Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100911

Financial Crisis
»Albania: Central Bank, Remittances in Constant Decline
»Romanian Witch Tax Not ‘Brewing’ With Lawmakers There
»Court Installs ‘If You Want’ Into State Constitution
»Dueling Protests Over New York Mosque Near Ground Zero
»Imam Used Jesus to Plead Case to Pastor
»Kagan Now Recused From 21 Pending Supreme Court Cases
»Military Bases Ban Game That ‘Kills’ Troops
»One Block Between Ground Zero Mosque and Human Remains
»Pentagon Tries to Buy Up Embarrassing Book
Europe and the EU
»Imam Invents ‘Portable Mosque’ To Pray Anywhere
»Opposition Group Says Iranian Diplomat in Finland Quits Post to Oppose Islamic Republic
»Spain: Smoking Banned in Presence of Minors in Basque Country
»UK: Dead MI6 Spy’s Family Demand Independent Tests to Find Out Truth
»UK: Judges Ordered to Show More Mercy on Women Criminals When Deciding Sentences
»UK: NHS Won’t Pay for Treatment That Could Keep Breast Cancer Victim Alive
North Africa
»Few People Online in Algeria
Israel and the Palestinians
»Christians Warned: Accept Islamic Law
»How Britain Attracts More Migrants Than France and Germany
»Ireland: Congolese Man Starts Plane Riot to Avoid Deportation
Culture Wars
»America’s Priority No. 1
»UK: Now Girls of 13 Will be Given the Pill Without Seeing a GP

Financial Crisis

Albania: Central Bank, Remittances in Constant Decline

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, SEPTEMBER 8 — Immigrant remittances to Albanian are in constant decline according to the Bank of Albania, which said that after four years of continuous decline, the same trend is expected also for 2010. The ICE office in Tirana reports that according to data from the Bank of Albania, after a positive trend in 2005 (934 million euros), 2006 (939 million) and 2007 (947 million), in 2008 a 16% decline on the previous year was recorded. In 2009 the reduction amounted to 6% compared to the previous year (752 million). This year the Bank of Albania has predicted further declines. In the first quarter of 2010 immigrant remittances amounted to 171 million euros, a 6.5% decline. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Romanian Witch Tax Not ‘Brewing’ With Lawmakers There

Romanian witch tax proposal was rejected by senators. One legislator said some lawmakers were afraid of being cursed.

Abracadabra, we’ll turn all of you into toads!

That’s what Romanian senators may have been fearing when they rejected a proposal to tax witches and fortune tellers.

Lawmakers Alin Popoviciu and Cristi Dugulescu of the ruling Democratic Liberal Party drafted a law where witches and fortune tellers would have to produce receipts, and would also be held liable for wrong predictions, a measure which was part of the government’s drive to increase revenue.

Romania’s Senate voted down the proposal Tuesday. Popoviciu claimed lawmakers were frightened of being cursed.

It’s unclear if Popoviciu and Dugulescu will try to redraft the law.

Maria Campina, a well-known Romanian witch, told Realitatea TV Thursday it is difficult to tax thousands of fortune tellers and witches partly because of the erratic sums of money they receive.

Romania is in a severe economic downturn and is trying to raise revenue from taxes. The government hiked sales tax from 19 to 24 percent, and slashed public sector wages by one-fourth.

In 2009, Romania negotiated a €20 billion ($26 billion) loan with the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank to help pay state wages and pensions last year, when the country’s economy shrank by 7.1 percent.

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


Court Installs ‘If You Want’ Into State Constitution

Refuses to require defense of Prop 8 marriage definition

The Supreme Court in California, which in 2008 ordered the creation of “same-sex marriage” and was rebuffed within months by voters, now has refused to require that state officials follow the law and defend the constitutional mandate that marriage is only between one man and one woman.

Word of the decision comes from the Pacific Justice Institute, which had filed a request to compel Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown to defend the marriage definition now embedded in the state constitution through the ballot initiative Proposition 8, as California law requires.

Justices on the state Supreme Court refused, however, in a two-sentence statement that did not include any explanation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Dueling Protests Over New York Mosque Near Ground Zero

Hundreds of people marched on New York Saturday in dueling protests on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 near the site of a controversial proposed mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.

A swelling group of around 1,500 people backing a Muslim organization’s right to build a Muslim community center and place of worship gathered in bright sunshine just down the street, calling opponents religious bigots.

Critics of the project gathered a short distance away with plans to hold their own rally later.

A heavy police presence separated the two groups amid rising tensions and a volatile mix of crowds visiting Ground Zero for the unusually bitter anniversary of the attacks — ranging from uniformed marines to peace activists and a muscle-bound troop of Hell’s Angels.

Police used metal barriers to close off the street outside the proposed cultural center, which has become the focus for a national debate exposing widespread mistrust of Muslims nearly a decade after the September 11, 2001 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people.

Supporters of the project at the rally — mostly non-Muslim activists — said opposition was based on racism and anti-Muslim bigotry.

“Stop the racist war against Muslim people,” one placard read.

“People are afraid because there is a campaign against Muslims in our country,” said peace activist Jane Toby, 70.

The center — due to be built on the site of a derelict clothing store with dedicated prayer rooms for Muslims, Jews and Christians — was proposed by a well-known progressive imam from New York as a way of giving Islam a new face in the United States.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warmly endorsed the idea and so has President Barack Obama, who on Saturday said freedom of religion was central to American rights and values.

Yet polls show a vast majority of Americans and New Yorkers want the center to be built further from Ground Zero.

Opposition began among relatives of people killed on 9/11 who said that a Muslim presence was not appropriate near what they term “sacred” ground.

Criticism has gradually morphed into a national political protest led by ultra-conservative radio hosts and activists already at the front line of the Tea Party and other movements dedicated to battling Obama.

The two sides have become polarized with the anti-mosque group now spearheaded by the obscure Florida pastor Terry Jones, who sparked global condemnation with his threat to publicly burn hundreds of copies of the Koran.

Another set of pastors preached outside the site denouncing Islam and claiming the Muslim community center would amount to conquest of America. Their denunciations came just a day after the Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr marking the end of the fasting and praying month of Ramadan.

“Islam takes life and enslaves it,” one preacher screamed, sweat pouring down his face.

A second preacher, his neck bulging with the effort, called the proposed mosque “a slap in the face, a dagger in the heart of our nation by a religious system that killed 3,000 of our citizens.”

One supporter of the mosque project, bicycle courier Craig Thorpe, said Islam should not be demonized. “I see Catholic churches around here, Protestant churches, a synagogue, but why shouldn’t Muslims be allowed to build too? It’s crazy.”

As he spoke, a large man with wrap-around sunglasses stopped and said: “Why should we let them build a mosque? So that we can burn it down. Build the mosque, then fly a plane into it, that’s what I say.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Imam Used Jesus to Plead Case to Pastor

Imam Muhammad Musri of Orlando had never met the Reverend Terry Jones of Gainesville when he drove up to the Dove World Outreach Centre and decided to talk to the Islam-hating pastor who planned to burn 200 Korans, Musri’s religion’s sacred text.

First, he had to walk past signs that said “Islam is of the devil” and make his way through the throng of international media gathered outside the church door — only to find that the pastor, his wife, son and an assistant pastor were locked inside, armed with handguns holstered on their hips.

As he waited outside in the heat, Jones’ crew argued about searching Musri for weapons before letting him in to a second-floor office. There, sitting across a bare desk and next to a large poster of Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” movie, Musri tried to persuade Jones to call off Saturday’s holy-book burning to mark the September 11 anniversary.

After multiple failed attempts at reasoning, Musri finally found common ground — in Jesus.

“I told him, ‘Don’t listen to the Koran, but listen to Jesus. Where in the Bible does Jesus tell you to do this? Didn’t Jesus say that you need to love your neighbours as yourself?”‘ Musri recalled. “I said ‘We are your neighbours. … There are thousands of us — doctors, professors, engineers, plumbers, you name it, and have we caused your church any harm?”‘

And that was the first moment Musri felt as if he was getting through to Jones. It would take a second visit the next day to get him to agree to a temporary truce.

For the 43-year-old Musri, known for trying to build bridges with other faiths and his efforts to inform non-Muslims about the Islamic faith, the olive branch to Jones was a natural extension of his work for more than 15 years in Central Florida.

Musri told The Orlando Sentinel in an interview Friday that he believed “something had to be done” to try to defuse “an international incident” raising tensions throughout the globe.

The president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, headquartered in east Orange County, said he felt “complete responsibility” to intervene on behalf of the estimated 50,000 followers of Islam in Central Florida and the thousands who attend the 10 mosques affiliated with his organisation.

“This was not about Pastor Jones or about us, but it’s about the people overseas, all over the world, who are watching us,” Musri said. “In Florida, we know this guy is just a pastor in a small church, but outside of the US he comes to stand for America’s Christians.”

Musri, a Lebanese native who came to the US 25 years ago to pursue his education and became a US citizen more than a decade ago, has been outspoken as a moderate Muslim.

He has forcefully condemned the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He supported the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has met with Catholic and evangelical leaders to advocate for common issues such as immigration reform. He has also led local relief efforts for victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, tornadoes in Volusia County, Flaorida, and the earthquake in Haiti.

And he has been appointed by Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist to serve on interfaith advisory councils with other Christian and Jewish leaders.

But he was walking into an unpredictable situation in visiting Jones.

Musri tried to convince Jones that more than a billion people consider the Koran a sacred book containing the word of God. He said Jones answered that he had not read the Quran because “Islam is of the devil” and because it doesn’t recognise Jesus as the son of God. Musri tried to warn him of the possible danger to US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the book burning, but Jones said that was not his responsibility.

They both emerged from that Wednesday meeting conciliatory. After a second meeting Thursday, Jones called off his planned Koran burning. Later that day, Jones reneged on those plans, calling the imam a liar.

Musri said he offered to set up a meeting with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in New York to ask him to relocate the so-called “ground zero mosque” to another site.

Jones, however, later said that Musri had promised the New York City mosque would be built somewhere else. He cancelled, and then later just suspended, the Koran burning until a new religious figure stepped in Friday and said Jones had cancelled the event again.

By Friday, Musri had not heard back from the New York City mosque, and its leader said through the media that he had no plans to meet with Jones. Musri said Jones had jumped the gun because he wanted to use the incident to get more publicity.

“I was shocked,” Musri said. “He is trying to now become the champion for moving the mosque and he wants to stay in the spotlight, and he understands that if he keeps to his word, all these media trucks are going to leave his lot and nobody will come back to him.”

On Friday morning, Musri withdrew from the media spotlight to pray with thousands of area Muslims at the Central Florida Fairgrounds to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

In typical fashion, their imam asked them to be patient and not let Jones or any other anti-Islam preachers goad them into a fight.

“We should not be provoked,” Musri said, “and we should be patient so we don’t react with anger”.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Kagan Now Recused From 21 Pending Supreme Court Cases

More than 1/2 of the 40 matters justices have so far agreed to hear

When President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court in May, we and many others reported out that she’d likely have to recuse herself from a handful of cases for the upcoming term.

The reason: she was the Solicitor General for the U.S. So she’d be conflicted on a number of cases, having already served as an advocate on many of them.


So what does this mean for the court? Unless and until a recusal contingency plan (like this one) is put into place, the court will be stuck with just eight justices in each of the cases.

In a result of a 4-4- tie, the ruling being appealed simply stands. The court, and the nation, certainly can live through this; we’re not staring down a constitutional crisis or anything. But it seems to us that it could lead to an unfortunate amount of wasted time and money.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Military Bases Ban Game That ‘Kills’ Troops

New installment of ‘Medal of Honor’ is 1st to let gamers play as Taliban fighters

Military bases across the U.S. have banned the sale of a new video game that lets a player pretend to be a Taliban fighter and “shoot” U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

“Medal of Honor” by Electronic Arts, a major game developer based in Redwood City, Calif., hits stores Oct. 12. Gamers are scoffing at the decision, saying that advanced technology has made it commonplace in the gaming world to let players switch sides and play the bad guy.


Britain’s Fox said last month that he was “disgusted and angry” by what was a “tasteless product.” Fox called on retailers to show their support for the troops by not selling it.

“At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands,” Fox said. “It’s shocking that someone would think it acceptable to recreate the acts of the Taliban against British soldiers.”

Electronic Arts did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spokeswoman Amanda Taggart was quoted last month by the Sunday Times as saying video gamers routinely play both good guys and bad guys.

“Most of us have been doing this since we were 7: Someone plays cop, someone must be robber,” the newspaper quoted her as saying.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

One Block Between Ground Zero Mosque and Human Remains

Here’s the chilling proof that Ground Zero stretches well beyond the boundaries of the World Trade Center site, and reaches close to the proposed mosque and community center.

A map compiled by firefighters who sifted through the wreckage of lower Manhattan in the seven months after the attacks shows the gruesome discovery of human remains stretched as far as 1,135 feet from the middle of the trade center — including remains found just a block from the mosque site.

The map was obtained by The Post from sources after the Fire Department did not respond to requests to review it. It shows that remains were found just 348 feet to the south of the mosque site at 45 Park Place, on top of the massive post-office building that stretches along Barclay Street, from Church Street to West Broadway.


Firefighters using global positioning systems recorded seven remains on the post office.

Remains also were found atop CUNY’s Fiterman Hall, bounded by Park Place and Barclay Street on the eastern side of West Broadway, just 360 feet away from the mosque site.

The map was made by the FDNY’s “Phoenix Team,” which tracked the discovery of the remains.

The issue of where remains were found has come to the forefront during the national debate over the proposed mosque.

Relatives of 9/11 victims have argued that their loved ones’ remains were scattered for blocks in the dust and debris.

[Return to headlines]

Pentagon Tries to Buy Up Embarrassing Book

(Sept. 10) — An 11th-hour attempt by the Pentagon to purchase and destroy the entire print run of an upcoming military memoir has backfired, resulting in an unexpected publicity boon for the book — and for the classified data it allegedly contains.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the Department of Defense is in the midst of negotiations with the publisher of the book, “Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan — and the Path to Victory,” by retired Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, over how to deal with the 10,000 copies that have already been printed.

But with dozens of unredacted review copies already in the hands of newspaper and magazine editors, it’s unlikely that taking books off the shelves will be enough to keep under wraps whatever it is the Pentagon wants to stay secret. Already, original review copies of the book are being offered for sale online at upward of $500.

“It probably would have made a lot more sense to never do anything, and nobody would have been the wiser,” said Mark Zaid, Shaffer’s attorney. (Shaffer is not speaking publicly about the controversy, at the request of the Army.) “Fewer people would have read the book, and most of those people would have been inside the government, or people who already knew this stuff. Now, the government has highlighted that there’s something in this book that everyone wants to see.”

According to the Times, this is the first known instance of the government attempting to retract sensitive material so late in the publication process.

Shaffer, who served as a Department of Defense intelligence officer and received the Bronze Star for his duties in Afghanistan, is a well-known figure in 9/11 conspiracy circles. In 2003, he publicly accused the intelligence community of ignoring pre-Sept.11 clues about Mohammed Atta, one of the eventual hijackers. A report by the DOD Inspector General’s Office found no evidence to support Shaffer’s claims, but that hasn’t stopped Shaffer from continuing to speak out about other allegations of misconduct, making him a persistent nuisance to government secrecy efforts.

A spokesman for the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Rene White, said that “the manuscript did not undergo a prepublication information security review” at the higher levels of the DOD until less than a month before the book was originally scheduled to be released. But Zaid says that Shaffer had in fact properly submitted his book for review to his superiors in the Army Reserve. If the Army did not pass it on to the Defense Department, he said, that was not Shaffer’s responsibility.

“It is true that the DOD regulations were not followed the way DOD wanted them to be,” Zaid said. “But it was not true that Tony Shaffer was at fault for that.”

Authors writing about sensitive matters have long run up against seemingly arbitrary rulings on what qualifies as too sensitive to publish, and in some cases have taken to leaving the censor’s black lines in the final manuscript as a way of publicly indicating the extent of what they were barred from saying.

Bob Baer, a former CIA officer who has had several books undergo stringent security clearances, said, “More than once there was no rhyme nor reason for what was taken out.” He added, “I left in the barred-out parts to tell the reader that I believed I had evidence to back up my argument but wasn’t allowed to make it public.”

A redacted edition of Shaffer’s book is scheduled to be released in late September. It’s not clear exactly what parts of the original text the government considers too sensitive for publication, but experts say the effort to suppress the book is only likely to raise the profile of those secrets.

“The net result is that if a censored version of the book is published, the effect of that will be to highlight precisely those passages that the government wanted to conceal,” said Steven Aftergood, the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ government secrecy project. “At this point, it’s close to a no-win situation, and the smart move [for the government] would have been, and might still be, to do nothing.”

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Imam Invents ‘Portable Mosque’ To Pray Anywhere

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 10 — A portable mosque to allow Islamic worshipers to pray better, wherever they may be. The idea was created by the imam who is in charge of the mosque of Aubervilliers, near Paris.

The imam explained that he thought of the idea of a “fold-up, portable” mosque to allow worshipers to concentrate better during the hour of prayer. The Mihrabox is made out of rigid cardboard and polystyrene reinforced with aluminium or hard plastic rods. It is divided into three pieces and is two metres high and has the shape of a mihrab, a type of apse, which in a mosque or wherever one desires to pray, indicates the qibla, or exact direction towards Mecca.

The brilliant inventor, Hassen Bounamcha, told Le Parisien, which published the story today, that the idea came to him while he was in a mosque. “One day I noticed that I can never concentrate well during my prayers like I can when I am in a mosque, not even at home. So,” he said, “I thought about reproducing a mihrab that allows you to isolate yourself better.” The portable mosque, delivered together with Turkish rug, is on sale for 99 euros for the basic model for adults. But the price jumps to 450 euros for the mosque that is equipped with a loudspeaker that gives the call to prayer.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Opposition Group Says Iranian Diplomat in Finland Quits Post to Oppose Islamic Republic

PARIS (AP) — A ranking diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Finland said Friday he has quit his job to protest the Islamic Republic’s treatment of its citizens.

Hossein Alizadeh said he had held the No. 2 post at the embassy in Helsinki as deputy head of mission. He said he informed the embassy four days ago of his decision to quit after staying off the job for nearly a month.

“I don’t consider myself anymore a diplomat standing beside a brutal Iranian regime,” Alizadeh said in a telephone interview from the Finnish capital.

He said that “I have let the embassy now that I have resigned from my job and … I’m not anymore a diplomat. I am a political dissident.”

Alizadeh said he was considering how to more forward, and so far had not applied for political asylum.

The Iranian Embassy in Helsinki did not answer its phone on Friday evening and messages could not be left.

Finland’s Foreign Ministry said it was unaware of Alizadeh’s case.

Alizadeh is the second Iranian diplomat in Europe known to have cast off his job to protest the Iranian government’s policies and crackdown on citizens.

Iranian consular official Mohammed Reza Heydari left his post in Oslo, Norway, in January, and was granted political asylum in that country.

Alizadeh said he has joined no particular movement, “just the general green movement of the Iranian nation.”

The so-called Green movement grew out of unrest that followed the June 2009 disputed presidential election in which the opposition says President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected through fraud. Street protests led to massive arrests in an ongoing crackdown.

A Europe-based opposition movement which calls itself the Green Wave initially announced Alizadeh’s decision to leave his post. Heydari has joined ranks with that movement, led by Amir Hossein Jahanchahi, and was visiting with Alizadeh.

However, Alizadeh told The Associated Press that “the only movement is the Iranian green movement that I can consider myself part of, among millions and millions of Iranians.”

Alizadeh said he held the post of charge d’affaires before becoming deputy head of mission at the embassy in Helsinki.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Spain: Smoking Banned in Presence of Minors in Basque Country

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 8 — A ban on smoking in parks, courtyards where Basque pelota is played, and even in cars in the presence of minors is part of a bill for dependency prevention and assistance approved yesterday by the Basque government. The measure modifies a previous regulation from 2005 and places much more highly restrictive limits compared to the national anti-tobacco legislation being examined by Congress.

The regulations, cited today by El Pais, call for a complete ban on smoking in hospitals, even in smoking rooms, in medical centres, inside courtyards and terraces as well as in public parks and inside of automobiles, if a minor is present. In other works, smoking will be banned in all public spaces to be used by minors, whether they are indoors or outdoors, as well as in several private areas, and in closed or semi-closed public areas intended to be used by adults. The new law gives the Basque government the power to issue sanctions and fines to those who violate the ban, which will range from 3,000 to 600,000 euros and which will also result in the temporary or permanent closure of businesses. This authority was taken away from the municipalities, which, until today, in many cases refused to issue fines against violators. In fact, of the 400 complaints filed since 2005 when the old law took effect, none have resulted in sanctions being issued by the government. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Dead MI6 Spy’s Family Demand Independent Tests to Find Out Truth

The family of murdered MI6 spy Gareth Williams have demanded his body back, it emerged last night.

They would like to commission their own post-mortem examination, it is understood.

It is a clear sign they are rapidly running out of patience with the police investigation into his death.

The coroner in charge of the case has consistently refused to release the codebreaker’s body because detectives have still to discover exactly how he died.

But this delay is infuriating the brilliant mathematician’s relatives in North Wales.

They have not been able to hold a funeral and are equally unhappy about the apparent lack of progress into explaining what happened to the 31-year-old.

Yesterday a source close to the family said: ‘It is becoming very frustrating trying to get to the bottom of whatever has happened. ‘There are just so many things we still don’t know.

‘We have made it clear to the police that we want the body back as soon as possible.’

It is more than three weeks since detectives began investigating the murder.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Judges Ordered to Show More Mercy on Women Criminals When Deciding Sentences

Judges have been told to treat female criminals more leniently than men when deciding sentences.

New guidelines declare that women suffer disadvantages and courts should ‘bear these matters in mind’.

The rules say women criminals often have poor mental health or are poorly educated, have not committed violence and have children to look after.


The controversial advice comes from the Judicial Studies Board, which is responsible for training the judiciary.

In the past, the board has caused upset by suggesting Rastafarians have religious beliefs which allow them to use cannabis.

It has also tried to ban words such as immigrant, asylum-seeker and even West Indian from the courts on the grounds they are offensive.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Won’t Pay for Treatment That Could Keep Breast Cancer Victim Alive

A woman dying of breast cancer has been denied the only treatment which could prolong her life because the NHS deems it too expensive.

Suzanne Lloyd, 43, has been refused a vital course of radiotherapy currently banned by NICE, the rationing body, even though it could extend her life by several years.

In a further devastating blow, she has been told that the Government’s emergency cancer fund will probably not meet the cost as the treatment is not a drug — it is a form of therapy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Few People Online in Algeria

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, SEPTEMBER 9 — Few Algerians are surfing the internet, despite the many initiatives that have been launched by the government.

According to the list of internet penetration drafted by Kapitalis and based on data supplied by Internet World Stats and other institutes, the North African country ranks 13th on the list of 17 Arab countries in the MENA area, with a penetration rate of 13.6%, far behind Tunisia and Morocco. Currently only 770 thousand people have a subscription to an ADSL internet network. According to Minister for Postal Services and Telecommunication Hamid Bensalah, the number of subscribers will increase to around 6 million by 2013. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Christians Warned: Accept Islamic Law

‘New Hamas rule means real changes,’ missionaries to be ‘dealt with harshly’

Christians can continue living safely in the Gaza Strip only if they accept Islamic law, including a ban on alcohol and on women roaming publicly without proper head coverings, an Islamist militant leader in Gaza told WND in an exclusive interview.

The militant leader said Christians in Gaza who engage in “missionary activity” will be “dealt with harshly.”

The threats come two days after a church and Christian school in Gaza was attacked following the seizure of power in the territory by the Hamas terror group.

“I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza,” said Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a “military wing” to enforce Muslim law in Gaza.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


How Britain Attracts More Migrants Than France and Germany

Britain is surging ahead of France and Germany as a magnet for immigrants, figures showed yesterday.

Tough controls mean that the two countries that once drew in hundreds of thousands of migrants a year have now achieved a virtual balance between immigration and emigration.

Yet the new count shows that in 2008 Britain opened its doors to almost ten times the number accepted by France and Germany together.

The latest figures from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical arm, drew calls from campaigners for the Government to follow the example of Berlin and Paris and bring in measures to limit the impact of immigration on Britain.

Ministers promised earlier this week to ‘bear down’ on every aspect of immigration into Britain from outside the EU after the latest British figures showed a big leap in net migration — the number of people coming to live in the country minus the number leaving to live abroad.

Eurostat figures say that in 2008 the United Kingdom grew because of net migration by 226,400.

Germany, which no longer accepts unskilled migrants and which declined to accept Eastern European workers when Poland and other countries joined the EU, had negative net migration.

That meant that 53,600 more people left the country to live abroad than arrived.

France, which experienced a brief immigration boom in 2007, cut back net immigration to 77,000.

The curbs now in place in France have led to increasing political unrest over hardline policies such as the expulsion of thousands of Roma and the removal of French citizenship from immigrants found guilty of attacking police officers.

Net migration numbers in Britain are the third highest in Europe, behind Italy and Spain, which have seen high levels of arrivals from Africa and from Latin America, and where signs of popular unrest over the impact on jobs and public services have been growing.

Critics of the Rome and Madrid governments have said they have encouraged higher immigration by offering amnesties to illegal immigrants.

In 2008, the EU figures say, net migration in Italy was 437,900 and in Spain 413,800.

Eurostat uses different methodology to Britain’s Office for National Statistics. The ONS has calculated net immigration at 163,000 in 2008. Last year, it rose sharply to 196,000.

The effects of immigration in Britain are becoming increasingly politically sensitive, largely because of worries that population growth will cause strain on housing, transport, water and energy resources.

One minister in the last Labour administration promised the population would never hit 70million, but Whitehall statisticians say that level will be reached in 2029.

An analysis by the House of Commons library has also shown that England has now become the most crowded country in Europe, except for tiny Malta.

Sir Andrew Green, of the Migrationwatch think-tank, said: ‘France and Germany have brought immigration down very substantially, probably helped by the recession.

‘These figures demonstrate that the Gover nment can bring the level of net migration right down, provided ministers are determined to do it.’

According to Eurostat’s calculations, in 2007 net migration into Germany was 45,200 while France blipped suddenly upwards, from 90,100 in 2006 to 302,500.

In 1998, when the immigration boom into Britain was just beginning , net migration for this country was 97,400.

This is the level to which the Coalition is pledged to return.

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

Ireland: Congolese Man Starts Plane Riot to Avoid Deportation

A Congolese asylum seeker, who was being deported from Dublin to Kinshasa, created a riot on a plane in Paris and had to be escorted back here.

Three members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau accompanied the 44-year-old man on a 6.40am flight from Dublin to Paris on Thursday.

When they arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport, the four transferred to a flight from Paris to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the man began to incite other passengers and some of them started to abuse and spit at the three gardai.

Gardai alerted the French authorities, who sent riot police on to the plane and removed the Congolese man from the flight.

Last night the asylum seeker was back in Wheatfield Prison where he had been held, prior to his deportation attempt.

He has been in this country for the past seven years and is understood to have criminal convictions for shoplifting and public order offences. It is now likely that he will be deported on a specially chartered flight.

Most deportations are now carried out on charter flights with the costs shared by EU member states.

In the past year, the deportation rate for failed asylum seekers has almost doubled, resulting in a total of 236 being sent back to their home countries, compared with 129 the previous year.

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

Culture Wars

America’s Priority No. 1

Though many question the very existence of the Department of Education, believing it’s not the responsibility of government to rule over our children’s learning at all — Duncan proposes a $3.5 billion increase in education spending (out of our tattered pockets): $100 million more for extracurricular/rounded education activities, $36 billion more into Pell Grants, $60 billion out of the so-called stimulus plan into college education, $2 billion for community colleges and $100 million to help students who have advanced beyond high-school courses to attend college-level courses.

This probably sounded wonderful to the assembled students, though they have no idea where all those billions will come from. And they didn’t realize that what Duncan is actively preparing for America is what is being called “common core state standards” — a de facto national curriculum. This would mandate all students be taught the identical things, created and dictated by the NEA, the very powerful “progressive” teachers union. A cookie-cutter approach to education that undercuts and virtually prohibits teachers’ initiative and creativity, this will have the potential to permanently erase American tradition.

And just to make sure his plan succeeds, Mr. Duncan is doling out $4 billion of borrowed stimulus money to the states whose governors and teachers unions commit to these new federal standards. He calls his plan “Race to the Top,” and it’s becoming clear that unless states knuckle under to a government-controlled education system, they’ll not get their share of the taxpayers’ money.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Now Girls of 13 Will be Given the Pill Without Seeing a GP

Girls as young as 13 are to be given the contraceptive Pill without seeing a doctor.

For the first time, teenagers below the legal age of consent will be able to get the Pill from high street pharmacies in a project that could eventually be adopted nationwide.

The scheme is being introduced to try to give young girls greater access to contraception in an attempt to reduce soaring underage pregnancy rates.

But critics point out that such a move could actually encourage girls to become more promiscuous, effectively giving them a ‘licence’ to have more sex.

There is no evidence that providing the Pill on demand reduces teenage pregnancies and there are concerns that it also increases the risk of sexually transmitted infections by making youngsters less inclined to use condoms.

The Pill also has rare, but potentially dangerous, side effects including blood clots and there are fears pharmacists may not carry out the same health checks as doctors.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]