Monday, January 13, 2003

News Feed 20130107

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Deficit 2012 to be 0.5% Less Than Forecast
»Greek People Warned Over Fuel Choice
»Italian Spread Drops to Lowest Level Since August 2011
»Italy: CGIL Shoots Back at Monti for Calling Union Obstructionist
»Model Reformer in Trouble Ireland Lobbies to Have Europe Share Banking Risk
»South European Auto Market in Deep Crisis
»Spain: Protests in Madrid Against Health Reform
»Spanish Pamplona’s Locksmiths Boycott Evictions
»Swiss-Based Bank Group Eases Crisis Rules
»CAIR vs. The Truth
»Fiat 500 Has Record North American Year as Sales Top 50,000
»Frank Gaffney: Al Gore Profits From the Stealth Jihad
»Let’s Not Give Up on the Constitution
Europe and the EU
»Britain’s Political Poltergeist Cameron Succumbs to Growing Europhobia
»Denmark: Skål! 2012 Was Record Year for Beer
»French Socialists Struggle With Millionaire Tax
»German Bigotry Shifting From Race to Religion
»Germany: 3-D Printing Technology May Bring New Industrial Revolution
»Italian MEPs ‘Top’ For Questions, Lagging in Attendance
»Italy: Monti Drops Impartial Front, Fires on Left and Right
»Italy: Berlusconi Says Bersani is Real Opponent, Not Monti
»Italy: Soccer: Milan’s Boateng Grateful for Solidarity Over Racism
»Italy: Berlusconi Reaches Deal With League, Ready to be Economy Min
»Italy: Berlusconi Gains 10 Points in 15 Days of Campaigning
»Italy: Undertaker Providing Muslim Funeral Services Opens in Padua
»Post-Holiday Sales Kick Off in Southern Italy
»Supporting Our Own Demise: Part 1
»Sweden: Courts Could be Forced to Hire Interpreters
»UK: EDL Leader Lennon Jailed for Passport Offence
»UK: Enoch Powell Widow ‘Furious’ Over ‘Ludicrous’ Slur That Portrays Her Husband as a Nazi Sympathiser
»UK: iPhone User Hit With £19,000 Orange Bill for ‘Excessive Internet Usage’ After Fault With Mobile
»UK: Mother Jailed for Minimum of 17 Years for Beating Seven-Year-Old Son to Death With a Stick Because He Couldn’t Recite Koran
»Vatican Bank Card Payments Suspended by Italy
North Africa
»Egypt: Army Foils Attempt to ‘Bomb Coptic Church’ In Sinai
»Milk Emergency in Tunisia, Massive Purchases From Abroad
»The Power Elite and the Muslim Brotherhood, Part 17
Israel and the Palestinians
»Livni Fails to Form Israeli Anti-Netanyahu Coalition
Middle East
»Al Jazeera a Muslim Brotherhood Front?
»Bahrain: Top Court Upholds Life Sentences Against 20 Actvists
»Iraq: Christian Teacher Has Throat Cut in Mosul, Plunging City in Fear Again
»Saudi Arabia: 90-yo Man Pays $17,500 for 15-yo Runaway Bride
»Turkey’s Erdogan Calls for Joint Peace Deal on Kurdish Problem
South Asia
»India: 4 Dead, Curfew Imposed After Clashes at Maharashtra’s Dhule Town
Far East
»Blame Bacteria if You Start Putting on Weight
Australia — Pacific
»Australian Bushfires: Rescue Workers Search for Missing
Latin America
»Fiat Has Record Year in Brazil as 2012 Sales Jump 11%
»Greece: Over 1,000 Illegals Repatriated in December
Culture Wars
»Gay Marriage: 69% of French Want Referendum, Ifop Survey
»‘Exocomets’ Common Across Milky Way Galaxy

Financial Crisis

Greece: Deficit 2012 to be 0.5% Less Than Forecast

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 4 — Greece’s 2012 budget will close “slightly better” than expected, according to a top Finance Ministry official, which creates a small cushion for this year and sends a message to the country’s creditors that Greece is on the right path. According to sources, as daily Kathimerini reports, the state budget will show a deficit that is smaller than forecast by about 0.5% of gross domestic product, or almost 1 billion euros. A clearer picture will emerge in the second half of January, while the financial year will conclude at end-February when the last tax revenues for 2012 will be cashed in. This positive development is exclusively attributed to the considerable drop in state spending, as revenues are actually smaller than in 2011. Nevertheless there are still some issues regarding the expenditure side, which mostly concern covering the needs of social security funds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greek People Warned Over Fuel Choice

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 4 — With government-imposed tax hikes making the cost of heating oil prohibitive for many Greeks, they’re now being warned to be careful what they burn in their fireplaces and wood stoves as soot and smoke are filling the night air, making it unhealthy, as GreekReporter website writes. The Ministry of Environment has advised people not to use fuels that are polluting, although that’s the only choice left for many who can’t afford heating oil that is running at 1.50 euros per liter. The country’s Network Monitoring Station of Air Pollution has recorded, especially in Athens, unusually high levels of suspended particles, particularly at night, when people who stay outside for any period of time find their clothes and hair smell like they’ve been near a fire. More wood being burnt together with Athens’ geographical position, is causing more smog and more potentially harmful particles in the air, health officials said. At dusk, a sooty smog can be seen covering Athens these nights. In many parts of Greece, this has been a relatively mild winter so far but if colder weather sets in, the use of fireplaces and wood stoves is expected to increase considerably, further polluting the air.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Spread Drops to Lowest Level Since August 2011

Fell as low as 276 points in today’s trading

(ANSAmed) — Rome — The yield spread between 10-year Italian bonds and the German benchmark one, a barometer of Italy’s borrowing costs in the eurozone crisis, fell as low as 276 points in Thursday’s trading. The spread had not dropped under 276 points since August 2011. The yield spread between 10-year Italian bonds and the German benchmark one, a barometer of Italy’s borrowing costs in the eurozone crisis, fell as low as 276 points in Thursday’s trading. The spread had not dropped under 276 points since August 2011, three months before then premier Silvio Berlusconi was forced to resign amid a spiralling debt crisis, after which Mario Monti took over with an emergency technocrat government. Italian 10-year yields were trading at 4.2%. Italian two-year bond yields were trading at 1.7%, the lowest levels since October 2010.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: CGIL Shoots Back at Monti for Calling Union Obstructionist

Premier ‘doesn’t know this country’ says Camusso

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — The head of Italy’s biggest trade union confederation shot back at outgoing Premier Mario Monti on Thursday for accusing the left-wing CGIL of obstructing structural economic reforms. “He doesn’t know this country,” said CGIL Secretary-General Susanna Camusso. “He offers criticism but very few proposals. If he’s decided to stand in elections he should discuss his platforms”. Earlier Thursday, Monti called on the center-left Democratic Party (PD) to silence the anti-reform elements within its ranks, which was seen as a jab at the CGIL and other groups.

Monti, who has been at the helm of an emergency technocrat government since November 2011, is standing to retain office on a reform platform. “We’ve all seen his so-called reforms,” added Camusso.

“Poverty, unemployment and human frailty are all on the rise in this country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Model Reformer in Trouble Ireland Lobbies to Have Europe Share Banking Risk

Ireland’s reform policies have been widely praised for helping it emerge from the crisis, but the truth is bleaker. If the government fails to get European taxpayers to assume some of the risk of its ailing banking sector, the country could soon require another bailout.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South European Auto Market in Deep Crisis

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 7 — In several southern European countries, car sales dropped significantly in 2012 over the previous year, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA). Car sales fell by 13.4% in Spain, by 14% in France, and by 20% in Italy, bringing it back to 1979 levels. In Portugal in the same period, private car sales fell by 44% and commercial vehicle sales dropped 54%, local media reported.

The negative trend looks set to continue in southern Europe, analysts said. “At best, the 2013 market will remain stable over 2012,” said a report by the French Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (CCFA).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Protests in Madrid Against Health Reform

Thousands against healthcare privatization

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, January 7 — Thousands of doctors working for public healthcare and citizens marched on Monday in downtown Madid against the approval of a regional budget law providing, among other things, for the privatization of six hospitals and of 27 of the 270 regional health centres.

The march started in the Neptune square until Puerta del Sol where a minute of silence was observed to commemorate ‘the death of public healthcare’.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spanish Pamplona’s Locksmiths Boycott Evictions

Refuse to collaborate with banks, courts: ‘We have our dignity’

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — The Assembly of Professional Locksmiths of the Spanish city of Pamplona, the capital of Navarre, will no longer aid authorities in evicting delinquent homeowners. The locksmiths said they would not assist in evictions that led to at least nine suicides over the past few months, and which have affected 400,000 people since the economic crisis began.

“It will affect us economically, but we have our dignity,” Assembly President Iker de Carlos told reporters. “From now on they will have to call locksmiths outside Navarre. What you see on television is different from when you go there. You know you’re helping to kick people out of their home, to stay on top of a perpetual debt that you will have to keep paying. We know that we will not start a revolution, but we want to serve as a example to Navarre society.” In Spain, locksmiths are called in by the courts to change the locks on a home once its occupants have been evicted.

Locksmiths throughout the country are evaluating the Pamplona action as an example to follow. “We are professionals, but we are people first,” Spanish Federation of Locksmiths President David Ormaechea told El Pais newspaper. “We can no longer participate in these terrible events without having a say.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss-Based Bank Group Eases Crisis Rules

The world’s top banking regulatory body, based in Switzerland, is easing the first global liquidity rules scheduled to apply to banks in 2015 and aimed at improving their ability to survive financial crises.

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision said at a press conference in the Swiss city on Sunday that it had widened the definition of the easy-to-sell assets that banks will have to hold to survive periods of stress.

The Basel III standards had been initially proposed in 2010 but banks and financial institutions have since lobbied intensively to make the rules more flexible and result in lower costs for the sector.

The details of the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR), which was drafted to avoid a repeat of the 2008 banking crisis and unanimously endorsed on Sunday by the Basel group’s top oversight body, give the banks a reprieve.

Its provisions include a much broader definition of the minimum assets every bank needs to hold, making it less costly for them to maintain the required buffer.

“The changes to the definition of the LCR, developed and agreed by the Basel Committee over the past two years, include an expansion in the range of assets eligible as HQLA (high quality liquid assets),” the committee said.

The new LCR’s full details will also be fully implemented only in 2019, instead of 2015 as initially proposed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


CAIR vs. The Truth

As Robert Spencer explains, the term “ Islamist” implies “ that Islam itself, in its authentic form, has no requisite political aspect, and no incompatibility with Western values or democratic government. The problem with this is that it is a Western, artificial distinction, imposed by non-Muslims upon the Islamic world and lacking any real substance with reference to Islamic law as it has always been formulated by the Sunni and Shi’ ite madhahib (schools of jurisprudence). Islam has always been political, and the union of religion and the state has always been essential to its political program; the idea that all this can and should be separated from Islam proper is the wishful thinking of Western analysts who do not wish to face the implications of the fact that these ideas represent mainstream Islamic thinking.”

But what is interesting is that now even this whitewashed term “ Islamist” is unacceptable to our Islamic overlords. Muslim Brotherhood groups in the United States like Hamas-CAIR have gotten so brazen and supremacist that they are condemning the use of a word that has been widely and generally used to do what they have for years tried to bully and intimidate everyone into doing: denying any connection between Islam on the one hand and jihad violence and Islamic supremacism on the other.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Fiat 500 Has Record North American Year as Sales Top 50,000

Sales jump 50% in December, 121% on the year

(ANSA) — New York, January 3 — US sales of the Fiat 500 mini car jumped by 50% in December and by 121% over the full year, the Turin-based company said Thursday.

The December figures for the Fiat brand — which only sells the 500 under its brand badge in North America — was the best for all group brands in that market and marked the 10th consecutive month of record sales.

Fiat also controls Chrysler and its Dodge and Jeep brands.

In terms of models, the 500 saw sales jump 64% compared with December 2011, while sales of the convertible increased 39% on the year-earlier month. For the whole year, 500 sales reached 43,772 units, up 121% on 2011.

Sales of the 500 in the US, Canada and Mexico topped 50,000 units in 2012. In 2011, the 500 was sold only for 10 months, from its launch in March to the end of the year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Al Gore Profits From the Stealth Jihad

Let’s call it Al Goreera. That seems a fitting title for the new network that former Vice President Al Gore is launching with the jihadists’ favorite television outlet: Al Jazeera. The effect will be to create vast new opportunities for our enemies to propagandize the American people, a key ingredient of their “civilization jihad” against our country.

It is hard to overstate the magnitude of this treachery. Imagine the furor that would have erupted if, during the Cold War, one of the United States’ most prominent former leaders had enriched himself to the tune of $100 million by giving the Soviet Union’s intelligence service, the KGB, a vehicle for engaging in information and political warfare in some 40 million homes across this land. If anything, the danger posed by Al-Goreera today is even greater since most of us — and especially our elites — are unaware that such warfare is even afoot…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Let’s Not Give Up on the Constitution

A whole generation of students are being taught that the Constitution is unimportant, and if anything, a hindrance.

As my nephew reviewed his history book, he became excited when he noticed an entire chapter of the text book was dedicated to the United States Constitution. Like his Uncle Doug, Branden loves history, and has studied extensively the various Founding Fathers, and the Constitutional Convention.

The opportunity to discuss the law of the land in class was more than he ever expected. Branden waited patiently through the school year as the class marched through the textbook, chapter by chapter. When it finally came time for the chapter on the Constitution, the teacher skipped it, and went on to the following chapter in the book.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Britain’s Political Poltergeist Cameron Succumbs to Growing Europhobia

Britain’s right-wing conservative movement is making life difficult for Prime Minister David Cameron. The UK Independence Party wants to lead the country out of the EU, and its approval ratings are higher than ever. As the pressure mounts, Cameron has been at pains to outline a clear stance on Europe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Skål! 2012 Was Record Year for Beer

756 new brews hit the domestic market last year, adding to the nation’s growing drinking options

For Denmark’s beer fans, 2012 was a banner year.

Beer drinkers were treated to 756 new beers on the Danish market during the course of the last year according to numbers from Beerticker/Beerticker PRO, which has kept tabs on the domestic beer market since 2007. The new brews set a record, besting the 647 new beers that were introduced in 2008.

While powerhouse Carlsberg may market itself as ‘probably the best beer in the world’, it is now far from the only beer available in Denmark. In the past decade alone, 4,645 new beers have been introduced to the market.

In 2012’s record-setting year, 11 new breweries popped up nationwide, bringing the total to 132, including five on the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Socialists Struggle With Millionaire Tax

Disagreements have emerged between members of France’s Socialist-led government over a bill to tax the country’s highest earners, after the original 75% law championed by François Hollande was struck down by France’s highest court.

France’s ruling Socialist government was struggling to rebound a week after the Constitutional Council struck down its law to tax the country’s highest earners at a 75% rate, with government ministers publicly disagreeing on how to rescue one of President François Hollande’s flagship measures.

On Sunday, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told France Inter radio that the bill was being re-written and that it would be an “exceptional, temporary” law that should not outlive France’s current economic slump.

Moscovici’s words appeared to contradict comments made earlier in the day by Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who spoke of a “permanent” tax that would be on the books no later than the autumn of 2013.

In late December France’s top court ruled against a law that would have taxed individual revenues above 1 million euros per year at 75%, claiming that the move was “excessive” and would unfairly target certain households because it singled out individuals instead of couples who file taxes jointly.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Bigotry Shifting From Race to Religion

A new study warns that Islamophobia in Germany becoming culturally acceptable, as racism moves away from ethnicity towards religious bias against Muslims.

“It’s no longer ‘the Turks’ but ‘the Muslims’,” Wilhelm Heitmeyer, head of the institute for research of interdisciplinary conflict and violence at Bielefeld University told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Monday. Research has led him to be concerned general xenophobia had given way to a growing rejection of Islam in Germany.

His theory is not new — a study from Münster university found that in 2010, 66 percent of western Germans and 74 percent of eastern Germans had a negative attitude towards Muslims.

And a more recent study from the Allensbach Institute suggested that this had not changed over the past two years, as only 22 percent of Germans asked said they agreed with Germany’s ex-President Christian Wulff’s statement that Islam, like Christianity, was a part of Germany.

Heitmeyer also found that Islamophobia seemed to exist not only in the far-right, but was also present in more left-leaning and centrist circles. The sentiment was identifiable throughout the country, from the highest echelons of society to the lowest.

Neo-Nazi expert from Düsseldorf technical university Alexander Häusler told the newspaper that while discriminating against an entire ethnicity was a taboo, religion-based racism was generally considered to be exercising freedom of opinion.

“Criticism of Islam or Muslims appear acceptable, because it is not seen as classically racist,” said Häusler.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: 3-D Printing Technology May Bring New Industrial Revolution

3-D printing technology, used industrially for the last few decades, is poised to break into the mass market. Its endless and swiftly developing possibilities — from entrepreneurial manufacturing to the potential sculpting of human organs — could become the next industrial revolution.

When the TV series Star Trek first brought the starship Enterprise into German living rooms, the concept of a replicator was pure science fiction, a fantastical utopian vision we might experience one day centuries in the future. Replicators, something of a mixture between computer and miniature factory, were capable of creating food and replacement parts from next to nothing. They were highly practical devices, since Captain Kirk couldn’t exactly take along a lot of supplies for his journeys through outer space. That futuristic vision, though, has receded far into the past — overtaken by the present.

The real-world replicator-like technology poised to revolutionize the world is known as 3-D printing, though that term is misleading, since the process has little to do with printing. Three-dimensional printers can be as small as a suitcase or as large as a telephone booth, depending on the object they are meant to faithfully replicate from a 3-D computer blueprint. Inside the machine, the product is assembled by stacking extremely thin layers of material on top of one another, sort of like reassembling an apple that has been cut into super-fine slices.

Many different technological routes can be taken to reach the same goal. In one variation, nozzles spray liquid material into layers. Another method, which produces even better results, aims laser beams at finely powdered material, causing the grains to fuse together at precisely the spot where the beam hits. All 3-D printing techniques, however, follow the same principle: The object grows layer by layer, each one just a few hundredths of a millimeter thick, until it acquires the desired shape. This technique can be applied to steel, plastic, titanium, aluminum and many other metals.

Assembling, screwing together, adhering, welding — all these processes are rendered obsolete when even the most complex shapes can be produced by a single machine using this casting technique. The end result can be an artificial hip, a hearing aid, a cell phone case, customized footwear or even the Urbee, a prototype car that has been making a splash.

Engineers at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) have used this technique to print out an entire bicycle that only needs added tires and a chain to be fully functional. British researchers, meanwhile, have printed a maneuverable drone with a rear-engine drive. Printed components are also used in Formula 1 racing and at NASA. Dental laboratories use 3-D printers to produce crowns, while doctors experiment with artificial heart tissue. Filmmakers also print animation models and automotive parts suppliers create replacement parts.

The printing of electronic components is even in the works. American corporation Xerox, for example, has developed a silver ink that functions as an electrical conductor and can be printed directly onto plastic or other materials, making it possible to integrate simple circuits into printed objects.

Given the potentially vast global impact of this new technology, it’s surprising that so far only around two dozen companies dominate the market. Along with US giants 3-D Systems and Stratasys, about 10 German companies provide this technology, some of them market leaders in their respective segments, for example Eos and Concept Laser, both in the southern state of Bavaria.

Some of these German 3-D printing specialists are growing at a rate that has some industry experts hoping this nascent digital industrial age will finally see the emergence of new innovation drivers “made in Germany.” German companies are seen as leaders, especially when it comes to 3-D printing of metals.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italian MEPs ‘Top’ For Questions, Lagging in Attendance

Country delegation ranks 24th in showing up to sessions

(ANSA) — Brussels, January 4 ; Italy’s 73 representatives to the European Parliament came top in terms of the number of questions presented but showed a poor attendance record, recent data showed. The Italian delegation stood at 24th place for average attendance by its members at plenary sessions according to the website, based on figures updated to December 30. Mara Bizzotto of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group was the Italian MEP with the record for greatest involvement and Francesca Barracciu of the Socialists and Democrats was the Italian MEP with the record for least involvement.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Drops Impartial Front, Fires on Left and Right

Outgoing premier hits out at ‘volatile’ Berlusconi

(ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti on Thursday fully shed the front of diplomacy and impartiality used up to now during his emergency technocrat government and opened fire on the right and left as he campaigns to keep office in next month’s general elections.

Former European commissioner Monti, who is standing on a reform platform, hit back at Silvio Berlusconi after his predecessor accused him of lacking credibility. “Berlusconi has been volatile in both his personal and political affairs recently,” Monti told Rai television.

Berlusconi has alternated of late between furious criticism of Monti and praise for the former European commissioner. Last month Berlusconi offered to withdraw his bid for a fourth term as premier if Monti agreed to lead a broad centre-right coalition at the elections. On Wednesday, however, he accused Monti of breaking a vow not to enter the political fray that he made when he was appointed premier in November 2011 after Berlusconi was forced to resign as prime minister by Italy’s debt crisis. “Monti does not have credibility any more,” Berlusconi said. “He was put at the head of a technocrat government with a promise — he said he would not take advantage of the promotion”.

Berlusconi has also accused Monti’s emergency government of unelected technocrats of being too “German-centric” in pursuing austerity policies.

Monti also responded to this criticism on Thursday, saying Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party was increasingly adopting extreme positions on economic affairs.

Monti blamed the new direction on former civil service minister Renato Brunetta, an academic, economist and a senior PdL spokesman on economic affairs. “From the point of view of the general economy, Brunetta is taking the PdL to extreme, sectarian positions with the authoritativeness of a professor and a certain academic stature,” Monti said.

Monti also had ammunition for the Democratic Party (PD), which he said should silence the anti-reform elements within its ranks. “(PD leader Pier Luigi) Bersani should be brave and silence the conservative part of his party a little,” Monti said. Monti said his government’s attempts to introduce structural economic reforms had been hampered by opposition from Italy’s biggest trade union confederation, the left-wing CGIL, which has strong ties with the PD, and from Stefano Fassina, the PD spokesman on economic affairs. He also mentioned the left-wing SEL party, with which the PD has formed an electoral alliance. Monti suggested that he might be able to govern with the PD if the elections failed to produce a clear winner and if the centre-left party dropped its coalition with the SEL. “Cutting off the (extreme) wings is a good thing,” Monti said when asked about a possible post-election pact with Bersani. “The real contest is between those who want to conserve existing structures and those who want to innovate a little more”. The former European commissioner said a possible name for his election platform could be Con Monti per l’Italia (With Monti for Italy). He added that he hoped Bersani will present convincing arguments in election campaign but still lose. Monti also hit back at Fassina’s claim that he would be at the helm of a list of elitist “Rotary Club” candidates. “I don’t know what the Monti list will be yet. Anyway I’ve always fought against lobbies,” Monti said.

“I suggest Fassina updates himself a little”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Says Bersani is Real Opponent, Not Monti

Ex-premier blasts PD’s ‘Communist ideology’

(ANSA) — Rome, January 2 — Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday that he considered centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani to be his real opponent in next month’s general elections, not outgoing Premier Mario Monti.

“No. No,” Berlusconi said when asked whether he thought Monti was his main adversary.

“Our opponent is always the party that comes from the Communist ideology,” he said referring to Bersani’s Democratic Party (PD).

“It has changed name but it has radical roots in that idea and has Bersani as its representative”.

Bersani is a veteran of Italy’s former Communist party, the rump of which changed into a social democratic party after the fall of the Berlin wall before merging with the centrist Margherita (Daisy) party to form the PD in 2007.

Monti took over the helm of an emergency administration of unelected technocrats in November 2011 after the financial crisis forced centre-right leader Berlusconi to resign as premier and end his third stint as premier.

Former European commissioner Monti said last month he would run for premier at the head of a group of parties willing to back his reform agenda.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Soccer: Milan’s Boateng Grateful for Solidarity Over Racism

Midfielder led walk-off in friendly against fourth-tier side

(ANSA) — Milan, January 4 — AC Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng on Friday said he was grateful for the solidarity he received after leading a walk-off during a friendly against a fourth-tier side following racist abuse.

The Ghanaian midfielder picked up the ball and kicked it towards a group of home supporters who were directing racist jeers at him in Thursday’s match against Pro Patria at Busto Arsizio, north of Milan.

He then took off his shirt and walked off the pitch before Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini led the rest of the team off and the game was abandoned. Black Milan players M’Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari were also targeted.

The club, the Italian Soccer Federation and the Italian professional footballers’ association all backed the players for standing up to racism, in addition to condemning the Pro Patria fans’ behaviour. Boateng also received solidarity via Twitter from fans and former and current soccer stars such as Marco Materazzi, Patrick Vieira and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

“Thank u all for the support and understanding…means a lot!!!” Boateng said on his Twitter account on Friday. Italian football has been battling racism in the stands for a number of years after several shameful high-profile incidents.

Criminal and FIGC prosecutors are looking into the Pro Patria case.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Reaches Deal With League, Ready to be Economy Min

Media magnate may let Alfano be premier if centre right win

(ANSA) — Rome, January 7 — Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi announced Monday that he has reached a deal for his People of Freedom (PdL) party to resume its alliance with the Northern League and said he may be economy minister, not prime minister, if his centre-right bloc wins next month’s Italian elections.

In exchange, the PdL is backing League leader Roberto Maroni’s bid to become governor of Lombardy, the region around Milan.

Maroni recently told Berlusconi that an alliance would not be possible if the media magnate were to run for a fourth term at the helm of government.

“Habemus papam,” Berlusconi told RTL radio using the Latin statement pronounced upon the announcement of a new pope.

“Tonight at 1.30 an agreement was signed between us and the Northern League. “Roberto Maroni will be the candidate in Lombardy and I will be the leader of the moderates (at national level). The premier will be decided if we win”. Berlusconi added that a possibility would be for PdL Secretary Angelino Alfano to be premier and he to be economy minister if the centre right overturns the centre left’s big lead in the polls and prevails next month. The PdL and the League’s long-standing alliance ended after Berlusconi’s third government collapsed in November 2011, when Italy’s debt crisis forced the 76-year-old to resign from office.

The League were staunch opponents of Premier Mario Monti’s emergency technocrat government from the time it took over power.

The PdL, meanwhile, backed it until last month.

Although it has recovered recently, the PdL is polling at under 20%, compared to over 30 for the main centre-left Democratic Party, and had little chance of winning the elections without the support of the League.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Gains 10 Points in 15 Days of Campaigning

(AGI) Rome — Silvio Berlusconi has said on the Tg5 News that he does not feel defeated in the election race, because “I have recovered 40% of the votes in just over 15 days” according to the polls.

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

Italy: Undertaker Providing Muslim Funeral Services Opens in Padua

(ANSAmed) — Padua, January 4 — Muslims living in northern Italy now have easier access to funeral services that comply with the Islamic rite following the opening of a dedicated undertaker in Padua. Albakii — named after the cemetery at the holy city of Medina in Saudi Arabia — is the brainchild of Niam Abdessamed, 30, from Morocco. Some 12 months ago he abandoned a degree in engineering to set up the business and has since organised around 40 Muslim funerals and 4-5 burials, with the remaining deceased being expatriated for burial in their country of origin. Services are in keeping with the many rules laid down by the Koran concerning death and the burial of the Muslim faithful, including the importance of cleansing, scenting and covering the body and the importance of burying it as soon as possible.

There are currently only two dedicated burial places for Muslims in the northern Veneto region, in the cemeteries at Padua and Verona, and, despite a growing Muslim immigrant population, local undertakers are often unfamiliar with the Islamic funeral rite.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Post-Holiday Sales Kick Off in Southern Italy

Discounts blanket stores across country from Saturday

(ANSA) — Milan, January 2 — Three southern Italian regions kicked off a wave of nationwide post-holiday sales on Wednesday.

Stores in Basilicata, Campania and Sicily unfurled discount signs in windows today and will be followed by the rest of Italy beginning on Saturday.

Retailer and consumer associations are bracing themselves for disappointing results, however, given the pinched pockets of hard economic conditions in Italy.

The Italian consumer association ADUSBEF predicts a 19% decline in spending during the post-holiday sales compared to last year.

The Italian business association Confcommercio predicts each family will spend an average of 359 euros on discounted goods this year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Supporting Our Own Demise: Part 1

by Samuel Westrop


For hundreds of years, London has mostly been a welcoming home for extremists who wished to destroy the very freedoms the city afforded them. It was here that 19th century nihilists such as Bakunin and Nechayev freely disseminated their violent ideas. In the 20th century, Soviet money seeped into our trade unions and lobbying groups. And now, today, London is a hub for Islamist and Arabist terror infrastructure. It is a city from which financial and logistical support sustains violent supremacist movements across the world. A few months ago, Lord Alton of Liverpool told the British parliament that he believed the Al Muntada Trust, a large London-based charity, is funding the Nigerian Al-Qaeda terrorist group Boko Haram[1]. The speakers at events previously hosted by Al Muntada have described Jews as the “descendants of apes and pigs” and have called for the execution of homosexuals and adulterous women[2]

We do not, however, just idly tolerate anti-Western groups in our midst and abroad; the harder truth is that government is often complicit with their activities, and when caught, our elected leaders simply refuse to discuss the facts. A recent report by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) revealed that British taxpayers are contributing towards the $4.5 million paid each month to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including terrorists and mass murderers. Despite the evidence gathered by PMW, the British Foreign Office continues to deny that British money is rewarding terrorism…


…Why do politicians and the vehicles of government knowingly allow themselves to be complicit with groups that advance pro-terror and anti-Western ideas?

Look, for example, at a large organization called Interpal. Although in the UK it is a well-established charity which has enjoyed the support of leading British politicians and cabinet members, in the United States Interpal is designated a terrorist organization. What is Interpal, and why isn’t the British Government shutting it down?


Interpal describes itself as a “non-political, non-profit making British charity that focuses solely on the provision of relief and development aid to the poor and needy of Palestine”[6]. However, many critics believe Interpal to be part of a terrorist fundraising network that helps to sustain the violent terror group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians. In 2003, the United States government classified Interpal as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), stating:

Interpal, headquartered in the UK, has been a principal charity utilized to hide the flow of money to HAMAS … Reporting indicates that Interpal is the fundraising coordinator of HAMAS. This role is of the type that includes supervising activities of charities, developing new charities in targeted areas, instructing how funds should be transferred from one charity to another, and even determining public relations policy…

[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Courts Could be Forced to Hire Interpreters

A proposed new law could mean that Swedish courts will have to offer interpreters to anyone who requests one during a trial.

It is currently up to the courts to determine whether there is a need for an interpreter in a legal proceeding.

Now, a state inquest suggests a law change that would give defendants the right to an interpreter and oblige courts to comply with their request.

Courts should also, in the first instance, hire licensed legal interpreters.

The proposed law is based on a European Union directive.

It would strengthen suspects’ rights both in police questionings and in trials.

“This would involve stronger rights for suspects and defendants throughout the legal process”, said Jennie Bergling, a public prosecutor at the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency (Kammarkollegiet), which is the body that accredits interpreters and translators.

According to the Crime Prevention Council (Brottsförebyggande rådet), people with foreign backgrounds are at a disadvantage in the legal process due to communication difficulties.

In 2011, researchers at Lund University warned that half of Sweden’s interpreters lacked knowledge to the point that it threatened the rule of law.

The researchers urged the state to invest in training interpreters and in demanding that courts hire accredited interpreters.

The report said one reason behind the dearth of qualified interpreters in Sweden could be the unstable work conditions and poor pay, with fees remaining the same since the 1990s.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL Leader Lennon Jailed for Passport Offence

Stephen Lennon admits using a passport in the name of Andrew McMaster to board a Virgin Atlantic Flight from Heathrow to New York.1:22pm UK, Monday 07 January 2013

The leader of the English Defence League has been jailed for 10 months for using someone else’s passport to get into the United States.

Stephen Lennon, 30, pleaded guilty to possession of a false identity document with improper intention, contrary to the Identity Documents Act 2010, at Southwark Crown Court.

Lennon used a passport in the name of Andrew McMaster to board a Virgin Atlantic Flight from Heathrow to New York, but was caught out after his fingerprints were taken by customs officials.

The court heard that Lennon, who had previously been refused entry to the US, used his friend’s passport to travel to the country in September.

He used a self check-in kiosk to board the Virgin Atlantic flight at Heathrow, and was allowed through when the document was checked in the bag drop area.

But when he arrived at New York’s JFK Airport, customs officials who took his fingerprints realised he was not Mr McMaster.

Lennon was asked to attend a second interview but left the airport, entering the US illegally.

He stayed just one night and travelled back to the UK the following day using his own legitimate passport — which bears the name Paul Harris.

The court heard that is the name that appears on the EDL leader’s passport, although he uses aliases.

The court heard that he was previously jailed for assault in 2005 and also has previous convictions for drugs offences and public order offences.

Sentencing the 30-year-old, Judge Alistair McCreath, told him: “I am going to sentence you under the name of Stephen Lennon, although I suspect that is not actually your true name, in the sense that it is not the name that appears on your passport.

“What you did went absolutely to the heart of the immigration controls that the United States are entitled to have.

“Had it been known in this country that you were proposing to leave under a false passport, you would not have been accepted on to the plane and you would not have been permitted to leave this country on a false passport.

“It’s not in any sense trivial.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Enoch Powell Widow ‘Furious’ Over ‘Ludicrous’ Slur That Portrays Her Husband as a Nazi Sympathiser

The widow of Enoch Powell has criticised as ‘absolutely ludicrous’ a novel that portrays her husband as a pro-Nazi sympathiser.

Pamela Powell said his depiction in the bestselling book Dominion was an ‘unacceptable distortion’ of the late Tory MP.

The book is a historical ‘what if’ which explores what might have happened had Britain sued for peace after Dunkirk in 1940.

The work is set in 1952 and Britain is portrayed as a puppet state under the control of the Nazis in Berlin.

Author C.?J. Sansom included real-life figures in his fictitious pro-Nazi government, including Powell as Secretary of State for India.

But his widow said Powell, who died in 1998, had ‘totally opposed’ Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

‘The idea that he would be in any pro-Nazi government is absolutely ludicrous,’ she said.

‘When Enoch went to Australia in 1937 as Professor of Greek at Sydney University he told his first lecture that when Britain went to war he would go straight back to join up and that is what he did.’

She added: ‘A novel is a novel and I don’t suppose I shall get it or read it.’

Historian Andrew Roberts said: ‘Powell was an ardent anti-Nazi from the earliest days even when other Tories were pro-appeasement. I suspect the author is trying to make some sort of modern-day equivalence between Enoch Powell’s views on immigration and fascism and that is so intellectually debased as to be moronic.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: iPhone User Hit With £19,000 Orange Bill for ‘Excessive Internet Usage’ After Fault With Mobile

An iPhone user told of his shock today after being hit with a £19,000 bill for his internet usage.

Chris Bovis, from Tilbury, Essex, contacted his phone company, Orange, when they cut off his phone without warning.

The 26-year-old builder was told he had racked up a bill of £8,900 down to unusually high internet usage.

He claims the adviser then warned him his next bill was due to be another £10,000.

Mr Bovis said: ‘My first reaction was to laugh as I just could not believe it but it stopped being funny when I realised they were not joking and were totally serious.’

Orange tried to take the £19,000 for the months of October and November from his bank account, only for the transaction to be blocked.

The problem appears to have been caused by a fault which meant his iPhone started sending and receiving large amounts of data in error.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Mother Jailed for Minimum of 17 Years for Beating Seven-Year-Old Son to Death With a Stick Because He Couldn’t Recite Koran

A woman who beat her son to death for failing to learn parts of the Koran by heart and burned his body to destroy the evidence has been jailed for life today.

Sara Ege, 33, dressed in brown, with a matching headscarf, collapsed as the sentence was delivered at Cardiff Crown Court.

She had to be helped from the dock as she was told she would serve a minimum of 17 years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican Bank Card Payments Suspended by Italy

Move prompted by failure to implement money-laundering laws

(ANSA) — Rome, January 4 — Visitors to the Vatican’s museums and shops are having to pay in cash after the Bank of Italy suspended bank-card payments in the city state over failure to fully implement international anti-money laundering standards.

Last month the central bank denied Deutsche Bank Italy, the Vatican’s former provider of electronic payment services, a permit because of the Vatican’s shortcomings in financial controls and oversight.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the problem would be quickly overcome.

“Relations between certain Vatican City offices and one of their providers for services regarding the use of credit cards and electronic payments was coming to an end,” Lombardi said.

“Contacts have been made with various other service providers and the interruption will be short-lived, although it has not been established how long it will last”. The Holy See is trying to join the ‘white list’ of states that, unlike tax havens, respect international standards on combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

In July the Council of Europe’s Moneyval department said in a report that the Holy See had made progress on financial transparency, but added that more reforms were needed.

Last year the Holy See appointed a Swiss expert, Rene’ Bruelhart, to work on Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) activities and strengthen the Holy See’s framework to fight financial crimes.

In the past there have been allegations that the Vatican Bank, the IOR, was used to launder money, most notably by ‘God’s Banker’ Roberto Calvi, whose body was found hanging under Blackfriar’s Bridge in London in 1982, a suspected victim of the Mafia.

IOR was also named in kickbacks probes stemming from the 1990 collapse of public-private chemicals colossus Enimont, part of the Clean Hands investigations that swept away Italy’s old political establishment.

More recently, there has been a series of Italian TV reports and a best-selling book claiming to show how individuals have used IOR to squirrel away money, dodging Italian regulations.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Army Foils Attempt to ‘Bomb Coptic Church’ In Sinai

(ANSAmed) -Rome, January 7 — The official Facebook Page of the Egyptian armed forces spokesperson, Colonel Ahmed Ali, has announced on Monday that forces “have foiled an attempt to bomb the Rafah Church in North Sinai”, Al Ahram online reports.

According to the short statement, the army patrols discovered two cars carrying explosives in a street between the Church and a military facility under construction at 1am Monday.

Colonel Ali added that one of the two cars escaped and the army units in North Sinai are currently searching for it.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Milk Emergency in Tunisia, Massive Purchases From Abroad

Milk reserves drained at large-scale retail stores

(by Diego Minuti) (ANSAmed) — Tunis — A milk-emergency, growing more acute with passing weeks, has forced the Tunisian government to facilitate massive milk purchases abroad, such as from Slovenia. But slowing imports from Slovenia — between 250,000 to 300,000 litres per week, coinciding with year-end holidays in European countries, have pushed Tunisian authorities to acquire milk also from Turkey.

The Tunisian government authorized some private companies to import four million litres of milk from Turkey — quantities that will attenuate but not resolve the milk shortage which is provoking discontent among the population. In many supermarkets — large-scale retail is an important pillar of the commercial sector in Tunisia — signs have been posted indicating the maximum number of milk containers each customer can purchase (typically four) accompanied by requests to not make trouble for employees. Customers are not always able to contain their frustration at not finding milk on the shelves, with obvious negative consequences for those who must care for children and the elderly. To pave the way for additional milk imports, the Agriculture Minister has granted a series of incentives for companies bringing milk from Turkey, such as relief on tariffs and the value-added-tax, in order to avert negative consequences on the retail sale of milk.

The milk shortage is caused by a recent lull in domestic milk production, which stands at roughly 1.3 million litres of milk per day compared to a demand of about 1.5 million litres. Paradoxically, while milk has vanished from shelves, dairy products continue to abound, such as yogurt, which poses questions about dairy-producers’ priorities, some analysts complain. The scarcity of milk — aggravated by the fact that effective measures have yet to be made to stem smuggling of contraband goods to Libya — is rendered more problematic by the psychological mechanism triggered in consumers who, afraid of remaining empty-handed, run and grab the largest quantity of containers possible, eliminating reserves, particularly in large retail stores.

In some parts, there are even reports of speculation by traditional vendors, who play on shortages at big retail players by raising prices far higher in defiance of the price fixed by the government.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Power Elite and the Muslim Brotherhood, Part 17

Perhaps one reason Secretary of State Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to testify regarding the recent terrorist attack against Americans in Benghazi, Libya is that she would be asked why the Obama administration handed Libya over to Al-Qaeda! Former Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member Walid Shoebat on his website has claimed: “We have come into possession of an array of records obtained from top level sources inside the Libyan government. They include passports of Al-Qaeda operatives and identification of terrorists from many nations…now all camped in Libya…(The documents) show evidence of bribes by the government to top officials, weapons dealings, and bank siphoning by Al-Qaeda operatives.” Shoebat’s documents indicate Al-Qaeda operatives now in Libya include Abdul Wahhab Hasan Qayed (officially in charge of Libyan border control), Sufyan Gammu of Ansar Al-Sharia (and one of the most wanted Al-Qaeda members), and Abdul Baset Azzouz (head of Al-Qaeda in Darnah, Libya). Al-Qaeda literally runs the Libyan government, and therefore controls the largest oil-producing nation in Africa. This could provide Al-Qaeda with a steady stream of money, and therefore enable it to carry out terrorist plots for decades to come.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Livni Fails to Form Israeli Anti-Netanyahu Coalition

(AGI) — Jerusalem, Jan 7 — Just two weeks before the Israeli elections on Jan. 22, former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has failed in her attempt to create a centre-left coalition in opposition to the conservative Likud-Beiteinu alliance led by Benjamin Netanyahu. The outgoing prime minister’s alliance enjoys a clear lead in all the polls.

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

Middle East

Al Jazeera a Muslim Brotherhood Front?

Al Jazeera, which this week announced it purchased Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million, has a long history of close ties to and support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Jazeera’s founders, themselves close to the Muslim Brotherhood, have long attempted to gain influence in the U.S., including through the financing of Arabic classes in American public schools via a Muslim Brotherhood-linked charity.

Al Jazeera this week announced a plan to establish a new U.S. cable news channel, tentatively call Al Jazeera America, utilizing the purchase of Current TV.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: Top Court Upholds Life Sentences Against 20 Actvists

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja staged a more than three-month hunger strike

(ANSAmed) — Rome, January 7 — Bahrain’s highest court has upheld jail sentences against 20 opposition figures — including eight sentenced to life in prison — in a decision likely to spark further street protests in the Gulf nation and draw renewed criticism from its western allies, The Guardian reports.

Among the eight sentenced to life in prison is rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who staged a more than three-month hunger strike last year to protest against the verdicts. Al-Khawaja also holds Danish citizenship, and his case has brought international pressure to bear on Bahrain, including efforts by Denmark to free him. The other 12 received sentences ranging from five to 15 years, with seven convicted in absentia. Defence lawyer Jalil al-Aradi said the court had refused to reconsider the sentences or convictions, which were handed down in 2011 by a military-led tribunal created under temporary martial law-style rules. The group has claimed they faced abuses while in custody.

Scattered protests broke out in Bahrain shortly after the court’s decision, which could close all further appeal options.

The Court decision is part of a widespread crackdown on dissent since an Arab spring-inspired uprising began nearly two years ago in the strategic island kingdom, which is home to the US navy’s 5th Fleet. Bahrain’s majority Shia, who have led sporadic unrest in the past, claim they face systematic discrimination at the hands of the Sunni monarchy. Bahrain’s rulers have offered some reforms, including giving more powers to the elected parliament, but opposition leaders say they fall short of demands for a role in key government affairs.

Last year, the official Bahrain News Agency said the charges included “plotting to overthrow the regime” and having “foreign intelligence contacts” — a reference to Shiite powerhouse Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah in Lebanon. Bahraini leaders have accused Iran of having links to the protesters. Tehran has strongly criticised crackdowns against Shiites in Bahrain, but denies providing any active assistance.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Christian Teacher Has Throat Cut in Mosul, Plunging City in Fear Again

Shdha Elias, 54, was a Chaldean teacher. Her body was found by police. Church source tells AsiaNews that she joins a long list of Christian martyrs in the city. Tensions between Sunnis and Shias are on the rise as no real solution for peace and national reconciliation appears possible.

Mosul (AsiaNews) — Police in Mosul found the body of a Christian woman with her throat cut. The gruesome discovery was made today in an area where attacks have been perpetrated in the past against members of the city’s Christian minority, some, like abducted Bishop Faraj Rahho and Fr Ragheed Ganni, murdered.

Sources told AsiaNews that the victim is Shdha Elias, a 54-year-old Chaldean, who worked as a teacher “in a school in the al Bath neighbourhood.” She “lived however in Bar Nirgal, near the university”. With her death, she joins “the long list of Christian martyrs in Mosul.”

For the source, “Tensions between Sunnis and Shias are running high across Iraq, not only in the North. And peace and national reconciliation appear far off.”

Mosul is a stronghold of Sunni Wahhabism, which is closely tied to Saudi Arabia. For experts on Iraqi politics, the aim is “to set up a state based on Sharia,” with the Qur’an and the Sunnah as the basis of legislation and “Islam as the only state religion”. In such a system, members of other religions can choose between conversion, flight or paying taxes for non-Muslims.

In northern Iraq, Christians have been targeted for murder and kidnapping for the purpose of extortion. They have also been caught in the crossfire between Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds vying for power and control of the area’s rich oil resources.

In ten years of conflict, the Christian community has lost more than half of its members in an exodus of ‘Biblical’ proportions following a series of murders.

A Christian official in Mosul Governatorate, anonymous for security reasons, acknowledged that “many Christian families” have fled. “They have lost confidence in everything,” he said. “The government is incapable of doing anything to protect them. What future do non-Muslims have in countries where violence reins!”

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

Saudi Arabia: 90-yo Man Pays $17,500 for 15-yo Runaway Bride

Saudi National Society for Human Rights calls for end to dowries

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 7 — The recent marriage of a 90-year-old Saudi man to a 15-year-old girl sparked condemnation from the Saudi National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) and activists on Twitter, local media reported Monday.

The groom told al-Hayat daily that his marriage was “legal and correct,” and that he paid a dowry of $17,500 (SAR 65,000) to marry the girl, who is the daughter of a Yemeni father and Saudi mother.

The man went on to say that on their wedding night, the child bride entered the bedroom before him, locking herself in. This made him “suspicious about some kind of conspiracy” by the girl and her mother, the man reportedly said.

Close friends of the bride’s family said she was so frightened she locked herself in for two days before fleeing back to her parents’ home. The groom vowed to sue his in-laws to give him back the girl or return him the expensive dowry he paid.

NSHR member Suhaila Zein el-Abedin urged authorities to intervene “as soon as possible to save this child from tragedy.” El-Abedin noted that marriage in Islam must be based on mutual consent and this was not satisfied as demonstrated by the girl’s move to lock herself in. She also said the girl’s parents must be held responsible for marrying their daughter to a man “the age of her great-grandfather.” She also called on authorities to set a minimum legal marriage and to ban the sale of women in marriage, saying this will pave the way for punishing violators.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey’s Erdogan Calls for Joint Peace Deal on Kurdish Problem

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) urged the opposition on Monday to join the government in forming a cross-party working group charged with resolving the country’s three-decade insurgency by Kurdish militants.

Despite his annoyance with the main opposition criticism, PM Erdo?an still appears ready for a joint effort on a recent peace initiative aimed at solving Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish issue

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an urged the main opposition to join its efforts to end Turkey’s Kurdish problem and resolve the four-decade-old question, repeating its call to form a joint working group to shape the roadmap together, a day after the social democrat leader vowed to issue an open credit to the ruling party in its bid to solve the problem.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: 4 Dead, Curfew Imposed After Clashes at Maharashtra’s Dhule Town

DHULE (MAHARASHTRA): Curfew has been imposed in north Maharashtra’s Dhule town following a violent clash between the members of two communities here on Sunday. At least four people were killed in the clash and around 170 injured.

The incident took place on Sunday afternoon when a brawl erupted between the members of the two communities at a roadside food stall. The fight then escalated and extended to the other nearby localities including Machibazar and Madhvapura.

Police said the riot was triggered after a youth refused to pay the food bill in a restaurant at the town’s Fish Market Square area and was thrashed by the owner.

After a short while, the youth returned with some friends and arguments and fisticuffs ensued. Within minutes, there was full-scale communal rioting in the area.

Police rushed to the spot but were unprepared to handle the situation and had a hard time protecting themselves from the stones, bricks, bottles and other items hurled at them.

After reinforcements were rushed to the scene, the authorities finally managed to control the situation by bursting teargas shells and opening fire on the rioters.

The police intervened with water canons and had to resort to cane charge to bring the situation under control. As many as 113 police personnel were among those injured in the violence.

Inspector General (law and Order) Deven Bharti said the police first resorted to lathicharge and then had to resort to firing as well. Some people were killed and others received minor injuries.

The Rapid Action Force and the State Reserve Police Force personnel were deployed at the scene of the clashes, he informed this morning, adding that the situation was now peaceful.

The police have registered two cases for destruction of public property, arson and rioting against unknown persons.

Dhule had earlier witnessed a communal conflagration in Octover 2008 when a police outpost was torched by a mob and curfew was imposed in the town for a week.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Far East

Blame Bacteria if You Start Putting on Weight

WEIGHT gain bugging you? Evidence is mounting for the central role that bacteria play in causing obesity.

Liping Zhao and his team at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China put a morbidly obese man on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics and non-digestible carbohydrates for 23 weeks. The diet was designed to inhibit the bacteria thought to be associated with weight gain by increasing the pH in the colon.

The 175-kilogram volunteer lost 51 kg, despite not exercising. People who have had weight-loss surgery lose on average 49 kg.

To see if the bacteria present also changed, the team looked at what species were prevalent in the volunteer’s gut before and after the diet. Before the regime, Enterobacter — a toxin-producing pathogen — was most abundant, accounting for 35 per cent of the gut bacteria. After the diet, it was reduced to undetectable levels.

The researchers fed mice samples of this bacterium from the volunteer’s gut to determine whether the pathogen was a cause or a result of his obesity. They found that the mice with the new bacteria gained significantly more weight on a high fat diet than control mice, also on a high fat diet (International Society for Microbial Ecology,

Previous work has shown a link between gut bacteria and obesity, but Zhao describes this as “the last missing piece of evidence that bacteria cause obesity”. Treatment with an appropriate diet could be cheaper and more effective than surgery, he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australian Bushfires: Rescue Workers Search for Missing

The search has begun for around 100 people unaccounted for in Tasmania following devastating bushfires that raged across the Australian island state since Friday, destroying scores of homes and buildings and 20,000 hectares of forests and farmland.

Officials searched Monday for bodies among the charred ruins of more than 100 homes and other buildings destroyed by wildfires in the Australian island state of Tasmania. Around 100 residents remained unaccounted for, three days after the fires broke out.

As scores of fires raged across Australia’s parched southeast, a volunteer firefighter suffered severe burns to his hands and face while fighting a grass fire near Gundaroo village, about 220 kilometers (138 miles) southwest of Sydney, the New South Wales state Rural Fire Service said in a statement. The firefighter was flown to a hospital in Sydney.

Tasmania’s acting police commissioner, Scott Tilyard, said no casualties had been reported in the state from the fires. But he said it would take time before officials were certain that no one had died in the blazes, which have razed 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of forests and farmland across southern Tasmania since Friday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Fiat Has Record Year in Brazil as 2012 Sales Jump 11%

Firm keeps top spot for 11th year running and gains market share

(ANSA) — New York, January 3 — Italian carmaker Fiat SpA said it had record sales in Brazil in 2012, countering slumping sales in its home market of Italy.

In a statement Thursday, the Turin-based company said: “Fiat beats its production and sales records in 2012, with more than 838,000 cars registered” in Brazil — its best performance ever in its 36 years in the country.

From January through December 838,219 cars and light trucks were registered, up 11% on the previous year, Fiat said, adding its sales growth outperformed those of the broader market.

Fiat’s last, best year in Brazil was in 2010, when it sold 760,495 cars and light trucks, the company said. Its market share in the country increased to 23.1% in 2012 from 22% the previous year.

The company said it held on to the number one spot in Brazil for the 11th consecutive year in 2012, a year in which the overall market — some 3.6 million units — grew by 6.1% on 2011. The head of Fiat’s Latina American unit said: “We were careful to identify the recovery in the market and were prepared to accelerate production at the right moment, conquering positions and market share”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Greece: Over 1,000 Illegals Repatriated in December

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 3 — A total of 1,041 undocumented migrants arrested in Greece were returned to their countries of origin in December as part of an ongoing campaign to crack down on illegal immigration, police said on Wednesday. Of the 1,041 migrants, 412 were returned home from Attica. Of these, the largest group, 91, were repatriated to Pakistan, with 55 returning to Albania, 43 to China, 35 to Algeria and 26 to Bangladesh. Immigrants from Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey returned to their countries by road. Police said 6,012 unregistered immigrants have been repatriated since August.

Meanwhile, authorities in Patra said on Wednesday that 60 undocumented migrants were arrested in the port city in December. Hundreds gather in Patra every month hoping to sneak aboard boats to Italy, often before continuing on to other European Union countries. Ten people were also arrested in December on human-trafficking charges, as daily Kathimerini reported.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Gay Marriage: 69% of French Want Referendum, Ifop Survey

On bill legalizing gay marriage and child adoption

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 3 — A majority of French citizens, or 69%, want a referendum on the gay marriage bill that is up for congressional debated at the end of the month, according to data released Thursday by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP).

The French “must be called to decide via referendum” on the bill, which will allow same-sex marriages and adoptions by gay couples, according to the IFOP survey of 1,008 people aged 18 and older, published in Valeurs Actuelles weekly.

Of those in favor of the referendum, 86% are Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) voters, 84% are National Front voters, and 55% identified as leftists. Also in favor are 70% of respondents aged under 35 and 69% of those aged 35 and up.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


‘Exocomets’ Common Across Milky Way Galaxy

Comets may be as common as alien planets in star systems throughout the Milky Way galaxy, scientists say.

Astronomers have spotted likely comets around six faraway stars, bringing the total number of systems now thought to host the so-called “exocomets” to 10. It’s likely that all 10 of these systems also harbor alien planets, suggesting that comets and exoplanets are often found together, as they are in our own solar system, the new study found.

The number of exocomet-hosting systems could thus number in the billions across the Milky Way, as astronomers think our galaxy harbors at least 100 billion alien planets.

“This is sort of the missing link in current planetary formation studies,” lead author Barry Welsh, of the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement.

“We see dust disks — presumably the primordial planet-forming material — around a whole load of stars, and we see planets, but we don’t see much of the stuff in between: the asteroid-like planetesimals and the comets,” Welsh added. “Now, I think we have nailed it. These exocomets are more common and easier to detect than people previously thought.”

Welsh presented the findings today (Jan. 7) duing a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.

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