Monday, January 13, 2003

News Feed 20130108

Financial Crisis
»EU Commission Warns Social Gap Widening in EU
»Eurozone Posts Record Jobless Figures
»Italy ‘Needs Monti’ Independently of Election Results
»Italy: Berlusconi Blasts Monti as Out of Touch, Believes Can Win
»Italy: Tremonti Argues in Favour of Scrapping First Home Imu Tax
»Italy: Monti Says Financial Crisis Passed, But Social Woes Persist
»New Slovenian President Gives Up Presidential Villa
»Spread Between Italian, German Bonds Drops to 271
»Switzerland: Farmer’s 14th Century Church Debt Ruled Invalid
»Obama Fined $375,000 for 2008 Electoral Irregularities.
»Sipsey Street Exclusive: Thomas Nee: Key Member of Joe Biden’s “Gun Violence Commission, “ Has a Son Who Was Convicted of Plotting a Columbine-Style Mass Murder at a School — Possibly With a Service Weapon Obtained From His Father.
»What Are the Potential Dangers Associated With GE Salmon?
Europe and the EU
»Film Reignites Debate on Polish Anti-Semitism
»Flag Flying Protests Held on Streets of Belfast
»French Judges Reject Plea to Postpone Gerard Depardieu Trial
»Greece: Operation Underway to Root Out Corruption
»Icelandic Power Export Plans Still a Pipe Dream
»In Tense Swedish City, Young Muslim Crusades Against Anti-Semitism
»Italy: Vendola Criticizes Monti for Dodging Political Scuffles
»Italy: Monti Says Berlusconi Party Becoming ‘Extreme, Sectarian’
»Italy: Soccer: Man Cited for Racist Chants Against AC Milan
»Italy: South European Auto Market in Deep Crisis
»Italy: Berlusconi Warns N. League on Going to Elections Alone
»Italy’s Crammed Prison Cells Condemned by Strasbourg
»New Belfast Unrest Worries Business Leaders
»UK: Burglars in Housebreaking Spree
»UK: Life Sentence for Father Who Killed Mother of His Three Children in Back of a Taxi After Social Worker ‘Let Slip’ That She Had Aborted His Fourth Child
»UK: Secret Government Documents Reveal Vaccines to be a Total Hoax
»UK: The Lethal Million Volt Stun Guns Being Sold Online to Criminals for Just £90
North Africa
»David Ha’ivri: Wasn’t There a Revolution in Egypt?
»Hillary’s Benghazi Cover-Up 101 for Dummies
Israel and the Palestinians
»Ancient Jewish Manuscripts, From Taliban Caves to Israel
»Crowd for 48th Anniversary of Al-Fatah Overflows Gaza Square
Middle East
»Emirates: Couple Wed on Skype, Arrested for Illicit Relation
»Iraq: More Christian Blood in Mosul, Car Bomb Kills Christian University Student
»Solar Power Sparks Innovation in Oil-Rich Qatar
South Asia
»British Soldier Shot Dead in ‘Insider Attack by Rogue Member of Afghan Army’
»Compulsory Anti-Rape Overgarments in India’s Pondicherry
»High Doses of Medical Corruption Worldwide
»India: Fury as Guru Blames Student for Her Own Rape and Murder
Far East
»China to Build Another 100 Petaflops Hybrid Supercomputer by 2014?
Australia — Pacific
»Australians Told to Flee Homes Over Fires
»Plan for Muslim Housing Enclave in Sydney Suburbs
Latin America
»Ahead of Brazil World Cup, Free English Classes Planned for Prostitutes
»Gold-Plated: Diamond-Studded Ak-47 Seized in Honduras
»Luis Fleischmann: Some Reflections Over Speculations on Venezuela’s Future
Culture Wars
»Italy: Berlusconi Would Recognise Common-Law Unions, Gays Included
»Bioinitiative Report: Overwhelming Scientific Evidence of Health Risks From Wireless Devices and Other Forms of EMF

Financial Crisis

EU Commission Warns Social Gap Widening in EU

Efforts to bridge the wealth gap in the European Union have suffered a major setback, the EU’s executive Commission has found. As rich nations have become richer, poorer countries are locked in a downward spiral.

While debt-laden countries in the EU’s southern periphery had sunk deeper into economic depression in 2012, their wealthier European neighbors to the north had made huge strides with regard to social progress. The findings — which were released on Tuesday — stemmed from a report on employment and social analysis by the European Union’s executive Commission.

The future looked bleak with regard to overcoming the socio-economic differences,as the gap between rich and poor EU member states had widened dramatically in the past five years, according to Social Commissioner Lazslo Andor.

“Peripheral states appear to be caught in a downward spiral of falling economic output, rapidly rising unemployment and eroding individual incomes,” Andor told reporters in Brussels.

Andor noted that unemployment in the 27-nation bloc had climbed to 11.8 percent in November 2012. But while joblessness used to be more or less evenly spilt among all EU members, the rates in the northern and southern Europe were now 7.5 percent apart, he said.

In addition, long-term unemployment had grown from 3 percent to 4.6 percent between 2009 and 2012, with especially steep increases reported from Slovakia, Spain, Greece and Ireland. The three Baltic states, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia also reported similar jumps.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Posts Record Jobless Figures

While fears that the eurozone might break asunder as a result of its debt diminished of late, the bloc keeps fighting an uphill battle against unemployment. Jobless figures have hit a new high in the 17-member bloc.

Unemployment in the crisis-stricken eurozone hit a new high in November, fresh data from the European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, revealed on Tuesday.

Altogether 18.8 million people were out of work in the 17-member bloc in November, with 113,000 more joining the jobless ranks, if compared with levels reached in the previous month. The jobless rate in the euro area thus reached a record 11.8 percent.

Two of the countries hardest hit by the debt crisis, Greece and Spain, continued to log the worst figures, with overall unemployment around 26 percent and youth joblessness reaching a staggering 56 percent.

Some 3.7 million people under the age of 25 were unemployed in the eurozone in November, putting the youth jobless rate in the bloc at 24.4 percent.

The Eurostat figures illustrated the daunting task facing political leaders to repair the region’s economies and strike the right balance between budget consolidation and growth incentives.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy ‘Needs Monti’ Independently of Election Results

‘May the best man win’, says Casini

(ANSA) — Rome, January 4 — Italy will always need “the intelligence, prestige and ability of Mario Monti” independently of the outcome of next month’s general elections, the leader of the small centrist Catholic party UDC Pier Ferdinando Casini said on Friday.

On December 21 Monti tendered his resignation as leader of a technocrat government brought in 13 months previously to shore up the economy against a spiralling debt crisis.

He is now campaigning to remain in office on a reform platform supported by the UDC and the Italia Futura political movement founded by Ferrari Chairman and former industrial employers’ association Confindustria boss Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.

Casini said the election competition was between Monti and the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) Pier Luigi Bersani, who emerged victorious as the party’s candidate for premier following primaries in November.

“Let the best man win,” he said, adding that Bersani will only become prime minister if his party or coalition obtains a clear majority in both houses of parliament.

Casini also noted that the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) founded by ex premier Silvio Berlusconi, the biggest party in the outgoing parliament, is in a “state of confusion (while) Berlusconi has not even managed to unite people around himself”. After a string of financial scandals and amid Berlusconi’s trial for allegedly paying an underage prostitute for sex the PdL is currently lagging the PD in opinion polls by about 15 points, abreast of comic Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement but at least five points ahead of Monti.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Blasts Monti as Out of Touch, Believes Can Win

Ex-premier says emergency govt a ‘disaster’

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday blasted outgoing premier Mario Monti as an academic who is out of touch with the real world and said he was hopeful his People of Freedom (PdL) party can win next month’s general elections even though they trail in the opinion polls. “Monti is a professor and professors… are distant from reality, which they look at through the keyhole while they have an assured salary and do not know the difficulties of businesses,” Berlusconi said on Italian radio.

Berlusconi added that Italy should have had early elections in November 2011 when the financial crisis forced him to end his third term as Italian premier rather than making way for Monti’s emergency government of unelected technocrats.

He also repeated criticism of the economic record of Monti’s government.

“Everything has happened in a year. There has been the disaster of the technocrat government and we are in the full throes of a recession,” Berlusconi said.

He was also optimistic the PdL, which is polling below 20% compared to over 30% for the centre-left Democratic Party, can win the elections.

“I think we have the chance to obtain a positive result,” said the 76-year-old media magnate.

“It may look difficult but I believe we can win. Moderates and the middle class have always been the majority in Italy.

There is a majority of people who don’t see themselves represented by the left”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Tremonti Argues in Favour of Scrapping First Home Imu Tax

(AGI) — Rome, Jan 7 — Interviewed on talk show ‘Piazza Pulita’, former finance minister Giulio Tremonti commented on Silvio Berlusconi proposals to cut property tax, saying “I think IMU [property tax] on first homes should be scrapped. It affords between 3 and 4 billion euro revenue, which can be replaced with budget cuts.”

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

Italy: Monti Says Financial Crisis Passed, But Social Woes Persist

Monti calls for mobilization of “reformers” to fix problems

(ANSA) — Rome, January 8 — Italy has overcome the worst of its financial emergency, but now faces large economic and social troubles, outgoing Premier Mario Monti said Tuesday.

“We are over the financial emergency, but we are in an economic and social emergency,” Monti told Mediaset television. He said that to solve these problems, the country must “mobilize the reformers” who will find solutions.

Former European commissioner Monti took over the helm of an emergency government of unelected technocrats when Italy’s spiralling debt crisis forced Silvio Berlusconi to quit as premier in November 2011.

His austerity policies boosted investor confidence and taken Italy out of the centre of the eurozone debt crisis, but they have also deepened the recession and contributed to rising unemployment. Monti is standing in next month’s general elections on a reform platform.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New Slovenian President Gives Up Presidential Villa

Borut Pahor turns Tito’s villa over to the state to save money

(ANSAmed) — LJUBJLANA, JANUARY 3 — New Slovenian President Borut Pahor has turned the presidential mountain villa over to the state in what local pundits described as a symbolic move to show he is indeed a man of the people, as promised during his campaign.

Sworn in almost two weeks ago, the Social Democratic president has given up use of the villa to cut costs. Built in 1964 for then-Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito, the villa in the Brdo pri Kranju castle complex 30 kms north of the capital was used by Pahor’s predecessors to work in privacy, hold meetings far from the media spotlight, and host important guests. Slovenian presidents are not given a residency in Ljubjlana, but a palace with offices. Media have in the past criticized their use of the mountain villa as a waste of taxpayer money.

Pahor’s decision shows he is “the common man’s president” and is distancing himself from the country’s ruling caste, which thousands have been protesting against in past months, local media commented.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spread Between Italian, German Bonds Drops to 271

Lowest level since middle of 2012

(ANSA) — Rome, January 4 — The yield spread between 10-year Italian bonds and the German benchmark bund, an important barometer of Italian borrowing costs during the eurozone crisis, fell to as low as 270 points Friday before leveling out at 271, the lowest levels since mid-2012. Italian 10-year yields were trading at 4.3%, with German bund yields at 1.6%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Farmer’s 14th Century Church Debt Ruled Invalid

The Glarus cantonal court has cleared a farmer of a 655-year-old obligation to pay for a sanctuary lamp at the Catholic church of Näfels.

The unusual debt dates back to 1357 when a land owner called Konrad Müller killed Heinrich Stucki, according to a report on the ruling by the SDA news service.

For the “salvation of his soul” and to escape vengeance from the victim’s family, Müller offered a sanctuary lamp to the church at Mollis, another community nearby, and pledged to pay for its cost “for eternity”.

Under the agreement, if the land owner failed to honour the promise, his property would revert to the church.

In Catholic churches, a sanctuary lamp is typically kept burning before the altar as an ornament and an object of worship.

During the period of the protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the lamp was moved from Mollis to the St. Hilarius parish church at Näfels.

But for subsequent centuries the owners of Müller’s property continued to pay for the lighting of the lamp.

The annual cost of paying for the nut oil used for the lamp now amounts to 70 francs a year, according to information presented to the court.

A farmer who owns property linked to the obligation opposed a bid by the church to have the debt registered in the municipal land register.

The church took the man to court but in a decision made late last month, and just recently released, the Glarus court sided with the property owner.

The court ruled that the common law obligation from the 13th century was ruled invalid by mortgage reform approved in the middle of the 19th century, SDA reported.

The court also found there was no particular connection between the property involved and the sanctuary lamp.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Obama Fined $375,000 for 2008 Electoral Irregularities.

(AGI) Washington, Jan 5 — The US Federal Election Commission has ordered the Committee to elect Barack Obama to pay a 375,000 dollar fine, due to an incomplete listing of the 2008 presidential campaign donors.

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

Sipsey Street Exclusive: Thomas Nee: Key Member of Joe Biden’s “Gun Violence Commission, “ Has a Son Who Was Convicted of Plotting a Columbine-Style Mass Murder at a School — Possibly With a Service Weapon Obtained From His Father.

Sipsey Street has learned that a key member of the President’s committee to find “the solution” to school shootings, has a son who was convicted of plotting a Columbine-style school massacre — possibly with a service pistol obtained from his father. Nee is the former head of the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association and is currently the head of the National Association of Police Organizations. In short, says one source familiar with the notoriously anti-firearm Nee, “he is a political hack/thug/activist who happens to carry a badge.”

Sources point out that not mentioned in state-run media accounts of the Biden comission is that Thomas Nee’s son was arrested and convicted for plotting a Columbine-style attack on Marshfield High School in Massachusetts. Additionally, says one source, “Joseph Nee might have armed himself at one point with his father’s service pistol though that story went off the radar.

This source continued, “As usual, the ‘solution’ will be the attempted theft of freedoms from the innocent while the root causes of these evil shootings, especially dysfunctional parents will be ignored.”

There are a ton of links out there re this story, here are a few.

Boston police eye alleged Marshfield plot suspect: Will investigate report that youth had service gun

Boston Police plan to contact authorities investigating the alleged Columbine-style attack plot at Marshfield High School to determine if a gun that one suspect allegedly showed to another student was a .40-caliber handgun issued by Boston Police.

A female student told Marshfield Police that Joseph T. Nee, one of the two suspects in the case, pulled what she thought was a black, .40-caliber handgun from his waistband as she was getting off a school bus this past spring and told her “how the school was going to be shot up,” John P. McLaughlin, an assistant Plymouth district attorney, said at Nee’s arraignment Monday.

Nee is the son of Thomas J. Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the city’s largest police union. Boston police officers carry .40-caliber Glock handguns, according to a department spokeswoman.


[See links at URL]

           — Hat tip: Andrea Shea King[Return to headlines]

What Are the Potential Dangers Associated With GE Salmon?

Two years ago, GMO expert Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, called the potential approval of genetically engineered salmon “a move that will go down in history as one of the most asinine and dangerous ever made by our government.” According to Smith, evidence5 suggests the buffed-up salmon might have higher levels of a potentially cancer promoting hormone, IGF-1, more antibiotics, and more of potentially life-threatening allergen(s).

In a recent statement, Michael Hansen PhD, Senior Scientist with Consumers Union said:6

“The Environmental Assessment (EA) states that the FDA has found that the salmon is safe to eat. However, we are deeply concerned that the potential of these fish to cause allergic reactions has not been adequately researched. FDA has allowed this fish to move forward based on tests of allergenicity of only six engineered fish — tests that actually did show an increase in allergy-causing potential.” [Emphasis mine]

But that’s not all. The salmon — which contains a spliced-in growth hormone gene that makes it grow up to five times faster, reaching market size in about 18 months instead of three years — poses a significant threat to the environment and natural fish stocks as well. According to a Purdue University computer model that tracked the effects of releasing just 60 “Frankenfish” into a population of 60,000, there was a complete extinction of the normal fish in just 40 fish generations. It appears the larger size, which attracted mates more easily, combined with a slight reduction in survival rates, was a killer combination. Furthermore, according to Jeffrey Smith, Canadian scientists also engineered their own set of fast growing salmon and tested their behavior in tanks with other fish.

“When there was sufficient food, all was fine. When food stocks decreased, the Frankenfish freaked,” he says. “They became cannibals, attacking and killing other fish — whether GE or natural. Their unexpected behavior resulted in population crashes or complete extinctions in the fish tanks. The study also suggested that if released, these ravenous aggressive salmon would pursue and consume other types of fish.”

Of course, another major area of concern is, if the salmon is approved, whether you will be able to know when you’re buying it, since GE foods are still not required to be labeled. Consumer advocates are concerned about how large the no-labeling problem will grow, since genetically engineered beef, pork and other fish are next in line behind salmon for FDA consideration. For example, Science Nordic13 has announced its intentions to create a salmon with higher omega-3 content than regular salmon. In response to these growing concerns, Rep. Don Young recently announced a plan to introduce legislation that will, at minimum, require GE salmon to be labelled.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Film Reignites Debate on Polish Anti-Semitism

The film “Poklosie” delves into the dark history of Polish complicity during the Holocaust. Director Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s work has sparked fresh debate in Poland by posing the question: How anti-Semitic were the Poles?

Poland’s Jewish community was almost entirely decimated during the Holocaust. The Nazis murdered 90 percent of the three million Jews there.

Later, the communist regime fostered a climate of anti-Semitism in the country, forcing many more Jews to leave. A kind of phantom pain was all that remained, the sort experienced by people who’ve lost a limb.

The loss is, to this day, almost unbearable.

Fierce debates between Jewish and Catholic Poles continue to shake the country on a regular basis. The question is always the same: Did the majority of Christian Poles approve of, or even assist, the mass murder of Jews?

The country’s self-image as the most significant victim of the Nazi terror and the Second World War is at stake.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Flag Flying Protests Held on Streets of Belfast

Belfast has witnessed loyalist violence for the fifth night running. The unrest has been sparked by a council decision to stop flying the British flag over City Hall every day of the year.

Police in Northern Ireland clashed with rioters on the streets of Belfast for the fifth night running on Monday, as controversy over moves to stop flying the British flag continued.

The province’s police chief appealed to parents and politicians to respond to the situation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French Judges Reject Plea to Postpone Gerard Depardieu Trial

(AGI) Paris — Judges have rejected Gerard Depardieu’s request to postpone his trial on a charge of driving while drunk .

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

Greece: Operation Underway to Root Out Corruption

Politicians and large-scale tax evaders targeted by judiciary

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — In his year-end address to the nation, Greece’s prime minister Antonis Samaras spoke on the issue of corruption, saying that “age-old impunity is about to end. Those expecting to continue in their old ways should keep in mind that from now on they will have to answer to the law and the justice system for it.” And, at least to judge from the investigations underway, it seems that a sort of “Operation Clean Hands” has finally begun in Greece.

According to reports in today’s economic daily Cosmos Tou Ependyti, after the initiating of an investigation against former socialist Finance Minister (for an alleged manipulation of the so-called Lagarde List, from which the names of some of his relatives are said to have disappeared), at least three other former ministers of the previous governments under Nea Dimokratia and Pasok will now be made to answer for similar irregularities, along with other Greek citizens that have taken large quantities of money abroad. The paper claims that the judiciary investigating financial crimes will soon be targeting two former ministers of Nea Dimokratia and one of Pasok involved in separate cases. However, the operation “Clean Political Hands”, as the Greek press has called it, does not seem to be limited to three ministers or other politicians whose names have emerged in old scandals, or to large-scale tax evaders. The judiciary may soon — some sources say they have already — be looking closely into the affairs of 54,000 Greeks with foreign bank accounts who are suspected of tax evasion. This will also be the case as concerns Greek clients of some banks in Liechtenstein and in Luxembourg, as well as those who have bought real estate recently in London.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Icelandic Power Export Plans Still a Pipe Dream

Iceland’s leading role in geothermal power is world renowned. The tiny country wants to sell more of its excess geothermal power and expertise overseas, but the plans are particularly ambitious.

Laugardalslaug, one of Iceland’s largest outdoor pools, is a hive of activity today, despite the fact that it is the middle of winter. The water is heated by geothermal energy just like all the other outdoor pools in the country.

Geothermal energy — heat energy that is generated and stored by the Earth — is also used as a power source too across Iceland, according to Bjarni Richter, an expert with Iceland Geosurvey. The island’s volcanic activity is what keeps the heat flowing. “Basically, we use the internal heat of the earth to boil water. That then turns into steam to drive turbines, and that then generates electricity,” he told DW.

Some 26% of the country’s power needs are covered by geothermal at the moment, which greatly reduces Iceland’s reliance on fossil fuels. “We live in a volcanically active country, where we have lot of shallow high-temperature areas where it is relatively easy and inexpensive to harness heat,” Richter said.

The main boom in Iceland’s geothermal energy sector came during the oil crisis in the 1970s, according to Richter. Back then, oil and gas costs started to move above geothermal energy prices.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

In Tense Swedish City, Young Muslim Crusades Against Anti-Semitism

The son of immigrants from Iran, Siavosh Derakhti recently won an award for his efforts to promote tolerance and educate about the Holocaust

On Nov. 8, the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism gave out its first Elsa Award to a somewhat unlikely recipient: a young Muslim Swede named Siavosh Derakhti.

Derakhti, who has worked tirelessly to teach students about anti-Semitism in his hometown of Malmo, is the founder of his own organization, Young Muslims Against Antisemitism. His work frequently takes him across the country to educate students about anti-Jewish bigotry and the Holocaust.

The Elsa Award was created to encourage young people to incorporate social media into the battle against Swedish anti-Semitism, and was established by Committee member Henrik Frenkel in memory of his parents, both of whom survived the Holocaust. The award bears the name of Frenkel’s first grandchild.

Derakhti, 21, acknowledges that the road he has chosen is not the easiest. “I know what I’m doing is dangerous, but I know it’s also good, and receiving the Elsa Award helped confirm this,” he told The Times of Israel by phone.

A lifelong resident of Malmo, Derakhti was shocked when he first learned about anti-Semitism in the city, Sweden’s third-largest and the site of regular anti-Semitic attacks and intimidation.

‘My parents fled from dictatorship so their children could grow up in a peaceful place’

With an estimated 1,500 Jews among an overall population of 300,000, Malmo has also gained a reputation as the scene of some of the most hostile anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe in recent years. The city’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, has been criticized for blaming Jews for attacks against them, saying they must distance themselves from Israel. He was also forced to apologize for claiming, perversely, that they have ties to the country’s anti-Semitic far right.

“I found out Jews are fleeing Malmo, that they feel scared and unsafe on the streets,” says Derakhti, who is studying to be a youth worker at Malmo University and Folkhögskola Hvilan college, both in southern Sweden. “And then I thought that something needs to be done. We can’t keep on letting this happen — not in a country like Sweden, and not in my hometown of Malmo.”

Learning about anti-Semitism struck a chord in Derakhti, whose Turkish-Azerbaijani family left Iran during the country’s war with Iraq in hopes of an easier, safer life in Scandinavia.

“My parents fled from dictatorship so their children could grow up in a peaceful place and experience democracy, and then to come to a country where there is hate, discrimination and racism on our streets, this is not acceptable. Something must be done,” Derakhti says.

Derakhti decided to educate his fellow Swedes about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust after learning not only how little his high school classmates knew, but that his school, Malmös Latinskola, was not trying to change the situation.

“In 25 years, they hadn’t invited any Holocaust survivors, and then they wonder how there are so many people who deny the Holocaust or don’t know a lot,” Derakhti says…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Italy: Vendola Criticizes Monti for Dodging Political Scuffles

Premier seeks referee role in campaign, Puglia governor says

(ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — Left-wing leader Nichi Vendola on Thursday criticized Premier Mario Monti for having entered the election fray without wanting “to actually take part” in the political scuffles ahead of the general elections next month. Vendola, who is the governor of the southern region of Puglia and whose Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party is a principal ally of the Democratic Party (PD), slammed Monti for having what he described as a contrasting attitude in the campaign.

“Monti has entered the ring with the presumption of someone who wants to participate, while at the same time wanting to be the referee and decide who has won this match”, said Vendola. “There is an element of arrogance that must be rebuffed”. Monti resigned last month after 13 months at the helm of the eurozone’s third largest economy. 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.

Vendola said Monti was dominating the television airwaves with a “Berlusconi-like ability”.

“I have no advice to give to Monti, who has learned the rules of politics very quickly and has taken up the TV air waves and mass media with a Berlusconi-like capacity”, Vendola said.

“We need to give hope to Italy that there is the possibility of change and not to continue with the devastation of the social state”.

“This is the way to win and to govern the future of Italy”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Monti Says Berlusconi Party Becoming ‘Extreme, Sectarian’

Outgoing premier suggests Brunetta dictating PdL stances

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, January 3 — Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti said Thursday that his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi’s 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 told Rai television.

The PdL has recently become highly critical of the austerity policies Monti’s emergency technocrat government adopted to steer Italy out of the centre of the eurozone crisis after taking power in November 2011.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Soccer: Man Cited for Racist Chants Against AC Milan

20-year-old faces charges of inciting racial hatred

(ANSA) — Milan, January 4 — A 20-year-old man was cited to prosecutors on Friday for allegedly taking part in the racist chants that caused AC Milan’s friendly at fourth-tier side Pro Patria to be abandoned.

Milan players walked off after racist jeers were directed at black players Kevin Prince Boateng, ‘Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari during Thursday’s match at Busto Arsizio, north of Milan.

The young man, who is unemployed and has no criminal record, is being probed for allegedly breaking a special Italian law against inciting racial hatred.

He is said to have admitted to being part of a group of fans who directed abuse at the players. Judicial sources said he is the only member of the group of Pro Patria fans involved to have been put under investigation so far. Boateng on Friday said he was grateful for the solidarity he received after leading the walk-off.

The Ghanaian midfielder picked up the ball and kicked it towards the supporters who were jeering and then took off his shirt and walked off the pitch.

Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini then led the rest of the team off and the game was abandoned. 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.

FIGC prosecutors are looking into the Pro Patria case.

Busto Arsizio Mayor Gigi Farioli on Friday apologised to Boateng and said he was misquoted after complaining about the midfielder hitting the ball into the stands rather than criticising the fans’ racism.

He added that Boateng would be a “sort of honorary citizen of Busto Arsizio” from now on, although he still insisted the player should not have kicked the ball into the crowd.

Pro Patria Chairman Pietro Vavassori said black people would be invited to attend the team’s next home game in the VIP section, in a gesture to show the club is not racist.

The head of the Italian Referees’ Association (AIA), meanwhile, defended match officials after they came under fire for not stopping the match earlier. AIA chief Marcello Nicchi said referees cannot abandon a game under current regulations as this power lies with interior ministry officials.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: South European Auto Market in Deep Crisis

Portuguese car sales -40-50%, negative outlook for 2013

(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: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Warns N. League on Going to Elections Alone

(AGI) — Rome, Jan 5 — Silvio Berlusconi, speaking in an interview on Espansione TV said, “I think it is completely irrational and suicidal for the League to go it alone (in the elections). They would be heading towards certain defeat, and instead of coming with a stronger identity, they would end up irrelevant. Only by allying themselves with us could Maroni obtain high percentages of victory. If, instead, they pass the region over to the left, the regional governments of Piedmont and Veneto would fall as well, and another 100 administrations in the north where we now govern together.” .

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

Italy’s Crammed Prison Cells Condemned by Strasbourg

Inmates held in ‘inhumane and degrading’ conditions

(ANSA) — Strasbourg, January 8 — The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg condemned Italy for inhumane and degrading treatment on Tuesday for detaining prisoners in crammed cells. The ruling dealt specifically with the case of seven inmates at prisons in Busto Arsizio and Piacenza, both in northern Italy, who had fewer than three square meters of space.

The country’s prison conditions have long been the source of criticism from human rights groups. Last month, the Permanent Observatory on Prison Deaths reported that inmate suicides in Italy are 20 times that of the general population, caused mostly by “environmental factors” and “illegal” detention conditions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New Belfast Unrest Worries Business Leaders

The latest flare-up of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland has business leaders warning about the damage that could be done to the region’s economy. Belfast has made strides in recent years as violence has waned, but peace and the economy remain fragile.

In Northern Ireland, it was hoped that an end to decades of unrest would finally result in an economic turnaround — one which would be instrumental to establishing lasting peace. And initially, it seemed to work. In the years following the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which established a tentative peace between Protestant groups loyal to the United Kingdom and Catholic groups seeking union with Ireland, foreign investment rocketed upwards and business activity in Belfast also picked up.

More recently, however, the Northern Irish economy has been anything but dynamic, with negative effects of the recent downturn in the British economy being even more pronounced in Belfast and its surroundings than elsewhere in the UK. And now, with sectarian violence having flared up in recent weeks, local leaders are warning of its potential negative impact on business.

“Northern Ireland has been lagging behind the rest of the UK and our recovery has been slow,” Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “This has come at the worst possible time and my concern is that these protests are making the situation even worse.”

Roberts’ concern was echoed by Invest Northern Ireland. “A small number of potential investors have raised concerns about the current level of unrest,” the group said in a statement quoted by the Irish Times. “Invest NI is working closely with them to minimize the impact of any negative perceptions.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Burglars in Housebreaking Spree

Eight prolific burglars who grabbed property worth more than £150,000 from businesses across the country during a three-month rampage have been jailed for a total of 34 years. Ylli Leci, 38, Viktor Marku, 26, Bekim Sokoli, 36, and 30-year-old Klodian Haliti, were caught red-handed in February last year trying to break into a property in Bellfields near Guildford, Surrey. Further investigations revealed the Albanian gang were part of a larger criminal network that had been targeting restaurants, bookmakers and Bureaus de Change since December 2011.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Life Sentence for Father Who Killed Mother of His Three Children in Back of a Taxi After Social Worker ‘Let Slip’ That She Had Aborted His Fourth Child

A man who murdered the mother of his three young children in a ‘savage and prolonged’ knife attack in the back of a taxi has been jailed for life.

Junior Saleem Oakes, who killed Natasha Trevis five days after a social worker ‘let slip’ that she had aborted a fourth child, was ordered to serve at least 22 years before being considered for parole.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that Oakes, 28, of Birmingham, stabbed his victim a total of 26 times in the head, face, neck, chest, back and legs in the city last August.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Secret Government Documents Reveal Vaccines to be a Total Hoax

Through several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Dr. Tomljenovic was able to obtain transcripts of private meetings that were held between the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), a so-called “independent expert advisory committee” that makes recommendations to the government about vaccine policy, and various British health ministers over the years. And after poring through this plethora of information, which had previously been veiled from public view, Dr. Tomljenovic made some disturbing discoveries.

“[T]he JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization) made continuous efforts to withhold critical data on severe adverse reactions and contraindications to vaccinations to both parents and health practitioners in order to reach overall vaccination rates which they deemed were necessary for ‘herd immunity,’ a concept which … does not rest on solid scientific evidence,” explains Dr. Tomljenovic in the introduction to her paper.

“Official documents obtained from the U.K. Department of Health (DH) and the JCVI reveal that the British health authorities have been engaging in such practice for the last 30 years, apparently for the sole purpose of protecting the national vaccination program.”

Beginning on page three of her report, Dr. Tomljenovic begins outlining the sordid details of meetings held as early as 1981 where the JCVI clearly engaged in fraud, cover-up, and lies about vaccines to protect the vaccine industry, not children, from harm. Minutes from these meetings reveal that the JCVI actively tried to cover up severe side effects associated with common vaccines like measles and whooping cough (pertussis), both of which were clearly linked at the time to causing severe brain damage in a substantial percentage of the children that received them.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: The Lethal Million Volt Stun Guns Being Sold Online to Criminals for Just £90

Stun guns up to 20 times more powerful than police Tasers are being illegally imported into Britain.

The weapons, which can discharge up to one million volts, are highly prized by members of the criminal underworld.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

David Ha’ivri: Wasn’t There a Revolution in Egypt?

- “These arrests and this harassment obviously call into question the sincerity of the new government in Egypt”

It has only been a few weeks since the people of Egypt approved their constitution, drafted on the banks of the Nile, expressing that the authority of government is granted by the people, in order to protect their rights and freedoms. In the opening eleven principles, we read of values shared by people throughout the free world: democracy, political pluralism, the dignity of the individual, freedom of thought and expression, equality for all citizens, women’s rights, the state’s respect for the law, righteousness and justice. Tears of joy could be shed at the idea that the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood led government has embraced such liberalism, offering new freedoms to their people after many years of oppressive, totalitarian governments.

Unfortunately, it seems that words don’t necessarily play out in actions. In an analysis titled “Egypt’s Sisyphean Struggle for Democracy,” published in The Wall Street Journal just before the referendum on the constitution, Professor Fouad Ajami describes how Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement rode the wave of the popular revolution staged by others, and slipped into the seat of power to replace the former oppressive dictatorship with their own.

The recent arrests of Egyptian journalists, bloggers and peace activists throw great shadows of doubt on the sincerity of the new constitution. Over the past few days, reports coming out of Egypt tell of arrests of journalists and bloggers who have criticized the policies of President Morsi…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Hillary’s Benghazi Cover-Up 101 for Dummies

Picking up from yesterday’s installment of The Fix is in Part IV: The Handshake, there were two shows to watch during the Benghazi Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, held on December 20, 2012, to supposedly get to the bottom of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were murdered: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith, a computer expert.

The first show was a dog and pony show for the American people, to falsely assure them that their elected leaders were doing their jobs. As Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass) stated in his scripted authoritative opening statement, “From the very beginning of the Benghazi events, every member of this Committee has shared with the President and Secretary Clinton our determination to get all the facts about what happened and why in Benghazi.”

Don’t believe one word of that, as reported in The Fix is in Part I, the Obama-Clinton regime do not want you to know the truth—it is the second story-line that you should be following, and it’s called the cover-up. Let me take you behind the smoke and mirrors and show you how it is done.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Ancient Jewish Manuscripts, From Taliban Caves to Israel

Scholars excited about find, one attributed to Babylonian rabbi

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JANUARY 4 — One thousand years after they were written by highly-educated Jews who had made their home in a remote area on the edges of the Silk Route for trade-related purposes, a cache of Jewish manuscripts were presented to the press yesterday by officials from Israel’s National Library. Some of the manuscripts are private documents, while others have religious overtones. The officials said that the manuscripts would be photographed using advanced technological means as soon as possible and then made available on the web. A veil of mystery still hangs over the exact circumstances enabling the Israeli institute to get hold of the manuscripts, which were found a few years ago in caves in northeastern Afghanistan in an area used by the Taliban. The region is said to be an especially dry one, which made it possible to conserve the manuscripts written on paper possibly of Chinese origins.

Media outlets have given credence to the version claiming that foxes first dug into the ravine where hundreds of Jewish manuscripts had been kept for centuries, and that the cache later ended up in the hands of antiquities dealers. The National Library of Israel has purchased 29 for the time being and is negotiating for others. One of the institute’s experts, Professor Haggai Ben-Shammai, said that some of the manuscripts were written in Judeo-Arabic (Arabic words in Hebrew script) and Judeo-Persian (Persian words in Hebrew script). Others were instead written in an unusual form of Hebrew used in Baghdad in those times, which later disappeared. “If it is counterfeit,” Professor Ben-Shammai added, “then the counterfeiter must have been an ingenious, erudite individual.” The manuscripts show that the authors came from a wide variety of communities, including Aleppo (Syria) and Egypt. Several of the documents bear a date of the Islamic calendar, with the oldest dating back to February 1005.

Scholars who have tried their hand at deciphering have therefore now come into direct contact with an entirely unknown Jewish community, who evidently expressed themselves in Arabic and Persian. That said, a Hebrew grammar also surfaced along the sheets of paper. The most important manuscript is attributed to the rabbi of Egyptian origins Saadia Gaon, who went down in history books for having translated the main Jewish texts into Arabic and for running an important rabbinic school in Babylon, the Sura Academy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Crowd for 48th Anniversary of Al-Fatah Overflows Gaza Square

Abu Mazen speaks by telephone; Haniyeh may also participate

(ANSAmed) — Gaza — An massive crowd overflowed downtown Gaza’s main square and all of its nearby streets for the 48-year anniversary celebration of the foundation of al-Fatah. It is the first time al-Fatah has been allowed to hold a demonstration of this kind since Hamas took control of Gaza by force in 2007.

Friday’s agenda includes the telephonic intervention of Abu Mazen, Presidente of Palestinian National Authority and greetings from various Palestine political factions, including Hamas. According to a tentative programme, the executive head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, may also participate.

The celebrations, due to last a few hours, will include the performance of a well-known Palestinian folkloric ensemble, which arrived for the occasion last night.

Many Gaza residents spent the night camped in cars parked near the square, which on Friday morning was full of yellow al-Fatah flags. On the margins of the zone where the celebrations took place, Hamas police held vigil to keep public order.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Emirates: Couple Wed on Skype, Arrested for Illicit Relation

Love in the time of internet in conflict with law, traditions

(ANSAmed) — Dubai, January 8 — He is a 39-year-old Pakistani cleric and she is a 19-year-old student who lives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They got regularly married on Skype under Islamic law with a person who performed the wedding and two witnesses. Three months later they consummated the marriage but the father of the bride has reported the man to Emirates authorities claiming he raped his daughter.

This peculiar love tale in the time of internet had a not so unexpected ending. The rape charges against the imam were dropped but the two lovers were jailed for having consensual extra-marital sex, which is a crime in the UAE. Though the wedding has become legal in Pakistan it is not considered valid by judges in the Emirates. The court charged with the case, however, has not issued a verdict yet.

The case has a precedent, though in a different country. In 2007 the influential conservative theological school of Darul Ulum DeoBand in India issued a fatwa (edict) recognizing web-cam marriages as legal provided the ceremony is performed in front of witnesses as provided by Islamic law.

The story shows how Islamic society — which is strongly embedded in the region’s traditions — is going through a technological evolution which cannot be stopped, as proven by the Arab influence seen on global platforms like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter.

Last November police in Dubai had cracked down on online weddings, revealing how frequently young people used the internet to meet each other in spite of the traditional use of match makers for this purpose.

Though 74% of UAE citizens use the internet, Umm Seud, a third-generation match maker does not feel threatened by the competition. ‘Internet has no credibility’, she said. ‘It makes lies easier and it is too cold’, she noted, proud of her 70 clients a week, 50 of whom will on average get married thanks to her, she claimed.

Relations are however moving outside traditions towards the broader, freer confines of the internet in spite of resistance from local societies. This is also visible with the growing number of online sexual crimes according to police data.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraq: More Christian Blood in Mosul, Car Bomb Kills Christian University Student

The bomb went off in front of a supermarket near the local university. The medical student, who was in his last year of study, was killed instantly. Dozens of other people were hurt in the blast, which caused widespread material damage. The violence, sources tell AsiaNews, is the result of a power struggle between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish groups to divide the country into enclaves.

Mosul (AsiaNews) — More Christian blood was shed today in Mosul, northern Iraq. A Christian university student was in fact killed by a car bomb, a day after the body of a 54-year-old Christian teacher, Shdha Elias, was found, her throat cut.

These deaths, involving members of the Christian minority, are an illustration of the rising tensions in the city and across the country as Sunnis, Shias, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen vye for power and control.

Against a backdrop of a Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, still in poor health after suffering a stroke last month, and persistent political uncertainty, tensions are fast rising. The inability of the central government in Baghdad to cope with terrorist attacks is not helping either.

In Mosul, the car bomb exploded this morning in front of a supermarket in al Alamia, near the city’s university, local sources told AsiaNews.

The dead man was Ayyoub Fauzi Auyyoub Al Sheikh, a Christian medical student on his last year of study. Eyewitnesses said he died instantly, and that dozens of people were wounded from the blast, which caused major material damages.

For the past two weeks, the atmosphere in the city has been getting worse, the more so since the local administration and the central government in Baghdad have been involved in a tug-of-war.

The city’s governor, Athil Al Nujjaifi, is a member of an Islamist party close to the Muslim Brotherhood. He is also the brother of Ussama Al Nujjaifi, speaker of the National Assembly.

“Sunnis control the cities of Anbar, Diala, Salah addin’, Tikrit, Mosul and Kirkuk with Kurdish support,” Iraq experts explained. Their alliance is in opposition to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who is a Shia. Their aim is “to divide the country into enclaves.”

Minorities are the biggest losers from all this, including Christians who have no power base or group that can defend their interests.

Since the US invasion of 2003, which led to the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s Christian community lost more than half of its members.

In the case of the Christian teacher, whose body was found yesterday, other anonymous sources said that she “lived alone” and was “an easy target for criminals.” For them, she “was probably killed during a robbery.” Yesterday, after her body was recovered and prepared, she was buried right away.

In the past, Mosul saw other major Christian figures murdered, including abducted Bishop Faraj Rahho, and Fr Ragheed Ganni. (DS)

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

Solar Power Sparks Innovation in Oil-Rich Qatar

Sunshine is abundant in Qatar. All that untapped solar power could create a new energy economy in this oil-rich nation. Researchers are already testing solar-powered cooling systems and water desalination plants.

Researcher Nesrin Ozalp slides on a pair of big, black, UV resistant sunglasses and enters her lab in the research facility at Texas A&M University in Qatar’s capital city Doha. In the center of the room bright rays of light beam from what looks like a baking over. It’s Ozalp’s solar simulator.

“It generates high-temperature radiation that is exactly like the solar energy, which we need for our experiments,” she told DW.

Ozalp is an associate professor with the university’s mechanical engineering program. She is developing a reactor to utilize solar power. But this system isn’t intended as a power source for machines. She uses the concentrated solar energy to break down natural gas into its two components: carbon and hydrogen.

Natural gas is an extremely valuable commodity that can be burned to heat homes or fuel cars. So it may seem odd that Ozalp is destroying it. But, she explains, on the global markets for chemicals, hydrogen and carbon are in high demand.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

British Soldier Shot Dead in ‘Insider Attack by Rogue Member of Afghan Army’

A British soldier has been killed in yet another ‘insider attack’ in the war-torn country.

The killer, a suspected rogue member of the Afghan National Army, first opened fire on his colleagues, before turning his weapon on UK soldiers in the small Patrol Base Hazrat in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province yesterday.

Return fire then killed the gunman at the scene, the Ministry of Defence said.

An MoD official in Kabul, who asked to remain anonymous, said six British soldiers were also wounded in the incident.

These so-called ‘green-on-blue’ attacks have caused the deaths of all six British soldiers who have died during the current tour, Herrick 17.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Compulsory Anti-Rape Overgarments in India’s Pondicherry

(AGI) New Delhi, Jan 6 — Female students in India’s Pondicherry district, where the average year-round temperature is 30 degrees, are being forced to wear overgarments. Local media have described this as one of the local government’s measures for combating the wave of sexual violence that has swept through the country. Pondicherry is a former French colony.

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

High Doses of Medical Corruption Worldwide

When it comes to corrupt doctors, the question is not whether, but to what extent. German doctors sometimes pocket gifts from pharmaceutical companies. In Zimbabwe, patients who can’t afford care are often left to die.

According to the German medical professional code, it’s forbidden for a doctor to accept gifts in exchange for services. But in practice, an established doctor in Germany need not worry about being punished if he or she accepts a gift from a pharmaceutical company. The German penal code currently lacks the necessary legislation to deal with such infractions, and they are only rarely punished in German occupational courts.

Nevertheless, in comparison to other countries, Germany’s healthcare system has relatively good checks and balances. Elsewhere, especially in countries where doctors are chronically underpaid, corruption is the rule, not the exception. It is also far more likely to impact on those suffering from illnesses, often resulting in avoidable deaths.

Joost Butenop works as a doctor in Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Malaysia. In Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index Germany ranks 13th, while Zimbabwe comes in at 163 out of 174.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

India: Fury as Guru Blames Student for Her Own Rape and Murder

A SPIRITUAL guru caused outrage in India yesterday by claiming a student who was gang-raped and murdered was partly to blame for the attack.

Asaram Bapu was condemned by politicians and campaigners after accusing tragic Jyoti Singh Pandey of being “as guilty as the rapists”.

The controversial figure said Jyoti, 23, should have been friendly towards her attackers if she wanted to live.

Indian newspapers yesterday quoted Bapu, who controls more than 300 ashrams, as saying: “She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop. This could have saved her dignity and life.”

He reportedly said the tragedy had unleashed an “anti-men” campaign in India. The bearded 71-year-old called for the law to be changed so “cheap women” did not abuse it.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Far East

China to Build Another 100 Petaflops Hybrid Supercomputer by 2014?

We passed through the 10 petaflops barrier in the supercomputer racket last year, and the next station on the train to exaflops is 100 petaflops.

China already admitted at last year’s International Super Computing ‘12 shindig that it was working on a kicker to Tianhe-1A hybrid CPU-GOU supercomputer, with the goal of having the Tianhe-2 machine reaching 100 petaflops of peak performance by 2015. And now, the Chinese government, which is flush with trillions of dollars in cash, could be moving the schedule forward by as much as a year — and perhaps with a totally different machine.

A report in Singapore-based VR-Zone by Theo Valich claims inside information on a 100 petaflopper is being commissioned by the Chinese Ministry of Science to be used in space exploration and healthcare research. It will consist of over around 100,000 of Intel’s “Ivy Bridge-EP” Xeon E5-2600 v2 processors and the same number of the next-generation “Knights Landing” Xeon Phi multicore x86 coprocessors.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australians Told to Flee Homes Over Fires

Australian firefighters and public figures have implored those in the path of the country’s raging fires to leave their homes early. Bushfires are burning in five out of six of Australia’s states.

Australian officials told householders in areas threatened by bushfires to flee their homes on Tuesday as temperatures continued to rise and outback winds fanned flames across the country.

“You don’t get conditions worse than this,” Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on what was anticipated to be Sydney’s third-hottest day for 150 years.

“We’re at the catastrophic level and clearly in those areas, leaving early is your safest option,” Fitzsimmons advised.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Plan for Muslim Housing Enclave in Sydney Suburbs

AN interest-free housing project aimed at the Muslim community and boasting 100 per cent halal housing has sparked a major row, with critics labelling it a discriminatory plan that could lead to a Muslim enclave.

Qartaba Homes’ plan offers “100 per cent Halal housing to the growing Muslim community of Australia” in the heart of the northwestern Sydney suburb of Riverstone.

While the company has insisted people from all religious backgrounds are free to take up the offer, it advises that the loans are “100 per cent Halal” and a “chance to escape Riba (interest)” because interest is a sin under Islamic law.

Qartaba Homes director Khurram Jawaid said it was the real estate deal of a lifetime, open to Australians of all faiths and backgrounds, but the state MP for Hawkesbury Ray Williams said the project was divisive.

“I can only imagine the repercussions if a developer were to advertise a new Judeo-Christian housing estate; they would be hung, drawn and quartered,” Mr Williams said.

“I hardly think the advertisement for a 100 per cent halal Muslim housing community is inclusive; it’s very divisive and I’m sure it will be viewed that way by the majority of fair-minded Australians.”Blacktown councillor Alan Pendleton said the community was concerned it could turn into an enclave.

“There’s great concern about … what they consider could be an enclave. (There’s a belief) you have to be a Muslim, otherwise they won’t sell you a site,” Mr Pendleton said

The proposed development is on land bordered by Riverstone Rd, McCulloch St and Cranbourne St with the company planning to subdivide the land, along with a smaller parcel in Gordon St, Schofields.”Our philosophy is interest-free, pay as you own,” Mr Jawaid said.

“You don’t have to go to a bank or a financial institution.

“It’s open to everyone.

“From the business point of view, we can’t do it that way (Muslims only).”

While subdivision plans have yet to be presented to Blacktown Council, the company has already “booked out” virtually all of the proposed 150 lots in Riverstone and 30 in Schofields.

Land parcels range from 400sq m to 800sq m and are being offered at $85,000 plus charges, including a booking deposit of 30-35 per cent and a 24-30 month interest-free payment plan.

Blacktown Council is investigating the deal, with the mayor Len Robinson saying there is no application before council for a subdivision, but pre-lodgment plans have been given to council.

The company has bought the land from various owners, but Mr Jawaid said Muslim take-up of the offer was “not that overwhelming”.

The aim is for work to be finished by 2014, but go-ahead is needed from Blacktown Council and Sydney Water, which has yet to connect the land to the water network.

A spokesperson for Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts said the department had found no grounds for discrimination action against the Qartaba Homes flyer.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Ahead of Brazil World Cup, Free English Classes Planned for Prostitutes

Sao Paulo, Brazil (CNN) — Taxi drivers and bellboys aren’t the only ones going back to school to learn a little English ahead of the 2014 World Cup to be hosted in various cities across Brazil.

In the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, prostitutes are lining up for free English classes that will be offered by the regional Association of Prostitution starting in March.

“Across Brazil, lots of businesses in the private sector are getting prepared and making their workers more qualified for the Cup. Well, this is a profession, too,” Cida Vieira, the president of the association, told CNN in a telephone interview.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Gold-Plated: Diamond-Studded Ak-47 Seized in Honduras

(AGI) Tegucigalpa — A gold-plated Kalashnikov AK-47 studded with diamonds and emeralds, valued at 50,000 dollars, has been seized in Honduras.

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

Luis Fleischmann: Some Reflections Over Speculations on Venezuela’s Future

There is a great deal of speculation these days about the immediate political future after Chavez’ expected death.

Some analysts, like Amherst University professor Javier Corrales argue that regardless of what happens, the next government will have to deal with a serious problem left behind by Chavez . This problem centers on the previous irrational approach to government spending in which money was used as an instrument of political influence domestically and abroad. Government officials never worried or valuated whether these expenditures made sense or whether they were creating a huge deficit and debt. Therefore, Corrales believes that the main challenge for Venezuelan leaders will be economic adjustment and that no successor will have the same level of largesse or fiscal irrationality as Chavez had.

However, there are other commentators who focus more on the ideological differences and potential conflicts that may ensue after Chavez’s departure.

They view Chavismo as being deeply divided between the military and the civilian factions. This division was kept together under Chavez but it is likely to explode after the commander’s death…

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Berlusconi Would Recognise Common-Law Unions, Gays Included

Centre right will change civil code ‘if majority allows’

(see related story on Berlusconi) (ANSA) — Rome, January 7 — Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi said Monday that the centre right would pass legislation to recognise common-law marriages, including those between people of the same sex, if it wins a strong majority in next month’s general elections.

Berlusconi nodded when asked on an Italian radio show if he was in favour of granting legal status to couples who live together, including gays, and added that the centre right would address the issue “if there is a majority that makes it possible to change the civil code”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Bioinitiative Report: Overwhelming Scientific Evidence of Health Risks From Wireless Devices and Other Forms of EMF

(NaturalNews) A shocking new report by the BioInitiative Working Group 2012 says that evidence for risks to health from wireless technologies (radiofrequency radiation) and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) has substantially increased since 2007. Cell phone users, parents-to-be, young children and pregnant women are said to be at particular risk.

The study examines EMF exposures from wireless technologies including cell and cordless phones, cell towers, ‘smart meters’, WI-FI, wireless laptops, wireless routers, baby monitors, and similar electronic devices and from power lines, electrical wiring and other appliances.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]