Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/16/2016

Two more suspects in the Paris terror massacres have been identified as having passed through Greece into Europe with the migrants. The two are “Frenchmen” of Algerian and Pakistani origin, and posed as Syrian refugees when they entered Greece using stolen Syrian passports provided by the Islamic State.

In other news, Austria has decided to set up border controls at twelve crossings on its southern border with Italy.

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

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Green Infidel, Insubria, JLH, 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
» Draghi Says Banks Sensitive to Weaker Economic Prospects
» German ‘Bail-in’ Plan for Government Bonds Risks Blowing Up the Euro
» Italy: MPS Rallies 12% on Milan Bourse
» First Detection of Super-Earth Atmosphere
» Food Stamp Beneficiaries Exceed 45 Million for 55 Straight Months
Europe and the EU
» Italian Judiciary Must Clean Up Its Act Says Salvini
» Italy: With New Changes to Pensions Govt to be Sent Home — UIL
» Italy: Rizzi’s Wife ‘Front’ For Bribes in Lombardy Graft Probe
» Italy: Milan ‘Failed to Charge 204mn in Rent’ Says M5S
» Life Costs 64% More for Italian Singles, Coldiretti Says
» Schroeder: NATO Expansion Toward Russia Destroys Basis of German Ostpolitik
North Africa
» Black Market in Dollars and Diesel Thrives at Libya’s Cost
» Egypt’s “Security Threat”: Churches
Middle East
» Iran Defense Chief Meets Putin to Discuss Controversial Sale of Fighter Jets, Tanks
» Oil Falls Despite Saudi-Russian Output Deal
» Rivals in Syria, Moscow and Riyadh Together to Stop Oil Price Collapse
» Minsk Welcomes EU Decision to Partially Lift Sanctions From Belarus
South Asia
» Bangladesh: Authorities Close Down Book Stand for Insulting Islam
Far East
» North Korea’s ‘Biggest’ Export — Giant Statues
» Another Greek Link to Paris Terrorist Attacks
» Anti-Migrant Force Builds in Europe, Hurting Merkel’s Quest
» Austria Sets up Controls on Italy Border
» In Greece, Protests Against EU Refugee Hot Spot on Kos
» Merkel to Insist on Implementation of EU-Turkey Refugee Plan
» Munich Mutiny: Merkel’s Isolation Deepens as Allies Reject Refugee Deal
» Not in My Neighborhood: Has Nordic Tolerance Reached Its Peak?
» Sweden Eyes Gender Equality Lessons for Young Refugees
Culture Wars
» Indonesia: Jakarta: Protests Against UN Funds for LGBT Community: They Destroy Our Civilization
» Support Grows for a Return to Ice Giants Uranus and Neptune

Draghi Says Banks Sensitive to Weaker Economic Prospects

Deterioration in sentiment accelerated, says ECB chief

(ANSA) — Brussels, February 15 — European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said Monday that bank stocks had been hit particularly hard by the recent turbulence on the markets because the financial sector is particularly sensitive to the weaker economic outlook. “Since the start of December a deterioration in economic sentiment has accelerated and become more volatile and susceptible to rapid changes,” Draghi told the European Parliament. “In this climate, stock market prices have dropped and bank shares have been hit particularly hard, both globally and in Europe, reflecting the sector’s high sensitivity to weaker-than-expected economic prospects”.

Draghi added that the recent fall in banking stocks “was amplified by the perception that the banks might have to adjust their business models to an environment of low growth and low interest rates, and to the reinforced regulatory framework put in place since the start of the crisis”. He said “we have to recognise that the rules have laid the foundation for increased resilience of the whole financial sector”.

Draghi said that “the central bank governors and the supervision chiefs have indicated that they are committed to not significantly raising the general capital requirements for the banking sector”. He said the banks have “put in place higher and better-quality capital buffers, have cut the leverage effect and improved their funding profiles”.

Draghi told the European Parliament Monday that “the recovery is continuing at a moderate pace, supported above all by our measures of monetary policy and by the favourable impact on financial conditions and by energy prices.” He said “investments remain weak and the construction sector has not recovered yet. In order to make the eurozone more resilient, the ECB is ready to do its part and as announced will examine the possibility of acting at the beginning of March”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

German ‘Bail-in’ Plan for Government Bonds Risks Blowing Up the Euro

‘If I were a politician in Italy, I’d want my own currency as fast as possible: that is the only way to avoid going bankrupt,’ said German ‘Wise Man’

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

A new German plan to impose “haircuts” on holders of eurozone sovereign debt risks igniting an unstoppable European bond crisis and could force Italy and Spain to restore their own currencies, a top adviser to the German government has warned.

“It is the fastest way to break up the eurozone,” said Professor Peter Bofinger, one of the five “Wise Men” on the German Council of Economic Advisers.

“A speculative attack could come very fast. If I were a politician in Italy and I was confronted by this sort of insolvency risk I would want to go back to my own currency as fast as possible, because that is the only way to avoid going bankrupt,” he told The Telegraph.

The German Council has called for a “sovereign insolvency mechanism” even though this overturns the financial principles of the post-war order in Europe, deeming such a move necessary to restore the credibility of the “no-bailout” clause in the Maastricht Treaty. Prof Bofinger issued a vehement dissent.

The plan has the backing of the Bundesbank and most recently the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, who usually succeeds in imposing his will in the eurozone. Sensitive talks are under way in key European capitals, causing shudders in Rome, Madrid and Lisbon.

Under the scheme, bondholders would suffer losses in any future sovereign debt crisis before there can be any rescue by the eurozone bail-out fund (ESM). “It is asking for trouble,” said Lorenzo Codogno, former chief economist for the Italian Treasury and now at LC Macro Advisors.

This sovereign “bail-in” matches the contentious “bail-in” rule for bank bondholders, which came into force in January and has contributed to the drastic sell-off in eurozone bank assets this year.

Prof Bofinger wrote a separate opinion warning that the plan could become self-fulfilling all too quickly, setting off a “bond run” as investors dump their holdings to avoid a haircut.

Italy, Portugal and Spain would be powerless to defend themselves since they no longer have their own monetary instruments. “These countries risk being hit by a dangerous confidence crisis,” he said.

The German Council says the first step would be a higher “risk-weighting” for sovereign debt held by banks, and a limit on how much they can buy, with the explicit aim of forcing banks to divest €604bn. They would have to raise €35bn in fresh capital, deemed “manageable”…

           — Hat tip: JLH [Return to headlines]

Italy: MPS Rallies 12% on Milan Bourse

Troubled Tuscan lender recovers ground

(ANSA) — Milan, February 16 — After a lack-lustre start Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) bank flew up on the Milan bourse Tuesday posting a 12% gain. The troubled Tuscan lender had been one of the biggest losers recently but already recouped 9.2% Monday. It has been through a string of scandals and is top of the Italian charts for non-performing loans (NPLs).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

First Detection of Super-Earth Atmosphere

For the first time astronomers were able to analyse the atmosphere of an exoplanet in the class known as super-Earths. Using data gathered with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and new analysis techniques, the exoplanet 55 Cancri e is revealed to have a dry atmosphere without any indications of water vapour. The results, to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, indicate that the atmosphere consists mainly of hydrogen and helium.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Food Stamp Beneficiaries Exceed 45 Million for 55 Straight Months

The number of individuals receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, has exceeded 45 million for 55 straight months, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture.

There were 45,368,265 beneficiaries of the food stamp program in October 2015, the latest month for which data is available. The number increased by over 85,000 from September to October.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italian Judiciary Must Clean Up Its Act Says Salvini

Some magistrates ‘act politically’, League leader says

(ANSA) — Rome, February 15 — The Italian judiciary must clean up its act so that Italy can become “a normal country,” Northern League leader Matteo Salvini said after being placed under investigation for allegedly insulting the magistrature Monday.

Salvini said there were “many magistrates who do their job very well,” citing anti-mafia prosecutors, but added there were those who “work a lot less, engage in politics, probe in one way only and release dangerous criminals in 24 hours”. Salvini spoke after being placed under investigation for possible contempt after on Sunday calling the Italian judiciary “disgusting” for having indicted his No.2, Liguria regional councillor Edoardo Rixi, in an expenses case.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: With New Changes to Pensions Govt to be Sent Home — UIL

Barbagallo slams ‘bluff’ amid reversibility row

(ANSA) — Rome, February 15 — If there are further changes to the pensions regime, this time by intervening on reversibility, Italians “will have to acknowledge that this government must be sent home”, Carmelo Barbagallo, secretary-general of Italy’s third largest trades union confederation UIL said Monday. His comments came amid a new furore over reports that Premier Matteo Renzi’s government intends to cut State pensions that have been transferred to a spouse following the death of the holder.

The executive has insisted there is no truth in the speculation. “They say it’s a bluff, but I have the impression they are trying it on to see the reaction,” Barbagallo said.

“We were used to Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor, they we moved on to the version who stole from the poor to give to the rich, but now we have the genetically modified one who takes from the poor to give to the poor,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Rizzi’s Wife ‘Front’ For Bribes in Lombardy Graft Probe

Wife of staffer Longo also allegedly performed similar role

(ANSA) — Milan, February 16 — Lorena Lidia Pagani, the “co-habiting companion” of Northern League Lombardy regional councillor Fabio Rizzi “acted as a frontman for the recipt of kickbacks on his behalf,” a preliminary investigations judge who signed an arrest warrant against the pair on Tuesday wrote.

Pagani and Rizzi were arrested in relation to a probe into alleged corruption in the outsourcing of hospital dentistry services in the northern region.

Silvia Bonfiglio, “co-habiting companion” of Rizzi’s staffer Mario Longo, also allegedly performed a similar role, “issuing invoices for non-existent consultancies to Servicedent and assuming the role of partner and sole administrator of Spectre srl, a company linked to Longo and Rizzi,” according to the judge.

In total 21 people were arrested or otherwise cautioned on Tuesday in a probe into allegedly illegally won contracts worth over 400 million euros. The scandal has led to calls for Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni to resign.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan ‘Failed to Charge 204mn in Rent’ Says M5S

‘Central Milan restaurant owes city 700,000 euros’

(ANSA) — Rome, February 16 — Milan city authorities have failed to charge a total of 204 million euros in rent from tenants in publicly owned buildings, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) said Tuesday. Among these tenants is an individual who was assigned council housing in spite of having yearly income of 76,000 euros a year and possessing two million euros in shares and bank accounts, M5S lawmakers said in a Rome press conference.

Another case is that of a centrally located Milan restaurant, which owes the city 500,000 euros. The restaurateur then moved the business to another city-owned location, where he failed to pay 200,000 euros in rent.

“How is it possible that such a macroscopic number went unobserved by our administrators and those who were supposed to be checking,” the lawmakers said.

The discrepancies came to light after a protest by city employees, which led to a probe and a report by Milan City Councillor Mattia Calise (M5S).

The allegations follow on last week’s scandal in Rome, where it emerged that wealthy people were living in publicly owned flats in luxurious central neighborhoods, and paying as little as 25 euros a month in rent.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Life Costs 64% More for Italian Singles, Coldiretti Says

For St. Faustino Day, patron saint of singles

(ANSA) — Rome, February 15 — The day after Valentine’s Day in Italy is dedicated to St. Faustino, patron saint of single people, and for the occasion on Monday farmers’ association Coldiretti said life for Italy’s 7.7 million singles costs on average 64% more than for those who are coupled up.

Coldiretti used data from Italian statistics bureau Istat to compare average spending for the typical Italian family to that of singles, who account for 1.9 million people under age 45 in Italy.

That number jumps to 7.7 million when adding in the additional 2.1 million singles between ages 45-65 and the 3.7 million over age 65.

Coldiretti said average spending on food and beverages for a single person is 274 euros per month, 45% higher than the 190 euro equivalent for an average household of 2.3 people, and singles spend 98% more than families on housing costs.

Living in poverty as a single person can be one consequence of an increasingly aging population.

In Italy, Coldiretti said 7.4% of single people over age 65 live in poverty, jumping to 19.8% in the country’s south.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Schroeder: NATO Expansion Toward Russia Destroys Basis of German Ostpolitik

In an interview with Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that the West should lift anti-Russian sanctions as they harm both Moscow and Europe.

The ex-chancellor supported Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer on the issue of the withdrawal of anti-Russian sanctions.

Earlier, Seehofer was accused by his colleagues of playing into Putin’s hands after he stressed the negative impact of anti-Russian sanctions on the German economy.

Schroeder said that during his recent visit to Moscow, the Bavarian Prime Minister acted “solely in the interests of Germany” and did not attempt to pursue a course different from that of Berlin.

“Sanctions are hurting both sides,” Schroeder told the newspaper. “They don’t help to resolve the conflict, but only create obstacles. It is therefore necessary to gradually abandon them,” the politician said.

The former chancellor also did not leave without drawing attention to the tensions between NATO and the Russian Federation. He mentioned that stationing NATO forces along the Russian border has had a negative impact on Berlin’s foreign policy.

“We also need a new NATO policy towards Russia. I consider it too risky that the alliance is now building up its military presence on the Russian-European border, thereby destroying the basis of our Ostpolitik,” the politician stated.

Gerhard Schroeder has repeatedly opposed the decision of the West to extend sanctions against Russia. The politician said that the restrictive measures are counterproductive, while a constructive dialogue with Moscow is essential for ensuring European security.

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

Black Market in Dollars and Diesel Thrives at Libya’s Cost

Like much else in Libya, the financial system has broken down. Corruption is endemic throughout the economy, while smuggling hard currency and diesel have become lucrative businesses.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Egypt’s “Security Threat”: Churches

by Raymond Ibrahim

Whenever Christians attempt to repair, renovate, or build a church — all of which contradict Islamic law — the same chain of events follows. Local Muslims riot and rampage, and local (Muslim) officials conclude that the only way to prevent “angry youths” from acts of violence is to ban the church, which is then declared a “threat” to security.

Repeatedly, Christian leaders accuse local officials of inciting Muslim violence against churches. Muslim leaders then point to this violence to deny the church a permit on the grounds that it has attracted violence.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Iran Defense Chief Meets Putin to Discuss Controversial Sale of Fighter Jets, Tanks

Iran’s defense minister met Tuesday in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin about delivery of the advanced S-300 air defense system — and the purchase of powerful offensive weapons, including Russia’s most sophisticated tank and jet fighters.

Russian media and two intelligence officials speaking to Fox News confirm the meeting between Putin and Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, believed to be the architect of the 1983 terror bombing that killed 220 U.S. Marines and 21 other service members in Beirut, Lebanon.

A United Nations resolution passed on July 20, days after the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, forbids Iran from making conventional arms sales for the next five years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Oil Falls Despite Saudi-Russian Output Deal

Oil prices fell on Tuesday despite Saudi Arabia and Russia agreeing to freeze oil output at January levels if other producers follow suit.

The announcement came after ministers from the two nations met in Doha along with their counterparts from Venezuela and Qatar.

Brent crude, which had risen more than 5% earlier, fell 2% to $32.77 a barrel, while US crude was down 2.3% at $29.03.

Oil prices have sunk from their recent peak of about $116 in June 2014.

Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali al-Naimi said: “Freezing now at the January level is adequate for the market. We don’t want significant gyrations in prices, we want to meet demand. We want a stable oil price.”

Venezuela’s oil minister, Eulogio Del Pino, has been visiting major oil producers in recent weeks to rally support for the idea of freezing production at current levels in an effort to stabilise prices.

Shortly after Tuesday’s announcement, Mr Del Pino said he would travel to Tehran to meet ministers from Iraq and Iran on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Rivals in Syria, Moscow and Riyadh Together to Stop Oil Price Collapse

Saudi Arabia and Russia have decided to freeze crude oil production at January levels, something “adequate” to meet demand. Since June 2014, oil prices have plunged by 70 per cent. Tomorrow the meeting will include the representatives of Iran and Iraq.

Doha (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Saudi Arabia and Russia are on opposite sides in the Syrian conflict; however, the world’s two largest crude producers have agreed to freeze output at January levels after talks in Qatar.

Freezing output at January levels will still be “adequate” meet market demands, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said in Doha after talks with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

Qatar, which currently chairs OPEC, and Venezuela, fifth largest oil exporter, will also participate in the freeze.

The four oil producers “agreed to freeze the production at (the) January level provided that other major producers follow suit,” Qatar’s Energy Minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada told reporters. “This step is meant to stabilise the market.”

Oil seems to have brought together two nations otherwise on opposite sides in the Syrian conflict with Moscow among the earliest supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Saudis close to the Syrian opposition.

The agreement reached today in Doha on production limits should stop the collapse in oil prices, down by 70 per cent since June 2014. Production levels will remain at the January 2016 levels for the near future.

Until now, Saudi Arabia had ruled out production limits unless any agreement was binding on non-OPEC members, like Russia. Venezuela and Qatar signed up for the deal.

Although many investors expected a production cut, oil pared gains after the announcement, for now.

Crude-oil prices have plunged since June 2014 largely because of surging supplies from the United States and Iran. The end of sanctions following the nuclear deal is also going to allow Tehran to boost exports.

Lower demand from countries like China, where growth has slowed, is another factor.

For some analysts and experts, this is the first step towards cutting production.

Now markets are waiting to see what comes of a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow, which will see the participation of two other major oil exporters, Iran and Iraq.

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

Minsk Welcomes EU Decision to Partially Lift Sanctions From Belarus

Minsk welcomes the decision by the European Union to cancel a vast portion of anti-Belarus sanctions, and is ready to continue bilateral dialogue, a ministry’s spokesman said in a statement Monday.

MINSK (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, the EU Foreign Affairs Council decided to partially lift sanctions from some Belorus individuals, in particular, not to extend the restrictive measures for 170 individuals and three companies whose listings are currently suspended. The ministers also encouraged increased cooperation between Belarus and the Council of Europe with a view to becoming a full member.

“We welcome today’s decision of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on lifting the majority of restrictive measures against Belarus and intensification of cooperation with our country. This decision marks an important phase on the way towards full normalization of relations and opens new possibilities for broadening comprehensive interaction between Belarus and the EU,” Dmitry Mironchik said in a statement.

According to him, the decision goes in line with the interests of Belarus, the European Union and the whole European region in general.

“Belarus is open to continuation of a constructive dialogue with the European Union and its Member States on all issues of mutual interest,” Mironchik added.

The sanctions against Belarus were gradually imposed from 2002 to 2010. The most serious package of restrictions was adopted in 2010 after the presidential elections in Belarus and the authorities’ crackdown on a mass protest that followed. They included visa bans and financial restrictions on some 200 Belorussian individuals, including President Alexandr Lukashenko, and several entities.

The West has accused the Belorussian authorities of persecuting the political opposition and violating citizens’ basic rights and freedoms, in particular, freedom of expression. Lukashenko has insisted that the accusations were groundless.

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

Bangladesh: Authorities Close Down Book Stand for Insulting Islam

The stand belongs to Ba-DWIP publisher Prakashan, who was participating in the annual book fair in Dhaka. The publishing house had “Bitarka Islam” (Debate on Islam) on display. The radicals claimed that the text contains disparaging statements against Islam and Muhammad. Writer: “In Bangladesh if someone kills a man he is not punished, but if he says or writes something against Islam yes.”

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — The Bangladeshi authorities have closed down a book stand of the Ba-DWIP Prakashan publishing house, because it displayed a text containing insults to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. The incident happened yesterday at Suhrawardy Udyan fair in Dhaka.

The fair is organized annually by the Bangla Academy, the national authority of Bangladeshi language, in memory of some college students killed by the Pakistani army on February 21, 1952. For days, the Islamic radicals had raised a storm of protest against the book on social networks, bringing the matter to the attention of the authorities who acted promptly.

In February, Bangladesh celebrates the “literacy month” to commemorate the Day of the martyrs, and since 1953 the premises of the Bangla Academy hosts the book fair. This event attracts millions of readers and many publishing houses, which sell thousands of texts.

One of these, entitled “Bitarka Islam” (Debate on Islam), is accused of containing derogatory remarks about Islam and its prophet. The book is edited by Shamsuzzoha Manik, publisher of the Ba-DWIP Prakashan company. According to the radicals, it contains targeted attacks on the Islamic religion, dubious comments on the life of Muhammad and insults to his person.

The CEO Shamsuzzaman Khan said: “We have received some information that revealed offensive comments in the text. For this, and according to the rules of our organization, we closed the stand of the publishing house. If we had continued to sell the book, we would have unleashed conflict in the country. “

Some bloggers and writers have denounced the Bangla Academy decision. One of them, who requested anonymity, told AsiaNews: “I object strongly to the decision of the Academy. In our country, if someone kills a human being he is not punished. But if he says or writes anything against the Islamic faith or forwards a critique of religion, then he meets with punishment”.

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

North Korea’s ‘Biggest’ Export — Giant Statues

North Korea doesn’t have much the world wants to buy, but one very successful export has been its art. The BBC’s Lawrence Pollard looks at an unlikely story of North Korean cultural influence, and its success in Africa in particular.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Another Greek Link to Paris Terrorist Attacks

Two men being held in Austria on suspicion of links to the Paris terrorist attacks in November passed through the Greek island of Leros before reaching Central Europe, Kathimerini has learned.

The two suspects are French, of Algerian and Pakistani origin, and reached Leros on October 3 along with two other men who were among the suicide bombers at the Stade de France on November 13, sources told Kathimerini.

The men claimed to be Syrian refugees when they were questioned by officers from the European Union border agency Frontex. They are believed to have had genuine Syrian passports but ones that were stolen by ISIS.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Anti-Migrant Force Builds in Europe, Hurting Merkel’s Quest

PRAGUE (AP) — So where should the next impenetrable razor-wire border fence in Europe be built?

Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban thinks he knows the best place — on Macedonia’s and Bulgaria’s borders with Greece — smack along the main immigration route from the Middle East to Western Europe. He says it’s necessary because “Greece can’t defend Europe from the south” against the large numbers of refugees pouring in, mainly from Syria and Iraq.

The plan is especially controversial because it effectively means eliminating Greece from the Schengen zone, Europe’s 26-nation passport-free travel region that is considered one of the European Union’s most cherished achievements.

Orban’s plan featured prominently Monday at a meeting in Prague of leaders from four nations in an informal gathering known as the Visegrad group: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Visegrad group, formed 25 years ago to further the nations’ European integration, is marking that anniversary Monday. Still, it has only recently found a common purpose in its unified opposition to accepting any significant number of migrants.

This determination has emboldened the group, one of the new mini-blocs emerging lately in Europe due to the continent’s chaotic, inadequate response to its largest migration crisis since World War II. The Visegrad group is also becoming a force that threatens the plans of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wants to resettle newcomers across the continent while also slowing down the influx…

           — Hat tip: Green Infidel [Return to headlines]

Austria Sets up Controls on Italy Border

At Tarvisio, Brenner and Resia

(ANSA) — Bolzano, February 16 — Austria on Tuesday said it was setting up controls to stem the migrant flow at 12 border crossings with Italy including Tarvisio, Brenner and Resia, the APA news agency reported. The move was announced by Interior Minister Johanna Mikl Leitner and Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil. Austria had repeatedly threatened to restore border controls on its southern border with Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

In Greece, Protests Against EU Refugee Hot Spot on Kos

Greece’s prime minister has promised that refugee reception centers on some islands would be ready in time for this week’s EU summit. But some residents on Kos are protesting. Barbara Wesel reports.

“I don’t want a hot spot on my island,” a man from Pyli yelled into the crowd. “I really don’t want it, damn it!” the man added. “All the Pakistanis and Africans — they can send them to the Turks! They’re all just illegals who’ve been smuggled in.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Merkel to Insist on Implementation of EU-Turkey Refugee Plan

Angela Merkel will push for the implementation of the European-Turkish plan to tackle the ongoing massive refugee crisis.

BERLIN (Sputnik) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that she would push for the implementation of the European-Turkish plan to tackle the ongoing massive refugee crisis at the upcoming EU summit.

“On Thursday and Friday I will make every effort to ensure that the European-Turkish agenda, European-Turkish approach becomes the way we must go forward,” Merkel said at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin.

In late November, the European Union and Turkey approved a joint plan to counter excessive migration into the bloc, under which EU member states agreed to give some 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) to Ankara to help it assist migrants on its territory and fast track negotiations for its EU accession.

According to Merkel, Europe should pursue the proposed plan, instead of “giving up right now and closing Greece’s border with Macedonia and Bulgaria with all the consequences for Greece, the European Union and the Schengen Area.”

Berlin is also expected to negotiate in favor of intensified Schengen border controls, the faster construction of centers to receive refugees in Greece and Italy, as well as the allocation of refugees among different states at the upcoming summit of EU leaders.

Germany has become a key destination for hundreds of thousands of refugees and immigrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa since the start of 2015. Last year it registered 1.1 million refugees, nearly five times more than the number registered in 2014, according to the German Interior Ministry’s estimates.

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

Munich Mutiny: Merkel’s Isolation Deepens as Allies Reject Refugee Deal

Following months of criticism from within the EU, Germany and even her own party, the future of German Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to be under greater pressure, after critics and allies alike slammed Berlin’s refugee policy at the weekend’s Munich Security Conference.

Merkel’s plea for European “solidarity” on the issue of refugees now appears to have been rejected by the majority of her peers, with the chancellor’s plans to come to a consensus with other member states on how to deal with the migration crisis seemingly destined to fail.

While Merkel wasn’t at the Munich conference in person, perhaps the most telling message came from Paris — traditionally Berlin’s closest EU ally — with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls openly declaring that France rejects Germany’s refugee policy, which includes obliging EU member states to take part in a distribution of refugees throughout the bloc.

With his party under heavy criticism at home as well, Valls told the Munich conference that the mood in France was “not favorable” to Merkel’s call for a permanent quota system to help redistribute refugees entering Europe.

“Europe cannot take in all the migrants from Syria, Iraq or Africa […] It has to regain control over its borders, over its migration or asylum policies,” he told German media.

Refugee Policy in Tatters

This rejection of Berlin’s plan has led many commentators to suggest that the German-led proposal, which includes initiating a quota resettlement system in return for Turkish help to stem the flow of refugees into Europe, is destined to fail.

It is also expected to strengthen the resolve of central and eastern European EU members, headed by Hungary, who have staunchly rejected pressure to accept such plans.

The criticism didn’t just come from key allies either, with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who has been at loggerheads with Merkel over issues such as the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts in recent years, launching a scathing critique of Germany’s approach to the migration crisis.

“It’s quite simply stupid to open Europe’s doors wide and invite in everyone who wants to come to your country,” Medvedev told German newspaper Handelsblatt.

“European migration policy is a total failure, all that is absolutely frightening.”

Rebellion From Outside and In

The crisis has also stirred internal bickering, with hugely unpopular opinion polls in Germany leading to criticism and defiance from some Merkel’s own ministers and coalition party allies.

Chief among the critics is Horst Seehofer from Merkel’s hugely influential Bavarian sister party, who has been an outspoken skeptic of the refugee approach, and who recently defied the chancellor by traveling to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid calls for Berlin to improve relations with Moscow.

Despite attempts from German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to call for European solidarity on the issue of refugees, and praise from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who lauded the chancellor’s “great courage” and leadership on the matter, it seems the controversial nature of Merkel’s approach to the refugee crisis has eroded the popular support she once enjoyed.

With criticism and defiance coming from Europe, Germany and even her own party, many are questioning what the future will hold for the woman long dubbed the “Queen of Europe.”

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

Not in My Neighborhood: Has Nordic Tolerance Reached Its Peak?

Scandinavian countries are increasingly under fire for what critics deem as acts of intolerance towards newly-arrived refugees.

Nordic countries — traditionally regarded as stalwarts of open-mindedness and integration — are showing signs of strain due to the overwhelming influx of migrants over the last few years.

This became more than apparent in Norway which planned to post security officers near a school in Oslo to stave off assaults by refugees. Critics labeled the decision as “intolerant” whilst authorities defended their choice to add “extra supervision.” The plans, however, have since been withdrawn.

Similar criticism has been leveled at the dwellers of the Swedish town of Kalix, who recently signed a petition against a project that would transform a historic building into an institution for unaccompanied refugee minors.

At a more general level, Scandinavia’s political world has been witnessing a populist surge since about 250,000 refugees arrived last year. Far right parties in Sweden and Denmark are currently competing for the top position in polls and in parliaments.

But even mainstream parties and ordinary citizens are taking a less open stance on immigration issues. This trend is clearly shown by recent welfare cuts for newly-arrived refugees, as well as additional ID checks.

A February poll revealed that 40 percent of Swedish people were deeply worried about immigration.

For Ylva Johansson, Swedish minister for employment and integration issues, this is not due to intolerance but to the fact that many refugees fail to find a job, and end up loitering in and around asylum centers.

“Most Swedes are not racist,” Johansson said. “But when there is this special asylum housing, when they cannot work, and cannot be part of society, this is really a tension.

“This is a dangerous situation… We have a lot of people in no man’s land.. living outside society.”

Johansson’s claims where in some way echoed by Pia Almvang, the leader of the Parents’ Association at the Oslo school where security had been scaled up. The school itself is close to a recently-inaugurated 600-people refugee center.

“It’s a big change happening close to us. In all neighborhoods there are concerns,” Almvang said.

“The parents just want to look after their kids,” she added.

Nordic Tolerance

All this seems dramatically at odds with the Nordic countries’ history of tolerance — from welcoming Vietnam draft dodgers in the 1960s and 1970s to the aid and support given to refugees from the 1990s Balkans war.

A possible explanation is that Nordic states fear that the humongous influx could have dire economic repercussions, especially from a fiscal point of view.

According to an IMF study, Sweden is going to spend the 1 percent of its GDP on asylum seekers in 2016, the highest figure among the countries surveyed.

Scandinavian countries’ public services — from schools to hospitals — are also expected to be under extreme pressure as a result of the migrant influx.

As a result, while Scandinavians’ tolerance might not be in question, they could be adopting an increasing “not-in-my-backyard” attitude.

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

Sweden Eyes Gender Equality Lessons for Young Refugees

The Swedish government is considering launching a nationwide course on gender equality, directed at the Nordic country’s record-large group of refugees and minors arriving in the country alone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Jakarta: Protests Against UN Funds for LGBT Community: They Destroy Our Civilization

The Thai headquarters of the United Nations Development Programme has pledged $ 8 million to an Indonesian NGO that deals with the rights of homosexuals. The vice president and the Islamic authorities demand the immediate suspension of funds: “The LGBT are tolerated as individuals, but not when they make propaganda.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A new wave of protests by civil society and by the government has been sparked by the news that the Thai headquarters of the UNDP (UN Development Programme) has decided to donate $ 8 million to an Indonesian NGO for promoting the rights of LGBT persons.

The question of acceptance or not gay people in Indonesian society has been inflamed for a few weeks, and this time the vice president Jusuf Kalla and the highest Islamic authorities have intervened to demand the interruption of funding.

The Bangkok office initiative is part of the project “Being LGBT in Asia”, promoted by UNDP since 2014 to reduce inequality, promote the recognition of the rights of homosexual persons in the continent and defend the LGBT community.

Jusuf Kalla has confirmed that donations to the NGO does not come from the Jakarta office of UNDP but from the one in Bangkok: “We asked it to stop the payment,” he said following a face-off between the Indonesian office of ‘UNDP and the government. The vice president reiterated the position shared by the Government and the majority of civil society, namely, that “homosexuality can be tolerated at an individual level and pertaining to certain persons in society. But it becomes a problem if there are public campaigns that seek to influence other people to adopt this lifestyle. Same-sex marriage — he added — is certainly forbidden and illegal in Indonesia “.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the de facto “moral police,” strongly criticized the millions donated to the cause of LGBT, requesting its immediate suspension. According to Tengku Zulkarnain, General Secretary of the MUI, the only consequence of this project will be to destroy the Indonesian civilization and endanger its values.

Saleh Partaonan Daulay, member of parliament’s Commission VII, has spoken on the same line, saying that the presence of LGBT in the country is not welcome and that the funds should be suspended. Indonesia, he said, is not like Thailand or the Philippines, where the presence of homosexuals is tolerated: “Our religion and culture are completely different.”

The controversy about homosexuality was reignited by the case of SGRC (Support and Research Group on sexual studies) to which the Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Education, Muhammad Nasir, in recent days denied permission to operate within the University of Indonesia.

Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, Minister of Security, assured that the government “will protect LGBT individuals whatever they are or do, because they are citizens of Indonesia and have rights that must be defended.” “I do not agree — he explained — that the LGBT groups should be expelled or destroyed. I wish that we, as a nation, have a dignity. It is not a choice of these people, we do not know what type of families they have behind them” (M.H.)

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

Support Grows for a Return to Ice Giants Uranus and Neptune

Thirty years ago, the Voyager 2 spacecraft tore past Uranus, then flew by Neptune less than four years later. These quick sojourns introduced scientists to two planets that had been vague blue splotches in their telescopes. In the years since, bigger and better instruments have teased out a bit more information and revealed a few surprises.

But there’s only so much planetary scientists can learn from a couple billion kilometers away. That’s why researchers in both the United States and Europe think it’s time to go back to Uranus or Neptune — the solar system’s “ice giants.” Unlike the show-stopping flyby of Pluto in 2015, a new mission to one of the blue worlds would have more time to take in the view.

Since then, researchers have cataloged about 2,000 planets around other stars, and the Kepler space telescope has shown that the most common type is the size of Uranus and Neptune. Ice giants, or something like them, might be the most popular type of planet in the galaxy.

“We barely understand the two in our own backyard, and we’re finding so many around other stars,” says Candice Hansen, a planetary scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz. “How do we interpret these planets around other stars if we barely know our own?”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

One thought on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/16/2016

  1. Is all this speeding up to mass suicide with Muslim cannibals pulling the trigger? It’s mass something or other for sure. The current Muslim settlements being re-enforced all across Western Europe makes it a no brainer that these countries are creating what will eventually become the most insecure Islamic Sharia Hell on earth – for the indigenous.

Comments are closed.