Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/28/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/28/2010The United States and Britain are reportedly leading an effort to buy off the Taliban and end the conflict in Afghanistan. The alleged amount of the buy-off varies — from $500 million to $1 billion — and the details will be ironed out at an upcoming international conference. In return for the fund, Hamid Karzai will allow international observers to monitor his anti-corruption campaign. To put it slightly differently, we are bribing the Afghan government to fight corruption.

In other news, because the “Cap and Trade” greenhouse emissions control bill is unlikely to pass Congress, the EPA is working on an alternative scheme to accomplish the same ends, but without needing congressional approval. Opponents expect the initiative to be a real job-killer.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, ICLA, Insubria, JD, KGS, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Crony Capitalism: Obama’s Example of Stimulus Success — $100 Million for 15 Jobs Created at Dem Donor’s Company
Here’s What the U.S. Can Cut
Zero Private-Sector Jobs Created In Past 11 Years
One Day After Obama Promises to Curb Spending — Dems Pass Largest Debt Increase in US History
Stimulus Price Tag Soars; Jobless Rate Rises
Why the Government Wants to Hijack Your 401(K)
Will the Euro Survive the Greek Crisis?
 
USA
Anti-Muslim Cartoons Spark Meeting in St. Cloud
Catholic Bishops Lobby for Obamacare, Amnesty for Illegals
EPA’s Threat to Jobs
Kerry: Climate Change Supporters Must Match Tea Party Intensity
Obama Using Indians for His Dirty Work
Obama’s State of the Union Message Tells US Far More About the State of Obama
Women Bombers Create New Security Challenge
 
Canada
Canada to Offer Shariah-Compliant Mortgages?
Hijacker Deported to India
Suspected Tamil Tiger Extradited
 
Europe and the EU
Denmark: Caseworker Named Killer
Denmark: Scandinavian Roots Robbed Blixen of Nobel Prize
Europe Must End the Mutilation of Its Women
French Mosque Raided by Islamic Radicals
Germany: Sex Abuse Revelations Rock Elite Catholic School in Berlin
Germany: Politicians Consider French-Style Burka Ban
Italy: Italian Parliament Mulling Burqa Ban
Italy Remembers the Holocaust
Italy: Frattini, Fight Against Anti-Semitism Not Negotiable
Italy: First Transgender Cellblock Almost Ready
Spain: Imam on Trial for Threatening Woman With No Veil
Swiss Court Upholds Basketball Headscarf Ban
UK: £25bn in Employment Law Red Tape Will ‘Stifle Recovery’
UK: Driver Fined for Blowing His Nose… By Same PC Who Ticketed Man for Dropping £10
UK: Just One in 135 Criminal Cases Ends in Prison
UK: Postman Who Signed for a Parcel on Behalf of Frail Customer Lost His Job After Royal Mail Took Disciplinary Action
UK: Scientists Broke the Law by Hiding Climate Change Data: But Legal Loophole Means They Won’t be Prosecuted
UK: Vulnerable Woman Called 999 Twice Before Being Bludgeoned to Death by Neighbour… But Police Didn’t Bother to Turn Up
UK: Violence Among Women Soars as Record 250 Are Arrested Every Day
 
Balkans
Montenegro: Chinese to Help Build Merchant Fleet
Serbia: Rubin Starts Exporting Brandy to Iraq
 
North Africa
Algeria: Law on Colonialism Crimes, Compensation to Victims
Libya: Italian Businesses Optimistic, Climate Has Changed
Niqab: Al Azhar Ban Thrown Out Again by Court
Niqab: Al Azhar Re-Opens Discussion Over Fatwa
Terrorism: USA Ready to Collaborate With Algeria in Fight
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Memorial Day: Israel, for Young People Warning to Defend State
 
Middle East
Italy Helps Palestinian Refugees in Jordan
Obama on Horns of a Dilemma in the Muslim World
Philippines — Saudi Arabia: Christian Filipino Migrants Forced to Convert to Islam
UAE: DNA Test to Determine Gender of Foetus
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Buying Off the Taliban
India: The Hindu Nationalist VHP Threatens Protests to Defend Their Privileges
Plan Considered to Buy Off Taliban
Taleban Fighters to be ‘Bought Off’ With $500m
 
Far East
China: Xinjiang Like Tibet: More Money and Police Controls
 
Latin America
Colombia Protest Over Venezuela ‘Airspace Violation’
 
Immigration
Britain, A United Nations of Crime: Offenders From 160 Countries Are in Our Crowded Prisons…
Number of North Africans in Lombardy Growing
UK: Row Over MP’s Rape Case Comments
US Running Huge Deficits While Giving Billions to Illegals
 
General
Can Climate Forecasts Still be Trusted?
Killer Way to Slay the Google Beast!

Financial Crisis

Crony Capitalism: Obama’s Example of Stimulus Success — $100 Million for 15 Jobs Created at Dem Donor’s Company

When I heard Obama praising the stimulus bill, when he told us to ask the small business in Phoenix that is tripling its work force, I thought I’d do a little research into who that company is.

Easy enough. It’s called Ecotality, based out of Scottsdale, and it was the lead receiver of a $100 million grant from the Department of Energy through the stimulus bill. (Ecotality, which used to be called Alchemy Enterpreises, has MANY subsidiaries, so much of this money is actually going to those subsidiaries rather than directly to Ecotality. One such example is Electric Transportation Engineering Corp., a division of Ecotality, which will be putting in electric vehicle infrastructure as far away as Oregon).

President Honors ECOtality/eTec in State of the Union Address Total jobs added? According to them, 15 in 2009 and 27 in 2010. For $100 million. Am I supposed to cheer for that?

[Return to headlines]


Here’s What the U.S. Can Cut

Estimated $1.2 trillion unused federal property

The government owns and leases 3.87 billion square feet of property, and 55.7 million acres of land-meaning, one out of every forty acres. Real property asset value for all these holdings is estimated to be $1.2 trillion, says Citizens Against Government Waste, based on data from the Federal Real Property Profile created by the Bush administration, which helps federal agencies manage and dispose of their excess property.

One alarming example of the government’s wasteful holdings is Chicago’s Old Main Post Office, a 2.5 million-square-foot abandoned structure that has been vacant since 1997 and costs $2 million to maintain annually.

And don’t forget the John Murtha airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the first project in the country to get stimulus money, an airport that cost $200 million in taxpayer money over the last decade but has more security officials than passengers on any given day.

Democrat Rep. John Murtha got the funds for the airport, and his portrait hangs in the entrance. He uses the airport often during campaign season; it has a new restaurant, and a new $8 million radar system that rivals international airports. The passenger count has dropped by more than half in the last decade. Just three commercial flights depart on any given day, all headed for Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC.

The $1.2 trillion unused property figure doesn’t include the $29 billion in assets picked up from the Federal Reserve’s bailout of Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns.

For example, the central bank now owns the Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City, a shopping complex abandoned after anchor stores Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward and Dillard’s all pulled stakes. It has an oil well pumping crude in the car park — except the Fed does not own the mineral rights.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says there are more than 21,802 abandoned federal property assets littering the country that could be sold, worth a notional $17.7 billion. Tough to do in a downturn, as the property market is priced for the Ice Age.

Still, “it is obscene that the value of our government’s vacant or unused properties exceeds the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of half of the nations on earth…something is wrong when Congress asks taxpayers to sacrifice more but does nothing to eliminate an area of waste that is double the size of Afghanistan’s GDP,” said Dr. Thomas Coburn (R-Okla).

$123.5 billion on government programs that have consistently failed

The OMB has something called the Program Assessment Rating Tool. It found 218 government programs that were either inadequate or ineffective virtually throughout the entire government—programs run by the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, HHS, Homeland Security, HUD, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation, Treasury, the VA, Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, the CFTC, EEOC, and the FCC.

$98 billion in annual agency overpayments

  • Health and Human Services: $55.1 billion, or 9.4%. Includes overpayment rates of 7.8% and 15.4% in the Medicare fee for service and Advantage programs, respectively.
  • Labor: $12.3 billion, or 9.9%. Almost all of the overpayments were in the unemployment insurance program.
  • Treasury: $12.3 billion, or 25.5%. All of it was attributed to overpayments in the earned income tax credit.
  • Social Security Administration: $8 billion, or 1.2%, in overpayments.
  • Agriculture: $4.3 billion in overpayments, or 5.9% of total department spending. Much of it was in the food stamp, federal crop insurance and school meals programs.
  • Transportation: $1.5 billion, or 3%. Much of it was in the Federal Highway Administration planning and construction program.
  • Veterans Affairs: $1.2 billion, or 2.7%. That included overpayments in the pension and other compensation programs.
  • Housing and Urban Development: $1 billion, or 3.5%. All attributed to public housing and rental assistance.
  • Defense: $849 million, or 0.5%.
  • Homeland Security: $644.5 million, or 3.7%. Much of it was in the Homeland Security grant program as well as Disaster Relief Fund Vendor Payments.
  • Education: $599 million, or 2.1%.

“It goes without saying that these results would be completely unacceptable in the private sector, as they should be in government, especially at a time of record deficits,” says Sen. Tom Carper, (D-Del.), who chairs a Senate panel on federal financial management.

$92 billion in corporate welfare

The US taxpayer has been very good to businesses, and this even before the TARP and the Federal Reserve’s massive intervention into the U.S. economy. Companies like Boeing IBM, General Electric, Xerox, Motorola, Honeywell, Xerox, and Dow Chemical have benefited.

The Cato Institute’s $91 billion figure doesn’t include tax breaks or trade protections. The figure includes direct cash payments, to farmers and research funds to high-tech companies, as well as indirect subsidies, such as funding for overseas promotion of specific U.S. products and industries. The cash payments come from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, HUD, and State.

$19.6 billion on 10,160 earmarks

Congress managed to jam 10,160 earmarks worth a whopping $19.6 billion into 12 appropriations bills last year, a 14% spike from 2008. Despite promises, the 2010 budget [also] contained over 10,000 earmarks,” Heritage’s Riedl notes. Of the 10,160 projects, Citizens Against Government Waste identified 221 earmarks worth $7.8 billion that were passed in violation of Congress’s own transparency rules.

Alaska leads the country with $221 million in earmarks — which comes out to be $322 per capita. Hawaii ranks second at $302 million in earmarks, or $235 per capita. Some of the more absurd calls for taxpayer funds:

$1.49 million for Mormon Crickets in Utah

$75,000 for Wayne Gomes Youth Baseball Diversity Foundation

$381,000 for Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York, NY

$254,000 for Wool Research, Montana Sheep Institute

$2.2 million for Center for Grape Genetics, Geneva, NY

$1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Ames, Iowa

$4.4 million for the Army Center of Excellence in Acoustics

Also worth noting, the Montana Sheep Institute, backed by Senate appropriators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has received since 2002 seven earmarks worth $3 million, says Citizens Against Government Waste.

Massive program redundancies

Wasteful duplication in government is rampant, and it’s an issue that’s been out there for more than a decade-one hand of the government doesn’t know what the other is doing. The list includes 342 economic development programs; 130 programs serving the disabled; 130 programs serving at-risk youth; 90 early childhood development programs; 75 programs funding international education, cultural, and training exchange activities; and 72 safe water programs.

[Return to headlines]


Zero Private-Sector Jobs Created In Past 11 Years

By Jed Graham

It’s been pretty widely discussed that the past decade was a lost one for job creation. But focusing on private payrolls alone would also wipe out nearly all of the employment gains from 1999, among the better years on record.

Next Friday’s employment report comes with an annual benchmark revision that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated would erase 855,000 private jobs (and add 31,000 government jobs).

Subtract that from the seasonally adjusted December payroll number of 108.44 million and that would leave just 107.59 million private payroll jobs. That’s the least since January 1999, when there were 107.40 million.

That’s prior to payroll changes in the current month, but an increase in private payrolls could be optimistic given that the 448,250 average level of initial jobless claims over the past four weeks is still pretty high.

If you then consider the jobs that don’t factor into the BLS payroll survey — farm jobs and the self-employed — the absence of private-sector job creation might stretch back a couple of additional months. According to the BLS household survey, farm jobs have been on a steady decline while the size of the self-employed population has budged very little.

[Return to headlines]


One Day After Obama Promises to Curb Spending — Dems Pass Largest Debt Increase in US History

Senate Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion increase in the federal debt limit Thursday, seeking to push off another politically painful debt vote until after the midterm elections.

All 60 Democrats and no Republicans voted for the debt limit increase. The measure, which the House has yet to vote on, would put the debt ceiling at roughly $14.3 trillion.

[Return to headlines]


Stimulus Price Tag Soars; Jobless Rate Rises

The economic stimulus bill’s price tag has risen to $862 billion, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday — a $75 billion jump that’s a result in part to the fact that, despite the spending, joblessness has risen and the government is paying out more than expected on unemployment benefits.

The CBO, in a new report, also said spending in fiscal 2010 will push the deficit to more than $1.3 trillion, or nearly the record $1.4 trillion deficit recorded in 2009.

The dire warnings fueled spending hysteria, which hit Washington in full force this week after Democrats’ health care overhaul got shelved last week.

President Obama plans to call for a freeze on non-security spending in Wednesday’s State of the Union address — but advisers said it wouldn’t take effect until 2011.

“In 2010, we are focused on making sure we can get people back to work. In 2011, when we believe the economy will be back on stronger footing, we’re going to be looking to make sure the footing we are putting them on is a more sustainable discretionary footing,” said White House deputy budget director Rob Nabors.

[Return to headlines]


Why the Government Wants to Hijack Your 401(K)

It’s bad enough that we’ve been forced to bail out Wall Street. But now the Obama administration is hatching plans to raid our retirement savings, too.

To say that I’m “outraged” doesn’t come close to describing the emotions I experience every time I think about the government’s latest hare-brained scheme.

According to widespread media reports, both the U.S. Treasury Department and the Department of Labor plan are planning to stage a public-comment period before implementing regulations that would require U.S. savers to invest portions of their 401(k) savings plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) into annuities or other “steady” payment streams backed by U.S. government bonds.

Folks, there’s only one reason these agencies would do such a thing — the nation’s creditors think that U.S. government bonds are a bad bet and don’t want to buy them anymore. So like a grifter who’s down to his last dollar, the administration is hoping to get its hands on our hard-earned savings before the American people realize they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes … once again.

It’s easy to understand why.

Facing a $14 trillion fiscal hangover, the Treasury can no longer count countries such as Japan and China to be dependable buyers of U.S. government debt. Not only have those nations dramatically reduced their purchasing of U.S. bonds, most of our largest creditors are now actively diversifying their reserves away from greenback-based investments in favor of other reliable stores of value — like oil, gold and other commodities.

This growing reluctance couldn’t come at a worse time. Just yesterday (Tuesday), in fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the U.S. budget deficit would hit $1.35 trillion this year. And that’s not the only shortfall the Treasury has to address. The U.S. Federal Reserve is supposed to stop buying Treasury bonds for its asset portfolio, a program the central bank put in place last year.

The upshot: The Obama administration has to find other ways sell government debt — without raising interest rates, a move that would almost certainly jeopardize the country’s super-weak economic recovery.

Facing an uphill battle and increasingly skeptical buyers, the government is changing tactics and targeting the biggest pile of money available as a means of dealing with its fiscal follies — the $3.6 trillion sitting in U.S. retirement plans, including 401(k) plans.

The way I see it, the Obama administration can see the financial train wreck that’s going to occur. So it’s rushing to crack open the safe that holds our retirement money before anyone realizes that they’ve been robbed.

And if this plan becomes reality, that’s just what it will be — robbery. American retail investors didn’t sign up for the financial-crisis roller-coaster ride we’ve been on since 2008. We didn’t approve the nation’s five-fold increase in lending capacity. And we certainly didn’t volunteer to help pay down a national debt that’s doubled.

Few people realize that the federal government spent an estimated $17,000 to $25,000 per U.S. household in 2009 (the final figures haven’t been calculated, yet). But that’s no surprise: “We the people” didn’t approve it.

At a point where it’s spending money like a drunken sailor, Washington seems more interested in appropriating and redistributing our retirement savings than it is in fixing a system that’s badly broken. If you add in all the stimulus spending that the taxpayers must now repay, the average government-agency-spending tab has zoomed more than 50% in the last couple of years. That’s right — 50%.

So it’s only logical that the administration would go after our 401(k) and IRA savings plans.

Disgusting, but logical.

Here’s how the argument is likely to be framed…

[Return to headlines]


Will the Euro Survive the Greek Crisis?

by Paul Belien

A decade ago, the introduction of the euro, the common currency of 16 of the 27 EU member states, was a political decision — not a monetary one. When the euro was introduced in 1999, Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman wrote to his friend, the Italian economist Antonio Martino: “As you know, I am very negative about the euro and I am very doubtful about how it will work out. However, I am less pessimistic about it now than I was earlier simply because I never expected that the various countries would display the kind of discipline that was required in order to qualify for the euro.”

One decade later, the euro is in serious trouble. The problems result from the recent economic crisis which have badly affected the economy of Greece, one of the countries of the eurozone. Analysts doubt whether the government in Athens is able or willing to address Greece’s financial problems. If not, the other 15 nations using the euro will suffer the consequences, which is something they are not likely to accept.

Thomas Mayer, the chief economist of Deutsche Bank, warned last week: “The situation is more serious than it has ever been since the introduction of the euro. […] If the Greece situation is handled badly, the Eurozone could break down, or face major inflation.”

The problems of the euro affect the entire world. The EU currency was not introduced because of economic considerations, but because the European Union is pretending to be a genuine state and states are expected to have single national currencies. Hoping to become a powerful political force in its own right, the EU adopted the euro as the common currency of some 327 million Europeans, so that the currency’s economic power would prefigure the political power to be. The eurozone represents the second largest economy in the world. During the past decade, the euro became the second largest reserve currency after the U.S. dollar. With banknotes and coins in circulation for more than €790 billion, the euro has surpassed the U.S. dollar’s circulation. The euro appeared to be very strong, with the value of the U.S. dollar, the British pound, and other currencies dramatically falling in comparison to it — one of the causes of Greece’s problems. Tourism is a major economic sector in Greece. For tourists from outside the eurozone, such as the Americans and British, the country became too expensive as a holiday destination. Last year, when the world economic crisis also affected Europe, with a huge drop in the numbers of EU-citizens, such as Italians, that headed for Greece, the Greek economy collapsed and the Greek government was no longer able to pay the country’s public debts.

With Greece facing bankruptcy, the fears about Greece’s financial situation has led to a drop in value for the euro. Last week, the finance ministers of Germany and the Netherlands — the two eurozone countries which in pre-euro days had the strongest currencies in the EU: the German mark and the Dutch guilder — announced that they will not help Greece solve its problems. Polls indicate that 70% of the Germans oppose using their taxes to bail out other countries. Despite the EU propaganda line that EU citizens share a common European national identity, this is simply not true. As a leader in the Financial Times Deutschland noted earlier this month: “Spain believes in ‘more Europe’. Whether that’s the case for Germany as well one cannot be so sure any more.”

Moreover, the German economy has also been badly affected by the crisis. Last year, Germany’s GDP fell by 5%, the biggest drop since the war, with a drop of 15% in exports and 20% in sales of German manufacturers. The German people are not prepared to lift countries such as Greece, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Ireland out of the recession at its own expense.

There is also a lot of anger towards the Greeks in the other EU countries: for some years Greece seems to have covered up its bad economic performance by officially presenting better economic figures than was the case. The promise of the Greek government to reduce Greece’s budget deficit from 12.7% of GDP in 2009 to 2.8% in 2012, is being met with scepticism. Many doubt whether the government in Athens will be strong enough to resist the domestic pressure from the powerful trade unions against the radical deficit-cutting efforts which are needed, while others doubt that the Greeks will refrain from manipulating the economic data again.

Unwillingness to help the Greeks is huge within a eurozone currently facing an unemployment rate of 10% of the workforce, the highest figure since the single currency was introduced eleven years ago. Under EU rules, however, all the 27 member states of the EU, not just the 16 member states of the eurozone, are obliged to help the Greeks if the EU decides to bail them out. Article 122 of the EU Treaty, which went into force last December, states: “Where a member state is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the council of ministers, on a proposal from the European Commission, may grant, under certain conditions, Union financial assistance.”

This decision is taken on a majority vote. Consequently Britain, which always refused to join the eurozone, might be forced to help save the euro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

USA

Anti-Muslim Cartoons Spark Meeting in St. Cloud

Tuesday town hall aims to bring people together for open discussion.

A St. Cloud town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday invites people of all faiths and backgrounds to discuss a recent anti-Muslim incident in the city.

The meeting will give citizens a chance to talk with community leaders about concerns they may have, said Taneeza Islam, the civil rights director for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), one of more than a dozen organizations sponsoring the event.

“There’s a lot of interest,” said Lori Saroya, chairwoman of CAIR-MN, who said the meeting was moved to the St. Cloud City Council chambers where there is more seating. “People are really looking for the opportunity to address the whole picture,” she said, referring to hate crimes in general, not only against Muslims.

The incident involved cartoons, discovered Dec. 8 by a St. Cloud Muslim shopkeeper. They included vulgar depictions of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, as well as an Islamic crescent with a swastika inside it, and were posted outside the store and in front of a mosque. Sidney Allen Elyea, 41, admitted to posting the cartoons and was cited with violating a city ordinance that prohibits posting materials on utility poles. Prosecutors in Stearns and Benton counties declined to press criminal charges, saying that the cartoons should be considered free speech.

Saroya said that one of the goals of the meeting will be to educate the community on the legalities of the crime and clear up any confusion about the prosecution.

In general, she said, the Muslim population of St. Cloud has been impressed with the greater community’s reaction to the incident. “There’s been a lot of support,” Saroya said.

Minnesota ranked ninth in the number of reported civil rights complaints in 2008, accounting for 3 percent of all incidents in the United States, according to CAIR’s annual report on the status of American Muslim civil rights.

Carolyn Mann is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Catholic Bishops Lobby for Obamacare, Amnesty for Illegals

Calling health care a “right” to be guaranteed by the federal government, America’s Catholic Bishops are trying to save ObamaCare at a time when the legislation has been pronounced in limbo, dying or dead by most of the media.

The evidence of intensive Catholic Bishop lobbying activity suggests that liberal Congressional leaders are going to give the legislation a temporary respite so that liberal Catholics can be persuaded to pressure Congress to pass both national health care legislation and “comprehensive immigration reform” in the form of H.R. 4321, the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity” Act.

[…]

As AIM has documented, lobbying by the Catholic Bishops and their representatives, who worked closely with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, guaranteed passage of the health care bill in the House.

In a January 13 conference call and briefing, Kevin Appleby, a representative of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, explained in frank language why the Bishops are so desperate to pass the health care and immigration bills. He said that the Bishops want a federal health plan to absorb the costs being borne by the nation’s 600 Catholic hospitals to cover illegal aliens.

Appleby said, “We have Catholic hospitals throughout the country that experience the same things that Alan was describing and we serve undocumented immigrants in our emergency rooms and community clinics, etc. So we have a stake in this in that the burden will fall not just on our providers but as Alan described, taxpayers throughout the country.”

This was one of the clearest indications yet that support for national health care legislation is a means by which the Bishops can dump some of the costs of operating Catholic hospitals on the American taxpayers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


EPA’s Threat to Jobs

With ‘Cap and Trade’ and other energy legislation unlikely of passing in both houses of the U.S. Congress, the Obama Administration and its supporters are seeking the means to once again bypass the legislative branch. In other words, failing to sign an energy bill, President Barack Obama will give us Cap and Trade by fiat.

In order to have an impact on U.S. energy consumption, carbon emissions and climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to spearhead policies that would never pass mustard with a majority of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In a landmark decision in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA possessed the legal authority to regulate so-called greenhouse gases.

As a result of the court bestowing such power on that agency — and the likelihood that Cap and Trade and similar legislation will not reach President Obama’s desk for signing — EPA officials have declared carbon dioxide and other gases to be a threat to the environment and to the health of Americans. They are currently formulating regulations to restrict emissions from automobiles and trucks, power plants and other sources.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Kerry: Climate Change Supporters Must Match Tea Party Intensity

Climate change advocates must match the intensity of conservative “tea party” activists, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Wednesday.

“I want you to go out there and to start knocking on doors, and talking to people and telling people, ‘This has to happen,’ “ Kerry said in a speech at a climate and energy forum hosted by labor, farm and environmental groups.

“If tea party folks can go out there and get angry because they think their taxes are too high, for God’s sakes a lot of citizens ought to get angry about the fact that they are being killed and our planet is being injured on a daily basis by the way that we provide our power and our fuel and the old practices,” Kerry added.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Using Indians for His Dirty Work

Idaho pro-Obama bosses are trying to muscle-through ‘Custer Legislation’, so that the (Red) Indians can at last get their own back on white men — cowboys and Indians all over again!

The idea is to give Indians total legal control over any non-Indian who even passes through their territory. They would be tried under separate tribal laws, and even if the accused comes from outside the reservation, they cannot call in outside help or legal counsel! And only Indians would be allowed to sit on the jury. Watch out for revenge from Indians who are filled with leftist revisionist history!

The bright-sparks who are trying to bring this in are Idaho Attorney General Wasden and US Attorney Thomas Moss. They have been working out the details for the past six months… and everyone in the USA should ask “Why?” What is the point of making parts of the USA free from state and national laws?

[…]

If the bill passes through it will create another precedent, one so huge as to threaten national security and society. There are now so many dots to join we cannot keep up! There will be the inevitable cronies who say there is no plot — but this is not what Idaho’s legal folks and sheriffs say!

The Central Idaho Post is bravely opposing the proposed bill and is asking for all state citizens to write in opposition to the AG of the state. I believe the issue is far bigger, as Attorney Payne tells us, and should involve everyone in the USA. Interpol already has immunity from US laws. Separate tribal laws will only serve to feed this external UN force, and support it. It could mean that the UN will be able to riddle the US with its policies and laws, through Interpol, who can operate via tribal laws, weakening the US from within.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama’s State of the Union Message Tells US Far More About the State of Obama

by Barry Rubin

Significantly, President Barack Obama’s discussion of foreign policy came only at the end of his State of the Union message. Obviously, domestic matters and especially the economy come first. Yet international affairs are not only vital but often have been the issues on which administrations are judged, no matter how unlikely that seemed at the time.

It is apparently considered impolite to point out that Obama has no previous experience and little knowledge of international affairs. And yet that fact affects the fate of the globe every day. The really interesting question is whether the State of the Union message showed any growth in his ability after one year in office.

Sadly, the answer is “no.”

Here are the themes he expressed…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Women Bombers Create New Security Challenge

‘These may not look like al-Qaida, and may not be men’

Security officials are expressing concern over how to detect non-Arab speaking women with Western appearances who may now be used as suicide bombers, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The U.K. terror threat level was raised from “substantial” to “severe” this week — the second highest rating, meaning a threat is “highly likely.” Former White House adviser Richard Clarke said the move followed intelligence that al-Qaida has trained women to bring down planes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Canada

Canada to Offer Shariah-Compliant Mortgages?

(IsraelNN.com) Shariah-compliant mortgage banking, in accordance with Islamic religious law, may soon become a reality in Canada, according to a report published Wednesday by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

The law firm Gowling, Lafleur Henderson LLP, which prepared the report, said it found no legal obstacle to the practice. It added that “given the growth of Islamic financing internationally, it can be expected that international harmonization of IF accounting and reporting… will occur in due course.”

CMHC prefaced its report by saying that it does not plan to offer the shariah-compliant mortgages, nor does it plan to advocate for a change in current legislation. It did, however, recommend that private institutions consider providing the Islamic banking option to those Muslim customers who wish to take advantage of such a service.

According to the 88-page report, Canada’s Muslim community is beginning to offer shariah-compliant “mortgage-like products” based on the principle that charging interest on loans is forbidden. A similar principle exists in Jewish Law.

In order to make money, shariah-compliant mortgage firms instead become equity partners in the purchase of a home or building, with monthly “rent” or “profit” being paid to the lender along with the principal.

Canada’s Muslim community currently numbers approximately 700,000; at least 5,000 of those who were customers at UM Financial bank in Toronto expressed interest in transferring their existing mortgages once a shariah-compliant mortgage becomes available.

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


Hijacker Deported to India

After being sentenced to death in Pakistan, then released after 10 years in prison, Saini entered Canada on a false passport using a false name and gave false answers to questions posed by immigration officers.

He was granted refugee status, but after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service learned his real identity, he was arrested and ordered deported. He has been fighting his deportation ever since in the Federal Court of Canada.

In the meantime, he earned a law degree and worked for Singh & Associates in Mississauga. Earlier this month, the Law Society of Upper Canada rejected Saini’s bid to practice law in Ontario.

[Return to headlines]


Suspected Tamil Tiger Extradited

A Malton man has been extradited to the U.S. for his alleged connection to a North American network that provided weapons to a terrorist group in Sri Lanka.

Justice Canada confirmed today that Ramanan Mylvaganam, 31, was taken to New York by the U.S. Marshals Office without incident recently.

Mylvaganam remains in custody in Brooklyn, New York awaiting trial, which could start as early as this summer.

U.S. prosecutors also filed a new indictment against Mylvaganam two weeks ago alleging he and another man had conspired to provide weapons to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers.

Monday (Jan. 25), two Canadians arrested along with Mylvaganam as part of a joint FBI-RCMP probe back in 2006 were sentenced to 25 years in prison for attempting to buy heat-seeking missiles and military assault rifles for the rebel organization.

Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam and Sahilal Sabaratnam were sentenced in U.S. District Court in New York. They pleaded guilty last year.

A third Canadian, Satha Sarachandran, 30, the group’s administrator, was sentenced to 26 years on Friday, while Nadarasa Yogarasa, a Sri Lankan living in the U.S., got 14 years.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Denmark: Caseworker Named Killer

Police still looking for murder weapon.

Police are searching for a the knife used yesterday to kill a 56-year-old Caseworker and Local Counsellor Birthe Christiansen outside a job center in Holstebro.

A 28-year-old man has been detained and remanded in custody in connection with the murder. The man denies all charges.

“We would urge people to look for items on the route from Brogaardsvej 1, where the killing took place and up to the activity centre on Haralds Lethvej where the 28-year-old was detained an hour after the attack,” says Western Jutland Police Spokesman Michael Kjeldgaard.

“We would also like to hear from people who may have seen the man cycling in the area, which depending on the route taken is a stretch of about three kilometres,” Kjeldgaard says.

The 28-year-old was remanded in custody at a hearing yesterday, but has denied the charges.

“I can just say that I have not done this,” the man said.

A police officer has said that the caseworker suggested the name of her alleged attacker before she died.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Scandinavian Roots Robbed Blixen of Nobel Prize

Recently released documents suggest award voters were afraid of showing favouritism to Scandinavian writers so they turned down Karen Blixen as first choice in 1959

Recently declassified documents shown to Politiken newspaper indicate that Danish author Karen Blixen was pipped at the post for a Nobel Literature Prize in 1959 because she was Scandinavian.

The author best known for her work ‘Out of Africa’ was in the final four for the 1957 prize, but was the favourite two years later in 1959. However, according to documents from the Nobel Archive in Stockholm, Blixen was not awarded the prize in 1959 — despite having the committee’s majority support.

The Nobel Committee is comprised of four or five members of the Swedish Academy, which later votes on a winner taken from a short list drawn up by the committee after soliciting choices of experts within the international literary field.

Current Academy member Kjell Espmark was only first allowed to speak on the matter this year, as the documents were classified until the end of 2009. He told Politiken newspaper that it was rare the Academy did not follow the recommendation of the Committee.

In 1959, Blixen was in the running against 55 other authors from around the world, including Graham Greene, André Malraux and John Steinbeck. When the Committee whittled down the list to just four, Blixen’s name was the top choice.

‘I would stress, that if the prize should go to the now 74-year-old author, it should happen without delay,’ wrote then Committee member Anders Österling, nominating Blixen as his first choice.

Other Committee members Sigfrid Siwertz and Hermann Gullberg followed suit.

But the Committee’s final member, Eyvind Johnson, lobbied for Italian candidate and eventual winner Salvatore Quasimodo to take the prize, saying that Scandinavian authors had won the literature award four times as many times as those of other nationalities.

The pitch hit home with members of the voting Academy and Quasimodo was chosen as the recipient. According to Espmark, Johnson’s proposal played on the guilty conscience of members.

This view is backed up by Johannes Riis, literary heavyweight and director at Gyldendals publishing house.

‘The Academy was apparently scared to appear provincial. They were going to go out in the great wide world and show that the horizon stretches further than the Nordics. And a mistake was made, because of course Karen Blixen should have received the Nobel Prize,’ Riis said.

Blixen never received a Nobel Prize and died in 1962.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Europe Must End the Mutilation of Its Women

National efforts to end the practice of female genital mutilation need support at the European level.

In a Europe where most have access to the technological marvels of modern healthcare, it seems outlandish that people without a medical background operate on one of the most sensitive parts of the body using instruments that are not sterile.

But that is what is happening, because of a practice that has spread from Africa into Europe’s immigrant communities: female genital mutilation.

It may make for painful reading, but we all need reminding what exactly genital mutilation entails for women and girls. The external female genitalia are partially or totally removed, the clitoris is (frequently) cut away, and (frequently) the entrance of the vagina is partially sewn up, all without any anaesthesia.

The consequences of female genital mutilation — combined with the use by people with little or no medical training of instruments that, often, have not been disinfected — are dire and irreversible. Apart from severe pain, shock and the great risk of haemorrhages and infections, it can lead to complications during childbirth, cause infertility and even death.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 100 to 140 million girls and women are at risk worldwide. According to other estimates, about a half a million women living in Europe have already been subjected to this practice and that every year approximately 180,000 female immigrants in Europe undergo female genital mutilation or are in danger of being subjected to it.

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


French Mosque Raided by Islamic Radicals

(IsraelNN.com) The head of a mosque in Drancy, a northeastern suburb of Paris, was targeted Monday by a gang of Islamic radicals who interrupted the services and threatened to “liquidate him, this imam of the Jews.”

The mob, about 80-strong, burst into the French mosque, halting a meeting of some 200 other imams led by Hassen Chalghoumi, who has consistently spoken out against Islamic extremism.

The extremists called the Muslim spiritual leader an “infidel” (heathen) and a “renegade.”

At the time, Chalghoumi was chairing a meeting of the Conference of Imams, an organization established just last year to promote better relations between the various faiths in France, especially Jews and Muslims.

“They started to cry Allahu Akbar’,” Chalghouri told reporters after the incident. “Then they insulted me, my mosque, the Jewish community and the [French] Republic. They left after an hour and a half.”

Despite the anti-Semitic epithets, however, the attack apparently also stemmed from Chalghoumi’s liberal positions on the status of women in Islam. At age 36, he is known in France for his interfaith work with Jewish leaders and his activism with Muslim youth, but is also an especially controversial figure on the issue of women’s dress in Islam.

Last week he told the French newspaper Le Parisien, “Having French nationality means wanting to take part in society, at school, at work. But with a bit of cloth over their faces, what can these women share with us? If they want to wear the veil, they can go to a country where it’s the tradition, like Saudi Arabia.”

He is known for his support for “a legal ban of the burka, which has no place in France, a country where women have been voting since 1945.” The burka, an all-encompassing robe that covers a woman literally from head to foot, hiding her completely from the eyes of all, is “a prison for women, a tool of sexist domination and Islamist indoctrination,” Chalghoumi told Le Parisien.

One of the younger and most liberal imams in France, the Tunisian-born Chalghoumi, is a naturalized French citizen. He has been repeatedly attacked by Islamic radicals, and has also received death threats in the past in response to his statements against anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, the imam told an interviewer Tuesday on Radio Orient that he would continue to work against extremism and towards improving Muslim-Jewish relations in France. “It is our future that is at stake,” he said.

The imam confirmed that he would file a formal complaint with police against the gang that burst into his mosque on Monday.

The regional Jewish community organization issued a statement supporting Chalghoumi and expressing concern about the attack, calling the incident “serious and worrisome.” According to Sammy Ghozlan, head of the organization, “a real harmony has reigned between the Jewish and Muslim communities” since the arrival of Chalghoumi. Christian organizations were similarly supportive. However, the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF) was less positive. The group’s president said he was not surprised by the attack, adding, “We’ve warned him several times to moderate his words because he risks attracting these sort of reactions.”

The imam and his mosque are currently under police protection.

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


Germany: Sex Abuse Revelations Rock Elite Catholic School in Berlin

The headmaster of an elite Jesuit high school in Berlin has sent a letter to former students asking them to come forward about systematic sexual abuse by priests there in the 1970s and 1980s.

His letter was sent to some 600 former students at Canisius College who may have been victims of at least two priests on staff, Father Klaus Mertes told daily Berliner Morgenpost on Thursday.

“With deep shock and shame, I have learned of these horrific, not only isolated, but systematic violations that went on for years,” wrote Mertes, who has been headmaster of the central Berlin school for 10 years.

The headmaster said he did not know how many children might have been abused by the priests, who he said left the school in the 1980s.

“The weight of the incidents overwhelmed me,” he told the paper. “I have promised the victims full discretion. They are free to go to the public or the police.”

But so far no criminal complaints have been filed, the paper reported.

The Canisius College is one of just three private Jesuit schools in the country and has educated well-known economic and political leaders.

In recent years isolated reports of abuse surfaced, Mertes said. But after an internal document about the abuse was recently sent out, more former students came forward. Their stories convinced him that the abuse had taken place systematically over several years.

“I feel obligated to the students above all, and not as much to the reputation of the school or myself,” Mertes told the paper.

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


Germany: Politicians Consider French-Style Burka Ban

As their neighbours in France edged closer to a ban on burkas, German politicians on Thursday debated whether such a measure was necessary in their own country.

After a French parliamentary commission ruled this week that the enveloping garment worn by some Islamic women is unacceptable and recommended a ban in schools and public offices, former Social Democratic parliamentarian, Turkish-German Lale Akgün made as case for a similar ban in Germany.

“The burka is a full-body prison that deeply threatens human rights,”she told daily Frankfurter Rundschau. “It would be an important signal for Germany to ban the burka.”

A burka ban in German should include schools, universities, and high-security zones such as banks and airports, she said.

But fellow party member and speaker for interior issues Dieter Wiefelspütz rejected the suggestion.

“We have a different understanding of freedom than the French,” he told the paper, adding that an enlightened Islam could not be forced.

Head of the parliamentary interior committee, conservative Christian Democrat Wolfgang Bosbach, told the paper that when the choice to wear a burka collides with other legally protected interests such as mandatory school attendance or Germany’s current ban on religious symbols in schools, then something must be done.

His party colleague Norbert Geis said politicians would have to review whether a burka ban in schools and universities would be constitutional.

Meanwhile the Free Democrats’ integration expert Hartfrid Wolff called the burka a particular form of discrimination that courts should not tolerate.

But environmentalist Green party leader Cemozdemir said the debate overlooked the real conflict of integration, stressing that the number of women who wear burkas in Germany is low.

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


Italy: Italian Parliament Mulling Burqa Ban

Bill gains support as France moves to block Muslim garment

(ANSA) — Rome, January 27 — The Italian parliament is considering a ban on veils that mask Muslim women’s faces similar to the one proposed this week in France, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said Wednesday.

He said members of his own devolutionist Northern League party had actually beaten France to the bunch when they put their own bill banning burqas in public last fall.

The question arose as a report to the French General Assembly on Tuesday concluded that wearing face-masking veils should be illegal in public buildings like hospital and schools, as well as public transport.

Their inquiry was launched after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that burqas debased women and “aren’t welcome in France”.

While the argument across the Alps for banning burqas centered largely on a perceived affront to secular French values, politicians say the issue in Italy is primarily one of security.

The bill before parliament harkens back to a 1975 anti-terrorism law, which forbids any mask or clothing that makes it impossible to identify the wearer. In fact, European Affairs Minister Andrea Ronchi said that “a new law shouldn’t even be necessary. It should be enough to enforce the one we have”.

The issue has also proven less divisive in Italy than it has in France, finding tentative support among center-left opposition members as well.

Former Radical Emma Bonino, now the Democratic Party’s (PD) candidate for president of the Lazio region around Rome, said she supported the ban “for the same reason you can’t walk into post office wearing a ski mask”.

“Religion has nothing to do with it, this is a question of public safety. Everyone has to be identifiable” she said.

She was later echoed by the PD’s pointwoman on culture, MP Giovanna Melandri, who has often decried welling racism in Italy, but said that wearing burqas is, for all intensive purposes, already against the law.

Ironically, most criticism for the bill on Thursday came from the right with Alessandra Mussolini, grandaughter of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who warned the law would “unleash a religious war and that’s the last thing Italy needs right now”.

Lombardy region President Roberto Formigoni, a member of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, also said he thought the bill was ““impracticable” in Italy and that a better solution would emerge from dialogue with the country’s Muslim community.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy Remembers the Holocaust

Nobel winner addresses parliament in main remembrance day event

(ANSA) — Rome, January 27 — Italians remembered the Holocaust on Wednesday with a series of events and ceremonies around the country commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

One of the signature moments of Holocaust Remembrance Day this year was a parliamentary address by Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel, only the fourth non-MP ever to take the podium before the Italian lower house.

A survivor of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and perhaps one of the greatest living witnesses to the atrocities committed there, the Romanian-born writer and scholar was greeted with a standing ovation from a full house of MPs, diplomats and holocaust survivors present to hear him speak.

During his speech, Wiesel, now a professor at Boston University, urged the Italian government to take a tougher line on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an adamant Holocaust denier who has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction.

“How can you have relations with a head of state who first denies the Holocaust and then says he wants to destroy a member of the United Nations,” he asked.

Wiesel also asked the government to adopt a new law classifying suicide terrorist attacks as crimes against humanity.

“We not be able to stop the attackers themselves, but there are ways we can stop their cohorts”. He went on to extol the importance of hope to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“Peace in the region may be a dream for now, but we must believe that someday it will come true”.

He also took the opportunity to launch an appeal for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held prisoner by Palestinian militants since 2006.

“You have the credibility to make this appeal heard,” Wiesel said while facing the top government officials seated at his side.

Observers said Wiesel had to break for applause five times over the course of his speech, after which he was greeted by President Giorgio Napolitano, Premier Silvio Berlusconi and opposition leaders Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party and Pier Ferdinando Casini of the Catholic-centrist UDC.

Before his address, Wiesel met with Napolitano during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Rome together with a delegation of holocaust survivors and their families.

Napolitano gave out over 80 metals of honour during the ceremony, including one for Emilia Marinelli Valori, a woman from a town near Venice who “risked her life to save many Jews from deportation and death” between 1938 and 1945.

In his own address to parliament, Berlusconi said the day offered an opportunity to reflect on “discrimination and deficits of democracy in our own, globalized society”.

He also encouraged Italian young people to see some of the special events held around the country, such as an exhibition of photos, original documents and personal affects of deportees at the Vittoriano complex in Rome.

ANTI-SEMITIC VANDALISM.

Despite the general feeling of solemnity in Italy on Wednesday, a few minor acts of vandalism served as a reminder that anti-semitism has not been totally eradicated.

During the night, a thoroughfare in Rome was covered with spray painted swastikas, Celtic crosses and anti-Jewish slogans.

One of the buildings defaced is home to the local Jewish Community President, Riccardo Pacifici, who played down the graffiti down as a “sad stunt by puerile youngsters”.

“This is a sign of weakness, because it’s plain to see from the amount of attention today’s events have drawn that Italy is a changed country”.

“Anyone who thinks they can recreate a climate like the one that led up to the Holocaust is sorely mistaken,” he said.

But Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said it would be a mistake to underestimate the extent of anti-semitism in Italian society.

Frattini pointed to a recent study estimating that over 44% of Italians feel ambivalently about Jews.

Carried out by the Italian Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation, the report said that up to 12% of the population had a outright anti-semitic feelings towards Jews and Israel.

“We assume that Italy is not an anti-semitic country, yet we find hatred rearing its head again out of a climate of religious intolerance”.

“This shows why it’s so important to make people understand the full extent of the Jewish tragedy,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Frattini, Fight Against Anti-Semitism Not Negotiable

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — “The fight against anti-Semitism is a value that is not negotiable”. So said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini to the Senate joint Constitutional and Foreign Affairs commissions. The commissions, on Holocaust memorial day, have opened an inquiry into anti-Semitism. The Minister continued: “We want an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, we want peace in the Middle East and we want to see a reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world. But some sort of indirect tolerance of anti-Semitism is not negotiable”. He added: “We shouldn’t make the mistake to put something that is not negotiable on the negotiation agenda. Israel’s right of existence and security is no object of negotiation and the fact that the Holocaust has been the worst tragedy in the history of mankind is not under discussion”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: First Transgender Cellblock Almost Ready

A ‘brilliant’ idea, activists say

(ANSA) — Empoli, January 27 — Italy’s first cellblock exclusively for transgender inmates will be ready in a matter of days and the transfer of prisoners there should begin by the end of March, the head of Tuscany’s prisons department said on Wednesday.

The cellblock at the Pozzale penitentiary here was previously a low-security facility for women and Maria Pia Giuffrida said “we had to modernise the plumbing and electrical system as well as boost security measures”.

She said she recently illustrated the project to the some 30 inmates who will be sent to the new facility, who are currently together in a cellblock at the Sollicciano prison in Florence, “and they all seemed happy with the idea”.

Because of the particular nature of the inmates, Giuffrida said guards, both men and women, would get special training.

Creating a separate cellblock for transgender inmates is a “brilliant idea” which will end their isolation, according to the head of Italy’s national transgender movement (MIT). The cellblock, Regina Satariano observed, “will not be a ghetto but an opportunity for these people and motivate them to follow programs aimed at integrating them into society once they have served their sentences”. “This initiative offers great possibilities. Things could not continue the way they were before, with transgenders being kept in permanent isolation,” Satariano added. “Women inmates don’t want them and, to avoid problems, transgenders are kept away from male prisoners. Thus special areas have been created in prisons, amounting to isolated confinement,” the MIT chief said. ‘AN ACT OF CIVILITY’, GAY ACTIVIST MP SAYS. According to former MP and transgender activist Vladimir Luxuria, the creation of a separate cellblock for transgenders, among the first in the world, “is a good thing which gives the inmates dignity”.

“As an MP I visited many penitentiaries and in every one, with the exception of the one in Belluno, transgenders were discriminated against and punished not only for the crimes they committed but also their sexual identity”. Gay activist Paola Concia, an MP for the opposition Democratic Party (PD), said the Tuscan initiative “is an act of civility towards transgenders, who often have great problems in prison”. “It would have been wrong if this was an attempt to place them in a ghetto. But I think the aim is to protect them and should the initiative prove successful it should be copied in many other prisons,” she added. The number of transgender inmates currently in Italian prisons is believed to be in the neighborhood of 60. At the Pozzale prison the transgender inmates will have access to a garden and a library. Most of the inmates are serving sentences for prostitution or drug-related convictions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Spain: Imam on Trial for Threatening Woman With No Veil

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 28 — Threats, intimidation and slander used against a Moroccan university professor residing in the small town of Cunit (Tarragona), “guilty” of not wearing a Muslim veil. On these charges, the preliminary investigations section of the Vendrell (Tarragona) court has ordered that the imam of the Cunit mosque, Mohamed Benbraim, stand trial. The public prosecutor has requested five years in prison for the imam and four for his second-in-command, the president of the Cunit Islamic Association, Abderraman El Osti, as well as two for the imam’s wife and son, Zohra Ahmaddach and Haffsa Ben Brahim, accused of intimidation. According to judicial sources quoted today by the media, the individuals had made a normal life impossible for Fatima Ghailan, a 31-year-old Muslim born in Morocco but cultural mediation teacher in the Cunit Town Council, since she did not wear a Muslim veil and both she and her children were friends with Spanish inhabitants and not Muslim ones, in this way — according to the imam — cutting herself off from the Muslim community. Fatima suffered threats, pressure and intimidation to the point of having to ask for police protection. Due to the threats and defamatory campaign she suffered, Ghailan became deeply depressed and was assigned a police escort, which has since been withdrawn. While awaiting the trial, the woman avoids leaving her house alone. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Swiss Court Upholds Basketball Headscarf Ban

A Muslim woman has failed to overturn a ban stopping her from wearing a headscarf during league basketball matches in Switzerland.

Sura al-Shawk, 19, was told she could not wear a headscarf by the basketball association (ProBasket) in August 2009.

A local court in Lucerne has upheld the ruling on safety grounds. ProBasket also argued the sport needed to stay religiously neutral.

Ms al-Shawk can appeal again within 10 days.

Ms al-Shawk is a Swiss citizen with an Iraqi background and plays for STV Luzern.

The court ruled that the overall safety regulations set by the association took precedence over her desire to wear a headscarf for religious reasons, says the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Switzerland.

But the court did admit that, in upholding the ban, it was placing limits on the young woman’s personal freedom, our correspondent says.

The headscarf is not especially common in Switzerland, whose Muslim community comes primarily from former Yugoslavia. However, wearing it in public is largely accepted, she adds.

ProBasket said it followed the rules of FIBA, basketball’s world governing body, in enforcing its ban.

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


UK: £25bn in Employment Law Red Tape Will ‘Stifle Recovery’

A new tide of employment legislation, taxes and red tape will cost firms £25billion over the next four years and hold back recovery, business leaders are warning.

The British Chambers of Commerce has written to ministers to protest that companies struggling to survive in difficult trading conditions can ill afford the major changes planned by the Government and the EU.

It issued its warning in the wake of Labour’s decision to press ahead with plans to allow new fathers to share maternity leave with their partners, taking up to six months off.

[…]

Director-general David Frost said: ‘The cost of employing people must be reduced if future governments are serious about giving businesses the freedom to create jobs and drive our economic recovery.

‘What must not happen after a general election is that a new government — from whatever party — decides to add to this already sizeable burden.

‘From what employers tell me, they will get on with creating jobs and wealth, but they need government to get off their backs.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Driver Fined for Blowing His Nose… By Same PC Who Ticketed Man for Dropping £10

When motorist Michael Mancini found himself stuck in a queue of traffic with a runny nose, he instinctively reached for his hankie.

However, the simple act of pulling out a tissue and blowing his nose earned him a £60 on-the-spot fine because he was ‘not in proper control of his vehicle’.

Policeman Stuart Gray, nicknamed PC Shiny Buttons for his zealous approach to the job, also handed out three points — even though Mr Mancini had his handbrake on.

Now Mr Mancini, a 39-year-old father-of-two, faces a potentially expensive legal battle to clear his name after vowing not to pay the fine.

He is the latest victim of PC Gray, who is no stranger to controversy.

A few months ago, the officer issued a £50 fixed penalty for littering to unemployed Stewart Smith, who accidentally dropped a £10 note in the street as he left a shop.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Just One in 135 Criminal Cases Ends in Prison

Only one in every 135 crimes ends with the offender being sent to jail, according to Government figures.

The overwhelming majority of those responsible for the 10.7million crimes committed last year were never even caught.

But, in the 1.3million offences where police did manage to catch the burglar, yob or sex attacker, only 53 per cent were taken to court.

The rest escaped with a caution, fixed penalty notice or other ‘slap on the wrist’, or their case collapsed.

Of those who did make it before a magistrate or judge only 79,100 received immediate custody, according to the annual Criminal Statistics report, released yesterday.

The average sentence handed down by magistrates was 2.7 months — the lowest figure in the past decade.

Tory justice spokesman Dominic Grieve said: ‘Too often serious offending is let off with a slap on the wrist or a glorified parking ticket.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Postman Who Signed for a Parcel on Behalf of Frail Customer Lost His Job After Royal Mail Took Disciplinary Action

A postman who signed for a parcel on behalf of a frail pensioner lost his job after she rang Royal Mail bosses to say thank you.

The father of two, who had around ten years of unblemished service, is thought to have put his signature to the recorded delivery when a parcel firm arrived on the doorstep as he made his own rounds.

Concerned that the elderly householder would have to trek to the sorting office to collect the parcel when she got home, he signed for her.

But when she called his managers to thank him for his kindness they began disciplinary action against him.

The postman was signed off work with stress and subsequently retired on the grounds of ill health.

The case was one of several cited during a parliamentary debate by Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh, who is campaigning on behalf of 46 postmen that have been suspended, dismissed or have gone off work with stress from Royal Mail in his Southport constituency over the past three years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Scientists Broke the Law by Hiding Climate Change Data: But Legal Loophole Means They Won’t be Prosecuted

Scientist at the heart of the ‘Climategate’ email scandal broke the law when they refused to give raw data to the public, the privacy watchdog has ruled.

The Information Commissioner’s office said University of East Anglia researchers breached the Freedom of Information Act when handling requests from climate change sceptics.

But the scientists will escape prosecution because the offences took place more than six months ago.

The revelation comes after a string of embarrassing blunders and gaffes for climate scientists and will fuel concerns that key researchers are too secretive and too arrogant.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Vulnerable Woman Called 999 Twice Before Being Bludgeoned to Death by Neighbour… But Police Didn’t Bother to Turn Up

A terrified woman made two 999 calls before she was battered to death, but police were too busy to respond, a damning report said yesterday.

Joanne Butler, who had mental problems, was attacked by her neighbour Sean Wilson and his 13-year-old son, who described her as the ‘psycho woman’ in the flat above.

They used a sock filled with rocks to beat her about the head before butchering her with an axe.

Miss Butler’s call was graded top priority as possible domestic violence after an operator heard somebody scream ‘you b******’ in the background, the report found.

Ten minutes later, she called again but the line went dead after the BT operator heard ‘noises and a scream’.

The body of Miss Butler, 38, was discovered in her burnt out flat hours later.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Violence Among Women Soars as Record 250 Are Arrested Every Day

Ten ‘ladettes’ were detained every hour for a violent crime last year — an all-time record.

Where a women is arrested she is now more likely than a man to be a suspect in cases of wounding or other assaults.

Some 88,139 women were arrested for violence over 12 months — nearly 250 every day. That is an increase of nearly 1,000 on a year earlier.

The number of men arrested for violence fell by 10,000.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Montenegro: Chinese to Help Build Merchant Fleet

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JANUARY 27 — Chinese Exim Bank will allocate USD 47.7 million loan to the Montenegrin state sailing company to help the country build a new merchant fleet. The agreement is for Montenegro to pay back the loan in 15 years, with a five-year grace period and a fixed interest rate of 3%, officials said. Montenegrin Transport Minister, Andrija Lompar, said that the money will be used to buy two ships, each with the capacity to carry 35,000 tonnes of merchandise. The ships will be made in China and delivered to Montenegro within 24 months, he said. Montenegro has no merchant ships currently. It once had a fleet of 27 ships, but those have decayed or were sold over the years due to neglect and the economic crisis that has persisted in the Balkans since the wars of the 1990s’.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Rubin Starts Exporting Brandy to Iraq

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JANUARY 27 — Krusevac-based spirit and wine maker Rubin has delivered the first quantities of brandy, vodka and wine to Iraq, thus launching the implementation of a EUR2.5 million contract, Rubin’s owner Invej announced, reports BETA news agency. The news release says the deal with the Iraqis was signed for one year and that a container holding 20 tons of beverages has been delivered so far. “It turned out the Iraqis prefer our Don Rossi vodka, as well as wine, especially Car Lazar and Carica Milica,” Invej General Manager Stanko Tomovic said. According to the news release, Rubin annually produces 10 million liters of wine and about six million liters of various spirits, which it exports to the U.S., Germany, France, Great Britain, and Switzerland.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Law on Colonialism Crimes, Compensation to Victims

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 27 — A discussion is in progress in Algeria about “a draft bill on the indictment of colonialism” in the North African country. Presented by Algeria’s main political party National Liberation Front (FLN, former single party ), the bill is currently examined in Parliament (APN, People’s National Assembly) and is backed by almost all parties. In a first meeting, a statement issued by the APN and quoted by APS reads, it was decided to modify “some articles to complete the text, before presenting it again in Parliament”. The around 20 proposed articles ask for France to show repentance for the crimes it committed during the period of colonisation (1830-1962). They claim compensation for the victims of colonialism, particularly of the nuclear tests carried out in the south of Algeria. The bill includes the formation of special courts to judge the war crimes that were committed during that period. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Libya: Italian Businesses Optimistic, Climate Has Changed

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — Seven days to prepare what perhaps was the most important mission of Italian entrepreneurs and investors to Libya: one week was the amount of time that elapsed between the official communication of the mission and the delegation’s departure, after the government in Tripoli asked the Italian Foreign Ministry and Assafrica & Mediterranean (the operative branch of the Confindustria in the region) to organise a visit on January 23 of top-level business representatives from the country, ranging from giants in the infrastructure sector to small and medium enterprises. Relations between Italy and Libya, reports Assafrica, have never been so positive economically and even the issues of the credit owed to 110 Italian companies seems to have been resolved, even if the distance between what is being offered by Tripoli (450 milion euros) and the money owed to Italian businesses (650 million euros) appears far apart; a gap can be closed because now the difference is the Italian government’s “problem”. The mission did confirm that the Libyan market is not at all impermeable for Italian companies, which are actually welcomed, and downright needed. This approval seems to mainly be focussed on SMEs, which Tripoli has pinpointed to create joint companies in key areas in the food and agriculture, tourism and training sectors. In the food and agriculture industry Italian businesses are needed in the processing and conservation sector (the Libyan Sea is among the most abundant in fish); in tourism there is a double need for Libya: increased tourism flow from Italy and to begin investment programmes from Italian players in the industry; in the training sector Libya needs to make use of an excellent school system, which now needs to be capitalised on to prepare a new generation in the technical and management sector. Italian companies will find a highly receptive situation “with a climate that appears to have certainly improved since I started to go to Libya in 1998,” said Pier Luigi D’Agata, the director general of Assafrica & Mediterraneo, who led the delegation together with the president of the Italian-Libyan joint Chamber of Commerce, Antonio De Capoa. A climate that is different and better, which D’Agata translated with one phrase: “you can detect a new willingness”, which can be seen in the receptiveness shown by Prime Minister Baghdadi al Mahmudi, who said that he will work to eliminate obstacles when he heard about the difficulties of Italian businesspeople obtaining visas, speculating that they could be granted in the airport. All this while Libya is cracking down on visas requested by European citizens. (ANSAmed).

2010-01-27 17:23

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Niqab: Al Azhar Ban Thrown Out Again by Court

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 27 — After the ban in university lecture halls, another battle has commenced over the niqab in Egypt’s law courts. In fact today, the Cairo administrative court suspended the decision made in October by the Al Azhar Supreme Council to ban it from schools linked to the institution, when only women are present. According to a legal source quoted by Afp, the court ruled on the appeal of a high school student which found it had to impose the ban last October. Now Al Azhar’s legal advisor will present an appeal against the sentence to the second degree court, whose ruling will be decisive. The same High Administrative Court had previously ruled against the ban on the niqab for universities by the Minister for Higher Education, which however is valid also in cases where there are men in the university buildings. One of the motives for the sentence is the reference to the right to dress in accordance with ones own convictions and one’s own social environment. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Niqab: Al Azhar Re-Opens Discussion Over Fatwa

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — While the discussion continues in Europe over whether to ban the niqab, and in the wake of the debate in France and recommendations by the parliamentary mission into the issue, the Al Azhar Academy for Islamic Research is proposing to return to the issue of the integral veil tomorrow. The discussion concerns a request by several sides, including experts in Islamic law, for a clear and definitive “fatwa” on the matter from the religious point of view. The Academy for Islamic Research has already made two pronouncements on the matter, in October, when the Grand Imam of Al Azhar banned the veil in schools belonging to the highest Sunni academic authority, but only when there were only women in the premises. In an interview on Al Ahram today, Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi himself pointed this out. The Upper Council of Al Azhar, he said, stated that it was not against the niqab on the street, or in workplaces, but that it was against “the bad use of the niqab in places where there are only women”. Tantawi also pointed out that, according to the majority of Muslim scholars, it is not forbidden for women to show their face and hands. But the issue, said Tantawi “needs further clarification”, hence the decision to include it on tomorrow’s agenda. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Terrorism: USA Ready to Collaborate With Algeria in Fight

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 27 — The United States are prepared to collaborate with Algeria in the fight against terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel. This statement was made by commander of US Air Forces Africa General Ronald Ladnier, quoted by APS, during his official 3-day visit to Algiers. The US “appreciates Algeria’s leading role in security issues and the fight against terrorism in many countries in North Africa and the Sahel”, Ladnier said. He underlined that his country “is prepared to work together with Algeria to guarantee stability and to deal with these threats”. Cooperation between the military forces of these two countries is currently based on “training, the exchange of technical information regarding aircrafts and assistance in case of natural disasters”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Memorial Day: Israel, for Young People Warning to Defend State

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — A commemoration straddling the past and the present, animated by a commitment not to let the horror of the Nazi massacre be forgotten, and by the conviction that the Shoah represents an element of awareness of the common destiny of the Jewish people united in the Zionist State. This is the meaning attributed to the remembrance and the study of the Holocaust by Israeli heads, teachers, and students, according to a survey — the first carried out in schools and research institutes — published by Yediot Ahronot, the country’s most popular newspaper, on the International Holocaust Memorial Day. An event which Israel actually associates with a different date (not the Russian liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, but the eve of the proclamation of the Jewish State, in spring). In any case this year Israel’s leaders have been visiting a number of the sites symbolic of absolute evil around the world. President Shimon Peres is the guest of the Bundestag in Berlin, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is in Poland at the fences of Auschwitz, both of them the protagonists of speeches marked — apart from remembrance — by warnings over todays new threats: from anti-Zionism and Holocaust denial, curses made against Israel by Iranian ayatollahs to the nightmares of Tehrans weapons of mass destruction and nuclear programme. The schools and universities confirm how much the theme of the Holocaust remains central and unifying in Israeli education. Not just in historical terms. Data from the survey reported by Yediot Ahronot — analysed by one of the editors of the initiative, Professor Erik Cohen of the Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv — gives clear evidence. From the responses of 307 heads, 519 teachers and more than 2,500 students, comes a largely shared attitude, notes Cohen, which is not affected by social differences, background, culture, or residence in small or large areas. 94% of students say that they are committed to preserving the memory of the Shoah and 84% to deepening their study of it, while 77% — including the younger — say that the tragedy affects their view of the world. 99% have taken part in educational visits to Auschwitz or other concentration camps, and welcomed the accounts of survivors as the best method for education on the subject. Apart from the duty to safeguard the memory of it, the effects of the Holocaust on the new generations view of the present are strong and shared. Views that the study of the Shoah must contribute towards the strengthening of the commitment towards the defence of the existence of the State of Israel, according to 92% of teachers and 100% of heads. And for almost all educators (93% of teachers, 99% of heads) the need to instil (among the young) the sense of a common destiny for the Jewish people) cannot be disregarded. Today as well as tomorrow. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Italy Helps Palestinian Refugees in Jordan

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JANUARY 27 — Italy joined efforts to help Palestinian refugees in poor camps cope with difficult economic condition by offering kind assistance and food items to 104 needy families in a crowded camp, according to the Italian embassy in Amman. The donations, which come as part of a project implemented by the Italian government to support Palestinian refugees in the Kingdom, granted through the embassy’s cooperation for development office handed the aid in Talbieh refugee camp in Madaba. The packets contained heaters, blankets, winter coats and food items, according to a statement released by The Jordan Times. The distribution of these items is the last phase of the Italian intervention in Talbieh camp, said a statement from the embassy. Previously Italy reconstructed 18 houses and organised computer, self-employment, perfume manufacturing and other training courses for 80 people in the camp, one of 13 housing nearly 1.8 million Palestinian refugees. A similar initiative was also implemented in Sukhneh camp in Zarqa, where 83 houses were renovated, said the statement.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Obama on Horns of a Dilemma in the Muslim World



by Amin Saikal, ANUThe battleground for President Barack Obama to fight al-Qaeda and its supporters in the Muslim world is wider than that his predecessor faced. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq are no longer the only main fronts. Added to them are Somalia and Yemen, where al-Qaeda has gained unprecedented strength. The President says he will use all elements of American power to deal with the situation, but what are the implications of this for his desire to improve relations with the Muslim world?…

           — Hat tip: ICLA[Return to headlines]


Philippines — Saudi Arabia: Christian Filipino Migrants Forced to Convert to Islam

A Filipino nurse with ten years in Saudi Arabia talks about the dramatic situation of Christian workers, forced to embrace Islam just to keep their job. Despite abuses and violence, migrants still choose the Middle East because of the availability of work.

Manila (AsiaNews) — “In my tens in Saudi Arabia, I have witnessed several Catholic or Christian Filipino migrants accept Islam under duress,” said Joselyn Cabrera, a Filipino Catholic nurse working at Riyadh hospital. Because of high unemployment levels in the Philippines, more than ten million Filipinos have left to seek jobs abroad. Every day, about 3,000 leave the country. Recently, a majority has gone to Arab countries—some 600,000 in all, 200,000 in Saudi Arabia alone.

“After some months, employers give you an ultimatum, telling you to become Muslim to keep your job,” she said. “For us, it is hard to make such a choice, but if we don’t, we become the victims of abuse.”

In her years in the kingdom, she said she saw at least 50 forced conversions at work.

“Even I have been subjected to pressures from my Muslim co-workers, but I have always refused saying that I’d rather remain Catholic. Until now, nothing has happened to me, yet.”

According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Filipino emigration towards the Middle East has grown by 29.5 per cent between 2007 and 2008, a destination of choice for many migrants, and this despite horrible working conditions that include the possibility of forced conversion and sexual abuse in the case of women.

The most recent case involves a woman who was raped at work. Because of the incident, Saudi authorities accused her of unlawful extramarital sex and on 11 September jailed her in the capital.

As a result of the rape, she became pregnant, but miscarried because of harsh conditions in the prison.

Next month, she is scheduled to appear before a court, which could sentenced her to 100 lashes (see “Riyadh: rape victim might be lashed 100 times,” in AsiaNews, 22 January 2010).

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


UAE: DNA Test to Determine Gender of Foetus

(ANSAmed ) — DUBAI, JANUARY 27 — In the United Arab Emirates it is now possible to determine whether the baby is a boy or girl as early as the seventh week of pregnancy, thanks to the so-called ‘pink or blue’ test, introduced for the first time in the region, the local press reports. The test, a DNA analysis of a drop of the mother’s blood, is 95% accurate. The tests are banned in several countries, including China and India, because the parents could use the result to have an abortion carried out. The news was presented during the Health conference that is underway in Dubai. Some people fear an “inappropriate use” of the tests, because of parents preferring boys over girls. Others see it as an instrument for an early celebration of the arrival of a new life, whatever its gender.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Buying Off the Taliban

The United States and Britain are mulling a plan to buy off Taliban fighters in Afghanistan with as much as $1 billion over five years, according to a report Wednesday from Al-Jazeera.

Coalition partners plan to meet Thursday in London to discuss the stragety of the U.S.-led NATO effort in Afghanistan, where a roused insurgency has complicated efforts to forge a lasting peace.

According to Al-Jazeera, which reported that the U.S. and Britain were leading the charge for the buyoff plan, “the scheme would offer cash, jobs and other incentives to the Taliban and fighters in other armed groups,” including community development projects in the fighters’ villages, and could cost from $500 million to $1 billion over five years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


India: The Hindu Nationalist VHP Threatens Protests to Defend Their Privileges

In Kerala, the VHP is opposed to granting the Muslim minority more jobs and schools. Father Thelakat: The VHP is promoting a campaign of hate, but the caste system of privilege must be overcome to help those who really need it.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — The ultra-nationalist Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on January 25 announced a state of agitation against any proposal to ensure a share of jobs and educational institutions for Muslims and other minority groups. A priest tells AsiaNews of the distortions of the system of privileges and launches a revolutionary proposal for the country: help those who really need it.

In Kerala, Praveen Togadia, VHP leader said that any initiative in favour of these minorities, in work and education, goes against the interests of the Hindu community. He threatened to mobilize students and young people if it will change the current quota as called for in the report of the National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by former Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra (which, for example, for years has recommended that no less than 15% of jobs and places in educational institutions be reserved for Muslims ).

Father Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the Syromalabar Synod, comments bitterly to AsiaNews: “Even in this period of globalization, there are still these instances of neo-fascism which ultimately mean a return to paganism, denial of love for their rivals, identifying only with [the interests of] their ethnicity. They only reason according to [interests of] their caste or ethnic community, considering the other groups and castes as rivals. Policies are no longer pursued in the name of the people but to ensure the best for their caste or community. “

“In Kerala, the Ezhavas [majority Hindu community of the State of Kerala] state openly that they want to pursue common goals. Each group works to get a share better. The constitutional provision on reservation of seats, intended to improve the position of those who were discriminated against in employment and education. But it was intended [to provide for reservation quota of seats] only for a limited time. Instead this appears to have been prolonged without end. Meanwhile there are people [in the lower castes] who are now educated and have good jobs. And there are people of higher castes and groups that are considered very poor and in need of help. I remember the case of a woman … [considered superior caste] who is a maid in the home of wealthy people who belong to lower castes. When the son of the maid and her employer to go to school or seek employment, the wealthy son has advantages over that of the maid, because it belongs to a higher caste. These inequalities must be corrected. I’m not saying that the quota system of reserved seats on the basis of caste should be eliminated. But we must also consider whether the person is rich or poor, beyond caste”.

“The VHP is only promoting a campaign of hatred against Muslims who, at least in Kerala, in general have a lower position. But there are also rich Muslims. It ‘sad that in India everything is considered only in terms of castes and religions, and not according to actual need”.

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


Plan Considered to Buy Off Taliban

Al Jazeera has learnt that a plan is being considered to pay up to $1bn to Taliban fighters to persuade them to lay down their arms.

In advance of an international conference in London to discuss Afghanistan’s future on Thursday, Japan, the United States and Britain are said to be leading the proposal.

The scheme would offer cash, jobs and other incentives to the Taliban and fighters in other armed groups.

“The sum could be as much as between $500m and $1bn over the next five years”, Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from London, said.

He said the money would be used to persuade individual Taliban fighters that they are better off on the government’s side rather than fighting on the side of the Taliban.

Parts of the funds would be spent on projects to develop the fighters’ villages and building roads to their communities, he said.

[…]

In a move leading up to the London conference, the UN Security Council panel has removed five senior Taliban officials from its sanctions list.

A statement on Tuesday said the panel had “approved the deletion of the five entries” from its blacklist of individuals subjected to a travel ban, assets freeze and arms embargo.

Karzai had been pushing for Taliban names to be removed from the list and was planning to raise the issue at a conference on Afghanistan in London on Thursday.

A Western diplomat said those removed from the list were now believed to be “moderate Taliban officials” with whom Karzai could start a dialogue.

The five were all members of the ousted Taliban government.

Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the former Taliban foreign minister now taken off the list, called on the UN and the US to remove all the names on their blacklists.

“[Not only] the UN list, but the US blacklist should also be reconsidered, as the names are not specified and the number is unknown. We can say that the number of those wanted by the US is between 100 and 1000,” Muttawakil said.

Other beneficiaries

The other four former Taliban ministers removed from the UN list are Faiz Mohammad Faizan, Shams-US-Safa, Mohammad Musa, and Abdul Hakim.

The UN blacklist was established under UN Security Council Resolution in 1999 for the purpose of overseeing implementation of sanctions imposed on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for its support of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.

Under the resolution, UN member states are required to impose sanctions on any individual or entity associated with al-Qaeda, bin Laden and/or the Taliban.

The list contains about 500 names, including 142 linked to the Taliban.

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


Taleban Fighters to be ‘Bought Off’ With $500m

Britain is ready to contribute millions of pounds to a fund to buy off Taleban gunmen who are fighting British troops in southern Afghanistan.

More than 60 delegations, from Colombia to Australia, will gather in Lancaster House this morning to draw up an exit strategy from Afghanistan. Much of it is based on reintegrating the Taleban rank and file, wooing the Taleban leadership and gradually handing security to the Afghan Army and police.

The conference is expected to agree a $500 million (£310 million), five-year fund for President Karzai to “buy off” insurgents who are not ideologically committed to destroying the West.

Downing Street confirmed that Britain will make a contribution of a “few million”. Germany has agreed to $70 million over five years and the bulk of the money will come from the Japanese aid budget to Afghanistan, diplomats suggested.

In return, the Afghan leader will have to agree to international monitors to strengthen an anti-corruption campaign in his Government.

President Karzai, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State and Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, flew in yesterday for the talks, which will be chaired by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary.

Before he arrived, Mr Karzai insisted that Afghanistan wanted to take responsibility for its affairs as soon as possible. “Afghanistan does not want to be a burden on the shoulder of our allies and friends,” he said.

Nevertheless, foreign money and experience will be needed for the delicate reintegration programme, which is being co-ordinated by American and British officers.

Officials believe that many young Afghan men in the south and east of the country join the Taleban because they have little else to do. They hope that the fund, which will be managed by President Karzai, will be used to offer them jobs as guards and in agriculture. They do not expect the money to be used for cash payments.

“The overwhelming majority of these people are not ideological supporters of Mullah Omar [the fugitive Taleban leader] and al-Qaeda,” Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said. “Based on interviews with prisoners, returnees, experts, there must be at least 70 per cent of these people who are not fighting for anything to do with those causes.”

The Taleban, who are monitoring the conference, predicted that the approach would fail and described the move as a trick. In a statement on their website, the group said that offers of economic incentives would not draw away fighters because the militants were not fighting for “money, property and position; but for Islam and to end the foreign military presence”.

A separate reconciliation effort will be made to bring the Taleban leadership into the political process. The Karzai Government has been reaching to Taleban leaders for some time and yesterday the UN announced the removal of five former senior Taleban officials from a sanctions list.

The officials delisted on Monday included the present governor of Uruzgan province and a member of the Afghan Parliament.

Western officials want the entire blacklist, which contains 137 alleged Taleban members, reviewed.

“That list … should be re-examined and scrubbed down,” Mr Holbrooke said. “There are people on it who are dead, there are people on it who should not be on it.”

Shaida Mohammed Abdali, the Afghanistan deputy national security adviser, told The New York Times: “There’s an ideological motive for an insurgency like this and the trouble will not be resolved unless you reach out to the leadership, they are the food of the foot soldiers and where they are getting ideological and political incentives. If we only concentrate on the foot soldiers it will not be a sustainable programme.”

British officials said that the plan was to split the Taleban between an ideologically driven hardcore and the rest.

President Karzai is understood to be keen to embrace the plan, although other members of the Afghan Parliament expressed reservations to a delegation of MPs last week.

Senior Pakistan figures expressed scepticism, suggesting that if the strategy excluded Omar it was doomed to fail. Sultan Amir Tarar, a retired brigadier and former senior member of Pakistan’s main Inter Services Intelligence agency, said that the Taleban fighters would not break with their leader Omar.

Brigadier Tarar said that Omar was a “symbol of resistance” against the foreign forces in Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Xinjiang Like Tibet: More Money and Police Controls

Five more people, probably all Uyghurs, have been sentenced to death for their involvement in last July’s riots. The authorities also announce more investments in the province. Experts say the money will likely benefit ruling groups whilst ethnic Uyghurs will be further dispossessed of their natural riches.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Four more Uyghurs have been sentenced to death for their involvement in last July’s riots in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi. The Chinese government has also announced plans to increase investments in the region. Experts however expect the surge in money to benefit ethnic Han Chinese settlers at the expense of indigenous Uyghurs.

On Tuesday, a court in Urumqi sentenced four more people to death for “extremely serious crimes”, said Ma Xinchun, director of the Urumqi government’s press office, who did not elaborate more on the issue. A fifth defendant was also sentenced to death but was given a two-year reprieve—a penalty usually commuted to life in prison. Based on their names, all those given death sentences appeared to be Uyghurs.

This verdict brings to 26 the number of death penalties imposed following the July riots; some have already been carried out.

Uyghurs have become a minority in their own land (46 per cent of 21 million residents) after China adopted a policy of mass immigration of ethnic Han Chinese into the region. By and large, newcomers get special treatment in business and government employment.

On 5 July 2009, some Uyghurs attacked ethnic Han Chinese, rioting and burning cars. In the next two days, Han Chinese struck back, targeting Uyghurs. At least 197 people were killed in the clashes with many thousands more injured, partly as a result of police repression. Based on the available evidence, almost all of those arrested or sentenced to death are ethnic Uyghurs.

Meanwhile, senior Communist Party leader Zhou Yongkang said the party’s Politburo would hold a conference later this year “to make a plan to support the development of Xinjiang and promote the long-term stability and prosperity of Xinjiang.”

In Beijing, Chinese leaders discussed the Xinjiang problem for two days. Developing the region’s oil and gas reserves was one of the issues on the table. Xinxiang’s economy grew by 8 per cent last year.

Like a recent meeting on troubled Tibet, which lies next to Xinjiang, this meeting underscored Beijing’s belief that the cure to ethnic strife lies in faster economic development, rather than a rethink of strict, top-down political controls, said Nicholas Bequelin , a researcher on China with Human Rights Watch.

Tibet and Xinjiang have many things in common. In both regions, Chinese policy is one of persecution of the indigenous population through repression and discrimination as well as large-scale investments designed to encourage settlers (see Willy Wo-lap Lam, “New policy on Tibet: repression and modernization,” in AsiaNews, 26 January 2010).

In Xinjiang, indigenous Uyghurs have long complained that economic development has disproportionately benefited ethnic Han Chinese who hold all the key positions in government and business. What is more, the region is being stripped of its natural riches to the benefit of China’s coastal provinces.

“Xinjiang is much more important than Tibet in high politics in Beijing, because of its oil and gas and strategic importance,” said Bequelin. It is in fact a key transit point for pipelines coming from Iran and Central Asia.

In early January, funding for public security in Xinjiang was nearly doubled—from 1.54 billion yuan to 2.89 billion yuan (from US$ 225 million to US$ 425 million)—for 2010.

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

Latin America

Colombia Protest Over Venezuela ‘Airspace Violation’

Colombia has made a formal diplomatic protest to Venezuela after what it says was a violation of its airspace by a Venezuelan military helicopter.

Colombia’s foreign ministry said the helicopter had spent 20 minutes above the city of Arauca, near the border, where a big military base is situated.

The defence minister said his forces had shown restraint in not responding.

The two neighbours have been involved in a row over Colombia’s decision to grant the US access to military bases.

The Colombian foreign ministry issued a statement calling the alleged incursion “unacceptable”.

Colombian Defence Minister Gabriel Silva also condemned it and praised his forces for not responding.

The BBC’s Jeremy McDermott in Colombia says relations between Colombia and Venezuela are at a historic low.

‘Prepare for war’

Last year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez broke off diplomatic relations after Colombia decided to sign a pact with Washington, allowing the US military access to several Colombian bases.

He also blocked a wide variety of Colombian imports, with bilateral trade suffering a 70% drop.

Mr Chavez also moved troops to the border, blew up two bridges linking the two nations and, in November, urged his armed forces to “prepare for war” with Colombia.

He says Colombia’s deal with the US is a threat to Venezuela.

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

Immigration

Britain, A United Nations of Crime: Offenders From 160 Countries Are in Our Crowded Prisons…

…One in seven inmates

Labour’s open door immigration policy has turned Britain’s jails into a ‘United Nations of crime’ — holding inmates from 160 countries.

The foreign criminals represent one in every seven inmates in our prisons — which are so packed that British convicts are being released early to make space.

They range from murderers and rapists to burglars, paedophiles and drug dealers.

There are only 192 member countries of the United Nations, meaning all bar 32 are represented in the British prison system.

The top ten nationalities of the inmates are Jamaica, Nigeria, the Irish Republic, Vietnam, Poland, China, Somalia, Pakistan, India and Romania.

There is no evidence to suggest that foreign nationals are more likely to commit crime. Rather, the huge number of overseas convicts — 11,546 out of 84,000 people in jail — reflects the large number of immigrants living in the UK.

Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green, who uncovered the figures, said: ‘Britain has been reduced to the United Nations of crime.

‘The fact that criminals from eight in ten countries in the world are plying their trade in Britain shows something is very wrong with both our immigration and security policy.’

‘This is a continuing crisis both for the immigration system and the prison system. There are obvious dangers in overloaded prisons, as well as a burden on British taxpayers who have to pay for this.’

The huge number of foreign nations has been blamed for the current prison overcrowding crisis, which has led to the early release of tens of thousands of inmates.

In total, 75,000 convicts have benefited from Labour’s End of Custody Licence — under which they walk free 18 days before their sentence reaches the halfway point.

They include 15,000 violent offenders, 6,795 criminals serving sentences for burglary, 16,402 for theft, 3,322 for drug offences and 1,898 for robbery.

The Ministry of Justice is aware of 1,512 offences committed by offenders during their period of early release. This includes three murders.

Critics say that if there had been fewer foreign national prisoners, early release of British criminals may not have been required.

Ministers have tried a number of desperate tactics to reduce the number of overseas inmates.

Last month, it emerged that foreign rapists, murderers and other offenders were being offered credit cards pre-loaded with more than £450 of taxpayers’ cash if they agreed to return home.

The perk is part of a package worth up to £5,000 designed to ‘bribe’ them to leave the UK.

The credit cards are loaded with money which the convict can spend as soon as they leave British soil. The remainder of the windfall is payable ‘in kind’ when they return home, and can include cash to set up a business.

One in four of the foreign criminals who was deported last year only went home after being offered one of the special payments.

Recent recipients include an immigrant convicted of the horrific killing of a 17-month- old baby.

Malaysian Agnes Wong, 29, was jailed for five years in 2008 for the manslaughter of a toddler she was supposed to be child-minding. The Tories have vowed to end the End of Custody Licence scheme. Controversially, they are considering using prison ships to provide extra space.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Number of North Africans in Lombardy Growing

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, JANUARY 27 — The presence in Lombardy of immigrants from North Africa continues to grow by more than 10%. Moroccans form the second-largest community in the region, after the Romanian community, with a total of 127.5 thousand. According to the figures that were updated on July 1 2009, a 10.2% increase was recorded in 12 months. The presence of Moroccans in the region more than doubled over the past nine years (58.4 thousand in 2001). These results emerge from the report that was presented today in Milan by the Regional integration and multi-ethnicity board, created ten years ago by the Lombardy Region. The number of Egyptians has also increased sharply, to 77.2 thousand (+10.4% in one year and +142% compared with 2001), making it the fourth-largest community of immigrants in Lombardy. The presence of Tunisians has also increased though more slowly: to 27.5 thousand in July 2009 (+6.7% in 12 months). According to the governor of Lombardy, Roberto Formigoni, the immigrants “have faith in our community, our social structure and our institutions. The typical immigrant is a person who works, makes use of our hospitals and schools, and forms associations”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Row Over MP’s Rape Case Comments

A Conservative MP’s comments suggesting a possible link between “imported” views and rape have been criticised.

Monmouth MP David Davies said the upbringing should be investigated of Balal Khan, 14, of Stoke-on-Trent, who raped and robbed a woman.

Politicians in other parties and an academic attacked the MP’s comments, although he stressed that they were not related to Islamic or racial issues.

The Tory party said his comments did not reflect its views “in any way”.

After Khan admitted the offences and was sent to a young offenders institution for three years, Mr Davies said some communities had “imported backward, medieval and barbaric” views about women.

The MP said the sentence was inadequate, adding: “I think there is a wider question here — what is it about this young man’s upbringing, what about his community or his parental upbringing that led him to think that women are second-class people whose rights can be trampled over like this?”

The Monmouth MP added: “There are some sensitive issues here, but there do seem to be some people in some communities who don’t respect women’s rights at all, and who, if I may say, without necessarily saying that this is the case on this occasion, who have imported into this country barbaric and medieval views about women, and that is something that needs to be addressed.”

Heaven Crawley, director of the Centre for Migration Policy Research at Swansea University, told BBC Radio Wales: “I think it’s very dangerous for a politician to make that kind of connection between rape and clearly totally unacceptable behaviour and the use of the words ‘imported, backward and barbaric attitudes’ because of the implication that comes with that.”

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


US Running Huge Deficits While Giving Billions to Illegals

Take a look at these figures: NBC reported 26 million Americans unemployed or working half time because they cannot obtain a full time job. Countless millions lost their homes to foreclosures in the past three years. At the same time, 35 million Americans subsist on food stamps. Yes, you may check Google for that figure. Our national debt spirals upward at $12 trillion.

In the same breath, last month, our U.S. Congress injected around 200,000 to 238,000 legal and illegal immigrants into this country. Month in and month out! Year in and year out! They injected 2.4 million last year and they will inject another 2.4 million in 2010. Most go on welfare and many stay on the public dole.

[…]

California, loaded with five million illegal aliens and their children, presents a model of this human tragedy. California adds 1,700 legal and illegal immigrants daily! (Source: www.capsweb.org)

Last year, “San Bernardino County spent $64 million on welfare for illegal immigrants’ American children” by Stephan Wall.

Why? Because Governor Schwarzenegger would not enforce immigration laws, because ICE would not arrest illegal employers, because all those elected to uphold the U.S. Constitution would not follow their sworn oaths. Therefore, California taxpayers spent not just $64 million, but a total of over $10 billion on illegal aliens. Senators Boxer and Feinstein sat on their butts watching it happen as well as 37 California House members. Amazing!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Can Climate Forecasts Still be Trusted?

First, it was a series of e-mails that led many to begin doubting the veracity of climate scientists. Then, the United Nations climate body itself had to reverse dire predictions about the melting of glaciers in the Himalayan Mountains. Other claims have raised doubts as well.

The Siachen Glacier is home to the world’s highest crisis region. Here, at 6,000 meters (19,680 feet) above sea level, Indian and Pakistani soldiers face off, ensconced in heavily armed positions.

The ongoing border dispute between the two nuclear powers has already claimed the lives of 4,000 men — most of them having died of exposure to the cold.

Now the Himalayan glacier is also at the center of a scientific dispute. In its current report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the glacier, which is 71 kilometers (44 miles) long, could disappear by 2035. It also predicts that the other 45,000 glaciers in the world’s highest mountain range will be virtually gone by then, with drastic consequences for billions of people in Asia, whose life depends on water that originates in the Himalayas. The IPCC report led environmental activists to sound the alarm about a drama that could be unfolding at the “world’s third pole.”

“This prognosis is, of course, complete nonsense,” says John Shroder, a geologist and expert on glaciers at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. The results of his research tell a completely different story.

For the past three decades, the US glaciologist has been traversing the majestic mountains of the Himalayan region, particularly the Karakorum Range, with his measuring instruments. The discoveries he has made along the way are not consistent with the assessment long held by the IPCC. “While many glaciers are shrinking, others are stable and some are even growing,” says Shroder…

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Killer Way to Slay the Google Beast!

‘They’re telling us they will turn data over to the feds’

Who in the world knows as much about you and your private thoughts as Google?

That’s the question Katherine Albrecht, radio talk-show host and spokeswoman for Startpage, a search engine that protects user privacy, is posing to American Internet surfers.

“It would blow people’s minds if they knew how much information the big search engines have on the American public,” she told WND. “In fact, their dossiers are so detailed they would probably be the envy of the KGB.”

[…]

Albrecht said the government may also subpoena citizens’ private information after it has been stored by Google, Yahoo and Bing. In a December 2009 interview with CNBC, Google CEO Eric Schmidt divulged that search engines may turn over citizens’ private information to the government.

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” Schmidt said. “But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And it’s important, for example, that we are all subject to the United States Patriot Act. It is possible that information could be made available to the authorities.”

[…]

The search-engine giants uses its search records for marketing purposes, Albrecht explained.

She said some people wonder why Google would give them all this “free cool stuff” like Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Groups, Google Spreadsheets, Google Earth and Gmail.

“When was the last time a company making billions of dollars gave you every single thing they offered for free?” she asked. “They’re not giving you those products for free. You’re the product, and that’s the bait.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

3 comments:

heisenbug said...

Funny... bribes were tried a while back when Barbary pirates were an issue, and guess what? It didn't work!!!

Whatever loser came up with this "strategy" needs to be executed for treason. Let's hope the idea came straight out of the Oval Office.

Sheesh!

Richard

Nickie Goomba said...

And there are revelations today that bin Laden supports the global warming movement.

crisismaven said...

My, what a wealth of information! Sincere thanks!