern and less-visited part of the lake, Israeli archaeologists have restored an evocative Christian basilica from the 6th century, built where the Gospels claim Jesus performed his first miracle among non-Jews. In the ancient village Gerasa, he is thought to have saved a man possessed by evil spirits by transforming them into crazed pigs that threw themselves in the lake and drowned.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Arab Countries Face Challenge to Address Food Security

Lack of adequate irrigation and agricultural productivity blamed

(ANSAmed) AMMAN, NOVEMBER 26: Countries in the Arab region, including the Middle East and North Africa, face serious challenge to provide sufficient food to their population due to “lack of agriculture productivity and irrigation efficiency,” a report said today.

The region imports nearly half of its food supplies from the international market as a result of growing aridity, limited cultivable land, scarce water resources and population growth, said a report published in Amman by Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED).

The report is being circulated during an international conference held in the Jordanian capital with the participation of nearly 1000 officials, including 75 ministers, heads of organisations and development funds, senior strategic experts and CEOs of major corporations in the region. The conference opened on Wednesday and will conclude on Thursday, as organizers hope the event will help shed light on some of the important elements to help improve food productivity in the region.

The report concludes that Arab countries face serious challenges in their quest to enhance food self-sufficiency, and blames weak policies, insufficient investment in science and technology in agricultural development, and a lack of regional cooperation as factors that contributed to “the impoverished state of agricultural resources and to their inefficient use and low productivity”.

According to the report, the food deficit is highlighted by a self-sufficiency ratio of nearly %46 in cereals, %37 in sugar, and $54 in fats and oil.

One of the main topics of discussion will be harmony between available water resources and needed food to sustain a growing population. The region has been earmarked as one of the most water impoverished in the world. “The situation is so alarming in six countries, with availability of renewable water less than 100 cubic metres per capita,” the statement explained, noting that Jordan stands as the second most water impoverished in the world. A rapid rise in population due to influx of refugees and reduced rain water have added to the already existing problem.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Arab World Grieves Lebanese Diva Sabah’s Death

‘An entire beautiful past’ dies with her, says Jumblatt

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 26 — Legendary Lebanese singer and actress Sabah died Wednesday at the age of 87 in the capital.

Her career stretched over a period of more than 70 years and was well known throughout the entire Arab world, both for her work and her tumultuous love life. “It is an enormous loss for Lebanon, but her fame went beyond its borders,” Information Minister Ramzi Jreij said. One of the first to send his condolences was Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who tweeted “sad news today. The legendary singer Sabah died. With her passing away, an entire beautiful past of Lebanon passes away.” Sabah, born Jeanette Feghali in the Christian village Bdadun, made her debut as a singer in 1940 and as a film actress a few years later, with her greatest screen hits in Egypt. After performing some 3,000 songs and acting in 83 Lebanese and Egyptian films and 27 Lebanese theater productions, Sabah continued to appear on television programs and live events until five years ago. Her lengthy career and love of life made her a legend for many of her fans, who affectionately called her ‘Shahroura’ (a female blackbird) and ‘Sabbouha’ (a diminutive of Sabah). The star was the first Arab singer to perform at Paris’s Olympia and London’s Albert Hall. Sabah held Lebanese, Egyptian, Jordanian and US citizenship. Married seven times, she leaves behind two children: a son, who is a doctor and lives in the US, born during her first marriage, and a daughter fathered by the Egyptian violinist Anwar Mansi. Her life was scarred in her early years by a family tragedy when a brother, not yet 18 years old, killed her mother to punish her for an alleged extramarital affair and then fled Lebanon. Sabah’s funeral will be held on Sunday morning in St George’s Maronite Cathedral in central Beirut.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Islamic State: Fighting Intensifies in Syrian Town of Kobane

Fighting has intensified in the besieged Syrian border town of Kobane, where Kurdish forces have been holding Islamic State at bay since September.

IS militants launched at least four suicide attacks, with reports saying at least 25 people were killed.

The first of the attacks was near the Turkish border crossing. It is thought to be the first fighting in that area.

The battle for Kobane has left hundreds of people dead and forced more than 200,000 to flee into Turkey.

The US-led coalition is supporting the town’s defenders with air strikes.

Turkey has allowed some Kurdish fighters from Iraq to travel through its territory to assist in defending Kobane.

However, Turkey views Kurdish forces with suspicion, following a decade-long battle for autonomy by its own Kurdish minority…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Pope Francis Prays Alongside Grand Mufti in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque

Pope treads carefully in footsteps of predecessor in ‘moment of silent adoration’ to mark religious cooperation during Turkey visit

In a gesture designed to highlight his commitment to inter-faith dialogue, Pope Francis conducted a silent prayer alongside a senior Islamic cleric in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque on Saturday. Facing Mecca, Francis bowed his head in prayer for several minutes while standing next to Istanbul’s Grand Mufti Rahmi Yaran. The Vatican described the gesture as a “moment of silent adoration” of God.

Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict, caused dismay among many conservative Catholics and some Muslims when he appeared to pray in the same mosque on his visit to Turkey eight years ago. The Vatican felt compelled to publish a statement saying that Benedict had merely been in meditation, though he later acknowledged that he “certainly turned his thoughts to God”.

Francis then paid a visit to the Hagia Sophia, the most important cathedral of Orthodoxy for almost 1,000 years. The basilica was turned into an imperial mosque under the Ottomans when they conquered the city in 1453, and converted into a museum after the foundation of the Turkish republic in 1923.

His visit was followed by a papal mass in the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, which the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics said alongside Bartholomew I, head of the 300 million Orthodox believers worldwide.

At the entrance to the church, Turks and foreigners alike strained to catch a glimpse of the pope as he emerged after the mass. One Argentinian TV assistant director, who came to visit his Turkish girlfriend in Istanbul, said he was surprised and excited about the possibility to see the pope. “This is the first stop for me, I came straight from the airport,” he said.

Garbis Atmaca, 72, an Armenian jeweller from Istanbul, said he had high hopes for the pope’s visit. “It is very good that he came,” Atmaca said. “His visit will have a good impact on the Islamic world. It will help foster understanding and peace.”

The mixed Christian community in Turkey is very small, estimated at about 80,000 in a country of 75 million, and only the few Roman Catholics and Chaldeans regard the pope as their spiritual leader. Atmaca, who belongs to the Gregorian-Armenian church in Istanbul, said that he nevertheless holds the current pontiff in high regard. “He is a very modest man, the best pope we ever had.”

Three Austrian nuns who attended the mass said that they had never seen as much cheering for a pope. “We came to see Pope Benedict eight years ago,” one of them said. “But we have never seen anything like this.”

Francis’s visit comes at a time of extreme hardship for the dwindling Christian communities in the region, especially in neighbouring Syria and Iraq where Islamic State (Isis) militants have captured large swathes of land and persecuted Shia Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others who do not agree with their radical interpretation of Sunni Islam. Many of those fleeing the violence currently live as refugees in Turkey.

The 77-year-old Argentinian pontiff urged that fundamentalism be fought not through military interventions, but by eradicating poverty, hunger and marginalisation around the world.

“Both [the pope and Bartholomew] are deeply concerned about the brutal treatment and expulsion of Christians from their homes in the region, which has historically been the cradle of Christianity,” John Chryssavgis, theological adviser at the Patriarch of Constantinople, said.

Some fear that increased authoritarianism, nationalism and President Erdogan’s constant focus on Sunni Muslim identity might lead to more pressure on minorities in Turkey, too; others believe the situation has started to improve for Christian minorities during the 12 years of Islamic Justice and Development party government.

“Things are good now, better than before certainly,” Atmaca said. “I think the Islamist rhetoric [of the government] is mostly show.”

Others feel there has been stagnation. “Things will likely not get worse under the AKP,” said Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a human rights lawyer and expert on minority rights. “But they will not get better either. The Christians in Turkey should stand up for their rights and make more demands.”

Speaking at the presidential palace on Saturday, Francis underlined the importance of religious freedom for everyone. “It is essential that all citizens — Muslim, Jewish and Christian — both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties,” he said in a joint press conference with Erdogan.

Later on Saturday, Bartholomew I, with whom the pope shares close personal ties, is to receive Francis at the ecumenical patriarchate.

[Return to headlines]

‘They Are Attacking From Four Sides’: Activists Say ISIS Moves to Kobani From Turkey

BEIRUT — The Islamic State group launched an attack Saturday on the Syrian border town of Kobani from Turkey, a Kurdish official and activists said, although Turkey denied that the fighters had used its territory for the raid.

The assault began when a suicide bomber driving an armored vehicle detonated his explosives on the border crossing between Kobani and Turkey, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party.

The Islamic State group “used to attack the town from three sides,” Khalil said. “Today, they are attacking from four sides.”

Turkey, while previously backing the Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war, has been hesitant to aid them in Kobani because it fears that could stoke Kurdish ambitions for an independent state.

A Turkish government statement on Saturday confirmed that one of the suicide attacks involved a bomb-loaded vehicle that detonated on the Syrian side of the border. But it denied that the vehicle had crossed into Kobani through Turkey, which would be a first for the extremist fighters.

“Claims that the vehicle reached the border gate by crossing through Turkish soil are a lie,” read the statement released from the government press office at the border town of Suruc. “Contrary to certain claims, no Turkish official has made any statement claiming that the bomb-loaded vehicle had crossed in from Turkey.”

“The security forces who are on alert in the border region have … taken all necessary measures,” the statement continued.

Associated Press journalists saw thick black smoke rise over Kobani during the attack. The sound of heavy gunfire echoed through the surrounding hills as armored vehicles took up positions on the border. The Observatory said heavy fighting also took place southwest of the town where the Islamic State group brought in tanks to reinforce their fighters.

Mustafa Bali, a Kobani-based activist, said by telephone that Islamic State group fighters have taken positions in the grain silos on the Turkish side of the border and from there are launching attacks toward the border crossing point. He added that the U.S.-led coalition launched an airstrike Saturday morning on the eastern side of the town.

“It is now clear that Turkey is openly cooperating with Daesh,” Bali said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State…

[Return to headlines]

Hindu Leaders Against Christian Missionaries: “They Corrupt Indian Culture”

This was stated by Swami Pranavananda, a prominent member of the fundamentalist Hindu Mahasaba association. Hindus “respect women”, but in the State of Karnataka fewer girls are born. Christian leader: “Statements that foment hatred between communities.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — “The foreign Christian missionaries are corrupting traditional Indian culture” claims Swami Pranavananda, president of the Karnataka section of Hindu Mahasaba, a fundamentalist association, at a rally in Mangalore November 21 last. The meeting was called to launch a new commission, and openly criticize the peaceful nonviolent demonstration Kiss of Love.

First held on November 2 in Kerala, the Kiss of Love is a protest against those Hindu groups that in some states of India, are presented as “protectors of Indian culture.” These militants are opposed (even violently) to whoever or whatever does not conform to their notion of purity and morality (including books, paintings, local, exhibitions). Against this “moral police”, the supporters of the campaign Kiss of Love have chosen to kiss, hug and hold hands in public.

In 2009, the Supreme Court and the High Court in New Delhi established, in two separate verdicts, that two people kissing in public, if consenting, do not commit any crime.

During his speech, the Hindu leader accused Christian missionaries of destroying Indian culture “in the name of the campaign Kiss of Love,” which “encourages young people to commit more crimes, such as harassment, sexual abuse, rapes and murders”. In India, he added, “women are considered godesses and respected for this”.

Commenting to AsiaNews on these references to Christian missionaries, Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), spoke of “fabricated and false allegations whips up communal passions in the general vast majority and sows seeds of suspicion and mistrust between communities which have co-existed harmoniously for centuries”

Regards his claims of respect given to women, the Christian leader said that “according to the last census (2011), Karnataka has an alarming ratio between the number of female and male births (sex ratio) 947 girls for every 1,000 boys.” A ratio that, from the 90s, has only widened: 962 baby girls in 1991; 952 in 2001. (NC)

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

India: Pakistani Agencies Backing Terror Groups

India’s home minister hit out at Pakistan on Saturday, accusing its state agencies of using terror to try to destabilize India, and rejecting Pakistan’s assertion that non-state actors are involved in terrorism.

“Pakistan is continuously engaged in destabilizing India, but says non-state actors are behind the acts of terror. I want to ask Pakistan if its Inter-Services Intelligence is also a non-state actor,” Rajnath Singh said, referring to Pakistan’s national intelligence agency.

Singh, the second-most powerful official in India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was addressing the heads of Indian police, paramilitary and intelligence agencies who were meeting in Guwahati, the main city in the remote northeastern state of Assam.

There was no immediate reaction to Singh’s remarks from Pakistan.

India has long accused Pakistan of fomenting conflict by arming and training anti-India militants in the disputed region of Kashmir. Islamabad says it only provides them moral and diplomatic support…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

China Uncovers Gang Who Sell Burmese Women “As Brides” In the Countryside

Beijing police have arrested 31 people in Inner Mongolia, accused of human trafficking. Among the victims there are 11 people — including women and children — from Myanmar. Behind the practice the one-child policy and selective abortions, which have created a gender imbalance in China. According to the latest data for every 100 females there are 118 males.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Chinese police in the northern province of Inner Mongolia have arrested members of a gang of 31 people, accused of trafficking humans and, in particular, women to be sold as brides in rural areas of the country. The official state news agency Xinhua, reports that among the victims there are 11 women and children from Myanmar; who have already been returned to their country of origin.

Local sources say that five of the victims of Burmese origin were under 18 years of age and were returned to Myanmar police after three months of extensive investigations on the activities of the group. The traffickers attracted women and girls with promises of a holiday or a job, only to sell them for cash up to 50 thousand Yuan (just over 8 thousand dollars).

The trafficking in human lives, especially women and children, is a common practice in South-east Asia and Myanmar. Recently even the Archbishop of Yangon, Msgr. Charles Bo spoke out on the issue describing it as a “virtual hell” that “shames” the former Burma, with a modern form of “slavery”, that especially affects “women who are exploited not only for work but also for sexual purposes”.

The phenomenon of human trafficking in women is a result of the gender imbalance in China where decades of the aberrant one child policy promoted by the Communist leaders in Beijing, has been applied with ferocity by local officials. Reports have often recounted incidents of mass forced abortions, or brutal cases of unborn babies being murdered even in the ninth month of pregnancy in ways that cause terrible suffering and endanger the life of the mother.

The decision to prefer male children has led to a marked imbalance between men and women, so that today many Chinese citizens are forced to go abroad to find a mate. According to the latest data, there are be at least 118 males for every 100 females, with a steadily increasing trend.

Last September, the Chinese police launched an operation that led to the closure of numerous websites, specializing in the sale of group tours dedicated to men only; they promised trips abroad, particularly to the countries of Southeast Asia, in search of “foreign wives” to buy and take home. A practice that has led to the exponential growth in the countries of origin of human trafficking and prostitution, even child prostitution.

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

Tibetans Sentenced to 13 Years for Protesting Against Police Role in Drango Massacre

A group of ten people was recently convicted on charges of “subverting state power” for demanding justice in connection with an incident during the Chinese New Year in 2012, when police fired on Tibetan protesters, killing at least five people.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) — Tibet’s Communist authorities convicted ten Tibetans for protesting against police brutality after the latter fired on unarmed civilians in Drango County in 2012. Sentences range between 10 and 13 years in prison without possibility of appeal, this according to Tibetan language newspaper Phayul.

Paldor, Namgyal, Sonam and Tashi Dhargay were sentenced to 13 years in prison; Nyma and Chunhey received a 12-year sentence; Kuntho and Ogyen Tsering, 11 years; and Sherab Sangpo and Thinlay Dhargay, 10 years. All the prisoners have been held in Ranga prison.

The incident goes back to 23 January 2012, the first day on the Chinese New Year, when hundreds of Tibetans took to the streets in Drango demanding freedom for Tibet and the return from exile of the Dalai Lama.

Protesters also expressed “love and solidarity” for their compatriots who self-immolated for the Tibetan cause and called for “new boycott actions” during the Tibetan New Year.

Called to the scene, local Chinese Public Security Bureau officials began to arrest people arbitrarily. As protesters resisted, security forces retaliated by firing indiscriminately into the unarmed crowd, killing at least five and injuring several others.

When the military arrived, clashes stopped. At least 400 people were arrested and detained incommunicado for weeks. Ten of them were recently convicted on charges of subverting state power because they demanded justice for the victims of the New Year incident.

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

Ebola Outbreak: West Africa Death Toll Nears 7,000

The number of people killed by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has risen to 6,928, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

The toll has increased by over 1,000 since the WHO’s last report on Wednesday, but it includes unreported deaths from earlier in the outbreak.

Experts say the infection rate is more significant that the death toll, as it reflects how the virus is spreading.

Infection rates are decreasing in Liberia, but are high in Sierra Leone.

There have been over 16,000 reported cases in Guinea, Sierra and Liberia.

Mali has reported seven deaths from Ebola and 10 confirmed cases.

More than 4,181 people have died of Ebola in Liberia but while the country has recorded the highest number of cases, the rate of infection is slowing.

The outbreak was also now “stable” in Guinea, the World Health Organization (WHO) said last week.

The disease is now spreading fastest in Sierra Leone, with 6,802 cases reported in total.

Nigeria and Senegal are both clear of the quarantine period and no new cases or deaths have been reported.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Harper Calls on La Francophonie to Put an End to Forced Marriages

DAKAR, Senegal — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has urged countries in la Francophonie to do all they can to put an end to child marriages as well as forced unions.

Harper told the opening ceremony of the summit of French-speaking nations in Senegal on Saturday that 100 million females were forced into marriage between 2004 and 2014 before reaching adulthood.

“When girls cannot achieve their full potential, everyone suffers: the girls, their children, their communities and their countries,” he said.

Harper described family as the foundation of society, adding it cannot thrive if it is based on constraint and inequality.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Italy: Special Ed for Disabled Kids Mandatory Says Cassation Court

Supreme court orders school, ministry to compensate parents

(ANSA) — Rome, November 25 — The supreme Court of Cassation on Tuesday found Italy’s education ministry and a school in the north-western Friuli region guilty of discrimination against a disabled pupil, ordering compensation of 5,000 euros to the child’s parents.

The public school system must guarantee equal access to education, and this means kids with special needs must get all the support they need in order to attend school on an equal footing with their peers, the court said.

Individual schools have no discretion in the matter, the court added. “In cases of severe handicap, school authorities have the tools to fully implement measures that correspond to the needs of the child,” the court wrote.

The ruling came in the case of a totally disabled child who had been assigned 25 special education teaching hours a week, allowing her to attend pre-school full-time.

However her school, the Comprehensive Institute in the northern city of Udine, gave her a special needs teacher for just 12.5 hours a week.

The school and the education ministry argued in their defense that there was no discrimination because pre-school is not mandatory.

The court answered that guarantees of disabled children’s equal right to an education includes pre-school.

The rest of the class would also benefit from the full-time presence of a disabled peer, “which might lead them to respect and accept diversity as part of the diversity of humanity itself,” the judges wrote in their opinion.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

4 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 11/29/2014

  1. As a non-practising Catholic, and for reasons best kept to myself for why I no longer practice, I find Pope Francis’ complete disregard for the history of the Catholic Church and its many recorded defences against the barbarism that is Islam, and for over 1400 years, and the Church’s many recorded instances of such barbarism against its own believers, as to be complying with the forces that Francis himself is so familiar with.

    This destruction of the Holy Roman Empire is happening in real time, yet not many are paying attention.

  2. And what John Cleese said, “You cannot make jokes about Muslims, because they will kill you. “

  3. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! The enormity of it–an aggressive grey squirrel! I say they should call the SWAT team, but England doesn’t believe in those. I don’t know whether to roll over laughing or be sick to my stomach.

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