Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/13/2014

Dymphna and I were out most of the day at a family get-together. That’s why posting has been light.

A group of Al Qaeda activists disguised as women in niqabs were shot and killed today on a bus in Yemen. The militants were on their way to Saudi Arabia when a soldier boarded the bus, causing the extremists to shoot at him. Other soldiers opened fire in return, killing five of the disguised men and wounding one. The rest of the passengers on the bus were reassured to learn that the incident had nothing to do with Islam.

In other news, recent successful attacks by Islamic State forces against aircraft in Iraq are raising concerns that ISIS may now have the capability of shooting down civilian passenger planes. They are thought to have acquired advanced anti-aircraft weapons when they overran military bases in Syria and Iraq.

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

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Insubria, Papa Whiskey, RL, Steen, and all the other tipsters who sent these in.

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

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

Financial Crisis
» 1.4 Mn Italian Kids in Absolute Poverty Says Group
» Tying the Knot Back in Fashion in Spain Despite Crisis
» FBI, DHS Issue Bulletin for Law Enforcement Warning of Lone Wolf Domestic Terrorism
» Life in Post-Truth America
Europe and the EU
» Assertive Russia Causes Military Rethink in Sweden
» Crane Falls Into Dutch House After Proposal Goes Wrong
» Greece: Chios Mastic Know-How Makes UNESCO List
» Italian Bears Return to Austria’s Woods in Force
» Italy: Poletti Says Listening to Protesters, But Also to EU Demands
» Italy: Grillo Tells Napolitano He’s Proud to be Subversive
» Italy: Umbria Mafia Probe Leads to Wave of Arrests
» Italy: Soccer: Mafia Probe Won’t Slow Down Roma Stadium — Pallotta
» Juncker Warns UK on Discrimination Against EU Workers
» Suspected ‘LuxLeaks’ Whistleblower Hit With Theft Charges
» Flights Between Belgrade and Zagabria Resume After 23 Years
» Kosovo: Aggrement for New Government With Isa Mustafa PM
North Africa
» Concern for Algeria, 95% Barren Land
» Tunisia: Measures to Preserve the Site of Carthage
Israel and the Palestinians
» Lieberman Open to Coalition With Netanyahu or Herzog
Middle East
» 27,103 Syrian Children Born in Jordan Since March 2011 — UNICEF
» Daesh Attack on Helicopter Raises Concerns
» Lebanon: Italy Funds Shamaa Village and Castle Restoration
» Turkey: Chamber of Engineers and Architects to be Brought Under Ministry, Draft Bill Says
» Turkey ‘Would Not Accept’ Greece-Egypt Mediterranean Deal
» Yemen Troops Kill Saudi-Bound Qaeda Suspects Dressed as Women
» Apartment Broadcasts: The Plight of Russia’s Independent Media
» Ukraine Cheers US Vote for Military Aid, Russia Outraged
South Asia
» India: The Christmas of Hindu Radicals: We Will Reconvert 5,000 Christian and Muslim Families
Far East
» China: An ‘Africatown’ In Guangzhou
» South Korea: Seoul: A Film About Corruption in Christian Churches Asks ‘Where Are You Going?’
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Mali Confirms Al-Qaeda Prisoners Exchanged for French Hostage Lazarevic
» UN Peacekeepers ‘Look on’ as ‘Russia-Backed’ War Rages in Darfur
Latin America
» EXIT Fest Organizer Involved in US’ Covert Op in Cuba — Report
» Greenpeace Apologizes for Stunt at Ancient Peru Site
» The Rise of the Anti-Immigrant Sweden Democrats: ‘We Don’t Feel at Home Any More, And it’s Their Fault’
» Vinyl-Record Factories Race to Keep Up With Demand Surge

1.4 Mn Italian Kids in Absolute Poverty Says Group

‘Atlas of Children at Risk in Italy’ shows lack of resources

(ANSA) — Rome, December 10 — More than one million Italian children live in absolute poverty, and resources for these kids are on the decline, Save the Children aid group said Wednesday in its 5th annual “Atlas of Children at Risk in Italy” report.

The highest numbers of children in absolute poverty come from southern Italy, at an average of 19%, with the region of Calabria the highest at 29%.

The report noted how the economic crises in Italy, which is now in its third recession in six years, is taking a severe toll on the country’s youngest citizens.

Some 65,000 households were evicted last year for failing to pay rent, many of those homes with children, said the report.

As well, many families are being forced to cut their spending on food, particularly if breadwinners in the household lose their jobs.

The group calculated that about 1,434,000 Italian children — about 4% of the total population of kids in the country — live in absolute poverty.

That included 67,000 children up to age 6, and 309,000 between ages 7 and 17.

Even when there is enough food in the house, too many families have been forced to cut out small pleasures for children, including hobbies, sports, games and travel.

The report concluded that 51.6% of families with at least one child could not afford a vacation away from home, a dramatic jump from the 40% in 2010 that cut out travel.

The report revealed that more than 1.5 million children in Italy live in 11 large urban centers with a population of more than 250,000, and that in large cities the resources for children are experiencing a continual decline.

“Our children’s horizons are continually decreasing, with reduced spaces for autonomy, socializing, play, opportunities for learning and intellectual and interpersonal growth, which is pushing more children to the margins,” said Valerio Neri, general director of Save the Children Italy.

In May, Save the Children implemented a campaign called “Let’s Light Up the Future” opening 11 “Points of Light” educational/recreational centers in suburban areas with reduced services and opportunities for children. But finding space for play is becoming more difficult, with more children and their families crowding into cities.

Even condominium court yards are available to only about 25% of children as a play space.

In the north, there is more play room for children, the report said.

In the province of Bolzano, as many as 41.2% of children have meadows and fields in which to play, while at the other extreme, just under 4% of children in Sicily have such open space available.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tying the Knot Back in Fashion in Spain Despite Crisis

Weddings increase for the first time in a decade

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 9 — The number of weddings both between members of different sexes and between those of the same sex rose in Spain by 0.5% (to 69,252) in the first six months of 2014, reported the national institute of statistics (INE) on Tuesday. The rise was minimal but marked the first time it had increased since 2005, when the socialist government under Zapatero passed a law on same-sex unions and fast-track divorces. Most young Spaniards still opt not to get married, unless for reasons ranging from rendering a relationship official to tax deductions. Experts say that it is not only a matter of sharing housing costs, however. Some note that the economic crisis has led to greater social acceptance of ‘low-cost’ and ‘do-it-yourself’ ceremonies, which encourages those previously put off by the thought of spending tens of thousands of euros.

‘Apps’ for organizing one’s own wedding have risen in popularity in recent years, for example. According to the independent consumer rights federation (FUCI), ever more youths are choosing low-cost weddings, with DIY invitations and country spots for the reception.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

FBI, DHS Issue Bulletin for Law Enforcement Warning of Lone Wolf Domestic Terrorism

(NEW YORK) — The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have issued a bulletin to local law enforcement agencies around the nation, warning of the threat of lone-wolf domestic terrorists.

The bulletin referenced the Austin, Texas, shooting spree last month in which Larry McQuilliams fired over 100 rounds at a number of buildings, including a federal courthouse, a bank, the Consulate General of Mexico and the Austin Police Department headquarters. Law enforcement ultimately shot and killed McQuilliams.

According to the bulletin, McQuilliams “was at least partially inspired by the Phineas Priest ideology — which advocates lone offender action.”

[Gimme a break. Phineas? What about Freewheelin’ Franklin and Fat Freddy? — PW]

           — Hat tip: Papa Whiskey [Return to headlines]

Life in Post-Truth America

By Daniel Greenfield

Next month Americans will experience the fifteenth anniversary of the time that the President of the United States shook his finger at the country and informed it, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never.”

Bill Clinton was lying. But the lie was more significant than the thing that he was lying about.

When the lie came crashing down, Clinton and his defenders deconstructed the English language, questioning the meaning of every word in his sentence rather than admit that the lie was a lie.

Given a choice between telling the truth or challenging the definitions of such words as “sex” and “is”, they decided to burn their dictionary.

Clinton’s antics set the stage for a current administration which can never be caught in a lie because it’s lying all the time. Obama and his people don’t just lie, they lie about the lies and then they lie about those lies. Bringing them in to testify just clogs the filters with an extra layer of lies…

           — Hat tip: RL [Return to headlines]

Assertive Russia Causes Military Rethink in Sweden

With an assertive Russia next door, Sweden has started to beef up its military after a decade of downsizing, but a credible deterrent may take years to achieve, analysts warn.

In one of Sweden’s most dramatic steps since the end of the Cold War, it has brought back the option of using reservists to boost its military force, making no attempt to hide the fact that the main motivation behind the move is Russia.

Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist went on TV this week to argue the move was necessary against the backdrop of Russia’s rearmament and its annexation of Crimea, as well as the Ukrainian conflict.

The decision also came just two months after Sweden got a rough wake-up call in the form of a lengthy but ultimately futile submarine hunt in the Stockholm archipelago….

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

Crane Falls Into Dutch House After Proposal Goes Wrong

A crane tipped over and crashed into the roof of a house in IJsselstein, near Utrecht in the Netherlands after a marriage proposal went wrong.

A man had rented a crane to drop him into his girlfriend’s garden so he could propose in spectacular fashion.

However it fell into a neighbour’s house and an attempt to remove it caused further damage.

No-one was hurt in the accident.

[Return to headlines]

Greece: Chios Mastic Know-How Makes UNESCO List

As Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 9 — The know-how of cultivating mastic, the aromatic resin of an evergreen that grows on the eastern Aegean island of Chios, has been included by UNESCO on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. According to a statement by the Culture Ministry in Athens, as daily Kathimerini online reported, the cultural arm of the United Nations endorsed a Greek request for the special status during its annual conference in Paris, which took place late November. The decision, the ministry said in its statement, “is an acknowledgement of the value of this element of our cultural heritage and, at the same time, it incorporates it in a global system aimed at the promotion and protection of living traditions.” Mastic, better known among locals as “mastiha,” only grows in the southern part of the island. The uniqueness of the product is attributed to the area’s particular soil and temperature climate. “The culture of mastic represents a comprehensive social event, around which networks of alliances and mutual help have been established,” UNESCO said. “The communal practices are also an occasion for perpetuating collective memory through the narration of old tales and stories,” it said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italian Bears Return to Austria’s Woods in Force

If Europeans go down to the woods today they might be in for a big surprise: bears. And in countries no longer used to big predators, it’s no picnic.

Reintroduced in parts of western Europe in “rewilding” programmes — in the east they never died out — brown bears have wandered far and wide and have created antagonism with attacks on livestock.

But unlike wolves, which have also returned and have killed farm animals, bears have also been involved in isolated incidents with humans, including one in September when a man was attacked by a bear and slightly injured in Salzburg’s Lungau region. A more serious incident occurred on Saturday in Sweden, when a hunter was hospitalized after being attacked by a bear…

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

Italy: Poletti Says Listening to Protesters, But Also to EU Demands

Government must move forward with reforms, says Labour minister

(ANSA) — Brussels, December 12 — The Italian government is listening to protest groups and labour unions who staged a series of demonstrations across Italy Friday, but it must also abide by EU rules, said Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti.

“We listen to the piazza, but we must be willing to move forward with the implementation of reforms, we cannot afford to touch the brakes because the EU asks us to be consistent with our commitments,” said Poletti.

He spoke as trade unions and student organizations protested against the policies of Premier Matteo Renzi’s government on Friday with a general strike and rallies throughout the recession-hit country.

The one-dau strike, called by two of Italy’s three big trade union confederations, the CGIL and the UIL, was marred by violence at protests in Milan and Turin.

At the same time, social housing activists clashed with police in riot gear at a piazza near a building in central Rome that had been occupied earlier by activists. Flares were thrown as police cleared the building.

Across the country, the strike and rallies against the government caused massive disruption, with public transport services badly affected. Organizers said over 50 rallies were taking place in cities nationwide to contest the government’s controversial Jobs Act labour reform, which weakens protection for newly hired workers against unfair dismissal in a bid to encourage firms to take on staff and combat record unemployment levels.

Action has also been called to protest against the government’s 2015 budget bill, which features 15 billion euros in spending cuts, plus 18 billion euros in tax cuts aimed at boosting the recession-hit economy. At the same time, intense pressure is being brought on Renzi’s government to enact significant reforms that will help to bring the massive national debt and deficit under limits set by the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Grillo Tells Napolitano He’s Proud to be Subversive

M5S hits back at president’s warning about ‘anti-politics’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 11 — Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), said Thursday that he was “proud” to be a subversive. The volcanic comedian-turned-politician was responding to comments made Wednesday by President Giorgio Napolitano about the dangers of so-called “anti-politics”, saying this risked becoming a “subversive pathology”. On Wednesday the head of State also talked about the “serious decay” in the Italian political world, amid a massive probe into alleged links between mafiosi and politicians to rig city of Rome contracts.

“Dear Napolitano, I am and will remain a subversive and I’m proud of it,” Grillo said on his popular blog, which gave life to the Internet-based M5S in 2009.

“Linking me to the sack of Rome, as you did yesterday, makes me a little proud. A warning like that is the equivalent of a honour”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Umbria Mafia Probe Leads to Wave of Arrests

Carabinieri seize 30 million euros’ worth of goods, assets

(ANSA) — Rome, December 10 — Police on Wednesday arrested some 54 people as part of a probe into the ‘Ndrangheta mafia operating in Italy’s central Umbria region. Of those, 46 were jailed and another eight were placed under house arrest. A further seven suspects were ordered not to leave town. Carabinieri military police seized over 30 million euros in goods and assets as anti-mafia investigators said they found “widespread infiltration into the local economy” by the Calabria-based mafia. That includes 39 companies, 106 homes, 129 vehicles, and more than 300 bank accounts spread from Umbria into Calabria, Emilia-Romagna, Lazio, Marche and Tuscany. Police say charges will range from mafia association to extortion, prostitution and drug trafficking. The ‘Ndrangheta mafia became especially involved in the construction sector, intimidating and threatening locals including setting fires to local businesses that would not cooperate, police said. Arrests and seizures were made in the Umbrian capital city of Perugia as well as other cities in the region.

The mob reinvested its illicit gains in real estate and businesses ranging from entertainment to solar panels, investigators said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Soccer: Mafia Probe Won’t Slow Down Roma Stadium — Pallotta

Mafia Capitale investigation is ‘good thing’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 10 — AS Roma Chairman James Pallotta said Wednesday plans to build the team’s new stadium in the Italian capital remain on course in spite of the so-called Mafia Capitale scandal currently rocking the city to its political foundations.

The investigation “is a good thing for the city because it has cleaned it up,” the American hedge fund manager said on his way out of city hall.

“It will not slow down the new stadium’s trajectory”.

Roma in March announced a deal to build the new stadium seating up to 52,000 spectators in the city’s southern Tor di Valle neighbourhood.

The project reportedly includes a subway station, a new park on the Tiber river, a commercial area, and three towers to be designed by Polish architect Daniel Libeskind.

Authorities have frozen public contract tenders in the wake of the investigation, which has uncovered a local racketeering organization headed by a former extreme-right terrorist and involving politicians, public officials, and businessmen.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Juncker Warns UK on Discrimination Against EU Workers

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned Britain’s prime minister David Cameron on the discrimination against workers from other EU countries.

During a television panel discussion in Austria, quoted by The Guardian, Juncker accused Cameron of “beating up poor European immigrant workers” with the planned restrictions on theier access to public assistance, tax credits and social housing.

“Especially in Great Britain, which always fought for the enlargement of the European Union, there has to be an end to discrimination against countries just because it goes down well topically when you beat up others,” Juncker said, quoted by The Guardian. “I am utterly against behaving as if all Poles, all Romanians, all Bulgarians in the European labour market are of a basic mentality that is criminal. These are people who are working and earning their wages.”…

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

Suspected ‘LuxLeaks’ Whistleblower Hit With Theft Charges

A Frenchman suspected of having leaked thousands of pages of documents that could jeopardize multinational companies — and the new president of the European Commission — over tax avoidance was questioned by a Luxembourg judge on Friday.

The suspect’s identity has not been revealed, but Luxembourg media reported that he is a French national and former employee of auditing firm PwC Luxembourg.

“A person has today been charged by an investigating magistrate in Luxembourg on counts of theft, breach of confidentiality, violation of trade secrets, money-laundering and fraudulent access to an automated data-processing system,” the Luxembourg prosecutors’ office said in a statement.

The embarrassing documents revealed secret tax avoidance deals between Luxembourg and some of the world’s biggest companies, including Apple, Disney, IKEA and Pepsi, which were hammered out while European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was the country’s prime minister…

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

Flights Between Belgrade and Zagabria Resume After 23 Years

Connection was suspended at the inception of 1991 war

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 12 — Air Serbia, the Serbian national airline carrier, will resume its flights to Zagabria today after a 23-year long hiatus. Two daily flights will connect the two cities with departing hours from Belgrade at 7.35 and 18.20 and from Zagabria at 10.05 and 20.40. The first flight between the two capitals was operated by Aeroput in February 1928.

Jat Airways reintroduced the connection after the Second World War, in April 1947, and offered the flight until August 1991 when the Yugoslav war broke out.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Aggrement for New Government With Isa Mustafa PM

Coalition between two main parties, Thaci foreign affair minister

(ANSA) — PRISTINA — Six months from elections in June 8, in Pristina was signed an agreement for the new government, which will be a coalition between the two major parties, Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of outgoing Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, and Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) of Isa Mustafa.

New premier will be Mustafa, Thaci will be vice premier and foreign minister. The parliament will give green light to the new government, unlocking a long political impasse that prevented the resumption of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Concern for Algeria, 95% Barren Land

Desertification poses challenges that are hard to solve

(by Diego Minuti) (ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 11 — Almost the entirety of Algeria’s territory — about 95% — has been classified as a “dry area”, with 80% ranked as “extremely dry”.

The data is extremely alarming, as stressed at an international gathering held in Ghardaia, at the initiative of the department of land resources of the local university, during which the extremely serious risks for the Algerian territory were stressed, given the current situation.

The general framework described during the meeting, Aps reports, is that the desertification of the Algerian territory — as that of other countries in the same environmental conditions — could lead to problems — apart from those of society — that are difficult to solve. Among them are persistent drought, degrading land and biomasses, the danger of floods caused by basins on hills (vital for water provision and agriculture) and infiltration of sea water underground in coastal areas.

The 200 participants at the meeting in Ghardaia — including scientists, researchers and experts — sought to evaluate, to the best of their knowledge, the complex issue of barren land, looking at what research and the evolution of technology can offer to confront this environmental emergency.

Most of the attention focused on the conservation and exploitation of the endemic diversity of plants in dry areas, which is connected to the issue of the rehabilitation of territories affected by processes — without control — like massive deforestation and exploitation of pastures.

The summit in Ghardaia underlined the need for governments to start urgent programs of intervention and analyzed mistakes made so far in managing the territory — with the consequences that are visible to everyone.

In Algeria, the desertification process which has made life difficult in many areas of the country has led to a significant process of domestic emigration from dry areas to the coast. This phenomenon has determined the exponential expansion of the population in the largest cities — today dealing with huge problems such as the housing emergency and joblessness due to the overwhelming demand for a job, often little qualified, compared to what the labor market has to offer.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Measures to Preserve the Site of Carthage

Measures to preserve and defend the site

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — The Tunisian Minister of Culture announced a series of special measures to safeguard the archaeological site of Carthage, classified as world heritage by Unesco in 1979. On the basis of directives and recommendation stemming from the International Conference titled “The site of Carthage, shared world heritage” organised by the National Institute of Tunisian Heritage the ministry promised it would be actively involved in the protection of the site before the government both halting illegal construcion in the area and also promoting the site among the Tunisian cultural and touristic destinations.

However, according to a press report new funds are necessary to procede with restoration efforts at Carthage and the active participation of citizens in the preservation of the sight is equally called for .

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lieberman Open to Coalition With Netanyahu or Herzog

(AGI) Cairo, Dec. 13 — The statement made on Sunday by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman came as a total surprise. He said he was open to sit in a coalition both with Likud leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with the Labour Party led by Isaac Herzog. During a public event in Tel Aviv, the Israeli right-wing hawk underscored that his party, Yisrael Beytenu, absolutely does not belong to the “anyone-but-Bibi” (Netanyahu) front, thereby referring to an eventual coalition against the prime minister currently in office. Lieberman welcomed the agreement between Herzog and Tzipi Livni, the leader of the centrist Hatnua party, saying he was in favour of large coalitions, although he did not miss the opportunity to criticise the agreement. “I was talking about rotations and constellations rather than discussing contents”, said Israel’s chief diplomat, referring to the two leaders’ decision to divide the mandate in two phases in case they win the elections: Herzog would head the government for two years before resigning and passing the helm to Livni. “In every round of elections held since the establishing of Yisrael Beitenu in 1999 it was proven that its power is expanding, we always have been growing. We will be running as an independent pary at the next elections in the hope of improving the result obtained in 2009”, Lieberman said.

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

27,103 Syrian Children Born in Jordan Since March 2011 — UNICEF

More than 114,000 Syrian children were born as refugees in five host countries in the region, including Jordan, since the beginning of the crisis.

According to UNICEF MENA, 114,894 children were born as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt since March 2011.

UNICEF Jordan said 27,103 Syrian children were born in Jordan until October this year.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Daesh Attack on Helicopter Raises Concerns

Militants may have captured ground-to-air missiles capable of shooting down airplanes when they overran army bases

Baghdad: Daesh militants shot down an Iraqi military helicopter Saturday, officials said, killing the two pilots onboard and raising fresh concerns about the extremists’ ability to attack aircraft amid ongoing U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

The attack happened in the Shiite holy city of Samarra, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad. A senior Defense Ministry official told The Associated Press the Sunni militants used a shoulder-fired rocket launcher to shoot down the EC635 helicopter on the outskirts of the city.

An army official corroborated the information. Both spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to speak to journalists.

The EC635, built by Airbus Helicopters, is used for transportation, surveillance and combat…

Anbar attack

In Anbar province, Daesh fighters stormed a town on Saturday, killing at least 19 policemen and trapping others inside their headquarters, in the latest attack in the desert region where it controls large amounts of territory, officials said.

They seized the town of Al Wafa, 45 km west of Anbar’s capital Ramadi on Saturday after starting its assault early on Friday.

With the capture of Al Wafa, Daesh now controls three major towns to the west of Ramadi, including Hit and Kubaisa. Islamic State and government forces have been bogged down in a months-long battle for Ramadi.

[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Italy Funds Shamaa Village and Castle Restoration

In the south near UNIFIL troops

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — A restored square was inaugurated on Wednesday in Shamaa, a village close to the Italian contingent of UNIFIL in southern Lebanon, funded by the Italian defense ministry as part of a broader project for the restoration of a local citadel and castle damaged during the 2006 war. The commander of the Italian contingent of the UN mission, General Stefano Del Col, took part in the ceremony, as did First Secretary of the Italian Embassy in Lebanon Palma D’Ambrosio. Over the coming months, the entrance square to the Shamaa village will be repaved and restored. The larger project for the restoration of the citadel will be funded by the Italian Development Cooperation. Once restored, the castle will serve as a culturally and historically important tourist attraction that could play a decisive role in sustainably developing the local economy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: Chamber of Engineers and Architects to be Brought Under Ministry, Draft Bill Says

The controversial cruise port planned in the Istanbul Salipazari Port Area project, commonly known as Galataport, is among the many projects opposed by the TMMOB. The legal process regarding a stay of execution demand is still ongoing. DHA Photo

The government is working on a draft bill that will end the autonomy of Turkey’s chambers of engineers and architects, which have become well-known for opening lawsuits against controversial construction projects across the country.

All regulations prepared by the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) will not enter into force before advice and approval is received from the Environment and Urbanization Ministry, according to the bill. The TMMOB will also lose its public institutional structure and will no longer have the authority to file lawsuits against construction projects.

The ministry attempted to prepare the bill two years ago but it was canceled after harsh reactions against the moves. The new regulations on the structure of the TMMOB are included in the Construction Draft bill…

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

Turkey ‘Would Not Accept’ Greece-Egypt Mediterranean Deal

Any delimitation of the Mediterranean between Egypt and Greece will not be acceptable if it affects Turkey’s national interests, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said.

Davutoglu’s remarks were published on Dec. 7 in the Greek newspaper To Vima, in an interview given at the end of the third High-Level Cooperation Council meeting between Greece and Turkey in Athens on Dec. 6.

“If Greece signs the agreement with Egypt, we would not accept it if it affects our national interests. This agreement will not exist for us,” he said.

Ankara believes there can be no demarcation in the Eastern Mediterranean without Turkey, he said, adding that “trilateral cooperation” between Greece-Cyprus-Egypt or Greece-Cyprus-Israel for natural resources amounts to “opportunism” that comes at a “bad time.”…

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

Yemen Troops Kill Saudi-Bound Qaeda Suspects Dressed as Women

Yemeni troops on Saturday shot dead five Al-Qaeda suspects disguised as women who fired at a soldier during a checkpoint inspection of their Saudi-bound bus, officials said.

Another suspect was wounded along with the driver in the shooting at Harad, a town 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the Saudi border, the officials said, adding two of those killed were Saudis.

“As one of the soldiers climbed on board the bus for an inspection, one of the suspects opened fire and wounded him, prompting shooting from other soldiers at the checkpoint,” said a government official who gave the casualty toll…

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

Apartment Broadcasts: The Plight of Russia’s Independent Media

Rain TV, one of Russia’s last news outlets critical of the Kremlin, has been forced to quit its Moscow premises for the second time in as many months, in the latest indication of the hostile environment that independent media face.

The digital channel, whose programmes contrast sharply with the country’s state-run media, later resumed broadcasts from a private apartment.

Rain TV (Dozhd TV in Russian) was handed a Monday deadline to quit its premises in the former “Red October” chocolate factory, a hip area of central Moscow known for its bars and art galleries…

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

Ukraine Cheers US Vote for Military Aid, Russia Outraged

Ukraine on Friday welcomed a US bill that would allow Washington to provide lethal military assistance to the embattled country, but Russia expressed outrage at the “openly confrontational” legislation.

The bill — passed late on Thursday and due to get final approval in Congress on Friday before being sent to US President Barack Obama — opens the way for up to $350 million (280 million euros’) worth of US military hardware to be sent to Ukraine, which has been fighting an eight-month war against Kremlin-backed separatists in its east.

It also threatens fresh sanctions against Russia, whose economy is crumbling under previous rounds of Western sanctions and a collapse in oil prices…

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

India: The Christmas of Hindu Radicals: We Will Reconvert 5,000 Christian and Muslim Families

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a radical paramilitary group, is planning “the greatest return home ever happened”. “A trick to hide their violence, in view of State elections 2016,” said a priest.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a radical hindu paramilitary group, plans to convert 4,000 Christian and 1,000 Muslim families to Hinduism next 25th of December, in Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh). Militants call it the “Ghar Whapsi” (returning home) programme, and claim it will be “the greatest ever happened”. If it will really happen, it would be the fourth case in less than three months, always in Uttar Pradesh.

Personalities from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Central government ruling Hindu ultra-nationalist party, will attend the event.

Father Francis Arackal, a Dominican priest and head of the department of Communication at St. Joseph’s College (Bangalore), downplayed the event. “The RSS which claims to be upholding the culture of India and Hinduism hasn’t really understood the essence of Indian culture and the essence of the Hindu religion. No wonder they are doing the cheap conversions,” he said.

“Aligarh was chosen because it’s time we wrest the Hindu city from Muslims. It is a city of brave Rajputs and their temples on whose remains Muslim institutions have been established,” said RSS regional pracharak Rajeshwar Singh.

“Christmas was chosen as the day for conversion because the event is a shakti pariksha (test of strength) for both religions,” said Singh. “If their religion is better, they can stop them. It is a test for both of us. If they come to us on Christmas, it is the biggest rejection of the faith.”

For the priest “the proposed reconversion drive by RSS is being planned as a conspiracy politics keeping in mind the State Assembly elections which is due in Uttar Pradesh in 2016 as ‘diverting attention trick’. The other intention is to hide all the wrong doings and criminalizing politics and communal violence in India.”

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

China: An ‘Africatown’ In Guangzhou

With twelve million inhabitants, Guangzhou, in southern China, is the third largest city after Shanghai and Beijing. Like the rest of globalised China, it attracts people from all over the world, among them many Africans. They are drawn there for trade and business but struggle to integrate into Chinese society, where prejudices still run deep.

In just ten years, nearly 200,000 Africans have settled in Guangzhou. All of them hope to strike it rich by exporting low-cost Chinese products to Africa. And business is booming.

But the Chinese do not always approve of them, to the extent that they have nicknamed their neighborhood “Chocolate City”…

This “Africatown” has sprung up in the heart of Guangzhou, where everything from restaurants to nightclubs and hairdressers has been Africanised. It seems to have gone too far for some Chinese, who are overtly racist towards the black population.

Coexistence between the communities is difficult and tensions are on the rise. As our report shows, Africans and Chinese are often involved in fights, and those Africans who are arrested complain of brutal treatment by the police. Even if they speak fluent Mandarin and allow the Chinese to develop their businesses, Africans are not always welcome in Guangzhou.

By Jean-Christophe BRISARD

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

South Korea: Seoul: A Film About Corruption in Christian Churches Asks ‘Where Are You Going?’

“Quo Vadis” was written and directed by a renowned Korean director, son of a Christian clergyman. The movie slams illegal business transactions, nepotism, corruption and hunger for power within megachurches that are no longer places of worship. Called to task in the movie, targeted Protestant Churches try to boycott the projections and announce legal action.

Seoul (AsiaNews) — “Where are you going?” is the opening and final line in a controversial movie that opens today in South Korea. Echoing Peter’s words to Jesus, the picture is titled Quo Vadis, “a detailed exposé of the shame of South Korea’s corrupt churches,” said its maker, successful director Kim Jae-hwan, son of a Protestant clergyman.

Currently, South Korea is home to some 78,000 Christian churches: 80 per cent owned by Protestant and Pentecostal groups that are outside the Christian mainstream.

At least a hundred of them are mega-churches, a big thing in North and South America, gaining ground in Asia. Such places of worship have large congregations with hundreds of thousands of faithful, totally independent of each other, and very charismatic leaders.

The film delves into the various power games and “parting gifts” in the millions to tens of millions of dollars in donations and investments that have become business as usual for many of these megachurches. The tax evasion and malfeasance scandal surrounding Yoido Full Gospel Church pastor David Yonggi Cho, and sex crime allegations, are cases in point.

Quo vadis’ targets include the construction of the huge SaRang Community Church on prime real estate in Seoul’s Seocho neighbourhood last year at a cost of 300 billion won (US$ 270 million).

For the movie director, “the growth process of South Korea’s churches has exactly mirrored the growth of its established social interests.”

“Back in the days of the Japanese occupation (1910-45), they were giving fighter planes to the Japanese army,” Kim explained. “Under the military rule, they held prayer breakfasts for the illegitimate regime. And during the 2008 presidential elections, they campaigned for [then-candidate] Lee Myung-bak, who was one of their elders.”

Underscoring the film’s message are bits and pieces of news footage, interviews with experts, and videos of actual Sunday sermons by megachurch pastors.

Since it implicitly calls for church reform, this led to quite a few problems. The initial goal was to screen the movie in at least 100 cinemas; however, multiplexes balked at the prospect, concerned about a backlash from churches.

For the official premiere this month, Kim only managed to get 13 screens, most of them at art houses.

“The megachurches talk about ‘God’s judgment’,” Kim explained, “but I think the real judgment is the situation right now. [. . .] there’s a complete disconnect between inside the church and outside”. He hopes they will see the error of their ways.

For Kim, his goal is to get more than 10,000 viewers, enough to raise the money he pledged to donate to the Jubilee & Land Justice Association, a Christian group working to help people struggling with debt.

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

Mali Confirms Al-Qaeda Prisoners Exchanged for French Hostage Lazarevic

Mali admitted on Friday that Al-Qaeda prisoners were freed in exchange for French hostage Serge Lazarevic, confirming reports on RFI earlier in the week. The French defence minister has refused to comment on links between the two.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UN Peacekeepers ‘Look on’ as ‘Russia-Backed’ War Rages in Darfur

Victims of Darfur’s protracted war have been beaten, raped and killed as UN peacekeepers looked on, a former spokesperson for the UN mission tells FRANCE 24. She says Russia and China have forced the world body to turn a blind eye to the conflict.

Aïcha el Basri describes it as a “forgotten war”. More than a decade after Arabs and non-Arabs began massacring each other in the arid Sudanese region of Darfur, the brutal conflict rages on. President Omar al-Bashir is still wanted at the International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes charges, more than five years after he was indicted. In 2014 alone some 315,000 people have been displaced. But after seven years on the ground and almost 11 billion dollars in spending, the UN has failed in its mission to protect civilians and is now thinking of pulling it’s 19,000-strong peacekeeping force out of the region.

El Basri, who spent eight months stationed with the UN-African Union blue helmet mission, describes Darfur as the UN’s “biggest peacekeeping failure”. She says that UNIMAD, under pressure from Khartoum’s closest economic allies and arms dealers, Russia and China, has not only failed to prevent genocide, but has added insult to injury by downplaying the ongoing violence in order to prepare a discreet exit — something which Moscow and Beijing have long been lobbying for…

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

EXIT Fest Organizer Involved in US’ Covert Op in Cuba — Report

For more than two years, a U.S. agency secretly infiltrated Cuba’s underground hip-hop movement, recruiting unwitting rappers to spark a youth movement against the government, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The idea was to use Cuban musicians “to break the information blockade” and build a network of young people seeking “social change,” documents show. But the operation was amateurish and profoundly unsuccessful, The Huffington Post writes.

On at least six occasions, Cuban authorities detained or interrogated people involved in the program; they also confiscated computer hardware, and in some cases it contained information that jeopardized Cubans who likely had no idea they were caught up in a clandestine U.S. operation. Still, contractors working for the U.S. Agency for International Development kept putting themselves and their targets at risk, the AP investigation found…

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

Greenpeace Apologizes for Stunt at Ancient Peru Site

Environmental group Greenpeace apologized Wednesday after Peru accused it of damaging a millenia-old archaeological site when its activists displayed a protest banner there calling for action on climate change.

The stunt at the ancient Nazca lines, enormous drawings etched in the earth some 2,000 years ago by a pre-Inca civilization, drew a furious reaction from Peru, which is currently hosting UN talks aimed at curbing global warming.

Greenpeace set up large letters beside one of the designs, known as the Hummingbird, reading: “Time for change! The future is renewable.”

Describing the action as an “attack,” the Peruvian government said the site had been damaged and vowed to prosecute those responsible…

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

The Rise of the Anti-Immigrant Sweden Democrats: ‘We Don’t Feel at Home Any More, And it’s Their Fault’

Sweden Democrats insist that they have shed their racist past. David Crouch goes to their stronghold in Kristianstad to find the truth about the party that brought down a government

Kevin is the future of the far right in Sweden. At 16, the computing student — who sports a beanie hat and a wispy beard — is active in the youth wing of the Sweden Democrats, the anti-immigration party that has forced a snap election after flexing its muscles as the country’s third party. “There are not enough jobs for Swedish people, but there are more and more immigrants, hundreds a year coming into this town,” he says in a shopping centre in Kristianstad, southern Sweden, an electoral stronghold of the far right and home to the party’s national headquarters. “We are not a racist or fascist party,” Kevin says. “There were racists and fascists when Jimmie was a boy, but they have all gone.”

Jimmie is the Sweden Democrats’ leader, Jimmie Åkesson, who lives in the area. Åkesson claims to have kicked the extremists out of the party, pulled up its roots in white-supremacist and neo-Nazi activism, and turned it into a slick electoral machine that has doubled its vote every four years, taking 13% in September’s election. This self-image of the Sweden Democrats was challenged last weekend by the prime minister, Stefan Löfven, who called the party “neo-fascist”, citing its early links with Keep Sweden Swedish and White Aryan Resistance.

Löfven, leader of the once mighty Social Democrats, now heads a lame-duck minority coalition with the Greens. He lashed out at his far-right nemesis as the political establishment scrambles to find a way of slowing the Sweden Democrat insurgency. The most recent opinion poll by YouGov suggests the far right is riding high and could take as much as 18% of the vote in new elections in March. Löfven’s “neo-fascist” attack sparked a storm of debate, with critics saying that labelling the far right is irrelevant or dangerous. But the prime minister also expressed a strength of feeling against the Sweden Democrats that is shared by many. When it emerged on Friday that the party wants to lift a ban on recording the national origins of people in the criminal justice system, the head of Sweden’s Bar Association said on Twitter they might as well put a badge on offenders’ jackets — in reference to the practice in Germany in the 1930s. In Kristianstad, however, voters say they have heard it all before…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Vinyl-Record Factories Race to Keep Up With Demand Surge

Nearly 8 million old-fashioned vinyl records have been sold this year, up 49% from the same period last year, industry data show. Younger people, especially indie-rock fans, are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl and the ritual of putting needle to groove.

But while new LPs hit stores each week, the creaky machines that make them haven’t been manufactured for decades, and just one company supplies an estimated 90% of the raw vinyl that the industry needs. As such, the nation’s 15 or so still-running factories that press records face daily challenges with breakdowns and supply shortages.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

10 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/13/2014

  1. May I introduce:

    Per Gustav Edvard Fridolin, formerly Fridolin Jönsson, born 1983, a Swedish Green Party politician, Since 2011 he is the mouthpiece of the Green Party together with in practice environment offender Ms Åsa Romson. Since autumn 2014, Fridolin is regarded as Education Minister in the coalition government S+MP.

    Fridolin’s small placard reads:

    We welcome all newcomers from Syria and hope
    you will enjoy your new life in beautiful Sweden

  2. In Kretinostan political insanity – (SWEBOLA) – is is galloping.

    The Moderate’s (the New Wokers Party, socioconservatives) proposed next party leader Ms Anna Kinberg Batra today made it clear that she does not intend to reduce massimmigration to Sweden if she becomes the new prime minister.

    – We are one of the world’s richest countries, she told TV4-Morningnews.
    The Multi Billion investigation to increased massimmigration will not be decreased if Anna Kinberg Batra becomes the new Prime Minister in the extraordinary election on March 22. 2015.

    – I am proud, said Ms Kinberg Batra, of the high immigration – witch has got several municipalities in Sweden to financially kreep on their knees.

    – We can join in and help, for we are one of the world’s richest countries, she continued.

    For shuffling the cards. she then argued that it is not the great *migration* that is the problem but that it is on *integration* that is problematic.

    – I think we should take our responsibility, if we can, it is rather on the *integration* side, we can become better.

    – Because if you’re up here, then it is clear that one must be able to enter into society, get a roof over the head, and in this respect we have not been good enough, she said.

    To all the moderate local politicians who have called for a reduction in immigration to their municipalities, who can not cope with the invasion from Syria, MENA and subSahara , she says there will not at the moment be any reduced inflow.

    – We need to discuss *integration* and how to better get to work, how to find housing, how to cooperate better with national and local politicians, I am prepared for debate, but we must take our responsibility as the world looks like it does, she said. – We must never compromise on *everyone’s equal value*.

  3. Re: “Vinyl factories race…” Well, I’ve collected records (mainly classical) for forty years or more, and I’m not surprised. The distortion on vinyl is, in theory, greater than on CD; in practice it is more acceptable, and less tiring, to the human ear, which is what we all have unless there are any aliens following.

    Downloads can be better than either, given sufficiently high resolution- but if you then listen to them via a computer rather than a decent hi-fi, you may as well not have bothered. End of rant!

  4. I’ve got a few hundred originals from the 60s to sell, love them, so imperfect, covers are sheer art, but they just take up so much room for someone trying to downsize. Any ideas where?

    • Don’t know where you are geographically, justicia; my more recent acquisitions are from the dwindling number of second-hand dealers around London. The magazine “Classical Recordings Quarterly” ( lists dealers in several countries, but there are dealers on Amazon and ebay.

      If I can help further, please ask the Baron for my email address.

  5. Re concern for Algeria 95% barren land, oh no, what to do what to do about Desertification? I know: Be nice, be friends, be kind, make trading partners of the Israelis and get rid of all your old corruption hating the Jews leaders. Ask the Jews nicely, be nice, be kind? Admit the Israelis have the technology and the desire to help turn YOUR desert into a productive, happy land. Was that so hard?

    • Re: Algeria-

      Is a sad sack country that was better off as a French colony. This is because the French had an actual plan for developing the country. The country was also a far, far greener under the French, but possibly not as green as it was in Roman times.

      The only ‘plan’ followed by the post-revolutionary leadership has been the diversion of the country’s oil wealth to sit and rot in their offshore accounts.

      Oh wait, they have $2 billion to build the second largest mosque in Islam and millions to fund mosques in France. Sadly, money to build a decent hospital or keep the streets clean is in short supply.

  6. Pretty funny how mainstream media and Joe Biden (ha ha) in the last couple of weeks tried to change thinking and wording from IS, ISIL, etc to their new preferred Daesh. Sorry, not as catching as IS, OR Islamic State, which is what our ememies call themselves. They want to mint their own money under that name. Daesh will never catch on. IS is what it is. Islamic State. Filled with the stupidist, most vicious miscreants that we must unfortunately share our world with. Or must we? I for one, do not want their company as I journey forth in what I think is a beautiful world. I hear Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World as I write this. His words are what I want to hear in my wonderful world.

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