Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20121217

Financial Crisis
»Cyprus Gov’t Seeks Money to Meet December Payroll
»Italy: Unity is Strength in Emilia-Romagna
»Obama Sends Boehner New Offer on Fiscal Crisis; May be Close to Final Deal
»Spread Between German, Italian Bonds Dips Below 320 Points
»3-D Printing Reinvents the Advent Calendar
»How ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ Adam Lanza Went From ‘Genius’ Tech Geek Who Grew Up in a $1.6million Home to Heartless Killer
»Von Meyer: Police Arrest Man With 47 Guns After Threatening to ‘Kill as Many People as Possible’ At Another Elementary School at the Same Time as Connecticut Massacre
Europe and the EU
»Bruce Bawer: the Islamization of Copenhagen
»Denmark: Health Minister: Months-Long Waiting Times for Heart Exams “Not Acceptable”
»Fewer Germans Find Children Worthwhile
»Italy: Berlusconi Says Fiancee’ is Beautiful Inside and Outside
»Merkel ‘Respects Autonomy’ Of EU Countries to Choose Leaders
»U.S. Top for Foreign Investment in Italy
North Africa
»Coptic Christians Asking Free World to Cut Ties With Egypt Under Morsi
»Egypt: Twitter and Bodyguards to Counter Sexual Harassment
»New Constitution Splits Egypt, and Salafists
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary — Bring it on!
»Chechen Leader Kadyrov to Have Mosque Named After Him
South Asia
»India: Madhya Pradesh: Anti-Christian Violence: Police “Accomplice” of Hindu Nationalist
Australia — Pacific
»Islamic Superannuation Fund Launched
»Europe’s Most Exotic City? It’s Manchester! 153 Languages Spoken by a Population of 500,000
»‘Immigrants Cause Problems’ Say Germans
»Officers Injured in Clashes With Asylum Seekers Near Catania
»NASA Mission to End With Twin Moon Smashes

Financial Crisis

Cyprus Gov’t Seeks Money to Meet December Payroll

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 17 — With state funds drying up, the Cyprus’ government spokesman Stephanos Stephanou called on semi-governmental organizations to lend the Government money from their employee’s pension fund to pay public sector’s salaries in December, as Famagusta Gazette reports today. The search for much-needed cash comes after it was announced that a bailout package for Cyprus will not be finalized before mid-January next year. The state has to come up with approximately 400 million euros this month to meet its payroll obligations and expects most of this sum from profitable semi-government organisations (SGOs) in the form of loans. “In these difficult times the state seeks a three-month loan that will refund with interest,” Stephanou told reporters. Asked whether public servant’s salaries for December might not be paid if the trade unions of the SGOs won’t consent in lending the money, Stephanou said the SGO needed to show a sense of responsibility towards the state. “And the state needs that money now to be able to meet its financial needs, especially in December, where its obligations are very increased because of the salaries, and other end of the year obligations” he said.

The Ports Authority has already pledged 38 million euros to the state, with the offer of a further 12 million if needed. CyTA are still considering a loan request of 120 million euros from their pension fund, which will be discussed tomorrow.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Unity is Strength in Emilia-Romagna

Le Temps Geneva

Business is brisk in the area around Bologna, which has remained unaffected by the crisis. Order books are full and exports are on the rise for a dense network of engineering firms specialised in packaging systems, which local entrepreneurs argue owes much of its success to a sense of solidarity.

Valère Gogniat

At one end of the line: a hundred unmarked capsules. At the other: a neatly packed pallet of perfectly aligned and labelled boxes. In between, a dozen steel robots with articulated arms delicately place individual pills into the appropriate packaging. The workers look pleased: the tests have been successful. And the machines, which they have sweated over for several months, will soon be on their way to a customer in India.

In the Marchesini Group’s almost new factory in a southern suburb of Bologna, 700 staff invent machines to package medicines for companies such as Novartis, GSK and Sandoz. Some 300 kms north of Rome, in the Emilia-Romagna regime, industry is booming. This is where they build robots weighing more than a ton, which will later be shipped to Brazil, China, South Africa… As Marchesini’s communications manager, Guido Rossi, is quick to admit, “We are very exposed to emerging countries.”

At the heart of a Europe bogged down in austerity, which has undermined its capacity to produce, Emilia-Romagna’s industrial success is not simply a matter of targeted exports. “The strength of local industry has a lot to do with the extensive web of small companies in the region,” points out Massimo Marchesini, who founded the group that bears his name in 1974. He goes on to explain that the close ties between small and medium-sized enterprises have helped to soften the impact of the global economic crisis.

Welcome to ‘Packaging Valley’

Ever since Mario Monti and his team of technocrats took over in the country a little more than a year ago, “Italy’s long-term prospects have improved”, noted the OECD in its economic outlook published last week. Unemployment is shrinking, the rate of interest on 10-year government bonds has not been lower since 2010, and, according to analysts from the Intesa Sanpaolo bank, industrial production returned to “overall stability […] in the third quarter, interrupting a persistent trend towards decline earlier this year.”

The manufacturing of packaging machines in Emilia-Romagna has proved to be an exception in a Europe that has increasingly been marked by news of industrial closures (Peugeot, Petroplus, Alcoa, ArcelorMittal). The concentration of firms active in the sector is such that the area inside a 100-km perimetre around Bologna has come to be known as “Packaging Valley”. According to a study conducted by local banks Carisbo and Banca Monte Parma, in the first half of 2012, the sector grew by 9 per cent when compared to 2008. Between 2000 and 2011, exports to BRICS countries rose by 260.4 per cent…

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

Obama Sends Boehner New Offer on Fiscal Crisis; May be Close to Final Deal

President Obama delivered Speaker John A. Boehner a new offer to resolve the pending fiscal crisis — and what may be close to a final deal, which would raise revenues by $1.2 trillion over the next decade but keep in place the Bush-era tax rates for any household with earnings below $400,000.

The offer is close to the plan that Mr. Boehner proposed on Friday, according to officials familiar with it. Other officials say the speaker will present the plan to House Republicans Tuesday morning, and both sides are cautiously optimistic that a major deficit reduction plan could be passed well before January, when more than a half-trillion dollars in automatic tax increases and spending cuts would kick in.

Mr. Boehner of Ohio had offered the president a deficit framework that would raise $1 trillion over 10 years, with the details to be settled next year by Congress’s tax-writing committees and the Obama administration. In response, Mr. Obama reduced his proposal to $1.2 trillion from $1.4 trillion on Monday at a 45-minute meeting with the speaker at the White House. That was down from $1.6 trillion initially.

[Return to headlines]

Spread Between German, Italian Bonds Dips Below 320 Points

Bond spread falls well below earlier peaks driven by uncertainty

(ANSA) — Rome, December 17 — The spread between Italy’s benchmark 10-year bond and its German equivalent slipped below 320 basis points with a yield of 4.55% on Monday.

In early afternoon trading, the spread fell to 317 points — well below the recent high of 360 basis points reached earlier this month after Premier Mario Monti announced plans to resign when his 2013 budget law is approved. The spread between what Italy’s government must pay to lure investors and what the highly respected German administration offers on its bonds is a strong measure of investor confidence in the outlook for Italy’s economy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


3-D Printing Reinvents the Advent Calendar

Advent calendars first appeared in the middle of the 19th century as a way to mark the holiday season. Early revelers would count down the days by drawing chalk lines on their doors; by the early 1900’s, printed calendars with hidden bible quotes were all the rage; and today Advent calendars are part of the commercial juggernaut of Christmas, used to sell Legos or candy in a themed, holiday package.

Minnesotan maker Peter Leppik is doing his part to carry this tradition into the modern day. Instead of opening up little doors to receive a present, his Advent calendar requires makers to fire up a 3-D printer and build the calendar piece by piece.

He says “I’m always looking for interesting projects to work on. My inspiration for the Advent calendar was simply that we were getting out all the Christmas decorations, and we have an Advent calendar which was given to us when our kids were born. So naturally my thinking went from there to, ‘I wonder if I can 3D print an Advent calendar?’“

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ Adam Lanza Went From ‘Genius’ Tech Geek Who Grew Up in a $1.6million Home to Heartless Killer

Crazed killer Adam Lanza was a ‘ticking time bomb’ who suffered from Asperger’s syndrome and was painfully shy and awkward, former classmates said yesterday.

Last night, a troubling portrait began to emerge of the ‘Goth’ loner, who dressed all in black and was obsessed with video games.

Others say Lanza used to be a mild-mannered student in high school, making the honor roll, and living with his mother, Nancy Lanza, who in turn loved playing dice games and decorating their upscale home for the holidays.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Von Meyer: Police Arrest Man With 47 Guns After Threatening to ‘Kill as Many People as Possible’ At Another Elementary School at the Same Time as Connecticut Massacre

An Indiana man with 47 guns and stocks of ammunition was arrested after threatening to go into a local elementary school and ‘kill as many people as he could before police could stop him’.

Von Meyer, 60, was arrested on Friday after his wife called Cedar Lake police after he threatened to set her on fire and continue his violent spree by attacking a nearby elementary school.

The loaded threat came the same day that a young man killed 20 children and seven others in Newtown, Connecticut.

Meyer was known to be a member of the Invaders Motorcycle Gang, though his role in the group was unclear.

Like the notorious Hells Angels, the Invaders Motorcycle Gang is also considered an outlaw group. The Northern Indiana chapter was founded in 1965.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bruce Bawer: the Islamization of Copenhagen

Bit by bit, it’s getting worse.

In recent years, life in the city of Copenhagen has hardly been free of, shall we say, problems related to Islam. But for the most part, the worst of it has been confined to Muslim neighborhoods such as Nørrebro. And residents of Copenhagen have at least been able to console themselves that conditions in their city were nowhere near as bad as those right across the Öresund Bridge in the now notorious Swedish burg of Malmö.

Well, as an editorial in Jyllands-Posten acknowledged last week, “conditions such as those in Malmö…are beginning to appear in Copenhagen.”

In a news story that appeared on the same day as the editorial, Jyllands-Posten reported the latest example of these “conditions”: both the Israeli ambassador to Denmark, Arthur Avnon, and the head of Copenhagen’s Jewish community are now advising Jews in that city to stop wearing yarmulkes and Stars of David and speaking Hebrew loudly in public — even in neighborhoods that they think of as “safe.” Asked about this advice, Police Commissioner Lars-Christian Borg told Jyllands-Posten that Jews — and gays, too — should stay away from parts of the city where there is a recognized “risk of clashes and harassment.” (Nice euphemism for “Muslim neighborhoods,” that.)

The Jyllands-Posten editorial bleakly toted up other examples of what they described as the city’s increasing readiness to adapt to the ever-worsening situation in the Danish capital: Copenhagen’s Jewish school “looks like a small fortress,” supplied with an elaborate security system and police protection, a constant reminder to the children that there are people who wish to do them harm; the head of the Danish-Palestinian Friendship Society, who is also a leading figure in Denmark’s ruling Socialist People’s Party, recently opined that Hitler should have killed even more Jews than he did, and went unpunished and all but entirely uncriticized for it; Copenhagen’s mayor called on Jews not to display too many Israeli flags at a recent multicultural festival, an admonition that was generally regarded as sensible: “why pick unnecessary fights?” Why “provoke”? Once again proving itself to be morally head and shoulders above virtually every other major newspaper in Europe, Jyllands-Posten called on Danes to recognize just how dangerous it is to respond in a passive and accommodating way to Muslim hatred, and urged them to stand up to it before it’s too late.

One person in Denmark who has stood up, in at least a small way, is a gay guy in his thirties named Jim Lyngvild. He works as a clothes designer and fashion commentator and in recent years has been a frequent guest on Danish TV talk shows and a participant in a number of Danish reality shows, including that country’s version of Survivor. These activities have made him a familiar face in his native land. But one of the undesirable side effects of his recognizability, as the newspaper Fyens Stiftstidende reported last week, is that every time he walks along a pedestrian street in Copenhagen — or for that matter in Odense, a small city on the Danish island of Funen, near the rural village in which he lives — he finds himself being called “faggot” or “gay pig.” And as Fyens Stiftstidendeput it, “it’s always the same people who scream at him.”

Simply put, Lyngvild never gets heckled by ethnic Danes. Or by immigrant-group members who are walking along by themselves. But he says that when a bunch of “second-generation immigrants” pass by him on the street — and this happens, he says, pretty much on a daily basis — “I can be sure that they’ll yell at me.” (Nowhere in Lyngvild’s article, incidentally, does the word Muslim or Islam appear; instead he follows what is now pretty much standard practice in the European media, which prefer terms like “second-generation immigrant” and “people with another ethnic background.”)

Until the other day, Lyngvild didn’t react to the daily harassment. In a way, he’d gotten used to it. He was brought up, he says, “to turn the other cheek.” Which is not to say he ever stopped despising and resenting this treatment by strangers. The idea of yelling such ugly things at somebody on the street is just beyond his comprehension.

But last Thursday he realized he’d had enough. “I came home from London and was walking through the train station in Odense. A group of second-generation immigrants yelled ‘faggots’ at me.” When he got to his house, he was still angry — so angry that he went on Facebook and, in an indiscreet moment, typed out a Danish word that translates roughly as “Paki pigs.” Shortly afterwards he thought better of it and removed the posting. By then, however, it had already attracted considerable attention — from, among others, the Danish police, who promptly threatened to charge him with racism…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Health Minister: Months-Long Waiting Times for Heart Exams “Not Acceptable”

Heart Association worries that lives are at risk as waiting times for preliminary heart exams approach six months in some areas

People who may have serious heart conditions are waiting up to six months to be examined, according to Hjerteforeningen, the Danish heart association.

Although the recommended waiting time for an examination in case of a suspected heart ailment is no longer than four weeks, people have reported waiting times of two, three and even six months.

Annette Nejrup Hansen, a 53-year-old from Copenhagen, said the three months she waited to be examined only worsened her concern about her condition.

“I only have one heart, so it was impossible for me not to be stressed,” she told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Hansen was finally diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and is waiting once again — this time for treatment.

Nejrup’s case is one of many pointing to a trend of increased waiting times over the past year to have potential heart conditions identified.

“It goes without saying that having to wait for an examination for a potentially serious, life-threatening heart disease is a source of anxiety and insecurity,” Dr Henrik Steen Hansen, president of Hjerteforeningen, told Jyllands-Posten. “Waiting could actually be fatal in the case of a life-threatening disease.”

Waiting times have increased in the North Jutland, Mid-Jutland and Zealand healthcare regions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fewer Germans Find Children Worthwhile

Germany’s birth rate has been low for years, but a new study released on Monday revealed the country is becoming a less attractive place to have children due to difficulties balancing family with work.

Researchers from the Federal Institute for Population Research found around a quarter of German women born between 1964 and 1968 do not have children primarily because of an apparent incompatibility with having a career.

Seen by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the study found that Germany’s long-held cultural idea of a “good mother,” in which women stay at home to raise their children, was still so present in the country’s collective psyche that working women were opting not to have children.

There are just ten countries in Europe which have a lower birth rate than Germany, which currently stands at 1.39 children per woman. Iceland leads the way with 2.20 and Latvia was at the bottom with 1.17.

Worldwide, Germany is one of the countries with the highest number of childless women.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says Fiancee’ is Beautiful Inside and Outside

Announces plans to wed former shop assistant, local pol

(ANSA) — Rome, December 17 — Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi says his young fiancee’ is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the surface.

Berlusconi announced Sunday that he intends to wed for the third time, and is engaged to Naples-born Francesca Pascale, a woman almost 50 years his junior.

The former premier, who is trying to resuscitate his political career while fending off charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute, says Pascale makes him feel less lonely.

“Her name is Francesca, and she is a beautiful girl on the outside but even more beautiful inside,” the 76-year-old Berlusconi said in announcing his engagement.

He said he has known Pascale, 27, for seven years as she rose through his political organization, the People of Freedom (PdL) party. In his televised announcement, Berlusconi made no mention of the fact that he is still officially married to his second wife Veronica Lario, although the pair have been legally separated since May 2010 and are set to obtain a divorce.

She left him in 2008, complaining about the then-premier’s dalliances with much younger women.

These often allegedly occurred at his famous “bunga-bunga” parties, including those involving Karima ‘Ruby’ El Mahroug, who was fined 500 euros by a court Monday for failing to appear at Berlusconi’s trial.

El Mahroug is the underage Moroccan runaway, nightclub dancer, and alleged prostitute the ex-premier is accused of having sex with.

A decision in the case — in which Berlusconi is also charged with abuse of power for phoning police to have El Mahroug released on an unrelated theft claim — has been set for early February, shortly before a national Italian election is expected.

Berlusconi has recently said he is intending to campaign for re-election in that vote.

His new fiancee’ shares his political vision, the ex-premier said.

After working as a shop assistant Pascale served as a provincial councillor in Berlusconi’s PdL party in Naples until she stepped down in July.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Merkel ‘Respects Autonomy’ Of EU Countries to Choose Leaders

Says leaders give each other ‘friendly advice, when asked’

(ANSA) — Berlin, December 17 — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said she “respects” the autonomy of European countries in their selection of leaders.

Responding to a question whether she had discussed financial aid to Spain and whether she had discussed the possibility that Italian Premier Mario Monti would run for office in Italy, Merkel said: “I take my decisions by myself in Germany and I respect that in the countries of Europe decisions are taken autonomously. This goes for decisions regarding financial assistance as well as, obviously, decisions on whether to run for office.” “We speak often with the other European leaders and we give each other friendly advice, when we are asked,” Merkel added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

U.S. Top for Foreign Investment in Italy

Followed by France and Germany, Istat says

(ANSA) — Rome, December 17 — The United States has the highest number of companies and employees in Italy, followed by France and Germany, Istat said Monday.

The US had 2,282 firms and more than 257,000 workers in 2010, the statistics agency said, compared to 1,800 and 247,425 for French multinationals and 1,974 and 166,868 for German ones.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Coptic Christians Asking Free World to Cut Ties With Egypt Under Morsi

The founder of an international group of advocates for the equality and rights of Coptic Christians is appealing to the leaders of democratic nations to cut any ties with Egypt. The Voice of the Copts is attempting to thwart President Mohamed Morsi’s regime from implementing a primarily Islamic-based constitution.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Twitter and Bodyguards to Counter Sexual Harassment

Against pervasive phenomenon, volunteers and ngos organize

(By Shelly Kittleson) (ANSAmed) — CAIRO, 17 DIC — Makeshift wooden watchtowers and reflective vests, Twitter accounts and hotlines are being used by young Egyptians to make sure that, when the tweet comes in or the girl is surrounded, someone is there to respond to sexual assault and harassment in crowded gatherings and protests. Following the death of a 16-year-old in recent months for having spat at her assaulter in Asyut and reports of armed men paid to infiltrate protests and “shame” women by sexually assaulting them, some Egyptians decided to take action.

Egypt has long been notorious for casual sexual harassment of women, with aggressors invariably enjoying immunity. The first time a man was convicted of sexual harassment in Egypt was in 2008, in a case which provided the inspiration for Mohamed Diaz’s award-winning film “678”. In 2010, some 23 NGOs worked together to draw up a new draft law against sexual harassment — a law that, like many others, was stalled by the outbreak of the revolution.

However, since the 2011 uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak’s regime and initiated a period under the nation’s military council first and then under the country’s first Muslim Brotherhood president, reports of foreign journalists subjected to brutal sexual assault in the iconic Tahrir Square, young female protestors forced to undergo “virginity tests” and other dragged half-naked through the streets brought the rage against the phenomenon to a crescendo. That and a new civil consciousness born of the experience of self-organising during the uprising resulted in groups being formed to prevent and to react to this type of situation.

On December 20, 2011, the video footage of a girl wearing a blue bra being beaten, savagely stripped and dragged by security forces rapidly made the rounds on the internet. Another slogan was added to those chanted at protest movements from that day on: Banat Misr Khatt Ahmar, “Egypt’s Girls are a Red Line”.

And one of the first groups to specifically target sexual harassment in public squares has taken this very name, with “Banat Misr” stamped across the tent it keeps at the edge of Tahrir Square staffed by volunteers wearing white t-shirts emblazoned with the name in red on them.

One of Banat Misr’s approximately 30 volunteers, Motaz Al-Asmar, told ANSAmed that the group had studied numerous surveys and spoken to victims of attacks in order to try to understand the dynamics behind such incidents. He noted that very few girls report the incident to the police, as “it’s a scandal to go and say that you were harassed”, but that the group actively encouraged those who suffer such attacks to do so, “as otherwise nothing will change”.

Sexual harassment and assault are known to peak during holidays in Egypt (with the most well-known example being the 2006 Eid El-Fitr, when several girls were publicly stripped and brutally assaulted in downtown Cairo), and Banat Misr began monitoring harassment during the last Eid Al-Adha holiday in late October. It then set up its operations in Tahrir Square at the end of November.

Al-Asmar told ANSAmed that the group is attempting to address the issue at a societal level as well, and that to this end they are working on making a number of television spots and documentaries. Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment is another group working in the same field, focusing on education and raising awareness.

Tahrir Bodyguards is the most recent addition, launched on November 27, 2012. Though those involved tend to keep a low public profile for security reasons, their Twitter account is highly active, with stats and quotes to raise awareness about the issues involved in violence against women and the harassment of them in Egypt and an email address to which one can address any queries. The “bodyguards” dress in neon vests and make their way through Tahrir and elsewhere in groups during protests, reacting immediately to situations in which women are targeted as well as to tweets sent by those witness to sexual assault. Calls for volunteers go out via their Twitter account — and, when that gets shut down (which it has been a few times already), Facebook — every time a new protest is planned. Unlike Banat Misr, they do not try to convince the girls to report the incidents to police but instead focus simply on getting them to safety, where other groups trained to deal with this type of situation take over, according to one of their members contacted by ANSA.

There have been numerous reports that groups of men have been paid to harass and assault women in this period to provoke widespread fear and get women to do exactly what religious fundamentalists and those wanting to prevent any questioning of their power would have them do: stay home. Mubarak’s regime also allegedly paid poor, young men from Cairo’s outskirts to do exactly the same. The “bodyguards” and those drawing “a red line” are trying to prevent a style of repression from repeating itself under another name and mantra, amid a constitutional referendum which may well more firmly establish “women’s proper role in society”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New Constitution Splits Egypt, and Salafists

Still waiting for referendum results on text which will be voted on next December 23 in 17 other provinces. But fraud is considered almost mandatory by most voters, most of whom, however still cast their ballot. The opposition united against President Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, and criticize text (which discriminates against anyone who is not a Brotherhood member) even splitting radical Islam.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — Everywhere in the streets people agree that Egypt is divided as never before. Lots of people are mourning the peaceful and tolerant Egypt, fearing what could happen when the country will be the stronghold of the brotherhood and not anymore the land of peace and hospitality. A general atmosphere of pessimism is dominating the Nile Valley where most of the population miss deeply the famous slogan of Saad Zaghloul, who died one year before the creation of the muslim brotherhood by Hassan al Banna : “Religion is for God, and Homeland is for all” !

Saturday 15th December 2012. Elections started this morning for the referendum about the new Constitution in ten of the most populated governorates (provinces), Cairo, Alexandria, three in the Delta (Sharqeyya, Gharbeyya, Daqahleyya) three in Upper Egypt (Assiout, Sohag, Asswan), plus North and South Sinaï, representing 50 million inhabithants, while the other seventeenth govenorates, among which Giza, Qalyoubeyya (northern and western part of Grand Cairo), four other in the Delta (Menoufeyya, Behayra, Kafr al-Shaykh, Damietta), three on the Suez Canal (Port Saïd, Ismaïleyya, Suez), two on the sea shore (Marsa Matrouh, on the Mediterranean sea, and the Red Sea governorate) and six in Upper Egypt (Fayyum, Bani Souayf, Minya, Qena, Louxor and New Valley), representing the other 40 million of the Egyptian population, will vote next saturday.

President Mohammad Morsi came early in the morning in Heliopolis to vote as soon as the electoral bureaux opened at 8.00. People were very much astonished to meet him there as he resides in the Fifth Compound on New Cairo settlements, quite far away East of Heliopolis, where states the presidential palace.

Armed and police forces are in number around the voting places to ensure order and maintain discipline. In fact crowds of people were around all voting bureaus all the day long and no incident at all happened. The great majority seemed doubtful about the truthfulness of the results. Most of the supporters of refusal to the Constitution proposed expressed their conviction that the results shall be distorted, but still they want to fulfil their electoral duty. Some others were leaving the huge lines saying it is useless… Some others expressed their desire to vote yes in order to avoid having back the “fouloul” (people from Moubarak’s regime)…

In fact discussions were running in the lines about the presence of judges or not. A lady voter asked the man in front of the poll if he was really a judge and he was ready to show her his I.D. but she answered that she was believing him. In fact, nobody knows the amount of judges present in the voting bureaus. The High Commission for Elections stands with an amount of 6376 judges, while the Judges Federation says that it does not exceed 5500, while newspapers write down that the Muslim Brothers are ready to fill up the gaps…

One terrible incident happened by the end of Saturday when the offices of Al Wafd Party, where is located as well the daily Wafd newspaper have been savagely attacked and damaged by fire. Al Wafd accused immediately the salafist group of Hazem Abou Ismaïl, former candidate to the presidency who denied its responsibility of this act.

The voting time was fixed from 8.00 am until 7.00 pm. Many bureaus had to prolungate the time for two hours and sometime until 11.00 pm. In some places, people have been reported in the evening to wait for five to six hours, most of them finding themselves forces to withdraw. Some people complained to have been obliged to drive back because obviously they intended to vote for “no”. For the first time the voting happened without outside observers.

Most of the newspapers have printed huge headlines titles with enormous “No” (in Arabic ‘Lâ’). The ‘Wafd’ newspaper, speaking in the name of the Wafd Party (created by the leader Saad Zaghloul after the 1919 revolution) publish a double page for cover of today issue, a real poster, with in big the portrait of a child crying and in gross letters : “No to an unfair constitution. A Constitution that ignore 3 million unemployed people, 7 million living in shantytowns, 10 million suffering from liver disease, 25 million workers suffering from poverty, 348 million girls and mothers. A Constituton that creates a new Dictator. A document that is reducing the people into slavery, that is destroying the State administrations, that is threathening social justice, discriminating women, children and handicaped people, that is hindering private and public liberty, that is infecting and corruptng justice. No to the Constitution of Shame…”

The “Destour” daily is calling for “No to a constitution that deprives the citizen of a free information and an independant press and media”. This newspaper is calling for abstention because : 1- the result is known in advance, it will be more than 78 % through forgery ; 2- no supervision by enough judges, leaving the space to the brotherhood ; 3- the brotherhood owns all the needed apparatus and funds to control all the executive power in all the governorates, adding : this brotherhood is a gang, they are not statesmen and they will never abandon Egypt unless destroyed”. All the newspapers, except what is called “national press” (belongig to the state), agree that this constitution is “their constitution” (the one of the muslim brothers).

The fact of having organized the elections in two days with a week between is suspicious to everyone, since the results of today will be known and possibly readjusted in the second time. General confidence is dominating that forgery will reign.

Yesterday, for the Friday midday prayer in the mosques, many preachers were inciting people to say “yes” to the Constitution. In Alexandria in the big mosque of Qaëd Ibrahim, a group of believers took the preacher in hostage for twelve hours to teach him not to involve politics into prayers. In Mahallah al Kobra, the big textile town in the midst of the Delta, which declared refusal to host any muslim brother in the town, and decided the dissidence (a town delegation was seen a few days ago in front of the presidential palace in Heliopolis with a banner saying “Here is the temporary seed of the Mahallah al Kobra embassy” !!) prevented any preacher to advocate for ‘yes’. In Kafr al Shaykh, peasants had a funeral march all raising black banners. A few days ago, aroun Tahrir square one could see a funeral march of women all dressed in black, mourning for lost Egypt…

A salafist leader, Dr Ahmad al Naqib, head of the salafist Academy in Mansourah (Daqahleyya, North East of the Delta, douth of Damietta), and teacher of Islamic studies in Mansourah University is claming for a rejection of the suggested constitution, considering that saying “yes” is sinful towards God (Allah) and his Prophet, and asking salafist people not to get involved in political and democracy work. While the salafist Hazem Abou Ismaïl, who is besieging the “Media Producing Town”, northwest of Giza for two weeks and wants to “purify” all the satellite media, is stating that if the constitution is not approved by the referendum, there will be a real bloodshed. Two eminent and well known figures, the famous film maker director Khaled Youssef and the great sociologist Saad Eddine Ibrahim have been attacked and molested as they were entering the Media Town. Both of them deposed a report statement accusing Hazem Abou Ismaïl and his followers to have attempt to kill them.

Yesterday evening, at an official TV channel there was a strong confrontation between a Shaykh from Al Azhar university and a salafist shaykh who shared in writing the constitution. Al Azhar member asserting that the constitution would lead to terrible problems, that it is discriminating minorities, and that one should refuse it. The salafist was doggedly defending the constitution and refused discussion upon any item.

The constitutional assembly had one hundred members, of whom 40 people (liberals, representant of the churches, experts…) refused to go on, they were replaced by twenty people and the redaction work proved to be a botched job. The assembly pushed through the red tape in a couple of days, dedicating five minutes maximum to each article. The members of the assembly were mostly medical doctors, people with BA in agriculture or commerce, even one teacher in the school of languages teaching Chinese language ! Some people reacted joking : this is why the text is confused ! In fact the constitution text had to be ready before the 2nd of December, because the Constitutional Court intended to pronounce on this date a judgement of invalidation for the Constituant assembly as well as for the Maglis al Shura (Senate) which will act as a parliamentary body to approve the proposed text. It was ready by the 1st of December and legally, the referendun had to be held after a fortnight.

The enormous demonstrations since than to revoke the referendum have failed to induce any change. The brotherhood organized counter-demonstrations that resulted in splitting the country in two parts, and provoking fierced and bloodshed incidents. Evidently the brotherhood could not gather as much crowds as the opponents, composed of liberals, supporters of a secular system, even muslim devoted people, and salafists… In fact the difference in the huge crowds was made but what is called since the 25 January revolution, the “hezb al canaba” or the “Sofa party” related to the majority of Egyptian people who were watching events at home sitting on their couches (canape’s — canaba, in Arabic). This time the “Sofa party” came out in great number, along with all the disappointed people who did vote for Morsi, believing in a better situation for the country. Everybody discovered that Mohammad Morsi is first of all the president of the muslim brothers. Many observers stated that he is a “puppet” manipulated by the the muslim brothers Guide Badie and his assistant, Khayrat al Shater who was the nominee of the brotherhood for presidency, but could not be a candidate because of judiciary reasons.

Many opponents are adressing their gratefulness to Mohammad Morsi, “because in only six months, he succeeded to get all the opponents gather and unite against him and against the grasp hold of the muslim brotherhood”.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary — Bring it on!

Many in the American Jewish community are aghast to discover that President Obama is planning to appoint former Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as Defense Secretary. If you want the skinny on how Hagel has come to be known as one of the few ferociously anti-Israel senators in the past generation, Carl from Jerusalem at Israel Matzav provides it.

Meantime, all I can say is I don’t understand how anyone can possibly be surprised. Shortly after word came out that Hagel is the frontrunner for the nomination, I read a quaint little blog post written by a conservative leaning commentator voicing her belief that Obama wouldn’t want to risk his relations with Israel’s supporters by appointing Hagel. But as Powerline pointed out today, this is the entire point of the nomination. Obama isn’t stupid. He picks fights he thinks he can win. He hasn’t always been right about those fights. He picked fights with Netanyahu thinking he could win, and he lost some of those.

But he is right to think he can win the Hagel fight.. The Republican Senators aren’t going to get into a fight with Obama about his DOD appointee, especially given that it’s one of their fellow senators, even though many of them hate him. The Democrats are certainly not going to oppose him.

Obama wants to hurt Israel. He does not like Israel.. He is appointing anti-Israel advisors and cabinet members not despite their anti-Israel positions, but because of them.

Some commentators said that Susan Rice would be bad because she was anti-Israel and they hoped that Obama would appoint someone pro-Israel. But John Kerry is no friend of Israel. And as far as I was concerned, we would have been better off with Rice on the job…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]


Chechen Leader Kadyrov to Have Mosque Named After Him

Construction starts in the town of Shali. The building will be among the largest of its kind in Europe. According to Muslim leaders the people asked for the new mosque as a sign of “gratitude” for what Kadyrov has done for Islam. Controversy over funds for the construction of places of worship.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — A mosque dedicated to the controversial Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, will be built in the town of Shali, according to RIA Novosti news agency. The press office of the local government announced that the ceremony of laying the foundation stone took place on December 2. The mosque, which will have a capacity of 10 thousand faithful, will be among the largest in Europe and its construction should be completed within three years.

The place of worship will be dedicated to the Chechen leader, as a sign of recognition for “services rendered to Islam,” said Khozh-Akhmad Kadyrov, Ramzan’s uncle and head of the Religious Council of the Caucasus republic of Russia. “Mosques and madrassas (Koranic schools) continue to be built in the country — said the religious — all public buildings have a prayer room and this is the result of the efforts of our president.” “Chechnya has created the conditions for ensuring the freedom to study and profess Islam,” he added, explaining that the decision to build the mosque is linked to the “numerous calls from resident Chechens,” grateful for the work of the head of the republic.

The new mosque, designed by Uzbek architects, will be the second to bear the name of a Kadyrov after opening, in 2008, in the capital Grozny, of a mosque named after the late father of Ramzan, the former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov.

The news has sparked controversy. Not only because the young president, 36, is considered by human rights defenders as a bloodthirsty dictator who has imposed, unofficially, the Koranic law in the republic. But also because the source of funding for the large building is unknown. Grozny receives large amounts of money from Moscow to maintain the “peace” — reached, apparently, after two wars — only to use the money without any attempts at transparency. This has resulted in frequent reprimands of some ministers of the central government. At the same time the head of the republic has demanded civil servants at all levels to make a donation directly from their salary, to replenish the Akhamd Kadyrov presidential fund officially in charge of the so-called reconstruction of Chechnya, but also in this case plundered for diverse and often of dubious projects. It is said that Kadyrov used fund resources to organize his now infamous birthday parties paying the most famous international stars to the tune of thousands of dollars to attend. To those who dared to ask where the money came from for his lavish 35th birthday in Grozny, last year, Ramzan replied: “a gift from Allah.”

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

South Asia

India: Madhya Pradesh: Anti-Christian Violence: Police “Accomplice” of Hindu Nationalist

Proponents of Hindutva exploit the anti-conversion law in-force in the State. In the district of Ratlam, Hindu activists accuse some Pentecostal Christians of practicing forced conversions, and the police ordered to stop the prayer service in progress.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — “Police in Madhya Pradesh is complicit in the violence against the Christian community”, denounces Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), in the latest case of persecution in the state. About 20 members of the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have made false allegations of forced conversions against some Pentecostal Christians in the district of Ratlam. One of the pastors present (see photo) was beaten up by activists RSS and rushed to hospital. The incident occurred on November 30 last.

A week ago, the Rev. Govind, pastor of the Gospel Church, called on the Rev. Sarath to take part in a prayer meeting in the village Boothpada. Shortly after the beginning of the meeting, four police officers arrived on the spot and ordered those present to stop and leave. Then, some twenty Hindu nationalists of the RSS appeared and threatened religious and faithful with insults. The pastors Govind and Sarath fled on a motorcycle, but the attackers chased them, stopped and beat them. Rev. Sarath was seriously injured in his head, face and other parts of the body, and only thanks to the intervention of some members was brought to the nearest hospital.

At first, the police prevented the Christians at the rally from helping the pastors to flee from the Hindu nationalists, because “nothing would happen to them.” According to Sajan George, thanks to the anti-conversion law, which exists in Madhya Pradesh (Freedom of Religion Act, 1968) “Hindu nationalists manipulate the police, pushing them to act against the Christians.” On paper, these laws prohibit conversions that occur “through force, coercion or fraud,” and thus allow the government to investigate. In reality, they are applied only in cases of Hindus who switch to another religion. Since its implementation, conversions have decreased.

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

Australia — Pacific

Islamic Superannuation Fund Launched

Australia’s first Islamic superannuation fund is being launched in Sydney today.

It follows similar products overseas, where customers can choose a superannuation fund in line with Islamic principles.

The fund is called ‘Personal Choice, Private Era’ and is being run by private Islamic wealth management company Crescent Wealth, through the Association of Independently Owned Financial Professionals’ personal choice category, called ‘Personal Choice Private e-wrap.

Crescent Wealth’s managing director Talal Yassine says the superannuation option is partly modelled on similar products overseas.

“That means you comply with Islamic rules on investment, you don’t invest in banks or financials, pornography, alcohol, armaments and pork related industries,” he said.

Mr Yassine says it also means the fund will not invest in companies with a lot of debt.

“It’s very conservative investing, it means not investing in companies with a lot of debt, have a lot of money outstanding or take part in prohibited activities,” he added.

Pauline Vamos, the chief executive of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, has welcomed the new addition to the superannuation market.

“The new providers, the new products, are part of the recent reforms that the [Federal] Government has put in place to superannuation, so we’re getting much greater innovation and a much better deal for fund members and consumers,” she said.

Ms Vamos says the new Islamic fund is a boutique service for a part of the community that meets their retirement needs.

Mr Yassine says he does not know how many of the nation’s half-a-million Muslim Australians will choose the new fund.

He says similar products in the United States have been running for many years and have attracted many non-Muslims too.

“They’ve got $4 billion [in] funds [under] management after 20 years, however the makeup of their customers is 10 per cent from the American Muslim community and 90 per cent from the broader American community.” The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will officially take part in the launch of the new fund in Sydney’s south-west tonight.

Mr Bowen has made a point of promoting Australia as a major financial hub in Asia, which has a large Muslim population.

Ms Vamos says Islamic finance is potentially a huge growth industry for Australia internationally.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]


Europe’s Most Exotic City? It’s Manchester! 153 Languages Spoken by a Population of 500,000

Diverse: A study has found 153 languages are spoken in ManchesterIts detractors try to portray it as a cold, wet and sometimes insular place.

But Manchester is actually one of the most exotic cities in the world, researchers claim. This is due to its cultural diversity, with at least 153 languages spoken.

Two-thirds of Mancunian school children are bilingual, with the number of languages likely to increase, according to the study by Manchester University.

The city is more diverse than London, and rivalled only by New York and Paris for its ethnic and linguistic mix, claims Professor Yaron Matras, who carried out the research.

‘Manchester’s language diversity is higher than many countries in the world,’ Professor Matras said. ‘It is very likely to be the top of the list in Europe, certainly when compared to other cities of its size.’

With a population of 500,000, Manchester is much smaller than London, where more than 300 languages are spoken by eight million inhabitants.

Professor Matras said: ‘There are certainly a greater number of languages spoken in London but these are by people who are passing through — diplomats, businessmen, etc — but in Manchester, the foreign language speakers are residents.

‘Around two-thirds of Mancunian school children are bilingual — a huge figure which indicates just how precious its linguistic culture is. As immigration and the arrival of overseas students to the city continues, it’s fair to say that this already large list is set to grow.’

Manchester’s rapid growth began during the Industrial Revolution, with the city’s textile trade attracting workers from across the empire, setting the pattern for diversity.

The policy of recruiting from abroad for public services, such as the NHS, has helped bring in some of the more obscure languages, the professor says…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

‘Immigrants Cause Problems’ Say Germans

A new opinion poll has revealed Germans’ mixed attitude to immigration — while the majority believe immigrants make life in the country more interesting, two-thirds say foreigners cause major social problems.

Seventy percent of those asked said immigration made it easier for international firms to invest in Germany, while 62 percent said that immigration could ease the effects of Germany’s ageing society. And half said immigration as an effective means against the country’s lack of skilled labour.

But two-thirds of Germans also saw immigration as an extra burden on the social security system, and as a source of conflict with “native” Germans and a source of trouble in schools, according to the Emnid survey commissioned by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

And fewer than half of the 1,002 people asked were in favour of easing naturalization procedures, allowing dual citizenship, and toughening anti-discrimination laws.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Officers Injured in Clashes With Asylum Seekers Near Catania

Three police hospitalized, no one seriously hurt

(ANSA) — Catania, December 17 — Ten police officers were injured, three of whom were hospitalized, following clashes with asylum seekers near the Sicilian city of Catania on Monday. According to police, a dispute broke out between the refugees and officers over documentation needed to recognize their refugee status.

The three hospitalized officers were reportedly struck by a manhole cover, but no one was seriously injured.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


NASA Mission to End With Twin Moon Smashes

Later today, two NASA spacecraft will smash into the moon. Individually named Ebb and Flow and together known as GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory), the twin craft have spent most of the past year making the most detailed study of the moon’s gravity field to date. At 1728 EST (2228 GMT), that mission will come to a sudden end when the pair smack into the side of a lunar mountain. New Scientist takes a closer look.

What exactly will happen to the spacecraft?

First Ebb and then Flow will smack into a 2-kilometre-high mountain near the moon’s north pole at about 1.7 kilometres per second. Mission scientists expect the twin washing-machine-sized craft to make two small craters, each about 3 metres in diameter and 20 to 40 km apart. The landing site was chosen partly to make the biggest crater, and partly to avoid hitting any historical spots like the Apollo landing sites — though in any case, the chances of doing that were only 8 in a million, said project manager David Lehman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California in a press conference on 13 December.

Why such a violent end?

It’s to squeeze as much science out of the mission as possible, says GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since the beginning of 2012, the twin craft have been orbiting the moon in single file, moving closer and farther from each other depending on slight variations in the moon’s gravity due to the uneven distribution of matter inside it. GRAIL has obtained super-precise gravity measurements by orbiting very close to the moon’s surface: since August, the spacecraft have spiralled down from an average altitude of 55 km to an average of 11 km on 6 December. “Our priority was getting to the lowest possible altitude and mapping as low as we could for as long as we could,” Zuber said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]