Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/20/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/20/2010Today was G-Day, which means all of our posts were focused on Geert Wilders. But the rest of the news didn’t pause while that was going on, and you can read it all below.

A notable item concerns the claim by Hugo Chavez that a secret U.S. weapons test caused the earthquake in Haiti. Of course! That explains everything.

Also, a Saudi girl was sentenced to 90 lashes for taking her cell phone to school.

And a murderous drama right here in Central Virginia came to an end at dawn today when Christopher Speight surrendered to the police after killing eight people, many of them family members. He was in possession of numerous explosives as well as guns.

Thanks to Aeneas, Amil Imani, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Free Hal, Gaia, Insubria, JD, KGS, REP, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, TV, VH, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Strategic Defaults and the Foreclosure Crisis
 
USA
Brown Win Forces Democrats to Re-Evaluate Health Care Reform Game Plan
Massachusetts Win: Obama Vows Retaliation Against American People
Muslim Groups Still MIA on Terror
Muslim Groups Lose ‘Lawfare’ Battle
No Mention of Islam in Official Fort Hood Report
Teen-Turned-Christian Protected From Islam
The Decline of the Obama Administration: Massachusetts and the Middle East
The Fort Hood Report: Why No Mention of Islam?
US Clears Way for Return of 2 Muslim Scholars
Va. Rampage Victims Include Suspect’s Relatives
 
Europe and the EU
Danish PM: One Niqab Too Many
Denmark: Westergaard Watercolour Draws Global Bids
France: Gueant: If You Wear Burqa, You Are Not French
I Used to Believe Britain Had a Lot in Common With Europe. How Wrong I Was
Italy: Buffalo Mozzarella Authenticity at Risk
Italy: Disability Pension Scam in Naples
Italy: Craxi Commemorated at Senate
Italy: Ten Arrested in Mafia Rubbish Probe
Italy: Rome Clears Europe’s Largest Gypsy Camp
Most Britons Descended From Male Farmers Who Left Iraq and Syria 10,000 Years Ago (And Were Seduced by the Local Hunter-Gatherer Women)
Smiles of Children Leaving for Death Camps — 288 Stories in Digital Cemetery
Spain Aims to Boost EU Gender Equality
UK: ‘The Public Think We Are Mad for Giving Soft Sentences, ‘ Says Judge Who Then Freed a Thug
UK: ‘Chicken-Licking’ Shelf-Stacker Jailed After Being Filmed Sabotaging Food at Asda
UK: ‘Deep Ethnic Segregation’ Mapped in England’s Schools
UK: Breast Screening Benefits ‘A Myth’ As 7,000 Women a Year Are Wrongly Told They Have Cancer
UK: Munir Hussain Freed: Well Done Lord Chief Justice
Vatican: Pope Summons Irish Bishops Over Sex Scandal
 
Balkans
Serbia-China: Preliminary Contract for Belgrade Bridge Signed
 
North Africa
Algeria: 13 New Prisons to be Operative in 2010
Egypt: Minister, No Foreign Aid if With Political Conditions
Egypt: Killing of Christians; US, EU Parliament Criticised
 
Israel and the Palestinians
BBC: Denying Jewish Jerusalem
Synod: Israeli Occupations Cause of Hostility
 
Middle East
Agca: I Will Prove I Am Messiah With Vatican Documents
Amil Imani: A New Day for Iran
Food: Arab Nations Too Dependent on Foreign Countries
Iraq: Mosul: Targeted Execution of Christians Continues in Media and Government Silence
Knesset Speaker Rivlin and MK Eldad to be ‘Tried’ In Jordan
Saudi Girl, 13, Sentenced to 90 Lashes After She Took a Mobile Phone to School
Syria’s Financial Support for Jihad
Turks vs. Kurds
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: NATO to Train More Local Security Forces
Al-Qaeda Wants South Asia War, Says US Secretary Gates
Marxist Communist Party in India Bans Leaders From Practicing Faith
 
Far East
Vietnam Jails Democracy Activists for Subversion
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
DR Congo War Deaths ‘Exaggerated’
Muslim-Christian Clashes Kill 460 in Nigerian City
Nigeria Riot City Under Control, Says Army Chief
Somalia: Heavy Shellings in Various Areas Kill Civilians
Stop Hiding in Kenya, Somali MPs Told
 
Latin America
Video: Hugo Chavez: A U.S. Weapons Test Caused the Haitian Earthquake
 
Immigration
Falasha Mura Immigration From Ethiopia Resumes
Greece and France Call for Frontex Stronger Role
Spain: 20% of Remittances Through Informal Channels
UK: When it Comes to Asylum, The Lunatics Really Have Taken Over
 
Culture Wars
Psalms Banned, But Witchcraft OK

Financial Crisis

Strategic Defaults and the Foreclosure Crisis

Nearly a year after the Obama administration unveiled its ambitious housing rescue program, foreclosure tallies continue to break records. Foreclosure filings were reported on more than 2.8 million properties in 2009, up 21 percent from the previous year and 120 percent from 2007, according to RealtyTrac. With nearly 10 percent of mortgages now delinquent—which is also a new record—even more homeowners appear headed for foreclosure this year. “A massive supply of delinquent loans continues to loom over the housing market,” RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio said in a statement. “Many of those delinquencies will end up in the foreclosure process in 2010 and beyond.”

[See Tips for Selling a Home in the Off-Season.]

Homeowners have found themselves in foreclosure for a number of reasons. Some purchased properties they could never really afford. Others lost their jobs—the national unemployment rate remains in the double digits—and had no way to make mortgage payments. But as the crisis rumbles forward, an additional driver of home foreclosures has become clear: Many borrowers have the means to keep paying the mortgage but are simply walking away because they believe it’s best for their finances.

The number of so called “strategic defaults” more than doubled, to 588,000, from 2007 to 2008, according to a study by Experian and Oliver Wyman. A separate 2009 survey found that more than a quarter of all existing defaults were strategic. Meanwhile, a growing number of academics are touting the financial benefits of walking away. “Homeowners should be walking away in droves,” Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law school professor, said in a recent paper. “The financial costs of foreclosure, while not insignificant, are minimal compared to the financial benefit of strategic default.”

[See Obama’s Loan Modification Plan: 7 Things You Need to Know]

The case for strategically defaulting is linked to negative equity, or owing more on your home than it is worth. With home prices at the national level having dropped roughly 30 percent from their 2006 peaks—and a great deal more in certain bubble markets—a considerable chunk of property owners are now in this fix. Nearly 1 in 4 borrowers currently have negative equity, according to First American CoreLogic. And rather than continuing to make payments on an investment that’s now worth significantly less than what they paid for it, many borrowers are throwing in the towel.

White uses the following example to demonstrate how many borrowers are better off defaulting: A young professional couple with two children pays $585,000 for a three-bedroom, Salinas, Calif.-home in January 2006. At $4,300, monthly payments on their no-money-down, 30-year fixed mortgage with an interest rate of 6.5 percent represent a tad less than 31 percent of their gross monthly income. Toss in taxes, student loans, health care, food, and other essentials, and finances quickly get tight.

After the historic housing bust, their home is now worth $187,000, but they still owe $560,000. Other homes in their neighborhood, of course, have plummeted in value as well. And if the couple was to purchase a similar, nearby house listed at $179,000, their monthly payments would be less than $1,200. That’s a huge savings over their current $4,300 monthly mortgage bill. But since a foreclosure on their credit report is likely to prevent them from buying a home in the near-term, they may have to rent. And about $1,000 a month gets them a comparable rental property in their neighborhood.

“Assuming they intend to stay in their home ten years, [the homeowners] would save approximately $340,000 by walking away, including a monthly savings of at least $1,700 on rent verses mortgage payments, even after factoring in the mortgage interest tax reduction,” White writes. “If they stay in their home, on the other hand, it will take [the homeowners] over 60 years just to recover their equity—assuming, of course, that they live that long.”

The argument against strategically defaulting is much more straightforward: You promised to repay the loan when you took out the mortgage, and it’s your responsibility to do everything possible to honor that commitment. Avoiding the guilt and shame that can accompany a foreclosure is one of the top reasons struggling homeowners don’t strategically default, White writes.. On top of that, a foreclosure significantly damages one’s credit—making it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a mortgage for years afterward.

But in a recent white paper, Alex Edmans, an assistant professor of finance The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, argues that many homeowners are ignoring these consequences to do what they believe is in their best financial interest. “Defaulting on their loan is a rational decision: While they forfeit their home, they rid themselves of a mortgage liability of even greater value,” Edmans writes. “The source of the problem is the homeowner’s balance sheet: since he has negative equity in his home, it is not worth keeping it by paying the mortgage.”

The issue of negative equity triggering strategic defaults represents a nasty headache for the Obama administration. The $75 billion mortgage housing rescue the administration unveiled last February is designed to keep people in their homes by reducing their monthly mortgage payments down to more manageable levels. The plan does not, however, require lenders or servicers to reduce borrowers’ mortgage principal—meaning underwater borrowers still have this incentive to walk away from their home loan.

Laurie Goodman, a senior managing director at Amherst Securities Group, considers negative equity to be the housing market’s greatest challenge and believes current housing rescue efforts are insufficient. “The current modification program does not address negative equity, and is therefore destined to fail,” Goodman said in written testimony before a Congressional committee in December. “It must be amended to explicitly address this problem.”

Although Uncle Sam has reduced mortgage payments for more than 850,000 borrowers so far—for a median savings of more than $500—the government will remain under pressure to take more aggressive action as long as the foreclosure epidemic keeps churning. Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, believes the government may take steps to tackle the issue of negative equity head-on this year by incorporating principal write downs—which reduce a borrower’s negative equity position—into the housing rescue program.

           — Hat tip: REP[Return to headlines]

USA

Brown Win Forces Democrats to Re-Evaluate Health Care Reform Game Plan

Democrats are being forced to re-evaluate their plans for health care reform after Republican Scott Brown’s victory for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts.

Democrats are being forced to re-evaluate their plans for health care reform after Republican Scott Brown’s victory for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts made clear that independent and even many Democratic voters are concerned about health insurance reforms being debated in Washington.

Brown’s win Tuesday is a colossal hit to Democrats, since it will break the party’s 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate at a time when health care reform is in its final stages. Brown has vowed to vote against the bill if he gets the chance.

Though Democrats have discussed ways to fast-track the legislation so as to send it to President Obama’s desk before Brown gets sworn in, cracks in the Democrats’ resolve started to show Tuesday night.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said it would “only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Brown is seated.”

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., a fierce advocate for health care reform, also said it might be time to take a time-out on health care reform and focus on jobs.

“It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to take a step back and say we’re going to pivot, do a jobs thing, and try to include some health care things as a part of that,” he said. “If we were struggling and making the bill worse with a 60-vote Senate majority, I don’t see how we make it better with 59.”

Interestingly, both the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stressed the importance of job creation and the economy as well in written statements reacting to Brown’s win.

But the Democrats do have options on health care…

           — Hat tip: Aeneas[Return to headlines]


Massachusetts Win: Obama Vows Retaliation Against American People

However, according to leftist leaning “news” organizations (CNN and MSNBC) covering the special election, members of the Obama Administration have said that the tyrant will NOT take this defeat lying down. The “leaked” information coming out of the White House is that Obama is now planning to (per Rachel Maddow and others) “double down” in his efforts to shove the ObamaCare Death Plan down the throats of the American people. Even Fox News’ leftist Juan Williams repeated this double-down message. Williams also said that the “majority of the American people” want health care reform.

But, tonight’s election in very liberal Massachusetts proved Obama wrong. So, he is now bent upon retaliating against the Massachusetts’ voters for not voting in an Obama and totalitarianism-supporting Democrat and against the rest of us who woke up this morning feeling just a little bit better about our country, ourselves and our future. Obama and the Marxist-Democrat-run Congress are furiously and furtively working to find another clandestine way in which to shove the Obama/Democrat Death Plan down the throats of the American people; not because it’s ‘good for them even if they don’t want it’ as The ObamaTyrant suggests but, because it’s the only real and viable way that Obama and his minions can establish a truly tyrannical form of government and once and for all suppress the American people.

Obama & Co will now work even harder to destroy us and our country, folks. He is intensely angry with us for daring to vote into office someone who wants to preserve—not destroy—our worship of God, freedoms and liberties and not replace them with himself. Obama is openly on the opposite aside of the American people and he will continue to fight us with his entire arsenal. To Obama, WE are the terrorists and he has told us that multiple times. The real terrorists are protected by The Obama.

[Return to headlines]


Muslim Groups Still MIA on Terror

If you believe the hype, the United States has a valuable new ally in the War on Terror: American Muslim leaders. Alas, it’s called “hype” for a reason.

Yes, some American Muslim groups are making a show of undertaking a sincere campaign to oppose terror, purge jihadis, help disrupt networks and thwart plots.

At Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab’s arraignment this month, some 50 Muslims rallied outside the court, carrying placards that read “Not in the Name of Islam,” chanting “We are Americans” and waving US flags. Majed Moughni, who organized the protest, vowed to “take our religion back” from terrorists like Abdulmutallab.

[…]

The ADL’s not alone. Another law-enforcement source tells me CAIR and other groups have been worse than useless: To this source’s knowledge, US Muslims have played virtually no role in foiling local plots.

[…]

Indeed, in some places, imams have reportedly withheld useful info and threatened to oust congregants who aid law-enforcement. Officials say Ahmad Afzali, the Queens imam helping agents probe Najibullah Zazi (the coffee vendor charged in a New York terror plot), later double-crossed them and alerted Zazi.

“I know of no investigations” in which Muslims have been helpful, Rep. Peter King (R-LI), the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, tells me. He says law-enforcement and counterterror officials invariably tell him Muslim cooperation doesn’t exist. Sometimes agents say they’re met with hostility.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Muslim Groups Lose ‘Lawfare’ Battle

Islamic leaders employ U.S. legal system to silence journalist

A group of Islamic organizations has lost another battle in its “lawfare” against freedom of speech across the nation with the rejection by the Texas Supreme Court of a demand that it review the writings of an Internet journalist.

The state’s highest court rejected a petition submitted by the Muslims to review a ruling from the 2nd District Court of Appeals that dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought against Internet journalist Joe Kaufman.

As WND reported, Kaufman wrote an article for the online FrontPage Magazine exposing terrorist connections in two American Muslim groups. He then was sued by a swarm of Islamic interests, none of which were even mentioned in the article.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


No Mention of Islam in Official Fort Hood Report

The fact that the authors intentionally omitted any doctrinal based assessment of the killings should be an indictment of not only the authors, but of our current administration. To purposely omit the Islamic motivation that was the sole basis of HASAN’s murderous rampage is not only disingenuous, but traitorous as it places our armed forces at risk for future killings, sabotage, and treason. Therefore, the report is either a clear exhibit of our senior leadership’s knowledge deficit pertaining to the ideology of enemy we are fighting, or illustrates just how deeply entrenched the enemy really is within our military infrastructure and political bodies of policy and oversight.

[Return to headlines]


Teen-Turned-Christian Protected From Islam

Report says court declares Rifqa ‘dependent’ of state

The parents of Rifqa Bary, a Muslim convert to Christianity who fled her home claiming her life was in danger, have agreed to allow their daughter to remain in foster care until she turns 18 this summer.

Bary’s Muslim parents gave up their fight, according to Ohio court documents released today, avoiding a trial that could have put Islam’s law barring “apostasy,” by penalty of death, in the national spotlight.

When the teen turns 18 in August she will be free to live where she chooses.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


The Decline of the Obama Administration: Massachusetts and the Middle East

by Barry Rubin

There is an iron rule in modern democratic politics that parties periodically ignore to their peril: if a party goes too far to an extreme—to the left, the right, or any other far-out viewpoint—the voters reject it. This is what’s now happening in the United States. One wonders whether, or when, it will happen in a number of European countries.

In the United States, the most obvious examples is when the Democrats went too far to the left with George McGovern and the Republicans went too far to the right with Barry Goldwater they suffered tremendous defeats. Many other examples can be cited from Europe, Israel, and other countries.

Another point that should be kept in mind is that when political and media-cultural elites in democratic countries become too arrogant and detached from their people they are in for a reminder of how that system works. One of the most disturbing features of contemporary life is that those who dissent from the Politically Correct, multicultural dogmas are quickly labelled as evil, stupid, or crazy. By denying the rationality of different viewpoints, the possibility of usefull dialogue, compromise, and course modifications is lost.

As an example, the European political elite seems to view its own citizenry as a bunch of potential fanatics on the verge of being incited into Islamophobic mobs. This cripples them from dealing with the threat of Islamism at home and abroad.

For reasons which are well-known, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States despite being the most leftist chief executive in American history. One of those factors was that the electorate did not get complete information on this matter from a mass media largely intent on his victory.

The leading mainstream Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, was pushed aside and the party, not only due to Obama’s being president but in the belief that he was overwhelmingly popular and a political magician, followed his lead in part. Within six months, however, congressional Democrats, at least on foreign policy issues, showed considerable discontent with the administration’s policies and reverted to more traditional liberal positions.

Without discussing domestic issues, the administration broke with virtually all its predecessors-except on a few issues-regarding foreign policy. Indeed, it followed a philosophy which in effect sought to repeal the most basic principles of international affairs. The result has not been catastrophic-largely due to the lack of any huge crisis in its first years-but has been damaging. The administration has not achieved the smallest success in foreign policy, even by very generous standards.

Now the Democratic Party has suffered three humiliating defeats-in New Jersey, Virginia, and in what might be its single biggest stronghold, Massachusetts…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


The Fort Hood Report: Why No Mention of Islam?

The U.S. military’s just-released report into the Fort Hood shootings spends 86 pages detailing various slipups by Army officers but not once mentions Major Nidal Hasan by name or even discusses whether the killings may have had anything to do with the suspect’s view of his Muslim faith. And as Congress opens two days of hearings on Wednesday into the Pentagon probe of the Nov. 5 attack that left 13 dead, lawmakers want explanations for that omission.

John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 commission and Navy Secretary during the Reagan Administration, says a reluctance to cause offense by citing Hasan’s view of his Muslim faith and the U.S. military’s activities in Muslim countries as a possible trigger for his alleged rampage reflects a problem that has gotten worse in the 40 years that Lehman has spent in and around the U.S. military. The Pentagon report’s silence on Islamic extremism “shows you how deeply entrenched the values of political correctness have become,” he told TIME on Tuesday. “It’s definitely getting worse, and is now so ingrained that people no longer smirk when it happens.”

The apparent lack of curiosity into what allegedly drove Hasan to kill isn’t in keeping with the military’s ethos; it’s a remarkable omission for the U.S. armed forces, whose young officers are often ordered to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War with its command to know your enemy…

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


US Clears Way for Return of 2 Muslim Scholars

“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has signed orders enabling the re-entry of professors Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University in England and Adam Habib of the University of Johannesburg in South Africa once they obtain required admittance documents, department spokesman Darby Holladay said.” (…) “Clinton “has chosen to exercise her exemption authority for the benefit of Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib,” Holladay said. “We’ll let that action speak for itself.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Va. Rampage Victims Include Suspect’s Relatives

APPOMATTOX, Va. (AP) — The victims of a gunman’s violent rampage in central Virginia included the suspect’s sister and brother-in-law, as well as two other adults, three teenagers and a 4-year-old boy, according to authorities who charged the alleged shooter with first-degree murder on Wednesday.

Christopher Bryan Speight, a 39-year-old security guard, surrendered to police at daybreak after leading investigators on an 18-hour manhunt following the slayings at a house in rural central Virginia where deputies found a mortally wounded man and seven bodies.

A bomb squad discovered a multitude of explosives at Speight’s home, and crews were detonating the devices into the night.

Speight had no weapons when he surrendered. He was wearing a bulletproof vest over a black fleece jacket, camouflage pants and mud-caked boots. Neither the sheriff nor a state police spokeswoman would disclose what Speight said when he gave up.

Speight was charged with one count of first-degree murder, but other charges are likely. He’s being held at a jail in Lynchburg.

The suspect co-owned and lived in the home where some of the bodies were found Tuesday. David Anderson, co-owner of the Sunshine Market grocery store in Lynchburg, where Speight sometimes provided security, said Speight was worried that his sister and brother-in-law, wanted to kick him out of the house. The two recently moved in with Speight, he said.

Speight’s mother deeded the house to Speight and his sister in 2006, shortly before she died of brain cancer. His mother’s obituary listed the daughter as Lauralee Sipe and her husband as Dewayne Sipe.

State police identified the Sipes, both 38, as two of the victims, along with 16-year-old Ronald Scruggs; 15-year-old Emily Quarles; 43-year-old Karen and Jonathan Quarles; 15-year-old Morgan Dobyns; and 4-year-old Joshua Sipe.

Police say Speight knew all the victims, but they did not outline the victims’ relationships or discuss a motive. No court date has been set.

Their bodies are at the state medical examiner’s office in Roanoke, where their causes of death will be determined. Investigators wouldn’t say what type of weapon was used in the rampage.

In nearby Lynchburg late Wednesday, about 100 people attended an impromptu prayer gathering at Thomas Terrace Baptist Church, where friends described Scruggs as a class clown and Emily Quarles as outgoing and friendly.

Youth minister Walt Davis said the community would need strength in the coming days and weeks. Adults were on hand for young people who wanted to talk or needed comforting.

Courtney Crews, 14, said she and Emily Quarles attended the same middle school but different high schools. They kept in touch by texting and talking on the phone.

“She was just a really good friend,” Crews said, sobbing. “She was never mean to anybody.”

Neighbor Monte W. Mays said Speight was a good neighbor. They waved as they passed each other on the road and sent their dogs out to play with one another.

“All the dealings I’ve ever had with him have been cordial and polite,” said Mays, the county’s retired commissioner of accounts. “We got along fine.”

Speight had long been a gun enthusiast and enjoyed target shooting at a range on his property, Mays said. But the shooting recently became a daily occurrence, with Speight firing what Mays said were high-powered rifles.

“Then we noticed he was doing it at nighttime,” and the gunfire started going deeper into the woods, Mays said.

Mays said the entire community is devastated and wondering what triggered the slayings.

“The only one who’s going to know now is Chris,” he said.

Anderson, the store co-owner, said Speight never wanted to talk about his problems, but he “constantly paced the floor,” Anderson said. “I thought he was going to wear a trench in it.”

Clarence Reynolds, who also works at the market, said he recently discussed a personal family problem with Speight, and Speight told him “don’t let your emotions get the best of you.”

Reynolds said Speight was not married and had no children.

Police were alerted to the bloodbath when they found the wounded man on the side of a road. Then sheriff’s deputies discovered seven more bodies — three inside the house and four just outside.

When officers converged on the area, the suspected shooter fired at a state police helicopter, rupturing its gas tank and forcing it to land.

The shots revealed his location, and more than 100 police swarmed into the woods until Speight gave up the following morning.

Police said Speight appeared to have had weapons training, but there was no information suggesting he had served in the military.

Speight’s uncle, Jack Giglio of Tampa, Fla., told The Associated Press that his nephew was a deer hunter, but as far as he knew Speight did not have any specialized weapons training. Giglio said he had not seen Speight since 2006, when both attended the funeral for Speight’s mother.

“We’re shocked, of course,” Giglio said. “I’m not aware of any problems with him. It’s kind of out of the blue. We’re still trying to pick up facts, too.”

Appomattox County court records show a concealed weapons permit was issued to a Christopher Bryan Speight three times between 1999 and last year.

The county’s four schools remained closed for the day, the high school flag at half-staff. Administrators planned to bring in grief counselors. The school system posted a notice on its Web site late Wednesday announcing a two-hour delay Thursday morning so staff would have time to “prepare to talk with their students about the tragedy.”

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Danish PM: One Niqab Too Many

Prime minister says no place for Islamic burkas and niqabs in public school system following new report

Following the publication of the controversial burka report, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has said the full Islamic dress and veil is not appropriate in Danish schools.

The Conservative Party proposed a burka ban last year, but the justice ministry ruled it unconstitutional. Officials were asked to draft a report on the burka issue in Denmark which was completed late last year. However, after leaked versions of the report emerged last week, the government published it yesterday.

Leaks suggested that there were only three women in Denmark wearing the burka, but the final report does not differentiate between those wearing burkas or niqabs (face veil) and estimates the total to be between 200 and 300 nationally.

At his weekly press conference yesterday Rasmussen said that Danish society relies on being a positive society, ‘where we meet each other at eye level, where we can see each other and where we gesticulate with each other’.

‘So neither the burka nor the niqab have their place in Danish society,’ he added.

While the figures on how many women wear the full burka in Danish society has caused a rift between political parties, the prime minister said it was the principle that mattered.

‘If there was a situation in which my son was being taught in a Danish public school by a teacher in niqab, I couldn’t care less whether this was a fate he shared with three, or three hundred classes in Denmark. It’s one niqab too many.’

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Westergaard Watercolour Draws Global Bids

Hundreds are bidding for cartoonist Westergaard’s Haiti donation painting.

Bids for a watercolour by cartoonist Kurth Westergaard, the proceeds of which are to be donated to Haiti, have currently rounded DKK 20,000 and continue to rise, according to Erik Guldager of Galleri Draupner in the city of Skanderborg.

The gallery has put the picture up for sale following a decision by the Lauritz.com online auction house not to put the painting up for auction for fear of consequences in connection with Westergaard’s controversial Mohammed cartoon.

“20,000 is the highest confirmed bid, but we already have higher bids which just need final confirmation. I have hundreds of unopened emails and don’t yet know what bids they contain,” says Guldager.

Global bids

Guldager adds that Danes are not the only potential buyers of Westergaard’s picture.

“The bid for DKK 20.000 comes from a Dane, but we have received bids from all over the world — including the United States and Australia. In the last 24 hours alone, there have been 15,000 visits to our homepage. It is natural that it attracts attention when one of the world’s most well-known artists puts a picture up for sale,” he says.

Guldager says he is in no doubt that what he deems the auction’s success is not only from people wanting to help Haitians.

“I think it is both in support for Westergaard and support for Haiti,” he says.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


France: Gueant: If You Wear Burqa, You Are Not French

(by Aurora Bergamini) (ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 19 — The prospect of a law banning the use of burqa has sparked fresh controversy in France. In an interview with radio network Europe1, the secretary general at the Elysee palace, Claude Gueant, said that French citizenship could be denied to whoever wears body-covering veils. “Those who wear the burqa are not French” he said. Gueant also mentioned the stance of President Nicolas Sarkozy with regard to any law banning the burqa. “The president is in favour of a solution which can rely on the widest possible support of all political forces. He thinks that a law is needed. The debate will focus on the need for a specific or total ban” Gueant concluded. Xavier Bertrand, the secretary general of the Ump, Sarkozy’s right party, said something similar. He thinks that an anti-burqa law should provide that whoever wears one “cannot be granted French citizenship”. “The burqa is like a prison for women. We must ban it” Bertrand added. The statements made by Gueant and Bertrand have been harshly criticised by the opposition. In particular, the MEP of the greens and leader of Europe-Ecologie, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, ironically asked “if any French citizen wearing the burqa should be stripped of French citizenship”. A bipartisan parliamentary mission on this issue will submit a final report to the President of the national assembly, Bernard Accoyer, on January 26. Sarkozy often stated that veils covering the whole body “are not welcome in France”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


I Used to Believe Britain Had a Lot in Common With Europe. How Wrong I Was

By Norman Tebbit

James Delingpole’s news that many Conservative candidates in winnable seats (or at least many of those with the courage to reply to a poll) are Conservatives and far from convinced by the Warmist case is encouraging. It may have within it the answer to many bloggers on this site who ask how our great institutions can be rescued from the shysters who have seized control of them.

[…]

Quite rightly a number of contributors to this blog have questioned whether the United Kingdom any longer passes the tests of what is a sovereign state. It is a finely balanced matter. The claim to continue to be sovereign now rests soley upon the right of Paliament to repeal the Treaty of Accession. We have put our sovereignty into the care of the European Union, with a claim that it could be retrieved. The question is for how long a power which is unused can remain potent — and, beyond that, if the EU becomes, as we all expect it to do, the European Republic, what then?

I should have known better, for I was one of those who voted for that Treaty in 1972. I genuinely believed, as most of us did, not just that it would benefit us to be in a European free trade area, but that the commonalty of culture across the member states was far greater than it was and that we could share many institutions.

Looking back, I think that may have come about because as an airline pilot I was a member of an international elite who did share a common culture and I probably had more in common with an Air France or KLM pilot than a Birmingham bus driver. The longer I spent as a Minister around the negotiating table in Brussels, the more I realised I had been wrong. It was not that I dislike my European colleagues — it was just that I realised that the underlying history and culture which had formed their institutions was deeply different and indeed hostile to those which had formed ours.

That was when I remembered the words of Enoch Powell: “Europe can never be a democracy because there is no European Demos.”

All that leaves open what relationship we in the UK should have with the other states of Europe, or the EU. Perhaps that is a question we should be asking of our party leaders. Until we get it right, a lot of what goes on in the House of Commons (and indeed the Lords) will be no more than what the psychologists call a displacement activity.

Oh, by the way, I should confess that my political hero is Alfred the Great.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Italy: Buffalo Mozzarella Authenticity at Risk

‘Watered down with cows’ milk’

(ANSA) — Rome, January 19 — Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia announced on Tuesday that he had placed a consortium of producers which guarantees buffalo mozzarella quality under appointed administration because of its failure to ensure the traditional cheese’s authenticity.

“I placed the consortium under appointed administration after inspections found that even the consortium’s president was watering down his buffalo milk with cow milk,” the minister explained.

“Over the past two years my zero-tolerance policy has led to the discovery of many causes of food fraud. In November, controls made in leading supermarkets found that 25% of the cheese sold as buffalo mozzarella was fake because it contained 30% cow milk,” Zaia added.

The minister’s action is the latest blow to the traditional cheese which has PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) recognition from the European Union and is a prime ingredient in the Naples-style ‘real’ pizza, which last month was finally awarded a TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) label. In 2008, mozzarella sales and exports plummeted after tests showed that some plants near Naples were producing cheese with excessive levels of dioxin and another dangerous contaminants.

Then in April of last year police found that some buffalo had been ‘doped’ with a human growth hormone, somatropine — which is legal in the USA but not Europe — in one of Italy’s prime mozzarella-making areas near Caserta.

Experts said at the time that there was no risk for consumers from the hormone.

Mozzarella is supposed to be produced exclusively from whole buffalo milk and the cheese is rich in calcium, high in protein and lactic flora substances, and with a high vitamin and mineral salt content, it is highly nutritional.

ZAIA TOOK SIMILAR ACTION FOR BRUNELLO WINE.

Soon after taking office in the spring of 2008, Zaia had to defuse a potential dispute with the United States over the authenticity of the prized Italian wine Brunello di Montalcino, which some experts consider to be perhaps Italy’s finest wine and certainly among the best in the world.

Also in this situation the minister stripped the producers’ consortium of its power to authenticate the product.

At issue was not the quality of the wine but the fact that it was being made with grapes from outside the Montalcino area and thus did not qualify for the guaranteed PDO label and could represent a case of fraud by US law.

The matter was very serious considering that the US consumes 25% of the Brunello on the market and some 45% of all quality wine produced in Tuscany, the so-called ‘Super Tuscans’.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Disability Pension Scam in Naples

Two streets home to 55% of city’s blind and mentally ill

(ANSA) — Naples, January 19 — A massive disability pension scam has been uncovered in Naples involving hundreds of cases of people claiming to be blind or mentally ill, 55% of whom apparently live on the same two city streets.

The scandal broke last month when 53 people living in the city’s historic center were arrested for falsely claiming disability pensions for blindness.

The pensions were granted based on falsified medical records and given to people who continued to drive, read and carry on a normal life. Police later arrested a 36-year-old city district councillor, Salvatore Alaio, on charges of being the mastermind behind the fraud.

Many of those illegally drawing the disability pensions were his friends or family.

Further examination of public health records by investigators led to the discovery of up to 400 cases of disability pensions for mental illness in one central neighborhood alone, ten times the number of other city districts.

Looking at the results of the investigation, Francesco Emilio Borrelli, a regional official of the Green party, found that in his central San Ferdinando district “some 8% of the population is either blind or crazy. And this percentage rises to 20% in the neighborhood on the hill above Santa Lucia and to 55% on just two streets alone”.

“To think that there is a woman, N.C., who really has a disability and was unable to get a pension because she refused to take part in the illegal ‘system’,” he added.

“It is people like her who were most damaged, who suffered the most from this shameful fraud,” Borrelli said.

Investigators have calculated that the cases involving the fake blind have cost the state some one million euros over a three-year period.

Officials responsible for authorising disability pensions blame the bureaucracy for creating this situation, given that the paper work has to be processed by three separate offices: the local ASL national health branch, the city and the national pension office INPS.

In the regions, pension requests are processed only by ASL and INPS.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Craxi Commemorated at Senate

But ceremony contested by his chief accuser

(ANSA) — Rome, January 19 — A ceremony at the Senate commemorating controversial former premier Bettino Craxi on the 10th anniversary of his death on Tuesday unleashed a barrage of criticism from an opposition leader who led investigations against him during the 1990s Tangentopoli (Bribesville) scandal.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi and a host of ministers attended the event, part of a drive to restore the image of the former Socialist premier, who died in Tunisia in self-imposed exile to avoid prosecution in Italy on corruption charges.

To many Italians, Craxi is a symbol of the institutionalised system of bribery that was uncovered by magistrates in the early 1990s and which toppled Italy’s old political guard.

“We’re not providing a clearer picture of those years but a falser and more distorted one,” said the leader of the Italy of Values (IdV) Party, Antonio Di Pietro, a former prosecutor in the Milan ‘Clean Hands’ investigations that toppled the Socialist and Christian Democrat parties.

“We’re celebrating a runaway crook,” he added.

“This beatification of a convicted criminal in an institutional setting like the Senate is really shameful,” added the IdV’s Senate Whip, Felice Belisario.

But Senate Speaker Renato Schifani told a crowded assembly that Craxi had been “a sacrificial victim” who had not been given “any breaks” and had “paid more than anyone else for the faults of the entire political system of that period”.

Former president and now life Senator Francesco Cossiga also praised Craxi as “a courageous and upstanding man who was fair to his international allies and was the guardian of national sovereignty”.

On the eve of the ceremony, President Giorgio Napolitano acknowledged that Craxi had left an “indelible mark” in Italian politics.

In a message to his widow Anna, Napolitano stressed that though Craxi’s legacy was still a mixture of “light and shadow” his contribution to shaping Italian foreign policy in Europe and the rest of the world “could not be challenged”.

Napolitano said that he was still “shaken” whenever he recalled Craxi’s long illness and “lonely death away from Italy”.

The president recalled that he and Craxi had enjoyed “frank and fair relations whether we were in agreement or not”.

CRAXI’S SELF-DEFENCE SPEECH BEFORE SELF-IMPOSED EXILE.

Craxi fled to Tunisia in 1994 amid an increasing number of corruption charges.

Accused of accepting illegal party funding to the tune of millions of dollars, he was convicted in absentia in two cases but faced a number of other probes and at one point, had amassed jail terms totalling almost 25 years.

Subsequent court rulings overturned or modified some of the convictions.

He remained in self-imposed exile in Tunisia until his death from heart failure in January 2000.

Despite the long illness he suffered in the last years of his life, Craxi always refused to return to his native country unless he could do so as a free man.

In a speech to the House before leaving Italy, Craxi defended himself by arguing that, since all politicians were guilty, punishing individual guilt was unfair.

“Everybody knew, everybody was silent. Who will cast the first stone?”, he asked.

One of the most enduring memories of his final period in Italy was in March 1993, on the day parliament voted to give him immunity from prosecution. Romans gathered outside Craxi’s hotel and showered him with coins in the street — a traditional show of contempt for convicted thieves.

The so-called Tangentopoli or Bribesville investigations were triggered on February 17, 1992, when Milan prosecutors arrested Mario Chiesa, a close associate of Craxi and director of an old people’s home, as he was pocketing a bribe from a cleaning firm.

Magistrates subsequently uncovered a vast web of bribery linking business to politics and the public administration. The once dominant Christian Democrat and Socialist parties were swept away in the ensuing scandal.

Within two years of the start of Bribesville, parliament received requests for immunity to be lifted on 619 parliamentarians, of whom 321 were investigated.

Eight ex-premiers and some 5,000 businessmen and politicians were charged. To date, there have been 1,233 convictions but none of those convicted is still in jail.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi has repeatedly spoken of his friendship for Craxi and his disgust at the way he was abandoned by political allies during the ‘Clean Hands’ investigations.

He has said that Craxi was “wickedly abandoned” by people who had formerly revered and supported him, while his political adversaries had not returned the respect he had shown them during his career.

“Not allowing him back for treatment was a dramatic sign of how far blind moralism and political backbiting are from real feelings of Christian love,” Berlusconi once said.

Craxi’s daughter Stefania, now foreign undersecretary, insists he was a martyr to Italian justice and a scapegoat for the Bribesville years and has long spearheaded a campaign to rehabilitate him.

She told reporters that Berlusconi had decided not to speak at the Senate commemoration to avoid sparking further polemics.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Ten Arrested in Mafia Rubbish Probe

Milan, 19 Jan. (AKI) — Police arrested ten people in northern Italy on Tuesday in connection with the illegal traffic of dangerous waste. Six suspects were placed under house arrest, while four were jailed, in an operation which was part of a broader anti-mafia investigation, police said.

Police are investigating businesses allegedly involved in the illegal management and transport of waste.

A total of 41 people are under investigation including bank managers, according to Italian paramilitary police.

Police have carried out 18 searches, closed six offices and two waste management plants, confiscated 15 waste transport trucks and three luxury vehicles in the Lombardy region.

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


Italy: Rome Clears Europe’s Largest Gypsy Camp

Rome, 19 Jan.(AKI) — Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno was accused of discrimination when he began clearing out Europe’s largest Gypsy camp in the Italian capital on Tuesday. The move was supervised by the Red Cross which said it would transfer the first 50 Gypsies from the 40-year-old camp, Casalino 900, to another location in Rome.

“This is a great challenge, but in the end the law will win,” said Alemanno, who was there to supervise the relocation.

Tuesday’s move was the first stage of a move to relocate the illegal camp’s 600 residents by the end of February.

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government has come under fire for its hard-line stance regarding immigrants and gypsies.

Critics of the unauthorised camp said its residents live in illegally and in squalor.

But the Communita di Sant’Egidio, a Catholic charity organisation, said the forced evictions will uproot families from a place that is suitable for living.

“There’s no true reason for the transfer. These families could have stayed in the camp,” the Rome-based organisation said today in a statement.

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, last year expressed “serious concerns” about Italy’s policies towards its Gypsy minority, whom he said faced “a persistent climate of intolerance.”

Rome has seven authorised Gypsy camps.

There are an estimated 160,000 Gypsies in Italy, nearly half of whom were born in Italy and have Italian citizenship. Others come from European Union countries such as Romania and the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

The people transferred on Tuesday were of Kosovan, Serbian and Macedonian nationalities.

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


Most Britons Descended From Male Farmers Who Left Iraq and Syria 10,000 Years Ago (And Were Seduced by the Local Hunter-Gatherer Women)

Most Britons are direct descendants of farmers who left modern day Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago, a new study has shown.

After studying the DNA of more than 2,000 men, researchers say they have compelling evidence that four out of five white Europeans can trace their roots to the Near East.

The discovery is shedding light on one of the most important periods of human history — the time when our ancient ancestors abandoned hunting and began to domesticate animals.

The invention of farming led to the first towns and paved the way for the dawn of civilisation.

The Leicester University study looked at a common genetic mutation on the Y chromosome, the DNA that is passed down from fathers to sons.

They found that 80 per cent of European men shared the same Y chromosone mutation and after analysing how the mutation was distributed across Europe, were able to retrace how Europe was colonised around 8,000BC.

Prof Mark Jobling, who led the study: ‘This was at the time of the Neolithic revolution when they developed a new style of tools, symmetrical, beautiful tools.

‘At this stage about 10,000 years ago there was evidence of the first settlements, people stopped being nomadic hunter-gatherers and started building communities.

‘This also allowed people to specialise in certain areas of trade and make better tools because there was a surplus of food.’

European farming began around 9,000 BC in the Fertile Crescent — a region extending from the eastern Mediterranean coast to the Persian Gulf and which includes modern day Iraq, Syria, Israel and southeast Turkey.

The region was the cradle of civilisation and home to the Babylonia, Sumer and Assyrian empires.

The development of farming allowed people to settle down for the first time — and to produce more food than they needed, leading to trade and the freedom to develop new skills such as metal working, building and writing.

Some archaeologists have argued that some of these early farmers travelled around the world — settling new lands and bringing farming skills with them.

But others have insisted that the skills were passed on by word of mouth, and not by mass migration.

The new study suggests the farmers routinely upped sticks and moved west when their villages became too crowded, eventually reaching Britain and Ireland.

The waves of migrants brought their new skills with them. Some settled down with local tribes and taught them how to farm, the researchers believe.

‘When the expansion happened these men had a reproductive advantage because they were able to grow more food so they were more attractive to women and had more offspring,’ said Prof Jobling.

‘In total more than 80 per cent of European men have Y chromosomes which descend from incoming farmers.

‘It seems odd to think that the majority of men in Ireland have fore fathers from the near East and that British people have forefathers from the near East.’

The findings are published in the science journal PLoS Biology.

Dr Patricia Balaresque, a co-author of the study, said: ‘This means that more than 80 per cent of European Y chromosomes descend from incoming farmers.’

In contrast, other studies have shown that DNA passed down from mothers to daughters can be traced by to hunter-gatherers in Europe, she said.

‘To us, this suggests a reproductive advantage for farming males over indigenous hunter-gatherer males during the switch from hunting and gathering, to farming — maybe, back then, it was just sexier to be a farmer,’ she said.

Europe was first settled by modern humans around 40,000 years ago. But other types of humans — including Neanderthals — were living in Europe hundreds of thousands of years earlier.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Smiles of Children Leaving for Death Camps — 288 Stories in Digital Cemetery

Photos taken before children boarded trains for Auschwitz now in virtual memorial

This morning, an online cemetery opens with photos of Fiorella, Samuele, Roberta, Giuditta and many other children, some with ribbons in their hair, or with their tricycles, or in sailor suits, before they were all put on the trains for Auschwitz. Two hundred and eighty eight were taken from the Rome ghetto alone. Two hundred and eighty seven would die in the ovens as the Third Reich’s propaganda leaflets encouraged German mums: “Give a child to the Führer so Germany’s provinces throng with healthy, happy children. Germany shall be the nation of children”.

Your heart stops as you read this propaganda from the picture book “Victory of Arms, Victory of Child”, or Adolf Hitler’s proclamations in Mein Kampf (“The racist State regards the child as the nation’s most precious asset”, and you click through the images of ordinary families and domestic bliss. That’s why some sixty-six years after the arrests of 16 October 1943, and ten after the first International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the contemporary Jewish documentation centre (CDEC) has posted the photos online. On a web saturated with racist filth, where thousands of links take you to sites claiming the Holocaust was a lie, Anne Frank’s diary was a forgery or even that there was a swimming pool at Auschwitz used by SS officers to rehabilitate inmates. The same web where multilingual sites run by self-styled Christians (Holywar) call for a memory day to commemorate the “Communist holocaust” perpetrated by the racist Jewish Mafia who exterminated 300 million non-Jews. The web that hosts Naziskin songs like “Denti di lupo” [Wolf’s Fangs] screaming “Those old stories / about death camps / we have proof / they are false not true” and “Land of Israel, land accursed! / The peoples of Europe demand vengeance!” or “Your synagogues will be blown sky high / We’ll slaughter every white-robed rabbi”. Obviously, the web is where this virtual memorial had to be erected in commemoration of a slaughter that took place only a few decades ago. The blinking of an eye, in historical terms.

The photographs were donated by relatives who survived the genocide, from the liberation of Rome onwards, to the committee for research into Jewish deportees (CRDE), at the time striving to reconstruct the fate of the Italians that Fascism had pinned a yellow star on and sent to the camps to die. “This is my sister Rachele…”. “This is my brother Elio and his wife…”. “These are my nephews Donato and Riccardo…”. CRDE’s members collected the pictures, stapled them to blue cards, added the names and filed them in the archives of horror. Few — very, very few — were lucky enough to see a relative come back. Only seventeen of the 1,023 Jews rounded up on that Black Saturday in October 1943 returned to Rome alive. Among them, as we said, there was only one child out of the 288 deported. A massacre of the innocents repeated all over Italy. The most appalling aspect of the round-up, as Lidia Beccaria Rolfi and Bruno Maida report in “Il futuro spezzato: i nazisti contro i bambini” [The Future Broken — Nazis Against Children], is “the extremely high number of young victims, Jewish infants and children. The total number of dead aged from zero to twenty is 1,541”. One hundred and fifteen of those children were only a few months, or even days, old.

Apart from an exhibition in Milan to commemorate the liberation, the photos of the children and others of distinguished-looking, bewaistcoated gentlemen like Enrico Loewy, sturdy matrons like Lucia Levi, girls in the bloom of youth like Laura Romanelli and entire families like Benedetto Bondì’s, spent years gathering dust in a dossier in the CDEC archive. Opening that dossier today, and gazing on all those faces of Italians who were crushed under the Nazi-Fascist heel, is more than just recovering a memory. It is giving those Jews back their faces, their names, their surnames and some scraps of their personal histories, just as Liliana Picciotto did in “Il libro della memoria — Gli ebrei deportati dall’Italia” [The Book of Memory — Jews Deported from Italy]. Now her “L’alba ci colse come un tradimento. Gli ebrei nel campo di Fossoli 1943-1944” [Dawn Took Us Like Treachery. Jews in the Camp at Fossoli 1943-1944] is out, saving each victim from the further humiliation of having died nameless, distinguishable from each other, like cattle, only by a number branded on their arm.

Now the past has brought us children, children, children. Two-year-old Fiorella Anticoli has two big white ribbons in her ringlets. Graziella Calò is standing on a chair and holding onto the table to stay upright. Olimpia Carpi is snug in her white overcoat. Massimo De Angeli, who must be all of four or five, kisses his newborn brother Carlo. Costanza, Franca and Enrica play with a tambourine on their trip to the seaside. Sandro and Mara Sonnino are awed by the camera as their mum Ida radiates happiness. There are 413 Jews in the photos posted on the web at www.cdec.it/voltidellamemoria. Two of them survived: Ferdinando Nemes and Piero Terracina. All the others were murdered. Many perished the day they reached Auschwitz, like Clelia Frascati from Rome, on 23 October 1943, with her ten children. The youngest, Samuele, was less than six months old. “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed”, wrote Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel in “The Night”. “Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever”.

Too many people are in a hurry to forget, or turn the page without reflecting on what happened, heaping all the blame on the Nazis. Two days after the Pope’s bitter acknowledgement about those who remained indifferent, the photos remind us what it was like. It might be an idea to reread together a passage from Lidia Beccaria Rolfi and Bruno Maida’s book. “Jewish children were also victims of another scourge that was rife during the Nazi occupation: informers. According to a sentence passed by the Rome assize court in July 1947, a group of six Italian spies in the capital sold Jewish children for a thousand lire each and Italian soldiers diligently hunted them down, like the Carabinieri lance corporal who arrested Adriana Revere at La Spezia in February 1944. She was nine”.

Gian Antonio Stella

19 gennaio 2010

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain Aims to Boost EU Gender Equality

Euro MPs have applauded a pledge by Spain to promote sexual equality in Europe and fight gender-based violence during its six-month EU presidency.

Spain’s socialist prime minister set out his vision in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called gender-based violence “a scourge that still affects many societies in Europe”, and vowed to “remove” it.

Spain has pursued a markedly egalitarian agenda under Mr Zapatero.

The country is among six EU states that have legalised gay marriage.

Mr Zapatero’s policy on gay rights has been opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, traditionally seen as the guardian of family values in Spain.

The Church also opposes the Spanish government’s introduction of fast-track divorce and its plan to introduce abortion on demand.

The controversial abortion law — not yet adopted — would allow abortion on demand up to the 14th week of pregnancy, even without parental permission, for 16- and 17-year-old girls.

At present, a pregnancy can only be terminated in Spain under specific circumstances: rape, when there are signs of foetal abnormality or if the mother’s physical or psychological health is at risk.

Mr Zapatero has a cabinet of nine women ministers and eight men. It is the first time that Spain has had such a sexually balanced government.

Euro MPs clapped loudly as the Spanish prime minister outlined his plans on gender equality.

In the EU, the Spanish government says it will present proposals to strengthen existing protections for victims of crime, especially of terrorism and gender-related violence.

Spain also wants to strengthen the EU’s legal framework for child protection, notably to curb sexual abuse of children.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


UK: ‘The Public Think We Are Mad for Giving Soft Sentences, ‘ Says Judge Who Then Freed a Thug

A controversial judge allowed a violent thug to walk free from court despite admitting that the public think judges are ‘going mad’ for passing soft sentences.

Judge Peter Bowers gave Luke Marshall, 24, a suspended sentence for an act of ‘mindless and sickening violence’, saying he was actually a ‘caring’ person.

Marshall, who has a criminal record for violence, punched and kicked a drunken stranger who asked him if he could buy a cigarette, Teesside Crown Court was told.

Judge Bowers told Marshall: ‘People think judges are going mad because the whole purpose of our job is to bring home to the public that mindless violence would not be tolerated.

‘This was sickening at the best, and the trouble with you is that you have done it before, and that concerns me seriously.

‘But on the other hand you are a Jekyll and Hyde character, a caring and thoughtful young man.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: ‘Chicken-Licking’ Shelf-Stacker Jailed After Being Filmed Sabotaging Food at Asda

A supermarket shelf-stacker who was filmed sabotaging food, cutting clothes and licking a raw chicken in the store where he worked has been jailed.

Adeel Ayub, 30, was filmed setting off a fire extinguisher and smashing eggs in the Asda branch at Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire.

The footage, filmed by a colleague on a mobile phone, also showed Ayub slashing staff furniture and urinating in a bin.

Today, he was starting a two-month jail term after he was sentenced at Preston Magistrates’ Court.

Magistrates were so appalled by his behaviour that they gave him the maximum sentence available.

A visually shocked Ayub, of Spinney Brow, Ribbleton, was led down as relatives watched from the public gallery.

His solicitor Manny Anwar-Qureshi said: ‘I don’t think the sentence is proportionate to the crime.

‘He was very remorseful and has grown up a lot since the incidents.

‘He was stitched up by other people. I am very surprised at the sentence given the crimes were four years ago.

‘The chances are he will probably lose his job. His family are shocked and upset.’

Ayub, who now works at The Carphone Warehouse, had previously pleaded guilty to five charges of criminal damage.

Scroll down for video footage…

The film, which was left anonymously in a brown envelope at the front desk of a local newspaper, was then passed on to Asda who contacted Preston Police. It also featured on YouTube.

It shows Ayub, wearing the Asda uniform, committing the offences when he worked there between 2005 and 2008.

It then films Ayub returning to the store in 2009, after leaving Asda’s employment, and, wearing a black hoodie, stamps on whole chickens on display.

He then tears off the plastic wrapping of one, licks the breast before placing it back on the shelf. Ayub denied this.

Ayub’s charges related to destroying a fire extinguisher; damaging furniture; criminal damage; destroying clothing and destroying food stock.

The prosecution accepted that Ayub had only filmed the clothes and furniture being destroyed.

An Asda spokesman said: ‘Our colleagues were very upset about it at the time and we are pleased we can finally draw a line under it and put it behind us.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


UK: ‘Deep Ethnic Segregation’ Mapped in England’s Schools

Pockets of deep segregation are revealed in a mapping of the ethnic make-up of England’s schools.

University of Bristol researchers show that in Manchester, fewer than 1% of pupils of Pakistani origin are at schools which have a white majority.

It also shows changes — with the number of white primary school pupils in London falling by a quarter since 2002.

The project’s director says the overall trend is for more pupils to mix — with segregation “constant or decreasing”.

The Measuring Diversity project at the Centre for Market and Public Organisation provides an ethnic breakdown of pupils in local authorities in England.

Changing populations

This shows both the numbers of different groups and also the extent to which they might meet by attending the same schools.

The project’s website shows the great variation in the school population across the country — with some areas in which white pupils remain the overwhelming majority and others which are much more diverse.

In Hull, there are no primary schools which are defined as “minority white” — in which less than 30% of the school population are white.

In contrast, in London the number of white minority primary schools has risen from 22% to 36% between 2002 and 2008.

This reflects that the number of white pupils in London primary schools has fallen by about a quarter in six years — and only about 6% of primary schools now have a substantial white majority.

The figures, taken from the annual census of state schools, also reveal patterns of divided communities — with pupils much more likely to attend school with people from their own ethnic group.

In Oldham, about 80% of pupils from the sizeable Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities go to schools where they will meet few white pupils.

In Camden, north London, more than three quarters of Bangladeshi pupils go to mostly non-white schools.

In the same borough, only one in six white pupils go to schools in which white pupils are a minority.

But Simon Burgess, director of the centre at Bristol University, says that the overview of the statistics shows that there is no increase in segregation.

“The overall pattern is that segregation is either constant, or decreasing,” he says.

Professor Burgess wants the information on local areas to inform the debate about diversity and make-up of communities.

“It is a common saying that people’s attitudes are strongly influenced by their school days. So the peer groups that children play with, talk to and work with are important factors moulding their perspectives on society,” he says.

“The extent of ethnic diversity in schools is an important issue of public debate. This website provides some facts to enlighten this debate.”

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that schools were obliged to “promote community cohesion through twinning, sports and art to equip young people to live in a multicultural country”.

           — Hat tip: Free Hal[Return to headlines]


UK: Breast Screening Benefits ‘A Myth’ As 7,000 Women a Year Are Wrongly Told They Have Cancer

More than 7,000 women a year screened for breast cancer are wrongly told they have the disease, it was claimed yesterday.

The misdiagnoses lead to unnecessary treatment, including mastectomies.

After an independent review of the NHS programme for women aged 50 to 69, scientists concluded that the benefits of screening have been exaggerated and women are not warned of the potential harms from having regular checks.

It says there is ‘no convincing evidence’ to support the Department of Health’s assertion that screening saves 1,400 lives a year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Munir Hussain Freed: Well Done Lord Chief Justice

With one hugely sensibly decision, the Appeal Court has gone a long way towards restoring the credibility of the judiciary in the eyes of the general public. It has ordered the release from prison of Munir Hussain, the businessman whose family was tied up and threatened with knives by burglars. Hussain managed to get free and chased one of the low lifes with his brother and beat him up with a cricket bat.

Few condoned such an attack, but everyone recognised how they might themselves behave in similar circumstances. A Crown Court jury found Hussain and his brother (who had not been in the house) guilty of assault, a conviction that was a requirement of the law, which allows only for “reasonable force” to be used in self-defence.

However, it was the sentence that was imposed on Hussain that was wrong. A 53-year-old businessman who was simply defending his family found himself in jail for 30 months. How could that be described as serving the interests of justice? Described by his friends and colleagues as a good, law-abiding family man, Hussain’s normal equanimity was shattered by an event that most of us would find beyond our abilities to respond to rationally.

This was a view taken by the Appeal Court. Lord Chief Justice Judge, who is increasingly proving hismelf to be a worthy occupant of this great office, said he had shown “mercy” to Hussain and reduced his sentence to two years suspended.

Lord Judge was right to do so. The public’s faith in our system of justice has taken many knocks in recent years and it was clear that this case had struck a chord among the law-abiding majority who sometimes wonder whose side it is on.

Without pandering to mob law or vigilantism, the Lord Chief Justice has shown that the senior judiciary does not always have to seem remote from the wishes of the people on whose behalf they dispense justice.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Vatican: Pope Summons Irish Bishops Over Sex Scandal

Vatican City, 20 Jan.(AKI) — Pope Benedict has summoned Irish bishops to the Vatican to discuss the sexual abuse scandal that has shocked the Catholic church in Ireland. Senior church sources have confirmed a report in an Irish Catholic newspaper that talks have been scheduled at the Vatican for 15 and 16 February.

The bishops reportedly received their invitations to the conference on Tuesday.

Four bishops resigned after the publication in November last year of a damning report by judge Yvonne Murphy on the Dublin archdiocese — Ireland’s largest — that found that Catholic authorities had concealed child abuse by priests for three decades.

In June, Pope Benedict was reportedly to be “visibly upset” when he heard details of the Ryan report on abuse in institutions run by religious orders in Ireland.

Benedict last met Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, and archbishop Diarmuid Martin in December last year.

Brady apologised to abuse survivors and their families at a Christmas Eve vigil mass held at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland.

In their dealings with allegations of of abuse, Brady said clerics had “put the reputation of the church before the safety of little children”.

Murphy’s investigation found church leaders did not report abuse to police as part of a culture of secrecy in a bid to avoid damaging the reputation and assets of the church.

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

Balkans

Serbia-China: Preliminary Contract for Belgrade Bridge Signed

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JANUARY 19 — The Institute of Transportation (CIP) and the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) signed a preliminary contract on the design and construction of a bridge, reports radio B92. The bridge, along with its connecting roads, will span the Danube, connecting Belgrade’s Zemun and Borca municipalities. Serbia’s Minister for the National Investment Plan Verica Kalanovic said that the Zemun-Borca bridge will be 1.5 km long, while the connecting roads will be 21 km, and that the bridge completion deadline is set for the end of 2013. The project’s total value was 170 million euro, with China Eximbank providing 85% of the funds and the Ministry for the National Investment Plan 15%, while the Belgrade city authorities will pay the compulsory purchase compensation. The bridge and its connecting roads represent a regional connection between Belgrade and southern Vojvodina area of Banat, linking Corridor 10 with Corridor 4 and Romania. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 13 New Prisons to be Operative in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 19 — Thirteen new prisons with a total capacity of some 19,000 prisoners will be built by the end of 2010. The announcement was made by Justice Minister Tayeb Belaiz, underlining that by the end of the year, Algeria will have put an end to the problem of prison overcrowding. According to Belaiz, the prison reform set in motion in the country over recent years, has already produced a general improvement in prison conditions, in terms of food, health, training and education. The first three prisons, he added, will be ready in March. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Minister, No Foreign Aid if With Political Conditions

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 19 — Egypt is refusing any form of aid from the US and abroad if it is accompanied by political conditions. According to what was reported in the Egyptian press today, the minister for International Cooperation, Fayza Abul-Naga, was speaking in a speech to the budget committee of the People’s Assembly. According to the minister, the country rejects any pressure on its sovereignty whatever financial needs they may have. As regards the Egyptian foreign debt, Abul-Naga underlined that it had reached 16% of the GDP, a long way off from the risk threshold fixed by the organisations at 30%.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Egypt: Killing of Christians; US, EU Parliament Criticised

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 20 — “Many want to fish in troubled waters, first and foremost the European Parliament,” stated an editorial in pro-government daily, Al Gomhuria, the day before a debate set to take place in Strasbourg on the persecutions of Christian minorities in Egypt, after the massacre of Coptic Christians in Naga Hammadi and Malaysia. In the editorial was highly critical also of Egyptian MP Georgette Qellini, who although she is a member of the majority party, was “confrontational” in saying that the episode had a “religious” component, and that the events were against the Coptic community abroad, which is reportedly organising demonstrations against Egypt in front of UN headquarters. The article took a very harsh stance regarding a U.S. delegation for religious freedom, which should arrive in Egypt next week, which in the title was called “a troublesome guest”. It would be better, stressed the head of the newspaper, Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, to postpone the visit “to avoid a connection” with the “events in Naga Hammadi”. The editorial called upon the “wisdom” that was also demonstrated by the bishop in the city after his initial statements, and stressed how Christians and Muslims are united one a single national despite attempts “to sew racism”, also by foreign elements since the colonial period. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

BBC: Denying Jewish Jerusalem

The BBC’s flagship documentary distorts Jewish history and rights to Jerusalem while promoting a one-sided and biased agenda.

On 18 January, the BBC’s flagship documentary program, Panorama, focused on tensions in the area of eastern Jerusalem adjacent to the Old City.

Any pretence at balance is thrown out of the window as reporter Jane Corbin makes it clear that, under the BBC’s own interpretation of international law, anything that Israel does in that part of the city is illegal, setting the tone for the entire 30 minute program.

Thus, Israelis are presented as usurpers of Palestinian rights and property in eastern Jerusalem in a one-sided piece of agitprop. As analyst Robin Shepherd writes:

Rarely will you get a clearer insight into the flagrant institutional bias inside the world’s most powerful media outlet than this. The slipperiness of the tactics employed, the unabashed censorship of vital historical context, and the blatant pursuit of a political agenda constituted a lesson in the techniques of modern day propaganda. It was something to behold.

Here we examine some of the assumptions, claims and biases that underpin this edition of Panorama.

This edition of Panorama is available to view on YouTube in three parts. Click below to view Part 1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIZMOEtS7j0) and here to view Parts 2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyyfpfQKjsc) and 3 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WupPheoviKk).

Denying Jewish Rights to Jerusalem

The BBC’s institutional anti-Israel bias often manifests itself not in what is broadcast but what is left out. Panorama is no different. The BBC reports events as though Jewish history in Jerusalem begins in 1948, thus omitting thousands of years of Jewish attachment to the city, including those areas of eastern Jerusalem that are the subject of Panorama’s investigation.

The only time that the eastern part of Jerusalem was exclusively Arab was between 1949 and 1967, and that was because Jordan occupied the area and forcibly expelled all the Jews.

As Mitchell Bard makes clear, before 1865, the entire population of Jerusalem lived behind the Old City walls (what today would be considered part of the eastern part of the city). Later, the city began to expand beyond the walls because of population growth, and both Jews and Arabs began to build in new areas of the city.

By the time of partition, a thriving Jewish community was living in the eastern part of Jerusalem, an area that included the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. This area of the city also contains many sites of importance to the Jewish religion, including the City of David, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. In addition, major institutions like Hebrew University and the original Hadassah Hospital are on Mount Scopus — in eastern Jerusalem.

Palestinian House Demolitions

Corbin’s tone gives the impression that she just so happens to be strolling through eastern Jerusalem before coming across Israeli authorities carrying out a house demolition almost as if this is a daily occurrence. She disingenuously pulls a supposed list of dozens more demolitions scheduled to take place. Viewers are treated to emotive scenes and Palestinian claims that such demolitions are driven by “racism” and “ethnic cleansing” while Jewish residents of Jerusalem are not subjected to similar demolition orders.

As human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner found in his research, illegal building by Palestinians has reached epidemic proportions while in the Jewish neighborhoods, illegal construction typically takes the form of additions to existing legal structures — such as closing a balcony or hollowing out under a building to create an extra room. In the Arab sector, however, illegal construction often takes the form of entire multi-floor buildings with 4 to 25 living units, built with the financial assistance of the Palestinian Authority on land that is not owned by the builder.

In addition:

The same procedures for administrative demolition orders apply to both Jews and Arabs in all parts of the city, as a final backstop to remove structures built illegally on roadbeds or land designated for schools, clinics, and the like.

Despite frequent accusations that the city’s planning policy seeks to “Judaize” Jerusalem, the Arab population of the city has increased since 1967 from 27% to 32%. Moreover, since 1967 new Arab construction has outpaced Jewish construction.

The Hanoun Family Eviction

The eviction of the Hanouns has become something of a cause celebre with the family camped in the street outside of their previous home making for a compelling media story and propaganda tool. Once again, the BBC does its best to portray the Palestinians as victims of Israeli malice.

However, the Hanoun case is not quite so simple having been subject to legal activity dating back decades. After 1948 the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Shimon HaTzadik came under Jordanian control and the Jewish-owned land was handed over to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. In the mid-1950s the Jordanian government settled Arabs there. They took over the homes of the Jews and paid rent to the Jordanian Custodian.

Although a Jewish institutional presence has been established in the area in the form of Israeli governmental offices and services, Jewish groups have sought to establish a residential presence as well. This is being done through property and land acquisitions, and by judicial means. To date, this activity has achieved a residential presence of no more than ten families who are living in a small part of the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood from which Jews had been evicted in 1948.

There are dozens of pending court cases and legal proceedings seeking to remove Arab tenants on the grounds that they have not been paying rent to the rightful owners — the Committee of the Sephardic Community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel, who purchased the land in the second part of the nineteenth century. In some of these cases, eviction notices have been issued, although the Israel Police has delayed the actual evictions due to international pressure.

After 1967, control over Jewish-owned property in the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood that had been seized by Arabs was transferred from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property. In 1972 the Israeli Custodian released the land back to its owners (the Committee of the Sephardic Community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel). In 1988 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the 28 Arab families living on the premises enjoy the status of “Protected Residents,” but that the ownership of the land belongs to the two Jewish organizations.

Ten years later, in 1998, Jews entered deserted houses in the neighborhood. At the same time, a slow process of evicting Arab families who apparently refused to pay rent to the two Jewish organizations was begun.

Indeed, as both the New York Times and Guardian wrote, the Hanouns had refused to pay rent for years and thus eviction orders were served.

For more on this issue see this JPost Analysis: Arabs, Jews don’t have equal rights to recover pre-1948 properties.

A Shooting in Silwan

Jane Corbin makes a big deal out of the fact that some of the Jews living in eastern Jerusalem are armed. As if to illustrate the apparent threat that this poses to the Arab residents of the area, she interviews the victim of a shooting incident that took place in September 2009 involving a Jewish gunman. Operating under standard BBC procedures, viewers are treated to scenes of crying children and a story of suffering. There is no interview with any Israeli spokespeople regarding the incident. While it is not in dispute that the Palestinian was shot, the BBC relies solely on his testimony without any Israeli response.

In fact, charges against the young off-duty Israeli soldier were dropped following a police investigation that revealed how the Jewish gunman had been threatened, attacked and chased before finally discharging his weapon after warning the hostile crowd.

Contrary to the impression given by the BBC, it is, in fact, Jewish residents of Jerusalem who have far more to fear from their Arab neighbors. While the incident described above is remarkably rare, not so rare were the suicide bombings, stabbings and even bulldozer attacks that have been carried out by Palestinian terrorists residing in eastern Jerusalem.

The armed guards and security in the area is necessary to protect not only Jews but also Jewish holy sites from potential Arab extremists.

Foreign Jews Changing Jerusalem’s Demographics

Nadav Shragai writes that Jews from abroad are not the only ones buying property in Jerusalem. Munib al-Masri, a Palestinian millionaire from Nablus who holds American citizenship, is planning to purchase property 900 meters from the Teddy Kollek Stadium, not far from Jerusalem’s Malha shopping mall. His investment company is planning to build 150 housing units next to Beit Safafa, according to company chairman Samir Halayla. Until 1967, Beit Safafa was an Arab village south of Jerusalem divided between Israel and Jordan. After the war it became an area where Jews and Arabs lived together, generally as good neighbors.

The Gulf States, the PLO, and Palestinian millionaires such as al-Masri and the late Abd al-Majid Shuman have all invested funds to purchase property and support construction for Palestinian Arabs. The Jerusalem Treasury Fund affiliated with the Jerusalem Committee headed by King Hassan of Morocco is also active. The Jerusalem Foundation for Development and Investment was founded in Jordan, and there are several similar funds and foundations in Saudi Arabia.23 Foreign donations from Qatar were also involved in the construction of 58 housing units recently completed in Beit Hanina under the auspices of the Arab teachers’ association.

On July 19, 2009, Yuval Diskin, head of the Israel Security Agency, reported to the Israeli government on the extensive efforts of the Palestinian Authority and its security apparatuses to prevent Palestinian land from being sold to Jews, especially in eastern Jerusalem.

Regardless of these ongoing struggles, the State of Israel does not limit or forbid the purchase or sale of property or land within Jerusalem, which is under Israeli law, whether the individuals involved are Jews or Arabs.

Archaeology in the Hands of “Right-Wing” Groups

The BBC claims that right-wing Jewish groups have been left responsible for politically sensitive archaeological sites in eastern Jerusalem. In fact, all archaeological work in Jerusalem is carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority, an independent government body with a sterling international reputation.

BBC: Failing to Reflect Reality

Robin Shepherd, who picks up many other flaws in BBC’s Panorama, concludes:

Well, you get the picture. Obviously the issue of Jerusalem excites passions inside Israel and outside it. Reasonable people can disagree on it. There are many shades of opinion to be assessed. And there is no reason why a BBC documentary should not reflect that. The problem is that the documentary does not reflect that reality at all.

Every Jewish step in East Jerusalem is presented as wrong and dangerous. All the important context has been removed. A clear ideological agenda has been pushed at the expense of basic standards of fair reporting.

Welcome to the world of the BBC. And welcome to yet another illustration of the slippery path to the delegitimisation of the world’s only Jewish state.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]


Synod: Israeli Occupations Cause of Hostility

(ANSAmed) — ROME — “Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories” and “some Lebanese and Syrian territories” is the cause of the “situation of hostility” between Palestinians and the Arab world on the one side and the Israeli State on the other. The statement was made in Lineamenta, the document containing the guidelines of the Synod of Bishops called by the Benedict XVI for next October in which the Pope’s hope for a solution inspired by mutual acknowledged is relaunched. In the document, it is underlined how, due to the political situation marked by conflict, dialogue between Christians and Jews has been hardly developed, a dialogue that is nonetheless encouraged, by distinguishing the religious plan from the political one. If on the former religions are invited to meetings and dialogue, on the latter the relationship is still marked by hostility caused by Israel’s occupations. At this level, reads the document, it is up to the political leaders involved, with the help of the international community, to take the necessary decisions in agreement with the United Nations resolutions. The document also states that it is up to the Christians, in the Middle East, “to break down the wall of fear, distrust and hatred, with our friendship with the Jews and Muslims, Israelites and Palestinians”, “like Christ who destroyed the wall that separated Jews and Greeks, taking the pain upon himself, on his own flesh”. “To create groups of friendship and reflection in view of peace between Jews, Muslims and Christians”, added the document, “is an essentially and eminently Christian duty”. In the Lineamenta, it is observed that the growth of political Islam in Muslim societies since the 1970s has produced “extremist movements” which represent a “threat to everyone, Christians and Muslims”, and “we must tackle these together”. The document points out what was stated about it in the last Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Patriarchs of the East, according to whom “some, in the name of the return to the original Islam do not hesitate in resorting to violence”. According to the document, the spread of fundamentalist Islamic groups has also been promoted by a side effect of “modernity”. “Access to the television networks of the world and to the internet have introduced, in civil societies and amongst Christians, new values, but also the loss of values”, to which “power responds with authoritarianism, the control of the press and the media, whilst the majority aspires to a true democracy”‘. Thus the document encourages a clearer distinction between religions and politics, but also a reflection on modernity, states the Lineamenta, which “promises comfort and wellbeing in the material life, even liberation from oppressive cultural and spiritual traditions” and also the respect of human rights but that for “the Muslim believer it is presented with an atheist and immoral face”. “Modernity however,” continues the document is also a risk for Christians”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Agca: I Will Prove I Am Messiah With Vatican Documents

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 20 — Mehmet Alì Agca, the Turkish ‘Grey Wolf’ who shot Pope John Paul II on May 13 1981 in St Peters Square, and who was released last Monday, has declared in yet another incoherent statement issued by his lawyers today in Istanbul that he will soon prove that he is the Messiah, thanks to documents from the Vatican. In a an 18-line open letter written in block capitals in Turkish and sent to ANSA by his legal advisors Yilmaz Abosoglu and Gokay Gultekin, the Grey Wolf states that “I, Mehmet Ali Agca, will demonstrate within two years that I am the one and only eternal Messiah with historical documents which come from the Vatican. And I will also show with these irrefutable documents that the whole world will be destroyed within this century. Signed: Mehmet Ali Agca, the Messiah”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Amil Imani: A New Day for Iran

January 20, 2010

Compelled by the inalienable right of the people to institute their government and replace it when it fails to serve its constituents in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, millions of Iranians representing the entire spectrum of society are demanding change from the repressive theocracy to an open secular democracy.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]


Food: Arab Nations Too Dependent on Foreign Countries

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JANUARY 19 — The agricultural deficit in Arab countries has doubled in the past decade, making the entire region the top food importer in the world, and transforming economic data into a potential security issue. The snapshot of the “farm gap”, or the difference between imported and exported agricultural products, was provided by the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) of Abu Dhabi and the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development (AOAD) based in Khartoum. The extent of the gap, estimated at 45 billion dollars between 1990-1999, increased to 155 billion dollars between 2000-2008, reaching a high last year of 23 billion dollars, with 10.5 billion dollars-worth of Arab products distributed worldwide compared to 33 billion dollars-worth of products from other countries sold in the region. With the exception of fish and vegetable products, the Arab world suffered a sharp decline in all other types of agricultural products, especially cereals, grain, oats, and oil, for which only 30-53% of the regional requirement is covered. The oil-producing countries of the Gulf represent a serious burden in the estimated balance by the two organisations, importing about 45% of their requirements, despite the fact that the population of the six monarchies represents 11% of the populace in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia, which between 2005 and 2008 imported 35 billion dollars-worth of food, is the greatest food overall importer in the region. A situation due to both an objective lack of resources — water and land — and to inadequate agricultural and investment policies. “The greatest obstacle is still water scarcity, which is slowing investments in the agricultural sector,” explained the AOAD report. Considered one of the most arid regions in the world, the MENA region (Middle East and Northern Africa) lives with water resources that are beneath the global water poverty threshold set at 1,000 cubic metres per capita per year. Of the cultivable land available, 550 million hectares, only 12% is exploited, and the productivity of this portion does not exceed 60%. “The problem that the Arab world must face is not only scarce land, but also low productivity,” stated the report. The common agricultural strategy signed onto by the countries in the region in 2005 has remained substantially unpractised, revealed the data, and the eco-environmental situation is destined to worsen due to both an increase in prices and population. The increasing dependence of MENA countries on U.S. and Western food imports, in addition to economic problems — warned analysts — could result in a security issue. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Iraq: Mosul: Targeted Execution of Christians Continues in Media and Government Silence

Yesterday an armed group killed a 45 year-old businessman. It is the second murder in less than 24 hours. Witnesses said security forces were at the scene but did not intervene. AsiaNews sources: they blame al Qaeda, but Christians are victims “of the power struggle” between Arabs and Kurds.

Mosul (AsiaNews) — The second targeted attack against the Christian community in less than 24 hours, the indifference of the security forces who did not intervene. Yesterday in Mosul, northern Iraq, an unidentified group shot dead 45 year-old businessman Amjad Hamid Abdullahad. Sunday, January 17th, the same day of the inauguration of new local archbishop, a Christian aged 52, married and father of two daughters, was killed. AsiaNews sources in the city explain that “the government blames the attacks on al-Qaeda fundamentalists “, in reality the community is victim of the power struggle between “Arab and Kurd” groups.

At noon yesterday, an armed commando executed Abdullahad Amjad Hamid, a married Syriac Catholic, who owned a small grocery store in the neighbourhood of Alsiddiq, in northern Mosul. The man was killed outside his home in the suburb of Balladiyat, not far from his workplace.

Local witnesses reported that “the murder took place in front of the security forces, who saw all the phases of the attack, but did not intervene.” A Catholic in Mosul says that “the tactic is to murder Christians, because the media does not talk about it.” A strategy that aims to push Christians towards the plain of Nineveh, “in the silence and indifference of the government and the international community.”

A source for AsiaNews in Mosul, adds that “Christians are living in panic and have begun fleeing from the city”. He explains that “these are not normal criminals,” but behind them are “specific political plans” that the government is not countering. There is no information from Baghdad “about who is behind attacks on churches and Christians,” but the source is confident that the central executive, the governorship of Mosul and the Kurdish leadership “are aware” of the plan against the Christian community.

“It is easier to attribute responsibility to Al Qaeda — concludes the source — and the fundamentalist fringe. In reality, Christians are victims of a power struggle between Arabs and Kurds”. (DS)

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


Knesset Speaker Rivlin and MK Eldad to be ‘Tried’ In Jordan

(IsraelNN.com) The Jordanian prosecution authorities have given the green light to a criminal proceeding in Jordan’s courts against Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and MK Aryeh Eldad. They are being charged with endangering of the sovereignty of the Hashemite Kingdom by saying that Jordan is the Palestinian state.

The charges were brought by four lawyers who contend that Rivlin and Eldad called for turning Jordan into the Palestinian state and creating a ‘Larger Israel’ on both banks of the Jordan River.

The plaintiffs said that the statements by Rivlin and Eldad endanger Jordan, and can thus be prosecuted according to Section 118 of the Jordanian Criminal Law. They note that Jordanian law applies to foreign citizens who attempt to damage the country’s sovereignty.

A court date for the proceeding has not been set.

The Israeli Ambassador to Jordan was reprimanded by the Jordanian Foreign Minister in May 2009, when MK Eldad made his statement. Eldad was unrepentant, however, and repeated his claim: “Jordan is Palestine, period.”

About 70% of Jordan’s population is Palestinian but the kingdom is ruled by the Hashemite minority. Both present-day Israel and present-day Jordan were included in the British Palestine Mandate after World War I, but the British gave 80% of the territory — then known as Transjordan — to the Arabs, and advocated the partition of the rest of the land between Arabs and Jews.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Saudi Girl, 13, Sentenced to 90 Lashes After She Took a Mobile Phone to School

The girl, who has not been named, was also sentenced to two months in jail by a court in the eastern city of Jubail.

She had assaulted her headmistress after being caught with the gadget which is banned in girl schools, said Al-Watan, a Saudi newspaper. The kingdom’s use of such punishments has been widely condemned by human rights organisations.

Three years ago 16 schoolchildren, aged between 12 and 18, were each sentenced to between 300 and 500 lashes for being aggressive to a teacher.

Under Saudi’s Sharia or Islamic law, flogging is mandatory for a number of moral offences such as adultery or being alone in the company of an unrelated person of the opposite sex. But it can also be used at the discretion of judges as an alternative or in addition to other punishments.

Al-Watan said a court in the northeastern Gulf port of Jubail had sentenced the girl to 90 lashes inside her school, followed by two months’ detention.

The punishment is harsher than tha dished out to some robbers and looters.

Saudi Arabia, a leading US ally in the Middle East, is an absolute monarchy controlled by the Al-Saud ruling tribe, and lacks any legal code.

King Abdullah has promoted some social reforms since taking the throne in 2005 but diplomats say he is held back by religious clerics and princes.

Cinemas and music concerts are banned, while many restaurants and even some shopping centres cater to families only, especially on holidays.

Religious police roam streets to make sure no unrelated men and women mix.

The Saudi court system is exclusively controlled Wahahbi/Salafi clerics, and bans the employment of non-Salafi citizens, especially as judges.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading country in the use of torture-by-flogging, public beheadings and publically crucifying condemned prisoners.

The country crucified two people in 2009, including one in the capital Riyadh during President Barak Obama’s visit last April.

In September, 20 Saudi teenagers who ransacked shops and restaurants were publicly flogged.

Newspapers reported that the teenagers received at least 30 lashes each in a public square.

Most of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks in 2001 came from Saudi Arabia.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]


Syria’s Financial Support for Jihad

by Matthew Levitt

It costs a lot of money to run an insurgency. There are arms to buy, attacks to launch, bribes to pay. The local population has to be won over, and extensive networks have to be actively maintained, often involving members of various groups, criminal syndicates, corrupt officials, and independent operators such as local smugglers. Explosive devices have to be made, guns have to be brought in from abroad, volunteers have to be indoctrinated and trained.

In 2008, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body focused on preventing money laundering and terror financing, reported that while financing individual attacks may be relatively inexpensive when set against the damage inflicted, “maintaining a terrorist network, or a specific cell, to provide for recruitment, planning, and procurement between attacks represents a significant drain on resources. A significant infrastructure is required to sustain international terrorist networks and promote their goals over time.”[1] Creating and maintaining such support and facilitation networks, FATF concluded, requires significant funds.

FATF’s findings have a particular relevance to Syria where terrorist and insurgent groups have established sophisticated networks in order to facilitate the movement of foreign fighters from around the world into Iraq…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Turks vs. Kurds

A failed opening sparks bloodshed.

Turkey’s Kurdish problem, a long and bitter conflict, has taken a vicious new turn in recent weeks as ordinary Kurds and Turks have started fighting in the streets. That might sound like nothing new, but it is: although Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have fought each other since the 1980s, the conflict never escalated into personal violence between Turkish citizens. Ordinary Turks never vented their anger on Kurdish citizens, nor did Kurds attack their Turkish neighbors. The struggle was ideological and political, not ethnic.

Until now. In the latest incident, a high-school fight in the city of Mersin turned into a neighborhood melee involving more than 200 people. There have also been disturbing episodes of ethnic mobs forming. The trend is alarming: if regular Turks and Kurds (a demographic minority who make up the majority in the southeast) begin killing each other, it could rip the country apart.

Turkey can still pull back from the brink. To understand how, it’s necessary to first examine the roots of the violence. It all started with the “Kurdish opening,” an overture the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) launched this past fall to address long-simmering tensions with the Kurdish community by offering wide-ranging new rights including bilingual education (Kurds already enjoy cultural rights such as the freedom to run private schools and Kurdish-language media). It also offered to grant Kurds recognition as a separate political community.

PKK members were also promised an unofficial amnesty. But the approach backfired. PKK members allowed back into the country held a victory rally in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Oct. 19, declaring that they had returned to Turkey not to take advantage of the amnesty but to continue representing the PKK, an illegal organization. These PKK members added that they had no remorse for their past actions and made more demands on the Turkish government.

Such demonstrations, and the image of former PKK terrorists walking free, touched a raw nerve in a country that has suffered more than 30,000 deaths from PKK terror over the years. The result was violence. The government subsequently backed down, calling off its plan to bring more PKK members home. But pro-PKK demonstrations have continued, Turkey’s Constitutional Court has shut down the Kurdish nationalist and pro-PKK Democratic Society Party, and ethnic violence still burns.

The AKP is now paying the price for its failed gambit. Since coming to power in 2002, the party has outsmarted all opposition and built solid support. But with the collapse of the Kurdish opening, the party has been dealt its first significant setback. The AKP is already slipping in the polls as a result. In an attempt to win back Turkey’s majority, the AKP has played up its nationalist credentials. But this strategy won’t work—the party also needs to keep Kurds, an important constituency, on board.

Yet there remains a way out. Thus far the AKP has dealt with the Kurdish problem by trying to assign the Kurds collective rights in a way that would elevate them above many other non-Turkish Muslim ethnic groups, and has done so without seeking broader consensus, which it could have attempted by initiating a nationwide conversation. This approach has only created resentment throughout Turkish society. To address it, the AKP needs to work much harder at convincing ordinary Turks that their country needs to address the Kurdish problem. The AKP should also launch an initiative to increase the rights and liberties of all Turkish citizens, by enhancing the freedom of expression, for example. Assigning special rights to one group is a mistake.

Such a new strategy would have another advantage: it would win favor with the European Union, which frequently criticizes Ankara for its stance on the Kurds. Early in its tenure, the AKP pushed hard for EU accession, but the party lost interest in the process after encountering opposition from Brussels in 2005. It’s high time that the party returned to the liberal pro-EU and democratic promises of its early days—not just for the party’s own sake, but to save Turkey from more violence.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: NATO to Train More Local Security Forces

Brussels, 20 Jan. (AKI) — NATO will train 171,000 Afghan soldiers by October 2011 to ease the planned transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan forces, spokesman James Appathurai said on Wednesday. This compares with a previous target of 134,000, he said.

NATO has also decided to increase the number of Afghan policemen trained by October this year to 109,000 from 80,000 and to 134,000 by October, 2011, Appathurai said.

The decision to step up the number of Afghan security personnel trained by October next year was taken at a meeting in the Afghan capital, Kabul, attended by Afghan and international representatives, he said.

United States president Barack Obama in December ordered an additional 30,000 US troops into Afghanistan in the first half of this year. But he has warned that the US will begin to withdraw its military forces stationed in the war-torn country by 2011.

Most of the new forces will be combat troops. There will be about 5,000 dedicated trainers in the 30,000 troops, showing the emphasis on preparing Afghans to take over their own security.

NATO has also announced it will send an extra 7,000 troops to Afghanistan in the coming months.

A conference in London on 28 January will focus on the ‘transitional’ period in Afghanistan over the next 18 months as the US and NATO prepare Afghan forces to take over responsibility for security ahead of a phased withdrawal.

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


Al-Qaeda Wants South Asia War, Says US Secretary Gates

Al-Qaeda is trying to destabilise the whole of South Asia hoping to provoke war between India and Pakistan, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says.

“It’s important to recognise the magnitude of the threat,” Mr Gates said, after meeting his Indian counterpart AK Antony in Delhi.

Mr Gates said India might not show restraint if it suffered another attack like the one in 2008 on Mumbai.

Blamed on Pakistan-based militants, the attack killed more than 160 people.

The two countries’ peace process is still on hold.

The US defence secretary said militant groups in South Asia — the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, and the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba — were seeking to spark conflict between India and Pakistan, or to provoke instability in Pakistan.

He said: “It’s dangerous to single out any one of these groups and say, ‘If we can beat that group, that will solve the problem,’ because they are in effect a syndicate of terrorist operators intended to destabilise this entire region.”

When one group succeeded in carrying out an attack, all of them gained in capability and reputation, he said.

“A victory for one is a victory for all.”

Mr Gates praised his hosts for the restraint shown by India in the aftermath of the attack on Mumbai (Bombay) in November 2008, for which Lashkar-e-Taiba militants operating out of Pakistan have been blamed.

But he warned: “It is not unreasonable to assume Indian patience would be limited were there another attack.”

[…]

Mr Gates is to hold talks in Islamabad on Thursday.

He said any conflict between India and Pakistan would only further the militants’ agenda — as well as throwing American policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan into disarray.

The defence secretary also praised the “extraordinary” financial aid India had given Afghanistan, but acknowledged this had created tension with Pakistan.

“There are real suspicions both in India and Pakistan about what the other is doing in Afghanistan,” he said.

“So I think each country focusing its efforts on development, on humanitarian assistance, perhaps in some limited areas of training, but with full transparency for each other, would help allay these suspicions and frankly create opportunities.”

Reports in recent days have suggested the US would like India to help train Afghan police.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Marxist Communist Party in India Bans Leaders From Practicing Faith

The directive contained in a recent internal document. K.S. Manoj, director of CPI-M and former lawmaker, resigned because he believes “deeply” in his religion. Comments about this outdated diktat, also contrary to the Constitution of India.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — “In a document of the Communist Party Indian-Marxist (CPI-M) to grassroots committees, it is indicated that leaders should not attend religious services. This for me is difficult, because I believe deeply in my religion”. K.S. Manoj thus explains why he recently left the CPI-M, to follow his faith.

With the PCMIA, K.S. Manoj, a Catholic, was elected to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of national parliament of India, in 2004 for the district of Alappuzha, where he defeated outgoing Congressman VM Sudheeran of the Congress Party (CP). Instead in the May 2009 elections he was beaten by the CP candidate KC Venugopal. He resigned from the CPI-M positions on January 9 over the contrast between his religious faith and political beliefs. He sent his resignation via a simple fax to the local CPI-M committee of Thumboli and the district office of Alappuzha.

Manoj explains that “the December 3, 2009 CPI-M document says on pages 82 to 94 that national MPs and local authorities and leaders of the Party can not participate in organized religions or religious functions. This means that as a Catholic I could not practice my faith. “

He says he believes his religious faith is more important than party ideology. He insists that even the Indian constitution recognizes the right of everyone to practice their religion, so that in the fax he asked “that the party reconsider its prohibition.”

Father Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Synod, in an exclusive interview with AsiaNews says that “Dr. Manoj has left the PCMIA because he found that his Catholic faith is not compatible with the party ideology. He said, among other things, that he does not want to be in a party where they consider him a second class citizen because of his faith. He hoped that the believers could work in the party with full freedom and dignity, to build a society of equals and without discrimination and exploitation. But he resigned when he saw that that was not to be” “These resignations — he continues — highlight the contradiction between the dialectical materialism of the CPI-M and its attempt to involve the believers. There are many party members who go to church or mosque or temple, but now the CPI-M says that its members can practice their religion but leaders no, they must embrace materialism. This is a double standard that applies a kind of caste system within the party. The CPI-M will have no future, if it does not leave aside this outdated ideology and open to spiritual and constitutional values”.

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

Far East

Vietnam Jails Democracy Activists for Subversion

A court in Vietnam has convicted four activists, including prominent human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh, of trying to overthrow the Communist government.

The four men received sentences of up to 16 years on charges of subversion.

Dinh was sentenced to five years, while internet entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc received the longest term.

The case has drawn strong criticism from rights groups abroad, who see it as a sign of an increasing clampdown on democracy and freedom of expression.

It has been a long time since the Communist regime last tried anybody on subversion charges, considered one of the most serious offences under Vietnam’s criminal code, says the BBC’s Nga Pham.

The four accused — who were arrested in June — were initially charged with spreading anti-government propaganda.

But early last month, state prosecutors decided to bring more serious charges against them.

After a day-long trial, Le Cong Dinh, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Nguyen Tien Trung and Le Thang Long were all convicted of “activities aimed at subverting the people’s administration”.

Thuc received a 16-year sentence, Trung seven years, while Dinh and Long were sentenced to five years each.

Three of the four could have been sentenced to the death penalty.

Dinh rose to prominence representing Vietnam’s interests in the “catfish battle” during which US farmers accused the Vietnamese of dumping cheap seafood on the US market.

In recent years, he has also defended some of Vietnam’s leading human rights and democracy activists, including fellow lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan who have also been jailed for anti-government activity.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

DR Congo War Deaths ‘Exaggerated’

The number of people killed in a decade of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo may be half of the accepted toll of 5.4 million, a study has suggested.

The Canada-based Human Security Report Project says the figure makes too many assumptions about how many deaths were caused by the war.

The researchers say many of the deaths between 1998 and 2008 would have occurred without conflict.

The figure was used to justify ramping up the UN presence in the country.

The BBC’s East Africa correspondent Peter Greste says the initial figures shocked the world into action.

A formal peace accord ended a war that had involved Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda in December 2002, but unrest has continued in the volatile east of the country.

Flawed methods

The 5.4 million toll was calculated by the aid agency International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Rick Brennan, one of the authors of the original IRC study, acknowledged some statistical problems with the research.

But he said their methods and figures had been widely reviewed and generally accepted as a fair estimate of the number killed either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition.

The IRC assumed that the number of people dying each year in DR Congo in peacetime would be similar to rates elsewhere in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

It then analysed how many people had died from 1998 to 2008 and attributed the difference in the two figures to the conflict.

But the new study argues that the rate is unrealistic.

The researchers say large numbers of people would have died without the conflict — simply because basic living conditions in DR Congo were so tough.

When the researchers used their higher mortality rate to recalculate the figures, they found the number dropped below 3 million.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Muslim-Christian Clashes Kill 460 in Nigerian City

The death toll after four days of clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs in the Nigerian city of Jos and nearby communities has topped 460, according to a mosque official and human rights activists.

Six military units and hundreds of police were stationed throughout Plateau state’s capital city in central Nigeria to enforce a 24-hour curfew Wednesday.

While the violence had subsided, streets were deserted and many businesses remained closed in Jos, which has been the scene of similar bloody sectarian clashes in recent years.

The relative calm has allowed mosque officials to retrieve more bodies from neighbourhoods just outside Jos.

“We found more than 200 bodies gathered at the mosque in Kuru Gada Biu and 22 more at Mai Adiko,” said Muhammad Tanko Shittu, a senior mosque official organising mass burials, who had earlier estimated the death toll among Muslims at 177…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Nigeria Riot City Under Control, Says Army Chief

The Nigerian army says it has regained control of the city of Jos, where fighting between Muslims and Christians in recent days has left scores dead.

Lt Col Shekari Galadima told the BBC the city was “very calm” as the army was enforcing a 24-hour curfew. He insisted there would be no more riots.

But a BBC reporter in the region says the violence has now spread to Pankshin town, 100km (60 miles) from Jos.

Religious officials said at least 265 people had died since Sunday.

Among the dead were said to be 65 Christians and 200 Muslims.

Muhammad Tanko Shittu, a senior mosque official organising mass burials, gave a much higher death toll — telling Reuters news agency more than 350 Muslims had died.

He said the death toll had risen as workers retrieved bodies from areas outside the city of Jos on Wednesday.

The figures could not be independently verified.

Jos has been blighted by religious violence over the past decade with deadly riots in 2001 and 2008.

The city is in Nigeria’s volatile Middle Belt — between the mainly Muslim north and the south where the majority is Christian or follow traditional religions.

Violence spreading

Col Galadima told the BBC’s Network Africa programme that Jos city “has been brought under control tremendously”.

“Because of the 24-hour curfew imposed by the government, movement has been restricted so you cannot have any riots or any demonstrations going on,” he said.

[…]

It is unclear what the trigger was for the latest bout of violence, but there have been reports it started after football match.

Other reports suggested it began after an argument over the rebuilding of homes destroyed in the 2008 clashes.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Somalia: Heavy Shellings in Various Areas Kill Civilians

At least 11 people were killed and 10 wounded in heavy shellings last night in different neighbourhoods of Mogadishu. According to the local Shabelle radio, numerous mortar shells hit civilian homes in the northern sector of the capital, though there was no fighting between the rival sides and the situation in the city appeared calm. The blasts caught residents by surprise, killing various people on the streets and in their homes. One mortar destroyed an entire apartment building, killing 8 and wounding 7, all taken to the Keysaney and Medina hospitals. Meanwhile, the situation in the coastal town of Harardere, north of Mogadishu, appears to have returned under control after violent fighting between groups of pirates over the payment of a ransom for a ship seized off the Somali coast. At least four people were killed in the clashes that lasted from yesterday afternoon into the night.

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


Stop Hiding in Kenya, Somali MPs Told

Kenya has warned MPs from Somalia to stop using Nairobi as a safe haven from the chaos in their own country.

Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang told the BBC he was on the verge of telling the MPs to register as refugees if they wanted to stay in Kenya.

The BBC’s Will Ross, in Nairobi, says there are estimated to be 100 Somali MPs in Kenya at any one time.

Kenyan police arrested several Somali MPs in a round-up of people suspected of taking part in a riot last week.

Our correspondent says many Kenyans view their neighbouring country with increasing fatigue, concerned that the insecurity in Somalia could spread over their porous border.

‘In their trenches’

Relations between the two countries have been strained in recent days after a demonstration in Nairobi over Kenya’s detention of a controversial Muslim cleric turned violent.

Kenyan officials blamed extremists from Somalia for orchestrating the violence and arrested about 300 ethnic Somalis — charging 141 with immigration offences and releasing the rest.

Among those detained and later released were 12 Somali MPs and several government officials.

Somalia protested to Kenya over the arrests, but Mr Kajwang said his patience with the MPs was close to running out.

“The politicians causing trouble in their country and coming to hide here and reorganise how to re-launch their positions in their trenches — it is not helpful to them and not helpful to us,” he said.

“We think they must take the security of their country seriously and not endlessly look for Kenya as a safe haven after destroying their own institutions.”

“I think we are about to say that either you come in as refugees and you go the camps or you go back to your own country.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Video: Hugo Chavez: A U.S. Weapons Test Caused the Haitian Earthquake

Hugo Chavez must be delusional.

Russia Today is reporting that Venezuelan dictator Huge Chavez claims the recent earthquakes in Haiti were caused by the United States.

More specifically, he claims the U.S. Navy used a weapon that was powerful enough to induce earthquakes. You can watch the video below and draw your own conclusion.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Falasha Mura Immigration From Ethiopia Resumes

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 19 — After a 2-year break, 81 members of the Falasha Mura community have left Ethiopia for Israel to re-unite with their loved ones. According to the press, 600 more Falasha Mura will join them in the next few months. “The Falasha Mura” said the former president of Israel’s Supreme Court, Meir Shamgar, “are Jews who, in the past, were forced to convert to Christianity. Their Jewish origins were recognised by renowned Rabbis, including Ovadia Yossef and Shlomo Amar. Meanwhile, they converted back to Judaism”. In a camp arranged for them in Addis Ababa, 7,800 Falasha Mura are waiting to set out for Israel. About 1,000 of them have already been granted the necessary permits. Sources of the Jewish Agency (the agency responsible for immigration) forecast that in 2010 thousands more will be allowed to join their relatives in Israel. According to Shamgar, Falashmura immigration was temporarily suspended for economic reasons: the government had to gather the necessary resources to ensure their integration in the Israeli society. In the 1990’s, Israel organised two airlifts for dozens of Falasha (‘Beita Israel’). Today, some 120,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent are living in Israel out of a total population of seven million. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Greece and France Call for Frontex Stronger Role

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 20 — The Greek Minister for the Protection of the Citizen, Michalis Chrisochoidis, and his French counterpart, Erin Bessie, called on the Spanish Presidency for a strenghtening of the role of Frontex and cooperation with non-EU countries ahead of the informal meeting of European Home Office Ministers on the subject of immigration, which is to take place in Toledo, Spain. The two Ministers are calling above all for the European Union to put pressure on Turkey to move forward with the implementation of agreements on the readmission of illegal immigrants. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: 20% of Remittances Through Informal Channels

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 20 — Twenty percent of remittances that immigrants send from Spain to their home countries leave through “informal” channels, unchecked, without guarantees. Between January and September of 2009, foreign residents in Spain sent remittances totalling 7.050 billion euros; 20%, or 1.7 billion euros of which passed through unregulated channels, according to the results of a study published by the Permanent Immigration Commission. In presenting the results of the study to the press, Secretary of State for Immigration Consuelo Rumi underscored that remittances that do not go through channels that are controlled can only be estimated, while those sent through regular channels represent a substantial percentage of the GDP for immigrants’ countries of origin, which in some cases account for more than 10% of the GDP. The economic crisis, naturally, has had serious effects also on the amount of remittances, which, after hitting a record level in 2007 with 8.445 billion euros, reached just over 7 billion euros in 2009. The scarce figure of 20% that travelled through illegal channels did so in various ways, but mainly were carried by car. In 2008, 421 travellers were stopped by Spanish customs officers, exiting from the country in possession of greater than allowed or declared sums of money. According to the head of the study, Inigo Moré, the illegal transfer of money is not a generalised phenomenon, but mainly involves several communities of immigrants, such as Venezuelans, 70% of which prefer this system; followed by Gambian citizens (50%), then Ukrainians, Moroccans and Polish citizens (40%). Ecuadorians are the most observant of the legal mechanisms. In terms of the amount of remittances, Moroccans topped the rankings of illegal transfers, followed by Romanians and Portuguese citizens. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: When it Comes to Asylum, The Lunatics Really Have Taken Over

By RICHARD LITTLEJOHN

Despite trying to flee Britain six times, illegal immigrant Rashid Ali is being forced to stay by authorities

This morning’s edition of You Couldn’t Make It Up stars 31-year-old Moroccan Rashid Ali, who came to this country six years ago in search of a better life.

He tore up his passport and pretended to be Algerian, in the belief that he stood more chance of being granted asylum.

A short while after arriving, he decided that Britain wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. So, naturally, he decided to leave.

With the myriad problems we have deporting failed asylum seekers and terrorists, you might have thought the authorities would be happy to see the back of him.

After all, the Government has resorted to bribing illegal immigrants to go home, even chartering special flights to repatriate them.

So they should have been offering to drive Rashid to the airport and bidding him a fond farewell. Missing you already.

But the Moroccans are in no rush to get him back and have failed to issue him with a new passport. And because he has no papers, British officials refused to let him leave. When he tried to escape, he was arrested and put in detention.

So far, he has stowed away on six cargo ships, but each time he has been brought back. He has even been offered his own flat to persuade him to stay put, but refused.

Rashid is currently being held in a ‘removals’ centre near Heathrow, even though he won’t be going anywhere fast.

This Kafkaesque farce has been running since 2004, during which time Rashid has been jailed for nine months for stealing a coat and made the subject of a deportation order.

More than a year ago a judge promised to ‘kick some backsides’ at the Home Office, saying the refusal to repatriate him beggared belief.

It costs £43,000 a year to keep him in detention. The bill to the British taxpayer, including legal fees, adds up to more than £300,000.

We have known for a decade that Britain’s asylum and immigration system is absurd. But this case is beyond bonkers.

If Rashid Ali wants to leave, let him. If Morocco doesn’t want him, he can try his luck somewhere else.

Where he goes next is not our problem. He is not a British citizen and we have no obligation towards him.

When it comes to asylum, the lunatics really have taken over.

Read more:

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Psalms Banned, But Witchcraft OK

Supreme Court endorses ‘hostility’ toward Christianity

A lower court’s “hostility” towards Christianity will stand after the U.S. Supreme Court today refused to intervene in a school district’s censorship of a kindergartener’s choice of literature for a class reading.

“By refusing to hear Mrs. Busch’s case, the U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed the kind of hostility toward religion that should never be found in an American public school,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which took on the Newtown Square, Pa., case.

[…]

During the “All About Me” activity, a child’s parent may read aloud from the student’s favorite book. In this case, Wesley, a Christian, chose the Bible. His mother planned to read from Psalm 118.

But when Donna Busch prepared to read from the Bible, Wesley’s teacher instructed her not to do so until Principal Thomas Cook could determine whether it would be acceptable.

According to the Rutherford Institute, the principal “informed Mrs. Busch that she could not read from the Bible in the classroom because it was against the law and that the reading would violate the ‘separation of church and state.’“

Then school administrators offered Wesley’s mother an opportunity to read from a book about witches, witchcraft and Halloween. She declined the invitation.

[…]

The case had highlighted the fact that while Busch was not allowed to read from the Bible, another parent was allowed to read a book about Judaism and teach the class a dreidel game.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

3 comments:

4Symbols said...

@UK: Munir Hussain Freed: Well Done Lord Chief Justice.

This was not an act of self-defence the was an extrajudicial honour punishment - yet another infectious islamic mneme seeping into western law.

Any conservative whom considers this case as being self-defence is a fool.

Zenster said...

Food: Arab Nations Too Dependent on Foreign Countries

Note: This subject matter was covered by my GoV essay, “Blood for Water”. Those who have not read this work may wish to review it and the subsequent comments as they go into far greater detail than this brief news article.

The agricultural deficit in Arab countries has doubled in the past decade, making the entire region the top food importer in the world, and transforming economic data into a potential security issue.

This is not a “potential security issue”, it is a sword of Damocles that hangs over the entire MENA (Middle East North Africa) region’s head. Even as Islam continues to poke with its pointed wooden stick at the nuclear-armed Western dragon, potential outcomes equally dire to possible nuclear war wait in the wings.

… With the exception of fish and vegetable products, the Arab world suffered a sharp decline in all other types of agricultural products, especially cereals, grain, oats, and oil, for which only 30-53% of the regional requirement is covered.

Burgeoning population growth means the increasing diversion of agricultural irrigation resources over to municipal drinking water supplies. This has resulted in dramatically decreased food production throughout the MENA area.

… “The greatest obstacle is still water scarcity, which is slowing investments in the agricultural sector,” explained the AOAD report. Considered one of the most arid regions in the world, the MENA region (Middle East and Northern Africa) lives with water resources that are beneath the global water poverty threshold set at 1,000 cubic metres per capita per year.

As a measure of this food (ergo: water) dependency, consider that sufficient water to irrigate all wheat imported by the MENA region would require the entire annual flow of the River Nile. Importing wheat is merely a way of importing water.

… The increasing dependence of MENA countries on U.S. and Western food imports, in addition to economic problems — warned analysts — could result in a security issue.

One could easily interpret these “economic problems” as intense corruption. The elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about is how Islam continues to wage violent jihad against the very Western countries that feed it. If America, Canada and Australia (the world’s major wheat exporters), halted shipments to the MENA region, MASS STARVATION WOULD SET IN AFTER A FEW SHORT WEEKS.

This is the “security issue” that these pundits mince about so carefully. Islam continues to bite the hand that feeds it and risks all in its quest for global domination. How long must the West endure such profound ingratitude and violent provocation?

teacher.paris said...

"Saudi Girl, 13, Sentenced to 90 Lashes After She Took a Mobile Phone to School

The girl, who has not been named, was also sentenced to two months in jail by a court in the eastern city of Jubail.

She had assaulted her headmistress after being caught with the gadget which is banned in girl schools, said Al-Watan, a Saudi newspaper.

Three years ago 16 schoolchildren, aged between 12 and 18, were each sentenced to between 300 and 500 lashes for being aggressive to a teacher."

Having been assaulted while teaching in the United States, I commend the Saudi authorities.