Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20121225

Financial Crisis
»Barack Obama ‘Eager’ To Fall Off Fiscal Cliff, Says Senior Republican Senator
»Chilling Economic Report Strikes Fear Into CEOs
»Christmas: Greece: Traditions Respected, In Spite of Crisis
»European Markets Decline Amid U.S. Fiscal Cliff Concerns
»Greek Exodus Abroad in Search of Work
»Italy: Monti Ready to Give ‘Leadership’ To Next Government if Necessary
»Italy May Sell Less Debt in 2013, Finance Ministry Says
»Italy: Europe: Conflict of Interest, Cuts, Growth Top Monti Agenda
»It’s Not a “Fiscal Cliff” … It’s the Descent Into Lawlessness
»A Son of Anarchy Returns
»Caroline Glick: Hagel, Obama and the Israeli Elections
»Legal Gun Owners in New York Outed Like Sex Offenders
»Tawana Brawley Found 25 Years After Rape Hoax
Europe and the EU
»Census Finds Italian Residents Are 43 Years Old on Average
»France: 40% of French ‘Understand’ Depardieu’s ‘Exile’
»France: Muslims Hail Mohammed Merah as “A Hero”: “He’s a Martyr of Islam”
»Germany: Ancient Bloodletting Practice Making a Comeback
»Greece: Some Companies Duck the Property Tax
»Italians Spend 10% More on Christmas Feasts
»Italy Lags Behind EU Countries in Research Spending
»Italy: Xmas Weather Split Between Cold North and Warm South
»Italy: Deputy Senate Speaker Among Lombardy Funding Probe Suspects
»Italy: Berlusconi Attacks Monti on Sunday TV Program
»Italy: Berlusconi Voices Epp’s ‘Leftist’ Monti Fears
»Italy: Monti Launches Twitter Account to Push Economic Agenda
»Italy: Berlusconi Promises to Repeal Property Tax on First House
»Italy: Face-Off Between Berlusconi and Fini: “Nightare”, “Mayhem”
»Sweden: Brussels: Hands Off Our Snus!
»UK: Suspect Charged With Attempted Murder After Woman Was Attacked in the Street With 2ft-Long Samurai Sword
Mediterranean Union
»Italy FM Working for EU Funds to Med Nations
North Africa
»50,000 Muslims Led by Sword-Wielding Men March Through Christian Areas, Shouting Egypt is “Islamic, Islamic, Despite the Christians”
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza Militants Violated Laws of War, HRW
»Netanyahu Tweets in Arabic to “Intensify” Dialogue
Middle East
»Russian Troops Man Assad’s Anti-Aircraft Defenses
»Suliman: ‘Al Jazeera Plays the Piper, But Qatar Calls the Tune’
»Syria: Orthodox Patriarch Urges Christians to Remain
»Syria Warns Swedes: Don’t Join Rebels
»Putin Says Russian Passport for Depardieu ‘A Done Deal’
South Asia
»A Dark Christmas for Pakistani Christians
»Afghan Police Officer Kills Five Colleagues
»Afghan Taliban Raise Bounty on UK Prince Harry’s Head
Far East
»Chianti Gets a New Name for Chinese Market
Australia — Pacific
»Female Circumcision is a Right, Says Imam
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Mali: Islamists Take Pickaxes to Timbuktu’s Ancient Mausoleums
»Migrants Take Italy’s Population Up to 59.4 Million
»We’re on Our Way to Britain: A Year From Now Up to 29m Bulgarians and Romanians Will Have the Right to Settle in Britain and Claim Benefits.
Culture Wars
»Netherlands Against Quota of Women for Companies
»How Blasphemy Laws Are Stifling Free Expression Worldwide
»‘Muslim Comedian’ Is an Oxymoron
»The Rise and Possible Fall of SMS Text Messaging

Financial Crisis

Barack Obama ‘Eager’ To Fall Off Fiscal Cliff, Says Senior Republican Senator

President Barack Obama has been accused by a senior Republican of being eager to take the US over the fiscal cliff for political gain, as Washington edges closer to a year-end deadline with no deal in sight.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Senator John Barrasso, the third-highest ranking senator in the GOP, suggested that the president “sensed victory at the bottom of the cliff”.

Earlier, Obama called on Congress to “cool off” over the holiday break, amid rising rhetoric on both sides. On Friday, the White House raised the prospect of settling for a stopgap measure to avert the punitive tax rises and swingeing spending cuts which are due to come in effect on 1 January. The president had previously pushed for a grand compromise to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

[Return to headlines]

Chilling Economic Report Strikes Fear Into CEOs

The CEO said he had been reading a new paper from Boston Consulting Group headed “Ending the era of Ponzi finance”. The lessons he had taken from it were miserable.

The West was not going to find its way to the right economic path with a little tweaking at the edges, the CEO said. What is needed is a wholesale overhaul of the economic system to tackle record levels of public and private debt. Was anyone brave enough to do it, he wondered aloud.

I asked him to send me the report. He did.

The BCG study by Daniel Stelter which is doing the rounds of corporate C-suites does not pull its punches. In fact, its punches are really just a softening-up exercise for a barrage of kicks and painful blows aimed at anyone who thinks that kicking the can down the road is a suitable substitute for radical action.

At the heart of the analysis is the issue of debt. A report by the Bank of International Settlements, the study notes, found that the combined debts of the public and private sector in the 18 core members of the OECD rose from 160pc of GDP in 1980 to 321pc in 2010.

[Return to headlines]

Christmas: Greece: Traditions Respected, In Spite of Crisis

Ancient rites, traditions revisited for holidays celebrations

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 24 — In spite of the economic crisis battering the country, Greeks are ready to celebrate Christmas, each according to his or her means. Cities and villages are decked out as people dust off deeply rooted customs in an attempt to forget their daily problems, at least for a few days. Mairi Panagakou, an expert in popular Greek cuisine and traditions, told Ana-Mpe news agency about some little-known rites. In some parts of Greece, people sing “Ta Kalanta” (the calends), or nursery rhymes with religious content. They are named after the January calends, when friends and relatives exchange visits and gifts of honey, dried figs, dates, and small coins.

On Christmas day at dawn in the central Greek region of Thessaly, village girls go in silence to the nearest fountain to “steal mute water”. The girl who reaches it first, will be the luckiest in the coming year. Having “stolen” the water, they spread butter and honey on the tap so that well-being will run through their homes just like water does. They add three pebbles and a briar leaf to the water in their pitcher, symbolizing optimism, good news and protection against evil, and return home in silence. There, every family member must drink the “mute” water. Whatever is left over, is spread in the four corners of the house, along with the three pebbles. Also in Thessaly, upon returning home after church on Christmas day, boys put cedar branches on the fire and girls, wild cherry branches. These represent youthful hopes for a happy life. The branch that burns first is of good omen to the person who placed it there, as it predicts a marriage will take place soon.

In some villages near the northern city of Edessa, on Christmas Eve, villagers take a piece of wood from a tree with a female name and another from one with a male name, preferably a thorny plant such as briar, and place them together in the chimney in a “marriage by fire”. The way the wood burns determines the weather and the harvest in the coming year.

According to popular tradition, thorny plants chase away evil spirits. On the island of Crete, women prepare “Jesus’ bread” (Christopsomo), a blessed bread that will sustain the entire family in the year to come. The women sit around the dough made out of the best flour and rose water, honey, sesame, cinnamon and cloves, singing religious songs as they wait for it to rise.

Then they make a cross-shaped incision, placing a walnut in its center to symbolize fertility. The head of the family then blesses the bread, slices it and distributes it around as Jesus shared bread with the apostles.

In Macedonian villages a few days before Christmas, the head of the family, generally a man, searches the fields for a large piece of olive or pine wood, while his wife cleans the old ashes out of the chimney and the vent, thus preventing any evil spirits from descending into the house. On Christmas Eve, the head of the family places the wood in the fire, where it will burn slowly through to the Epiphany. Tradition has it that this slow-burning “Christmas wood” (Christoxylo) provides heat for baby Jesus in the manger, while its ashes will protect the house and land from evil. On the small northern Aegean island of Skiathos, old people say that beginning on December 1, evil spirits begin preparing their ship to sail to the island, leaving on Christmas Eve and arriving on Skiathos on Boxing Day. From Christmas to the Epiphany, the islanders stay indoors at night to avoid being deafened by the chattering spirits. But the day before the Epiphany they leave the island in hurry, to avoid being burned by the priest’s holy water.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

European Markets Decline Amid U.S. Fiscal Cliff Concerns

Milan, London, Paris, Frankfurt drop, Madrid bucks the trend

(ANSA) — Milan, December 21 — Markets fell across Europe on Friday, paced by Milan’s FTSE MIB index, as investors shied away from markets after a key vote relating to the upcoming budget talks was cancelled. The cancellation of a vote allowing an increase on high-income taxes means US congress is not slated to vote on the end-of-year budget for the world’s largest economy after the Christmas festivities. This leaves US authorities little time to draw up an accord ahead of the $600 billion of tax hikes and public spending additions that will be automatically executed from January. Italy’s FTSE MIB index fell 0.4 % to 16,333 points. The yield spread between 10-year Italian bonds and the German benchmark state debt, a barometer of Italy’s borrowing costs in the eurozone crisis, closed at 310 points with 10-year yields at 4.5%.

The Frankfurt Dax bourse dropped 0.4% to 7,640, while the Paris Cac 40 Index declined 0.2% to 3,661 points. London’s Ftse-100 stock market fell 0.3% to 5,939 points. Madrid’s Ibex index bucked the trend, gaining 0.1% to 8,272 points.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek Exodus Abroad in Search of Work

49% of the working population looking to emigrate

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 21 — With September unemployment hitting a record 26% high (55.4% among those aged under 25), 49% of Greeks are looking for work abroad, according to a survey released Friday by Adecco employment agency. The survey of 400 respondents showed 39% are unemployed, 48% have a job, and 13% work part-time. Of the total, 30% said at least one family member is looking for work overseas; 36% said they are doing so because of difficulties re-entering or entering the Greek job market for the first time, and 29% said they want to move because they feel they have no future at home while the recession lasts. Of those considering the expat life, 70% said they want to find work in a “developed” European country like France, Germany or the UK. Another 45% said they would consider other “developed countries” such as Australia and the US, and 12% said they are looking for work in the Middle East.

The Adecco findings are echoed by a recent University of Thessaloniki survey, showing that a vast majority of Greek expats and aspiring emigrants are under 25, and that they are looking for work in countries including Australia, China, Iran, and Russia. The elements holding them back, according to the survey, are fear of the unknown and attachment to the family.

Now in its fifth consecutive recession year, the Greek economy will contract by 4.5% by year’s end and unemployment will rise, according to a central bank December 3 forecast. Families have been especially hard-hit due to government-imposed austerity measures, such as tax hikes and wage cuts, dictated by the country’s international creditors, while scores of small and medium businesses have failed throughout the country, leaving thousands out a job.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Ready to Give ‘Leadership’ To Next Government if Necessary

Participation depends on coalition’s ‘commitment to reforms’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Italian Premier Mario Monti said on Sunday that he would would be ready to “give advice, encouragement and if necessary leadership,” to the future government.

Monti underlined that for now he is not siding with any party but his possible participation in the upcoming administration depended on the coalition’s commitment to reforms outlined in his agenda published online Sunday.

The premier, who resigned on Friday after the key vote on the 2013 budget law in parliament, urged Italian parties not to destroy what his government had achieved to “overcome the financial emergency”.

Monti and his administration of technocrats was sworn in after Silvio Berlusconi quit as premier last November when Italy’s debt crisis was threatening to spiral out of control. He has passed painful austerity measures of tax hikes and spending cuts to put the country on track to balance the national budget.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy May Sell Less Debt in 2013, Finance Ministry Says

Public debt guidelines document released on Friday

(ANSA) — Rome, December 21; Italy may sell a lesser amount of state debt in 2013 than in 2012, the Italian Finance Ministry said on Friday. The ministry publication ‘Guidelines for the Management of Public Debt in 2013’ released on Friday citing a lesser need to replenish its state coffers as well as the lengthening of the average lifespan of its debt.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Europe: Conflict of Interest, Cuts, Growth Top Monti Agenda

Caretaker PM offers agenda to parties he could lead

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Boosting growth along with Europe, cutting taxes and political costs, and resolving the conflict of interest that has dogged public life since media magnate Silvio Berlusconi won power in 1994 were among the priorities set by caretaker premier Mario Monti in an agenda he posted on the Web Sunday after saying he might lead forces who endorse it in Italy’s upcoming general election.

Changing Italy, Reforming Europe was the title of the keenly awaited agenda posted on the specially created site

It was accompanied by a letter to Italians in which the economist and former European commissioner, credited with saving Italy from a Greek-style crisis in a 13-month term dating from Berlusconi’s enforced resignation in November 2011 to Berlusconi’s withdrawal of support earlier this month, urged political parties to follow up on the structural reforms his emergency technocrat government achieved, including to the pension system and in two other areas where his moves were watered down: the labor market and deregulation.

He also called for a radical overhaul of Italy’s expensive political system and much-criticised electoral system as well as stiffer protection against misuse of public funds, in the wake of a string of scandals, in a manifesto whose slogan was ‘Less Caste, Fewer Costs’.

Here are the main points of the agenda, which also proposes a minimum wage and a tax on large portfolios of property and assets:

- EUROPE: Monti underscores the need to build a “more integrated” European Union, “against all populism” and with “more solidarity” between stronger and weaker members.

Italy “must fight for a more inter-governmental, more united Europe” and against members making moves “at various speeds”.

To count more in Europe and boost Rome’s credibility, he stresses, “there is no need to bang the table”. With this approach, he says, Italy can ask Europe for more “growth-oriented policies” after the austerity that is improving finances but deepening recessions in Greece, Spain, Italy and other peripheral members.

- GROWTH: Growth cannot be achieved by increasing Italy’s public debt, which at 126% of GDP is the second highest in the eurozone after Greece’s. Monti reiterates the goal of balancing the budget in structural terms in 2013 and cutting debt by one twentieth per year starting in 2015.

- TAXES: Cutting debt “makes it possible to cut taxes” on labour and business. Levies on large property and asset portfolios and luxury goods will help balance the books.

- DEREGULATION: Monti, a pro-competition trust-buster during his time at the European commission, urges further moves to “intensify the opening of markets” and make the civil service more efficient by better-targeted spending. Spending reviews must become permanent.

- BUSINESS: Negotiation of labour contracts must become “decentralised” and no longer confined to deals at the national level. Energy costs must be cut and firms’ access to credit facilitated. The level of foreign investment in Italy must be raised to the EU average.

- LABOUR: The Monti government’s reforms to the labour market to make hiring and firing easier must be preserved, and improved by further simplification and concentrating on getting young people working, with incentives for employers who hire under-30s.

- FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY: Monti envisages “minimum” benefits for job seekers or those who have lost their jobs as long as they take training courses.

- ELECTORAL LAW: the “first act” of the next parliament must be a reform of the electoral law to allow voters to pick their MPs rather than voting candidates selected by party bosses.

- ‘THE CASTE’: With the slogan, ‘less caste, fewer costs,’ Monti proposes a drastic reduction of public funding to parties and caucuses, with an obligation to have transparent budgets and a ceiling on private contributions.

- TAX EVASION AND CORRUPTION: “Zero tolerance for corruption, tax evasion and off-the-books activities”. Monti advocates stiffening laws on fraudulent accounting and beefing up punishment for bribery and corruption. The statute of limitations on these crimes should be shortened.

- CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Monti calls for “more robust norms to prevent conflicts of interest”

- STOPPING CRIMINALS FROM STANDING FOR OFFICE: One of the last laws passed by his government, preventing those with definitive convictions of two years or more from standing for office, must be strengthened with “more stringent” norms.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

It’s Not a “Fiscal Cliff” … It’s the Descent Into Lawlessness

The “fiscal cliff” is a myth.

Instead, what we are facing is a descent into lawlessness.

Wikipedia notes:

In many situations, austerity programs are imposed on countries that were previously under dictatorial regimes, leading to criticism that populations are forced to repay the debts of their oppressors.

Indeed, the IMF has already performed a complete audit of the whole US financial system, something which they have only previously done to broke third world nations.

Economist Marc Faber calls the U.S. a “failed state”. Indeed, we no longer have a free market economy … we have fascism, communist style socialism, kleptocracy, oligarchy or banana republic style corruption.

Let’s look at some specific examples of our descent into lawlessness. Lawless Looting and Redistribution of Wealth

The central banks’ central bank — the Bank for International Settlements- warned in 2008 that bailouts of the big banks would create sovereign debt crises … which could bankrupt nations.

That is exactly what has happened.

The big banks went bust, and so did the debtors. But the government chose to save the big banks instead of the little guy, thus allowing the banks to continue to try to wring every penny of debt out of debtors.

Treasury Secretary Paulson shoved bailouts down Congress’ throat by threatening martial law if the bailouts weren’t passed. And the bailouts are now perpetual.


The bailout money is just going to line the pockets of the wealthy, instead of helping to stabilize the economy or even the companies receiving the bailouts:

  • Bailout money is being used to subsidize companies run by horrible business men, allowing the bankers to receive fat bonuses, to redecorate their offices, and to buy gold toilets and prostitutes
  • A lot of the bailout money is going to the failing companies’ shareholders
  • Indeed, a leading progressive economist says that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”
  • The Treasury Department encouraged banks to use the bailout money to buy their competitors, and pushed through an amendment to the tax laws which rewards mergers in the banking industry (this has caused a lot of companies to bite off more than they can chew, destabilizing the acquiring companies)

And as the New York Times notes, “Tens of billions of [bailout] dollars have merely passed through A.I.G. to its derivatives trading partners”.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

In other words, through a little game-playing by the Fed, taxpayer money is going straight into the pockets of investors in AIG’s credit default swaps and is not even really stabilizing AIG.

Moreover, a large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks (and see this). And so did a huge portion of the money from quantitative easing. Indeed, the Fed bailed out Gaddafi’s Bank of Libya), hedge fund billionaires, and big companies, but turned its back on the little guy.

[Return to headlines]


A Son of Anarchy Returns

[See url for entertaining story…]

So that was it — the point is though that my old self came to the fore, and I felt good. Throughout, and afterward too. I felt like my old self again. That was a good feeling — oh yes. But it also reflected my philosophy of life nowadays too. I take no sh*t from anyone, under any circumstances, ever. Life’s too short to bend the knee to anyone.

Especially some silver-spooner like David Cameron or that closet muslim sitting in the White House…

Of course if the idea of Barry O rogering you over the kitchen table appeals to you, then I have nothing to say to you. But for all morally sane people, here’s what I think after seeing two of my friends die of cancer recently and spending a year in and out of hospital myself: Each of us has an obligation to ourselves to find out the truth about the world we live in, and to use that knowledge to make the best moral choices we can. In the most profound philosophical sense, that is what freedom is, and that is what our freedom is for.

That means that each of us needs to take the time to educate ourselves about what islam actually teaches, to consider whether its doctrines are compatible with our own hard-gained freedoms and to study the history of the islamic religious movement in order to see what it’s current adherents will try to do in the future. And having done that, we each need to act, to the best of our ability, in order to preserve our own freedom, our own religion, and our own way of life…

[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Hagel, Obama and the Israeli Elections

Today the National Journal reported that Obama is reconsidering his decision to appoint Chuck Hagel Secretary of Defense. As I wrote in my previous post, there is no chance that Obama will appoint a supporter of a strong Israel to any senior foreign policy post because he wouldn’t appoint someone who doesn’t share his basic animosity towards Israel. But in Hagel, he chose someone even more outspoken in his animus towards the Jewish state than Obama.

Hagel’s looming appointment provoked angry responses from many leading Jewish voices in the US. Whether this opposition made a difference in driving Obama to reconsider his choice is unclear. Plenty of other influential groups — including senators, members of the military and lobbyists for homosexual rights — expressed their discomfort and opposition to the prospect of having Hagel serve as Defense Secretary. Still it is notable that Hagel’s possible appointment sparked an outcry among prominent American Jews and that this outcry had some unknown impact on Obama’s possible decision to cancel Hagel’s appointment.

If Obama indeed scuttles Hagel’s elevation to Defense Secretary, it shows that it is possible to fight Obama on foreign policy even in his second term, and win, at least sometimes. This is important information for Republicans, American Jews, and the Israeli government.

Obama will have multiple, massive domestic challenges to contend with in his second term. If he wishes to focus on advancing his domestic agenda, he may well punt on foreign affairs.

The US President’s inbox is always overflowing. One of the hardest things for a president to do is take control over his own agenda…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Legal Gun Owners in New York Outed Like Sex Offenders

Corporate media website posted names and addresses of pistol permit holders in three counties.

[Return to headlines]

Tawana Brawley Found 25 Years After Rape Hoax

Her silence is deafening.

Twenty-five years after the spotlight first glared on Tawana Brawley — a black woman who as a teen claimed she was raped by a gang of white men, smeared with feces and stuffed in a garbage bag — she’s desperately struggling to stay hidden from public view.

“I don’t want to talk to anyone about that,” Brawley, 40, said recently after The Post found her in Hopewell, Va., where she lives in a neatly kept brick apartment complex with signs warning of video surveillance cameras.

By all appearances, her life — so chaotic a quarter-century ago — now seems normal…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Census Finds Italian Residents Are 43 Years Old on Average

People are younger in south

(ANSA) — Rome, December 19 — Italian residents are, on average, 43 years old, Italian statistics agency ISTAT announced on Wednesday, citing findings of the 2011 Italian census.

Aging of the population is particularly noticeable in the Liguria region, which includes Genoa, and in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the Italian region located next to the Slovenian border.

The average age of residents in these two regions is 48 and 46, respectively. People are younger — an average of 42 years old — in the southern regions of Calabria, Puglia and Sicily, as well as in the northeastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige. The youngest average age is found in the southern region of Campania, which includes Naples and has an average age of 40.

In Tuscany, Umbria, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, the average age is 45 years old.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: 40% of French ‘Understand’ Depardieu’s ‘Exile’

Govt weighing measures to tax expats

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — According to an IFOP survey conducted for Le Figaro, 40% of the French (mostly from the right end of the political spectrum) side with Gérard Depardieu, saying they “understand” his preferring to move to Belgium to pay fewer taxes. On the other hand, 35% (mostly from the left and of an older generation) say they are “shocked” by this self-imposed exile for fiscal purposes. “This behaviour shows a link with the country that varies according to generation,” noted Jérome Fourquet, head of the IFOP opinion poll department. “Older people have a more demanding view of rights and duties towards one’s own country.” Moreover, 8 out of every 10 French citizens say that “given the difficult economic situation in France”, it is “legitimate to ask the richest part of the population to put forth greater effort”, but for most of them is is “understandable” that some might opt to move abroad. Fourquet went on to say that “the figures seen in the survey highlight a form of solidarity of the upper middle classes with the wealthiest to protest against taxes which they are consider intolerable.”

In recent statements to the press, Depardieu said that he had paid 85% of his income on taxes in the year about to end. The figures are difficult to verify, but should be attributed not only to the tax on wealth in force for a number of years but also to the “special wealth contribution” introduced by the Avrault government for 2012.

Meanwhile, today the government has put forward the idea of taxing expats. Budget Minister Jérome Cahuzac spoke of this idea as a “way to prevent those deciding to live outside of France from enjoying exemption from the fiscal burdens that they have towards the country in which they were born, raised and educated, and oftentimes made their fortune — a country to which these people owe much and from which it seems wrong to want to escape from to avoid paying taxes.” Cahuzac concluded by saying that “President Francois Hollande has suggested revising fiscal conventions, and I believe that this is the only way to prevent expatriation for tax-related reasons.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Muslims Hail Mohammed Merah as “A Hero”: “He’s a Martyr of Islam”

Under Islam, a mass murderer who opens fire on children in their classrooms in a martyr and a hero.

If Adam Lanza had said the shahada before he died, he’d have been hailed as a hero in a large part of the world. If they could dance in the streets of Gaza (and Queens, NY) on 911 ……

Muslims in neighborhood of Toulouse jihad mass murderer: “Mohammed Merah, you know, he’s a hero, he’s a martyr of Islam” Jihadwatch

We’re always told that the Vast Majority of Muslims abhors and rejects violent jihad. Yet again and again we see stories like this one. Apparently Les Izards is full of misunderstanders of Islam. “Neighborhood Is Torn Over a Killer’s Legacy,” by Scott Sayare in the New York Times, December 19 (thanks to Block Ness):

TOULOUSE, France — In the spring, shortly after her son’s murder, Latifa Ibn Ziaten took a taxi to Les Izards, a hard-up immigrant neighborhood here, hoping to understand. She approached a group of young men to ask, “Do you know Mohammed Merah?”

Mr. Merah, a 23-year-old French-Algerian who claimed to have ties to Al Qaeda, had killed Ms. Ibn Ziaten’s son Imad, a sergeant in the French Army, with a gunshot to the head. Before dying in a police raid in March, Mr. Merah admitted that killing and those of two other soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children. He spent much of his short life in Les Izards.

“Mohammed Merah, you know, he’s a hero, he’s a martyr of Islam,” the men said, Ms. Ibn Ziaten recalled. “You haven’t seen what it’s like to live here?” they continued, gesturing toward their neighborhood of beige housing projects and gravelly concrete. “At least he showed the French what power is.”

[Return to headlines]

Germany: Ancient Bloodletting Practice Making a Comeback

Old medical practices, like bloodletting, are typically seen as reminders of a time when the human body was misunderstood. But some of these practices are now being revived — with scientific backing.

Scientists at the Charité Hospital in Berlin recently undertook a clinical study to test the benefits that bloodletting can have on obese people suffering from the metabolic syndrome, with symptoms including high blood pressure, high blood-sugar levels and excessive iron in their blood.

After withdrawing two vials of blood from patients with the syndrome, scientists compared the samples with patients from a control group, according to head researcher Andreas Michalsen. They noticed “a significant reduction of blood pressure” among the participants after four to six weeks, he told DW.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: Some Companies Duck the Property Tax

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 24 — While working Greeks are lining up to pay a doubled property tax being put into their electric bills, critics are arguing that some businesses and the wealthy are avoiding it as GreekReporter website writes. The levy is being called a “haratsi,” after a Turkish tax that was hated by Greeks during the Ottoman Occupation. The tax is being collected under the threat of having power turned off for non-payment and the Public Power Corporation (PPC) is reporting shutting off the lights for thousands of households each month.

Trade unions are charging that favored businesses are paying a lower rate or not paying at all and being protected by government interests. Among those getting favorable rates, it was reported, was SKAI TV, whose management said it was due to an oversight. While officials of the major opposition party the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) have demanded answers, the government said it is doing its utmost to collect revenues and is acting fairly.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italians Spend 10% More on Christmas Feasts

2.5 billion euros spent on food and wine — Coldiretti-SWG

(ANSAmed) — Rome, December 24 — Italians will feast on 2.5 billion euros worth of food and drink for the combined meals of Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch, according to figures released Monday by Coldiretti and SWG, a food business association and a polling company, respectively. The figure represents a 10% increase over last year.

The study found 92% of Italians are spending the holiday with friends or relatives. Roughly 3% of Italians plan to to to a restaurant or tavern, while 1% will seek out regional Christmas specialties at a rural hospitality option known as an agriturismo. Most meal-preparing respondents — a total of 59% — said they would put Italian-made ingredients on their tables.

Fully 23% said they were sticking to locally-sourced products.

Organic food will grace the tables of 11% of the responding cooks, while 18% sought out deals and discounts. Traditional Italian Christmas options like lentils, seasonal fruit, Italian sparkling wine and cotechino — a sausage-like, fatty pork dish — have increased in popularity by 14%, 15%, 20% and 8%, respectively over last year.

Xenophile options like unseasonal or imported fruit are down. Plans for pineapple, caviar and champagne fell by 3%, 2% and 1%. Italians are not only showing loyalty to locally produced versions of the Italian Christmas bread panettone, but also resurgent interest in obscure local holiday-breads or dishes like the panone di Natale in Emilia Romagna, piccilatiedd in Basilicata, the panpepato in Umbria, and the rintrocilio in Abruzzo.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Lags Behind EU Countries in Research Spending

Istat reports that Italy spent less than 20 million euros 2009

(ANSA) — Rome, December 18 — Italy has been one of the most sluggish spenders on research in the European Union, the national statistical agency Istat said Tuesday.

Italy spent the equivalent of 1.26% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) on research, compared with an EU average of 2.01% of GDP, according to 2009 data compiled by Istat in a chapter of its “Research, Innovation and Technology Information Italian Statistical Yearbook 2012”.

Overall in 2009, Italy invested just 19.209 million euros on research, including funding from business, public institutions, non-profit institutions and universities.

Italy wasn’t the worst at research investments: following it were Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania and Latvia. Among investment leaders were Finland, Sweden and Denmark, which were all well above the EU average, with investments of more than 3% of GDP.

The average investment of around 3% of GDP were made by Germany and Austria, followed by France, Belgium and Slovenia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Xmas Weather Split Between Cold North and Warm South

(AGI) Rome, Dec 24 — The weather in Italy over Christmas will be divided between 20 degrees in Sicily and the chilling effect of fog in the Po Valley in the north.

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

Italy: Deputy Senate Speaker Among Lombardy Funding Probe Suspects

Rosi Mauro long linked to Northern League ex-leader Bossi

(ANSA) — Milan, December 20 — Deputy Senate Speaker Rosi Mauro of the regionalist Northern League is among the 62 people under investigation for suspected misuse of public funds, judicial sources said Thursday.

Mauro is a long-time confidante of League founder and former leader Umberto Bossi, who stepped down after a funding scandal earlier this year.

Prosecutors said only four of the regional councillors elected in 2005 and 2010 for the Northern League and its ally, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, were not under investigation.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Attacks Monti on Sunday TV Program

Swipes at Fini and Ingroia, too, then threatens TV host

(ANSA) — Rome, December 24 — Italian ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi brutally retaliated on Sunday against criticism voiced by Italian Premier Mario Monti in a Rome press conference earlier that day. “I had a nightmare…Monti again in Palazzo Chigi, (Gianfranco) Fini in the sewers, (Antonio) Ingroia in charge of justice,” Berlusconi said on the RAI television program Domenica In. The one-liner pierced the idea of Monti occupying government headquarters once more — a prospect Monti said on Sunday he would consider if invited back. Monti’s tenure as the head of Italy’s technical government was interrupted this month when Berlusconi used his influence to undermine the government’s political majority and declared he would run again for premier. Days later, Berlusconi said he would withdraw if Monti would head up a centrist coalition. This autumn, Berlusconi has vacillated publicly between seeking Monti’s leadership as an ally and spurning Monti when he declined.

On Sunday, Monti said he had “difficulty” following the “linearity” of Berlusconi’s thinking recently. In his televised comment, Berlusconi also cut down his former coalition-ally Gianfranco Fini, who broke ranks with the former Berlusconi-led government, but remained president of the Chamber of Deputies after Berlusconi was forced to resign in November 2011. Antonio Ingroia is an Italian prosecutor and constitutional editorialist who asked for the indictment of one of Berlusconi’s long-term collaborators, senator Marcello Dell’Utri, among roughly a dozen figures in an investigation into alleged mafia association by the state. Ingroia has since transferred from the Palermo court to Guatemala for a year to spearhead a United Nations investigation into drug-trafficking. Later in the television transmission, Belusconi threatened to walk off the program because program host Massimo Giletti interrupted with too many questions for Berlusconi’s liking.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Voices Epp’s ‘Leftist’ Monti Fears

(AGI) Rome — In statements issued on Sunday, Berlusconi pointed to Monti’s likely political future as lying with third-way parties .

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

Italy: Monti Launches Twitter Account to Push Economic Agenda

(AGI) Rome — Are you interested in Prime Minister Mario Monti’s programme? All you have to do is go to

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

Italy: Berlusconi Promises to Repeal Property Tax on First House

(AGI) Rome — Silvio Berlusconi told CNBC TV he would repeal IMU, or the tax on a first home, at the first cabinet meeting .

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

Italy: Face-Off Between Berlusconi and Fini: “Nightare”, “Mayhem”

(AGI) Rome — “Last night I had a nightmare and I woke up screaming; there was another Monti Government with Ingroia Justice Minister” ..

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

Sweden: Brussels: Hands Off Our Snus!

Aftonbladet, Expressen

The proposed revision of the European directive on tobacco, presented on December 19 in Brussels, has provoked strong reactions in Sweden. In effect, the text upholds the prohibition on tobacco for oral use, or snus, which is highly popular with Swedes, declaring that “health warnings” similar to those imposed on cigarette packets must be visible on the boxes, and also keeps in place the prohibition against adding flavours. Although Sweden benefits from a exemption from the ban on producing and selling snus, it still cannot export the product — the flagship of its tobacco industry.

Aftonbladet accuses the Swedish government of failing to protect the exemption on snus, “occupied as it has been in trying to get permission to export,” under pressure from the tobacco lobby.

Fredrik Reinfeldt will now go down in history as the prime minister who has taken their snus away from the Swedes. If Swedish politicians want more success in the future, they must change their strategy. The priority must be the protection of the Swedish exemption. The desire of the tobacco industry to open up new markets must drop into second place.

In Expressen the philosopher Lars Gustafsson attacks the “authoritarian language of the European Commission”, which wants to dictate “what flavour snus will have and to where it will be exported.” It is even, he says, “a crucial issue for democracy…. But that is not the issue.” He writes —

It is no longer a philosophical question about whether an organisation incapable of coming up with a coherent policy to stop global warming should intervene in how consumers in member states should take their snus. No. What matters is to tell Barroso [President of the European Commission] that he is nothing more than a lackey. And that he cannot ignore our trade minister, who, unlike him, does have democratic legitimacy. Where does Barroso draw his legitimacy from?

“Pierre Schellekens is the head of the European Commission office in Stockholm. And he takes snus”, the daily writes in its editorial

M. Schellekens will soon be sending a report to Brussels on the growing scepticism in Sweden towards the EU and the negative image of the EU bureaucrats who want to regulate our snus in detail and prohibit its flavouring.

In many ways, European cooperation is a fantastic invention. But it is precisely this type of stupid proposal that erodes popular commitment to the Union — this outstanding incapacity to distinguish between big and small matters.

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

UK: Suspect Charged With Attempted Murder After Woman Was Attacked in the Street With 2ft-Long Samurai Sword

A man has been charged with attempted murder after a woman was attacked with a samurai sword.

Ahla Timofei, 25, of Marylebone, central London, was charged today with two counts of attempted murder.

He will appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court tomorrow. Police were called to Holloway Road early yesterday to find the woman bleeding heavily on ground.

Detective Superintendent Steve Wallace said: ‘This was a vicious unprovoked stranger attack on a defenceless woman and if it had not been for the officers bravery and quick thinking the woman and other members of the public could have been killed.

‘It takes a very brave officer to tackle a man who you know wants to inflict serious injuries to you with a samurai sword.

‘Courage such as this is above and beyond the call of duty and I can’t commend the officer highly enough.

‘The fact that the officer was unarmed and alone when he tackled the man only underlines his bravery.

[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy FM Working for EU Funds to Med Nations

For 2014-2020, anti-terrorism and clandestine immigration

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) and Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi (R) at the Ambassadors Conference in Rome

(ANSAmed) — ROME — France and Italy are working so that, from the EU within the 2014-2020 Financial Framework, “the allocation of resources in quantitative and qualitative terms will be consistent with the importance that the Mediterranean holds in the EU.” This was said by Italy’s foreign minister Giulio Terzi during a meeting at the Italian foreign ministry with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius. “Italy and France share the need to relaunch partnership policies with third countries, beginning with the southern Mediterranean,” Terzi said. “Many expectations have been placed in the ability of these countries to consolidate their young democracies and cooperate with the European Union for more effective anti-terrorism and anti-clandestine immigration activities.” The minister also underscored, however,the awareness that these expectations are actively supported by the EU. “Our joint efforts have also resulted,” said Italy’s foreign policy chief, “in an agreement as part of the group for reflection on the Mediterranean, which has made it possible to identify strategic initiatives in which to entrust the ambitious task of a global Euro-Mediterranean partnership, in part through such experiences as that of the Union for the Mediterranean.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

50,000 Muslims Led by Sword-Wielding Men March Through Christian Areas, Shouting Egypt is “Islamic, Islamic, Despite the Christians”

More of Obama’s catastrophic foreign policy failures. And still the enemedia covers up this historical, epic failure as democracy! Arab spring! Four more years!

There is little media coverage of the true nature of this rise of the savage and the devastating reversals for religious minorities under Islamic rule.

Four more years of Obama and I assure you, the world will be unrecognizable. But the enemedia (channeling Baghdad Bob) will make sure the American people are painfully unaware until …

Egypt: 50,000 Muslims led by sword-wielding men march through Christian areas, chanting that country would be “Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians” Jihadwatch

And making sure the Christians didn’t vote in the referendum. More on this story. “Fear keeps Egypt’s Christians away from polls,” by Hamza Hendawi for the Associated Press, December 18 (thanks to Betsy):

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza Militants Violated Laws of War, HRW

‘No legal justification’ for targeting civilians

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 24 — Gaza militants who fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians between November 14-21 violated the laws of war, Human Rights Watch (HRW) made known on Monday.

Of the 1,500 rockets fired, 800 hit their targets, including 60 that landed in residential areas, HRW quoted the Israeli army as saying. “The armed Palestinian groups clearly stated they intended to harm civilians,” said Middle East HRW Director Sarah Leah Whitson. “There is no legal justification for firing rockets at residential areas.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu Tweets in Arabic to “Intensify” Dialogue

(AGI) — Jerusalem, Dec 24 — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken everyone by surprise by tweeting in Arabic.

The aim of the first tweet in the language of his “enemies” is to “intensify” the dialogue with Israel’s neighbours.

Netanyahu’s new account in Arabic was launched without much clamour on 13 December and has attracted slightly more than 550 followers up to now, mostly in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon, compared to the more than 57,000 followers on his English account.

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

Middle East

Russian Troops Man Assad’s Anti-Aircraft Defenses

(AGI) London — Russian troops are manning Syria’s air defenses, The Guardian reported. It makes the setting up of a no-flyzone “impossible”.

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

Suliman: ‘Al Jazeera Plays the Piper, But Qatar Calls the Tune’

The long-time Berlin correspondent for Al Jazeera, Aktham Suliman, recently resigned from his post. The journalist tells DW that the Qatari government is exercising undue influence on Al Jazeera’s reporting.

DW: You’ve criticized Al Jazeera as lacking in professionalism, and you’ve quit your post as the broadcaster’s Berlin correspondent. Is Al Jazeera following a specific agenda?

Aktham Suliman: I have to say that professionalism is now lacking at Al Jazeera. When I started in 2002, I didn’t have that impression — quite the contrary. Of course there were fundamental, long-term problems, but in the last two years Al Jazeera has really let itself go in terms of professionalism.

It’s possible that it does have an agenda, but of course no one makes it clear. The thing is that, if you’re professional, you can deal with an agenda. If the employees, the editors or the owners had one and tried to impose it, professionalism would ensure that this didn’t happen at the cost of high quality journalistic product.

But that’s precisely what didn’t happen when efforts were obviously being made to impose on Al Jazeera the agenda of the state of Qatar. The problem is that the organization lacks internal structures that would immunize it against what was presumably an attempt by the owner or by the editors to interfere politically in things that should have been handled in a journalistic manner.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Syria: Orthodox Patriarch Urges Christians to Remain

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, DECEMBER 24 — The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Syria has urged all Christians to remain in the war-torn country and called for those on both sides of the civil war to accept each other and reach a compromise. Making his first address in Damascus since taking over from the late Ignatius IV, John X (Yazigi), the patriarch of Antioch, said it was vital for Christians to refrain from leaving Syria. “We Christians are in Syria and will remain here,” he said as reported by daily Kathimerini. “We believe Christ is always present in this area, which is the birthplace of Christianity.” It is estimated that the Orthodox community in Syria numbers some 1.8 million people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria Warns Swedes: Don’t Join Rebels

Syria News, a regime-run television station, has warned Swedes against fighting in the Syrian civil war, reports Sweden’s TV4 News.

The Syria News clip warns that Swedish “mercenaries” will meet a “fate darker than the night” and will be “crushed on Syria’s noble ground”.

The statement is seen as a response to a recruitment video that appeared on YouTube in November 2012.

The video encouraged Swedish Muslims to join the fight against the Syrian regime.

It was posted on YouTube by a group calling itself the Swedish holy warriors in Syria (Svenska Mujahideen Fi Ash Sham). The group also emailed a link to the video to the TT news agency.

“Jihad is obligatory for any and all who believe in Allah, his prophet and doomsday. It is obligatory in Sweden and in the rest of the world,” a man speaking in fluent but slightly accented Swedish says in the clip.

Swedish security service Säpo confirmed that Swedes have travelled to Syria to fight in the civil war but did not say how many have gone.

The YouTube video shows several persons holding automatic weapons and assembling outdoors. The landscape appears to be Mediterranean.

However, experts at Säpo were unable to confirm whether the video was recorded in Syria.

It was also unclear why the group chose to use an older Arabic name for Syria — Sham.

Nor is there information on whether the men in the video have any ties to larger militant networks or have acted alone in producing the amateur clip.

Experts also questioned the extent of the Swedish connections of those behind the video.

“You see one person who speaks Swedish, so it’s hard to say anything about how many who are behind the film have ties to Sweden,” terror expert Lars Nicander of the Swedish National Defence College told the Expressen newspaper at the time.

This is not the first time that Swedes have been called to arms by groups claiming it is a religious obligation.

“(Somali Islamists) al-Shabaab did something similar two years ago and filmed it in the sports arena in Mogadishu,” said Nicander.

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


Putin Says Russian Passport for Depardieu ‘A Done Deal’

Soon-to-be tax exile Gérard Depardieu can have a Russian passport if he wants it, the country’s President Vladimir Putin said after the French film star announced he would return his French one.

French actor Gérard Depardieu, under fierce criticism for going into self-imposed tax exile in Belgium, would be more than welcome in Russia, the country’s President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

“If Gérard really wants a residency permit or a Russian passport, it’s a done deal,” Putin said at a press conference. “We have very friendly relations (with Depardieu), but I know that deep down he feels French.”

The scandal surrounding Depardieu’s move to a Belgian village a stone’s throw from the French border escalated earlier in December when French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described the actor’s decision as “pathetic”.

In an open letter last Sunday the Cyrano de Bergerac star said he could not bear the “insult” and would be returning his French passport.

He also claimed that he had paid 85% tax in the last year, amid news that he had put his Paris mansion on the market for a reported 50 million euros.

Putin said he was certain the French authorities “didn’t want to annoy” one of France’s biggest film stars and said the spat between Depardieu and Ayrault was “unfortunate”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

A Dark Christmas for Pakistani Christians

Christians celebrate Christmas amid growing fear of persecution and rampant economic and social discrimination in Muslim-majority Pakistan. The year 2012 was one of the worst years for them in the country.

In many parts of the world, Christmas means a time of celebration. But for Christians in Pakistan, who live under constant fear of persecution by the state and majority Sunni Muslims, there is not much to celebrate.

Christians make up about two percent of the 180 million people living in Pakistan. Rights organizations say that like any other religious minority, they face legal and cultural discrimination in the Islamic Republic.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Afghan Police Officer Kills Five Colleagues

(AGI) — Mazar-i-Sharif, Dec 24 — An Afghan police officer shot dead five of his colleagues on Monday in the latest attack by members of the security forces on their own colleagues. The attack was carried out by Dur Mohammad, the head of a police post in the northern province of Jawzjan.

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

Afghan Taliban Raise Bounty on UK Prince Harry’s Head

(AGI) London — Britain’s armed forces fear for the safety of Prince Harry, with the bounty on his head being raised after he reportedly killed a Taliban commander.

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

Far East

Chianti Gets a New Name for Chinese Market

Consortium registers label meaning ‘health to the emperor’

(ANSA) — Florence, December 20 — Tuscany’s world-famous wine Chianti has had a name change for the Chinese market, President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Giovanni Busi said on Thursday.

“To avoid mistakes or fraud we decided to register the trademark in China with a Chinese name,” Busi said.

Starting last week the Chinese character reading ‘Kang Di’ in Mandarin, meaning ‘health to the emperor’, became the name that will grace the bottles of Chianti ready to line the shelves for local consumers.

“This idea was born after we realized that Chianti labels in Chinese often showed up with very different translations and were causing confusion among consumers,” Busi said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Female Circumcision is a Right, Says Imam

A MUSLIM leader and outspoken opponent of female genital mutilation says female circumcision, which he defines as the partial removal of the clitoral hood, is not only an utterly distinct practice, but the “divinely ordained right of a woman” under Islam.

Sydney-based Al-Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences and Human Development founder and president, Imam Afroz Ali, appeared on the ABC’s 7:30 program in October, condemning female genital mutilation and saying he had been told by community members of its occurrence in Australia.

But Imam Afroz defines female circumcision and female genital mutilation as “two very different, and unrelated, kinds of acts; the former being permissible and the latter completely forbidden under Islamic law”.

The imam, who was yesterday unable to be contacted, made the argument in a paper entitled Mutilating Facts: Setting the Record Straight About Female Circumcision & Genital Mutilation, published this year on his SeekersGuidance website…

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mali: Islamists Take Pickaxes to Timbuktu’s Ancient Mausoleums

Armed groups occupying Timbuktu in northern Mali have used pickaxes to smash up any remaining mausoleums in the ancient city.

The rebels’ ruthless implementation of their version of Islamic law comes just days after the United Nations approved a military force to wrest back control of the conflict-ridden area.

“Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu, Allah doesn’t like it,” Abou Dardar, leader of the Islamist Ansar Dine group, told AFP. “We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area.”

Witnesses confirmed the claims.

Anything that doesn’t fall under Islam “is not good. Man should only worship Allah,” Mohamed Alfoul, a member of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said.

The vandalism of the Muslim saints’ tombs in the UNESCO World Heritage site came a day after other Islamists in the northern city of Gao announced they had amputated two people’s hands.

[Return to headlines]


Migrants Take Italy’s Population Up to 59.4 Million

Over four million foreigners living in Italy

(ANSA) — Rome, December 19 — Italy’s population has grown 4.3% over the last decade to climb to 59,433,744 thanks to arrival of migrants, Istat said Wednesday as it presented the definitive figures from the nation’s last census. The rise from a population of 56,995,744 in 2001 is exclusively down to migrants, the national statistics agency said.

Indeed, the number of foreigners in Italy has trebled, increasing 201.8% from 1,334,889 to 4,029,145.

The number of native Italians fell in the same period by 250,000, a drop of 0.5%. Two out of three foreigners live in Italy’s wealthier northern regions, with almost a quarter of the total concentrated in the Lombardy region around Milan, while 24% live in the centre and 13.5% are based in the south. Women make up 53.3% of Italy’s foreign population. Istat said Rome is still Italy’s biggest city with a population of 2,617,175, followed by Milan (1,242,123), Naples (962,003), Turin (872,367) and Palermo (657,561).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

We’re on Our Way to Britain: A Year From Now Up to 29m Bulgarians and Romanians Will Have the Right to Settle in Britain and Claim Benefits.

And these gypsies in the slums of Sofia can hardly wait…

Olympic boxer Bobby George stands on an icy street in the Bulgarian shanty town where he grew up.

A cruel wind whips his dark hair as snow falls on the chaotic rows of shacks which are home to 50,000 of the European Union’s poorest inhabitants.

Plunging his freezing hands into his thin leather jacket, he says despairingly: ‘There is nothing for my gipsy people here.

Their eyes are turning to England where they can have a better life. Hundreds of families want to go to the UK because they have no future in my country.’

George is lucky. Five years ago, he changed his name from Boris Georgiev and left the seedy slum of Fakulteta, on the outskirts of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, to settle in Luton, Beds, with his wife, Tina, and daughter, Gergana, now six.

They have since had another daughter, one-year-old Mari.


A couple of weeks ago he returned on a cut-price flight for Christmas and found nothing much has changed.

Growling stray dogs chase each other down alleyways, rats scamper over piles of rubbish, and children in slippers, long outgrown with their backs cut out, dodge horse-drawn gipsy carts as they run to the few shops for a 40p loaf of bread.

The Sofia bus route does not reach Fakulteta because the drivers refuse to go there, as do the rubbish collection men. At night, the place is pitched into darkness because there is no street lighting.

The only indication that the city authorities recognise the huge gipsy town’s existence is the electricity meter boxes bolted tightly to the tops of telegraph poles so they cannot be tampered with by residents.

The main supermarket — the owner is himself a gipsy — has stopped all credit because of the debts racked up for unpaid groceries.

No wonder that in a year’s time, when a total of 29 million Bulgarians (and Romanians) gain the right to live, work, and claim state benefits in Britain under EU ‘freedom of movement’ rules, a great many families from Fakulteta plan to decamp the 1,250 miles to the UK.

‘The gipsies have no jobs because ordinary Bulgarians do not like or trust us,’ explains Bobby George.

‘We are discriminated against as gipsy people. In Britain it is different. You treat everyone, black, white, brown or yellow, just the same. Of course, they will want to go.

‘But there will be a day when your country is full up, when you cannot afford to give benefits to any more people from Europe and the rest of the world, too. They hope to get there before that moment happens.’

Bobby, a good-looking 30-year-old with a pugilist’s nose, is probably right about Britain nearing its limits.

The latest Census, published this month, reveals how mass immigration has dramatically changed our country. Since EU borders were opened up in 2004, 1,114,368 Eastern Europeans have uprooted to live in England.

Last year, 40,000 Bulgarians and Romanians moved to the UK, joining 130,000 of their countrymen who have settled here during the past decade.

But these numbers are nothing compared with the flood of migrants expected when the rules change in a little over a year’s time.

Until now, migrants from the two former communist nations (officially barred from working or claiming benefits in Britain until the freedom of movement rule comes in on January 1, 2014) have neatly exploited a gaping loophole in the EU rules.

It allows Bulgarians and Romanians claiming to be self-employed to get a British national insurance number and a raft of hand-outs, including housing and child benefit.

Many of the new arrivals have worked hard, cornering the market in car-wash companies, for instance.

But others are less industrious, and include Roma gipsies who, remarkably, now sell a third of all copies of the Big Issue.

Even selling one copy a week of the magazine (created to help the British homeless) miraculously gives them self-employed status and allows them to beg with impunity outside shops and on street corners.

Bulgarian and Romanian incomers have been blamed by police in their own countries and in Britain for a massive rise in organised crime, including the trafficking of children to Britain to beg, pickpocket, milk state benefits and even enter the sex trade.

It is estimated that 2,000 children from Romania and Bulgaria are under the control of modern-day Fagins in our major cities.

According to Scotland Yard, a skilful child thief can make up to £100,000 a year ‘working’ on the streets, buses and Tubes in London — cash that is sent back to Roma villages and towns at home.

So critical is the problem that Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister visited Britain earlier this month to meet Home Secretary Theresa May to discuss how child trafficking and other organised crimes can be controlled when the UK doors swing open yet more widely.

Meanwhile, Antoaneta Vassileva, head of Bulgaria’s National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, warns that the UK is now the EU hot-spot for Roma child pickpockets from her country — a problem that will almost certainly get worse when the rules change in a year’s time.

In Sofia, she explained to me: ‘The children are trained by their parents, or another relative, to be thieves…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Netherlands Against Quota of Women for Companies

THE HAGUE, 20/12/12 — A large majority in the Lower House is against the European Commission´s proposal to set a quota of women for the leadership of companies.

The House also pulled out a so-called ‘yellow card’, a warning addressed to European Commissioner Viviane Reding. She watered down her original proposal for making a quota obligatory, so that this is now put as something to aim for. But The Hague considers that Brussels should not interfere with this sort of thing at all.

National parliaments can make objections to proposals from the European Commission if they think that a question can be better resolved by the member states themselves. If one-third of the European parliaments have made such an objection, the Commission must reconsider or withdraw the proposal.

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


How Blasphemy Laws Are Stifling Free Expression Worldwide

As a recent Pew Forum study reveals, blasphemy laws are widespread, with laws penalizing blasphemy, apostasy, or defamation of religion (including religious “hate speech”) present in 94 countries. While in most countries, laws criminalizing certain types of speech apply to the Internet, some countries have recently crafted specific laws to ban or criminalize online expressions of blasphemy. Still others have cracked down on online speech using existing laws. Here’s a roundup of some of the worst offenders in 2012:

Saudi Arabia

It should come as no surprise that ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia is strict on speech, but this year the country outdid itself when it extradited Hamza Kashgari, a young journalist who had penned an earnest letter to the Muslim prophet on Twitter, from Malaysia. A few months later, the country began mulling over new laws to “combat the criticism of the basic tenets of Islamic sharia” online.


In nearby Kuwait, the Information Minister announced in May plans to pass new laws regulating the use of social networking sites amidst growing tensions between the country’s Shi’a majority and Sunni minority. The proposal came after writer Mohammad al-Mulaifi was detained for “insulting the Muslim Shi’ite majority” on Twitter.


In March, a Bangladesh court blocked access to five Facebook pages deemed to be blasphemous to Islam, while also demanding that content hosts and creators be brought to justice over “uploading indecent materials.” The court order also stated, chillingly, a desire to find ways of easily facilitating future blockages of websites and pages.

[Return to headlines]

‘Muslim Comedian’ Is an Oxymoron

Frankly, I used to enjoy some of the Muslim comedians in this video, for their mildly self-deprecating brand of humor. But, no more. Lately, they are on a mission to wipe out ‘Islamophobia’ via comedy. Trouble is, they are no longer funny, instead they come off as rather condescending toward non-Muslims.

[Return to headlines]

The Rise and Possible Fall of SMS Text Messaging

SMS text messaging has revolutionized mobile phone communication, ever since it was launched 20 years ago. But more modern, Internet-based technologies appear poised to bring an end to its dominance.

“Come later, still busy. CU XOXO”: a typical message written using the SMS (short message service), complete with well-known abbreviations. The service has become a convenient part of daily communication ever since it was launched on December 3, 1992.

These days, SMS abbreviations like these have become a common part of everyday speech, with most everyone now knowing that “CU” means “See you” and “XOXO” standing in for, of course, “hugs and kisses.”

Keeping it concise is an essential element of the SMS: text messages may not be longer than 160 characters, and for good reason. When the technology was still in its early stages in the 1980s, SMS inventors were guided by analog predecessors like the postcard and telex-newswires, the latter of which were restricted to less than 160 characters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]