Monday, January 13, 2003

News Feed 20130115

»America’s Ship of State
»As America Stands on the Verge of Domestic War, My Heart Sobs for History Harshly Learned
»Hagel’s Controversial Foreign Connections and Backers
»IRS Declares War on Employers
»Liberators Arm, Totalitarians Disarm, The People
»New Video Game ‘Shoots’ Nra’s LaPierre
»Obama Interested in ‘Allah-is-God’ Curriculum
»The Fox Effect: PT. 4
»The Regimentation of Idiots
»U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens
»Why Liberals Hate Guns
Europe and the EU
»EPP Caucus Leader Daul Backs Monti as Premier
»Gang of Men ‘Groomed Girls as Young as 11 for Sex, Trafficked Them Across the UK and Attacked Them With Meat Cleavers and Baseball Bats’
»Italy: Berlusconi Hits Back at Monti
»Italy: Ex-Northern League Treasurer Charged With Embezzlement
»Italy: ‘Monti Has Taken Everyone for a Ride’, Berlusconi Says
»Italy: Pope’s Personal Secretary Makes Cover of Vanity Fair
»Mayor of Corleone Says His Town No Longer Home for Mafia
»UK: Collapsed HMV Under Fire as it Refuses to Accept Vouchers it Was Selling Until Yesterday
»UK: Former BNP Member Sets Up New Rival Far Right Political Party
»UK: Imran Ahmed: Care Home Owner Sentenced for £100,000 Theft
»UK: Innocent Grandmother Arrested After Grandson Tricks Her Into Giving Him a Lift to Pick Up Cash He Stole in Robbery
»UK: Jury Selection Begins for Oxford Sex Ring Trial
»UK: Liverpool Double Rapist Mindaugas Budkus Jailed
»UK: Lesbian Murdered Her Lover With Ornamental Swan After Row Over Finances and Hid Body at Bottom of Garden Under Old Settee
»UK: Man Jailed for North Woolwich Killing
»UK: Ministers Agree to Amend Laws After Campaign Led by Rowan Atkinson
»UK: Outrage as Hospital Bans Patients Weighing More Than 15 Stone From Emergency Ward Due to Health and Safety
»UK: Troitino: Mass Murderers Have Human Rights Too
North Africa
»Clinton Publicly Linked Benghazi to Video Before Woods and Doherty Were Killed
»Muslims Demolish Church Building in Egypt
»Tunisia Celebrates Anniversary of Revolution Amid Tensions
Israel and the Palestinians
»Haaretz Paper Calls on Arab Voter to Turn Out
Middle East
»For the First Time, Kuwaiti Women Will be Able to Become Judges
»Syria’s Assad Living on Warship Protected by Russian Navy
»Turkey: Erdogan Likely to Lift Headscarf Ban for Uni Profs
»Turkey: Gov’t Introduces Anti-Violence Bracelet for Women
South Asia
»Islam ‘Helped to Shape’ CIA Nominee John Brennan’s World View
»More Suicides Than Combat Losses Among US Soldiers in 2012
»Ordinary Indonesians Against Judges and Politicians Who “Justify” Sexual Violence
Far East
»China Tightens ‘Great Firewall’ Internet Control With New Technology
»Italy: Chrysler Close to Signing Production Deal for Jeeps in China
Sub-Saharan Africa
»France Seeks Gulf Arab Help for Mali Campaign
»Mali Intervention Supported by 63 Pct of French People
»Mali: UAE Giving Material, Financial Aid, Hollande Says
»Italy: Police Bust Alleged Somali Migrant Trafficking Ring
»UK: Immigration Adviser Admits Organising Sham Marriages
»UK: Legal Boss Who Helped Arrange Sham Marriages Faces Jail
Culture Wars
»Churches ‘Could be Sued for Refusing to Agree to Gay Marriages’
»‘Thank You Jesus’: Christian British Airways Employee Tells of Joy as After European Court Finds She Did Suffer Discrimination Over Silver Cross
»UK: CofE ‘Will be Sued Over Gay Marriage’: Human Rights Law ‘Undermines’ Cameron Plans
»Crazy New Exploit Can Brick Samsung Phones or Steal All Their Data
»Powell Says GOP Holds ‘Dark Vein of Intolerance’


America’s Ship of State

Since George Washington retired as the commander of the Ship of State two hundred sixteen years ago, forty-three different men have commanded America’s Ship of State. The newest commander, who took charge four years ago, is Barack Obama. While he has been commander of America’s Ship of State, he has guided it into many dangerous and uncharted waters. Therefore, America’s Ship of State has floated off the original course that George Washington had set for it when he was the commander. As a result, the Ship of State hit a myriad of icebergs of un-Americanism that was responsible for cracking its hull. Some of these icebergs of un-Americanism were:

  • Circumventing the U.S. Constitution as the rule of law.
  • Attempting to create a one-party, socialist government.
  • Removing God from every part of the public sector.
  • Attempting to deny American citizens their right to bear arms.
  • Labeling law-abiding American citizens as “potential terrorists.”
  • Forcing American workers to join unions in order to get a job in America.
  • Nominating anti-American Marxists, Communists, and Socialists to key executive positions.
  • Attempting to bankrupt America with a government-funded healthcare program.
  • Attempting to create a government-funded welfare state.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

As America Stands on the Verge of Domestic War, My Heart Sobs for History Harshly Learned

(NaturalNews) Those who live in artificial cities, plugged into the fabricated media and hypnotized by television are unable to see it, but America stands today on the verge of war. Not war for an enemy in some far-off land, but war with an enemy that has cleverly occupied our soil, our structures of power and our information infrastructure. This enemy is the enemy within, and it is insidious, dangerous and voracious in its appetite for power.

This enemy devours liberty without thought. It usurps power without conscience. It manipulates minds as quietly as a python enveloping its sleeping prey. It is a sinister serpent that strangles freedom, and it is this serpent that the masses have placed into power and begged to abandon the separation of powers that have kept our Republic relatively free for over two hundred years.

Today, America stands on the verge of domestic war precisely because America stands on the verge of dictatorship. A corporate-flavored variety of fascism has reared its ugly soul, where corporations and government conspire in dark rooms to rob from the American people their health, their paychecks, their voices and their rifles. The face of that fascism is unimportant because it is the same face that fascists have presented throughout history: the face of a talented orator, a handsome, even noble-looking gentleman, a man of the people who explains that his acts of power usurpation are only pursued with great reluctance and at the desperate demand of his constituents. This is the well-worn justification of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Teng, and now Barack Obama.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hagel’s Controversial Foreign Connections and Backers

Two seemingly unrelated events—Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief and the sale of Al Gore’s Current TV to Al Jazeera—are coming together in a way that illustrates the role that the foreign propaganda channel can and will play if Congress lets the television deal go through.

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Michael McCaul is being encouraged by a group of media critics, journalists, academics, and national security and Middle East experts, to open hearings into Al Jazeera’s media power play on American soil.

In regard to Hagel, Breitbart blogger William Bigelow notes that Al Jazeera seems to be having a love affair with the Obama nominee. Bigelow wrote, “Al Jazeera is rejoicing in his nomination for Secretary of Defense.” Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily notes that Hagel gave Al Jazeera an interview in 2009 arguing that the U.S. and Russia should phase out their nuclear weapons.

It also turns out that Hagel appeared on Russia Today (RT), an official mouthpiece for the Vladimir Putin regime.


But if Al Jazeera likes Hagel, the feeling is mutual. The Washington Free Beacon has posted a clip from the Al Jazeera interview [URL to video], in which Hagel agrees with the observation from a viewer that America has an image as “the world’s bully.” He clearly enjoyed the appearance on the Qatar-owned propaganda channel and thought nothing about bashing his own country.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

IRS Declares War on Employers

According to ObamaCare, if you have 50 full-time employees, you have to have an employer-paid health care plan. Some businesses are trying to avoid the costs by maintaining fewer than 50 full-time employees. That’s what the law says they can do.

But the IRS has other ideas. In the new rule just proposed, the IRS will count two part-time employees as one full-time equivalent for the purpose of enforcing the rule. So if you have 40 full-time employees and 20 part-time employees, as far as the IRS is concerned you have 50 full-timers and you are required to buy them health insurance or pay the ObamaCare fine.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Liberators Arm, Totalitarians Disarm, The People

The demagogic efforts of the Liberal/Progressive political regime of Barack Hussein Obama to find some mechanism to attenuate or eliminate the Second Amendment right “of the people to bear” arms, without allowing a vote “by the people” on whether to amend the Constitution pursuant to the procedures provided by the Founding Fathers, raise many questions, including:

Would the Liberal/Progressives who are frothing at the mouth to take away the arms possessed by Americans have taken the same position to strip the Second Amendment right to bear arms from such Americans as, for instance, famed Christian Minister and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, who, pursuant to the Second Amendment, openly bought and provided guns to abolitionists to defend against the tyranny of government-approved slavery? (Author William J. Federer details Beecher’s arming abolitionists in Federer’s, Jan. 13, 2013.)

Would modern Liberal/Progressives who are so willing to strip this generation of Americans of our Second Amendment rights, tell Henry Ward Beecher’s sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, that she really should not have a Constitutional Second Amendment right to have a gun in the house while she was writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” or after its publication?

Would they take away the arms of the anti-slavery Americans who risked their lives to save the lives of escaping slaves through the “underground railroad?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

New Video Game ‘Shoots’ Nra’s LaPierre

‘Before I could even utter a word to scold my child, he clicked his mouse’

(WASHINGTON TIMES) A new online video game takes shots at the Second Amendment by enticing players to take head shots at their most hated National Rifle Association officials.

A poster at the conservative Free Republic site stumbled on the game, and had this to say: “I was walking past my son’s room … and heard the sound of [NRA Executive Vice President] Wayne LaPierre’s voice. … I opened the door [and] the image on the screen stopped me cold.” The son was playing a video game that opened with the recreation of LaPierre’s speech about the Newtown Conn., school killings. “In that game was a virtual Wayne LaPierre, standing at his podium, giving his speech, with a crosshair over his head. Before I could even utter a word to scold my child, he clicked his mouse. And the virtual Wayne LaPierre’s face disappeared in a spray of blood.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Interested in ‘Allah-is-God’ Curriculum

Source says federal officials pursuing program used in Texas

CSCOPE, the controversial online curriculum that taught “Allah is God” and currently is used in 80 percent of Texas school districts, has caught the attention of the Obama administration’s Department of Education.

A source in the Texas education system has told WND that Common Core operatives in the U.S. Department of Education are actively pursuing CSCOPE as a way around the Texas legislative process.

Texas is one of the few states still resisting implementation of Common Core, Obama’s national standards initiative, which many feel is a transparent attempt to nationalize education and progressively control classroom content with minimal parental oversight.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Fox Effect: PT. 4

by Diana West

Last night, Bill O’Reilly devoted his “Impact Segment” to the Silence of the Non-Fox Media on the Gore-Al Jazeera deal. As noted in the past week of coverage at this website, Fox has been covering the deal with righteous, if micro-targeted indignation (Al Gore, Hypocrite) while overlooking choice hypocrisy (and worse) on its own team (Murdoch’s House of Saud connections).

O’Reilly’s “Memo” last night (video above) only underscored this troubling pattern.


Network news pretty much ignored Al Gore selling his cable network to Al Jazeera. Scant mention. MSNBC in prime time didn’t mention it at all. Again, are you surprised? But think about this: What if Mitt Romney had sold one of his companies to Al Jazeera?

Irrepressible thought bubble: What if Rupert Murdoch had sold a chunk of News Corp. to a senior member of the House of Saud? Oh wait — he did.


Think the national news media would have ignored it? They would not. They would have been hysterical. And that proves once again how corrupt the national media really is [sic]. The same standards of reportage are not applied to Repblicans and Democrats. Liberal democats like Al Gore are favored big time.

Now, one guy who did address the issue is New York Post media writer Phil Mushnick. In his column of Sunday, Mushnick said this, quote: “As a private citizen, Gore should not have been able to make such a transaction unless he was registered as a certified foreign agent” unquote — Mushnick pointing to the fact that the country of Qatar owns Al Jazeera.

A pertinent notion — although if Gore’s role at the network is over I don’t see how the sale alone, presumably approved by the US government (not that that’s a Good Housekeeping Seal), makes him an agent of the Qatari government. Will the new “Al Jazeera America” network, owned by the Qatari dynasty, be required to register as an agent of Qatar? If so, shouldn’t Murdoch’s News Corp. — part-owned by Prince Talal bin Alwaleed — be called upon to register also as an agent of Saudi Arabia? (I called for News Corp. to register as a foreign agent in 2010.) Murdoch, meanwhile, owns 18.97 percent of Alwaleed’s Rotana, an Arabic media company.

What say O’Reilly?

But Mushnick is not correct. There is no federal law restricting the sale of an American cable network to a foreign governent.

Aha. I didn’t know such an exemption for cable networks exists. Such an exemption spares Fox foreign agent requirements just as much as it does Current TV. Shouldn’t O’Reilly, though, in the spirit of full disclosure for “the folks,” mention in passing the existence of the Saudi stake in News Corp.?

Nah. What they don’t know won’t hurt his ratings. But O’Reilly goes on to make further use of this exemption … to pat himself and Fox on the back!

You see, that’s an example of what we do here. Fair reporting, even if it’s favorable to a guy we don’t have much use for: Al Gore.

He continues:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

The Regimentation of Idiots

“I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” — Barack Obama

Horse Manure! What our imperialist president means is that the government, in his mind, must maintain absolute control over the thoughts and actions of the great unwashed that they might be collectively subject to totalitarian rigid discipline, order, and systematization. In this regard he is much like Abraham Lincoln, that great flamboyant deceiver who regimented a nation by the instrument of war; a war that he conceived and set into motion unilaterally in spite of opposition by the people — or their representatives — whom he was elected to serve domestically and represent internationally as president.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens

Top U.S. intelligence officials gathered in the White House Situation Room in March to debate a controversial proposal. Counterterrorism officials wanted to create a government dragnet, sweeping up millions of records about U.S. citizens—even people suspected of no crime.

Not everyone was on board. “This is a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public,” Mary Ellen Callahan, chief privacy officer of the Department of Homeland Security, argued in the meeting, according to people familiar with the discussions.

A week later, the attorney general signed the changes into effect.

Through Freedom of Information Act requests and interviews with officials at numerous agencies, The Wall Street Journal has reconstructed the clash over the counterterrorism program within the administration of President Barack Obama. The debate was a confrontation between some who viewed it as a matter of efficiency—how long to keep data, for instance, or where it should be stored—and others who saw it as granting authority for unprecedented government surveillance of U.S. citizens.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why Liberals Hate Guns

Why the left hates something — free enterprise, the “rich,” religion, Israel, America — says more about liberals than it does about the thing itself.

So it is with the left’s endless, and increasingly manic, drive for more of what it disarmingly calls gun control, which many acknowledge to be a series of way stations on the road to total confiscation. In a 1995 CBS “60 Minutes” interview, Senator Diane Feinstein (D—Haight-Ashbury) confessed, “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them — Mr. and Mrs. America turn ‘em all in — I would have done it.” What’s the difference between Hitler, Stalin and Feinstein — besides the facial hair?

After the Newtown tragedy, and with a president who treats the Constitution as an annoying inconvenience, gun-grabbers are like gerbils on speed. The latest proposed attacks on the Second Amendment include: banning so-called assault weapons, banning large-capacity magazines, requiring a license to buy ammunition, preventing anyone under 21 from carrying a gun, requiring background checks for all gun sales (private and gun shows) and more stringent licensing of gun owners.

In Connecticut, State Representative Stephen Dargan (D—New Haven) has introduced a bill to make public the names and addresses of all of the state’s 170,000 licensed gun owners. Why stop there? They could just select at random a few dozen gun owners a day, take them out and beat them to death.

The object of anti-gun hysteria — Saturday Night Specials (“cheap and readily concealed,” in the liberal jargon of the day) or so-called assault rifles — shifts with opportunity. The root causes of the obsession remain the same.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EPP Caucus Leader Daul Backs Monti as Premier

Confirms criticism of Berlusconi

(ANSA) — Strasburg, January 15 — Joseph Daul, caucus leader of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament on Tuesday gave his official backing to the bid by Italy’s outgoing technocrat premier Mario Monti to return to office in elections at the end of February.

Early this year Monti threw his hat into the ring at the helm of a small centrist grouping that includes the centrist Catholic UDC led by Pierferdinando Casini and the tiny FLI of the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies (lower house), Gianfranco Fini. “The EPP’s candidate is Mr Monti,” said Daul.

“But, as always in Italy, the situation is very complicated because we also have UDC and (Silvio) Berlusconi’s party, which are all members of the EPP,” he added. Daul also stood by comments made in December against ex- premier Berlusconi, who is currently leading the centre right’s election campaign, for his alleged populist and anti-European stance.

“I have never made statements to the wind and so you can be sure that my opinion has not changed,” said the Frenchman.

“It’s just that by attacking Mr Berlusconi every day I do not want to give him reason to attack me back and talk about ‘this horrible Europe’, ‘this horrible Merkel’ or ‘these horrible French’ and say ‘see how they behave’. Now that we are into the election campaign I want to respect voters and Italian citizens. And I do not need to gift 2-3% to populism,” Daul concluded. His comments were slammed by several representatives of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party.

Berlusconi, who has has challenged Monti’s endorsement by the EPP, on Monday stressed his credentials as a Catholic candidate, saying he attended Mass daily.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gang of Men ‘Groomed Girls as Young as 11 for Sex, Trafficked Them Across the UK and Attacked Them With Meat Cleavers and Baseball Bats’

An ‘11 or 12 year old’ victim of a child sex ring was forced to miscarry after her attacker used an ‘instrument’ on her in a home abortion when she became pregnant, a court has heard.

A gang of nine men face accusations of grooming and horrifically abusing vulnerable girls from the age of 11 — making their lives a ‘living hell.

The men, all from Oxford, allegedly plied six girls with alcohol, cocaine and heroin before repeatedly raping them.

Kamar Jamil, 27, Akthtar Dogar, 32, Anjum Dogar, 30, Assad Hussain, 32, Mohammed Karrar, 38, Bassam Karrar, 26, Mohammed Hussain, 24, Zeeshan Ahmed, 27, and Bilal Ahmed, 26, deny the charges against them.

Karrar together with other men not before the court is accused of using an instrument on one of the victims when she was 11 or 12 to force a miscarriage after she became pregnant.

They are accused of subjecting them to ‘extreme physical and sexual violence’, often beating and burning them as they raped their victims.

The Old Bailey trial has heard how there were many more potential abusers in addition to those in the dock.

It took almost half an hour for all the charges to be read to the jury.

The jury was told it would hear evidence from friends of the victims, relatives, care workers and the police.

Telephone evidence between the accused and the victims will be presented along with DNA evidence.

Mr Lucas said: ‘The evidence will show that these girls were targeted precisely because they were young.’

The men took the girls to towns and cities across the country where they suffered further sexual abuse by other men.

The abuse is alleged to have taken place over a period of eight years.

Prosecutor Noel Lucas QC said: ‘Much of what the girls were forced to endure was perverted in the extreme.

‘The depravity of what the girls were forced to endure was extreme.’

Mr Lucas told the jury of seven men and five women at the Old Bailey to ‘steel yourself’ for the evidence they were to hear.

They were told the girls became addicted to some of the drugs and felt unable to live without them making them more reliant on the men.

It was claimed the girls were often given so many drugs that they were ‘barely aware’ of what was going on.

Mr Lucas said: ‘Indeed they say that is the only way they could cope with what was going on.’

The court was told the men had ‘actively targeted vulnerable young girls from the age of about 11 or 12.’

Mr Lucas pointed out to the jury that the girls who were targeted by the men were children.

He said the men would came across the girls with ‘troubled upbringings’ and ‘unsettled homes’ when they were out drinking or playing truant.

The girls were in care homes and some of them had been sexually exploited by other men before.

Their ‘intentional and persistent’ abuse is alleged to have happened between May 2004 and early 2012.

The men deny a total of 79 charges including child rape, trafficking for sexual exploitation and arranging or facilitating child prostitution.

Mr Lucas said: ‘There is evidence that the men deliberately targeted children that were out of control.’

The men would ‘exploit their vulnerability’ knowing it was less likely that anyone would be ‘exercising any normal parental control over them or looking out for them.’

They groomed the girls by giving gifts ‘or simply showing the care and attention that they craved.’

The jury was told the girls were taken to hotels, guest houses or people’s homes for other men to have sex with them.

The men would guard the girls so they could not escape and would then be paid for providing the girls.

Men would travel to Oxford ‘often by appointment’ from as far afield as Bradford, Leeds, London and Slough ‘specifically to abuse young girls’.

Sometimes the girls were taken to towns and cities such as London and Bournemouth.

Mr Lucas said the men would inflict ‘extreme physical and sexual violence on the girls’ using knives, meat cleavers and baseball bats.

They were ‘humiliated and degraded’ bitten, scratched suffocated, tied up beaten and burnt.

Sometimes the abuse would go on for ‘days on end’.

It is claimed the men also threatened the girls and their families if they should try to ‘free themselves from the grasp of the group’.

One of the victims described her ordeal at the hands of the men as a ‘living hell’.

In his opening address to the court Mr Lucas said the men had abused the six girls ‘persistently’ over long periods of time and sometimes in groups.’

They did this: ‘For their own sexual gratification and for the sexual gratification of other men.

‘The depravity of what was done to the complainants was extreme.’

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Hits Back at Monti

Outgoing premier called media magnate the ‘Pied Piper’

(see related stories) (ANSA) — Rome, January 15 — Silvio Berlusconi hit back at outgoing Premier Mario Monti on Tuesday after being described as the “Pied Piper” by his successor as campaigning for next month’s Italian election took a bitter turn.

Monti, who took the helm of an emergency technocrat administration in November 2011 when Italy’s debt crisis forced Berlusconi to resign as premier, suggested his predecessor had sold unrealistic promises to win three stints at the helm of government.

The former European commissioner, who is standing to retain office on a reform platform backed by centrist parties, said the efforts his government has made to steer the country out of the eurozone crisis would be in vain if Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition returned to power.

“The sacrifices Italians have made in the last year can be squandered in three or four months if an old, reinvigorated illusionist goes to power,” Monti told Rai television on Monday.

Berlusconi hit back by calling Monti a “bluffer”, referring to alleged promises he made not to enter the political fray when he was appointed premier with the backing of the media magnate’s People of Freedom (PdL) party and the other big mainstream parties. He also took issue with Monti for suggesting Berlusconi was to blame for Italy’s borrowing costs spiking at the peak of the eurozone crisis, as seen in yield spreads for 10-year bonds crossing the 500-basis-points mark.

“Whoever says these things is a scoundrel,” Berlusconi told La7 television on Tuesday.

“These are left-wing statements. They are lies”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ex-Northern League Treasurer Charged With Embezzlement

Stiffoni under investigation over one year in party scandal

(ANSA) — Rome, January 15 — Piergiorgio Stiffoni, former treasurer of the Northern League in the Senate, was charged Tuesday with embezzlement.

Stiffoni has been under investigation for more than a year as prosecutors probed the illegal use of funds that were allocated to the political party. Investigators had previously accused members of the scandal-hit Northern League of using public party funds to buy diamonds worth 400,000 euros and gold bullion worth 200,000 euros.

The accusations were part of an investigation into former League treasurer Francesco Belsito for allegedly channelling public funds to the family of ex-leader Umberto Bossi, who stepped down at the beginning of April 2012.

Belsito is accused of buying the jewels along with former Senate deputy speaker Rosy Mauro, expelled from the party in April, and Stiffoni.

Probes were also launched into Northern League activities by investigators in Milan, Naples, Reggio Calabria, Reggio Emilia, and Genoa.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘Monti Has Taken Everyone for a Ride’, Berlusconi Says

(AGI) Rome — On Monday, Silvio Berlusconi described outgoing PM Mario Monti as “a bluff,” adding “he has taken everyone for a ride”..

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

Italy: Pope’s Personal Secretary Makes Cover of Vanity Fair

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein ‘from dreams to intrigues’

(ANSA) — Rome, January 15 — The pope’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, is to appear on the cover of the Italian version of Vanity Fair Wednesday.

Gaenswein, 56, a photogenic and athletic figure often called Gorgeous Georg, is the first personal secretary and head of the Papal Household to become an archbishop.

The Vanity Fair story tracks Gaenswein’s life “from youthful dreams to palace intrigues” referring to the recent Vatileaks scandal that saw the pope’s butler jailed for releasing confidential documents.

Gaenswein, who has been compared to George Clooney and Hugh Grant for his looks, recently said his job was to be the cleanest “window” possible to allow Pope Benedict to appear through.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mayor of Corleone Says His Town No Longer Home for Mafia

Declares freedom from Mob on 20th anniversary of Riina arrest

(ANSA) — Corleone, January 14 — The Sicilian town of Corleone no longer belongs to the Mafia men and women of its past, but instead to the heroes of law and order, the mayor announced Monday.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the arrest of Corleone chieftain and Cosa Nostra head Toto’ ‘the Beast’ Riina, Leoluchina Savona said authorities sought forgiveness all of the victims of the mafia.

“I apologize on behalf of all of Corleone, I ask forgiveness for the blood that was paid,” she said during a ceremony that also saw a street named for a Mafia victim.

“The blood, however, has not been shed in vain… (but) as a reminder that there is one way, only one field to choose from”.

She named a long list of Mafia victims — including anti-Mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino killed in separate bomb blasts in 1992 — who he said did not die in vain.

The mayor also urged an end to mob violence.

“To the Mafia…I ask you to leave this land, and to abandon the struggle,” said Savona.

“I ask them to admit defeat, to surrender in awareness that this earth, at last, one day it will liberated”. Riina is currently serving multiple life-sentences after leading the Corleonesi faction to the top of the Sicilian mafia, waging a ruthless campaign of violence against rival mobsters and the Italian State in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Corleone was made famous the world over by Mafia films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather series, starring Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.

A farming community about 60 km from Palermo, it was the birthplace of a string of top Mafiosi including Riina and his successor as ‘capo dei capi’, Bernardo ‘The Bulldozer’ Provenzano, arrested in 2006 after 43 years on the run.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Collapsed HMV Under Fire as it Refuses to Accept Vouchers it Was Selling Until Yesterday

The writing had been on the wall since the run-up to Christmas, when dire sales figures forced the firm to admit it might breach the terms of its bank loans.

HMV’s banks — state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds — said they were unwilling to go on lending it money.

RBS said in a statement: ‘The banking group led by RBS and Lloyds Banking Group have provided significant support to HMV over the past two years, as it has sought to reshape and restructure its business in the face of extremely difficult trading conditions.

‘Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of management, lenders and suppliers, it has not proven possible to avoid a formal insolvency process.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Former BNP Member Sets Up New Rival Far Right Political Party

A mental health nurse has set up a new far right political party.

Dr Andrew Emerson has joined other former BNP members to create Patria, which means homeland in Latin, which calls for Britain to withdraw from the EU, to repeal the Human Rights Act, to end all immigration and to repatriate non-British residents.

The group — which includes Ian Johnson from the New Forest who stood as a BNP candidate for Havant in the 2005 — will be fielding candidates in local and general elections.

They left the far right BNP after becoming disillusioned with the way it was run.

Dr Emerson said: ‘Racism is a made up word. It’s code for anti-white, anti-English.

‘The people who accuse us of being racist can’t explain what they mean by the word. What they mean is they’re against the English people standing up for themselves and their own rights in their own country. No other country in the world would allow the kind of immigration that we have seen over the last 10 to 15 years.’

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Imran Ahmed: Care Home Owner Sentenced for £100,000 Theft

The former owner of a care home in Nottinghamshire has been jailed for three years for stealing more than £100,000 from an 80-year-old resident.

Imran Ahmed, 31, stole from Audrey Green at the Lilac House Care Home, Beeston over a seven-year period to feed his secret gambling addiction.

Nottingham Crown Court heard Ms Green’s friend noticed irregularities in her bank account and alerted the council.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Innocent Grandmother Arrested After Grandson Tricks Her Into Giving Him a Lift to Pick Up Cash He Stole in Robbery

A grandmother was arrested after her grandson tricked her into giving him a lift to pick up money he stole in a robbery.

Declan Lloyd, 21, asked his 68-year old grandmother to drive him to a suburban cul-de-sac saying he needed to pick up his car.

But as she innocently dropped him off, a team of officers waiting nearby pounced on the pair as Lloyd picked up the money he took in a bank raid from a stolen Peugeot 207.

The shocked grandmother was arrested and quizzed on suspicion of robbery alongside her grandson.

She was later freed without charge when police established she knew nothing about the raid.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Jury Selection Begins for Oxford Sex Ring Trial

Oxford Jurors were being selected today (Mon) to try nine Muslim men accused of running a child prostitution and sex trafficking ring in Oxford. The suspects face a total of 51 (CORR) charges relating to the rape and sexual assault of six vulnerable girls aged between 11 and 16. It is claimed the victims were befriended, groomed, sexually abused and required to perform sexual services for others for money.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Liverpool Double Rapist Mindaugas Budkus Jailed

A man convicted of raping two women within three weeks in Liverpool has been sentenced to life in prison.

Mindaugas Budkus, 23, of Kirkdale, was convicted of the rapes, including one at knifepoint, after a two-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

He was arrested after CCTV footage showed him following the second victim, aged 21, to her student halls, police said.

Budkus was told he must serve a minimum prison sentence of nine years.

He was convicted of six offences of rape, one of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, one of robbery and one of possessing an offensive weapon.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Lesbian Murdered Her Lover With Ornamental Swan After Row Over Finances and Hid Body at Bottom of Garden Under Old Settee

A woman was today sentenced to life in prison after murdering her lesbian lover by hitting her on the head with an ornamental concrete swan.

Tracey Ashfield killed her lover Wendy Thorpe as the couple argued about money at their home.

She then dragged her body to the bottom of the garden and covered it with an old sofa cover in an attempt to hide it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Man Jailed for North Woolwich Killing

A killer who was caught on CCTV dragging his victim down seven flights of stairs and out into the street was jailed for three years.

Nadeem Yasin, 43, attacked 43 year-old Zahir Bouchia during a drunken row at a flat in North Woolwich, east London, on May 21 last year.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter after the prosecution accepted he did not intend to cause serious bodily harm.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Ministers Agree to Amend Laws After Campaign Led by Rowan Atkinson

Ministers agreed to scrap a law outlawing ‘insulting words or behaviour’ last night after a campaign led by comedian Rowan Atkinson.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced a dramatic U-turn yesterday saying the government would ditch the contentious words from the Public Order Act amid fears that they are strangling free speech.

The Blackadder and Mr Bean star led a coalition of campaign groups complaining that the legislation has been abused by over-zealous police and prosecutors to arrest Christian preachers, critics of Scientology, gay rights campaigners and even students making jokes.

The government caved in yesterday after suffering a humiliating defeat in the House of Lords before Christmas.

Mrs May told the Commons that the word ‘insulting’ would be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act, as part of the Crime and Courts Bill.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Outrage as Hospital Bans Patients Weighing More Than 15 Stone From Emergency Ward Due to Health and Safety

A hospital has sparked outrage after banning overweight patients from using beds on an emergency ward.

Those weighing over 15 stone are not permitted to use the beds at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin, north east Scotland, after fire experts insisted the evacuation system was a danger for overweight patients.

Campaigners have slammed the restriction as ‘completely unacceptable’ and denying patients their rights — but the hospital has insisted it must remain.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Troitino: Mass Murderers Have Human Rights Too

A Spanish terrorist who killed eleven police officers in a 1986 bombing should not be returned to prison as it would breach his human rights, a court heard. Antonio Troitino, 55, is a convicted murderer and a key member of Basque separatist group ETA which has been responsible for scores of terrorist attacks across Spain. He served 24 years behind bars for the Madrid car bomb atrocity in which 11 died and 78 were badly injured. The Spanish government has now asked for Troitino to be extradited from the UK to serve a further five-and-a-half years behind bars. But the killer told Westminster Magistrates’ Court the move would breach his right not to be punished for an offence retrospectively.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Clinton Publicly Linked Benghazi to Video Before Woods and Doherty Were Killed

On the night of Sept. 11, 2012 — before former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by a terrorist mortar strike — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a public statement linking the attack against the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, with an anti-Muslim video, which she referred to as “inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

Clinton’s statement, still posted on State’s website, is dated Sept. 11, 2012, and headlined: “Statement on the Attack in Benghazi.”

The statement first notes that a State Department officer had been killed in Benghazi — an apparent reference to Information Management Officer Sean Smith, whose body had been recovered at the U.S. mission in Benghazi by U.S. security officers by about 5:30 p.m. Washington, D.C., time on Sept. 11 — or 11:30 p.m. Benghazi time.

The statement then talks about Clinton’s communications that night with Libya’s president and refers to what Clinton calls “inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Muslims Demolish Church Building in Egypt

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Hundreds of Muslims came out of mosques today with hammers and destroyed a social services building belonging to the Coptic Church while chanting Islamic slogans. Security forces arrived after the building was completely razed.

The 100 square meters social services building in the village of Fanous, Tamia district in Fayoum province, 130 KM south west of Cairo, had all the necessary government permits; it had a reception hall on the first floor and a kindergarten on the second.

But the Muslims insisted that it would become a church.

A meeting had taken place beforehand between the village mayor and elders from Muslim and Coptic sides and it was agreed that only the first floor was to remain and the second be demolished.

Mosques in surrounding villages called on their microphones this afternoon on Muslims to go and help their Muslim brethrens in the village of Fanous, because Christians were “building a church.” According to rights activist Nader Shukry of Maspero Coptic Youth Organizations, nearly 5000 Muslims took part in demolishing the church property with their hammers, while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” He said no one was arrested, not even the imams who called on Muslims to demolish the building; their calls fall under the crime of “enticement to violence.”

The district of Tamia and neighboring Senousen is home to a large congregation of Islamists. Shoukry said that the Coptic Church had previously warned the security authorities of the danger of the Islamists provoking sedition in Tamia and neighboring areas.

A witness from Fanous village said they were working on the building site, which had started two months ago, removing the wood which was intended for the second floor when a Muslim man started insulting the Copts, then they were assaulted by the village women. The mob of Muslim men followed with their attack saying that the whole building has to be demolished. He said that the Muslim elders pretended to be peacemakers, but to no avail. “The Muslims with their hammers and spare pipes were demolishing also the walls of the ground floor, leaving nothing standing,” said the witness. The village mayor and Muslim elders made excuses for not honoring their agreement of leaving the ground floor intact by saying the “youth take unreasonable actions.”

Security authorities arrived after the social services building was demolished.

Some village Copts together with priests from St. George’s Church went to the police station to have a report with the incident issued. No Muslim was arrested.

“Although we recognized the village youth who participated in the demolition work we could not name any of them,” said a Christian resident, “as we are a minority in the village and we do not want to have problems because we fear for the safety of our children. We go away to work in Cairo leaving our families behind in the village. I believe that as Copts, we are destined to be always persecuted.”

According to Shukry, the Copts are staying indoors, afraid to get into any confrontation which might lead to other attacks on their homes and businesses. “This incident will end like all other similar incidents, no one will be arrested and the building will never be rebuilt.” He believes that the Copts should stand firm and insist on rebuilding this demolished services building, “otherwise it will be a green light to repeat this incident in the neighboring villages.”

In 2007 in the village of Roda in Tamia Muslims demolished the fence of the Protestant church, security initiated a “reconciliation” meeting. The governorate promised to rebuild the fence at its own expenses, and the perpetrators were released. The fence has still not been built.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Tunisia Celebrates Anniversary of Revolution Amid Tensions

Rallies mark differences between secular and Islamist society

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS — Tunisia on Monday marked the second anniversary of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s flight into exile in the first of the Arab Spring uprisings amid persisting insecurity and social tensions.

In a muted ceremony, accompanied by Premier Hamid Jebali and Constituent Assembly President Mustapha Ben Jaafar, President Moncef Marzouki kicked off the celebrations by hoisting the national flag over Kasbah Square in Tunis, near the headquarters of the ruling coalition led by the Islamist Ennahda party.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who was expected to attend, was a no-show.

Ennahda supporters rallied in front of the communal theater, where the anti-Ben Ali marches used to start, and traded insults with supporters of secular party Nidaa Tounes when their paths crossed. Other peaceful rallies were held by secular as well as fundamentalist parties, as a massive police presence kept the proceedings from degenerating beyond slogan-calling. Presidential guardsmen as a preventive measure detained a group of Salafists, whose radically fundamentalist creed militates for same-sex schools and a return to polygamy, further widening the ever-deepening rift between the Islamist government and its supporters and the secular opposition. A series of attacks in the past few weeks on Sufi mausoleums, a faith the Salafists view as the true enemies of Islam, has done nothing to ease social tensions in the new Tunisia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Haaretz Paper Calls on Arab Voter to Turn Out

‘For peace, for equality, for democracy’ and against Netanyahu

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 15 — One week ahead of national elections which will likely see a triumph for the nationalist right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu-Avigdor Lieberman ticket, liberal Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday issued an unusual appeal. In an op-ed written in both Hebrew and Arabic, Haaretz called on Israel’s one million disillusioned Arab voters to resist the temptation of boycotting the elections and to turn out en masse to help stop the right wing from gaining even more power. The Netanyahu government has stirred resentment by passing a series of discriminatory measures, but this is not the time to let bitterness cloud civic judgment, Haaretz said in its impassioned plea. “Arab citizens, go and vote: for peace, for equality, for democracy”, Haaretz wrote. In what is the latest provocation against Israel’s marginalized Arab citizens, which make up 20% of the population, extreme right-wing Israelis on Tuesday marched on Musmus, an Arab-majority village between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Police successfully contained the march, but the damage was done as the message of hostility and intimidation reached its target.

The outgoing 120-member Knesset, or parliament, has 10 Arab MPs on majority Arab tickets, and another five Arab MPs on Druze and Zionist lists.

Arab voter affluence has declined over the past 20 years, and while everyone agrees Arabs are under-represented, no one agrees on how to remedy the situation. Israeli Arabs look back nostalgically on Yitzhak Rabin’s Labor administration of 1992-1995 as a positive turning point in Arab-Israeli relations and in the peace process with Palestinians, when 70% of Arabs turned out to vote.

That climate changed, and by 2009 just 53% of Arab voters turned out. Given the strong Islamic winds now blowing from former Arab Spring countries, and with the semi-legal Islamic Movement in Israel calling for a boycott, Arab citizens’ participation in next week’s elections might be even lower, analysts said.

“Whoever doesn’t turn out is de facto handing a vote to the Israeli right wing,” said Arab MP Jamal Zahalke, from the secular left-wing Balad party.

Arabs also face logistical difficulties in reaching the urns, said Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur, citing Bedouins living in remote locations in the Neghev Desert.

Along with traditional pro-Arab parties such as the seasoned Hadash (communists), Balad (radicals) and Raam-Taal (which has a pragmatic Islamic wing), this year’s campaign also includes grassroots workers’ party Daam, led by Arab trade unionist Asma Aghbarya. Fielding both Arab and Jewish candidates, Daam is betting on “the necessary solidarity between Arab and Jewish workers.” While it has been welcomed with a degree of openness by local media, it is unlikely to win any Knesset seats, at least this time around, analysts said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

For the First Time, Kuwaiti Women Will be Able to Become Judges

The Minister for Justice has in fact accepted applications from young female graduates for the post of prosecutors. 16 of the 32 people who applied for the position are women.

Manama (AsiaNews / Agencies) — Women can now become judges in Kuwait, one of the most conservative countries in the Arabian Peninsula. For the Minister for Justice has in fact accepted, applications from young female graduates for the post of prosecutors. And from what has been learned, 16 of the 32 people who applied for the position are women.

The role of the public prosecutor permits them to become a judge, and to date only men could fill such a position. Up until now, following studies in law, the most women could aspire to was a position in a law firm.

The event is considered a significant step forward in the realization of equal rights between men and women. Indeed, although the country’s constitution states that they have full social and political rights, it has been an uphill climb in concretely affirming this principle. Thus, only in 2009 were women able to enter Parliament, winning four of the 50 seats up for grabs in the election. The vote last December reduced the number of female MPs to three, but two of them entered government.

Dhikra Al Rashidi (pictured) is Minister for Social Affairs and Labour, and Rola Dashti is the Minister for Business Development and Parliament.

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

Syria’s Assad Living on Warship Protected by Russian Navy

(AGI) Riad, Jan 14 — Bashar Assad has moved his family from Damascus to a warship off the Syrian coast, protected by Russian naval forces. A report in the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper says the Syrian president travels from the ship to Damascus by helicopter when his presence is required at the presidential palace.

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

Turkey: Erdogan Likely to Lift Headscarf Ban for Uni Profs

Still in effect for civil servants

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 15 — Turkey’s Council of Higher Education has asked the government to pass a bill authorizing female university professors to wear Islamic headscarves to work, Zaman newspaper reported Tuesday.

The measure will likely pass the country’s national assembly, where Islamic nationalist Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) holds an absolute majority. The Erdogan administration in 2010 lifted the ban on headscarves for university students, and for elementary and middle school students during religion classes. The Islamic headscarf is still banned for civil servants. Such measures are seen by some as chipping away at Turkey’s identity as a secular state, a principle enshrined in the Turkish Constitution of 1924 by founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Gov’t Introduces Anti-Violence Bracelet for Women

Sex crimes up by 400% in past nine years, one woman killed a day

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 15 — The Turkish family ministry is introducing an anti-violence bracelet to protect women, officials announced Tuesday.

The bracelet, which has been tested successfully in Adana and Bursa provinces, contains a button to alert police in case of aggression. Violence against women is endemic in Turkey, where one woman a day is killed and 7,000 at-risk women have been placed under court-mandated protection, according to Hurriyet newspaper. Sex crimes have risen by 400% in the past nine years, with 33,000 scuh crimes reported in 2011, up from 8,000 in 2002, according to prosecutor Veli San.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Islam ‘Helped to Shape’ CIA Nominee John Brennan’s World View

Brennan’s Feb. 13, 2010 address to a meeting at the Islamic Center at New York University, facilitated by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), provided an insight into his views on Islam, a faith which he said during the speech had “helped to shape my own world view.”

Travels around the world over more than three decades had taught him about “the goodness and beauty of Islam,” said Brennan, whose 25-year career at the CIA until 2005 included a stint as station chief in Riyadh.

“Like the president during his childhood years in Jakarta, I came to see Islam not how it is often misrepresented, but for what it is — how it is practiced every day, by well over a billion Muslims worldwide, a faith of peace and tolerance and great diversity.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

More Suicides Than Combat Losses Among US Soldiers in 2012

(AGI) Washington, Jan 14 — The number of suicides among US armed forces reached 349 in 2012, far surpassing the 295 losses suffered in combat in Afghanistan. According to the Huffington Post, the phenomenon is so worrying that the outgoing Defense secretary Leon Panetta called it an “epidemic.”.

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

Ordinary Indonesians Against Judges and Politicians Who “Justify” Sexual Violence

An official from Sharia-ruled Aceh province blames “sexy women” for rape. A judge claims that both rapist and victim “enjoy” the act, hence the death penalty is inappropriate. Such views, which follow the death of an 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped, have outraged women.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Statements by politicians, judges and high ranking government officials on the responsibility of women in their own rape are causing outrage among ordinary Indonesians. A judge, for example, joked about sexual violence before a parliamentary committee. In Indonesia’s only Sharia-ruled province, an official said that women wearing “sexy outfits” are “asking for it”, an especially ill-timed statement made not long after an 11-year-old girl died in Jakarta after being gang-raped, in a case not unlike that of the 23-year-old Indian woman whose story moved the world.

In a recent statement, Ramli Mansur, head of the North Aceh Regency, said that “sexy women” are “easily subject to rape” because their clothing is “un-Islamic”. In his view, such women “are asking for rape, including gang-rape” because of their “good looks”.

In an attempt to defuse the controversy, the Indonesian government said the official’s words were misconstrued, that in fact, he only wanted to warn women to dress more in line with Islamic precepts, which are the law in Aceh.

Judge Daming Sunusi, speaking before a parliamentary committee charged with appointing new Supreme Court justices, said that since “rapists and their victims enjoy the sex”, the death penalty “should not be imposed on the former.”

Even more disturbing than the judge’s remarks was the reaction of the committee members. Instead of reprimanding the former for his lack of sensitivity and the danger his words carry, they simply laughed at his “joke”.

This was especially thoughtless coing a few days after the death of an 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped by a group of thugs in broad daylight in Jakarta.

Ordinary Indonesians and human rights groups reacted quickly in online forums, blogs and other Internet sites.

“This is too much. The judge should apologise to the Indonesian people,” a Jakartan wrote.

Others have gone further, expressing doubts about his “moral integrity” and his ability to perform his functions fairly and impartially.

The indifference and shallowness with which the issue is addressed has also been a cause of indignation.

In the end, it is victims who have to face a bleak future, suffering from the traumatic consequences of their mental and physical experiences.

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

Far East

China Tightens ‘Great Firewall’ Internet Control With New Technology

Companies and individuals affected by new system thought to ‘learn, discover and block’ encrypted communications

China appears to be tightening its control of internet services that are able to burrow secretly through what is known as the “Great Firewall”, which prevents citizens there from reading some overseas content.

Both companies and individuals are being hit by the new technology deployed by the Chinese government to control what people read inside the country.

A number of companies providing “virtual private network” (VPN) services to users in China say the new system is able to “learn, discover and block” the encrypted communications methods used by a number of different VPN systems.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Chrysler Close to Signing Production Deal for Jeeps in China

Fiat-owned carmaker expects to work through joint venture

(ANSA) — Rome, January 15 — Chrysler Group is close to signing a production agreement for Chinese factories to manufacture Jeep sports utility vehicles, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

Within this quarter Chrysler, which is majority owned by Fiat, is expected to sign a preliminary agreement to produce Jeeps for the domestic market in China.

“We are close,” chief executive Sergio Marchionne told Bloomberg.

Fiat would work through a joint venture, Guangzhou Automobile Group.

Jeep is Chrysler’s top-selling brand worldwide.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

France Seeks Gulf Arab Help for Mali Campaign

(AGI) Abu Dhabi — France expects Gulf Arab states will help in the campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali.

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

Mali Intervention Supported by 63 Pct of French People

(AGI) Paris, Jan 15 — An IFOP (French Institute of Public Opinion) poll found that 63 percent of the French people support the military intervention in Mali and only 37% are against it.

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

Mali: UAE Giving Material, Financial Aid, Hollande Says

We will send more troops, French pres says from Abu Dhabi base

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 15 — The United Arab Emirates (UAE) are fully behind the French military intervention in Mali, President Francois Hollande said Tuesday in a speech at a French military base in Abu Dhabi, which he is visiting along with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The UAE have pledged “their full support, including humanitarian, material and financial aid,” Hollande said in the speech broadcast on French TV. The cooperation might include “possible military aid, to be discussed at a later date,” Hollande added.

“Last night’s raids have reached their target,” Hollande said, adding that “we will be adding more troops” to the 750 French soldiers currently in Mali. That number is expected to reach 2,500, French defense officials said. France is “pretty confident” other Gulf countries will support its intervention with materials and financing, the minister said, adding that French military presence in Mali will not spark more al-Qaeda recruitment in the region. “It’s the opposite,” Fabius said. “We, not just the French but all nations, must combat terrorism.” The UN, the African Union, and the EU are setting up a donors’ conference for Mali to be held in Addis Abeba, in Ethiopia, at the end of the month, Fabius said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Police Bust Alleged Somali Migrant Trafficking Ring

Suspects include Kenya Italian embassy and WFP employees

(ANSA) — Rome, January 15 — Police on Tuesday arrested 55 Somali nationals in connection with the alleged trafficking of migrants from the Horn of Africa to northern Europe via Italy. The suspects include Hussein Mohamed Abdurahman, known as ‘Banje’, a cultural mediator at the Italian embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and Mohamed Sheik Ali Bashir, who works for the Rome-based United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP). They face various charges including assisting unlawful immigration, forgery of documents, illegal financial activities and money laundering. A further 23 people have been reported in connection with the alleged trafficking activities and businesses, bank accounts, money transfer agencies and other assets thought to be linked to the criminal organisation are to be sequestered. The alleged trafficking ring had operational units in Kenya, Libya and Italy, where the illegal immigrants were supplied with false documents at logistical bases in Rome, Milan, Turin, Florence, Prato, Bergamo, Cuneo and Naples before being sent on to Netherlands, France, Denmark, Britain, Norway, Sweden and Finland. The organisation is believed to have had a turnover of 25 million euros a year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Immigration Adviser Admits Organising Sham Marriages

An immigration adviser has admitted organising sham marriages.

Zafer Altinbas, 38, from north London, pleaded guilty to breaching immigration law and receiving money from the proceeds of crime.

He changed his plea half-way through the opening of a trial at the Old Bailey.

Tevfick Souleiman from Hertfordshire and Londoners Cenk Guclu and Furrah Kosimov deny conspiracy to breach immigration law.

The jury will return on Tuesday when prosecutor Nicholas Mather will continue setting out the case against the other accused.

Altinbas, of Islington, was released on bail and is expected to be sentenced at the end of the trial.

The prosecution alleges the scam was being run from the north London offices of a solicitors firm to allow non-EU grooms to remain in the UK after marrying brides from EU countries.

Solicitor Tevfick Souleiman, 39, and immigration advisers Cenk Guclu, 41, and Furrah Kosimov, 29, both deny conspiracy to breach immigration law between 2004 and last year.

Souleiman, from Hatfield, and Guclu, from Enfield, north London, also deny receiving proceeds of crime.

Kosimov, from Wembley, north-west London, who is being tried in his absence, denies money laundering.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Legal Boss Who Helped Arrange Sham Marriages Faces Jail

Islington, Enfield, North London; Wembley, Northwest London; Hatfield, Herts A legal boss who helped arrange thousands of sham marriages to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the UK is facing jail today (Mon). Zafer Altinbas, 38, was involved in the eight-year plot while working as practice manager at north London-based Souleiman GA. The firm paid for brides and husbands to be flown into the country from Eastern Europe and invented ‘touching love stories’ to make the bogus relationships appear genuine.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Churches ‘Could be Sued for Refusing to Agree to Gay Marriages’

Legal advice reportedly sent to David Cameron warns that church could be sued under human rights legislation if they refuse to allow the services to proceed.

Exemption granted to the Church of England by the Coalition Bill to prevent it having to conduct gay marriages is “eminently challenge-able” in the European Court of Human Rights.

It also warns that the Government’s insistence that protections put in place for other religious groups who don’t want to marry homosexuals could be undermined by evolving European human rights law.

The warnings, written by Aidan O’Neill, a leading human rights lawyer at centre-left Matrix Chambers, argues that churches that refuse to marry homosexuals would be banned from using council facilities such as village halls.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

‘Thank You Jesus’: Christian British Airways Employee Tells of Joy as After European Court Finds She Did Suffer Discrimination Over Silver Cross

A British Airways employee who claimed she suffered religious discrimination at work because she was told to stop wearing a cross has won a landmark legal battle at the European Court of Human Rights.

Nadia Eweida, 60, suffered discrimination over her Christian beliefs, after the airline said the religious item was in breach of company uniform codes, judges have ruled.

Today they found that there had been a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights of the BA worker, and handed her 2,000 Euros in compensation and another 30,000 in costs.

Her case was rejected in Britain but today European judges found in her favour by five votes to two.

Miss Eweida said she was ‘jumping for joy’ at the decision but that she was disappointed for the other three applicants.

Speaking outside her lawyer’s chambers in central London, she said: ‘I’m very happy and very happy and very pleased that Christian rights have been vindicated in the UK and Europe.

‘I’m very pleased that after all this time the European court has specifically recognised, in paragraph 114 in the judgment, that I have suffered anxiety, frustration and distress.

‘I was very selfish initially when I heard the verdict because I was jumping for joy and saying “thank you Jesus”.

‘It’s a vindication that Christians have a right to express their faith on par with other colleagues at work visibly and not be ashamed of their faith,’ she said.

David Cameron welcomed the news, tweeting: ‘Delighted that principle of wearing religious symbols at work has been upheld — ppl shouldn’t suffer discrimination due to religious beliefs.’

Mr Cameron’s official spokesman added: ‘The Government’s view is that the law as it stands strikes the right balance between the rights of employees and employers.’

This is despite the case being brought against the government and them having to pick up the costs and compensation Miss Eweida was awarded today.

English judges must now take this decision into consideration in future cases.

But the ECHR ruled against three more Christians who launched a similar action.

Shirley Chaplin, 57, claimed she was forced out of her job for wearing a cross in breach of a company uniform code.

Hospital bosses said it was a health and safety issue, and judge agreed today.

Marriage counsellor Gary McFarlane, 51, who was sacked for saying he might object to offering sex therapy to homosexuals, and registrar Lillian Ladele, who was disciplined when she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies, also both lost.

Responding to the ruling about Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights group Stonewall, said: ‘Today’s judgment rightly confirms that it’s completely unacceptable in 2013 for public servants to pick and choose who they want to serve on the basis of sexual orientation.

‘Gay people contribute over £40billion to the cost of public services in this country. They’re entitled to nothing less than equal treatment from those services, even from public servants who don’t happen to like gay people.’

Miss Eweida, from Twickenham, south-west London, argued that she she should have had the same rights as a Sikh man in a turban or a Muslim woman with a headscarf.

She was sent home in September 2006 for displaying a small silver cross on a chain around her neck which she wore as a personal expression of her faith.

She took British Airways to a tribunal but a panel rejected her claims and ruled she was not a victim of religious discrimination.

The decision was upheld by The Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court before Miss Eweida took her fight to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

She returned to work in customer services at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 in February 2007, after BA changed its uniform policy on visible items of jewellery.

At the ECHR, Miss Eweida argued BA’s action contravened articles nine and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibit religious discrimination and allow ‘freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.

‘I’m disappointed on behalf of the other three applicants but I fully support them in their asking for a referral for their cases to be heard in the Grand Chamber, and I wish them every success in the future to win,’ she said today.

Gary McFarlane and Shirley Chaplain have confirmed they will appeal again, as they say they maintain Christians are not treated equally in Britain.

Mrs Chaplin had been told by bosses at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital to remove the cross in 2009, after a 30-year career on the wards.

She said today: ‘There’s never been a health and safety issue — there’s no evidence that it caused a health and safety problem.

‘Other faiths are allowed to manifest their faiths visibly I feel I should have the same.

‘It’s true there might not be any requirement to the wear the cross in the view of some people but to me it’s very much a part of my Christian identity.

‘And I feel I should have the right to manifest that.’

The ECHR judges rejected Mrs Chaplin’s case on the grounds that the removal of her necklace was deemed necessary to protect the health and safety of nurses and patients.

Miss Ladele, a registrar at Islington Council in north London and Mr McFarlane, a 51-year-old solicitor and father of two from Hanham, in Bristol, also saw their claims rejected.

Judges found Islington Council’s action was ‘legitimate’ given it was also obliged to consider the rights of same-sex couples while they said Mr McFarlane took on the role at counselling service Relate in the knowledge that clients could not be divided up in accordance with their sexual orientation.

They decided Relate’s decision to dismiss the former church elder was designed to enable the organisation to provide a service without discrimination.

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘We are delighted that the cross has been recognised and indeed that Nadia has won her case.

‘We are saddened that Shirley Chaplin lost her case.

‘The court said that although they recognised that the cross was a Christian symbol, the hospital, the Government was entitled to say, that on the grounds of health and safety she should have to take off her cross.

‘It’s very sad that in a sense what the court did say was that the cross is a Christian symbol but now we’re going to wash our hands of what happens next because the Government, the employer, is allowed to do what it wants.

‘What I’m also pleased about is that in the European court they recognised that saying that marriage is between a man and a woman, that believing that sex should be within marriage is actually part of the Christian faith, that flows from believing in the Bible.

‘They went on to say that if an employer has an equalities policy and says there should be no discrimination in any way on the grounds of sexual orientation no matter what your Christian belief is that the sexual orientation rights win.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: CofE ‘Will be Sued Over Gay Marriage’: Human Rights Law ‘Undermines’ Cameron Plans

David Cameron’s plans for gay marriage will leave churches open to being sued under human rights legislation unless they agree to same-sex unions.

Legal advice sent to the Prime Minister says that churches that refuse to marry homosexuals would be banned from using council facilities such as village halls.

The paper, written by Aidan O’Neill — a leading human rights lawyer at centre-left Matrix Chambers — also says that Christian teachers who refuse to take classes discussing gay marriage could be legitimately fired.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Crazy New Exploit Can Brick Samsung Phones or Steal All Their Data

Got a Samsung Galaxy SIII? Maybe a Galaxy Note? Well listen up because there’s a new boogeyman on the loose. According to a thread at XDA Developers, there’s an exploit out there that can let Android malware apps get at all your physical memory, for the purposes of stealing your data or deleting it or whathaveyou.

The exploit was found by a user called Alephzain who was able to use it to root his Samsung Galaxy S III, but the flaw also extends to a number of Samsung phones, all of which have certain Exynos processors, a key element to using the exploit. It’s working in practice too, another user called Chainfire has already build an apk that can use the “ExynosAbuse” to root a number of devices including:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Powell Says GOP Holds ‘Dark Vein of Intolerance’

Whenever the liberal media want to paint the Republican Party as a party of extremists and those on the far right, they trot out Colin Powell. This man is no more Republican than Bill Clinton, and yet he feels compelled to get in front of a camera and speak about the ills of “his” party.

The reports on comments made by former Secretary of State Colin Powell on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” In the interview, Powell states that the Republican Party has a “dark vein of intolerance.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]